Saturday, July 31, 2010

YT channel for the nuns of the Abbaye Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation


(via Fr. Finigan)


The Economist article on ResPublic

Send for the wonks
A new government creates a new opportunity to influence policy (via PB)

Knock, knock: Rockies get record 11 straight hits in rout of Cubs (video)
Palestrina, Magnificat a 8 primi toni -- Choir of King's College, Cambridge, directed by Sir David Willcocks

An oldie by Daniel Larison

Popular “Sovereignty”

Someone cites St. Robert Bellarmine.

The Same Inference is Drawn from the Efficient Cause
The fourth argument is taken from the efficient cause. For it is certain that political power is of God, from Whom proceeds nothing that is not good and lawful. St. Augustine proves this.61 For the Wisdom of God proclaims, “By Me kings reign.”62 And below, “By Me princes rule.”63 And, “The God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, and strength, etc.”64 And, “Thy dwelling shall be with cattle and with wild beasts, and thou shalt eat grass as an ox, and shalt be wet with the dew of heaven; and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth over the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.”65

But in this place other matters should be noted. First, political power considered in general, not descending in particular to Monarchy, Aristocracy, or Democracy, comes directly from God alone; for this follows of necessity from the nature of man, since that nature comes from Him Who made it; besides, this power derives from the natural law, since it does not depend upon the consent of men; for, willing or unwilling, they must be ruled over by some one, unless they wish the human race to perish, which is against a primary instinct of nature. But natural law is Divine law, therefore, government was instituted by Divine law, and this seems to be the correct meaning of St. Paul when he says, “He that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.”66

Note, secondly, that this power resides, as in its subject, immediately in the whole state, for this power is by Divine law, but Divine law gives this power to no particular man, therefore Divine law gives this power to the collected body. Furthermore, in the absence of positive law, there is no good reason why, in a multitude of equals, one rather than another should dominate. Therefore, power belongs to the collected body. Finally, human society ought to be a perfect State, therefore, it should have the power to preserve itself, hence, to punish disturbers of the peace, etc.

Note, in the third place, that, by the same natural law, this power is delegated by the multitude to one or several, for the State cannot of itself exercise this power, therefore, it is held to delegate it to some individual, or to several, and this authority of rulers considered thus in general is both by natural law and by Divine law, nor could the entire human race assembled together decree the opposite, that is, that there should be neither rulers nor leaders.

Note, in the fourth place, that individual forms of government in specific instances derive from the law of nations, not from the natural law, for, as is evident, it depends on the consent of the people to decide whether kings, or consuls, or other magistrates are to be established in authority over them; and, if there be legitimate cause, the people can change a kingdom into an aristocracy, or an aristocracy into a democracy, and vice versa, as we read was done in Rome.

Note, in the fifth place, that it follows from what has been said that this power in specific instances comes indeed from God, but through the medium of human wisdom and choice, as do all other things which pertain to the law of nations. For the law of nations is a sort of conclusion drawn from the natural law by human reason;67 from which are inferred two differences between the political and the Ecclesiastical power, one in view of the subject, for political power resides in the people, and Ecclesiastical power in the individual, as it were immediately in the subject (on whom it devolves); the other difference is in view of the efficient cause, because political power considered in general is by Divine law, but considered in particular it is by the law of nations. Ecclesiastical power, however, considered from every point of view, is by Divine law, and immediately from God.

To which Mr. Larison responds:

I am well aware that some theologians have advanced a view contrary to that of Bonald. It should be noted that Bonald and Bellarmine are in agreement that the source of all political sovereignty is God. Sir Robert Filmer made it a point to specifically reject Cardinal Bellarmine’s arguments as part of his defense of monarchy in his Patriarcha. He was being polemical in his approach to Bellarmine, because he took Bellarmine’s position as a demonstration of the inherent hostility to monarchy in Catholicism. Bonald, a very serious Catholic, shows that such a view is false. Having taken care of those little details, let me see if I can answer Scholastic’s objections.

To turn to Bellarmine’s writings above, let me respond first to this: “Note, secondly, that this power resides, as in its subject, immediately in the whole state, for this power is by Divine law, but Divine law gives this power to no particular man, therefore Divine law gives this power to the collected body.” Why does Divine law give this power to no particular man? That may be true, but why is it necessarily so? Note that Bellarmine has to hurry to make the distinction between ecclesiastical and political orders, because he immediately sees the potentially subversive and presbyterian conclusions that might be drawn from his theory of consent, if it were applied to the Church. The question I have for Bellarmine and Scholastic is this: why does political sovereignty follow a different set of principles than when God bestows authority on particular churchmen?

What does Bellarmine mean when he refers to the “whole state”? A monarchist might understand the state and the monarch to be identical, which almost immediately dismisses his conclusion. If the state here means all of the governing institutions, then this still does not identify the state with the “collected body.” If the state means, as I assume it must, the entire polity, I see little reason why sovereignty would have to devolve and diffuse throughout the entire polity if it is not designated to any particular man.

Institutions and laws–which must have been made by some particular sovereign or sovereigns at some time in the past–are the persistence and continuing manifestation of past sovereignty. Sovereignty could continue to reside in these until a particular man or a group of men took up the task of governing. It need never devolve to the level of the subjects, and one would be hard-pressed to find an example when this has happened.

This all still leaves Bonald’s basic objection unanswered: how can subjects be sovereign, and if they are sovereign, who then obeys the laws the sovereign makes? In theory, the sovereign people are not bound to obey any law. At the very least, the claim that the people are sovereign introduces a serious confusion into the political order.

It might perhaps be theoretically possible that sovereignty would diffuse to the entire polity first, but when has it ever happened? That is not an idle question. If the theory of consent were true, then we should have real examples of when it has happened, since regimes have been changing for millennia. Yet sovereignty has never actually devolved down to the level of every person in a polity. Even mass voting of the kind we find in the world today is not really the diffusion of sovereignty of this type, except in the case of referenda, where direct democracy does actually occur. Otherwise, voting for a candidate is simply the selection of which person will wield a sovereignty that “the people” do not possess. Properly speaking, political participation itself is not really sovereignty, though it may be an act of consent to what the selected sovereign does. There was never a time in the past when a whole polity ceded its sovereignty to a theoretically representative ruler, and there has not been a time since when a whole polity has withdrawn that ancient consent.

To take the example of Rome, which Bellarmine invokes, a particular man founded it (according to the legends recorded by Livy), and set up a monarchy, which persisted until the leading senatorial families abolished the monarchy and assumed control themselves. This control persisted until such time as one among them became the supreme ruler after defeating his rivals. At no time were “the people” deciding anything. Their consent, or lack thereof, was relevant, but it was not decisive, and “the people” were not sovereign. The patrician families allowed plebeians to participate in government to a limited extent, but at no time did a change in government occur because of popular initiative, much less could anyone confuse plebeian powers with popular sovereignty. Even those leading political figures who may have acted in what they regarded to be the interests of the plebeians, such as a Marius or Caesar, were nonetheless aristocrats wielding authority themselves. Except for the office of tribune, the plebeians had essentially no say, much less the ultimate power, in the affairs of the state. The state and the people were not synonymous, and even today when this identity is theoretically accepted as the official doctrine it is still not true. This is not just a practical reality of government (i.e., that some elite must always govern), but a reality that disproves any and all theories of consent or power derived from the people.

Bellarmine also says: “Furthermore, in the absence of positive law, there is no good reason why, in a multitude of equals, one rather than another should dominate.” There is rarely an absence of positive law concerning this matter, but let’s leave that aside for the moment. I might ask where such a “multitude of equals” has ever existed. How are they equal? Not in political or martial talents–some will excel others in these. Their excellence in political arts would seem to provide a “good reason” for their dominance. All are not equal in wisdom or virtue or intelligence. There are plenty of “good reasons” why some should be rulers or leaders rather than others. Even if sovereignty did somehow devolve to the entire polity, how often has it happened that this polity (even allowing for the traditional exclusionary rules about who actually belongs to a polity) has actually chosen its leader? One might cite ancient German tribes in time of war–which is obviously an exceptional situation–or ancient Athens, but even this selection of leaders by the leading men of a community has been relatively unusual before the modern age. It is hard to understand how natural law could require something that has failed to obtain in virtually every polity in history, including more than a few Christian polities (which have the best chance of being in accord with natural law of any, I would think).

But I would also insist on remembering that Bonald here is discussing sovereignty primarily in terms of the actual power to rule and make laws–even in Athens, those tribes or any current democratic republic this sovereignty does not, and could not, reside in the people. This is clear in the quote. An extension of this is that “the people” do not form the government in some primordial time, nor is it necessary for them to choose their governors (though there is nothing in Bonald’s quote that necessarily rejects this–he addresses the problems of republics and democracies elsewhere).

When has popular sovereignty ever really existed? It sounds nice in a way, but so do many falsehoods. In an interregnum or in a transition from one regime to another, the leading men of the major families, or a senate or a council of nobles would be the ones to decide the future of the government. Changes in government, even our own, have never occurred because “the people” withdrew their consent from the existing authority and created their own. Changes occur because men already in or near positions of power alter their relationship with the existing authority, and then present subjects with a new authority to which they then submit themselves. Their consent, such as it is, is nothing other than their submission to a different set of governors. In America, some of “the people” actually chose the individuals who govern them, but this is just a practical convention. It does not demonstrate that sovereignty derives from the people.

In fact, the sovereignty of the rebel legislatures and Continental Congress, whence our own government originally comes, was simply seized by the men who made up these bodies. At best, according to the rebels, their right to seize this power stemmed from English constitutional law, which is to say that the sovereignty claimed by the rebels of 1776 derived from concessions extracted from the English sovereign by Parliament and/or the nobility. If we were to grant the legality of the rebellion, even then we would have to say that it was legal only because of a sovereign act of a past monarch, whose authority never really ascended from “the people.” In the case of Charles I (Petition of Right of 1628), he claimed his authority to be by the grace of God, and in the case of William III (Bill of Rights of 1689) the most that anyone could say about him is that he possessed his authority through inheritance and the authority of Parliament. The people simply don’t enter into it, even when parliamentarians may become very serious and claim to represent “the people.”

Submission to an authority is the sign of consent, even if it is only tacit and grudging, and consent includes, at the very least, this obedience to an authority. In this sense, one might speak of popular consent to a regime without implying that “the people” created or chose the regime. They may either accept it, or reject it, which is rebellion. There are conditions, I agree, where rebellion may be justified in a time of genuinely unjust rule, but this is not “the people” reclaiming their delegated sovereignty. It is the rebellion of subjects who are demanding redress of the injustices committed against them. Most historical rebellions prior to the democratic age invoked the king as their protector, because they did not suppose that they possessed any right to rule or govern, and in many monarchical states liberal revolutionaries did not actually topple their monarchs but beseeched them to grant subjects a constitution and representative government. It is even conceivable that a province or area might rebel against one ruler and then adhere itself to another ruler, or have its own ruler, but at no time is sovereignty really possessed by “the people.”

Looking at it another way, one might grant that republican or democratic regimes do rely on the principle of popular sovereignty, even if it is never realised in fact, and that these regimes are maladaptive and dysfunctional regimes precisely because they base themselves on a false foundation.

Someone else asks Mr. Larison to reconcile his quote from De Bonald with a passage from the Declaration of Independence. The first reply:

To answer your question more directly, Jon, I think the War for Independence could be defended as the legitimate rebellion of subjects against what they deemed to be tyrannical government, and that they were claiming only those rights due them as English subjects. Ignoring for the moment that I don’t believe their rights were really violated (certainly not to the point where it could be called tyranny), I would then say that the War for Independence was justified under the English constitution, provided that we recognise that popular sovereignty has nothing to do with it. I regard the theory that government is based on the consent of the governed to be an unfortunate deformation of the traditional right to rebel against tyranny. It serves as a valuable safeguard against abusive government, but I do not regard it as an entirely true statement about the origin or legitimacy of government.

I refer you to David Hume’s view of this theory: “And nothing is a clearer proof, that a theory of this kind is erroneous, than to find, that it leads to paradoxes, repugnant to the common sentiments of mankind, and to the practice and opinion of all nations and all ages. The doctrine, which founds all lawful government on an original contract, or consent of its people, is plainly of this kind…” Or here he argues again: “I maintain, that human affairs will never admit of this consent; seldom of the appearance of it. But that conquest or usurpation, that is, in plain terms, force, by dissolving the ancient governments, is the origin of almost all the new ones, which were ever established in the world. And that in the few cases, where consent may seem to have taken place, it was commonly so irregular, so confined, or so much intermixed either with fraud or violence, that it cannot have any great authority.”

One final follow-up: the Declaration refers to the purpose of government as securing “natural rights,” which introduces another problem. It is true that government is established to secure the necessities of society and life, so there is some basic agreement with Jefferson about the things to be protected (I would have kept property in the document instead of ‘pursuit of happiness’). However, I don’t know that I would call any of those things “natural rights,” but that is a debate for another day.

Incidentally, if life, liberty and ‘pursuit of happiness’ are the things the government must protect, lest it lose the consent of the governed, then the rebellion really had no serious basis. No fundamental liberty was threatened, the government was not endangering the lives of the colonists through either oppression or negligence, and their lawful commerce and way of life was not noticeably impeded in any meaningful way. I grant that they perceived it very differently, but that does not change that they were really greatly overreacting.

Clyde Wilson on the Federal Union

CHT: From Union to Empire by Clyde N. Wilson. I believe this essay appears in the book of the same name, but the book is in storage and not here so I cannot check.

That happy old Union was a friendly contract—the states managing their own affairs, joining together in matters of defense, and enjoying free trade among themselves, and indeed, enjoying free trade with all the world, because the Constitution, as it sometimes forgotten, required all taxes to be uniform throughout the Union and absolutely forbade taxation of the exports of any state. The federal government was empowered to lay a modest customs duty to raise revenue for its limited tasks, but otherwise had no power to restrict or assist enterprises.

That is what the States United meant to our Founders—a happy Union of mutual consent and support. It did not mean a government that dictated the arrangement of every parking lot in every public and private building in every town, and the kind of grass that a citizen must plant around his boat dock. It did not mean the incineration of women and children who might have aroused the ire of a rogue federal police force, unknown to the Constitution and armed as for a foreign enemy. It did not mean that billions would be spent (as in Kuwait) restoring an oriental despot to his throne; or that a hero would be made out of the successful general who killed more women, children, soldiers trying to surrender, and his own men than he did armed enemies. Had George Washington been confronted with these things, he would have reached for his sword.

The American Founders knew that republican societies were fragile—that they tended to degenerate into empires if extended beyond a small state, though they hoped the federal principle would block this tendency in America. Their definition of self-government was the superiority of the community to its rulers. In a reversal of the age-old pattern of mankind, the rulers (a necessary evil) became delegates of the community temporarily assigned to take care of some part of the public business. In an empire, like the one from which they had seceded, the public business. In an empire, like the one from which they had seceded, the community existed for the support and gratification of the rulers. A republican America was to be governed in interest of the communities that made it up; its rulers were ‘responsible.’ An empire, to the contrary, was governed by the needs, ideas, interests, even whims, of the rulers. A republic passes over into empire when political activity is no longer directed toward the well-being of the people but for the benefit of their rulers. That is to say, an empire’s government reflects management needs, and reflects the desires and will of those who control the machinery, rather than the interests and will of those being governed. Who can doubt that we are now an empire? The American people no longer think of the government as theirs, but as a hostile, manipulative, unjust, and unresponsive distant ruler.

A republic goes to war to defend itself and its vital interests, including possibly its honour. Empires go to war because going to war is one of things irresponsible rulers do. The point of reference for a republic is its own well-being. An empire has no point of reference except expansion of its authority. Its foreign policy will be abstract, and will reflect on the vagaries of mind of the rulers, who might, for instance, proclaim that it is their subjects’ duty to establish a New World Order, whatever the cost to their own blood and treasure. Who can doubt that once-proud republican Union of the states is now an empire?

An empire contains not free citizens, but subjects, interchangeable persons having no intrinsic value except as taxpayers and cannon fodder. So, if the governors of an empire should feel it easier for them to placate criminals that to punish them, they will turn over the neighborhoods and schools of their subjects to criminals, and even punish officers of the law for acting too zealously against the criminal class, thus violating the first rule of good government, which is the preservation of order. A people’s culture may be changed by imperial edict to reflect a trumped-up multiculturalism (a sure sign of an empire), or their religion persecuted. And, of course, violating one of the essential rules of republicanism, that the laws be equal to all, the imperialists exempt themselves from the commands they lay down for the rest of us. The republican right of self-government and the right of self-determination both necessarily incorporate the right of secession—that a people may withdraw from an imperial power to defend its liberty, property, culture, and faith.

We know the problems. Where should we look for solutions? Changing the personnel of the White House, the Congress, and the Supreme Court has been of little avail. Thomas Jefferson gives the answer: our most ancient and best tradition, states’ rights. In his first inaugural address, Jefferson remarked that in most ways American were happily situated, and then asked:

What more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens—a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits… and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

But to preserve this form of government? What should we do, or not do? Jefferson answered: preserve elections (not the party system), maintain equal justice under the law, rely on the militia, avoid the debt, maintain the freedoms of speech, religion, and trial by jury, and avoid entangling alliances. And most important: ‘the support of the state governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies.

These past few days I've been thinking about writing whether conservatives can really do anything about reform...

Should we make ourselves noticeable (by joining certain movements and groups), or should we strive to be virtuous? Those who are in the position to should work for a reinvograted state sovereignty and relocalization, especially those in state governments, should do so, even if they attract the notice of the Federal Government and the elites. The rest of us can be virtuous citizens without fanfare, by contributing to the buildling up of community. Even if we are stuck in a community with which we do not share much in common in terms of moral ideals, to practice charity and love of the common good is paramount.

Still, the question of the end of society and its implications for culture of has not been settled in my mind yet. Relative cultural homogeneity seems necessary for a political community to persist, but even if there was not a problem of unassimilated immigrants, there is the problem of the loss of traditional Anglo-American culture in many states. It has been supplanted by liberalism, antagonistic to traditional morals and destructive of communal life.

Many have judged that the old American Union is gone, and restoring the old constitutional order is impossible because those who enter the Federal Government, even so-called conservatives, even on the Supreme Court, do not respect the limits set by the Constitution. (Most recently, Paul Gottfried has reminded us that most Americans are content with the existence of the welfare state, even if they quibble about certain programs or dollar amounts: Is Big Government Here to Stay?)

Dr. Wilson continues:

The sovereignty of the people, in which we all believe, can mean nothing except, purely and simply, the people of each state acting in their sovereign constitution-making capacity—as they did in the American Revolution when they threw off their king and assumed their own sovereignty, making their constitutions. This was a revolution in the sense of a transfer of the locus of sovereignty, not in the sense of social upheaval. The people of each state ratified the Constitution as freely consenting sovereigns, agreeing to make an instrument, limited and precise, for some of their common business.

The case of South Carolina is illustrative but not unusual. The people of South Carolina were sovereign and independent before the Declaration of Independence. Through their own governor, legislature, courts, and armed forces they were exercising every sovereign power—taxation, war, treaty-making, and the execution of felons. The week before the Declaration of Independence, Colonel Moultrie and the South Carolina forces, from their palmetto log fort on Sullivan’s Island, repulsed and defeated a British fleet that threatened to suppress their sovereign self-government.

The question is not altered by the fact that the Union has been expanded to fifty states. The founding fathers wisely made the Union expansible. The Congress may admit new states (or not), but the federal government does not create new states. States create themselves. The federal government may administer the territory, the land, before statehood, but only the sovereign people can adopt a constitution and incorporate themselves into a political society. Only by a sovereign act of free consent can a state ratify the U.S. Constitution—if we believe in government of the people. This is as true of the new states as of the old, of Montana as of South Carolina—if we believe the people are sovereign.

Americans are natural republicans, not monarchists or aristocrats. That is, we believe government rests upon consent of the governed—that is the key phrase of the Declaration of Independence. Government is legitimate in just so far as it rests upon consent, that is, the people accede to the government. The opposite of accede is to secede—the withdrawal of consent from an oppressive government. That is the only really effective restriction on power, in the final analysis.

One may be critical of the rhetoric employed in the Declaration of Independence. But it would be wrong to criticize the notion that the consent of the governed is required with respect to the Federal Government, or to say that the social compact theory of the Federal system is incorrect.
Social contract/social compact theory with respect to a particular political community is probably wrong (I haven't seen a version articulated that harmonizes with classical political theory or the Natural Law). To apply it to the states, which were sovereign, would be wrong. However, the Federal Government does get its authority from the people, as mediated by the states. (As for the source of the authority of the states, how was that answered by the Founding Fathers? From the people alone? Or from God, mediated by the people?) Those powers not delegated to the Federal Government remain reserved to the states. It is wrong to think of the Federal Union as being a single nation-state and making negative judgments accordingly about the rhetoric employed concerning authority, liberty, and so on. And yet this is the mistake that many Catholics make in their analysis.

The question of revolution and removing authority from those holding office is a tricky one--we should be careful about leaping to conclusions in a zeal to oppose liberalism lest we overlook what might be true in certain writings, especially if they may be consonant with what medieval and modern Catholic theologians wrote about political theory. (Which is not to say that attempts to link St. Robert Bellarmine to the Declaration of Independence are historically correct or the attempts to appropriate his writings in defense of the American "Revolution" are faithful to what he thought. I remain undecided on these questions.)

From Union to Empire: Essays in the Jeffersonian Tradition
South Carolina League of the South

The Essential Aims and Ends of Government by Richard E. Wagner
(via The Western Confucian)

The Role of Robert Bellarmine in the Filmer-Locke Debate
The Bellarmine-Jefferson Legend and the Declaration of Independence By David Schley Schaff

I haven't been able to find the exact title for that short book about Bellarmine that I was thinking of when I wrote the last part of the post...

Catholic Founder: Charles Carroll by Bradley J. Birzer
How Charles Carroll Influenced U.S. Founding Fathers (Part 1)
Part 2
EWTN archive

A discussion of Dr. Rao's Founding Fathers vs. Church Fathers

Started on July 28.

Dom André Louf


I first learned of him and his passing, which happened several weeks ago, through Stephen Hand.

Father André Louf has passed from this world to the Father
Dom André Louf est mort
Metropolitan Hilarion expresses condolences over death of Father Andre Louf
Communio: Fr André Louf, OCSO RIP - Communio

The Way of the Cross at the Colosseum With the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, Presiding
Good Friday 2004
Meditations by Abbot André Louf
(for the text in other languages, go here and scroll down to Holy Week 2004)

A Vow of Conversation: Syrian Fathers
Dom André Louf on the Liturgy of the Heart
Conference by Dom André Louf on Simeon of Taibouthèh

Some of his books:
Teach us to Pray (doc)
B&N: Teach Us to Pray

From Cistercian Publications:
The Cistercian Way
Grace Can Do More
Mercy in Weakness
Tuning in to Grace
The Way of Humility


Cistercian Studies Quarterly
Bill Bonner, Three Out of Four Economists are Wrong

Sandro Magister on the appointment of the papal delegate to the LCs

Goodbye, Old Legion. All the Powers of the New General
As the pope's delegate, Archbishop De Paolis has full authority over everything and everyone. For Corcuera, Garza, and the other heads of the congregation founded by Marcial Maciel, the end is in sight. But they're still resisting

(via Life After RC)

More by Josquin des Prez

Some secular pieces:

Friday, July 30, 2010

An interesting discussion about Vatican II

and whether there were any changes in the Church's teaching (and the nature of these teachings) at WWWTW--see the comments to The Manhattan Declaration and Christian Principles.

Getting old?

There was a rerun of Smallville tonight, so I decided to watch while cooking dinner. In "Conspiracy," a dismembered arm is shown, revealing what the resurrected medical examiner had done to the Kandorians he had kidnapped. It could be that the director intended to evoke horror with this sight, and it did for me. But I felt even more disgust at the fact that this was shown in the first place. (Between 8 and 9!) But is this the case with the average member of the audience? It was another opportunity to ask how desensitized we have become to such images.

When I was in 5th grade, I started reading a copy of Ian Fleming's Dr. No, which my friend RL had lent me. I got to the part in which one of James Bond's allies is burnt alive by an armored vehicle's flame thrower. The description of the body after it had been burned was very short, but it was sufficient to provoke someone with an imagination. I didn't want to read any more so I gave the book back to my friend. He was a bit upset, since I had asked to borrow it and returned it to him so soon, having lost interest in reading the book. I didn't want to explain why I no longer wanted to read it.

After a certain age I had become accustomed to onscreen violence in action movies, though graphic images that are staple in horror movies were not part of my normal viewing fare. That wasn't an interest, despite my curiosity about the monsters and killers in horror movies and the fear they caused... Up until fairly recently I could deal with graphic images, but my aversion to them is growing.

Edit. Just read about what the director of Saw wants to do next: 90 Kills in 90 Minutes.
I think there is a case that what children read and see should be limited, as they have strong imaginations and can be psychologically harmed. It is a lesson that is lost on the many parents who permit their children to see horror movies.

An excerpt from Bye Bye, Miss American Empire

Bill Kauffman, Wherein We Meet Genial Radicals by the Shores of Lake Champlain

Bye Bye, Miss American Empire

More from Counterpunch:
Gareth Porter, Bomb Iran? Neocon Nutballs Ramp Up Campaign
Patrick Cockburn, Getting Out of Afghanistan
Chase Madar, Torturing the Rule of Law at Obama's Gitmo
Mike Whitney, Trillions for Wall Street
Dave Lindorff, National Insecurity Complex
Conn Haliinan, The Great Myth of Counter-Insurgency


William Astore, Our Military's Disturbing Transition to Warriors (via Russell Arben Fox)

One could argue that the Federal Government and the Union Army have not actually promoted the idea of a citizen-soldier since the 1860s, if not before, and certainly using the military to prop up an empire seems counter to republicanism. The best way to maintain the ethos of the citizen-soldier would be to keep state and local militias, and to avoid engaging in 'unnecessary' wars abroad. (D.W. Sabin has a pointed comment in response to Professor Fox's post.)

Is it possible to be a warrior and a citizen-soldier? It depends on what sort of values (or virtues) are being held up for adoption. One does not want to be a warrior in the way the Spartans were. Aristotle criticizes them for being concerned only with war, and not realizing that war is for the sake of peace (and leisure). But he also points out that polities/republics are exemplified by the citizen's possession of martial virtues.

Perhaps the use of warrior imagery and language is necessary in a time when masculine ideals are being lost and society is growing increasingly soft. A change in language is not really the problem, given that military culture is beset with feminism and a 2GW mentality, and careerism affects the officers corps (at least those who aspire to have a nice office in the Pentagon), and the union is no longer a republic. Fixing the language without fixing the real political and cultural problems is rather pointless.

Happy Birthday Sarge!

By special request:

(I replaced this video with the above. Alt.)


Rob Hopkins, ‘Localism’ or ‘Localisation’? Defining our terms

Transition Culture

One might tentatively argue that localism therefore focuses on political structures, the devolution of governance, the application of subsidiarity to democracy, while localisation focuses instead on the practicalities of building more localised economies, in terms of food, energy, manufacturing and so on, which may necessarily include governance (a distinction explored in Table 6.1).

Assumptions shared by Localism and Localisation

◦Local people should have more control over local services and decision-making
◦Stronger local government and increased accountability is a good thing
◦Community ownership and the Right to Buy are important

Assumptions Not Shared by Localism and Localisation

◦Localisation is underpinned by an ethic of sustainability: this does not necessarily enter into localism
◦Localisation embodies the Proximity Principle, arguing that where money flows from and to are important, and that what can be produced locally should be consumed locally where possible: localism sees itself within the context of business-as-usual economic globalisation
◦Localism seeks to reduce the role of the state and of ‘big government’, localisation can happen within the context of stronger government, indeed it argues that addressing global issues such as climate change or resource scarcity will require strong government alongside community engagement
◦Localism seeks to transfer state assets (schools, hospitals etc.) into community ownership: localisation focuses more on control rather than ownership of those assets, and seeks to bring key local functions (food production, building development, energy generation) currently in the private sector into community ownership
◦Localisation argues for a different relationship between consumers and producers, localism has no such critique
◦Localisation seeks to increase tightness of feedbacks, so that consequences of resource use are felt closer to home (i.e. local food production): localism operates in the context of economic globalisation, with no concept of feedbacks.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

FPJ has posted some articles by Thomas Molnar

Dr. Molnar passed away last week.

Intellectuals, Experts, and the Classless Society

Tradition and Social Change

Islam on the Move

The Next Area of Unrest: East-Central Europe

Responsibilities of a migrant. And who owes land?

The right to migrate is not the same as the right to join a political community. I've speculated before that the right to migrate is joined in part to land and other natural resources being common goods. One has the right to move elsewhere in order to supply for their physical needs. As a consequence, they can settle there and establish some sort of community. Because of man by nature is ordered to living in community, he should first of all move in a group, not individually or with a family. If he seeks to join another group, then he should find one with which he already has some social ties and shares a common culture, and while his request to be with them should probably be granted out of hospitality (guest-hospitality of the Greeks or what not), it is nonetheless provisional. His acceptance does not mean that he is entitled to the full rights and benefits of citizenship.

I have also mentioned the responsibilities of a migrant in passing elsewhere. Off the top of my head, I am thinking primarily of the responsibility to adopt the culture of the host community (in so far as it is not forbidden by the natural law), and to embrace its mores and language, and to offer one's loyalty to the people and devotion to the common good. If his heart does not lie first of all with his host community, at the very least he should not expect to be considered one of its own, but to remain an outsider. If he desires to be a member of the host community, he owes out of justice complete participation in its economy, as the the network of economic exchanges from which he seeks to benefit is ordered to the good of the community (of the members who make up that community), and not to the good of another community. (Hence there is a moral dilemma for those who leave family behind in their native community and are obligated to provide them with financial support, plus whatever other obligations he owes to other members of his native community.)

If he remains an outsider, he may be morally free to send money home. And it may be that he is owed a family wage for his work, and not merely a wage that will support him individually. Still, does the host community have a right to decline him the right to participate in the economy? (So long as it provides him with some means to work and sustain himself?)

A tentative response to the question I raised here, "If secular governments are unwilling to part with the territory they control, even though land is a common good, then how can the right to move (for the sake of improving life) not be transformed into the right to immigrate?" It seems to me that the claim to land and so on should first be pressed in their native country, not in a foreign country. We can look at a concrete example, Mexico, and ask how many in Mexico are forced to leave and look for work elsewhere because of the lack of social justice in that country? Isn't it incumbent upon the Mexican government to satisfy the claim to land and such, before any other political community? And if the Mexican government fails to meet its obligation, forcing another political community to do so, then does that political community have the right to seek redress/compensation from the Mexican government?

(I ignore at the moment the complicity of U.S. companies, and by extension the Federal Government, in promoting social injustice in Mexico.)
Zenit: Bishops on Injunction of Parts of Arizona Law
"Put Aside Partisan Divisions ... Fix the Broken Immigration System"

Do the American bishops recognize any limits to immigration? What if it were proposed that illegal immigrants could stay, provided that they assimilate and that citizenship were withheld from them for at least 25 years, until it could be determined that they had assimilated, and that there would be a moratorium on all legal immigration until these former illegal immigrants had been absorbed. Would they agree to this?

"Our nation needs a program that would allow needed workers to enter the country legally. This program must include protection of worker rights."

What of justice for American workers? And when those who control the political economy seeks to exploit cheap labor (and seek compliant voters), can we really say that workers are needed from other countries, when there are many who are currently seeking work?

The signers of the letter:
Most Rev. James S. Wall
Bishop of Gallup

Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted
Bishop of Phoenix

Most Rev. Eduardo A. Nevares
Auxiliary Bishop of Phoenix

Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas
Bishop of Tucson

I Hate Luv Storys


official site

Adam K. Webb, Have We Forgotten the Women?

Have We Forgotten the Women?

There are "traditional" women who write about marriage, family, and other topics that are of interest to them. The number of those who write about politics and economics from a traditional conservative viewpoint is much less. Even those who are able to do so prefer to write about things that are "closer to home."

Anyway... Mr. Webb writes:

To be sure, many such thinkers did have one blind spot regarding women. Aristotle and Aquinas, for example, both assumed women’s generally limited capacity to attain excellence of an intellectual and political sort. But we must be careful to distinguish between the argument about what human beings should aspire to, on the one hand, and a practical (mis)judgement about how likely any person is to reach the goal. Those misjudgements rested on facts that would be hard to deny in any premodern society. As none other than Simone de Beauvoir noted in the 1940s, going from one pregnancy to another in rapid succession did effectively rule women out of callings in which they would have displayed the qualities praised by male intellectuals. This was a practical constraint, not a matter of content bias.

This aspect is also criticized by John Finnis in Aquinas.

Now that women have the vote and hold political office, do we have proof of the contrary? "I doubt it." Those who subscribe to HBD and the like will talk about the distribution curves for intelligence for males and females, and how they differ. Etc. etc.

Hawaiian Libertarian: A Clarification on Game

2 from Cal Catholic Daily on Catholic education

Otherwise there’s no point in having Catholic schools”
New accreditation standards will require Catholic schools to teach the faith

(Standards for the schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.)

“The abandonment of Catholic education”
What a small Dominican school in Berkeley plans to do about it
By Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP
President, Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley

Anne Rice reverts to being a modern American

Anne Rice: "I quit being a Christian" (via Br. GM)

She identifies with "Christ" but not the institution or the organized religion. Modernism, anyone?

An update on Miles Jesu

Via Renegade Trads, a statement from the Commissary, Fr. Barry Fischer, C.PP.S.:


1.In the spring of 2007 the Founder of Miles Jesu, Fr. Alfonso Durán, was removed from the office as Superior General, a position which he filled since the founding of the Ecclesial Family in 1964. Due to serious mental and physical health problems he was judged unable to continue in his position by the ecclesial authorities. Almost at the same time, thirteen members of Miles Jesu presented a request for an investigation into the Institute, indicating in their request alleged irregularities in the practices of Miles Jesu. The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, his Emminence Camillo Ruini, in conjunction with the Congregation of Religious, initiated an Apostolic Visitation under the guidance of Fr. Anthony McSweeney, SSS.

During the Apostolic Visitation a number of irregularities and questionable practices came to light in the sworn testimonies of many members. Also the behavior of Fr. Durán in regards to certain questionable conduct and his exercise of authority came to light. The conclusion of the Apostolic Visitation was that an outside person should be called in to work with the Ecclesial Family in order to correct these situations and to work with the members in the renewal of the Institute.

2.In a Decree issued on March 25, 2009, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Pope’s Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, named me, Fr. Barry Fischer, C.PP.S., as Commissary for Miles Jesu invested with full authority. The mandate is to write a new Constitution which defines the charism, spirituality, and apostolic nature of the Institute; to develop adequate vocational discernment and formation policies (ratio formationis); to review the financial policies, and in general to completely revise all its practices and customs.

During the past seventeen months, I have worked closely with the membership in pursuit of this mandate, as well as with former members who have left during or after the Apostolic Visitation. In time it has become clear and undeniable, that the Founder, Fr. Alfonso Durán, presented erratic behaviors that were totally beyond the scope of the powers given to him. Some members have identified wounds caused by the inappropriate exercise of authority under his leadership. The mistaken sense of allegiance and obedience instilled in the membership facilitated his behavior, which was totally unacceptable and not in accord with the discipline of the Church nor supportable in any way by a healthy sense of consecrated life.

Members who challenged his actions or behavior were often ostracized. The internal discipline and customs of the Institute provided protection for the Founder. It must be said in justice, that most of the members had no idea of the improper conduct of the Founder. Some of the allegations against Fr. Duran are hearsay and have not been verified. However, many are factual. It is important for all that the truth be disclosed, which is the reason for this public statement.

3.During this year and a half of my ministry with Miles Jesu I have come to know and admire the membership and the charitable projects of the Institute. All are filled with love of God and a sincere desire to dedicate their lives to God’s service and to the Church. Members are actively involved in the drawing up of new Constitutions and a complete review of the customs and practices of the Institute in the spirit of the Gospel and in fidelity to the teachings of the Church. Particular attention will be paid to developing new government structures ensuring the proper exercise of authority and promoting an active participation and co-responsibility of the members in the life of the Institute.

4.In my personal contact with Cardinal Vallini, I perceive that he wishes to assure the membership and also the lay associates (“Vinculum”) of his concern and of his assurance that he accompanies them in this process with his prayers and with his conviction that the membership today has a right to a future. We are in close communication as he follows with interest the process of renewal we are undertaking.

5.As Commissary and in the name of the Church, I wish to express my deep concern for all those members, former members and family members who may have been hurt in the past due to the manner in which authority was exercised. I also am personally grateful for those members who had the courage to solicit the intervention of the Congregation of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, thus bringing to light the situations under question.

6.Though this communication may come as a surprise and be painful to many members, Vinculum members, and friends of Miles Jesu, the truth cannot be hidden. Only in truth can a better and healthier future for Miles Jesu be achieved. The work of renewal is already in progress and there is enthusiasm for the future that the members are building together. United in prayer and in fraternal love, and assured of the Church’s motherly care, we will get through this time of difficulty and come to the dawning of a new day. We walk towards that day in hope and trust in God’s loving care and protection.
Fr. Barry Fischer, C.PP.S.
Miles Jesu

28 July 2010

Wikileaks (from a comment at Renegade Trads):
I have edited this post about the recent hit pieces against Dr. Alcuin Reid (and by association Cardinal Pell and Pope Benedict XVI and the Church in general). I may take down the post eventually, but I thought at the very least I should edit it to include a defense of Dr. Reid based on the communication from a commentator that there is a lack of evidence to support the claims made against him, and by extension, his superiors.

Richard Heinberg, Beyond the Limits to Growth

EB, Post Carbon Institute

In 1972, the now-classic book Limits to Growth explored the consequences for Earth’s ecosystems of exponential growth in population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion.1 That book, which still stands as the best-selling environmental title ever published, reported on the first attempts to use computers to model the likely interactions between trends in resources, consumption, and population. It summarized the first major scientific study to question the assumption that economic growth can and will continue more or less uninterrupted into the foreseeable future.

the full report (pdf)

The Oil Drum staff evaluates claims made by Matt Simmons on the Deepwater Spill

A Critical Examination of Matt Simmons’ Claims on the Deepwater Spill

Anthony E. Clark interviews Cardinal Zen

via Insight Scoop: The Church's Fight for Survival in China | Special Report | Anthony E. Clark, Ph.D. | Catholic World Report

Andrew Bacevich, The End of Military History

@TAC, Tom Dispatch

No one doubted that Israelis (regionally) and Americans (globally) enjoyed unquestioned military dominance. Throughout Israel’s near abroad, its tanks, fighter-bombers, and warships operated at will. So, too, did American tanks, fighter-bombers, and warships wherever they were sent.

So what? Events made it increasingly evident that military dominance did not translate into concrete political advantage. Rather than enhancing the prospects for peace, coercion produced ever more complications. No matter how badly battered and beaten, the “terrorists” (a catch-all term applied to anyone resisting Israeli or American authority) weren’t intimidated, remained unrepentant, and kept coming back for more.

Military dominance -- with respect to the size of their armed forces and the weapons technology available to them. But what of the use of 4GW by their opponents? If these two states are unable to secure victory by military means, do they really have military dominance? It's not merely a question of having the political will.

Professor Bacevich's latest book is Washington Rules. TomCast interview (mp3)

Book Tour
Appearance and book-signing in Boston on August 3:
Brookline Booksmith

In Washington, D.C. on August 5:
Andrew Bacevich - Washington Rules | Politics and Prose

Hrm... He'll be in SF on Aug. 12 and Berkley on Aug. 13. Rather than trying to see him in Boston whenever I visit that city next, I should take advantage of his visit to the Bay Area to meet him.

Mark Sisson on Grok's leisure

He makes some of the claims used by anarcho-primitivists to extol the hunter-gatherer's way of life over what we reckon to be civilization: What Grok Can Teach Us About Leisure Time. However, Mr. Sisson is more balanced in his views:

The point here is not to put the hunter-gatherer existence on a pedestal or to declare them executive geniuses of time management. I’ve said numerous times before that there is much I don’t envy in Grok’s existence, the constant threat of ferocious predators being the most obvious. Nonetheless, there’s something to be gained, I think, in contemplating the disparity between our lives and those of our ancient ancestors. Our modern culture with its penchants for motion, commotion, individualism, productivity and specialization tries to sell us the idea that this is normal and ideal – that it’s not the way it’s always been only because it’s the pinnacle of ever moving progress. We’d better keep up, or we’ll be left behind. Even the little free time we do have is too often filled with the obligatory chores of modern life: yard keeping, house cleaning, car maintenance and endless errands. As for vacations and longer breaks, we better come back with a good story or we clearly just wasted good time. The modern practice of leisure is co-opted by achievement.

Shouldn’t leisure be more enjoyable, more life-giving, more leisurely? When it comes to real R&R, what can our ancestors’ example teach us? For example, we sometimes imagine that if we can just “manage” our time better and organize our lives better that we’ll be happier and more relaxed. Maybe we need less to manage in the first place. (That goes double for the kids.) We need more impressive weekend plans. Then again, maybe we should just spend more time sprawled out in the grass laughing with the kids or curling up with our partner. A Sunday afternoon nap. Lounging at the beach – or in a kiddie pool – in the backyard. Simple but scarce pleasures, I guess.

Traditional conservatives can agree that industrial political economies have problems, and their demands on people's time are burdensome. However, simplifying our way of life may not require that we all become hunter-gatherers.

This also caught my eye: Dear Mark: Primal Wedding Menu.
I note that Christopher West was on Al Kresta's show on Tuesday, but there is no archived audio available. I was able to listen to only 10 minutes of it. Even if Mr. West correctly provides the substance of Catholic teaching on sex, marriage, and love (and this is contested), his rhetoric concerning theology of the body is irksome. He doesn't engage in self-promotion as much as promotion of theology of the body, prone to exaggerated claims about its significance and novelty. (Too much of a "John Paul II Catholic"?) Taking what the manuals (and earlier works of moral theology) said about sexual morality in isolation may give the disorted picture that the pre-theology of the body treatment of married love was dry, inadequate, etc. But a scientific treatment of moral theology will proceed with its analysis in such a manner -- it is up to the teacher to remind the students to re-integrate what has been broken down back into a broader understanding of the Christian vocation and of caritas. Moreover, I suspect that there weren't a few books intended for a more popular audience that dealt with married life and so on, rather than just the morality of sex acts. Certainly many of the Church's saints have dealt with marriage in their preaching and writings. It seems to me that at the very least, there is some poor history (and historiography) at work in Mr. West's marketing of theology of the body.

I did hear him explain his comparison of John Paul II and Hugh Hefner (which got so much attention in his Nightline appearance), and I think he gets Hugh Hefner's personal history wrong. Was he really reacting to a Puritan mentality regarding sex? Or was there something else deviant to explain for his actions? As for the priest Karol Wojtyla, was he really dealing with negative attitudes towards sex on the part of Catholics?

He took one caller from a woman who did not have any interest in sex, and first recommended that she read Love and Responsibility, assuming that she was feeling that way because her husband was only interested in her for pleasure. (I think what she actually said that she wasn't interested in sex, and only had relations in order to give her husband pleasure.) Then he suggested that she seek marriage counseling. (Did he realize that there might be a different issue at work here?)

There have been criticisms of Pope John Paul II for putting women on a pedestal. Is this true of Christopher West? Does he recognize the psychological differences between women and men, and how this affects their personal dynamics, especially in sexual matters?

Love and Responsibility Lecture Series
Aggie Catholics: There Be Dragons (via Insight Scoop)

We were privileged to get see the first screening of There Be Dragons outside of LA tonight. It is a new movie which will be released in theaters this fall. It is a major motion picture and is currently in post-production, so we saw an unfinished version of the movie. Because of a confidentiality agreement, I can't give details, but suffice it to say - this one isn't your run-of-the-mill "Catholic" film that doesn't have the budget to put together a nice production. Rather, it is a major motion picture with a message for us all.
Who's distributing the movie? Will Protestants see the movie?

Josquin Des Prez, Salve Regina a cinque voci and O virgo prudentissima

Josquin Desprez (c.1450-1521) -

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gene Logsdon, Happy homestead happenstances

Happy homestead happenstances (original)

How many slick tricks have you learned about farming and gardening more or less by accident? My favorite example happened because of laziness.

Sandro Magister, China. Seven New Bishops Do Not a Summer Make

They were ordained and installed with the twofold approval of the Church of Rome and of the communist authorities. Optimism at the Vatican. But also caution. For Chinese Catholics, religious freedom remains a forbidden dream

Secession in Africa?

Zenit: Is Southern Sudan's Secession a Solution?

ZENIT: Unity or secession, what do they mean for the people and for politicians? Could a referendum change the humanitarian and economic problems of the country?

Ashworth: The root causes of the conflicts in Sudan are generally agreed to be identity and the center-periphery dynamic.

Sudan is a multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual and multi-religious society.

But in practice, one cultural and religious identity, Arab-Islam, has been imposed on everyone, attempting both to assimilate the rest and make them second class citizens.

This has been done by all northern governments, not only the current Islamist regime.

Governance in Sudan, including access to power and resources, is highly centralized at the center, with all peripheral areas being marginalized.

In addition, oil has become a major factor in the conflicts, although it was not one of the original root causes. These problems have never been solved in a united Sudan, so southerners believe that the only solution is secession.

In their own independent state they will not face "Islamization and Arabization," nor marginalization from the center of power, and they have most of the oil in their territory.

Southern Sudan is already functioning as a state, so for them secession will not be a major change on the ground. It is hoped that the progress will continue and that some of the weaknesses in the government will be challenged.

The churches are rolling out a program of dialogue to assist with this.

The North depends on oil from the South, but it is likely that an amicable solution will be negotiated to allow them to continue to receive oil revenue -- the South needs the pipeline in the North to export its oil, and doesn't want a bankrupt and unstable neighbor.

The war in Darfur is likely to continue -- it is not ripe for a solution yet.

Life will probably become more difficult for the Church in the North after secession of the South, as it will continue to live under an oppressive Islamist regime, but it has experienced this often before and no doubt it will survive.

At least some Christians recognize that they have the right to preserve their own cultural and religious identity from external forces using violence and coercion. They can be protected from the charge of having a double standard by arguing that Catholic Christian missionary activity is offered in peace, and not with the threat of force. Nor is it accomplished by one people taking the territory of the other or infiltrating their society. (Even if some rulers in the past may have imposed conversion with the threat of the sword. But this was not a part of the goal of the Crusades as declared by the popes, nor was it endorsed by them.) In most cases, missionaries were received as foreigners and guests -- they may have been turned away or even harmed or killed, but they were not there to bring salvation using "temporal" means.

There Be Dragons teaser

There's a teaser trailer (and website) for There Be Dragons, the movie by Roland Joffé about St. Josemaría Escrivá during the Spanish Civil War.

Writings of Josemaría Escrivá

A post about the movie from September last year.

Mannrentoy has more videos about St. Josemaria Escriva and Opus Dei.

The Federal Government shows itself to be an enemy of the states

Judge blocks vital parts of Arizona immigration law, Reaction To Immigration Law Ruling, and Face-off in Arizona after judge blocks parts of immigration law (via Drudge)

Conservative Heritage Times: What Arizona should do regarding its immigration law and The real point of the anti-SB 1070 protests


Gordon Ramsay's newest cooking show, a cooking competition featuring amateurs aspiring to be chefs. Fox. Hulu. (No idea why they decided to run the two words together to name the show.)

Digital Spy
Examiner interview
Gordon Ramsay chats about his new show, overrated ingredients and Lindsay Lohan
Sob stories, bad auditions: Gordon Ramsay's new 'MasterChef' is like 'American Idol' for foodies
TV Squad report from last year

Kitchen Competition with MasterChef Judges Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich

Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's

Steve Allen, Head Chef at Gordon Ramsay at the Claridge's from Thibaut Degenne on Vimeo.

Items of Interest, 28 July 2010

Bill Kauffman, The Loneliness of the Long Dissonant Reader

Wikileaks, the War in Afghanistan:
Michael Shedlock, Afghanistan is a "Lost Cause"; Leaked Documents Show Futility of Afghanistan War
Wikileaks: The Afghan War Diary (Dedicated Webpage)

The New Republic: The Significance Of The Wikileaks by Andrew J. Bacevich

Video reports:
The Guardian

Asia Times:
Pakistan has its own battle to fight
The leaked classified United States military documents that point to Pakistan's links to the Taliban are significant even though the news is not particularly new. They come at a juncture when the lines in Pakistan are clearly drawn between militants and the military, and any misunderstanding between Islamabad and Washington will only benefit the militants. - Syed Saleem Shahzad

The death of political idealism in Hong Kong
This summer marks a low point for Hong Kong pro-democracy champion Martin Lee Chu-ming, after the Democratic Party, which he founded, backed a Beijing-supported reform package that fell well short of the one-person, one-vote system he pursues. Voters see the reforms as progress, but the Democrats' collusion with mainland leaders suggests the notion of "one country, two systems", like Lee's political career, may be as good as dead. - Kent Ewing

Energy Bulletin:
The Emergence of Localism (original)
Richard Moore, Speaking Truth to Power

Our global society is in crisis, and the core of the crisis seems to be about resources: resource limits, overuse and misuse of resources, resource-related conflicts, and the resulting destruction of our natural life-support systems. The crisis is at an extreme stage, as we are approaching the final hard limits of a finite earth. This is all the more frightening because our governments seem powerless to respond effectively to the crisis. We can all see the rocks ahead, and yet the crew steams straight on, as the ship-of-state carries us toward destruction.

Taking Financial Reform into Our Own Hands (original)
Staci Mitchell, Yes! Magazine

With the passage of the financial reform bill, giant banks see a golden opportunity to finally put the financial crisis, along with their culpability for wrecking our economy, in the rearview mirror.

The End of Capitalism?: Part 2B. Social Limits and the Crisis
Alex Knight, The End of Capitalism

Paul Craig Roberts, US Treasury is Running on Fumes
Jeanine Molloff, The Predatory Nature of Home Loan Modifications
Gareth Porter, The Afghan War Springs a Leak
Mike Whitney, A Decade of Declining Housing Prices
Steve Breyman,
Afghanistan: the Inside Story
Patrick Cockburn, Worse Than Hiroshima?

A cynical view of American politics from someone on the left

Dear Democrats, 2012 By MANUEL GARCIA, Jr.
A Checklist for Political Survival

Much of the public has the mistaken belief that the purpose of political parties in the United States is to consolidate a set of broad consensus on national issues, such as the economy, the mechanics and economics of food production and distribution, the structure of national defense forces, and the implementation of social services: education, health, retirement and elder-care; so as to craft legislation that governs how these and other matters are to be dealt with for the public good.

It is amazing that such a mistaken and inverted view of reality could ever have become common. Of course, it is the parties that are supposed to be the beneficiaries of government action, and the public whose purpose is to ensure that beneficence by suppling the labor and capital needed to implement government action (or inaction) mandated by the bipartisan directorate. For example, it is the public's duty to:

-- provide a mass base of unthinking public approval for the status quo, such as by voting for Democrats and Republicans only (and so helping decide the biannual and quadrennial local and national contests selecting which partner will be the respective pork barrel meister-in-chief for the term), by manning party and race rallies (to maintain public social disunity), and following directions en masse in the many sanctioned corporate-financed political campaigns;

-- supply the living and future dead soldiers for the ongoing foreign wars;

-- buy products and services as directed by the entertaining and instructional advertisements in major media;

-- assume the tax burden necessary to underwrite the profitability of otherwise failing corporations, which profitability the bipartisan directorate deems to be a "national interest";

-- be an absorptive market for the waste production of national security industries (e.g., assume liability for civilian nuclear power; sustain the use of high-tech para-military cop equipment);

-- sustain the operation of a wealth-based adjudication-prison system, a corporate-government partnership and punitive element of social control;

-- support by every thought, word and deed the primacy of national security needs, as defined by the Pentagon and the bipartisan directorate, to the access of national resources over any selfish humanitarian or public social considerations (e.g., expending tax revenues -- "emergency war supplemental" -- to continue funding the bombardments in Central Asia and East Africa, instead of profitless subsidies for continuing unemployment benefits or a variety of public social services);

-- remember that the nation is defined by its national security tasks framing its corporate financial capital essence, NOT by the massed and, by definition, petty concerns of its self-absorbed "rubber bumper" population.

At this time in U.S. history, the Republican Party commands the loyalties of those motivated by simple white Judeo-Christian supremacy, finance capital greed, and hegemonic US militarism. Humanitarian, cultural, artistic and environmental considerations are absent, except when seen as impediments. This is the mindset of social inertia supporting exploitation full speed ahead. The Democratic Party captures the hopes of people who want to live like Republicans, but want to think of themselves as nice. It is easy to see how minimal intellect presents few problems in maintaining a Republican mindset, yet how helpful intellectual agility can be for a Democrat, whose self-image can require considerable mental gymnastics to maintain. In both cases, the identification with a party is usually reduced to a habit, because most people try to minimize their amount of thinking (which is sad, because this popular lack of thought is a very useful lever exploited by the manipulators of social control).

So, Democrats tend to "reach out" to leftist political outcasts, presumed to be politically homeless without them (intentionally so, as the Democrats work to suppress "third" parties), in an effort to produce electoral majorities that will gain Democrats pork-barrel-dispensing seniority when in government. Of course, the purpose of the voter is to promote the interests of the party, and not vice versa; so after the electoral victory the leftist issues and vote-seducing party rhetoric are expeditiously excreted, to trim the party for its primary purpose of implementing its previously agreed upon corporate agenda.

The author can't but help reveal his own habits of thought, which could be characterized as biases and prejudices. Who isn't a snob when judging the commoners?