Mansfield Fox

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

Monday, June 28, 2004

THE THING THAT DRAWS ME TO GREGG EASTERBROOK (other than his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column) is that, like the Fox, he's capable of getting unbelievably indignant over unbelievably minor things.
ANOTHER GOOD MOORE GUT-SHOT (DON'T LOSE YOUR HAND!) This New Republic piece makes a few good points about Fahrenheit 9/11 and it's creator. The first is that the movie, particularly in its second half in which it focuses on the suffering of a mother whose son has just died in Iraq, attempts to conflate two essentially unrelated questions. The first is Was the war in Iraq (and the war in Afghanistan) justified? The second is Is the United States military constituted in a just way? These are fundamentally different questions, and a no to the latter doesn't necessarily mean a no to the former. (Beg to differ? Consider: World War II was fought by a segregated military, and the Union army in the Civil War was raised in part by a draft that the rich could buy out of. Were either unjust wars as a result?)

The second point the author makes is that Moore doesn't seek to explore the question of why America's army is comprised so heavily of the poor and lower middle class; he simply pretends to explore it while using it to score polemical points (see Columbine, Bowling for, minutes one through 120). Of course, if he did, he might discover that the blame for the lopsidedness of military service in this country lies in no small part with the people who make up his own fan-base: upper-middle and upper-class professionals who perpetuate a culture that insists that military service is simply beneath the status of themselves and their children. When I tried to join the army a little over a year ago, I was shocked to discover how many people were shocked that I was even considering it. The idea that, in an age when our country was at war, a war that had reached our home soil, I would consider taking a few years off between college and law school seemed incomprehensible to them. Surely I was joking, or at least had some ulterior motive (political ambition being the most frequently theorized - I confess it's true: I long to someday be a small-town alderman). It's not only congressmen whose sons aren't bleeding in Iraq; how many of Moore's friends have children in the military? I mean his current social circle on the Upper West Side, not the good people of Flint who get dusted off every time our cinematic Pantagruel needs to seem authentic. There's a solution to the class imbalance in the military: it's for all those upper-middle class Michael Moore fans who're upset about class imbalance in the military to get off their collective ass and enlist in the damn military. C'mon, folks: think globally, act locally!

The third point is that the respectable Left is increasingly coming to view Moore through the "he may be a sonofabitch, but he's our sonofabitch" lens. You see it in this Slate review too. The basic point seems to be "Sure, his movies are filled with lies, distortions and looney conspiracy theories, but he raises some important issues for discussion along with the dreck, and to the extent that anyone is actually taken in by his nonsense they'll be driven to vote against Bush, which is a good thing. And anyway, the Right has its own lie-propagating attack machine. It's important we can respond in kind." Of course, the last 20-odd years have suggested that having "our sonofabitch" maybe isn't that great an idea after all. (see Hussein, Saddam; Noriega, Manuel; Marcos, Ferdinand; et al) As Mark Steyn put it, "He may be our sonofabitch, but he's a sonofabitch."

Of course, I haven't seen the movie. Many others have. Are my non-impressed impressions on point at all?
4-D FETAL SCANS: So it seems fetuses (foeti?) as young as twelve weeks can yawn, rub their eyes, and walk around. I say, big deal. I can do all that. Wake me when they find a fetus who can moon-walk. That'd be cool.
I KNOW YOU WERE WONDERING: what happened to Jesus' foreskin? (scroll up) Did it ascend with him to Heaven, or does it remain on Earth as a venerated relic in the Roman parish of Calcata? Here's another take on the subject.

Michael Moore: Fahrenheit 9/11 drew sellout crowds in Fayetteville, North Carolina, home of Fort Bragg!

Jonah Goldberg: Yeah, but Fahrenheit 9/11 was showing in Fayetteville on one screen in a small arthouse theater!

Sunday, June 27, 2004

A REALLY INTERESTING POINT ON BREAKING OUR DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL: A Conspiracy guest-blogger points out that any effort to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels in order to reduce the relative geopolitical power of the Middle East might have the effect of actually strengthening the region.

It's quite a clever point: Any successful effort to decrease our need for foreign oil would involve decreasing our total dependence on petroleum. This would result in a decline in the world-wide price of oil, which would in turn lead the marginal oil wells, located outside of the Middle East, to become unprofitable and shut down. Middle Eastern oil would come to make up "larger slice of a smaller pie".

It seems to me this would make the Middle Eastern oilocracies less wealthy as an absolute matter, but make them more able to artificially manipulate the oil market like they did in the 1970s. Lacking more specific information, I'd call that a wash. There may be other reasons to use less gas, but "because it will impoverish those whose wealth supports terrorism" probably ain't one of them.
ANOTHER REASON TO VOTE FOR PETE COORS: He supports lowering the drinking age to 18.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

MORE ON MOORE: Slate's review of Fahrenheit 9/11 is pretty good. By which I mean, it confirms my existing beliefs about its subject. That is, I believe, the going blogospheric definition of "good". But it includes this somewhat odd line:
Needless to say, Fahrenheit 9/11 never waffles. The liberals' The Passion of the Christ, it ascribes only the most venal motives to the other side.
The "other side" in TOPTC is, y'know, Satan. Is David Edelstein saying that Gibson's film should give him the benefit of the doubt?
COULD THE GOVERNMENT BAN ADS FOR FAHRENHEIT 9/11? So it seems. As they say: there are unintended consequences, and then there are unintended consequences. See, McCain-Feingold forbids corporate-funded ads that identify or refer to political candidates in the period leading up to an election. Fahrenheit 9/11 is about President Bush, so its ads can't help but refer to the president. And the movie is being distributed by Lion's Gate Films, which is, of course, a corporation. QED, ads for Fahrenheit 9/11 can be banned by the FEC after July 30.

Nope, nothing unjust about McCain-Feingold. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

WOO-HOO! Jose Contreras' family has escaped from Cuba. The Contrerases have already been reunited. This is the best news I've heard in a while. It's like Elian Gonzalez in reverse: a family is reunited AND the don't have to stay in that Marxist-Leninist hellhole.

Monday, June 21, 2004

HMMMM....That's not good.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT THE WORLD I LEARNED FROM KARAOKE. You want to talk about "pervasive eroticism"? Try doing karaoke in southern Connecticut, and having a couple of young ladies hit you with the Pussycat Song. (WARNING: The lyrics are more than a little lewd, and the website will try to offer you plugins that you don't want to download. Click awares.) All cultures, I'm sure, have bawdy songs, with suggestive double-entendres. Such things, I imagine, are natural. But there's something about how thoroughly explicit this song's lyrics are that set them apart. They made me, a hard-hearted and cynical 23 year-old, genuinely uncomfortable as I listened. What's happened to our culture when young ladies feel entirely comfortable singing a song whose lyrics read like the transcript to a porno film in front of a room of total strangers? Zuh...

As for myself, my rendition of In the Ghetto was both tasteful and soulful.

Friday, June 18, 2004

DON'T HATE ON THE INQUISITION, says Thomas Madden. A good piece. Money graph:
Amazingly, before 1530 the Spanish Inquisition was widely hailed as the best run, most humane court in Europe. There are actually records of convicts in Spain purposely blaspheming so that they could be transferred to the prisons of the Spanish Inquisition.

Of course, it's all just nasty Romish propaganda, so feel free to ignore.

Monday, June 14, 2004

NEW-ISH BLOG, WHICH YOU WILL ENJOY. I Arbored Ann. The work of a mysterious Ann Arborite who goes only by "R". Definitely not a friend of some kind from college. Absolutely not.
NEW LINE CINEMA PRESENTS: "CELLULAR". This is either a brilliant, or an incredibly stupid, premise for a movie. We'll have to see, I suppose.
THE LEFT COAST PREPARES TO DROP INTO THE SEA: California, apparently not content to be merely the Recall State, is considering adopting the kind of primary system that produced such luminaries as David Duke and Jean Marie LePen.
YES, I AM A PREPPY BASTARD. SUE ME. Unlike Matt Yglesias, I enjoyed my high school reunion this weekend. Everyone was very friendly, and I had a wonderful time drinking, hanging out and catching up with people I hadn't seen in years. Even went back to some of my old haunts: King's Subs, Pomps Pond, and Bruegger's Bagels. Phillips Academy itself has never looked better; they've built a new science center (the old one was a squat, dank monstrosity from the early 70s; since it was the location of the student newspaper offices, I spent about 40% of my waking hours in that living hell), as well as a football stadium and hockey rink. They all look fantastic. It's easy to throw money at a buildings & grounds renovation and come away with mediocre results - Amherst did this recently with its new freshman dorms. I'm very pleased Andover managed to avoid this trap. All-in-all, a well spent weekend. And now to bed.

Friday, June 11, 2004

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAINLINE PROTESTANTS: One often hears that there are more Muslims in this country than Episcopalians. (I most recently heard this fact this morning when one of the TV newscasters - I forget which - was explaining, in part, why an imam would be participating in the Reagan funeral service.) What one doesn't often hear is that the reason for that is largely that there actually aren't that many Episcopalians in this country. Just how many there are is subject to some debate, but the Episcopal Church of the United States says there are 2,320,221 baptized members in the United States, and I'm willing to trust them. So there are a little less than 2.5 million Episcopalians in this country. According to the Census Bureau, there are about 291 million people living in the United States. That means Episcopalians constitute about 0.8% of the population of the United States.

The other mainline protestant churches - the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterians and the United Church of Christ (the spiritual descendants of the Congregationalists) - aren't doing a whole lot better. The Methodists are the largest, with 8.4 million members (according to this site). That's about 2.9% of the US population. The Presbyterians have about 2.5 million congregants. Scroll to the bottom to see a graphic portrayal of the decline of a mainline Christian church. (Bear in the mind that, while there are only 60% as many Presbyterians in the country than there 1960, there are 1.6 times as many Americans as there were in that year. In 1960, Presbyterians were about 2.5% of the population; today they're 0.9%) The United Church of Christ has about 1.3 million members, minus the 3300 from the First Church of Christ in Wethersfield who just left over a doctrinal split. (If we're still keeping score, that's about 0.45% of the US population.) The Evangelical Lutherans have 5 million members, but since I'm feeling generous and don't understand the distinctions between the various branches of Lutheranism I'll toss in the Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which apparently brings the grand total to 9.5 million in North America Minus the roughly 200,000 Canadian Lutherans, that's 9.3 million-odd American Lutherans, about 3.2% of the population.

All told, there are about 23.8 million mainline Protestants in the United States; they make up approximately 8% of the population, and shrinking. In contrast, there are 63.4 million Catholics in the United States (23% of the population). There are more than 16 million members of the Southern Baptist Convention, along with 3.5 million members of the National Baptist Convention, 2.5 million members of the National Missionary Baptist Convention, and 2.5 million members of the Progressive Baptist Convention; as well as 5.5 million members of the Church of God in Christ, 5.2 million Mormons, 2.6 million members of the Assemblies of God, 2.5 million members of the African Methodist Episcopal church, 1.5 million Pentecostals, etc. etc. etc.

I'm not going to speculate as to the cause of the remarkable decline in mainline Protestantism in this country. I will ask: given that Episcopalianism, Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, Methodism and Congregationalism are now a decided minority within American Protestantism, shouldn't we stop calling them "mainline"? The term implies that they're mainstream, but the truth is that the stream has dwindled into a creek. The true heart of American Protestantism today are the Baptists and the other Evangelical churches. (If my terminology is off here I apologize; I don't know enough about Protestantism to speak entirely precisely.) The old mainline denominations have the many beautiful churches (and some ugly ones - no one was immune from the architectural plague of the 1970s), they have the fancy theological schools and the aura of respectability, but increasingly they don't have parishioners.

(By the way, how weird is it that Episcopalianism and Congregationalism, which 250 years ago were the established religions in the British American colonies, now constitute around 1.25% of the population? Sic transit gloria)

Thursday, June 10, 2004

GIVE ME MY BEARD BACK, FUNNY MAN... Watching the MTV movie awards (ashamed to say) and I see Jack Black win "best comedic performance" for School of Rock. And I realize: he and I have the same beard! It's weird; both our beards grow in in the same way. I suppose if I had to have a celebrity to look a little like, the super-studly Jack Black is as good as anyone. I'll post a picture below; but it's a little old. Black's beard is much bushier now (even more than mine). If you want a more recent pic, go here, click on "on stage" and flick over to picture 27.

(I've been known to make that face, on occasion)
ANOTHER GREAT AMERICAN, Ray Charles, has died.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

SOMETIMES THE ONION IS MORE SNARKY THAN FUNNY. This is not one of those times. The June 2 issue contains stories like Gay Couple Feels Pressured to Marry, Shotgun Blast To Abdomen Just Pisses Wilfred Brimley Off More, and Area Father Urges Reopening of 1998 Missing Rake Case. It also has this News in Brief entry, which I didn't pick up on right away, 'cause I'm slow:
City Maoist Visits Country Maoist
WUHAN, CHINA—City Maoist Xing Zhen Shengde returned Monday from a visit to Dunyang, where his country Maoist cousin Ni Yuxian resides. "The great Chairman Mao said we would build a socialist society based on agriculture and peasant farming, and that the peasant had the strength of the mountain and the wind in the trees," the urbane Marxist-Leninist reported Tuesday. "Nevertheless, I did not enjoy eating the rotting pig heads that pass for food in that hell-on-earth. Also, all of the peasants wore sandals." Ni said he understands that sturdy shoes must indeed be needed for escaping the muggers and prostitutes on every street corner in Wuhan.
And finally, there's this infographic, which I liked:

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

YOU KNOW WHO'S COOL? Annie Duke, that's who. She's the world's best female poker player, and a mother of four. In 2000, she finished 10th in the World Series of Poker while eight months pregnant! She's also got a BA from Columbia and a PhD from Penn in cognitive psychology. How cool is that?

Monday, June 07, 2004

SEEK AND YE SHALL FIND, KNOCK AND THE DOOR SHALL BE OPENED. No sooner do I e-kvetch about the lack of good systematic, orthodox, easy-to-use materials on preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation than I find myself in St. Mary's Priory staring at "A primer for confession with an examination of conscience" by Fr. Frederick L. Miller, S.T.D. Many and wonderful are the gifts that come from the Lord.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

THE GLORIES, AND THE TRAGEDIES, OF GOOGLE, or: Why Do Only the Schismatics Seem to Systematize? The internet is a wonderful tool. Thanks to Google, and other like databases (not to mention blogs), I have at my fingertips a vast library of human knowledge. Including of course knowledge of the doctrine and practice of the Church. It is a great blessing from the Lord (though like all gifts we've managed to muck it up in our fashion).

But of course, even the internet is finite. A lot of stuff's just not here. A lot of questions go unanswered. Case in point: this evening I was trying to find the answer to what I'll admit is a somewhat obscure question. If you've made an incomplete confession because at the time you'd forgotten a mortal sin you had committed prior to that confession, would subsequent receptions of communion be sacrilegious? (My interest in this subject being not entirely academic.) So tried the Q&A over at EWTN. And then I googled a couple of different permutations.

I didn't get any definite answers, but I did come across a couple of good web pages with systematic instructions for preparing for confession, both of which included a few choice words on the subject of bad confessions. (You can find them here and here.) At least, I thought they were good web pages. A little digging around quickly corrected that error.

The former page is the product of a Fr. David Trosch, a Catholic priest from Alabama whose archbishop has stripped him of his ability to speak publicly in the name of the Church, presumably because when he did have that faculty he used it to say, in the name of the Church, all kinds of looney things (see below). He's the author of such delightful bon mots as "Catholic Mass of Pope Paul VI offensive to God", "Vatican run by Freemasons and Homosexuals" and (my personal fave) "Pope John Paul II is under sentence of automatic excommunication for failure to remove Cardinal Bernard Law and others who have knowingly given Holy Communion to automatically excommunicated Catholics such as Senator Ted Kennedy". I actually sort of liked his highly systematized approach to the examination of the conscience, but given his other kooky views I'm not sure if I want to make him my e-spiritual director (even though he's technically not a schismatic).

The latter page is maintained by the Society of St. Pius X, a schismatic group that left the Church after the Second Vatican Council under the leadership Marcel Archbishop Lefebvre. Since the SSPXers are genuine schismatics, I'm not looking to them as guides to correct practice of the faith, any more than I'd look to Lutherans or Arians or Gnostics. (Though again the systematic nature of their approach appeals to me.)

I suppose this relates to the subject of a couple of posts (here and here) at Old Oligarch last week: the lost art of theological manuals. We live in an age when there are manuals and "how-to" guides for almost every aspect of life. I haven't checked, but I wouldn't be shocked if there were a "For Dummies" book on wiping your own ass. And yet, in the most important things, where doing things right or wrong could make a world of difference, Catholics are given a few years of (often quite shoddy) religious education and then cast from the nest and expected to fly largely on our own. I understand that there are risks involved when one becomes too dependent on manuals; still, for questions like the one that lead me on this mad-cap e-journey to the edge of schism and back again, I can't help but feel that a doctrinal crib sheet would have been a tremendous help. My question is specific, and there's clearly a right answer, and it's important that I know what that answer is (so I can know whether to confess sacrilegious reception as well as the underlying sin): it seems to me there ought to be a place I can go to get a direct answer without having to wake up a priest at 11:00 pm? Isn't that part (albeit a small part) of why God established the Church in the first place?
ANOTHER REASON TO LOVE YOGI BERRA Did you know he was part of the D-Day invasion? I didn't. He served on an LST. Another future hall of famer, Leon Day, landed on Utah Beach.
THE GIPPER OR D-DAY? This morning, FoxNews and CNN are focusing almost exclusively on the life of President Reagan, whereas MSNBC is talking mostly about the 60th anniversary of D-Day, with only intermittent Reagan coverage. I'm not sure which is the right call. The death of President Reagan is a major event, one that should indeed be covered by the media. At the same time, the 60th anniversary of D-Day is also a momentous occasion; it is likely the last major anniversary of the great battle that any substantial number of veterans will be around to celebrate. So it's a tough call. On balance, I think covering D-Day probably makes more sense. It's the more democratic choice: a commemoration, not of the life of one great man, but of the inestimable courage of thousands of ordinary men. Part of me suspects President Reagan would have thought so too.
I... DID NOT KNOW THAT. Apparently, the medieval Church tried (successfully for a while) to change the rules of chess out of fear that they might promote polygamy.

(found via the Shrine of the Holy Whapping)

Saturday, June 05, 2004


I was born a little more than a month before Reagan's first inauguration. He was president throughout my formative years, and even though he's been absent from the public scene for nearly a decade it's still hard to imagine a world without him.

He was one of the giant figures of the 20th century, but others, who were grown in his era, can speak better on that. I pause only to note the passing of a great man.

(Echoing Jonah Goldberg, I commend you to the Irish wake over at FoxNews. Every death is sad in its fashion, but Reagan lived a long, full life, and he lived to see his life's work, the defeat of Soviet communism, accomplished. Pray God, he will quickly come into his reward. Celebrate him, drink a toast tonight in his honor. Do not weep for him, but be glad.)
WHY NOT JUST LET PANDAS DIE OUT? The question is raised in this month's Touchstone. From a strictly Darwinian prospective, the Giant Panda is a flop like none known to science. Their diet consists almost exclusively of incredibly non-nutritious (even to them!) leaves and bark. They seem to hate mating, have trouble getting pregnant when they do mate, have trouble carrying to term when they do get pregnant, and are horribly negligent parents when they do carry to term. They seem determined to go extinct. Darwinism is the survival of the fittest, and the fittest they ain't. I'm not saying we should wipe them out, but are we obliged to make a heroic effort to preserve them?

And yet we do. We exert huge amounts of money and energy trying to preserve this fat, dichromatic race of raccoons. (They didn't become the official animal of the World Wildlife Fund for nothing. We love these goofy bastards!) But why? It could be because they're cute. We may struggle to preserve the panda for the same reason we restored the Sistine Chapel ceiling: because they appeal to us aesthetically, and we want future generations to appreciate their aesthetic appeal. Or perhaps, as I've suggested earlier, it has to do with our Frankenstein-like fascination with controlling the creation of life.

I kind of like the theory suggested at the end of the Touchstone piece: that even Darwinian materialists can't quite shake some kind of vestigial sense of the role of man as steward of this world, that, entirely divorced from what we want, humankind has an objective obligation to care for the natural world, even (especially) those parts of it (like the panda) that are entirely incapable of taking care of themselves.

OK, that's enough pandablogging for a long, long time.
LITTLE KNOWN FACT: Were you aware that Republicans aren't human beings? Neither was I! You learn something new every day, don't you? And, not being human beings, they're naturally fit for extermination. You warm up the cattle cars, I'll see if I can get a good deal on pre-owned poison gas on eBay.

Am I overeacting? Of course. Feingold's just a Village Voice theater reviewer, for goodness' sake. I just have an aversion to the rhetorical dehumanization of one's opponents. Drama critics aren't dangerous, but they can help legitimate a kind of discourse that, down the road, can empower the genuinely dangerous. That's all.

(original link found via the Corner)
JURY AWARDS $1.2M IN FIRE ANT ATTACK. Where are ants going to come up with that kind of money?

Friday, June 04, 2004

THE AUTHORITATIVE LIST: If you were a Democratic party member and a major office holder, and you didn't make this list, wouldn't you feel like a yutz?
ST. CHARLES LWANGA, PRAY FOR US. Yes, I know it's a day late. But he can still pray for us the other 364 days, you know. If you want a more timely martyr, look to St. Rutilius.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

HMMM, INTERESTING STATISTIC... While reading the indomitable Mark Shea's blog, I came across this link to the Straight Dope's debunking of the oft-cited 10,000 dead a year from illegal abortions pre-Roe statistic. Scrolling down, I found this interesting nugget:

For 1972, the last full year before Roe, the federal Centers for Disease Control reported that 39 women died due to illegal abortion. (The death total for all abortions, including legal ones, was 88.) That figure is low, thanks to underreporting, but in any case the number of deaths had been dropping sharply for the previous few years.

So, I understand that underreporting would probably drive down the illegal abortion numbers farther than the legal ones. But still: if we pretend the CDC numbers are good for a second, that means more women died from legal abortions in 1972 than from illegal ones.