Mansfield Fox

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

Monday, February 28, 2005

Good Enough for Me

The classic Cookie Monster song, "C is for Cookie", runs as follows:
C is for cookie, that's good enough for me.
C is for cookie, that's good enough for me.
C is for cookie, that's good enough for me.
Oh! Cookie, cookie, cookie starts with C.
The question is: what precisely is it that's "good enough" for the Cookie Monster? I'd always presumed that it was the fact that the letter C "was for" cookie, that the Monster was rejoicing in the letter's symbolic value that enabled him to, in a sense, be with his true love (cookies) even when was not actually present so long as he had the letter C, which, since letters are abstractions, would always be with him.

A friend, on the other hand, introduced me tonight to the idea that it was merely the cookie that was good enough for Cookie Monster, and that the subtext of the song is that one should be satisfied with what one has. Or, as he put it: "These kids have to understand how anomalous, from the view of history, things are for them. They should wake up every morning and thank God that they live in this country, in this era, with this cookie."

So which is it? I continue to think my initial understanding is more likely. First off, it's a more natural reading of the text, which seems pretty clearly to set off the statement "C is for cookie" as a unitary concept to which "that" then refers. Second, the final line of the song, "Cookie, cookie, cookie starts with C", seems to underscore the idea that the purpose of the song is to celebrate the symbolic value of the letter C, rather than to simply reiterate the Cookie Monster's well-known predilection for cookies. That said, I'm open to the other position, if anyone can provide a suitable argument for it.

Only on Telemundo

Right now, on Caso Cerrado, Judge Ana MarĂ­a Polo is adjudicating between two pairs of mariachi, all in full regalia (they're even still carrying their instruments). Not speaking Spanish, the precise nature of their dispute is unknown to me, but I'm glad that, in this country at least, a mariachi can get televised justice. Viva multiculturalism!

Has Arinze Settled the Communion Question?

Eve Tushnet points to this Get Religion post, which in turn links to a Life Site article (elephants, all the way down!) on Cardinal Arinze's comments on the question of whether pro-choice politicians can receive the Eucharist.
"The answer is clear. If a person says I am in favour of killing unborn babies whether they be four thousand or five thousand, I have been in favour of killing them. I will be in favour of killing them tomorrow and next week and next year. So, unborn babies, too bad for you. I am in favour that you should be killed, then the person turn around and say I want to receive Holy Communion. Do you need any Cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?"
Life Site (and I believe, though I can't be absolutely certain from what they've written, Get Religion and Ms. Tushnet as well) seems to believe that the Cardinal has finally and authoritatively ended the debate on whether politicians like John Kerry or Ted Kennedy can receive the Eucharist, and that the answer is no. Now, I think it's pretty clear that that's what Cardinal Arinze means, but I think, unfortunately, that his choice of words was such that his comments may have solved nothing and failed to meaningfully move the debate.
"If a person says I am in favour of killing unborn babies"
"I am in favour that you should be killed"
These phrases, I think, are the core problem with Arinze's comments. Nothing in them actually addresses those people over whom the controversy is being waged: pro-choice politicians who are "personally opposed" to abortion - Mario Cuomo and his heirs. This wasn't a fight over people who wholeheartedly endorsed abortion, or about ChiCom types who wanted to impose mandatory abortion. It was about politicians who believe (honestly, as far as I can tell, though, in my opinion, muddle-headedly) both that abortion is wrong and that it is not appropriate/legitimate for the state to outlaw it. Such people can still claim that they're not "in favor" of abortion, and that therefore Cardinal Arinze's admonitions don't apply to them, and keep on presenting themselves for communion.

To be clear: I have a tremendous amount of admiration for Cardinal Arinze. If I were the Holy Spirit (and, for a host of reasons, let's be thankful I'm not!) I'd make him the next pope. I'm not sure if the problem is caused by imprecise wording, or if the Cardinal is confused about the specifics of the debate in the church in America. I don't think Cardinal Arinze was trying to carve out a "personally opposed, but" exception. I'm quite sure that he meant, or would have meant, if he had understood the specifics of the issue on which he was being asked to comment, something like:
"It isn't enough to affirm a belief in the wrongness of abortion. There is an affirmative obligation to work, commensurate with one's powers, for an end to abortion. For elected officials this means, among other things, working for the repeal of laws permitting abortion (or the imposition of laws restricting or forbidding abortion) since a legal framework that permits abortion is unjust because it removes the protection of the law from one group of people (the unborn) simply because of their degree of development. To the extent that a politician opposes or fails to support such moves, he must do so for reasons that are proportionate to the evil that would otherwise be prevented. To the extent that his reasons are insufficient, he becomes implicated in the grave evil of abortion. If he does so with full knowledge and deliberate consent, he falls into a state of mortal sin, and cannot receive the Eucharist without committing the sin of sacrilege. Bishops and clergy should counsel such politicians, and, if they remain obstinate in their position, should withhold the Eucharist from them."
(Obviously, the Cardinal would be a great deal pithier.) Whether one agrees with it or not (I do, but I understand not all of my readers do) that is, I think, a fair summary of the Church's position on this particular issue. That said, until we actually get a statement like that out of someone at Cardinal Arinze's level or higher, it's at least premature and arguably counterproductive to behave as if we have, and the issue's been settled.

Doing My Part for Ecumenism

Scenes from a poker game:

[The local ABC affiliate is airing a report on the annual New Haven "Blue Mass", a Mass offered for local emergency workers and public safety officers at St Mary's]

Friend: That's your church?
Me: Yeah.
Friend: It looks nice.
Me: Thanks.
Friend: Not like Lutheran churches. They're all boxy and plain.
Me: Well, maybe if yours was the one true faith, God would give you nice things too.

And maturity reigned. (The quotes, as always, are fake-but-accurate.)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Pius XII and the "Hidden Children" Memo

My friend Dimitri Cavalli has an article in the Palm Beach Post on the allegations that at the end of the Second World War the Vatican ordered that French churches not return Jewish children they'd been protecting to their families if the children had been baptized.

Out of Cambridge

I've returned from Cambridge and the Federalist Society convention. It was both more fun and more intellectually rigorous than I'd imagined, but also less opulent. I'd imagined there'd be a lot of sitting around in large leather chairs smoking cigars, drinking brandy and laughing malevolently. Instead it was a bunch of serious, engaging panels and debates on various issues - the conservative-libertarian split, civil liberties in the War on Terror, the Bybee/Yoo/Delahunty torture memos, preemptive war, and others. And then, as a keynote speech, an ebullient Judge David Sentelle regaled us with the story of his 1987 encounter with the Rainbow People, a several-thousand strong community of hippies who set up shop that summer in a North Carolina national park in violation of the state's mass gathering statute. (The story is recounted in Judge Dave and the Rainbow People. A copy is en route to the Fox's den as we speak.)

Of matters blogtastic and personal: I finally got to meet Amber Taylor and Waddling Thunder in person. They're both, as we used to say before we became a law student and they made us put away such things, "mad cool". I also ran into Cavaliere Cacciaguida, and my Old Jedi Master, who seems to be doing well. A good time was had by all.

Of matters meteorological: the oddest thing happened on the drive back last night. It was a clear (if cold) night, and an easy drive throughout the whole of Massachusetts, but almost immediately after we crossed the border into Connecticut, we were caught in an abrupt and driving snowstorm. Out of nowhere, there was an inch of accumulation on the road, and about fifteen foot visibility. Given the conditions and the fact that northern Connecticut highways are neither especially straight or well-lit, I was genuinely afraid for our safety. And then, after about twenty miles, we exited the storm as abruptly as we'd entered it. Not only was it not snowing anymore, but there was no accumulation on the ground, or any other sign that it had been snowing there (this was, I suspect, because it hadn't). I've never experienced a weather pattern that was such a weird combination of intense and localized.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Gates of Fire, Gates of Ice

I went to see The Gates yesterday. I was going to be in Manhattan on other business, but had a couple free hours in the afternoon, so I thought (pace my previous comments) I'd go see what all the fuss is about. And, since I'm a hopeless shutterbug, I thought I'd take a few snapshots. Well, depending on your definition of "a few", I did just that. And so, here follows the photo diary of my voyage through the biggest, silliest public art project in many a year.

(Some, but not all, of the photos are just thumbnails to larger photos, panoramic shots and the like that're too big for the main page. The thumbnails have small black borders around them.)

I entered the Park from the southeast corner, through the Grand Army Plaza, past the statue of William Tecumseh Sherman. I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but the pigeons of New York appear to have roughly the same opinion of General Sherman as Father Tucker.

Speaking of which, here's a shot of my home city's official animal, the feathered rat:

Here he is with his kind. They're fighting over a pretzel.

It's a bird-eat-bird world.

So anyway, the Gates:

The entrance was very crowded. A thick sea of tourists, many clad, at least partially, in orange. Which is funny because, as I learned pretty quickly, the Gates aren't "orange". Apparently, they're "saffron". Looked orange to me, but what do I know?

Repent, and ye shall be saved. This guy was one of the city's many street preachers evangelizing just inside the first Gate. He was quite polite, and we traded a photo for my taking one of his pamphlets (which, to be honest, I haven't read). This is the first example of what will be a recurring theme: the ordinary life of the city goes on, amidst the Gates, as if nothing unusual was happening around them.

Anyway, let me shut up for a little and just show some photos:

Commerce survives the Gates. How come they never have an "Angus"?

Ditto on municipal work.

The last two photos were taken within a couple seconds of each other, from exactly the same location. They highlight one of the things I really liked about the Gates: their mutability. Art is often very fixed, very static. The Gates are fluid - from one second to the next, its never the same piece of art. Sort of like Heraclitus' river, expressed through curtains.

It was around this point that I started to feel silly about taking so many photos. For one, I felt like a common tourist. Also, my camera has limited memory and battery life - one has to ration. What is it that makes people, when confronted with something strange and novel, reach for there camera? Why not just appreciate what you're experiencing? I suppose it's a way of grasping at immortality. Anyway, at about this point I put the camera away for a while.

Ducks on the pond! Life goes on in the animal kingdom as well. I also like this picture for the semi-Impressionist look of the reflection of the Gates in the water. Both the ducks, and the reflection, will reappear.

Duck fight! My favorite photo of the afternoon. A very New York moment. Two mallards, duking it out over a bread crumb. Not really Gates-related, but kind of cool.

One of the many volunteers who keep the Christo show running. Actually, not volunteers - apparently they get paid. The thing in his hand with the tennis-ball head is the staff they use to disentangle the Gates when they get wrapped around themselves. Christo may be postmodern, but he's intensely practical.

This should give you some sense of the scale of the Gates. (Actually, I'm kind of cheating, because the woman in the picture was pretty short.) The Gates are big, but they seemed, oddly, human-scale. That's another of the things I really liked about the Gates. So much contemporary art seems to want to bludgeon you. The Gates don't do that.

A panoramic view across the duck pond from the bridge shown earlier.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it. - Yogi Berra

I bet you thought the tennis ball thingee was silly. Who's silly now?

Dust in the wind... all we are is dust in the wind....

The New York skyline, as seen from above Walman Rink.

The patron of my order.

Sic transit gloria mundi. Or, alternately,
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Who is this man? He's Fitz-Hugh Halleck, a 19th Century American poet who joins Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and William Shakespeare on Literary Walk in Central Park. When they set up Literary Walk 140 years ago, Halleck, who'd just died, doubtless seemed like a giant of poetry. Today, of course, he's almost totally forgotten. There are all sorts of lessons there, about the transitory nature of taste and the difficulty of anticipating what things will endure. In the rest of Literary Walk, of course, they get it right, in part because everyone else had been dead for at least 40 years, and was established as a leading literary light. The Fitz-Hugh Halleck statue, in a lot of ways, sums up why I'm a conservative. How's that for reading too much into a lump of bronze?

A detail from the steps of the Bethesda Terrace (situs of the Angel of the Waters fountain). Again, not Gates-related, but beautiful, I think.

This isn't a great photo, but I think it's the best of the lot in terms of conveying what it felt like to be walking under the Gates. It's hard to describe. The best I can say is that it's a tremendous feeling of warmth. Which, given that the actual temperature at this point was about 30 degrees, was nice.

Life in the wide world goes on, full of its own comings and goings, much has it has this past age.

At about this point, I decided it was time to seek shelter, since my basal body temperature had dropped into the mid-70s. I ducked into the Met for a few minutes until I could feel my hands again, then headed back downtown. (I have promises to keep, etc, etc) Anyway, one last shot, this one from outside the park looking in:

And then there's this:

I fear I've started something I can no longer control.

Anyway, my overall verdict? Silly. Terminally silly. But basically harmless. Classically postmodern ("weird for the sake of weird"), but as long as you're not looking for some deep meaning about man and nature, or society, or whatever, it's a good time.

UPDATE: Welcome Crescat Sententia and Dawn Patrol readers. Please feel free to have a look around. There's lots more inanity, and even a little more photography, where this came from. Be sure not to miss the bear pornography. Also, for more Gates photos, check out Photos in the Afternoon

Terri Schiavo and the Florida DCF

It now seems that much of what's keeping Terri Schiavo alive is the investigation by the Florida Department of Children and Families as to whether her husband, Michael Schiavo, abused her during their marriage. Understandably, if he had been physically abusive to her, it might cast some doubt on whether he was the appropriate person to be making life-and-death medical decisions for her. This is, on many levels, very good: the investigation could lead to a potentially permanent solution that not only blocks Michael from having Terri killed, but (presumably) also puts her parents, the Schindlers, in charge of her medical treatment, which might mean that she'd get therapy of some kind and might actually be able to see improvements.

On the other hand, I have to wonder about the DCF. I mean, the allegations (that Michael was abusive to Terri) certainly aren't new. If there's substance to the allegations, why didn't they pursue the investigation at some other point in the last fourteen years? Why did it have to take until the woman was about to be killed before the Department sprang into action? This isn't a movie; there isn't some kind of bonus for a dramatic, last-second rescue.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Excellent News!

A Florida judge has issued a temporary stay, keeping Terri Schiavo fed and hydrated until at least 5 pm tomorrow. I'm not sure what the Schindlers (Terri's parents) plan to argue at tomorrow's hearing - I can't imagine what legal angle they haven't attempted yet - but let's hope for victory, somehow.

The Culture of Death Marches On

A bleak day. A black day. Barring some outside intervention, today at 1:00 pm Terri Schiavo's feeding tube will be removed and her slow-motion execution will begin. Terri will die one of the most horrible death imaginable - death by starvation and dehydration, in a hospital bed, surrounded by doctors and nurses who could help but do nothing, her parents, screaming at the chance to merely feed their daughter, barred at the gate by the twin sentinels of Law and Medicine. More than anything else I've experienced, today makes me ashamed to be studying the law. If the law cannot help a woman like Terri Schiavo, if it indeed condemns her to death, then all its claims of civilization and humanism are a cruel joke. If this is the law, the law is not worth a damn.

St Maximillian Kolbe, your tormentors tried to kill you, too, by starvation, leaving you two weeks in your cell without food or water. By the power of God, you were sustained, and they were forced to murder you with their own hands. O, good Saint Maximillian, be with your sister in this dark hour.

Weep, friends, but do not lose hope. Dark days are these, and darker yet may come, but the ultimate defeat of the Enemy is assured. His victories are fleeting, his triumphs crumble into dust.

May God be with her.

Monday, February 21, 2005

UK Ban on Fox Hunting

For obvious reasons, I'm conflicted on this issue. As a sort of an honorary fox myself, I sympathize with the little beasties being hunted. On the other hand, as a lover of things traditional, I hate to see a piece of Old Britain wiped out by House-of-Commons fiat.

Regardless of the merits of the policy, though, doesn't the Fourth Commandment oblige us to obey the commands of lawful authority unless they contravene the moral law? And, while the moral law may permit the use of dogs to hunt foxes (then again, it may not...I dunno) it certainly doesn't require us to do so.

Old Oligarch on Hunter S. Thompson

All Male Tenured Professors Should Resign

Narnia, Christianity and "Universal Myth"

Disney struggles with how to market "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". Should they acknowledge it as a specifically Christian allegory (as C.S. Lewis intended) or try to depict it as more of an undifferentiated fairy-story?
But the company will probably proceed gingerly. Look for, at most, study guides to be prepared for Sunday school classes, local discussion groups to be organized and blocks of tickets to be offered to churches at a discount (a technique that figured heavily in the box-office triumph of "The Passion of the Christ"). Those who want to see Aslan as a Jesus figure or the White Witch as his satanic opponent will find little to encourage or discourage their interpretation, even though that interpretation was its author's own.

"They're seeing it from 10,000 feet, from which the religious themes are no longer specific to Christianity, but part of the great Joseph Campbell tradition of universal myth," Mr. Kaplan, of the Lear Center, said of "Narnia's" new caretakers. "When you get to that level, it's broadly acceptable to the public."
One wonders how Lewis would react to this row. I would say he would smile, except it's difficult to picture Lewis smiling, Ulstermen being by nature so dour. I do think, however, he would have found odd, and perhaps amusing, the insistence that "Christian allegory" and "universal myth" are somehow antipodes, that Disney must, in effect, treat the story as one or the other.

Lewis, after all, was a man who believed, having been convinced by JRR Tolkien, that myth was universal because Christianity was true. As he wrote to Arthur Greeves:
Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God's myth where the others are men's myths: i.e. the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself though the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call "real things".[Joseph Pearce, TOLKIEN: MAN AND MYTH, p. 60]
There's an even more on-point quote, which I think is from Lewis (though it may be from Tolkien or Chesterton) which I'm having trouble finding but which basically says that, if fallen man's destiny is to be saved by the incarnation, death and resurrection of God-made-man, it's not surprising that there should be, in diverse and far-flung cultures, some remembrance of that fact.

The debate is therefore somewhat moot. No matter how hard you try to generalize, or secularize, Narnia, you cannot take away its Christian essence (unless, I suppose, you radically rework the plot) - because all stories of that kind, whether intentionally or not, are stories about Christ. And no matter how explicitly sectarian and Christian you make it, the story cannot lose its universal character - because, at bottom, the Christian myth and the universal myth are the same myth.

(via Open Book)

A Jurisprudence I Can Get Behind!

Will Baude ponders devising a new reading of the First Amendment:
...maybe an underinclusive/overinclusive rule that spoken and printed expression are off-limits while mime can be, however unwisely, criminalized would be better than unhelpful judicial exposition.
But why would it be unwise to criminalize mime? An end to mime would cut the number of fist-fights I get into by about a third!

All joking aside, the obvious flaw to such a rule would be that it would make laws against oral and written fraud unconstitutional, which, one thinks, would probably be bad. Might have a slight negative effect on the functioning of the market.

But that's no reason to stop with the general project of trying to constitutionally criminalize mime! For goodness sake, Will, keep trying!


In a just world...

FURTHER UPDATE: via email, Will explains that his theory is just about when the First Amendment is implicated, and is not meant to be dispositive. That is, you could still have exceptions for fraud, and presumably slander/libel, etc. It's just that the Amendment wouldn't be implicated, at all, for non-speech acts. The important thing is: we still get to jail mimes. Huzzah, Will!

Surely You're Joking!

No, another snowstorm. And don't call me Shirley!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Loki, Eh?

Is Karl Rove the Democratic Party's Loki?

Judge for yourself:

(Attn: Marvel Comics. Fair use! Fair use! Please don't sue!)