Monday, February 28, 2005

Dithers on BMD

Posted by Hello That about says it all. Notice that nothing gets said about any nation attacking the U.S. via Canadian airspace. No, it's all about how we did it to the the yanks. What is it about the Liberals and they're obession with the Americans? "Independent course" my hiney. Tip: Small Dead Animals; source: Cox & Forkum

Red Ensign

The Phantom Observer hosts the latest edition of The Red Ensign Standard. Go on and have a look, he's done a swell job.

Links!

The U.S.A. was founded on Christian principles, true or false? As usual, it depends on how you define things like "founding" and "Christian principles." Jennifer at Scattershot takes a look at the question. It's harder - not easier - to argue that Canada is not a religiously founded country, btw. Our ties to the English Monarchy (defender of the faith) ought to make that clear enough for anyone (but sadly doesn't). *** Postscript*** Peter Thurley at Diner Table Don'ts tips us to a lengthy New York Times article on the same subject. Seven Sorrows is a Catholic alternative band whose music you can download for free. The band's site is here (looks good, sound quality is muddy) or from Download.com (MP3's sound good, site looks, well, blah). Before I became a country bumpkin I listened to alternative stuff for years. It leaves me a bit cold now, but I can still get into light trippin' ambient anytime. There's lots to be found on internet radio too. Godspy takes a look at Peter "some humans are not persons" Singer. Singer violated his own utilitarian ethics by caring for his mother when she developed alzheimer's. Rather than question his ethical conclusions, Singer simply says it is "very hard to do what's right." Singer is a classic intellectual, more in love with "humanity" than with flesh and blood people, more comfortable with a universal ideas than anything tangible before him. David Warren has an annual ritual, it seems, and it involves an evaluation of why he writes. No a bad idea, that, especially for bloggers whose page never gets full. He offers us a golden observation in this column:
The journalist who thinks what he writes doesn't matter, is not humble but irresponsible. The one who is cynical and posturing -- who pretends to be world-weary -- is not neutral in the face of events. He is on the wrong side. The one who thinks he is a mere entertainer, is an even greater fool than I am: for there is no such thing as "pure entertainment". Everything has moral consequences, including mere idleness.
Get Religion has a look at Ron Howard's upcoming take on C.S. Lewis' Narnia tales. Money quote: "I suspect you can portray resurrection in the same way that E.T. comes back to life, and that practically every fairy tale has a hero or heroine who seems to be gone forever but nevertheless manages to come back." This does not sound at all promising, especially after what Peter Jackson was able to do with Tolkien's very Catholic Lord of the Rings. Mind you, it is very subtle in Tolkien and more up front with Lewis. Still, I think audiences have shown a willingness (and a hunger, even) to have the real goods so that they can debate it like adults.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

God's Will

Pure Intention and Man Made Law Chapter four of Thomas Merton's No Man is an Island is a look at what he calls "Pure Intention," by which he means learning to discern what we want from what God wills. I'm going to try and bring this around to a comparison of John Rawls' argument about liberty from what he calls the "Original Position." Bear with me. First, Merton offers some clarification about what is meant by the "will of God," a term that is the subject of much abuse and misunderstanding. One thing we ought to get right off the top is that we are not talking about God as a figure like Zeus who wants to have one thing rather than another (who made the things Zeus wants?), and we we are not talking about impersonal power number crunching it's way through time:
There are religious men who have become so familiar with the concept of God's will that their familiarity has bred and apparent contempt. It has made them forget that's God's will is more than a concept. It is a terrible and transcendent reality, a secret power which is given to us, from moment to moment, to be the life of our life and the soul of our soul's life. It is the living flame of God's own Spirit, in whom our souls flame can play, if it wills, like a mysterious angel. God's will is not an abstraction, not a machine, not an esoteric system. It is a living concrete reality in the lives of men, and our souls are created to burn as flames in His flame. The will of the Lord is not some static center drawing our souls blindly toward itself. It is a creative power, working everywhere, giving life and direction to all things, and above all forming and creating, in the midst of creation, a whole new world which is called the Kingdom of God. What we call the "will of God" is the movement of His love and wisdom, ordering and governing all free and necessary agents, moving movers and causing causes, driving drivers and ruling those who rule, so that even those who resist Him carry out his will without realizing that they are doing so. In all His acts God orders all things, whether good or evil, for the good of those who know Him and seek Him and who strive to bring their own freedom under obedience to his divine purpose.
This is a very traditional Christian view; we are all fumbling about in the dark, trying to align ourselves with the divine will. We fail a lot because we are so in the dark and because we really are free to stay in the dark. Not one of us can claim to have a better view than another, no matter how strong or fast or intelligent, because Grace is available to all. That this Grace is available at all to anyone is a great mercy. Not one of us earns it. That mercy shows up a lot in today's readings. Consider the second reading, from Paul's letter to the Romans:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Merit also has nothing to do with the mery God extends to the Samarian woman. She does not want to give him the water he asks for because of the enmity between her tribe, the Samaritans and his, the Jews. She has not kept the commandments and in fact knows little about them. She has had five husbands, none of them her own (!). Yet God chooses her to be the one through which he will teach the Samaritans about the His will. Towards the end of the story He says:
Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
The sower here is God, who sowed the world and who sustains it from moment to moment, and also makes available his Grace to those who would have it. We can claim responsibility for none of that, but we are free to reap it, such is his generosity and mercy. Contrast this position of human fallibility and divine mercy with Rawls' "Original Position." To begin with, Rawls' argument follows in a long line of political theory that sees human relations in terms of a contract. This is a funny line of thought, since a contract normally has limits, and the parties can opt out under certain circumstances. It is hard, however, to see how any of us can opt of any social contract, if that is indeed what binds us together, because no matter where we go, there is a contract already in place. There is no opt out. Let's leave that aside and consider the proposal itself. Rawls asks leaders and legislators to consider laws before them as if they did not have their present talents and signs of merit. What would you vote for if you had no idea ahead of time what you were going to be in human society? He concludes that two principles emerge:
  1. The liberty principle, which guarantees an adequate set of basic liberties (e.g. freedom of speech and conscience) to all citizens.
  2. The difference principle, which requires that social and economic inequalities be arranged so as the benefit the least well-off group in society.
There is a very large problem here in asking someone to use their talents to consider what they would or would not value if they had no talents. There is a further problem in reconciling the two principles that Rawls draws from his thought experiment. Even if we grant them, how they are to be blended together is not at all clear. The liberty principle is an old idea, going back to the old testament at least. God is always present, as are his laws and commandments, but each person is free to accept or reject them. In their stumbling and fumbling, many characters in the Bible come to see the folly of going their own way. The prodigal son is one example. In these struggles, people come to learn the truth about their situation. Rulers often do not lead as God leads, but instead compel their people to do or not do this or that. Pharoh's struggles with Moses come to mind here, and Pharaoh is a negative example. It's not clear Rawls is offering anything new here. The difference principle is more troublesome because it sets the ground for an endless set of limitations principle one, liberty. It attempts to whitewash this by arguing that this is not just permissible but necessary to fulfill the best rational outcome of the original position. On what grounds, however, does one in Rawls original position claim to be perfectly rational? Further, on what grounds is Rawls original position itself considered to be rational? One has to ask these very hard questions because the difference principle opens the door to tyranny by white washing it (let us do evil that good might come of it) and by putting human wisdom on a pedestal it has no right to claim. We know enough to know that. What about suffering, however? Must it be unjust to put limits on liberty in order to hinder suffering? No, it isn't. In fact, Christians are asked to deny ourselves in order to aid others, and we are told that true freedom is found in doing just that. If we give because we are coerced, however, then we really haven't given anything of our selves. Our selves, as a result, remain shriveled and stunted. As Merton puts it:
An impure intention, without doubting that in theory that God wills what is universally best, practically doubts that He can always will what is best for me in willing what is best for all. And so the man whose intention is not pure is compelled by his weakness to pass judgment on the will of God before he obeys it. He is not free to do the will of God with perfect generosity. He diminishes his love and obedience by making an adjustment between God's will and his own, and so the will of God comes to have, for him, a variety of values: richer when it is more pleasing to him, valueless when it offers less immediate satisfaction, valueless when it demands a sacrifice of his own selfish interests.
A Christian in his relationship with God is free to work this out and overcome it. The problem is an internal one. A citizen having this relationship with those he is governed by, as when his money is taxed away and spent in ways he thinks foolish (like on national daycare, for example), has no easy way out because the problem is external to him. He can't reconcile himself to the wisdom of those who govern as he can to the wisdom of God for many reasons. Men who govern are men, just as he is. As he knows that he himself loves power and friends and pet causes, he know that those who rule are subject to them as well. Since a spiritual reconciliation is impossible, he simply bows his knee to the power that confronts him. Rawls' theory of government is even worse for those who rule, since it cuts them off from all correction. Are they not acting out of selflessness? Well then! Stop complaining and get on with it. Stop being selfish and irrational! How often have we heard that from those would call themselves "liberal." The original position cuts itself off from God's Grace and presumes to put those who assume it in His place. It gives them the illusion that they can be perfect lawmakers and enforcers and it removes feedback and accountability by lobbing the charge of irrationality at anyone who dissents. In the end Rawls' philosophy is merely a cotton cover for an iron fist. We accept it out of fear even in Rawls' own calculations. To escape it we need two things. One is faith - faith that our hardships are not without purpose:
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
With that we are much less likely to use the government against our neighbors and for our own betterment. The other thing the governed and the government need to do is remember God's mercy and why and how he extends it. This lessens the desire for perfect man made law and its ruthless enforcement.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

A little perspective

Blogger John C. Bambenek went through some stats in effort to compare the sex scandal that's been embarrassing the Catholic Church for a while now with the number of unreported child sex crimes that slip through the hands of Planned Parenthood every year. He concludes that the numbers in the church scandal "amount [to] roughly... the amount of sexual abuse cases covered up by Planned Parenthood in Ohio for only one year." That gives some much needed perspective (and in no way condoes either organization's misdeeds). I suspect that there is a very important difference in outlook skewing the figures. If you do something you know is wrong, you are not likely to do it as much as someone who denies that the act is wrong at all. This has implications for policy (and policy debate!). If you propose something like "hosting a teenage drinking party is a bad idea," and people tell you "oh, they'll just do it anyway" you can kindly point out that you know that, but think they'll do it less if you don't help them. You need to add that it is important that teenage drinking parties are not seen as worthy of respect. This doesn't mean you'll win the debate, as the cost of enforcement (on many issues more so than the one I'm using) has to be taken into account. But it does mean that laws that can't be enforced 100% may still be worthy of merit. And who wants to live in a society where laws are enforced 100%? Not me, that's for sure. A little mercy goes a long way at times. Partial triumphs matter, especially when dealing with the young. Getting them to do less experimentation with drugs, alcohol and sex means they have much better odds of reaching the age of maturity and doing so unscarred. I'm sure somebody out there is giggling over my comments on the wild life, thinking to themselves, "well, it didn't hurt me any." To which I can only say it's possible to flip a coin and get heads any number of times in row, but I wouldn't bet on it. It's also possible to be a fish and not know you're wet. It seems to be that the argument from imperfect enforcement is not enough on it's own to nullify a claim to restrict something. To succeed, it also needs to prove that the cost of reasonable enforcement is higher than the damage a vacuum can create. Something will rush in to fill that gap and the costs of that might be higher than anyone realizes in the long term. Voters can't count on governments and interest groups to think beyond the election cycle and their personal interest; it is we who have to think long term, because we will live with our actions long term. Jimmy Akin provides an example here, one that's quite relevant to the daycare debate here in Canada. ***** Postscript After posting this entry, I turned to my copy of Thomas Merton's book No Man is an Island. The book is very good, btw, and I'm certain I'll post more of it in the future. One paragraph struck me as a very nice summary of what I was after in writing this entry:
If, in trying to do the will of God, we always seek the highest abstract standard of perfection, we show that there is still much we need to learn about the will of God. For God does not maintain that every man attain what is theoretically highest and best. It is better to be a good streetsweeper than a bad writer, better to be a good bartender than a bad doctor, and the repentant thief who died with Jesus on Calvary was far more perfect than the holy ones who had him nailed to the cross. And yet, abstractly speaking, what is more holy than the priesthood and and less holy than the state of the criminal? The dying thief had, perhaps, disobeyed the will of God in many things: but in the most important event of his life he listened and obeyed. The Pharisees had kept the law to the letter and had spent their lives in the pursuit of a most scrupulous perfection. But they were so intent upon perfection as an abstraction that when God manifested His will and His perfection in a concrete and divine way they had no choice but to reject it.
Odd, isn't it, that our "Catholic" Prime Minister(s) (Chretien, Martin, Trudeau, even Clark) are so scrupulous about building a perfect Rawlsian superstate? There's nothing whatever Catholic about that end, and certainly nothing about the scrupulousness with which that vision is being followed. If they truly think Rawls has pierced the mind of God, maybe they could run on that?

Zeitgeist surfing

The underlying story Via Dawn Eden I learned today that Planned Parenthood is so much in love with abortion that it is opposed to a bill being put before the US Senate that is intended to make aborting a child for being gay illegal. No such technology exists today, and I'm not sure there are any gay genes waiting to be found. Nevertheless, PP is making it clear that killing based purely on any principle (or none) is it's policy:
The bill is called “An Act to Prevent Homosexuals from Discrimination.” I’m all for that. I just sort of thought it might be done by giving “homosexuals” [sic] the right to marry, protection from employment and housing discrimination, parental rights, maybe some new reality television shows about gay people that don’t involve fashion. Not by limiting the rights of women to terminate pregnancies.
It's tough to enjoy any of the rights the author says she favours when you don't make it into the world at all. At least we know which they think is the "higher value" here. For them, there is no person or group of higher worth than one person's choice. Minority, gay, female, etc., none of it matters. National Review's Jonah Goldberg is also on the story, as is Eternity Road. Both use the story to make the point that the new is never purely the good (despite what reading some progressive material might lead you to think). And that means that saying "no," as conservatives are more prone to doing, is not always bad. In this case, choice, a good thing when deciding between Coke and Sprite, is not such a good when the matter is choosing life or death for another person based soley on our own preferences. In another life story, I read in the National Post this morning that Hunter S. Thompson was on the phone with his wife when he shot himself in the head. She says she's trying to put her own feelings aside and view this as a triumph, as he would have wanted her to. This strikes me as an old creep dominating this woman from beyond the grave. First he inflicts the violence of hearing the fatal shot (all the while indifferent to how painful this will be for her), and then he attempts to deny her the validity of her own feelings on the matter. Wiser people than me have said that leftist thought is dominated through and through by the desire for power. These stories appear, to me, to back that up. None of the rhetoric about "triumph" and "choice" overcomes the underlying theme of domination. If you're in the left camp and you're not all about domination, you may want to sit down and have a deep re-think. The right is not without its problems, but the rhetoric of victimology is not widely found here, as they are in the story of the parent and the suicide above. The classic left tropes are shot through with it, however. Hitler and Marx used it against the Jews. Yes, Marx was a Jew hating Jew. If you're unaware of that you are missing much about Marx and the anti globalization movement that is his heir. The fact that Hitler used it counts as one reason why I think he properly should be thought of as leftist. In essence what this is about is using the right's largely Christian scruples against it. It is much more difficult to do this to the left because their principles are so plastic. So it was when Stephen Harper tried to show the Liberal party's loyalty to minorities is not exactly sacrosanct. His points were quite valid but I doubt if many in that party were given to much introspection as a result. Logical consistency about ends is not what they're about. The consistency of the modern left lies in using one virtue to attack the rest in a way that suits them. Call it zeitgeist surfing. Today's zeitgeist is equality; yesterday's was liberty. Conservatives must remember that neither is a virtue in of itself, but is so only in balance and harmony with other possibly conflicting values. As conservatives we can and ought to argue vigorously over what the proper balance is, but what we can't do is fall into the trap the left invites us to trip into, and that is choosing one virtue over and above all the others. They can do so because they're foolish or cynical, and we ought to be neither. G.K. Chesterton commented on this phenomenon in Orthodoxy, where he wrote:
The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues do more damage. The modern world is full of old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from one another and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians care only for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful... What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled on the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful of himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.

Friday, February 25, 2005

It's the culture, stupid

Check out Kate at Small Dead Animals on the Terri Schaivo case. Despressing, isn't it, that so many media outlets are calling it a right to die story. Terri does not want to die; or if she does no one knows that. What we do know is that her creepy husband wants her to die and he stands to gain a large financial windfall if she does. He's hardly an unbiased or objective "caregiver." This woman is not attached to machines that keep her alive. What's being proposed here is to deny her food and water, simply because she's too weak to do anything about it. Any of us could find ourselves in her situation - especially if we are active, play sports, clean the roof, slip in ice, etc. There but for the grace of God... If you should watch the Oscars this weekend (I never ever do), I hope you'll think of Terri when Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby comes up for best picture. The script doesn't even make sense. The boxer fights hard and overcomes great odds and we cheer. So far, so good. Then she's injured and wants to give up. See the incongruity?

Now that's manly

I thought these were priceless. I live with two women (wife and mother-in-law). I swear they think I'm a martian from time to time. Tip: Wicked Thoughts TWO DOZEN THINGS THAT MAKE A BRIT FEEL LIKE A MAN (May need some translation) 1, OPENING JARS - nnng, she's struggling. You take it from her hands, open it effortlessly and pretend she loosened it for you. She didn't. Jars are men's work. 2, CALLING SOMEONE 'SON' - Especially policeman but even saying it to kids makes you the man. 3, DOING A PROPER SLIDE TACKLE - Beckham free kicks? Please. A Stuart Pearce tackle is the pinnacle of the game, simultaneously winning the ball and crippling the man. Magic. 4, SHARPENING A PENCIL WITH A STANLEY KNIFE - Blunt, is it? Hand it here love. No, I don't need a sharpener, you think I can't whittle. 5, GOING TO THE TIP - A manly act which combines driving, lifting and - as you thrillingly drop your rubbish into another huge pile of other rubbish noisy destruction. 6, DRINKING UP - Specifically, rising from the table, slinging your coat on and downing two thirds of a pint in one fluid movement. Then nodding towards the door, saying, "Let's go" and striding out while everyone else struggles to catch up with you. God, you're hard. 7, HAVING A THIN BIT OF WOOD - in the shed, solely to stir paint with. 8, HAVING A SCAR - Ideally it'll be a facial knife wound, but even an iron burn on the wrist is good. "Ooh, did it hurt". "Nah". 9, HAVING A HANGOVER AND THICK STUBBLE - When birds have been partying they just whinge. You, on the other hand have physical evidence of your hardness, sprouting from your face. "Big night?" Grr, what does it look like. 10, NODDING AT COPPERS - A moments eye contact is all it takes for you to share the unspoken bond. "We've not seen eye to eye in the past", it says, "but someone's got to keep the little scrotes in line". 11, USING POWER TOOLS - slightly more powerful than you need or can safely handle. Pneumatic drilling while smoking a fag? Superb. 12, KICKING A FOOTY AGAINST A GARAGE DOOR - Clang-g-g-g-g-g-! Stitch that becks, I kick so hard I set off car alarms. 13, ARRIVING IN A PUB LATE... and everyone cheers you. It doesn't mean you're popular, it just means your mates are ****ed. However, the rest of the pub doesn't know that. 14, NOT WATCHING YOUR WEIGHT - fat is a feminist issue, apparently. Brilliant. Pass the pork scratchings. 15, CARVING THE ROAST - and saying "are you a leg or breast man" to the blokes and "do you want stuffing" to the women. Congratulations, you are now your dad. 16, WINKING - turns women to putty. Doesn't it? 17, TEST SWINGING HAMMERS - ideally, B&Q would have little changing rooms with mirrors so you could see how rugged you look with any DIY item. Until then, we'll make do with the aisles. 18, TAKING OUT 200 pounds FROM A CASHPOINT - okay, so its for paying the plumber later but with that much cash you feel like a mafia don. The only thing better is peeling notes off the roll later. 19, PHONE CALLS THAT LAST LESS THAN A MINUTE - unlike birds, we get straight to the point. "alright? Yep. Drink? Red lion? George, it is then. Seven. See ya." 20, PARALLEL PARKING - bosh, straight in. first time. Can Schumacher do that? No, because his cars got no reverse gear which, technically, makes you the worlds best driver. 21, HAVING EARNED THAT PINT - Since the dawn of time, men have toiled in the fields in blistering heat. Why? So, when it's over we can stand there in silence, surveying our work with one hand resting on the beer gut while the other nurses a foaming jug of ale. Aaaah. 22, HAVING SOMETHING PROPERLY WRONG WITH YOU - especially if you didn't make a fuss. "Why was I off, nothing much, just a brain haemorrhage". 23, KNOWING WHICH SCREWDRIVER IS WHICH - "a Phillips? For that? Are you mad, bint?" 24. CALLING YOUR MATE A C**T - and punching him on the shoulder. Just a man's way of saying "you're a good mate; I missed you while you were in hospital".

Where the blacktop ends

We've had a real warm and sunny stint here over the last week and I'm starting to really look forward to spring, and longer days, and flowers in bloom, and... you get the picture. It was 16C yesterday afternoon but it's still close to freezing at night. This a great song for the kind of days I'm longing for. The artist is Keith Urban, whose upcoming show in Vancouver sold out in minutes.
Where the blacktop ends Gonna kick off my shoes And run in bare feet Where the grass and the dirt and the gravel all meet Goin' back to the well gonna visit old friends And feed my soul where the blacktop ends I'm lookin' down the barrel of Friday night Ridin' on a river of freeway lights Goodbye city I'm country bound 'Til Monday rolls around Gonna kick off my shoes And run in bare feet Where the grass and the dirt and the gravel all meet Goin' back to the well gonna visit old friends And feed my soul where the blacktop ends Workin' in the grind is an uphill road Punchin' that clock and carryin' that load I bust it all week and then I'm free The weekend belongs to me Gonna kick off my shoes And run in bare feet Where the grass and the dirt and the gravel all meet Goin' back to the well gonna visit old friends And feed my soul where the blacktop ends Give me some fresh air give me that farm Give me some time with you in my arms Far away from the hustle and the pressure and the noise Gonna kick off my shoes And run in bare feet Where the grass and the dirt and the gravel all meet Goin' back to the well gonna visit old friends And feed my soul, you betcha Gonna kick off my shoes And run in bare feet Where the grass and the dirt and the gravel all meet Goin' back to the well gonna visit old friends And feed my soul where the blacktop ends Where the blacktop ends Where the blacktop ends Where the blacktop ends
That's the Fraser River rolling past Abbotsford, British Columbia. The big hill in behind the farms is Sumas Mountain. The picture was taken from Westminster Abbey in Mission, a Catholic seminary high school located at the top of a large hill over looking the river. The steeple can be seen from a long ways off. Posted by Hello Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 24, 2005

No such thing as peaceful intimidation

Reap what you sow I am no fan of protests, peaceful or otherwise, so I found this story about some Greenpeacers being "actively resisted" both amusing and interesting (tip: Bill's Comment's). A short summary is that they entered a London trading floor for petroleum, planning to disrupt trading in an effort to voice concern over air quality. The traders would have none of it and beat the heck out them. I'm inclined to back the traders on this one, with a few caveats thrown in. I am willing to overlook protests that really are peaceful. Blocking access to property that is not yours is not peaceful. This is obvious in cases of private property, but it applies to public property as well, since public property does not belong to protestors alone. I don't actually care if I like your cause or not. Being right about the ends does not give one carte blanche on the means. I have only taken part in one such protest and I'm sure it'll surprise no one that it was a pro life event. We held signs on a busy public street, making no attempt to block anyone's use of the street or the sidewalk. The signs were not rude or threatening, not unless you consider "abortion hurts women" to be menacing (there were no pictures involved, only simple text). It took some convincing to get me even to do that, not that I had any doubts about the cause. Now, I think the people from Greenpeace were clearly in the wrong here. They had no business interrupting business on the trading floor in London. If they had a point to make, it is up to them to find a way to make it, without interrupting the lives of others. The trouble with the folks from Greenpeace is that they assume they are right, and that being right justifies anything they do. They remind me of tourists who think the locals will understand them better if they talk louder. No, the solution here is to communicate better, so that people will want to hear you out and may even be convinced of your cause. The traders were right to be offended, and I don't have much quarrel with them forcing the intruders out. On whether or not excessive violence was used, I'm not in a position to say. It is easy to say that the traders went too far, hitting people who were down. The problem is that flopping on the ground like a sack of potatoes it is such a common tactic among certain types of protestor. Were the people from Greenpeace down, signaling submission, or were they up to their usual "peaceful sack of potatoes in a place they have no right to be in" routine? That tactic may have worked years ago, when it was new. It made skillful use of television cameras, creating the appearance that the attacker was in fact a victim. To put it subtly, however, this is a new generation and a much more media savvy one. We've seen it before and we know more than the camera shows, making the potato tactic yesterday's news. I also note that the protestors entered illegally, while "blowing whistles and sounding fog horns ... Rape alarms were tied to helium balloons to float to the ceiling and create noise out of reach." Tactics like these emphasize that what is happening is a soft form of war, or of terrorism. It is intended to disrupt the opposition and make it difficult for them to respond. It is a form of intimidation. The whole stupid exercise was one large act of intimidation. If, however, the protestors were backing off, then they should not have been beaten. Restraining them so that they could be arrested for trespass would also be fair. Perhaps in the future Greenpeace can either conduct a more peaceful protest, or find another way to get the camera's attention. After all, you bright things are future, right? I'm sure you'll think of something.

New stuff

I have been adding some new things to my template today and I thought I'd take a moment to point them out. Nothing high tech, just some places you might want to visit. Under NWW Daily News - Godspy, a very slick Catholic webzine. There's lots of good quality material here for a thoughtful person of any persuation. For instance, there's a interesting interview (some might find it shocking or disturbing, but they would be folks unfamiliar with war books, methinks) with Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill. The book is about his time in Iraq and parts of it were serialized in Rolling Stone. An excerpt from the book is here. Under References - Snopes, a site for information about urban myths and W3Schools, a very useful site for bloggers needing to find information about html and stylesheets. W3Schools is a good place for all those times when you can't remember if the code for light green is color: #00ff00 or color: #11ff11. You can experiment with code right on their site. Neat-o. Under Websites of Note - One More Soul, a charity for those who love children, those who want to know what the problem with contraception is, and those curious about Natural Family Planning. Also new here is FIRE, dedicated to individual rights in education. Lots of my readers are academics and students, so I thought it might be of mutual interest.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Gay Genes: What the future might hold

Via Dissect the Left, I came across a very interesting interview with evolutionary biologist Greg Cochran. Cochrane presents a pretty plausible argument that gay genes will never be found because the more likely cause is that male homosexuality is caused by a virus. See also here. Here are the highlights:

Isn't it the current expectation among scientists that we will eventually find some sort of "gay gene" that codes for homosexuality?

... we can be pretty sure that there is no gene that codes for male homosexuality: not one that accounts for much of the story, anyhow. Although there is some familial clustering, there is certainly not a simple Mendelian gene: there is no simple Mendelian inheritance pattern of the type we see in cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy. In fact, identical twins are usually discordant for homosexuality (~75% of the time) - so homosexuality is unlikely even in a homosexual's twin. Obviously some environmental effect plays a big role. ...

What makes a virus an especially likely candidate as a cause for homosexuality?

Well, the general idea is that while evolution makes human genes that reduce reproductive success rare - and it does, usually - various kinds of parasites are entirely capable of causing syndromes that reduce fitness and are much more common...

Male homosexuality reduces reproduction a lot: it's around at the few-percent level, and seems to have been around for millennia. I could say the same thing about a number of other syndromes that we've already figured out and the cause was an infectious organism in about 90% of the solved cases. It's the way to bet. If it were new, I'd consider drug side effects and such, but it's a lot older than that.

A virus is most likely, rather than a bacterium like TB, a protozoa like malaria, or a parasitic worm like dracunculiasis. If it were caused by a bacterium we'd probably already have prevented homosexuality by accident with antibiotics, and a worm we'd have seen. ... Is there reaction against considering this theory from within the scientific establishment?

Some. Prominent evolutionary biologists mostly think it makes sense and might be true: Bill Hamilton thought so. Trivers thinks it makes sense, Randy Thornhill does, Paul Ewald does, James Crow does. Alan Grafen, a pupil of Richard Dawkins, came up with a similar idea but thought that, if true, it should be kept forever secret, being an utter sniveling coward.

Working on an idea like this is bad for a biologist's career. You could never, ever get any NIH funding. If you proved it, I expect that the Nobel committee would drag you to Stockholm in chains and take your money.
This story raises so many questions it's hard to know where to begin. I should point out that this idea seems to have respectable names behind it. Dawkins, Trivers and Hamilton are well known names and if they think the theory is good, with the math to back it up, then I'm inclined to listen. It's a shame that work like this would be shunned. This is the result of modernity's attempt to build ethics on science alone; scientific research becomes hijacked by political considerations. If the theory is true and if a cure can be found, there will be a ferocious debate about whether or not it should be allowed. It strikes me as a very similar issue to the cochlear implant for deafness, which some oppose on the grounds that it attacks deaf culture. I'm not sure the case to deny would be solid. I doubt very much that if this theory is ever proven, that it would account for all gays (in the interview Cochran mentions that it may not apply to lesbians because their behavioral distribution is different). So, gay culture would survive. If the theory is true, what does that do to the SSM debate? (which will likely have quieted down some by then) Does it do anything? I'm not sure the law would change. There'd still be gays around, after all. It would, however, take away a great deal of the impact "gay gene" thinking has today. "They were born that way, just like being born black... blah blah blah." You know what I think of the merits of that - it's a false parallel and racist to boot, implying that one's race determines one's behavior. As always, I look forward to hearing what others have to say.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Blimpish

If you're not reading Blimpish... you're missing something. Something very English and very smart. Blimpish on the BBC:
the problem with the BBC is not a conscious attempt to indoctrinate the viewer, but the uncritical parroting of media elite conventional wisdom.
Our own CBC has exactly the same problem. Created to be different and objective, it is more than anything else a slave to the tastes of Upper Canada (geographical, ideological and class). Blimpish on the what the future holds for the Left:
I remain firm in my belief that the next intellectual stage for the Left will be some pure form of libertarian individualism. They're already way on their way there: for the Left's base, values issues - pro-choice, multiculturalist, etc. - are extremely important... It's just that they get hung up on the economic policy stuff which is all settled for most people. When it comes to the questions raised by biotechnology - stem cells less important here than genetic engineering or cloning - then the real question will be between those (many of whom currently identify with the Right) who believe there should be no limits on how individual will, and those who believe that the State has the right to defend society by limiting technological innovation. This will be the last conflict between the modern egocentric autonomous self and the more classic view, that our being and nature is something given.
and the Right:
There are those who say that British conservatism can never replicate American conservatism, and they are right. Certainly, we couldn't jump in and copy the GOP's current platform - let alone the God-speak, which would be looked upon as extremely nutty. Abortion's a non-starter, and fighting gun control - well, most people have never touched a firearm in their life. Unfortunately, the party's already given on gay marriage (admittedly not full-blooded) - it was left to the House of Lords backbenchers to play their very clever game on the Civil Partnerships Bill.

So, yes, different. But not all that different - the basic themes of personal responsibility to go with personal freedom, cultural conservatism (i.e., defending the common-sense values of the majority), and democratic nationalism can work, even if they come through different conceptual packaging to fit our concerns. There are issues out there - crime and punishment, immigration and asylum, the growth of the multiculti state, rising taxes, and (softly softly) Europe.

This isn't a short-term game - it requires forming a coherent narrative about what's wrong with our country, and what's right with it, and hammering it through to the public again and again over a number of years. It might even require going out on a limb to be roundly smashed at an election, just to get the message out (like Goldwater reaching the South). It most of all requires leadership and a willingness to win... and sadly, they seem to be the things most lacking in the party.

And on Canada:
Although Canada has a strong conservative constituency in the west, the liberal elite (like we all know and love) has made much greater strides with the bizarro PC-feminist-multiculturalist-Tranzi [transnational] agenda, to the point where being of conservative mind will probably soon be a serious felony... David Frum and Mark Steyn are obviously just getting their asylum claim in early.
He's also the kind of commenter you'd like to have... if you have lots of time on your hands. There's an excellent summary of the history of the Anglican Church to be had here. I found the comments on the possible future of the Left and Right to very interesting. I fear his comments about what the left needs to do to succeed ring very true to my own experiences in talking with people who would vote left if they didn't feel it was stuck in a 60's timewarp. I also find what that sort of party would represent more than a little creepy. It would be a party of atomization that could peel a good number of so called small "c" conservatives into it's ranks. More encouragingly, if the comments on the right pan out, we in Canada had our "smash" in 1993, even if the jury is out on what that meant. We ought to be creating and hard selling a new vision for Canada, one that allows us to claim the mantle of virtue and vision. I think the squeal Stephen Harper got from the Liberals last week was a good sign. When he mentioned various human rights errors that occurred under the Liberal Party he was right on the money. Don't apologize for it. It was an attempt to grab that sceptre of virtue and vision and the squeal indicates that the Libs knew it ("the lady doth protest too much"). With the upcoming policy convention, we will soon know if the Tories will be able to articulate a vision for the country (capitalism good, gays bad, will not do; neither will "I'm not a Liberal"). Myself, I would make hay with the words "strong" and "free." Come to think of it, "stand on guard" might do all right as well.

Carrying a spotted owl

These lines from Francis Beckwith are great.
"It's always wrong to generalize."
Indeed. I never do that. I also liked this:
"If a pregnant woman were carrying a spotted owl in her womb, what would be Al Gore's counsel to her?"
G.E. Anscombe on the necessity of force is also worth a think.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Inferno Quiz

This quiz aims to tell you what level of Dante's Inferno awaits you. I think I got the panderer thing because I thought it was ok to tell a white lie... The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory! Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)Moderate
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Very Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low
Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Links!

This is certainly interesting. Vatican to announce St. Paul's tomb found. No matter what your politics, we all ought to be happy that we have new media and mediums in which we can attempt to level the playing field with large players who would have us think they know what we need, and know how to put one right by us. Examples: Fair is fair. Lots of folks got all steamed when the Knights of Columbus and other Christian groups got some help from across the border. I say, so what? No one gets too concerned when labour or environmentalists share resources across the border. Justice is blind- if you're lucky. It turns out that many of the legal critics of Stephen Harper's notable speech in parliament last week are members or donors of the Liberal Party. Now why would a reputable unbiased paper like the Toronto Star forget to mention things like that? In Canada, securities sales people are now required by law to state if they have any interest or holdings in stocks and whatnot that they promote. Perhaps journalists should have a similar requirement? Francis Poretto looks at how the MSM runs at G.W. Bush:
Dubya's ascendancy, his fearlessness in political discourse, his obvious mastery of political maneuver, and above all his unconcealed Christianity have driven the Left half out of its mind. Their attitude is parallel to that of Agent Smith in the first Matrix movie: this was supposed to be their time. They'd spent seventy years building toward it. For this swaggering Crawford cowboy from a blue-blooded Republican family to stride into their carefully constructed liberal-socialist tableau and upend their applecart as he has is simply not to be tolerated -- and tolerate it, they shall not...
Homeschool kids get into it and lambaste cartoonist for bias and stereotyping. Brandon at Sirius offers more erudite thoughts on Natural Law. Lydia Lorvic offers advice to Prince Charles and anyone else getting married for the second time. Finally, a non media related link. Rebecca and I went for a day trip on Sunday and she has the pictures on her blog to prove it. That's why I was awol from here most of the weekend.

It's hard

It's hard, there's no way around it. Life just does not make sense as we would write it. If you have a moment, say a prayer for two of my blogging friends, both of whom have some hard times ahead. You two were both in my thoughts today.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Soul of Freedom

Thomas Merton 1915- 1968 Posted by Hello The following is taken from Thomas Merton's book, No Man is an Island. Merton was a Trappist monk in the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsmani, near Bardstown, Kentucky. His works are still popular today. The best known of them remains Seven Story Mountain.
... If I do nothing except what pleases my own fancy I will be miserable almost all the time. This would never be so if my will had not been created to use its own freedom in the love of others. My free will consolidates and perfects its own autonomy by freely co-ordinating its action with the will of another. There is something in the very nature of my freedom that inclines me to love, to do good, to dedicate myself to others. I have an instinct that tells me that I am less free when I am living for myself alone. The reason for this is that I cannot be completely independent. Since I am not self sufficient I depend on someone else for my fulfillment. My freedom is not fully free when left to itself. It becomes so when it is brought into the right relation with the freedom of another. At the same time, my instinct to be independent is by no means evil. My freedom is not perfected by subjection to a tyrant Subjection is not an end in itself... Why should my will have been created free, if I were never free to use my freedom? If my will is meant to perfect its freedom in serving another will, that does not mean it will find its perfection in serving every other will. In fact, there is only one will in whose service I can find perfection and freedom. To give myself blindly to a being equal or inferior to myself is to degrade myself and throw away my freedom. I can only be become perfectly free by serving the will of God. If I do, in fact, obey other men and serve them it is not for their sake alone that I will do so, but because their will is the sacrament of the will of God. Obedience to man has no meaning unless it is primarily obedience to God. From this flow many consequences. Where there is no faith in God there can be no real order; therefore, where there is no faith obedience is without any sense. It can only be imposed on others as a matter of expediency. If there is no God, no government is logical except tyranny. And in actual fact, states that reject the idea of God tend either to tyranny or to open disorder. In either case, the end is disorder, because tyranny itself is a disorder. If I did not believe in God I think would be bound in conscience to become an anarchist. Yet, if I did not believe in God, I wonder if I could have the consolation of being bound in conscience to do anything. Conscience is the soul of freedom, its eyes, its energy, its life. Without a conscience, freedom never knows what to do with itself. And a rational being who does not know what to do with himself finds the tedium of life unbearable. He is literally bored to death. Just as love does not find fulfillment in loving blindly, so freedom wastes away when it merely "acts freely" without any purpose. An act without the purpose lacks something of the perfection of freedom, because freedom is more than a matter of personal choice. It is not enough to affirm my liberty by choosing "something." I must use and develop my freedom by choosing something good.
I think that Merton's description of freedom is very fine, and not just because it intrigues and annoys libertarians and socialists alike. This is a mature description of freedom; it acknowledges others, the others' freedom, and more than that, the Other that makes freedom possible and meaningful. It works from simple premises - we are not and cannot ever be fully independent. We need other people even to live, and God to even exist. I love the middle ground he stakes out between service and servitude. While it is a struggle to stay in those bounds, that struggle in itself is of great value. We learn much about ourselves through it. Today we are likely to think of a society that is based on a recognition of God as tyrannical theocracy and while that remains a real threat when men bend what we think of God to suit their personal ambitions, so too is the encroachment of a secular society that sees no limit to what man or government can or ought to do. To that threat I regret to say I think too many today are blind. A society that recognizes God as a just and merciful bulwark against which man and his government shall not encroach is safer, I think, than one that trusts to human knowledge and human kindness alone. The most difficult passage is the one about obeying other men because it is a sacrament of God. This would seem to include a Catholic Christian's submission to church teaching, of course, and that is no small thing. Apostolic succession is not an easy pill to swallow and it's fraught with dangers for the teacher and the student. Seeing others as reflections of God, however, is not confined to only those who teach the word of God. It includes everyone - employees and employers, the government and the governed, and all of the relations in a family. It means in a fuller sense recognizing that we all have roles in society and seeking out a role that we can fulfill. A Catholic might call this, loosely, a vocation. Having found a vocation, we then seek to be "light" and "salt" in it. The light peels back the darkness with wisdom or new knowledge. This has to be done with respect for others and to take into account that what we offer might be wrong. The salt preserves, leavens, and draws out what is good in the other. Together the salt and the light are produce just criticism that brings out the best in us, and through us in the vocation that we pursue. Our most basic and difficult vocation is to learn about the good and how it is best pursued. What sorts of trade offs are most just? That is, I think, the best use of freedom. The other important point is that heiarchy and authority are to be resisted only when they deviate from the Natural Law. They are not inherently bad, not any more than one glass of wine is bad. Six glasses of wine, on the other hand...

Friday, February 18, 2005

Harper in the House

"this debate will not reach a conclusion or social peace until equal rights, multicultural diversity and religious freedom are balanced" Tory Leader Stephen Harper was very good in the house of commons this week. Here's a long reprint of his response to Paul Martin's introduction of the SSM bill:
We believe that our proposals speak to the majority of Canadians who stand in this middle ground and frankly, who seek such a middle ground. Our proposal is that the law should continue to recognize the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, but at the same time we would propose that other forms of union, however structured, by appropriate provincial legislation, whether called registered partnerships, domestic partnerships, civil unions or whatever, should be entitled to the same legal rights, privileges and obligations as marriage. Many of these types of unions are already subject to provincial jurisdiction under their responsibility for civil law. However, there are issues affecting rights and benefits within the federal domain, and our party would ensure that for all federal purposes those Canadians living in other forms of union would be recognized as having equal rights and benefits under federal law as well. What we put forward, in my judgment, is the real Canadian way. The Canadian way is not the blindly, ideological interpretation of the charter put forward by the Prime Minister. It is not a case where one side utterly vanquishes the other in a difficult debate on social issues. It is a constructive way, and as debate in other jurisdictions has shown, and I draw this to the attention of the House, this debate will not reach a conclusion or social peace until equal rights, multicultural diversity and religious freedom are balanced. We also oppose the government's bill because it is a clear threat to religious freedom. We are proposing amendments that will prevent any religious discrimination within the sphere of federal authority. This bill, by failing to find a reasonable compromise, a reasonable middle ground on the central question of marriage, is fundamentally flawed. There is a second major flaw. The so-called protection that the government has offered for even basic religious freedom is, frankly, laughably inadequate. It is totally dishonest to suggest that it provides real protection. The government has only proposed one meagre clause to protect religious freedom, a clause which states that religious officials will not be forced to solemnize marriages, but the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that this clause is ultra vires. It falls within the provincial responsibility for the solemnization of marriage. Frankly, this section of the bill illustrates the depth of the government's hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty in this legislation. On the one hand, the government and its allies claim that any attempt to retain the traditional definition of marriage is unconstitutional on the basis of a decision the Supreme Court has not made and has refused to make. On the other hand, it is happy to insert into its bill a clause which the Supreme Court has already ruled is unconstitutional and outside of federal jurisdiction. The government's constitutionally useless clause purports to protect churches and religious officials from being forced to solemnize same sex marriages against their beliefs, but this threat has always been only one of many possibilities. We note the Prime Minister did not choose to address a single other possibility. What churches, temples, synagogues and mosques fear today is not immediately the future threat of forced solemnization, but dozens of other threats to religious freedom, some of which have already begun to arrive and some of which will arrive more quickly in the wake of this bill. ... this Parliament can protect the institution of traditional marriage very well and respect the rights and privileges of those who chose another form of union, without departing from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in our Constitution. Some people have suggested that we cannot do what we propose to do; that is, preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman while extending equal rights and other forms of union without invoking the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution. I am going to take a little time on this. It is red herring argument, but we might as well spell it out. The attack is dishonest on several levels. First of all, and this is important when we start talking about the notwithstanding clause, the Liberal Party and this Prime Minister have no leg to stand on when it comes to preaching about protecting human rights and the notwithstanding clause. It was none other than Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the author of the charter, who accepted the notwithstanding clause. Far from believing it to be a necessary evil to win support for the charter, he promised to use it. Specifically, he promised the late Cardinal Gerald Emmett Carter that he would use the notwithstanding clause to uphold Canada's legislation on abortion if it were struck down by a future Supreme Court. In the more recent debate over same sex marriage, in an earlier phase of it, this Prime Minister promised that he would use the notwithstanding clause should a court ever infringe on religious freedom, although of course no one takes his commitments to religion seriously any more. In fact, this Prime Minister was a member of Parliament from Quebec in 1989 when the provincial government in his province used the notwithstanding clause to ban English on commercial signs. He had next to nothing to say about it then and in the subsequent Liberal leadership race in less than a year he supported the notwithstanding clause. ... It does not follow from the fact that a law passed by Parliament differs from a regime envisaged by the Court in the absence of a statutory scheme, that Parliament's law is unconstitutional. Parliament may build on the Court's decision, and develop a different scheme as long as it remains constitutional. Just as Parliament must respect the Court's rulings, so the Court must respect Parliament's determination that the judicial scheme be improved. To insist on slavish conformity would belie the mutual respect that underpins the relationship between the courts and legislature that is so essential to our constitutional democracy. ... The courts refused to answer the Prime Minister's question on the constitutional validity of the common law opposite sex definition of marriage because they did not want to pre-empt the work of Parliament. That suggests to me that they would be even more likely to defer to the judgment of Parliament when faced with a recently passed statute. The members of the House, starting with the Minister of Justice, should actually read the same sex reference decision. I ask, if the Supreme Court actually believed that the traditional definition of marriage was a fundamental violation of human rights as, say, restricting aboriginal Canadians or non-Caucasian immigrants from voting, do we really think the Supreme Court would have engaged in an analysis of the possibility that it could uphold such a law even hypothetically? The answer is, of course not. The government has also claimed and is still claiming that marriage between persons of the same sex is a fundamental right. That is another erroneous opinion and a totally specious argument the government wants to spread. Government spokespersons bring disgrace on themselves, however, when they wrongly try to invoke the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to cover up their threadbare arguments. I want to address an even more fundamental question. That is the question of the issue of human rights as it pertains to same sex marriage and the use and the abuse of the term “human rights” in this debate which has been almost without precedent. Fundamental human rights are not a magician's hat from which new rabbits can constantly be pulled out. The basic human rights we hold dear: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and equality before the law, the kind of rights that are routinely violated by the Prime Minister's good friends in states such as Libya and China, are well understood and recognized around the world. These rights do not depend on Liberal bromides or media spinners for their defence. The Prime Minister cannot through grand rhetoric turn his political decision to change the definition of marriage into a basic human right because it is not. It is simply a political judgment. It is a valid political option if one wants to argue for it; it is a mistaken one in my view, but it is only a political judgment. Same sex marriage is not a human right. This is not my personal opinion. It is not the opinion of some legal adviser. This reality has already been recognized by such international bodies as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. ... UNCHR rejected this complaint in 2002, in effect upholding that same sex marriage is not a basic universal human right. If same sex marriage were a fundamental human right, we have to think about the implications. If same sex marriage were a fundamental right, then countries as diverse as the United Kingdom, France, Denmark and Sweden are human rights violators. These countries, largely under left wing governments, have upheld the traditional definition of marriage while bringing in equal rights and benefits regimes for same sex couples, precisely the policy that I and the majority of the Conservative caucus propose. Even those few countries that have brought in same sex marriage at the national level, currently only the Netherlands and Belgium, did not do so because their own courts or international bodies had defined this as a matter of human rights. They did so simply as the honest public policy choice of their legislatures. In fact, both the Netherlands and Belgium legislated some differences in same sex marriage as opposed to opposite sex marriage in many areas but particularly in areas like adoption. In other words, no national or international court, or human rights tribunal at the national or international level, has ever ruled that same sex marriage is a human right. The Minister of Justice, when he was an academic and not a politician, would have appreciated the distinction between a legal right conferred by positive law and a fundamental human right which all people should enjoy throughout the world. Today he is trying to conflate these two together, comparing a newly invented Liberal policy to the basic and inalienable rights and freedoms of humanity. I have to say the government appears incapable of making these distinctions. On the one hand the Liberals are friends of dictatorships that routinely violate human rights to whom they look for photo ops or corporate profits. On the other hand they condemn those who disagree with their political decisions as deniers of human rights, even though they held the same positions themselves a few years, or even a few months ago. ... Quite frankly the Liberal Party, which drapes itself in the charter like it drapes itself in the flag, is in a poor position to boast about its human rights record. Let us not forget it was the Liberal Party that said none is too many when it came to Jews fleeing from Hitler. It was the Liberal Party that interned Japanese Canadians in camps on Canada's west coast, an act which Pierre Trudeau refused to apologize or make restitution for, leaving it to Brian Mulroney to see justice done. Just as it was Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Diefenbaker who took the great initiatives against apartheid, Mr. Diefenbaker with his Bill of Rights, and I did not see a notwithstanding clause in that. It was the Liberal Party that imposed the War Measures Act. New Canadians know that their cultural values are likely to come under attack if this law is passed. They know that we are likely to see disputes in the future over charitable status for religious or cultural organizations that oppose same sex marriage, or over school curriculum and hiring standards in both public and private religious and cultural minority schools. ... New Canadians, many of whom have chosen Canada as a place where they can practise their religion and raise their family in accordance with their beliefs and without interference from the state, know that these legal fights will limit and restrict their freedom to honour their faith and their cultural practices. Of course, in all of these cases, courts and human rights commissions will attempt to balance the basic human rights of freedom of religion and expression with the newly created legal right to same sex marriage, but as our justice critic has remarked, we have a pattern: wherever courts and tribunals are faced with a clash between equality rights and religious rights, equality rights seem to trump. The Liberals may blather about protecting cultural minorities, but the fact is that undermining the traditional definition of marriage is an assault on multiculturalism and the practices in those communities. All religious faiths traditionally have upheld the belief that marriage is a child-centred union of a man and a woman, whether Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh or Muslim. All of these cultural communities, rooted in those faiths, will find their position in society marginalized. I believe the Liberal vision of multiculturalism is really just a folkloristic one. The Liberals invite Canadians from cultural communities to perform folk dances and wear colourful costumes, but they are not interested in the values, beliefs and traditions of new Canadians unless they conform to the latest fashions of Liberalism. All races, colours and creeds are welcome in Liberal Canada as long as they check their faith and conscience at the door. ... There are fundamental questions here. Will this society be one which respects the longstanding basic social institution of marriage or will it be one that believes even our most basic structures can be reinvented overnight for the sake of political correctness? Will this society be one which respects and honours the religious and cultural minorities or one which gradually whittles away their freedoms and their ability to practise their beliefs? Will this be a country in which Parliament will rule on behalf of the people or one where a self-selected group of lawyers or experts will define the parameters of right and wrong?
When Harper is in this mode I see someone who might make a terrific PM if we would ever give him a chance. Intelligent and moderate, reasonable and smart, I think he represents Canada and Candians far better than the dizzying zealotry we are seeing from the party in red. Note that in saying this, I am not "getting what I want" from the Tories in the simple sense of just getting what I want. In this case, getting what I want means reasonable, boring, efficient government. It's a compromise I'm willing to accept. Go on and read the whole thing. The sky is not falling.

Links!

It seems I'm not the only one who thinks Paul Martin's reign has been more than disappointing thus far. You can read some of the Libs squawk about it here. The New Sisyphus shares a story that explains why I never want to see Al Jezeera on Canadian cable. He also has a nice words for "Red Ensign Canadians" but seems unaware of the Red Ensign brigade. Tip: Little Green Footballs Microsoft has decided to ship IE 7 ahead of the next version of Windows, with a beta available this summer. WSJ's Peggy Noonan on Blogging. Also, there's a pretty nice religion blog in Wittingshire. There is a sad story out of Kansas this week. It involves a certain infamous late term abortion doctor. It seems he's had at least one -and possibly two - women die on him in five weeks. This is the same doctor that Quebec women were being sent to because Canadian doctors were refusing to do the operation that late. I'm not sure if that practice is still ongoing. Anyone know if our ER's are still overflowing because our tax dollars are supporting this? Here are suggestions for advancing pro life arguments. David Frum on the problems of the academy:

America suffers from a dangerous separation of its mind and soul. Its elite intellectual institutions are too often hostile to the country's culture and founding values. As the Journal reporters mention, Harvard continues to ban ROTC from campus for fear of offending the university's militant gay lobby; as Samuel Huntington details in his important book, Who We Are, elite institutions like Harvard regard themselves as multinational, multicultural enterprises independent of the nation and the people that created, sustain, and defend them.

This separation serves nobody. It makes places like Harvard effete and irrelevant. I had lunch a little while ago with a representative of another prestigious school. "We see it as our mission," he told me, "to train leaders." But how can you do that, I asked, when you are instilling your leaders with an ideology that is despised and mistrusted by their potential followers?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Six and Me

This post by the hard working John the Mad reached out and got me. He's a lucky man.

Serious B.S.

This one is for those of you who take your b****** seriously. Quote:
The characteristic topics of a bull session have to do with very personal and emotion-laden aspects of life — for instance, religion, politics, or sex. People are generally reluctant to speak altogether openly about these topics if they expect that they might be taken too seriously. What tends to go on in a bull session is that the participants try out various thoughts and attitudes in order to see how it feels to hear themselves saying such things and in order to discover how others respond, without it being assumed that they are committed to what they say: It is understood by everyone in a bull session that the statements people make do not necessarily reveal what they really believe or how they really feel. The main point is to make possible a high level of candor and an experimental or adventuresome approach to the subjects under discussion. Therefore provision is made for enjoying a certain irresponsibility, so that people will be encouraged to convey what is on their minds without too much anxiety that they will be held to it.
Relevant to the blogosphere? You bet.
The contemporary proliferation of b******* also has deeper sources, in various forms of skepticism which deny that we can have any reliable access to an objective reality and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. These “anti-realist” doctrines undermine confidence in the value of disinterested efforts to determine what is true and what is false, and even in the intelligibility of the notion of objective inquiry. One response to this loss of confidence has been a retreat from the discipline required by dedication to the ideal of correctness to a quite different sort of discipline, which is imposed by pursuit of an alternative ideal of sincerity. Rather than seeking primarily to arrive at accurate representations of a common world, the individual turns toward trying to provide honest representations of himself. Convinced that reality has no inherent nature, which he might hope to identify as the truth about things, he devotes himself to being true to his own nature. It is as though he decides that since it makes no sense to try to be true to the facts, he must therefore try instead to be true to himself.
Sounds like Left Liberalism to me. Who would have thought? I've said all along that the further left you go, the more inward looking it gets. My feelings, my thoughts, my way. The author concludes:
But it is preposterous to imagine that we ourselves are determinate, and hence susceptible both to correct and to incorrect descriptions, while supposing that the ascription of determinacy to anything else has been exposed as a mistake. As conscious beings, we exist only in response to other things, and we cannot know ourselves at all without knowing them. Moreover, there is nothing in theory, and certainly nothing in experience, to support the extraordinary judgment that it is the truth about himself that is the easiest for a person to know. Facts about ourselves are not peculiarly solid and resistant to skeptical dissolution. Our natures are, indeed, elusively insubstantial — notoriously less stable and less inherent than the natures of other things. And insofar as this is the case, sincerity itself is b*******.
Tip: The Conservative Philosopher

All the solid advantages

This post from The Maverick Philosopher is terrific. Evelyn Waugh is the author:
There is no more agreeable position than that of dissident from a stable society. Theirs are all the solid advantages of other people's creation and preservation, and all the fun of detecting hypocrisies and inconsistencies.
There aren't too many dissidents in North Korea or Syria. The U.S., on the other hand, is crawling with them. In Canada, they form the government. In Lebanon, the dissidents are the 40% Christians there. No wonder we hear so little sympathy for them in the MSM. PM the PM said today that Syria was "keeping the peace" in Lebanon. I'm at a total loss of words here... Housekeeping notice: I am questioned from time to time about why I'm so hard on Paul Martin. The short answer is that I think he deserves it. It took his predecessors seven or eight years to make me dislike them with anything approaching the contempt that I have for Martin. In a nutshell, if my criticism of him bugs you, there are other blogs to read. It's not just because of SSM. I ain't backing down. On the television this afternoon Martin's flunkies were slamming Harper for saying that "Paul Martin is not a Christian because he supports SSM." Nice try but instant replay says that's no goal. Paul can be a Christian and do that, but he cannot be a Catholic and do that. The Catholic religion is authoritative and always has been. If that offends, then the honourable thing to do is leave the Catholic Church. As it is now, he is a wolf in sheep's clothing and I take offense at that. Yes, I do hold him to a higher standard because he is the P.M. "With great power comes great responsibility." Didn't he read Spiderman?

Immortality

The essence of religion? While he was at Oxford in the early 1940's, C.S. Lewis created and chaired a debating club called the Oxford Socratic Club. It was intended to foster debate among people on campus, especially the religious and non religious. The following is taken from a paper he presented to that group titled Religion without Dogma? I should add, before I bring in the quote, that Lewis is responding to a previous paper making the assertion that all religion is about immortality, which is offered up to the credulous as a bribe for joining the "club." Lewis responds that Hinduism is a major religion which is not about immortality; there, the prize is relief from immortality. And Judaism has little interest. He then responds to the idea that immortality is all that religion is about:
I cannot sufficiently admire the divine tact of thus training the chosen race for centuries in religion before even hinting at the shining secret of eternal life. He behaves like a rich lover in a romance who woos the maiden on his own merits, disguised as a poor man, and only after he has won her reveals that he has a throne and palace to offer. For I cannot help thinking that any religion which begins with a thirst for immortality is dammed, as a religion, from the outset. Until a certain spiritual level has been reached, the promise of immortality will always operate as a bribe which vivitates the whole religion and infinitely inflames those very self regards which religion must uproot. For the essence of religion, in my view, is the thirst for an end higher than natural ends; the finite self's desire for, and acquiescence in, and self rejection in favour of, an object wholly good and wholly good for it. That the self rejection will also turn into self finding, that bread cast upon the waters will be found after many days, that to die is to live - these are sacred paradoxes of which the human race must not be told too soon. ... I could not believe Christianity if I were forced to say that there were a thousand religions in the world and that 999 were pure nonsense and the thousandth true. My conversion, very largely, depended on recognizing Christianity as the completion, the actualization, the entelechy, of something that had never been wholly absent from the mind of man. And I still think that the agnostic argument from the similarities between Christianity and paganism works only if you know the answer. If you start by claiming on the other hand that Christianity is false, then the pagan stories may be another nail in the coffin... But if the truth or falsity of Christianity is the very question you are discussing, then the argument from anthropology is pure petitio.
Lewis was a scholar of the classical literature and familiar with a wide range of ancient texts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Links!

Marriage makes us happy. Economists prove it. Jason Kenny was right. About Libby Davies. What is it about hard core lefties that makes them mutilate their identities for their ideals? See also here. The whole thing reminds me of something I had forgotten. Oceana has always been at war with Eurasia:
At this moment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.
From George Orwell's 1984, chapter three. Tip: Rempelia Prime. This blogger seems to have Prince Charles pegged. What kind of a monarchy creates it's own church in order to marry willy nilly and then still manages to find a way to get married that the monachy's personal church can't accept. So now we have the head of the Anglican church intending to marry outside the said church. Methinks Anglicanism lost it's reason d'etre long ago and we are seeing the death rattle. I'm sorry if that offends anyone. I like quite a bit about Anglicans but they do give me the impression of being lost right about now. To my eyes either the relationship between the Anglican church and the monarchy needs to be severed or Charles needs to abdicate. I think option two is more romantic. Francis Poretto has a new addition to his Convergence of the Death Cult series. Embryonic stem cells? We don't need any steenking embryonic stem cells! Speaking of Death Cults, this story seems to refute the notion that killing the ill is about helping the ill. It's about helping onlookers who don't want to look. Or pay, I suspect. Speaking about life issues, I'm pleased to see so many Canadian bloggers of late voicing opposition to Canada's lack of any restrictions on abortion. Here's one, for example. I've seen others though I can't remember where exactly. Even Ben has moved slightly away from his no holds barred approach. I really hope everyone remembers next time the Libs start howling at the moon when anyone dares to even make a distinction between "Canadian's wishes" and "Liberal policy." They're doing it again in the SSM debate in parliament today. Kudos to Stephen Harper for calling PM the PM on it. Harper looked very good in the house today, while Martin staggered, mumbled and slurred. Drunk with passion, maybe. I've never really doubted that I'm a member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (VRWC). Not for a very long time anyway. So this just confirms what I already know. Finally, from Bound by Gravity, we have Babulican's Ultimate Dismissal Chart. For those not in the know, Babs is a prolific commenter on many Canadian blogs. If we all print this out and tape it to the side of our monitors we can save ourselves many keystrokes in the future.