Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thoughts on USA Network's creepy "Characters United" campaign.

So there I was, enjoying a simple evening at home watching Law & Order SVU, when I see this thing - a bunch of people who I assume are celebrities of some kind are "pledging" to end racism in America. Well, who can argue with that? Not me. But something about it seemed...off. Weird. Off-putting. I couldn't quite put my finger on it - there was just something that made me sit up on the couch and say, "what the hell are these people talking about?"

Finally figured out what was bothering me, though. The people in this commercial are complaining about an America that no longer exists.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Some poetry

This is Ed
He was our friend
But then we were hungry
And Ed met his end
Ed kept us fed
And now he is dead
And here is his head.

Maybe I should send this to PETA...

Barack won the Nobel Peace Prize!

I haven't been this excited since Titanic won Best Picture!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

I'm a daddy!!

I recently found out that Katie's pregnant! Awesome! Another step to
Doman world domination!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Happy 4th!

Don't know what you all are doing, but I think it's important on this holiday to celebrate what makes our country unique. A good way of doing this is by watching this video. Here it is:

Mr. T. responds! Or: a critique on smarmy preening anti-war Catholics.

Hi all! Much apologies for the long absence. I do have a good excuse, though - I'm getting married in three weeks, I'm working two jobs and so is my fiance, and we're sharing one car. Also, I just moved. Whew. But luckily I have been given a day off, thanks to the celebration of the birthday of one of most noble and wonderful countries that has ever existed - so I have a chance to blog it up a little.

My previous post, of course, dealt with a letter I received from an old classmate of mine, whom I playfully referred to as "Mr. Torquemada". Now that Mr. T has responded publicly using his real name, I have no qualms about revealing it as well - Phil Harold.

Phil's response can be found in the comments of my previous post, so I won't repeat the whole thing here. I will simply select some words of his and respond A'ight? A'ight.

Nowhere in my letter do I claim to know Michael Novak's heart and soul.

Well, technically that's true, Phil. You didn't out-and-out say "I know Michael Novak's heart and soul!" But you did judge his motives and assume that they were base, self-centered, and utterly vile. It did not, and does not, seem to occur to you that he may be sincere.

This, it seems to me, is where the oft-misused injunction, "Judge not yet ye be judged" could be applied. When making an argument, it is essential for us to judge a person's argument, not a person himself.

You obviously think that Novak's arguments are absurd - but you are so worked up in making wild speculations about his inner motives that you never actually articulate why those arguments are absurd.

We all know that wild speculations are fun. But in this case, they are both immoral and unproductive. Michael Novak is a human being, Phil. So are you. So am I (despite reports to the contrary). Thus, you have an obligation to not judge him. That's God's job. The same applies to myself - perhaps I should have been a tad less sarcastic and emotional in responding to your sarcastic and emotional letter. I do apologize. So let's look at the argument instead. This, I admit, is a lot less fun and more work - but it's the only way to get to the truth.
Instead of being a man and disputing the merits of the popes’ statements on Iraq, he backhandedly praises them for being in sharp disagreement with his own positions. It is clear he is concerned with his reputation as a Catholic intellectual loyal to the church and pope, which would suffer if he entered into open disagreement with their considered views.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I got it. To quote a personal hero of mine, "There you go again". And besides, Novak does disagree with the Pope's views, and openly! See? There ain't nothing to hide here. Everyone who reads Novak knows that he is definitely one of those crazy Neocons who thinks that we should wage wars against murderous tyrannies. So am I. So let's have no more of this hoohah that Novak's trying to hide his real views to "preserve his reputation". His reputation's already shattered as far as you're concerned, and there are far too many Catholic intellectuals who agree with you.
By the way, nowhere am I claiming that those who support the Iraq war are bad Catholics, or not faithful to the Church, or oppose the pope.

I shall now engage in an emotional response:
No, of course you don't. We're not bad Catholics. We're just stupid idiots who excrete little pink hearts out of our ears whenever we think about George Bush - and thus deserve only pity from enlightened ones like yourself:
Most people who are thickheaded enough to still support the Iraq war do so out of ignorance and moral confusion. Simply put, they supported Bush (in large part because he was ostensibly pro-life) and they don’t want to admit they made a mistake. This is understandable and forgivable.

Notice, first, how insulting and arrogant your words are. This is the sort of behavior (as I know from personal and painful experience) that can ruin and damage friendships.

Notice, as well, the complete and utter lack of any attempt to represent the arguments of the other side. Then again, you probably never bothered to read them. You may have skimmed over them. But it's pretty obvious that you never asked yourself this question: "How is it possible that so many people, some of which are bound to be marginally intelligent and well-informed, hold views on a subject that differ so decidedly from my own?"

This question is essential to any good debate. If you don't ask yourself this question, you aren't engaged in arguments - you're just venting. And you won't convince anyone who doesn't agree with you already. You will, however, convince them quite firmly that you're a preening jackass.

(By the way - I imagine that there are many people out there who believe I am a preening jackass - a belief that is only too true in many cases.)

Finally - this is off-topic, but why is George Bush ostensibly pro-life? I assume that you mean "pro-life" in the normal sense of being anti-abortion. What did George Bush not do to prevent abortion? He wasn't perfect, but he's a damn sight better than our current president, and certainly one of the most outright pro-life presidents to hold that position. I should really address this issue more fully, and hopefully will do so in another post. Moving on...
Not everyone can be expected to hold enlightened political views on every topic.

Sorry about that. You were saying?
People don’t have the time to become informed on every issue, even very important matters like the worst foreign policy mistake in a generation.

This is one of those annoying things that true believers like yourself do quite often. You make absolute statements, and then don't even bother to back them up with facts.

It's obvious that you think the Iraq war is the worst foreign policy mistake in a generation. Whether people will think the same thing a generation from now is another matter.

Your statement may be true and it may not be. Personally, I don't think it's possible to know, nor is it profitable to speculate. But the very fact that you take it for granted - that you equate "worst foreign policy mistake" with "2+2 = 4" is a telltale that you haven't even considered the arguments from the other side. Bad, Phil. Very bad.

With Novak, this moral confusion is what he is trying to push as the proper viewpoint of a faithful Catholic.

Where? Where does Novak claim that his views on the Iraq war are the views that every catholic should hold?

I'll be blunt: I don't trust you, Phil. Don't take offense - I don't trust anyone when I'm arguing, especially regarding the Iraq war, a topic that everyone has a strong opinion about. So give me a quote, please.

I do insult Novak, who deserves every syllable of it, just the same as Catholics for Choice do. If you are going to twist Church teaching into its opposite, those who are faithful to the Church should denounce you.

Here's another handy bit of Church teaching: Don't insult people.

The Pope doesn't do it. Our Lord doesn't do it. So who the hell do you think you are to do it? Even if I agreed with the absurd implication that Novak and Catholics for Choice are morally equivalent, what possible good can come from insulting Catholics for Choice? It certainly won't change their views - it certainly won't help these lost and confused people come any closer to salvation. It will probably drive them further away.

You first say that you “care what the Church teaches.” Unlike others who claim the same thing, you actually try to square the language of that teaching with the Iraq war policy. And not surprisingly, you can’t.
How can't I? I know you think I can't. But it should be obvious by now that I disagree with you, and therefore if you want to convince me, you have to provide some, er, I don't know...arguments to bolster your statement. It grows wearisome to repeat the same thing over and over, so please, stop yelling and start arguing.

In any case, let me make it clear what the purpose of my post was. I have been told, many, many, many times, that "The Church condemns the Iraq war!" My argument was, quite simply, that it doesn't. More specifically, that the Just War Doctrine is not the sort of thing that is meant to be applied retroactively. I also made clear to separate the words of the pope with the doctrine of the Church. Not everything the Pope says is an ex cathedra statement, as you must know.

In short, my post was an attempt to gainsay the attempt made by many anti-war Catholics to hijack the Just War Doctrine and use it as a club to beat their opponents - an attempt to avoid any opposing points of view by claiming the mantle of Church authority. I find this sort of behavior reprehensible, and furthermore, it is exactly what you accuse Novak of doing. The Church doesn't condemn the Iraq war. Look at my previous post for the evidence.
But instead of admitting it, you then argue that the teaching condemns all war.

No, I don't. I guess I can see how you came to that conclusion if (as I suspect) you skimmed through my post rather quickly and then dashed off an angry response.

But, in fact, my post was also an account of my own personal and mistaken impression of what Just War Doctrine teaches - and how that impression was corrected by a careful and (I think) thoughtful reading of the actual words in the Catechism.

It seems like you want to jettison Church teaching because it comes to the wrong conclusion on a policy you are attached to.

It's clear that you think so. I don't. I really don't. If you think I am, then you should argue with me why. You haven't yet done so.

As far as your attempt at disputing statistics goes, please get basic definitions straight: “casualties” means killed or injured.

Well, since you've already said that people like you are "enlightened" and people like me are "thickheaded", I suppose I shouldn't be offended that you assume I don't know what "casualties" means. In my defense, I did get a perfect score on the English section of my SATs, I do have a BA in Writing and Literature, I did hold a job as a journalist for 2 years, and I am a published novelist...but let's move on.

The sources the numbers were reputable and also conservative. For instance, we have spent $600 billion on the war, so far, but economists have estimated the total costs above $3 trillion. (link) An estimated 1.3 million Iraqis have died violent deaths as a result of the invasion. (link) There have been over 100,000 American casualties estimated due to the Iraq war. (link)

Regarding your first assertion about the money - this is something I meant to address in my first post but never got around to. Your belief is that the Iraq war is immoral, right? So why do you keeping talking about how much money it cost? What does one have to do with the other?

Regarding the second link about the number of Iraqi deaths - You linked to http://justforeignpolicy.org, which is clearly an ideological website. Now, to their credit, these folks attempt to justify their statistics, and even state that this is a rough estimate and that it is impossible to truly conduct a scientific estimate, due to lack of a stable government for the period of the war.

However, this is still coming from an ideological website - an ideology that I do not hold. Why, therefore, should I trust them? It's very possible to lie with statistics. I chose wikipedia because it is the only online source I know of that I can depend on as being as non-ideological as possible.

Regarding the third link about U.S. casualties - first of all, I must compliment you on showing restraint and limiting your casualty count to 100,000, since the link you give actually claims 300,000. However, I must say that this is the only link that I am actually angered by. Not angry at you, but at the writer. It is a common practice for anti-war advocates to exaggerate the injuries of veterans as much as possible, in order to bolster their anti-war position. It is clear, to me at least, that they don't regard these veterans as heroes fighting a just war, but poor pitiable dupes who were roped into serving in a horrible miscarriage of justice. As the son of a disabled veteran, I am outraged - outraged - by this cynical attempt to use the suffering of these veterans as a talking point. It downplays the sacrifice of the veterans themselves - it tells them "Your so-called sacrifice was a pointless disaster". It implies that they were not free men and women volunteering for a cause, but sheep herded into the slaughterhouse. Even assuming that these numbers are accurate - which I don't - what does it prove? What's the point of broadcasting it, of exposing these brave men and women's injuries and using them as pawns in a political game? Every one of these soldiers are heroes. They sacrificed themselves for a cause that they believed in. To then use their injuries to argue that that cause was pointless, immoral and horrible is a terrible insult to them and shows a callous disregard for their feelings.

But there is another problem with your argument: you are basing everything only on statistics. There's more to the story than that. Statistics can be misleading, and by themselves are absolutely useless in making moral judgements.

Suppose that 1 million Iraqis were killed in the course of the war. Wouldn't it make sense to ask, "who killed them?" Was it the U.S.? Did U.S. soldiers drive through Iraqi towns and kill every man, woman and child? Did the U.S. bomb mosques? Did the U.S. set bombs off in crowds of children?

No. The enemies of the U.S. - and of Iraq - did that. For just a taste of the kind of people we fought in Iraq, please look at this link. Read it thoughtfully and carefully. Be warned - there are some disturbing photos.

If you do this, you may come close to understanding why so many people like myself stayed committed to the war in Iraq. It has nothing to do with do with loyalty to President Bush, or with a blind obedience to the Republican Party. It has everything to do with hatred - hatred of hell and all its works.

Think I'm over-reacting, emotional, jingoistic? Fine. All I ask is that you read about the people you are opposed to confronting - the people, if you had your way, would now have free reign over Iraq. Get to know them. Now.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Distorting the Just War Doctrine

Ok, now it's time to deal with something serious. Recently, this letter fell into my hands:

If you currently give money to Franciscan University, please reconsider doing so. Below is a letter-to-the-editor I wrote about the FUS commencement last weekend:The decision of Franciscan University to award an honorary doctorate toMichael Novak could not be more disturbing. Novak has been at the forefront of the attempt to blur Church teaching in order to advance a pro-war agenda which is opposed to it. As most people who are not hard-core partisans can now see, the Iraq war has been a disaster for the United States-over 85,000 casualties at a cost of over $600 billion, so far - and even more so for the poor Iraqis, with over a million Iraqi dead, over two million Iraqi refugees, and the rest forced live in a violent and chaotic country wrecked by policies which Novak has pushed for and continues to defend. Instead of holding Novak responsible for his failure of judgment, or accountable for his misrepresentation of Church just war teaching, Franciscan University honored him and gave him a platform to further spout his propaganda: the war was a "rescue" of the Iraqis, Novak said last Saturday.In 2003 Novak publically argued not only that the Iraq war was licit under Catholic just war teaching, but that it was "morally obligatory" under that teaching. There could not be more thorough misreading of Church teaching than the pabulum which Novak, masquerading as an intellectual who takes that teaching seriously, continues to peddle. Novak has admitted that the late Pope John Paul II opposed the Iraq War. Bizarrely, last year he even praised JPII and Pope Benedict for doing so.The reason: Novak wants to downplay his sharp disagreement with the considered judgments of both popes in order to make his pro-war positions seem as orthodox as possible, so that he can continue to reap honors andawards from those institutions, like Franciscan University, that make aneffort to take all the teachings of the Church seriously. As with abortion, unjust war takes innocent life, and if Iraq is an unjust war, it is just as much a life issue as abortion is. Public support for an unjust war is a grave matter. Honoring Michael Novak makes a mockery of the serious questions involved in the public responsibility of Catholics
to follow all the teachings of the Church on matters of human life.Unfortunately, unlike President Obama's address at Notre Dame, there were no protests of this shameful honoring of Novak. This only makes the scandal greater.

A personal note - I happen to know who wrote this missive, but in consideration of his privacy I will not disclose his identity. I'll simply refer to him as "Mr. Torquemada."
When I (and many "pro-war" Catholics like me) read views like Mr. Torquemada (and there are many) there are three responses that usually ensue:

  1. Grumble about it and go to bed. You're not a theologian, and you can't understand half of what he's saying anyway.

  2. Stew over it for a week and then start arguing with an innocent bystander (usually the spouse). You know what I mean. "Honey, can you believe this hoopla? I mean, he's so wrong! Let me tell you how..."

  3. Start thinking, "Well, if the Church is saying that it's an evil, horrible thing to give overthrow a mass murderer and a tyrant, then the Church is obviously out of touch."
The answer to No. 1 is that even theologians can engage in histrionics, hysteria, and emotion. The answer to No. 2 is that your spouse has more important things to worry about. The answer to No. 3 is to actually look at what the Church says.

(Before I go any further, I think it's only fair to provide a link to Novak's actual words. It's a column written by Novak back in 2003, on the eve of the Iraq war - which is an important factor in understanding his position.)

Now, I'd like to examine the doctrine of Just War, as articulated in the Catechism. A caveat before I begin: I am not a theologian, nor do I claim to be. (Nor do I wish to be.) However, I am a Catholic, and a reasonably well-catechized one - and despite what Mr. T. may think, people like me I and Novak do actually care about what the Church says.

What I wish is to fully understand the Church's teachings, and to not be impeded by my own political likes or dislikes.

I would hope that Mr. Torquemada would want the same thing. But that's not the case. Since Mr. Torquemada claims to know the inner workings of Mr. Novak's heart and soul, he surely can't object if I speculate a little on his motives:

Mr. Torquemada dislikes the war in Iraq. He thinks it was stupid, pointless and horrifying. He also doesn't like President Bush.

He has heard of the Just War doctrine, as well as certain papal statements, and sees them as a bulwark to his views. In fact, he no longer recognizes them as his views - they are Church doctrine.

It follows, therefore, that those who disagree are no longer worthy opponents. So there's no need to listen to their arguments - or even their facts.

Additionally, if Mr. T wishes to vent his frustration in childish insults, slander, distortions and muckraking - well, now he has a moral sanction for it, don't he? So Mr. T, I am sure, felt no qualms whatsoever about insulting Novak ("pro-war....pseudo-intellectual") judging his motives ("The reason: Novak wants to downplay his sharp disagreement with the considered judgments of both popes in order to make his pro-war positions seem as orthodox as possible") and condemning both him and anyone who agrees with him.

There's only one problem. The Catholic Church hasn't condemned Novak. Nor has she declared that supporting the Iraq War is a "grave matter." Nor, for that matter, has she declared that the Iraq war is unjust. It very well may be. That's not the point. It's not for Mr. Torquemada to decide - nor for me.

This happens all the time with Catholics, and not just on this issue. And although those who engage in this sort of behavior may experience a rise in their self-esteem, it does no good - not to themselves or to their opponents. I believe the cure is to go back and read the Catechism, and to fully realize the implications of this teaching.

Just War is dealt with in Paragraphs 2307 to 2317, and the core paragraph is 2309:

The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine.
The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

Now, I have perused this section many, many times over the years (again, we "pro-War" Catholics" do care about these things) and for a long time it seemed to make no sense to me.

This is why: the words state plainly that ALL the conditions for a just war have to be met, and at the same time. Lasting, grave, certain damage....serious prospect of succes...the effects can't be worse than the cause.

But... what war, throughout all of history, has definitively, without question, met these criteria? I can't think of any. Can you? Consider..

  • The Revolutionary War...was there a serious prospect of success for the Americans?
  • The Civil War...was the damage caused by Southern Succession "lasting, grave and certain"?
  • World War II - The Nazi's killed 6 million Jews. The total deaths from the war 50-70 million. Doesn't look proportionate to me.

Using these criteria, any of these wars could be considered "unjust." In fact, I hold that you could take any war, in all of human history, and find a way to label it "unjust".

If Mr. Torquemada was consistent in his views, he would have to hold that:

  1. Warmakers like Washington, Lincoln and FDR are on the same level as mass murderers.
  2. Those who supported these wars were in grave sin.
  3. It would have been better if these wars had never been fought.

My point is this: it just doesn't make sense. Sure, it's great in the heat of an argument - but...honestly! It jars terribly with common sense, and with conscience. We all just know that it was a noble thing to fight the Nazi's, and a cowardly dishonorable thing to permit the murder of the Jews. We all know that the end of slavery in America was worth the blood shed at Antietam, Shiloh and Gettysburgh. And only the most jaded and cynical person could look back at the story of Washington, Hamilton, Lafayette, Greene and Knox (and the noncombatants - Jefferson, Franklin, etc) without feeling a certain stir of the blood, a certain admiration for their courage and self-sacrifice. Not to mention, of course, the freedom and prosperity that we all enjoy as a result.

In short, we all know that sometimes War is, in fact, the answer.

Or, as Dennis Prager once put it: "Auschwitz was liberated by soldiers, not by peace activists."

For a long time my consideration of the Just War teaching was tainted by this feeling - the feeling that my Church's teaching was disconnected from common sense and common conscience. I couldn't articulate it or make a reasoned argument. It just...seemed...wrong.

The good news, of course, is that the Church is considerably more wise than Mr. Torquemada.

The Church warns against war, and strongly urges those in authority to examine the principles of a Just War. BUT..the Church does not go back after a war is over and pronounce excommunications and anathemas on those who began it. As far as I know, the Church has never, as a matter of doctrine, declared any war "unjust" - in fact, it leaves the decision to those in authority, as stated in the final sentence :

The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

Since Mr. Torquemada compares supporting an "unjust war" (his words, NOT the Church's) to supporting abortion, let's look at the Catechism's words on abortion (Par.2270-72):

Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception...This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable...Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.

Notice how clear and unequivocal the language is here. Note, also, the striking absence of the words: "Formal cooperation in an unjust war constitutes a grave offense". For that matter, notice the absense of the phrase "unjust war." Do a search of the Catechism (just the Catechism, mind you) for it - it ain't there.

In fact, Mr. T's statement that "Public support for an unjust war is a grave matter," although it may sound all Catechism-ishy, is his own opinion, nothing more. And since he's giving the impression that it's Church doctrine, this seems to me to be a wee bit misleading - the same thing he condemns Novak for.

Thus, Mr. Torquemada's whole argument is based on false premises. Let's pretend, though, that they are true - that as Catholics, we are morally bound to judge each war and condemn or condone it on the Just War principle. Let's see what happens.

The Iraq war was waged against the Baathist government of Saddam Hussein. It was won swiftly and completely.

After that, another war broke out against U.S. and Coalition forces, waged by a conglomeration of Islamic extremists, Iraqi nationalists, and Baathist insurgents. These insurgents engage in a mixture of random bombings of civilians, focused murder of their opponents, and attempts to inflame local partisanship.

The opponents in this war did not constitute a state - and furthermore, they were the instigators of this new conflict, which would, I believe, be defined as a rebellion. So let's see what the Catechism says about rebellion, in Paragraph 2243:

Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met: 1) there is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights; 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted; 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders; 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible to reasonably to foresee any better solution.

Note again how clear and unequivocal this language is. Also note that the Iraqi insurgents don't even come close to fulfilling these requirements.

So, if we are to carry Mr. Torquemada's views to their fullest conclusion, we should not only condemn the original Iraq war. We should condemn the Iraqi insurgents as well, and support the fight against them. We should, simply, judge all wars equally. It's only fair. But Mr. T doesn't do that. The reason, I leave to you.

One side note - I cannot let Mr. Torquemada's ignorance of the facts of the Iraq War go without comment. There have been around 5,000 U.S. casualties, not 85,000. There have not been "millions" of Iraqi deaths. The number of 1,000,000+ deaths comes from a single poll that has been greatly disputed - all other estimates (from pro- and anti- war sources alike) estimate from 80,000 - 90,000 - about ten times less. (The wikipedia article on this is a good resource, and includes links to the original information.) From these observations, we can glean that perhaps facts aren't that important to Mr. T, unless they confirm his preconceptions.

Finally...Mr. Torquemada and those in his camp will doubtless inform me that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have criticized this war. I know this. Everyone does. My response is simply this: after pondering these issues for a long time, I believe that they are wrong.

Mr. T may believe I am a fool for thinking this. He is free to do so. But that is just my opinion, and (I say this with all sincerity) I could be wrong. I am able to admit this because, unlike Mr. T, I understand the difference between my opinions and the teachings of the Church.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Airy-minded theologians can be so amusing sometimes. Check out this little pearl from Matt Fish:

Although I think most conservatives really don't care about determining the truth of moral rectitude, as they are surreptitiously sentimentalists and aesthetes when it comes to morality. Not that you could ever say that, or rather, be heard if you did...

Okay. Now read it again:

Although I think most conservatives really don't care about determining the truth of moral rectitude, as they are surreptitiously sentimentalists and aesthetes when it comes to morality. Not that you could ever say that, or rather, be heard if you did...

You get it yet?


Let me break down Matt's thoughts for ya. First he says that Conservatives don't really care about morality (more or less). Then he complains that he can't tell that to their faces, because they may get angry at him!

Those frikkin' conservatives. Why are they so frikkin' sensitive?


A number of you have written me saying that I sent you a letter advocating the boycotting of FUS because Michael Novak was there. Well..uh...I didn't. If you really want to know, I received this letter, and was writing a response to it that I am planning to post soon. But somehow Blogspot.con sent out the letter to everyone on my mailing list. So it's not from me. In fact, it is the exact opposite of what I believe. (and no, Regina, it ain't from Matt either. His writing would be smoother - although his ideas, perhaps, would be only slightly more refined :) )

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

As long as I'm recomending blogs...

This is pretty much the funniest thing ever. If you don't check it out, you're like Dominic.


Excellent post by Matt Fish.

My old friend Matt Fish has got a blog.
Now, I often find him infuriatingly shortsighted, pedantic, and full of false premises (as well as being rather ugly) but the fact remains that he is a good and thoughtful guy, as well as a superb writer. So I highly recommend this recent post of his.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How to write a novel (Squirrels are involved).

It is with great pride and trepidation that I announce the release of JOHN PAUL 2 HIGH Book 2!
Now, I didn't write this book. However, I did write JOHN PAUL 2 HIGH book 1. Confused? Check here for an explanation.
It occurred to me that many people might want to know how it is that you write a novel. Let me offer a simple example.
First, you make a character. For example: a girl called Katie.
Next, you got to make the character interesting, 'cause no one wants to read about a boring person. So....let's say that Katie has....an obsession! An obsession with....squirrels!
Finally, you have to create a conflict! So...let's say that Katie is angry. Yeah. She's angry with her fiance, who is too busy posting things to his blog to work on John Paul 2 High Book 3. Which he is supposed to be doing. Right now.
So...now we have what we in the writing field call a CONFLICT. Then you take this conflict and run with it, and see what happens!
Katie stalked up and down the sidewalk, full of dark thoughts. "Squirrels..." she murmered, not noticing the alarmed looks of her fellow pedestrians. "Yes, squirrels will do nicely."
She headed for the nearby woods. Once she was deep in the forest, she took out a whistle - a hand-carved instrument on which she had spend months of testing and experimentation. With a wild gleam in her eye, she blew it. The note that issued from the whistle could not be heard by human ears...but the squirrels heard it. And they came, their small dark claws clicking on the trunks of trees. One by one, they came, quicker and quicker, until the combined weight of their small bodies weighed down the overhanging branches, and hundreds of small, dark eyes stared down, fixed upon the dark-haired woman, their summoner and master.
Katie looked upon her bushy-tailed minions, and laughed triumphantly. "Come, my pets!" she screeched. "Vengeance called! Go, and punish him!!!"
The squirrels chattered madly and rushed away like a black swarm, seeking the object of their mistress's hate. And Katie watched them go, with a satisfied smile on her face. "Soon...he will learn..." she whispered. "Soon..."
See? It's easy? Any questions, class?

Apparently, there's TOO MUCH PURITY in America.

So I was at my local B&N and this book jumped out at me. The Purity Myth: How America's obsession with Virginity is hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti. Certainly a provocotive title, of course, so I decided to take a look inside to see if there was anything interesting.
Sadly, no. While Valenti is a decent writer (and apparently a bit of big name, being the founder of Feministing.org), there didn't seem to be anything here that will convince the opposition.

The Purity Myth is an angry book. Valenti opens with the story of her own loss of virginity - and immediately expresses anger that anyone would judge her or ascribe any meaning to the act at all:
"I was once that teenage girl struggling with the meaning behind sexuality, and how my own virginity, or lack thereof, reflected whether or not I was a good person. I was the cruelly labeled slut, the burgeoning feminist who knew there was something highly wrong with a world that could peg me as a bad person for sleeping with a high school boyfriend while ignoring my good heart, sense of humor, and intelligence."

Valenti follows with what is a fairly straightforward on all the usual targets, a basic rehashing of any women's studies course - the attack on patriarchy, the assertion that gender roles are artificial, the attack on "manliness," etc. But what most sticks out to my skimming of the book was Valenti's fury, and even hatred, of the abstinence movement. Of course, Valenti asserts that this movement springs wholly from the sinister machinations of right wing religious nutjobs - but occasionally some of the anger leaks out to the girls themselves who happen to think, unlike Valenti, that the sexual act is something more than a "healthy expression" (to use Valenti's words). At one point, she sneers that "Facebook is peppered with purity groups that exist to support girls trying to 'save it'". Who started those groups, I wonder? Were they all pastors and Republican operatives? Or perhaps, just perhaps, they are started by young women who don't have a deeper appreciation of sexuality than Valenti seems capable of?

If Valenti really did respect young women's rights and choices as much as she claims, you would think she would respect those young women who think differently than her about these matters, instead of mocking them as brainwashed dupes.

What seems to make Valenti so angry, really, is that there is anyone in America who still thinks that virginity is special, or that not having sex whenever you want, however you want, with whomever you want, can be a good and healthy thing. Such thinking seems foreign to her, and she makes no effort to understand it.

The primary lesson to be drawn from this, in my opinion, is this: the anti-abstinence, pro-sexual revolution people have a rather mishapen and small view of sex - precisely the view that they accuse their opponents of having. As an example, I present Valenti's own depiction of her own "first time." Don't worry, it doesn't get too graphic:

I've often wondered what that date marks -- the day I became a woman? Considering I still bought underwear in cutesy three-packs, and that I certainly hadn't mastered the art of speaking my mind, I've gotta go with no. Societal standards would have me believe that it was a day I became morally sullied, but I fail to see how anything that lasts less than five minutes can have such an indelible ethical impact -- so it's not that either.
Really, the only meaning it had (my emphasis)...was the meaning that Josh and I ascribed to it. Or so I thought. I hadn't counted on the meaning my peers, my parents, and society would imbue it with on my behalf.
Read through the lines here, and you see that Valenti really doesn't regard the act as meaning much at all. She's free to think whatever she likes, of course - but what angers her is that anyone else could think differently. For the post-modern movement, sex - the sexual act - means nothing at all. It's recreational. Any other meaning placed to it is undoubtedly artificed, probably by men.

Now, what I believe is that sex, whatever else may be said of it, is an inherently powerful and momentous thing. It is the only act by which human beings can create life. It is the most powerful aspect of human nature - it has the potential to be life-saving, or life-destroying.

This isn't just my view, of course - it's the view of most cultures and most people, today and throughout history. It is, you could say, the "default" view. People have to be educated out of it (if you want to call it that).

I believe that to really understand the mindset of people like Valenti, you have to guess that, deep down, they also know that sex really does mean something. That's what makes them so angry. For all their disgust with religious folks, they themselve subscribe to a religion (secularism) that holds that sexuality is nothing more or less than a bodily process, one that can be manipulated for pleasure, but certainly nothing that is, shall we say, special in and of itself. Valenti and her followers constantly accuse their opponents of thinking that sex is "dirty" - but the truth is that their opponents have much more regard for sex than they have. Valenti mistakes respect for fear. I, on the other hand, think that Valenti's casualness with sexuality is as morally foolish as, say, handing your kid the car keys when they don't have a license.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

An interesting psychological exercise (younglings may want to avert their eyes)

I have a question: why is this gay?

No insult to any homosexual readers out there. I was just wondering. Yes, yes, I know it looks creepy. But why, exactly?
And, dangnamit, how else are you supposed to write without sitting at a desk?

The Earl of Oxford is NOT Shakespeare, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a lying, stinking, hairy harridan and/or beast who should burn in fiery...

So...I came across this cartoon:
..and it got me wondering how many late nights I spent in flame wars in comment boxes. Seriously, I could have written another JP2HS book, or actually learned how to play Scott Joplin, in the time I spent feverishly pecking out a reply to someone's faulty logic, false statements, or fantastical crap. (The image is from here, by the way - kudos).

The funny thing with the internet is frankly, you'll never run out of morons. (Stop smirking, you.) If you take the number of human beings with access to a CPU, multiply it by the lowering of educational standards, divide it by the amount of offices whose firewalls don't block blogger.com, and add to it (five times) the amount of people who won't let go of an idiotic and patently false idea..wait. I got lost there. Well...in any case, there's a lot of codswollop out there - not even including politics. Let me think of a few:

  • Saying the F word is a valid retort.
  • American Spirit cigarettes are healthier.
  • The Harry Potter books are from hell.
  • Making laws against guns will stop crooks from getting them.
  • There has ever been any such thing as a Just War.
  • The media (any media) is capable of being impartial.
  • high self-esteem will make you a better, kinder person.
  • Swine flu will kill you.
  • Killing is always wrong.
  • Comic books have the potential of being great literature.
  • It was a good idea to ret-con Spider Man's marriage.
  • Mayonaisse is a good "default" condiment for a Whopper.

...And that's just off the top of my head, at 12:30 at night! And even as I typed them out, I had to bang my head against the desk a few times to stop myself from inserting rebuttals!

Now, if you imagine what other views are held (quite fervently) by people out there, and your head will literally start spinning at the potential for human folly.

Most of us just ignore these things. I do, too. But if you are (like me) a rather stubborn, opinionated person, there comes a point, every now and then, that you have to put your foot down and just say NO!

...And that's when you spend two hours NOT snuggling with your fiance, but instead composing an eloquent reply in a comment box that no one asked you for and nearly no one will read, and you oversleep the next day and get reamed by your boss, and you never convince the other person anyway because you were so filled with self-righteous piss'n'viniger that your opponent is more interested in pursuing Option A on the list above than in actually listening to your points.

At that point, you need to get a blog.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Boo. Freaking. Hoo.

Interesting column by some guy at Newseek. Apparently he was traumatized because some nuns smacked him upside the head for, quote, "swearing, fighting, fooling around in church, throwing snowballs at girls and so on."

Now, I went to Catholic school too. Didn't go back then. Got yelled at by some nuns, but never smacked. However, I am struck (no pun intended) by how...well...whiny this guy is. Check out this part at the end:

The use of physical violence against children in school may or may not create order and improve test scores, but it certainly teaches kids about humiliation and fear. And what fifth grader needs to learn about things like that?

Heh. I can think of quite a few. I suppose it never crossed this guy's mind that a little humiliation and fear can be good for a fifth-grade boy, especially he is anything like I was.

I honestly wonder if Mr. Noonan has kids. If he does, my heart goes out to their teachers. I used to teach a music class at a little Catholic grade school for a couple of years, and I remember that there were some kids that disrupted the entire class and made it impossible for anyone to learn. They talked back. They whined. They didn't even make the pretense of listening. Finally I had enough. I gave half of the class detention - they had to stay after school and write. And I remember when the parents came to pick up the kids, the ones that gave me the most trouble were (guess what?) the parents of the ringleaders. These people just couldn't understand how I was so heartless as to deprive their precious little angels of some after school time.

Humiliation and fear, despite Mr. Noonan's assertions, are not the most evil things a kid can experience. Worse by far, in my opinion is lax parenting, neglect and spoiling. They lead directly to pride, unhappiness and failure in life.

Keith Olberman - thug and bully.

Welcome to my blog! I started this little guy a ways back, but never got into updating it much. I would like to start updating again with a more positive subject, but...this is certainly interesting. Here's the background. A woman is in a beauty concert. She is asked by one of the judges what she thinks of gay marriage. She replies, in essence, that "it's great that we have the freedom to choose things in this country - and my personal belief is that marriage should be between a man and a woman."

That's it. Pretty inoffensive, huh?

Well, for that comment, she gets this:

Now, I'm a conservative - something that should become immediately obvious if I do keep posting, as I intend. I also believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, as did most of Western Civilization. And I also don't really have a problem with Civil Unions, although I do with adoption by same-sex couples (more on that later, hopefully). But if someone on "my side" of the aisle were to engage in this sort of hateful, misogynistic rant against, say, Hillary Clinton, or Nancy Pelosi, I would waste no time in condemning them.

That's why what's really depressing about this subject is the comments on this video on youtube. Some of them are basically decent responses, from both the right and the left - and in case you're wondering, the only decent response is condemnation. But some - far, far too many - were belated defense, comparing the woman to a racist, and Nazi, etc.

Now, let's review what the woman said, shall we? She said that she personally believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman. If you expand this to "men and women", this is pretty much the position of everyone who ever lived on the Planet Earth. It's the position of every major religion - and of every major secular movement. It's confirmed by biology, by psychology, and most of all by common sense.

And yet, now this has become controversial. Why? The only reason I can think of is the overwhelming arrogance and selfishness of the current generation, who believe that every whim is a right, and that the past is meaningless, and most of all that if you disagree with them, you are persecuting them.

What do you think?