Archive for May, 2009

Via PalmTreePundit, Andy McCarthy asks a simple – and important – question about President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court: Forget Whether She Qualifies as a “Racist.” Would Judge Sotomayor Qualifiy as a Juror?

Somewhat related:

I hadn’t realized until this winter, when I was participating in a study group for The Truth Project, how recently the concept of case law came into practice, or that it was dreamed up and introduced by men who were setting out to wrest the law away from foundational Judeo-Christian concepts of justice and natural law, so they could turn it loose to ‘evolve’.

Uhm. How’s the mutated version working for you?

Under the old system, a judge was expected to be as impartial as possible, and adhere to unchanging standards of justice.

There were problems, of course, human beings being what they are. But at least the aim was a rule of law that even the town dullard could comprehend and live by, and judges who treated the law with respect.

But, correct me if I’m wrong, these days a whole lotta judges seem to think it’s their job to toss their own radioactive beam on each case that comes before them, in hopes of changing the law. Done here and there, this would be bad enough, but done wholesale it means we have swarms of unrelated mutant rulings running around, fighting each other.

I would say that this is not a good thing.

It might make for a good horror movie (if you go in for that sort of thing) but as a way to ‘order’ society, I would say it has some serious flaws. Chaos is a bit hard to plan by, after all.

That’s not to mention that when you start asking God-fearing people to choose between doing what God says is right, and what the lady in the black robe feels is right based on a chat she had with friends at a cocktail party (or a book she read, or an op-ed in a newspaper, or the latest poll, or what have you, as long as it’s not natural law), you’re going to force people to choose between obedience to God and obedience to whoever happens to be imposing her whims at the moment.

Uhm. Let’s see. Let’s assume, for the sake of this argument (and also because it’s true), that humans have immortal souls. Let’s assume, for the sake of this argument (and also because it’s true),  that God decides how each of us spends eternity. Uhm… Let’s see. Do I aim to please God, or the puny human judge who has no power over my ultimate destiny (and who, for that matter, might change her favorite causes, and thus her rulings, at the drop of a hat)? Hmmm….

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From “Live Free or Die!” in the April 2009 Imprimis (a publication of Hillsdale College):

Tyranny is always whimsical. – Mark Steyn

He, of course, does not mean whimsical as in fun-loving or cheerful. He means… Oh, go read the article. Please, do. That tyranny is whimsical is a very important point – and constitutes one of tyranny’s biggest dangers, if history is any guide.

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I have been leading something of a double life lately. I have been making severe edits in a novel I wrote before I converted to Christianity. It was too long, and a bit too complicated. And did I mention that I wrote it before I converted to Christianity?

But I have also been pumping gas. I live in Oregon, which forbids self-service. (Oregon can be an extremely embarrassing place to live.) Oregon has also jacked the minimum wage and other costs of doing business to the point that a small gas station cannot afford to have employees during all hours of operation. (Did I mention that Oregon can be a difficult and embarrassing place to live?) We have a bookstore inside a gas station. We cannot afford to have people working for us like we used to be able to afford having people work for us. So I have been braving the weather and getting to know the ingenious designs of gas caps through the ages. This, of course, is not altogether a bad thing, not least because it keeps me from spending too much time just thinking.

Spending too much time just thinking makes it hard to think clearly, I have found.

I am, of course, not the only person to have noticed this.

For instance, Amanda Witt, and Matthew B. Crawford, have some things to say about the value of manual work.

The intellectual who has theorized himself into lala land – and expects the real world to adjust itself accordingly – seems to be a stock character from way back. Likewise, the foolish rich. Likewise… oh, you get the picture. Those who do not do, tend to expect reality to somehow bend when they want it to. (Just like their lackeys do, I guess.)

I like to garden. No matter what I do, I cannot get a seed to sprout before it’s ready. Water proves itself essential. Sun and shade have consequences. Seasons come and go. Whether I like it or not.

Oh, good. Reality doesn’t need mankind in general, or me in particular, to operate.

Considering how much trouble I have with some gas caps, this is probably a very good thing. 🙂

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While following links around yesterday, I stumbled upon a blog called Plain Catholic in the Mountains. Although I knew there were “Plain” people other than Amish and Mennonite, I confess I didn’t know there were Plain Catholics, much less Plain Roman Catholics. (It made sense once I thought about it, but it hadn’t occurred to me to think about it, I guess.) Following the link from the blog to a website, I am finding out more about them. There are also links to sources for Plain and modest clothing patterns, and headcoverings, for those of you who (like me) are interested in such things.

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Joining with others in the 7 Quick Takes Friday round-up hosted by Conversion Diary:

1. In a quest to discover the heritage I was was not taught in public school or college, I have been reading lots of old books, with an emphasis on classics. I am currently reading The Three Musketeers. I have decidedly mixed feelings so far about The Three Musketeers. My copy does not say when it was translated, or by who, but I am beginning to wonder if some marriage-despising, atheist, Catholic-hating, fashion-obsessed, violence-loving, bloodthirsty, intoxication-prone hippy had a hand in it somewhere. But it’s early days yet.

2. I recently ran across an old book (c. 1955) called The Answer Is God, by Elise Miller Davis, which I picked up because the cover painting looked rather a lot like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. There was a reason for that, it turns out, because it is a spiritually-centered dual biography of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I had no idea that they had to fight sponsors to include religious songs in their programs, or that Dale Evans wrote a book about their daughter with Down Syndrome (which wasn’t called that in those days). Upon doing some research, I find that Angel Unaware was hugely influential in ending the practice of sending nearly all Down Syndrome babies into institutions. Who knew? The King of the Cowboys and The Queen of the West, I am finding out, were in some ways bigger heroes off screen than on. Who knew?

3. The other day, my husband met a charming and spunky old lady, born in the early 1920s, who gave him this advice about living to an old age: Study. Read. Read the Bible. It’s good to learn something every day. Actually, it’s better to learn more than one thing every day. Get away from the boob tube. (Her words, not mine. If you don’t know the regionalism, “boob tube” means television.) That pretty much covered it.

4. The other day, a young college graduate, flush with his first money earned from selling things on eBay, was bragging on buying a new computer and new tires for his car. He expressed surprise that my husband, who had helped to teach him how to sell things on eBay, didn’t seem to be rolling in cash. So my husband asked him how much he spent in rent every month. None, the young man replied. My husband asked how much he spent on groceries every month. None, the young man replied, starting to get the picture. “So, when my Dad was suggesting the other day that it was about time I moved out of the house…” he mused, quite out loud. Shortly thereafter,  he excused himself and headed home. We’re laying bets that he’ll volunteer to pay rent or help buy groceries. He’s that sort of kid. We’re laying additional bets that his dad will prevail upon him to move out before too long. He’s that sort of Dad.

5. Weather and health having conspired against me before this, I managed to mow the lawn today, for something like the third time this year. It having been so long since the last mowing, and the rains having been bountiful, the procedure reminded me of haying. Probably tomorrow, if it isn’t raining, I’ll have to take a rake and take care of the clippings, because they’re thick enough to kill grass beneath. I felt sorry, just a bit, for the bees. There was a splendid crop of dandelions, and they were making use of them.

6. Our pastor, who has a wonderful voice for chanting and singing, is on vacation. His wife, who plays piano for us, is, quite naturally, with him. Last Sunday, when several others were also missing for one reason or another, our church found itself with no one who could play piano, and no one who can sing respectably without instrumental help. I suspect we would have driven talent scouts to bunkers, but I like to think that God cares more what’s in our hearts. I hope so. Be that as it may, if anyone local reads this and knows of good singers or pianists who are in search of a spiritual home, please call me. We use a hymnal with some of the best hymns and canticles from the last several centuries, if that matters.

7. I have lost something just over twenty pounds in the past few months. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I have developed an odd fascination with the heft of things, which hits at sometimes very odd moments. The other day, for instance, I had to fight off an urge to pick up two ten-pound bags of potatoes at the grocery store, just so I could stand there marveling at how much weight I’d lost. Uhm. Not good. I am probably thought to be somewhat eccentric anyway, but standing around in public holding big bags of spuds with a smile on my face would have been over the top, even for me.

Update: Minor corrections were made May 9, 2009.

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Lars Walker takes a look at liberalism, or what passes for it, then and now.

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G.K. Chesterton held that governments were as capable of anarchy as people. From Eugenics and Other Evils (1922):

A silent anarchy is eating out our society. I must pause upon the expression; because the true nature of anarchy is mostly misapprehended. It is not in the least necessary that anarchy should be violent; nor is it necessary that it should come from below. A government may grow anarchic as much as a people. The more sentimental sort of Tory uses the word anarchy as a mere term of abuse for rebellion; but he misses a most important intellectual distinction. Rebellion may be wrong and disastrous; but even when rebellion is wrong, it is never anarchy. When it is not self-defence, it is usurpation. It aims at setting up a new rule in place of the old rule. And while it cannot be anarchic in essence (because it has an aim), it certainly cannot be anarchic in method; for men must be organized when they fight; and the discipline in a rebel army has to be as good as the discipline in the royal army. This deep principle of distinction must be clearly kept in mind. Take for the sake of symbolism those two great spiritual stories which, whether we count them myths or mysteries, have so long been the two hinges of all European morals. The Christian who is inclined to sympathize generally with constituted authority will think of rebellion under the image of Satan, the rebel against God. But Satan, though a traitor, was not an anarchist. He claimed the crown of the cosmos; and had he prevailed, would have expected his rebel angels to give up rebelling. On the other hand, the Christian whose sympathies are more generally with just self-defence among the oppressed will think rather of Christ Himself defying the High Priests and scourging the rich traders. But whether or no Christ was (as some say) a Socialist, He most certainly was not an Anarchist. Christ, like Satan, claimed the throne. He set up a new authority against an old authority; but He set it up with positive commandments and a comprehensible scheme. In this light all mediaeval people — indeed, all people until a little while ago — would have judged questions involving revolt. John Ball would have offered to pull down the government because it was a bad government, not because it was a government. Richard II would have blamed Bolingbroke not as a disturber of the peace, but as a usurper. Anarchy, then, in the useful sense of the word, is a thing utterly distinct from any rebellion, right or wrong. It is not necessarily angry; it is not, in its first stages, at least, even necessarily painful. And, as I said before, it is often entirely silent.

Anarchy is that condition of mind or methods in which you cannot stop yourself. It is the loss of that self-control which can return to the normal. It is not anarchy because men are permitted to begin uproar, extravagance, experiment, peril. It is anarchy when people cannot end these things. It is not anarchy in the home if the whole family sits up all night on New Year’s Eve. It is anarchy in the home if members of the family sit up later and later for months afterwards. It was not anarchy in the Roman villa when, during the Saturnalia, the slaves turned masters or the masters slaves. It was (from the slave-owners’ point of view) anarchy if, after the Saturnalia, the slaves continued to behave in a Saturnalian manner; but it is historically evident that they did not. It is not anarchy to have a picnic; but it is anarchy to lose all memory of mealtimes. It would, I think, be anarchy if (as is the disgusting suggestion of some) we all took what we liked off the sideboard. That is the way swine would eat if swine had sideboards; they have no immovable feasts; they are uncommonly progressive, are swine. It is this inability to return within rational limits after a legitimate extravagance that is the really dangerous disorder. The modern world is like Niagara. It is magnificent, but it is not strong. It is as weak as water — like Niagara. The objection to a cataract is not that it is deafening or dangerous or even destructive, it is that it cannot stop. Now it is plain that this sort of chaos can possess the powers that rule a society as easily as the society so ruled. And in modern England it is the powers that rule who are chiefly possessed by it — who are truly possessed by devils. The phrase, in its sound old psychological sense, is not too strong. The State has suddenly and quietly gone mad. It is talking nonsense and it can’t stop.

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… the 2009 National Day of Prayer in the United States.

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Map geeks, test your skills. 🙂

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Dewey’s Treehouse has information on newer editions of a nineteenth century Italian novel I reviewed here. Just to make it more fun, in addition to having to choose between translations, we now get to search for the book under yet a new title…

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