Monday, May 31, 2010

A brief history of copyright

Including a lovely quote from a 1735 pamphlet rejecting with extreme prejudice the idea of perpetual copyright.

Guess he was probably just trying to download music without paying for it or something?

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Future pope refused defrocking of convicted priest

In other news, government ministers everywhere required to follow the laws of their respective countries.

I'm tempted to tag the story "humor".


Passiontide practices

Sometimes different than you remember!

The part that I find funny in all of this is that when you inform people of these things (and it doesn't match with their childhood memories of Holy Week) they immediately inquire if this is something "new" or recently enacted by "the American bishops" (as though we aren't subject to the Conference of Bishops of our own country). Well, no, actually. Pope Pius XII got the ball rolling on changing the face of Holy Week when he issued "De Solemni Vigilia Paschali Instauranda" in 1951. That's right...1951.

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Freedom from porn?

The thing comes with a web browser. As long as it has a web browser, you can get unlimited amounts of porn for free.

Indeed, Apple is now on the screen.

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Nuclear war

Oh Kristof, where to begin. You really have to do a little thinking before you write these lovely pieces about the church.

Anywho, I would quote something from the article but you can pretty much just make it up and it will be correct. This story is about the nun who was automatically excommunicated for signing off on an abortion that was deemed necessary to save a mother's life. So of course Mr. Kristof talks about patriarchy, oppression, etc.

Now to address one point he makes in passing: no, people who abuse little boys are not excommunicated for whatever reason. Maybe because murder is generally considered to be worse than sexual abuse? Not sure. However, they can not, as he puts it, "take the sacrament". Raping someone doesn't automatically excommunicate you, but it does automatically keep you from communicating, which is perhaps too subtle a point to make a good story. For the confused in the audience, committing a mortal sin (e.g. abusing a minor, or probably covering up said abuse) means that you can't receive communion, and it is automatic, requiring no judicial procedure before kicking in. Signing off on the abortion resulted in the same punishment, plus an additional one.

But on to the main point, or at least what I felt to be the main issue raised. The Church's rule here is not the result of some peculiar hatred of women that only a bunch of men could come up with. As I see it, it is simply an application of the idea that you can not do evil that good may result.

Mr. K. seems to be applying a somewhat utilitarian approach here. If nothing happens, the score is one dead woman, one dead child. If you perform the abortive surgery, the score is one dead child. -2 < -1, therefore the second course of action is the correct one. He would probably weigh it more like -10 > -1, if I had to guess, but even I would admit that if we're living in Bentham's paradise, Kristof is correct and I am wrong.

This particular case touches on a pregnant woman and abortion, and so seems particularly heinous to the orthodox Left. However, let us take another example from the not so distant past, and see how I would apply the same principal. The setting is the second World War, in particular the endgame in Japan. The United States justified the use of nuclear weapons on civilian targets with the argument that lives were saved due to the overwhelming show of force, etc. This is probably true. Let's round all estimates up and say that about 200,000 people died quickly and another 400,000 had lingering radiation effects, birth defects, etc. Best Allied estimates on invasion casualties were a million Allied soldiers and several million Japanese civilians and soldiers (never easy to attack an island nation, I guess). Round down, let's say a million deaths on each side, all soldiers.

Ok, let's be Jeremy Bentham again. 600,000 < 2,000,000. Therefore, nuke 'em. Now, maybe you'll want to calculate this differently, maybe it's better to be dead than to survive a nuclear bomb, etc. But I'm fairly confident that no matter how you weigh this, the invasion will cause more death and destruction than nuclear war. Nota bene, this only applies when you have the only two nuclear bombs in existence.

Now we have here something of an issue of prudential judgment that statesmen must engage in. However, I think it's fair to say that many churchmen have been deeply skeptical of the claim that such bombings are moral:

The destruction of huge numbers of civilians, especially when their death is expressly intended or foreseen, can never be moral. There should never be a repetition of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, or the firebombing of Dresden or the London blitz

Thank you Cardinal Pell for supplying that quote. The check is in the mail. Well, this seems, as far as I can tell, to be an application of the principal that you can do no evil, even if in a utilitarian sense the result is "good".

So what do we have here? We have one principal - do no evil. We have two results - one excommunicated nun, one cardinal opposed to the use of nuclear weaponry. And we have one condemnation of the church as patriarchal and oppressive due to the first result. I would think that by a simple extension of the logic, one could say that the church is anti-soldier, or anti-Japanese, because some of its leading thinkers have said that the use of nuclear weapons against civilians, even if it saves lives, is morally illicit. Perhaps you could say the Church is a civillianarchy, and if there were more soldiers in the Vatican we would have greater church support for bombing the hell out of civilian targets.

Kristof, to his credit, is consistent in thinking that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were morally good. So be it. I'm not arguing that particular point with him. Merely pointing out that the Church's opposition to this abortion is not the result of some particular hatred or disdain for women, but the application of a general moral principal that is opposed to the utilitarian ideas that seem to dominate today. It makes no more sense to say that the Church hates women for opposing a procedure that could save a life than that the church hates soldiers for opposing a bomb that could save their lives.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finally a quote to describe me

"He's a conservative by temperament, one of the people who would have complained on the second day of Creation."

Fr. Neuhaus, as quoted in the June/July 2010 First Things.


Monday, May 24, 2010

LGF uncovers the secret fundamentalism of George Washington

At ReligionDispatches, Sarah Posner has some more data on Rand Paul’s crackpot brand of libertarianism, which is inexplicably mixed with fundamentalist Christianity: Rand Paul: We Wouldn’t Need Laws If Everyone Were Christian.

As found here. Though in truth, I can't actually find Paul saying this - what he actually is quoted as saying is

it helps to have a people who believe in law and order and who have a moral compass or a moral basis for their day to day life.

Now this reminded me of something I had read somewhere before. Where was that? Ah yes, here it is.

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. . . . .And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Washington's farewell address, for those keeping score.

So George Washington is on the record saying pretty much the same thing that Paul is saying. Which makes him a fundamentalist reconstructionist! The truth is out!

Though I also seem to recall that LGF was objecting to the state of Texas making this assertion. Though of course, they mention Thomas Jefferson, not George Washington.

So I guess the US was founded as a theocracy, then under Jefferson it retroactively became not a theocracy, and now Paul wants to make it a theocracy again. Got it? Good. There will be a quiz.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Keep the government from reading your emails

I'm not a gmail user, but I am a GPG user, and I do wear a tinfoil hat. So let me know if you want to swap keys.


The right to speak

Some would say that the good Cardinal Ouellet has no right to be opposed to abortion in cases of rape, having never been raped. Ok.

As a teenager Steenstra was the victim of a traumatic date rape that resulted in an unwanted pregnancy – a situation that led her to choose an abortion.

But this week Steenstra told LifeSiteNews (LSN) that, far from joining those politicians and media who have blasted the cardinal (in the case of one journalist, even going so far as to wish a “long and painful” death on the cleric), she would like to express her gratitude to him.

. . .

"I wish I had heard his message when I was a teen and was raped and then aborted my daughter,” she said. “I am deeply grateful to the Cardinal for proclaiming the truth that abortion, even in the case of rape, rather than helping the victim of rape, actually adds a second victim – the unborn child.”

I will now pay five dollars to any journalist who wishes a long and painful death on this woman in a major newspaper.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Brilliant article about Jesus

I'm no Christian scholar, but I think that I have read more than your average person about Jesus. But nothing I have read has dealt directly with all the apparent contradictions in Jesus' character in the Gospels. You typically either find fanatical atheists waving their arms and saying, "See! It doesn't make sense! How can you believe in a God who is contradictory and ambiguous!?" Then they go on to point out how the Gospels are merely human productions, made decades after Christ's death. Or you get the fanatical Christians who have to reconcile every detail in the Bible to be literally true, they go to great lengths to explain away confusing lines and apparent contradictions. Sometimes their explanations require such great stretches of logic, and leaps of faith, that I can't help but internally cringe. Producing complex scholarly explanations I'm sure were not the intentions of son from a peasant carpenter who hung out with fishermen and street people.

Adam Gopnik lays out the conundrum of Christ in a way that is refreshingly delightful and offers readers the idea that such an elusive mystery is perhaps one of the greatest strengths of Jesus' legacy. Jesus' message cannot be nailed down, simplified, or made dogmatic. It cannot be easily written off by historical context, or even after 2,000 years of debate be put to rest as at least understood with some finality. For these reasons, Jesus is alive and well, not just among Christians, but in academic circles, in the media, and in the collective consciousness of America in particular, but also the West at large. His message is still being debated today, which means people still find Jesus interesting, relevant, and worthy of discussion, even in such circles as subscribers to The New Yorker.
The argument is the reality, and the absence of certainty the certainty. Authority and fear can circumscribe the argument, or congeal it, but can't end it... The impulse of orthodoxy has always been to suppress the wrangling as a sign of weakness; the impulse of more modern theology is to embrace it as a sign of life. The deeper question is whether the uncertainty at the center mimics the plurality of possibilities essential to liberal debate, as the more open-minded theologians like to believe, or is an antique mystery in a story open only as the tomb is open, with a mystery left inside, never to be entirely explored or explained.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Patent troll defeated by Amiga

And I wish I had been in the courtroom when they carried that Amiga in and turned it on. I'll bet the lawyers on the other side never in a million years thought they'd have to deal with a working Amiga from 1986.

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Snakes on a plain

The saint lays down the law.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Monks have stuff on their walls

Well some of them.

A poignant bit of the sermon this morning concerned how the priest, who is a Franciscan friar, had been moved to a room for a year before getting a permanent room. As such, he didn't bother to settle in. When his cousin came over, she remarked that he was living in a storage shed and proceeded to put up his pictures and whatnot on his walls. The point, I think, was to pay attention to the present. Though maybe I'm confusing that with some of Augustine's sermons that I'm reading?

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Sorry for the dearth

I just realized that when I email myself an article idea, my email software has been, I think, considering the emails spam, as they have been disappearing. That says a lot about this blog, I think. Anywho, now that that's solved, I should be getting some more articles on here.


Catholic urban legends

Thank you Mr. Shea.


Sunday, May 09, 2010

Level 80 Cleric


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A rare moment of rationality in the comments

A New York Times commenter blaming Greek debt on Greek people? That's crazy. When you take out a loan, it's always the banker's fault for giving it to you!


Sunday, May 02, 2010

Forced sabbath

The voluntary weekly Shabbos lasts only one day, while this enforced Shabbos, occasioned by a volcano in Iceland, lasts longer; or so it seems. However, unlike the voluntary Shabbos, the gift granted weekly, the enforced Shabbos is sudden, unpredictable, and not likely to return soon.

But it does leave a lesson, does it not? Human beings are viscerally dependent on the technology that they themselves create. Ironically, that which is designed to free us of burdens — such as air flight — becomes a necessity whose interruption does not leave us with a sense of peace, but of inconvenience, anger, even desperation.

I think one of the major losses in the breakdown of discipline in the modern world is the inability to abstain from technology. I'm sure some of my faithful readers at this point are saying, "Behold, the pot notes that the kettle is black". Guilty as charged, to some extent. But starting in college when I stopped doing my homework on Sundays, I've realized that disconnecting for a little while is important for allowing meaningful connections to your work and to God.

Besides, my technology is all really old technology - my most recent purchase being an IBM RS/6000!

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Legionaries update

5. The Holy Father wishes to assure all Legionaries and members of the Regnum Christi Movement that they will not be left on their own: The Church is firmly resolved to accompany them and help them on the path of purification that awaits them. It will also mean dealing sincerely with all of those who, within and outside the Legion, were victims of sexual abuse and of the power system devised by the founder: They are in the Holy Father’s thoughts and prayers at this time, along with his gratitude to those of them who, even in the midst of great difficulties, had the courage and constancy to demand the truth.

Progress, I suppose.

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Fifty years of the pill


Courage of the Sisters

Bishop is punishing the Sisters of St. Joseph for signing a letter lauding the health care reform by denying them access to any diocese or parish resources for promoting vocations. I find this a bit disturbing. Maybe all tax-paying citizens should be banned from Catholic church resources, since our taxes support war, the death penalty, and abortion. That'll teach 'em.

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