Jefferson vs. Madison

... according to the inimitable Mark Shea:

The odd thing about America is that our whole system of government is predicated on a faith in the Fall. That's why we have checks and balances: because nobody can be trusted with too much power. The moment fallen man is given power is the moment he is tempted to forget what the power is for and start using it to acquire more power, no matter what it takes. And, just in case you are wondering, "Does this have dark implications for America since we are the sole superpower on earth?" the answer is "Yes."

The tension in American culture has always been between Jeffersonian cockeyed optimism and Madisonian realism. Our governmental institutions are founded on the belief that you cannot trust people with power. Our culture is founded more and more on faith in The Wisdom of the Common Man. That, by itself, is not a bad balance. But in the 20th century, there have been fewer and fewer Madisonian voices and more and more flatterers. Our entire advertising industry is all about giving you moral permission to indulge yourself because You Deserve It.

Religion has, to a large extent, also been co-opted by the flattery industry. God is crazy about you because you That Sort of Chap. Joel Osteen is the Face of American Protestantism. Jonathan Edwards, not so much. Catholics are afflicted with the Church of Aren't We Fabulous where it's always the Feast of St. Narcissus. Our Manufacturers of Culture are constantly playing to our vanity. And a theology of the Fall is highly inconvenient to this project. It's "guilt manipulation". It's "hatriotism". We want to hear about how wonderful we are, how wronged we've been, how much everybody owes us, how powerful we are.


Ron Paul vs. the Neocons

As I've said several times, my candidate for president is Congressman Ron Paul. It was really not a difficult decision: he is the only candidate in either party who is both a) pro-life and b) non-interventionist in foreign policy. I disagree with him on some issues, but on balance he is the closest to my ideal. I readily admit that he has little chance of getting the GOP nomination. Nevertheless, I think he serves a useful role in bringing a different perspective to the debates.

Lately Dr. Paul has come under attack from several sources in the neoconservative camp. First, via Rod Dreher, came the news that the Redstate blog had banned all discussion of Ron Paul by new users. The Redstate people allege that Ron Paul followers are mainly liberals who wish to upset the GOP applecart. I haven't met any such people myself. Maybe they exist, but I doubt they constitute anything close to a majority of Ron Paul's backing. His support is strongest among libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives.

Even so, the meme that Ron Paul is anti-American and all his followers are wackos continued to proliferate. FrontPage magazine went so far as to spread a vile hoax earlier this month. Supposedly, Ron Paul was scheduled to address a rally, sponsored by assorted leftist groups, called "American Fascist Awareness Week." In fact, no such event exists or is planned by anyone. FrontPage has yet to issue a correction, as far as I can tell.

Neocon prof Donald Douglas, who in his aptly named American Power blog is usually open to calm and reasonable debate with ideological opponents, also has a bee in his bonnet lately. The target: libertarians in general and Ron Paul in particular. Beginning here and in more depth here, he argues that Paul supporters are "whacked-out loons whose Bush-hatred knows no bounds" and points out a variety of leftists who have said kind things about Paul. His logic, such as it is, goes like this:

1. Assorted leftists and nutcases say they like Ron Paul.
2. Ron Paul has not sufficiently denounced all these leftists and nutcases.
3. Therefore, Ron Paul is himself a leftist and a nutcase.
4. Anyone who likes Ron Paul is also a leftist and a nutcase.

Donald apparently thinks those who fail to immediately accept this guilt-by-association principle are either stupid or un-American, and are certainly not True Republicans. Perhaps this is why he sees no need to address the actual policy positions and governing philosophy that are attracting people to Ron Paul in the first place.

To Donald it is intuitively obvious that everything Ron Paul says is lunacy. For example, in a comment responding to me he gave out this link in which Paul explains his opposition to the Iraq War congressional authorization. Many people won't agree with it, but it is at least a thoughtful explanation of Paul's position. Not to Donald; he calls it an "anti-war rant."

I don't mean to pick on Donald here; he's not the only one saying this. Discussing anything calmly with neocons is often frustrating because they feel they must crush every opponent and have little interest in finding common ground. That's fine when talking about sports, but in a party primary campaign it's stupid. Here's why.

Whatever else Ron Paul supporters may be, they are at least mildly interested in supporting the GOP. Insulting and ridiculing people who would like to be your allies is not the way to win the general election. Politics is all about persuasion. If you want to win, you must persuade people to see things your way. Neocons see no need to persuade because they are utterly convinced that they, and only they, possess the right answer to every question. Daniel Larison had a great response to RedState's action.

The symbolism of this move is terrible for RedState. It says to all those enthusiastic Paul backers that there is no point trying to talk to most Republicans, and after this I would be hard pressed to contradict such a view. It also puts the lie to the oft-repeated myth that the conservative coalition is brimming with intellectual diversity and thrives off of energetic and spirited debate, when it has been clear for some time that a great many Republicans have wanted Paul himself gone from the debates. Were I tempted to participate in a RedState forum, this move would cure me of that temptation very quickly. This is a move that represents a stagnating movement that is shedding supporters and gradually breaking to pieces on account of its own ideological rigidity and brittleness.

Larison is right. The abysmal slate of top-tier Republican presidential candidates isn't exciting anyone. The best campaign slogan they can come up with is "I'm not Hillary." Along comes Ron Paul, who has practically no chance of winning but brings passion, energy, ideas, enthusiasm, and a surprising amount of money to the party. Most important, he has behind him people who in the past would never have considered voting Republican. Are there a lot of them? Not really, but in an election that may be won or lost by 1% in key states, every vote is critical.

A rational party leadership would welcome these new people and get to work trying to re-channel them so that some, at least, will vote for the GOP candidate next November. Unfortunately, no such effort is in place. Ron Paul supporters don't even get the favor of being ignored. They are, instead, met with epithets about how crazy they are. Yes, some of them are a little crazy, but crazy people get to vote, too. That's democracy. Get used to it.

2008 is shaping up to be a year in which the GOP cannot afford to tell people, "We don't want your vote." Yet that is what the party leaders are doing to Ron Paul supporters. It's one of the reasons George W. Bush will probably hand over the White House to a liberal Democrat. The only consolation is it really won't make much difference. Clinton II will be a lot like Bush II.

We're The Mission Field Now

Christianity is, by definition, an evangelical religion. Jesus told us to "go and make disciples of all nations." This does not relieve us of the responsibility to practice and preach the Gospel at home, of course. Yet there is a special need to take the Word to those in other places who need to hear it.

Missionary work, as most of us think about it, consists of Americans going to the less developed parts of the world: Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Mideast. This is wonderful, but sometimes creates a perception that the Gospel only goes in one direction. The natural order of things, it appears, is that Christianity came to Americans first and now we generously share it with the poor lost people everywhere else.

The truth, of course, is that Americans are just as lost as the rest of the world. To the extent our culture is Christian, it is because we are the descendants of Christians who came here from elsewhere, and who established a political order that allowed religion to flourish.

Is the tide now turning? Certainly Christianity in the U.S. is not nearly as influential as it used to be. We live in a culture that is in many ways as pagan as Ancient Rome. Meanwhile Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds in places that really were pagan not too many years ago. As a result America is becoming a mission field for others.

I thought of this when I heard the podcast of Fr. Benedict Groeschel's EWTN program last week (listen here). His guest was a priest from the Missionary Society of Saint Paul, Fr. Efiri Matthias Selemobri. This order originated in Nigeria and has a number of missionaries working in the United States as well as Europe. Get it? The Africans are now coming here to help us.

This is richly ironic, in my opinion, but I have to say it is a very good idea. American churches obviously need all the help we can get. Defending and spreading the Faith in this materialistic culture isn't getting any easier. Africans bring some unique gifts and a new approach that I think will be helpful.

Remarkable things are happening in Africa and elsewhere. Nigerians, for example, don't have hundreds of years of Christian heritage as we do in the U.S. The first foreign missionaries arrived there in the 1860s to find a population devoted to tribal religious customs. Now only 150 years later, about half the people are Christian (mostly Catholic) and Nigerians are sending their own missionaries to the rest of the world.

This is an excellent illustration of how the Catholic Church is truly universal. It is one body with many limbs and organs that work together. When one part of your body gets an infection, antibodies from far away will immediately rush to the infected area and join the fight. There's no doubt that the church in America (both Catholic and Protestant) is infected with the germs of relativism and secularism. Africa is sending antibodies - in the form of priests from MSP and other societies - to help us.

The Church in Nigeria is vibrant and orthodox. The MSP seminary, for instance, gets about 3,000 applicants every year. Of these about 300 are well qualified to begin studying for the priesthood. Sadly, the seminary only has the resources to accept about 30 new students each year. Imagine if all 300 could begin their training and go on to become missionaries around the world. This is just the beginning, too - the MSP is only one relatively small group in a very large continent.

Check out the MSP web site for more about this very interesting religious order. We should all pray their their work prospers, and support them however we can. We need their help, and they need ours.

Is Huckabee the One?

With Fred Thompson proving to be less attractive than some people thought, and Sam Brownback now out of the race, many social conservatives are turning their attention to Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor is firmly pro-life and pushes all the right buttons on other cultural issues. As a Baptist minister he is also comfortable talking in religious terms. He wowed the audience at the recent Values Voter Summit and did surprisingly well in the straw vote of attendees.

Not so fast, said John Fund in the Wall Street Journal last week.

Betsy Hagan, Arkansas director of the conservative Eagle Forum and a key backer of his early runs for office, was once "his No. 1 fan." She was bitterly disappointed with his record. "He was pro-life and pro-gun, but otherwise a liberal," she says. "Just like Bill Clinton he will charm you, but don't be surprised if he takes a completely different turn in office."

Phyllis Schlafly, president of the national Eagle Forum, is even more blunt. "He destroyed the conservative movement in Arkansas, and left the Republican Party a shambles," she says. "Yet some of the same evangelicals who sold us on George W. Bush as a 'compassionate conservative' are now trying to sell us on Mike Huckabee."

The business community in Arkansas is split. Some praise Mr. Huckabee's efforts to raise taxes to repair roads and work with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. Free-market advocates are skeptical. "He has zero intellectual underpinnings in the conservative movement," says Blant Hurt, a former part owner of, and columnist for, Arkansas Business magazine. "He's hostile to free trade, hiked sales and grocery taxes, backed sales taxes on Internet purchases, and presided over state spending going up more than twice the inflation rate." MORE

David Kuo came to Huckabee's defense, suggesting Fund may have had other motives.

Well let's think about this. He loves the spotlight? Check. He was a preacher and is now a politician - he definitely believes in himself.

An economic and environmental liberal? Yeah, he only cut taxes and fees 100 times totaling more than $375 million. He only left a state surplus of nearly $850 million. What a liberal disaster he is.

This is a pure hit piece with a curious number of quotes from Mitt Romney backers. MORE

My view is we could probably do worse than Huckabee, but I can't get excited about him. Maybe I will learn more and change my mind. For now, my vote in the GOP primary still goes to Ron Paul.

Mr. Angry & Ms. Calm

If you look at these two images while sitting in front of your monitor, you will see Mr. Angry on the left and Ms. Calm on the right.

Get up from your seat and move back about 12 feet, and they will switch places. Amazing, isn't it?

We've all heard you can't judge a book by its cover. Can we judge people by their expressions? Not always. Sometimes people who look outwardly calm are seething inside. Or they may be hurting, physically or emotionally. Men, especially, are taught in our culture to not show pain, yet hiding the pain does not make it go away. It's a good reason to be kind and loving with everyone we meet. We never know what turmoil they may be feeling inside.

Likewise, when we find ourselves face to face with Mr. Angry, it often helps to remember that he hasn't always been that way. He can change quickly. As in the picture, whether someone is angry or calm often depends on our own position in relation to them. Move closer or farther away, and much can change.

Potemkin Press Conference

I just saw Shep Smith report this story on Fox News this evening, and I see Texas Fred and MikeVotes are already all over it. More publicity will follow. It's too good to ignore.

Earlier this week FEMA held a press conference about its response to the California fires. For some reason they did it on short notice and no actual reporters were present. FEMA hacks therefore populated the briefing room with their own staffers posing as reporters. To no great surprise, they lobbed a variety of softball questions at Vice Admiral Harvey E. Johnson, the agency's deputy director.

FEMA has now apologized and the White House says it knew nothing about it beforehand and did not condome FEMA's deception. That's probably true; only FEMA could do something so boneheaded. Did they actually think the real news media wouldn't wonder who all those newcomers were?

This will probably blow up into a big deal and give FEMA yet another black eye. For all of Bill Clinton's faults, his man James Lee Witt kept FEMA running like clockwork. I don't get why Bush can't do likewise.

Condomania & the Catholic Church

The rapid spread in Latin America of the virus that causes AIDS is made worse by the Roman Catholic Church's stand against using condoms, a U.N. official said on Monday.

Some 1.7 million people across Latin America are infected with the HIV virus or full-blown AIDS, and the epidemic is spreading swiftly with up to 410,000 new cases in 2006, up from as many as 320,000 new cases in 2004, according the UN AIDS program, UNAIDS.

"In Latin America the use of condoms has been demonized, but if they were used in every relation I guarantee the epidemic would be resolved in the region," said Alberto Stella, the UNAIDS Coordinator for Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. MORE

This is so absurd it would be funny if the subject were less serious. We are, apparently, supposed to believe that the very same people who obviously reject Catholic teaching on fornication, adultery, homosexual acts, and other such practices somehow feel they must, nevertheless, slavishly avoid condoms because the Church tells them to. Therefore, the Catholic Church is responsible for AIDS. I don't think so.

In fact, if the people of Latin America (or anywhere else) actually did what the Catholic Church says - i.e. limit sexual activity to married men and women who are faithful to each other - diseases like AIDS/HIV would disappear very quickly. Funny how this works - frequently things the Church teaches for moral reasons also turn out to be just plain smart. Most Protestant and Evangelical denominations teach the same thing, incidentally.

Some will argue that that condoms are hard to obtain in Catholic-dominated cultures. Even if it's true, which I doubt, so what? The places where condoms are most easily obtainable also happen to be the places with the highest HIV infection rates. Condoms are freely available all over the United States, even beginning in middle school in some states, and we still have an HIV epidemic here. Clearly the relationship between condom usage and infection is a little more complicated than just assuming "More condoms = less HIV."

The most effective way to prevent HIV and other STDs is to change your behavior and stop engaging in the practices that spread it. This is what the Catholic Church teaches, but it isn't just a moral principle; it is scientific fact. The UN certainly isn't giving people this message, but someone needs to. Lives depend on it.

[Note also, in the Reuters story linked above, how all pretense of journalistic objectivity is abandoned. Normal practice is to show both points of view. In this case the UN condom pusher gets quoted directly, while the Catholic position is characterized by the reporter without a response from the Church. Typical for the Reuters "News" Agency.]

American Papist has a good take on this same story.

The Truth Is Out There

Jen at Et-Tu has an impeccably logical post about people who say they are "open-minded" in their religious beliefs. I've highlighted some key points in bold print.

If being in a state of open-mindedness means that you're asking questions, seeking knowledge, and attempting to fairly evaluate data without bias, it seems that that should be a transitory state -- at some point, you find the answers. And once you've found the answers to your questions, you're no longer open to the alternatives (unless you get some new data) because you've already evaluated them and rejected them as untrue.

Yet I rarely hear open-mindedness about religion described this way. It's usually described as a long-term plan, a way of life, e.g. "It's important to us to raise our children to be open-minded about religion." It seems to me that if you intentionally plan to stay in that state indefinitely, then what you're really saying is that you believe that objective truth about spiritual matters cannot be known. And if that's the case, then you're taking an active stance against the three major monotheistic belief systems (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) that teach that objective truth does exist and can be known. And if you've closed your mind to that, the religions to which a large majority of believers in the world belong, then you're not very open-minded. (Which is fine -- I don't mean that as a derogatory statement.)

Some wise person, I think maybe G.K. Chesterton, once advised "Don't open your mind so far that your brain falls out." Read the rest of Jen's post and pay attention to the comments after it, too.

Certainly many people spend years, decades even, searching for Truth and considering different alternatives. That's fine. At some point, however, you have to either a) accept something as Truth, or b) take the position that Truth cannot be known. I personally find the latter alternative rather depressing, but many people choose to adopt it. I'm not sure why.

Christ Himself told us: "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." It's there right in front of us. Yet for some reason, it often takes us a long time to see.

You Must See Bella

I am not in the habit of recommending movies I haven't yet seen. Having heard several interviews with the producers and rave reviews from people who were at pre-screenings, however, I'm excited about a new film called Bella. It opens next weekend, October 26.

Bella is described as "a true love story that shows how one day in New York City changed three people's live forever." The three producers - Alejandro Monteverde, Leo Severino, and Eduardo Verastagui - seem to be men of great faith who want to build an oasis in Hollywood, with artistic and entertaining films that touch people in profound ways. Bella won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, so it's clearly not "preachy" or overtly religious. It is just a good movie, with a subtle yet powerful pro-life message.

Leticia at Causa Nostrae Laetitae has chronicled the amazing story of this film and its makers. Bella is a miracle in itself, as the producers overcame numerous obstacles that should have been insurmountable. Read Leticia's review and other articles here.

Bella opens October 26 in a limited release of 31 cities. If it does well in the first week or two, other theaters around the nation will be encouraged to show it. So it's very important that as many people as possible see Bella in its opening days. Click here to see if it is playing in your city. I'll post more thoughts after I see it for myself.

Bella Official Site

Yahoo! Movies Bella Page
iMDB Page
Rotten Tomatoes Page
Bella trailer on YouTube

Forgiving The Worst

Father forgives son who had mom, brother killed.

Wow. It's painful just to imagine what this man has gone through. The easy thing would be to give in to hate, to let it take over and consume you. Kent Whitaker chose another course. I hope I could do the same, and pray I never have to.

Hat tip: J-Walking

No More Miller Time

This story has been all over the blog world the last few weeks but I'll pass it on anyway, in case some people missed it.

In San Francisco the gay and lesbian community has an event each year called the Folsom Street Fair. It includes a wide variety of sexual acts that normally occur behind closed doors between consenting adults. Here are some very graphic images of the event. Prepare to be shocked.

Disgusting as this is, it would not be so bad if these people would simply practice their lifestyles among themselves. For some reason, however, they feel compelled to use the opportunity to attack the religion most Americans hold dear. Their promotional poster is a satire of Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper, featuring a table covered with sexual devices. You can see it here.

The fair also features a group called the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the purpose of which seems to be mocking the dedication and sacrifice of Catholic nuns. Clearly the Folsom Street Fair is an anti-religious event. In particular, it is an anti-Christian and anti-Catholic event. (For some reason Islam gets a pass, despite its history of violence toward homosexuals.)

The Folsom Street Fair is supported by numerous local businesses in San Francisco and one national sponsor: Miller Brewing Company. After complaints, Miller had its logo removed from the Last Supper poster but continued to sponsor the main event.

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League is leading a campaign to boycott of all Miller products until the company promises to no longer sponsor such anti-religious events. I think it's a great idea. Miller can't have it both ways; if they want Christians to buy they products, they need to stop funding events that insult us and degrade our culture.

So next time you feel like it's Miller time, find something else to drink. A company that supports obscenity and religious bigotry does not deserve your business.

Wisdom of the Saints XXV

Although people lose everything they leave behind in this world, they nevertheless carry with them the rewards of charity and the alms they have given, for which they will receive a reward and a fitting payment from the Lord.

St. Francis of Assisi

Sixth Grade Contraception

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Pupils at a city middle school will be able to get birth control pills and patches at their student health center after the local school board approved the proposal Wednesday evening.

The plan, offered by city health officials, makes King Middle School the first middle school in Maine to make a full range of contraception available to students in grades 6 through 8, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

There are no national figures on how many middle schools, where most students range in age from 11 to 13, provide such services. [source]

There is an excellent discussion about this story underway at the Crunchy Con blog. I've never seen so many people from all political and religious viewpoints agree on anything like the do on this. The consensus: it is a monumentally stupid idea.

Set aside for a moment the question of whether schools should be in the business of enabling or encouraging, however tacitly, sexual activity by middle school students. The plan is medically dangerous.

Students treated at the centers must first get written parental permission, but under state law such treatment is confidential, and students decide for themselves whether to tell their parents about the services they receive.

It is a small comfort that parental permission is required, though I wonder how closely the clinic workers will scrutinize whatever signatures or forms the kids bring from home. Nevertheless, exactly how feasible is it to expect an 11-13 year old to provide accurate medical information to the clinic?

Birth control pills and patches are prescription medicines. They have risks, side effects, interactions with other medications. You can overdose on them. They have to taken on a precise schedule in order to work. Yet "students decide for themselves" whether to tell their parents about any medicines they receive. Any parent who lets their kid go to this clinic, as well as any physician or nurse who works there, is taking a huge risk.

The very same public schools that are terrified a kid with a headache might take a Tylenol are now happy to administer birth control pills. The logic behind this escapes me. We know that school-administered sex education isn't preventing sexually transmitted diseases, even as the states outlaw the one technique that actually is effective: abstinence. Is there a method to this madness?

I can only think of one thing that fits: school administrators (and the parents who cooperate with them) must want the kids to be sexually active, as early and often as possible, and are willing to risk medical complications in order to achieve this. The plan in Maine makes perfect sense if that is their motivation. So far, they seem to be succeeding.

Does Poverty Cause Abortion?

Surveys of women who have had abortions reveal that many of them felt they simply "couldn't afford" to have a child. Darwin responds to a Christian blogger who made this argument:

We live in the most wealthy country in the world, with one of the highest abortion rates in the world. Is our problem really that we're not wealthy enough?

Not only the average citizen of our country, but the poor of our country are far, far wealthier than they were 100 years ago. And yet, as we have become wealthier, the institution of the family has collapsed, illegitimacy has become a pandemic in the lower economic reaches of society, divorce has become commonplace, abortion is common -- used by some parts of society as a last resort, and by others almost as backup-birth control. (The stats I've seen on abortion repeat customers are pretty terrifying.)

And yet the problem, we are told, is that our country is still too poor to have a lower abortion rate? The claim is, quite frankly, so ludicrous that it's hard to believe the author even means it seriously. Sadly, though, I think he does. MORE

I agree - the idea is simply laughable. The fact that people take it seriously says a lot about the rampant materialism of Americans. When these women - and the men who impregnate them - say "I can't afford to have a child," what they really mean is "I can't afford to have a child without giving up my life of fun, frolic, and freedom."

Contrast this with of Third World countries where people who have far less than even the poorest Americans continue to view children as a blessing, and do whatever it takes to care for them. For that matter, right here in America we have parents who figure out ways to afford five, ten or more children on a typical middle-class income.

So the question is not really about money; it is a question of priorities. People whose highest priority is their own pleasure naturally regard children as a burden to be avoided. That's why we have DINKs and pampered pooches. Children are, quite literally, the future. If your focus is on the present, it's much easier to flush your future down the drain.

The Real Iraq We Knew

Today's Washington Post has an editorial by 12 former U.S. Army captains, all of whom served in Iraq. They are not pleased with current policy.

... the U.S. military has been trying in vain to hold the country together. Even with "the surge," we simply do not have enough soldiers and marines to meet the professed goals of clearing areas from insurgent control, holding them securely and building sustainable institutions. Though temporary reinforcing operations in places like Fallujah, An Najaf, Tal Afar, and now Baghdad may brief well on PowerPoint presentations, in practice they just push insurgents to another spot on the map and often strengthen the insurgents' cause by harassing locals to a point of swayed allegiances. Millions of Iraqis correctly recognize these actions for what they are and vote with their feet -- moving within Iraq or leaving the country entirely. Still, our colonels and generals keep holding on to flawed concepts...

This is Operation Iraqi Freedom and the reality we experienced. This is what we tried to communicate up the chain of command. This is either what did not get passed on to our civilian leadership or what our civilian leaders chose to ignore. While our generals pursue a strategy dependent on peace breaking out, the Iraqis prepare for their war -- and our servicemen and women, and their families, continue to suffer.

There is one way we might be able to succeed in Iraq. To continue an operation of this intensity and duration, we would have to abandon our volunteer military for compulsory service. Short of that, our best option is to leave Iraq immediately. A scaled withdrawal will not prevent a civil war, and it will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition.

America, it has been five years. It's time to make a choice.

I'm pretty sure this sentiment is more widespread than the Pentagon is willing to admit. Of course, the nation's military policy is not decided by captains - nor should it be. Their proposed solution of "get out or impose a draft" isn't especially workable, either. Even if you could re-start the draft tomorrow, it would take a couple of years to train enough troops to make a difference. In World War II it was relatively simple to convert farm boys into infantry soldiers with a few months of training. That is not the case in today's high-tech military.

Where are we left? The same place we are now: all the options are bad. Choose your poison.

Rise of the Wiggers

Bill Cosby, who in recent years is making it his mission to preach self-responsibility to black Americans, has a new book called Come On, People. On Sunday he appeared on Meet The Press along with his co-author, Dr. Alvin Poussaint of Harvard Medical School. They seem to have their work cut out for them.

MR. RUSSERT: One of the things that you did in “Come On, People” were—was to compile statistics, very hard-headed numbers.


MR. RUSSERT: And they are numbing when you read through them. You mentioned one. One out of three of homeless people are black. Blacks make up 12 percent of our population. And here’s a some—a few more that you cite which I think really does help us dramatize how critical this discussion is. And let’s read them through here.

“Homicide is the number one cause of death for black men between 15 and 29 years of age and has been for decades.

“Of the roughly 16,000 homicides in this country each year, more than half are committed by black men. A black man is seven times more likely to commit a murder than a white man, and six times more likely to be murdered.

“Ninety-four percent of all black people who are murdered are murdered by other black people.

“Although black people make up” “12 percent of the general population,” “make up nearly 44 percent of the prison population.

“At any given time, as many as one in four of all” black men, “young black men are in the criminal justice system—in prison or jail, on probation or on parole.”

Those are numbing numbers. They truly are. What can we do? [Full transcript]

What the transcript doesn't show is that when Russert said "What can we do?" there was a long, awkward pause before Cosby began to answer. My impression was that he knows full well that there are no good solutions. Two and maybe three generations are lost forever. It's very sad. Cosby has a few specific public policy ideas, which may help some, but what really needs to happen is a moral awakening in the black communities. There is only so much that outsiders can do to help.

The broader point I wish to make is that I fear the trends we see among young blacks are finding their way to white youth, through the conduit of rap music. More from the MTP interview:
In fact, the audience for gangsta rap is made up predominantly of white youth, who get a vicarious thrill from participating in a black thug fantasy, including the degradation of women. Black youth, as well as some misguided adults, have defended the use of the N-word, suggesting they are somehow making it a positive term...

If you’re going to use those words and the white male is buying the CD, then they’re buying into those words, and those words are being used on their women. Hint, hint. Domestic violence in the police department. Now they also share in the N-word. And it’s OK to say it, according to them, because it’s on the record...

Remember, too, that for a while that white kids who were into some of this rap and so on started calling themselves “wiggers”? ...

... the young, young girls will be dancing to words that degrade women and degrade them and they’re dancing to it. It shows you how much values have been corrupted, you know, by some of the media influences, and the young people can’t distinguish between what’s right and wrong. It’s like the, the bad stuff has become normal, and then they even see it as part of their culture instead of something that’s abhorrent and, and, and, and hurtful to their, to their lives and to their community.

Now, I know plenty of white parents who either don't mind or don't know that their kids listen to the vile lyrics of gangsta rap. I suppose it is possible, in a family situation that is otherwise healthy and stable, that this kind of music won't cause any harm. On the other hand, it's insane to suggest that music has no effect on us at all.

Music is processed by our brains differently from spoken or written words. It makes us feel good, and we retain information better when we acquire it musically. Kids who would never read poetry in English class love to hear the same words set to music. Properly used, this can be a good thing. Use it to spread misogynistic, violent, and hedonistic thoughts, and it should surprise no one if we end up with misogynistic, violent, and hedonistic youth.

White Americans need to hope and pray that people like Cosby and Poussaint are successful in their mission - not only because blacks are fellow citizens and humans, but because whites are vulnerable to the same disorders. The trends you see in black youth today will overtake white youth. When white kids begin calling themselves "wiggers," you know it's already starting. The violence and chaos that prevail in inner cities are spreading to white suburbs.

Think I'm wrong? I hope I am. Let's talk again in twenty years.

UPDATE 10/16/07: Mark Gordon has a post about the Cosby book. Otherwise not much reaction in the blogs I read.

A Useless Appendage?

What does the human appendix have to do with Iraq, interrogations, and the U.S. Constitution? Quite a lot, it turns out.

Submitted for your fascination: Doctors just now think they have come up with the function of the appendix.

In a similarly fascinating story, the American executive branch just now claims it knows the function of the Geneva Conventions.

Which explanation do you want first?

Read the rest.

Wisdom of the Saints XXIV

We need to love our neighbor, not just because he is pleasant or helpful or rich or influential or even because he shows us gratitude. These motives are too self-serving... Genuine love rises above creatures and soars up to God. In Him, by Him, and through Him it loves all men, both good and wicked, friends and enemies.

St. Maximilian Kolbe

A Healthy Lifestyle That Isn't Promoted

Reports show that one in five youths (age 15-24) in California are infected with some kind of sexually transmitted disease - genital herpes, gonorrhea, HIV, etc.

I do not know what the rates are in other states. Given the licentious nature of that state's culture it wouldn't be surprising if the STD rate is higher there. In any case, this figure illustrates just how "effective" modern sex education is. In California middle schools are required by law to teach HIV prevention techniques. It seems clear that whatever they are teaching is not working very well, while the only 100% effective technique, abstinence, is actually banned from public schools.

The ironic thing is that the people who nag the rest of us to live "healthy lifestyles" very frequently come from California. Yet it seems that at least 1 out of 5 of their own young people are living a lifestyle that is anything but healthy.

The behavior that spreads STDs is almost always voluntary. It is a choice that carries a cost to one's health, similar to smoking. Insurance companies know this - which is why people who smoke have to pay more for their life and health insurance. Many employers encourage their workers to eat healthy foods, exercise, stop smoking, lose weight, etc. It has nothing to do with morality. It's all about the money.

This brings up an idea: maybe those who choose to live promiscuous lives, and allow their children to do so, should pay for this privilege. Is it really fair that people who live in chastity or monogamy be forced to underwrite the inevitable costs of other people's choices? That is what happens, either through higher insurance rates or higher taxes.

I'm not saying anyone should be prevented from fooling around however they wish. I am simply suggesting that they pay for the consequences of their choice and not expect other people to subsidize them. With freedom comes responsibility, right?

This is, of course, not what will happen as a result of this data. What will happen is that the citizens of California will get more and more explicit sex education that is introduced at younger and younger ages and is less and less effective. Where it will end, I don't know. Many people will die -or live their lives with awful afflictions that render them unable to enjoy true intimacy and union with another. This is the cost of so-called "freedom."

Hat tips: Mark Shea and Darth Beckman

Two Georges on Torture

"Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner] ... I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause... for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country," - George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775.

“I have put this program in place for a reason, and that is to better protect the American people... and when we find somebody who may have information regarding a potential attack on America, you bet we’re going to detain them, and you bet we’re going to question them, because the American people expect us to find out information — actionable intelligence so we can help protect them. That’s our job.” - George W. Bush, Oct 5, 2007

[Hat tip: Darth Beckman]

So Much For Growing Up

In my real job - the one I get paid for - one of my responsibilities is to monitor news about the financial markets. I do this mainly through Bloomberg, a very expensive news service widely used by traders, portfolio managers and other professionals. The stories you see on their public web page are a small fraction of what Bloomberg produces every day. Most of the content is available only to paid subscribers. It is very comprehensive, and invaluable for people in this business.

One feature found on the Bloomberg terminal is a page called "Most Read News." You can set it to list the stories that have attracted the most readers over various time periods - everything from the last hour to the last year. It's a good way to track the pulse of the markets throughout the day.

One would think, given that this service costs a lot of money and is intended for use by serious professionals, that the top stories would usually involve critical and important subjects. Normally they do. Yet as I prepare to leave my office for the weekend, on a day with many significant market and economic events, the most-read story of the last eight hours was '' Price May Be Shattered By ''

In fact, any news story whose headline includes words like porn, sex, cheerleaders, prostitute, Paris Hilton, etc., quickly zooms to the top of the most-read list for the day. I've watched this long enough to observe the pattern, and it happens every time. The only close competitors are stories about who is making how much money on Wall Street. Even money takes a back seat to sex.

This isn't surprising, I suppose, given that the trading world is heavily male-dominated. I have to confess my eyes get drawn to those headlines, too. It's one of the burdens of being male in our culture. Boys are still boys, even when we think we're all grown up.

State Secrets

The Supreme Court has terminated a lawsuit that alleges the CIA kidnapped and tortured a German man in a case of mistaken identity. The facts of the case are actually not as interesting as the grounds for its dismissal. The Bush Administration argues that allowed the suit to proceed would risk the exposure of important national secrets. There is legal precedent for this argument:

The state secrets privilege arose from a 1953 Supreme Court ruling that allowed the executive branch to keep secret, even from the court, details about a military plane's fatal crash.

Three widows sued to get the accident report after their husbands died aboard a B-29 bomber, but the Air Force refused to release it claiming that the plane was on a secret mission to test new equipment. The high court accepted the argument, but when the report was released decades later there was nothing in it about a secret mission or equipment.

This appears to be a legal principle that is, quite literally, built on lies. There was nothing to protect in the 1953 case. The government simply made up a story that was not true.

Whether the case at hand has any merit, I don't know. That's why we have courts - courts that are quite capable of protecting sensitive information from public view when necessary. It would be nice if we could simply trust the Bush Administration not to use this privilege to hide its crimes and mistakes. Any takers?

Saudis Release Terror Suspects

Here is a disturbing story. The U.S. recently transferred 55 suspected terrorists, all of them Saudi Arabian citizens, from the Guantanamo Bay facility and gave them back to Saudi authorities to be kept in prison there. Presumably the U.S. government received assurances that the prisoners would be kept securely locked up.

It seems that the Saudis have “temporarily” released all 55 to spend a Muslim holiday with their families. Furthermore, each prisoner was given $2,600 with which to celebrate. They are supposed to return to custody and eventually stand trial. We’ll see. I think there is reason to be dubious.

Now there are two possibilities here. Either:

  • Our so-called allies, the Saudis, think it is well and good to let dangerous terrorists out to roam the streets, creating who knows what kind of problems, and the Bush Administration let itself be duped once again; or
  • These 55 prisoners are actually not dangerous terrorists - as we are often told the residents of Guantanamo must be - and were being held by the U.S. under false or incorrect charges.

Neither scenario is particularly comforting.

Hat tip: Born at the Crest of the Empire

Hannity & Dobson

Below is video from Dr. James Dobson's appearance on Hannity & Colmes last night. I am increasingly puzzled why anyone thinks Sean Hannity has any principles. He seems to regard "conservative" as more of a tribal identity than anything else. As a result, he will do anything to help his tribe hold on to the White House in 2008. What happens afterward is not his concern.

Along comes Dr. Dobson, calmly telling Hannity that there are lines we can't cross, principles we can't compromise, moral laws we cannot break, regardless of the Earthly consequences. Dobson might just as well be speaking Chinese, as far as Hannity is concerned. Rudy Giuliani cleaned up Times Square, Sean saw it for himself, so he will be a great president! He's supported abortion all his life, donated money to Planned Parenthood, supported gay marriage and worn a dress in public - but we can trust Rudy to appoint conservative judges! Anyway Hillary would be even worse!

Watch it for yourself. I think Hannity has jumped the shark.

Wisdom of the Saints XXIII

Our Lord is our Big Brother, and we are the little brothers. Consequently, we should love one another as members of the same family.

Blessed Andre Bessette

American Torture

Mark Shea unloads on the Rubber House Right, its supporters and defenders, in a long and colorfully illustrated post today.

It is a painful thing to face and I don't enjoy it any more than you do. But the facts are really quite plain. The reality is Abu Ghraib was not an isolated event. We have been torturing people in other facilities. What happened at Abu Ghraib was that some morons who loved their work thought it would be fun to take pictures and those pictures shocked the world. Naturally, the Bush Administration could not say, "Yeah! We support that!" Of *course* they repudiated it and made sure the lackeys got punished in order to distance the Administration from the awful press.

But the reality is that after Abu Ghraib, the Administration labored--intensely--to make sure that the abusive techniques used at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere would remain part of what the President calls his "tools" for fighting the War on Terror. You can read all about it here.

The White House response has been, I must be blunt, to lie through its teeth in the knowledge that it has broad support from a people that don't want to look too closely at what we are doing. Indeed, past polls have shown that Catholics have a higher rate of support for torture than the general population.

The lie is simple and plain: President Bush continue to look us in the eye and say “This government does not torture people.”

But the reality is, it does. Bush made certain of this by loading the Justice Department with toadies who gave him what he wanted:
In two separate legal opinions written in 2005, the Justice Department authorized the C.I.A. to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

Note that word "including". This is not an exhaustive list. Much of the degrading stuff you saw at Abu Ghraib isn't even life-threatening, so it falls well below the threshhold of "torture" for this Administration's Justice Department, as far as we can tell. And when we speak of "simulated drowning" or what our Vice President lightly laughs off as "dunking" we are looking at prima facie evidence of the Administration's careful mendacity. [Source]

You must read the whole thing. The doubletalk we get from Bush defenders about this is astonishing. It boils down to "Torture is fine. We don't torture." Which is it? If there's nothing wrong with torture, why all the gymnastics denying that the U.S. does it? This bunch can't even keep its lies straight.

In the combox at Mark's post, someone asked a chilling question: is there any example any time in history of a government that tortured its enemies but not, eventually, its own citizens as well?

The Line Held at Lepanto

Today is the 436th anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto. On October 7, 1571, against overwhelming odds, a ragtag fleet from the Christian West faced the Ottoman Empire. Christianity had been retreating for the last thousand years. Islam had conquered North Africa, Spain, Sicily, Portugal and part of France.

At Lepanto, the retreat stopped. It was a turning point in history that is all but forgotten today.

The two greatest naval forces ever assembled — 280 ships in the Turkish Armada, some 212 on the Christian side — came into each other’s sight on the brilliant morning of October 7. So confident was the Turkish admiral, Ali Pasha, that he sailed proudly at the center of his own Armada, bringing with him on vessels just to his rear his entire fortune, and even a part of his harem.

Historians tell us that all over Europe a pall fell. Few had hopes that the Christian fleet could avoid the doom that seemed to hang over Italy. The pope had urged all Christians to say the rosary daily on behalf of the brave crews on the Christian galleys. The rosary is a simple prayer that can be said in almost any setting, and had already achieved a certain popularity among humble folk. With each decade of the Hail Marys they had been taught to reflect upon a different event in the life of Jesus. The beads went through one’s fingers as regularly as the blood through one’s body, as regular as heartbeats and the breathing of the lungs.

To make a long story short, Don Juan aimed his own galley directly at the heart of the Turkish armada, directly at the clearly colored sails of the Ali Pasha’s galley, with its great green flag, inscribed 28,000 times with the name of Allah in gold. The Venetian vessels sailed furiously into the Turkish right wing, and with the help of the revolt of the galley slaves collapsed that wing. Six of the largest Christian vessels had been outfitted with a platform elevated above normal levels on which rows of devastating cannons were arrayed. Blasts from these new cannons were withering, and within minutes sank dozens of Turkish ships. The sea, witnesses said, was covered with flailing sailors, floating turbans, pieces of wood and sail.

The passion for defending their own civilization against ruthless invaders also strengthened the muscles of those engaged in the close, bloody, violent hand-fighting when one vessel came alongside another. But it was mainly the new firepower of the smaller Christian fleet that quickly sank galley after galley until, after not too many hours, the Turkish center also collapsed, as if cut through by a hot knife. The Admiral’s galley was captured, along with 240 more Turkish ships. Only on the other flank some Christian vessels hesitated, approached the enemy half-heartedly, and thus spurred defections by still other vessels. Although even there some acts of heroism appeared, a number of Turkish vessels were able to slip away through that gap in the battleline.

The Christian victory was far more complete than anyone had dreamed. The victory seemed to many quite miraculous, and victory was immediately attributed to Our Lady Queen of the Rosary — soon to be called by a new title, Our Lady Queen of Victory. All over Europe, from city to town, church bells rang out continuously when news of the impressive victory arrived. MORE

Today, with Islam again menacing the West, we would do well to remember Lepanto and honor the Queen of Victory. She is with us still. Be not afraid.

Interesting Links:
Clash of Civilizations: Battle of Lepanto Revisited
Wikipedia entry: Battle of Lepanto
Remembering Lepanto
Poem: Our Lady of Victory
Video: Men of the West

Thoughts on Hypocrisy

A few days ago Rod Dreher noted something from a recent press interview of Jenna Bush, the president's daughter. It seems that in 2006 Jenna and her boyfriend (now fiance) Henry went on a camping trip. Upon being told of the plans, the president asked his daughter, "Do you have two tents?"

Rod's post quickly drew comments from people saying the president, who had his share of youthful indiscretions, is a hypocrite for saying such a thing. To me, this attitude is very strange. In our culture hypocrisy seems to have become the only unforgivable sin. Yet at the same time, it is something we are all guilty of in one way or the other. I wrote the following a few weeks ago in reaction the the arrest of Senator Larry Craig:

It is entirely possible to simultaneously a) believe that a certain behavior is immoral, and b) be unable to resist one's own urges to engage in that same behavior. As much as we struggle to do good, every single day we still do things we know to be wrong. To be human is to be a hypocrite. The fact that we are often unable to live up to the standard does not mean that no standard exists. MORE

I think when people make charges of hypocrisy, often what they are really saying is "I don't like that rule." But in fact, the existence of a moral principle and the ability of individuals to follow that principle are entirely different subjects. Neither effects the other.

For example, I know that I should not eat an entire quart of Blue Bell Cookies & Cream ice cream at one time. It is not good for my health, it is wasteful of my family's money, and it sets a bad example for others. I should not do it. It's wrong. Yet I have, on many occasions, done this thing that I know to be wrong. I'm pretty sure I will do it again at some point. Am I a hypocrite about ice cream? Sounds like it. But that does not change the fact that too much ice cream is bad for me. I could simply deny the negative effects of ice cream and eat a quart of it every day. Then I would not be a hypocrite. I would, however, pay a heavy price in other ways.

Now, back to the Bush family situation. Like many of us Baby Boomers, George W. Bush did dangerous, unwise, and sometimes illegal things in his youth. What does this have to do with the way we bring up our own children?

One approach is to presume that we as parents have no moral authority to tell our own offspring not to do these things, because we did them ourselves. The result is kids with no restraint who quite naturally go wild. If they don't come to some kind of harm, they will go on to produce another generation that is even worse. This isn't good, but at least you, the parent, won't be a hypocrite. Congratulations. I'm sure your hypocrisy-free conscience will help you feel better when you visit your kids in prison, or put flowers on their graves.

The other approach is to recognize, with the benefit of maturity, the harm that we caused ourselves and others when we were young, and then help our kids avoid the same mistakes. Is it hypocrisy? Yes. Is it the best thing for our children? Yes.

This seems to be what Bush was telling his daughter: sharing a tent with a young man to whom you are not yet fully committed in marriage can be harmful in a variety of ways. By this time she was probably old enough to make her own decisions, but there is nothing wrong with a father offering advice to his daughter - at any age.

Is George W. Bush 100% successful as a parent? Apparently not, if some of the stories about his daughters are true. On the other hand, I don't know any parents who are perfect. I'm sure not. We all just do the best we can, regardless of what may be in our past. The alternative is to set our kids adrift without a moral compass. If that makes me a hypocrite, so be it.

What's Up at ORU?

A scandal is brewing at Oral Roberts University. The founder's son, now president of ORU, is accused of financial misconduct.

Richard Roberts is accused of illegal involvement in a local political campaign and lavish spending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodeling projects, use of the university jet for his daughter's senior trip to the Bahamas, and a red Mercedes convertible and a Lexus SUV for his wife, Lindsay.

His wife is accused of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on clothes, awarding nonacademic scholarships to friends of her children and sending scores of text messages on university-issued cellphones to people described in the lawsuit as "underage males."

At a chapel service this week on the 5,300-student campus known for its 60-foot-tall bronze sculpture of praying hands, Roberts said God told him: "We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit . . . is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion." MORE

The ORU web site has statements from Roberts and the ORU board chairman. It will be interesting to how this develops. Usually these sort of accusations are easily proven, or disproven, with financial records. If it is just a matter of lavish spending then there may not be anything illegal. It certainly sounds inappropriate, though.

Coincidentally, just this week David Kuo had an interesting story on his blog:

One friend of mine in Texas recently inquired to see if a prominent preacher could speak at her conference. The minister’s assistant faxed back a list of requirements that had to be met in order to book a speaking engagement. The demands included:
- a five-figure honorarium
- a $10,000 gasoline deposit for the private plane
- a manicurist and hairstylist for the speaker
- a suite in a five-star hotel
- a luxury car from the airport to the hotel (2004 model or newer)
- room-temperature Perrier

While ministers should obviously be paid fairly for their efforts, I have to wonder about the sincerity of a "preacher" who insists on such luxuries. Spreading the message of Christ is its own reward. This sort of this is apparently not that unusual among the "celebrity" evangelical and fundamentalist preachers. Steven Taylor at Poliblog had this to say about the ORU situation:

The whole thing has the feel of sultanistic dictators and their families, like the Somozas in Nicaragua or the Duvaliers in Haiti, wherein the leader runs a situation (a university or country) like it is their own personal piggy bank while all the while pretending like they are serving some greater good.

Of course, the fact that Oral Roberts thought it was a good idea to name the university after himself in the first place underscores that perhaps he wasn’t as interested in glorifying God as he claimed.

Sad to say, I can't disagree too much.

The Thinking Look

I sincerely hope Barack Obama is not our next president. Peggy Noonan probably feels the same way, but she does find one appealing quality in him. From her column today:

Barack Obama has a great thinking look. I mean the look he gets on his face when he's thinking, not the look he presents in debate, where they all control their faces knowing they may be in the reaction shot and fearing they'll look shrewd and clever, as opposed to open and strong. I mean the look he gets in an interview or conversation when he's listening and not conscious of his expression. It's a very present look. He seems more in the moment than handling the moment. I've noticed this the past few months, since he entered the national stage. I wonder if I'm watching him more closely than his fellow Democrats are.

Mr. Obama often seems to be thinking when he speaks, too, and this comes somehow as a relief, in comparison, say, to Hillary Clinton and President Bush, both of whom often seem to be trying to remember the answer they'd agreed upon with staff. What's the phrase we use about education? Hit Search Function. Hit Open. Right-click. "Equity in education is essential, Tim . . ."

You get the impression Mr. Obama trusts himself to think, as if something good might happen if he does. What a concept. Anyway, I've started to lean forward a little when he talks.


Wisdom of the Saints XXII

We cannot be sure whether we are loving God, although we may have good reasons for believing that we are. But we can know quite well whether we are loving our neighbor.

St. Teresa of Ávila

Bread & Circuses

In yesterday's post I linked to this video of Hillary Clinton in a Democratic debate. One of the comments on YouTube caught my eye. This was left by someone identified only as kkoolcat.

This is why the dems wont win in '08.
People don't care about social issues, we just want to know we are going to be protected at any cost. We just want to live and raise our kids and watch sports on TV. It is that simple, and they just don't get it.

I hope this was meant as some kind of joke. Could there be a more succinct statement of surrender to the nanny state? We just want to be protected at any cost. Really? Any cost? You want prisoners to be tortured, civilizations to crumble, soldiers to die so that you can watch sports on TV?

The sad thing is that people like this get to vote. There may well be enough of them to put somebody like Giuliani in the White House, because he seems on the surface like a guy who will "protect" us. He won't, because he can't, nor can any other president. Put not your trust in princes.

Bill Clinton Makes Sense

Now there is a headline I never expected to type. Still, I must give credit where credit is due. On the matter of torture, or "enhanced interrogation techniques," or whatever you wish to call it, Bill sounded remarkably intelligent and thoughtful when he appeared on Meet The Press last Sunday.

The subject came up because a few days earlier Tim Russert had trapped Hillary Clinton in a presidential debate by quoting what Bill had said about torture in the past [Video here]. He had said that the U.S. should normally not use torture but there should be provision for the president or other officials to grant exceptions in extreme situations - the "ticking bomb" scenario.

Bill has since changed his mind. Now he doesn't think there should be any exceptions in the law. Here's his latest:

... I think America’s policy should be to oppose torture, to honor the Geneva Conventions for several reasons. One is, it’s almost always counterproductive. If you beat somebody up, they’ll tell you what they want to hear. Two is, it, it really hurts us in the rest of the world and helps to recruit other terrorists. And thirdly, it makes our own people vulnerable to torture.

You know, there’s a one in a million chance that you might be alone somewhere, and you’re Jack Bauer on “24.” That’s the Jack Bauer example, right? It happens every season with Jack Bauer, but to—in the real world it doesn’t happen very much. If you have a policy which legitimizes this, it’s a slippery slope and you get in the kind of trouble we’ve been in here with Abu Ghraib, with Guantanamo, with lots of other examples.

And I’m not even sure what I said is right now. I think what happens is the honest truth is that Tim Russert, Bill Clinton, people filming this show, if we were the Jack Bauer person and it was six hours to the bomb or whatever, you don’t know what you would do, and you have to—but I think what our policy ought to be is to be uncompromisingly opposed to terror—I mean to torture, and that if you’re the Jack Bauer person, you’ll do whatever you do and you should be prepared to take the consequences. And I think the consequences will be imposed based on what turns out to be the truth. I think there are a lot of areas in life where you don’t. But I, I loved how she handled this whole thing. I guess you want to show the rest now.

MR. RUSSERT: But, but not [have a] formal exception.

MR. CLINTON: Yeah, I don’t think you should now. The more I think about it, and the more I have seen that, if you have any kind of formal exception, people just drive a truck through it, and they’ll say “Well, I thought it was covered by the exception.” I think, I think it’s better not to have one. And if you happen to be the actor in that moment which, as far as I know, has not occurred in my experience or President Bush’s experience since we’ve been really dealing with this terror, but I—you actually had the Jack Bauer moment, we call it, I think you should be prepared to live with the consequences. And yet, ironically, if you look at the show, every time they get the president to approve something, the president gets in trouble, the country gets in trouble. And when Bauer goes out there on his own and is prepared to live with the consequences, it always seems to work better. [Full transcript]

It is entirely possible Bill will change his mind again, and there is no guarantee his wife will think this way if she becomes president. Nevertheless, for now he has a far more reasonable and realistic torture policy than any candidate of either party has taken, other than Ron Paul.

What Clinton says about exceptions is absolutely true: give them an inch and they'll take a mile. That universal principle is the reason we have a Constitution that is not easily changed. President Bush, on the other hand, sought to grant blanket immunity for those who torture prisoners, all the while denying that they do any such thing - a claim we cannot verify since he steadfastly refuses to define what he means by "torture."

With such power in hand, it should be no surprise that some agents of the government will abuse it. Mr. Bush says we should just trust him, similar to the way we trusted him about Iraq having nuclear and chemical weapons. Sorry, sir. I won't be fooled twice. On this one, your predecessor is a lot closer to the right. You might want to listen to him.

Related posts:
Tortured Logic
Colin Powell on Guantanamo
Petraeus on Battlefield Ethics
Adventures in Fog
Defining Torture

How To Avoid Marriage

Mark Shea uncovered this study from Australia about the effects of pre-marital cohabitation. I have long wondered about this. There seems to be a difference in the way men and women view "shacking up." For the woman, it is often considered sort of a trial marriage. Once compatibility is established, she thinks a marriage proposal will soon follow. For the man - men being the simple creatures that we are - living with a woman is a handy way to get what you want without making much of a commitment.

Ruth Weston and Lixia Qu, research fellows at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, conducted a study into the percentage of cohabiting couples who end up marrying one another.

They found that marriage rates had fallen dramatically since the beginning of last century and those couples who did tie the knot were doing so at a later age.

Weston told the Sydney Morning Herald that many young people thought moving in together was "a fun thing to do".

But she said cohabiting couples often lingered for years in unsuitable relationships and had trouble finding new partners when they eventually did split.

"In the old days people might go 'steady' but there was still opportunity to meet others," she said.

"Now once you are living with someone you are cheating if you see someone else. When you cohabit it adds a sense of commitment to a relationship that might be going nowhere."

The logic is a bit twisted but it makes sense. In a marriage, two people mutually agree to set out on the journey of life together. They will, normally, make plans and try to think ahead about career, children, etc.

Conversely, when a man and woman are simply playing house there is little incentive to establish anything permanent. The man will stick around as long as he gets what he wants, The woman will stick around far longer than she should because she thinks if she does the man will eventually give her the commitment she wants.

So what happens is the unmarried couples end up in a sort of limbo, not fully committed but not able to move on to other relationships that might be better. Mark Shea says it a little more directly:

Wouldn't you know it? When men and women just move in together because it "sounds fun" this results in indistinct, vague relationships in which the woman wishes the guy would commit and the guy sort of hangs around, not buying the cow because the milk is free and simultaneously lusting after other women/feeling guilty and then wishing he could escape the relationship in which he sort of participates. The arrival of children acts, not as a blessing, but as an intrusion and a complicating factor. Who could possibly have foreseen this?

I've known people who lived in long-term cohabitation without benefit of actual marriage, and seemed from the outside to have a good relationship. This is the exception, I suspect. Marriage is all about sacrifice. It is about standing up in public and saying "I will deny myself and make a lifetime commitment to my spouse." Following through on the marriage vows is not easy, as all couples find out. The fact that they have made vows, however, provides motivation to work through the inevitable problems instead of just giving in to their own desires and moving on.

Do some marriages fail? Yes. Now if you want your marriage to fail, one of the best ways to achieve that outcome is to live with your would-be spouse first. The statistics prove that marriages that are preceded by cohabitation are far more likely to fail than others.

So, if you even think you may want to marry a particular person, moving in with them is the last thing you should do. This isn't a religious rule; it's a scientific fact derived from natural law. The "trial run" theory of marriage is demonstrably false, yet people persist in trying it. We never seem to learn.

UPDATE 10/13/07: Fr. Rob Johansen of Thrown Back has some helpful links on this subject.