Saturday, December 20, 2014

Unpleasant Necessities Dept.

It saddens me to need to take up cudgels against a stance taken by a dear friend. Yet intellectual honesty and loyalty to my own convictions has made it necessary.

Before going any further, please read this piece at Adrienne’s Corner. Settle yourself and your own opinions about the incident described and the reactions to it you’ve just read.

I hold no brief for Alex Jones – in fact, I’ve never read his site or his writings – so I’m coming at this without any personal allegiances to defend. My quarrel is over:

  1. Local police departments possessing and deploying military-grade hardware that private citizens are forbidden to have;
  2. A law enforcement officer disparaging “well armed” “constitutionalists” to an arbitrary audience;
  3. Treating the rule of law, a critically important and almost wholly misunderstood principle of ethical and constitutional theory, as if it requires each of us to submit to any and every “law” some legislature hurls at us without resistance.

In my opinion, all three of the above matters are despicable. If what I’ve read here has been accurately reported, then this sheriff has displayed an unacceptable degree of contempt for one of the most important developments of our time: the formation of militias of private citizens in the hope of curbing the rampant overreaching and lawlessness that characterizes contemporary American governments.

The MRAP vehicle itself is of little concern, but we may legitimately ask: What other weapons of war, forbidden by “law” to the general public, are in the hands of the Spokane police department? Is it not clear that the whole point of the Second Amendment is to insure that citizens must always be able to arm themselves well enough to resist tyranny – that the people shall always be capable of putting down an abusive government? Yet there are a myriad “laws” that forbid the general public to own the very weapons of war being distributed to local police!

As to this deputy sheriff who refers offhandedly to “well armed” “constitutionalists” as a threat to him and his, that’s what they’re supposed to be: A force that can punish tyranny, that can react to abuses by the organs of the State with sufficient power to redress officially perpetrated injustice! If they were no threat, what other influence would exist to curb the excesses of agents of the State? What point would there be to citizen ownership of weaponry? Deer hunting? Alongside that, a man whose overriding concern is his personal safety does not deserve to wear a badge of office – especially not that of a lawman.

Finally, that paramount, widely misunderstood conception of American governance: the rule of law: That principle does not mean that we must all submit meekly to whatever “laws” are imposed upon us. Consider the Fugitive Slave Act for one example; consider New York’s “SAFE” Act for another. It means that agents of the State are compelled to obey the laws to the same extent as the citizenry – that a “law” that creates a legal distinction between private citizens and government agents is therefore invalid. That’s constitutional theory in a nutshell – the very reason we have a Constitution in the first place!

The critical question is and has always been:

Does an agent of the State have the privilege of breaking one law to enforce another, without penalty?

Because if he does:

  • The slaughter of Randy Weaver’s family was perfectly acceptable;
  • The slaughter of the Branch Davidians in Waco was perfectly acceptable;
  • The murder of John Singer to enforce a law against home schooling was perfectly acceptable;
  • Indeed, any deed by any agent of the State, at any time and place and under the color of any “law” whatsoever, is perfectly acceptable; the agent cannot be penalized for it.

Now, as to some of the other observations made in support of this sheriff and his deputies:

  • Yes, it is unwise to confuse local law enforcement with the federal government: You are in more danger from a government near to you than from one far away.
  • Concerning “psychotic nutjob Alex Jones:” As I said, I hold no brief for the man and have no acquaintance with his writings. But remember always that the strengths and weaknesses of the speaker cannot be transferred uncritically to the subjects and arguments he addresses. (Alternately, “even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”) It is essential to divorce arguments and observations from the personalities of those who make them.
  • Having joined (or not) the military, a police force, or any other agency of the State has no bearing on one’s rights as a citizen, nor on the freedoms to which he is entitled. Inversely: Does honorable military service or voluntarism confer extra rights on an individual? Would you excuse a man of a serious crime, for example armed robbery, on the grounds that he had a sterling record in the military and was a volunteer to the local fire department?
  • The term “right-wing fringe lunatics” is merely a slander of unnamed persons whose stances could well be exactly the one stated here. It is not a refutation of that stance.
  • That other lands suffer even worse governments, and even worse abuses, is irrelevant to abuses of power here in the United States. Foreign tyranny cannot excuse the excesses and lawlessness of our own. If it were so, we would be required to reform the entire world before acting on events in our own domain.

Food for thought.

UPDATE: Here's still more on the subject from Eowyn.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Is Breitbart Under Attack?

Why are there 2700-plus comments – in many suspicious cases, exactly 2707 -- at nearly every post at Breitbart.com today?

Assorted

1. Dynasties

The last nine GOP presidential tickets:

  • 1980: Reagan-Bush
  • 1984: Reagan-Bush
  • 1988: Bush-Quayle
  • 1992: Bush-Quayle
  • 1996: Dole-Kemp
  • 2000: Bush-Cheney
  • 2004: Bush-Cheney
  • 2008: McCain-Palin
  • 2012: Romney-Ryan

And we might soon face a tenth ticket with a Bush on it. Does it sound to you as if a single family just might have undue influence over the Republican Party?

Yo, GOP strategists and kingmakers: This is America. We're opposed to handing out positions on the basis of inheritance or family connections. If you need that explained in any greater detail, there's an operating manual you might want to consult.


2. Students And Masters

The recent threats from North Korea over the aborted release of The Interview are not a datum in a vacuum. Note how assiduously the Left has used threats of every sort to impede entertainment they disapprove (e.g., The Passion of the Christ), to interfere with speakers they want silenced, and to obstruct the mature, objective discussion of any and every subject they want suppressed.

That the monsters who rule North Korea, the last bastion of uber-Stalinism on Earth, should have learned a tactic from our own domestic traitors is only surprising in that we would have expected the lesson to flow in the other direction.


3. Social Controversies Placed Beyond Discussion

We’re not permitted even to discuss same-sex marriage any more:

Marquette University has suspended with pay and barred from campus the tenured professor who criticized a graduate student instructor in a personal blog, pending an investigation into his conduct.

John McAdams, an associate professor of political science at Marquette, last month wrote a controversial blog post accusing a teaching assistant in philosophy of shutting down a classroom conversation on gay marriage based on her own political beliefs. He based the post on a recording secretly made by a disgruntled student who wished that the instructor, Cheryl Abbate, had spent more time on the topic of gay marriage, which the student opposed. McAdams said Abbate, in not allowing a prolonged conversation about gay marriage, was “using a tactic typical among liberals,” in which opinions they disagree with “are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up.”

Please read the whole thing. Also, please read McAdams’s blog post. Finally, reflect on the use of the word “controversial” in describing the blog post. Isn’t controversy the very meat and drink of academic debate? Isn’t that what the faculty and students are there to immerse themselves in?

Incidentally, Marquette is a Catholic university, run by Jesuits. So Miss Abbate’s decree that same-sex marriage cannot be discussed in a Marquette classroom is equivalent to expelling Catholic doctrine from a Catholic institution.

I shan’t speak for you, Gentle Reader, but this makes me want to lock and load.


4. The Campus “Rape Culture”

If the previous topic didn’t raise the hair on your neck, this one should do the trick:

The latest feminist obsession with rape has reached the point where false accusations are now being thrown around loosely. It has resulted in a negative stigma toward men on college campuses, and destroyed the lives of those falsely accused. Fortunately, one man videotaped his entire encounter with a woman who wrongly accused him, proving her wrong and probably saving him from arrest and prosecution.

Fly Height posted the video, showing a disheveled looking woman who appears to be high and trespassing in a man’s room. She cries out, “Don’t touch me, rape, he wants to rape me! Help me!” The startled man responds back, “stop hitting me lady.” With the door wide open and her boyfriend standing next to her, she continues, “I promise I won’t squeal on you anymore … I’ll do anything you want!” She then bangs on his door, yelling, “I was trying to get out of your room, you won’t let me.” The victim asks her repeatedly, “Please call the cops and get out of my room.”

Another man, possibly a landlord, approaches her as she finally leaves the man’s place, sympathetically taking her side. But it won’t matter, all the evidence is preserved on video.

With those accused of rape being treated as guilty until proven innocent, unscrupulous women poised to gain materially from making false accusations, and a loud chorus of feminist voices demanding that we never doubt such an accuser, what else could we have expected? Incentives matter — and they don’t stop operating because we want them to.

Add to that observation the slander being laid upon young college men about a “campus rape epidemic.” The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released figures that utterly contradict the shrieking harridans of the Left so anxious to promote women’s fear of men. The harridans’ response? The statistics are irrelevant! Always believe the accuser! Not to do so constitutes “blaming the victim” and makes one a “rape apologist!”

Watch the video of this incident and decide for yourselves: Are our college campuses truly suffering a “rape epidemic,” or are young women merely following the incentives the law and the gender-war feminist harridans have created around us?


5. How Dare You Be...A Republican?

Academia isn’t just hostile to men:

A University of Michigan department chairwoman has published an article titled, “It’s Okay To Hate Republicans,” which will probably make all of her conservative students feel really comfortable and totally certain that they’re being graded fairly.

“I hate Republicans,” communications department chairwoman and professor Susan J. Douglas boldly declares in the opening of the piece. “I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal ‘personhood.’”

She writes that although the fact that her “tendency is to blame the Republicans . . . may seem biased,” historical and psychological research back her up, and so it’s basically actually a fact that Republicans are bad!

May “seem” biased -- ?? Well, perhaps. Just possibly. What do you think, Gentle Reader?

It’s been known for a long while that openly right-of-center political views can obstruct an academic’s career. Indeed, they can result in his not being employable, regardless of his scholarly credentials. Ask Townhall.com’s Mike Adams about his experiences.

This subject has a personal resonance for me. I left academia for these reasons, among others. Indeed, I declined an opportunity to return, this time to study economics, because of ideological harassment.

Young men are showing an increasing, entirely rational preference for courses through life that don’t involve enduring a term at some “institution of higher learning.” The above attitude, added to the fanatical behavior of so many campus “activists” and the increasing hostility of young college women, provides all the explanation anyone should need.

The Greatest Disinformation Campaign of All Time.

Is the fascination with Nazis in Western culture a product of natural interest, or is it an unspoken pact by novelists and filmmakers to obscure the greater atrocities committed by the Soviets -- most notably under Stalin, who ruled in the same era as Hitler?

A recent documentary on the Turner Classic Movie cable channel illustrated the point. Said the commentators, when all else fails in selecting a villain, make Nazis the sinister evil force and success is assured. Yet the idea to create Soviet villains never appears to occur to novelists and filmmakers, except in spy thrillers where each side is usually defined as morally equivalent.[1]

Mr. Reeves's 2009 article is an excellent elucidation of the bizarre unwillingness of the West to name names and play the raw nerve of communist bestiality like a ukulele. There are 10 tons of Hollywood movies about satanic Nazis, parodies of actual humans, but rare is the movie about the Gulag, the Red Terror, the Cheka, or Chinese, Khmer Rouge, N. Korean, or, inter alia, Cuban horror. As the Nazis are trolls who live under bridges, so communists are saints with commendable goals and occasional errors (regrettable) of implementation. In fact, no enemy a centimeter or more to the right of Van Jones or Bill Ayers is anything less than some leftist caricature of a human – a racist, homophobe, islamophobe, despoiler, denier, misogynist, ape replica. It's the leftist way – straight to the ad hominy.

All in favor of The Narrative – socialism good; white, Western civilization bad.

One illustration of Reeves's point is the movie made of Tom Clancy's novel The Sum of All Fears. In the book, the villains with their hands on a nuclear device are Islamic Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorists aided by a commie East German. In the movie, the guys with their hands on the device are white supremacist, neo-Nazis. In popular entertainment, villains are transformed from Arab terrorists and communists to neo-Nazis. Mission accomplished.

Arab and cold-blooded, radical, leftist terrorists such as the Weather Underground, the Red Brigades, and the Baader-Meinhof gang abounded during the Cold War and all that was left of National Socialism was a smoking hole in the ground but, no, the focus of the filmmakers was on the spawn of the long-vanquished Hitler. To borrow from Chesterton, alive-dead Nazis and the steroid-fueled campaign to deflect attention from the horrendous crimes of the left are as "fresh as the first flowers."

The whole Chesterton's quote is worth reading:

There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one’s grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers.
Thus, one has to admire Mr. Reeves for laying his finger directly on the most vulnerable part of the current ultra-leftist campaign to disassemble the West. There is nothing decent, noble, rational, or true about socialism. It is founded on lies, envy, and theft and appeals to the infantile side of men who desire to be taken care of and to accomplish that by taking from their productive brothers. And it is alive and well today with powerful, well-placed advocates.

Thus, also not to be missed is his revelation that the flagship publication of liberals in America, The New Republic, was published from 1948 to 1956 by a communist agent.

And, of course, Diana West must be cited for her courageous and explosive book, American Betrayal, wherein are discussed the one thing that liberals, socialists, communist, and Muslim subversives positively do not want you ever to hear about, to wit, the infiltration of American society and government by communist agents of influence, the deadly effect they had on American policy and society, and the ominous parallel success at infiltration and influence on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

When John Boehner swoons over bipartisan agreements with the Donks, you can be sure he has none of this in mind. No. No church skunk. No corpse in the pool. Just patriots and constitutionalists as far as the eye can see. His pals.

Nomesane?

Notes
[1] "Nazis And Commies." By Bernie Reeves, American Thinker, 10/11/09.

Precious, sacred, holy bipartisan garbage.

“We’ve done this in a bipartisan fashion, and frankly, it’s a good bill,” House Speaker John Boehner would say after negotiating another quantum leap in the national debt into an obscure funnel of government bureaucracy that will fund Obamacare and allow for amnesty for illegal aliens. That’s all we conservatives get for our vote, just a month after voters elected Republicans to take an exactly opposite course of action than the one they’ve immediately taken.
If the Republicans had been in charge of running D Day, it's a certainty that they'd have sought a bipartisan solution to the perceived need for the Normandy landings. The logic of that thought is bulletproof, it seems to me, as the recent CRomnibus bill shows the same thinking, namely, that there is no such thing on the planet as an enemy, a hostile combination, or a corrupt, subversive, alien political faction with a destructive agenda.

Neither is there a Republican "principle" that can't be watered down, compromised, or abandoned so the boodle can flow into the right hands and the GOP establishment clown car can make the victory laps in the media circus.

Nice doggy! Good boyyyy!

Notes
[1] "The Republicans' Road to Rovetown." By William Sullivan, AmericanThinker, 12/19/14.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Cautionary Tale

Ever more often these days, I have a completely different set of ideas about what to write about ten minutes before I set my fingers to the keys than when I actually start to type. Today is one such day.

It started with this column by John Kass:

Jayne and Jon Cornwill, an Australian couple, recently came to America with a bit of trouble.

The trouble? Boys.

They have three little boys, and three rambunctious boys were quite enough for the Cornwills, thank you. What the Cornwills wanted was a little girl.

But all they got were boys. And this led to what is known in the sex selection business as profound "gender disappointment."...

So they turned to modern science, which many believe can solve the problems of the modern age. And they found an answer to gender disappointment:

Pre-implantation genetic screening, or genetic gender selection.

Please read the whole thing. Then read Chapter 3 of C. S. Lewis’s “The Abolition Of Man,” and reflect.


The great Thomas Szasz once defined freedom as “That which you demand for yourself but would deny to others.” There’s a great deal of truth in that. Most of us trust others less than they deserve, but ourselves far too much. We even trust ourselves to control others’ futures: mostly by decreeing what they must, may, or must not do, but in these latter years also by decreeing what they must or must not be.

George Orwell was focused on the cognitive and emotional aspects thereof:

‘You are a flaw in the pattern, Winston. You are a stain that must be wiped out. Did I not tell you just now that we are different from the persecutors of the past? We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us: so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instant of death we cannot permit any deviation. In the old days the heretic walked to the stake still a heretic, proclaiming his heresy, exulting in it. Even the victim of the Russian purges could carry rebellion locked up in his skull as he walked down the passage waiting for the bullet. But we make the brain perfect before we blow it out. The command of the old despotisms was “Thou shalt not”. The command of the totalitarians was “Thou shalt”. Our command is “THOU ART”.

Lewis had a wider focus:

`Man's conquest of Nature' is an expression often used to describe the progress of applied science....I do not wish to disparage all that is really beneficial in the process described as `Man's conquest', much less all the real devotion and self-sacrifice that has gone to make it possible. But having done so I must proceed to analyse this conception a little more closely. In what sense is Man the possessor of increasing power over Nature?

Let us consider three typical examples: the aeroplane, the wireless, and the contraceptive. In a civilized community, in peace-time, anyone who can pay for them may use these things. But it cannot strictly be said that when he does so he is exercising his own proper or individual power over Nature....What we call Man's power is, in reality, a power possessed by some men which they may, or may not, allow other men to profit by. Again, as regards the powers manifested in the aeroplane or the wireless, Man is as much the patient or subject as the possessor, since he is the target both for bombs and for propaganda. And as regards contraceptives, there is a paradoxical, negative sense in which all possible future generations are the patients or subjects of a power wielded by those already alive. By contraception simply, they are denied existence; by contraception used as a means of selective breeding, they are, without their concurring voice, made to be what one generation, for its own reasons, may choose to prefer. From this point of view, what we call Man's power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.

As “The Abolition of Man” was written seven decades ago, we cannot fault Lewis for failing to foresee genetic surgery, therapies applied directly to the embryo, or abortion. Yet all of these are now being exercised to circumscribe the possibilities available to our successors: our children.


Few persons would dare to argue that, if it’s possible to free our children from the burdens of genetically borne handicaps or diseases, nevertheless we should refrain from doing so – and I am not one of them. But how shall we comport ourselves in extremis? When the handicap is uncorrectable – when the disease cannot be extirpated – when despite all our best intentions and efforts, the child will either be born “imperfect” or not at all...what then?

Sarah Palin made her choice. She was widely derided for it – even condemned in some circles, including by one “Objectivist” commentator who argued that it is selfish to allow a Down’s Syndrome baby to be born.

Needless to say, one can only hold such a position if one denies the humanity of the unborn child. But every child begins as a zygote...an embryo...a fetus...and ultimately, a newborn baby fresh from the womb. As we who cherish life like to say, where’s the dividing line? At what point does the right to life attach to that creature – and why not before then?

Once again, Thomas Szasz is on hand to jar our thinking:

When man believed that happiness was dependent upon God, he killed for religious reasons. When man believed that happiness was dependent upon the form of government, he killed for political reasons. After dreams that were too long, true nightmares...we arrived at the present period of history. Man woke up, discovered that which he always knew, that happiness is dependent upon health, and began to kill for therapeutic reasons.

For a man to kill himself, though a terrible sin, cannot be prevented by any imaginable exertion of benevolence or will. Killing unborn others to prevent them from being “unhealthy” – in some cases after straining for years to bring them into existence at all! – what shall we call that?

Let C. S. Lewis state the conclusion:

The final stage is come when Man by eugenics, by pre-natal conditioning, and by an education and propaganda based on a perfect applied psychology, has obtained full control over himself. Human nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to Man. The battle will then be won. We shall have `taken the thread of life out of the hand of Clotho' and be henceforth free to make our species whatever we wish it to be. The battle will indeed be won. But who, precisely, will have won it? For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please....

At the moment, then, of Man's victory over Nature, we find the whole human race subjected to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely `natural'—to their irrational impulses. Nature, untrammelled by values, rules the Conditioners and, through them, all humanity. Man's conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature's conquest of Man. Every victory we seemed to win has led us, step by step, to this conclusion. All Nature's apparent reverses have been but tactical withdrawals. We thought we were beating her back when she was luring us on. What looked to us like hands held up in surrender was really the opening of arms to enfold us for ever. If the fully planned and conditioned world (with its Tao a mere product of the planning) comes into existence, Nature will be troubled no more by the restive species that rose in revolt against her so many millions of years ago, will be vexed no longer by its chatter of truth and mercy and beauty and happiness. Ferum victorem cepit: and if the eugenics are efficient enough there will be no second revolt, but all snug beneath the Conditioners, and the Conditioners beneath her, till the moon falls or the sun grows cold.

Think about it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Quickies: More Insight Than One Might Expect From The Washington Post

The day ahead of me looks a lot like another Rented Mule day, so allow me a brief comment on this disturbing piece of op-ed:

The latest Hunger Games film, “Mockingjay – Part 1″, is topping the international box office. Although it’s a Hollywood blockbuster aimed at young adults, it presents potentially quite subversive ideas of mass revolution, economic sabotage and the populist fight against oligarchy.

These themes of popular uprising are particularly relevant in light of the current civil unrest happening across the world from the streets of Hong Kong to those of U.S. – the latest Hunger Games has tapped into a certain zeitgeist of global rebellion. Thailand’s pro-democracy protestors have even directly borrowed the movie’s three-fingered symbol of resistance in their own struggles against a repressive regime. Adding fuel to this fire, one of its main stars Donald Sutherland recently declared: “I want Hunger Games to stir up a revolution.”

Despite these heady sentiments, the film’s depiction of revolution is astonishingly simple, an adolescent vision of toppling an “evil” authority figure. Sure, this isn’t surprising as it’s meant for young adults, but in the context of political spillover this anti-authoritarian vision becomes more troubling. It reinforces prevailing Western ideas of social change – fastening on the idea that all one needs do is eradicate the enemy. And worryingly, it appears that this sort of adolescent rebellion isn’t just consigned to teenage entertainment, but also increasingly forms our real adult fantasies.

It is an unfortunate fact of history that “Revolutions, as long and bitter experience reveals, are apt to take their color from the regime they overthrow.” (Richard H. Tawney) For a revolution to bring about conceptual, structural change in the shape of a society:

  1. It must command the allegiance of an overwhelming majority of those whose government is being toppled;
  2. They must oppose that government on principle: i.e., for ideological rather than practical reasons.
  3. They must be willing to revolt against the revolutionists, should the latter display a desire to retain power.

That hasn’t been the case very often. Indeed, hearken to H. L. Mencken:

Politics, as hopeful men practice it in the world, consists mainly of the delusion that a change in form is a change in substance. The American colonists, when they got rid of the Potsdam tyrant, believed fondly that they were getting rid of oppressive taxes forever and setting up complete liberty. They found almost instantly that taxes were higher than ever, and before many years they were writhing under the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Note that that world-famous upheaval didn’t satisfy two of the three conditions enumerated above. Its successes were partial and temporary, swiftly undone by the arrogance and power-lust of those who rose to the levers of State.

Yes, “The Founding Fathers would be shooting by now.” Yet even they commanded the support of no more than a third of the populace. Even they conceded more power to the State than it should be allowed...if, indeed, it should be allowed any at all. And though the Constitution was and remains superior to any other governmental design ever proposed, from the very first it contained the seeds of its own destruction.

Those who have seized power, even for the noblest of motives soon persuade themselves that there are good reasons for not relinquishing it. This is particularly likely to happen if they believe themselves to represent some immensely important cause. They will feel that their opponents are ignorant and perverse; before long they will come to hate them...The important thing is to keep their power, not to use it as a means to an eventual paradise. And so what were means become ends, and the original ends are forgotten except on Sundays.

We have a great deal of work to do before an armed uprising would do more than fleeting good.

Jeb Bush? I Mean, WTF, But...JEB BUSH?!

And he's already out-polling all the other Republicans that have been mentioned as potential presidential candidates!

Can’t we do better than this? Aren’t there enough other generally acceptable candidates that we don’t have to go back to that well?

Or are the differences among them more apparent than real?

He was, in fact, characteristic of the best type of dominant male in the world at this time. He was fifty-five years old, tough, shrewd, unburdened by the complicated ethical ambiguities which puzzle intellectuals, and had long ago decided that the world was a mean son-of-a-bitch in which only the most cunning and ruthless can survive. He was also as kind as was possible for one holding that ultra-Darwinian philosophy; and he genuinely loved children and dogs, unless they were on the site of something that had to be bombed in the National Interest. He still retained some sense of humor, despite the burdens of his almost godly office, and, although he had been impotent with his wife for nearly ten years now, he generally achieved orgasm in the mouth of a skilled prostitute within 1.5 minutes. He took amphetamine pep pills to keep going on his grueling twenty-hour day, with the result that his vision of the world was somewhat skewed in a paranoid direction, and he took tranquilizers to keep from worrying too much, with the result that his detachment sometimes bordered on the schizophrenic; but most of the time his innate shrewdness gave him a fingernail grip on reality. In short, he was much like the rulers of Russia and China.

I’m beginning to wonder whether Shea and Wilson might have struck the jugular.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Word Of Power

Consider the following snippet from John Conroe’s Forced Ascent:

    With the circle closed, we left the forensics people to collect their data and moved back to the vehicles. A black military-style Humvee had been added to the mix of cop cars, SWAT trucks, and coroner vans. Four men in black suits got out as soon as they saw us, looking every inch like federal intelligence agents.
    “Chris Gordon—Agent Gulden, NSA. Come with us,” the lead agent said. Thirties, completely bald, six-one, one hundred eighty or so, dark eyes, serious demeanor. The other three were younger, two white, one black, all fit and serious.
    “No,” I replied.
    “That wasn’t a request,” Gulden stated, pinning me with his agent-man stare.
    Behind us, I could just about feel the New Jersey troopers absorbing the confrontation.
    “Well, just to be clear, Agent...my no was a general purpose refusal of requests, commands, orders, or directions.”

Does that move you? If so, why? More to the point, do you find it credible? If not, why not?


Who, in these latter days of the Republic That Was, has the courage to say No to an agent of the Omnipotent State? Especially one with weapons and backup?

Chris Gordon was willing to say No in the novel cited above because he’s an enormously powerful supernatural creature as well as a fictional character. In the circumstances he faced, very few of us normal types would have courage enough to do so. Yet the time is coming when Americans will be required to shout No at the myrmidons of the State or suffer to have their firearms confiscated.

Cliven Bundy said No to federal agents. He took a large risk in doing so. Yet he prevailed, because the public proved to be on his side...sufficiently so to defend him with even more force than those agents had marshaled against him.

The Oath Keepers who went to Ferguson, Missouri to protect threatened businesses there brought their arms. They refused the commands of federal agents to stand down and disperse. The feds backed down almost at once.

Various state governments are beginning to chorus No at the increasingly tyrannical and unbounded Environmental Protection Agency. The state governments’ armed force is pitiable in comparison with that of Washington...but their residents are another matter, and majority sentiment in those states is strongly behind them.

There’s a rising in progress.


While your weapons remain in your hands, you have power, a power best expressed by the single word No. But were you to be deprived of them...what then? Would the State recognize any bounds at all? Or would it finally run roughshod over every last right, however poorly protected it may have been, that we’ve been permitted to retain?

Consider Washington State’s I-594.
Consider New York’s Orwellian-named “SAFE Act.”
Consider the recent confirmation of Vivek Murthy as Surgeon-General.
Consider the Obama Administration’s endorsement of the UN’s despicable Small Arms Treaty.
And consider how little the popular trend in opinion on “gun control” means to the political class we endure.

They’re coming, Gentle Reader. Don’t allow them to soft-soap you, flummox you, or change the subject on you. And when you answer the doorbell and find them on your doorstep, you’ll confront a choice you’d rather not have to face: between No and “Of course, Officer; here they are.”

“The right to buy weapons is the right to be free,” wrote A. E. Van Vogt. The inverse is true as well. Add this, from another moderately well-known writer:

“I saw that I could put an end to your outrages by pronouncing a single word in my mind. I pronounced it. The word was “No.”

As Robert Anton Wilson has told us, “The State is based on threat.” Were we free of fear of the State and the things it purports to “protect” us against, we would never tolerate it. Thus, to say No to the State is to say I do not fear you. It implies that the speaker has power of his own, and that he’s willing to stand on it despite the power the State has arrayed against him.

Nothing instills fear in the masters of the State quite as effectively as No. Yet there are dangers, severe ones. How many of us are willing to accept those dangers will determine whether freedom can be saved from the wolves striving to devour it...whether we might embrace the anarchist alternative after all.

How do we measure up to the standard set by those who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to the quest for freedom?

A time for reflection and examination of conscience is upon us.

UPDATE:The Oath Keepers that went to Ferguson did comply with local police commands to relinquish their posts. I was unaware of this until just now.

Cowardice: A Midweek Rumination

Old friend Pascal recently wrote with some thoughts:

Does cowardice fall in any way in the province of one of the 7 mortal sins? Does courage fall within the purview of one of the 4 cardinal virtues?

Look. We clearly have Prog shock troop leaders in the WH. They are mounting further provocations daily. The scope and enormity of their campaign may slowly dawn on its victims. They are seeking confrontations, and then what?

But as to cowardice in the past, when something might have been done with less dread, that's my thoughts now and worrying about its consequences.

IMHO, it came to this due in great part to a lack of courage of members of society to fight the other ever more prominent fostering and displays of sins that you discuss all the time.

Orchestrated PC was certainly involved in castrating a great number. Could it have been fought better if cowardice was well-tied to the mortal sins? I don't know. But now that I think of it, it greatly troubles me.

If there’s a better topic for deep in the Advent season, I can’t imagine what it might be.


Is cowardice a sin? As it’s as contentious a matter as “torture,” I would venture to say: not always. I can easily think of instances where deliberately fleeing from combat or confrontation is the wisest available course. Yet there’s at least one case in which cowardice constitutes a moral default – a sin of omission.

To deny one’s faith out of fear for one’s temporal life is a sin, perhaps the only sin that’s on a par with suicide. There are other cases of seeming cowardice that appear to me to be sinful, but in some of those, the judgment of the individual involved is likely to be the deciding factor. God allows us to follow our own consciences without penalty, if we do so out of sincere conviction.

Moral courage – the willingness to act upon one’s own sincere convictions about right and wrong, without soliciting or requiring the approval of others – is exceedingly rare in our time, for reasons I hardly need to tell any intelligent Gentle Reader about. (I don’t have any other kind, do I?) Inversely, moral cowardice – the tendency to say and do nothing even when in the actual presence of evil – is quite common. That strikes me as entirely consistent with the common tendency to pooh-pooh the concept of moral courage: obliteration by derision.

The clearest example of moral cowardice publicly visible today holds regular sessions on Capitol Hill. I daresay I needn’t be more specific than that.


Hearken once more to the great Clive Staples Lewis:

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”

Courage comes in several varieties. If I may quote one of my own works of fiction:

    It was an ordinary July evening in Onteora: hot, damp, the air too still, the black gnats too numerous. Most of the city's residents had retreated behind closed doors and powered up their air conditioners, then turned their television sets up high to mask the compressor noise. On an unlit street in the abandoned part of the city, Joseph Follett and Lafayette Buskey were enjoying a special pleasure, raping a teenage girl who had wandered onto their turf.

    They had cut away her jeans and panties, stuffed the scraps of the panties into her mouth, and bound them there with a double winding of packing tape. Buskey knelt on her arms and held a knife to her throat while Follett violated her at his leisure. They had changed places once already. Perhaps they would do so again before the fun was over. Neither had bothered to conceal or disguise his face.

    They had been at it perhaps ten minutes when a quiet patter of footsteps from the far end of the street alerted the merrymakers that they were not alone. Both looked up to see the onrush of a short, slight figure, bearing down upon them.

    Buskey had turned toward the sound but had not yet risen when the runner braked and planted. His right foot lashed out in a powerful placekicker's arc, catching Buskey squarely beneath the jaw. The snap of Buskey's spine resounded the length of the street. He flipped backwards and lay on the sidewalk, twitching spasmodically.

    Follett had pulled away from the girl, drawing his own knife. The runner turned to face him.

    "Keep back, motherfucker."

    The runner made no reply. He advanced.

    Follett dropped into a knife-fighter's crouch. He kept both hands well out in front of him, daring the man to come within slashing distance. The runner halted and watched him, apparently relaxed.

    "So this is your idea of a high old time, eh, asshole?" The runner's voice was soft. The darkness concealed his face. "Wait till some defenseless girl wanders by, take her down, rape her a few times, then gut her like a deer? Not much to take home from it, though. Not like a Grand Avenue mugging or a good B and E."

    The young tough snarled. "What do you know about B and E?"

    The runner's eyebrows rose. "Isn't that how you make your living?" He gestured at Follett's crotch. "I mean, that thing dangling from your fly isn't big enough for you to make it as a gigolo."

    Upon being reminded that his dick was still hanging out of his jeans, Follett looked down at his crotch.

    The runner whirled and kicked again. His toe caught the elbow of Follett's knife arm. The elbow cracked and bent the wrong way, and the knife flew from the hand that held it. The young thug spun and dropped to the pavement with a piercing shriek, clawing at the rough asphalt.

    The runner stepped forward to stand over his victim. Stray rays from the headlights of a car passing on a connecting street revealed the runner's expression. It was that perfection of rage that resembles perfect calm.

    "Well, so much for the muggings and B and Es. Think you can make a living as a rapist? I mean, you're going to need a new helper and all. Maybe two or three. Big nut to carry."

    The runner straddled Follett's body and lowered himself to a squat, all but sitting on the thug's belly.

    "Who the fuck are you, man? You got no business here!" Follett's voice was an agonized hiss.

    The runner pursed his lips. "Business? No. I was just out for a walk, and it went on a little longer and farther than I intended. I don't get into the city much. It's not my favorite place. But here I am, and here you are, and thereby hangs a tale."

He paused and sighed. "I knew you were going to kill that girl when you were done with her. If I hadn't been sure of that, maybe I would have handled it another way. Or maybe not. Not that it matters now. May God have mercy on your worthless soul."

    Follett's pain had not displaced all his fear and hatred. He surged in a last attempt to throw his assailant off him as he scrabbled for his knife.

    The runner's right hand arrowed at Follett's face. The heel of that hand crashed into the bridge of Follett's nose, driving the bone into his forebrain with the impact of a well-thrown spear. The rapist's body spasmed once and was still.

    The runner waited for perhaps a minute, peering into the slack face for any indication that the body might still house life. When he was satisfied, he pulled the jeans off Follett's corpse and brought them to the girl, who had remained where she'd been held. She seemed about sixteen, not especially pretty, and frightened beyond all ability to respond. Carefully, he pulled the makeshift gag from her mouth.

    "Where do you live?"

    "Eighty-two Devlin Boulevard," the girl whispered.

    He bent to help her stand, then offered her the jeans. "I'll take you home. Sorry I have nothing else to cover you with."

    She clung to him and began to keen. He coaxed her to step into the jeans, closed the fly and buttoned them at her waist, rolled up the legs so that she could walk, and escorted her down the street, one arm around her shoulders.

    The body of Joe Follett lay still in the middle of the street. On the sidewalk, the body of Lafe Buskey twitched at lengthening intervals as the life finished seeping out of it.

***

    Louis was beyond astonishment.

    "You were watching."

    Loughlin nodded. "And for a few days after, until I was certain you were the genuine article. Even then you knew to kick, not punch."

    "I never saw you."

    "You weren't supposed to. I've practiced invisibility until I can almost make you forget my presence while you're staring at me. It's a useful talent for moving through cities and such."

    "But why, Malcolm? Why do you do it at all?"

    "You're not going to like the answer."

    Louis stared hard into his friend's eyes.

    "I need to know."

    Loughlin told him.

***

    Louis sat very still. Afternoon had given way to evening, and the trailer had grown dark. Loughlin watched him steadily.

    "Unless this is how you show hysteria, you're taking it a lot more calmly than I expected."

    "I'm all right." Louis tried to shake off his gathering fatigue. He'd had enough shocks that day to stop an army in its tracks, and rest was far away. "I know better than to doubt you. I should probably get home pretty soon, though, or Christine will panic. So that's the why of it?"

    "Moral courage is the key. Physical courage is fairly commonplace, at least in moderation. Bravery in the face of real danger is rarer, but still common enough that you'll find a few dozen cases of it on any battlefield. But moral courage is rarer than any other human trait."

    "Moral courage?"

    "Courage enough to stand by your convictions and trust in your own judgment. That's what you showed that night. You took it upon yourself to save that girl and to execute the bastards who were abusing her. You didn't wait for some committee of designated bystanders to ratify your decision. You have no idea how rare that is."

Do you find Louis Redmond’s execution of the two rapists admirable or despicable? Do you agree that his decision to do so constituted an exercise of moral courage? Indeed, can a man exhibit any sort of courage if he's a moral coward?


A final, tangential thought: If our consciences are truly intended to be our guides, and if I’m correct in my belief that even the most poorly reared individual of normal mental capacity has enough of a conscience to recognize evil, then it’s quite possible that all sins fall into one of the following categories:

  • Blasphemies (denial or derision of the supremacy or majesty of God);
  • Abuses of others (e.g., murder, assault, fraud, theft, false witness);
  • Instances of moral cowardice: to stay one’s voice or hand when confronted by evildoing.

May God bless and keep you all.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Further Thoughts On Torture

As you might have expected, Gentle Reader, the previous essay on this subject elicited a great deal of feedback. Most of that feedback was of the “Are you BLEEP!ing serious?” variety. To those persons, I can only say: Yes, I was and I am. To those who inferred from what I wrote that:

  • Torture is an effective way of extracting vital information from a prisoner;
  • We can reliably trust governments with the privilege of torturing detainees?

...I can only say: Learn to read.

To save you unnecessary wear and tear on your mouse, here’s what I did say:

  • Torture can, in certain circumstances, be morally justified.
  • I -- not you, not your half-brother Herman, and certainly not the State, but Francis W. Porretto himself -- would not hesitate to use torture in those circumstances, if I thought it would save innocent lives.

I put my full name to everything I write for a reason: Unlike the multitudes who pop off callously, slanderously, or without thinking but prefer not to be called to account for it, I intend always to stand behind my words. I stand behind the ones in that previous essay. And as the title of this post implies, I have a few words to add to it.


Whether or not you deem torture to be potentially justifiable, there are significant problems yet to be solved. The most important of those problems is defining torture, such that we need not be guided by anyone’s opinions about it, or about where and when it’s been done.

Clearly, we cannot allow the supposed object of it to define torture, for he would define it as “whatever I would prefer not to experience.” Neither can we accept a subjective definition, based on the reaction to the object’s treatment, for the same reason. We must have a strict, intensive definition of torture, such that any particular practice can be tested against that definition to yield an unambiguous “It is” or “It isn’t” verdict.

An intensive definition requires:

  • A genus, or enveloping category;
  • A differentia, a characteristic that sets the defined things apart from all others in the genus.

The genus is “Treatment of an involuntary detainee.” There are few possibilities for a differentia.

Shall we define torture as “Any treatment of an involuntary detainee that causes him pain” -- ? That’s a subjective criterion, as we have no way to distinguish real from pretended pain.

What about “Any treatment of an involuntary detainee that damages him” -- ? I see problems with this, too, owing to the nebulousness of “damage” and the eternally contentious subject of mental or psychological cruelty.

Let’s pass right over “Any treatment of an involuntary detainee that the inflictor would object to having to endure,” for the same reasons. The Silver Rule is important, doubt it not, but it’s hardly a reliable standard for defining torture in a world that knows both sadists and masochists in significant numbers.

Shall we try “Any treatment of an involuntary detainee that damages him permanently” -- ? But there are so many kinds of damage that seem permanent at the moment they’re suffered, yet are healable by time or by artifice. Also, this plays into the “mental cruelty” conundrum.

Many, many persons have put their efforts to this question without arriving at a sturdy definition of torture, so don’t feel too bad if you can’t succeed where the rest of us have failed.


Complicating all discussions of torture is the rampant politicization of the subject. It’s been pointed out that the “extraordinary rendition” program began under the Clinton Administration, and that the Democrats had no problem with it at the time but are passionately interested in it now that the odium from it can be loaded onto the Bush II Administration. Beyond that, any definition for what constitutes torture will be contested for that reason: the accusers will want more categories of treatment included in it than they would dream of including were they the accused. Political maneuvering is like that.

This is certainly a good reason not to permit “torture” at the hands of the State...if we could agree on what it is. But when organizations such as CAIR can claim that for a Muslim detainee to be served “haram” meals, or to be confined in a cell whose toilet faces Mecca, or to be compelled to sit in the presence of a naked or half-naked woman constitutes “torture” and receive a respectful hearing, we have a problem that no law or regulation, however cleverly worded, can solve.


We should not pass from this topic without considering the effects of torture on the practitioners. It degrades them, and any culture that institutionalizes it, as surely as does slavery. That’s above and apart from the typical popular reaction against it. Such reactions have brought down whole nations whose governments have practiced it. It’s assuredly not something we’d want to make a regular, unquestioned part of wartime operations or penal practice. That makes it all the more important to arrive at a definition for it, albeit no easier to reach one.


Finally, as I mentioned in the earlier essay, the efficacy of torture is questionable. The chance of getting reliable information is better in some situations than others, but it’s never guaranteed. Yet the same could be said of any interrogatory technique.

There are ways to improve the efficacy of an information-seeking process that involves unwilling sources. If you have two or more such persons in your custody, you can use mutual confirmation reinforced with punishment for each deceit discovered. That is: If prisoner Smith says “They went North” while his (separately interrogated) comrade in arms Jones says “They went South,” you punish them until their answers match. That’s not guaranteed to produce the truth either, but it has better prospects.

The reinforced-mutual-confirmation approach can be further refined by including questions whose answers the interrogators already know. If the subjects are unaware of which questions those are, they provide “calibration” for the rest of the process, just as questions about one’s name, address, age, and so forth help to calibrate a polygraph session. Yet there will still remain uncertainties, for it’s possible to pre-arrange coordinated answers, at least for a range of questions, with one’s comrades, and to train away one’s tendencies to produce any of the obvious signs of deceit.

Ultimately, the only way to maximize the effectiveness of an interrogation technique, coercive or otherwise, is to get the subject to want to tell the truth, and to get him to tell it in a convincing manner. That’s a standard that can only be asymptotically approached, no matter what methods are employed.


Torture, like justice, love, and reality, is a subject beyond any mortal’s powers to exhaust. The most definitive statement I can make about it is that it will remain a field for the fiercest of intellectual and political combat long after I’ve departed this vale of tears. No proposed definition will be accepted by everyone. Innumerable participants in the debate will have axes to grind that will move them to obstruct the discussion, usually by accusing the more serious participants of low motives. Shifts in the political wind will add to whatever intensity the controversy would attain on its own.

Which doesn’t mean the discussion should not continue.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Advent, Anticipation, And Hope: A Sunday Rumination

Remembering my blessings and remaining thankful for them has become more of a challenge for me as I age. The problems of age – pain; infirmity; anxiety about one’s future – are considerable, and the resources with which one can meet them are steadily diminishing. But that might be why old age comes after all the rest of life: so that even the most fortunate of us will be tested to our limits – that we won’t “slide in” to eternal life without ever having known trial or hardship.

Yes, I’m hurtin’ a bit this morning. But I have a few thoughts for you despite that, so stay tuned.


For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. [Job 19:26-26]

Advent is often spoken of as “the season of hope,” yet it stands immediately before the Feast of the Nativity, which occurs every year on the very same date. Hope would seem not to be a factor; we know what’s coming on December 25. (If we were inclined to forget, the chaos around major shopping centers would surely remind us.) It seems more a time of anticipation...preparation...remembrance of what has been and what will someday come again. And it is that as well.

But Advent does inspire hope, for a simple reason: faith requires it.

We who believe celebrate Christmas out of faith, not sure and certain knowledge. We’ve accepted a certain bit of history of the classical world, in which an extraordinary Man preached a New Covenant among the Jews of Judea, was tortured to death for defying the religious authorities of that time and place, and subsequently rose from the dead to confirm His Divinely-awarded authority to say and do what He had said and done.

We who believe hold that that extraordinary Man, Jesus of Nazareth, was God made flesh. But being the limited, temporally bound creatures we are, we cannot prove it. It’s an article of faith; we must hope that we’re correct.

Now go back to Job’s words and look more closely at them.


A writer of my acquaintance, Ron Currie, once penned a short story titled “Faith, Hope, Love,” about a widower struggling with grief as he raises his only child alone. (He later expanded and revised it, reissuing it under a new title: “No Epiphanies.”) It began with one of the most striking sentences I’ve ever encountered:

I have given my daughter God.

In the course of that story, the narrator-protagonist, who does not believe, declaims to his buddies that there is no faith; there is only knowledge: “My daughter knows her mother is in heaven. All I know is, she’s dead.”

The protagonist’s misconception of both faith and knowledge is one of the most important of all statements for a Christian to ponder – and Advent is the very best season of all in which to do so.


What do we know beyond all possibility of error? I mean, really?

Not bloody much, by my standards.

We speak so easily of knowledge, and with so little justification. We think we know ourselves, despite how often our own bodies, minds and characters have surprised us – even betrayed us. Each of us claims a fund of knowledge upon which basis we ply our trades, yet in nearly every case those trades constitute nothing more than manifestations of confidence, asserted through our actions, that certain previously observed patterns will repeat once more. We listen respectfully as others prattle about “what we know,” whether in the sciences, the soft disciplines, or any other context, when we really should either laugh raucously or absent ourselves to do something useful.

As a matter of fact – what the late Hal Geneen once called “unshakable facts,” that are immune to any possibility of disproof – we know approximately nothing. We can’t even be sure of our next breaths; after all, there’s nothing to prevent all the air from rushing to one corner of the room. All we can say about that possibility is that it hasn’t happened before...we think.

Indeed, our whole lives constitute an act of faith, and a matched act of hope: the hope that by doing what we do, by persevering as what we are, by enduring pain, fatigue, sacrifice, deferral of gratification, disappointment after disappointment, and the myriad uncertainties to which all flesh is heir, things may yet be better than they are at this instant.

We are purely creatures of faith and hope. Under the veil of time, it cannot be otherwise.


Here’s a thought for you: A mongoose never imagines that he might be wrong. Neither does a mandrill. Or a meerkat. Or a three-toed sloth. Or a blue-footed booby. Conceiving the possibility of error is a gift and a burden reserved to Man alone.

The lesser creatures cannot conceive of abstractions such as cause and effect. Their lives are wholly guided by the instructions God has written into their natures. That immunizes them against the uncertainties Man must endure.

It also means they have neither the need nor the ability to hope.

Man hopes because he perceives time: sequences of events and patterns that appear to bind them together. We probe the laws of Nature by observation, inference, hypothesis, and experiment. We hope to derive knowledge thereby, even though, as Francis Bacon has told us, it will never be surely and finally ours. Yet we persist. Why?

Because that’s our nature. God formed us to do exactly that. The inferences from that observation are the most staggering a human mind can entertain. The frustrating part is that no imaginable experiment can confirm or refute them. We must proceed – we who elect to believe and to proceed from that belief – on faith and hope.


Hope can persist even in the face of the most terrible of “certainties:” that our mortal bodies will someday suffer and die.

Yet that’s not knowledge either. It’s merely what’s happened to every human being who lived and died before us. But just because it’s always happened before doesn’t guarantee that it will always be so. And even if it always will be so, there’s that little conundrum about what comes next.

They who mock Christians and deride our beliefs in an afterlife like to focus on that last business. “How can you know any part of you will survive after death?” they say. I like to reply “How do you know the floor won’t collapse beneath you five seconds from now?” It tends to fluster them, often to the point of walking away.

But that’s where that bit of classical history comes in. We have accounts of a Man who returned from the dead and promised us exactly such an afterlife. We’ve chosen to place our faith in His words as those accounts report them. But we cannot know with certainty that He was correct...or that He existed. Only a very few who saw Him in the flesh could be sure He existed at all...and not even they, as limited and fallible as any of us, could be sure He was what He claimed to be.

We are required to hope.


THOMAS MORE: Listen, Meg. God made the angels to show him splendour, as he made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But Man he made to serve him wittily, in the tangle of his mind. [Robert Bolt, A Man For All Seasons]

It takes a powerful mind to recognize the difference in kind between Man and the lesser orders. It takes an even more powerful mind to realize and appreciate what a gift and a burden it is.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, one of the foremost public intellectuals of our era and better known to the general public as Pope Benedict XVI, has written that faith is inseparable from doubt. Perfect faith that cannot entertain any instant of uncertainty is possible only to the utterly unthinking. Such persons, if any exist, are hardly human beings, for it is our minds and thought processes that qualitatively divide us from the lesser orders.

But if faith cannot be perfect – if doubt is faith’s constant companion – then faith can only be sustained by hope. Indeed, this is why suicide, the deed that expresses the loss of all hope, is the very worst of all sins. One who has lost hope cannot have faith; he has separated himself from God.

Faith can only be sustained by hope.


The liturgical year celebrates Christmas only on December 25, but the Nativity is embedded by implication in all the celebrations and commemorations of the cycle. None of the rest of it would be possible without the Nativity. Granted that it would have little meaning without the Passion and the Resurrection, but those things are premised on the Incarnation of God in human flesh.

All of it – every iota of Christian faith, from the conception of Jesus in the womb of a Nazarene virgin to His Resurrection and Ascension – begins with these words:

    There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
    And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
    But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
    And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
    And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
    And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
    And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
    And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
    And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
    And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
    And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
    And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
    And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
    Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
    And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.
    And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

[Luke 1:5-38]

Upon the truth of these words we base our Advent faith...and our hope.

May God bless and keep you all.