Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hummus Recipe

One of the nice things about Google is that it prefers webpages to which other people have linked. So when you search for a recipe, for example, there's a good chance that lots of people have linked to that particular recipe. Meaning, it's probably a good recipe.

That's true for this hummus recipe. The only problem was that I couldn't find a store that sold tahini, which I understand is sesame seed paste. So I bought some sesame seeds and put them in a blender. Anyway, the overall result was delicious.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Slippery Slopes

Free speech. Eminent domain. Why does the slippery slope argument appear in opposite ways in those two areas?

Let me explain. In the recent Kelo decision, the plaintiffs were very sympathetic. Yet they lost. The underlying motivation behind the majority's decision, as well as the reaction from some (note: some) liberal bloggers, seems to be something like this: "This may be a bad outcome in this particular case, but think how awful it would be if courts started protecting property rights with too much vigor! Why, we wouldn't want to risk creating a doctrine that might someday block a beneficial governmental action. So it's better just to take a hands-off approach. The majority can pretty much do what it wants."

But in free speech, the opposite occurs, all the way around. Many of the most famous free speech cases have involved plaintiffs who are not sympathetic at all, but instead who have engaged in speech of the most juvenile, obscene, or useless sort. Even activities that are not speech at all. Thus, we have famous Supreme Court cases that assumed that the First Amendment applies with full vigor to: (1) flag-burning; (2) nude dancing; (3) the production of computer-generated child p**n; (4) the burning of draft cards; (5) the wearing of a jacket that says, "F*** the Draft," (6) cross-burning, and so on. In the free speech arena, the usual thought is, "Well, this may be useless activity that barely qualifies as speech (metaphorically). Nonetheless, we the courts have to bring the full weight of the Constitution to bear here, because once the government starts regulating even the most frivolous speech, it won't be long before the government is restricting actual, valuable speech on one topic or another."

So there you have it. In one area, we have to tolerate the worst sort of private actions because we are too afraid of letting the government have any foothold to regulate. In the other area, we have to tolerate the worst sort of governmental abuses because we are too afraid of the slightest impingement on government power.

If the two areas resembled each other, however, you would see one of two arguments: (1) "We have to allow the government to regulate the most high-minded political speech, because if courts ever started enforcing the Free Speech Clause, pretty soon the government wouldn't be able to do all the valuable work of banning flag burning, nude dancing, etc." Or: (2) "The government can't ban even toxic pollution, because if the courts permitted even the slightest interference with the most harmful exercise of property rights, soon the government would be taking away poor people's houses and giving the land to private corporations."

Interesting that one never sees either of those arguments.

Cornyn Legislation

Just today, Senator Cornyn introduced federal legislation -- the "Protection of Homes, Small Businesses, and Private Property Act of 2005" -- in response to the Supreme Court's Kelo decision from last week. The text of the bill isn't available on Congress's website just yet. [UPDATE: It's available on Senator Cornyn's website.] Here's the proposed text:
(a) IN GENERAL -- The power of eminent domain shall be available only for public use.

(b) PUBLIC USE -- In this Act, the term "public use" shall not be construed to include economic development.

(c) APPLICATION -- This Act shall apply to --

(1) all exercises of eminent domain power by the Federal Government; and

(2) all exercises of eminent domain power by State and local government through the use of Federal funds.
That last clause makes the bill less effective (many local projects won't be federally funded), but is probably necessary to assure the bill's constitutionality (the Supreme Court is very lenient about conditions attached to congressional spending, whereas if Congress tried to interpret the 5th Amendment so as to apply to all situations, the Supreme Court would crack down in short order. Protecting the Court's own turf is Very Important.)

Actually, the last clause could probably be worded a little more broadly. What does it mean to have an "exercise[] of eminent domain power" that takes place "through the use of Federal funds"? Does that mean that it applies only if the federal funds are used to pay for the eminent domain? That seems to be implied by the word "through."

Or is the bill supposed to apply to any use of eminent domain power by a local development plan or agency that receives federal funds in any other aspect of its operations? If the latter, the bill should probably say, "all exercises of eminent domain power by any State and local government agency or entity that receives federal funds, or pursuant to any plan that receives federal funds.

The Ten Commandments Case

A few scattered thoughts:

1. Souter's majority opinion in McCreary striking down the display of the Ten Commandments makes a particular note of religion's "divisiveness":
Page 33: We are centuries away from the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre and the treatment of heretics in early Massachusetts, but the divisiveness of religion in current public life is inescapable.
At what point does "divisiveness" become a reason for the government not to do something? The Supreme Court's own decision is very likely to be "divisive" in and of itself. In fact, I'll bet that the Supreme Court decision is inestimably more divisive -- as it will be widely reported -- than was any Ten Commandments display in some obscure courthouse in Kentucky that hardly anyone ever saw.

2. Scalia's dissent points out that 97% of the American people believe in monotheism of some sort; the Founders were monotheistic, etc., etc. Souter responds in a very confused footnote:
There might, indeed, even have been some reservations about monotheism as the paradigm example. It is worth noting that the canonical biography of George Washington, the dissent's primary
exemplar of the monotheistic tradition, calls him a deist. J. Flexner, George Washington: Anguish and Farewell (1793?1799) 490 (1972) ("Washingon's religious belief was that of the enlightenment: deism").It would have been odd for the First Congress to propose an Amendment with Religion Clauses that took no account of the President's religion.
Huh? Souter appears to be saying that Washington was a deist rather than a monotheist. That is akin to saying that Washington couldn't have been a Virginian, because he was President. "Monotheism" simply means believing that there is ONE God, rather than zero or many. "Deism" is a form of "monotheism," which believes that the one God doesn't intervene in human affairs. (Souter may have been confused by the contrast between "deist" and "theist." But as far as I know, Souter is the first person to perceive a contradiction between "deist" and "monotheist.")

Anyway, Scalia cleared things up in his dissent:
The Court thinks it “surpris[ing]” and “truly remarkable” to believe that “the deity the Framers had in mind” (presumably in all the instances of invocation of the deity I have cited) “was the God of monotheism.” Ante, at 32. This reaction would be more comprehensible if the Court could suggest what other God (in the singular, and with a capital G) there is, other than “the God of monotheism.” This is not necessarily the Christian God (though if it were, one would expect Christ regularly to be invoked, which He is not); but it is inescapably the God of monotheism.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Broken Windows

Broken Windows: New Evidence from New York City and a Five-City Social Experiment

University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 73, 2006

University of Chicago
Law School
Georgetown University
Public Policy Institute (GPPI)
Brookings Institution
Economic Studies Program

Paper ID: U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 93

Postal: University of Chicago
Law School
1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637 UNITED STATES
Phone: 773-834-4068
Fax: 773-702-0730
Postal: Georgetown University
Public Policy Institute (GPPI)
3600 N Street, NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20057 UNITED STATES

In 1982, James Q. Wilson and George Kelling suggested in an influential article in the Atlantic Monthly that targeting minor disorder could help reduce more serious crime. More than 20 years later, the three most populous cities in the U.S. - New York, Chicago and, most recently, Los Angeles - have all adopted at least some aspect of Wilson and Kelling's theory, primarily through more aggressive enforcement of minor misdemeanor laws. Remarkably little, though, is currently known about the effect of broken windows policing on crime.

According to a recent National Research Council report, existing research does not provide strong support for the broken windows hypothesis - with the possible exception of a 2001 study of crime trends in New York City by George Kelling and William Sousa.

In this paper, we re-examine the Kelling and Sousa 2001 study and independently analyze the crime data from New York City for the period 1989-98. In addition, we present results from an important social experiment known as Moving to Opportunity (MTO) underway in five cities, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles as well as Baltimore and Boston, which provides what is arguably the first truly rigorous test of the broken windows hypothesis. Under this program, approximately 4,800 low-income families living in high-crime public housing communities characterized by high rates of social disorder were randomly assigned housing vouchers to move to less disadvantaged and disorderly communities. The MTO program thus provides the ideal test of the broken windows theory.

Taken together, the evidence from New York City and from the five-city social experiment provides no support for a simple first-order disorder-crime relationship as hypothesized by Wilson and Kelling, nor that broken windows policing is the optimal use of scarce law enforcement resources.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Thomas's Writing

There was a time when I would have readily agreed with Elena Kagan (now the dean of Harvard Law School), who said in my Administrative Law class that "Justice Scalia is the best writer that the Court has seen since Justice Jackson." I'm increasingly becoming less certain of that. Scalia's writing -- particularly in dissent -- is memorable, flamboyant, sarcastic, devastatingly witty. But at the same time, he has reportedly annoyed more moderate Justices (esp. O'Connor) with rhetoric that seems too barbed and personal. I'm beginning to think that Thomas may actually be a more effective writer -- as seen below, he can write a powerful and elegant dissent with several stinging remarks, but I've never seen a Thomas opinion that struck me as an over-the-top personal attack.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


More great quotes from Thomas's dissent:
Still worse, it is backwards to adopt a searching standard of constitutional review for nontraditional property interests, such as welfare benefits, see, e.g., Goldberg, supra, while deferring to the legislature’s determination as to what constitutes a public use when it exercises the power of eminent domain, and thereby invades individuals’ traditional rights in real property. The Court has elsewhere recognized “the overriding respect for the sanctity of the home that has been embedded in our traditions since the origins of the Republic,” Payton, supra, at 601, when the issue is only whether the government may search a home. Yet today the Court tells us that we are not to “second-guess the City’s considered judgments,” ante, at 18, when the issue is, instead, whether the government may take the infinitely more intrusive step of tearing down petitioners’ homes. Something has gone seriously awry with this Court’s interpretation of the Constitution. Though citizens are safe from the government in their homes, the homes themselves are not.
And this, after dismantling the majority's insistence that a contrary rule (i.e., disallowing public takings for the benefit of other private citizen) would be too hard to apply:
Obliterating a provision of the Constitution, of course, guarantees that it will not be misapplied.
Also not surprising is that Justice Thomas noticed the heavy racial component of many (or most) "urban renewal" projects:
The consequences of today’s decision are not difficult to predict, and promise to be harmful. So-called “urban renewal” programs provide some compensation for the properties they take, but no compensation is possible for the subjective value of these lands to the individuals displaced and the indignity inflicted by uprooting them from their homes. Allowing the government to take property solely for public purposes is bad enough, but extending the concept of public purpose to encompass any economically beneficial goal guarantees that these losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities. Those communities are not only systematically less likely to put their lands to the highest and best social use, but are also the least politically powerful. If ever there were justification for intrusive judicial review of constitutional provisions that protect “discrete and insular minorities,” United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144, 152, n. 4 (1938), surely that principle would apply with great force to the powerless groups and individuals the Public Use Clause protects. * * *

In the 1950’s, no doubt emboldened in part by the expansive understanding of “public use” this Court adopted in Berman, cities “rushed to draw plans” for downtown development. B. Frieden & L. Sagalayn, Downtown, Inc. How America Rebuilds Cities 17 (1989). “Of all the families displaced by urban renewal from 1949 through 1963, 63 percent of those whose race was known were nonwhite, and of these families, 56 percent of nonwhites and 38 percent of whites had incomes low enough to qualify for public housing, which, however, was seldom available to them.” Id., at 28. Public works projects in the 1950’s and 1960’s destroyed predominantly minority communities in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Baltimore, Maryland. Id., at 28—29. In 1981, urban planners in Detroit, Michigan, uprooted the largely “lower-income and elderly” Poletown neighborhood for the benefit of the General Motors Corporation. J. Wylie, Poletown: Community Betrayed 58 (1989). Urban renewal projects have long been associated with the displacement of blacks; “[i]n cities across the country, urban renewal came to be known as ‘Negro removal.’ ” Pritchett, The “Public Menace” of Blight: Urban Renewal and the Private Uses of Eminent Domain, 21 Yale L. & Pol’y Rev. 1, 47 (2003). Over 97 percent of the individuals forcibly removed from their homes by the “slum-clearance” project upheld by this Court in Berman were black. 348 U.S., at 30. Regrettably, the predictable consequence of the Court’s decision will be to exacerbate these effects.

Kelo v. New London

Two thoughts about today's Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, which allowed a Connecticut city to seize private property for a development plan wherein the private property would be used by other private citizens, even though the Takings Clause specifies that property can be taken only for a "public use."

1. Justice Thomas's opening paragraph in his dissent is particularly stinging:
Long ago, William Blackstone wrote that “the law of the land … postpone[s] even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable rights of private property.” 1 Commentaries on the Laws of England 134—135 (1765) (hereinafter Blackstone). The Framers embodied that principle in the Constitution, allowing the government to take property not for “public necessity,” but instead for “public use.” Amdt. 5. Defying this understanding, the Court replaces the Public Use Clause with a “'[P]ublic [P]urpose’” Clause, ante, at 9—10 (or perhaps the “Diverse and Always Evolving Needs of Society” Clause, ante, at 8 (capitalization added)), a restriction that is satisfied, the Court instructs, so long as the purpose is “legitimate” and the means “not irrational,” ante, at 17 (internal quotation marks omitted). This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold, against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a “public use.”

2. Watch carefully to see whether groups such as People for the American Way correctly portray this decision as one in which conservatives favored civil rights while liberals were effectively opposed. The Takings Clause protects a "civil right" as much as anything else in the Constitution. And it should particularly protect the "civil right" to keep your family home when someone else wants to give it to the Pfizer Corporation.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Two items

1. Classmate and good friend Leighton Moore has this op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

2. Check out Clint Bolick's online debate with Duke law professor Laura Underkuffler about school vouchers. The most striking thing is that no fewer than four times, Bolick made the point that "[a]t the post-secondary level, students are free to use their aid at public, private, or religious schools. Your school, Duke University, probably couldn't survive if students could not use Pell Grants, the G.I. Bill, and other public funds to attend." His next-to-last comment said:
I'm sorry if I sound like a broken record, but you have refused to engage my point that the millions of dollars in K-12 school choice funds pale in comparison to the billions of dollars in post-secondary school choice funds. Most private and religious universities like Duke would have to close their doors if they were excluded from Pell Grants, the G.I. Bill, and other voucher-style funds. Is your salary as a Duke law professor the result of money laundering? Lest you experience on onrush of guilt, I assure you I don't see it that way. Because, once again, the use of such public funds at Duke University, or at Brigham Young University, or at Bruce Guadaloupe School in Milwaukee, is the result of private, genuinely independent choices. Food stamps, Medicare, charitable tax deductions, subsidized mortgages—it's all the same type of neutral aid, and in our free society we let individuals choose where to use it, even in religious institutions. Everywhere, that is, except in K-12 education.
Underkuffler still refused to address that point in her next comment. Finally, in Bolick's last comment, he said:
I await your final submission with baited breath to see if you can go an entire week without responding to my repeated challenge about how we can have a postsecondary education system characterized by transportable student aid and a flourishing private and public sector, while the same system in K-12 education would result in religious jihads and the demise of public schools.
In Underkuffler's final comment, she STILL refused to answer that point. (No wonder: There's no plausible or rational answer.)

Thursday, June 16, 2005


The weekly Darfur post:
The Future of Darfur

There can be no doubt that, relatively speaking, the crisis in Darfur has generated a fair amount of attention. Journalists, human rights experts and bloggers have poured a lot of energy into raising awareness of the genocide and the 400,000 lives it has taken. Unfortunately, this focus on Darfur only highlights the lack of attention being paid to other, arguably even more horrific, crises in Africa.

For instance - Uganda
Eight people are shot, hacked and beaten to death and their bloodied corpses dragged to the middle of a dirt road for aid workers to find.

Six other fatally wounded victims are left lying nearby, screaming in agony. They die hours later.

After nearly two decades of bloodshed, Ugandans are asking why atrocities such as this May 27 attack by Lord's Resistance Army rebels still plague the traumatized people of the north -- and why they seem to have been forgotten by the world.
And the Democratic Republic of Congo
Militiamen grilled bodies on a spit and boiled two girls alive as their mother watched, U.N. peacekeepers charged Wednesday, adding cannibalism to a list of atrocities allegedly carried out by one of the tribal groups fighting in northeast Congo.

The report came as a key U.N. official said the ongoing violence in Congo, claiming thousands of lives every month, has made it the site of the world's worst humanitarian crisis.


"Several witnesses reported cases of mutilation followed by death or decapitation," the report said. The U.N. report included an account from Zainabo Alfani in which she said she was forced to watch rebels kill and eat two of her children in June 2003.

The report said, "In one corner, there was already cooked flesh from bodies and two bodies being grilled on a barbecue and, at the same time, they prepared her two little girls, putting them alive in two big pots filled with boiling water and oil."

Her youngest child was saved, apparently because at six months old it didn't have much flesh. Alfani said she was gang-raped by the rebels and mutilated. She survived to tell her horror story, but died in the hospital on Sunday of AIDS contracted during her torture two years earlier, the U.N. report said.
In Uganda, the Lord's Resistance Army has abducted some 20,000 children and forced them to become either soldiers or slaves. The attacks have displaced nearly 2 million people and every night, tens of thousands of children trek to the cities to sleep, in hopes of avoiding the rampant kidnapping. For years, the LRA had been supported by the government in Khatroum, the same government now responsible for the genocide in Darfur.

In the Congo, an estimated 3.5 million people have died of disease, starvation and violence since 1998. The situation in the Congo can be directly traced to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which itself took nearly 1 million lives. There are currently 19,000 UN peacekeepers in the Congo with a mandate to disarm the militias, but so far they only attention this peacekeeping force has received has come from allegations that soldiers are sexually abusing the residents of the DRC.

Darfur is an anomaly only to the extent that it has managed to generate a significant amount of coverage and global attention. But if the world does not act soon to address this genocide in Sudan, is it all but inevitable that it too will eventually evolve into years-long, seemingly intractable conflict such as those found in Uganda and Congo.

And as we've seen with Congo and Uganda, once that happens, the world will stop paying attention entirely.

Dorothy Sayers on Sacrifice

From Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, pages 133-35:
"Sacrifice" is another word liable to misunderstanding. It is generally held to be noble and loving in proportion as its sacrificial nature is consciously felt by the person who is sacrificing himself. The direct contrary is the truth. To feel sacrifice consciously as self-sacrifice argues a failure in love. When a job is undertaken from necessity, or from a grim sense of disagreeable duty, the worker is self-consciously aware of the toils and pains he undergoes, and will say: "I have made such and such sacrifices for this." But when the job is a labor of love, the sacrifices will present themselves to the worker -- strange as it may seem -- in the guise of enjoyment.

Moralists, looking on at this, will always judge that the former kind of sacrifice is more admirable than the latter, because the moralist, whatever he may pretend, has far more respect for pride than for love. The Puritan assumption that all action disagreeable to the doer is ipso facto more meritorious than enjoyable action, is firmly rooted in this exaggerated valuation set on pride. I do not mean that there is no nobility in doing unpleasant things from a sense of duty, but only that there is more nobility in doing them gladly out of sheer love of the job. The Puritan thinks otherwise; he is inclined to say, "Of course, So-and-so works very hard and has given up a good deal for such-and-such a cause, but there's no merit in that -- he enjoys it." The merit, of course, lies precisely in the enjoyment, and the nobility of So-and-so consists in the very fact that he is the kind of person to whom the doing of that piece of work is delightful.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Interesting Article

This looks good:
Who's so Afraid of the Eleventh Amendment

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law (Boalt Hall)
University of California at Berkeley School of Law

UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 719881
Columbia Law Review, Vol. 105, 2005

This Article argues that critics have exaggerated the impact and importance of the Eleventh Amendment cases. This is not to deny that revived judicial security for states' rights has become the signature issue of the Rehnquist Court. We examine whether the subject deserves the enormous importance that many, including a number of commentators and several Justices, have given it. We conclude that it does not. A series of doctrines, both internal and external to the Eleventh Amendment, allow the federal government to achieve its policy objectives. Preventing private plaintiffs from suing states for retrospective money damages poses at most a minor barrier to national goals when damages actions against state officers and injunctive actions realistically against state governments are readily available to accomplish all federal ends, and when the national political branches may widen the liability of state officers, or completely overcome sovereign immunity by joining a private lawsuit or using other federal powers such as the Spending or Treaty Clauses.

Overstatement of the effects of the Eleventh Amendment cases has obscured more interesting questions about the subject. If state sovereign immunity has such little practical effect, why has the Court invested so much of its time and resources in the Seminole Tribe line of rulings? We suggest that the Court's real lodestar here is not federalism, but separation of powers. That is, perhaps the Court is not so much interested in protecting states as it is (a) in centralizing the enforcement of federal law in the executive branch and (b) in pressing Congress to make clear cost-benefit decisions on the use of lawsuits to enforce federal policy. Seminole Tribe and its progeny have the effect of giving the administration greater discretion to decide whether states should be liable for money damages for violations of federal law, thus increasing democratic accountability, and of prodding the legislative branch to essentially pay the states to waive sovereign immunity.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Sandwich

Came across this in researching an antitrust issue:
Almost from the moment in 1762 when John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, sank his teeth into a piece of salt beef between two slices of toast,1 the world has been immeasurably enriched by the culinary invention that bears his name. Fame and fashion are fleeting. Our leaders are all too human. Even the loftiest ideals give way to disappointing reality. But the sandwich is tried and true: convenient, delicious, and on occasion sublime. Cf. Alice Childress, A Hero Ain't Nothing But a Sandwich (1973).

Montagu's contribution to humankind has not solely been of the epicurean variety. Sandwiches are a big business, as the present case attests. Plaintiffs are New England-area franchisees of D'Angelo Sandwich Shops. * * *

1 According to popular legend, the Earl invented the sandwich while on a gambling bender - so that he could eat a meal without leaving the card table. According to Montagu's biographer, however, the Earl merely wanted to be able to sup at his desk while working late. N.A.M. Rodger, The Insatiable Earl: A Life of John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, 1718-1792, at 79 (1994). This factual conflict is not presently before the Court.
That was Judge Rya Zobel, writing in Substantial Invs., Inc. v. D'Angelo Franchising Corp., 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17300 (D. Mass. 2004).

Thursday, June 09, 2005

More Ratzinger on Happiness

And another quote, from page 36:
Something I constantly notice is that unembarrassed joy has become rarer. Joy today is increasingly saddled with moral and ideological burdens, so to speak. When someone rejoices, he is afraid of offending against solidarity with the many people who suffer. I don't have any right to rejoice, people think, in a world where there is so much misery, so much injustice.

I can understand that. There is a moral attitude at work here. But this attitude is nonetheless wrong. The loss of joy does not make the world better -- and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the impetus and courage to do good. . . . In this connection, it always strikes me that in the poor neighborhoods of, say, South America, one sees many more laughing, happy people than among us.


Another good quote from Ratzinger's Salt of the Earth, page 29:
Question: Is the Catholic happier than others?

Answer: * * * We [normal humans] would say that the happy man is the one who has sufficient possessions. Who has the means to be able to shape a nice life for himself. We would say that someone who is cheerful and who succeeds at everything in life is happy. He says: Blessed are those who mourn. This means, in other words, that his doctrine of happiness is very paradoxical, at least compared with what we understand by that term. It is not happiness in the sense of comfort. In this respect, one can grasp quite well what conversion means. One must relinquish the customary criteria -- 'happiness is wealth, possession, power.' For precisely when one makes these things the measure, one is on the wrong path. So Catholics are not promised an 'exterior' happiness, but rather a deep interior security [Geborgensein] through communion with the Lord.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Pope Benedict

Cardinal Ratzinger chose the name "Benedict" when he was elected Pope. The following passages from a book-long interview with him (Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium, 1997) shed some light on this choice. First, keep these two passages in mind:
From page 16:

Perhaps the time has come to say farewell to the idea of traditionally Catholic cultures. Maybe we are facing a new and different kind of epoch in the Church's history, where Christianity will again be characterised more by the mustard seed, where it will exist in small, seemingly insignificant groups that nonetheless live an intensive struggle against evil and bring the good to the world -- that let God in.
Then this:
From page 264.

No one can be a Christian alone; being a Christian means a communion of wayfarers. Even a hermit belongs to a wayfaring community and is sustained by it. For this reason it must be the Church's concern to create pilgrim communities. The social culture of Europe and America no longer offers these wayfaring communities. This brings us back to the previous question about how the Church will live in this increasingly dechristianized society. It will have to form new ways of pilgrim fellowship; communities will have to shape each other more intensely by supporting eachother and living in the faith.
Now, here is what Ratzinger said about St. Benedict:
From pages 127-28:

Question: Almost up to our days it was taken for granted that artists and intellectuals were also professed members of the Church. For centuries this was in any case no problem. Rapyael, Michelangelo, Bach, great artists, were immensely creative in their willingness to serve the Church. Today, however, artists engage themselves if at all, in Greenpeace or Amnesty International.

Answer: This has to do with the historical process we just described. The public culture of the present day, represented by the media, is a culture characterized by the absence of transcendence, a culture in which Christianity is not seen as a force determining the shape of things. . . . But I am quite sure that the Church will not lack creative energies even in the future. Think of late antiquity, where Saint Benedict probably wasn't noticed at all. He was also a dropout who came from noble Roman society and did something bizarre, something that then later turned out to be the "ark on which the West survived." And in this sense, I think today there are Christians who drop out of this strange consensus of modern existence, who attempt new forms of life. To be sure, they don't receive any public notice, but they are doing something that really points to the future.
And this:
From pages 269-70:

The genuine reformers of the Church who have helped her to become simpler and at the same time to open a new access to salvation have always been the saints. Just think of Benedict, who, at the end of antiquity, created the form of life [i.e., monasticism] thanks to which the Church went through the great migrations.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

My Daughter

My older daughter is a little spitfire. Two recent incidents:

1. My wife had done something that made my daughter angry for some reason. (I can't remember -- maybe told her to stay downstairs, or something like that.) My daughter squinted her eyes, and said, “I’m going to take my wand, and I’m going to turn you into dirt, and I’m going to dig you.”

2. For a while we had two dogs, Peanut and Bear (who I wanted to name "Kitty"). My wife decided to sell one, and asked my daughter which dog we should keep. My daughter said, “I like Peanut, my favorite. I’m going to put Bear in the oven, and he’ll be dog chicken.”

That said, she's not like this all the time.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Still trying to stay away from the news, but I couldn't help seeing (and now recommending) this article about the possibility that Judge Michael McConnell might be nominated to the Supreme Court. Most of the article is informative and well-done, although this sentence was a bit bizarre:
McConnell and his wife moved from Chicago because they thought their three children should be raised in a more tranquil setting, though his detractors think it didn't hurt his judicial aspirations for him to become a constituent of powerful Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, now a big fan.
I asked McConnell in 1999 why he moved to Utah, and he spoke of how wonderful it was to be able to step outside his house and go hiking up into the mountains with his kids. It is just ludicrous to suggest -- as do these unnamed "detractors" -- that he gave up a tenured professorship at Chicago in 1997 (and an offer from Harvard in 2000, if I recall) so that he might become a "constituent" of Orrin Hatch, and thus might possibly have a minutely greater chance of being nominated to the Supreme Court 8 or 10 years down the road.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Bush on Abortion

For the past several years, Bush's mantra on abortion has been that "every child born or unborn ought to be protected in law and welcomed in life." That's what he said campaigning in Iowa in 1999. He has used the same phrase (sometimes as "welcomed in life and protected in law") on numerous occasions: While campaigning in February 2000, in an October 2000 debate with Gore, in a 2000 interview, in his 2001 message to the March for Life, in a presidential proclamation for the National Sanctity of Life Day in 2002, in a similar proclamation in 2003, in an October 2004 debate with Kerry, in his message on signing the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, in his 2005 message to the March for Life. There are probably other occasions that I haven't come across.

The phrase apparently originated in this 1996 statement published in First Things magazine. It was entitled, "The America We Seek: A Statement of Pro-Life Principle and Concern." It included this sentence: "Our goal is simply stated: we seek an America in which every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life." I had never noticed this connection before, and -- as far as LEXIS and Google are concerned -- neither has anyone else.

Some would say that Bush has been using "code words." But it is not a very successful use of code words, if only a handful of people in the entire country would know what Bush has been quoting.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


I finally saw Primer, having bought the DVD. An excellent film, particularly considering the tight budget. I can see how some people might not find it to their tastes, but if you like weird mind-bending puzzlers, check it out.