Saturday, August 30, 2008

Change of Address

Dr. Michael Liccione has moved (his web address). His new blog is Philosophia Perennis. The web address is Please update your bookmarks.

A quick glance suggests the new blog is going to continue with the high quality (and fairly deep) Catholic theological and philosophical essays we have come to expect from his previous blog, which I will keep posted in the sidebar for those interested in perusing its archives. The major change I see is that this one will include a number of other contributors whose reputations for thoughtful discourse are well established.

I wish him and his co-bloggers the best in their new project and look forward to visiting frequently.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Obama Speech

First thoughts...
I am not voting for the man because I don't agree with his politics. But as an example of political oratory it does not get a lot better that what we saw tonight. The man can preach.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Twenty One or Busted

T-19 has posted a letter by one Derek Melleby advocating against the repeal of the 21 year old drinking law passed back during the Reagan administration. The letter being short, I am appending it below.

The recent movement by some college presidents to reduce the legal drinking age to 18 is shortsighted. Trying to lower the drinking age is a superficial response to a deep issue ("College presidents want lower drinking age,", Aug. 18). It is unlikely that the law would be changed, no matter how many college presidents join this movement. So why are they getting involved? Know this: Not all students go to college to drink. I've talked to countless students across the country who long for their college experience to be different. They are developing virtues of delayed gratification, self-control and sacrifice. They are students who want to think more deeply about the goal of education and the meaning of life. Some are students who have been hurt by the effects of alcohol abuse. Many didn't mind waiting a few years to drink legally and have learned to do so responsibly. Developing students such as these will require college presidents with the moral clarity and courage to make strong decisions about what is acceptable behavior at their colleges. What is needed is an atmosphere on our nation's campuses conducive to shaping students' character so that waiting to drink until the age of 21 wouldn't seem like such a sacrifice. Colleges and universities used to pride themselves on fostering a countercultural ethos. Today, what would be more countercultural than a college or university committed to educating students to be responsible and virtuous?

Now admittedly most ill informed people could construct a stronger argument for retaining this absurd law. But it does serve to illustrate the weak rationales employed by those who continue to support this foolishness.

Back when I was in the Navy right after I made Petty Officer 3rd class, a crusty old boatswains mate who was in the canoe club before Noah took me aside and gave me some words of advice that have stuck with me through the years. "Never give an order that you know is likely to be ignored and that you are either unable or unwilling to enforce. It lowers respect for authority in general and you in particular."

The 21 year old drinking age is without a doubt the most universally ignored law since they repealed the 55 MPH speed limit. Is there anyone who knows an 18 year old who cannot get his hands on a beer if he wants one? Its passage was one of the most blatant assaults on States Rights in recent memory. Congress has no authority to regulate people’s dietary habits and the law was only able to pass by blackmailing the states into submission. But even more than being unconstitutional and generally unenforceable it is flawed on multiple levels.

First, it serves no demonstrable purpose. The argument for it was that it would save lives in traffic accidents. But the statistical evidence on this is at best inconclusive. Much of the lowered fatality rates claimed by supporters of the law can be attributed to tougher safety laws (like seat belt requirements) and the construction of much safer automobiles today than when the law was passed. Further, there is a growing suspicion that the law may have had an opposite effect by encouraging binge drinking by young people in places where for obvious reasons there is little or no presence on the part of responsible adults. In such situations excessive drinking is far more common. Often these illicit drinking parties occur in remote places and those participating drive to and from. How many accidents have have been caused by this? As far as I am aware there have been no studies.

If one stands by the (IMO spurious) argument that the 21 yo drinking law saves lives, why then did we not ban drinking by those over 21? I guarantee you that if it works for those under 21 (which I doubt) than it would work for those over that age. There is of course one very good reason why drinking was not banned for those over 21. They vote.

No member of Congress is going to vote to deny a large block of reliable voters a basic right of adulthood. They would be committing political suicide. However, one undeniable statistic is that persons under the age of 21 are among the least likely to vote. This has been proven in every election since the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18. This demographic group is thus regarded by most politicians as a safe target for discrimination.

Which brings us to the subject of discrimination. At age 18 in these United States…

* You are considered an adult in virtually ever respect under the law.
* You can sign contracts and go into legal debt.
* You can sue and be sued.
* You can own real property.
* You can own a firearm.
* You can serve in the armed forces and get shot or killed while fighting for your country. But if you order a beer in a bar you risk jail.
* You are eligible for the draft should it be reinstated.
* You can vote.
* You can buy cigarettes(!) but not a beer.
* You are subject to the full rigor of the criminal code as an adult.
* You can even be sentenced to death in more than thirty states. But you could not order a beer with your last meal before they fry you!

All things considered I can not think of a single well reasoned argument in support of retaining this modern day mini version of prohibition. As someone who is well past 21 and who drinks so rarely that I have been called a teetotaler I have no dog in this fight. But I intensely dislike hypocrisy, especially when it comes from grandstanding politicians and moral busy bodies. The basic premise of this law boils down to this. Some people think they have a right to tell other people how to live their lives, but don’t want the same standards applied to their own. This is hypocrisy at its most guttural level. If you’re a Baptist or a Temperance person and you don’t think people should drink, that’s fine. Preach it from the pulpit. Excommunicate or shun those who don’t tow the line. But if you try telling others how to live by passing laws you are crossing a line that I feel compelled to push back on.

The right to regulate by law the behavior of others ceases when their behavior does not interfere with your rights. Until someone can demonstrate how an 18 year old soldier or sailor just back from Iraq having a beer constitutes a threat to the public safety, this law will remain not merely absurd, but an unambiguous attack on liberty which every citizen who is concerned with the ever increasing encroachment by government on individual rights should be outraged over.

To those young adults who may wander onto this site and read this post, I have a modest suggestion. Start a petition drive online and at every college campus in America with the signers pledging that they will under no circumstances vote for any candidate for Congress or President who does not publicly support the repeal of the 21 year old drinking law. That just might get some attention from Washington.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A few recommendations...

From time to time I note some good posts on other web sites which I think are deserving of attention and a "bump." I thought I would pass along a few that I think are worth taking a look at.

Communion is like sex. Really. Read this amusing but very pointed discussion of the current mess in the Anglican Communion by Perry Robinson over at Energetic Procession As a side note check out the cartoon in the post that immediately followed the one linked. It's so funny in part because it's also so true.

Fr. Joseph Huneycutt has an interesting article up about Joel Osteen and the peculiar (and heretical) brand of so called prosperity theology and positive thinking which they push. I will refrain from commenting on the matter since anything I might write has probably already been posted over at Orthodixie.

The latest installments in "As the Orthodox World Turns" can be found over at Ben Johnson's Western Orthodoxy where we
first find the announcement that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is going to be taking over the parishes of the Jerusalem Patriarchate (there are only a handful in N. America) in a deal worked out between the JP and the EP. OK... No big deal I am thinking. Just a little rearangement of the administrative furniture, right? Silly moi. The second part comes only a short while later and this is where the other shoe drops. Apparently the parishes in question are break offs from the Antiochian Archdiocese and were never canonicaly released. Met. Philip is more than slightly offended by the GOA's establishment of a Greek supervised Vicarate for Arab Orthodox Christians over whom they appear to have no canonical authority. Anyways you can read the whole sordid business at the links above. I will limit my own editorializing to an observation that where the subject is the extra-canonical jurisdictional infighting here in N. America it is my considered opinion, with all due respect to his office, that the Ecumenical Patriarchate's record over the last few decades suggests that he has been more a part of the problem than the solution.

Finally I recommend Fr. Stephen's excellent essay on an Orthodox approach to reading Scripture which can be found over at his blog Glory to God for All Things. In fairness I have to say that if I were going to give a bump on my own blog everytime I read something Fr. Stephen wrote that I was really impressed with, Ad Orientem would be reduced to a bill board for Fr. Stephen's blog. This is one of the few blogs I make a point of checking more or less daily.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Political Principals

Below are two short audio clips from a great American speaking on general political principals and discussing government and taxation. Anyone want to guess the identity of the speaker?

Political Principals

On Government Spending and Taxation

With grateful acknowledgment of the Vincent Voice Library at Michigan State University for their preservation of these and other gems of our national heritage.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pat Buchanan on Bear Baiting

A big hat tip to Alex (a reader from Russia) for the below article. While I do not endorse everything Mr. Buchanan has written he makes some very strong points which tend to reinforce the old adage about their being two sides to most disputes.

Ad Orientem

Mikheil Saakashvili's decision to use the opening of the Olympic Games to cover Georgia's invasion of its breakaway province of South Ossetia must rank in stupidity with Gamal Abdel-Nasser's decision to close the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships.

Nasser's blunder cost him the Sinai in the Six-Day War. Saakashvili's blunder probably means permanent loss of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

After shelling and attacking what he claims is his own country, killing scores of his own Ossetian citizens and sending tens of thousands fleeing into Russia, Saakashvili's army was whipped back into Georgia in 48 hours.

Vladimir Putin took the opportunity to kick the Georgian army out of Abkhazia, as well, to bomb Tbilisi and to seize Gori, birthplace of Stalin.

Reveling in his status as an intimate of George Bush, Dick Cheney and John McCain, and America's lone democratic ally in the Caucasus, Saakashvili thought he could get away with a lightning coup and present the world with a fait accompli.

Mikheil did not reckon on the rage or resolve of the Bear.

American charges of Russian aggression ring hollow. Georgia started this fight -- Russia finished it. People who start wars don't get to decide how and when they end.

Russia's response was "disproportionate" and "brutal," wailed Bush.

True. But did we not authorize Israel to bomb Lebanon for 35 days in response to a border skirmish where several Israel soldiers were killed and two captured? Was that not many times more "disproportionate"?

Russia has invaded a sovereign country, railed Bush. But did not the United States bomb Serbia for 78 days and invade to force it to surrender a province, Kosovo, to which Serbia had a far greater historic claim than Georgia had to Abkhazia or South Ossetia, both of which prefer Moscow to Tbilisi?

Is not Western hypocrisy astonishing?

When the Soviet Union broke into 15 nations, we celebrated. When Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo broke from Serbia, we rejoiced. Why, then, the indignation when two provinces, whose peoples are ethnically separate from Georgians and who fought for their independence, should succeed in breaking away?

Are secessions and the dissolution of nations laudable only when they advance the agenda of the neocons, many of who viscerally detest Russia?

That Putin took the occasion of Saakashvili's provocative and stupid stunt to administer an extra dose of punishment is undeniable. But is not Russian anger understandable? For years the West has rubbed Russia's nose in her Cold War defeat and treated her like Weimar Germany.

When Moscow pulled the Red Army out of Europe, closed its bases in Cuba, dissolved the evil empire, let the Soviet Union break up into 15 states, and sought friendship and alliance with the United States, what did we do?

American carpetbaggers colluded with Muscovite Scalawags to loot the Russian nation. Breaking a pledge to Mikhail Gorbachev, we moved our military alliance into Eastern Europe, then onto Russia's doorstep. Six Warsaw Pact nations and three former republics of the Soviet Union are now NATO members.

Bush, Cheney and McCain have pushed to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. This would require the United States to go to war with Russia over Stalin's birthplace and who has sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula and Sebastopol, traditional home of Russia's Black Sea fleet.

When did these become U.S. vital interests, justifying war with Russia?

The United States unilaterally abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty because our technology was superior, then planned to site anti-missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend against Iranian missiles, though Iran has no ICBMs and no atomic bombs. A Russian counter-offer to have us together put an anti-missile system in Azerbaijan was rejected out of hand.

We built a Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey to cut Russia out. Then we helped dump over regimes friendly to Moscow with democratic "revolutions" in Ukraine and Georgia, and tried to repeat it in Belarus.

Americans have many fine qualities. A capacity to see ourselves as others see us is not high among them.

Imagine a world that never knew Ronald Reagan, where Europe had opted out of the Cold War after Moscow installed those SS-20 missiles east of the Elbe. And Europe had abandoned NATO, told us to go home and become subservient to Moscow.

How would we have reacted if Moscow had brought Western Europe into the Warsaw Pact, established bases in Mexico and Panama, put missile defense radars and rockets in Cuba, and joined with China to build pipelines to transfer Mexican and Venezuelan oil to Pacific ports for shipment to Asia? And cut us out? If there were Russian and Chinese advisers training Latin American armies, the way we are in the former Soviet republics, how would we react? Would we look with bemusement on such Russian behavior?

For a decade, some of us have warned about the folly of getting into Russia's space and getting into Russia's face. The chickens of democratic imperialism have now come home to roost -- in Tbilisi.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Prayers for Peace

A Georgian soldier is blessed by an Orthodox priest following confession near the front line.

On Saturday, August 9, 2008, late at night, following all-night vigil at the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in San Francisco, CA, a moleben was performed at the relics of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, which lie uncorrupt in the church, for the cessation of bloodletting and for the increase of love between the Ossetian, Georgian and Russian peoples. Georgian and Ossetian families were in attendance. With tears in their eyes, the worshipers heard the Gospel words on how the Savior gave us a new law: “love one another as I have loved you.” Supplications were intoned for the health and salvation of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II, Katolikos-Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia, Archbishop Theophanes of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz, all those wounded and exiled and their relatives and all our Orthodox brethren peoples.

Also in attendance were Russian and American parishioners. The Cathedral Choir sang. In his sermon, Protopriest Serge Kotar asked that all pray for the establishment of peace. After the moleben, no one wished to depart.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Some Perspective on the Outbreak of War Between Russia & Georgia

The hostilities between Russia and Georgia that erupted on Friday over the breakaway province of South Ossetia look, in retrospect, almost absurdly over-determined. For years, the Russians have claimed that Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, has been preparing to retake the disputed regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and have warned that they would use force to block such a bid. Mr. Saakashvili, for his part, describes today’s Russia as a belligerent power ruthlessly pressing at its borders, implacably hostile to democratic neighbors like Georgia and Ukraine. He has thrown in his lot with the West, and has campaigned ardently for membership in NATO. Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s former president and current prime minister, has said Russia could never accept a NATO presence in the Caucasus.

The border between Georgia and Russia, in short, has been the driest of tinder; the only question was where the fire would start.

It’s scarcely clear yet how things will stand between the two when the smoke clears. But it’s safe to say that while Russia has a massive advantage in firepower, Georgia, an open, free-market, more-or-less-democratic nation that sees itself as a distant outpost of Europe, enjoys a decisive rhetorical and political edge. In recent conversations there, President Saakashvili compared Georgia to Czechoslovakia in 1938, trusting the West to save it from a ravenous neighbor. “If Georgia fails,” he said to me darkly two months ago, “it will send a message to everyone that this path doesn’t work.”

During a 10-day visit to Georgia in June, I heard the 1938 analogy again and again, as well as another to 1921, when Bolshevik troops crushed Georgia’s thrilling, and brief, first experiment with liberal rule.

Georgians are a melodramatic people, and few more so than their hyperactive president; but they have good reason to fear the ambitions, and the wrath, of a rejuvenated Russia seeking to regain lost power. Indeed, a renascent and increasingly bellicose Russia is an ominous spectacle for the West too. While China preaches, and largely practices, the doctrine of “peaceful rise,” avoiding confrontation abroad in order to focus on development at home, Russia acts increasingly like an expansionist 19th-century power, pressing at its borders. Most strikingly, Russia has bluntly deployed its vast oil and gas resources to punish refractory neighbors like Ukraine, and reward compliant ones like Armenia.

From a lengthy but good article on the present crisis in the New York Times. I recommend the article in its entirety.

With all of the threats to Christianity in the modern world, both internal and external, I find the spectacle of two Orthodox Christian states shooting at each other to be nothing less than revolting. All wars are on some level immoral though this is not to suggest that there is no right to self defense. However this war is a moral travesty.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Solzhenitsyn is laid to rest

Some footage from the funeral of Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Memory Eternal: Alexander Solzhenitsyn

One of the great heroes of the fight against tyranny and a literary giant of the last century has died. Alexander Solzhenitsyn spent eight years as a prisoner in Stalin's concentration camps and later spent much of his adult life fighting to expose the horror's of Communism and the brutality of the Soviet Union's vast system of slave labor. He was for many years a pariah in his native Russia and was stripped of his citizenship and forcibly exiled in the early 1970's as a result of his public exposure of the USSR's crimes against humanity. He did not return to his homeland until 1994 when he received a hero's welcome.

Today he is regarded as one of the most important authors of the previous century. However, even during his years in exile many of his claims (such as the number of Russians murdered by the Communists being over 30 million) were dismissed by apologists for radical left politics. The vast majority of those accusations have since been confirmed as fact. In almost every respect Mr. Solzhenitsyn was a cultural conservative who was also often sharply critical of the moral decay of the West. Not surprisingly of the four obituaries I have read on major media and newspaper sites, not one has mentioned that he was also a devout Orthodox Christian.

Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn reposed at the age of 89 at his home outside of Moscow.

May his memory be eternal.