November 25, 2015

CathCon Weekly - 11/25/2015

As I do not plan to post on Friday, given my "holiday" status, I decided to post this today, as it is lengthy and full of good reads. Enjoy, and Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

In Populous City Pent - Andrew Klavan, City Journal
I don’t like cities much and yet, for my sins, I’ve spent a lot of my lifetime in them. A year in San Francisco, ten years in Manhattan off and on, a year in Boston, seven years in London—and now, after 15 sweet summers in a suburban Southern California paradise, I’ve moved to Los Angeles. Again, for my sins...
The Productivity Obsession - Melissa Gregg, The Atlantic
The mutually reinforcing appeal of productivity in HR and IT departments is that fewer resources are required for a job. If workers can be encouraged to demonstrate their own efficiency, to see this as a badge of honor, this weakens collective demands for more colleagues to share the load.
The End of All Our Efficiency - Gracy Olmstead, American Conservatives
I think of this when I pull up the GPS on my phone, and find myself obsessively checking the “ETA” throughout my drive. If I’m using Google Maps, it’ll quickly alert me when a faster route becomes available. I speed even when I’m not in a hurry, just to see the minutes disappear on my ETA—to see that I’ve saved precious time. The very idea that I’ve “saved time” can give a sensation of pleasure and satisfaction.
Love the Process... - Emily Carde, Humane Pursuits
So throughout my life I have sought to cultivate a love of looking. And I firmly believe  it has helped me see the value and meaning in the journey itself.
Pornography: Our Greatest Ongoing Spiritual Threat - Fr. C. John McCloskey, The Catholic Thing
One of the issues that they chose to address this year concerns what is perhaps the greatest ongoing threat to the spiritual and physical health of the Catholics in United States. It breaks up marriages, kills the state of grace, and in many cases destroys the possibility of vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life. It is a plague and its name is: pornography.
Time to Stop Laughing at the Gold Standard -  Norbert Michel, Daily Signal
The other policy that’s under attack—and it’s hardly the first time—is the gold standard. Several candidates suggested that the gold standard was a good system, and they’re all getting flak for talking about gold.
Mercy in a World Gone Mad - William Doino, Jr., First Things
Terrorists certainly tempt us to abandon our moral beliefs, and every sensible person knows something more needs to be done to fight ISIS and the growing danger of global jihadism. Even the Pope and his diplomats, quite reluctant to condone military action of any kind, have acknowledged the necessity of using force to defend and protect innocent lives. 
Why Spike Lee Is Wrong About Gentrification - Kay S. Hymowitz, City Journal
Yet by the time Glass was observing her new neighbors arranging their bookshelves, seismic changes were already setting the stage for the middle class’s urban return. One was deindustrialization.
It’s Time for a New Moynihan Moment - Ben Peterson, Public Discourse
The American Dream is about equality of opportunity. It includes the belief that a person can rise from any station in life to success and the idea that artificial barriers tied to race, class, or gender need not—must not—stand in the way of climbing the commercial, social, or political ladder.
Thanksgiving with Tocqueville - Corbin & Parks, Liberty Law Blog
For the few and the proud who can look forward to a civil discussion of today’s news in addition to a delicious meal, this year’s political menu includes the ongoing craziness on college campuses, the collapse of twelve of the twenty-three Obamacare state co-ops, and the twists and turns of the presidential race, not to mention the deadly seriousness of another horrific terrorist attack.
Why Horror Films Are Good for the Soul - Dwight Longenecker, Imaginative Conservative
However, a horror film which portrays a hero engaging the darkness in battle reminds the audience of the reality of the spiritual battle. When the film is resolved justly, and with appropriate subtlety, the result is satisfactory. When the hero eventually overcomes the darkness through spiritual and moral strength, and ultimate self-sacrifice, the film keeps alive in a godless culture not only the importance of the battle between good and evil, but also the power and possibility of redemption.
Why the Bill of Rights Is a Failure - Bruce Frohnen, Imaginative Conservative
I have often thought that Americans believe the Framers of their Constitution actually bequeathed to them a bill of rights, with a frame of government attached as an appendix, in the form of a few general suggestions.
A Rape Survivor Speaks Out About Transgender Bathrooms - Kaeley Triller, The Federalist
Why would people knowingly invite further exploitation by creating policies with no safeguards in place to protect them from injury? With zero screening options to ensure that biological males who enter locker rooms actually identify as female, how could a woman be sure the person staring at her wasn’t exploiting her? Why is it okay to make her wonder?
Resettle Refugees In Their Own Lands - Luma Simms, The Federalist
I was born in Baghdad to Christian parents who emigrated the old-fashioned way—legally—and for an old-fashioned reason: The treatment of Christians, like my family, by Muslims in the surrounding culture.
The Joy of ISIS - Ross Douthat, NYT
If you don’t recognize that for at least some of the Islamic State’s young volunteers there is a feeling of joy and celebration involved in joining up, then you’re a very long way from understanding the caliphate’s remarkable appeal.
The Downside of Diversity - Michael Jonas,
IT HAS BECOME increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger.
More Thoughts About Immigration—and Some Suggestions - James Kalb, Crisis
As I noted last month, the basic function of government, like the basic function of authority in the family, is to look after the common good of the community being governed. For that reason, policymakers should take very seriously the effect of immigration on their own countries, and commentators should discuss those effects fully and honestly.
The Dangers of Egalitarianism in a Democracy - Louis Markos, Imaginative Conservative
Most Americans take for granted that democracy is an absolute good. If it can be said of an idea or a program that it promotes equality, Americans, whatever their political affiliations, will be loath to speak ill of the idea or to protest the program. “Of course,” they will think to themselves, “anything that fosters fairness and equal treatment must be good for society. Should we not strive to treat everyone the same?  Is that not what America is all about?”
The English Way of Humanism - Bradley J. Birzer, Imaginative Conservative
John Fisher, Father David Mathews argues, carried with him a certain innocence and holy naivete throughout his life, despite the company he kept of royalty and humanists. “The piety and old-fashioned scholarship, the careful fine calligraphy, the controlled appreciation of good letters, would all seem to have marked out Dr. Fisher for a life of learning and quiet pastoral care; the stole, the doctor’s cap; hardly the mitre.”
Ben Shapiro Crashes Mizzou Protesters’ Safe Space - Leah Jessen, Daily Signal
To the apparent consternation of students demonstrating for racial justice at the University of Missouri, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro crashed their so-called “safe space.” 
“Welcome to America, where people get to say what they want,” Shapiro said during a Thursday night speech at Mizzou.
Religious Faith of the Campus Social-Justice Warrior - David French, NRO
The campus culture war is a religious war, a so-far largely peaceful counterpart to the violent purges and revolutions of jihad. One faith has been expunged, relegated to the margins of the academy, and now another fills the vacuum. Out with the Christianity that spawned American higher education, in with a ferocious new faith — a social-justice progressivism unrestrained by humility and consumed with righteous zeal.
Gnostic, Elitist, Self-Destructive Will-to-Power - Roberta Green Ahmanson, Public Discourse
Planned Parenthood executives bargain to sell aborted body parts, Bruce Jenner strikes a pose across the cover of Vanity Fair, Justice Anthony Kennedy spews purple prose in Obergefell, and California Governor Jerry Brown signs a law allowing doctors to kill.
The Yale Problem Begins in High School - Jonathan Haidt, Public Discourse
A month before the Yale Halloween meltdown, I had a bizarre and illuminating experience at an elite private high school on the West Coast. I’ll call it Centerville High. I gave a version of a talk that you can see here, on Coddle U. vs. Strengthen U. (In an amazing coincidence, I first gave that talk at Yale a few weeks earlier). The entire student body — around 450 students, from grades 9-12 — were in the auditorium. There was plenty of laughter at all the right spots, and a lot of applause at the end, so I thought the talk was well received.
Captain America: Brother Against Brother - Matthew Bowman, Catholic Geeks
The United States Civil War is often described as being a conflict wherein brother fought brother. It’s a poetic description, but as accurate as only poetry can be. It is both literally and metaphorically true.
Millennial Country Music Bodes Ill for Civic Virtue - Mark Pulliam, Liberty Law Blog
As John McGinnis explained in his recent series of posts regarding the Constitution’s design for creating civic virtue (here, here, and here), a free society depends on a responsible citizenry, strong families, and thriving civic associations that foster social cohesion.

November 20, 2015

CathCon Weekly - 11/20/2015

Fear Looming Over the West - Samuel Gregg, Imaginative Conservative
But when the historian Arnold Toynbee observed that “civilizations die from suicide, not by murder,” he didn’t just mean that the most serious threats come from within. His deeper point was that redeeming a civilization is largely a question of will.
How the EITC Penalizes Families - Angela Rachidi, AEI
For these reasons, this study explores how the EITC marriage penalty may affect the finances of low-income couples based on their actual reported earnings rather than hypothetical situations. Although this exercise remains speculative, it provides a more complete picture of how marriage penalties associated with the EITC might affect actual low-income parents.
A Crisis Our Universities Deserve - Ross Douthat, NYT
The result, by the time I arrived at college late in the 1990s, was a campus landscape where left-wing pieties dominated official discourse, but the university’s deeper spirit remained technocratic, careerist and basically amoral. And many students seemed content with that settlement.
Neoconservative Pursuit of Happiness - John Willson, Imaginative Conservative
Mr. Brooks says, “I believe that poverty and opportunity are moral issues and must be addressed as such.” It’s true, and these issues cannot be solved by merely throwing money at them. Although he cites the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey to indicate that most Americans are quite happy (and that conservatives are happier than liberals), he fails to mention the cottage industry of books and articles in the last few years whose authors are scratching their heads over why Americans keep getting richer and complaining more, and are increasingly unhappy.
College Professorships: Conservatives Need Not Apply? - Bruce Frohnen, Imaginative Conservative
Mr. Linker recently decided to answer the question, “Where are all the conservative university professors?” His answer, of course, is that they do not exist. And why not? Because conservatives by nature are not capable of being university professors—or at least not decent, reasonably successful ones.
Myths and Facts about Israeli Arabs - Evelyn Gordon, Commentary
Unsurprisingly, the IDI didn’t show that Israel has become the first country in history to eliminate discrimination or racist attitudes; both still exist, just as they do in every other Western country. Indeed, a majority of Jewish respondents readily acknowledged that Israeli Arabs still face discrimination, which is clearly a necessary step toward reducing it.
The University Gone Feral - V.D. Hanson, NRO
The University of Missouri campus police now request that students — a group not known for polite vocabulary — call law enforcement if someone disparages them with hurtful names.
Anti-Zionists Misread the Bible - Gerald McDermott, Public Discourse
In this essay, I have only tried to show that the two arguments made against Christian Zionism do not do justice to the New Testament witness. And, as Karl Barth argued, it is not enough for theology to create elegant systems. They must wrestle with the strange new world of the Bible.
Anonymous at War - Kevin D. Williamson, NRO
When the hacker group Anonymous announced it was launching a campaign against the Islamic State (“These are not the 72 virgins they were expecting,” as one now immortal online quipster put it), something happened that was, in its way, remarkable: Most everybody took them seriously.
The Truth About ISIS is Much Worse - Scott Atran, Guardian
As I testified to the US Senate armed service committee and before the United Nations security council: what inspires the most uncompromisingly lethal actors in the world today is not so much the Qur’an or religious teachings. It’s a thrilling cause that promises glory and esteem. Jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer: fraternal, fast-breaking, glorious, cool – and persuasive.
No Evidence of Self-Abortions in Texas - Michael J. New, NRO
Pro-lifers should not be misled by this shoddy study; they should continue their efforts to advocate in every state for commonsense legislation that is similar to HB2 in Texas.
Europe’s Refugee Problem, and Ours - Ross Douthat, NYT
There are two ways to think about the potential dangers involved in admitting large numbers of refugees from the Middle East’s present chaos into Western countries, and both of them have rather different implications for Europe than for the United States.
Could America Survive without Religion? - Robert P. George, Public Discourse
John Adams famously said that our Constitution was made “only for a moral and religious people and is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Was he right?
An Interview with Jonathan Haidt - Dominick Bouck, First Things
It’s going to get much, much worse over the next couple years and at that point some universities may start changing policies. By that point, many or maybe most American parents won’t want to send their children to the top universities, and there will be an enormous market opportunity for second-level universities that offer a much less coddled campus culture.
 How “Safe Spaces” Kill Human Dignity - Jane Clark Scharl, Intercollegiate Review
There is another, darker conclusion to be drawn from this reinvention of human dignity: if agreement is a necessary part of affirming human dignity, it follows that if we do not agree we are not obliged to recognize human dignity.
President Obama's Cynical Refugee Ploy - Walter Russell Mead, American Interest
Goodhearted liberals have reacted with handwringing to the avalanche of dissenting governors. Some have earnestly quoted relevant Bible verses about taking in the poor and the afflicted, while the usual righteous tut-tutters have engaged in their usual righteous tut-tutting. “Everybody who disagrees with my proposal is a bitter-clinging xenophobe, not to mention a racist,” is the clear implication of the President’s supporters.
LOST FEASTS: St. Thomas Aquinas - Patron of Catholic Schools - Dominican Tertiary
Beginning with the 1924 Breviarium iuxta ritum sacri ordinis praedicatorum, November 13 was the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas - Patron of Catholic Schools in the Dominican liturgical calendar. Fr. Bonniwell's "History of the Dominican Liturgy" gives no date for when exactly the Order adopted this feast.
Imagine There's No ...Imagination - Mark Steyn
Our world seems atrophied. Kathy Shaidle describes the scene at top right as "why Paris is doomed, in one image": a man drags his piano, decorated by a "peace" symbol, by bicycle to the Bataclan theatre, and proceeds to play John Lennon's "Imagine".
What kind of parochial solipsist would think that an appropriate response a day after mass murder?
Overcriminalization in Action - Adam Bates, Cato
Labyrinthine regulations often produce absurd outcomes, including prison sentences for individuals who do everything in their power, including consulting multiple attorneys, to comply with the law before acting.
The Fantasy Candidate and His Caucus - Katherine Ernst, City Journal
Bernie-fever sometimes seemed more intense, more omnipresent than the Obama-gasms of seven years ago. “Feel the Bern” jokes abounded, as did links to left-wing philippics on how Bernie was going to right all capitalist and racist wrongs.
Misplaced and Unwarranted Criticism of CUA - Rick Garnett, Mirror of Justice
Whatever the flaws (and I concede the flaws, of course) in "the Kochs' ideology" (and putting aside, for now, the near-obsession in some quarters with "the Koch Brothers" and the tendency to allow the mere invocation of their name to function as an argument) there is, again, no reason to suggest that Garvey and Abela would dismiss the words of Pope Francis, or the traditional content of Catholic Social Teaching, as "coming from the 'liberal social justice movement.'"
The Case of Free Speech - Christopher F. Tollefsen, Public Discourse
Some rights are grounded in the need and desirability for agents to fulfill their perceived responsibilities. Parents, for example, have obligations to provide care and education for their children. Accordingly, they have a right to carry out those obligations against others who would try to prevent them from doing so, or would, without parental consent, usurp the place of parents in fulfilling those responsibilities.
Can Putin Be Kept in Check? - Tom Nichols, The Federalist
Garry Kasparov’s Winter Is Coming is a hard book to read.
It’s not that the book is difficult or dull. In fact, it’s lively and readable, especially considering that its subject — Russia’s return to authoritarianism — is so depressing. 
Paint It Black - Brian Murray, Liberty Law Blog
According to news reports, he recently answered an inquiry from some Massachusetts high schoolers seeking his thoughts on the role of leadership in criminal gangs. He told them to change topics and write about someone else. “My life,” his neatly handwritten letter declares, “was wasted and spent foolishly, and brought shame and suffering to my parents and siblings.”

November 18, 2015

Goodbye, Twits

Or, perhaps it should be, "Goodbye, Twitter," but who's quibbling?

As you might gather, I deactivated my @SardonicExCuria Twitter account today. I thought I would be able to use Twitter as a means to drive traffic to my blog, and hence, open a broader avenue for discussion. I was incorrect - very little of my website traffic generated from Twitter followers, as far as I can tell.

And this is, really, unsurprising. Twitter seems to be a venue for people to scream at other people, and not to listen; a way for people to instantly report what they feel, without reflection. Too often, in fact, it seems precisely like this:

I perceived that, in using Twitter, I was really only contributing to the problem of lack of reflectiveness. Twitter is designed for 140 characters or fewer, and is based upon a rapidly scrolling feed . This creates two problems that I see. One is that 140 characters is simply not enough for broader engagement of any issue. Therefore, Twitter lends itself to sloganeering - never a good forum for conservatives. As James Person, a biographer of Russell Kirk, notes:
Conservatism is certainly not a program, a campaign, or a career choice. Rooted in the small community, it is homely and humble and it makes for respectful peace within families, between neighbors, and ultimately among nations. It looks to the past, to be sure, but only to more clearly see the way through to tomorrow. It is brought about by example and persuasion, not by sloganeering and shouting down.
The second problem is that, due to rapid posting and scrolling, not only do people sloganeer past each other, but they sloganeer past each other, as the rapid feed devours any tweet not directly targeted to any one person. Combined, this means that Twitter turns into a forum of like-minded yelling - a narrow tribal website devoted to ensuring that nobody discusses anything at all.

Therefore, in a similar vein to turning to once-a-week posts of greater consideration (first edition due this Friday), I have dropped Twitter. I hope to encourage a mindset of the more permanent things by doing this as well.

November 15, 2015

Going Weekly

Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions". In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right. - Neil Postman

With a tendency towards to distracted by new stimuli and the online life, I am fully aware of the problematic potentials hidden in the "infinite appetite for distractions." Therefore, I take steps now and again to limit or minimize those distractions. I have, for instance, given up using Facebook for a month, here and there, stopped playing my enjoyable video games for a spanse of time, and so forth. 

And so, I think, it must be with my reading, or rather, our reading. For, I think, what and how we read is of critical importance in our life. I believe it affects how we reason and speak, and if we read widely, but shallowly, and concern ourselves only with the moment, we are more likely to be intemperate men, constantly engaged in the search for more stimulus; we may become "sight-seers", or as Aquinas said,  "Sight-seeing becomes sinful, when it renders a man prone to the vices of lust and cruelty on account of things he sees represented."

I do not think deeper reading, in and of itself, saves one from sin, or perhaps even avoids sin. However, intemperance of mind makes introspection and meditation more difficult, and contemplation of the past and the future similarly more difficult, for in shallow thinking, we can consider only the immediate and the present.

All this leads up to my decision to make my news posts "once weekly." I desire to focus on better and deeper reading, which partakes more of the "permanent things," as Russel Kirk called them: 
We cling to the permanent things, the norms of our being, because all other grounds are quicksand....Those who refuse it must be taught by personal experience–a hard master, as Benjamin Franklin says, though fools will have no other. . . . But if a man fortifies himself with the normative disciplines, he draws upon the imagination and the lessons of the ages, and so is fit to confront even a diabolical adversary.
Therefore, on Friday evenings, I will post a series of articles I have culled over the previous week, those intended to provoke thought and conversation and to entice one to reading further of like works. I hope it will prove as interesting and stimulating to you as my daily posts have been. If you have any questions about what blogs I use for the daily reads, I will happily provide links.



As noted above, I plan to post weekly links posts. However, you may find me posting additional considerations, ruminations, ramblings, etc., at other times during the week. Just a fair warning.


November 14, 2015

Goodbye, Mr. Dreher

O God of spirits and of all flesh, Who hast trampled down death and overthrown the Devil, and given life to Thy world, do Thou, the same Lord, give rest to the souls of Thy departed servants in a place of brightness, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, where all sickness, sighing, and sorrow have fled away. Pardon every transgression which they have committed, whether by word or deed or thought. For Thou art a good God and lovest mankind; because there is no man who lives yet does not sin, for Thou only art without sin, Thy righteousness is to all eternity, and Thy word is truth.
For Thou are the Resurrection, the Life, and the Repose of Thy servants who have fallen asleep, O Christ our God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thy Father, who is from everlasting, and Thine all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever unto ages of ages. Amen.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff comfort me.

May the Lord bless the souls of those departed in France. May He show them mercy and love. May their sins and ours be forgiven in the Face of the Most High. May His angels and saints always guide us in the paths of life and eternal life.
Rod Dreher, at the American Conservative, has long been a favorite of what could be called the "paleo-conservative granola right" or MacIntyrean right or some such. From books such as "Crunchy Cons" and "How Dante Saved My Life" to oft-linked blog posts about his home-location to Louisiana from NYC, and his somewhat amorphous (although no less discussed) "Benedict Option," he is one of the most visible public intellectuals of this group. This has remained true even with his relocation, and even with his conversion from Catholicism to Orthodoxy, he seems to have no fewer Catholic followers for that.

Mr. Dreher is usually thoughtful and considered, and his blog posts on "The American Conservative" reflect this, as do his books. With that said, I think he went a step too far last evening, before the Paris attacks were even confirmed over, when he tweeted this:

This was amidst other tweets of his offering support in various ways for the people of France, as well as a blog post entitled "Solidarité." In this post, he defends the above tweet, saying:
UPDATE.2: Some people on Twitter have their noses out of joint because I tweeted earlier saying that Angela Merkel’s generous refugee policy is going to guarantee much worse than what happened in Paris tonight in Germany. They had the idea that I’m blaming refugees for the Paris attacks. I am confident that refugees had nothing to do with this attack, nor do I expect that genuine refugees would carry out the same in Germany, or anywhere else. Merkel will have accepted over a million refugees by the end of this year, and her government is expecting millions more by 2017. 
It is difficult to say how long after such a tragedy one should wait to begin discussing the political ramifications of it, and various causes and effect. However, this reeks of political opportunism. The blood was barely dry on the streets of Parish when Mr. Dreher tweeted this. Was it absolutely necessary that he take the time, right at that moment, to reiterate what many people already suspect and know? Was not the disaster enough? Had he said enough prayers that it was time to begin prognosticating about future tragedy?

And then to be told, as if he knows the motivation of every twitter respondent, that it's because we "had the idea" that he was "blaming refugees for the Paris attacks." While that is, without doubt, what some people believed he implied (and, it would be a logical extension, without further clarification), perhaps it is that many of us feel that leaping to politics so soon, making a prediction of further attacks while not even sure the current ones have finished, using the bloodbath as a means to further one's own thought so quickly, was in some way unnecessary and imprudent; perhaps even disrespectful and hectoring. I abhor it when the Left takes an opportunity at every tragedy to immediately point a finger rightward; it is no less opportunistic and saddening for the Right to do the same.

Frankly, I expected more from Mr. Dreher. I should know better, however, than to expect that from a professional journalist. Journalists thrive on controversy, and bloggers thrive on hits. Mr. Dreher is both, and I suspect that his tweet will indeed bring more people to his website. For me, I am done with Mr. Dreher for a time. I read and review a great many articles (300+) for my links on a daily basis, and try to post thoughtful and intelligent ones. However, I do not have time to read in-depth every post by every author, and must depend on trust of website and author. This tweet, and the accompanying "double down," reduce my level of trust in what Mr. Dreher may post, and so for the time, he will no longer be appearing here.