Saturday, October 18, 2008

Points to Ponder:

There’s a lot of things I wish McCain would say. As far as this, yes, I would like him to speak. Not so much about small businesses, but just people in general that make this money. It’s not up to them to help America, I mean – let me rephrase that. It’s not – they shouldn’t be taxed more because they’ve succeeded. That’s envy and jealousy. Get off your butt and go work. Don’t sit there and expect the government to give it to you. So I wouldn’t mind him speaking on it like that. I know he couldn’t say it probably like that because that’d turn a lot of people off. But it just – yeah, I guess I would like him to speak about that and a bunch of other things. I’d like to hear him talk about immigration and what he plans on doing about that and with our borders. I mean, there’s a lot of things that haven’t even been addressed in the last two debates. ["Joe the Plumber"]

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Friday, October 17, 2008

A Dialogue On the State of Journalism:
(Aka "Tales of the Gold Monkey Mailbag" Dept.)

The following is some feedback from a few months back on to this weblog posting from three years ago:

On the Subject of "Deep Throat", the Correlative Ramifications Thereof, Etc. (circa June 1, 2005)

In light of (i) the msm's deplorable treatment of Gov. Palin since her announcement as Sen. McCain's vp running mate as well as (ii) the msm's orgasmic adoration of Sen. Obama (among other things), this seems a timely subject to revisit at this time -particularly as they election season is in the final month now. The words of the emailer will be in a shale coloured font.

Hi Shawn,

Just finished reading your commentary on Watergate, Felt and the declining state of journalism.

Considering the way the msm has acted towards Gov. Palin since her announcement, posting this unpublished dialogue from some time ago seems particularly apropo.

Several points:

1. You make great points regarding Felt's heroism. If you take Colson's arguments to their logical conclusion, they point to the possibility of somebody sabotaging any Presidential administration for any reason whatsover. Obviously, Felt knew this; that's why he worked in secret (as far as Buchanan's arguments go, let me just say that a man who acts as a willing shill for the enemies of this country has no business accusing anybody of treason. In [my New] World Order, Buchanan would be among the first to be hanged, but I digress). In addition, Felt's heroism would have been more genuine if he actually had to sacrifice his position for his conscience.

I trust you saw the part where I said "[m]uch as it pains Us to do so, We must agree on this matter in substance with Patrick J. Buchanan" -my occasional predilection for using royal third person phrasings at that time aside for the moment.{1} Your point about Buchanan in his current incarnation is well noted but just because Buchanan is a hypocrite in what he does hardly means that there is not truth in what he says -at least on this issue. As for the point of sacrificing his position for conscience, I did note that in my posting as I am sure you noticed{2} so on that we are in agreement.

2. Nevertheless, I think you go too far in the other direction when dismissing Watergate. The fact that Pres. Nixon ordered a cover-up means that he should have been impeached and tried by the Senate.

He would have been impeached if not for resigning when he did -of that there is no doubt whatsoever. My point was that what Nixon did was minor compared to Filegate and Chinagate. For the former, Hillary Clinton should have jailed and for the latter President Clinton should have stood trial for treason. Or as I noted in a thread of rather dyspeptic mutterings quite some time ago:

Where were these nitwits during Filegate when Clinton and his wife pilfered over 1,000 FBI files on political opponents??? Chuck Colson went to jail for a while in the 1970's for possessing just ONE of these kinds of files. But Clinton??? Nope, he and Moloch Hillary got off scott free because there is a clear and unmistakable double-standard here.

What about Chinagate where the safety of our nuclear secrets were sacrificed for re-election funds??? Anyone who thinks THIS can possibly be less problematical than any war mismanagement by the current president is in need of a SERIOUS reality transplant.

What about all the lies about reducing rates of budget increases being "cuts"??? Examples like THIS are legion. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa July 11, 2003)]

Now there are scandals to every administration that I am aware of but those two probably top anything in the last half century at least. Yet notice that the msm did everything possible to not bring them to light while they have kvetched about absurdities like the Bush Administration firing eight federal prosecutors{3} the absurd Valerie Plame incident{4}, and a host of other sad attempts to manufacture "scandals" where none exist.

A book could be written on this pattern which is one reason why I have such a disgust for the msm. Well that and I believe news should be fairly reported meaning give me the news and that is it. As that is not what they do, I immediately presume that msm accounts are inaccurate apriori in a kind of "guilty until proven innocent" approach due to a phenomenon I have long held and a few years ago defined as the Media Dictum which bears my name.{5} But that is neither here nor there, I mention it only to remind readers who have not seen a reference to that concept in a while.

Yes, Pres. Clinton should have been tried, as well. Yes, his wife and Sandy Berger should have been prosecuted for their crimes (perhaps more so than Pres. Clinton, since his wife and Berger were accused of far more serious crimes). Unfortunately, institutional justice is often unjust (the fact that nobody brought up Mrs. Clinton's sequestering of FBI files during her campaign or that Berger got away with what most governments would consider sabotage is mind-boggling).

It is part of [t]he depravity to which the journalistic profession has fallen since the days of Watergate that I mentioned in that posting.

3. In my own experience, I find the decline of journalism to be less related to the kind of forces that you say Woodward and Bernstein unleashed and more to a general decline of intellectual standards, the acceptance of mediocrity and, most importantly, the isolation of reporters from the people they serve.

Well, the forces I noted in the article is not the whole story of course -another is the whole notion of so-called "gonzo journalism" that was popularized by Hunter S. Thompson: the notion of the journalist not only putting style and creativity -even to the point of outright falsification of events{6}- over and above the facts but attempting to tell readers what they are to think about the story being covered.{7}

It is probably not possible to filter out all elements of gonzoism from one's work but the idea of falsifying facts and events is not ethical as far as I am concerned. Unfortunately, such things are common among journalists these days. Another annoyance is the common approach these days of before asking a question prefacing it with a mini-editorial of sorts which is presented as if it is the truth when in reality it is often just a showcase of the journalist's own biases. You know something like this:

Mr. President, knowing that you are basically Hitler and how your administration has been more oppressive to human rights than any Soviet Gulag in eras past, how do you respond to critics who claim you should be tried for war crimes for what happened at Abu Girab???

Ok, I embellished that one a bit but that is the sort of "question" which is common to the journalism of the post-Watergate era.

Granted, I've spent the vast majority of my professional time with sportswriters as opposed to political reporters, so the dynamics might be quite different. But let me tell you an anecdote from my college days. The instructor in my beginning journalism class told us that reporters have the responsibility to set agendas.

Oh brother!!!

Now, that can be taken two ways. It can mean that newspaper reporters have a responsibility to serve their readers by presenting facts and opinions as fairly as possible so that the readers can make their own decisions.

We know it does not mean that...if it did then I would not respect prostitutes more than I do most journalists.{8}

OTOH, it can also mean that reporters can (and should) present facts and opinions that reflect the reporters' own biases regarding what best serves the common good. It's the difference between professional humility and egotism.

Indeed and that is the problem right there.

Given my Catholic upbringing, I felt morally obliged to take the former course (writing commentaries is different from covering news, of course, but you can't [act misanthropic] and expect to have any credibility when you make your points).


I've long believed that it's not the reporters' biases that matter as much how reporters confront their own biases, how honest they are about them and how well they discipline themselves professionally. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people (let alone journalists) don't understand themselves and refuse to be honest with themselves.

The bottom line is, we all have our biases. One reason I have focused so much on foundational presuppositions in my expositions on issues is all too often they go unrecognized.{9} The value of journalists like Tim Russert and Tony Snow was they did not pretend to be without biases but they also did not let those biases colour their reporting of the facts.

Besides, most journalists think alike politically and aren't challenged by outside opinions within their own domains. That leads quickly to lethargy and arrogance.

But if they were concerned with factual accuracy, then what their political views are would not matter.

One significant reason why the newspaper industry is falling through the floor right now, I believe, is the idea that newspapers cannot be trusted to provide competent coverage.

That is one reason I celebrate often the alternative media though it is as prone to incompetence as the msm is. It depends on who or where you get your information from but at least there is a balance that overall is not present in the msm today and particularly was absent before the advent of alternative media sources like talk radio and the internet.

Even newspaper Web sites are suffering. That lack of trust and respect has more to do with the decline of the MSM than with technological developments. Remember, the lack of an Internet (or any electronic communication) never stopped the Protestant Reformers. Their basic advantage was the lack of trust that the institutionalized Church engendered. Besides, people could disseminate countervailing views in previous eras using the existing technology.

Well, one major factor you did not account for in your analogy to the sixteenth century was the invention of printing in the fifteenth century. It allowed for its time as revolutionary a dispersal of information as other mediums of subsequent times (such as telegraph, radio, television, and the internet). And as with the internet today, there was then a variegation of quality to the information being disseminated. At bottom it gets to the issues of the integrity of the source and the willingness of the reader to read critically.

Anyway, would love to know your thoughts.

By interacting with your words here, I hope my views are adequately manifested. Feel free to respond with whatever comments and/or criticisms you like.


{1} The problem with this was that there were some who tried to find ways of not interacting with my arguments who would seize on this feature and make more out of it than was actually intended -much as was done with the "quote" in the side margin from Glenn Reynolds about me being a "renaissance man."

{2} Things could have been different of course. For example, Felt could have quit his job in protest at the time and from that standpoint become an informant for Woodward and Bernstein. There would have been no moral ties binding him to secrecy in that situation and he would have actually been rightfully seen as a hero in that scenario. But he was no hero for what he decided to do because heroism requires sacrifices. And quitting the FBI when he was the number two man there -and in the aftermath of J. Edgar Hoover's death in May of 1972 which provided a possibility for career advancement- would have been quite the sacrifice to make. But Mr. Felt did not do this and instead chose the route of dishonour. And those who celebrate him today celebrate that dishonour.[Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa June 1, 2005)]

{3} To start with, lets call this media hubbub over the 8 US Attorneys fired by the Bush Administration what it is: a crock of horse pucky. I remember well the Clinton Administration firing all the US Attorneys two months into the first term of President Bill Clinton and the msm's response was to say nothing. Only the conservatives on talk radio made a big stink about it but that is neither here nor there. Logically, if firing 8 is a "crisis situation" than what does that make firing 93??? And if firing 8 for supposed "political reasons" is so damned evil than what about firing all the US Attorneys as Clinton did??? Where was the msm when that heinous evil was performed by the Clinton's??? As usual, they were AWOL because Clinton was "their guy" and Bush is not.

The truth is, the whole handling of attorneys in the US Department of Justice (USDOJ) is an executive function and the executive can hire or fire whomever they want. That is true with Bush as it was with Clinton....

What this boils down to folks is yet another obvious and blatant msm double standard against the present Administration in particular and Republicans in general. What more needs to be said than that really??? [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa March 15, 2007)]

{4} Briefly on the Karl Rove Situation (circa July 14, 2005)

{5} Defining the McElhinney Media Dictum --A Rerum Novarum Miscellaneous BLOG Thread (circa August 2, 2004)

{6} The idea behind this kind of "journalism" is to create riveting copy and if that means fudging on the actual facts to convey the story, that is seen as okay. To wit:

Gonzo journalism is a style of journalism which is written subjectively, often including the reporter as part of the story via a first person narrative. The style tends to blend factual and fictional elements to emphasize an underlying message and engage the reader...

The use of Gonzo journalism portends that journalism can be truthful without striving for objectivity and is loosely equivalent to an editorial. [Excerpts from the Wikipedia Entry on Gonzo Journalism (All Article Formatting Omitted)]

{7} I remember years ago that Rush Limbaugh used to joke about telling his listeners not only that he would tell them the news but also what to think about it: something that members of the msm used to squawk about but all he was doing was parodying the approach the msm takes with the news.

{8} To quote that great western philosopher James Hetfield "sad but true."

{9} We all have certain elements of our views that we accept uncritically most of the time. Generally this is not a problem but at regular intervals we need to try and step back to reassess what our views are and even if they are potentially erroneous. Sometimes doing this could strengthen our presumed "sureness" of what we believe, sometimes it could weaken the aforementioned "sureness", and sometimes there could even result in a change of views. Or as I noted once when pondering this phenomenon:

Remember, a change in one's viewpoint is not an instant situation but generally takes a good period of time. There are also a variety of factors involved and not all of them are intellectual ones. Indeed, some of them are of a more personal nature[...] and this is seldom recognized. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa May 7, 2007)]

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Points to Ponder:

Impartial observers from other planets would consider ours an utterly bizarre enclave if it were populated by birds, defined as flying animals, that nevertheless rarely or never actually flew. They would also be perplexed if they encountered in our seas, lakes, rivers, and ponds, creatures defined as swimmers that never did any swimming. But they would be even more surprised to encounter a species defined as a thinking animal if, in fact, the creature very rarely indulged in actual thinking. [Steve Allen]

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Remembering Fides et Ratio Ten Years After:

A month ago Wednesday marked the tenth anniversary of the publication of what I believe may be the most significant document of Pope John Paul II's pontificate: the encyclical letter Fides et Ratio. I have written before on how highly I think of this text and want to reiterate that at this time from the archives so without further ado:

Five books that mean a lot to me

Five is too few so I will expand the number a bit. And like...Chris Blosser, I will not include the Bible or the Catechism in this short list. What I will list will be books which would prove to be pivotal to my overall approach to all subject matters. They will be listed in roughly chronological order of what was read first:


Pope John Paul II's 1998 Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio should be ranked among the best works on the subject of the relationship between faith and reason. The late pontiff was heavily influenced by St. John of the Cross -indeed his doctoral thesis was on St. John's Dark Night of the Soul. From a Catholic standpoint, this is a highly authoritative magisterial statement on the matter; however that does not mean that non-Catholics cannot benefit as well.

Society today tends towards either overrationalization which disparages spirituality or a kind of mystical fideism which disparages reason. Pope John Paul II's Fides et Ratio is an excellent antidote for these tendencies. Because it is a very philosophically deep work, one should not read it too quickly. But one should give it a read if they are interested in the subjects of faith or reason and do not understand why each needs the other to properly achieve its intended function. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa June 14, 2005)]

However much I find myself annoyed at the way so many Catholics of a variety of outlooks{1} pay lip service to the concepts of reason and logic, a text such as Fides et Ratio reminds me that the Catholic Church is in principle not opposed to the natural lights of reason and logic and never has been.

So for those whom this posting has piqued their curiosity as to the aforementioned encyclical letter, here is a link to the text itself:

Fides et Ratio

I would advise that those undertaking an examination of said text to pack themselves a couple of meals and have a dictionary nearby. Spread out the study in at least a few sessions and do not try to read it too quickly if you want to really comprehend what the late pontiff was saying about a chief crises of our time that affects to a certain extent virtually everything around us.

I was going to end this posting there but decided to note my opinion that someone should put together a kind of Cliff Notes version of this text. Among those I have in mind for such a project would be Cardinal Avery Dulles or Cardinal Camillo Ruini. Cardinal Dulles is the pre-eminent American Catholic theologian in my view -and not merely because I find out as I have noted before after taking a position on numerous theological issues that our views so often are simpatico.{2} Cardinal Ruini is one of those who contributed to the text of the encyclical itself. Here is some of what Cardinal Dulles has said on the aforementioned encyclical:

Can Philosophy Be Christian (Avery Dulles SJ from First Things circa April 2000)

I am unaware at this time of any commentaries by Cardinal Ruini on the encyclical but will amend this posting at a later date if apprised of any.


{1} And I do not exclude in this view members of the clergy -even some whom I ordinarily respect who nonetheless have blind spots in at least a few areas.

{2} To note a few examples from the archives in order from newest to oldest:

I note that this is how you cite Cardinal Dulles, but almost no one else does it correctly.

I appreciate you noticing that actually. It just so happens that on a lot of issues, I realize that Cardinal Dulles agrees with me after the fact meaning after I have pondered an issue and taken a position on it. Almost never has Dulles directly influenced my view on anything with the exception of the subject of church models where he was admittedly the primary influence. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa March 24, 2007)]

It may help the readers to consider that once again, we have taken a position on an issue and then discovered that Cardinal Avery Dulles has agreed with us[...] -a most pleasing pattern over the years to put it mildly. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa October 25, 2006)]

Normally Dulles and I are of a like mind on subjects -as I tend to discover after I have formed an opinion on a subject and then read his views on it. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa January 9, 2004)]

Normally Dulles and I are of a like mind on subjects -as I tend to discover after I have formed an opinion on a subject and then read his views on it. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa December 16, 2003)]

I recently heard an excellent program...where Cardinal Avery Dulles so frequently enunciated my views...It is nice to know that my views so closely align with this brilliant man. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa November 23, 2003)]

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Points to Ponder:

Irons rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind. [Leonardo da Vinci]

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Miscellaneous Musings on Threads of Interest:

I intended to post this a few days ago but did not have time to finish it. Nonetheless...

CNN: Obama’s lying about William Ayers (Hot Air)

Here is a bit from the thread:

Obama has lied repeatedly about his relationship with the unrepentant domestic terrorist. He spent years working for Ayers, promoting Ayers’ causes. Even CNN won’t buy the Obama line any longer. Expect John McCain to raise this point tonight in the debate.

Well let us hope so. As I said recently in a chat with a good friend:

McCain had a "Vietnam" kind of debate the first time basically winning on all the points but being perceived as losing he needs to do a lot better this time around and he can start by looking at Obama at times when talking to or about him. [Excerpt from an Email Correspondence (circa October 6, 2008)]

Now I have to admit that I am so not thrilled with this election selection that I did not watch the second debate. But my friend Kevin Tierney did; ergo I quote from a chat we had on the matter to give his take:

me: [I] wanted to see if you saw the debate the other night or not I am getting the impression that it was another "Vietnam debate" for Sen. McCain or is it simply the media insisting no matter what that Obama wins? what are your Spidey senses telling you?

Kevin: McCain won on points, but he needs a real knockout...which he isn't getting.

me: so he won another match on points but the unwashed masses think he lost? or is it tricky polling by various places? I mean we know the msm is so in bed with Obama's campaign that he should pay them money for their services. I guess I am starting to get into the mindset that the public at large is stupid and we are about to be snowed. [An] Irish defense mechanism to prepare for the letdown perhaps.

Kevin: well winning on points isn't enough right now he needs to win bigtime. [Excerpt from a Chat With Kevin Tierney (circa October 8, 2008)]

I do not want the reader to think I am somehow being fatalistic about the election situation though on the night I chatted with Kevin I was not feeling too optimistic admittedly. One reason is if the public is so stupid that they think the Fannie and Freddie mess is the fault of President Bush and "the last eight years" then we are in for a snow job worthy of any Alaska blizzard because that is what it would involve. I have gone over this before but right now will relegate those threads to a footnote{1} so I do not get sidetracked and move onto the next thread for this posting.


Here is a bit from the thread:

"Whatever the question, whatever the issues, there's always a back story with Senator Obama... Our current economic crisis is a good case in point. The crisis started in our housing market in the form of subprime loans that were pushed on people who could not afford them.

"Bad mortgages were being backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and it was only a matter of time before a contagion of unsustainable debt began to spread," McCain said during an event in Albuquerque, NM.

"This corruption was encouraged by Democrats in Congress, and abetted by Senator Obama."

Whatever one wants to say about both Sen. John McCain and President George W. Bush{2}, they were stumping for reform of Fannie and Freddie for years before the meltdown -unlike Sen. Obama and the leaders of the current Congressional majority. And that is the bottom line really.


{1} To note two recent threads in order from oldest to newest:

Briefly on the Current Real Estate Situation (circa July 26, 2008)

More Brief Bits on the "Bailout" (circa October 5, 2008)

{2} And Lord knows I have said plenty about both over the years -particularly President Bush. (See the tags "Pres. Bush" and "John McCain" for more information on this if you are so inclined.)

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