Saturday, May 19, 2007

To "Texas Fred" on the Realignment of His Presidential Political Allegiences:

I admittedly was wondering about your supporting of Tom Tancredo as I noted earlier in the year -viewing it as a conservative supporting another longest of long shots for the presidency. But your change to support for Fred Thompson makes me feel a lot better better. I say this out of a belief that Fred Thompson can actually win if nominated. At the moment, I am split between Duncan Hunter and Fred Thompson and favouring the the former at this time. But heck, if Fred Thompson gets the nomination he will get my vote easily. I like his tough as nails approach both in his roles on television and also in real life.

As I made clear in the aforementioned posting, I would love to see a Hunter/Thompson ticket or even a Thompson/Hunter one. Something where the candidates are solid and have either long track records of conservative voting on key issues (ala Hunter) or someone who has the right temperament and instincts from every conceivably objective form of measurement (ala Thompson). But it has to be candidates who have a realistic chance to win and by every geopolitical instinct I have Tom Tancredo does not fit that bill.

Despite the MSM playing the "Republicans are dead in 08" tune, I do not buy it -they can rise like the proverbial phoenix again. But they will not do it with Guiliani or McCain -it has to be someone who walks the walk not just talks the talk when an election is just around the corner. And it has to be someone who can actually win and frankly that is not the case with Tom Tancredo for many reasons. However, without question Fred Thompson can win and I am pleased therefore to see you throw your support behind Fred Thompson for that reason.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Tales From the Crypt Mailbag" Dept.

Unlike a lot of people, your host rarely likes to post laudatory emails he receives because it gives the appearance of tooting our own horn. A general principle we follow in this area is to do so only when it provides the opportunity to clarify something about our methodology, our foundational presuppositions, or something along those lines. When this is possible, it can serve to give the reader a bit of a glimpse into how we approach subjects in general. With that in mind, the following email will provide an opportunity to do that so without further ado...

Dear Shawn,

I have read your website "Rerum Novarum" for a year or so and wanted to thank you profusely for your hard work and thoughtful analysis. I do not agree with everything you write, but I admire your willingness to look at matters objectively and come to your own conclusions.

We live in a divisive 24/7 media culture and the perception has been created that one cannot have principled disagreements with someone else on issues without one side being somehow degraded. Obviously I have a passion for many issues but I am nonetheless aware that there are people who disagree with me on some/many/most/all things. I do not lose sleep over this because of a belief I have that ultimately what is true will have lasting efficacy and what is false will not. As far as objectivity goes, it is appreciated when others realize that there is a conscious striving for that to the fullest extent possible here at Rerum Novarum. As far as not agreeing with everything written on this weblog, heck this writer does not agree with everything on this weblog which while it may sound strange to read nonetheless is true for reasons to be noted in a footnote.{1}

It is also worth noting even if in brief that if someone agrees with another person all the time, then only one person is doing the thinking. There should be divergences in spots even amongst positional allies and I have noted on occasions in the past that I do not expect people to accept my view on anything uncritically. More on this in a moment.

I especially respect the way you have addressed the "Apologetics Oligarchy" that seems to be present on the internet. First off, let me say that I am strictly a lurker in comboxes and blogs. I have never gotten in any discussion or argument in any of them, to my knowledge.

There is nothing wrong with that as far as I am concerned -indeed my own view of comments boxes as a whole is not a flattering one.{2}

I also have attempted to avoid reading much on blogs because I think it a waste of my time, and I tend to get worked up when I do so. This especially happens whenever I read Mark Shea's website.

Considering the kind of agitprop he has with an increasing frequency engaged in, that is not a surprise.

I am very glad you have addressed Mr. Shea's actions on his blog and throughout the blogosphere. Even before Mr. Shea focused on torture, the war in Iraq, and the present administration, I was troubled by the tone of his website, and his tendency to jump to snap judgments. Believe me, I am no supporter of the homosexual agenda, but I found the constant banner "Gay Brownshirts on the March" to be in poor taste.

What motivates me on this as with anything else is principles. Unfortunately, it is sadly evident that too many others who should care about these things do not. I reiterate something I have said many times before and it is this:

--A given viewpoint or position is not right or wrong (or to be perceived as "acceptable" or "unacceptable") on the basis of who holds or espouses a particular view or position. Rather, something is right or wrong on the basis of objective evidences or what can also be called non-normative criteria.

In a nutshell, it is failure to recognize this principle which explains a lot of the hypocrisy and double standards we are seeing -the fallacious provincialism{3} in these people's approach is both undeniable as well as profoundly disturbing (to put it mildly).

I have been very troubled by the tendency among Catholics, lay and clerical, to transform matters on which Catholics may disagree in good faith into pseudu-magisterial teaching. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the argument: conservatives may be against abortion, but because they are wrong on the other "life" issues (capital punishment, welfare, immigration), it is acceptable to vote for "pro-choice" candidates. That Mr. Shea and others against this war use the same fallacious arguments to justify their vilification of those who disagree with them regarding this war and torture is, for me, the "unkindest cut of all."

I have noted a few times now that these "apologist" sorts are often intellectually dependent and demonstrate serious problems in exercising the thinking mechanism. The examples you note above only touch on the tip of the iceberg but they are by no means insignificant. (Nice use of Shakespeare by the way.)

I must say, I am especially grateful that you systematically addressed the issue of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Prior to reading your postings, I assumed that the bombings were per se immoral under just war principles because they involved deliberately targeting a civilian population. I assumed that the only justification for the bombing was a utilitarian one. I am not by any means convinced that your position is correct, but I certainly appreciate your reasoning.

Now it seems appropriate to outline what the view of this writer is on agreements and disagreements in more detail by citing a rare gem of sorts which we wrote in a weblog update.{4} Without further ado:

We at Rerum Novarum tend to irritate pundits, agenda provocateurs, and apologists of various stripes because of an inherent refusal on our part to accept uncritically any position whatsoever. And in doing this, there is consistency on our part because when the present writer takes the time to set down a position, he expect those who are genuinely interested in ideas to weigh the position set forth by objective criteria and nothing else.

Unlike the lions share of people from various outlooks who set forth opinions in the public square, the present writer does not expect anyone to accept any of his statements as some kind of arbitrary out of context injunction simply because he says it. This would base the veracity or lack thereof of his statements on a subjectivist context and would imply that truth does not objectively exist.

If you learn to think in principles you learn to think logically. Principles make thinking a lot easier and one of the goals of your host is to focus as much on principles themselves and in how those principles are to be fruitfully applied. For that reason, we will continue to press certain parties who do not seem concerned with principles and logic -either wholly or on arbitrary subject matters- to reconsider their positions. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa December 30, 2006)]

I am sure that I owe some debt to the late Mike Mentzer (RIP) for some of the phrasing in the above paragraph as essentially I was synthesizing and expounding on a principle he made more than once in his writings: the principle of what determines the truth or falsity of a statement.

Basically, as long as someone is willing to consider a position on its merits, that is all anyone could ask for. And contrary to what some may perceive, that has been the motivating factor for why I have slapped down some of the people who have taken issue with me on that subject. Others who have disagreed with me and sought to make actual arguments for their positions which are grounded in reason and logic while seeking to implement moral and ethical principles have not seen me treat them with anything but courtesy.{5}

However, there is something wrong with the environment when these self-anointed "apologists" cannot discuss these matters calmly and rationally but instead play the agitprop card in a fashion that would make any marxist proud. That is what I have addressed to members of the apologetics oligarchy in the past{6} and they are not in the slightest bit interested in seeing these problems corrected. Now that I am aware in some cases of a $$$ connection{7}, it makes a lot more sense as to why so many of them are "backbone-challenged" (to put it nicely). However, as there are others who do not have that connection who act the same way, it is frankly not as easy a puzzle to unravel and still try and give a charitable interpretation to how they approach these matters.

Perhaps most importantly, I value your dedication to extending Christian charity to those who disagree to you. You are an excellent example for the rest of Catholics on cyberspace.

Well, I do what I can -not always gracefully by my own admission but on the whole I believe I do a lot better than most.

This email has become longer than I intended. I hope to drop you a line in the near future asking you a few questions about magisterial teaching and how specific it needs to be in order to make a particular position normative. I will leave that for a later day.

Feel free to drop a line anytime. Thanks for the email and the opportunity to clarify some points which can at times get overlooked by those more interested in polemics than in truth.


{1} There are "points to ponder" installments which encompass viewpoints your blog host does not agree with. There is also the "guest editorial" feature and someone need not agree with the webmaster to post an editorial here as long as (i) it is reasonably written, (ii) is thought-provoking, (iii) it shows a basic grasp of a diverse expression of vocabulary, and (iv) it is a subject that interests the webmaster. Beyond that, anything is fair game really.

{2} Revisiting the Comments Box Subject Again (circa January 26, 2007)

{3} On the Argumentation Fallacy of Provincialism--An Audio Post (circa May 8, 2005)

{4} I said "a rare gem" because as a rule, weblog updates are not places where I expound on points anymore than is necessary to note reasons for adding certain links to the side margin and removing other ones, etc.

{5} This did not go reported by me at the time because I had already discussed these matters enough at that time (read: late summer 2005) to not want to go into it yet again. However, there are some dialogues in the archives of one of my email accounts which I may in the future utilize in some form or another. (If I even bother to delve into these subjects again that is.)

{6} If I have a burr under [my] saddle on anything Jimmy it is (i) the complete lack of sound thinking that permeates Catholic circles on these subjects and (ii) the way Greg and I have been treated by members of the apologetics oligarchy when discussing this subject. I am also aware that if an opinion is reiterated enough, many people will accept it as correct even if it is not. The latter is human nature sadly whereas the former is something that should be of concern to those who believe that Catholics have important contributions to make to the arena of ideas. There are serious problems here which too many want to pretend do not exist which I have noted in past public postings on this subject matter. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa November 28, 2006)]

{7} Previously I had my suspicions in this area but in recent months, there has been confirmation of at least one significant example of the apologetics oligarchy selling truth down the river for $$$. I do not want to go into it right now but suffice to say, my disgust at the moneychangers has deepened as has my disappointment at the lack of a backbone by many who claim to care about apologetics who are not willing to speak up about these problems. (Preferring instead to stick their heads in the sand and pretend these problems are "no big deal.")

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

WWTD? Who Cares? (Jonah Goldberg)

Basically, Mr. Goldberg takes issue with the approach to geopolitics as espoused by a certain Republican named Ron Paul running for president. This part summarizes well the gist of the article:

[I]s it really so compelling to say that American foreign policy in the 1930s was America’s finest hour?

The luxury of this stance derives from the fact that Paul can say every foreign policy problem is fruit from the poisoned tree. He can stand outside reality like a contrafactual sci-fi writer, saying that if we only had taken a different fork in the road everything would be fine. I don’t buy that. But even if he were right, that ship has sailed (to horribly mangle a metaphor). Declaring in 2007 that we should adopt Robert Taft’s foreign policy is flatly childish and absurd. But it’s intellectually safe because it forces the opposition to prove a negative.

Those who wonder why your host manifested the intention to write on a significant imbalance in politics today and propose a remedy for the common problems inherent in the political approaches of both major parties{1} last month now understand part of the reason why we will be doing that. The problem is that anyone can be a critic -that is why President Theodore Roosevelt once noted that it is the one in the arena who deserves the credit, not critics.{2} And those who cannot propose a viable alternative to what they are critical of are not deserving of serious consideration by anyone with a normal intact functioning brain. And that is the bottom line really.


{1} [I]t seems appropriate to write as time allows on some of the systems and principles that shaped the outlooks of the Founding Fathers of the United States.[...] Part of the reason for this decision is because there is a significant imbalance in politics today and we want to propose a remedy for the common problems inherent in the political approaches of both major parties. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa April 17, 2007)]

{2} For the full quote from Theodore Roosevelt which is paraphrased above, see the Rerum Novarum "points to ponder" installment circa March 17, 2007.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Points to Ponder:

In our milieu it is often assumed that "factual" simply means "true," and that "facts speak for themselves." But facts seldom do. Our convictions do not arise from facts alone but always from some whole, some picture that we compose from these smaller pieces of information. [Professor Lessl]


On Some Upcoming Post Subjects and Weblog Formatting:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

[Update: This posting was just revised a bit to reflect some recategorizations and additional primary categories being added to insure that (to our knowledge) none of the primary categories contain any overlapping of one another. -ISM 5/16/07 7:51pm]

[Update: For easier reading, this posting was further revised and one of the footnotes incorporated into the text along with some new material explaining the reason for one of the primary categories which on the surface would seem an odd addition to any weblog restructuring. -ISM 5/17/07 10:30am]

It was noted last month that your host planned to write on the Founding Fathers, some of the principles and systems that shaped their outlook, and also to point out what he believes is a serious problem of imbalance in the modern political climate.{1} That intention is being worked through bit by bit as we have both time to and also are in the mood to write on that subject.

On another front, your host informed the readers of the arduous task of tagging the posts in our massive archive late last month.{2} The good news is that we figured out a couple more short cuts since writing on that matter last -mainly through finding some natural categorizations in the archives in the process. So while the weblog probably will not be close to fully and thoroughly archived until summertime but as it is, the entire weblog has been given a preliminary go-through. While still far from complete, it can now be said that nearly 100% of the posts to this weblog can be broken down into eighteen non-overlapping primary categories. These categories are as follows -with a brief explanation of each:

--Points to Ponder: Posted tidbits from various sources (including sometimes tidbits written by your host) intended to cultivate the reader's pondering capacities. As of the next posting, there will be 310 installments in the "points to ponder" feature of this weblog.

--Expository Musings: These are threads which are as a rule of a longer and/or more detailed nature generally. However, sometimes there are threads so categorized which are not per se that long but may have taken more time to refine into the shape in which they were blogged than other postings of a similar length or for some other reason were categorized in this format. As of today (and including this posting) there are 370 posts tagged with this label including multi-parts of material in a series format. Among the audio posts, the longer and/or more detailed of them are tagged with this label though some of the others will have to be listened to as time allows for it to see if they should be classified here or not.

--Dialogues/Mailbag Discussions: These are threads posted in a dialogual format which could be derived from various sources. As of today, there are 293 posts tagged with this label.

--Miscellaneous Threads/Briefer Musings: These are generally threads which contain various forms of briefer musings. Among the posts so labeled are various "miscellaneous threads" postings, the shorter or briefer audio posts{3}, etc. This is basically the defacto primary category for any posting unless it is clear that for some reason or another there is not a proper fit. That makes this the largest of the categories by default and thus there are as of this writing 696 of these kinds of postings tagged at this humble weblog.

--Stray Links of Interest: Exactly what it says. As of today, there are 179 posts which involve just stray links on various subjects or links with very little commentary on our part.

--Guest Editorials: These are editorials submitted by others which were posted to this weblog. As of today there are 29 of them posted -though before the end of the week there will be another one posted time-willing.{4}

--Spiritual Instruction: These are postings dealing with facets of spirituality. As of today, there are 39 of them posted.

Taken together, one of the above seven categories is tagged on almost 90% of all postings to this weblog. But those are not the only primary categories we have utilized -indeed the next nine comprise roughly the remaining 10% of the weblog's postings:

--Lyrics/Poetry/Haikus: These are postings which chiefly involve one or more of the subjects in the tagline. There is currently 28 of those postings to this weblog.

--Lyrics/Poetry/Haikus/Plus Musings: These are postings which involve either lyrics, poetry, or haikus but also have some brief musings by your weblog host. There are 11 of these posted to the present weblog.

--Personal: These are postings of a more personal nature. As of today there are 48 of them.

--Personal Musings: These are postings containing musings of a more personal nature. As of today there are 18 of these.

--Humour/Parody/Satire: Self explanatory. There are 13 of these in the archives.

--Humour/Parody/Satire/Plus Musings: Also self-explanatory as these contain the same as the previous category but also some brief musings by your weblog host. There are 8 of these in the archives.

-- Excerpts from Literature/Writings: These are postings which contain excerpts from either literature or from various writings. There are 12 of them in the archives of this weblog as of today.

--Quizzes: Basically as a temporary diversion the occasional online "quiz" has been taken. As of today, there are 42 of them posted to this weblog -the last one from January of 2006.

--Weblog Maintenance/Updates: Self-explanatory. There are 34 of these tagged in the archives.

--Weblog Maintenance/Updates/Plus Musings: Likewise self-explanatory. There are 14 of these in the archives.

--Archivally Obsolete/Duplicate Post/Minutiae: Basically postings which fit one or more of the criteria noted in the tagline for some reason or another. As of today, there are 32 of them though in a testament to this weblog's focus on perennial relevance as well as quality over time, 26 of those postings were in 2002 and 5 were in the first couple months of 2003. As this latter category may appear to be an odd one to include, your host wants to explain briefly the reasons why before wrapping up this posting.

Essentially, we would be less than fully honest if we did not admit that there are some postings in the archive which we do not find to be of value anymore for a variety of reasons which we are not going to delve into at the moment{6} except to note one significant reason which went into this determination.

For you see, your host has refused to purge his archives of stuff which in retrospect he regrets posting. Part of the reason for this is principles as we have been critical of others for trying to airbrush the historical record at their own sites to avoid telling the truth about their past actions or statements in a given point of time. But another reason is that life itself is a process of growth and development across a broad continuum. This includes weblog writing and interests.

We have no problem admitting that it took a bit of time before this weblog really started to take a discernible shape and some of the features and/or principles which have become standard or typical over time were in the "finding their feet" stage early on. The posts noted in the "archivally obsolete/duplicate posting/minutiae" category may also have been a localized kind of project which either was left incomplete due to time or interest factors or which was of a limited applicability back before your host sought to as much as possible make this weblog's contents have both a timeless and general applicability and also a particular circumstantial one.{7} But that is all that this writer intends to say on the matter at the present time except to say that yes, we have even categorized the obsolete or otherwise no-longer-of-any-real-value chaff from the archives.

Taken together, the eighteen categories above comprise by our count 100% of all posts to this weblog as primary categorizations. But besides those primary categories, there are also various additional tags including the following which will at some point be added as applicable to all the various postings on this weblog to which they can be ascertained to apply:

--Beer/Wine/Various Spirits
--Culture War
--Excerpts from Literature/Writings
--Gerard Serafin (RIP)
--Mainstream Media (MSM)
--Mea Culpa
--Perversion of Law/Government Theft
--President George W. Bush
--President Ronald Reagan
--The Blues
--The Fundamental Rights of Man
--US Constitution/Founding Fathers/Federalist Papers
--War in General/War on Terror/War in Iraq

There will undoubtedly be other secondary categories which are derived as needed as well{8} but at the moment, those are the ones that have been found to be most useful. Anyway, that is what has been done as there has been time here and there. Oh and as we noted last month, there is no anticipation on our part that we will be done with this until some time in the summer at the earliest. The end result will be to make it a lot easier to find things on our part and also for the readers who are interested in perusing nearly five years of blog archives since we undertook this "new thing" (Lat. Rerum Novarum) back in August of 2002.


{1} [I]t seems appropriate to write as time allows on some of the systems and principles that shaped the outlooks of the Founding Fathers of the United States.[...] Part of the reason for this decision is because there is a significant imbalance in politics today and we want to propose a remedy for the common problems inherent in the political approaches of both major parties. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa April 17, 2007)]

{2} Readers of this humble weblog may have noticed the labels on the bottom of the page of many of the blog posts. I have been in recent weeks taking a few minutes here and there and adding labels to various posts by subject. This is an arduous process but thankfully, I know some shortcuts that have enabled me to get a significant jump on it.[...] ... Suffice to say, this will take a while and when the project is completed, I will be able to significantly reduce the number of links in the side margin of my weblog and post there only the categories themselves whatever the total number of them ends up being. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa April 28, 2007)]

{3} Some audioposts we know are of an expository nature as that was how they were titled after they were recorded or in the recordings themselves. As for the rest, they may be reclassified from this format to another after we have had the opportunity to listen to them anew and determine where they should be placed. (Until we know for sure, if it appears that they were of a "briefer musing" styling, that is where they will be placed.)

{4} We say "time willing" because while we do not write the editorials, we do format them for posting and that does take time on our part to do.

{5} Originally we noted exceptions in this footnote but we are not aware of any as of this post revision.

{6} A few come to mind offhand including (i) because they focused discussion on areas we are not interested anymore in dealing with, (ii) they may have been a near duplicate of a previous posting which may have had a technical glitch in it at the time which was subsequently corrected, or (iii) they simply may have been a kind of inside joke between a couple of people at the time which a casual reader would not get.

{7} This was as much an intuitive decision as a purely rational one so it would not be fair to say it was part of a well-organized plan.

{8} A few that come to mind are the subjects of theology and some equivalent category or categories covering the areas of philosophy, ethics, reason, and logic.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

"One From the Vault" Dept.
(On Rider Reform)

As is evident to anyone paying even a modicum of attention to the goings-on up on Capitol Hill, the Democrats in Congress are obviously trying to use the subject of funding the Iraq situation to stuff various elements into the mix which are not germane to the subject at hand. These are of course matters which they are too cowardly to vote on individually. The latter approach to circumventing political accountability is precisely what "riders" attached to legislation are by the way for those who do not know. And for this reason, it seems appropriate to remind readers of this humble weblog of something your host wrote in January of 2004 where a proposal for rider reform was set forth.

We intend at some point (possibly this year) to present that idea at the state level for Washington state and would (of course) like to see this kind of approach work its way across the various state legislatures and eventually into the congressional bodies at the federal level also. But for the time being, we merely intend to remind longtime readers of that proposal and introduce it to those who had not seen it before.

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