Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

MICKEY KAUS IS A F***ING GENIUS. Since he doesn't "do" functional permalinks, I'll just have to quote the relevant post in full:

Kerry's Brilliant Scheme: Roger Simon (the U.S. News writer, not the novelist/blogger) thinks Kerry's idea of not accepting the Democratic nomination at his party's convention--in order to accept it a month later--is "too dumb even for politics."

If Kerry does not accept the nomination at his convention, how will he get anybody to watch it? The damn things are dull enough, but a convention without the presidential candidate accepting? Who would tune in to watch such a thing? And by giving up their audience, the Democrats will give up tons of free publicity. [Emphasis added]

I was initially skeptical of the delayed-acceptance idea myself, thinking it too clever by half. But that was before I realized its diabolical tactical brilliance. You see, Kerry's handlers have clearly been busy analyzing reams of scientific opinion research--and they've reached the same conclusion that pollster Scott Rasmussen reached a couple of weeks ago:

Senator Kerry loses a few points every time the spotlight focuses on him. Kerry's numbers bounce back when the focus returns to the President.

Indeed, Kerry has been virtually invisible on the national radar screen lately--and he's been slowly climbing in the polls.

But the Kerry camp faced what might seem to be an insurmountable challenge: the July Democratic convention in Boston, when the nation's press surely plans to focus on the Democratic nominee, beaming his every word into the nation's living rooms, allowing voters to get to know him and take the measure of his character and personality. Kerry's highly-paid strategists instantly recognized that this would be a disaster for their client. So they have crafted a cunning plan designed to get the TV networks to avoid covering the convention entirely, while the reporters who might otherwise be exposing Kerry to the world are convinced to stay at home. (Give up 'tons of free publicity'? Nothing's more threatening to Kerry than tons of free publicity.)

But there's more to the complex plan than just keeping Kerry off the air. By delaying acceptance of the nomination, Kerry can encourage speculation that he might just turn it down! Why, he may not be the nominee at all! This will result in wild journalistic scenarios about possible "Torricelli options," distracting public attention from Kerry's spirit-sapping persona much as chaff dropped from an airplane causes anti-aircraft missiles to veer off-target. Kerry's vice-presidential pick, in particular, will get star treatment from the press--another plus, since he or she will almost certainly be more appealing than Kerry himself. Perhaps Kerry's lawyers can even figure out a way for his vice-presidential choice to formally accept the #2 slot while Kerry delays--making the vice presidential candidate, in effect, the top standard-bearer and spokesman of the Democrats for a few precious weeks.

The "non-acceptance" gambit is not about campaign money. That's just the cover story! (As if money spent in August made that much difference--a point Simon makes rather forcefully.) Nor is Kerry's seemingly suicidal plan to draw attention to himself by giving a series of high-profile national security speeches over the next 11 days anything but another clever feint. The proof: Just see if he actually says anything memorable! According to ABC's The Note, Kerry plans "town-hall meetings and discussions with military families, veterans, and fire and police personnel." Heh, heh. No network news producer is going to bump Iraq off the air for those proven coma-inducers! If it seems like the Kerry planners are trying to put Mark Halperin to sleep, maybe that's because they are.

A convention without an acceptance speech. "Who would tune in to watch such a thing?" Exactly! The Democratic wizards have tipped their hand. Their secret is out.Their game plan has been revealed to the world! It's to keep the American public from realizing until the last possible moment the grim reality that Kerry really is the Democratic alternative.

If they could take Wonkette's advice and have Kerry delay accepting the nomination until, say, November 1, it might actually work. [She said Nov. 3, not Nov.1-ed. Right! Democrats could urge Americans to vote for a nominee to be chosen after the election by U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi!} 12:47 A.M.

C'est brilliant, no? If I'm feeling especially industrious later, I'll include Kaus' permalinks. For now, I'm off to Oklahoma City, to see a certain Brer Fox graduate high school.

Monday, May 24, 2004

NOPE, NO SLIPPERY SLOPE HERE. Surely Dahlia Lithwick is right: there's no way that acceptance of gay marriage will leave us less able to rebut or refuse future arguments for changes to the law of marriage that will strip the institution of any special status or meaning.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

IF YOU WANT TO SEE SOMETHING SCARY, click over to Old Oligarch. If you don't, click on, I dunno, the Disney website or something.
IN OTHER TV-RELATED NEWS, the Cartoon Network just showed Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings I'll spare you the gory details, and only say: I can finally understand why the movie appeals primarily to people who are very, very high.
THE SECOND-GREATEST SPEECH BY THE GREATEST ENGLISH-LANGUAGE ORATOR, the Cooper Union Address, was broadcast earlier today on CSPAN. Well, sort of. They actually re-aired Sam Waterston's May 5 reenactment of the speech. I wanted to go see it then, but that was my last day of Criminal Procedure, and some vague sense of responsibility bound me to stay in New Haven. So it was a great blessing to stumble upon it this afternoon. I love Waterston (now that Briscoe is gone he's the best thing about Law & Order) and I love the Cooper Union Address. Waterston gave a great performance, which though it was not necessarily how I imagine Lincoln was still quite stirring.

What makes Cooper Union such a great speech? Well, there's the methodical, lyrical and thoroughly convincing argument that the Founders supported the idea that there was not "any line dividing local from federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, properly forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in federal territory." (The same First Congress that proposed the Fifth Amendment, on which the Supreme Court relied in Dred Scott, and the Tenth Amendment, on which Stephen Douglas based his arguments, also passed an act to enforce the Northwest Ordinance, which had forbad the extension of slavery into the old Northwest Territory.)

There are other great bits too. There's an almost Chestertonian argument about the role of tradition: " I do not mean to say we are bound to follow implicitly in whatever our fathers did. To do so, would be to discard all the lights of current experience - to reject all progress - all improvement. What I do say is, that if we would supplant the opinions and policy of our fathers in any case, we should do so upon evidence so conclusive, and argument so clear, that even their great authority, fairly considered and weighed, cannot stand."

There's a good explanation of Lincoln's theory of constitutional interpretation, in which the Court is not the sole arbiter of the meaning of the Constitution but rather part of a dialogue that includes the political branches:

Perhaps you will say the Supreme Court has decided the disputed Constitutional question in your favor. Not quite so. But waiving the lawyer's distinction between dictum and decision, the Court have decided the question for you in a sort of way. The Court have substantially said, it is your Constitutional right to take slaves into the federal territories, and to hold them there as property. When I say the decision was made in a sort of way, I mean it was made in a divided Court, by a bare majority of the Judges, and they not quite agreeing with one another in the reasons for making it; that it is so made as that its avowed supporters disagree with one another about its meaning, and that it was mainly based upon a mistaken statement of fact - the statement in the opinion that "the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution."

An inspection of the Constitution will show that the right of property in a slave is not "distinctly and expressly affirmed" in it. Bear in mind, the Judges do not pledge their judicial opinion that such right is impliedly affirmed in the Constitution; but they pledge their veracity that it is "distinctly and expressly" affirmed there - "distinctly," that is, not mingled with anything else - "expressly," that is, in words meaning just that, without the aid of any inference, and susceptible of no other meaning.

If they had only pledged their judicial opinion that such right is affirmed in the instrument by implication, it would be open to others to show that neither the word "slave" nor "slavery" is to be found in the Constitution, nor the word "property" even, in any connection with language alluding to the things slave, or slavery; and that wherever in that instrument the slave is alluded to, he is called a "person;" - and wherever his master's legal right in relation to him is alluded to, it is spoken of as "service or labor which may be due," - as a debt payable in service or labor. Also, it would be open to show, by contemporaneous history, that this mode of alluding to slaves and slavery, instead of speaking of them, was employed on purpose to exclude from the Constitution the idea that there could be property in man.

To show all this, is easy and certain.

When this obvious mistake of the Judges shall be brought to their notice, is it not reasonable to expect that they will withdraw the mistaken statement, and reconsider the conclusion based upon it?

(You'll note I've just discovered how to use the "blockquote" HTML tag. Huzzah!) The best part, and the best zingers, come when Lincoln directly addresses the South, and lays out for his fellow Republicans and Northerners what was at stake in the argument. He says:

Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.


Will they [the South] be satisfied if the Territories be unconditionally surrendered to them? We know they will not. In all their present complaints against us, the Territories are scarcely mentioned. Invasions and insurrections are the rage now. Will it satisfy them, if, in the future, we have nothing to do with invasions and insurrections? We know it will not. We so know, because we know we never had anything to do with invasions and insurrections; and yet this total abstaining does not exempt us from the charge and the denunciation.

The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This, we know by experience, is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them, is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.

And, in one of my all-time favorite English-language sentences - the one that inspired me to write, so often, to pen long-but-grammatically-correct sentences, such as this one, that drove year after year of English teachers, and later my thesis advisor, into fits:

Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored - contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man - such as a policy of "don't care" on a question about which all true men do care - such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance - such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.

A great speech, and a great giving of that speech. One longs for the day when political speeches were buttressed by argument instead of partisan invective or empty sloganeering. (Y'know, Bush has a point when he says "Compassionate Conservatism"; but on the other hand, I really would like to "Let America Be America Again".) Ahh, well: each generation has its demagogues, I suppose. We're not sent men like Lincoln in every age. The best we can hope for, I imagine, is that we get them when we need them.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

RE: THE DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE to the proposed withholding of the Eucharist from pro-choice politicians. I may get to this issue in greater depth later. For now, a quick, and somewhat cheeky, question:

How is it that it's a threat to the separation of church and state when the leadership of a church considers imposing private, religious sanctions on parishioners for their words and deeds, but it's a defense of the separation of church and state for four-dozen sitting members of Congress to publish an open letter telling the leadership of a church who should or should not be receiving its sacraments?

just curious

Thursday, May 20, 2004


What a day: Feast of the Ascension, and then I got to play with a puppy. It was a pug-beagle cross (a peagle? puggle? beag? bug?) And the weather: sunny, a nice cool breeze. My compliments to the chef.
SO JIMMY FALLON'S RETIRED FROM SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. This is old news. I'm curious: what's Fallon going to crack up in the middle of now?
MAN, THIS IS WEIRD. Currently on AMC: Snow White and the Three Stooges. Moe, Larry and Curly-Joe, taking the part of the seven dwarves. There's a magic sword that grants wishes, a king in tights, and a shocking amount of dramatic method acting from the Stooges. And, in the couple of minutes I've been watching, no jokes. Scary and confusing.
I HAVE TO ADMIT IT, I WAS KIND OF UNDERWHELMED by last night's Law & Order. The plot wasn't ripped from the headlines; it was ripped from the Warner Bros.' film archive. It was just a cheap knock-off of "Strangers on a Train", as even the shows writers acknowledged in a throwaway line. The retirement of Lennie Briscoe was handled with subtlety - probably too much subtlety. One the one hand, it was nice, after what I'm told was the hyper-maudlin Friends finale, to see a show mark the end with some sense of understatement. On the other hand, Briscoe was a great character, who'd been part of my mental furniture for years. I would have appreciated a little more to-do.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

IT'S A TRAVESTY, I TELLS YA! Un-American pinko communist thug Steinbrenner hates puppies and apple pie! OK, maybe not. But still - how do you throw an American legend to the curb like that? Now that I have all this free time on my hands, I think I'll start a petition. Bring back Jack! Bring back Jack! (thanks to AirDog for the tip)
LAST WARNING: if you love me, you'll watch tonight's "Law & Order".
SAFE! Hoofing it, I narrowly beat out the infield single that is the first year of law school. Now, 2 weeks of sweet, sweet vacation before I begin my crazy-big career in the New Haven state's attorney's office. Don't look now, Jack McCoy, but someone's breathing down your neck.
"NOT BALD, SHAVED" as Michael Wilbon would say. The bald eagle is making a fantastic comeback. (link found via the Corner) Interesting stat (also pointed out at the Corner): there are now bald eagle nesting pairs in every state but Rhode Island and Vermont (and Hawaii, which was never part of the bald eagle range). Surely it's no coincidence that the bald eagle is avoiding the country's most liberal states; clearly the bird is the rock-ribbed conservative of the flighted-animal community. Once again, the Muppet Show fails to lead us astray.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

SECOND REMINDER: Tomorrow is Orbach's last Law & Order. Miss it and I will consider you lower than toe fungus.
LOOK, I'M NOT ONE TO SCREAM McCARTHYISM IN A CROWDED THEATER, but there's something in this story that I find mighty disturbing. The piece, which was linked to off Zorak's blog, is about a conservative professor who suffered various indignities for being conservative. Disturbing enough. But what really creeped me out was this passage, regarding one of her liberal tormenters:

"The man who made that call, Dr. Mokerrom Hossain, may himself get to spend some quality time outside the office. The FBI is investigating the sociology department chairman for possible links to Al Qaeda. One tip-off was the fact that his office computer had an Al Qaeda screen saver. Dr. Hossain, a Sunni Muslim, made the excuse that his son put it there, without explaining how his son had access to the university computer."

I'm sorry: waaah? I hope that they've got something more on this guy than that. Look, I want to prevent al-Qaeda attacks as much as the next guy, and I understand that there are probably some number of al-Qaeda sleepers and sympathizers in the United States. But are we really at the point where the FBI gets involved every time a Sunni pops up with an al-Qaeda screen saver on his office computer? Not to go all Mark Shea on your collective ass, or anything, but might that not be a bit of an overreaction?
BIRTHDAYS, BIRTHDAYS EVERYWHERE... the world's coolest old man turns 84 today.

Apparently, His Holiness' new book is called "Get up. Let's go!". That either sounds like a Catholic exercise manual or a collection of the Pope's favorite lines from Schwarzenegger movies.

Monday, May 17, 2004

HEADS UP! This Wednesday is the season finale of Law & Order. I have it on good authority (which is to say, I think I saw on an ad) that it will be the end of Jerry "Lennie Briscoe" Orbach's run on the show. Forget "Friends" or "Frasier": this is the end of a TV era.
WOW. Five of the six teams in the National League Central are above .500, and the last-place team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, are one game below .500 at 17-18. Remarkable. This may turn out to be the most competitive baseball season in my lifetime.
ANGUS IS NOT VERY PERCEPTIVE (PART MCMVI): It only just occurred to me that, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court delayed the application of its ruling in Goodridge, it was doing so in part so that the country's first legal gay marriages would be performed on the fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

IN WHICH BEST WISHES ARE EXTENDED: a very happy birthday to the lovely Zorak, who turns 28 today.
WHY THE WASHINGTON POST IS BETTER THAN THE NEW YORK TIMES, PART MCMXVII: Taking a quick break from my current exam-related project (creating a short-form outline for my Criminal Procedure class), I was surfing through the archives at Eve Tushnet's blog. (Here in the Fox's croft, we know how to have a good time.) Now, in May of 2002 (that's almost two years ago, for those keeping score) Ms. Tushnet linked to a Washington Post article on Virginia issuing license plates commemorating September 11th. As you can see, the link is still good two years later. The article is still available, for free, on the Post's website, and it's still accessible via the same URL that got you there the day it was put up. Compare this to the Times, which sends its articles to the pay-to-view archive seven days after publication. (Like this David Brooks op-ed, linked to by Matthew Yglesias.) At least the old links still direct you generally to the article you wanted (thank Heaven for small favors). I know this is old news, known to all, but sometimes its useful to be confronted again with the things you already know.

Friday, May 14, 2004

A THOUGHT ON POST-FACTO JUSTIFICATION Having finished my second exam (American Legal History) I've decided to allot myself one post's worth of pontification. If you've had enough of my BS, please move on to the amusing anecdotes about Yankees baseball you'll find below. Of course, if you'd had enough of my BS, you would have long ago removed me from your "favorites".

Anyway, while viewing the Professor's blog this morning, I came across this story, which suggests that there might actually be something widely-held-but-officially disbelieved idea that Iraq had something to do with the September 11th attacks. (I know, I know: it's FrontPageMag. Believe me, if I could get it in the Atlantic Monthly, I would.)

I got to thinking: what if it's true? If the Ba'athist government of Iraq actually did help facilitate the September 11th attacks, does that change our analysis of whether of not the war was justified? Can information subsequently acquired justify a war that would otherwise have been unjustified? Or are we stuck with the information we had at the time (which suggested that there was no link, or at least no reliable evidence of one)?

And yet, if we're stuck with what we knew at the time, doesn't that suggest that the apparent absence of any WMDs can't be used to impeach the justification for the war? After all, almost everyone believed the Iraqis had some WMD capabilities before the war. That belief was reasonable, it just happened to be false. If a war can't be justified by new information discovered after the fact, why can a war be proved unjust by subsequent discoveries?

One could, I suppose, devise a theory of just war in which that could be the case, in which a war's justification could never be increased from where it was prior to the conflict, but could be decreased by subsequent developments demonstrating that pre-war assumptions used to justify war (like the presence of WMD stockpiles) were shown to be false. Such a system might get the incentives right, decreasing the likelihood that parties which subscribe to that just war theory would start wars.

Of course, the whole point of the Bush Doctrine is that the state of affairs I've just described (civilized states extremely reluctant to make war unless attacked or virtually certain of imminent attack) does not get the incentives right, at least not in a post-9/11 world in which it's clear that an imminent threat need not be take the form of massed armies or an approaching armada, and that an actual attack can kill thousands of innocent civilians.

I am not a smart man: I don't know which (if either) of these positions is the right one. I just kind of wish we had had this debate two years ago, when we were preparing to mass troops on the Kuwaiti border, and not now, while we're occupying a medium-sized country (or worse, never). Oh, to live in a more philosophic country. But alas...

In the meantime:



ahh, that feels much better.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

MMMMM...FOURTH-WAVE CATHOLIC FEMINISTS.... Note to self: consider Colorado as post law school destination....

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


Take the Cicada Test!

I suppose I should than Eve Tushnet for this. I suppose....
LAST WINTER'S KENNY LOFTON SIGNING now strikes me as the New York baseball equivalent of the invasion of Iraq: it seemed like a really good idea to me before the fact, but now everything's gone all to shit. Still, if the Yanks win the World Series....
THINGS THAT ARE GOOD: With my Legislation exam over, I've curled up with a bottle of Old English 800, the New Republic literary review, and the Yankees game on YES.

THINGS THAT ARE BAD: The Yanks are already down 3-0 in the first. Also, my Legislation exam was quite a bit harder than I thought it would be. Also, also, my "L" key is somewhat sticky.

MINOR CHANGES: I've returned to monthly archiving. I've also set things up so you can link to individual posts rather than just to the day on which something was posted. (Hmmm, maybe change isn't so bad after all.) I'm debating instituting comments, but I'm concerned about having to moderate them (and even more at the prospect that comments will reveal just how few viewers I really have).
NEEDLESS TO SAY, THE NEW BLOGGER INTERFACE HAS ME CONFUSED. Otherwise I wouldn't've posted the same cool statistic twice. I thought bloger had eaten the first post. See, this is why I hate change: it confuses simple-minded folks like myself.
COOL STATISTIC (THAT I HAVE TO POST BEFORE TONIGHT): As of Sunday's 7-6 victory over the Seattle Mariners, the New York Yankees are now 800 games above .500 (825-25) when leading after eight innings since 1994.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

TODAY'S INTERESTING YANKEES STAT: As of today's 7-6 victory over the Seattle Mariners, the Yankees are now 800 games over .500 (825-25) since 1994 when leading after 8 innings. I don't know how that compares to other teams. Frankly, I don't care. That's just an awesome stat.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

JUST SO YOU KNOW, LEST I BE ACCUSED OF BEING A HOLIER-THAN-THOU JERK: I find myself particularly prone to the below mentioned sin (scandal). This is largely an artifact of my personality: despite being gruff, I'm actually very eager-to-please and eager-to-help. I like to encourage people, and to help them out. The problem is, in this fallen world, that I often wind up encouraging people to sin, or assisting them in their sin, simply because my default setting is "encourage" or "help". To be honest, also, I like to be liked, and people don't often like to be told things like: "Well, I'm happy that you're happy, but I really wish it wasn't cheating on the Contracts exam that made you happy." I'm working on this, I really am, but it's hard. But then, I suppose the whole Christianity business is supposed to be hard, after a fashion. Narrow gate, and all.

The second thing you should know: I myself often (too often, alas; though ever is probably too often [be perfect as your Father is perfect, et al.]) don't receive Communion. Because (see above) I'm weak and fall into sin, and because I respect the Eucharist and fear the sin of sacrilege (eating my own destruction, and all that). I use the time to pray, to ask God's forgiveness for what I've done, and to reflect on my actions. Painful and unpleasant as it is, I actually consider those moments to be a kind of blessing, an occasion for reflecting on the nature of mortal sin, the ultimate fate of my soul, and all that metaphysical jazz. When I consider the magnitude of what I'm giving up (i.e., communion with God) and weigh it against the trivial, temporary pleasures of the sin that I took in exchange for that great good, I begin to appreciate somewhat the monumental folly of sin, which would be laughable, of course, if it weren't so deadly serious. Separation from the Eucharist is a foretaste of that final separation, that Great Divorce, and then too I think we may laugh one last, pained laugh at the insignificance at the pleasures we exchanged for the Beatific Vision before we're cast, finally, into the dark from whence we'll laugh no more.

OK, I'm getting too pseudopoetical; it's not my strength, as you've no doubt discovered. To sum up: I don't think I'm better than you; if anything, I'm worse. But I'm trying, I really am.
GIVING COMMUNION TO PRO-CHOICE POLS: WHAT DOES THE PRIEST RISK? A question about these kinds of policies, in which the question of whether to receive Holy Communion or not is left up to the individual parishioner, which I'd like a more knowledgeable Catholic than I to answer: if a priest distributes Holy Communion to a person whom the priest knows to be in a state of mortal sin, hasn't that priest committed the sin of scandal? He's assisting the communicant in committing the sin of sacrilege, fully cognizant that the communicant is unfit to receive the Host, and is multiplying his sin by taking Communion while unfit.

Maybe I'm wrong, but my impression was that scandal was sort of the spiritual version of accomplice liability, whereby one becomes liable for the sins of another when one aids, encourages or (post facto) praises those sins. (No doubt you can tell I'm getting ready for my Criminal Law & Administration exam.) This seems to apply whether or not the scandalous aid/encouragement was the but-for cause of the sin - you can't escape responsibility by saying that someone else would have bought Li'l Timmy those condoms, although, of course, someone would have - but it would seem to be especially present in instances, like these, in which the scandalizer is in fact a but-for cause of the sin. If the priest (or extraordinary minister) refuses to give the Eucharist, the would-be recipient isn't going to be able to commit sacrilege. (I mean, I suppose he could go to another church, or try to punch out the priest and grab the Host from his prone body....)

What I'm getting at is that it seems to me that priests have a responsibility for their own spiritual well-being not to distribute Communion in circumstances in which they know it would be a sin for the person to receive Communion. I'm not advocating establishing a national inquisition, or posting hall monitors at the confessionals and denying Communion to people who don't show up regularly. There are plenty of good reasons (for one, the charitable obligation to assume the best of our fellow man) to have the default policy be that individuals determine whether or not they should be receiving the Eucharist, based on an examination of their own consciences. But in instances in which the priest has actual knowledge that a specific individual has on his conscience an unconfessed mortal sin (say, he's just been caught stealing from the collection basket, or masturbating in one of the pews) it seems not only reasonable but necessary that the priest deny that person receipt of communion. The priest cannot be neutral as to whether one of his parishioners is committing sacrilege. "Feed my sheep," people.
COOL BASEBALL STAT OF THE DAY: In last night's 10-8 victory over Oakland, sometime Yankees second baseman Enrique Wilson hit two infield singles - in the same inning!

Sunday, May 02, 2004

I AM A WHITE, WHITE MAN. Two pieces of evidence:

1) I spent yesterday afternoon in the sun (at Yankee Stadium, no less!) and my forearms are now the color of radishes.
2) In the shower today I found myself wondering today whether the name of OutKast's second album was pronounced "at-LEE-uns" or "ay-tee-ELL-ee-uns". I figure either my brother or Dave will know.
PANDA PORNO The annual ritual of watching dichromatic quasi-ursine captive animals hump (or not hump) has begun again. (link via Cacciaguida)

When I was a kid, I was crazy for pandas. I had a stuffed-animal panda, purchased at the National Zoo, who went by Pandy Lincoln (he occasionally wore a miniature stove-pipe hat that I made out of construction paper). Pandy Lincoln was my Velveteen Rabbit, and even now I have a certain sentimental fondness for the species in remembrance of that long-lost toy-who-became-real.

That said, my interest in pandas is more than just sentimental. There's something about the national fascination with whether they will or will not reproduce that intrigues me. Certainly it emerges in part from purely zoological and environmental concerns - giant pandas are badly endangered, and every time they fail to reproduce they move, in some sense, one step closer to ultimate extinction. But I wonder, perhaps, if it isn't something more than that, if it doesn't fall into the strange matrix of the culture's relationship with reproduction more generally. At the risk of generalizing wildly, our culture seems to delight in defying what seem to be the natural processes of reproduction. Huge amounts of money and effort are expended trying to get pregnant things that seem to have a substantial natural difficulty getting pregnant - women over 40, sterile or lesbian couples, giant pandas - through all sorts of fancy scientific procedures. At the same time, equally large amounts of money and effort are expended trying to keep from getting pregnant things that seem to have a relatively easy time getting pregnant - women in their teens and twenties, cats and dogs - through widespread use of birth control or through spaying / neutering. I suppose those aren't inherently inconsistent ways of going about in the world, but it still seems a strange pairing to me. And I know, of course, that a great many people reproduce themselves quite naturally.

No substantive recommendations here (I hope you haven't come to the fox for advice), just observations. Make of them what you will.