So much for prudence

Why are we doing this? It's idiocy.

I can't help but think of the line from Dumb and Dumber: "Just when I thought you couldn't get any dumber, you go out and do something like this. And totally redeem yourself!"

Harry Potter

Warning: spoilers!

Seems to me that the central theme to the Harry Potter series, highlighted in the first and last novels, is that the deepest magic, the greatest power against evil in the world, is the sacrifice of love. The narrative metaphor in the books is that the sacrifice of love (giving one's life out of love), made explicitly by Lily Potter in the first novel and Harry Potter in the final book, nullifies the power of evil magic. The purest and most encompassing defense against the dark arts is love and self-sacrifice. Harry even gives Voldemort an opportunity to repent. He shows love toward his enemy.

This series is not about the potency but rather the impotency of magic. It's a story that shows that the greatest power in the universe is love, not secret, sought-after spells.

Talking to Tyrants

Patrick Buchanan, as usual, has insights contrary to the perceived wisdom of most pundits. Here he defends Obama's willingness to talk with tyrants.

Along with Bachanan, I think Obama's phrasing of his position should have been more precise and nuanced; nevertheless, I'm inclined to agree with the substance of his thesis. No matter how vile a tyrant is, he remains a person, capable of reason and capable of good. To assume in principle that you can't reason with him is a form of despair.

Unfortunately, this despair infects our thinking about the opposition in political, social, and cultural matters. We demonize our opponents as evil, unreasonable, and not worth engaging in conversation. We defend our moral issues as the only legitimate moral issues. How often, say, in the abortion debate, does the pro-life side sit down with the pro-choice side in an effort to understand the moral concerns of each other? More often, we seek to defeat the opposition, either in real wars or in culture wars.

That we often interpret our differences through the metaphor of war reveals a lot about who we are. This interpretive framework we've constructed could use some deconstruction.

Year Seven at Hogwarts

Finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows this morning. Rowling has composed a marvelous narrative. Bravo! I'll post more specific thoughts at a later date.

Fred Barnes on Iraq War

Fred Barnes in 2004:

"Should national unity prevail, Iraq's chances of becoming a stable democracy will improve dramatically. I'd like to see one other thing in Iraq, an outbreak of gratitude for the greatest act of benevolence one country has ever done for another. A grateful Iraqi heart would be a sign of a new Iraqi attitude and a signal of sure success." (Emphasis Mine)

Fred Barnes in 2007:

"This doesn't mean the war is now a political plus for Republicans. It remains a huge drag. But Republicans have won the argument that Congress, before mandating a retreat in Iraq, should wait at least until General David Petraeus reports to Washington in September on how his counterinsurgency strategy--the "surge"--is doing."

Crusading Atheist

This could happen here, one reason religious people should be weary of the growing power of our government, especially considering the association not so rarely made between religious devotion and terrorism.

Mark Shea is Angry

Mark Shea speaks his mind. Agree or disagree with him, there's no vagueness about where he stands.

A Wise Wizard's Council

"Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends."

- Gandalf

Global Warming Dogma

A progressive makes a case against global warming dogma.

I remain undecided on this issue.

My Moral Paralysis

Unable to write too many articles on our current war without invoking the threat of Hitler, Thomas Sowell claims with certainty that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and must be stopped. His argument is invalid and irresponsible. He claims certainly without certain evidence.

It would not surprise me in the least to learn that Iran is indeed seeking a nuke; its neighbors to the east and west have undergone regime change by our hands, and unlike other countries in the region, Iran is not on our Axis of Good Buddies list. I don't want Iran to have weapons of mass murder; I don't like the fact that we have them either.

Until Iran becomes an aggressor intent on inflicting lasting, grave, and certain damage, we shouldn't even be considering war as an option. Even if Iran becomes such an aggressor, other options must be tried before war could become legitimate, options Mr. Sowell has no faith in now. His faith is in something else.

It is not moral paralysis to have a prudent foreign policy.

Could a videogame be a literary work of art?

Final Fantasy XII: intrigue in the empire (spoilers).

Beauty and Love

"I asked myself, why do I love, and what is the power of beauty, and I understood that each and every instance of beauty is a promise and an example, in miniature, of life that can end in balance, with symmetry, purpose, and hope--even if without explanation. Beauty has no explanation, but its right perfection elicits love."

From A Soldier of the Great War, by Mark Helprin

Imitation of God

"To imitate God and to be restored in the image of God is to attain a depth of compassionate love. It means being totally turned toward God, radically dependent on God, and loving like God as a person who is poor and humble."

- Ilia Delio, O.S.F, Franciscan Prayer

War and Power

The AP says it has obtained documents that contradict the testimony of Alberto Gonzales pertaining to the administration's terrorist surveillance program. I guess we'll see what, if anything, comes of this. Gonzales is standing by his testimony.

Whatever the truth or falsehood is behind the headlines and bits of information we receive regarding the Bush administration--and I doubt we'll ever know the full story--it is undeniable that the power of the State has grown and been concentrated under this presidency. The Patriot Act, the terrorist surveillance program, the Special Access Program all add to the power of the State, especially of the Executive Branch.

Defenders of these programs justify them on the grounds that we are at war with a new kind of enemy, and they have a point. Nevertheless, the continued growth and concentration of power of our government since the "War on Terror" began should concern us all regardless of our political persuasion or opinion on the current war. Because this war as defined has no end in sight, I fear that the State's power will only continue to grow, increasing the risk or corruption and temptation to tyranny.

Remember, the powers that the current president wields in the war on terror will be wielded (and very likely expanded upon) by every future president until the war ends (unless we get a program-cutting Ron Paul type). Does our system of elections guarantee that future leaders will be men or women of honor and integrity, who will use such power for our good and the good of others?

How George W. Bush uses and accumulates this power should concern us. How a future president (insert your worst fear here) will use this power should also concern us, and concern us right now. Right now we are setting the stage...

Explosions in Dallas

This is wild.

Evolution and Faith

Pope Benedict calls the clash between faith and evolution an absurdity.

The Sacrifice of Love

Inherent in every act of Christian martyrdom is the love of one's enemy. The martyr says to his murderer, either explicitly or implicitly: I die for Christ who died for you. The Christian martyr makes the greatest sacrifice of love, with hope that his foe will become his friend, if not on earth, then in eternity.

Was Russell Kirk Postmodern?

James G. Poulos asks the question.

Kirk's Detractors and Defenders

Daniel McCarthy defends Russell Kirk against attacks from The New Republic. Kirk is one of my intellectual heroes. O that we now had among conservatives but one of his likeness.

His most famous work is The Conservative Mind, written when he was young, but I prefer his Prospects for Conservatives, a book written later in his life showing the developed depth of his thinking. The Politics of Prudence is also a gem.

Wisdom of Burke

There ought to be a system of manners in every nation which a well-formed mind would be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.

-Edmund Burke.

The Pope on War, Part 2

Zenit news provides a translation of what Pope Benedict actually said concerning war. The Catholic News Agency offers its takewith more comprehensive quoting. Reuters misses the mark with this heretical headline.

I seems to me that Pope Benedict simply reiterated the Church's stance on war as stated in Pope John XXIII's encyclical Pacem in Terris and the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes.

I'll post pertinent passages soon, but I'd recommend reading the documents themselves in order to get the context.

The Pope on War?

The headline for this Associated Press story reads "Pope renews call to end all wars." The story itself, however, doesn't quote Pope Benedict XVI as saying exactly that. I'd like to see the full text of what the pope said.

Whether or not the AP misrepresented the pope's meaning, I suspect we'll be hearing from Michael Novak or George Weigel on the matter.

More on this to come.

On Freedom

"The range of choice open to the individual is not the decisive factor in determining the degree of human freedom, but what can be chosen and what is chosen by the individual."

- Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man

Not What I Would Have Thought

American Life League provides a detailed report covering five years of Planned Parenthood's income and expenses. Note the steady increase in government (i.e., taxpayer) funding, even when the organization's total income decreased.

Now, which political party was in power during this time?

Great Moments in Television

This episode of Crossfire aired several years ago. Comedian Jon Stewart, the guest, admonished the hosts for "hurting America." There is some crude language.

Blogger's Nightmare

Sally: You can't take it back.
Harry: Why not?
Sally: Because it's already out there.
Harry: Oh jeez. What are we supposed to do? Call the cops? It's already out there!
Sally: Just let it lie, OK?

- From When Harry Met Sally

Deconstruction and the Beatific Vision

John D. Caputo writes about Jacques Derrida: "Reflection for him is a mediated and limited process, at once made possible by, yet constrained within the limits of, the system of signifiers within which it occurs." Derrida was the founder of deconstruction, a postmodern philosophy that has been associated with nihilism, relativism, and the denial of any truth outside our historical-cultural categories of language. Among Caputo's philosophical projects has been a defense of Derrida and deconstruction against its detractors. He has also written on the religious signification of Derrida's philosophy.

While I do not entirely agree with Caputo or Derrida, I have come to see that they are neither nihilists nor relativists. I thought they were until I actually read them. They have, moreover, modified my thinking. For the record, I am still a believer in orthodoxy. Possible?

I used to view truth as a correspondence between one's idea of reality and reality itself. One's ideas about things in reality could be assessed as true or false based on whether or not they matched the things themselves. This assessment could be made by testing the ideas against the things themselves, which I believed we experience as they are in themselves.

Language, of course, is a finite thing with limitations, so any correspondence between word and thing would not be a perfect, one-to-one correspondence. In addition to being situated in history and culture, language reveals and conceals what it refers to, especially when referring to abstract things like love or justice. Our concept of knowledge, for example, makes use of different metaphors, some sight-based, others touched-based. The image of seeing for knowledge suggests distance; whereas touching implies intimacy with the thing known, but with a focus on only a part of it at a time. Grasping indicates a possessiveness to our knowledge. Understanding means standing under, getting to the root of what we seek to know. Each figure reveals something true of knowledge, but each also conceals some meaning of knowledge. There is no pure concept that encapsulates every significance of knowledge.

Enter Derrida: One of his insights was that the categories of language are already there (at play, he would say) prior to our experience, and these categories make possible but limit the experience of things. Because categories and concepts of language reveal and conceal (at times creatively) what they refer to, and because this creative revealing and concealing of signs allows for and shapes our perceptions of things, our experience of reality is not of reality itself, pure and unmediated; rather it is our experience of things in so far as they fit into and are formed by our language. If this is true, then we judge the veracity of our ideas based not on reality as it is in itself, but based on our experience of reality, an experience that is shaped by our linguistic categories and concepts.

I do not see this as a nihilistic destruction of truth. It means that truth is not reducible to one system of thought, for any system of thought is always a limited construct, always situated in history.

We deconstruct our philosophies, histories, scientific theories, and yes, even our theologies to open them up to the undeconstructable, that which--to bring in a theological point--we will only see at the Beatific Vision. As apologist Frank Sheed has explained, the Beatific Vision occurs when we see God face to face, unmediated by even the purest concept.

I trust I make myself obscure.

C'est la vie

I try not to have an opinion on an issue unless I can clearly and coherently support it. How ever will I survive as a blogger?

O for a Muse of Fire

Vouchsafe to lighten the path of one who walks in darkness.