Monday, June 05, 2006

Sorry I Haven't Been Around

Many projects and things are consuming more of my time than I anticipated. But when I saw this, I had to blog it: Miguel Caballero's Bullet-Proof Clothing. Check it out! Browse through the "classic" fashions, or take a walk on the wild side with their Gold and Platinum lines of bulletproof suits, overcoats, and jackets. They even have (I'm not kidding) a fashion show complete with catwalk (or is that "arcade gallery"?). I'm tellin' ya, it's Versace meets David Cronenberg!

It makes me wonder -- will Slabbinck come out with a "Turbulent Priest" line of vestments? How about an NIJ-certified Level III Gothic Chasuble, with removable trauma plate? Or a NATO-spec Kevlar miter?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Why I'm Not Blogging Much &
Menu Review, and New Menu May 15 - May 20, 2006

I'm not blogging much because I had a trial set to begin tomorrow. My client was charged with two counts of felony intimidation, one count of felony possession of a handgun (it's not a felony to have a handgun, unless you have a prior criminal record), one count of serious violent felon in possession of a handgun, and an habitual-offender affidavit due to prior convictions. He was looking at 75 years. Now he's looking at doing 4 years, and I shall resist the temptation to crow and prance. It was good lawyering. Here's the reviews from last week's menu, and this week's menu. Hopefully I can get back to some more serious blogging, by finishing some of the 20+ half-finished blogs I have in my computer!

Pork Medallions in Dijon Cream Sauce
Apple Harvest Rice
Review: The pork was very good. The sauce would be excellent on Eggs Benedict, or some kind of egg-and-cheese quiche. The Apple Harvest Rice was a bit too moist for my taste. I like my rice dishes crumbly and dry or, at most, sticky. This wasn't a rissotto, but you could see risotto on the map from where it was.

Grilled Sausages
Roasted Vegetables
I don't know that I "roasted" these vegetables. I wanted to use a metal roasting pan, which we ended up not having. So I put them into 9x13 pyrex baking pans and decided to pretend that I roasted them. I found some good vegetables, so I ended up using celery, carrots, leeks, eggplant, fennel, zucchini and summer squash. The fennel was a surprise find, and it had all the fronds on it. So I spent a few minutes chasing Hannah around the kitchen with the monster fennel. I cut ‘em up (the vegetables), mixed ‘em in a bowl with some olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. They came out really well and I ate my fill. I love vegetables. The sausage was hot Johnsonville Italian style, which we all like. I cooked that with my patented Midwestern-Electric-Stovetop-Wok method.

The vegetable thing is really useful to have learned. It's got endless possibilities. (See below). For example, adding some chopped tomatoes would be really good. So would new potatoes. Or when it's finished you could add some sun-dried tomatoes. It would go with any land meat -- pork, sausage, beef, or chicken.

Spinach Squares
Mashed Potatoes
Review: I didn't make this. Due to time constraints I went "off menu." I sliced the steak into strips and pan-cooked it with some butter, salt, and pepper. I boiled some penne while I was doing that. When I was finished, I stirred the beef into the leftover roasted vegetables with some mozzarella cheese and butter. It was really good. It would make a good salad-type dish too.

Tortellini with Roasted Vegetables
Italian bread
Review: Everybody was sick of roasted vegetables by this time, so we just had the tortellini. Standard store-bought stuff. It's good the way pasta is always good.

Italian Beef Cutlets
Fettucini with Butter-Parsley-Parmesan Sauce
Italian Bread
Review: Bad recipe. You bread the beef cutlets and bake them in the oven. Of course (as I know now) when you do that, the juices leave the beef and wet the breading, and I ended up with baked sirloin couched in tomato sauce, each cutlet covered in its own little package of tan mush. Fettucini with butter and parsley and parmesan isn't susceptible to being screwed up. The tomato sauce was interesting and I might keep that recipe for my pasta sauce "book." But otherwise this was a waste of good steak.

Menu for 5/15 - 5/20

Club sandwiches
French fries

Sausage Alfredo Lasagna
Italian bread.

Cornflake Chicken
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans

Roasted Asparagus
New Potatoes with Horseradish-Dijon sauce

Deep Dish Pizza

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Menu, April 30 - May 5, 2006

Pork Medallions in Dijon Cream Sauce
Apple Harvest Rice

Grilled Sausages
Roasted Vegetables

Spinach Squares
Mashed Potatoes

Tortellini with Roasted Vegetables
Italian bread

Italian Beef Cutlets
Fettucini with Butter-Parsley-Parmesan Sauce
Italian Bread

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Leadership Bowl: Post-Game Wrap

Thanks to everyone who commented on the Leadership Bowl post. Art Deco made some good comments, which I'll address here with some additional observations. That'll serve as the post-game wrap. Art's words in blue, mine in black.

1. Is there any evidence that Mr. Gore was aware that he was assigned a bodyguard?

There is no evidence that Mr. Gore thought the armed fellows who hovered around him were anything besides combat photographers who didn't use cameras.

2. Is it your contention that Mr. Gore should have been expected to be an enthusiast for patriotic sacrifice in combat given that at the time he entered the military the withdrawal of American troops for reasons-of-state ("getting out as a matter of policy and not as a matter of defeat" is how Henry Kissinger put it retrospectively) was the stated government policy?

No, that is not my contention.

3. Most of Mr. Kerry's compatriots in the Mekong Delta appear to have been unimpressed with him, there are indications that he was visibly upset at being told of this posting, the lily of his service may have been gilded, and he has likely lied about aspects of it in the telling, but he remains nevertheless one of a small minority (~3% perhaps) of those men born during the years running from 1939-54 who did spend time in a combat zone. Can we give him credit for that?

Yes, we can, because in my view he came out of the Vietnam era with far more moral credit than George Bush. At least John went to where the North Vietnamese army could shoot at him and where, in fact, they did shoot at him. The impression I got of John Kerry from the Swift Boat website is that he was a more timid, brass-plated version of Winston Churchill, who also used military exploits and connections to further his own career. But John Kerry didn't participate in one of the last cavalry charges in military history, and he didn't spend a year in or near the trenches commanding a regiment on the Western Front. And try as I might, I can't see John Kerry giving and understanding the "blood toil and tears" speech. So that's why I gave democracy the field goal, but not a touchdown.

4. If physical cowardice is one of Mr. Bush's faults, why would he volunteer for service in a National Guard unit where he would be learning to fly fighter planes (of a model with, by some accounts, a poor safety record) and of which some members were in fact posted to Indochina? (Please try to avoid stereotyped answers like, "because he was stupid").

To the contrary, Bush's choice (like all self-interested choices) was very shrewd. He had the lowest possible score on the aptitude test for pilot training. He rightly concluded that, as the son of a sitting Texas congressman, he would have a better chance of selection for pilot duty in the Texas Air National Guard ("TANG") than the U.S. Air Force. I note that TANG F-102 pilots could participate in a program that rotated them to fly in Vietnam. They needed 500 hours of flight experience. During his four years with the TANG, Bush accumulated over 600 hours of flight time -- but only 278 in the F-102. The 278-hour figure includes time spent in the F-102's training-seat variant. Bush joined the ANG because the alternatives were (a) a chance that he'd go straight to combat in Vietnam, or (b) having a record that shows strings were pulled to keep him from having a chance at going straight to combat in Vietnam.

The temptation at this point is to try changing the debate into whether Vietnam-era Guardsmen are cowards. It's a question I won't dignify with an answer (not that Art's asking it, but others might) because it's got nothing to do with the problem I have with George Bush. I know a few Vietnam-era guardsmen, and I'm related to one. Had I been 18 in 1966 I might have joined the Guard myself. I don't have problems with men who want to live in solidarity with a community which lets them remove, or greatly reduce, the chances of fighting in a terrible and witless war. But I would start having problems with them if they wanted to be War Chieftains, fighter-jock presidents doing a carrier landing under a banner that says "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" and doesn't say "BY OTHER GUYS AT SOME UNDETERMINED POINT IN THE FUTURE."

Yes, and Art's right to point it out, that the quotations from Bush, Kerry and Gore are my own inventions. They're like the last words famously attributed to the Old Guard at Waterloo. History records them as, "The Old Guard dies, but never surrenders!" In fact, the reply to Wellington's surrender offer was Merde!. But the reality and the invention convey the same meaning, and while I don't pretend to have a running transcript of Bush, Clinton, and Gore's speech during the years involved, I think there's enough accuracy in them to absolve me of slander. There is a common trait that binds these men, although it binds Kerry less than the others.

The common trait isn't what we usually mean by "physical cowardice." In my view, "physical cowardice" can refer to villainy, but it can also embrace the ordinary and healthy reaction of any human being to the prospect of fighting in a war. I should be very nervous and unhappy if, finding myself in a military unit, I realized that my commanding officer were incapable of experiencing any trepidation whatsoever at the prospect of injury or death, and wished only to cover himself and my corpse with glory. I should instead like my commanding officer to wish, with at least some sincerity, that he didn't have to issue orders requiring me or anyone else suffer or die before he goes ahead and issues those orders anyway because they are militarily necessary. In that regard, I would not expect to find that my officer was omniscient, or demand from him a guarantee of success, before obeying. War is fighting, fighting means killing, and killing means dying. Bush, Clinton and Gore aren't odious because they chose not to risk death on the battlefield.

The disturbing thing about their choices, the common trait, is not the existence of "physical cowardice." Each of them made the decision that their lives were too valuable, too full of prospect, to be submitted to the outrageous fortunes of combat. Fair enough, perhaps, for a private citizen in a modern state. But it would take a deliberately-enforced naivete to conclude that Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and George Bush were merely private citizens who intended to live quiet lives. They were set on political success, on advancement to positions of leadership, from their early adulthood. While Bill Clinton's ambition was the most obvious, Bush and Gore ran for congress within five years of leaving their military posts. I don't mind the desire for private life or ambition for public office. I mind the idea that a man following the first path should incur no greater risk of harm or suffering than a man who follows the second.

I have no quarrel with men who absent themselves from war, or combat in war, due to reasons of conscience clearly stated so long as they take their lumps in the public arena. That is crucial, for an individual conscience is worthy of respect only to the extent it's honestly directed at the right ordering of society. The acid test of that direction is a man's willingness to suffer at the hands of the community whose right ordering he supposedly desires. Christ took that test, and passed it, not least because He wanted to show us how necessary and expensive a conscience can be. So we should judge Eugene Debs an honorable man, whether or not we think he was right to oppose World War I, because Debs went to jail for opposing it.

Clinton, Gore, Bush -- they didn't take that test. From what I know of their lives, it seems they were oblivious to the whole matter or, at best, regarded it as a nuisance to be negotiated by dodges that would make a tax lawyer blush. And it is not right, it is not fitting, for men in government to have shaped their characters on the idea that service depends on the absence of risk and one's individual preferences. Bush and Gore didn't join merely to avoid serving in a war. They, like Kerry, also joined for the political eclat that comes with having served in wartime. Bush, Clinton and Gore wanted high office, they wanted to lead, but they wanted it cheap. These men didn't serve. They postured. Clinton, Gore and Bush are worse than other men, not because their souls blinked, but because they wanted to be chieftains without suffering for the people.

There are signs that the British are perilously close to the Gore/Bush mark. One of them is that bit of Clarence House nattering about the Prince's presence in combat creating "an additional risk to those he commands or himself." I don't know how many British soldiers want to "hold their manhoods cheap" but apparently someone at Clarence House thinks there are more than a few. Assuming the British won't degrade Prince Harry by a "photo op" tour of duty, he will be going where his countrymen are fighting, and dying, because the royal family must suffer for the people. That is a deep truth of human community and a law of leadership. Three of our last five presidential candidates neither learned nor obeyed it, although they didn't mind other men doing so in the Delta, Sarajevo, the Mog, and Fallujah.

So Democracy gets a field goal for Kerry. Put Bob Dole on the field and the score's 10-7 against monarchy. But the season of Dole's glory has been long over. Perhaps it will begin again, when the country can value the obedience and service of more recent veterans.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Leadership Bowl Results: Monarchy 7, Democracy 3

Prince Harry: "If I am not allowed to join my unit in a war zone, I will hand in my uniform."

Prince Andrew: "The funny part is, that if this works, the missle will hit me!

George Bush: "I ain't goin' to no war and git shot et."

John Kerry: "I wonder if I can hit the White House from here."

Al Gore: "Move a little to the right . . . no, don't look at my bodyguard . . . that's it, now say Cheese!"

Bill Clinton: "I am writing this too in the hope that . . . [it] will help you understand more clearly how so many fine people have come to find themselves . . . loathing the military . . .."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Now the Green Blade Rises, Alleluia!

Now the green blade rises
from the buried gain,
wheat that in dark earth
many days has lain;
love lives again,
that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springs up green.

In the grave they laid Him,
Love whom hate had slain,
thinking that never
He would wake again,
laid in the earth
like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again like wheat that springs up green.

Forth He came in quiet,
like the risen grain,
He that for three days
in the grave had lain,
quick from the dead
the risen Christ is seen:
Love is come again like wheat that springs up green.

When our hearts are wintry,
grieving, or in pain,
Christ's touch can call us
back to life again,
fields of our hearts
that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again like wheat that springs up green.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Justice of the Petard Sort

From today's headlines: Multimillion-selling author Dan Brown has won his court case against two authors who claim he copied their ideas. Well, of course he did. And that's only just.

Everyone knows that Brown was sued by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of the hack work Holy Blood, Holy Grail, who claimed Brown borrowed their ideas for his hack novel, The Davinci Code. Both hack jobs claim that Jesus didn't die and rise from the dead, that He shacked up with Mary Magdalene somewhere in Gaul (now France), and that the whole thing is being covered up by ominously-portrayed Catholic organizations like the Vatican, the Knights Templar and Opus Dei. If that's not funny enough, here's another . . . .

The main reason I think Baigent and Leigh lost is that they claimed to be telling the truth. In their wacked-out universe, Holy Blood, Holy Grail isn't an airport-rack potboiler, it's a monument to accuracy and diligent investigation. It's history. That's why they lost.

If Holy Blood, Holy Grail is history, that means The DaVinci Code is historical fiction. Baigent and Leigh don't have any more reason to sue Brown for plagiarism than Shelby Foote, who wrote a history of the War Between the States, would have had to sue Michael Shaara for his novel about Gettysburg.

Too bad Baigent and Leigh didn't admit Holy Blood, Holy Grail is really just a comic book without the pictures, a bad practical joke they played on everyone without a brain or the education required to use one. They might have scored some bucks. While an author like Brown can't plagiarize history, he can plagiarize a silly little made-up story. Pride goeth before a fall, or a goose-egg verdict, as the case may be.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Scientific Debunking of Biblical Truth: It's All About Eve

Courtesy of Amy Pawlak's blog, I read this story about scientists questioning the miracle of Jesus walking on water. It wasn't miraculous, just "a brief blast of frigid air" that freakishly "descended over the lake" and created a miniature ice floe for our Lord to walk upon.

First, there's the odd mental route by which scientific speculation on freak weather conditions instantly and logically leads to challenging the concept of divine intervention in human events. I have no quarrel with scientists studying "spring ice," as I have no quarrel with them studying ways to make Exxon another billion dollars. But is there a reason why the study of this natural phenomenon must suddenly, in what one must call a rather whimsical fashion, focus on the more sensational question of whether Jesus actually walked on water?

There are reasons, but I'm not sure they flow from the pure springs of scientific probity. If I were a scientist at a state university, I'd prefer the general (and tax-paying) public to think of my work in terms of startling blows against superstition rather than Nietzsche's proverbial scholar, who spends his entire life studying the brain structure of a leech. It's easy to understand why Dr. Nof wants to get his work next to Scripture. Like Eve Harrington and Margot Channing, proximity to a famous subject gets one a lot closer to the center of attention.

Sure enough, "this isn't the first time the FSU researcher has offered scientific explanations of watery miracles. As a recognized expert in the field of oceanography and limnology -- the study of freshwater, saline and brackish environments -- Nof made waves worldwide in 1992 with his oceanographic perspective on the parting of the Red Sea." Science loves patterns, and this is beginning to seem very scientific indeed. Would you like another martini, Miss Channing?

But showing off is a motive unworthy of scientists, whose stock in trade is the image of disinterested objectivity, not "ring and run" silliness. And so Dr. Nof finds himself dug into the last refuge of the academic, the notion of ideas without consequences:
"As natural scientists, we simply explain that unique freezing processes probably happened in that region only a handful of times during the last 12,000 years," Nof said. "We leave to others the question of whether or not our research explains the biblical account."
Let's not mention that the biblical account has Jesus walking on water "tossed with waves." (Matthew 14:24). That's got to be pretty thick ice, to form on a storm-tossed lake. But if Scripture is just a bunch of fairy tales, the detail need not delay us from fetching Miss Channing a cigarette.

"As scientists, we simply explain the unlikelihood of a child with blond hair being born into a family with dark hair. We leave to the child's father the question of whether his son is a bastard." Only people with a profound lack of respect for the subject of an opinion would consider such a trite explanation worthwhile. That this attitude would prevail on such an immense and varied phenomenon like Christianity suggests some unexamined and unworthy bias.

"As historians, we simply explain the evidence suggesting that what people call "the Holocaust" might have been an exaggerated outbreak of cholera. We leave to others the question of whether or not our research explains Anne Frank's Diary." Some subjects are simply beyond this type of flippancy.

When I wasn't a Christian, I knew lots of people who relegated Christianity to a light and flimsy place in human thought. Eventually it struck me that they behaved like people who live with a terrifying secret. They were ready, even eager, to accept any explanation so long as it kept them from opening that dreaded door. I found that "anti-witness" very intriguing.

In the large spectrum of American life, I noticed, one could be anything, anything at all, so long as one didn't subscribe to Christianity. If one did that, one was simultaneously cast as unethical and a mindless prude, a gullible nitwit and the instrument of malevolent genius, an oblivious fantasist and a scheming opportunist. There was no pejorative opinion that couldn't be applied to Christianity, and the fact that Christianity could get hippies and Nazis on the same side of an argument suggested more about their absurdity than the alleged foolishness of the Cross.

I also noticed the odd power of debunking exposes to persuade me in the opposite direction. "So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid." John 6:19 (KJV). Dr. Nof posits something that happened "only a handful of times in the last 12,000 years" at the exact time Jesus decided to go out on the lake and meet the disciples. Not only that, but the freak ice managed to form in the exact spot lying between the shore where Jesus embarked and the point to which the disciples eventually rowed their boat. Further, the disciples had no idea where this ice floe ended -- they rowed to the spot before they saw Jesus. "Hey, guys, it's really stormy -- why don't we row toward the ice floe?"

Even the FSU publicist is forced to admit, "Such a perfect combination of conditions . . . might well seem miraculous." Until, that is, the press release tells us that Dr. Nof's research indicates our Lord was something of a one-man ice age:
In the last 120 centuries, Nof calculates the odds [of freak ice happening] as roughly once in 1,000 years. However, during the life of Jesus the prevailing climate may have favored the more frequent formation of springs ice -- about once in 30 to 160 years."
Those odds may qualify as boring to FSU researches, but they strike me as every bit as amazing as the longer figure.

Besides, why are we doing this in years? Dr. Nof doesn't say it takes years for freak ice to form. In fact, given his description of the event, I think it's safe to assume a six-hour window. Thirty years is 10,950 days. 10,950 days is 43,800 six-hour slots. A chance of one in 43,800? Throw in the timing of the ice to match the human choices involved (the disciples choosing to row, Jesus choosing to go out on the water) and the odds become considerably more than even the "long shot" figure of once per millennium.

Perhaps I didn't (and still don't) have enough theology to appreciate the concern, but arguments like that never persuaded me to think that Christianity was in danger of contradiction. If anything, they persuaded me in the opposite direction. When I encountered this kind of "debunking," I thought it would be tremendous if Someone was actually managing all that, and doing it rather effortlessly to boot: The records available to us don't mention anything about a "History Do-Over" button (although in fairness it should be noted that FSU's history department has yet to be heard from). If naturalistic speculations like these are true, the events they describe seem like an amazingly intricate, incredibly elegant dance of God, man, and creation, one set within a larger dance of human continuity that makes the event meaningful and significant today.

What are the odds of that "freak occurrence"? Before I believed, it seemed people who accepted the "completely random" perspective on the universe, as against the "intelligent design" perspective, eventually swallowed such an incredible number of "chances," and employed such a vast fund of "just-so stories" to shore it all up, as to make believing in the Virgin Birth seem like a humble exercise in common sense.

Some "naturalistic" explanations of Biblical miracles are just plain ridiculous. Others aren't. Assuming this is the latter kind, I don't mind if the world wants to go "hee hee" and give Dr. Nof the Sarah Siddons Award for Tweaking Christian Noses. You can't believe in God without thinking hard about things, and Dr. Nof's research is as good a place to start as any.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

My Computer is Down

The home computer I use for blogging is down. Two nights ago the monitor made a loud popping sound and stopped working. I think that means the video tube's burned out. I know it means I can't see anything. Right now there are two possible solutions: (1) Buy a brand-new computer and get divorced, or (2) something else. I think I'll go with something else. When I find out what it is, I'll let you know. Until then, there will be light or no blogging since I can't access the fifteen half-written blogs in my computer.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Belated Blogburst for Terri

I was asked, along with many others who blogged about the judicial murder of Terri Schaivo, to remember her death with a blog post. Herewith my "salient" posts on the matter, which explain what her case meant in my view:
March 31, 2005: The Mind Reels

March 25, 2005: Due-Processing Terri's Death

March 23, 2005: Disgusting.

March 22, 2005: Brickbats from the Leftist Nationalizers

March 21, 2005: Lies, Damn Lies, and Federalism

April 18, 2005: More Blogging; for Now, Some Drudgery

October 27, 2003: A Note to Jack Cade: The First Thing We Do, Is Keep Lawyers In Perspective

Monday, March 20, 2006

Prayer Request

Received via email:
Monday. The next 24-36 hours will be critical if my son, 28, is to avoid being designated "brain dead," or impaired which God forbid. Should he awake, even partially, it will remain to be seen what if any long term damage was done. Thank you for your prayers. He apparently vomited in his sleep, deep into the night after St. Patrick's day dinner with us and other visits with other friends Friday; it went into his lungs, causing a heart attack and depriving his brain of oxygen, causing also pneumonia, kidney failure, etc. His state was not discovered until the next day at 1 PM by my daughter who had stayed over at his apartment for the night. Previously she thought he was just sleeping. When she finally tried to stir him his lips were blue. His kidneys have rebounded somewhat but no improvement yet in the "higher functions of the brain" affecting coma. The question is how long his brain was deprived of oxygen. Needless to say our hearts are broken. He had just returned most sincerely to the Church, and our hearts were warmed Friday when he was the one who asked us to make sure we prayed together before St. Patrick's day supper. Is it possible he had too much alcohol after he left here? Yes. With his other friends we do not know. He only had a Guinness when with us. Some prescription drugs were found in his system. He was not depressed, but had been treated for an anxiety disorder. Quite to the contrary of depression; he spoke in joy about his new girlfriend and his future at work (he is an engineer). ---Stephen Hand
The French: C'est Stupide

Here's a story about French youths protesting new laws that would make it easier to hire and fire young workers. "Slave labour by the back door!" they cry, "If you take away our security, you'll pay!" On the Damoclean sword of at-will employment, one student adds, "You can't live with a knife at your throat."

And here's a story about the eevil United States, a country where at-will employment terrorism has run amok, resulting in almost full employment. "We are approaching full employment and some employers are already dreaming up perks to attract the best talent," say tyrants.

It's true I don't like a lot of things about American-style economics. But one of the good things that contribute to the greatness of American life is this iron rule -- if you don't invest yourself in what you're good at, your life and career quickly deteriorate into a series of short, sharp shocks.

So here's a note to the French: Stop being so frightened of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. There was a time when you guys conquered Europe. There was a time (hell, more than one) when y'all were the intellectual leaders of the world. "If you take away our security, you'll pay," was not the motto of France in those days.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Helpful Suggestions for Police Officers

With full recognition that there's another side to this story, I offer these tips to police about how to be obnoxious, pompous, and almost guaranteed to be taken to court on a ticket, treated to a screaming fit, or physically attacked by a stopped driver. These techniques were observed first-hand by me while serving as a police offier, and also gleaned from police reports as an attorney:
-- Use patronizing terms like, "Buddy" or "Hon" when speaking to the subject.

-- Deliver pompous and overblown lectures to the effect that anyone who does 53 in a 45 on a long stretch of speed-trap tarmac is a disgusting specimen of pseudo-parent who doesn't deserve to raise children.

-- Follow the subject's car for two to three miles and then hit him with the lights and sirens when he turns into his own driveway.

-- It's good officer safety to put your hand on or near the butt of your firearm when approaching a stopped car. It's ridiculous and offensive to keep it there through the whole stop without cause. If you can't tell whether you're in a threatening environment while you're going through all the motions of contacting the driver, returning to your cruiser to check license and registration with Dispatch, returning to the car, talking to the driver again, writing him a ticket, and then having him sign for the ticket, well, you probably ought'nt to have a gun in the first place.

-- Deal with a driver's raised or exasperated voice by ostentatiously calling for "backup" for the sole and express purpose, not of serving your legitimate concerns for safety, but of intimidating the driver into being "nice."

-- Make the driver get out of his car. Tell him you're giving him a warning, not a ticket. Then tell him you don't think he's being appreciative enough, and maybe he hasn't learned his lesson.

-- When there's no manhunt or amber alert, act like you're doing a scene from Hotel Rwanda. Shine your maglite right in the faces of everyone in the car. Ask for everyone's ID, including the kids.

-- Make the driver get out of his car. Notice the square object in his shirt pocket. Demand to see it "for officer safety." Then take a couple of cigarettes out of the pack of Marlboros and tell the driver you're checking for marijuana.

-- Do everything you can to prolong and distract your contact from its actual purpose. Respond to every frown, every rolling-of-the-eyes, and instance of pique with admonishments to respect law enforcement, pay attention, shut up ("backtalk" and "sass" are particularly good words to use), and/or calm down.

-- Be sure to invade the driver's personal space when speaking to him. Words delivered from a distance of eight inches in a low, menacing tone of voice will be sure to impress upon the driver not only the need to use his turn signal, but your own power and authority.
If you'll follow these tactics you'll be guaranteed to make more arrests, have more fights, and show up in court on your off-duty time than any other officer you serve with.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Check It Out

I've posted more in the past three days than I have in the past three months.

The Dossier's been noticed by the National Catholic Register.

It's the new template (thanks Chris), including the Snarky Dog. I like the Snarky Dog. Looking at him, you just know he's the mastermind of the operation. (If you think I'm hallucinating, scroll down and look for yourself.)

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Guardian Scratches Its Head and Sighs,
"God: Can't Live With Him, Can't Live Without Him!"

Courtesy of The Curt Jester I read a recent editorial in the Guardian that brought to mind an earlier post in this blog about the same newspaper, and the two articles coalesced into proof of Mark Shea's dictum that the history of secularism can be written in two volumes titled, "What Could It Hurt?" and "How Were We Supposed to Know!" Click on the links to the Guardian's two articles and you'll see what I mean.
Volume I, the Guardian, 2004: What Could It Hurt? Wherein our intrepid paper worries that backwards Italy might kowtow to "the Catholic church's stance that a woman's mission is to stay at home and breed."

Volume II, the Guardian 2006: How Were We Supposed to Know! In this installment, our incisive paper publishes an editorial bemoaning Britain's "falling birthrate," and praising women who "stumble towards their own private insights into the importance of mothering - to which they cling in the face of not just zero endorsement from wider society but active contempt."
This is what one might call an "irony-rich environment," folks.

Ms. Bunting's Guardian editorial is cogent, intelligent, timely, and just the thing the West needs to hear. It's also a mirror image of the Vatican "policies" denounced by the Guardian's report in 2004.

And yet, the Guardian's 2004 editorial claims that Catholicism demeans women by preaching their enslavement as stay-at-home "breeders."

So, if one follows the Vatican's "policies," and essays respect and awe of motherhood one is demeaning women as "breeders." On the other hand, if one follows Ms. Bunting's advice and essays respect and awe of motherhood, one is doing something very positive for women and society.

I think the key is found in the fact that Ms. Bunting didn't say a word about God, Christ, or Catholicism in her editorial. If she had done so, the Guardian's editors would have immediately realized that she was out to oppress women into being "stay-at-home breeders."
Ms. Bunting: "In other words, the self we are encouraged to develop through much of our education system and early adulthood is of no use whatsoever to a new parent. What use is that sassy, independent, self-assertive, knowing-what-you-want-and-how-to-get-it type when you fast forward five years to the emotional labour of helping a child develop self confidence? Once there's a baby in the cot, you need steadiness, loyalty, endurance, patience, sensitivity and even self-denial - all the characteristics that you've spent the previous decade trashing as dull or, even worse, for losers. Forget trying to work out your own feelings - you'll be too busy trying to work out those of your children; ditto self-confidence and self-expression."

The Vatican: "Among the fundamental values linked to women's actual lives is what has been called a ‘capacity for the other.' Although a certain type of feminist rhetoric makes demands ‘for ourselves,' women preserve the deep intuition of the goodness in their lives of those actions which elicit life, and contribute to the growth and protection of the other. . . . This intuition is linked to women's physical capacity to give life. Whether lived out or remaining potential, this capacity is a reality that structures the female personality in a profound way. It allows her to acquire maturity very quickly, and gives a sense of the seriousness of life and of its responsibilities. A sense and a respect for what is concrete develop in her, opposed to abstractions which are so often fatal for the existence of individuals and society. It is women, in the end, who even in very desperate situations, as attested by history past and present, possess a singular capacity to persevere in adversity, to keep life going even in extreme situations, to hold tenaciously to the future, and finally to remember with tears the value of every human life."
Can't you see the vast difference between these points? Ms. Bunting is talking about a certain and false feminist worldview that hinders or prohibits women from living their ‘capacity for the other.' She's talking about motherhood being the litmus test that separates economic and sociological abstractions and life-as-it-is-actually-lived. The Vatican, on the other hand, just hates women. It's there for anyone with eyes to see. Ms. Bunting is offering a respectable inquiry into the follies of Western secular materialism. The Vatican hates women.

In fact, just don't even bother with the comparison and memorize this: THE VATICAN HATES WOMEN. That's why anything the Vatican says about women mentions God -- referring to "God" is just a trick to make women into "breeders." It's why the same things said without reference to God are responsible, thoughtful critiques of how we live and worthy to publish in the Guardian.

If the Vatican would just leave God out of it, we could explore all these issues reasonably, free from the dogmatic blinkers (The Vatican Hates Women) that keep us from honestly and dispassionately (The Vatican Hates Women) examining (The Vatican Hates Women) modern (The Vatican Hates Women) problems (The Vatican Hates Women).

Heck, we might actually decide to respect motherhood, so long as we don't have to kowtow to a bunch of eunuchs and their weird God-talk. Of course, it would help if we kept a few of those women-hating eunuchs around to tell us how not to be women-hating eunuchs. But that's God for you. Can't live with Him. Can't live without Him.

Postscript: Nothing in the above should be read as a characterization of Ms. Bunting's opinions about religion in general, or Catholicism in particular. It's the juxtaposition of viewpoints that tells the tale here, not anything Ms. Bunting has said about faith, God, or Rome. Men who have abandoned or lost God will accept any good thing so long as they remain free to deny that it comes from His hands. What could it hurt? How were we supposed to know!
Short Note on Tom Monaghan's "Theocracity"

I'm behind the curve on Tom Monaghan's plan to establish a Catholic city in Florida. Others have already said most of what there is to say about it, such as Mark Shea, Dom Bettinelli, Erik Keilholtz and the Curt Jester. The media's hateful bias against the project has also been commented on by the above, and by Newsbusters. I'm sorry that I've left some people out, but at this point it should be asked why, after all this exhaustive commentary, I'm going to blog about it.

Because, as I've had occasion to say before, I'm a blowhard with a blog. I get to blog about anything I want, even if it's a dead horse covered in strike marks from a thousand Louisville Sluggers.

Is it right for Catholics to segregate themselves in theologically-gated communities? Erik and Jeff think it's not. I'm not so sure. As Mark points out, the urge to found distinct communities of like-minded individuals is a deep part of American culture, and one that doesn't seem to have done America much harm. I wouldn't like to live there, primarily because only time will tell if this place can (or is permitted to) exist as something besides a function of Tom Monaghan's enthusiasm. I wouldn't like to live there, secondarily because I'd be wondering if my "virtue" was merely fear of ostracism, and because I like to operate "outside the green zone" so to speak, dealing with all the heretics, goofballs, nuts, and wicked people. What does that say about me? I think the only sure thing that can be said is that I'm not cut out for life in a religious community; the rest of the judgment only comes in the form of my conscience and my awareness of what God wants from me. Does He want Abraham leading his rag-tag band through Egypt, or does He want David ruling a godly community? Both options are possible; one man's retreat from responsibility is another man's Cluny.

That brings up something else interesting about some Catholics' reactions to the project. (Having mentioned their opposition, I hasten to say this does not apply to the Curt Jester or Erik). Some of it sounds a lot like Protestant criticism of monastic life -- that it's "sheltered," "decadent," and pretends to a purity that, in reality, is just the result of fear at the prospect of doing God's work in the world, etc.[1] I don't say any of the Catholics who make such arguments are "not really" Catholic, only that they might be failing to appreciate the Church's tacit dictum that one should pursue holiness "by all means necessary." If that means wandering through the Hittites and Egyptians of modern America, or the relative (and it is, after all, relative) seclusion of "theocracity," so be it. The real test of "theocracity" will be its residents' ability to appreciate that fact.

If Ave Maria residents regard themselves as a part, albeit a unique one, of the Church's vast tapestry of social life, and can authentically pursue and articulate that identity beyond the life of Tom Monaghan, then Ave Maria will be proved a Heaven-sent opportunity for sanctity and sanity. On the other hand, if residents come to regard their project as a superior example of Catholic life, perhaps even (God forbid it) as a Church within a Church, then Ave Maria will be a failure.

So it seems to me the people involved are undertaking an enormous, heart-wrenching, and difficult task. They are trying -- at least if they're doing it right -- to prove how abnormal Catholic life really is, when compared to the world's standards. If they begin cheering at having crossed the finish line now, as though they had said "goodbye to all that" ("that," of course, being secularism, sin, and their discontents) that will be a very bad sign indeed.

[1] This is not entirely the Protestant view. Anglicans, Episcopalians and Lutherans have traditions of celibate religious communities (primarily in Europe). But this is, in the main, the reaction most Protestants have to monastic religious life.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Notes on Anti-Semitism

Reading the blogs recently, I came across a comment-box conversation that raised an old perspective on anti-Semitism, one which holds that the term is rightly used only as to "racial" characteristics and should not be confused with "proper" arguments against the Jewish religion, culture, or (by extension) the State of Israel. I say "by extension" because this perspective arose prior to the creation of modern Israel. I've never bought into that distinction, although I considered it rather closely when I was writing my review of Hitler's Pope. The review wasn't the place to go into that, but now that I have a blog, I can set out my opinions about this nice and false distinction.

An example of what I'm writing about can be found in the 1930s German Catholic publication, Lexikon fur Theologie und Kirche, discussed by Fr. Martin Rhonheimer in his useful (but deeply-flawed) article, "The Holocaust: What Was Not Said":
In the first volume of the same lexicon, published in 1930, the well-known article on "Anti-Semitism" by the German Jesuit Gustav Gundlach had drawn a distinction between a volkisch anti-Semitism promoted for strictly racist motives (which was to be rejected), and an anti-Semitism promoted for general political, economic, and cultural reasons that Christians might accept. As examples of the latter Gundlach cited two Austrian politicians, Karl Lueger and Georg von Schoenerer, prominent and outspoken anti-Semites who had strongly influenced Hitler during his years in Vienna. It is noteworthy that in the same article Gundlach rejected as unjust ‘laws which single out Jews simply because they are Jews,' while not hesitating to call ‘global plutocracy and Bolshevism' forces that manifest ‘dark aspects of the Jewish soul expelled from its homeland' and which are ‘destructive of human society.'[1]
The moral flaw in this supposedly "proper" definition of anti-Semitism should be apparent, but unfortunately it tends to escape notice because it immediately provokes historical and factual arguments (I use the terms only as adjectives indicating the subject, not nouns indicating the quality, of these arguments) about such topics as the number of Jews at the New York Stock Exchange or the Comintern, or whether Lenin's maternal grandfather was a Jew and what, if anything, all that is supposed to tell us about Jews, Capitalism, and Bolshevism.

The moral flaw in Father Gundlach's closely-parsed definition of anti-Semitism isn't revealed by arguing about specific pieces of information. It's revealed by comparing it to Nazism, Communism, and other false philosophies that rely on determinism. Fr. Gundlach uses determinism to deny the human dignity of Jews ab initio and, if his argument is followed through, the dignity of everyone else too. From the Catechism:
God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. "God willed that man should be 'left in the hand of his own counsel,' so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him." Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts. Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.[2]
Perspectives on ideas, culture, or politics which locate their evils (real or supposed) in something other than the Church's teaching on sin (grave matter, knowledge of God's law, and deliberate assent) deny the free will and hope of beatitude that are at the core of human existence. "Global plutocracy and Bolshevism" may indeed witness to "dark aspects of the soul," but, to the extent such things may be said, they should be said about our common heritage of a fallen nature, and not about some allegedly-unique character of Jews, Englishmen . . .

. . . or Germans. One wonders what Fr. Gundlach might reply to arguments that while laws and social conventions which single out Germans simply because of their blood are unjust, law and custom may still guard us all against the "dark aspects" of the German soul which are destructive of human society. He would probably point out that to speak of a "German soul" in any ontologically-distinct sense flirts with denying not only the Church's teaching that each man has his own soul which lives as grace and will allow, but also the Church's teaching that humanity is circumscribed by two Adams:
St. Paul tells us that the human race takes its origin from two men: Adam and Christ. . . The first man, Adam, he says, became a living soul, the last Adam a life-giving spirit. The first Adam was made by the last Adam, from whom he also received his soul, to give him life. . . The second Adam stamped his image on the first Adam when he created him. That is why he took on himself the role and the name of the first Adam, in order that he might not lose what he had made in his own image. The first Adam, the last Adam: the first had a beginning, the last knows no end. The last Adam is indeed the first; as he himself says: ‘I am the first and the last.'[3]
If the Germans have a special sort of defect in their souls, they do not descend from Adam as other men do. So with the Jews, and if that is true for the Jews, then what are we to make of our Lord's having a "Jewish nature" that does not descend from Adam as our own natures do? "For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham." Hebrews 2:16 (KJV).

The distintion between "racial" anti-Semitism and "cultural/religious/political anti-Judaism" is false because they share a determinist view of Jewish nature (the "the Jewish race," the "Jewish soul") that compels both viewpoints to the same conclusion. What does it matter whether the malice of "the Jews" results from their genetics or their souls, so long as either cause compels "the Jews" to act against human society?

This is why Jew-hating Christians labor diligently to filter the Gospel, to remove from Jesus what would otherwise be the ‘stain' of His ‘Jewishness.' The "racial anti-Semites" try to remove Him from "the seed of Abraham" with crackpot theories about His lineage. The "cultural anti-Judaism" bunch tries it by portraying Jesus as a divine messenger who came to repudiate Judaism and the Jews, and not as the Lord of Moses who came to fulfill the Law. Both branches of this sick tree come from the same root, the idea that the Jews are not -- for whatever cause -- fully human.

I suspect that animus is behind Fr. Gundlach's prevaricating phrase about the "Jewish soul expelled from its homeland." What does he mean to suggest? He means, I think, to suggest that the true Jewish "homeland" is not the soil of Israel but the favor of God and that, having repudiated "its" homeland, the "Jewish soul" has been outraged into a "dark" hatred of human society. He is, therefore, firmly in the camp of "cultural anti-Judaism" and yet ends up making essentially the same arguments the Nazis made about Jews being a culture-destroying race.

Fr. Gundlach and Christians who think as he did would no doubt hasten to explain that the "darkness" in the "Jewish soul" can be healed by accepting Jesus as the Messiah. That doesn't make their views more amiable. If anything, it makes them more perverse. For they have tacitly defined Christianity as a faith that regards unconverted Jews as something less than human. If anything, the paradigm runs the other way: It was our Lord who called us gentiles "dogs." Mark 7:27 (KJV). For that we were, living without the divine favor represented by the Law of Moses. It was the fulfillment of the Law by the most holy "seed of Abraham," and not His mythical expulsion of Jews from the human family, that gained us a full place in the human story. It is ironic when the "dogs" bite their elder brothers, conditioning Jews' humanity on their acceptance of Jew-hating doctrines, and then express shock and anger when Jews equate evangelism with genocide.

But what else may we call a Christian witness that implicitly conditions humanity itself on adherence to credal distinctives? What should we call it? We should call it by its proper name -- the "teaching of contempt."

[1] Fr. Martin Rhonheimer, "The Holocaust: What Was Not Said," First Things, November, 2003. The full text of Fr. Rhonheimer's article can be found here. My (unfinished) critique of the article can be found here.

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pp. 1730-31. The relevant text can be found here.

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, P. 360 (quoting St. Peter Chrysologus (d. 450 A.D.), Sermo 117: PL 52,520-521). The relevant text can be found here.
Have a Nice Day, Peasant

Via Mark Shea we read about this Texas program to compliment good drivers. Texas police are pulling over drivers to praise their good driving habits:
Deputy Taylor says they're not trying to scare anyone. Deputies will simply wave to good drivers and politely ask them to pull over to the side.

"What I'm trying to focus on, and the only thing I'm trying to focus on, is rewarding someone for good driving. There are going to be some people who are not going to like it because the only experience they have with law enforcement is negative," Taylor said.
What a bunch of baloney. First off, the story itself talks about flashing lights and driver fear of being given a ticket. The police are "politely asking" good drivers to pull over just as they "politely ask" bank robbers and drunks to pull over. But that's not the real problem.

If the Travis County Sheriff wants to compliment good drivers, why not put up a website or publish a congratulatory advertisement in the local paper? Why not have officers take down license plate numbers and send the owners a complimentary letter enclosing free tickets? Because those things won't let the Travis County Sheriff's Department do what it's really out there to do -- shred the Constitution, if only just a little bit of it.

What this department is doing is conducting spot-searches of vehicles and their occupants under the guise of a "traffic safety program." Ordinarily, for the police to detain individuals for any length of time, police must have a "reasonable and articulable suspicion" that the individual is involved in a violation of the law. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). (There are exceptions -- wrong ones, I think -- for random roadblocks which sieze everyone's car in an announced and carefully-regulated manner, but that's not happening here). Under this "howdy good driver" program, the police get to pull people over for doing the right thing -- which means for no reason whatsoever.

While handing out free sports tickets, of course, the deputies get to scan the inside of the car. They get to observe the occupants and see if they're acting "nervous" or "furtively" putting things under the seat. (Just this morning I "furtively" put my cell phone under the drivers' seat because my door locks stopped working and I didn't want my phone snitched). Maybe they'll ask for drivers' licenses so they can record who they spoke to, and run a warrant check or two. And anything "suspicious" they find instantly expands their power to search and detain.

Upon finding something untoward, the officers can order (or "politely ask") the occupants to get out of the car and stand on the side of the road. They can pat down the occupants for "officer safety." They can look inside the passenger compartment to see if there are weapons or trussed-up bank presidents. And again, anything "suspicious" they find instantly expands their power to search and detain.

This is "have a nice day" tyranny, and it bothers me. The usual defense for conduct like this boils down to saying that the guilty have nothing to hide. It's not about whether the guilty have anything to hide. It's about whether our country is governed by laws that restrict power. If it is, then the guilty can hide anything they damn well want to hide until the law lets the police uncover it. If it's not, then look foward to the police entering your house without a warrant in order to compliment you on the fact that they didn't find any marijuana in your dresser drawers.
Appropos of a Controversy

St. Blog's is buzzing with controversy about Catholics being ordered to leave the Diocese of Orange, California because they want to "kneel before Jesus."

It just so happens that, both of us being well ahead of the curve, Shawn McElhinney of Rerum Novarum and myself conducted an excruciatingly extremely detailed investigation of this very question back in 2003. The table of contents can be found here. From that conversation, a few facts can be drawn that bear on the appreciation of what Michael Liccione calls "the new schism.

Fact One: It is within the power of the local ordinary to require congregants to stand after the Agnus Dei: The Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani a/k/a the GIRM, which is the manual for Mass in the United States, says, "[t]he faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise." GIRM § 43. So, if the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise, then nobody kneels. Period. My posts in the "Great Kneeling Debate" are largely dedicated to explaining why, in my simple opinion, the Diocesan Bishop ought not to require this silly liturgical innovation. (Secondarily they also contain my opinion that my own Bishop had not, by virtue of an op-ed piece in the Diocesan paper, actually made the determination required by GIRM § 43). But if the commanding general of your division can't order you to do something silly, one of you isn't in the army anymore. Catholics who insist on kneeling despite a Bishop's directive under GIRM § 43 are disoyebing a lawful directive from their Bishop.

Fact Two: There's a lot of talk about how Rome has "stepped in" and allowed Catholics to ignore their Bishops and kneel during the Agnus Dei. Now it may be that some directive has come down since 2003 which annuls the GIRM's grant of authority to the Bishop to determine this liturgical question, but if there is none of the people who are claiming willy-nilly that the Vatican says Catholics can ignore their Bishops are quoting or referring to it. I wish Rome had, in fact, done this, but I don't think Rome has.

What Rome has said is that Catholics are not forbidden to kneel while receiving communion or after receiving communion. Rome issued these decisions back in 2003/2004 because a number of interested authorities were trying what amounted to a "spirit of Vatican II end run" around the venerable practice of kneeling and claim that Catholics were no longer allowed to kneel at those times.

Now I can't tell from the stories which started this ruckus (which can be found here and here) exactly what offending practice these allegedly "traditional" Catholics are engaging in. Are they kneeling to receive communion, which is allowed? Are they kneeling in private prayer after receiving communion, which is also allowed? Or are they insisting on kneeling after the Agnus Dei in direct violation of a Bishop's decision on the matter, which is most definitely not allowed?

A letter from the parish bulletin quoted by one of the stories says: "But if you intentionally oppose these liturgical norms, particularly by not standing after the "Lamb of God" . . . ." So it seems it's the third issue that's hit the mark, and on this third issue -- standing or kneeling after the Agnus Dei -- the "traditional" Catholics are in the wrong.

In this connection it's interesting to examine the source one of these blogs uses to "prove" that the Vatican has overruled the Bishop about standing after the Agnus Dei. It is a column from EWTN that quotes a 2003 opinion of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Such an exchange is called a "Dubium," which basically means that the Congregation is responding to a question, or an uncertainty, put to it about a matter within its purview. Here is the dubium and the response of the Roman Congregation:
In many places, the faithful are accustomed to kneeling or sitting in personal prayer upon returning to their places after having individually received Holy Communion during Mass. Is it the intention of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia, to forbid this practice?

Responsum: Negative, et ad mentem. The mens is that the prescription of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, no. 43, is intended, on one hand, to ensure within broad limits a certain uniformity of posture within the congregation for the various parts of the celebration of the Holy Mass, and on the other, to not regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free.
Note that what is being asked is not whether the faithful may kneel or sit after the Agnus Dei. The question being ruled on is whether they may kneel or sit "upon returning to their places after having individually received Holy Communion." That has nothing to do with kneeling after the Agnus Dei; if it did, Catholics would be equally justified in sitting after the Agnus Dei and all the way through communion. That's not any "traditional" Catholicism with which I'm familiar, and the fact that this directive is being hastily and overzealously claimed as Rome's last word overruling the Bishop (and thereby writing § 43 out of the GIRM) gives me pause before concluding that anybody is being punished for fidelity to Holy Mother Church.

That having been said, I can partially agree with Mr. Liccione that this is a stupid issue altogether, and that Bishops who spend fifty or seventy seconds on it have lost their sense of priorities. But the Bishop's letter raises other issues which aren't trivial:
- Personal attack and false allegations against Bishop Brown
- False allegations against the American Bishops
- Personal attack and false allegations against Fr. Martin Tran
- False accusations/ condemnations against various ministries of the Diocese of Orange as heresy, supporting abortion and contraception.
Are these charges true? On the one hand, I'm tempted to say they're not, since the Bishop's unilateral and furtive letter-writing campaign seems anxious to avoid a public examination of them. On the other hand, some arguments on behalf of these "traditional" Catholics seem equally anxious to ignore specifics and rush into hysterical denunciations of a Bishop for supposedly decreeing that "kneeling before Jesus" is a "mortal sin." The only thing that's clear to me is that tempers and vanity are running so high that nobody's yet interested in authentic dialogue about what's happening.

And that, as somebody should remind our pastors, is how reformations happen. It's their job to avoid these things, or handle them sensibly when the arise. But many of our Bishops have a habit of "getting tough" and "laying down the law" only with those Catholics who are already most likely to do whatever the Bishops want. Had these traditional Catholics been wearing rainbow sashes, there would no doubt be "dialogue" and "pastoral outreach" about "concerns" rather than terse letters inviting them to be Catholics in somebody else's diocese. That's part of the picture here, too.

Faithful Catholics are becoming tired of getting treated like villains while their openly-heterodox, thrice-divorced-never-annulled, contracepting, same-sex-marriage-ing, and otherwise-indifferent brethren are treated to open arms, kid gloves and kind words. It almost seems, at times, that orthodoxy and pious affection for time-honored forms of devotion are the two things guaranteed to provoke suspicion and even enmity from our pastors. It almost seems that our pastors, like parents whose overindulgence eventually becomes an excuse for sloth and low standards, expect heterodoxy and promiscuous indifference to the spiritual life in the Church and become nervous and threatened whenever the laity tries, however bumblingly and stupidly, not only to live the way the Church tells them to live, but to expect others to do so as well.

More later, as time permits . . . . .

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Something Cool Has Happened

The Dossier has a new look, thanks to Christopher Blosser of Against the Grain / Ratzinger Fan Club fame. I think Chris has done a bang-up job designing his and other websites such as Musings of a Pertinacious Papist and Ad Limina Apostolorum to name only two.

So, having received a lot of complaints and gripes that my site won't be read in anything but Internet Explorer, and that it doesn't have a "feed," and getting really tired of telling people I don't know the difference between Mozilla and a sequel starring Matthew Broderick, I asked Christopher if he could do something.

I think he did great. What do y'all think? Sound off in the comments box and let me know.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Something Cool is Coming

Something cool is about to happen to The Dossier.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Good Question

Disputations has a good question to ask at the beginning of Lent: "Do you think of yourself primarily as a disciple of Christ, or as a Catholic? As a follower of a Person, or as a member of an institution?" Please go over there and read the whole thing. (Note to the Wary: It's not "We are Church" stuff nor a prescription for ecclesiastical anarchy. In fact, its the exact opposite of those things).

Thursday, March 02, 2006

This Just In

WASHINGTON, MAR 2, 2006 ( -- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg falls asleep during oral arguments on the Texas redistricting case. When questioned later, Ginsburg expressed her consternation at having fallen asleep: "I don't understand it," she said, "I drank a nice cup of tea at lunch, and suddenly I felt this overpowering need to be one with the universe, to define my own concept of existence . . . . as a desk blotter."

Legal experts were astounded at the occurrence and pondered its implications for American law. "We're not sure whether Justice Ginsburg was a functional human being during those fifteen minutes," said Judge George Greer of Lebunswertes Lebens Law School. "She didn't move. She didn't talk. Sure, she looked like someone who might have a form of consciousness, but for all anyone could tell, she was in a persistent vegetative state."

Asked if he thought Associate Justices David Souter and Samuel Alito, who sit on either side of Ginsburg in the historic courtroom, should have nuged Ginsburg back into consciousness, Professor Greer demurred. "It depends," he said, "on whether she had ever expressed a desire not to be woken up. If she had, it would be cruel to have revived her."

More on this story as it develops . . .
Miscellaneous Notes


Memo to Nihil Obstat:

Hey, buddy -- you're the one who knows how to spell "Hooters."


We took our daughter to tour a preschool-cum-speech-therapy program. She understands everything. In fact she was acing the intelligence tests for children 2 - 3 years older than she was. But she has problems speaking. Consonants are tough, especially the beginning ones. Part of that's from having been raised in a government orphanage, and the other part is from having been raised in a government orphanage where everyone spoke Chinese. Chinese isn't big on consonants. That makes it a mellifluous language, BuT oNe THaT DoeSN'T TRaNSiTioN To ENGLiSH, WHeRe eVeRY oTHeR SouND iS a CoNSoNaNT. Sometimes I think conversational Chinese could be achieved by singing the right combination of lines from "Louie Louie" and "The Name Game."

But the main reason our girl's having difficulty is probably the fact that her father is a dork. When she was two, I asked her if she favored scrambled or fried eggs. I'm not kidding, "Sweety, do you favor scrambled or fried eggs?"
"His assessments," the teacher who evaluated my student-teaching stint at a local High School wrote, "are a bit over the heads of the students." Yep. Or should I say, "How perspicacious of him?"
As my wife and I toured the preschool classroom, looking at the bright decorations and indestructible furniture, we came to the corner where the small class had a morning pow-wow. The teacher told us they sat in a circle and talked about letters, names, and lots of other things.

"And this is the purple egg," she said while handing me an eponymously-violet plastic easter egg. "Each child holds it in turn to talk, and when they're talking, no one can interrupt."

"Ah," I said, "I guess you use a plastic egg because a conch shell might break?"

Sure, guy. That's what the teacher needs -- to think your house looks like a boat-shaped island where kids named Piggy and Ralph chase each other with pointy sticks. Or to think that you think her classroom resembles said island. Or to think you're nuts. Or to think all three.

If I don't watch it, my daughter's biggest problem in life is going to be the consonants that spell GeeKY FaTHeR.


Jesus refers to his followers as "little children." John 13:33 (KJV). "And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3 (KJV). "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 19:14 (KJV). John and Paul, speaking in persona Christi, say it too. "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now . . . " Galatians 4:19-20 (KJV). "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." 1 John 2:1 (KJV). Little children. Little children of God the Father.

I think about my daughter eating spaghetti. She likes spaghetti. She doesn't like it to be cut up, she wants to twirl it around her fork like I do. But her hands are too small and the fork is too heavy. So usually she ends up eating it with her hands. She likes to do this while standing on the bench in our kitchen alcove. That makes it easier to grasp a strand of pericatelli, hold it above her head, and lower it into her mouth. At the end of dinner, our daughter has turned into a giant ball of pasta sauce with a big smile.

Little children of God the Father. We're created to live in a universe where things are too complicated, the fork is too heavy, but we still have to live and we're still delighted by good things even if we're not entirely read to enjoy them as they can be enjoyed. I wonder if God sees His children as balls of pasta sauce with big smiles and is pleased because He knows they're doing the best they can with what they have and that they'll soon grow and learn and get even better at living the life He's given them. I think so. Little children of God the Father.

Of course there are times when our girl's just bad. She has this awful habit of swiping at me or her mommy when she's angry, half-hitting, half-scratching us. And she's going to have anger to deal with when she gets to the age of reason. She can throw terrible, disproportionate fits when she doesn't get her way. She's the sort who gets angry, and then gets angry about having to be angry, and then gets angry about that, until there's a thunderhead at 25,000 feet and Katy, bar the door. We'll have a time out, which won't work because she won't stay in one place or stop yelling. She'll push and swipe when we try and stay with her. So we when the tantrums get really, really bad we have a super time out in her bedroom or the bathroom. I close the door behind us, and we sit together while I read The Wanderer until she's done yelling and screaming.[*****]

By then, she's usually crying, frightened the way strong emotions will frighten someone, especially a three year old to whom even dandelions are strange and unexpected things. She regrets the bad time, and wants to be held, for everything to be all right again. That's the moment of perfect joy, tainted only by my anxious desire that her sorrow and her fear vanish forever, for us to get on with the business of being happy. So she says "sowwy," and we hug and go out to play. Soon she's laughing again, and all's right with the world, not least because I have seen how God regards me when I'm sorry for disobeying Him. Little children. Little children of God the Father.

Let's all keep trying, and let's all go to confession. It's Lent. Lent's a season of trying, a time of confession. "And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." 1 John 2:1 (KJV). Little children. Little children of God the Father.


[**] If anybody's got a better idea, I'm all ears.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dossier Pulls Off Stunning Upset!
Defeats Catholic and Enjoying It in 2006 Catholic Blog Awards!

BLOGOSPHERE, FEB. 23, 2006 ( - SecretAgentMan's Dossier outpaced Mark Shea's Catholic and Enjoying It blog for the first time in the history of the Catholic Blog Awards.

The Dossier received 152 votes to CAEI's 140 votes for third place in the Most Creative Blog category.

"I'm delighted to have come out ahead," said SecretAgentman, the Dossier's author, speaking at a press conference convened at the Dossier's offices in Boca Raton, Florida. SecretAgentMan spoke to the conference via telephone signals bounced off nine satellites to protect his anonymity. "Mark ran a good campaign, and we're looking forward to next year's awards."

Both the Dossier and Shea's blog were passed by Jimmy, a blog maintained by noted Catholic apologist, author, and cowboy-hat model James Akin of Texas, and Jeff Miller's The Curt Jester, which offers "punditry, parody, polemics, politics, [and] puns from a papist perspective."

"Blogs," as they are called in America, are individually-maintained journals and websites expressing their authors' thoughts or otherwise on matters of interest. "In my case, it's definitely ‘otherwise,'" explained SecretAgentMan. "People get lots of good perspectives and information from other websites. I try and offer a break from all that." This is the third year for the awards, which are determined by popular vote.

When the official vote was tallied, Akin's blog outpaced the Dossier for second place in the "Most Creative" category by 22 votes. Asked about rumors that he'd demanded a recount, SecretAgentMan dismissed them. "Look," he said, "Miller kicked everybody's . . . [interference interrupted the transmission at this point] . . . 58.39133% percent of the total. No way I'm asking for a recount. You think I want to fall to fifth place?"

Shea's blog won the award for "Best Social Commentary," and came in a close second for awards for "Best Blog by a Man," and "Best Political Blog." Akin won awards for "Best Apologetics Blog," "Best Blog by a Man," and "Most Informative Blog." Miller's blog won awards for "Most Humorous," "Most Bizarre," "Most Bizarre Blog Post," and "Most Creative" The Dossier was not nominated in any other category.

Questioned as to whether computing other bloggers' vote tallies to the fifth decimal place, and holding the press conference when all the awards had been won by other bloggers, indicated he was a bit self-involved, SecretAgentMan declined to comment.

A full list of nominees and winners can be found on the contest's website,


Seriously, folks, congratulations to all the winners, nominees, and voters. I was honored to be nominated, but Jeff Miller really is the most creative blogger in the Catholic blogosphere.
Chris Johnson Responds

As noted previously, Chris Johnson of the Midwest Conservative Journal responded to my post on "Conservative Confusion" below. I had promised to print his response in full and without comment, which I did. Unfortunately, Blogger then ate it. My apologies to the commenters whose insights were lost as a result. Here is Mr. Johnson's letter:
Very interesting, thought-provoking post. Thanks very much for the heads-up.

I agree that Ms. Coulter's comments were deplorable. The problem I had with the NCC statement was this: it seemed, at least to me, to automatically concede that the Muslims were right. The Muslims claimed to be offended, therefore the Muslims were right to be offended and that therefore we should all sit down and talk things over and agree to be civil to one another from here on.

Leaving aside the fact that I have little or nothing to say to people who make and display signs which read "Exterminate Those Who Insult Islam" and similar sentiments, it is not dialogue if I must accept your argument right away and agree to whatever you want me to agree to. And one important aspect of Western civilization is the right to say anything you want about anybody you want. If that's got to go so Muslims won't get mad, that is a conversation that I'd rather not start in the first place.

And I dispute the idea that any process can be deliberately set in motion to "civilize" anybody, Muslim or not. We can spread aspects and products of our culture(Coca-Cola, rock music, etc) but any deliberate effort to get "them" to see things "our" way will be fiercely resisted. Our values will spread when people see that they work and that they produce happier societies, not because we all sat down and hammered out a bunch of rules. Ultimately, people and societies have to "civilize" themselves.

You've given me a lot to think about. Thanks again,


Christopher S. Johnson
Midwest Conservative Journal
Webster Groves, Missouri

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Conservative Confusion

Oh, but Ms. Coulter was simply exercising her Western rights to free speech. As such remarks go, hers was merely banal and boring -- not the kind of thing that's really offensive. Besides, once a couple of imams publish a pamphlet juxtaposing Coulter's remarks with manufactured quotes about ‘sand n*ggers' and ‘goat b*ggerers," the blame will be on them for any outrage among Muslims. The important thing is to resist the craven tide of dhimmitude that's washing over that font of moral cowardice, The American Spectator, and the dhimmis at CPAC -- all of whom are, at present, falling over themselves in their anti-American haste to placate the Jihadis and hasten the suicide of the West.

The point being that, to appropriate Goldwater, "barbaric vulgarity in the pursuit of virtue is a vice." Hat tip to Kathy Schaidle, whose blog also quotes Midwest Conservative Journal's opinion that people who want to inculcate "‘new rules of civic behavior respectful of other cultures and religions'" among Muslims are "‘Idiots.'"[**]

Which is it? Is Ann Coulter's "quip" to be despised, or is Western civilization wasted on rag-heads? The Left doesn't care. They're happy enough just hating the West and using whatever knife is handy. The conservatives don't know. On one side of their mouths they wax lyrical about the value of Western civilization and the moral necessity of its victory over Islam, and on the other side of their mouths they talk about "rag-heads" and write off the prospect of inculcating Western civilization among Muslims as something for "idiots." Sometimes it seems to me that the only conservative debate about the Islamic world is whether we're too good for them or they're too depraved for us.

Giving conservatives the benefit of the doubt, I think it's worthwhile to remind them that they're supposed to be championing a civilization and not merely defending the approved membership of an elite social club from hooligans and gate-crashers. Or, to quote someone who must have been a conservative, the best defense is a good offense.

Suppose, just for a minute, that you're a "rag-head." All your life you've heard nothing about God except what's been filtered through a man-made religion that combines some of the worst aspects of pharisaism with a moral code culled from crib notes about the Bible and some 7th-century folk wisdom. You've also been taught that Westerners are liars who hate you, and that the reason Westerners hate you is that they hate God. At about the same time, the biggest, baddest, most powerful Western nation starts kicking ass and taking names in your country (or next door) on behalf of a civilization whose literati call you a "rag-head" and are pretty frank about how stupid and barbaric you are. What do you do?

You do what any ordinarily-reasonable person would do -- change the channel to Al-Jazeera. This will, of course, be seized upon by said Westerners as "proof" that you're an ignorant "rag-head." But why should you care? You've caught them in a lie about their own civilization -- they say it's for everyone, but they mean only to vaunt themselves over the Prophet and his Dar al Islam. Just like the Imam said they would. And so the ignorant armies take another step toward their darkling plain.

Folks, a billion people aren't going to go away and leave us alone just because we call them names and drop bombs on some of their countries. And just as I admit that many of them are pretty scary folks, and that they have more than their fair share of ignorant, malevolent, and/or lying sons-of-bitches, I believe that we can do better than this. A good place to start would be to figure out whether they're "rag-heads" or victims of one of history's greatest tragedies, and whether doing anything about it is something that should only interest "idiots."

[**] Which is not the same thing as saying that people who commend or attempt to conduct said dialogue can't actually be idiots. I can think of plenty of people (like the first ten patrons who show up for happy hour at Hooter's) who could do it better than the National Council of Churches, the "Parliament of the World's Religions," or the United Nations. But that wasn't MCJ's point, either; MCJ's sneering at the goal, not only the boobs who are, at present, the only ones interested in pursuing it. That's another problem with the confused conservatives; they're letting the Booberati steal a march on them in this area.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Note to Joe

This is a continuation, of sorts, of the dialogue in connection with my previous post about the "cartoon incident." Joe D'Hippolito made a lot of comments. Here are my notes in response to two of them.

In the blog post, I had written, "Islam cannot be mocked, as it is now being mocked, without striking at the heart of the Christian message." Joe replied: "That would only be true if those messages are the same. But they're not."

I'd accept that point, Joe, if Christianity were "the ideology of Christians." In that case, since Christianity would be just one "position" or "lifestyle" among many, Christians could live in a credal/dogmatic world that isn't ineluctably connected to anything or anyone outside itself. But Christianity is truth revealed by God about all things and, as such, it applies to all things, not just things which visibly and distinguishably pertain to Christians. So, if Christianity teaches that man's need for holiness may not be made into an object of derision, then it is wrong for anyone to do so -- whether he's a Christian mocking Islam, a Muslim mocking Christianity, or a secular materialist who mocks the other two.

Did the Jyllands-Posten cartoons do that? Of course they did. They're no different than cartoons depicting the Apostles as collar-wearing, child-molesting priests. Oh, the people who would make such cartoons would talk a lot of fine talk about freedom of the press and about how they only intended to cunningly allude to some problem or issue about Christian life. We Christians have heard all that talk, and we know it's just a bunch of excuses made by people who like to see crucifixes plunged into urine, and the image of the blessed Virgin covered in dung. It satisfies their need to be rid of competition for the job of Supreme Being.

Not all critics of religion think that way or act from those motives. I don't have problems with Besancon or Ibn Warraq writing about Islam's falsehoods and their deleterious effect on mankind. I don't have problems with Hitchens or Gibbon trying to expose what they believe to be Christianity's flaws. I don't have problems with intelligent fiction like Elmer Gantry or The Satanic Verses trying to explore religion's involvement with the darker impulses in man, even if they do tend to suggest that religion is merely symptomatic of those impulses.

One can, without much charity, consider all those things part of a vast inter-generational, intercultural conversation about the human question and man's place in the universe. They, too, are part of the search for holiness which Dignitatis Humanae commends to our special respect:
The disciple is bound by a grave obligation toward Christ, his Master, ever more fully to understand the truth received from Him, faithfully to proclaim it, and vigorously to defend it, never-be it understood-having recourse to means that are incompatible with the spirit of the Gospel. At the same time, the charity of Christ urges him to love and have prudence and patience in his dealings with those who are in error or in ignorance with regard to the faith. All is to be taken into account-the Christian duty to Christ, the life-giving word which must be proclaimed, the rights of the human person, and the measure of grace granted by God through Christ to men who are invited freely to accept and profess the faith.
-- Dignitatis Humanae, # 14 (1965)
These cartoons weren't part of that dialogue. They said nothing intelligent about Islam's falsehoods or the shortcomings of religion as a whole; they simply mocked Islam with the same crude tactics mockers of Christianity use when they run out of (or have never acquired) intelligent comments to make about religion.

The cartoons weren't produced or published in the spirit of dialogue, but in the spirit which regards the idea of "holiness" as a joke played by charlatans upon the credulous. That strikes at the heart of the Christian worldview whether or not the immediate targets are Mormons, Buddhists, or Muslims.

Mormonism, Buddhism and Islam are false, but the desire for holiness which animates their adherents is real. It is real because God made it, and planted it in human nature: "Thou has formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee." The restless ages of man have wandered through the deserts of falsehood, finding Islam here, Daoism there and, men being men, finding refuge in the truly-sordid escapades men use to hide their emptiness from themselves.

If I saw a man wandering through the desert, crazed and dying from thirst, I would tell him not to drink kerosene because it would be kindness to remind him of what he truly seeks. But I would not mock his search, or tell him that only fools fail to realize that "water" is a lie. The necrotic arrangement which now passes itself off as "Western Civilization" has been doing that with increasing ferocity for the better part of two centuries. That is why the West is dying, and why the terrorists have come: Maggots attack corpses, not living beings. The West's secular disdain for religion has not protected us from Islam. Why should anyone want to trust that it will protect us in future?

I had also written, "It is not enough to scourge Islam from the minds and hearts of men." Joe replied, "Perhaps not. That was also true concerning the Nazis and Communists. But it must be so scourged, or Western Civilization (despite the secularist elements you abhor) will die. That was also true concering the Nazis and Communists."

I would not say "perhaps," unless I intended to imply that there really was nothing worth fighting for except another false idea. But I might have put my point more clearly by appealing to Sun Tzu, who wrote that the highest form of generalship is to win a battle without fighting. Instead, I only wrote, "[w]e don't want a world in which Islam has been scourged out of existence. We want a world in which a billion Muslims quietly walk away from what they realize has been a myth." There are people who are resigned, even eager, to forego that goal in favor of a military-political "clash of civilizations."

In some ways that's a natural response; it's difficult to imagine holding a productive dialogue with someone who wants to kill you. But it's interesting to note that a lot of Islamic anger at the United States comes from a sense (however wrongly, on occasion, held) that the United States is not living up to its moral responsibilities. Muslims who believe that Islam was created for one purpose, namely to destroy the Satan United States, are not yet typical:
As our surveys underscore, the U.S. continues to face enormous challenges regarding its public image in Arab and Muslim countries. Anti-Americanism in the region is driven largely by aversion to U.S. policies, such as the war in Iraq, the war on terrorism, and U.S. support for Israel, in addition to the general perception that the U.S. fails to consider the interests of countries in the region when it acts in the international arena. At the same time, however, our findings highlight areas of improvement. U.S. favorability ratings have increased in some countries, and there are signs that support for terrorism is waning. Moreover, there is strong evidence suggesting that Arab and Muslim publics overwhelmingly desire democracy for their countries.
-- Andrew Kohut, President, Pew Research Center, Testimony U.S. House International Relations Committee. You can find the testimony here.
* * *

Concerns over Islamic extremism, extensive in the West even before this month's terrorist attacks in London, are shared to a considerable degree by the publics in several predominantly Muslim nations surveyed. Nearly three-quarters of Moroccans and roughly half of those in Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia see Islamic extremism as a threat to their countries. At the same time, most Muslim publics are expressing less support for terrorism than in the past. Confidence in Osama bin Laden has declined markedly in some countries and fewer believe suicide bombings that target civilians are justified in the defense of Islam. . . .

The polling also finds that in most majority-Muslim countries surveyed, support for suicide bombings and other acts of violence in defense of Islam has declined significantly. In Turkey, Morocco and Indonesia, 15% or fewer now say such actions are justifiable. In Pakistan, only one-in-four now take that view (25%), a sharp drop from 41% in March 2004. In Lebanon, 39% now regard acts of terrorism as often or sometimes justified, again a sharp drop from the 73% who shared that view in 2002. A notable exception to this trend is Jordan, where a majority (57%) now says suicide bombings and other violent actions are justifiable in defense of Islam. . . .

When it comes to suicide bombings in Iraq, however, Muslims in the surveyed countries are divided. Nearly half of Muslims in Lebanon and Jordan, and 56% in Morocco, say suicide bombings against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq are justifiable. However, substantial majorities in Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia take the opposite view.
-- Pew Research Center, "Islamic Extremism: Common Concern for Muslim and Western Publics." You can find the entire report here.
One's first reaction to such studies is to wonder, if these results constitute "improvement" in Muslim thinking, whether it might not be better to conquer these countries now, while we can. Consider, however, the number of Muslims indicated who do not want a world whose only choice is between Osama Bin Laden or the Third Infantry Division. There's little point in hysterical reactions to those numbers; the only sane response is to recognize that they can increase, or decrease, and inquire how our actions can achieve one or the other result.

Besides, we can't "conquer" them all, or most of them, or even a few of them. We can defeat them militarily, so long as we can attack them in detail (one of my worst nightmares, thankfully fanciful, involved a simultaneous advance on U.S. units in Iraq by Iranian, Syrian, and Turkish forces). But we can't conquer them in any useful sense by force of arms. You see, ultimately the problem isn't that Muslim extremists are trying to kill us. Ultimately, the problem is why they're trying to kill us -- conquer that and we'll have made a bolder stroke for good than B-52s could ever make.

The Pew results indicate, at least to me, that there remains a window of dialogue between the West and Islam which, if properly exploited, can (I do not say "shall") produce two things. First, it can produce an Islamic self-story that accepts the existence of powerful, independent non-Muslim countries as a good (or at least benign) part of Allah's plan for humanity. Second, it can produce an increasing recognition among Muslims that Christianity and its civilizations are congruent with divine truth and, more gradually, a realization that Christianity is the true fulfillment of the hope which brings men to Islam in the first place.

That's the only solution which can protect the West. It can't occur in an atmosphere of warfare, coercion and revulsion, which is all the "clash of civilizations" perspective really has to offer. Is that kind of victory practicable over Islam? I think it's a certainty that too few among us are interested in the question.