Support This Website! Shop Here!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Quagmire

It’s official. New York City has become a quagmire. It’s been almost six hours since the transit strike began and no resolution has been reached. Top U.S. officials are seriously concerned.

“New York City is simply a luxury America can no longer afford,” commented Hillary Clinton. “We’re pouring millions of dollars each year into this region in police, fire and medical protection and now this. We need an exit strategy. Besides, I don't think they are going to vote me into office twice. Even New Yorkers aren't THAT stupid. Well, not enough of them, anyway.”

Political strategist Howard Dean concurred. “This is a nightmare. We’ve spent hours and hours negotiating – I can’t count hour many hours, at least not without taking off my shoes. And can you believe it? We still haven’t got it resolved! Mr. President, get us out of there!”

“The refugees pouring across the border into Massachusetts are incredible. We’re running out of espresso and the President refuses to open our strategic latte reserves,” fumed Senator Edward “Teddy Bear” Kennedy. “We need to seal our borders! Now! Before those damned foreigners buy up all the Maker's Mark!”

Meanwhile, the impact reverberated across the nation.

“Oh yes, the transit strike,” commented a pedestrian in St. Louis, “What is that, anyway?”

“I heard New York City had a transit strike,” responded one public high school student, “but I don’t think the U.S. should get involved in the problems of foreign countries.”

“I was in New York during the Gulf War,” a veteran reminisced, “It’s a hell-hole. No American in his right mind would want to live there.”

“Well, of course New York has transit strikes!” replied one irate West Coast resident, “Next thing you know, them Muslims will be burning cars and things! They aren't civilized like us! I don't think they even have Tivo over there!”

Meanwhile, President Bush insisted that America stay the course, “You have to remember the history of New York City. It’s the home of Tammany Hall, the Rockefellers, Rudolph Giuliani and the UN. Thoughtful people understand that New York City has never had a free election. Neither has Chicago, for that matter. But we can’t cut and run now.”

The press instant poll discovered that the statement sent the Presidents' approval rating plummeting. "Why not cut and run? Who the hell needs that damned city, anyway?" replied one Los Angeles gang-banger, "can't they get some other country to annex it? Like Boston?"

There are darker rumors on the horizon, however. CBS News reports that some of the city's boroughs may have acquired nuclear weapons. Marlene Mapes is hot on the story of a mysterious group involved in something called “The Manhattan Project.” She promises to present memos from members of the organization demonstrating that they are, in fact, developing an atomic bomb. Well-informed journalists believe the delivery system is cleverly disguised as a church. It is thought to be targeting journalists.

“The religious extreme – pardon the redundancy – well, they are always trying to kill us,” said Mapes. “No, not' us Americans,' I mean ‘us journalists.’ We are the only truth-tellers in this society, you know, and that makes us extremely dangerous."

"What?!? I am TOO dangerous! Have you ever seen me try to split a board with my bare hands? Well, I can you know. But not right now. But I could if I wanted to. Has anyone seen my hat? It's the crinkly tinfoil one."

"Anyway, you need to listen to me and turn that damned Internet off. We are very serious about truth, especially in times when truth is hard to come by. That’s why we don’t just report the news, we create it.... Turn it off! OFF! Turn the PC OFF! .... AND listen to me! LISTEN! I'm dangerous! You better listen or else!”

As for New York City?

“Blow it up,” replied Dan Rather, “What the hell do I care? I’m retired.”

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Amnesia

Mark Twain liked to say that history doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes. If that is true, what do we do with a generation that prefers free verse?

This thought arises from the recent e-mails generated by my essays on Christmas Past, available here and here. While many people of various philosophical persuasions wrote to thank me for the essays, a few were scandalized. They argued that this review of history worked at cross-purposes with the laudable Christian endeavor to salvage Christmas from impending oblivion. Silence on this history, they argued, would best help the Christian cause.

In times past, the common history of a community was kept by the story-tellers: Homer, Thucydides, the prophets of old, the bards and the wandering minstrels of the Middle Ages. Whether through oral or written tradition, the culture resonated with men who told the story of where we came from so that none would forget who we are. Times change. So do cultures.

Americans are no longer very good at history. Our culture is built around our economy, and our economy is future-oriented. No one wants us to fixate on what we have now or what we had before, except insofar as it compares badly with what we could soon have. A culture built on marketing, as any relentlessly capitalist culture must be, is relentlessly future-oriented. It is also relentlessly unwilling to consider that the future holds only one certainty: death.

As a result, Americans are caught in a continual twilight of illusion wherein we don’t recall our past nor do we dwell on the realities that awaits us. Rather, we try to construct a temporary shelter against the coming storm by amassing our goods in rows around us, creating the illusion that we are safe, or soon will be if only that last product is purchased.

This loss of historical sense, this loss of contact with reality, must eventually destroy any culture it permeates.

The Memory Hole: Example One
Everyone knows the Civil War was fought the twin issues of slavery and states’ rights, but how many Americans know the Revolutionary War was fought to stop corporations? As Thom Hartman points out, the revolt over the Tea Tax was not a revolt over the fact that the tax had been raised, but rather, over the fact that it had been lowered.

The new, lower tea tax allowed a multi-national corporation, the East India Company, to flood the American market with cheap tea, thereby driving small mom-and-pop tea shops into bankruptcy. In that respect, the Boston Tea Party was akin to an attack on the local Super-Walmart, the Founding Fathers were dedicated in part to destroying the ability of corporations to operate on American soil. Do any of today’s commentators, liberal or conservative, mention this? Aren’t these facts relevant to any discussion of the Founders’ original intent?

The Memory Hole: Example Two

Or what of the way America and Britain invented the science of eugenics, and thereby invented Hitler? It is a matter of historical fact that virtually every major eugenicist prior to 1930 was either British or American: Galton, Davenport, Sanger, Stopes – it is a roll-call of the some of the most prominent people America and Britain produced.

America was the first country to institute mandatory involuntary sterilization of “defectives,” the first country to ban marriage between whites and blacks. Eugenics was one of the few things Theodore Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler agreed on. Yale was the home of the American Eugenics Society and Harvard graduates traveled to 1930’s Germany to help them draft laws modeled on the sterilization and anti-miscegenation laws of Protestant America.

Everyone knows Hitler was a eugenicist, but who remembers that Neville Chamberlain, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, was a member of the 1935 English Eugenics Society or that Marshal P├ętain, who led the Vichy government in France, was a member of the French eugenic society in the 1930s? As for the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were all ardent eugenicists, while Herbert Hoover was, in 1921, on the committee that sponsored the Second International Congress of Eugenics in New York.
In short, every American president from 1901 through 1945 agreed with Hitler on the importance of eugenics. Is it any wonder that International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the organization started by American Margaret Sanger, spent the first seventeen years of its existence rent-free in the headquarters of the English Eugenics Society and was a member of that organization in 1977? Americans lambaste the Germans for their past inhumanities, but we taught them how to think eugenically.

The Memory Hole: Example Three
And let’s talk about thinking. America’s modern mass compulsory school system actually created riots and armed insurrection in many parts of the country when it was first instituted. Why? Because parents recognized even then that it was inferior to the one-room schoolhouse and homeschooling. Parents recognized even then that it was an attack upon the family. They understood that it degraded learning and separated children from adults, thereby stunting every child’s growth. But not a word of this leaks out into the grade school, high school or even most college texts. No one remembers it. Why not? Wouldn’t the roots of this conflict have some bearing on today’s education conversation?
John Henry Cardinal Newman, the famous theologian and historian who converted to Catholicism through his thorough study of Church history once remarked, “knowledge of history is the death of Protestantism.” Protestantism, corporate America, modern education – each in its own way encourages amnesia. The facts of history are dangerous things. They call to mind ways of thinking, ways of living, that are inimical to the modern American way of life.

So, we can forget and argue endlessly, pointlessly.
Or we can remember.
Choose.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

How Christians Stole Christmas, Part II

Years ago, Max Weber asserted the Protestant work ethic made America and England great. While that may be true, it is much easier to demonstrate that the Protestant work ethic made America secular humanist and atheist.

As we noted last week, the Christian assault on Christmas has been subtle but unrelenting. This is due in no small part to the Protestant work ethic and Calvinist theology which insists that we can tell who is saved by looking at who has the biggest bank account – according to Calvin, the elect aren’t poor.

The attack on Christmas in America began in earnest during World War II, when this virulently Protestant nation started sending its boys overseas to fight. Prior to that war, Advent and Christmas were still recognized as distinct seasons. It is difficult today to imagine the scene, but we must try.

How Things Used to Be

The liturgical year used by Christians for one and a half millennia was intended to make us aware of Christ’s life every day. According to this way of understanding the passage of time, Advent served two purposes: it made us aware of Old Testament anticipation as Israel waited for the coming of the Saviour and it made us aware of our own current anticipation as we wait for His Second Coming. Advent was meant to look backward and forward simultaneously: backward to the sinfulness of man prior to the Incarnation and forward to both the sinfulness and the glory of man that would be revealed at the Last Judgement.

Because Advent had this dual meaning, Christmas also had a dual meaning. The celebration of the Christmas season was meant to remind us of both the gifts of salvation Christ brought through His Incarnation and the gift of heaven, the eternal exchange of divine Persons which we would in some sense experience in the Beatific Vision.

This was the reason for the gift-giving during the twelve days of Christmas. The days between Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany, when the three kings laid theirs at the Child’s feet was a reminder both of Christ and of heaven. While every feast day in the calendar year involved some kind of feast and some kind of gift-giving, Christmas season was pre-eminent precisely because it alone was meant to be a foretaste of heaven. In fact, the season was not considered complete until the Feast of the Presentation at the Temple and the Purification of the Virgin on February 2.

After the Feast of the Presentation came Lent, when everyone spent six weeks walking the Via Dolorosa, with the suffering Christ, walking the Way of Tears. After we lived His suffering and death, we lived His Easter Resurrection. For the liturgically-minded, Easter day lasts eight mortal days – the whole week following Easter is considered one long celebration, although the partying didn’t end until Pentecost, which marked the end of Easter and the beginning of ordinary time. During ordinary time Christians lived out and contemplated the growth of the Church through history as She prepared for the Second Coming and the Last Judgement.

When this is understood, the importance of the Feasts of All Holy Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, indeed, the whole month of November, is much more obvious. This season was crucial to understanding and properly celebrating Advent. Those feasts and that month were spent in special contemplation of death and dying, of sin and judgement and all who had gone before us, marked with the sign of Faith.

The Four Last Things are Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. During November, Christians contemplated and prepared for Death. During Advent, we contemplated and prepared for Judgement. During Christmas, we contemplated and lived out Heaven, at least as best we could.

So, up until World War II, every Christian treated Advent as a time of preparation and repentance. No one would think of putting stockings, ornaments, even Christmas trees, up until Christmas Eve. During Advent, everyone meditated on the world’s wickedness prior to God come in the flesh (past), and prepared themselves for the Last Day, when God comes as Judge (future). For centuries, Christmas was at once both a reminder of the Incarnation, the First Coming, and a reminder of Dooms-Day, Judgement Day, the Second Coming.

Why Things Changed

Martin Luther changed the understanding of November and of holy days in general; World War II changed the understanding of Advent and Christmas. As war swept the world, buying habits had to change. Because it took six weeks to transport anything by ship over the ocean, Americans were told to buy their Christmas gifts for their sons overseas by Thanksgiving, or their sons would not receive those gifts by February 2.

The Christmas buying season had been December 25th through February 2nd, with the most intense gift-giving happening during the twelve days of Christmas. But during the war, it extended from Thanksgiving to February 2nd. American Protestants, that is, American businesses, liked the extra income generated by the much longer and earlier selling season. The war against the Germans ended in 1945, but the war against Christmas was just revving into high gear.

Ever since World War II, America’s Christian businessmen have been strenuously trying to destroy the whole concept of Advent. Repentant people, sorrowing people, people aware of their gluttonies, these kinds of people do not buy much. This is unacceptable to a Protestant understanding of commerce.

Not only was this sorrow bad for business, it was bad for the pulpit. If Calvin is right, we have no reason to repent. We are the Elect – we are assured of our salvation! In fact, we have a duty to show others how well the Elect live! Break out the credit cards!

Sixty years of advertising broke two millenia of Christian practice. America famously refuses to contemplate death, so all Holy Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day had to be destroyed. Protestant businessmen knew just how to do that. They disassociated the days from their traditional contemplation of the saints’ joy in heaven and turned them into pagan party festivals. Contemplating saints is dangerous, after all. They don’t own credit cards. Christian businessman could not afford the possibility that anyone would realize this.

So, Halloween has now become the closest thing we have to an Advent season. Advent has been transformed into a four-week long Christmas season, and Christmas season is now Purgatory. The season during which we are supposed to celebrate our life in heaven with the Christ child is now the time we pay all the bills. Today, we sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” during Advent. Unlike Good King Wenceslaus, we toss all of our Christmas decorations on the trash heap on the Feast of Stephen. The Church’s first martyr has lost out to Boxing Day and end-of-the-month card statements.

When was the last time anyone had a school Christmas pageant or business Christmas party during Christmas season, that is, after Christmas Day? Indeed, how many Christians even gather together to worship on the Feast of the Incarnation? Even as the Christmas/Holiday controversy swirls through the news media, CNN reports that most large evangelical church congregations don’t even have Christmas services.

The irony is rich. Protestants insist on retaining the word “Christmas” even though they have already drained every scrap of belief and practice out of the word. They stripped the Mass out of “Christ-Mass” day, they stripped the contemplation of death and judgement out of the Advent season, they stripped the gift-giving out of the Christmas season, they don’t even gather to celebrate on the day of His birth, but they are in high dudgeon about the missing word. The day is dead, but the lack of white-washing on the tomb offends them.

And I’m supposed to join them in being upset?
Alright, I will.
I promise.
Just wait until I stop laughing.

No Attachment to Sin

As many of you know, to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Benedict XVI recently announced a new plenary indulgence valid only for this year, December 8th.

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, any Christian who:
Participates in a formal prayer service in honor of Mary "or at least openly demonstrate devotion to Mary" by praying before an image of the Immaculate Conception on display for public veneration.
Recites the Lord's Prayer, the creed and a prayer to Mary and
Performs thnormal requirements: Confession within 20 days of Dec 8th, Reception of Eucharist Prayer for the intentions of the pope, All in a spirit of total detachment from the attraction of sin. , may win a plenary indulgence for themselves or the deceased.


Here's the problem: a lot of people don't know what it means to have no attachment to sin. Here's the explanation.

The non-attachment to sin is only necessary for winning a plenary indulgence.
It is not a condition for winning a partial indulgence.

I've talked to several priests on this and they all give the same answer.
Plenary indulgences are not intended to be difficult to win.
Furthermore, an indulgence is NOT a sacrament, it is only a sacramental.
One can accurately describe it as a completion of the sacrament of reconciliation, but that's as close as you get.

Now, since even the great and glorious sacrament of baptism doesn't free us from concupiscence, it would be quite absurd to think that we have to be free of concupiscence to win a plenary indulgence. The Church can't mean that we must be, since it is not possible to be free of concupiscence while in the body. Furthermore, the saints are holy precisely because they are much more aware of their own concupiscence than most others, and therefore they struggle with temptation even more than we do because they recognize their attachments more clearly.

We are not responsible for that which invincible ignorance prevents us recognizing. So, if we just make an act of the will, praying something along the lines of "Lord, I desire only You and Your perfection, I desire nothing of the sins or defects of this world" and MEAN it, that would be sufficient to constitute no attachment to sin. Our flesh may experience a movement towards some illicit thing, but that isn't the same as an attachment to sin.

Some people point to private revelation that seems to indicate the contrary.
My response is that it is private revelation, and therefore not binding on the faithful.

More information on indulgences in general can be found in the Beauty of Grace wall calendar of Indulgences for 2006

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

How the Christians Stole Christmas

‘Tis the season for complaining. Specifically, ‘tis the season for Christians to chatter and moan about America’s secular culture. “Happy Holidays” has replaced “Merry Christmas,” Kwanzaa is in and Christ is out and as a Catholic, I’m expected to get upset. But it’s hard to do. As Grandpa might have said, after 500 years, a man jest gits tired.

For nearly half of the last millennium, Christians have slowly been chipping away at Christmas. Now, in imitation of Alexander the Great who wept because he had no more worlds to conquer, they caterwaul because they have nearly completed their task. Are they upset because it took so long or because it’s almost gone?

America’s Christians have fought long and hard for this day. Why aren’t they celebrating?

After all, the attack on Christmas began in a most ingenious fashion. Instead of attacking the day itself, the other major holy days of the year were first stripped away. The law of prayer is the law of belief, as the saying goes, and the law had to go.

Thomas More’s character in A Man for All Seasons summarized the situation nicely, “What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the devil?… Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast, man’s laws, not God’s and if you cut them down . . . d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? . . . Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”

But the Christians who started the war against Christmas didn’t have the benefit of a good screenwriter, so they didn’t understand the consequences of their actions. The first holy day to be expunged from the Christian calendar, the first law of prayer to die, was All Holy Eve now known as Halloween. The man who murdered it? Martin Luther.

In 1517, he chose All Holy Eve, the vigil of All Saint’s Day, to attack the idea that those who had died deserved any respect or care from those who lived. According to Luther, prayer afforded no one grace. The Reformation literally converted the communion of saints into the coven of witches; every person who invoked the aid of the saints was now guilty of a demonic attempt to commune with the dead.

Not surprisingly, the rise of the Protestant Reformation created an incredible upsurge in demon-hunting and witch trials. Wherever Protestant strength undermined Catholic authority, the upper-class intellectuals of the day would drive secular mobs to burn and hang witches. Protestant ideology transformed All Holy Eve from a day of sanctity that commemorated communion with God into a day of evil commemorating Satan’s power.

It took a few centuries, but the first holy day had fallen. It would not be the last.

Throughout the whole expanse of the year, holy days began to decay into holidays. The most serious assaults were made on feast days whose Masses were celebrated with special joy.

How many people remember Candlemas? It is the Mass celebrating the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Offered forty days after Christmas, Candlemas marks the end of the Christmas season, as everyone used to know:

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas Hall
Robert Herrick (1591-1674), "Ceremony upon Candlemas Eve"

By the late 1800’s, Americans had transformed this most ancient feast in honor of the Virgin Mary into Groundhog Day - a signal accomplishment in the continuing Protestant attempt to separate Catholic Church and state. And the two goals, the destruction of holy days and the separation of church and state, should not be seen as separated or separable.

After all, Martin Luther not only began the attack on holy days; he was also the first to propose the idea of church-state separation. Ironically, Luther’s deep devotion to Mary has gone down the same memory hole that has eaten the holy days, thus no one knows how Luther destroyed what he most loved. But it hardly matters. He is long since dead, and according to his own rules, his aid cannot be invoked by either side of the debate.

Meanwhile, the destruction proceeded apace. Michaelmas, the Mass offered on September 29th in celebration of St. Michael’s victory over Satan, became the day to settle rents and collect accounts. By the late 1800’s, it too had been stripped of all the celebratory hospitality that had marked it as a major feast of the Catholic Middle Ages.

Childermas, the December 28th Mass commemorating the Feast of the Holy Innocents slaughtered by Herod, was not replaced by another event so much as it was simply overcome by the commercialization of the holiday. It slipped into oblivion. America had won the war against nearly every major Mass in the liturgical calendar.

Indeed, between 1700 and 1776, not a single Mass was celebrated in New York City - it was illegal. And, if it had not been necessary for American Protestants to employ French Catholic military support, priests would not have been present to celebrate Mass in New York during the Revolution either. The Mass had long since been stripped out of Protestant society like meat from the bone.

Candlemas, Childermas, Michaelmas and now Christmas. Is it any wonder that a population who opposed any celebration of the Mass would eventually oppose the Mass celebrating Christ’s own birth?

Catholics complained when Protestants stripped the Mass out of Christmas. Now Protestants complain that atheists will strip Christmas out of the calendar.

But what, exactly, is the problem with obliterating all reference to Christ’s Mass? Isn’t this what America has been working to accomplish for 200 years?

The Hillary Killer

Hillary’s campaign for President is dead.

It wasn’t Vince Foster that killed it.
It wasn’t the Travelgate scandal.
It wasn’t her radically pro-abortion stance,
It wasn't her new modified abortion stance.
It wasn’t her healthcare initiative or her promise to give America two presidents for the price of one.
It wasn’t her illegal dealings on the stock market.

None of these had the power to kill her. Like the Hydra, she has always sprouted two new heads after every crushing defeat and became all the more formidable against her opponents.

No, what seared her campaign with fire and ash was the only flame that can kill a presidential campaign in this day and age.

High-definition television.

President Nixon once claimed he lost the presidential election to John F. Kennedy because of bad make-up men, and there’s good reason to think he was right. He later gave Senator Edward Kennedy sage advice: to make a serious run for the presidency, lose twenty pounds. Certainly Ronald Reagan’s perennially warm wit was enhanced by his perennially black hair. But the rules of the game are changing dramatically in the next three years.

All television stations are required to begin broadcasting digital signals by 2006. The transition to full HDTV is supposed to be mostly complete by December 31, 2006. The analog channels in each region will disappear when the regional audience is 85% capable of receiving HDTV.

By March, 2007, all new televisions will be required to have HDTV capability. By November, 2008, HDTV will be in every home in America that cares to have a television set. And that spells the end for Hillary.

HDTV lets all the flaws shine through. Those baggy eyes, that less-than-perfect skin, the slightly balding hair style – these things are much more difficult to hide when the picture is five times sharper than we are used to. And the televisions consumers will have in their house by 2008 will be larger than ever before.

Can you imagine that enormous puffy, baggy-eyed face staring at you from your living room wall?

2008 will be the first campaign run on HDTV. Hillary Clinton is simply too old and worn out to survive the increased visual scrutiny. If porn stars are worried, what chance does Hillary have?

We don’t need Condi to stop Hillary.
We need a young, skin-perfect conservative.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Beating the Bounds

Pre-literate societies marked territory by beating children. Every few years, the elders of the community would take a group of children on a walk along the boundaries of the village, or town in order to show the children what ground belonged to their town and what ground belonged to someone else.

In order to impress on young minds exactly where these boundaries lay, a selection of children were soundly thrashed at each boundary marker. The children present, especially the ones entrusted with the community memory through force of sticks, would thereby never forget the information entrusted to them that day. The practice was so common it became a catch-phase: “beating the bounds.”

What calls this to mind is a new recommendation from England that all children be enrolled in school from birth. The English, it seems, have become concerned that the little tykes cannot properly be taken care of unless they are watched over by licensed keepers every minute of the day from birth forward.

Where did this idea come from? Well, as John Taylor Gatto points out, it finds its origins in the invention of compulsory mass schools.

Origins of the school system

Prior to the industrial revolution, American education did quite well in the one-room school house. The school house was run by a local school board comprised entirely of local parents. It was generally taught by one of the townspeople, and most of the students were related to each other. Cousins, brothers, sisters, even aunts and uncles (for large families engendered by young parents create young aunts and uncles) all attended school together with the older students teaching the younger ones many of the lessons.

The school year lasted less than twelve weeks, with no more than six of those weeks consecutive. The youth might attend school for a three or four years, possibly a total of forty weeks in their life. Yet these same students were reading Shakespeare, Milton, Boswell and similar lights in fifth grade. The system worked exceedingly well. In fact, it worked too well.

Industrialization required an ignorant population. After all, skilled men had trades; only unskilled men might be forced into factory work. For industrialization to work, men had to be prevented from learning enough to strike out on their own. Schools had to be dumbed down. That’s why the mass school was invented. It was inefficient, it physically removed youth from their families in order to alienate them, and it thereby produced a human being who was much more dependent upon the factory owner.

As Gatto shows, the “need” for factory schools became the focus of an enormous advertising campaign, wherein society was told that the one-room school house was hopelessly inadequate to the task. Factory schools were promoted in magazines and newspapers, by speakers and politicians at every opportunity. Over the course of forty years, laws were passed in every state requiring school attendance. Industrial productivity soared.

Indeed, the new factory model schools were so successful because they produced not only a population that would work in a factory, but a population that was forced to buy factory products because it no longer knew how to make things for itself. But as technology advanced, some adjustments had to be made to the schools.

Violence in Education

In the one-room school house, beatings were common. Being spanked or switched for an offense was much like breathing – almost everyone got a taste of it eventually. As you grew older, you learned how to avoid the beatings. That was a mark of being an adult - no one could thrash you.

But as is obvious after a moment's thought, beatings do not fit in well with the age of telegraphy, radio or television. You see, a boy can be beaten in order to direct behaviour only if there is someone there to deliver the beating. The mark of maturity had to be changed to something more... amenable to commerce.

After all, telegraphy, radio, television – these things cannot change behaviour through promised violence but only through promised enticements. If children are to be trained in correct buying behaviour, they should ideally be re-inforced at every opportunity to connect enticement with changed behaviour. Thus, as the new means of electronic advertising developed, capitalism required that the model for school discipline should revolve around treats rather than thrashing.

The “no corporeal punishment” movement was born and has since flourished. Parents are now encouraged to prepare their children for the marketplace primarily by marketing personal behaviour to their children. Parents are to advertise to their children how good behaviour is rewarded with industrial products, and bad behaviour with lack of access to those same products. Since spanking is not a product, it is strongly discouraged or outlawed.

Children need to be socialized, that is, they need to learn how to need a commodity, how to be a commodity and how to treat others like a commodity.

The New Problem

But, as the lesson is taken to heart, a new wrinkle arises. Adults who put self before all others and who treat each other like commodities tend not to have children. As the number of children drops, the number of people available to buy product also drops, that is, the population begins to drop. Hmmm… what to do?

As the demographics shrink across the globe, one solution is to re-double the effort. Make children even more insanely needy than they are right now. Extend the factory school to the very ends of the life – from birth to death, teach nothing but the consumer mindset. Great strides have already been made to keep people in school through their early thirties, but that isn’t enough. Let’s extend it from birth to forty, if we can.

Thus, the advent of the pre-pre-school. It isn’t “daycare.” Adults must have room to think that they are not warehousing their own children in order to lead a more pleasant and selfish adult life, but rather that this warehousing is actually for the children’s good. Never mind the mountains of evidence that this is the worst thing you can do to a child.

This is socialization. It is education. If you oppose education, you are a retrograde, knuckle-dragging Luddite, and probably a Marxist.

Beating the bounds is as old as mankind. But in a global village, the bounds are found in bank accounts and the children are taught those bounds by a much more subtle and a much more alienating violence.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Blackface

What a difference a couple of weeks makes!

Obama: American Girl Boycott Threats ‘Silly’
Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2005
By: Emily Fredrix, Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Conservatives overreacted when they threatened to boycott doll-maker American Girl over its contributions to a youth group that supports abortion rights, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama said Monday.

"It's just silly," said Obama, D-Ill. "This is a classic example of overreaction and a lack of proportion."

Speaking before the youth group's Omaha chapter, Obama praised Girls Inc. and said it played an important role in helping girls set goals for themselves.

"When they're fed a steady diet of accepting abortion and lesbianism over and over again from the time they're very young, this behavior becomes acceptable -- even normal," he said, "And that's what I want for my daughters. I've always fantasized about lesbians and as a man, I certainly support abortion. I know the young men who date my daughters will as well."

"Look, we've got to get American girls, especially black American girls, to accept these things early on. My people must live out the white stereotypes," Obama proclaimed as white reporters nudged each other, exchanging knowing glances, "I mean, how else is a man of my skin color going to make it in the Democrat party? It is imperative that black men in power sell out not just our people, but every female in America, and support these things! My career is worth the sacrifice my daughters will make. And speaking of me, I think I should have the same opportunity for extramarital affairs that Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King had. So I say, God bless American Girl! "

[Alright, I made those last two paragraphs up. Possibly.]

Senator Barack Obama on sex in the media
Study indicates sex scenes have grown more numerous.
Date: Thursday, November 10, 2005

Kaiser released the study's findings (of massive amounts on broadcast television) at a news conference with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, followed by a panel discussion with executives from NBC and Fox, Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy of the Federal Communications Commission and others.

Obama, the father of two young girls, said he shares the concern of many parents about what their kids are exposed to on television.

"We don't teach our children that healthy relationships involve drunken, naked parties in a hot tub with strangers -- but that's what they see when they turn on 'The Real World,'" he said, citing a show on MTV.

"When they're fed a steady diet of these depictions over and over again from the time they're very young, this behavior becomes acceptable -- even normal," he said.

Obama said the television industry needs to do more to help parents better navigate the ever-growing number of channels and programs. Making TV ratings easier to understand is one way, he said, adding that that if broadcasters and cable don't do more they are inviting Congress to act.

Exclusive to the Fifth Column! In response to a reporter's question, Obama added, "Well, of course I'm pandering for votes! I support free sex and abortion on demand when I'm facing my white superiors in the party! They understand that my position against license is purely a scam to get the bourgeoisie to vote for me. After all, that's what they pay me for - I am the black face of the Democrat Party."

UPDATE April 2009:

Nancy, Harry and Joe think of Barack as their own beloved Uncle Tom.

It isn't true.

As Americans have found out to our horror, he's actually Stepin Fetchit.

UPDATE: July 2010
Now Barack follows the KKK, Jim Crow, and LBJ traditions of the Democrats by calling African-Americans "mongrels." He is the leader of the Democrats, after all, whose party candidates complain about too much Jewish money in political campaigns.

Explain to me again how this man - who holds the values of Ruth Bader Ginsberg - is not an Oreo.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The French-Muslim Riots

The recent Muslim torching of French property is widely seen as the beginning of the end of Europe. But a closer inspection of the evidence forces quite a different conclusion.

To understand the problem in France, we must first consider a piece of evidence that is nowhere to be found in the front pages of any MSM outlet. According to reports coming out of the Inter-religious Council in Russia, over two million Russian Muslims have converted to Christianity in the last fifteen years, while only 2500 Russians have become Muslims. The driving force behind this wave of conversion to Christianity? Sectarian violence.

According to Roman Silantyev, the council’s director, “After each terrorist attack, thousands and even hundreds of thousands become Christians,” resulting in an almost 50% drop in the Muslim population in certain regions. He acknowledges that hard-core believers rarely convert, but this hardly matters. As the events in France show, not all Muslims are raised in hard-core Muslim families.

It is certainly the case that Muslim faith and culture is predisposed to violence. The history of Islam is virtually synonymous with the history of warfare in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. But the remarkable thing about the rampaging youth in France is precisely the lack of violence.

Now, to be sure, many cars and buses are being torched, but the youth are generally careful to avoid harming individuals. After ten days of riots, only one death can be attributed to the rioters. That level of concern for the individual citizen is unheard of among rioters. The youth have a marked prediliction for destroying property, not persons, even going so far as to make sure the occupants of every bus are safely off before they consign it to the flames.

We should also note that the objects of their rage are, to put it mildly, odd. Nurseries, schools, cars and buses seem to have borne the brunt of the assaults. The rioters are most assuredly not targeting Christian churches, synagogues, banks, businesses or French military installations – the youth are taking out their rage on the places that separate children from parents. This is rather important.

The rioters themselves have asserted that the ghettoes they inhabit are generally riven by turf wars between rival gangs competing for influence. We know from other research that these kinds of youth gangs almost always form where father-less families are prevalent. But the gangs only united to attack targets outside of their neighborhoods when they became aware of the disdain the government had for them and their families.

In short, it is safe to conclude that the French Muslim teenagers who are running riot through the streets are not doing this for religious or financial reasons. They have not begun their war over ideology, but over anger at a system that has not only destroyed their families and their hope, but has asserted their sub-human status. They are killing nurseries and luxury sedans, not men, women and children. These young men and women are not suicide bombers – they are as careful to respect people as they are careful to destroy objects.

Given the length of the riots and the enormous opportunity for some demagogue to turn this into something much more sinister, the fact is, this has not yet happened. Of course, it might all change tomorrow, but somehow that seems unlikely.

The conclusion? We aren’t watching Muslims riot. We are watching young men and women who are acting out a very closely governed rage, a rage that does not draw artificial “us vs. them” lines between Muslims and non-Muslims, but rather draws the line between the people of France and the system that governs them.

Are the riots horrendous? Yes.

Are the rioters horrendous? Oddly enough, the answer seems largely to be “No.”

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The American Experiment is Over

We lost.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has quashed the lawsuit by parents who sued the school district that exposed their children to sex education without the parents' knowledge or consent:

"We agree, and hold that there is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children, either independent of their right to direct the upbringing and education of their children or encompassed by it. We also hold that parents have no due process or privacy right to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed while enrolled as students." --Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Nov. 3, 2005

Unless Roberts and Alito are both on the court and both hold true to their principles, SCOTUS will affirm and that will be the end of that.

Stealth Candidates

Stealth Candidates

Regular readers of the Fifth Column might have noted that I stayed very quiet on the Harriet Miers nomination. There's a reason for that: I knew nothing about her. By the time I knew enough about her to begin to form an opinion, she was gone.

Judge Alito’s record has come forward with a lot more detail in a lot less time. Within just a few hours of his nomination, many people began to be concerned about his abortion decisions. In three cases out of four, he came down on the wrong side.

Two of my seven brothers and sisters are lawyers. As a result, I am not as concerned about these decisions as some have been. I am not saying there is no cause for concern, just that the reason for concern is not necessarily as clear-cut as one might think.

It is important to remember that judges who regularly get over-ruled don’t advance. Period. According to the legal profession, the best judges are the judges whose decisions don’t get altered a few months later by a higher court. So everyone in the profession has in interest in being right every time.

Given these facts, Alito’s 2000 decision, in which he ruled the same way the Supreme Court had just finished ruling, was a no-brainer. The only way he could have avoided making the ruling the way he did was to resign his judgeship. Now, one can argue that the judiciary is so corrupt that Catholics should get out of the profession. But moral dilemmas are not always clear-cut.

Take the very similar case of the anti-Nazi activist who went so far underground in WW II that he actually took a job in Nazi government. When the Allied war crimes trials accused him of participating in the mass-killing process through which innocent civilians, both Jews and Gentiles, were murdered, he pointed out that he had, in fact, always been anti-Nazi. Further, while he had to participate in sending some individuals to certain death, his decision to remain in his position had also allowed him to save several hundred men and women marked for death. Dozens of people whose lives he had clandestinely saved came forward to testify that this was true.

Now, we certainly may not do evil that good may come of it, but there is also something to be said for standing in the midst of evil in order to mitigate it.

In that spirit, Alito’s ruling that the unborn are not protected by the constitution may sound callously pro-choice, but it is not necessarily so. One could argue that he just repeated what SCOTUS said, but with a bluntness so hard-edged that it almost mocks SCOTUS. That is, he said from the bench what pro-life activists have said about SCOTUS for years – it doesn’t give a damn about the unborn. He just did it in a way that wouldn’t allow anyone to crucify the Catholic. If this reading is correct, Alito is wise as serpents.

The striking down of a Pennsylvania law on Medicaid abortions in cases of rape and incest is likewise a situation in which Alito simply followed precedent. If he had ruled any other way, SCOTUS would have struck him down, as he had already discovered when he ruled that wives had to notify their husbands prior to abortion. He correctly surmised that if wives, after consensual sex, didn’t have to tell the man they had contracted marriage with about an upcoming abortion, then women, after coerced sex, were unlikely to have to tell the contracting agency, that is, the state anything about the circumstances surrounding an upcoming abortion either.

So, these rulings really tell us only that Judge Alito watches his p’s and q’s. And, given his mother’s revelation (God bless her!), I find that most telling. Everyone called Harriet Miers “the stealth candidate” because there was so little paper trail on her judicial philosophy. But as Edgar Allen Poe noted, and at least one anti-Nazi activist discovered, sometimes the best stealth is managed by hiding in plain sight.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Here's another Winner!

Oh, here's another winner.

Recently, Loretto "Catholic" school in Sacramento was forced to fire a drama teacher who had been volunteering as a Deathscort at Planned Parenthood. The parent of a student provided the bishop with pictures of the woman engaged in the activity and the bishop responded by directing the Catholic school, run by a religious order, to fire the teacher.

Within the last few days, the name of the woman who forced the bishop's hand became known and, since no good deed goes unpunished in Catholic education, the woman's daughter was, as of Halloween, summarily expelled - without warning, hearing or chance of appeal.

You know, the problem with writing a book on the breakdown of Catholic education is that it can never be definitive. There's always another "Catholic" school that does something like this after you go to press...

Friday, October 28, 2005

Kickoff

Here's a wonderful URL to kick off the fact that my latest book is shipping:

http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/religion/story/13752388p-14594085c.html

The book is, of course, Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America.

Here's the raves it's gotten so far:

"At this pivotal moment in the history of Catholic education in America, Designed to Fail is an important addition to this critical conversation. By examining the past and the present condition of Catholic education in America, Kellmeyer boldly proposes provocative and challenging solutions for its future. Whether you agree with it or not, this book should be read and considered soberly by anyone involved in Catholic education or pastoral work."

--- Benedict T. Nguyen, M.T.S., J.C.L., Chancellor, Diocese of La Crosse, WI

"Rarely have seen such indisputable truths packed in so few pages...Steve Kellmeyer has written an intriguing book that will shift American Catholics ways of thinking about parental responsibility for their children's religious education. Kellmeyer insists, and backs it up with both magisterial statements and historical fact that the sorry state of doctrinal knowledge on the part of the Catholic faithful is due not only to to the abdication of parental responsibility but also to the wrongful hierarchal takeover of Catholic teaching to children via Catholic grammar school run largely by religious.

After the Second Vatican Council, these same orders began to lose both personnel and vocations, leaving in their place, teachers who either were not faithful Catholics or ignorant of Catholic teaching . Both the hierarchy and parents seem not to realize that hundreds of years of the handing on of Catholic faith and tradition have been virtually obliterated in the course of decades. The results are all around us. Kellmeyer provides hope that the "new Evangelization" called for by the late Pope John Paul II can be realized by parents reasuming their primordial and inherent responsibility as teachers of the Faith in the family."

--- Rev. C.J. McCloskey III, a Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute based in Washington DC.

Writing with strong conviction, in a clear and direct manner, Kellmeyer captured and held my attention from the very first chapter in which he presents a dramatic, but realistic portrayal of the current crisis in Catholic education. I did not expect to agree with him, but his arguments are indisputable.

Steve Kellmeyer has written a powerfully enlightening and intriguing book which analyzes the historical factors behind the current crisis in the Catholic parochial system. This book will most certainly impact the way that American Catholics view parental responsibility for their children’s religious education and, hopefully, will result in positive changes to bring about a solution to the crisis. Designed to Fail is a must read for all adult Catholic laity and Religious who are interested in the education and catechetical formation of both Catholic youth and adults in America.

--- Jean Heimann, retired school psychologist and educator

In the past, fifty percent of all Catholic Children attended Catholic school. Today only twenty percent attend. In Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America, Steve Kellmeyer takes us back in history to the time when the first cracks began to appear in Catholic education and shows how misunderstanding, ignorance, a lack of obedience and at times, authorities misleading us, has brought the Catholic schools to near total collapse. He then explains what each of us, Religious and laity, need to do to pick up the pieces.

From the very first paragraph, this book held my attention as it presented in an easy to read style, why we find our schools and our families in the situation we are currently in. I didn’t expect to agree with the Author, when I first sat down to read this book, but from the first page to the last he presented the crises while adhering to factual truths, that spoke for themselves, in an interesting and understanding way.

I feel that Steve Kellmeyer’s book Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America, should be a must read for every Catholic, from Priest and Bishops to the laity. There is a passage that stood out for me that began with Scripture: “Suffer not the little children and forbid them not to come to me…Many assume it forms part of a divine mandate which authorizes the Church to teach children. It doesn’t…It demonstrates Jesus didn’t teach children…” I strongly recommend that you read this book for yourself and find out why the Author feels this way and what steps need to be taken to correct this crisis.

--- Debra Vandelicht

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Modern Medici

“Self-published? Ah, I see. Well, we don’t work with that class of material, if you get my meaning.” So said the book review critic, and therein lies a tale.

A few centuries ago, no artist in any field could get anywhere without a patron. Someone had to pay for the time and material. Getting large amounts of metal or marble for sculpture, acquiring the exotic pigments and physical placements necessary for painting, even paying the artist for the large amounts of free time necessary to work raw materials into form was expensive, especially in a subsistence-level economy. Only the wealthy could afford to commission art work.

But, as Julian Simon documented over and over again, the cost of materials always drops over time. As the cost of materials dropped, the need for patrons in most areas of art also dropped. When an artist can afford to buy his own materials, he generally dumps his patrons.

After all, patrons are messy to deal with. They have a vision for the artwork, the artist has a vision and the two visions often clash. As soon as it was practicable to drop the patron, the patron was dropped.

So, today no one turns their noses up at a "self-published" sculptor or painter. But they still turn their noses up at self-published writing. Why? Because, until just this century, it still required a ton of money to print a book.

Ever since writing was developed, creating a book has been a high-cost business that only the wealthy could afford precisely because so many techniques had to be mastered in order to produce a printed book. And this is the difference.

Until recently, writing was unlike the other areas of artwork. In other areas, the patron supplied the raw material and the location where the art would be displayed, but the artist supplied all the technique. The printed book, however, is its own piece of artwork in which the writing is but one part of the total composition.

Consider: to print a book used to require not just a writer, but several experts in various technical disciplines all working together. Even if a writer had the money to buy a printing press, it was unlikely he would have the arcane knowledge necessary to run it himself. He would need to supply skills like typography and typesetting, layout, graphic design, and book-binding, not to mention the cost of both the printing press and its operators. These are all aspects of technique just as surely as the writing is. Like a soloist in an opera, the writer was just the best-known person in the process.

But, computers have changed all that. The printing business was the last artistic discipline to have a high cost of entry. It is only within the last five years that the entry-level cost has dropped to the base level that has been current in other areas for centuries.

In this respect, the great publishing houses that remain on the scene today might be likened to the Medicis and the Church curia. They are guilds whose historically significant presence and power is slowly being undermined. Apart from the marketing aspect, upstart artists no longer need a publishing house patron to insinuate itself into the artistic process. They can do it all on a cheap laptop.

Some say that this loss of patronage, of publishers, will inevitably erode the quality of printed material. Perhaps this is true. Certainly there is no shortage of execrable canvas and sculpture artists today. On the other hand, it is clearly the case that “professional” publishers aren’t exactly producing stellar work either.

Can anyone really defend most of the latest best-sellers as examples of the writer’s art? Harry Potter? Mitch Albom? Or the piece de resistance: Dan Brown? Please.

Brown's blockbuster was as badly-written and badly-researched a screed as any third-rate scrivener might ever hope to produce. It hit the bestseller’s list primarily because it hit the right cultural buttons with the 10,000 critics who received advance copies of the book. For the uninitiated, a 10,000 book run is what a publishing house normally sells of a single book. LIke the Medicis of old, Doubleday had so much money to burn they could gave away a full print run just for publicity. In short, Brown's work just proved that, like a Chicago election, a best-selling book can be bought.

So, while many argue self-published works are not of high quality, this is simply the Medici art patron attempting to hold sway over a process that is increasingly becoming independent. As with the canvas or the sculpture, attacks on the quality of self-published works is a fig leaf for the real animus against the self-published.

Established publishers have a vested interest in retaining the vestiges of their guild. That is, they have a vested interest in making sure their customers regard all competitors as non-functional or marginal. As computer technology mushrooms the number of competitors, this will become increasingly difficult to do. With the computer, technique has been rendered into a material cost, and material costs have been pushed into the dirt.

Unfortunately for writers, the same thing that happened to the other art disciplines is also happening to writing. Just as few people spend much time in art galleries anymore, so fewer and fewer people in each generation are reading. That is, as the cost of entry into a discipline drops, the general interest in the product also drops. With writing, as with every other artistic discipline, people are interested in the unusual, and if everyone is special, if everyone can publish a book, then there's nothing special about getting a book published.

Today, the fascination is with Hollywood and, to a lesser extent, the Internet. Movies still costs far more in material and skills than most individuals can cover on their own, while computer programming is still an arcane discipline that is not yet amenable to being rendered into a commodity. But video costs are coming down, as is theater attendance, and web sites have mushroomed, making it difficult to stand out in the very large crowd.

Here's the great irony. The self-published book will eventually destroy the modern Medici.

But when it does, no one will care, because no one will be reading.

Friday, October 21, 2005

A Homeschooling Moment

Many people seem to have an odd idea that homeschoolers cage their children in the house. The following is a vignette passed on to me by my wife from her homeschooling group. It is rather informative.

Well, we have been on vacation for the past two weeks. and I learned
a little something about how homeschooling is percieved by folks. We
stayed at white pines state park for 4 days, where you can rent a
charmingly small (!) cabin. There were lots of elderly couples there
who found our children to be quite entertaining. It was neat to see
my kids engage in real discussions with adults, who were genuinely
interested in speaking with them. I was very pleased with how my kids
handled things.

My daughter would practice her violin each night, as she
requested, "by the light of the moon" and people would walk by our
cabin and smile or ask questions. she and her little brother built a
pinecone pathway in front of our cabin, and again, the other cabin
guests were very interested in stopping and talking. Not to brag, but
I was so please to see my kids talk to these people and have REAL
conversations.

So it was of great interest when a group of older couples met up with
us wanting to know why the kids were not in school all week! These
people were charmed all week long by my kids, but when I answered
that we homeschool, they all stopped and were shocked into silence
for a few moments.

Finally I had to offer, "look around you! (at the beautiful nature of
the state park) look at what my children are learning about this
week! you cannot get this in a classroom!"

I have to laugh remembering the reactions of the elderly couples at
this point. Because suddenly they snapped to, and bent over
conversing with the kids again. They began telling the kids of all
the wonderful things they had seen at the park. Clearly, they had
realised that homeschooling was NOT what they had thought, and were
ready to encourage the kids to learn from nature.


I thought it was so neat.
most people meet my kids and see what we do and think it is
wonderful. But as soon as they associate it with 'homeschooling' they
balk! it must be hard to shake the infamy of the homeschool moniker.
I for one, would like to keep updating the image of homeschoolers.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Designed to Fail

Within the next two weeks, my newest book, Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America should begin to ship to bookstores across the country.

Unfortunately, this latest news story from CNN arrives on my desktop too late to include in the book. Let's just say this kind of thing is not exactly news in the Catholic community...

Update:
Oh my heavens, here's an even better link.
It seems ten other Catholic schools in the area have the same problem.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Kill Zone

As at least thirty-four former New Orleans inhabitants would tell you if they could, hospitals are deadly places.

According to both the New York Times and CNN, in the week following the hurricane ten people out of the 24,000 person population in the Superdome died. The New Orleans Convention Center was twice as dangerous: of the 25,000 people there, twenty-four died.

But the real violence appears to have been at the hospitals. There were 312 patients at Memorial Medical Center when the hurricane hit. A week later, thirty-four of them were dead.

Now, the populations at both the Superdome and the Convention Center were made up predominantly of the poor, old and the very young – the populations most likely to die no matter what the circumstances. And, despite reports, it turns out that most of these deaths were not due to violence, but to natural causes.

What happened at the Superdome and the Convention Center did not even rise to the level of a complex emergency, according to Harvard studies. But what happened at Memorial Hospital was worse than decimation. When a population is decimated, only one in ten is killed. Memorial managed a better percentage than that.

This is especially true since most of the deaths appeared to have happened on a single night. Weeks ago, there were anonymous reports in European newspapers in which an American doctor claimed to have murdered several patients in a flooded New Orleans hospital. Given European attitudes and journalistic practice, and lacking further detail, this seemed a report best ignored until more could be discovered.

Well, it appears more has been discovered.

While the MSM were hovering like vultures around three corpses at the Superdome, real murders were happening elsewhere.

It has been noted before that America needs to kill the baby boomers. There are too many of them to be supported by today’s population. This is especially true given that today’s population has seen between one-half and one-third of its members killed in the womb either by surgery or through hormonal “contraception.”

The irony is enormous. The boomers spent their lives killing their own children, now the children will spend their lives killing the boomers. After all, murder – whether it is called euthanasia or involuntary suicide - is much cheaper than actually paying for all the health care the aging population will need. Besides, the organs will come in handy.

As we wait for further reports from New Orleans, we live in a strange mix of 1984 and Brave New World. The language is even now being “adjusted” a la Orwell, but Huxley's big screen televisions distract from the reality. As Memorial Hospital and other hospitals like it slowly become morgues for the living, the attention of the crowd is diverted by the antics at CNN, MTV, and the rest.

Sleight-of-hand becomes the order of the day. Syringe, syringe, who’s got the syringe? If you find it, you win the kewpie doll! Please step to the right as you die to make room. The next corpse approaches, stage left.

Ah, and there’s the question. We call a child after conception a “pre-embryo.” Will we call the hospitalized person a “pre-corpse”? We changed the definition of pregnancy from fertilization to implantation. Will we change the definition of death to “socially useless”? If not, why not? If persons are defined according to whether or not they are wanted, and no one wants the old and injured, then is it murder to kill a pre-corpse?

These are the questions we are beginning to ask as we sunbathe in the Kill Zone.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Two-Fisted Party System

Adolescence is a virtue, at least when it comes to the economy. This point is not a new one, but it leads to an interesting way of looking at the American two-party system.

Commentators seem divided over how best to think about the Republican and Democrat parties. Some argue that the two parties are irrevocably opposed to each other, locked in mortal combat in much the same way that Eurasia and Oceania were in George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984.

Others disagree. They assert that the two parties have policies that are very similar and are in that sense allied, much as were Eastasia and Oceania in that self-same novel.

Both positions are, of course, correct.

Why Capitalism Succeeds

It has been noted here before that the capitalist system is better than any of the competing systems that have been seriously attempted to date at seeing to the creature comfort of men. However, it suffers from a remarkable flaw: successful capitalism requires the destruction of adults.

The reason is simple. Capitalism is built on the practice of separating men from their money. In order to do this, the persons in question must (a) have money and (b) be easily separated from it.

It is nearly impossible to separate a mature, stable adult from his money. A serious father and husband will store up most of the resources he earns in order to assure his child’s future, a serious mother and wife does the same.

Mature, stable, intelligent adults are not interested in having the newest toy on the block, nor are they typically very selfish about anything. They are generally trained out of whatever selfishness they do possess by their children.

But the frugality of a mature adult is anathema to a capitalist system. As General George Patton once said, “I don’t want you to die for your country. I want you to make that other poor bastard die for his.” If capitalism is a kind of war, then money is the casualty. Business stays in business by making some other poor bastard pay business costs. Products and services are priced with this in mind.

To accomplish the goal, corporations need immature, greedy, whiny people who see every new product as “something to die for.” Since small children don’t have or spend money, since small children interfere with the formation of this attitude, small children should be eliminated, insofar as possible. Indeed, the whole structure of frugal, stable family life should be eliminated, insofar as possible.

This explains a whole host of activities which could not otherwise be explained. For instance, why would a baby food company or a diaper company donate money to Planned Parenthood? Because they are owned by larger conglomerates who understand the big picture. Babies conceive the wrong attitudes in adults.

The Two Capitalist Parties

In this sense, the Republican and Democrat parties complement each other perfectly. The Republicans fight for the rights of business. The Democrats fight for the right to be immature. The Democrats, through their support of contraception, abortion, gay sex, and every other depravity, make selfish personal pleasure into a virtue on the one end while the Republicans make greed a virtue from the other.

Meanwhile, each pretends to fight the other on the opposite planks. The Democrats pretend to fight the inroads of the corporation, but actually milk corporations for every dollar they can squeeze out. The Republicans pretend to be pro-life, but toss only occasional and relatively meaningless slops towards parents with children.

Both parties benefit from having immature citizens and neither is interested in changing the status quo.

Over the last two centuries, America transformed itself from a representative democracy in which corporations were anathema into an oligarchy in which the judicial branch barely bothers to cover its exercise of total authority with the fig leaf of Congressional or Presidential acquiescence. The man in the street votes for Democrats or Republicans, as he chooses, but he always gets the same judges.

No matter who is in the White House, we always get judges who push the boundaries of corporate power ever further into the private sphere. We also get legal opinions which encourage the destruction of the family. But I repeat myself.

The Role of Women

Make no mistake about it: we are not a powerful economic force in spite of the fact that we have so many unwed mothers, we are a powerful economic force because of it.

The system I’ve just described is meant to discourage the production of children because the presence of children might inadvertently create stable, frugal adults. But children still serve an important function. Ater all, the twelve to thirty demographic is the easiest to clip.

Unwed mothers provide the solution. Through them, we get the older children the economy needs while forcing stability upon the fewest adults.

Bastards are children who have no inheritance. Bastards tend to be insecure. Bastards provide capitalist society with the best of both worlds – a society in which there is very little threat of stable families coming into existence or staying in existence, but which still has a demographic whose bank accounts can be easily relocated.

In this way, the inheritance that would otherwise have gone to the child is spent by the parents who have abandoned her. That is, the child’s money is inherited by the corporation. It takes a village to bilk a child.

So, as the Democrats hand out condoms, encouraging adults to immediately pursue pleasure and eternally postpone responsibility, the Republicans beef up the power of the corporation to grab the bank accounts left behind. Like the two fists of a boxer, like the allies in Orwell’s novel, each pushes its own half of a single agenda upon the larger world.

Capitalism always seeks new markets. Those markets have to be laboriously created. It takes time and effort to break into a country and unhinge a stable culture, to convince adults to act like children their whole lives. But, with careful attention to detail and lots of money, it can be done.

Wherever capitalist democracy is planted, this system will take root. And it’s a wonderful system. After all, look what it’s done for us.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Bennett, Eugenics and Eucharist

Bill Bennett has committed the horrendous crime of agreeing with professors from Stanford university and the University of Chicago. After all, it was only six years ago that Dr. John J. Donohue 3rd of Stanford Law School and Dr. Steven D. Levitt of the University of Chicago publicly argued that the high percentage of abortions in the 1970’s was responsible for the drop in crime in the 1990’s. Dr. Levitt, it may be recalled, was the winner of John Bates Clark award for the best economist under the age of 40.

The Wall Street Journal even ran a book review by economist Steven E. Landsburg which praised Levitt for "daring to address the question...of whether the effect on crime rates is a sufficient reason to legalize abortion."

So, Bennett's thesis is neither remarkably new nor remarkably different from that advocated by abortion supporters and population control advocates for decades: get rid of poor people and the world would be better off. The strong liberal support for population control programs, contraceptive distribution and institutionalizing abortion in the developing world is built on essentially Levitt’s idea. Indeed, Levitt’s statistical work was clearly intended to drum up support for a pre-existing agenda.

So why are luminaries like Nancy Pelosi shedding tears over the fact that Bill Bennett remarked on an idea she already promotes? She has long been an advocate of international population control, which generally translates into making sure that fewer black people are conceived and/or born. Why advocate for this?

Well, we have limited resources, you see. We don’t want other people being born and begging us for food or clothes. Worse, they may simply take our food and clothes. The only way to stop this from happening is to make sure they never get born to begin with.

The entire international family planning system is built on the idea that being born black or poor is in itself a crime. If poverty is itself criminal – and all the best socialists assure us that it is – then contraception and abortion are solutions that address the root cause of crime.

So while Bennett is under assault for saying that aborting blacks reduces crime, one is forced to wonder if the real basis for the latest ululation is the liberal fear that the Republicans intend to take over one of the Democrat's own party planks.

The liberals assaulting Bennett are clearly inconsistent. They embrace the elimination of black people through international family planning initiatives. Then they decry anything they choose to define as "racism" in order to win votes from black constituents. But they certainly don't have a monopoly on inconsistency.

The author of The Book of Virtues clearly buys into the liberal idea that poverty causes crime. He may simultaneously insist that we can't kill people pre-emptively, but it is the dissonance in his worldview which is attracting so much attention.

Like his opponents, Bennett is clearly inconsistent. After all, he clearly believes both that the individual is responsible for creating his own future and aborting certain kinds of individuals pre-emptively will reduce crime.

That is, he embraces the spiritual supremacy of a person's own will in order to appeal to the religious segment of the population. Then he embraces a version of science which insists that human beings are just automata that do not possess meaningful spiritual qualities. By endorsing this version of science, he seeks to appear "cutting edge" to the empiricists among us.

The Nancy Pelosi's of the world cry over lack of medical care for black infants in America but support the abortion of black infants in both the US and abroad. The Bill Bennett's of the world try to hold onto a version of science whose flawed understanding of the human person is in direct conflict with the reality of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.

Many people attack the idea of God because of Judeo-Christian Scriptures. They see the evil perpetrated by our spiritual forebears, the rapes, the murders, the mass slaughter and think Scripture is in some way advocating rape, murder or mass slaughter as a way of life. They do not realize that Scripture does not condone these acts - it merely records that these things happened. "Every man did as he judged best."

Science is the same. It cannot bless what happens or prescribe what should happen, it can only record what has happened. When we treat science as Scripture, we end up with eugenics instead of eucharist.

Monday, September 26, 2005

News Catches Up with Commentary

As I've noted over the last few weeks, the MSM histrionics over the Superdome and Convention Center situations seemed unwarranted by the facts. They kept telling us that the situation was essentially pure ultra-violent chaos. Now, reports are surfacing that most of what the MSM told us concerning the situation was a lie.

The report of a rape-murder was a lie.
The report of stabbing deaths was a lie.
Only 6 bodies were found at the Superdome, only 4 at the Convention Center.
As I pointed out earlier, this indicates a death toll so low that it doesn't even count as an emergency according to Harvard University experts.

Now, does this mean New Orleans wasn't a disaster?
Of course not - it's a ghost town now.
But it would appear that the media played all the politicians on both sides of the fence.

Were the governor and the mayor incompetent?
They sure looked it from the way they handled the situation.
Was George W. Bush incompetent?
He declared the Gulf a disaster area 24 hours BEFORE Katrina even hit and had response teams on the ground faster than any previous natural disaster has ever seen.

Did people die because of the incompetence of all the politicians involved?
Possibly - but you can't prove it by the number of corpses at the Superdome or the Convention Center.

The media sold a lot of papers and a lot of commercials by lying about the situation on the ground. The media elites deliberately manufactured false impressions so that they got their filthy lucre and everyone else - Republican, Democrat, independent, whoever - twirled on their stick.

There's always someone calling for heads to roll when a defense contractor overcharges for a bolt, a nut or a screw. MSM, however, creates false news so they can overcharge for their ads and we aren't supposed to notice.

The phrase "the press" is supposed to denote the free exchange of information. It is in that context that "freedom of the press" is a right enshrined in the Constitution, but we don't have any presses in the MSM - we have only lying charlatans left. If we are required to have the vitamin and mineral content of our food listed on the side label, perhaps we should require the press to list the percentage of truth available in each issue of their papers, with full prosecution permitted for any deviation from the asserted content. After all, insofar as it doesn't transmit the truth, it isn't a press, is it?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

House of Martyrs

When Halloween rolls around, everyone puts up a “House of Terror” with scenes from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, one of the Friday the 13th movies or some equally violent and bloody events drawn from history and fiction. There might be a way to keep the format but change the message.

Part of the terror lies in the fact that these scenes of death and destruction are built around senseless violence, violence that seems unredeemable. But there are, throughout history, myriad examples of violence that served as a means of redemption.

Instead of creating a House of Terror, why not create a House of Martyrs, commemorating people who died for love of Christ? Each scene in the house could depict the violent death of one or more of the saints, with the last scene of the Crucifixion.

Here are links to descriptions of some martyrs to start you off. I will add more as readers suggest them.

Martyrs in Scripture
John the Baptist, beheaded (Gospels)
St Stephen, stoned to death (Acts 7)
James - beheaded (Acts 12

Apostolic martyrdom
Examples:
Mark died in Alexandria, Egypt, after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.
John faced martyrdom when he was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he was miraculously delivered from death. John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos. He wrote his prophetic Book of Revelation on Patmos. The apostle John was later freed and returned to serve as Bishop of Edessa in modern Turkey. He died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.
Peter was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross, according to church tradition because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die in the same way that Jesus Christ had died.
Bartholomew, also know as Nathanael, was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed to our Lord in present day Turkey. Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia when he was flayed to death by a whip.
Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Patras, Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: "I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it." He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he expired.

The Holocaust

Example: Maximilian Kolbe – starved along with nine other men, he finally had to be killed with an injection of carbolic acid.
http://www.holycross.edu/departments/history/vlapomar/hiatt/martyrs.htm

Martyrs of Pagan Rome
Examples: St. Ignatius of Antioch – eaten by lions
Martyrdom of Polycarp – attempted burning to death, eventually speared to death, his blood put out the flames of the pyre.
St. Lawrence - grilled on a griddle. Reported to have told his torturers, "Turn me over. I'm done on this side."
St. Sebastian - shot with arrows and beaten to death.
http://www.cptryon.org/compassion/sum00/martyrs.html

The English Reformation
Example: Thomas More and Cardinal John Fisher – heads cut off for refusing to acknowledge Henry VIII’s claim that his marriage was not valid.
Margaret Clitherow – pregnant, she was pressed to death for having allowed Masses in her house.
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~hadland/tvp/tvp4.htm
http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/ncd05033.htm

Japanese martyrs
Adults and children crucified
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09744a.htm

Filipino martyrs
Hung upside in a pit
http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintofDay/default.asp

Jesuit Martyrs in North America
Examples: Isaac Jogues - knifed and tomahawked to death
John de Brebeuf - burned with glowing embers in every part of his body, even his eyes.
http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/272.html

French Revolution
Example: 16 nuns beheaded for the Faith
http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/martyr05.htm


Uganda Martyrs
Example: Charles Lwanga and companions were burned alive for refusing the homosexual advances of the king.
http://www.buganda.com/martyrs.htm

Other Martyrs
Example: Lucy – eyes torn out and attempted burning alive, finally stabbed with a dagger.
Maria Goretti – rapist murdered her for fighting him and telling him it was a sin.
http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/pst00808.htm

Monday, September 19, 2005

Was Karl Marx Right?

A recent series of e-mails from a self-described “pro-life feminist” demonstrated how badly even well-intentioned people understand the basics of human life and interaction. Though a graduate of an orthodox Catholic school, Franciscan University, she was apparently uncontaminated by its teaching.

For instance, the woman took issue on several levels with homeschooling. She asserted a homeschooled child could never be as well-taught as someone instructed by a professional teacher. This was especially true in Florida, she said, a state with “real standards.” She felt homeschooling was “demeaning” by being forced to stay home with her children. She insisted she would never obey her husband or submit to his authority.

Instead, she intended to get her doctorate in education and work at a job somewhere, competing with men for the most important thing: money.

The immensity of her errors were breathtaking. They are worth examining in detail simply for the instruction they provide.

Completely oblivious to the fact that homeschooled children do as well or better than their public school counterparts in every area, she did not realize that Catholic parents are required to teach their own children about the Catholic Faith. Spiritual instruction cannot be left up to a school or external agent.

A parent is not simply one who gives biological life – s/he is one who gives spiritual life by introducing the child to the God who is the source of life. To the extent a biological parent does not perform the spiritual task, that parent is not fully a parent.

Similarly, she seemed unaware that authority derives from service. To the extent that anyone does not serve, that person has no authority. Thus, when Scripture commands submission to authority, it assumes that the authority in question is serving the needs of the one submitting. If that is not happening, no submission is required. God has authority over us in part because He answers our every need.

We all instinctively know this relationship between authority and service exists. President Bush’s authority was called into question in the New Orleans crisis precisely because he was accused of not having served the people of that city well. The local government of New Orleans stands accused of precisely the same offence. To the extent that a man does not serve his wife, he has no authority over her, and to the extent that she does not serve him, she has no authority over him.

But the most interesting error was the last one: career and money. Although she called herself a feminist, she clearly saw the male career path as the superior choice. Money, power in business circles, careerism: these were her highest goals. In short, this “feminist” put the pursuit of wealth above her relationship with her own future children.

Karl Marx held that capitalism, the pursuit of wealth, led inexorably to atheism. Now, he also thought it would inexorably lead to communism, but that was primarily because he misunderstood one aspect of human nature. He agreed with Rousseau that mankind does not suffer from original sin, thus, he thought everyone would eventually learn to share everything in common.

As it happens, this is not the case. Because we are all greedy bastards, that is, because we suffer from original sin, we kill each other in order to acquire things. But the acquisition of things at the expense of building relationships with one another does most assuredly lead to atheism.

This was the misunderstanding our “pro-life feminist” held. Because she was a capitalist, she held the mistaken belief that life was about acquiring things. Thus, her “feminism” necessarily meant repudiating children, even repudiating her own womb. She necessarily undervalued women’s work because it does not revolve around acquiring things, it revolves instead around helping small people develop into adults.

As I pointed out to her, she held onto a false feminism. She wanted to compete with men in the business world because she was instinctively afraid that she was not good enough to compete with women in the creation of a good home.

As has been noted previously, while capitalism is certainly superior to most alternatives, it does have its own inherent excesses to contend with. In short, while there are certain mistakes that only a communist could make, there are other mistakes that only a capitalist could make. This young woman demonstrated that truth in spades.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Katrina Incentive

I want to thank those who have donated cases of books to the Katrina effort so far.

As a way of saying showing our appreciation for your generosity, Bridegroom Press will provide a special gift to everyone who has donated or will donate a case of books to Katrina victims: premium access to discounts.bridegroompress.com

This site is normally available only to retail stores and wholesalers, but a free membership through the end of the year will be made available to all donors.

Membership is by application and approval - once you have donated, you can go to the discounts site and create a discount store login. That login will be cleared for entry into the store within 24 hours of its creation. The access will afford you a 20% discount on all products (minimum orders and shipping still apply).

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Katrina Aid

We have just been informed that St. Vincent de Paul society in Houston is in need of Catholic materials for the victims of the Katrina Hurricane. As you know, over 30% of the New Orleans population was Catholic. There is a great need to help these people in their time of loss. Time hangs especially heavily on their hands since they have no job to go to and nothing to do. The St. Vincent de Paul society is specifically requesting books that deal with grief, pain and loss, along with rosaries, medals, Bibles, and similar items.

In response to this plea, Bridegroom Press is donating nearly $2600 worth of books to the Houston organization. Unfortunately, this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the number of people being cared for. Given our situation, we cannot make a greater donation at this time.

If any of you would like to purchase a case of books to send to the St. Vincent de Paul society in Houston, you can do so. Simply click here. A case of books will be sent to the Houston society in your name and Bridegroom Press will send an invoice and letter to you acknowledging the donation and where it was sent. The packing slip for the box sent to Houston will also contain your contact information so that the Houston society can send you a receipt.

You will be sending one case (128 copies) of Effective Habits of the Five People You Meet In Heaven. This book discusses death, pain, grief and loss from the Catholic perspective. It also discusses the life of virtue and how to follow it.

Thank you for your support.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Living in a Fish Bowl

As the old saying goes, “Man’s best friend is a wall.”

Everyone has commented on the violence in the Superdome, but no one has thought about why it seemed so bad. Because it isn’t clear the violence was really anything out of the ordinary for any city in the nation.

Consider the facts: the New York Times and CNN both tell us the same thing: 10 people died at the Superdome, 24 died at the convention center.

The population of the Superdome was approximately 24,000, a good-sized town in the Midwest. That death rate works out to less than one death per 10,000 per day. The population at the convention center was 25,000, which works out to two deaths per 10,000 per day.

But we know something else about this population. "Two-thirds of the 24,000 people huddled inside [the Superdome] were women, children or elderly, and many were infirm, said Lonnie C. Swain, an assistant police superintendent overseeing the 90 policemen who patrolled the facility with 300 troops from the Louisiana National Guard."

Now, ask any demographer, and discover that most deaths in a population occur in children, especially those under age one, and in the aged. This population was heavily skewed towards the kind of people most likely to die.

Further, according to the New York Times, most did not die of violence, they died on the last day as the physical exertion of walking in the heat while insufficiently hydrated killed them.

"By the time the last buses arrived on Saturday, [New Orleans assistant police chief Swain] said, some children were so dehydrated that guardsmen had to carry them out, and several adults died while walking to the buses. State officials said yesterday that a total of 10 people died in the Superdome."

According to this Harvard study the death rate at the Superdome would have had to be 50% higher just to constitute an emergency, "The term 'complex emergency' describes a situation in which a large civilian population is affected by a combination of war, civil strife, food shortages, and population displacements. Although there are a few exceptions, complex emergencies are characterized by substantially elevated mortality rates, especially in the acute phase. An arbitrary threshold, above which an emergency is said to exist, has been established at one death per 10,000 people per day, or about three per 1000 per month. This rate is approximately two to four times the baseline rate of mortality in developing countries. (This threshold is probably less relevant in developed countries, where baseline mortality levels are considerably lower.)"

For a population of 24,000, that means the Superdome would have had to generate 15 corpses in five days for the situation to be considered an emergency. And even that number doesn't take into account that this population was skewed, with an unusually high proportion of children and elderly. The convention center situation, where the death rate was twice as high, was actually much worse, but also got much less coverage. It wasn't as photogenic.

But the real question is this: why did the people in the Superdome perceive the crime rate as being unconscionably high? After all, we’re talking about a population that tolerates a murder rate ten times higher than New York City’s. This population knows and permits crime rates that would make other cities blanch.

The difference is simply this: for five days, the people of New Orleans lived in a literal fish bowl. All of the walls were gone. They couldn’t hide inside their apartment buildings or houses and pretend nothing bad was going on.

For five days, every person in this literal city of 24,000 saw the flash of every gun shot, heard the cries of every beaten man and the screams of every raped woman in an echoing amphitheater where nothing could be ignored or evaded.

They had to watch - not what they had become - but what they had always been. They had to come face to face with the loss not only of their possessions, but of their illusions about themselves. They could no longer pretend they were good people who would do the right thing. They had to actually do the right thing.

And some of them did respond to the injustices. For instance, we know a man caught raping a young girl to death was himself beaten to death by the Superdome citizens.

We could equivocate about vigilante justice, but the state has always had the right to mete out the death penalty, and in a situation where there is no place to put an unrepentant criminal, it is hard to say the citizens of this temporary city did the wrong thing.

The press would have us write off the Superdome crowd as animals, but the case is not so cut and dried. If we had put 24,000 New Yorkers into a similar fishbowl after 9/11, would it have turned out any differently? How many of us would like to be stripped of all we own and sit in a huge circle with 24,000 fellow citizens of our fair city? For five days? With no walls to hide behind?