Friday, February 17, 2006

If I had to pick some people to be allies in a war of words and rhetoric, Pete Vere is one of those on a very short list who would be among the first chosen. I note that because it has come to the attention of your host that Pete Vere has fired some salvos at New Oxford Review for their savaging of one of the culture war icons up in Canada. As far as what Pete asserts and whether or not it is true, I am not in a position to comment on; however, I will note that it sounds like another example of the kind of imprudent zeal that permeates many of the articles at NOR regardless of whom the writer happens to be...a subject I touched on recently in a post to this humble weblog.

I should note in passing the irony in Pete taking on a battle here since he was the one who persuaded me in late July-early August of 2004 to not pursue a public chastising of a certain person-who-shall-not-be-named which (for a while) was advice that I heeded.{1} Beyond that, Pete is a big boy so I trust he does not need any public defending from me; ergo that is all I will say on the matter for now.

Note:

{1} Eventually, one of those who contacted me about such an endeavour actually put up when I offered them a forum to write a critique of the person in question. Thus, my attempt to sluff it off onto someone else backfired and I felt obligated to weigh in to support in macro form the allegations that person brought forward. (Ones which have been substantiated in spades ever since in the words and actions of the person in question.) But I digress.

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The previously noted first draft of an album review (Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan In Session) was posted to Amazon a couple days ago with significant redacting of material due to word limits at the latter site. (One minor adjustment was made to the posted review which was also incorporated into the original draft: basically your host confused something a reviewer said at another site with the Amazon reviewers so that part was adjusted accordingly.) But beyond that, the review in draft form is better than the one posted to Amazon so I recommend giving it a read if you have the time and want a detailed review of a very excellent CD.

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More on the Conspiracy Superbowl:
(With Kevin Tierney)

I must write a dissent from Shawn's opinion.

Impossible...do NOT make me carry this subject out in public for the next eight months plus Kev ;-)

The idea that there is bias against small market teams I don't think applies here. The steelers themselves were on the receiving end of what was a blatant fix, i.e. the Polamalou interception during the Indy game being reversed.

That was an interception though Kev...I watched the play several times. Furthermore, you are forgetting that that was a situation where you had the Steelers (a big market team) playing the media darling Indy Colts whose Payton Manning the marketing department wanted to see in the Superbowl. (I mean, he is arguably the best QB today in terms of a complete package.)

Furthermore, since calls during the second half went Seattle's way as well (the fumble being reversed) I don't think things are as bad as Shawn says.

That was the only example of a call going Seattle's way really. Still, even if we grant you your premise, things had been so poisoned to that point officiating-wise that Hasselbeck was in a position to have to force some things and the results included that play as well as the interception. I could note more than the three plays I did in the previous email but they are the ones which are unquestionably botched calls...the others I would note cannot have the same thing said about them.

The low block and pass interference calls were questionable, then again there was a questionable call against the Steelers as well.

Grabbing the jersey as the Pitt player did was contact which made Hasselbeck's fall a dead play instead of a live ball. The refs surprisingly did the right thing there...I say "surprisingly" since up to that point they had done so crappily for a team of officials with that much big game experience.

In this instance, the refs, if they were bad, were "equal opportunity." Considering their performance in this game as well as the Indy game, I do think there will be closer attention paid.

But of course there should be. The officiating in the playoffs this year was horrible...the Superbowl was merely the worst of the bunch.

Now as far as the game, Seattle proved that winning statistics does not translate into winning games. That's the beauty of sports in my opinion. The Steelers executed several plays that gave them the win.

Two plays...Ben's phantom "touchdown" was just that: a gift.

Despite a shaky first quarter, Ben showed flashes of brilliance afterwards. As his elbow touched the goal line (and the elbow was couching the ball) I will say that it's a touchdown, and especially there was not conclusive evidence to overrule it.

Elbow is not good enough...the ball must cross the plane of the line at least in part and no part of it did.

Ben's knowledge of the line of scrimmage in the huge pass to Hines Ward was a game turner in my view, it showed that the Steelers were not fleeing. The beautiful reverse pass to Hines Ward will no doubt go down as one of the best plays in Super Bowl History.

Yeah...they fooled the third string Hawks cb and safety on that one...lol.

The problem with it was Seattle bit that play hook, line, and sinker.

See my previous comments.

Bill Cower is notorious for running such "gadgets." They executed that play for huge gain 3 times during the regular season. That Seattle (and their normally respectable coach Mike Holmgren) did not prepare for that is a reason why they lost.

And that they had third string defensive players in on that play had no factor???

There's also the fact Seattle had nobody to blame but themselves. During the end of the second half when they were driving, it took forever for Hasselback to get his team organized in a no huddle. If anything, a Steelers timeout (one I saw no reason for) saved Seattle from getting a delay of game penalty, but most importantly stopped them from being able to drive for a touchdown, leaving them to attempt a very long field goal that was botched.

Yes, they shot themselves in the foot there...no question about it. But in a properly officiated game, they would not have been in panic mode as they were by that point.

When they were ready to take the lead, an interception was thrown.

Hasselbeck was pressing cause of the earlier botched calls taking back a touchdown and a virtually-certain second TD (first and goal from the 3 was the spot where Jackson was tackled in the middle of the field). Late in the game behind by two touchdowns, that can happen when you press even someone who rarely threw an inteception all year as in Hasselbeck's case.

And finally credit must be given to Jerome Bettis. The man did not put up stellar numbers, but he came through when it counted. The runs he was getting and the first downs he got in the 4th quarter took the wind out of Seattle's sails, essentially making the game elementary.

Bettis played well yes.

While the Steelers made a few mess ups, in the end it was smart playcalling and a solid defense that provided them the win. Seattle had several chances, but didn't capitalize due to errors on their own parts, not that of officiating. (The officials even ruled alongside them when the fumble was overturned, giving them another shot that didn't materialize.)

But Kev, that is one example to my three. And when you consider that on that play there was contact and the rules were properly applied (compared to the phantom "offensve pass interference" where Jackson did not even touch the player and the "low block" call which was equally ridiculous, I do not see the "equal time" you assert. Indeed, knowing the Hawks playbook as I do, the play where Hasselbeck was tackled and the ball came loose is the kind of play they run when pressing...something that a team not screwed out of at least two scores by the refs at that point of the game would not have had to do.

If anyone else posts their thoughts, I might do a symposium on my website, just to demonstrate that there is more to us bloggers and commentators than reading theology books and arguing finer points of Catholic doctrine amongst each other. :)

Go ahead...post the geography of each poster too so we can see the true midwest and east coast biases for what they are ;-)

Oh and remember, my second favourite team is the Steelers though should you quote what I say in these emails which you can do since I will probably blog my own comments from the previous note as well as this one anyway. (Those who followed our dialogues before may find the subject of this one to be odd but oh well.)

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Monday, February 13, 2006

On Able Danger and Hearings Being Opened in the House of Representatives:

I have heard through the grapevine that the United State House of Representatives will be convening hearings on Able Danger. Readers of this weblog know that your host has been one of those who was concerned that this matter would not be taken up and then (once it was) that it would be dropped without comment in the MSM. Nonetheless, with the news that the House Armed Services Committee will open hearings on Able Danger on February 15, 2006, it seems appropriate to repost in brief the threads I have written on this matter in recent months (or excerpts from multitopic threads) in order from oldest to newest. Let us hope that Senator Arlen Spector gets off his duff and reopens the Senate hearings on the matter. Having noted that, here is what I have written on the matter since I started writing on this issue publicly:

As I have noted in private correspondence to a few individuals, what he has done (in writing a book about Able Danger and 9/11) and what he is saying (in promoting his book on the various media curcuits), Rep. Curt Weldon has taken quite a gamble here...[I]f he is called and does not produce the cards, he will be finished politically. However, if he can deliver on what he says he can, then his prestige will increase. In fact, if the latter proves to be true, look for Rep. Weldon to become a Republican darkhorse candidate for the presidency in 2008 (whether he wants it or not). My money is on Weldon's gamble paying off because generally speaking people do not make public stances like this unless they can deliver. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa September 16, 2005)]

On Able Danger and A Potential Defense Department Coverup (circa September 21, 2005)

Briefly Revisiting Able Danger (circa October 20, 2005)

"Focus on Able Danger Stupid" Dept. (circa November 2, 2005)

"Focus on Able Danger Stupid" Revisited (circa November 3, 2005)

Bug your senators people...including Senator Arlen Spector who expressed interest in [Able Danger] back in September but may well get wishy washy in true congressional fashion on the matter in question. Of course those of us who have Maria Cantvotewell and Patty Murray (the latter of whose lips have been firmly attached to the backside of Robert "Sheets" Byrd for the past thirteen years), it will not make much of a difference but one must try nonetheless. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa November 19, 2005)]

And finally:

It’s Time To Investigate Able Danger and the 9/11 Commission (Andrew McCarthy)

As one who has not been quiet on the Able Danger subject myself,[...] I concur with Mr. McCarthy's assessments on the matter in question. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa December 26, 2005)]

More will be written of course should the grapevine prove reliable on this matter and hearings are opened in the House (and hopefully re-opened in the Senate). I do not give a damn about who or which party these hearings will "help" or "hurt" since what is at stake here is possible national security lapses in the past which (if they had not happened) may have averted what happened on 9/11. National security should be a non-partisan issue but I sense that this will be as politicized as any other issue is in today's climate and it should not be.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

"Blosser vs. Blosser" Dept.
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

There has been a recent mini blogwar on the subject of Dale Vree and the New Oxford Review. Readers of this weblog are aware that one of the recurring themes in recent months has been the subject of so-called "neo-cons" -the most recent thread of which can be found HERE. A few people have sent your host a writing on this subject from Dale Vree which will be incorporated into that series at some point in the near future. It is noted here only as an aside{1} but among those who sent Us that link for review and comment were Christopher Blosser and his father the esteemed Dr. Philip Blosser.

The sites of those gentlemen are among the ones your host reads with the greatest of frequency and interest. It also bears noting that the amicable but principled disagreement between them on this matter was one which certainly pleases Us -such things these days are unfortunately rare as the present writer has noted before (including recently). As both sides appear to have had their say on the matter for now (as have others such as fellow Blessed Sacrament parishioner Mark Shea), your host has decided to weigh in on one aspect of this matter and leave the rest to the Blossers to hash out amongst themselves. Without further ado, let Us get to it first by noting the threads each has posted on the matter:

Dale Vree, God's Faithful Pit Bull: Show Some Respect! (Dr. Philip Blosser)

Dale Vree and the New Oxford Review - Roundup and Analysis (Christopher Blosser)

Christopher and Dr. Philip Blosser write too well for Us to be able to do the above threads full justice in a mere posting such as this. For that reason, it is recommended that those reading this thread also read the above threads when they finish with this one. (Christopher includes additional threads from Dr. Blosser as well as ones from Amy Welborn and Mark Shea in his posting above.) With those threads in mind, the present writer intends in this post to highlight what he sees as a problem with the methodology of Dale Vree (DV) by using the words of Dr. Blosser to set the stage for the problems your host will then touch on briefly. First though, the words of Dr. Blosser:

Dale Vree has garnered for himself a reputation for being something like the Pit Bull of Catholic orthodoxy in the United States. Like a Pit Bull, he attacks, bites, latches on, and holds on. Like a Pitt Bull, he is tenacious. Like a well-trained Catholic attack dog, he goes after anything that smells of theological compromise. Liberals hate him. Dissidents despise him. Moderates fear him. Neoconservatives are annoyed by him. The trouble is, he unleashes his reserves of adrenalin against his targets at the first, faintest whiff of anything that smells remotely like heterodoxy, even if his target is a widely celebrated champion of Catholic neoconservatives like Richard John Neuhaus or Scott Hahn. In fact, the offending odor doesn't have to even be remotely related to heterodoxy: if he catches the least scent of inconsistency or compromise, this dog of war will unleash himself upon your allegedly hypocritical derriere even if you are Fr. Joseph Fessio, George Weigel, Deal Hudson, Legionaries of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, or even Catholic-And-Loving-It blog magnate, Mark Shea. Needless to say, this has not made him many fast friends. [Dr. Philip Blosser: Excerpt from Dale Vree, God's Faithful Pit Bull: Show Some Respect! (circa February 4, 2006)]

Now before touching on what is outlined above, it seems appropriate to note something else that Dr. Blosser said which struck a chord with this writer. It was in the same article as the previous quote at a point where the latter was seeking to draw together a discomforting thread between the ancient world and the modern one via the contemporary view of the character of Socrates among college students...in this case Dr. Blosser's own students:

I've been startled by the steady increase in the percentage of my students who seem unable to find insufficient warrant in the defense of Socrates in the Apology for his acquittal. In fact, I have seen a steady rise in the number of students who have little if any patience with the person of Socrates at all, let alone comprehension of his purposes, and who find themselves lining up behind his accusers, even if they find his death sentence a little harsh for their tastes. (I tell you, my friends, a new Dark Age is upon us, and the barbarians at the gates are not on the outside!) [Dr. Philip Blosser: Excerpt from Dale Vree, God's Faithful Pit Bull: Show Some Respect! (circa February 4, 2006)]

Now longtime readers of this weblog are aware that one of those who had an important role in forming your host's mental template{2} was an iconoclastic individual named Michael J. Mentzer. This is a subject that has rarely been discussed at this humble weblog{3} though at some point it probably will be as a way of providing a bit of insight into Our weltanschauung here at Rerum Novarum. Reading Dr. Blosser's words above brought back to Our mind a parallel in something that Mike Mentzer said in an interview about twelve years ago. To paraphrase it as best We can from memory it went approximately as follows:

[W]e are living in a new Dark Ages, we really are. Most people have no concept of logic and how to use it. How to use their intellectual faculties to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Most people are intellectually dependent. [Michael J. Mentzer (circa 1993)]

It would seem (and not only on the basis of his quote from above) that Dr. Blosser could be said to share Our concern for the state of intellectual decline in civilization in general. Certainly he gives every impression of writing with an aim to help fill in that lacuna and (to his credit) he does so very well. However, it seems to Us that he is mistakening what Dale Vree does over at New Oxford Review{4} for the kind of zeal which is commended in the Catholic spiritual tradition. Before touching on that though, a revisiting of Dr. Blosser's words so that We can interact with them before getting to the subject of zeal:

Dale Vree has garnered for himself a reputation for being something like the Pit Bull of Catholic orthodoxy in the United States. Like a Pit Bull, he attacks, bites, latches on, and holds on. Like a Pitt Bull, he is tenacious.

Tenacity in and of itself is in Our view a virtue; ergo your host does not have a problem with Dale Vree exhibiting it.{5}

Like a well-trained Catholic attack dog, he goes after anything that smells of theological compromise.

This is one of the points to be touched on shortly.

Liberals hate him. Dissidents despise him. Moderates fear him. Neoconservatives are annoyed by him.

Aaah yes, the mythical so-called "neo-cons": something that it is one of Our intentions here at Rerum Novarum to finally in some fashion verify the existence (or lack thereof) at some point.

The trouble is, he unleashes his reserves of adrenalin against his targets at the first, faintest whiff of anything that smells remotely like heterodoxy, even if his target is a widely celebrated champion of Catholic neoconservatives like Richard John Neuhaus or Scott Hahn. In fact, the offending odor doesn't have to even be remotely related to heterodoxy: if he catches the least scent of inconsistency or compromise, this dog of war will unleash himself upon your allegedly hypocritical derriere even if you are Fr. Joseph Fessio, George Weigel, Deal Hudson, Legionaries of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, or even Catholic-And-Loving-It blog magnate, Mark Shea. Needless to say, this has not made him many fast friends. [Dr. Philip Blosser: Excerpt from Dale Vree, God's Faithful Pit Bull: Show Some Respect! (circa February 4, 2006)]

Okay, back to the one criticism your host has of Dale Vree and his methodology and it is this: he gives every appearance of not understanding what constitutes authentic zeal. To remind the readers with longer memories, We blogged on this subject back in September-October of 2002. The work was taken from an eighteenth century spiritual manual and some of the key pointers for identifying authentic zeal from its inauthentic copycat will now be noted in a lighter blue font:

Zeal for the salvation of souls is a sublime virtue, and yet how many errors and sins are committed daily in its name! Evil is never done more effectually and with greater security, says St. Francis de Sales, than when one does it believing he is working for the glory of God.

The saints themselves can be mistaken in this delicate matter. We see a proof of this in the incident related to the Apostles Saint James and Saint John; for Our Lord reprimanded them for asking Him to cause fire from heaven to fall upon the Samaritans. (Luke, IX., 54.)

Acts of zeal are like coins the stamp upon which is necessary to examine attentively, as there are more counterfeits than good ones. Zeal to be pure should be accompanied by great humility, for it is of all virtues the one which self-love most easily glides. When it does so, zeal is apt to become imprudent, presumptuous, unjust, bitter. Let us consider these characteristics in detail, viewing them, for the sake of greater clearness, in their practical bearings.

In every home there grows some thorn, something, in other words, that needs correction; for the best soil is seldom without its noxious weed. Imprudent zeal, by seeking awkwardly to pluck out the thorn, often succeeds only in plunging it farther in, thus rendering the wound deeper and more painful. In such a case it is essential to act with reflection and great prudence. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent, says the Holy Spirit. (Ecclesiastes III., 7.) Prudent zeal is silent when it realizes that to be so is less hurtful than to speak. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa September 29, 2002)]

And from part two of that series:

"If your zeal is bitter", says St. James, "it is not wisdom descending from on high, but earthly, sensual, diabolical". (James III, 14-15.) These words of an Apostle should furnish matter of reflection for those persons who, whilst making profession of piety, are so prone to irritability, so harsh and rude in their manner and language, that they might be taken for angels in church and for demons elsewhere.

The value and utility of zeal are in proportion to its tolerance and amiability. True zeal is the offspring of charity; it should then, resemble its mother and show itself like to her in all things. "Charity", says St. Paul, "is patient, is kind, is not ambitious, and seeks not her own." (1 Cor. XIII, 4-5.)...

Never allow your zeal to make you overeager to correct others, says [St. Francis de Sales]; and when you do it remember that the most important thing to consider is the choice of the moment. A caution deferred can be given another time: one given inopportunely is not only fruitless, but moreover paralyzes beforehand all the good that might have have subsequently been done.

Be zealous therefore, ardently zealous for the salvation of your neighbour, and to further make use of whatever means God has placed in your power; but do not exceed these limits nor disquiet yourself about the good you are unable to do, for God can accomplish it through others. In conclusion, zeal according to the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, should always have truth for its foundation, indulgence for its companion, mildness for its guide, prudence for its counsellor and director. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa October 4, 2002)]

By Our reckoning --both in what We have read of his work as well as Dr. Blosser's own account of DV's methodology{6}-- the latter's zeal is counterfeit, imprudent, and usually does more harm than good. Furthermore, a key aspect of authentic charity is also missing from his frequent jumping on (as Dr. Blosser concedes) anything that smells of theological compromise. The spiritual masters of the Catholic tradition do not look kindly on this sort of thing at all...to quote from Our spiritual instruction on zeal circa early 2004:

Always be ready and willing to excuse the faults of your neighbour, and never put an unfavourable interpretation upon his actions. The same action, says St. Francis de Sales, may be looked upon under many different aspects: a charitable person will ever suppose the best, an uncharitable person will just as certainly choose the worst.

*"Do not weigh so carefully the sayings and doings of others, but let your thought of them be simple and good, kindly and affectionate. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa January 24, 2004)]

Certainly on the points noted above, it seems to this writer that Dale Vree fails and fails often to conform himself to them.{7} All of which leads this writer to believe he is another one of those converts who merely swapped dogmatic contents when they became Catholic but did not attain a proper Catholic mindset. Your host is hesitant to mention that factor in the equation very often but it bears noting here at least in brief.{8}

Anyway, what is noted above is what has been viewed by Us as a key flaw in DV's slaw. As far as how long he has had it, if he always had it, if he acquired it over time, etc., We are not in a position to say -leaving those distinctions to the Blossers themselves to discuss should they want to. And certainly none of what is noted in Our criticisms above is intended to imply that DV's work as a whole is without merit.

Essentially it is in Our view a case of Dale Vree taking the wrong approach for (oftentimes) the right reasons. And with that in mind, it seems to Us that if he tended to the problems noted above in the future, it would be easier for his better efforts to influence others of a similar weltanschauung for the good rather than turn them off and thus render relatively fruitless the seeds he seeks to sow.

Notes:

{1} It seems to the present writer that the subject of so-called "neo cons" is at the core of a lot of Dale Vree's criticisms of certain persons often given that label for some mysterious and undefined reason. For that reason, though it will be indirect, Our analysis of Vree's statements on what constitutes a so-called "neo-con" may well be an important undercurrent to the disagreement between the Blossers on Vree recently aired at their respective weblogs.

{2} Responding to the Blogosphere Book Meme (circa June 14, 2005)

{3} One of the very few areas where this has been touched on by your host publicly was in a thread on the argumentation fallacy of argumentum ad vericundiam published to this very weblog back on August 27, 2004. Mentzer's influence was also brought up in one of the few mentions of an idea your host has had for nearly seven years viz. writing a technical piece tying ecclesiological principles into the laws of nature-- that subject and a bit more is viewable HERE. It may also be touched upon in an upcoming dip into the mailbag should an email response sent out in November of 2005 actually be blogged here at Rerum Novarum as We are contemplating doing for various and sundry reasons. (Oh and no, the goals for the end of 2004 did not get realized then but after a haitus of a few months your host got back on track late last year and is on schedule to achieve them by approximately autumn of 2006.)

{4} In the interest of disclosure, Our exposure to NOR cannot be said to be nearly as expansive as that of Christopher Blosser (to say nothing of Dr. Blosser's familiarity with NOR of course). We have read articles sent to Us over the years and have perused NOR's site at times looking for stuff We have either heard of or simply perusing the archives for stuff that grabbed Our fancy at a particular moment. But as far as an expansive and continual exposure to NOR, that is not something that your host makes any pretentions towards possessing.

{5} And not only because similar things have been said about Us over the years viz. how We approach the subjects written on in various mediums of expression. (Though that may well be part of it of course.)

{6} See footnote four.

{7} And (of course) there are times when it is necessary to take a harsher or less irenic approach to dealing with people and situations...though as a rule this should not be the approach taken of course.

{8} For the record, it is and has been Our view that among the converts who do not manifest this problem are Christopher Blosser, Dr. Philip Blosser, Fr. John Neuhaus, and Dr. Scott Hahn (to name a few that come to mind and which were mentioned above).

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