Saturday, December 13, 2008

On the Passing of Cardinal Avery Dulles SJ:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

I was nearly finished with a posting yesterday on other subject matters when I received the word. Upon hearing this news, I felt compelled to set that material aside and focus on the subject to be covered in this posting. That other posting will be put up in the coming week when I feel inclined to do so but this matter in my mind takes precedence for reasons that hopefully will be come clear.

To start with, someone who has gone though as many deaths of family, close friends, and major influences in my life as I have in the past eight years{1} gets to the point to where they can become rather unaffected by such things. But in the case of Avery Dulles, this one is different for a variety of reasons. And as Cardinal Dulles' passing happens to tie into a general principle long propounded at this weblog and in other places, it seems appropriate to touch on both the principle as well as the man himself.

Not even two months ago, I noted in blogging a commemoration of an important yet often not known papal encyclical letter dealing with the subjects of faith and reason how close so many of my views were with those of the now-late Avery Dulles. Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that if someone wanted to know with ninety percent certainty or more how I would view any given theological issue, all one would have to do to read Dulles' work -something I noted back in October when touching on the aforementioned encyclical commemoration in a footnote.{2}

I realized quite some time ago that after I had studied a theological issue and taken a reasoned position that Dulles and I were so frequently in agreement that it was literally uncanny.{3} I did not study much of his work directly in my more formative period on these matters so it is not because of direct input the lions share of the time. But at the same time, there has to be more to this than a mere coincidence. I believe it shows that when you place importance on reason and logic as natural God-given lights and do not denigrate them, that they are tools that can serve you well in coming to a grasp of knowledge and how to use it to one's profit.

Of course, once I realized how common this occurrence was, I started reading Dulles' writings on subjects where I had already come to my own conclusions after study and reflection: something I did not consciously do for areas where I was still uncertain. The reason for this was to avoid the tendency that so many people can have of intellectual laziness -a malady to which no one can claim immunity from at least potentially. I have never been one to let others do my thinking for me{4} and this is a trait I noticed that Dulles also shared.

Avery Dulles was one who would go wherever the evidence led essentially and did this within the context of a very profound faith. But having noted similarities in the rational approach on various matters, I want to take a moment and distance myself from the late cardinal in the realm of faith. I am not going to claim that my faith is anywhere near as profound as his was before he shed this mortal coil and the distance is probably greater than I currently realize. But hand in hand with faith in some form or another should go concern for ethics and principles and His Eminence was imbued with a concern for both of these things much as your host is.

Now many who have already or who will eulogize him in the coming weeks have themselves evinced no concern for these matters whatsoever{5} but your host will not be among them. Instead, I will endeavour to remember Avery Dulles in the future as I do in the present conscious of what I have obtained from him in the refining of my intellectual outlook on matters theological{6}, of his focus on being a public thinker who challenged conventional views regardless of the source{7}, and in other areas which may be mentioned another time if I am so inclined to do so.

Actually, there is one other area I am going to mention right now because in light of the current age of incivility, this characteristic of His Eminence is one that bears noting: showing patience as well as due respect for opposing viewpoints. Avery Dulles the theologian made many impressions on me but Avery Dulles the Christian imprinted upon me the importance of this important factor when in years past I had not always been as careful as I have tried in subsequent years to be in this area.{8}

Much more could be said but I am at a loss to organize my thoughts on this anymore than I already have so I will take leave of this subject for now after noting two more things. First, I will pray for him to the extent that my pathetic efforts will be either efficacious or even needed and ask him for his prayers for those of us in much greater need than he likely is. I also have created a tag for all Dulles related posts to this weblog both previously blogged as well as for this one and for use in perpetuity. But as he has passed on now, it seems appropriate to recall some of the final public words this tremendous thinker put forth when he released his farewell lecture at Fordham University where he had held a teaching chair for twenty years. Without further ado:

Suffering and diminishment are not the greatest of evils but are normal ingredients in life, especially in old age. They are to be expected as elements of a full human existence. Well into my 90th year I have been able to work productively. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity. “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

And with that I take leave of this subject for now making my own one for the late Cardinal Avery Dulles a prayer from the Roman Missal.

Lord please remember Avery Dulles. In baptism he died with Christ: may he also share his resurrection, when Christ will raise our mortal bodies and make them like his own in glory. [Roman Missal: Eucharistic Prayer III From Masses for the Dead]

Notes:

{1} I do not want to say anymore on the subject at this time than that.

{2} See footnote two of that note for details from the archives of this blog if interested.

{3} This pattern is one I first noticed about seven to eight years ago.

{4} Well, almost never anyway. (It has been years since I accepted anything uncritically.)

{5} To say nothing of their contempt for such things as reason and logic in reality as opposed to their paying lip service to the concepts through mindless parroting of church texts from one era or another speaking of these matters being of significance.

{6} Particularly in the area of church models -one of the few where there was not only influence from Avery Dulles but of a direct nature in my understanding and approach to this very intricate ecclesiplogical subject matter. Here are threads posted to this weblog in years past in order of oldest to newest where this subject was treated in some detail:

An Outline of Various Church Models Throughout History --Parts I-V (circa November 23-24, 2003)

More on Church Models (circa July 9, 2005)

{7} Including from the Vatican: something today's purveyors of an obsessive uncritical cult of the pope mentality towards every Vatican utterance either currently or from the past would do well to consider.

{8} Nor do I harbour any illusions that I am completely free from need of additional work in this area lest anyone wonder.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Camille Paglia on various issues (Salon Magazine)

Though she and I often disagree, I have often found Camille Paglia to be an interesting and provocative read. On the above thread, she covers:

--The subject of President Obama's pledge of federal money for infrastructure repairs which she applauds as well as the approach to using computers in classrooms.{1}

--The comportment of President Obama{2} thus far with his appointments -something she is pleased with.{3}

--Her question with regards to the appointment of Sen. Hillary Clinton to the position of Secretary of State.{4}

--Her views on the massacre in Mumbai and on (by implication) national security issues.{5}

--Her assessment of Gov. Sarah Palin's preparation of sorts for 2012{6} and she really lets Dick Cavett have it not to mention the ivory tower elitist mentality that permeates how so many of the msm sorts act.{7}

--Her assessment of the antics of the gay lobby on the subject of homosexual so-called "marriage"{8}

--Some musings on Christmas carols which are...interesting to say the least.{9}

What are the views of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum on these issues??? Check the footnotes of this posting for details on that and be sure to give Camille's thread above a review.

Notes:

{1} I am not sure I agree with her on this unless it involves contracting the work out to private companies to do. I cannot stand the idea of the federal government running anything of a business nature because they will inexorably screw it up as always. But if she favours the use of private contractors for this infrastructure work to be done, then we could be simpatico with her on this one. Certainly improvements on this score are needed, the question is more of the how they are to be done sort than the do they need to be done ones because that they are needed is in my mind pretty self-evident.

On the computers issue, we are in agreement most definitely and I speak as someone who went through the whole public school system and got the lions share of my knowledge through my own outside the classroom efforts.

{2} Yes he is the President-elect but barring extraordinary circumstances occurring, he will be president next month so we at Rerum Novarum will refer to him as such now.

{3} She is right that so far President Obama has conducted himself well.

{4} I was wondering much the same thing myself.

{5} Of which I completely concur.

{6} On this she and I are in agreement. I should note in the interest of disclosure that Paglia was one of the few feminists who stood up for Gov. Palin during the election and gave her a lot more credit than the msm as a rule was willing to do. This is to her credit and it illustrates why even in disagreeing with her at times (sometimes diametrically so) that I read her work with interest.

{7} I am one hundred percent in agreement with her on her disdain for this mentality of which we saw in spades during this election in how Gov. Palin was treated (whatever one thinks of Gov. Palin or her politics this treatment was disgusting).

{8} For those readers who wonder why I refer to "so-called 'marriage'", I remind them of a principle I have always adhered to which was outlined again recently:

Revisiting the Subject of the Underlying Weltanschauung of "Language Control" (circa November 25, 2008)

Suffice to say, on this issue Paglia and I have some differences of view and I will leave it at that.

{9} On this subject let it suffice to say that when it comes to an atheist's musings on Christmas carols I am somewhat agnostic but intrigued ;-)

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Illinois Gov. Blagojevich, chief of staff arrested

Via Drudge we get this story:

Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested by FBI agents on federal corruption charges Tuesday morning.

Blagojevich and Harris were arrested simultaneously at their homes at about 6:15 a.m., according to Frank Bochte of the FBI. Both were transported to FBI headquarters in Chicago.

In one charge related to the appointment of a senator to replace Barack Obama, prosecutors allege that Blagojevich sought appointment for himself as secretary of Health and Human Services in the new Obama administration, or a lucrative job with a union, in exchange for appointing a union-preferred candidate.

Another charge alleges Blagojevich and Harris conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of him in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co.

This has to be the biggest news story of the day because it is not often a chief of staff or a governor of a state get arrested while in office -to say nothing about happening on the same day!!! I do not know what to say about this except to let this thing run its natural course and if these guys are convicted, throw the book at them. But as was noted in part of the commentary posted this morning, this is an area which is fair game as long as those who delve into this area do not attempt to use it to run counter to the will of the voters. Or to quote from earlier this morning:

Chronicling specific examples of voter fraud is fine, outlining various connections of unsavoury persons and circumstances with the Obama campaign is also fine. Going over how absolutely disgracefully the msm conducted themselves is also fine as well as problems with fundraising that the Obama campaign had with various donations of a controversial nature. But using any of this as a pre-text for rejecting the verdict of the voters is unacceptable.

But however this turns out, it is not something that can help incoming President Barack Obama. He will be president soon so I will wait to see how he responds to this both at the moment as well as when he is president. He has done nothing of a near-official capacity{1} thus far to give me reason to not give the benefit of the doubt. Whether that changes or not in the future only time will tell.


Note:

{1} Many things were noted during the campaign that gave reason for pause of course but campaiging is different than governing or getting ready to govern; ergo they should be treated differently.

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On How To Approach the Presidential Election Results of 2008 and Analyzing the Political Trends for 2008 and Beyond:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

We announced in a previous posting, certain exceptions notwithstanding and at our discretion{1}, that this was the only posting we intend to make on election related issues prior to inauguration day. And while we were planning on a shorter yet comprehensive coverage of this subject in the following posting, frankly we are simply not in the mood to do it. So we have decided to touch briefly on a variety of points which we believe point towards general trends of the electorate. From there we will restate in a very brief fashion{2} our own philosophy on these matters, and also point out some steps we believe need to be undertaken if genuine progress is to be made without the sacrificing of core principles as we move into the next administration of government this coming January 20th. It seems appropriate to touch on these in the order listed so without further ado, let us get to it.

To start with the same sex pseudo "marriage"{3} initiatives failed in every state that ran them including those states which went heavily for the soon-to-be President Barack H. Obama. Similarly in states where affirmative action was on the ballot it was voted down. The Republicans despite this being the worst election season to be a Republican since the 1974 midterm election{4} held down some pretty important seats which many of the talking punditry were proclaiming would be likely lost causes. This factor points towards not some sort of "mandate" for the incoming president{5} and congress but more of a referendum on the present administration.

As far as a supposed "landslide" goes, this was no landslide by objective criteria folks. A "landslide" requires a much larger electoral vote margin than the one that Senator Obama got.{6} And those who denied presidential mandates were in order for Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr. (whose electoral college majorities were much larger than that of the soon-to-be-President Obama) cannot be allowed to engage in double standards on this matter. No, they must be held to ethical consistency even if it means dragging them there kicking and screaming in the process. Having noted those matters at the outset, how should conservatives handle this upcoming paradigm shift of sorts??? In our mind there are a variety of ways that this needs to be approached and we will go over the more pertinent ones right now underlining them for easier text differentiation.

Any attempts to pretend that President Brack H. Obama is not "our president" need to be avoided.

It was both stupid as well as embarrassing to see the deranged antics of the moonbat fringe who played this game with President George W. Bush because they did not like how the election of 2000 turned out. Many of these same sorts will make "holy pilgrimages" to pray at Mecca worship at the next inaugural. Meanwhile, conservatives who are bitter over how the msm handled the election coverage{7} or how badly in spots Senator John McCain ran his campaign or other factors{8} need to set all that aside now. More on this in a moment.

Opposition if it is made at all must be differentiated between that of the president and the country

Far too often we witnessed since 2000 a tactic taken by those who were opposed to the president that resulted in a blurring of distinctions. Meaning, they took opposition to the president so far and to such an extreme that it inexorably became opposition to the country. This is something conservatives need to avoid at all costs. They must oppose President Obama personally where warranted, support him where warranted, and never in any fashion come across as opposing their country in the process.

Avoid taking a "chickenhawk" approach

One thing that really bothered us was the attitudes of those who despised our last two presidents whereby they took issue with the principle of their utilizing the military as opposed to having issues with the use of the military in a particular situation based on how the presidents themselves never served in the military. Conservatives criticized this with President Clinton before he was elected which was of course just fine much as they raised the superior military credentials of President Bush Sr. in 1992 they did the same with Senator Dole in 1996. In an election season this is one thing but arguing this way on the basis of any president using the military is out of line. Your host never took the latter approach when Clinton was president then{9} and he will not with Obama as president now.

Questioning the verdict of the election

There is voter fraud in all elections including both this last one and the one preceding it -though you would not know that to hear the silence from the msm on the last two elections because they got "their guys" in as opposed to the three elections previous to 2006.

Chronicling specific examples of voter fraud is fine, outlining various connections of unsavoury persons and circumstances with the Obama campaign is also fine. Going over how absolutely disgracefully the msm conducted themselves is also fine as well as problems with fundraising that the Obama campaign had with various donations of a controversial nature. But using any of this as a pre-text for rejecting the verdict of the voters is unacceptable.

Part of being not only a good soldier but also a mature human being is knowing not only which battles have been lost but also which battles are worth fighting. I will not go into the physiological realities behind the inverse natures of intensity and duration at this time but battles will need to be fought with the coming administration but ones based on principles. And acting like the spoiled child who throws a temper tantrum after losing a game -as many of the most rabid supporters of the incoming president did for the past eight years- will not help in any fashion.{10}

Blaming the voters

Your host has at times voiced an opinion of the electorate prior to an election that was by no means flattering. But he has never in recent memory{11} blamed the voters afterward. It serves no constructive purpose as what is done is done. There are reasons for this and the GOP needs to do some serious soul searching first and foremost because they gave the public reasons for doing what they did. That is where they can focus and should they do that, they can expect support from independent voters such as your host. If not...well...lets move onto the next subject.

Refocus for the next election

Building on what was just covered, the focus needs to be the next election and we are not talking about 2012 here. No, we are talking about the 2010 midterms which are less than two years away now. We at Rerum Novarum certainly are going to do our part to assist on these matters at various levels of government as we noted recently in our ultra-brief post election comments.{12} We advise all who are not pleased with how this election went to do likewise.

Strategery, Strategery, Strategery

With an incoming Democratic president and a Democratic majority in both houses of the Congress, a lot of issues are going to be pushed -many of them ones that we who did not vote for President Obama and the Democrats do not agree with. The problem is, if we run all over the map and oppose simply to be opposing, that will achieve nothing constructive. And furthermore, it is naive to think that everything they attempt to do we will be able to stop so that also needs to be taken into account.

Basically, we need to decide in how we go about this first of all, what we will fight tooth and nail for: what are the issues which we absolutely must stand up and hold the line on without an iota of compromise. From there, the rest can be categorized into basically (i) things we want to try and force the Democrats on record supporting so we can make election issues on them in 2010, (ii) things of a less significant nature we actually think can be accomplished despite the Democrats having control of the government, (iii) things we need to put out there for the future which we know will not succeed in the soon-to-be present but nonetheless are points of reference for the future of a positive nature.

In other words, we need to strategerize here and not play the same bullshit of those who opposed the outgoing Bush administration on everything and anything simply because they hated President Bush, thought he was Hitler, or whatever.

It is a tall order and those who are presuming that the incoming president is some kind of messianic figure are going to be profoundly disappointed before long. Keep that in mind and do not let their smugness get to you. And remember, politics is the art of the possible not of the perfect. As far as that goes, it is just about time for a final grade on the Bush presidency and as we do with every administration, President Barack Obama will start off with an A grade by us on the day of his inauguration. What he does after that is up to him.

Notes:

{1} I do not intend prior to the publishing of that commentary to say anything about the election unless it is a response to reader email.[...] Furthermore, even after that commentary is published through at least the final months of President Bush's term that is how I intend to approach this matter. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa November 5, 2008)]

{2} It is probably a certainty that our view as touched on in this posting will be misunderstood with the brevity to be undertaken -and we would gladly after the inauguration clarify the position as the need is perceived to do so of course. But our intention here is to give a general overview for the reader so they have some points of reference in navigating this and other statements we have made over the years on these matters.

{3} We say "pseudo 'marriage'" because your host refuses to concede to the proponents of such absurdity any pretext of legitimacy for their position. We have explained the extremely important principle being used here in years gone by and felt prior to the posting of this commentary that the subject needed to be revisited in a more complete fashion than could be done in this posting; ergo it was pre-emptively done with the results viewable here:

Revisiting the Subject of the Underlying Weltanschauung of "Language Control" (circa November 25, 2008)

{4} The elections held in the immediate aftermath of the resignation in disgrace of President Richard M. Nxon.

{5} Setting aside the issue of 2000 for a moment here, if there was no "mandate" for President George W. Bush with his 52% popular vote gain in 2004 than there is no "mandate" for President Barack H. Obama who only got 53% of the vote in this election. Those who affirmed the former must out of consistency affirm the latter if they want anyone with a normal intact functioning brain to take them seriously.

{6} We define a "landslide" as far more than a major majority vote but instead an election where the winner received 70% or more of the electoral vote. Here are some examples of presidential electoral landslides to illustrate our point -more than one set of numbers indicates an election with three or more candidates getting electoral votes:

1789: Washington won 69-0 - 1792: Washington won 132-0 - 1804; Jefferson won 163-14 - 1816: Monroe won 116-34 - 1820: Monroe won 231-1 - 1832: Jackson won 219-49 - 1840: Harrison won 234-60 - 1852: Pierce won 254-42 - 1864: Lincoln won 212-21 - 1868: Grant won 214-80 - 1872: Grant won 286-42-18-3-2 - 1904: T. Roosevelt won 336-140 - 1920: Harding won 404-120 - 1924: Coolidge won 382-136-13 - 1928: Hoover won 444-87 - 1932: F. Roosevelt won 472-59 - 1936: FDR won 523-8 - 1940: FDR won 449-82 - 1944: FDR won 432-99 - 1952: Eisenhower won 442-89 - 1956: Eisenhower won 457-83 - 1964: Johnson won 486-52 - 1972: Nixon won 520-17 - 1980: Reagan won 489-49 - 1984: Reagan won 525-13 - 1988: Bush Sr. won 426-111

There has not been a "landslide" since 1988 going by the manner in which we have defined the term and the last time a Democrat won by a landside was LBJ over Senator Goldwater in 1964.

{7} And yes, it was so biased to be ridiculous and has perhaps destroyed if not forever than at least for a long time any remaining credibility the msm had left after the past six years of ever-increasing journalistic ethical malpractice. This was touched on a bit in a dialogue with freelance writer Joseph D'Hippolito which can be read here for those who are interested in the context of a dialogue on the state of journalism in general. (Mr. D'Hippolito was responding to a commentary your host did on journalism back in June of 2005 and while it had been in the can for a while, the increasing irresponsibility of the msm in covering this election is what prompted its posting in the final weeks before the election.)

{8} Including the whole question of who the best Republican candidate would have been, whether Bush was better than McCain would have been as president, and all the other kinds of questions that were thrashed about before the election was concluded.

{9} We opposed President Clinton on many things but never on either the manner in which he was elected or the principle that he as commander in chief of the armed forces was not eligible to utilize them on the basis of who he was personally.

{10} Your host is aware of the court challenges to the legitimacy of President Obama to even run constitutionally due to questions of the circumstances and place of birth, etc. But even if such challenges are in various courts at the present time, prior to any ruling on these matters, the reality of Obama as president needs to be recognized even by those who are filing such cases. We cannot say we have put much thought into this particular approach though we will say this: if those filing the lawsuits do not win, they should show themselves to be of a higher species of humanity than those who spent eight years inaccurately regurgitating what happened in 2000 as their excuse to act like spoiled children who refused to grow up.

{11} Well, not since 1992 anyway: a year we voted for H. Ross Perot incidentally enough.

{12} I may however in that interim [prior to the inauguration] and as time allows for it sketch out a rough draft of the second of two initiative ideas I want to get on the ballot for Washington State in the 2010 election. (The first idea of which was sketched out nearly five years ago on this humble weblog and may be revisited again in the interim prior to the election as well.) [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa November 5, 2008)]

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