Dec 31, 2004


Happy New Year, y'all. Try to be properly festive and eat too much for me, okay?

Dec 30, 2004

thank you Netflix

Top Ten Movies I Saw for the First Time
Amores Perros
Shaolin Soccer
In America
Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman
Bus 174
The Triplets of Belleville
To Live
American Splendor

Top Ten Movies I Saw Again
Citizen Kane
On the Waterfront
Singin' in the Rain
Nine Queens
Dr. Strangelove
Stalag 17
The Manchurian Candidate
Three Kings
The Nutty Professor

Top Ten Movies I Couldn't Finish For Whatever Reason
Ballad of a Soldier
Red Beard
Blow Up
City of God
One Day in September
Nowhere in Africa
Through a Glass Darkly
Europa Europa
Capturing the Friedmans
My Son the Fanatic

Movies I Shouldn't Have Finished But Did, Often Under Duress
Blazing Saddles
A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Green Berets
Death to Smoochy
The Goonies

Reasons Netflix Kicks Cable's Posterior
Arrested Development
Mr. Show
The Office
Penn and Teller: Bullshit!
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Twilight Zone

we love lists

Yes we do.

David Edelstein's is up
Any year that produces Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a great one for movies. In fact, I'm a little dismayed that not everyone shares my conviction that this is an inexhaustible masterpiece and, by a wide margin, the best film in many years... If you didn't get it, see it again. If you didn't like it, I am so, so sorry—for us both.
as is The Onion's
Keith Phipps on Arrested Development: Seen in bulk, all the warm, merciless, restlessly inventive comedy confirmed that creator Mitchell Hurwitz might not have planned on making a classic, but he ended up with one anyway.
(More of mine will be posted soon.)


One thing is certain: the ACLU must be stopped. They consistently undermine religious freedom, and, what? Facts? Don't interrupt me, I'm working up a good lather.

always right?

Joe Carter links to Stuart Sims's purported find about California taxes supporting the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military. Sims's comment:
You've got to be kidding me! California taxpayers are financing a center for "the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military"? I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. Thank the Lord that I don't live in California - as if those loons don't support enough weird things already - now this?
Carter's addendum:
The fact that California taxes go to fund the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military rather than for, oh let’s say, a “Center for the Study of Virtuous Heroes in the Military” doesn’t really surprise me. Still, I think it’s a sign of our nation’s misplaced priorities that we spend more money and attention on the role of sexual identity than we do on understanding the importance of virtue and character in our military. Perhaps, though, I’m simply out of touch. Maybe in focusing on such core values as honor, courage and commitment I’ve missed the significance that transgender tolerance plays in virtue ethics.

Many bloggers, of late, are gleefully denouncing the bias and shoddy research of the Mainstream Media (MSM). But what about shoddy blogging? Sims baldly states, and Carter echoes, that California taxes fund the Center--without a shred of evidence. Let's dig a little deeper.

Below the Center's Mission Statement, we find: The Center is an official research unit of the Institute for Social, Behavioral, & Economic Research of University of California. (See the handy organizational chart here.) Where does its money come from? I decided to take the time to actually find out, and contacted the program. Their funding is extramural, from private grants or donations.

But that doesn't sit well with the "easy" story--the one that took about ten seconds to coagulate on one blog, and a couple weeks to spread to another, and who knows where it'll go from here. My hope is nowhere, because it's a non-story. The moral: don't look to bloggers as a model for good journalistic research; oftentimes, we wear our biases like pajamas.

[Note: an important quote was removed at the request of its originator. I'm not a professional journalist, so I won't bother to use anonymous sources.]

Morton Brilliant ain't

Gregoire is officially the governor-elect, but Rossi won't pull up his tent stakes and go home, threatening to contest the recount results in the courts. So how does Gregoire's camp respond?
"This ain't golf. No mulligans allowed here, folks," Gregoire's spokesman, Morton Brilliant, said Wednesday. "It's irresponsible to spend $4 million in taxpayer money on a new election just because you don't like losing this one."
Let's go back over history.

1. Gregoire loses the first count; the margin prompts an automatic machine recount, at taxpayer expense.

2. Gregoire loses the machine recount, and, with the help of the Kerry Campaign and, ponies up $730,000 for a manual recount riddled with controversy and court challenges--a heck of a gamble.

3. Gregoire wins the hand recount, and, by law, the state will have to compensate the Democrats to the tune of at least $730,000.

And that, friends, is a perfect "mulligan"--and hypocrisy in action.

Dec 28, 2004

good words

I don't know how I missed James K. A. Smith's tribute to Jacques Derrida, but here it is. Worth quoting, too:
Jacques Derrida took up with vigor the Socratic vocation of philosophy as a kind of dying. Notoriously linked to discourses on "the death of the author" (and almost universally misunderstood on this score), Derrida's work was regularly haunted by ghosts. Death inscribed itself in his corpus and has now left its mark on his body, and we are left to mourn. But that is only to say that we are left with the task of deconstruction: what Derrida described as the work of mourning. It is not without reason that some of his most powerful meditations—on Levinas, de Man, Deleuze, Lyotard and others—come to us in the form of eulogies and memorials.

It has been the mistake of his critics—both in the academy and media—to conclude from Derrida's preoccupation with death that deconstruction is simply the next nihilism. And so Derrida has been vilified as the enemy of truth, justice, the university, and many more of our cherished institutions and values. The myths and lies—yes, lies—about Derrida persist even in his death (Jonathan Kandell's obituary in The New York Times was a travesty).

But this is a picture of Derrida and deconstruction that one could maintain only by failing to read him. For in the end—or better, from the beginning—deconstruction is a work of love. Far from being a mere "method" for critique, Derrida was at pains to demonstrate the essentially productive aspect of deconstruction. "It is not negative," he once commented, "For me, it always accompanies an affirmative exigency. I would even say that it never proceeds without love."
I was in the midst of writing up my own thoughts on Derrida (as always, prompted by a conversation with my younger brother). Jacques Derrida is philosophy's Stephen Hawking: as many people have read his works as have finished A Brief History of Time. This might explain, partially, why reactions to his thought are so disparate; contrast Adam Shatz
Derrida took play seriously; it was a synonym, really, for the unexpected reversals of history with which he was intimately acquainted. Even at his most somber, this spirit infused Derrida's work, whether he was writing on Plato, Heidegger, Stéphane Mallarmé, Freud, Artaud or the American Declaration of Independence. In his writing he developed a voice as original as Jean-Luc Godard's--alternately inspired and maddening, animated by a similarly Joycean predilection for puns and collages of association, and a melancholy fascination with specters of the past that haunt the present, or "traces," as Derrida called them. The two men also shared an interest in the French-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, whose ruminations on the dialectic of Self and Other figure prominently in Godard's latest film, Notre Musique, a beautifully fractured meditation on the wars in Bosnia and Israel-Palestine.
with Brian Leiter
...overwhelmingly those who engage in philosophical scholarship on figures like Plato and Nietzsche and Husserl find that Derrida misreads the texts, in careless and often intentionally flippant ways, inventing meanings, lifting passages out of context, misunderstanding philosophical arguments, and on and on. Derrida was the bad reader par excellence, who had the gall to conceal his scholarly recklessness within a theoretical framework.

What of Derrida's "relativism" and "nihilism?" Simon Glendinning:
"Well, it is very difficult to summarise Derrida's thought... It, like any serious and penetrating thought, even resists summary - any philosophy that can be summed up in a nutshell belongs in one. People are troubled by a form of critique which challenges our most cherished assumptions - and so they want a caricature."
In the end, Derrida was no Nietzsche, either in scope of thought or power of prose, but his personal humility in the quest for philosophic truth is certainly worth imitating.

lazing a trail

I had a brilliant idea last week: how about linking to all the thought-provoking articles or blog posts I had read over the past year, as a way to not only chart my own intellectual path, but to broaden others'? Sadly, Christmas interfered, and it's still a work in progress / pipe dream. In the meantime, love-him-or-hate-him, David Brooks has done exactly that. (Registration required; use if you must).

(Thanks to Arts and Letters Daily.)

Dec 27, 2004

pack up your toys and go home

Thanks to Slate's great "recycled" feature, we get to read William Saletan's smackdown of Intelligent Design again. Best snippet:
A theory isn't just a bunch of criticisms, even if they're valid. A theory ties things together. It explains and predicts. Intelligent design does neither. It doesn't explain why part of our history seems intelligently designed and part of it doesn't. Why are our feet and our back muscles poorly designed for walking? Why are we afflicted by lethal viruses? Why have so many females died in childbirth? ID doesn't explain these things. It just shrugs at them. "Design theory seeks to show, based on scientific evidence, that some features of living things may be designed by a mind or some form of intelligence," says one ID proponent. Some? May? Some? What kind of theory is that?

the quotable Cure

Who'd guess that The Cure would have the final say in a philosophical conversation about representation and reality?
I've been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they're real
I've been living so long with my pictures of you
That I almost believe that the pictures are
All I can feel

the quotable Popper II

"We have seen that theories cannot be logically derived from observations. They can, however, clash with observations: they can contradict observations. This fact makes it possible to infer from observations that a theory is false. The possibility of refuting theories by observations is the basis of all empirical tests. For the test of the theory is, like every rigorous examination, always an attempt to show that the candidate is mistaken--that is, that the theory entails a false assertion. From a logical point of view, all empirical tests are therefore attempted refutations." (Conjectures and Refutations, p. 260)

Dec 24, 2004

the grinch comes 'round

Today: off to my folks' place. Tomorrow: up to my wife's folks'. Then onward, all celebrating the Christian appropriation of paganism (to syncretism in general, I say: huzzah!). Blogging as usual resumes soon. I leave you with beautiful Yuletide thoughts by everyone's favorite Irish poet.

Dec 23, 2004

the quotable Popper

"Democrats who do not see the difference between a friendly and a hostile criticism of democracy are themselves imbued with the totalitarian spirit. Totalitarianism, of course, cannot consider any criticism as friendly, since every criticism of such an authority must challenge the principle of authority itself." (The Open Society and its Enemies, Vol. 1, p.189)

Dec 22, 2004

end in sight?

The Court says "count 'em" and Gregoire is up eight votes, but Republicans promise to continue the fight in other counties... After this, an election without a recount just won't seem like a real election.

Update:Now it's a ten-vote lead, and the only sure thing: Gary Locke is our governor.

the mother of all top ten lists

Lists are good for only one thing: provocation. Oh, and if you're counting, not every list comprises ten entries. Take it up with Management if you must.

Top Ten Top Ten Lists
Top Ten Most Annoying People of 2004
Top Ten Spyware Threats
Top Ten News Stories of 2004
Top Ten Game Show Winners of All Time
Most Dangerous Cities in the U.S.
Ten Most Wanted Fugitives
Top Ten Chinese Cities With Noiselessness
Top Ten Recalled Toys
Top Ten Bushisms
Canada's Best Blogs

Movies I Didn't See But Will Probably Netflix
House of Flying Daggers
The Incredibles
The Five Obstructions
Bad Education
Maria Full of Grace
The Story of the Weeping Camel
Garden State
Control Room

Bonus: Elbert Ventura trumpets others I'll probably queue up.

Songs I Had To Listen To In Their Entirety So They Wouldn't Get Stuck In My Head
"Boulevard of Broken Dreams," Green Day
"Float On," Modest Mouse
"Ocean Breathes Salty," Modest Mouse

Ways To Describe the Gregoire / Rossi Debacle
A Triumph for Democracy
The End of Democracy
The Battle of Seattle, Redux
Count Every Vote
Don't Change the Rules
Tie Goes to the Republican
The Great Suffrage Telethon
The Rise of the Libertarian Swing Vote
Damn You, Ron Sims
Dino Who?

Top Ten Top Ten Lists That Don't Exist on Google
Lego Sculptures
Scientific Conundrums
Blog Addicts
Ways to Pronounce "Chthonic"
Supercars You Can Actually Afford
Policy Wonks
Ways to Avoid Carpal Tunnel
Stupidest Moments of 2004
Reasons to Stay Inside

Top Ten Ways To Wish Someone Well This Holiday Season
Happy Hanukkah
Happy Chanukah
Happy Chanuka
Happy Hanuka
Happy Channukah
Happy Hanukka
Happy Hannukkah
Happy Hannukka
Happy Chanukaa
Happy Chthanukah

Dec 20, 2004

once more into the breach

Jeffrey Dubner sits down with Thomas Keck to discuss "judicial activism":
The phrase “judicial activism” is a frequent whipping boy, but what does the phrase actually mean?

The epithet essentially means “a judicial decision I disagree with,” but there can be some content to it. The definition that makes the most sense to me is that an activist court is a court that is relatively willing to assert its own power over and against the other institutions of government....

Can you give us some examples of particular topics that they’ve been activist on?

Of the liberal activism, the most noted example is the continued reaffirmation of Roe v. Wade. Another great example is the area of gay rights, where it’s been the Rehnquist Court that has for the first time extended constitutional protections to gay and lesbian rights -- in 1996, with Romer v. Evans, and then again in 2003, with Lawrence v. Texas. And there are a lot of examples in the areas of free speech, freedom of religion, and other rights in the liberal, Warren Court tradition.

On the conservative activism side of the fence, perhaps the best set of examples are the cases regarding federalism, a whole bunch of separate sets of cases whose overarching theme is the revival of constitutional limits on federal government power. It’s not like these decisions have gone that far; they haven’t tried to strike down the New Deal. But the implications of them are potentially sweeping, were they to carry them as far as the rhetoric suggests.

Keck's new book, The Most Activist Supreme Court in History, looks like it merits a read, especially considering its Shakespearean-sounding title.

the matriarch was victimized by a hit-and-run caribou

Thank you, Julian Sanchez, for every unminced word, a welcome addition to the backlash backlash.

no really

Our Daily Rag takes another bold stand.

Coming soon in the series:
  • Floss Daily
  • Look Both Ways Before Crossing Street
  • Yellow Snow is Not For Eating
  • You Can't Beat Gravity For Long
  • Don't Scratch That Itch
  • Yield to Buses, Dammit
  • Drugs are Bad 'Cause, You Know, Drugs are Bad

Dec 19, 2004

bewail and bemoan

I'm going to blog more, really, promise, now that I have two weeks away from school.

(And why not just "wail and moan?" Because, dear reader, English lets you.)*

Go here or here or here or here or here for thought-provocation.

*Both original. It's not so impossible after all.

Dec 15, 2004

bias vs. bias

If you've skedaddled through the Christian blogosphere lately, you've read various reactions to Jon Meacham's Newsweek piece about the historicity of Jesus's birth in the Gospels. On all accounts, the article is laughably biased against orthodox scholarship--a straw man L. Frank Baum could be pround of.

Mark Roberts' response is particularly interesting for its scope and depth, but also for its unstated assumptions, which we'll examine below. In a phrase, Roberts answers bias with bias.
Clearly there are other alternatives that Meacham should have considered. If a text intends to relate what really happened, even if the text shapes that event in terms of the author’s perspective, then a literal reading of the text might in fact be the most historical reading. When I read an account of the latest Dodger game in the newspaper, am I being unhistorical if I take it literally? No. (Unless of course I know that it was written by a Giant fan. Then extreme skepticism is warranted.)
Here is a perfectly broken-down analogy, and an argument that undercuts Roberts' point. First, the gospels aren't newspapers, and make no pretense of objectivity, actual or intended. Second, the presumption of bias would cut across both sets of fans, not just one side. Third, the essence of the claims also sets bullshit detectors in action. If you read a newspaper report that angels had grabbed the Dodgers centerfielder and hoisted him high enough to catch a seeming home run, you have every right to a double-take. A simple principle of doubt is that it is directly proportional to the outlandishness of the claim. If partisanship warrants "extreme skepticism," then miraculous tales recorded by True Believers merit just such skepticism.

But, nevertheless, we do have a significant historical test available to us, one that Meacham and other writers often minimize or ignore. The fact is that we have in Matthew and Luke two independent accounts of the birth of Jesus. The vast majority of scholars, both conservative and liberal, believe that these gospels writers were not familiar with each other’s work. So we can test the historical accuracy of Matthew by comparing it with Luke, and vice versa.
I find this claim interesting, because it's not the tack taken by those who dispute the Q hypothesis (the idea that Luke and Matthew drew from a common source); such writers (like these examples) usually claim that Luke drew from Matthew, which makes the differences in their narratives no less interesting, but hardly "independent." (It does seem, at times, like Luke is "correcting" Matthew, so that thesis seems plausible.) What evidence do we have for their complete independence? The claim that "Matthew and Luke... were not familiar with each other's work" is the sort of mind-reading that cuts both ways.

The primary problem, as Roberts acknowledges, is this: the historical "accuracy" of the Gospels only goes so far as proof of their religious validity. If we start with the premise that miracles are impossible, then we must dismiss reports of miracles a priori; let us keep an open mind, Roberts rightly adjures. However, Roberts stumbles when trying to prove the converse. If we start with the premise that a "god" exists who conceivably could use such miracles, must we leap logically to the conclusion that we have to take the New Testament at face value?

Such a move comes at great cost, for we then have poor grounds to dismiss every other religious writing that makes historical claims. Let us use the example of Joseph Smith. Let us assume:

1. It is conceivable that God works miracles in the world.
2. Joseph Smith witnessed many miraculous occurrences.
3. These events were independently verified, and well within the decades separating the death / ascension of Christ and the writing of the Gospels.
4. Millions believe Smith's revision of Christianity, and have even sacrificed their lives for their beliefs.
5. Because people do not likely die for something they know to be false, and because of the independently verified and therefore historical testimony, we can presume that Smith's visions are trustworthy, and his religion true.

It is, to use a favorite metaphor of C.S. Lewis, "sawing off the branch you sit upon."

On a lighter note, I would like to start my own Echo Chamber, and propose my first assignment: find compelling evidence that 1. Matthew and Luke were eyewitnesses and 2. Had no knowledge of each other's work. To work, Decorabilians.

Dec 14, 2004

must be Italian

Dr. Oliver Sacks, more than any other thinker or writer, has continually delighted and challenged my preconceptions. For multiple reasons--I had been asked by our school librarian to blurb my favorite book, a student is interested for speech, yesterday's posting on the personality-destroying parasite--I picked up The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat again, and plowed through several chapters.

The mind is so fragile, personality so malleable by circumstance... We speak of a unified personality existing over time because it seems, to us, that we are always "us," no matter the changes. But that seemingly inviolable unity can be torn apart by disease. Sacks, with a keen eye and poetic prose, identifies case after case testing the boundaries of normal human experience.
...Mr. Thompson would identify me--misidentify, pseudo-identify me--as a dozen different people in the course of five minutes. He would whirl, fluently, from one guess, one hypothesis, one belief, to the next, without any appearance of uncertainty at any point--he never knew who I was, or what and where he was, an ex-grocer, with severe Korsakov's, in a neurological institution.

He remembered nothing for more than a few seconds. He was continually disoriented. Abysses of amnesia continually opened beneath him, but he would bridge them, nimbly, by fluent confabulations and fictions of all kinds.... For Mr. Thompson, however, it was not a tissue of ever-changing, evanescent fantasies and illusion, but a wholly normal, stable, and factual world. So far as he was concerned, there was nothing the matter.
A kaleidoscope of memories and sensations, shaped somehow into a coherent narrative that defines the Self--shattered.

The mind's connection to its own physical body-reality, too, can be severed, to strange effect.
"Look at it!" he cried, with revulsion on his face. "Have you ever seen such a creepy, horrible thing?..." He seized it with both hands, with extraordinary violence, and tried to tear it off his body, and, failing, punched it in an access of rage.

"Easy!" I said. "Be calm! Take it easy! I wouldn't punch that leg like that."

"And why not?" he asked, irritably, belligerently.

"Because it's your leg," I answered. "Don't you know your own leg?"...

"It looks like nothing on earth. How can a thing like that belong to me? I don't know where a thing like that belongs..." His voice trailed off. He looked terrified and shocked.
You may not be exactly who you think you are--and tomorrow, you may be somebody else. You simply must read this philosophically challenging book.

Dec 13, 2004

shake'n'bake your faith in democracy

Yes, the Gregoire / Rossi recount is still going, and with a new wrinkle.

Update: And the wrinkle has newly puckered: the Democrats' lawsuit has been rejected by the state's high court. I may have been wrong on the exact timing, but I'm still calling it for Rossi.

buon appetito

My wife and I, in our quest to use every coupon in our Entertainment Book, decided to descend upon Pomodoro, an Italian restaurant in Proctor (Tacoma's upscale north end). To our surprise and delight, they let us reuse our coupon, under the condition that we "tell our family or friends." So this, dear readers, fulfills that obligation.

Terry Richards of the Oregonian
claims that Pomodoro "serves some of the city's best Italian food," and he's right. The ambience (bustling), the service (hustling), the fine food, the reasonable prices--all reasons to come with a big appetite, and be prepared to take home half your meal in a (trendy black stryofoam) box.

In an update to my other commercial shout-out, I received an e-mail from CSK Auto, Schuck's parent company:
Dear Mr. Anderson:

I have received your e-mail dated December 9, 2004.

CSK Auto, Inc. is always pleased to hear when our associates are recognized for their G.R.E.A.T. service. I will forward your e-mail on to our associate's District Manager to congratulate them for the excellent service they are providing our customers.

Thank you for your taking the time to let us know about them! We thank you for choosing CSK Auto, Inc. for you [sic] automotive needs and look forward to serving you in the future.


Toni Martin
CSK Auto, Inc.
Customer Relations
I love the company acronym thrown in there (I have no idea what it stands for). Proof that even non-evil corporations with human faces are shackled by the inanities of upper management.

whereof one cannot speak

Okay, philosopher-types: explain this one.

[thanks to the obscure store]

there and back again

I'm back from the Rogers Winter Classic, a two-day gabfest in which I spent hours in the Tab Room tallying up wins and losses in novice Lincoln-Douglas debate. Sheer boredom was staved off successfully thanks to the presence of my wife and the company of a delightful chap who, as I learned, is at least one other Western WA debate coach with a blog.

First trimester grades are due, and I haven't finished, so into my grading cave I must descend. Keep busy in the meantime.

Dec 9, 2004

aw, Schuck's

This is a paean to Schuck's Auto Supply, particularly store #04236 , most particularly Howard, the kindly sales associate who stood out in the rain for fifteen minutes trying to pound a stripped-out bolt out of a battery terminal clamp. He ended up charging the price of the new bolt ($3.66) and refused any sort of compensation for his effort.

Too often, companies hear only the bad news from customers--we're far more likely to write a letter of complaint than to praise exemplary service. I try, often as I can, to reverse the trend. Shuck's Auto Supply has earned my unhesitating recommendation. If I end up scoring coupons for the nice little email I sent, I'll even add a permanent link to my blog.

another reason to flee to Canada

If you're a discombobulated social liberal, take heart: up in Canada, gay marriage is one step closer to legitimacy. This, of course, has led to some bizarre rhetoric:
Gordon Young, pastor of the First Assembly of God Church in St. John's, Newfoundland, was highly disappointed by the ruling.

"It's a sad day for our country," Young told CBC television news. "God is in the DNA of this nation. We believe that changing the definition of marriage is changing the divine institution that God put in place for the order of our society."
I'm not sure how the second follows from the first, but I do know that if God is in Canada's DNA, He's been mutating for quite some time.

Update:Ed Brayton chimes in.

Dec 7, 2004


Sometimes I think I want more readers. But then I think, nah, I'd have to deal with spammers and trolls, instead of the small number of intelligent browsers who have the luxury of seeing my thoughts made visible. (Gratuitously flattering to myself and to my readers, in one fell swoop!)

Thanks to a zealous staff reporter at the Outlook, our school newspaper, my blogging habit may now be the talk of the school. (To my knowledge, I'm the only teacher here with a blog; I could be wrong, but I'm too lazy to check. That's what readers are for, right?) If you're one of those curious students who's found this site thanks to yellow journalism, welcome. If you're a regular, welcome back, and thank you for reading, commenting, or counter-blogging, because you make me smarter, and that's why I blog.

Dec 6, 2004


Days after an hours-long brotherly discussion on the merits of lateral thinking, among other things, I discovered this, and laughed all the way through. It's for you, Matt.


There's no use beating yourself up over blogging glut--a preponderance of great ideas that whirl around the brain like dollars in one of those Vegas money rooms, and you're trying to snatch Grants but you keep nabbing Lincolns, or nothing at all.

Incidentally, I am the first online person to use the phrase "blogging glut," another in what, hopefully, will be a long string of originalisms, itself original to me.

Back to grading 1st trimester finals.

you've been warned

Stay away from Demon Rum if you know what's good for you.

where it lies

I blame Clinton.

Dec 4, 2004

debate tournament blues

Ever get the feeling that everything has already been said?

You're wrong.

I'm adding several phrases to the lexicon; they're unavailable anywhere on the internet. Look 'em up.

  • bilge of the proletariat
  • blinkering invidiousness
  • there is no justification for humbuggery
  • expressive simplicicity and freakish anger
More later. When I'm back from Auburn HS's 22nd Annual Debatathon, that is.

Dec 2, 2004

historical views of personhood

Joe Carter loathes Peter Singer's ethics; this is not news to anyone who visits his blog. But what is surprising is that Carter's moral position contra Singer, that personhood begins at conception, is relatively recent as an article of Christian dogma. N. F. Gier explains:
Many people have the impression that the Judeo-Christian position on abortion has always been as conservative as the current prolife movement. In his book Whatever Happened to the Human Race? Francis Schaeffer implies that abortion was an unthinkable practice in Christian countries before the 20th Century. The facts, however, are quite otherwise. In Christian England before the Norman conquest, the legal powers of a father followed the Roman tradition. A father could sell his own children as slaves if they were under seven years of age and he could lawfully kill any of his children "who had not yet tasted food."(1) Infanticide was widely practiced in all Christian countries until the 19th Century. The historian Lloyd de Mause quotes a priest in 1527 who said that "the latrines resound with the cries of children who have been plunged into them." (2) Criminal law of 17th Century France listed conditions under which a father had the right to kill his own children; and English midwives of the same period had to take an oath "not to destroy the child born of any woman."(3)

Historian Joseph Kett sums up this premodern view of the child: "Parents left their infants alone for long periods, seem to have been indifferent to their welfare, could not remember their names, refused to attend funerals of children under five, routinely farmed infants out for wet nursing, and argued in divorce proceedings, not over which parent should have the infant, but over which could send it packing." (4) We should remind ourselves that Kett is not talking about pagans here but church-going Christians.

We shall see that for Catholics the killing of an "unformed" fetus was not murder until a papal decree of 1869. Canon law on this point was not changed until 1917. But today leading Catholic philosophers and theologians disagree with this change. In Protestant countries the "forming" of the fetus was called "quickening," and abortions were permissible until that time. Even when stricter abortion laws went into effect in the 19th Century, very few cases of abortion of formed fetuses were ever prosecuted. Indeed, infanticide continued to be widely practiced, especially in the late 18th Century with the rise of the Industrial Revolution.
I am not yet ready to say that I find Gier's thesis fully convincing, but he certainly creates room to doubt that fetal personhood is an inherent part of the Christian faith.

Furthermore, as Blackmun points out in his decision in Roe v. Wade,
It perhaps is not generally appreciated that the restrictive criminal abortion laws in effect in a majority of States today are of relatively recent vintage. Those laws, generally proscribing abortion or its attempt at any time during pregnancy except when necessary to preserve the pregnant woman's life, are not of ancient or even of common-law origin. Instead, they derive from statutory changes effected, for the most part, in the latter half of the 19th century.

[*130] 1. Ancient attitudes. These are not capable of precise determination. We are told that at the time of the Persian Empire abortifacients were known and that criminal abortions were severely punished. n8 We are also told, however, that abortion was practiced in Greek times as well as in the Roman Era, n9 and that "it was resorted to without scruple." n10 The Ephesian, Soranos, often described as the greatest of the ancient gynecologists, appears to have been generally opposed to Rome's prevailing free-abortion practices. He found it necessary to think first of the life of the mother, and he resorted to abortion when, upon this standard, he felt the procedure advisable. n11 Greek and Roman law afforded little protection to the unborn. If abortion was prosecuted in some places, it seems to have been based on a concept of a violation of the father's right to his offspring. Ancient religion did not bar abortion. n12
Blackmun further explains:
3. The common law. It is undisputed that at common law, abortion performed before "quickening" -- the first recognizable movement of the fetus in utero, appearing usually from the 16th to the 18th week of pregnancy n20 -- was not an indictable offense. n21 The absence [*133] of a [**717] common-law crime for pre-quickening abortion appears to have developed from a confluence of earlier philosophical, theological, and civil and canon law concepts of when life begins. These disciplines variously approached the question in terms of the point at which the embryo or fetus became "formed" or recognizably human, or in terms of when a "person" came into being, that is, infused with a "soul" or "animated." A loose consensus evolved in early English law that these events occurred at some point between conception and live birth. n22 This was "mediate animation." Although [*134] Christian theology and the canon law came to fix the point of animation at 40 days for a male and 80 days for a female, a view that persisted until the 19th century, there was otherwise little agreement about the precise time of formation or animation. There was agreement, however, that prior to this point the fetus was to be regarded as part of the mother, and its destruction, therefore, was not homicide. Due to continued uncertainty about the precise time when animation occurred, to the lack of any empirical basis for the 40-80-day view, and perhaps to Aquinas' definition of movement as one of the two first principles of life, Bracton focused upon quickening as the critical point. The significance of quickening was echoed by later common-law scholars and found its way into the received common law in this country.

Evangelicals like Carter mean well. They have to recognize, though, that respected thinkers within the Christian tradition, as well as long-standing common law, provide support for the position that legal personhood does not begin at conception--so, even if fundamentally misguided, it's not an "extremist" view. Oversimplifying the issue benefits no one.

Dec 1, 2004

I say, "Hello, Mr. Thompson"

Hugh Hewitt calls our attention to an important ethical issue, but can't help skittering along a tangent about the Mainstream Media:
MSM does not care to cover this. You figure out why. In silence is approval, and in approval, an invitation to proceed.
Funny, I thought to myself, I remember reading about that The Daily O. This morning.

Hugh, have you heard of Google? Just because it ain't in the LA Times (newspapers are notorious for waiting, when they've been "scooped," until they can find their own unique angle) doesn't mean it's been ignored by the media. (It's in the New York Times, amazingly!)

livin' the life

Tires squeal as the Olympia PD speed out of the school parking lot after a green Jeep Cherokee, and all I can think is, "Hope we don't have a lockdown on the first day of finals."