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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Howell is Back In

In an absolutely shocking development, the UIUC is offering Dr. Ken Howell his job back.

However, the university insists that the Diocese of Peoria is not to pay for the position - Howell's salary will come out of the UIUC faculty coffers from this point forward.

I am amazed.
I did not expect him to be teaching there again, nor did he.

Kudos to the Facebook support group and to all those involved in the negotiations, including Bishop Daniel Jenky and the Alliance Defense Fund, the Protestant legal group that was working with Dr. Howell to reverse UIUC's decision.

I am happy to see that this has come to a positive conclusion.

Now, some might still be upset with me about my earlier comments concerning Bishop Jenky's involvement, given the happy resolution of the case.

I stand by my opinion that the Newman Center's firing of Dr. Howell was far too hasty, and I stand by the opinion that it is highly unlikely Dr. Howell was fired from the Newman Center without the Bishop's knowledge and approval.

You may argue that this was merely a tactic to increase pressure on UIUC, that Bishop's heart was not really in it, and both those statements may well be true.

But, tactic or no, it didn't reflect well on the Bishop or on Newman Center.
The various strategies of the various parties involved have, however, come together so that Dr. Howell again has a position, fleeting as adjunct instruction is.

And that is certainly a good thing.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Captain Hook Goes Fishing

Was Andrew Breitbart set up to look like a racist?

The evidence is building that this is EXACTLY what happened.

Consider the timeline laid out by Noel Sheppard (Newsbusters) and others:

1) Breitbart receives word of the video several months ago, but sits on it because he can't verify the source.

2) Nancy Pelosi deliberately walks black Congressmen through a crowd of Tea Partiers trying to get them to say "Nigger."

3) As dozens of videos show, no one says the word, but several people, including Congressmen, accuse the Tea Partiers of having used that word anyway. When the video evidence comes forward, along with eye witnesses swearing that the word was never used, the Congressman back off their accusations, but the MSM continues to lay the claim as if it had been substantiated.

4) Breitbart, looking for some way to show the hypocrisy, remembers the video and contacts the source for the video. After receiving and viewing it, he decides there is enough there to do a compare-contrast. He throws up the video with no commentary. He does NOT call for anyone's resignation - in typical Breitbart fashion, he lets the video speak for itself.

5) The NAACP, which has the full video in its possession, is the first to condemn Sherrod.

6) The White House sends a henchman down to make sure she resigns.

7) Sherrod resigns BEFORE ANYONE calls for her resignation (didn't SHE know what was on the video either?).

8) Fox and its commentators begin calling for a resignation, not knowing it has already happened.

9) Only after Fox and commentators are on public record calling for the resignation, does the NAACP suddenly release the full video and instantly start piling on Fox and Breitbart for having destroyed a "good woman."

10) Notice - it was literally only a few hours after everyone the liberals wanted dead had made a commitment that the NAACP released the video. They waited until the bait was taken, then they SET THE HOOK.

11) Sherrod, this post-racial "good woman" now claims that Breitbart's intent is to bring back slavery: in short, the classic liberal craptrap now has a hook.

So, a few questions.

Now, how is it that the White House that took weeks to get a "beer summit" together and months to actually NEVER get the nation's 20,000 oil skimmers to the Gulf, how is it that this same absolutely inept White House was able to act within HOURS to get Sherrod's resignation on its desk?

These people barely know what day it is, they let the Black Panthers walk for violation of voters rights DESPITE video evidence AND a conviction, but Sherrod they want hung?

Square that circle for me, someone.

Why hang Sherrod so swiftly when so many other blacks have been given a free pass?
When Justice has been explicitly told never to prosecute a black person?
When ACORN was given months of rope to try to unhang themselves after a whole SERIES of previous Breitbart videos?

THIS is the White House that nailed Sherrod to the wall within an hour or so of a single five minute video hitting Breitbart's site?

It boggles the imagination.

The only time the White House has moved THIS fast was when it sent Russian spies back home to keep them from testifying to how many Democratic fundraisers and Congressmen they had suborned. Obama only moves fast on an issue when it suits him - not otherwise.

And why is it that the NAACP couldn't find the video until AFTER Sherrod resigned?
Why did they condemn a black person so quickly, so adamantly?
This is the same NAACP that has NEVER condemned Louis Farrakhan, but they want Sherrod on a rail with tar and feathers?

C'MON!

Why has no one in the MSM noticed the unusual competencies and failures here?
OK, that's the easiest question to answer - they're all incompetent themselves.

But, now that Journolist conspiracy has been exposed, along with nearly every prominent reporter in the media, someone needed to nail the conservative media equally hard, to take the Journolist media conspiracy out of the headlines.

And they have.

Sherrod is at least an unwitting victim, and at worst she's in on the scheme.
But in any case, this was definitely a scheme and it has definitely worked.
Journolist and the oil leak are off the table.

Reagan was the Teflon President.
Obama is Captain Hook.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Single Life

I've had many people ask me if single life is considered a vocation.

This is all I've ever been able to find on it.
As you can see, according to the Magisterial documents, single life is NOT a vocation.
In fact, the Magisterial documents don't really talk about single life at all.
It's not even listed as a state in life.

Apparently, adult human life is always meant to be lived in some kind of community under some kind of vow.

Indeed, according to the documents, living without this community life is considered a poverty.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

1658
We must also remember the great number of single persons who, because of the particular circumstances in which they have to live - often not of their choosing - are especially close to Jesus' heart and therefore deserve the special affection and active solicitude of the Church, especially of pastors. Many remain without a human family often due to conditions of poverty. Some live their situation in the spirit of the Beatitudes, serving God and neighbor in exemplary fashion. The doors of homes, the "domestic churches," and of the great family which is the Church must be open to all of them. "No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who 'labor and are heavy laden.'"

2349 "People should cultivate [chastity] in the way that is suited to their state of life. Some profess virginity or consecrated celibacy which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner. Others live in the way prescribed for all by the moral law, whether they are married or single." Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence:
There are three forms of the virtue of chastity: the first is that of spouses, the second that of widows, and the third that of virgins. We do not praise any one of them to the exclusion of the others. . . . This is what makes for the richness of the discipline of the Church.


POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION,
CHRISTIFIDELES LAICI
"ON THE VOCATION AND THE MISSION OF THE LAY FAITHFUL IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD"

The Various Vocations in the Lay State
56. ... Along the same line the Second Vatican Council states: "This lay spirituality should take its particular character from the circumstances of one's state in life (married and familylife, celibacy, widowhood), from one's state of health and from one's professional and social activity. All should not cease to develop earnestly the qualities and talents bestowed on them in accord with these conditions of life and should make use of the gifts which they have received from the Holy Spirit"(208)
I know this isn't fun to hear for a lot of people, and I'd be happy to hear that there are some references I've missed which flesh this out better, but this is all I've been able to find.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cult of the Expert

You can always tell when someone encounters a popular rendition of the Theology of the Body for the first time. It's like watching someone smitten by a movie star, or joining a new and powerful cult movement: they burble about things which are, upon further contemplation, manifestly absurd.

As Scripture says, it tastes sweet in the mouth, but it is sour in the stomach.

The newest burble is occasioned by William May's recent article in the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly.

Dr. Jeff Mirus, of CatholicCulture.org, after having read May's analysis, concludes,
In its femininity and masculinity, the human body is an image of the Trinity, which is Itself an eternal relationship of love. Moreover, Christ’s body, taken on and freely given for others, is a further sign of man’s Divine call to love.
Now, God bless Dr. Mirus and William May, but need we recall that May is definitely not orthodox in his understanding of how the hierarchy of good works?

Specifically, Dr. May denies that there IS any hierarchy of goods.

That's a problem.

Instead, he asserts all things are equally good. This, of course, is just the converse of the Protestant position that all sins are equally bad - there is no mortal vs. venial sin.

Clearly, May is not a Thomist.

Which is not surprising, given that St. Thomas SPECIFICALLY and EXPLICITLY condemns as manifestly absurd the idea that the body images the Trinity as anything more than a trace:
Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 93, Article 6
It would seem that the image of God is not only in man's mind.

Objection 2.
Further, it is written (Gen1:27) God created man to His own image, to the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. But the distinction of male and female is in the body. Therefore the image of God is also in the body, and not only in the mind.

I answer that, While in all creatures there is some kind of likeness to God, in the rational creature alone we find a likeness of image as we have explained above; but in other creatures we find a likeness by way of a trace.

Reply to Objection 2.
As Augustine says (De Trinitas, 12:5) some have thought that the image of God was not in man individually, but severally. They held that "the man represents the Person of the Father; those born of man denote the person of the Son; and that the woman is a third person in likeness to the Holy Ghost, since she so proceeded from man as not to be his son or daughter." All of this is manifestly absurd: [Aquinas doesn't mince words here] first, because it would follow that the Holy Ghost is the principle of the Son, as the woman is the principle of the man's offspring; secondly, because one man would be only the image of one Person; thirdly, because in that case Scripture should not have mentioned the image of God in man until after the birth of the offspring. Therefore we must understand that when Scripture had said to the image of God He created him, it added, male and female He created them, not to imply that the image of God came through the distinction of sex, [emphasis added] but that the image of God is common to both sexes, since it is in the mind, wherein there is no distinction of sexes. [How many Theology of the Body promoters have said that the image of God is in the sex?] And so the Apostle (Col 3:10), after saying According to the image of Him that created him, added, Where there is neither male nor female.

Reply to Objection 3.
Although the image of God in man is not to be found in his bodily shape, yet because "the body of man alone among terrestrial animals is not inclined prone to the ground, but is adapted to look upward to heaven, for this reason we may rightly say that it is made to God's image and likeness, rather than the bodies of other animals," as Augustine remarks. But this is not to be understood as though the image of God were in man's body, but in the sense that the very shape of the human body represents the image of God in the soul by way of a trace. [Notice that: insofar as anything in the body images God, it does so by way of a trace]
So, like Christopher West - who, coincidentally, attended the institution at which Dr. William May teaches - we now have the home of Diogenes infected with the anti-Thomist, anti-JP II meme that JP II is somehow out of step with the Angelic Doctor.

And, of course, we do have a choice.

We could stick with the ancient teachings of the Church from time immemorial and the writings of the man whose Summa Theologica was enshrined on the altar at the Council of Trent along with the Sacred Scriptures.

Or we could go with the personal interpretations of a pair of media hucksters (George Weigel and Chris West) and an American theologian (William May) concerning a set of prudentially inept Wednesday audiences which have been referenced by Magisterial documents less than a half-dozen times in the intervening 30 years.

Well, it's obvious what we should choose!

According to these cultists, we're supposed to toss the Summa and doggedly follow their highly idiosyncratic, highly personal (though not very personalist) interpretation of Pope John Paul II's virtually unreadable Wednesday audiences.

And the beauty of those Wednesday audiences is precisely that they are so obscure. For reasons which no one really knows, the newly elevated John Paul II apparently thought it a good idea to throw a bunch of scholarly jargon into his first series of Wednesday audiences. Precisely because JP II was not a particularly lucid writer, especially in his earliest papal works, anyone can read anything they want into those audiences and who will contradict it?

Rather than admit that this was a huge mistake in judgement which has subsequently been hijacked by a group of heterodox Catholics (of which group, Dr. May and Chris West form a nucleus), we are all supposed to think that this was a smart move on John Paul II's part. And, yes, I know Dr. May supported Humane Vitae when few others did. But that doesn't keep him from being theologically loopy, as a quick glance at his position on the hierarchy of goods readily demonstrates.

The cult of the expert has replaced the cult of the saints. Instead of following millennia worth of examples of the lives of the saints, we follow people like Maciel, May, Monaghan and West. They aren't holy, they are in many respects barely Catholic, but because they are excellent at marketing themselves and their cause, they gain adherents. Instead of teaching the Catholic Faith, they hijack it for their own ends: a remunerative religious order here, a profitable real estate deal there, a lucrative book deal in the corner.

Could someone explain to me again how TOB is not a cult, on the order of Maciel's Legion, or the cultic Mother of God community from which Chris West sprang and from which Tom Monaghan took so much advice?


Addendum:
Before nitpickers begin commenting, I should add that I fully realize Thomas was not correct in every particular of what he taught. In that same Summa, for instance, he is famously claimed to have denied the Immaculate Conception.

Of course, anyone who actually takes the time to read what he wrote, discovers this claim is false. He did not deny the Immaculate Conception, he only denied that Mary could have been sanctified before the infusion of her rational soul - a perfectly reasonable theological position. We don't baptize dogs because dogs don't have rational souls. We don't sacramentally anoint chairs or tables because they don't have souls at all.

If Thomas had known the infusion of the rational soul took place at conception - which is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception implies - he would have instantly agreed that the Immaculate Conception was a reasonable teaching:

Article 2: Whether the Blessed Virgin was sanctified before animation?

I answer that, The sanctification of the Blessed Virgin cannot be understood as having taken place before animation, for two reasons. First, because the sanctification of which we are speaking, is nothing but the cleansing from original sin: for sanctification is a "perfect cleansing," as Dionysius says (Div. Nom. xii). Now sin cannot be taken away except by grace, the subject of which is the rational creature alone. Therefore before the infusion of the rational soul, the Blessed Virgin was not sanctified.[emphasis added]

Secondly, because, since the rational creature alone can be the subject of sin; before the infusion of the rational soul, the offspring conceived is not liable to sin.[emphasis added] And thus, in whatever manner the Blessed Virgin would have been sanctified before animation, she could never have incurred the stain of original sin: and thus she would not have needed redemption and salvation which is by Christ, of whom it is written (Matthew 1:21): "He shall save His people from their sins." But this is unfitting, through implying that Christ is not the "Saviour of all men," as He is called (1 Timothy 4:10). It remains, therefore, that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified after animation.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Philadelphia Freedom

I used to be a rolling stone
You know if the cause was right
I'd leave to find the answer on the road
I used to be a heart beating for someone
But the times have changed
The less I say the more my work gets done.

Elton John's Philadelphia Freedom is the theme song at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Few people know how the arrangement between Dr. Ken Howell, the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and the UIUC actually worked. The Chicago Tribune accurately explains the situation:

Kenneth Howell taught "Introduction to Catholicism" and "Modern Catholic Thought" in university classrooms, but served on the payroll of the St. John's Catholic Newman Center funded by the diocese of Peoria.

The church has maintained control over how Catholic theory was taught, selecting the instructors and paying their salaries. Although the university has amended the agreement over the years to exercise more control, the arrangement has left the Catholic component of the school's otherwise secular religious studies curriculum susceptible to church influence.
Horrors!
We wouldn't want the Catholic Church influencing how a course on Catholic Faith is taught!
That's nearly as bad as allowing a mathematical accrediting society to influence how math is taught, or the APA influencing how psychology is taught!

Those kinds of outside influences are obviously bad, as university professors explained:

Faculty and administrators now will review that policy to determine if it violates the separation of church and state or threatens academic integrity. They hope to conclude their investigation before the fall semester begins.

"I have very strong inclinations that this is where things went wrong in the first place," said Nicholas Burbules, a member of the Faculty Senate's General University Policy Committee, which will review the relationship, along with others. "This line is going to get blurred and was blurred repeatedly over a long period of time."
No doubt. Why, just the other day, some economics professor - accredited through an outside "professional" organization of some kind - was teaching his students that Barack Obama's policies were actually detrimental to the nation! And he was teaching it as FACT, not just one more opinion or position.

This is the problem with outside funding and outside influences. That's why NONE of the research labs at UIUC takes a DIME of funding from ANYONE except the administrators of UIUC.

Such outside funding would create undue influence.
The rules someone must stick to in order to be a member of a "professional" organization might create a breach of academic integrity.

No, it's best to just levy money from the taxpayer, and make sure that same taxpayer doesn't worry his pretty little head about how we academics spend the money that is properly ours, the money that would have been ours from the beginning, if that grubby little taxpayer hadn't laid his grubby little hands on it first.

The nerve. He'll be investigated next, of course, along with the economics prof, but for right now...
Scholars are troubled both by the university's agreement with the church and by what they consider a lack of due process in Howell's dismissal.

Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, said the circumstances of Howell's employment don't void his right to due process.

"Outside control is very dangerous," said Nelson, an English professor at the University of Illinois. "If the control is not clearly with the university, ordinarily that's something we just wouldn't tolerate."
Exactly. As Marx said, a man cannot serve two masters. At least, I'm pretty sure it was Marx. Whoever it was, he was certainly a faculty member at UIUC that said it, I know that. We don't allow anyone to think thoughts that aren't controlled by the university - that's something we just don't tolerate. The very fact that I attended UIUC and had that thought about two masters shows the thought originated at UIUC. QED.

And you grubby little meddlers all need to shut up, by the way.

I hear you muttering! "But the very term professor comes from the Catholic Church! It means one who professes the Catholic Faith, it was given to teachers at the original universities, the university systems invented by the Catholic Church in Europe, and the title indicated the person had promised to teach only that which was in accord with Catholic Faith."

That's all a pack of papist LIES!
We are university professors who DON'T believe, so belief isn't necessary anymore, hear?
Oh, and it never WAS necessary!
The idea that it was is a LIE.
The Catholic Church influences history instructors and then they teach these LIES.
All the more reason to recognize that:
"The university needs to have complete control over who teaches," Price said. "This agreement should not exist."
Yes. That's why the university completely ignores all outside organizations when it comes to deciding who teaches at a university. No accreditation will sway us, and we don't permit endowed chairs AT ALL. Too much outside control. No self-respecting university would allow that kind of influence on their curriculum.
Indeed, Ayesha Khan, legal director for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said the arrangement is rife for pitfalls.

"You can imagine a person hired by the diocese (but) being put in a public institution having, at a minimum, a conflict of interest," Khan said. "That's an untenable situation and it's not surprising it led to this."
Obviously a reference to both endowed chairs in general and this particular endowed chair.
Burbules said the university committee recognizes the urgency of the situation and will respond quickly.

"I don't need to itemize the ways in which this can go wrong," he said. "We will be reporting fairly quickly on lessons we can learn from this situation — whether we should continue (such teaching arrangements) at all or whether they need to be managed or regulated more closely in the future."
Lay people don't understand how the priesthood of academia works.
Academic freedom is like Philadelphia Freedom.

When I'm a university professor, "The less I say the more my work gets done."

Friday, July 09, 2010

"Shut Up!' They Explained

Professor Kenneth Howell has been fired from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Department of Religion because he dared to teach - in a course dedicated to the exploration and explanation of Catholic theology - that according to Catholic belief, homosexuality is wrong.

Welcome to academic freedom in the 21st century!

It mattered not that Dr. Howell has won several awards for excellence in teaching from that same august institution. He has spoken ill of the dead (morally dead, anyway), and so must be punished!

Now, this by itself would not be particularly big news.
Universities are renowned for their hatred of things Catholic.
What a lot of people don't realize is that, for over 60 years, the UIUC campus has hosted the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Conference. The largest conference of its kind in the world, once every three years evangelical Christians from across the nation gather at UIUC for short summer courses that discussed how best to evangelize the nation and the world to Christianity. The last conference was in 2009. The UIUC happily rented classroom, auditoria and dormitory space to these evangelical Christians with nary so much as a whimper. They did, after all, at least embrace contraception with open arms.

Money has reasons which ethics knows not.
Apparently, however, ethics eventually triumphed because it looks like UIUC has kicked out the IVC, who ultimately had to relocate a short way down the road to St. Louis. If you can dump the income from 16,000 evangelical Christians, then dumping one Catholic professor should be easy. It has the added bonus of potentially scaring all the other Christian faculty into silence.


According to my sources, Dr. Howell, upon being notified of his dismissal, went back to the Newman Center and told the sad tale. In recognition of the terrible narrow-mindedness shown by UIUC, the Newman Center patted the good doctor on the back, commiserated with him for a few moments, then fired him as well.

Why?
Well, because he had been hired to teach UIUC courses, and now that the horse had thrown the rider, there was no need for the rider, you see.

Dr. Howell reportedly pointed out that the classes could still be offered through the Newman Center, if they were accredited through a Catholic college and the credits were then transferred back to UIUC - a reasonable solution, if you were really interested in accurately teaching Catholic theology on campus.

"No, oh NO!" replied the Newman Center, "That would NEVER do!"

The plan was then pitched to the Bishop's office - the good Bishop Jenky and his lay woman chancellor.

"No, oh NO!" replied the bishop's office, "That would NEVER do!"

And so it is, dear readers, that Dr. Kenneth Howell has to rely on the good offices of a Protestant legal defense fund because his own department at the UIUC refused to endorse academic freedom, the Newman Center saw nothing Newman-like in Dr. Howell's presentation, and the bishop's office saw no reason to employ or even to support a Catholic professor who accurately teaches Catholic theology.

Oh, did I mention?

Bishop Jenky is from Notre Dame (founded by the CSC), is himself a CSC (Congregation of the Holy Cross), and is himself a fellow of that fine institution. It may also be of mild interest that he is one of the men who stayed conspicuously silent when Barack came calling for his Ph.D. in law last year.

What a COINCIDENCE!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Social Gospel: Spread the Wealth

Over at CatholicCulture.org, the general opinion is that that new 18% Boston archdiocesan chancery tax on parishes will cause more parishes to close.

While I don't doubt a few more parishes WILL close as a result of the tax, that isn't where the closures are really going to take place.

Parochial schools suck up to 90% of parish revenue if given the opportunity.
Most dioceses have rules in place that will limit the damage to 50% of parish revenue - the rest has to be made up by tuition and donations.

But regardless of the precise percentage, the largest single ravenous maw in the parish belly is the parish school.

Now, if a parish suddenly sees its chancery tax (the amount of money it pays to the chancery each year to keep the chancery functioning and pay all the salaries for those... employees...) raised, the funds to pay that money has to come from somewhere.

And the biggest hole in the revenue stream is always going to be the parish school.

My apologies to Diogenes, but Boston isn't going to close parishes, or at least, it won't begin by closing parishes.
The last thing any bishop closes is a parish.
No, it will begin by closing down the parochial schools.

Now, this will increase homeschooling, as Catholic parents desperately try to keep their kids out of failing public schools, but most parents aren't interested in homeschooling, and there aren't enough private schools in Boston to absorb the influx.

So, the vast majority of the newly displaced population will end up in the public school system, which will have to increase property taxes in order to make up the shortfall from the increased costs of the new students.

You can see where this is headed.

Ultimately, Boston WASPs will pay for the Catholic sexual abuse scandal.

And thus, the tenets of the social gospel will be fulfilled: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

If anyone wanted to see "social justice" in action, meditate on Boston.

Monday, July 05, 2010

A Growing Economy

Private companies experienced robust growth in the United States over the last ten years, adding over two million jobs to their payrolls. Businesses across the nation pooled their resources and chipped in to provide jobs with excellent pay, marvelous benefits and spectacularly good working hours. None of that minimum wage stuff when it came to THESE two million positions!

Or, in other words:
"Over the 10-year period between March 2000 and March 2010, the private sector lost over three million jobs, while the public sector gained nearly two million jobs"
Dissonance
Business leaders are like everyone else. They tend to act in their own best interests. Keep this in mind when you hear people talk about the incredible economic engine that is the American economy, because the American economy is an incredible economic engine. But, for at least the last century, that economy has been built, at least in part, on the indispensable incompetence of arrogant fools.

We all complain that government employment is nothing but a leech on the economy, useless positions which do nothing for businesses but whose salaries and benefits are paid for by businesses, thus dragging the general economy into the dirt.

It is true. Yet, if this were unequivocally bad, wouldn't it be in the best interests of business to make sure their own employees were well-informed about the virtues of small government? Wouldn't businesses spend millions of dollars to sway the opinions of all employed people towards self-reliance, good personal finance, and similar virtues? Wouldn't business always have done this? And if all employers always did this, how would contrary concepts arise?

Do we wish to argue that the same people who successfully sell millions of people on the virtues of a particular style of jeans or jeeps, who have successfully changed the lifestyles of millions of Americans for over a century, that these same business leaders are incompetent in selling the virtue of virtue? This seems unlikely.

Perhaps there is a reason business does not really like any of the virtues it extols.

The Corporate Dole
Consider what would happen if business were actually to follow the advice they so clamorously insist they would like to follow.

Imagine a business with a successful program of teaching their employees the virtues of self-reliance and good personal financial sense. What would such employees look like?

To begin with, they would not long remain employed. Employees who actually understand their rights and obligations, who actually take on and live adult responsibility, will soon leave the corporate paycheck. They will see flaws in the business plan of the people they work for. They will go off and start their own businesses, become competitors, remove themselves from the corporate dole.

A virtuous people is an entrepreneurial people.
Corporations don't like entrepreneurs.

Business doesn't just tolerate big government, it encourages big government, because big government is a necessary cost in limiting competition.

But big government doesn't just limit competition.

Government also serves as a flak-jacket, a way to outsource problems you don't want to deal with. Bureaucracy is famously a flak jacket for CEO's, a way to deny responsibility and blame it on faceless peons who can take the blame. The best flak jacket is a rental - if you can point to someone else's bureaucracy as the source of the problem, all the better.

So, yes, business chooses to hire a growing portion of its work force as government employees, that is to say, as leeches, because it beats having those same employees as competitors. As a bonus, when things go wrong, business can outsource the blame to the government. If the rabble, that is to say, if the employees, can be gotten angry enough at the government, the corporation will not be the sole focus of blame.

Better yet, precisely because government employee pay ultimately comes from the corporate paymaster, the government employee will create regulations, indeed, will create a veritable culture, that will stifle corporate competition, and, in a really beautiful turn of events, the nascent entrepreneurs can be made to pay for their own stifling through taxes. Wherever new avenues for competition rear their ugly heads, the government can be counted to cut off the heads and set fires to the neck stumps.

To this end, when hiring for a government position, it is critical to make sure you hire men and women who are arrogant, narcissistic, highly-educated idiots with a supreme sense of self. If they do not begin so, they must at least become so during the course of their training for the job and their time in the job. Only these kinds of people can be expected to endure the constant well-deserved insults for doing what they are best at doing: being incompetent.

Government is a corporation with a critically important set of tasks. It's job is to stifle competition and be the scapegoat for all that goes wrong. And precisely because it is incompetent, precisely because it is staffed by incompetents, precisely because it is both powerful and incompetent, it truly is to blame for stifling competition, for general incompetence. It is supremely suited to its task, which is why it is so successful.

Government growth really took off in this country at the same time that corporate growth took off. Both began their meteoric growth for the same reason: they need one another. When a company spins off a subsidiary, that subsidiary continues to work with the original company. It does real work, but it really is independent of the original company. Government is a spin-off of the corporate world.

So, the next time you hear corporate leaders lament the increase of government jobs at the expense of the private sector, keep all this in mind.

Incompetence and scapegoating have been America's fastest growing industry for the last several decades, and, especially under this president, it shows no signs of abating.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Forked Things

Just received this FASCINATING news item from a friend:

Why is ultra-libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel (see also here) sitting on the First Things finance committee (along with George Weigel, Robert P. George, Frederic Clark, and William Burleigh)?

Named one of the 10 Most Powerful Gays by Out magazine, Thiel is a transhumanist who supports technology to "save" human beings by turning them into robots. (See MercatorNet's op-ed on this.) His Thiel Foundation also supports utopian "seasteading" and human embryonic stem cell research. He has written that democracy and freedom are incompatible.

Could Thiel's involvement have anything to do with FT's recent shift away from articles that support marriage?

One more note about Thiel: He's created a group called Imitatio to promote the "mimetic theory" of Rene Girard. FT once published an article (by Servais Pinckaers, I think) critical of Girard, but it's gone whole hog on him during the past year--check its archives.

Here are some notes on Thiel and Girard from The Guardian:

What about his philosophy? I listened to a podcast of an address Thiel gave about his ideas for the future. His philosophy, briefly, is this: since the 17th century, certain enlightened thinkers have been taking the world away from the old-fashioned nature-bound life, and here he quotes Thomas Hobbes' famous characterisation of life as "nasty, brutish and short", and towards a new virtual world where we have conquered nature. Value now exists in imaginary things. Thiel says that PayPal was motivated by this belief: that you can find value not in real manufactured objects, but in the relations between human beings. PayPal was a way of moving money around the world with no restriction. Bloomberg Markets puts it like this: "For Thiel, PayPal was all about freedom: it would enable people to skirt currency controls and move money around the globe."

Clearly, Facebook is another uber-capitalist experiment: can you make money out of friendship? Can you create communities free of national boundaries - and then sell Coca-Cola to them? Facebook is profoundly uncreative. It makes nothing at all. It simply mediates in relationships that were happening anyway.

Thiel's philosophical mentor is one René Girard of Stanford University, proponent of a theory of human behaviour called mimetic desire. Girard reckons that people are essentially sheep-like and will copy one another without much reflection. The theory would also seem to be proved correct in the case of Thiel's virtual worlds: the desired object is irrelevant; all you need to know is that human beings will tend to move in flocks. Hence financial bubbles. Hence the enormous popularity of Facebook. Girard is a regular at Thiel's intellectual soirees. What you don't hear about in Thiel's philosophy, by the way, are old-fashioned real-world concepts such as art, beauty, love, pleasure and truth.

I've said before that George Weigel is a sycophant.
I am of the personal opinion that he is a spineless snake.

Now we find him sitting in a cozy relationship with one of the major underminers of Catholic Faith in the United States.

UPDATE:
Several people have asked why I dislike George Weigel so much.

I heard him speak once in Peoria, Il, where he mentioned that pro-abort politicians got voted into office because Catholics voted them in. Thus, it was really the fault of Catholic laity that such politicians were so prominent. We were to blame. Mea culpa, mea culpa, etc. Everyone in the audience was ashamed of themselves.

Except I wasn't buying that crap.

During the Q & A, I publicly asked him how he could maintain that position, given that:
  1. the bishops had put pro-aborts on their own national review board following the sex abuse scandal (the board was only a year or so old at that point, and this was fresh then),
  2. the bishops had REFUSED to act in solidarity to refuse communion to pro-abort politicians (you couldn't receive on your knees in some diocese, but you could certainly receive if you supported killing babies - we have to show liturgical solidarity, after all),
  3. many bishops used public language that could easily be interpreted by Catholic laity to mean that we should have no qualms with voting for pro-abort politicians as long as they were "good on other issues."
I pointed out that a Catholic was only as good as his leader, and asked him to explain what a Catholic in the pew was supposed to think, given the honors, accolades and language of the American Catholic bishops. How were Catholic laity culpable for voting badly given how badly the bishops led? Wasn't it the job of the bishop to teach, preach, lead by example, help us understand these issues? When he says "it's the fault of the laity" isn't he really saying, "It's the fault of the bishops."?

Our spineless snake just kept repeating, "I cannot explain the actions of the bishops" until his friend, the priest who had brought him in for the talk (perhaps stung by the direction of that last question, given that George's thesis was precisely that it wasn't the fault of the bishops), suddenly stood up and said, "The time for questions is now closed."

Now, George knew damn well why the bishops acted the way they did.
The vast majority of them are freaking heretics.

But George didn't want to urinate in his rice bowl by saying it aloud.
So, he took the boot-licker's way out and punted.
He's a sycophant. The man has no spine, no guts.

You've got to remember that George was nothing but another ignorant journalist when he got tapped to write JP II's biography. He got in not because of his depth of theological knowledge, but because he happened to have the right friends and he hit it off with the Pope on a personal level, in much the same way Maciel did.

We've treated him like some kind of deeply insightful Catholic saint since then, but he's never really advanced beyond his ignorant journalist stage. He just has access to some bishops who give him inside scoops (much as Amy Welborn built her blog reputation on the inside scoops her ex-priest husband's contacts gave her), so he seems like a man who can be trusted.

For my money, there isn't any real evidence that George is more than a mouthpiece for bishops who want to get their opinions out but don't want their fingerprints on the essays. If he loses that access, he won't have any more grist for his books. Loss of income is a terrible thing, especially in this economy. Maybe that's why the man is on the finance board at FT.

As for Rene Girard, I don't know anything about him, but I did find these couple of gems:

See this.

And this rather interesting review of Girard.