Mansfield Fox

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

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Caesar's Bath

Here's a certain irony: after a few days spent pining for someone (anyone!) to tag me in the "Caesar's bath" game, when I finally got hit (by Will) I discovered that I had nothing to say. I mean, squa nuthin. Not a single idear. 'Twas ugly. (Hard to believe, I know.) So I've been pondering, and I think I've got a decent list. Enjoy.

Here's how the meme works: "List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can't really understand the fuss over. To use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), 'Nice. Nice. Not thrilling . . . but nice.'"

1: Sushi. This isn't as much of a problem now as it was in college, when I had a couple of genuinely sushi-mad friends, but I still don't really get it. Leave aside that seaweed, in which everything seems to be wrapped, is one of the foulest tasting substances known to man. Or that the raw fish itself is a slimy, disgusting mess. What bothers me is the radical-Luddite nature of the enterprise: the ability to make and control fire is one of the great human achievements. Why turn our back on it?

2: Tequila. I'm not anti- The Strong Stuff. And I'm not about to tell you an embarrassing story about That One Night in College. It's that I don't like eating or drinking things that taste bad. And tequila is the most aggressively bad-tasting consumable I've ever encountered. I'll happily join you for gin, vodka, whiskey, even rum if need be. But tequila shots? Why not just go lick the toilet?

3: Casino/Online Gambling. I actually sort of see the appeal of this. Having one time gambled at a casino, it was actually kind of fun. There's a real thrill in playing (what are for me) high stakes games, of a kind that can't be replicated in your friend's basement on a Wednesday night. That said, I don't see the appeal of becoming a casino or online gambling regular. Even if you're good (and playing a decent-odds game) and your winnings exceed your losses over time, a couple of unlucky nights in a row could set you back several hundred dollars. Which, when you're a law student living off of Saltines, Chinese food and Miller High Life, is a serious hit. But maybe I'm just a wimp.

4: BAR. The house beers are lousy. The pizza's only palatable compared to the house beer. It's always sardine-packed with snobby undergrads and scandalously clad townies (and vice-versa). The dollar drink specials only last for an hour and a half, one day a week, and, as I've pointed out, you're paying a dollar for beer that, in a sane world, people wouldn't drink for free. It's impossible to get served at the bar, the bathrooms are disgusting, and the coat-check room is a disaster. And yet, somehow, people like the place, and I keep getting sucked back in.

5: Vacations. Lots of people like to travel. I do not. Vacations are expensive, they're stressful, people always want to go places where fair-skinned people like me get sunburnt. If I have a couple days free from responsibility I like to stay at home, sleep in, watch TV or read. For activities, maybe go see a movie or take a walk around the city. I'm not anti-vacation, per se. I'll go someplace distant for a sufficiently compelling reason: to see a friend or a historical/cultural site (I'd love to see Rome), or (when I was younger) to evade the nation's drinking age. I just don't understand the idea that travel qua travel is a good thing.

And now, to pass Ye Baton: among law students, I'd like to hear what Death, Action J and The Brainerd have to complain about. And in an attempt to launch the meme out of the law students orbit into which it seems to have fallen, I'm going to try (and probably fail) to pass it to Zorak the Embittered Mantis, Eve Tushnet (the Great Generatrix of Memes Past herself) and Justin Torres of The Thing Is....

UPDATE: Ha! Victory!

UPDATE AGAIN: Double-plus victory! But who can really dislike Chinese food? (Obviously, the stuff she's getting is insufficiently cheap and MSG-laden. - ed.) Since when does this blog have an editor?

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Went to see "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" yesterday. It was good, and enjoyable, but not "excellent" or "earth-shattering" or anything. (Ironically, or perhaps not, this is basically how I feel about the book.) The director did a good job capturing the spirit of the books while crafting an at least semi-linear plot around which a conventional movie could be built. (I hadn't realized just how much of a plotless picaresque the book was until I saw how much you had to change to make it into a straightforward A -> B -> C movie.)

Other assorted thoughts: I continue to be impressed by Mos Def's acting abilities, but he's kind of hit-or-miss as Ford Prefect. (Though he should really stay away from Suzan Lori-Parks: all her plays are the same f***ing play!) Martin Freeman was perfectly cast as Arthur Dent, and was quite funny. I've never seen "The Office", which I now see is something I'll have to remedy. That Zooey Deschanel, she really boils my potato, let me tell you.

After the movie we went to Wal*Mart. Ahh, Wal*Mart: I get a tingly feeling in the base of my spine whenever I'm near you. I know they treat their employees poorly and most of their merchandise is manufactured by Chinese slave labor, but...but... (Somehow, "everybody does it" doesn't seem like an adequate defense.) Bracketing ethical questions for a moment, the place is unbelievable. Where else can you get a sandwedge, a 16-quart bag of potting soil, ping-pong balls, gummi Life Savers, and a pocket watch (not all purchased by me - try to guess which ones were!) in 20 minutes of shopping? It's like the mutant offspring of a cornucopia and an Arabian bazaar. I love you Wal*Mart, even if you are evil.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Last of the Old Guard Has Fallen.

Has anyone else noticed that Kausfiles has started putting permalinks on selected posts?

British Exam-Grading Outsourced to India

This would have a fruitful solution to the Yale grad students strike if it had gone on much longer. (It seems to have fizzled out without any resolution. Aren't strikes supposed to keep going until one side cracks?)

Shaggy Chic

The Times catches on to something some of us have known for years.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Overheard in BizOrgs

"1993. Who was president then? Carter?"

Being a Yale Law professor means never having to say you're sorry.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I Think That's a "Let".

Nothing surreal about this photo. Nothing at all.

(via OxBlog)

A Long Time Ago, in a Curia Far, Far Away

Bene-Dict. That's a name I haven't heard in a long time... a long time...

The Pope: all that stands between us and a Sith takeover.

UPDATE: But where does Darth Sibley stand?

"Why is General Guderian Hurling His Feces?"

This is so cool.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Soviet victory in World War II a circus show will dress monkeys as Nazis and have them act in wartime stories, NewsRu reports.

The director of the Yekaterinburg circus, Anatoly Marchevsky, said he opted for monkeys to represent Nazis because it was easy to design costumes for them.

“You can not dress a horse like a Nazi,” he told the UralPolit.Ru website.
Looks as if Homer has been recognized as the Chosen One of the Slavic branch of the Stonecutters.

(via The Shrine)

Shut Up You Face

Yes: my posts-per day rate has shot up today.

and yes: this is because I'm procrastinating.

and yes: I hate you.

It's Like Staring into a Mirror...

...and vomiting all over your shirt.

Via the American Scene (why aren't you reading that, by the way? tut, tut) I see this savaging of the social skills of lawyers and law students, based off of a New York Times "Wedding & Celebration Announcements".

Anyone who knows me knows I'm like a Greek demigod of social awkwardness (my father Zeus appeared to my mother in the form of a poorly thought-out "Yo Mama" joke, and took her in rapine). I like to make a game of it: see how many utterly mortifying things I can do in a day, and then try to break my own record. I'm like the U.N. of embarrassment: I've made a fool of myself lamely hitting on women of every race, creed, color, age, etc. (Seriously.) So the description of Law School Social Retardation (LSSR) fits me to a T.

I wonder: do other law school bloggers find the same is true of them? If so, do they think law school creates LSSR in people, or that it attracts people already suffering from social retardation and merely incubates it into full-blown LSSR? I've been socially retarded pretty much since birth, but I imagine at least some people came to law school as basically functional human beings, only to get turned. Will? Death? Action J? Any thoughts?

By the way, once I can figure out a category into which to squeeze it, the wedding announcement blog, Veiled Conceit, is going up onto the blogroll. Pure. Comedy. Gold.

In Case You'd Forgotten I'm a Law Student...

Frustrating: there's a gap between when HeinOnline stops having copies of the Georgetown Law Journal (1990) and when starts having them (Nov. 1997). Into that gap has fallen a McNollgast article that would be useful (though I suppose it's not necessary) for my Substantial. And, of course, all the hard copies have been checked out, probably by someone else in my class writing on a similar subject. Why dost thou mock me, O Georgetown Law Journal?!? Why!?!

UPDATE: [Slaps forehead in self-disgust] Yes, Westlaw will do just fine. Thanks Will.

Will This At Least Remain Taboo?

That last post was a little angry in tone, so I thought I'd take it down a notch and just observe that I think the case of the Trafford Two is a meaningful "gut-check" moment for the culture. Do we throw the book at these two, if only to prove to ourselves that there are still some kinds of old-time sexual immorality we simply won't tolerate? Or do we begin talking ourselves into the notion that incest really isn't so bad, that our feelings against it are just irrational biases based on antiquated religious taboos, that consinguaneosexuality is just another alternative lifestyle, that some people are just born that way, etc. (Perhaps Shelby Spong can make an appearance to suggest that the Bible doesn't really condemn incest - you have to understand the story of Lot's daughters correctly you see, plus the first few generations of man were all what we'd consider today to be incestuous - and that the current taboo against the practice is a Medieval - or perhaps Constantinian - corruption.) See this post by Father Tucker (and especially the article to which he links, for some sense as to how the normalization of consanguineous marriage and incest might progress.

Hmmm... looking back, this post wasn't notably less angry than the first. Shorter though, and that's something.

Who Are We to Judge?

Just another alternative lifestyle:
A brother and sister were arrested on felony incest charges after the man's wife called sheriff's deputies, who allegedly caught the siblings having sex.
They are being held on $50,000 bond each. If convicted, the couple could face up to 10 years in prison.

I'm pointing this out partially to be cheeky, but also because I think this ought to be a genuinely difficult issue for people who think Lawrence v Texas was good law and/or good policy. On what ground, precisely, do we intend to justify sending these people to prison for 10 years? It can't be that the people of Alabama find incest immoral, since Lawrence seems to foreclose the possibility of morals legislation, at least in the area of regulating sexual activity.

There's also a public health / eugenics rationale - children of incestuous couplings have an increased chance of genetic disorders - but that's always struck me as a fairly thin justification onto which to hang so heavy a punishment. As I understand it, the risks of genetic anomalies from a single instance of inbreeding are really quite slight (the real problem comes from sustained inbreeding over time, as among the European royal houses).

Plus, anyway, if that were our rationale, the law would be both over- and under-broad. There are lots of non-incestuous couples whose mating will nevertheless produce children that suffer from genetic disorders, but we don't have a national system of screening to detect them, nor do we forbid such couples, where we do know them to exist, to reproduce, let alone to have sexual intercourse.

Moreover, there are lots of incestuous pairings that don't produce offspring with genetic disorders. The sister in question, for instance, was 41, and (I presume based on her age) unlikely to be able to conceive without assistance from medical science. Many other people have been artificially sterilized. Among those who haven't, contraceptive use is widespread, and the availability of abortion provides a final backstop.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: I don't think incest creates a substantial public health issue, and even if it does there are substantially less restrictive means of dealing with it than handing out felony convictions and 10-year prison sentences. Or, to put it differently: in order to combat a theoretical possibility of a slightly increased rate of hemophilia two or three generations hence, we're going to bring down the whole power of the state on two actual people, with hopes and dreams, which we're planning to crush so as decrease, 40 years on, the marginal rate of diseases that will probably be treatable by then.

Of course, what's really happening is that the anti-incest laws are, in fact, morals legislation, and all the purportedly neutral, scientific justifications for the law are just things we've talked ourselves into because we no longer feel comfortable legislating on the basis of right and wrong. Most of us (at least those of us in the elite, policy-making class that rules the country, though by now I suspect this is true of most ordinary Americans as well) know people who identify as actively homosexual (that is, attracted to members of their own sex and engaging in - or at least desiring to engage in - sexual intercourse with such persons) and as such we no longer feel comfortable treating intragender sodomy as a felony that ought to be punished. (While there are many people - such as Justice Scalia or, say, me - who'd still feel comfortable with such laws being on the books, I think the number of people who'd support vigorous, dragnet-style enforcement of such laws is vanishingly small.) On the other hand, virtually nobody knows anyone who's (openly at least) interested in engaging in sexual intercourse with their sibling. As such, it continues to be easier to treat consanguineosexuals as weird, dangerous outsiders it's legitimate to demonize and punish, and to talk ourselves into all kinds of implausible, scientific-seeming reasons for it.

Free the Trafford Two!

(original link via Best of the Web)

We Can Dream, Can't We?

From a piece on the debate over replacing the artifact-based measure of the kilogram with a definition based on a natural phenomenon, linked to by Old Oligarch:
"A meteor could strike Paris - destroying the prototype," Mohr pointed out. "The watt balance can always be recreated."
The collapse of the metric system and the gruesome death of millions of Frenchmen? My birthday will come early that year.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Modest Proposal

All law professors (or, at least, all Yale Law professors - I can't speak to the problems of other schools) should have electronic chips implanted at the base of their necks that flood their bodies with pain if they hold class late. The pain should be mild at first, like the feeling of stubbing a toe, but it should increase exponentially (so they can't get used to it) over the period of about a minute until it becomes utterly unbearable. I know it sounds cruel, but it's the only way they'll learn.

This isn't directed at anyone in particular. Really.

How Do You Afford Your Rock'n'Roll Lifestyle?

Deft use of sales and the SuperSaver discount at, mostly.

To re-make a point that was controversial when I made it in college: in terms of consistency and quality of output, Cake is arguably the best, and certainly top five, of the rock acts of the last 10 years. I haven't had the chance to hear their most recent album, Pressure Chief, yet, but their earlier stuff is really quite amazing. They released four albums in 7 years (1994-2001) with not a single crappy track - not everything is genius, but you never find yourself reaching for the "skip" button. That's no small achievement in this day and age. Plus they've managed to maintain a consistent sound in an era of rapidly shifting genres, while still experimenting and never repeating themselves artistically. I don't think this will be any more persuasive now than it was when I made it back in the Spring of '03, but I wanted to put it out there.

I know Geoff Bough doesn't read this blog anymore (he skipped town when things got too Ultramontane around here - made me very sad, actually) but this post was kind of for him. We miss you, buddy.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Cassocks and Headlocks

Catholic priest by day, masked Mexican wrestler by night.

Soon to be a major motion picture staring Jack Black.

(via A Saintly Salmagundi)

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Blogging Hits the Big Time: Nihil Obstat Edition

I think St Blogs has officially hit the big time: one of our own just got a shout-out at Mass at St Mary's. Just before the concluding blessing, Fr Confer stopped to speak briefly about the election of His Holiness Benedict XVI. He advised the congregation to take what they were hearing with a substantial grain of salt, that much of it was unsubstantiated and calumny. He advised us to visit the Ratzinger Fan Club, which has lots of links to the Pope's written works and interviews, and to read them so as to get to know il Papa, "rather than trust what [we] read in the New York Times." That is so cool. I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard it, and I got the biggest, stupidest grin on my face that I couldn't shake practically until the end of the recessional. I've never been prouder to be a blogger. (Now, if we can only get the Dominican community of the Elm City to start blogging, we'll be all set.)

(And if you don't trust me - and why should you? - I'm fully prepared to call Eve Tushnet and Cacciaguida as witnesses. They was there too. They was!)

UPDATE: The same story is told more eloquently and concisely by a ruggedly handsome commenter at Open Book here. Heh, indeed.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Pope Benedict Knows About His Fan Club

He was once presented with a t-shirt. Read about his reaction here. That is so cool.

Friday, April 22, 2005

A Bleak Day for Man, Monster, Munchie

As my regular readers will recall, I have a fondness for discussing the metaphysics of Cookie Monster, which makes this development very saddening news for me. "Cookie is a sometimes food," my ass!

Mmmmmmmmm..... Dwarf......

Connecticut and Civil Unions

So my current home state approved same-sex civil unions on Wednesday, making it the first state to do so not under a court order of some kind. This is a major, though not unexpected, defeat for the forces of social conservatism, equal, I think, to the victories we had at the polls last fall.

What's astonishing, though, is how thin the discourse on this issue has been. The Marriage Debate blog has just one post on the subject, and it's a link to a news article. Ditto Family Scholars. Our conservative friends to the east, Anchor Rising and Dust in the Light mention it not at all. The big dogs in the fight, like the Corner, have been basically silent on this issue. Indeed, the only blog that seems to be covering this with any degree of thoroughness is Connecticut in the Crosshairs, the blog of the Family Institute of Connecticut ACTION group.

Now, I'm not a big "tell other people what to blog about" kind of guy, but I do think the widespread silence (including, I must say, on my part up until now) is telling of a couple of things. One is how far the discourse has shifted over the past five years. In an effort to fend off gay marriage, conservatives have on occasion found themselves advocating as a compromise position something (civil unions - that is, marriage in all but name) that just five years ago seemed extraordinarily radical. I think this is a bad course of action morally, strategically and tactically, but it's nonetheless the one that many, including sometimes the President, have chosen to take.

The other thing is the risk of tying ourselves too tightly to the anti-judicial activism issue, or indeed any process issue. Most of the early gay marriage / civil unions cases - in Hawai'i, Vermont and Massachusetts - have emerged out of lawsuits. It was easy then to attack gay marriage as just another example of judicial imperialism in the Roe v. Wade tradition. Others, in New York and California, involved local executive officials issuing marriage licenses in violation of state law, which could again be objected to on procedural grounds.

But as anti-gay marriage forces were making their procedural (that is: who decides and how?) objections, they lost out on an opportunity to make and hone their substantive objections. This is, in some sense, the mirror opposite of the liberal dependence on activist judges to enact their agenda. Social conservatives became too dependent on simply decrying judicial activism as a way of attacking the liberal agenda, which meant that, when liberals made their move in a non-judicial forum conservatives were left, to put it mildly, flat-footed. Having ceded so much, what serious attack was there left for us to make on this issue? As William at Southern Appeal pointed out, at least they did it through ordinary democratic processes.

So what is to be done? Sadly, probably not much. We can try to throw out those who voted for the measure and elect new legislators who will repeal the civil unions bill. But in a heavily Democratic state whose Republicans are all social liberals, that seems an unlikely possibility. So I suspect, for the time being at least, that we'll just have to live with it. The important thing, I think, is the long term thing: we have to get to work building a healthy society, one built on the twin pillars of Centesimus Annus and Evangelium Vitae. That's our best hope. The law is important, because the law is a teacher, but it remains largely an epiphenomenon of culture. Fix the culture, and the law will follow.

Speaking of Centesimus Annus, I was recently at a lecture on Catholic social teaching by one of the heads of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice institute in Rome, and one of the audience members made an interesting point vis a vis Connecticut: although she's one of the most Catholic states in the country, she manifests to a remarkable extent many of the ills against which Catholic social teaching warns. The state features extremes of wealth and poverty (Greenwich and Bridgeport, for instance). It's apparently one of the few states with a rising abortion rate. And now it's hopped onto the train to gay marriage. A reminder, I guess, that being "Catholic" isn't enough, and of the need for vigorous re-evangelization within the Church Herself. St Charles Borromeo, pray for us!

New (to Me) Evangelical Blog

A Latino/Evangelical friend of mine directed me yesterday to this site, Evangelical Outpost. How awesome is it? (Rhetorical question.) At any rate, definitely permalink-worthy.

The post that won me over was this one in which he sets forth his theory of good sex (as opposed to "industrial sex"). I don't know if the author has read any of John Paul II's writings on sex, but their ideas are remarkably similar. It's basically the Theology of the Body, with the Pill grafted on. So close, and yet so far.

"Why are camels called the ships of the desert?"

Something just happened to me. And it was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay cooler than getting shotgun ahead of Judge Jose Cabranes. But, in the interest of decorum, that's all I can say about that.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Will The "Enforcer" Meme Continue?

When the new English translation of the missal (the one that actually tries to stick close to the Latin) comes out, is it going to be painted as Nasty Old Pope Benedict cracking the whip on innocent l'il AmChurch, even though the thing's been in the works for a few years now?

Am I the only one imaging Boston-style sit-ins and other protests as people refuse to give up their beloved old liturgy, with its "We believe"s and "and also with you"s? I mean, it's hard enough to get the congregation to stand when they say, "May the Lord accept these gifts....", and darn near impossible to get people to bow during the "by the power of the Holy Spirit was born of the Virgin Mary and became man" portion of the Creed. Does anyone really think American Catholics are going to learn a bunch of new responses without extreme difficulty? And that, when the hierarchy tries to make sure the new words are actually being used, it'll be seen as harsh Roman tyranny?

All Your Base Are Belong to Ratzinger

To Those Disappointed

This is not a nyah-nyah post. Although I'm obviously elated at the election of Pope Benedict, many people, including many of my friends Catholic and non-, aren't, to put it mildly. And this makes me sad, because I hate to see people suffering at what seems to me such a joyous occasion.

And yet, I suppose such pains are necessary. The people who are mourning the election of Pope Benedict are doing so, I think, because they've pinned their hopes on any number of doctrinal changes that, to be honest, aren't going to happen. There are never going to be female priests or deacons; the Church is never going to give the OK to contraception, abortion or divorce; the Pope will always be the infallible (when ex cathedra) head of the Church; etc.

None of these things were ever going to change. But many people have talked themselves into believing that they might. If only the papacy could be wrested from the hands of the hidebound conservatives, the true spirit of the Second Vatican Council would be unleashed and a truly modern Church could emerge. So hopes were pinned on each conclave, that a liberal pope would emerge (or at least a moderate who would appoint liberal cardinals, setting the stage for the future election of a liberal). Surely, Paul VI and then John Paul II were just aberrations.

Except: it's now been 40 years since the Second Vatican Council ended. In that span, there have been four popes. One reigned for 33 days, and whatever legacy he would have had is largely unknowable. The remaining three - Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI - were all hidebound conservatives, if that term means saying no to women's ordination, upholding the Church's teachings on sexual morality and marriage, etc. And, all three were actually participants, of one or another kind, in the Council. There's some point where one has to ask whether what these men taught - rather than, say, what Fr. Richard McBrien thinks - represents the authentic "spirit" of the Council.

I'm being typically circumlocutious here, so I'll try to be more direct.

Look, the next conclave may result in the election of a liberal, but I doubt it. Ditto the conclave after that, and so-on, unto the ending of the world. If the only thing that's keeping you Catholic is the belief that if you just hold on long enough Holy Mother Church will come around to your way of thinking on any of the issues outlined above, you are, I think, bound to be sorely disappointed, just as you were with the election of Cardinal Ratzinger, again and again.

This is not, however, an invitation for you to leave the Church. Schism and separation are the great tragedy of the last millennium of Christian life; I could never encourage more. Rather, it's an invitation to think about what you do believe, to reflect more deeply on what's actually keeping you in the Church, and to build on that.

My own life has not been without some difficulty understanding and accepting some of the teachings of the Church. My being an American male in his 20s, you won't be shocked to hear it was mostly sexual morality issues, though I also had difficulties with the sacrament of confession and the whole scheme of salvation (I was a bit of a universalist in my day). I basically knew that what I believed didn't mesh with what the Church taught, but like most American Catholics, I "lived with the contradiction". (Oddly, though, I never considered myself a "cafeteria" Catholic - funny how the mind works.)

Even as I was readying to come fully back into the fold, I still didn't understand everything (for example, the ban on contraception) I was preparing to accept. (I understand it now intuitively, but still have a hard time explaining it.) What I did understand, though, was what I thought about the Church as a whole: that it was the same entity that Christ had established on earth, that He promised to protect it, and that the Holy Spirit would prevent it from ever teaching error. Since I believed these things, I could accept doctrines I didn't understand, even doctrines to which, in some sense, I objected. Because I understood that the problem was with me and my understanding, rather than with the Church's teachings.

I understand that this all seems a cold comfort to those disappointed by the election of Pope Benedict. It is, however, meant sincerely. I want us all to be Catholics again, united in love of one another, and of the Holy Mother Church, and of God Himself, as when we were children, before ideology and lifestyle slithered into the garden to sow discord.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The A to Z of a Benedictine Pontificate

Here. (scroll down)

"(Stunned Silence)"

The prize for best Ratzinger-election reaction goes to Old Oligarch:
Yes, Virginia, there is a Paraclete.
Viva Benedictus!

"Peter, Do You Love Me More Than These?"

Was it just a coincidence that today's Gospel was the "feed my sheep" passage from John chapter 10, one of the points in which Christ establishes the primacy of Peter amongst the Apostles?

Where Were You When the Bells Rang?

I was in my Federal Income Tax class.

I had gotten to class a few minutes early, as is my wont, and was settling in when I saw a friend of mine (also a fellow St Mary's parishioner) watching a streaming video on his laptop a few rows ahead of me. I went down intending some good-natured ribbing, figuring that he was just obsessively watching Sistine Chapel smoke stack on the Vatican-cam. It was only when I got closer that I realized that what he was actually watching was the pealing of the bells of St Peter's, and the plume of white smoke, signifying the election of a new pope. I felt kind of like a dumbass, but was mostly overjoyed.

Before class started, another of the Catholic students (salt of the earth, light of the world, etc) alerted Professor Alstott to what had happened and asked if we could take our mid-class break not at 1:00 pm when we usually take it but whenever the Urbi et Orbi speech was delivered. She assented (what difference does it make to her?) and assigned the first student (let's call him Nick Salazar, since that's his name) to be her designated pope-watcher.

So class progressed, much as it ever does, discussing the intractability of the marriage penalty in a system of progressive taxation. Then, when the pope was about to speak, we broke. We shuffled into the student lounge where we listened to the Urbi et Orbi speech. (I'm told there were boos there when the Cardinal's selection was announced; it wouldn't surprise me, but everyone was very well mannered when I arrived.) It was a moving experience, and a typically eloquent Ratzinger speech (I'm beginning to understand a disturbing amount of Italian and spoken Church Latin), though His Holiness does still seem somewhat under the weather.

When it was all over, we returned for the second half of class. Not long thereafter (indeed, quite shortly thereafter) I was called on to discuss the case of Earl v. Commissioner. I can now say truthfully: if one must be put on the spot in front of 130-odd Yale Law tax students, it's best to do so just after having been blessed by the pope. It really takes a great deal of the pressure off. I wound up speaking, on and off, for close to a half hour, and all of it, I understand, fairly coherent. All thanks to good Pope Benedict XVI, I imagine. So bully, I say.

Anyway, that's the closest I can come to an amusing story surrounding the Holy Father's election. Thereafter I had another class (Theories of Statutory Interpretation, which featured some shmeh jokes about the pope's age) then came home, put on long pants, went to Mass (where I saw the Salazars again...they're everywhere...), went to the Yale Federalist Society's leadership election (congratulations Josh Hawley, our new president), and then from there to trivia night at Anna Liffey's, where I was supposed to be the missing piece that put my team over the top. Instead, I was the piece that got us tantalizingly close to the money, but just not. I actually probably cost the team more points than I earned it, by talking down to correct answers in the final, double-points round in favor of plausible, but wrong, ones. So we finished fourth, narrowly trailing the third place team (and the cash). It's clear the team needs a fourth, someone with brains, a level head and an encyclopedic knowledge of 80s pop music (our team's Achilles heel). I would suggest Eve Tushnet but a) I don't know her, and b) it seems like she'd have an awfully long commute for a fairly modest cash prize. And so, the search continues....

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus Papam

Pope Benedict XVI. Sweet.

I've Been Out of the Loop All Day...

...Did anything interesting happen? (kidding, kidding)

It Does Know. Creepy.

You Are 25 Years Old


Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

(via Old Oligarch)

Monday, April 18, 2005

Message Received

The Boss sends a not-so-coded message scolding his team for underperforming. The Yankees respond by scoring 19 runs (13 in one inning) in a victory (admittedly: at home, against the Devil Rays).

Would it have been preferable if Jaret Wright hadn't have given up 8 runs in 5 1/3 innings? Yes. But lets take this one step at a time, people.

Who Says I'm Not for Diversity in the Church?

My last post notwithstanding, I took some time today to watch parts of the Solemn Mass for the Election of the Supreme Pontiff and the entrance of the cardinals into the Sistine Chapel on EWTN. Both were very moving; as much as I curse the modern world sometimes, it's a tremendous honor that, through the wonders of technology, I can witness these historic moments without having to leave my couch.

Amidst the solemnity, there's also some comedy, a sign, I think, of the real human-ness of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I am referring, of course to the tremendous sight of Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, Archbishop of Lviv and Primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, as he waddles along in the various processions of cardinals. The cardinal seems the kind of man for whom the expression "short and stout" was created - he looks to be about 5'2", 240 lbs, though the effect may be exaggerated by the bulkiness of his vestments - and sways rhythmically from side to side as he processes. When this is combined with his great white beard and crown, Cardinal Husar cuts a very distinctive figure among the generally slim, clean-shaven Latin cardinals, moving directly forward in their red vestments and white mitres.

Another reason to pray for the reunification of the East and West.

Veni, Creator Spiritus

The Cardinals have entered the Conclave, and it's conceivable (though not likely) that we could have a new pope by this evening, Rome-time. I am now quite resolved to strenuously avoid all papabile speculation, since: a) I don't want to create a market for violating the secrecy of the Conclave, and b) following such speculation is bad for my mental health. I tend to take to this kind of stuff far too seriously, getting unduly attached to media-driven favorites (like Cardinals Arinze and Ratzinger) and becoming unduly fearful at the "moderate" candidates being pulled for by the media. It's not the liberals who are scaring me (though I'll admit that I almost had a heart attack when I read in one source that the ur-liberal Cardinal Martini had almost 50 votes lined up behind him) but those, like Tettamanzi or Hummes, put forth in the press as "compromise", anti-Ratzinger candidates. I've a certain instinctual distrust for anyone the New York Times and its ilk would support.

And yet: I'm sure that Cardinals Hummes and Tettamanzi are men of great holiness and wisdom, who could ably lead the Church. And the worst thing would be for me to develop a negative attitude towards whoever winds up pope, so that when he's announced I can do no more than roll my shoulders and say, eh, him? Okay... I don't want to get off on the wrong foot with the next pope, so I'm saying goodbye to all this idle speculation.

Wake me when the smoke goes white.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Ahh, the Glories of the Welfare State

I would not have guessed this: seems that, adjusted for cost-of-living, the Scandanavian countries (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) are the poorest in Western Europe. Huh.

Filofax from the Div School Prom

My big activity for the weekend has been tending bar at the Divinity School spring formal. (I did the same last year. See here for a partial write-up.) It was a fun, if very hectic night. You try keeping 200 divinity students in beer and wine all by your lonesome, and we'll see if you don't break a sweat. That's what I thought.

The funniest part of the night was, obviously, when my roommate's fancy corkscrew exploded in my hands. (It was one of those lever-types that require virtually no strength to use.) After about the 30th bottle of wine or so, the device started to shake as I used it. Tiny vibrations within it were beginning to amplify cascading until, in the middle of uncorking a bottle of Chilean syrah, a load-bearing pin flew out, causing the clamping handle to disengage and rendering the whole device useless. Within five minutes I'd taken the thing apart, trying to jury-rig a traditional corkscrew out of the pieces, to no avail. Luckily, this was towards the end of the night, and we still had a few pre-opened bottles and a quarter of a keg of Rolling Rock left. But still, it was embarrassing to have to explain to the divinity students (who love their red wine, by the way) why there was no more. The truly important thing, though, is that the corkscrew, who'd been with us for almost three years, died in the line of duty, doing what he loved. Ave atque Vale, corkscrew. You will be missed.

The other amusing thing was the noticeably different reception I got this year. I've been hanging out at the Divinity School, or with Divinity School students, markedly less than last year, and so I'm much less well-known by the run-of-the-mill Div student. Last year, all but a handful of people knew at least that I was a Yale student rather than a hired caterer (though I did have an amusing encounter with the DJ, who presumed the latter). This year, on the other hand, I was an utterly unfamiliar face to the majority of the people there (and they to I) and so a much higher percentage of the party-goers simply assumed I was a hired hand. It's fascinating how differently people, even people who spend all day contemplating the things of Heaven, treat you when they imagine you're "staff".

Also, since you weren't there, you missed me doing my Donkey Kong impression. (It's basically just me hoisting the kicked keg over my head and grunting "Donkey-Kong, Donkey-Kong" in a gorilla voice. It's a classic bit.)

Tales from Behind the Firewall

So a friend of mine, who works for now as a teacher in a somewhat authoritarian/totalitarian (is that still considered a meaningful distinction?) foreign country (I'm trying, though probably failing, to be oblique as to the identity of both, since I don't want to be the proximate cause of him having electrodes attached to his gonads). He IMs me this morning with an amusing story.

Seems he teaches a "business English" class, the goal of which is equip his tutees with the English/negotiation skills to successfully bargain with their American counterparts. The texts are all American, and presume Western-style business situations, which clash somewhat with the culture of the country. The texts also include various role-playing scenarios.

The funny thing is that, because the scenarios are so Western, the students are afraid that if they do to well in them, they'll get in trouble with the Party, represented by a Party monitor who sits in on the class and whose principal duty (other than insuring that no subversive ideas are disseminated in the classroom) is to clean the blackboard.

There was one instance that he relates in which they were going to argue whether the jails should be privatized. None of his students would argue that they should. He attempted, he says, to explain that it was just a game, and assigned teams, but they still refused to argue it. A bright 18-year old offered to argue the point, but one of his elders stopped him and warned him it wouldn't be smart.

Ahh, totalitarianism: it's a laugh riot.

Anyway, in order to make his class not a total bust, he's in the process of rewriting his scenarios to make them more compatible with the local culture. I'm told there's a swamp named after me in one: the Angusglades Municipal Swamp. Frankly I'm touched.

In Which Sacrilege is Repented Of

Seems that the fella who was auctioning off a consecrated host over eBay has repented and returned it to his diocese, by whom it has been properly disposed of. Thank God.

Says Who He's God's Rottweiler?

Publius of Res Publica &c. has done some interesting research that seems to suggest that "God's Rottweiler" is not a longstanding Cardinal Ratzinger nickname, and that he's only been called that (in public at least) since John Paul II's death. Fascinating.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

What Does a Feeding Tube Look Like?

The Extreme Catholic Patrick Sweeney has up a picture of that hoary, invasive medical device whose very presence is so demeaning that ninety-bazillion percent of Americans would rather starve to death than be stuck with one: the feeding tube.

Yea, verily, she seems a terror.

Death, Taxes and Death-Taxes

Super-genius Will Baude (which I recently discovered is pronounced "bow'd" rather than "baw'd", as I'd believed for the past 10 months) suggests eliminating the step-up in basis for property at death as a viable alternative to bringing back the estate tax.

I think that's a sound policy idea, but: public opposition to the estate tax and support for the step-up in basis (well, the public would support it if they knew about it) aren't grounded in the desire for a pure Haig-Simons income tax, or any interest in sound policy at all. They're all about that basic human emotion, the fear of death. The death of a close relative is, to put it mildly, an unpleasant experience, and I think it's seen as undue cruelty to pile on taxes, or at least a future increase in tax liability, at that moment as well. That the whole thing functions as a massive subsidy for inherited wealth is, I think, secondary.

Friday, April 15, 2005

"What's in the Box?"

Ratzinger: Where Did This Come From?

Almost all of a sudden, our beloved Cardinal Ratzinger, feared doctrinal enforcer and Robert Blake look-alike, seems to have rocketed to the top of the papabile charts, surpassing previous favorites Cardinals Arinze and Tettamanzi. Tonight two people, one a non-Catholic and the other a semi-practicing one, independently asked me what I thought of this development. I had to admit I had heard nothing of it, but that I was still dubious, since I remain convinced that the good Panzerkardinal is simply too widely feared and disliked to assume the throne of Peter. Surely there enough other cardinals with the right combination of holiness, intellect and orthodoxy who aren't quite such lightning rods.

I still basically think that all this speculation is at base idle, and trust entirely that the Holy Spirit will provide us with the man we need. I'd certainly be pleased as punch if Ratzinger were to become pope; the biggest downside, as far as I can see, is that the fan club will have to change its name and URL.

One, err, interesting perspective on the coming conclave is here. It describes a three-fold split in the College of Cardinals, with Ratzinger at the head of the "neoconservative" wing. I'm surprised they didn't try to insinuate that Ratzinger is Jewish, or paint him as secretly behind the invasion of Iraq. Seriously: I understand the idea that Ratzinger is a "conservative" in the College, but what, precisely, is "neo-" about him? Is it because, as one of the major players of Vatican II, he's considered a "former liberal", like many prominent American neocons? Or maybe it's just that he has a vaguely sinister look (and, I must admit, he does) and isn't especially liked by the authors of the piece.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

One-Armed Man Still on the Loose

The Many Nicknames of Cardinal Ratzinger

God's Rottweiler, John Paul III, Cardinal No, Panzerkardinal, The Enforcer

At Curt Jester

(Although, doesn't Panzerkardinal mean "Pather-Cardinal" rather than "Iron-Cardinal"? Wouldn't that be Eisenkardinal?)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"He's More Machine than Priest Now."

That's Incredible!

Orthodoxy Reasserts Itself

There was a fascinating moment in my Corporations class yesterday, a thirty-second span in which one could almost see the left-orthodoxy of Yale Law, challenged, reassert itself with terrible might.

We were discussing the mandatory accountant rotation provision of Sarbanes-Oxley (briefly: no one accountant can work for the same corporation for more than five years consecutively) and the professor was criticizing the provision as probably useless, since rotated-in accountants would still be eager to please their bosses, and you might inadvertently rotate out hard-nosed diligent accountants in favor of chummy, lax ones. One of the students (a male 1L) countered that the provision still had some anti-capture value, in that it would decrease long-term socialization effects (accountants' families wouldn't be going to corporate picnics for 10, 15 years, etc). (It wasn't an especially insightful comment, but that's not the point.) What got the poor boy in trouble, though, and shook the philosophic foundations of the Yale Law School to its core, was how he phrased his point. He referenced: "accountants' lives, their wives' lives, their kids' lives...."

This, you see, was a bridge too far. A faint hiss went out from the classroom, followed by people, not whispering nor shouting but both (shouspering?) "...or their husbands' lives...." For you see, in one (I assume) inadvertent turn of phrase, he had committed a cardinal sin: he had failed in his duty to always speak in a gender-neutral manner. (It's the same rule that requires that in all examples where the person is generic, or their gender is unknown, the female pronoun must be used.) His words had implied, or could have been construed to imply, that accountants are men. We know, in fact, that women can be accountants, and that if we fail to constantly affirm this the forces of counterrevolution, waiting over the border, will swoop back in armed with coat-hangers and corsets.

So class came to a halt for a moment as the professor tried to figure out what was going on. The student, who is - I believe - a conservative or libertarian, said, "Oh, that Yale Law," before accepting his fate and adding the "or their husbands' lives," to his comment. And thus, order was restored to the universe, and everyone was able to get back to their primary business: not understanding Sarbanes-Oxley.

I'm going to remember this story, I think, whenever anyone tells me that the big problem liberals have is that they're too nice, and too unwilling to judge other people. I probably won't share it, but at least I'll have a nice chuckle.

The meta-ironic twist at the end of the story is this: it wasn't until this morning that I realized that the shouspering faction in the class were themselves engaging in a 21st Century academic thought-crime. You see, they were presuming that anyone married to a "wife" was necessarily a "husband", and that "husbands" were male, and from there the assertion that accountants are male, and thus the thought-crime of non-gender-neutrality. But that line of reasoning itself contains a thought-crime: the thought-crime of heteronormativity. What reason do we have to presume that wives aren't married to other wives? Perhaps the accountants of the example were lesbians? To assume that anyone with a wife must be a male husband reeks of the kind of heteronormative bias for which Jada Pinkett Smith was recently denounced. You heard it here first, folks: Yale Law School is a den of heteronormative bigots.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

"And in this Corner..."

doo-doo-doo doo-doo-doo-doo
doo-doo-doo doo-doo-doo-doo
doo-doo-doo Gamerah!

It's the Giant Monster Battle.

For all your giant monster battling needs.

Bowling v. Homework
Yankees v. Red Sox
My Doomsday Device v. Yale Undergrads
Chimpanzees v. Law Students

And today's top battle.

The Ultimate Litigant

Monday, April 11, 2005

Where Death Goes, I Must Follow

It's another internet meme!

Quoth Lady Death:

A new book meme circulating around the sphere is going by the name “123.5,” and its rules are these:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

"All the other scientific expressions you are in the habit of using at breakfast are words and wind."

- from G.K. Chesterton, by Michael Ffinch (The text is a quote from a Chesterton article in the Daily News of 12 December 1903.)

This Work Yet Falls to Us

The following people were never pope: St Matthew, St Mark, St Luke, St John the Evangelist, St John the Baptist, St Paul, St Jude, St Andrew, St Augustine, St Anselm, St Athanasius, St Ambrose, St Bonaventure, St Cyril of Jerusalem, St Cyril of Alexandria, St John Chrysostom, St John Damascene, St Jerome, St Bernard, St Martin, St Francis of Assisi, St Dominic, St Albertus Magnus, St Thomas Aquinas, St Teresa of Avila, St Clare of Assisi, St Rose of Lima, St Bernadette, St Therese, St Francis de Sales, St Francis Xavier, St Ignatius Loyola, St Thomas a Becket, St Thomas More, Blessed Cardinal Newman, St Elizabeth Ann Seton, St Pio de Pietrelcina, the Children of Fatima, St Faustina, St Theresa of Calcutta, Venerable Solanus Casey, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, and so-on and so-on.

What was the point of that extended exercise in name-dropping? It's my way of seconding a point the indispensable Amy Welborn (who by now has surely had "the indispensable" welded onto her first name) made yesterday:
It's okay that we'll all be speculating and expressing our hopes over the next week, and giving voice to our senses of what the Church needs, and how the next pontificate could and should build on this one is interesting and helpful for all of us. I have my views - expressed here - on a couple of issues I think are quite important, and there are many more. But these issues and discussions on the state of the Church are only useful insofar as they prompt us to action. Are we concerned about the state of catechesis? Then get out there and catechize. Are we concerned about the challenges of spirituality in a materialistic culture? Then get out there and live it.
(Emphasis added.) Who the next pope is matters, and we should all be praying that the Holy Spirit, through the cardinals, gives us the shepherd we need. But the pope isn't some kind of superman who can fix all the problems of the Church, or the world, simply through an exertion of his will. Over the long millennia, the work of building, and sustaining, and renewing the Church has largely fallen on those who do not hold The Keys. So will it be in the future. So pray for a good shepherd, but know that to us, the sheep, still falls much of the work.

Liturgy on the Road to Emmaus

Cognoverunt discipuli Dominum Jesum in fractione panis.

One of the real treasures that blogging has brought me is the ability to get multiple homilies every Sunday. Not that I don't enjoy the homilies of my home parish. Indeed, the preaching at St Mary's is uniformly excellent, as befits the Ordo Praedicatorum. (I'm currently trying to figure out how to suggest that they start posting their homilies on the internet, either on a blog or on the website itself. Any canny suggestions would be welcome.) But the more the merrier, I say.

With that in mind, may I direct you to Father Jim Tucker's homily on this week's Gospel. He sees in the two ways Jesus makes himself known to the disciples as a foreshadowing of the liturgy of the Mass. There's a bunch of other good stuff in there as well. Please, go, read.

How Much Man Could a Man Date Date?

Imagine it: two men having dinner together, with absolutely no expectation of the exchange of bodily fluids. 'Cause they're just friends. Two straight friends, having dinner. Huh. What a strange, strange world the Times has discovered.

(via Dappled Things)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

“The next war will be an interplanetary war."

One of the most remarkable things about the American victory in the Second World War is that we did so with some real weirdos at the helm. Patton believed in reincarnation, and was convinced that he'd been a Roman legionnaire and a marshal in the armies of Napoleon. And now, I discover that MacArthur was concerned about alien invasion. Perhaps he'd read an early manuscript of this book.

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's a Website!

Just added to the sidebar: BlueTights.Net, the official website of the new Superman picture, "Superman Returns". Much like Kong is King, it features short video diaries from the set. A valuable addition to any fanboy's roster of procrastination aids. (hat tip: Ain't It Cool News)

Mass Starvation-Euthanasia in England

Rest assured, their deaths were natural, peaceful, painless and in accordance with their wishes. And anyone who tells you otherwise is a dangerous theocratic subversive. (via the Corner)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Constitution in 2020 @YLS

Eager to catch up on work (or, yesterday, to enjoy a grilled veggie kebab) I haven't been in attendance at this weekend's carnival of cargo cultism at "The" Law School. Despite my earlier statements that "conservatives ought to pay close attention to the Constitution in 2020 conference," I've found that, when the chips are down, I simply lack the intestinal fortitude to do so. Call me weak if you will, but with an as-yet-unwritten substantial hanging over my head like a soft-bound Sword of Damocles, I simply lack the time to sit around and listen to Sunstein, Ackerman, et al., give summaries of the last three books they've written.

If you want summaries of what's happening, may I recommend this one by the guys at Powerline, or maybe check out the conference's own blog. And, for a good summary of the idea inspiring all this nuttiness, read my friend Nick Stephanopoulos' YDN piece.

How Will You Remember the Pope?

I like this. (via the Shrine)

Le Pen to French: Reject EU Constitution

I know next to nothing about internal French politics, but I imagine this will do a great deal to increase the odds the French will vote to approve the EU constitution. After all, supporters of Le Pen's National Front were hardly going to vote for the constitution anyway; as I understand it, they're the French equivalent of Euroskeptics. And those outside the Le Pen coalition who are undecided with regard to the constitution may come to see opposition to it as a far-right movement, and vote for adoption just to avoid being linked with their country's xenophobic far-right.

The EU constitution, in other words, may have just gained a valuable enemy.

UPDATE: The article to which I linked includes this passage, which I think shows something of the cavernous gap between Europe and America:
Le Pen, who shocked the nation by qualifying for a one-on-one runoff against Chirac in presidential elections in 2002, has been convicted six times of racism or anti-Semitism.
In America, because we have a First Amendment, "racism" and "anti-Semitism" aren't, and can't be, independent crimes (although they can, I suppose, be aggravating factors that lead us to punish underlying crimes more severely). On the other hand, nobody with views like Le Pen's could get anywhere near the American presidency. (The closest thing we have is Pat Buchanan, and the best he's ever done is win a protest vote in the New Hampshire primary, once.) In France, obviously, the situation is reversed.

Law Schools Gaming the Admissions Process

"I feel as though my application fees have been stolen."

Basically the same thing happened to me two years ago when I was a humble law school applicant. I interpreted it in the same way - that schools were rejecting me because they figured I'd attend a higher-ranked institution - but was much less upset than the student in question seems to be.

This gaming - and that's obviously what's going on - doesn't bother me for the same reason that affirmative action in admissions doesn't bother me, even though I think colorblindness is an important principle: I've never thought admissions processes were fair. I don't imagine that, if we could just eliminate gaming, or affirmative action, or legacy preferences, or whatever, that we could achieve some kind of "pure" admissions system. There are too many qualified applicants for too few spots. Fallible humans still have to run it. And so on.

One more element of unfairness doesn't hurt anybody, especially since the victims are going elsewhere anyway.

(via Volokh)

Intellectual Property Law Madness

Death would be amused: French filmmaker sued for illegal use of "The Internationale," which is apparently still under copyright.

(via the Dawn Patrol)

Friday, April 08, 2005

JPII's Elvis Costello Impression

Father Ethan has up some funny pictures of John Paul II.

What Element Are You?


You scored 25 Mass, 17 Electronegativity, 76 Metal, and 0 Radioactivity!

Oooohaaaaah.... shiny! You probably have an incredibly stable and well-maintained group of friends... that probably also don't get out much either. You're not one to get bogged down by a problem. Of course, I'm basing this upon Chromium's ultra-low water-exchange constant and it 's corrosion-resistant properties, and I wouldn't be too surprised if the analogy doesn't even apply.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

You scored higher than 14% on Mass

You scored higher than 7% on Electroneg

You scored higher than 95% on Metal

You scored higher than 0% on Radioactivity

Via Zorak

Scenes from a Papal Funeral

My schedule, for the last 15-odd hours:

10:10pm - go to bed
10:30pm (ish) - go to sleep
3:31am - wake up, five minutes before alarm goes off. convince self I can sneak five more minutes of sleep
3:36am - alarm goes off. am incredibly groggy
3:42am - out the door, headed for law school
3:52am - arrive at law school. mysteriously, there are students there at that hour who aren't going to watch the papal funeral. who studies that hard?
4:00am - begin watching funeral on big screen tv in law school lounge, with small cadre (interestingly, all male*) of dedicated JPII fans.
7:00am - end papal funeral, head home
7:15am - arrive home. check and write emails. check and attempt to write blogs, but are blocked by Blogger server problems. mutter to self.
7:45am - back to sleep
12:00pm - awake for last time, refreshed, having had the dream where someone is squirting ketchup at me through the ventilation system. finally catch the wascally wabbit.

*Women: insufficiently dedicated? or insufficiently dumb?

The funeral itself was lovely, although I could have done with less gabby commentary from the ABC News crew. Every time they thought they could cut in, they did, which meant I largely missed the Agnus Dei and the Litany of the Saints. The former wasn't so bad - I know how the Agnus Dei goes - but the latter really bugged me, 'cause just before they'd said that the Litany was going to (specially) include some of the 400-odd saints that John Paul II canonized. That, I wanted to hear. But instead, I got to hear Charlie Gibson gabbing about what the cardinals are looking for in the next pope. They did treat us to some lovely gaffes: speaking of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Gibson said "which we in the Protestant tradition call Communion", apparently in the expectation that the term was completely alien to Catholic practice. There were also humorous misuses of theologically loaded terms: Cokie Roberts talked about the various "incarnations" of the Blessed Virgin Mary; either Roberts or Gibson referred to the Pope's "ascension" into Heaven. And then there was the moment when Gibson pronounced the whole proceedings "cool", which indeed they were.

All joking (and kvetching) aside, I really liked the ceremony, and was glad I got up for it. Cardinal Ratzinger's homily, available here, was theologically and biographically astute, and was, I thought, lyrical even in the English, though it had already been translated through Italian from the German. It was also nice to see the catholicity of the Church, the cardinals and lay people from every continent, the patriarchs of the east, the service conducted in about a dozen languages. (Latin, Italian, Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, German, Tagalog, Swahili, Greek, I counted. I imagine there were others, including Polish.) And to see John Paul II one last time, winning over such a massive crowd. What a gift the man had, and was.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I Put on My Theocrat-Subversive Hat Again

Father Rob Johansen reports that another non-terminally ill woman is being medically dehydrated-to-death. Unlike Terri Schiavo, this woman is definitively not PVS or comatose. And, unlike Terri Schiavo, she has a living will, which indicates that she doesn't want the feeding tube removed unless she's vegetative or comatose. What she does have is a granddaughter who's "prayed over" her grandmother and decided it's "time for her to go".

This is the kind of world we're living in, in which the strong get to kill the weak when they've determined it's time for them to go. Even if we assume (and this is, I think, a heroic assumption) that those who decide are always acting in what they believe to be the best interests of those they kill, this is still pretty ghoulish.

Everybody to the barricades! For Mae Margourik!

UPDATE: Sweet.

How the Conclave Really Works

Now it can be told!

I got this in an email from PapaBear. I think it's funny, and not really that sacrilegious. (And "Sweet Sistine" is a positively inspired pun.)

It's a Boston Creme Wave!

Via Drudge: Another conservative was hit with a pie while speaking on a college campus. This time it was David Horowitz, speaking at Butler University. His unidentified assailant managed to escape.

Apparently people haven't gotten the memo: the next attack was to take the form of an entree, preferably a nice juicy steak, not another dessert. We'll never be able to put together a complete, balanced meal if we just keep skipping right to sweet, sweet pie.

On a more serious note, this string of food-based attacks is beginning to worry me just a bit. It's not that the pie-in-the-face thing is itself too serious; it's not. It's pretty hard to actually hurt somebody with a pie, and besides it's a classic American comedy gag. Maybe that's what disturbs me so much: these kids aren't wacky pranksters with a very off-kilter sense of humor; they're activists who're attacking prominent figures on the other side, and have chosen a means of assault that's sufficiently disarming that the story is classed as "news from lighter side" rather than as a serious attempt to punish conservative speakers for having the temerity to even set foot on a college campus. I'm not saying it's just a short step from pies to Molotov cocktails, but I do think it's a bad thing if the ordinary rules of decorum that govern civil discourse - like, say, don't assault guest speakers - start to break down.

UPDATE: The Brainerd offers an interesting analogy to A Time to Kill

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Is Mo Our Pedro?

He's a Latin pitching superstar, who in his prime wielded god-like powers. But he's been overworked, and is starting to age, and no longer strikes terror into the hearts of batters. And he's beginning to show disturbing signs of losing his mental edge: when the team needs him most, against the archrival squad and sometimes in big playoff games, he mysteriously fades.

I'm talking about Pedro Martinez in his last years with the Red Sox, but I'm also talking about Mariano Rivera, who blew his second save in as many days this afternoon in a Yankees loss. That makes four consecutive save attempts blown against the Red Sox. I still think there's enough talent on the team to win 110-120 games, but obviously that's going to be a lot harder if our superstar closer can't cut it anymore.

The U.N.'s Two Incompatible Roles

This piece, linked to by Instapundit, asks, "How many more must die before Kofi quits?" It recounts the role that Kofi Annan's deliberate, cool neutrality during the Rwandan genocide played in the deaths of 800,000 people there.
Here, too, is Annan's faxed response - ordering Dallaire to defend only the UN's image of impartiality, forbidding him to protect desperate civilians waiting to die. Next, it details the withdrawal of UN troops, even while blood flowed and the assassins reigned, leaving 800,000 Rwandans to their fate.
While it's hard not to fault Annan for ordering his troops not to defend innocents who were being slaughtered, I can understand (sort of) where he was coming from. For the U.N. to have any hope of brokering a negotiated peace, they had to retain the appearance of neutrality between the sides. That neutrality would have been lost, and with it the possibility of a non-military end to the genocide, if the U.N. soldiers intervened on one or another side.

I think the Annan fax is emblematic of a lot of the structural problems in the U.N. right now. And I don't mean that in the "the whole place is full of bloodless, amoral bureaucrats" sense. I mean that the U.N. has basically two roles, which I think are largely incompatible.

The primary role of the U.N. is to serve as a neutral forum in which nation states can meet to resolve their differences without resorting to armed conflict. In order to fulfill this role, the U.N. has to maintain a largely amoral stance on all the big issues that come before it. It has to stay neutral between democracies and dictatorships - which is part of why there are so many thuggish states on the Human Rights Commission - because if Tehran, Havana, etc, felt they were being ostracized they'd just take their ball and go home. The U.N.-as-neutral-forum model can't work if the U.N. is just a club of like-minded democracies with not much to disagree about. Similarly, the U.N. has to stay neutral between perpetrators of genocide and its victims, because taking sides jeopardizes the U.N.'s role as a locus for negotiations.

All this amoral neutrality, however, seems to conflict with the U.N.'s other role: acting as an organ through which the world can condemn, and act against, evils like genocide or aggressive war. That's why the U.N. has peacekeeping forces in the first place. Those forces can't ever be used without, for a time at least, taking sides - the side, say, of Tutsi civilians under attack from Hutu militia, or of Fur villagers being raped and murdered by the Janjaweed. As long as the U.N.'s prime directive is "don't take sides" its soldiers won't be able to do anything more than stand around, looking official and neutral. It's impossible to stop a genocide without taking the side of the slaughtered against the slaughterers.

If preventing genocide is one of the U.N.'s objectives - and lets assume arguendo that it is - it's incompatible with the U.N.'s role as a neutral forum in which global disputes can be resolved. Annan's actions in Rwanda are just symptomatic of this irreconcilable tension in the U.N.'s role in the world.

Maybe then, the answer is to cleave the roles. Jonah Goldberg once suggested scrapping the U.N. in favor of a "League of Democracies":
Why not create a new multinational organization that has members who share common ideals and that isn't based on the antiquated assumptions of 50 years ago. In this League of Democracies, membership would be restricted to countries with democratic values and the rule of law. This wouldn't be the "West versus the rest" either. Japan, India, South Korea, South Africa and others could be members.

Right now the U.N. bureaucracy, led by Kofi Annan, wants its own army to do social work around the world. The problem is few oppressed people trust the "blue helmets" to be effective, and few Western nations are willing to tolerate their own troops fighting under Annan's flag.

At the same time NATO, which is already the military wing of the world's leading democracies, is desperately in search of a new mission, particularly at this moment when the European Union is pondering developing a separate military force. A League of Democracies could solve both problems. It could speak with moral authority, and it would have the military might to back it up.
A variant of this idea might not be a bad idea. Let the U.N. stay on as a neutral forum for trying at non-military solutions to the world's problems, but set up a second, unaffiliated body, unhampered by the need to appear neutral, to step in when negotiations fail and knock heads (to put it euphamistically) when needed.

Not-New New Blog

I've added Signal Bleed to the ole sidebar. It's the blog of Josh Bell, Amherst '02, who currently works as a movie critic and entertainment writer for the Las Vegas Weekly. I didn't know Mr. Bell at Amherst, though we had some mutual friends. But the blog is cool - an interesting take on pop culture, from someone in the criticism industry but close enough to the periphery that he's still human rather than some Ebertine demigod. (If that last sentence made any sense to you, congrats.) Anyway, check it out. There's some comic books stuff there too, if that's your thing.

The Call to Holiness

This Pope will not be remembered for being a saint, though I think it is all but certain that he will be remembered as such. Rather, he will primarily be remembered for calling others to sainthood.
Read the whole thing. Not earth-shattering, or anything, but a nice, insightful remembrance by a Greek Orthodox.

Show Courage in the Face of Evil

Nick Kristof makes a good point: one of the best ways to honor John Paul II would be to actually do something about the genocide in Darfur.

Monday, April 04, 2005

More Than Meets the Eye

Word is they're finally really going to make a live-action "Transformers" movie, with Michael Bay directing. I don't know if I can take watching Optimus Prime die again. It was hard enough the first time, and I was less fragile at age 5 than I am today.

You Are Not the Marginal Case

An unbelievably savvy Jane Galt post on same-sex marriage, tax rates, welfare and divorce. As Eve Tushnet says, "it's almost certainly the most important blog post you'll read today, so why not click through?"

Baseball's Back (& so is Baseball-Blogging)

My family had the good fortune of getting tickets to last night's opening day game at Yankee Stadium. On paper, it promised to be a great matchup - the first meaningful Yankees-Red Sox game since the Great Collapse of '04 (let us never mention it again), Randy Johnson's first game in pinstripes, the return of Yankees quasi-legend David Wells, now a heel and the BoSox starting pitcher, the return of Jason Giambi after myriad health problems and steroid accusations, the return of Tino Martinez, and so on and so on. And, while it didn't wind up being a "great" game - the Red Sox were never really in it after the second inning, Johnson pitched well but didn't have electrifying stuff - it was an unbelievably fun game to be at. Hands down the most fun I've had at a Yankees game in years, including the 13-inning game last summer (which was a different kind of fun - exhausting, world-historical fun; last night was little-kid fun, which I prefer).

Some thoughts:

1. Johnson didn't look like he had his best stuff last night - he looked a little tentative, and only went 6 innings with 6 strikeouts - and he still beat a good-hitting Red Sox team up and down the field. The crowd was on its feet for every two-strike count he had through the first two innings. It was nuts. I think my brother, who we'll call Bre'r Bear for the sake of keeping the family-zoology consistent-but-confusing, put it best: "It's like having Mariano Rivera on the mound all nine innings." Every fifth day, at least. I honestly haven't been this excited about anything Yankees-related in a long, long time.

2. The offensive performance we saw last night was classic 1996-2000 Yankees baseball. Take lots of pitches. (I kept track: the usually free-swinging Jeter took a first pitch ball in every one of his six plate appearances. The result? Two hits, a walk, two runs scored.) Pepper the field with singles and doubles. Sacrifice. Advance the baserunners. Use speed to disrupt the defense's rhythm and advance the runners, not to pad gaudy stats. Don't swing for the fences every at-bat. In the past five years, the Yankees had devolved into a slow, Beane-ball style team based on drawing walks and swinging for the fences. What did it get them? Exactly the same thing it's gotten Beane's Oakland Athletics: zero World Series rings. (Although, I must say that the one home run that did get hit, by Hideki Matsui, was an absolute monster.)

3. It means something when the most dramatic moment of the game is a defensive substitution. When Tino came in for Giambi in the seventh, the entire Stadium burst into a standing ovation. I'm quite confident that's never happened before. Yankee fans really love Tino. There are, I think a couple of reasons. One is that he's associated with winning - the team won four World Championships in his first six-year stint - and, despite spending the equivalent of the GDP of a Caribbean nation, the Yankees haven't won since he left. I also think people feel kind of guilty (I certainly do) about the way he was forced out after 2001. The team fell in love with a (steroid-powered) Jason Giambi and decided it could do without an aging first baseman whose offensive skills were starting to slip. So, rather than resign him for a few years and give him the dignified multi-year farewell that Paul O'Neill got, they just let him, and his still-sparkling defense, walk unceremoniously. It seemed like a good idea at the time, an a**hole move that had to be made for the good of the team, but as Giambi became more and more of a bust (94 homers, sure, but a declining batting average, no speed or defense, a series of "mysterious health problems" that forced us to play such luminaries as Tony Clark and Nick Johnson at first base most of the time) it started to look more and more, to me at least, like we were being punished for our greed and lack of class. Bringing back Tino, whose skills are now even more questionable than they were in 2001, is almost a kind of penance. Everyone wants to believe he'll be rejuvenated, that he'll hit .280 with 25 home runs and 85 rbi and finally win the Gold Glove he's been robbed of all these years, but frankly, even if the entirely ordinary happens and he's just a solid defensive backup for Giambi, it'll still be a kind of cosmic ledger-balancing.

(By the way, he wound up making a spectacular diving grab to end the seventh, which generated another wild standing-O. We then started calculating how many people had to get on base to bring Tino to bat. He wound up making it up, and again the Stadium crowd - or what was left of it by the bottom of the eighth - was on its feet, alternating chants of "Ti-NO" and "LETS-go, TI-no". He wound up drawing a walk and coming around to score on a Derek Jeter bouncing single through the pitcher's legs - shades of Buckner? The walk was preferable to a home run, for the reasons detailed above - the last thing you want is for Tino to spend the first few months of the season wasting his limited at-bats trying to re-hit a dramatic opening day home run.)

4. What the f*** happened to Tanyon Sturtze? Two perfect innings in relief, three strikeouts, all the confidence in the world: he was more Johnson than Johnson. I've decided he's going to get two Post headline-style nicknames this season: "Grand Tanyon" when he pitches well, and "Colonel Sturtze" (the horror! the horror!) when he pitches poorly.

5. Speaking of nicknames, Tony Womack's nickname is now "the Moustache", or "the Stache" for short. I will not rest until everyone uses this. Seriously, have you seen his moustache? It's incredible!

6. More generally, everybody (the players, the fans, everybody) seemed much more relaxed last night. I really do think that, as I said last fall, a Red Sox championship has reaped tremendous psychic benefits for the Yankees. We're no longer the evil enforcers whose job it is to keep The Curse in place. When we play the Sox now, it's just about winning, rather than preventing THEM from winning. Which is a mountain of difference.

And now, some pictures. They're not great, because my camera doesn't have enough zoom (let alone enough zoom-zoom) to take really detailed shots from the Loge seats. But they are what they are:

A broad view of the Stadium, taken just after the Red Sox 25 man roster had been announced. Why Curt Schilling and Wade Miller, both injured - Miller for at least a month - were taking up roster spots on opening day I'll never know. Lest we forget, Terry Francona and Theo Epstein are geniuses.

Steinbrenner really pulled out all the stops during the pregame. A color guard from West Point, a flyover by the Blue Angels, the first pitch thrown out by Yogi Berra (who's at least a foot and a half shorter than the actual starting pitcher - we're talking Gandalf / Bilbo Baggins proportions here).

As I said, Randy Johnson is really, really tall.

Sadly, this is the closest I have to an action shot. I believe this is Bill Mueller, just after he's hit a towering fly-out to mid-center.

I had a lot of fun. (Can you tell?)

And, last but not least, here's a sight from just outside Penn Station this morning (they were doing a promotion for the Mets' opening day today):

Y'know, I wouldn't've thought that a man with a giant baseball for a head would be camera shy.

(All pictures posted via Southron Appeal, my new photoblog.)

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Iohannes Paulus II


do widzenia

The TV Coverage

The only 24-hour news channel I get is MSNBC, so I see everything with respect to the Pope's trials through their eyes. A few thoughts:

1. Yes, I get it: some Americans (& American Catholics) think the Pope is a hidebound conservative on all things sexual. The MSNBC people keep trying to get one of their guests to say as such. The catch is that the guest is Fr. Owen Kearns, LC, of the uber-orthodox National Catholic Register. He keeps artfully dodging the question, talking about how much the Pope loved America, etc. I can only assume that they confused the Register with the more well-known and more liberal National Catholic Reporter, though I suspect that even they wouldn't've given them the kind of red meat they so clearly crave. (It's not just MSNBC, it seems.)

2. There's a risk that, in an attempt to praise the current Pope, we'll accidentally defame his predecessors and setting impossibly high standards for his successors. A lot of the "man on the street" commentary has basically amounted to saying that the Pope was great because he was "for us", that he loved the laity and didn't just "sit in the Vatican issuing orders". (NOTE: not exact quotes.) These are indeed admirable qualities in the man, but they're not necessary attributes of a Pontiff. It's surely no knock on John XXIII or Pius XII that they basically never left Italy. Nor would it be a legitimate criticism of John Paul II's successor if he doesn't visit 100+ countries or celebrate outdoor Masses with millions of congregants.

For the Latest from St Peter's

There's lots of good internet-based coverage of what are, almost certainly,the Pope's final hours. Catholic World News, for example has a lock on the comprehensive straight-news angle. And the Corner has (per usual) a lot of excellent commentary from Catholics and non-Catholics alike. And, of course, the Pope Blog.

I think the best stuff, though, is Domenico Bettinelli's Bettnet. He's got a nice combination of up-to-the-minute news and insightful and sometimes quite personal commentary. I especially liked this post, about his brother's family's audience with the Holy Father. (It has a beautiful picture of His Holiness embracing one of Domenico's nephews; it shows two of John Paul II's most striking characteristics: his love of the young, and his indefatigable fondness for hugging.) He also re-runs an old post which details what happens from the death of a sitting pope to the selection of his successor. For those of us for whom John Paul II is the only pope we've ever known, it's useful information.

Son of Kong to Fight Nazis?

Has Peter Jackson's "King Kong" become a trilogy, in which the heretofore undiscovered Son of Kong is enlisted to join the Allied war effort by battling Nazi super-monsters?

Surely this is a too-elaborate April Fool's joke.

As much as I'd like to believe otherwise.

If it is, though, it's taken in Harry Knowles. And IMDB seems to know nothing of this.