Saturday, April 26, 2008

More on Senator John McCain, the Boundaries of Conservative Republican Thought Historically Speaking, and Certain Troubling Contemporary Ahistorical So-Called "Conservative" Trends Thereof:
(Part I of a Dialogue)

This is a follow up to a previous conversation which can be read here:

A Dialogue on John McCain and "Conservatism" (circa March 26, 2008)

To facilitate an easier following of who said what -as there are many layers to this thread in divers font colourings- the following hopefully will be of assistance.

The orange font is from the emailer's original email while light blue font is my responses to the emailer's original note. The dark green font is from the emailer's follow-up to my first response while the regular blog font colour is my response to the emailer's follow-up note. Any sources I quote in this note will be in dark blue font and possibly smaller type as a result of the format this original text was taken from (I do not have time to change it).

Without further ado...


First of all, I hope your Easter was a good one. Without further ado…

You surely did not think I would let this one pass now did you??? I could have of course if not for being accused of sophistry and red herrings by someone who quite evidently was wearing blinders when it comes to a variety of the pertinent factors involved in the discussion. Nonetheless…

Michael Medved (or Michael Methhead as he was affectionately referred to by a caller to Rick Roberts, a talk radio local yokel here in San Diego) has the audicity to call McCain a Reagan Republican here.

I read the thread the other day actually.

What kind of Reagan Republican busts his ass to endear himself to the leftist media, sellout to the pseudo-science loving global warming touting, Algore worshipping, envirommentally ill wackos, whose significant legislative achievements also bear the names of the most radical leftist Democraps in the Senate.

I remind you XXXXXXX that it is nearly impossible to do anything legislatively without some degree of reaching across the aisle unless one party dominates the congresses and the presidency significantly.

There's a big difference between reaching arcoss the aisle, making compromises that garner some kind of benefit for our side and putting on the opposition's uniform and singing their fight song, and help construct legislation that is purely antithetical to conservatism. McCain's "bipartisanship" is clearly in the latter category. Can you think of any legislation co-authored by McCain that even has a whiff of conservatism to it? I can't. I am shocked you would even try flaoting this canard by me in regards to McCain.

This line of argument on your part is puzzling to me because your choice of terms admits of a few interpretations. (Feel free to clarify which one you refer to.) When you say "coauthored" do you mean the same thing as "co-sponsored" or do you mean he had to have written it himself or been the key sponsor to it???

Of course no matter which standard above you are applying, your claim of "co-authored legislation" is a canard itself since the lions share of bills never make it out of committee anyway. According to the NAAYP{1} and a "hostile witness" if you will for the sake of this discussion, in the 107th Congress (2001-2002) there were 8,948 bills introduced into the House and Senate. Do you care to guess the number which actually became law??? Try 377. If you do the math, you will find that it comes out to about 4%. That is roughly the same percentage as with any session of Congress: about 95% of introduced bills in every session fail to become law for a variety of reasons and usually because they die in committee and do not even get voted on by the full congressional bodies and sent to the president to begin with. And bear in mind, that is the entire congress, not just Senator John McCain. This fact is why your request to find a "piece of legislation" is on its face rather humourous. But heck, let us up the ante a bit now shall we???

Since you want to argue in this fashion -and presumably because you were not aware of the low number of bills that even become law in any session: if you actually knew this would be disingenuous and I doubt that was your intention- I will ask you to tell me if you can think of any legislation that President Bush vetoed in the first six years of his presidency that had more than a mere whiff of liberalism to it??? I guarantee you I would have better luck with answering your question than you would mine because even if I found one example for McCain which meets your criteria, you will never find a single example that meets mine because W did not veto a single piece of legislation in his first six years!!! That showed tremendous executive weakness since unlike McCain and the laborious process that it takes for any proposed bill to become law, the president has a pretty solid way of not letting bad legislation through. It is called the veto know that thing he only discovered after the Democrats took over Congress.

It is hard enough to get a bill through for presidential consideration and a veto is darn difficult to override. The historical average on overrides is 4% with recent presidents (since Truman to draw the line somewhere) having the following percentage of success in over-riding a presidential veto:

Harry S. Truman: 5%
Dwight D. Eisenhower: 1%
John F. Kennedy: 0%
Lyndon B. Johnson: 0%
Richard M. Nixon: 16%
Gerald R. Ford: 18%
James E. Carter: 6%
Ronald W. Reagan: 12%
George H. W. Bush: 2%
William J. Clinton: 5%
George W. Bush: 11%

You can follow this thread here. With regards to percentages, one must consider that except for Eisenhower having Republicans running Congress for a small part of his term, the Republican presidents (except W) had the opposing party in control of Congress and the Democrats (except Truman and Bubba) did not. But even the most embattled of presidents still succeeds at least 80% of the time in sustaining a veto; thus the failure of W to wield that instrument the first six years of his presidency against the unprincipled Republican congresses starting in January of 2001 and running through January of 2007 is a significant weakness on his part to lead.

And as that has not been seen since the first administration of fdr, it is not something that can or should be presumed at any time. And as the most influential persons in the Democratic camp (and the ones therefore who have the most "pull" influentially) are the older and more liberal ones, that does not leave much of a choice tactically. You would do well to remember that every conservative has had to make deals with liberals to get things passed and vice versa. Reagan never would have gotten his agenda through without the help of O'Neill and before you claim that was cause they were in his favour, remember that he also was involved in policies that were not beneficial to the conservative cause. The tax increases that Reagan agreed to in 1982 is one example. The mass amnesty from 1986 was another. More could be noted but on both of those

Yes, but as I point out above, this is not in the least the case with McCain. McCain throws in with the Democraps to poke conservatives in the eyes whereas Reagan at least did what he did to help the conservative agenda, not undermine it the way McCain has.

Undermine whose "conservative agenda"??? I really tire of this idea that there is one monolithic "conservative agenda" XXXXXXX because it is not true. There are general conservative issues of course but even then there is still a degree of difference of opinion which subsists. I am unaware of one single bread and butter definitively conservative issue that John McCain does not in some measure support even if I do not agree with the manner in which he seeks to apply the underlying principles involved. Do not mistaken failure to support certain methodologies as a failure to support particular principles or else you are doing nothing different than those who make matters of Catholic requirement concurring with matters of the prudential order as if they are akin to doctrine.

On the following subjects, McCain's voting record is on the whole quite conservative -not perfect certainly but substantial. For example:

On the subject of abortion, McCain gets a B+ which is not perfect but is still a hell of a lot better than the alternatives we have.

On overall life issues he gets at worst a B- which is not great of course but "conservatism" is a philosophy embodying a number of core principles not just one and there is not definitive unanimity on some of the underlying factors involved here anyway.

On budget issues, McCain gets a solid A and has a sterling record here which frankly after six years of W and a drunken sailor Republican congress would be a breath of fresh air in many respects.

On matters of the economy, he scores a B particularly on matters of taxation having never voted for a tax increase. I know you think he deserves to be flogged for not supporting Bush's tax cuts all along but I remind you that support for broad and deep tax cuts in the absence of definite spending reductions is not a traditional conservative position. If anything, the traditional conservative approach to deficits is to raise taxes not cut them!!! McCain's position on taxes is quite evidently not supply side-based. I am not saying it is wrong mind you, only that supporting tax cuts in the absence of definite (as opposed to future promised) spending reductions is not a position that is required to be a conservative. And I say that as someone who does view tax cuts as important economic stimulator and who defended the hypothesis of supply side economics before a class of liberals back in college.{2}

I note this here so that you understand that I take a different view on this than McCain does in one fundamental respect yet agree with him on another. I do not favour tax cuts without corresponding cuts in spending also -increasing revenue is pointless if that increased revenue is spent and then some- so I in that respect embody in symbiosis two historical conservative positions in one. Prior to Reagan, the mainstream conservative position was one that favoured raising taxes and cutting spending. Even Reagan in cutting taxes wanted corresponding spending reductions so in this respect, my position is solidly in line with Reagan as would appear to be McCain's.

Reagan to some extent though he failed in this area can be given some leeway as he was working with a Democratic congress. Even W's daddy who really messed up by not learning from Reagan's experience in this area again was dealing with a Democratic congress. But W had his guys in control and thus there is no excuse -I do not buy the bullshit of "well we are at war now" as an excuse for a three TRILLION dollar budget and still running a quarter to a half trillion a year deficit. This was pure horseshit and the idea that Bush cares about the budget now when the Democrats have control is "nearly a laugh but [its] really a cry" (cf. R. Waters).

On the subject of business, McCain gets a B-: not great but not too bad. I would score him a lot higher if he favoured repealing subsidies for companies that move jobs offshore to produce products for sending to American markets. Few things piss me off more and I say this as someone who does not personally benefit in any fashion from this move.{3} Nonetheless, his stance of not repealing such subsidies is more "mainstream conservative" than mine is so arguably that B- could be bumped up to a B+ if the goal here is conforming to what is considered by many to be "conservative" by virtue of what the mainstream pundits believe.

On the subject of civil rights, McCain gets a B-/C+: he is a bit nebulous on affirmative action and gay issues{4} but on balance here he is somewhat decent even if nothing to write home about.

On the subject of crime, McCain gets an A

On the subject of drugs, McCain gets an A+

On the subject of education, McCain gets an A-

On the subject of energy and oil, McCain gets a C. If he favoured more ANWAR drilling and more refineries being built along with utilizing the federal government to provide greater incentives for private businesses to develop alternative energy sources, I would grade him much higher. Those views are traditionally conservative after all: the Jeffersonian model is not the only traditional conservative model even if today it is the most prevalent one.{5}

On the subject of the environment, McCain gets a B. If not for his stance on global warming which is (at best) an unproven hypothesis, he would get an A. However, since he supports certain other environmental matters which modern "conservatives" do not generally favour, they would dock him for this. (For example, his stances on national parks and commercial whaling.) But again, there is a tradition of Republican thought as well as a traditional conservatism going back to Theodore Roosevelt which is more mindful of the environment than many modern conservatives are -a tradition that Senator Barry Goldwater also shared throughout his career. So while by modern standards, he would be viewed as lacking in this area, if judged by earlier conservative principles he would rate higher.{6}

On the subject of families and children, McCain gets an A.

On the subject of foreign policy, McCain gets a B+.

On the subject of "free trade", McCain by the general consensus of conservatives today gets an A+ but in my view gets a D.{7} Nonetheless, my point here is to note areas where McCain is closer or further from overall stances which would fall within the parameters of the outlines of what is "conservative." With that in mind, he gets an A+ here as he has never failed to support "free trade" issues thus getting a 100% vote from CATO Institute.

On second amendment issues, McCain gets an A-: I cannot give him a solid A since he does not own a firearm after all ;-)

On the subject of government reform, McCain gets another solid A.

On homeland security, McCain gets at least a B- if not a solid B if we account for general overview, defense spending, and his overall voting record. I dock him from a solid A for his stance on the subjects of Gitmo and water boarding but those are not sine qua non positions for determining or anathematizing someone from being a conservative. If McCain were to favour giving the terrorists constitutional rights -and he has said explicitly he does not favour this at all- then you would be able to make a solid argument on this matter that his conservative credentials would be questionable. But not in the absence of that factor in my humble opinion.

On jobs, McCain is given a 15% rating by the AFL-CIO which means he gets at least a middle B by virtue of the simple acid test of unions generally being wrong on what is best for effective economic productivity.{8}

On immigration, McCain gets a D or worse of that there is no doubt. You know my views on this and my disappointment in his position. But the problem is, his position is not different in substance than the one Reagan know, one of those areas where Reagan made a mistake. But The Gipper for better or worse has framed this issue as an acceptable conservative hypothesis by virtue of his support for the proposal coupled with his status as a great conservative party icon. We would be wise to not forget that however much we view that position of McCain's part as a monumental mistake.

On social security issues, McCain gets a solid A.

On tax reform, McCain gets a solid A.

On technology, McCain gets a solid A.

On the war, McCain gets a solid A gaining points for what he loses on the torture subject for his stubbornness on supporting the surge unlike a lot of congressional Republicans. (He has been the strongest supporter of President Bush on this significant issue.)

On welfare and poverty issues, McCain gets a solid A.

He favours appointing originalist judges to the courts who interpret and not invent law so he gets a solid A+ on this issue pending actual disappointment on the matter in the same fashion I start all presidents (or in this case, potential presidents) off with A's. I did that with W too{9} so my approach here with McCain is hardly a novel one.

Shall I list more general areas or does this suffice??? The problem here XXXXXXX is your apparent identification of "the conservative agenda" as synonymous with what Rush Limbaugh thinks or what the general consensus of talk show hosts happens to be. They do not doth conservatism make. I do not in saying this mean they are not conservatives of course, only that they do not set the boundaries and they do not determine who is in the camp or not -they at times have an artificially narrowed view of these matters viewing conservatism as synonymous with their own personal views or certain zeitgeists of the recent past. And Limbaugh is not the only one who does this.

Now, Reagan made mistakes in that regard, which were miniscule in comparison the good he accomplished.

Of course Reagan made mistakes. So has McCain. So have you. So have I. Etcetera...

Now while becuase Reagan never was a Senator and therefore can we can never know for sure what kind of record he would have had there, it is more than safe to say that the Reagan we know and love would not have been caught dead acting anything like John McCain. Hell, even Bob "let's make a deal" Dole never would have been caught dead doing such a thing either. Shawn, if you think McCain would govern more conservatively than even the not so conservative Bush, you really need to flush out your headgear.

Frankly, anyone but Huckabee among the candidates this year would govern more conservatively than Bush did. Other than the tax cuts and war in 03, the surge in 07, and two justices on the court in 05 and 06, Bush has been a disgrace.

Say what??? Shawn if you think with McCain's record of real consequence (something I will elaborate on later) he will govern more conservatively than Bush, you need to take few hits off the crackppipe just to come to your senses. You really think I am that stupid to fall for this horseshit? I was born in the morning, but not this morning.

I am looking at two factors here XXXXXXX, the panopoly of issues and not just one or two "talking point" ones selected by Limbaugh and his cronies and also the change in office which comes with a change in responsibilities. There is a significant difference between being a senator and being a president. I am not presuming a priori that McCain cannot make the change as you are. I am open to the possibility that he can particularly if the conservatives McCain will need to win are in positions to be able to influence him in this direction. McCain is not stupid and he saw what happened when W rubbed the conservatives the wrong way on key points. The alternative media is here to stay whether he likes it or not.

Also, as president McCain would not need to haggle and compromise to come up with proposals that may or may not pass congress, he as the executive would be able to sign or veto what is put before him. This sets the stage for a more conservative governance potentially. I am not saying he will of course, only that if he is elected and does, it will not surprise me all that much actually. If anything McCain being no stranger to DC the past two decades means he is less likely to govern more liberally than he manifests himself to be going into the office because of the common change that DC can have on even the best intentioned of persons.

To be Continued...


{1} The "National Association for the Advancement of You People" -coined by Rush Limbaugh circa 1992.

{2} I helped them see the value in it and many including the teacher came to support them until I mentioned I had just outlined "Reaganomics in a nutshell" at which point many flip-flopped but I digress.

{3} Unfortunately, so many people advocate positions because they benefit from them rather than out of principle (whether they benefit or not) and this is not what someone who is concerned with principle and an ethical approach to matters in general.

{4} Leaning towards if not taking a more modern "liberal" stance.

{5} I will write on this very soon on the weblog in a long-planned and finally completed sans final edited posting.

{6} Again, in doing the latter, I give him a B and if not for his support of the unproven hypothesis of global warming, I would give him a solid A.

{7} I do not have time to go through the archives of this weblog and track down the posts I have written on the subject of so-called "free trade" and my opposition to what masquerades as "free trade" in reality compared to the idea in the abstract. Hopefully this thread on CAFTA from mid 2005 will suffice as one example of my rather complex view on this matter.

{8} This is something I have noticed throughout my life and probably could raise this acid test to the status of at least a corollary if not a full blown dictum with a bit more development of thought and analysis on the matter (though I have no intention of doing either anytime soon due to lack of time). Ergo, if the unions do not like what he is doing, he is doing a lot more right than wrong: pretty simple really but effective nonetheless as a gauge of measurement here akin to The Carter Corollary if you will.

{9} Not docking him to A- until his stem cell decision which in light of his response to 9/11 bumped him back to a solid A at the time.

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A Near-Finalized Draft of a Long Planned Amazon Book Review of David Armstrong's The Catholic Verses:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

Originally I had planned a much more ambitious and detailed review of this book but time and subsequent circumstances scuttled that idea significantly. A few months ago though, I ran across some of my old notes from mid 2005 and decided to piece them together into a review which will also be posted to Amazon probably this month or next. I also did a quick subsequent review of the sections of the book referred to in my notes, reviewing previous observations and jotting down a few additional ones pertaining to it on a section by section basis. My intention with the finished product is that the combination of the two will make this as fair a review as possible.

But before tending to that, I want to note briefly something I wrote earlier this year on a semi-private correspondence when the subject of David Armstrong came up in a discussion list I was on and misperception was not wanting as to my views on the matter. (And considering some of what transpired in past years, these misunderstandings were to some extent understandable.) So to help set the stage for this review, here is part of what I wrote very early in the new year in another medium so that readers can see how my assessment of David Armstrong's overall approach in the areas he does well meshes well with the review of this book which will follow:

To ask him about me, I went from being "wonderful" and "brilliant" and all of that to the "son of satan" with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. But I do not take that kind of absurd view of him -I do not view now as poorly done anything I previously praised or vice versa. (Though I tended before to make my views of Dave's poorer quality stuff very rarely known and almost never publicly.) That is what one who has the favour of friendship gets essentially: the benefit of the doubt. Here for your consideration (and the others on the list if they like) is my assessment of Dave's work as a whole apart from my view of him personally.

Starting with the good, Dave does very well to practically excellent on many aspects of bread and butter apologetics subjects particularly Catholic-Protestant stuff and on core Catholic doctrines. He does less well on ancillary subjects but that is the case for everyone really: by their nature they are harder to substantiate with the same degree of rock solidity as primary doctrinal matter. And on primary doctrinal subject matter, Dave's stuff is well worth reviewing. I said this years ago and my view on it has not in substance changed because (unlike Dave) I do not make personalities the criteria on how I view these matters.

Dave's work on Orthodox-Catholic stuff is not as good as his Catholic-Protestant stuff but it is still on the whole pretty good. On the subject of development of doctrine he is quite good -I now view him as perhaps overextending a bit on his application compared to previously as well as viewing Newman's theory as being more conclusive than it is. There are other areas he does well too but this suffices to show that I do not take a singular negative view of Dave's work. On balance his stuff in this area is well worth reading and my views on the above stuff now is no different than it was when he and I were on great terms (which was the case prior to September of 2005). I plan to review one of his books at some point in the new year -basically will take up a bare bones sketch of a draft from mid 2005 and my review of the work is not going to change now from what it was going to be then...

My problems with Dave on some issues do not detract from recognizing what he does that is good. [Excerpt from a Correspondence (circa January 1, 2008)]

There is more to it than just the above of course -the less positive parts of the above correspondence following that point and being heavily footnoted and perhaps worth going over at some point should I feel inclined to. I will simply note at this time on them that the major criticisms I have long had entail (i) his understanding of what is properly understood as "magisterial", (ii) his approach to what is called "general norms of interpretation" on theological matters in general, and (iii) his approach to moral theology in light of the previous two problematical areas. There has also been (iv) a tendency on his part at times towards fallacious forms of argumentation. However, in fairness I should note that the latter one is generally only a problem on ancillary subject matters.

But noting those things briefly at the outset is as far as I will take the critical element in this posting at least generally speaking -as it would not be honest of me to fail to disclose them at least briefly at the outset. But without further ado, here is a review of Mr. Armstrong's book The Catholic Verses which in substance was drafted nearly three years ago. The words of the review will be in red font.

The theme of this book is an interesting one -covering ninety-five biblical verses as a kind of symbolic response to Fr. Martin Luther's 95 Theses tacked by legend to the door of the Wittenburg cathedral in late 1517. And the manifested intention to demonstrate that there can be plausibly argued from a biblical standpoint for many of what Mr. Armstrong calls "Catholic distinctives" is amply sustained -though there is a variegated quality of his arguments in the book notwithstanding of course. This was unquestionably a very ambitious undertaking on the part of the author and for that fact alone he deserves some credit.

This book has a few weaknesses which affect the overall text. For one thing, it is very choppy in spots with the manuscript needing improvement by smoothing out some of the rough structural barbs. I should in fairness note in stating this criticism that part of that is perhaps inevitable if one looks at the pattern of the book and its intentions. For example, as the book is based on specific verses, there will be inexorably a greater degree of commentary interspersed with other sources. And of course the aforementioned commentary and use of sources will also bring to it certain unspoken and unsubstantiated presuppositions of the author no matter how one tries to avoid this -and the latter cannot be done justice in a volume such as this.

But that point noted, Mr. Armstrong is usually good at recognizing the principle that more formally developed concepts need not be present in later fullness in earlier periods of time: what Catholics refer to as development of doctrine. Mr. Armstrong understands the concept better than most but it is nonetheless one with its limits and not the magical "one size fits all" remedy that he at times appears to think it is. Mr. Armstrong also has a tendency to overplay his hand a bit through the use of statements of a more absolute nature where theologically there is more room than he appears to presume. But this criticism is one that is hardly applicable to him alone -I note it here nonetheless because it needs to be accounted for by the reader to receive a fuller picture of the author's work itself.

Despite the manifested intention to avoid triumphalist tonalities in the book, Mr. Armstrong while generally succeeding in this area nonetheless does involve a bit of sardonic phrasing in spots -seemingly at the points where either his arguments are the weakest or the internal contradictions of some of the sources he critically interacts with happen to be. John Calvin is a particular target in this area but considering the snide way Calvin approaches a number of subjects in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, it is hard to fault Mr. Armstrong for taking a bit of schadenfraude in puncturing the balloons of bombast common to Calvin's methodology even if in other areas one could find it easier for this criticism to have a bit more weight. (And I emphasize "a bit more" because on balance this book is light on explicit triumphalism: something which is to Mr. Armstrong's credit.)

On specific matters, to compile a detailed sketch would take more time than I have so I will note what is particularly well done section by section. The sections on The Church, Bible and Tradition, Papacy, Communion of Saints, and Prayers for the Dead are all despite the overall structural weaknesses noted earlier very solid in content and argumentation. (Likewise the sections on Baptism and Eucharist.) I could quibble with a few additional bits but they would not detract from my view of these sections at all so I will leave it be for now. The Communion of Saints section also possesses some nice nuances to it which someone familiar with the boilerplate elements of this subject could well appreciate -the same is the case for the section on Prayers for the Dead.

Other sections which are also good (albeit not to the extent the ones already noted are) include the ones on Penance and Relics/Sacramentals. The problem with these sections that I discerned most is brevity primarily: they require a lot more exposition due to being more implied in the scripture than the others noted thus far. It is also questionable in my mind if including these subjects in the book was a good idea for those reasons but what is there is good so I will leave it at that.

The section on Divisions/Denominationalism is on balance good but it has more weaknesses to it than the other sections noted thus far. For one thing, it needs to emphasize that the only divisions Mr. Armstrong intends to be critical of are ones that pertain to faith. In failing to do this, it leaves Mr. Armstrong open to those who point out areas of diversity in Catholic philosophy, theology, application of moral/ethical principles, geopolitical matters, etc. as a presumed "refutation" of his position in this section. If he were to in a subsequent edition make this delineation clearer, it would vindicate this section from the sort of criticism I noted above.

The last quarter of the book is of markedly less quality than the parts covered thus far -in part because the subjects move to more peripheral or controverted nature. For the sake of presenting a stronger product it would have been better to have either covered them in greater detail or passed these matters over completely. The section on Celibacy is written from a western perspective which gives the impression that there is one traditional approach to this matter instead of two. It would do Mr. Armstrong well in subsequent editions of this work to add a bit in there about the eastern tradition which allows for married clergy much as certain extraordinary provisions in the western church in recent decades does. In both traditions there is (albeit in differing ways) a recognition of the biblical principle of clerical celibacy so this revision would only strengthen the latter section of this book.

The section on Divorce suffers from a lack of completion akin to the one on Celibacy though not to the same extent. The main weakness here is the lack of distinguishing between the concepts of divorce and annulment. The latter is often called "Catholic divorce" but that expression is not accurate at all and failing to note the distinction in this section after the passages pertaining to divorce weakens the presentation here.

The section on Contraception is the weakest one in the book for a variety of reasons. The first reason is that it is a derivative concept which as I noted earlier is harder to cover than a primary subject. The second is that it is based on so little Scriptural reference and implied ones at that: making it by nature involving a lot more commentary. The third is that there are other objections raised against the OT passage he cited being interpreted as Mr. Armstrong does that he gives no credence whatsoever to. There are other factors too on this one but my guess is that this being an issue that was of particular resonance to Mr. Armstrong in his conversion is what prompted him to include a section in this book on the topic in question.

But to cover the latter subject with the detail required and accounting for all parameters (including certain presuppositions Mr. Armstrong unconsciously and uncritically accepts) would be to make the book a lot longer which is why it would have been better to have passed over it completely in this treatment.

To summarize this review, Mr. Armstrong attempts to cover an entire spectrum of ideas with this book. In doing this there will be a variegation of success and on the lions share of the topics covered as well as overall presentation, this book is a worthwhile read. But there are also some topics of which it would have been better to have a bit more material on to insure a more correct presentation. And there is exactly one subject which would have by the nature of the subject in question have benefited from being passed over with the idea of focusing on the ones where the greater strength of demonstration and argument can be made.

In closing, I with minimal reservation recommend this work for those who have questions as to the presumed "unbiblical" nature of certain Catholic beliefs and practices. It would serve well to help them realize that (whether they agree with them or not) there are arguments that can be made from Scripture for many "Catholic distinctives" which non-Catholics may have been led to believe did not exist.

Rating: ****

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I do not feel sorry for the New York Times.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Miscellaneous Musings:

Briefly on some subjects of the past week...

--When it comes to the economy and the stock market, there is far more mixed signals on the matter than seems to be the msm's inclination to portray. One thing we do know for sure is that the economy has slowed down but as for an actual "recession", it is still too early to tell.

--I will be posting in the days after Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary a thread series containing my most detailed view of Senator John McCain yet -along with some of my most critical statements about President Bush as well. But not until after the Pennsylvania primary on Tuesday.

--On the upcoming primary in Pennsylvania, I noted already my sense of schadenfraude viz. how the Democrats are acting now with Senator Clinton considering how in the past they have played the "keep fighting" card even when the latter was genuinely hopeless. But this is hardly a case of a hopeless campaign for Senator Clinton because the very structure of the Democratic party nominating process has made this an open race. Heck, there is less than a ten percent margin in the delegate counts between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama!!! If that is cause for her to throw in the towel, then the Democrats who have whined about Florida since 2000{1} and Ohio since 2004{2} should apologize to everyone whose ear drums had to be subjected to their screeds over many years and give Senator Clinton her "recount" equivalent in this race by at least finishing it.

--As far as predictions on Pennsylvania go, I predict Senator Clinton will win by approximately 5%.

--I have not said anything about the pope's visit except in private to some friends. It is obviously great on one level that he came to America but there are other factors that I cannot ignore in the overall assessment. Here with some heavy editing out of material of a more confidential and other nature are some of the bits from one of those conversations six days ago with my interlocutor's words in dark green, my words in light blue font, and some structure added to the substance of my comments as well as theirs where needed:

BTW, are you doing anything with the Pope's visit.

with the pope coming...I am going to take a wait and see basically. I respect him tremendously


I hear a but coming

much as I did [John Paul II]...but

I was right

I am concerned with the attitude many take on different fronts on different matters. Basically, I am a subsidiarity fella: it is how I approach things constitutionally and geopolitically. It is also how I approach things ecclesially

which would rule out distributism, obviously

that does not (lol)

mean I rule out the pope disciplining people of course. But we have two extremes I think need to be avoided. We need to avoid on the one hand a micromanaging pope

I think I see where this is goin.

engaging in a kind of ecclesial extreme federalism to the detriment of diocesan issues but at the same time we need a check on the tyranny of diocesan bureaucracies. It is ironic

and on the tyranny of individual bishops

that there are those in dioceses who complain about the Vatican intervening in their dioceses but they then act as if people in the dioceses owe them a much greater obedience than they owe the pope.

Boy, you said it.

This applies to bishops as well as lay people in bureaucracy...the balance needs to be struck. I will be honest...I think you at times err towards the "put their heads on the Tiber bridge" approach :P but then there are others who take too lax an approach. Basically if dogma or canon law is being violated, the pope has a responsibility to step in. Otherwise, more care is needed.

I do hope Benedict talks with the bishops about the pedophilia scandal though along with the college heads about the importance of JP II's ex corde ecclesiae on catholic college identity issues.

The problem, as I've maintained all along, is that the ecclesiastical structure promotes arrogance, blind deference and a lack of accountability and transparency. This is true of all hierarchical, bureaucratic systems, religious or secular (e.g.USSR)

and that does not include those who get excited at every new papal document that comes out as if the pope needs to speak on every issues under the sun so that they can check their brains at the door in true prot caricatures of brainless dimwit catholics from polemical eras past.

The problem w/Benedict on the clerical sex-abuse problem is that I find him to be too much of an esoteric academic. He likes to make subtle messages (such as immediately accepting McCarrick's pro forma resignation) but some of that subtlety is beyond the minimal IQs of some of the bishops.

As I told the [discussion] list and others, I do not need any authority to do my thinking for me nor do I want it. If it is a matter of dogma or a doctrine that is evidently definitive (i.e. the bans on abortion or women priests) that is one thing but even those matters have certain subtleties that many do not appreciate...

and on geopolitical matters, history does not give me comfort the more I study it on the wisdom of Vatican geopolitics in general. That does not mean I do not respect the popes and the role they have to play on those matters of course. But those who treat geopolitical interventions as matters of unquestioning assent do not do the matter proper justice. [Excerpts from a Chat Correspondence (circa April 14, 2008)]

My geopolitical disillusionment is also not helped by the seeming obliviousness of His Holiness to several key factors that undermine particular geopolitical stances he has taken in recent years either. The question is how to respectfully address them{3} without the usual suspects accusing me of being "disrespectful" as if somehow the pope is above any and all criticism. But enough on these matters for now.


{1} And no to any Bush Derangement Syndrome readers of this humble weblog but there was no presidential "stolen" elections in either 2000 or in 2004. The Supreme Court made the correct decision under the law in 2000 with the blatant crime being the activism of the Florida Supreme Court on that matter.

Yes we all know that the vote to stop the recount was 5-4 for Bush, but there is more to the story than that. For example, 2 of the 4 who sided with Gore concurred with the majority that there was no uniform standard of vote counting and that there were constitutional issues in what the Florida State Supreme Court was requiring. Further still, one of those justices who concurred with the majority but did not vote with them was a personal friend of Al Gore and therefore he arguably should have recused himself. With such a recusal of course a 5-3 vote on the matter would have taken place. (4-3 if Scalia had recused himself also though the connection he had to Bush was far less solid.) In other words, 7 of the 9 justices concurred on the problems in Florida but had a plurality of views on how to remedy the problem.

More could be said but the constitutional problems in Florida with the vote counting -to say nothing of 50,000 military absentee ballots which were ignored and the military vote for Bush would have been at least 70%- presented a problem that could not be resolved during an election cycle. Besides, Bush had already won four recounts anyway. There is no rational way to conclude that Florida was "stolen" in 2000 when all the factors above among other ones are taken into account. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa November 29, 2007)]

{2} As for Ohio in 2004, the irregularities there were no different than what happens in a lot of states though I do not recall the Democrats calling for investigations into the election oddities in Pennsylvania or Wisconsin which were if anything more suspicious than Ohio. Oh yes, they won those states so there could not have been voting irregularities!!! [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa November 29, 2007)]

{3} One of these matters will be addressed closer to the election in a few posts written last year which I decided to hold back at the time on posting. Another is the death penalty for reasons I noted here.

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