Perspective

Thoughts of a Catholic convert

My Photo
Name:
Location: United States

Monday, October 31, 2011

Ben Myers on horse racing

There's an article at ABC Religion & Ethics by Ben Myers (Faith and Theology) on the treatment of race horses .... The Melbourne Cup: Godless race that tramples creation. It's worth a read. I've been interested in horse racing since I was a little kid and read The Black Stallion, but though I'm interested because it has to do with horses, I think it's in many ways a very cruel industry, as can be seen sometimes in the book Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand.


- Seabiscuit


Trees



A neighbor has asked me to remove the tree parts hanging over the fence we share, so I've been sawing away at them. I've cut down so much in just two days, yet I've barely made a dent in what needs to be removed ... Crystal, destroyer of trees :(

I love trees - I wish this below could be my yard - oh well, maybe this is what heaven will be like :) ...




Sunday, October 30, 2011

Harry Dresden - wizard



My latest book from the library is Storm Front by Jim Butcher. It's a fantasy novel about a wizard/private eye, Harry Dresden, and is the first of a series, The Dresden Files. I'd heard of The Dresden Files only as a tv series and I'd never watched it, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but decided to take a chance. I am enjoying the book - I'm listening to the audio version and it's read by James Marsters, who played Spike the vampire :)

You can read the first chapter of the book at the author's site here.

And here's a Vignette from the author's site ....

I sat on a stool in the cluttered laboratory beneath my basement apartment. It was chilly enough to make me wear a robe, but the dozen or so candles burning around the room made it look warm. The phone book lay on the table in front of me.

I stared at my ad in the Yellow Pages. It read:

HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties or Other Entertainment

I looked up at the skull on the shelf above my lab table and said, “I don’t get it.”

“Flat, Harry,” said Bob the Skull. Flickering orange lights danced in the skull’s eye sockets. “It’s flat.”

I flipped through several pages. “Yeah, well. Most of them are. I don’t think they offer raised lettering.”

Bob rolled his eyelights. “Not literally flat, dimwit. Flat in the aesthetic sense. It has no panache. No moxy. No chutzpah.”

“No what?”

Bob’s skull turned to one side and banged what would have been its forehead against a heavy bronze candle-holder. After several thumps, it turned back toward me and said, “It’s boring.”

“Oh,” I said. I rubbed at my jaw. “You think I should have gone four-color?”

Bob stared at me for a second and said, “I have nightmares about hell, where all I do is add up numbers and try to have conversations with people like you.”

I glowered up at the skull and nodded. “Okay, fine. You think it needs more drama.”

“More anything. Drama would do. Or breasts.”

I sighed and saw where that line of thought was going. “I am not going to hire a leggy secretary, Bob. Get over it.”

“I didn’t say anything about legs. But as long as we’re on the subject”

I set the yellow pages aside and picked up my pencil again. “I’m doing formulas here, Bob.”

“It’s formulae, O Maestro of Latin, and if you don’t drum up some business, you aren’t going to need those new spells for much of anything. Unless you’re working on a spell to help you shoplift groceries.”

I set the pencil down hard enough that the tip broke, and stared at Bob in annoyance. “So what do you think it should say?”

Bob’s eyelights brightened. “Talk about monsters. Monsters are good.”

“Give me a break.”

“I’m serious, Harry! Instead of that line about consulting and finding things, put ‘Fiends Foiled, Monsters Mangled, Vampires Vanquished, Demons Demolished.’”

“Oh yeah,” I said. “That kind of alliteration will bring in the business.”

“It will!”

“It will bring in the nutso business,” I said. “Bob, I don’t know if anyone’s told you this, but most people don’t believe that monsters and fiends and whatnot even exist.”

“Most people don’t believe in love potions, either, but you’ve got that in there.”

I held on to a flash of bad temper. “The point,” I told Bob, “is to have an advertisement that looks solid, professional and reliable.”

“Yeah. Advertising is all about lying,” Bob said.

“Hey!”

“You suck at lying, Harry. You really do. You should trust me on this one.”

“No monsters,” I insisted.

“Fine, fine,” Bob said. “How about we do a positive-side spin, then? Something like, ‘Maidens rescued, enchantments broken, villains unmasked, unicorns protected.’”

“Unicorns?”

“Chicks are into unicorns.”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s an ad for my investigative business, not a dating service. Besides, the only unicorn I ever saw tried to skewer me.”

“You’re sort of missing the entire ‘advertising is lying’ concept, Harry.”

“No unicorns,” I said firmly. “It’s fine the way it is.”

“No style at all,” Bob complained.

I put on a mentally challenged accent. “Style is as style does.”

“Okay, fine. Suppose we throw intelligence to the winds and only print the truth. ‘Vampire slayer, ghost remover, faerie fighter, werewolf exterminator, police consultant, foe of the footsoldiers of Hell.’”

I thought about it for a minute, and then got a fresh piece of paper and wrote it down. I stared at the words.

“See?” Bob said. “That would look really hot, attract notice, and it would be the truth. What have you got to lose?”

“This week’s gas money,” I said, finally. “Too many letters. Besides, Lieutenant Murphy would kill me if I went around blowing trumpets about how I help the cops.”

“You’re hopeless,” Bob said.

I shook my head. “No. I’m not in this for the money.”

“Then what are you in it for, Harry? Hell, in the past few years you’ve been all but killed about a million times. Why do you do it?”

I squinted up at the skull. “Because someone has to.”

“Hopeless,” Bob repeated.

I smiled, picked up a fresh pencil, and went back to my formulas. Formulae. “Pretty much.”

Bob sighed and fell quiet. My pencil scratched over clean white paper while the candles burned warm and steady.



Saturday, October 29, 2011

Noah's Ark


- The building of Noah's Ark, Bedford Hours

I see that Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain) plans to make a movie about Noah's Ark and hopes to have Christian Bale play Noah ... Bible Classic 'Noah' Set for Movie Adaptation With Darren Aronofsky.

I can imagine this could be an interesting movie - a sort of post-apocalyptic thriller - but as far as the story of Noah and the Ark goes, I find it scary and depressing ..... God creates people with a serious design flaw, God loses patience and decides to delete not just people but all living things, God reconsiders and picks a few favorites to survive while all others drown ... yikes! I wonder if the film will somehow positively spin this.


- The Return of the Dove to the Ark, John Everett Millais


Friday, October 28, 2011

Skagen


- Hip, hip, hurra! Kunstnerfest på Skagen by Peder Severin Krøyer

Still reading the novel that takes place mostly in Denmark (it's The Secret Servant by Daniel Silva) and now the characters have gone to Skagen .....

Skagen (The Skaw) is a projection of land and a town, with a population of 8,515 ... part of the Jutland peninsula in northern Denmark .... The area is extremely picturesque, and distinguished by its low, yellow houses with red tile roofs nestled into the beach areas .... A highlight of the year is the celebration of Midsummer Eve or St. John's Evening (Sankt Hans Aften) on the beach with blazing bonfire and song .... The area is closely associated with the Skagen Painters, a community of artists ....

The old church at Skagen, dedicated to St. Lawrence, was mostly buried under moving sand dunes and only the tower now protrudes ...



So a new one was built - Skagen Church ....



I like books that take me places I haven't been :)


Thursday, October 27, 2011

In Copenhagen


- angel baptismal font by Thorvaldsen

I'm reading a novel that takes place partly in Copenhagen. It's interesting because I've never been there. As it turns out there are some interesting churches in the city I've mentioned before the Church of Our Lady where lives the famous Jesus statue by Bertel Thorvaldsen ...



But I don't think I've mentioned Frederick's Church before. It has statues of well known theologians, including Kierkegaard, circling the building. Here's one of them, Irenæus af Lyon, by Carl Rohl Smith ....



And a photo of the interior ...



Another church in Copenhagen is Church of Our Saviour, which has a baroque spire ...



And angels guarding the choir :) ....




The bluejay ...

comes for a peanut ...






Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ethically evolving?

I posted something a while ago about Steven Pinker’s new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, so I thought I'd mention that Vaughan Bell has reviewed it - Peace on Earth - and that there's also a post about it at the NYT's philosophy blog - Pinker on Reason and Morality. Here's a little bit from the latter ...

[...] The two key empirical claims that Pinker puts forward are suggested in the title: that the level of human violence (war, murder, etc.) has been decreasing over the centuries and that the human ability to reason has been correspondingly increasing. He goes on to explain the first claim by the second.

For myself, I think most human cultures are less violent now than in the past, but I don't think Pinker is right in his belief that human reason has been increasing over time and that this has made human beings increasingly less violence .... yes, our present culture is a kinder/gentler one than, for instance, the culture of the European Middle Ages, but is it true that human beings are now more "reasonable" than they were in, say, Athens at the time of Plato and Socrates? I don't think there's a necessary connection between decreased violence and reason ... maybe a decrease in violence has more to do with greater access to information and a resulting encouragement of empathy? But I don't really know - read what the other guys have to say :)


Matthew Power SJ ...

on what a guided Ignatian retreat is like ...




Tuesday, October 25, 2011

At the Vatican Museum

Speaking of the Vatican's untold wealth ;) I was reminded of this old photo of me and Julius Caesar at the Vatican Museum .....




Francis and the pope

Vatican calls for global authority on economic issues ... a world bank and a redistribution of wealth. I'm for sharing wealth but I'm skeptical of this advice coming from an institution with its own banking problems and seriously undistributed wealth. It reminded me of Brother Sun, Sister Moon when Francis of Assisi visits the pope ......






Fr. Anthony Ruff OSB .....

discusses the new translation of the Roman Missal in this first in a series of videos ...




Sunday, October 23, 2011

Next?


- Oded Fehr in V

Almost done with season two of V. Sadly, the Catholic priest in the series, Fr. Jack Landry, has just been laicized for disobeying the Vatican - amazing how quickly the pope can fire someone when he really wants to ;)


- Fr. Jack sans collar

And a character I was just beginning to like, former Israeli agent Eli Cohen (Oded Fehr) has been killed off after just a couple of episodes. Remember him from The Mummy? ...



Too bad V didn't get picked up for a third season. What science fiction series shall I choose next? Maybe the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles series.


OWS, Rawls, Milbank, preferential option for the poor

I've mostly seen John Rawls mentioned negatively in religious circles, as in this article by John Milbank. Does Rawls' ideas of justice as fairness offend religious views of hierarchy, and how does it all work with the preferential option for the poor? Today I saw a post at The NYT's philosophy blog about Occupy Wall Street and John Rawls. Here's part of it ....

Rawls on Wall Street
- Steven V. Mazie

[...] Rawls’s boldest claim — that inequality in society is only justified if its least well-off members fare better than they would under any other scheme — could provide a lodestar for the protests. Rawls was no Marxist: this “difference principle” acknowledges that a productive, free society will be home to at least some degree of inequality. But the principle insists that if the rich get richer while wages and social capital of the poor and middle class are stagnant or falling, there is something seriously wrong.

This idea is built on the premise that in a just society, citizens should be understood as free and equal participants in a system of social cooperation. Some individuals may be more motivated and harder working, and thus can legitimately expect greater rewards for their efforts. But everyone deserves the same bundle of individual rights and liberties, and everyone is entitled to “fair equality of opportunity,” including access to a decent education and a genuine chance of success in pursuing one’s life plans ......

Some may question the strategy of concentrating on the plight of the “least advantaged.” No political movement can get off the ground, they will rightly observe, if individuals under the poverty line are its exclusive concern. Though the recent economic downturn has swelled the ranks of these least-fortunate Americans, the proportion is still only 1 in 6, and they neither turn out at the polls in great numbers nor contribute cash to political campaigns.

Yes, merely railing against poverty cannot be Occupy Wall Street’s sole focus. But it does violence to the special problems facing the truly poor to lump everyone in the bottom 99 percent together as if families on food stamps are really on a par with those making $100,000 or more a year. It’s worth distinguishing between the various strata of the 99 percent while highlighting something all layers have in common: a basic structure of society that is geared to advance the interests of only the very wealthiest Americans.

So perhaps Occupy should apply Rawls’s more inclusive formulation of the difference principle, which holds that “inequality is only allowed if there is reason to believe that the institution with the inequality, or permitting it, will work out for the advantage of every person engaged in it.” ......


Here's an article by John Milbank and Phillip Blond in which they mention "justified inequality" - No equality in opportunity


In the yard today

Mushrooms ...




Saturday, October 22, 2011

Gabriel Wüger



Reading about Beuron Archabbey (see above) and the Beuron Art School. A couple of examples of the art ...


- Stabat Mater, Gabriel Wüger, 1868


- Thronende Muttergottes in der Glorie, St. Maurus chapel, Gabriel Wüger, 1868–1870


Some angel material ...


- angels from St. Gabriel's Abbey, Prague

I've come upon today: A paper, Why can't angels think properly? by Martin Lenz. And a book, Angels in Medieval Philosophical Inquiry by Isabel Iribarren and Martin Lenz. Here's a bit from the introduction .....

[...] The golden era of scholasticism, roughly between the early thirteenth and the mid-fourteenth century, saw an enthusiastic reception of Aristotelian thought ..... attempts to articulate Aristotelian philosophy within the demands of Christian theology gave light to the thirteenth-century notion of theology as ‘the Queen of Sciences’ .... it is no coincidence that the most notable advocate of natural theology was also honoured with the title of Angelic Doctor. Indeed, Thomas Aquinas saw himself as part of a philosophical and theological tradition whose chief concern was to guarantee the compatibility of the natural order with God’s will and the essential continuity from creatures to God. In this view, angels were purported to represent, on a cosmological level, the harmonious balance between natural and supernatural epitomized in the notion of ‘natural theology’

Aquinas’s outlook, however, proved to be a double-edged sword. The notion of theology as a science was not without its problems, especially when it came to justifying how its working premises, the articles of faith, were to function as self-evident principles. Either we admitted, with the risk of fideism, that theology was incapable of yielding positive knowledge about God, or we forced reason into faith in favour of a coherent philosophical system but at the expense of Christian doctrine .... This incipient strain in the working relation between philosophy and theology finally snapped in 1277, as the Bishop of Paris, Stephen Tempier, issued a condemnation against the University [Condemnation of 1277] .....

The period following the condemnation saw the gradual waning of the thirteenth century endeavour to build up a system of positive knowledge about God. By the turn of the fourteenth century medieval thinkers begin to be more critical of their classical inheritance, as they tend to question the legitimacy of philosophical reasoning in the domain of revelation. This gave way to new forms of religious spirituality, whereby what brings humans closer to God are no longer quasi-divine ‘intelligences’ in a static hierarchy leading to the first principle, but rather the merits of humans who led sinless lives and have accordingly received the divine gift of grace. This dynamic reinterpretation of the relation between God and humans went hand in hand with the angels’ loss of theological significance.

Admittedly, in the centuries succeeding the Middle Ages angels seem to lose their theological reality and cosmological function as chief mediators and warrants of world order. But this development was not wholly detrimental to our spiritual ambassadors. For as angels became lost in theological and cosmological relevance, so speculation about them gained in philosophical pertinence. Representing ideal beings in their perfect cognition and immateriality, angels provide privileged grounds for exploring a wide range of issues from epistemology, metaphysics, to philosophy of mind and language. Even contemporary philosophical discussions could have thus much to benefit from the lens provided by medieval angelological discussions. It is this second question about the philosophical importance of angels to which we will now turn .....



Friday, October 21, 2011

:)

Who knew there was a Wikipedia page on the world's funniest jokes? Here are those that made first place and second place ....

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?". The operator says "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a gun shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says "OK, now what?"

And ...

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson were going camping. They pitched their tent under the stars and went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes woke Watson up and said: "Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you see." Watson replied: "I see millions and millions of stars." Holmes said: "And what do you deduce from that?" Watson replied: "Well, if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it’s quite likely there are some planets like Earth out there. And if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life." And Holmes said: "Watson, you idiot, it means that somebody stole our tent."

:)


Gender myths and NT Wright

I was reminded today of complementarianism, the idea that men and women are very different in complementary ways, found in the catechism, and in JP2's Mulieris Dignitatem.

I disagree with this view, as does Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology at Stony Brook, who said in a lecture, that ... what we know in behavioral and social science is that on every available, every measurable trait, attitude, behavior, women and men are far more similar than they are different. Today I saw something that in some ways backs us up - Six Myths About Sex And Gender, Busted.

Complementarianism reminds me of a past paper by NT Wright in which he wrote this about equality and justice .... Justice never means “treating everybody the same way”, but “treating people appropriately”. Wright's view makes two questionable assumptions: that there are almost ontological differences between people, and also that someone has the ability and the right to draw conclusions about worth and entitlement from these differences. Maybe justice isn't about treating everybody "the same way", but I do think it's about being willing to see others as similar to ourselves and giving them equal opportunities.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Doomsday Book, V, and Gilad Shalit


- Kyle, the morally challenged mercenary in V

A lot on my mind last night/today:

Stuff in the news, like schismatic SSPX bishop Richard Williamson's latest creepy statements, and the sad putting down of the exotic animals loose in Ohio, and the recent death of Qaddafi.

Stuff closer to home, like the book I'm still reading- Doomsday Book by Connie Willis - in which a young Oxford University historian is sent back in time to 1348 during the Black Death. It's really harrowing to read of all the suffering taking place, and at one point, when the historian is nursing a little girl dying of the plague, her friend the priest Fr. Roche, asks, "Why does God punish us thus?" ... "He doesn't. It's a disease," I said, which is no answer, and he knows it. All of Europe knows it, and the Church knows it too. It will hang on for a few more centuries, making excuses, but it can't overcome the essential fact -- that He let this happen. That He comes to no one's rescue.

And last night I watched the first disk of season two of the science fiction tv series V. I do like that one of the characters is a Catholic priest, Fr. Jack Landry, though I have to admit, my favorite character is a mercenary, Kyle Hobbes (played by Australian, Charles Mesure). I'm not sure, though, that I'm going to keep watching the show - there was a really disturbing scene in one of the episodes of the good guys, including the priest, torturing a captured alien. Oh yeah, they did it for a good reason, and the aliens are really bad, but still, the scene was so illustrative of the ends justifying the means that it made me feel sick.

The one happy note in my day was taking up an offer I saw posted at Jerusalem Hills daily photo to sponsor the (free) planting of a tree in Jerusalem to celebrate the safe return of Gilad Shalit.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hee :)




Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lutherans

While my church lumbers onward in its mission to crush same-sex marriage, I was cheered to see this at The Christian Century ....

Risking their careers or standing in the United Methodist Church, at least 164 clergy and six congregations from Long Island to the Catskill Mountains and southern Connecticut are vowing to marry same-sex couples. Hundreds of UMC clergy elsewhere in the U.S. have made similar pledges, but this new network is actively contacting LGBT groups with their offers and publishing lists of the willing clergy and supportive congregations .... "This is about pastoral care, about welcoming all people, but especially the marginalized and the oppressed, like Jesus did," said Sara Lamar-Sterling, the minister at First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven ....

Brave and good :)


Uniatism

There's a post at Pray Tell that mentions the Anglican Ordinariate and it reminded me of a Dec 2000 lecture by Robert F. Taft SJ - The Healing of Memories and the Problem of Uniatism. I knew a little of Fr. Taft - he's the guy who has organized all the Vatican II papers of the then Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Maximos IV Sayegh ... you can find them here: Discourses and Memoranda of Patriarch Maximos IV and of the Hierarchs of His Church at the Second Vatican Council.

But back to the lecture, which can be found here. It speaks of past relations between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church that resemble the recent creation ot the Anglican Ordinariate ... Uniatism .... and why such relations are counter-productive to true ecumenism. It's a very long lecture, but here's just a bit from the beginning ....

[...] the phenomenon known as "Uniatism,"[2] a pejorative neologism coined to denote a method of Church union the Orthodox see as politically rather than religiously motivated, and contrary to the "communion ecclesiology" of the Church of the first millennium.[3] In "Uniatism," one Church is perceived as an aggressor against a "sister Church" with which it happens at the moment to be in schism, absorbing groups of its faithful deceptively by allowing them to retain their own liturgical and canonical traditions and a certain autonomy. This type of union, considered the result of political pressure reinforced by violence, created not unity but new divisions in an already fragmented Christendom.

To understand "Uniatism" and this negative view of it, one must understand the nature of the reunions of the 16th and later centuries, and of the Eastern Catholic Churches that resulted. Regardless of the intentions behind them, these reunions were not, except in the most formal theological sense, a restoration of the communion that had existed before the schism between East and West. They represented something new in the history of the Church, a departure from the past, which is why the Slavic neologism "unija" was invented to describe it.

Had the Union of Florence in 1439 been successful, the phenomenon of "Uniatism" would never have emerged. For at Florence the Latin West and the Byzantine East tried to face and deal with each other directly as equals. But the Orthodox repudiation of the Union of Florence in 1484 provoked a clear though perhaps unconscious shift in tactics by the Latin Church. Disillusioned by the failure to achieve a general union, the Roman Church began to sign separate union agreements with individual groups of Orthodox, thus nibbling away at the fringes of Orthodoxy in areas under the political control of Catholic powers.

For the Orthodox, this was perfidious, like signing a separate peace behind the backs of one's allies instead of working for a general peace. Rome could respond that they were simply entering into union with a local Church (which indeed the Roman Church, like any other Church, had every right to do). [4]

But phenomenologically, the Churches had in fact evolved beyond the pre-Nicene system in which one could still legtimately view the universal Church as a federation of local Churches with no intervening higher structures - as if Canada, for example, were just a collection of towns not united into separate provinces. So the Orthodox groups that entered into union with Rome were not simply restoring the former, broken unity between a local Church and the Church of Rome, even if this is what they had intended. Rather, they were separating themselves from one entity, their Orthodox Mother Church, and being absorbed into another, the Latin Catholic Church of the West. In short, they were leaving the Eastern Church and being assimilated into the Western Church. Far from restoring the broken communion between East and West, this led to new divisions.

For the Orthodox, such partial reunions remove the whole ecumenical problem from its proper context. This is a view that most ecumenists now share. In this perspective, the separation between our Churches resulted between the hierarchies of East and West over ecclesial questions like the extent and powers of the Roman See, and it is up to those two hierarchies together, and not individuals or splinter groups of bishops, to solve these problems in common. Partial reunion only divides the Orthodox Churches and is seen as deceiving the simple faithful, who follow their bishops in good faith with no understanding of the issues involved. For the Orthodox, such partial reunions are not Union but "Unia," breaking ranks and entering premature and treacherous submissions to one side in a dispute without the consent of one's partners .......



Monday, October 17, 2011

It's not Das Boot, but ...


- Connery, Baldwin, and Glenn

I usually end up getting old movies from the library, partly because I've never seen most of them on the computer before, and partly because if you sign up for a new movie a the library, you're on a list with hundreds of others: by the time you get the movie, it will be old anyway - heh. This week's old movie from the library was The Hunt for Red October, the 1990 movie based on the novel by Tom Clancy. As I was checking it out, the librarian sighed and said "I love this movie - Alec Baldwin when he was young!" :) Of course there are a lot of good actors in the film - Sean Connery, Scott Glenn, Stellan Skarsgård, James Earl Jones, Tim Curry, Sam Neil, etc., and there's a even a cameo by Dr. Crusher from Star Trek NG, who plays Jack Ryan's wife.

The basic plot from Wikipedia ...

The year is 1984. Captain First Rank Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) is the commanding officer of Red October, a new Soviet submarine whose caterpillar drive renders it undetectable to sonar. Ramius leaves port to conduct exercises with the submarine V.K. Konovalov, commanded by his former student Captain Tupolev (Stellan Skarsgård). Once at sea, Ramius murders political officer Ivan Putin (Peter Firth), the only man aboard besides himself who knows the sub's true orders. Ramius then burns the orders and commands the crew to head toward America's east coast to conduct missile drills. The Dallas, an American submarine on patrol nearby, briefly detects Red October but loses contact once Ramius engages the silent drive.

The next morning, CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) briefs U.S. government officials on the departure of Red October and the threat it poses. Officials in the briefing, learning that the Soviet Navy has been deployed to sink Red October, fear Ramius may plan an unauthorized strike against the U.S. Ryan believes Ramius plans to defect and leaves for the North Atlantic to prove his theory before the U.S. Navy is ordered to sink Red October.


The film is fun if you can get over that a Scotsman, an Englishman, a New Zealander, and a Swede are supposed to be Russian :) Nope, it's not Das Boot, but still probably worth a watch if you haven't seen it before.




Sunday, October 16, 2011

Still thinking about ...

UPDATED - I've added this link (thanks to Carolyn Disco) - Why Bishop Finn deserves indictment, Rod Dreher, The American Conservative

Bishop Finn covering up child porn on a priest's computer. My friend Todd at Catholic Sensibility has been persoally affected by what's happened, and the post at dotCommonweal keeps generating comments, some of them very informative, some of them hair-raising. Here's a time-line of the events.


Randall Balmer and Thomas Reese SJ

With Mitt Romney a serious contender for the future presidency, I've seen a lot of posts about him and Mormonism online. Today I came across one such post by Randall Balmer, professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University, editor for Christianity Today, and an Episcopal priest. He writes of the question that often pops up - are Mormons really Christians - and mentions how that same question was often asked of Catholics ... my grandmother especially believed Catholicism was a cult and would frisk me for pamphlets every time I came home from playing with the Catholic kid next door :). Here's a little of his post ....

Fundamentalists, Mormons and the "Christian" Question

[...] Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, told a reporter that Romney "is not a Christian" and characterized Mormonism as a "cult."

I have no brief for Jeffress, whose politics I despise as inimical to the Christian and, in particular, evangelical values that I honor. And the fact that he can dispense such zingers wearing his trademark treacly smile disposes me to like him even less. But it's important also to understand the context of the fundamentalism he represents.

For Jeffress and for millions of other fundamentalists, the word "Christian" is a specialized term reserved only to those who hold certain beliefs. Having grown up fundamentalist, I spent the first two-plus decades of my life convinced that Roman Catholics were not Christians - because they were not fundamentalists.

The preface to my book Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory recounts the rainy day in my childhood when I finally mustered the courage to "witness" to Stanley, my next-door neighbor and playmate. "Stanley," I began, my voice quavering, "are you a Christian?" When he replied in the affirmative, I was sure he was lying. Stanley was Roman Catholic.

Although they tend to be less vocal about the matter, at least publicly, fundamentalists also begrudge the label "Christian" to anyone who is not an evangelical, including mainline Protestants. So it should come as no surprise that Jeffress would consider Mormons non-Christians. (The label "cult," however, is another matter. Although fundamentalists like to sling the word about rather freely, I generally think it's inadvisable because the word is invariably pejorative. I've yet to meet anyone who said, "Yes, I'm a member of a cult!")

All of this begs the larger, normative question about whether Mormonism is indeed "Christian." My friend Jan Shipps, for example, a devout Methodist who knows more about Mormons than any "gentile" (non-Mormon, in Mormon parlance) on the planet, insists that, yes, Mormons are Christians.

Although I know many Mormons and admire their faith, I think the answer to that question might be a bit more complicated. Here's why ....


I don't really have an opinion about Mormonism myself - I haven't known any Mormons and all I do know of them mainly comes from books or movies, though I did dislike their support of prop 8, but then my church supported it too. I do remember, though, when Mitt Romney gave his speech about politics and religion back in Dec 2007 and the reactions of the guys at On Faith, including Thomas Reese SJ - interesting reading.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Greg Boyle SJ, Leonard Cohen, and San Francisco

Fr. Greg Boyle SJ talks about Ignatian spirituality ....



Leonard Cohen tells a story ...



And a visit to San Francisco :) .....




Leaf and squirrel

I really wanted to title this "moose and squirrel" :) but there was no moose in the yard, so ...






Friday, October 14, 2011

Finally ....

a bishop is being held accountable for endangering children - U.S. Bishop Is Charged With Failing to Report Abuse ...

A bishop in the Roman Catholic Church has been indicted for failure to report suspected child abuse, the first time in the 25-year history of the church’s sex abuse scandals that the leader of an American diocese has been held criminally liable for the behavior of a priest he supervised.

There's a post about this at dotCommonweal - Kansas City bishop charged with failing to report suspected child abuse and a post too at America magazine's blog - K.C.'s Bishop Finn Indicted.

Thank God for the civil authorities.


The retreat and a sermon from Oxford


- Max von Sydow plays chess with Death in The Seventh Seal

That Creighton University online retreat has begun - while it's possible to make the retreat at any time, to be in sync with the liturgical year, one starts in the fall. The next few weeks (5, 6, and 7) are about sin. I hate this part of the retreat, especially the use of the word "sin" .... it seems so dated and over the top and reminds me of the flagellants in The Seventh Seal - eek!

But today I was reading a sermon that Keith Ward preached at The University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford (see their sermon archive), and I was struck by how he explained the badness that I think the retreat is referring to. Here's a bit of what he said ......

AN EXTENDED VERSION OF THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY SERMON PREACHED AT THE UNIVERSITY CHURCH ON SUNDAY, 8 MAY, 2011 BY PROFESSOR KEITH WARD, DD, FBA

[...] Human greed, hatred, pride and the lust for power, have corrupted the human world, and destroyed the lives of millions of people by the gross injustice, exploitation and violence that are the tragic marks of human history. It is these things that fall under divine judgment, for they have frustrated God’s purpose that humans should learn to live together in understanding, kindness, and love.

If we ever come to see our lives as they really are, in the context of God’s eternal purpose, we will see our complicity in the failures and corruptions of the world, and we will see the destruction and death that follows from our seemingly small acts of selfishness and greed. To see that clearly, with all its horrific consequences for the world, is already a form of judgment, for it is to see what we could have been and what we have failed to be, and the terrible consequences, both for others and for ourselves, of our failure. If we ever see that clearly, our problem would be how to go on living with ourselves and with knowledge of the world’s tragedy and our failure to deal with it in ourselves and in our daily lives with others. At the very least, it would seem, there would need to be some form of punishment. That punishment would involve coming to see and in some way to feel the harm we have done. It would involve some form of attempted recompense and personal penitential sacrifice, however inadequate that may seem.


The sermon is pretty long, but I wanted to post another part of it that has to do with universal salvation. Like Hans Urs von Balthasar, I like to hope no one goes to hell, and in fact I'd like to believe there is no such place at all, even for those people that CS Lewis thinks want to go there of their own free will (I really hate that idea). Keith Ward seems to agree with me (I think). He also has a view of how people can try to be good .....

The nature of God’s love is spelled out in the Sermon on the Mount, where we are told to ‘be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5, 48). The sermon spells out that perfection, and it includes love of enemies (Mat. 5, 44), and forgiveness which is elsewhere said to be without limit (Mat. 18, 22). God cannot be less perfect than we are called to be, and so we must believe – and this is indeed good news for most of us – that God loves even God’s enemies, and forgives them without limit. Whatever love of enemies is, it is not torturing them in flames forever. It has to include caring for their welfare, never giving up on them, and endlessly seeking to turn them towards life and joy, if at all possible (and all things are possible for God) ....

What is that beginning of the path to salvation? We cannot know - remember Jesus’ teaching that we should not judge, for we do not know the secrets of human hearts. But we may suppose that God requires the pursuit of a number of things by those on the way to salvation. First, we must be open to the truth as it seems to us to be. Truth must not be distorted by prejudice, hatred, or selective and partial judgments. We must follow our consciences, even if we happen to be objectively in error, though we must also always seek to make our consciences, our moral sense, more sensitive and informed. Second, we must seek to respond to the claims of altruism and benevolence, and turn from selfishness and greed. Third, we must find some liberation from the imperious claims of anger, hatred, passion, and attachment to possessions and pride. We must be selfless and mindful, compassionate and non-attached, and in that way become sensitive to the beauty and wonder of the world. Fourth, knowing the weakness of our hearts, we must be penitent for our failures to seek truth resolutely, to practice altruism genuinely, and to achieve fullness of life. We must be aware of our limitations and failures, as far as we can, and yet resolve to go on with patience, endurance, and hope in facing the challenges our lives bring to us.


Sometimes I find being a person so daunting, even given the fairly upbeat take of people like Keith Ward. Must go drink coffee :)


Thursday, October 13, 2011

James Alison

I haven't seen much about Fr. James Alison since he moved to Brazil, but today I came upon this talk/interview with him from the Australian Jesuit magazine, Eureka Street .....




Wednesday, October 12, 2011

University Church of St Mary the Virgin



I'm still reading Doomsday Book by Connie Willis - it's set at Christmas, and some of the characters are going to the University Church of St Mary the Virgin on Christmas eve. Here's a little about the church from Wikipedia ...

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin (St Mary's or SMV for short) is the largest of Oxford's parish churches and the centre from which the University of Oxford grew .... St Mary's possesses an eccentric baroque porch, designed by Nicholas Stone, facing High Street, and a spire which is claimed by some church historians to be one of the most beautiful in England ....

St Mary's was the site of the 1555 trial of the Oxford Martyrs, when the bishops Latimer and Ridley, and the Archbishop Cranmer, were tried for heresy. The martyrs were imprisoned at the former Bocardo Prison near St Michael at the Northgate in Cornmarket Street and subsequently burnt at the stake just outside the city walls to the nort .....

During his time in Oxford, John Wesley often attended the university sermon, and later, as a fellow of Lincoln College preached sermons in the church .... In 1828 John Henry Newman became vicar and his sermons became popular with undergraduates. From the present pulpit John Keble preached the assize sermon of July 14, 1833, which is considered to have started the Oxford Movement, an attempt to revive catholic spirituality in the church and University ...



- The view north from St Mary's, looking into Radcliffe Square, with Brasenose College to the left (west), All Souls College to the right (east), the Bodleian Library, the Sheldonian Theatre and the Divinity School to the left of centre background, and the Radcliffe Camera centrally. - Wikipedia

Check out the church's website - there's a lot going on there, and they even have a cafe :) ....




In the news today

... was a story about Iran's space program, which uses monkeys ... Iran Space Monkey Launch Attempt Fails. There was a linked op-ed to the news story - Space Station Living, Radiation and Monkeys by former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao - that was really interesting ... who knew that radiation is the single biggest threat to the health of astronauts?


- In 2009, NASA announced controversial plans to expose 18 to 28 squirrel monkeys to low levels of radiation to understand the effects of space travel. iStockPhoto -link

Here's just a bit at the end of the op-ed ...

Space Station Living, Radiation and Monkeys
- Leroy Chiao

[...] Monkeys and chimpanzees have played an important role in space exploration since the beginning of the Space Age. The first "American" in space was Ham the Chimp, who flew inside of a Mercury capsule before Alan Shepard.

You may have heard about planned monkey radiation experiments, and the recent protests against them. I understand the necessity of animal experiments in developing drugs and treatments, but I must admit that this one has me scratching my head a bit.

I have no doubt that some advances in scientific knowledge would be realized through these planned experiments, but I'm an operational guy (despite my Ph.D.). How would these experiments help us to survive in deep space? I don’t see it. The bottom line is that exposure to high levels of radiation is bad. We need to figure out how to detect, and protect against exposure as well as to treat if exposure occurs.

I'm a big fan of Curious George. Let's leave him alone this time.



- Astronaut Leroy Chiao, Expedition 10 commander and NASA ISS science officer, wearing a Russian Orlan spacesuit, participates in the first of two sessions of extravehicular activities (EVA) performed by the Expedition 10 crew during their six-month mission - link


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Another novel set at Oxford University



My latest book from the library is Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, a 1992 science fiction novel that won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. I'd read it when it was published and had wanted to read it again but was only recently able to find an audio version of it through inter-library loan. I've read two other books by Willis - Lincoln's Dreams and Passage - both were disturbing and sad and hopeful, as is this book.

Doomsday Book is set in in Oxford, England and takes place in two different times - in 2054 and in 1348 - the stories being told in parallel. It tells of Kivrin Engle, a history student at Oxford University and of her mentor, Professor James Dunworthy. Against Dunworthy's better judgement, Kivrin is sent back into the medieval psst, the first historian to be allowed so far back and to such a dangerous era. Despite best laid plans for the success and safety of the trip, things go very wrong: just after Kivrin is sent into the past, 2054 Oxford is struck with a mysterious and deadly medical epidemic, with which Kivrin herself is unknowingly infected. The time-travel mechanism, the net, is closed down because of fears that the disease has come through to the present somehow from the past, and Kivrin is stranded. With friends dying around him and himself ill, Dunworthy fights to get the University to re-open the time-travel system to find Kivrin. Meanwhile, Kivrin arrives in the past very ill. She's found and taken to a village manor house to recover, with doctoring from the resident priest, Fr. Roche, who becomes her friend. Not long after, though, the village becomes infected with the plague, the Black Death, and everyone but Kivrin dies, she having been inoculated against the plague in preparation for her trip.

The parts of the novel about life in the middle ages is interesting, but the book is mostly about relationships. The relationship of love and trust between Kivrin and Dunworthy is almost destroyed when Kivrin doesn't understand why Dunworthy has apparently abandoned her in the past to such horrible circumstances, but the relationship of love and trust between Fr. Roche and God is strangely undamaged despite the awful suffering and death of the whole village, including, eventually, the priest's own ... I was struck by the problem-of-evil scenario and the difference in how the characters handled it. The ending, with Dunworthy finally coming back to find Kivrin, was moving.


- A small extract of a page of the Domesday Book of 1086


Sunday, October 09, 2011

A lecture on spiritual direction



Today I came upon a page by the New England Jesuits of download-able oral history booklets made by the Jesuits of the province, and one was by spiritual director William A. Barry SJ - the interview covers his time as a Jesuit: making a retreat given by Karl Rahner as a novice, getting a doctorate in clinical psychology, falling in love, teaching at the Weston School of Theology, his involvement in the directed retreat movement, writing The Practice of Spiritual Direction, becoming rector of Boston College, and then provincial of the New England province.

At the end of the document, there's also a lecture Fr. Barry gave in 2007 - Campion Lecture:The Present State of Spiritual Direction. Here's just a bit of that fairly long lecture ....

[...] Let me say something about the kind of spiritual direction we fostered. It was based on the premise of the 15th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises, namely that the Creator communicates directly with the creature. The Spiritual Exercises presumes that God wants a personal relationship with people. The one who gives the Exercises is there to help the person with this relationship, to be a facilitator for this relationship. So we modeled our way of doing spiritual direcdirection on the way the one who gives the Exercises helps, namely by giving help with this relationship. One could define spiritual direction as help given by one Christian to another to attain what God wants of them .... her. If God wants a personal relationship of intimacy with each person, then the focus would be on what happens when the directee engages in that relationship with
God ....

Thus, the focus of spiritual direction practiced at CRD became what happens when the directee relates to God. Early on we talked about religious experience as what happens in this relationship. Later I came to prefer the term, “the religious dimension of experience,” as the focus, because the term, “religious experience,” can so easily be used for something esoteric, even odd, or something only experienced by holy people. I believe that any human experience can have a religious dimension, since God is present and active in our world at all times. We can find God in all things; hence there can be a religious dimension in our experience of all things. All that is needed is to pay attention to our experience and then to discern in the welter of dimensions of any experience what is of God.

Thus paying attention to experience became a key function not only in our advice to directees but also in our work as spiritual directors. We encouraged directees and spiritual directors to pay attention to their experience, especially to any experience that seemed to hint at the presence of God. Thus we encouraged people to take a contemplative stance toward the world and toward God’s presence in the world. We meant contemplative in its Ignatian and etymological sense, not in its mystical sense. To be contemplative in the Ignatian sense means to pay attention to what one encounters and to what one experiences in the encounter. We tried to help those who came for direction to pay attention to their experience: to notice what happens when they smell a rose, see a sunset, listen to a gospel story, watch a baby crawl, hear of a tragedy, etc., and to reflect on what they noticed and to talk about what they noticed with us in direction. The contemplative stance is something like what the examen of consciousness fosters, a way of noticing what has happened during the day in order to discover God’s presence in our day and our own way of dealing with God’s presence ......



Saturday, October 08, 2011

Outgroup empathy



One thing I've wondered about medieval saints like Thomas Aquinas is how they could sign off on war or capital punishment or the murder of heretics. Today I listened to a talk by evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker about the history of violence in which he maintained that violence is declining. He offered a number of theories as to why, and one was that of philosopher Peter Singer, who thinks that the inherent empathy humans have always had has been applied to larger and larger groups of others over time: from family, to clan, to town, to country, to all humankind, to nowdays even animals. At the end of Pinker's talk someone asked him if he thought the proliferation of technology has helped expand that circle of empathy. Pinker replied ...

Very much .... it helps us imagine what it's like to be someone else. I think when you read [about] these horrific tortures that were common in the middle ages, you think how could they possibly have done it, how could they not have empathized with the person that they're disemboweling? But clearly ... as far as they're concerned, this is just an alien being that does not have feelings akin to their own.

I wonder if this is so - I find it hard to let professional Christians like Thomas Aquinas off the hook for their harmful policies with the excuse that they were culturally incapable of empathizing with outgrouped others. But anyway, you can read an interesting interview with Pinker at Sam Harris' blog - Twilight of Violence: An Interview with Steven Pinker.


Friday, October 07, 2011

Missal translation and communion under both kinds



There are a couple of issues addressed at Pray Tell and dotCommonweal which I find interesting, so I thought I'd just mention them ...

One issue is the missal translation, both the quality of the translation itself, and the manner in which it's been handled. Fr. Philip Endean SJ has a few posts at Pray Tell on the subject, the most recent being about how the use of the new translation is going in the UK - More UK Reactions.

The other issue is about the Phoenix bishop who's withdrawing permission to give communion under both forms to the laity, no more drinking from the cup, his reasons being the risk of "profanation" (spilling the wine), the obscuring of the priest's specialness with the use of lay ministers, the belief privation will make the faithful more conscious of those in poverty, and the idea that absence makes the heart grow fonder ... holy mackerel! Rita Ferrone has a detailed and helpful post at dotCommonweal on this - The Case in Phoenix.

Of the two issues, the one I find most interesting is the one about restricting communion to only one kind for the laity, I guess because I'm still learning about communion. When I first read in Ben Witherington's book, Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord's Supper, about the Council of Trent's decision to only allow clergy to drink from the cup at mass I was appalled, but it wasn't until reading about Phoenix that I realized this was actually still the policy and that communion under both kinds was now a sort of exception to the rule - in all the time I went to church, both kinds were always offered.

Here's a little from Wikipedia on the history of the practice ...

In the Early Church Communion was ordinarily administered and received under both kinds. That such was the practice mentioned by Paul in I Corinthians 11:28 .... By the Middle Ages, the Church had become, like most of European society, increasingly hierarchical. There was much stress on being holy when receiving Communion, and a greatly heightened appreciation of the sufferings of Christ. This meant that all who approached the altar were to be as pure as possible, and inevitably led to the exclusion of the laity from administering the Eucharist, reserving the practice to the clergy. It is difficult to say when the practice of offering the chalice to the people stopped .... Today .... Regular use of Communion under both kinds requires the permission of the bishop, but bishops in many countries have given blanket authorisation to administer Holy Communion in this way.

There was also a post on this at Whosoever Desires - here's just a paragraph of it ....

Liturgical Minimalism in Phoenix

[...] The reasons to use both species are many. First of all, it plants us firmly in the Jewish roots of the liturgy. A good article on this can be found here. Second, it reconnects us, as Vatican II attempted to do, to the whole rich history of the early Church. For the first thousand years, Christians received under both species. This is not to say that they had any less respect for the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Tertullian notes in the 3rd century: "The possibility of letting either our cup or our bread fall to the ground makes us painfully anxious." Yet that did not prevent the reception under both species. It was more the effect of the Gregorian Reforms of the 11th century that created a more rigid class distinction between priest and assembly than any theology that began restricting the reception of the Eucharist to one species .....

Interesting (and to me, depressing) how we've gone from Jesus telling the non-perfect disciples "eat and drink" to the situation in Phoenix.


About those 100 best science fiction/fantasy books



Remember the NPR list of the best science fiction and fantasy books? Now there's a flowchart you can download that helps you navigate them .... FLOWCHART: Navigating NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books




Quasicrystals


- a a Penrose tiling

I'd seen a post earlier at Jerusalem Hills daily photo about Israeli scientist Daniel Shechtman's discovery of quasicrystals which won him the 2011 Nobel Prize for chemistry, but when I saw a video from the University of Nottingham explaining the significance of the discovery, I thought I'd post it. After all, it is about crystals :) .....




Thursday, October 06, 2011

Reminded of songs today

I remember my mom and myself watching the A&E Live By Request episode (2001?) which featured this song .....



And from another episode of A&E Live By Request, David Bowie, who my mom especially liked ....




Tthe first rain of the season

It's dusk and the light now makes photos look odd, but anyway, the rain left big puddles ...



and broke some of the roses' stems ...




In the yard today

An oak titmouse and a blue jay ....






Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Steve Jobs - RIP

I'm sorry to see that Steve Jobs has died ... Jobs's Death Follows Eight-Year Health Fight After Rare Cancer. I didn't know him, of course, but I felt a connection to him, maybe because he grew up around where I did, because all my computers have been macs, and because of a movie I saw about him once - Pirates of Silicon Valley ....

Pirates of Silicon Valley is a 1999 film based on the book Fire in the Valley: The Making of The Personal Computer by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine. It is a made-for-television docudrama written and directed by Martyn Burke which documents the rise of the home computer (personal computer) through the rivalry between Apple Computer and Microsoft. The film stars Anthony Michael Hall as Bill Gates and Noah Wyle as Steve Jobs.

Here's a video of a really interesting speech he gave at Stanford University in 2005 in which he talks about life and death and what's important ....




Things go to hell together



I'm re-reading (listening to) one of my favorite books, The Lost World by Michael Crichton. I've come to a part in the book where the gambler's ruin is mentioned, and I always find the idea just counter-intuitive. Here's a bit from the book ....

*******

Gambler's Ruin was a notorious and much-debated statistical phenomenon that had major consequences both for evolution, and for everyday life. "Let's say you're a gambler," he said. "And you're playing a coin-toss game. Every time the coin comes up heads, you win a dollar. Every time it comes up tails you lose a dollar."

"Okay."

"What happens over time?"

Harding shrugged. "The chances of getting either heads of tails is even. So maybe you win, maybe you lose. But in the end, you'll come out at zero."

"Unfortunately, you don't," Malcolm said. "If you gamble long enough, you'll always lose -- the gambler is always ruined. That's why casinos stay in business. But the question is, what happens over time? What happens in the period before the gambler is finally ruined?"

"Okay," she said. "What happens?"

"If you chart the gambler's fortunes over time, what you find is the gambler wins for a period, or loses for a period. In other words, everything in the world goes in streaks. It's a real phenomenon, and you see it everywhere: in weather, in river flooding, in baseball, in heart rhythms, in stock markets. Once things go bad, they tend to stay bad. Like the old folk saying that bad things come in threes. Complexity theory tells us the folk wisdom is right. Bad things cluster. Things go to hell together. That's the real world."

********

Why do things go in streaks when there's supposed to be an even chance for them going either way, and if things go to hell together, do they also go to heaven together? :)


Expediency

A while ago I had a post about a movie, The Conspirator, which was about the trial of Mary Surratt, one of the people thought to have conspired to kill Abraham Lincoln. As one can imagine, there was a lot of public feeling against her for having killed such an important and beloved figure, but she still got a lawyer and a trial.

Maybe things were very different then than they are now, but I was thinking of the movie when I read a post at In All Things - Who Will Be Next? - and when I read constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald's post - The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality. Here's a bit of Glenn's post ....

[...] After several unsuccessful efforts to assassinate its own citizen, the U.S. succeeded today (and it was the U.S.) .... What’s most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law). What’s most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government’s new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government. Many will celebrate the strong, decisive, Tough President’s ability to eradicate the life of Anwar al-Awlaki — including many who just so righteously condemned those Republican audience members as so terribly barbaric and crass for cheering Governor Perry’s execution of scores of serial murderers and rapists: criminals who were at least given a trial and appeals and the other trappings of due process before being killed ....

UPDATE: What amazes me most whenever I write about this topic is recalling how terribly upset so many Democrats pretended to be when Bush claimed the power merely to detain or even just eavesdrop on American citizens without due process. Remember all that? Yet now, here’s Obama claiming the power not to detain or eavesdrop on citizens without due process, but to kill them; marvel at how the hardest-core White House loyalists now celebrate this and uncritically accept the same justifying rationale used by Bush/Cheney (this is war! the President says he was a Terrorist!) without even a moment of acknowledgment of the profound inconsistency or the deeply troubling implications of having a President — even Barack Obama — vested with the power to target U.S. citizens for murder with no due process .......


It's pretty depressing to think the government was more concerned with due process protections at the time of Lincoln's death than it is now. I don't really know much about the constitution or law or politics, but it seems to me that we can't decide something's right and then make exceptions to it when it's expedient to do so without becoming morally bankrupt.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Happy St. Francis day

Here are a couple of clips from the movie Brother Sun Sister Moon ....




And here's a video about St. Francis and animals ....