Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More Shea illiteracy

It's old news that Mark continues his descent into complete BDS, the latest symptom being his calling for impeachment while plainly not even bothering to read (it came out in the comboxes here and here) what he claims is the basis for the impeachable offense.

But Mark ignorantly ranted away, relying on WorldNetDaily paraphrasing. NSPD 51 does nothing at all remarkable, as a careful read would show. Admittedly, it's densely opaque to people who can't read legalese (and Shea is a complete illiterate therein), but it's plainly not "legislation," i.e., new powers, but "implementation," i.e., the nuts and bolts of how to execute an existing law. The latter is exactly what an executive branch is supposed to do. This is an order to plan for the Emergency Situation and some details about what the executive will do in such a case. That's it.

WorldNetDaily complains in the news article that "emergency situation" is defined loosely, but that's of necessity in this sort of thing. The whole point of emergency powers clauses is to cover the exceptional case that cannot be foreseen rather than the ordinary case which can.

This may be news to some people, but the US already has an "emergency" law that gives the president the right to dictatorial powers. Here WorldNetDaily is miles ahead of Shea in at least acknowledging countervailing facts. The law is called the National Emergency Act, which, as columnist Jerome Corsi writes,
allows that the president may declare a national emergency but requires that such proclamation "shall immediately be transmitted to the Congress and published in the Federal Register."
A Congressional Research Service study notes that under the National Emergency Act, the president "may seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, institute martial law, seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel, and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens."
So these sorts of powers already exist, albeit with a check that Corsi claims the new directive doesn't acknowledge -- that's the only possible basis for claiming that this is a "Bush ... power grab" [WND] or "Hail Caesar" and "giving this man (much less all his successors in perpetuity) the power to make themselves dictator solely on their own discretion" [the characteristically hysterical, in both senses, Shea].

Since the directive is basically an order to executive agencies to plan, it doesn't need congressional approval in itself. Further, enabling regulations for how to use certain powers do not need to make reference to congressional approval because they assume the power already exists and has been granted.

Further, commenter Donatarius actually took the trouble to read the whole thing and makes it quite clear, citing chapter and verse (a wonderful practice; Shea should try it) that it is both a means to ensure the continuity of constitutional government and quite explicitly says that "This directive shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and the authorities of agencies, or heads of agencies, vested by law, and subject to the availability of appropriations" (i.e. Congress's purse strings).

But Corsi indicates here that he's more interested in cheap shots (and he's a model of sanity and sobriety comparable to the hysterical shrieks from CAEI) than in serious consideration:
Ironically, the directive sees no contradiction in the assumption of dictatorial powers by the president with the goal of maintaining constitutional continuity through an emergency.
There is no contradiction. An emergency situation (set aside whether any particular situation is in fact an emergncy -- that's a distraction) requires a powerful executive ruling without little or no legislative power, to keep government going until the ordinary situation can be restored; both checks and balances and the plurality of the legislature are for the ordinary situation. That's Political Philosophy 101 (which I'll go into in another post).

The fact that powers exist simply doesn't mean either that their use is imminent or that their use might be just or unjust according to circumstance rather than intrinsically. You know how the president and vice president are almost always kept apart? You know how when there's a State of the Union address that requires Potus, the Veep, most of the Cabinet and the rest of presidential line of succession are required by custom to be in the same room, there's always one not-prenamed Cabinet member far away. Those are things done to guard against unlikely situations. You know when you get on a plane, the stewardess demonstrates the oxygen mask and does the whole song-and-dance? That's another such thing. You know how every large building has fire extinguishers behind glass you have to break. That's another.

I guarantee any reader, soup to nuts, that there is a plan somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon for an invasion of Canada. That doesn't mean the US is, in any serious sense, planning to invade Canada. Corsi has the equivalent of an update or an addendum to the Canadian invasion plan and writes about it as a serious possibility (and Shea shrieks about it as if it were imminent).

So if Bush has the ambition to make himself dictator and is just looking for a legal excuse, which this directive supposedly is, he or any other president already can. In which case as the brilliant KtheC cites Kathy Shaidle: "If Bush is Hitler, why aren't you a lampshade?" If the law and Bush are as described, why haven't the black helicopters descended on Seattle to swoop up the brave critic upholding The True Faith™? But don't worry, Mark. They don't even need to tunnel under your house. The black helicopters carrying the Secret Ninja Assassin Teams are so silent that they seize you before you hear them.

15 comments:

frank sales said...

I recommend that people write to Fr. Richard Neuhaus asking him to withdraw his offer to write a forward to Shea's Mary book. Mark has become a nut and that will surely discredit his apologist work. It would be a mistake for Neuhaus to associate with this man.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not sure how Shea can associate with Neuhaus, since Shea has called people who have views almost identical to Neuhaus "torture apologists" and believers in " Salvation through Leviathan through any means necessary"...

Tschafer

Dave Armstrong said...

Case study of the foolishness of focusing on politics (and extreme opinions therein) when one's vocation and gift lies in apologetics.

Also, proof that brilliance in one field has absolutely no relation to even basic competence in another . . .

There are people also (no names, of course) who do decently in the area of political analysis, but are out to sea in understanding theology and/or apologetics: its importance, biblical necessity, or what motivates it.

Folks need to concentrate mostly (in the public sphere, especially) on the gift that God has given them (1 Corinthians 12:11; cf. 3:5-9). Mark was not put here on this earth to rail against and frequently misrepresent fellow Catholics and George Bush, but to share and defend Catholic truths and to build up the faithful.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Not only has Shea's antics discredited his work in apologetics (let alone his entire personality), but Neuhaus would discredit himself by writing an introduction to anything written by such a pathological lunatic.

Greg Mockeridge said...

I recommend that people write to Fr. Richard Neuhaus asking him to withdraw his offer to write a forward to Shea's Mary book.

Someone already has. But Fr. Neuhaus still plans to let his foreword remain in Mark's book. I agree with you Frank that Fr. Neuhaus should pull the foreword.

I think the fact that any prominent Catholic apologist or Catholic organization that continues to endorse or have any kind of professional ties with Shea after knowing of his behavior is scandalous and UnCatholic.

Anonymous said...

Also, proof that brilliance in one field has absolutely no relation to even basic competence in another . . .

Exactly. When I checked out Mark's blog and scrolled down, I found a jewel of a post amidst all the hysteria. Mark perfectly fisked an atheistic Canadian talk show host's screed against religion. Shea's points were logical, thoughtful, and well-expressed. I made a mental note of a few of them for use the next time I run into a firebreathing atheist. You read that and then you read his political posts and it doesn't seem like they issue from the same brain.

Again, it's just sad, because Mark's fisk of the atheist made me remember just why I once hung around his blog so much. When he's good, he's very good. When he's bad - sheesh,...,

Donna

Bubba said...

For what it's worth, Mark's posted an apology for presuming Corsi's fear-mongering was accurate. Apparently being unwilling to stop at that, he sandwiched the apology between two preemptive attacks on his critics. I pointed out that doing so was less than mature, but that comment and the subsequent responses have now been deleted, possibly because they didn't help Mark's case.

No kidding, in a single sentence he complained that we don't cut him any slack while simultaneously invoking the "Rubber Hose Right" smear.

Donald R. McClarey said...

This fiasco is a perfect example of Mark lacking the basic knowledge to weigh sources in many areas. If he had done even basic googling beforehand he would quickly have learned that Mr. Corsi was a source to be approached with extreme caution. Instead, since Corsi's article gave him a stick to belabor the "Bushies", he ran with it. Mark would get irate in the past when readers would point out that he was using an unreliable source, and usually claim that such complaints were from people who didn't want him to use sources with an "impure ideology". Rather these comments were from readers who didn't wish Mark to make a fool of himself by seizing on obviously crack-brained articles. Alas, he has never seemed to learn the simple lesson that "because someone on the internet says something I agree with, doesn't make that statement true".

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Bubba, you just described how Mark "apologized" to me around Ash Wednesday for his five-year feud. He spent 60 percent of that "apology" dragging my name through the mud before he actually got around to apologizing. When Mark apologizes, he always has to cover himself, unless somebody inadvertently finds out that he's wrong -- and we can't have that, can we?

kathleen said...

"This fiasco is a perfect example of Mark lacking the basic knowledge to weigh sources in many areas."

So are we to assume that Shea's inability to weigh sources in one area (politics) doesn't affect his ability to weigh sources in catholic apologetics? IOW how confident should we be in him as an apologist? just because we might like his conclusions doesn't mean that his apologetics are as firmly rooted as they could or even should be -- in which case, maybe catholics shouldn't be using *him* as a source.

btw i say this as someone who has never read his stuff (and i don't intend to either, especially since i could spend a lifetime with the stuff written by just ratzinger and neuhaus). shea's stuff might be good, but i have (reasonable) doubt at this point

paul zummo said...

So are we to assume that Shea's inability to weigh sources in one area (politics) doesn't affect his ability to weigh sources in catholic apologetics? IOW how confident should we be in him as an apologist?

Great question, Kathleen. It's something I've always pondered, not just about Shea, but about other a whole host of commentators. For example, Christopher Hitchens is a sharp guy who is right on the major issue of the day, but he's also an anti-religious bigot who is dreadfully wrong on so many other things. I might think that this or that article of his is insightful, but doesn't the rest of his work outweigh those moments of clarity?

In other words, at what point is a person so far over the edge in one aspect of his writing that you just have to discount the whole package? I'm not saying you have to agree with every word that is ever uttered by an individual, but perhaps when a person is so wrong about so many things, even when they're right there might be better sources to consider.

Bubba said...

Hitchens is a great example: having heard about how shallow his recent anti-theist book is, I now can't read his stuff about jihad without wondering, is he right by accident? I think militant Islam is dangerous because of the specifics of their religious beliefs, but it could be that Hitchens thinks they're dangerous because their beliefs happen to be religious. Invoking him as a voice of wisdom might thus be dangerous because he may be right for the wrong reasons.

It might not always be the case that someone who's lousy in one area of his life can't be trusted in other areas: a brain surgeon may be brilliant in the OR but scum in his personal life, and I wouldn't think less of a philosopher who has a blind spot when it comes to advanced mathematics.

But in the case of theology... well, theology isn't just a special branch of philosophy. It entails logic and ethics and, perhaps most importantly, an experiential knowledge of God. If a guy like Shea displays both illogic and questionable ethical practices and even a lack of the sort of humility one would find with any truly mature Christian, I think it does call into question his reliability as a theolgian.

His irrational, unethical behavior has already tainted his theological beliefs about war and torture, implying that the Iraq war (for instance) is an intrinsic evil. It may stop there and spill over into no other areas, but I don't think it can be counted on to be contained.

Anonymous said...

The Blackadder says:

As someone who actually agrees with many of Mark's conclusions about torture, I can assure you this does not blind one to the faults in his writing on the subject. I haven't read Mark's apologetical work, so I can't really speak to that. I suspect, though, that he wouldn't have got to where he is today as an apologist if his apologetics were written the same way he writes about politics on his blog (i.e. full of distortion, demonization, imprecision, hyperbole, and the like). The truth is that a person can be quite reasonable in one field while being utterly unreasonable in another. Chomsky is, by all accounts, a very fine linguist; Russell a fine logician; Einstein a fine physicist; N.T. Wright a fine theologian. But you would never know it from looking at their political writings. This is partly because of the non-rational way in which people tend to form their political beliefs, but partly also because holding reasonable and well-informed opinions on any subject is hard. It takes a lot of time and effort, and we should not be surprised if people who do not give it that time and effort hold opinions that are unfortunate.

kathleen said...

"[theology] entails logic and ethics and, perhaps most importantly, an experiential knowledge of God. If a guy like Shea displays both illogic and questionable ethical practices and even a lack of the sort of humility one would find with any truly mature Christian, I think it does call into question his reliability as a theolgian."

well said, Bubba.

the argument about hitchens is illustrative here. I am a big hitchens fan but readily concede his argumentation about matters religious is several notches below that which he offers in other areas. But that fact doesn't work in shea's favor. shea is saying to people "listen to me on spiritual matters" and hitchens is saying "don't listen to me [or anyone else] on spiritual matters". thus i'm afraid hitchens has the upper hand here. (also my personal pet theory is that hitchens is clearly ripe for conversion -- he seems very angry at God for not existing)

kathleen said...

PS: and i think we can safely agree with Hitchens that the sort of religion celebrated by al qaeda, sponsor of the delightfully illustrated "how to's" on torture, is worth eliminating