Friday, June 29, 2007

For someone who complains all too often ...

... That words are being put into his mouth, I would think that he would be happy that he is now on record to correct the error. The argument that it is selective quotations also stopped holding water when he started using Michael Ledeen quotes (unlinked to any original source or context, one might add) to lay the victims of global communism at the man's feet.

As an example of which, take a look at this cheap shot in which he takes a column by VDF about war of attrition and uses Daniel Larison (his preferred paleocon intellectual) to make some kind of allegation that VDH regards them as nothing more than pawns to be sacrificed because he's one of "the Creative Destruction theorists, the Grand Political Strategists and the secular messianic End to Evil visionaries." I would be very interested to hear Mark explain who exactly these people are and what exactly he thinks that they want. Is Michael Novak, for instance, among them? Is Father Neuhaus?

I also notice that it was only the death and destruction in Lebanon from last summer's war that got Mark's attention. Interesting, that.

Given that he just criticized Josh Muravchik for not having any historical memory ...

It seems rather ironic to me that Mark declares Dick Cheney the worst vice president ever without considering among others, Aaron Burr. I would be very interested in hearing his explanation for how Cheney is worse than Burr.

And while this comment was made as a quip to this post, I actually think that the point is a good one. If you believe that terrorism is a law enforcement rather than military matter (it is in fact both), you had better be prepared to give the executive more power on the law enforcement side. The alternative is to go out and destroy the places that are producing terrorists, which given that the perp was connected to Dhiren Barot would suggest Pakistan as the likely point of origin. I'm game if Mark is, though I suspect that sending troops into Pakistan after we pull out of Iraq is about the last thing that he has on his mind.

Incidentally, the truly ironic thing is that while Mark doesn't recognize it, his latest position on Iran is currently identical to that of none other than Michael Ledeen. Mark might recognize as much if he read what Ledeen wrote about Iran instead of letting his views about the man be informed by the American Conservative.

On Ron Paul and prostitution ...

While I was unaware of St. Thomas Aquinas's views on the subject (and thanks to Blackadder for the link), I think that my criticism is still a valid one. As is clear to anyone who is even remotely familiar with how Mark treats other GOP political candidates, he has definite blinders where Ron Paul is concerned. For Mark, Fred Thompson doesn't care about abortion and there is no real difference between Giuliani and Romney on abortion (a point that indicates his attention span on the GOP race has been, shall we say, extremely limited), but when it comes to Ron Paul he will bend over backwards to accommodate the man's views rather than admit that he supports Paul because he believes that he is right on the issues Mark genuinely cares about, such as the war, torture, and abortion and because of that he will cut him a lot of slack on issues that he vehemently disagrees with him on such as libertarianism or his bizarre interpretations of the Constitution and US foreign policy.

Instead, Mark has refused to acknowledge any of the nuttiness that is inherent in a lot of Paul's (like any fringe candidate, such as Tancredo) views. Every time they are brought up, he generally accuses the questioner of bad faith or postulates a GOP conspiracy against Paul. It seems to be his standard MO for dealing with a subject that I don't believe that he is comfortable with (such as politics and foreign policy), as can be seen from his comparison of those who asserted that maybe, just maybe, he might be a tad deranged when it comes to Bush to the Ephesians who shouted down Paul and Barnabas. Mark clearly has his candidate, which is fine, were he not to go out of his way to denigrate those who don't deserve it (i.e. not Giuliani) in the name of the Catholic Church.

Credit where credit is due ...

Like Rod, Mark is now starting to recognize the practical implications of his preferred policy that we withdraw from Iraq. Quoting Bacevich, he wants the United States to grant asylum to those Iraqis who have helped us in the course of the war, lest they be left behind to be slaughtered by al-Qaeda and Iran. I still disagree with Bacevich's position, but it's a morally consistent one that is missing among many opponents of the war.

And therein lies the rub. Among the anti-war right, there is, to speak in general terms, a profound aversion to matters of immigration. My thoughts on the immigration bill are somewhat irrelevant given that it is now a dead matter, but one of the things that has never endeared me to the paleocon right is that I think one can speak critically about immigration in a far more sensible manner than the type of invasion rhetoric that many paleocons tend to favor. And if they react this way with regard to the immigration of overwhelmingly Catholic Hispanics, one might want to pause to consider how they would when it comes to (at minimum) several hundred thousand Iraqi Muslims. Judging from at least one reaction, this is unlikely to be popularly adopted by many of Mark's paleocon brothers.

There he goes again ...

Mark's arguments are a dubious thing to follow at the best of times, but his remarks favoring the impeachment of Dick Cheney are really a new one. Myself, I doubt that Mark had to read beyond the part of the Slate column that referenced torture before determining that Cheney was guilty. While it is certainly true that Cheney is a very different type of vice president than his predecessors, I find this explanation as being far more convincing:
The peculiarity of Cheney's position is that he functions as the White House Chief of Staff. In most administrations, it is the Chief of Staff who actually runs the government, which in operational terms means that the Chief of Staff deals with the undersecretaries in the federal departments. In the Bush White House, Cheney does that.

I think we now see that this use of the vice president was a mistake. In a way, it was like the mistake that President Bill Clinton made when he appointed his wife Hillary to manage his Administrations health-insurance reform initiative. When the effort miscarried, there was no seemly way for the president to disembarrass himself of a failed colleague. That is the problem that President Bush has with Vice President Cheney. It would be simple enough to fire an ordinary White House Chief of staff. A vice president, in contrast, is an elected official. He might be relieved of his duties, but he can remain part of the government as long as he pleases. More important: the resignation of a vice president would suggest to ill-disposed persons that the president may not be far behind.

Reilly later expanded on this thought here, citing the evil television series "24":
Some readers may be fans of the Fox series 24, in which each hour-long episode is supposed to depict in real time each hour in the day of a federal intelligence agent who thwarts the plans of terrorists. I rarely watch the series, actually, but I happened to tune in last night. What struck me was that the root of all evil, at least within the American government, was the vice president. He was last seen egging on the president to send federal troops into Los Angeles and otherwise to take steps to discredit himself, thus making it easier for the vice president to head his party's ticket in the next election.

It does not require much insight to surmise that we are seeing the effect on popular culture of the vice presidency of Dick Cheney. The Cheney Effect has become a small trend. Readers will recall the film The Day After Tomorrow, in which the VP causes an ice age, or fails to order an evacuation in time for one, or something. A season or two back on Stargate SG1, the vice president was in league with the Illuminati.

May I note that the Cheney Effect marks an important change from midcentury? It used to be that, if you needed a villain for a thriller, you looked to the Senate. A good example is Advise and Consent, a novel by New York Times reporter Allen Drury that was published in 1959; it was made into a memorable movie starring Henry Fonda in 1962. That story involved an attempt by an FDR-like president to appoint an old-fashioned liberal as Secretary of Defense, while being opposed by McCarthy-like tactics on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The book and story are doubly interesting now, because the nominee was supposed to represent the blameless and brilliant Alger Hiss, whom we now know really had been a Soviet agent. In any case, one of the motifs of the story was the modesty and obscurity of the vice president. At a cocktail party, he tries to make conversation with the majority leader of the House (I believe), but realizes that the man is not listening to him. So he says:

"By the way, I murdered my wife last night. Buried her under a kumquat bush. You know what they say: easy come, easy go."

"Hmmm, Oh, I'm sorry Mr. Vice president. You were saying?"

Of course, the president dies toward the end of the story, and the meek little VP turns into Harry Truman. Few people, even Republicans, entertain similar thoughts today.

One thing I am sort of interested on is where Mark Shea would see Dick Cheney tried. Does he now argue that Cheney's actions are illegal under US law or would he prefer that he be brought before some kind of special court, a la Milosevic? In either case, which specific charges would he bring against the man? I would love to see him expound upon this at some length.

But lest we forget, he doesn't hate the Bush administration. He just wants them charged with war crimes. Not the slightest bit of emotion there, no sir.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I imagine he thinks he's being terribly clever ...

Before I begin, my condolences to Mark on his current troubles. As I have repeatedly said, my intention is that he mind his manners rather than lose his livelihood and as such have no intention of gloating at his expense.

That said, as Mark's Bush Derangement Syndrome continues apace, he now appears to have settled on a villain and at least a partial explanation as to how the administration can be both Wilsonian idealists and realpolitik Machiavellians. He still gets it wrong (what the hell is "idealistic certitude with realpolitik brutality [that] tends to result in huge promises, big blunders and hopes betrayed for a great many people?" Is this supposed to be anything more than sloganeering?) and of course thinks that he is ever-so-clever by arguing that Dick Cheney has too much power and/or really runs the White House. That particular caricature might be more appealing were it not, you know, repeated ad nauseam since Bush assumed office. If one is going to seriously criticize the administration to the degree that Mark has, he might as well grow a pair and note that Bush is ultimately the one responsible, not some shadowy puppeteer.

Oh, and Mark also regards Bush as an idiot because the Methodist doesn't know the exact nature of the relationship between the Patriotic Church and the Underground in China. I would be extremely interested in asking him or those who yuk-yuk at these types of comments to explain their own understanding of the relationship on the basis of memory.

Also, he once again appears to regard the idea of spreading political freedom as "a classic American secular messianic vision of our national mission." If only we had known during the Cold War that all of our opposition to communism was nothing more than a secular messianist dream! For someone who is quite intellectually aware of the death toll caused by communism and its adherents (among whom he apparently ranks Michael Ledeen), this is once again an example of Mark not understanding the implications of his positions. That he has the gall to call Bush an idiot while doing so is yet a further demonstration of his own hubris.

But when it comes to Ron Paul's support of libertarianism to the extent of wanting to legalize prostitution, Mark is quite happy to shill for the man because "he's said some honest things and he seems to me to keep the rest of the GOP field relatively honest." How this is even remotely true given that no one is following the man outside of the political fringe is beyond me, but this isn't the first time that Mark has had such delusions. So while he continues to condemn legalizing prostitution, he can't quite bring himself to condemn Ron Paul for holding that position. One strongly suspects that had another GOP candidate said anything even remotely similar, Mark would have trumpeted it from the rafters as yet another sign of the Torture Millionnaire Monolith at work. Yet Paul gets a pass because his heart is in the right place.

I also found this quote quite interesting:
Likewise, in the first essay here, he says everything I have tried and failed to say about the stupid charge that if you don't back the Administration then you must hate the troops. He articulates exactly the reverence I have for the people in our military, who are motivated, as a general rule, by an incredible degree of selflessness. It is just because I hold them in such high regard that I am so angered by a ruling class that has used its power to put them in danger both physically (by sending them into a dubious war) and spiritually (by laboring with might and main to make them tools of a new torture regime, courtesy of the newly created Cheney Branch of Government).

Because the "ruling class" has not done either, the duly-elected government of the United States has. The individuals that Mark would refer to as the elites, near as I can determine, would be quite opposed to both the Iraq war and torture due to their reflexive dislike (which he now largely shares) of the Bush administration. I would also note that his statement is worded in such a way that it is unclear to me whether it is putting our troops in harm's way (what is the purpose of having a military, for instance if not to fight our enemies?), a dubious war, or some combination of the two that is the cause of his ire.

In an unrelated, in his latest denunciation of Joshua Muravchik is a classic demonstration not of Baby Boomer narcissism but rather of the two greatest threats in the last hundred years (which I suspect was the time frame he had in mind when he wrote "modern"): World War 2 . In both cases, the tyrants who led both the Axis and the USSR whose expansionist agendas were predicated around the notion that democracies were weak and unable to withstand a real fight. Bin Laden has offered a fairly similar rationale. Mark and Larison can major in minors by offering counter-examples, but Mark fails to completely address his point. As I said, no doubt he thinks that he is being terribly clever.

And while there are some much-needed chastening that comes from this New Republic article, among it a continuing need to correct the degree to which Rumsfeld is still held in all manner of high esteem by the National Review crowd despite his handling of the Iraq war, at the end of the day it is basically little more than a hit piece by an Independent columnist who seems to have gone out seeking to confirm his biases about the nature of American conservatism and done exactly that. While I have no doubt about the quotes, one will forgive me from distrusting the writer to have given a dispassionate account of what was said there. I think that there is much about the current nature and make-up National Review that is quite worthy of criticism, but I suspect that Mark's acceptance of criticism this biased has more to do with the fact that Norman Podhoretz has advocated an attack on Iran than anything else.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Not surprising ...

Mark appears to buy into the worst forms of liberal caricature here:
I think it plain that the reason we were so easily stampeded into this misbegotten war in Iraq is precisely because we just wanted to punch somebody and we were happy to buy whatever the Administration was pushing about supposed "connections" between Saddam and 9/11 and the Administration was happy to oblige us by constantly connecting the two rhetorically. I think, in a culture as emotionally incontinent and TV-driven as our, future 9/11 (or say, multiple mall bombings, or some other acts of terror) will likewise stampede us in all sorts of unpredictable directions. A mass media culture is not a culture that appreciates the deliberative process much. So calls to do something beside shut our eyes and lunge somewhere in anger or terror are always needed.

If he truly believes that American culture is no longer deliberative, I think that it makes his increasingly dim view of representative democracy a lot easier to understand. Though he doesn't appear to appreciate the irony of his position:
You say that it is our "TV-driven culture" that allowed us to be tricked into the war in Iraq, but I suggest the possibility that it is the very same TV-driven culture that is seeing a so-called "misbegotten" and failed war in Iraq. We've come to expect wars to be won in two hours with the hero and the girl happy together at the end. Since Iraq hasn't quite panned out like a summer action flick, we're now bored and want to pull out. Folks in centuries past would laugh at us for being annoyed that a war wasn't over in four years.

Just pointing out that the "TV-culture" analysis can go both ways.

While I don't think that either analysis is in of itself sufficient (that there were clearly major mistakes in the post-war management of Iraq appears to be the one thing that everyone involved in the debate now agrees on), I would note that Mark is unlikely to accept this interpretation of events. I would also note that asking him for specific instances of the administration actually highlighting connections between Iraq and 9/11 are few and far between. A lot of people on the right did believe and push this (just as they pushed the notion that bin Laden was killed at Tora Bora in 2001, a view that Mark himself bought hook, line, and sinker until his 2004 videotape just prior to the US election) but the administration did not. They didn't particularly go out of their way to refute it either, but given their inability to do so on just about anything it seems to me that this is more a matter of their general ineptitude on matters of communication than anything else.

Moving on, Mark is predictably mad that Ron Paul (whom he still denies supporting, despite describing him in terms that, for Mark, are ascriptive to his ideal candidate) was not invited to a GOP debate. As readers know, I myself don't favor banning Paul from the debates, though I do wish that someone would organize a separate series of debates that would remove the various fringe candidates from either party so that we could learn what the presumed frontrunners are actually trying to say without all the background chatter. I say this particularly with regard to the much-speeded up primary process that I think is a complete disaster waiting to happen.

Then we get Mark's summation of conservatism. This begins with a far more respectable criticism of libertarianism than his earlier denunciations of it as "an ideology for selfish people without children" when he writes:
The libertarian tends to remember that government is a menace due to the fall. He does not tend to remember that he is a menace due to the fall. He wants freedom from government so that he can do whatever the hell he wants. And frequently, he wants hell. The Traditionalist (and by this, I have in view the Christian tradition since it is, like, the basis of Western civilization) wants freedom in order to attempt, with God's help, virtue.

I actually agree with a lot of this, except the idea that there is some kind of explicitly Catholic view of politics that Mark terms "Traditionalist," even though I agree with his discussion of freedom. As a result of a lot failed experiments over the centuries, the Church has (wisely, IMO) come to a fairly minimalist view of government that you see reflected in the Catechism. As long as justice and the common good are upheld, the particular forms of government are viewed as irrelevant. I think that this is a very wise move because it removes the Church from the mechanisms of government (thus literally placing it quite literally "beyond" the political) while retaining the most fundamental criteria for a just society. I can see ways in which a libertarian society might fit that criteria, just as I can see ways in which an absolute monarchy or a representative democracy could. This is not an unimportant point to be considered, at least in my opinion.

Nevertheless, it doesn't take Mark long to embrace his usual caricatures of the GOP:
With the advent of the Bush Administration and triumph of conservatism after Clinton, conservatives seem to have proved their own doctrines in a paradoxical way. Once they had all the power, they began to abuse it, just as they said they would. Somehow they morphed from critics of Big Government to drunken sailors spending wildly to support nation-building wars while laboring to grant the executive branch freedom from all that check and balance stuff as they suspend habeus corpus and torture people. A fine illustration of exactly what conservatism always said would happen when you give fallen man too much power.

... At present, the Morphed Conservatives are running the show. And their spectacular failures mean that the will soon *not* be running the show as our emotionally incontinent culture throws the rascals out and votes in an even more catastrophic liberal regime that will promptly build on the disastrous legacy of Leviathan the Bush administration has done so much to build. Sin makes you stupid and our increasing post-Christian culture appears to be ready to explore new regions of folly.

As one who has always disagreed with Mark's "sin makes you stupid" caricature as it relates to the macro-level (else how would either repentence or revival be possible?), let me note a couple of things here. The United States has not, even by the most extreme caricatures available, suspended habeas corpus as a matter of set policy. The Guantanamo Bay detainees are non-citizens and if Mark is referring to Jose Padilla, he has been charged so the accusation would seem not to hold water. There have, however, been times when habeas corpus was suspended, most notably during the Civil War and Reconstruction. One might note that they did not remain suspended indefinitely, which might lead one to doubt the framework of Mark's initial argument. If memory serves, Mark does not subscribe to the paleocon/Confederate view of Lincoln as a dictator, so I would love to see him and his new buddy Larison sit down and chat about the differences between the policies pursued under the Lincoln administration and those of the Bush administration.

In any case, Mark seems quite content to sit back and strum Nero's violin while America burns. If he truly believes that a Democratic victory in 2008 would be even worse than the policies of the current administration he so despises, one might suspect that he would want to do so something about it. Somehow, I doubt that in all his moral outrage and political worries will lead him to do anything other than continue to blog in ever increasingly self-righteous tones about the evils of America, all the while refraining from actually doing anything about it.

And he wonders why we call him a Pharisee.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Also ...

While I am by no means a fan of Giuliani and find his explanation for dropping out of the Iraq Study Group less than persuasive, let me offer a counter-proposal: he recognized, as did a number of others who participated but didn't drop out (Cliff May, for one) that the foreign policy recommendations being offered were Darwin Award winners, particularly for a candidate who wanted to base his campaign on national security. I also suspect that he recognized that the attempt to link the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to resolving the situation in Iraq was not going to sell. However, he cannot offend the Washington luminaries who took part in the ISG, so he is forced to explain his lack of participation in another way.

I'm willing to acknowledge credit where credit is due, Seamus ...

In that I'm glad that Mark no longer holds Michael Ledeen responsible for the situation at the Iraqi orphanage. No word yet on linking Ledeen with the victims of communism, but I am still more than happy to acknowledge progress where it occurs.

In the case of the latter, two possible explanations were offered to explain what Mark was trying to say. The first of these were in our own combox:
Mark wasn't saying that Ledeen supports Communism or is responsible for 100 million deaths, only that Ledeen shares the underlying philosophy of the Communist apart from Communism's accidental features like state ownership of everything and the color red. That philosophy, for lack of a snazzier term, is Evilism.

So, according to Mark:

1) Communist butchers believed in Evilism, which allowed them to kill 100 million people.

2) Michael Ledeen believes in Evilism, as can clearly be seen from his work.

3) Therefore it is a good idea to link to this article about Communism killing 100 million people with a Ledeen quote expounding Evilism.

I think that Victor answered it pretty well, so I will repost his response:
Yes, but because "evil" is (1) not an ideology or a program; and (2) comes in so many mutually incompatible flavors, "evilism" is not a meaningful term of political discourse. You might as well use the equally capacious term "politics" and so smear everyone who practiced politics from Pericles to Hillary with every sin ever committed in the name of "evilism/politics."

I am right in assuming that the ridiculousness of this child-like Shavian thought [sic] process [sic] that had to be you point, correct?

Actually, reading anonymous's comment again, I'm not sure that I was ironic/sarcastic. I mean this ...

Mark [said] ... only that Ledeen shares the underlying philosophy of the Communist apart from Communism's accidental features like state ownership of everything and the color red.

... reads disturbingly serious.

What "underlying philosophy" would that be?

It cannot be "evilism," particularly coming from a man who loudly insists that he realizes that nobody practices evil for its own sake. On these very terms, there can be no essentialist ideology as "evilism," distinguished only by accidental opinions like nationalism, history, property, religion, classes, institutions and all the rest of the things that distinguish the various ideologies from one another, whether good, bad or indifferent.

Nor can the "underlying philosophy" be "the end justifies the means," because that presupposes that there are in fact ends. Consequentialist philosophy is not an ideology in itself for that very reason. Even on Shea's kindergarten caricature terms, consequentialism does not, cannot, tell you what consequences are desireable (only that, once you've determined that, all means are acceptable).

State ownership of everything is not an "accidental feature" of Communism (certainly not as the color red is accidental). If anything can be called its "underlying philosophy," collective property ownership would be it.

Mark offered his own explanation over at Blosser's:
I merely note that his consequentialist arguments are identical with those of the Duranty "you must break eggs to make omelettes" school of apologetics. Anybody can be a consequentialist, not just a Communist. And consequentialist moral reasoning leads to great evil. I think you can figure that out.

Except, as Victor notes, consequentialism is a philosophy rather than an ideology. I also don't think that it is nearly as self-evident as Mark does that Ledeen is a consequentialist (he has written columns against torture, for instance), but then I don't subscribe to the worst possible view of the man as the source of all that now ills Iraq who seeks to murder prisoners at every turn.

Moving on, I would note that Mark's jihad against fans of 24 continues apace. No word as to whether or not that degree of scorn applies to Jimmy Akin, who has himself used 24 when discussing the issue of torture as it relates to moral theology.

Monday, June 18, 2007

As Mark's Two Minute Hate Continues Apace ...

His incoherence and inability to muster a coherent argument is becoming more and more apparent by the day. I'll be looking forward to his anathema sit against the entire Republican Party when they fail to nominate Ron Paul. Of course, Mark argues that he doesn't support Ron Paul, he just links to his supporters' website while at the same time disparaging Mitt Romney's pro-life credentials and seeing little difference between Romney and Giuliani.

It is this type of willful ignorance and delusion that makes it so troubling for Mark to held up as some kind of luminary when it comes to social and political commentary (which he is, according to the awards he wins). In contrast to Giuliani who has publicly embraced a pro-abortion platform, Romney has done everything in his power to reach out and actively court social conservatives. Now some have questioned his conservative credentials or the sincerity of his conversion, but I personally doubt that Mark even gave either even a passing thought before denouncing Romney. It's just like he had no issue with smearing Fred Thompson's pro-life record last week because of he attempted to articulate a federalist view of abortion, but when it comes to Ron Paul's maximum interpretation of federalism to the point of wanting to abolish the Federal Reserve, Mark is willing to grant him all manner of leeway. Like I've noted before, all of his past virulent criticism of libertarianism and the GOP embrace of the free market gets swepts under the bridge when it comes to Ron Paul. And yet he gets all manner of self-righteous when this pattern of behavior might lead one to suspect that he supports Ron Paul. As I said last time: puh-leez.

Moving right along, I see that both he and Rod are all taken in by Seymour Hersh's latest expose on the Abu Ghraib scandal. As anyone who has bothered to read past Mark's denunciations of Victor and myself is likely already aware, we both regard what happened at Abu Ghraib as being nothing short of disgusting and unpardonable. While a number of the items raised by Hersh in his story have not appeared in the US prosecutions involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal, there was more than enough that was wrong with that prison that my threshhold for believing all manner of sick acts were committed there that I have little to know problem believing what Hersh describes occurred. That said, Hersh's track record here leaves a lot to be desired. Then again, Mark is generally quite credulous when it comes to latching onto sources critical of the Bush administration - witness his breathless endorsement of a massive US-UK attack on Iran timed to coincide with Good Friday.

I also see that Mark continues to hold Michael Ledeen responsible for everything and anything bad that occurs in Iraq. I still see burning an electronic effigy as the most likely place where this is going to end up.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Too funny by far ...

I don't know how long this conversation is going to last, so I'm going to transcribe a some portions of the discussion. I think it's a pretty good indication of just which principles Mark is willing to compromise on first when it comes to politics:
First, let me say that I like a lot of Ron Paul's positions, but doesn't some of his some of his libertarian views (e.g. legalized drugs/prostitution), give you pause?
mr. ed | 06.14.07 - 7:33 pm | #

At some point this bizarre Ron Paul fanboyism among serious Catholics going to stop. It's clear that those Catholics cheering him on don't know anything about him other than that he likes to bang on Bush over the war.

One of Mark's refrains has been that the national GOP doesn't care about pro-life issues. How does Ron Paul stack up? Let's see, he hasn't sponsored any pro-life legislation, and around the time of the Shaivo controversy, he said "Our focus should be on overturning Roe and getting the federal government completely out of the business of regulating state matters." In other words, Congress and the president shouldn't be doing anything about abortion issues, which is exactly the sort of inaction that Mark condemns. (More here)

He's also against the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Okay, Mark, I get it: Ron Paul hammers Cheney on torture, and you love him for it. But he doesn't come close to passing your ideological purity test. Research the guy a little more (it's not that hard; dig around at for a bit) and tell me if he's still worthy of the Doomed Quixotic Chestertonian vote.
K the C | 06.14.07 - 8:14 pm | #

I went to Ron Paul's website to find out his position on how to fight terrorism. I have no idea how he plans on doing it.

I don't care if he's against the Iraq war, or if he thinks that we're paying the price for previously arming the Afghans in their fight against the soviets.


He doesn't answer. In general, I think he doesn't think that the fight against terrorism is real. He probably thinks it's just a phantom to scare people into giving up liberty. In general, he's a complete jackass.

I have no use for that. And I have no use for his fringe half-a$$ed support from Truthers. I find it offensive that anyone would support him because he's a complete wimp when it comes to terrorism. Electing Ron Paul is like electing Osama bin Laden.
Sydney Carton | 06.15.07 - 12:21 am | #


Sure, Paul is pro-life, at least to the extent that the Congressional GOP in general is pro-life. But to stop there is to misunderstand Mark's beef with the GOP on life issues. Mark thinks that the GOP doesn't really care about life issues, and that GOP pols exploit those issues to get themselves elected, then do nothing to advance them. (I think he's wrong about that, but the rightness or wrongness of that position isn't at issue right now.) He's made it very clear that he's tired of this, and that he's looking for a candidate who will follow through on life issues.

For some reason he's settled on Ron Paul, which is odd, because the best that can be said about him is that he's no worse than the average GOP Congressman on life issues. He's certainly not a champion of pro-life causes. Moreover, he takes federalism seriously, and doesn't want the federal government to tell the states what to do on abortion. Normally that's not good enough for Mark, but he really, really likes Ron Paul! The only substantive difference between Paul and the rest of the GOP is that Paul has criticized Bush and Cheney on torture and the war. Other than that, he's quite average on life issues. I just wish Mark could see that.
K the C | 06.15.07 - 12:41 am | #

Electing Ron Paul is like electing Osama bin Laden.

Why, I wonder, do critics of the Iraq War so often feel as though their patriotism is being called into question? And what could that possibly have to do with the shock that Bush supporters felt when *their* patriotism was called into question by the Bushies over the Immigration fracas?

Clues to the clueless: this is the sort of rhetoric that poisons American political discourse. Stop it.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 06.15.07 - 12:41 am | #

Why, I wonder, do critics of the Iraq War so often feel as though their patriotism is being called into question?

Because they're unpatriotic.

See, e.g.:

Underground, Democratic
Kos, Daily
K the C | 06.15.07 - 12:47 am | #

K the C,

Not all of them are unpatriotic. But that's irrelevant for my purposes anyway. I don't care that Ron Paul is against the war in Iraq. My concern is with terrorism. He seems to think it's a figment of our imagination, or that its' only as a result of what big, bad America does in the world. As if Muslims wouldn't attack us once we come running back with our tail between our legs.

We weren't in Iraq in 1986, when they bombed the German disco. We weren't in Iraq when they blew up the Pan Am flights. We weren't in Iraq when they bombed the Towers in 1993. We weren't in Iraq when they bombed the embassies in 1998. We weren't in Iraq when they blew up the Cole. We weren't in Iraq when they destroyed the Towers on 9/11.

What is Ron Paul's plan for attacking terrorists? All of you who support him, please tell me. Thanks.
Sydney Carton | 06.15.07 - 1:20 am | #

On Ron Paul. Somebody whose principal description of 9/11 is blowback and doesn't discuss what to do about AQ is betraying the foreign policy weakness of libertarianism. Libertarian foreign policy is free trade with every state that is not in the act of attacking US citizens, the full majesty of admiralty law to deal with pirates, and requests for foreign states to either try or extradite people like UBL.

I am not kidding. All he has to say about war and foreign policy is that we brought it on ourselves, and that we need "...a strong America, conducting open trade, travel, communication, and diplomacy with other nations." That's great. What does he plan to do about the $%^&* enemy? Does he think UBL is a closet libertarian?

Ron Paul is not even really describing the Iraq war as a distraction from the Afghanistan campaign. He's descibing the Iraq war as an additional error compounding the errors that got us attacked in the first place, and his solution is to tacitly go back to neutrality and assume that we will be left alone. Since he never, ever, talks about what he would do to DEFEAT the jihadis that he does at least acknowledge to be our enemies. I guess he thinks they'll just go away once we quit the UN.
Ed the Roman | 06.15.07 - 9:07 am | #

Ed is right - this is the problem with libertarianism. You cannot make problems go away by ignoring them. The legitimate role of the government is to secure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This explicitly true for the US and is in keeping with Church teaching. Even when the US Government was miniscule we still had to deal with foreign threats (including the Mohammedans).

I like a lot of what Paul has to say - but I wonder what his response would have been to British impressment of US sailors or to the Barbary pirates.
Michaelus | 06.15.07 - 9:32 am | #


Not all Iraq War opponents are unpatriotic. (I can't believe that I have to explain hyperbole to you of all people, but there you go.) But a large contingent of them are (DU, DailyKos), and rightly deserve to have their patriotism questioned. And those who aren't unpatriotic yet adopt the rhetorical style of the DU/DailyKos crowd forfeit their right to complain about erroneous questioning of their patriotism. Lay down with dogs, wake up with fleas.

A selection of things you've said about Ron Paul:

***"I'm likin' this Ron Paul guy more and more."
***"Ron Paul... had, in fact, been one of the few GOP candidates to actually take seriously what JPII said...."
***"[I]f Paul remains as sensible on the few things I've noticed him talking about in the press, I'm willing to give him a listen. Until his Libertarianism makes war on the Catholic teaching concerning the common good, I have no problem with it. If it never reaches that point, then he may get my vote. So far he's impressed me. But if he turns out to be a kook (as Libertarians often do), I'll have to reconsider.... [H]e does not want the GOP to become the Big Tent of Torture and Abortion. If that's kooky, we need more of it."
***"Ron Paul is so freaking crazy he didn't even applaud when the WarPundits subjected John Paul II to their 15 minute hates"

..and my personal favorite:

***"I will have to keep my eye on Ron Paul.... If he opposes abortion as well as what the Newspeakers of the Rubber Hose Right and the FOXNews Ministry of Newthink technicians call "enhanced interrogation techniques", I may have finally found my doomed quixotic candidate to support."

Mark, Ron Paul doesn't have the pro-life bona fides that you demand, yet your position is that unless he turns out to be a "kook" who makes war on Catholic teaching, you may support him. I suppose I can be forgiven for thinking this means that he's your top choice. He's certainly your favorite Republican, and you're not voting for a Democrat. Perhaps you haven't "settled" on him in a definitely-going-to-vote-for-him sense, but you cannot in good faith deny that he looks better to you than any of the current alternatives. If you want to play semantic games and announce that you haven't settled on any one candidate, fine, but don't deny that you really like Ron Paul. All I'm asking is that you take a closer look at his ho-hum pro-life record and tell us if you still think he's worthy of your vote.
K the C | 06.15.07 - 10:57 am | #

Accordingly, he voted to give the president authorization to go after Osama Bin Ladin after 9/11. In fact, he has been critical of the fact that this authorization has been left unfilfilled, while the authority granted in the Iraq authorization has been far exceeded.

He is so critical of the supposed weaknesses of the Afghanistan operations that his campaign web site doesn't mention them at all, only the ways in which we contributed to being attacked.

Ron Paul, like most libertarians [which is what he used formally to be], is not serious about foreign policy. Whether he was right about Iraq in 2002 is irrelevant. He does not say that he intends to do anything in particular now.

And Madison's Bane, just when did impressment of US nationals cease, anyway?
Ed the Roman | 06.15.07 - 11:27 am | #

The reason that I think it is so critical to highlight this is because it illustrates just how eager Mark is to compromise on many of his principles as long as a candidate is "right" on the issues that now seem to have defined his view of politics (torture and opposition to the Iraq war). His staunch opposition to libertarianism, his views on immigration, his critique of the conservative view of the free market, and even his argument that the GOP should do more on pro-life issues can apparently go right out the window so long as Ron Paul is on the "right" side when it comes to torture and the Iraq war.

It is that last compromise in particular that has me seeing red because Mark has made it a habit to simply assert that no GOP politicians truly care about abortion. For instance, he finds Fred Thompson's pro-life views completely suspect and argues that his understanding of federalism means that he doesn't really care about abortion. Yet when it comes to Ron Paul, Mark accepts his federalist views on abortion (which I guarantee are far more rigorous than those of any other pro-life Republican nominee) completely uncritically. I find this quite telling and would be curious what else he is willing to compromise on in order to support Paul.

As to Mark's claim that he really doesn't support Paul, puh-leez. This is like Andrew Sullivan arguing that Bush's support for the Federal Marriage Amendment wasn't the only reason that he opposed him in 2004. Mark has stalwartly defended him at every turn and ignored any flaws to him on issues that he would have railed against other candidates. Compare his willingness to defend Paul, for instance, with his eager dismissals of Brownback and Thompson. Any criticism of Paul has been written off as GOP or Fox News smears. In discussions about torture, Mark has frequently argued (that is to say, demagogued) that those who attempt to raise questions about his views on the subject objectively support torture. Well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander on this one and I will continue to accept his fanboyish support of Paul for what it is in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Moving Goalposts ...

Mark replies on the issue of deportation:
This was fair well gone over by the excuse makers at the Coalition for Fog. The basic strategy (rather ironic for people who were so exercised about Fundamentalist Proof texting) was to point out that since it is absurd to say that all deportations are wrong, then *nothing* JPII mentions can really be intrinsically immoral (and by "nothing" they meant "torture").

Not at all. What we are attempting to point out is that there are a number of unspoken qualifiers with respect to John Paul II's statements from the Gaudium et Spes quotation in question. Thus far, Mark's whole argument on torture has been to appeal to "plain meaning" of a text and then to accuse those who disagree with him of ill motives and loyalty to the Bush administration over the Church. It is my whole point in raising issues such as deportation to note that it isn't that simple. He dismisses the question of deportation on the grounds that it is "absurd" (with which I agree), but then he fails to take it to the next step and understand why it is because of opinions like that which might cause someone to question his invocation of a single text.

Mark writes:
There doesn't seem to be nearly this much energy expended to argue that abortion is not intrinsically immoral. I wonder why?

A couple of reasons, not the least of which being that there is a lot more ink than just Gaudium et Spes and Veritas Splendor when it comes to abortion, to say nothing of a long chain of development concerning Catholic doctrine on the subject. The issue of torture being intrinsically evil, by contrast, is little less than a century old and hence it seems fair to look into the matter closer before pronouncing it as case closed. For those who want to raise the issue of the death penalty or the Church's view of the Jews in order to tar this position as rad-trad, I would say that the death penalty is most assuredly not intrinsically evil and that I believe there is a strong Biblical and doctrinal basis for Vatican II's statements on both the Jews and other religions. One might also note the absence of such statements on the intrinsic evil of torture and be wary of those who would presume to define dogma ahead of the Church.
Anyhow, those of us who are not fundamentalist proof texters point out that when you hit a puzzling ambiguity in Church teaching, the smart thing to do is find out what else the Church teaches about the topic. When you look at "deportation" you discover that the Church does not dispute the right of the state to send a criminal to another country for his crimes. That's called "common sense". Pretty obviously, what is in view here is the violation of "you shall not steal" (by which we mean "It is intrinsically immoral to deprive innocent persons of their homes"). It is also intrinsically immoral to deprive innocent persons of their lives, but not to deprive persons guilty of a capital crime of their lives.

Ah, but if we can kill them, why can't we torture them? Once again, consulting the catechism instead of fundy proof texting helps. The catechism says plainly that prisoners must be treated humanely.

I agree completely with this. And if Mark were arguing that torture is like the death penalty, I wouldn't have a problem with his argument (though his style leaves much to be desired). Moreover, the issue of whether or not prisoners are to be treated humanely is a separate one from whether or not torture is intrinsically immoral. But yes, by all means, let us consult The Catechism:
2297 Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.

As Jimmy Akin noted back in 2004:
The Catechism's discussion of torture (CCC 2298) focuses significantly on the motive that is being pursued in different acts of torture. If it means us to understand that having a particular motive is necessary for an act to count as torture then it might turn out that some acts commonly described as torture are in fact not torture--just as some acts commonly described as stealing are not actually the sin of stealing, such as taking food to feed one's family during a time of starvation when the person who initially had the food has plenty. The same might turn out to be true of torture (i.e., not everything that looks like torture would be the sin of torture).

For example, the Catechism's list of motives for torture does not mention the use of physical pressure to obtain information needed to save innocent lives. It thus might turn out that it is not torture to twist a terrorist's arm behind him and demand that he tell you where he planted a bomb so that it can be defused and innocents can be saved. Certainly the kind of things that Jack Bauer may do on 24 are very different morally from the kinds of things that happened in Soviet prisons.

I would be disinclined to go the route of saying that torture is not always wrong. I think that the Church is pretty clearly indicating in its recent documents that it wants the word "torture" used in such a way that torture is always wrong. However, I don't think that the Magisterium has yet thoroughly worked out all the kinds of "hard case" situations one can imagine and whether they count as torture.

Different churchmen would probably answer the hard case questions differently, some reflexibly shying away from any use of significant physical or psychological pressure, and others holding that the need to prevent an imminent terrorist attack trumps any right a terrorist might otherwise have not to have pain inflicted on him, so that applying physical pressure in such cases might not count as the sin of torture.

Akin later expanded on this in the comboxes to state:
... there is no firm line that has been drawn in these documents between the pain inflicted by corporal punishment and and the pain inflicted by torture.

Indeed, there is no line drawn in them between the pain inflicted by non-corporal punishment and the pain inflicted by torture, since the Catechism and other documents count "psychological torture" as torture.

The fact is, all punishment (even just confinement) causes something unpleasant (i.e., painful) to happen. Further, the threat of punishment is key to deterrence. Unless one is prepared to write off all punishment and threat of punishment (which the Magisterium has not been prepared to do) then one will have to find some other grounds with which to distinguish legitimate punishment from illegitimate torture.

I can think of a number of grounds by which one might do so--e.g., causing excessive pain (i.e., pain that is disproportionate to the good to be achieved) or causing grave and permanent bodily or psychological damage. However, rather than proceding along such lines the Catechism principally concentrates its analysis on the question of motive. Motive is certainly relevant, but the analysis offered in magisterial documents thus far remains non-exhaustive of what does and does not count as torture.

This is pretty much summarizes my own position on the subject. But I'll leave it to Mark to explain why Akin's position is acceptable (or at least tolerable) while mine is motivated solely by loyalty to the Bush administration. Because there's such a huge supply of that among conservative activists these days, yes?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Neoconservatism is the new Communism ...

It is also apparently on par with Salafist jihadism.

So speaketh Shea:
That secular messianic impulse is why I keep banging on about the sinister rhetoric of Creative Destruction that is animating the latest Big Thinkers in their Wilsonian/Machiavellian attempts to create heaven on earth (in this case, via democratic capitalism). Ideologies that attempt a short cut around human nature via violence (whether jihadi or Creative Destroyer) are menaces. The common rhetoric these ideologies share with the Commies is, as the Marxist loves to say, no accident. There are few things more dangerous than a couple of Christian virtues cut off from the Tradition and used as the basis of a militant movement unashamed to use violence in pursuit of the Millennium.

This is yet another of those times when Mark is illustrating his ignorance. Wilsonianism and Machiavellianism is are fairly incompatible political ideologies, as is evident to anyone who has read or is even somewhat familiar either Wilson or Machiavelli. To put it bluntly, they take extremely different views of human nature in order to bolster their philosophies. Trying to conflate the two as neoconservatism once again illustrates that Mark has no understanding of that ideology either, as I think has been demonstrated again and again.

Bringing Islamism into the discussion is yet more idiocy. If you read Sayyid Qutb and other jihadi leading lights, you will find that a large part of his message consists of a condemnation of democracy because it allows spiritual ignorance and vice to flourish. The reason you need a caliphate is because political freedom will be misused for ill ends and hence power must be trusted to those religiously qualified to hold it. This was also the rationale of both the Taliban and Saudi Arabia. Given Mark's condemnation of the United States as being ruled by a clique of millionaires who want to kill off the poor, I would think he might be more sympathetic to this line of hyperbolic argumentation. There is an enormous difference between this type of ideology and communism, incidentally, which is why I have no idea why it is being included. If you want to argue that Salafism has Marxist overtones I'm more than game, but there is a major difference between the overtones and the ideology.

One other thing that Mark might want to consider is that whatever he believes neoconservatism to be, it is not "a militant movement unashamed to use violence in pursuit of the Millennium." If it were, I suspect that he and his paleocon friends would find themselves in a very different state of affairs given, by all accounts, the ideology has been ascendant through most of the Bush administration. There is a difference between someone writing a mean article about you in National Review and someone who is seeking to kill you. I'm not exactly seeing much of a difference between Mark's attempt to tar neoconservatism as communist and the perpetual paleocon complaint that their views are tarred as anti-Semitic when it comes to Israel.

In case someone raises the issue, I am aware that any number of paleocons have criticized what they regard as the Trotskyite roots of neoconservatism. None of the leading ones, to the best of my knowledge, have argued that neoconservatism is the full-blown equivalent of international communism complete with a willingness to use violence in order to achieve their ends. To paraphrase one of Mark's quotes, "If neocons are communists, then why aren't you in a gulag?"

And lest some commentators question why I keep highlighting Mark's ever-nuttier political views, here again this is what he wins awards for. If people are going to keep endorsing him on that basis, I think it's time that they take a good long look at what kind of views are being expoused there.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Maybe he can cut to the chase and start burning Ledeen in electronic effigy?

Since I gather from his latest posts that Mark seems to regard Ledeen and his views as being solely responsible for all that goes ill in Iraq. One wonders what will happen when he gets to the people who actually had real authority on the ground like Rumsfeld, Bremer, Sanchez, and Casey. My best guess is that he has very little idea who the latter two are and very little desire to learn. Or failing that he could actually hold al-Qaeda and Sadr, who are actively formenting most of the violence, responsible for their actions. Instead, he chooses to blame Michael Ledeen and compare him to Trotsky (I wonder where that comparison could have possibly come from?), rather bizarrely holding responsible for the Iraq war a man whose white whale has long been not Iraq, but Iran.

I've discussed the fact that Mark is more interested in talking than learning when it comes to Ledeen's actual views, but this quote in particular is a rather noxious case of misrepresentation. If you read what Ledeen actually said, he stated the number of casualties suffered by US forces in Iraq was secondary as far as public perception was concerned to whether or not we were seen as winning. I don't necessarily think that this is all that controversial a statement as far as an observation of human behavior. At the very least, it is a debateable point. But then again, since Mark has denounced Ledeen as "evil" on more than one occasion, I gather the general rules of civility and good faith representation need not apply.

A Magnificient Summation of Mark's View of the GOP

As provided by Jim in the combox:
Mark has a stunningly monolithic view of the Republican party -- as though the party Politburo vets and approves every statement any politician makes.

One might also note that Mark's continuing slander of the GOP is now spreading to encompass the Party rank-and-file as a whole.

What is an even further indication of how politically tone deaf (or maybe just deaf) he is that he can write this:
On the contrary: my view presumes diversity in the GOP. There are the exploit prolife rank and file, who range from really believing the party leaders care about them to people like me, who know they don't care, but are less likely to zealously do evil, to various pols who seem to be serious (Ron Paul comes to mind), to people who have a prolife voting record betokening serious opposition to abortion, to people with a prolife record betokening token opposition to abortion to people who feel awkward around all those prolife weirdos to people who long for the day when the party is no longer shackled to those backward rednecks who care about the fetus. As a general rule, this has played out so that the party talks a good game to the rank and file, but is not especially serious. Which is what I said.

At a time when the party leadership has just been dealt a monumental defeat on the issue of immigration due in no small part to anger from the base. This was an issue where there was a massive disconnect between the leaderships of both parties and the will of their constituents. If the GOP leadership were the monolith juggernaut that Mark envisions them to be, they would have simply shrugged off this opposition from redneck nativists and pressed onwards with comprehensive immigration reform. I'm sure they would have liked to do just that, but the population that they represented took exception to it and the party leaders were forced to back down. And let it be understood that it was far from just Ron Paul that brought about that particular rebellion.

Speaking of which, am I the only person who finds it odd that Mark now seems to regard Ron Paul as some kind of ideal standard-bearer for Catholic politicians given that the ideology he most closely identifies with (libertarianism) is one that Mark has been an extremely vehement critic of? You know, the selfish ideology for people without children.

One further point that Mark completely ignores is that the Harriet Miers issue was one of competence, not of her pro-life credentials. The Bush administration actually attempted to argue that of course she would be pro-life because she was an evangelical Christian. Moreover, the fact that once again the leadership listened to its constituents would seem to be yet more evidence that the GOP, multi-millionaire cabal and all, is quite far from being the massive monolith that he believes it to be.

Mark on Deportation ...

A reader provided me with these links where Mark actually talks about deportation as it relates to his reading of Gaudium et Spes:
Nonetheless, I agree with Zippy that Jimmy's argument is a bad one, both for Zippy's reasons and reasons of my own. If an act is intrinsically evil, then it does not become proportional and just when circumstances change. That appears to be the entire point of Veritatis Splendor's discussion of intrinsic immorality. Attempts to explain that away in the special case of torture seem to me to prove too much and vitiate Veritatis Splendor of all its meaning.

I recognize the Dulles/Harrison points about the (possible) ambiguity of certain terms. If I were a Latinist or knew somebody who was a Latin scholar I'd be competent to go into fine-tuned discussions of whether "deportationes" referred to "arbitrary banishment" or not. But I'm not so I won't argue that point. But I will note that it seems to me that it does violence to Veritatis Splendor to seek, on the basis of this ambiguity, to loosen as much as possible the application of the term "intrinsically immoral". Once again, it looks very strange to say during a time of state-enforced famine,

"The Holy Father is apparently ambiguous with *these* terms, so it can reasonably argued that he is ambiguous about state-enforced famines as well (though not, of course, about intrinsically immoral things such as abortion that I disapprove of in all cases.) So when the Holy Father says state-enforced famines are intrinsically immoral, we have to recognize that he never defines "famine" or 'state-enforced', nor did he state the unstated qualifier of pacifying regions of a country that are in open rebellion againsst legitmate authority. I'm sure he would agree that in such cases, so-called "famine" is a legitimate tool of warfare. In fact, it was one of the weapons employed by Sherman in the American Civil War. And I think we can all agree that this was proportionate given the necessity of the destruction of slavery and the preservation of the Union."

...but never get around to discussing the fact that, in the real world, the state is, in fact, committing the crime of the starvation of the Russian serfs. This seems to me to be a startling example of majoring in minors while draining the encyclical of all practical force where it might impinge on those crimes.

The basic argument being put forward is that JPII includes in his list of "intrinsically immoral" acts certain things which require unspoken qualifiers. So, for instance, he mentions "deportation" as intrinsically immoral without specifiying that, say, deportation of a refugee from justice or an illegal immigrant is not intrinsically immoral. Cardinal Dulles likewise notes slavery as a problematic item. Of course, JPII also mentions things like abortion and euthanasia, which are intrinsically immoral without unspoken qualifications. In other words, there may or may not be "unspoken qualifiers" when it comes to torture. Fr. Harrison basically concludes that, it may be argued, JPII *meant* us to understand there was an unspoken qualification when it comes to torture: namely, that torturing somebody to extract life-saving information is not intrinsically immoral.

Let's grant, for a moment, Fr. Harrison's argument. Prescinding from the fact that, again, the *whole point* of VS 80 is to say that there are some acts which no good end can justify, let's ask: Is our policy of torture simply confined to those who can yield life-saving information?

Answer: No. By the very nature of the case, torture is employed not because we know they have life-saving information, but because we *suspect* they have life-saving information. In many cases, we torture to find out if the victim is worth torturing. And even then, we are often a) wrong, b) radically counter-productive and c) always endangering our souls. Moreover , mind you, this is all on the basis of what Fr. Harrison *supposes* John Paul *might* have meant when all we actually have are his clear and explicit words that physical and mental torture are intrinsically immoral.

Both of these appear to me to be an issue where he simply dodges the question of deportation altogether. I don't necessarily have a problem with that since he cites ignorance (were that he to do so more often when speaking about other matters!), but I think that if he is going to rest his entire argument on torture on the basis of appealing to a particular text that he should be damned sure that he knows that text before he starts issuing anathema sits against those who might question his interpretation.

There is also, if you read on the linked posts, a complete failure to distinguish between the sacred and the secular. Whether or not torture (or more specifically acts that others might regard as torture) is licit under some circumstances does not automatically justify or excuse all actions carried out by the United States or its allies. In other words, there is morality and then there is practice. When Cardinal Dulles raised the issue of slavery in reference to statements by Pope John Paul II, it was absurd for anyone to argue that he did so because he was seeking to revive the practice. Similarly, to argue that the only reason that anyone could question Mark's view of Gaudium et Spes was out of a desire to defend the Bush administration is pure ad hominem. Either our criticisms have merit and he should address them or he should do more than make these vain appeals to ill or base motives on the part of everyone who disagrees with him.

The reason that I raised the issue of deportation was due to the fact that, as I think these quotations illustrate, Mark has never really engaged the issue of deportation as it relates to his reading of Gaudium et Spes as far as I can determine. He has cited ignorance and then assumed that there were unspoken qualifiers for those issues that he views as reasonable (deportation, slavery, etc) while ignoring them for those issues he believes to be unreasonable (in this case torture). This is classical Protestant "pick and choose" exegesis regarding textual literalism. The appeal to the examples of abortion and euthanasia are unconvincing because we didn't need Gaudium et Spes to inform us that either were immoral - there is a long and well-established track record of Catholic teaching in this regard. But if Mark is going to tell us that torture is now intrisically immoral where it manifestly was not regarded as such 100 years ago, I don't think that it is altogether unreasonable to demand a higher standard of proof than that which Mark has yet provided.

Mark argues that those wishing to discuss the qualifiers of torture are doing so in order to excuse the current actions of the Bush administration. I think that this is a massive ad hominem attack, but it also begs the question of what might be said concerning all of his paleocon friends and their full-throated arguments concerning the wholesale deportation of millions of illegal immigrants?

Friday, June 08, 2007

One question that I tactfully avoided asking ...

Is Mark Shea willing to weigh in on whether or not those who favor the deportation of illegal immigrants (either in toto or on a case-by-case basis) are advocating an intrinsic evil? I know that immigration isn't exactly Mark's premier subject, but under the exact same exegesis and argumentation that he's used in the torture debate I don't see how he can argue otherwise and remain intellectually consistent. Then again, that hasn't been much of priority for him in the past on this issue, but it is worth pointing out.

Two unrelated points ...

I know that Publius has raised the issue the Corner's Rudymania in the past, I still tend to think that the Rudymania mainly comes as a result of their search for an alternate leader in the absence of George Bush. What I think will be the key moment is whether or not the Rudymania continues to its current degree once Fred Thompson jumps into the race. I've still yet to see any particularly compelling evidence that Giuliani would be so much better on terrorism than any of the other candidates other than that he was tough on crime in New York City and that he happened to be mayor when 9/11 occurred. The latter argument in particular is starting to annoy me to the point where it has become the rhetorical (as opposed to moral) equivalent of John Kerry's argument that he would make a better president than Bush because he "served in Vietnam."

One other thing I might add is that there the Corner has had some pretty screwed up comments recently. From Derbyshire's argument that Scooter Libby just needs to suck it up and take it when it comes to doing hard time because he was a senior government official (guilt or innocence appear to be a secondary matter to Derbyshire) to Mark Krikorian's uncovering subversive meanings in the phrase "nation of immigrants." Thankfully both of these remarks were quickly repudiated by their colleagues, but somebody needs to get NRO some better quality control.

Historical "dissent"

This is a guest piece from friend of the site Shawn McElhinney:

On General Norms of Theological Interpretation and "Dissent":
(A Historical Lesson and a Question For Mark Shea and His Ideological Allies)

Readers of this humble weblog (referring to Coalition For Fog) are aware of how Mark Shea has treated those who have taken issue with his theologically unsound (to put it nicely) interpretation of Veritatis Splendour on the issue of torture. I was among those who sought to make a careful examination of this subject using general norms of theological interpretation and while my writing on this subject is not the issue I want to focus on in this posting¹, it suffices to note that Mark Shea would probably find problems with how I approached that subject. According to Mark, I am probably a "dissenter from the magisterium" for the methodology I utilized and the stand I took.

I want therefore to have my methodology on a subject not dogmatic to be compared to the historical example to be noted below. From there, I want to ask Mark if he would take a similar stand against someone who had similar scruples about a solemn definition of dogma that some of us have had on theological matters nowhere near as weighty — in the former case, I refer to the definition of papal infallibility from Vatican I:
I saw the new Definition yesterday, and am pleased at its moderation—that is, if the doctrine in question is to be defined at all. The terms are vague and comprehensive; and, personally, I have no difficulty in admitting it. The question is, does it come to me with the authority of an Ecumenical Council?
Now the prima facie argument is in favour of its having that authority. The Council was legitimately called; it was more largely attended than any Council before it; and innumerable prayers from the whole of Christendom, have preceded and attended it, and merited a happy issue of its proceedings.
Were it not then for certain circumstances, under which the Council made the definition, I should receive that definition at once. Even as it is, if I were called upon to profess it, I should be unable, considering it came from the Holy Father and the competent local authorities, at once to refuse to do so. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that there are reasons for a Catholic, till better informed, to suspend his judgment on its validity.
We all know that ever since the opening of the Council, there has been a strenuous opposition to the definition of the doctrine; and that, at the time when it was actually passed, more than eighty Fathers absented themselves from the Council, and would have nothing to do with its act. But, if the fact be so, that the Fathers were not unanimous, is the definition valid? This depends on the question whether unanimity, at least moral, is or is not necessary for its validity? As at present advised I think it is; certainly Pius IV. lays great stress on the unanimity of the Fathers in the Council of Trent. 'Quibus rebus perfectis,' he says in his Bull of Promulgation, 'concilium tanta omnium qui illi interfuerent concordia peractum fuit, ut consensum plane a Domino effectum esse constiterit; idque in nostris atque omnium oculis valde mirabile fuerit."
Far different has been the case now,—though the Council is not yet finished. But, if I must now at once decide what to think of it, I should consider that all turned on what the dissentient Bishops now do.
If they separate and go home without acting as a body, if they act only individually, or as individuals, and each in his own way, then I should not recognize in their opposition to the majority that force, firmness, and unity of view, which creates a real case of want of moral unanimity in the Council.
Again, if the Council continues to sit, if the dissentient Bishops more or less take part in it, and concur in its acts; if there is a new Pope, and he continues the policy of the present; and if the Council terminates without any reversal or modification of the definition, or any effective movement against it on the part of the dissentients, then again there will be good reason for saying that the want of a moral unanimity has not been made out.
And further, if the definition is consistently received by the whole body of the faithful, as valid, or as the expression of a truth, then too it will claim our assent by the force of the great dictum, 'Securus judicat orbis terrarum.'
This indeed is a broad principle by which all acts of the rulers of the Church are ratified. But for it, we might reasonably question some of the past Councils or their acts.
John Henry Newman: Private Letter (circa July 24, 1870) as quoted in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk from Chapter 8 On the Vatican Council (circa December 27, 1874)
That is correct folks, Fr. John Henry Newman had some serious scruples about papal infallibility not only prior to its definition (as we all know) but even afterwards. My question for Mark and those who approach issues as he does is this:

Was John Henry Newman a "dissenter from the magisterium" or was he engaging in a valid theological inquiry on an issue where he had some scruples as to its legitimacy???

Those who review the approach outlined by the Vatican on how a theologian should approach issues of difficulty will see not only in Newman's approach but also the approach that I and not a few others took on the whole subject of the so-called "intrinsic evil of torture" will notice a similarity which is not accidental.

I cannot note offhand the various people who may have approached this issue as I did but I know Victor Morton and Fr. Brian Harrison did. We all know how Mark responded to them so the question must be asked anew:

Did Fr. John H. Newman in outlining his problems with the Vatican I papal infallibility definition engage in "dissent from the magisterium" or was his methodology of inquiry acceptable???

If Mark says no, then he owes an profound apology to Victor, Fr. Harrison, and yours truly for any insinuations whatsoever that we were "dissenting." If Mark says "yes", then I am curious to know if he has ever lambasted Newman as a "dissenter" and why the Vatican far from censuring him for this has shown an ever-increasing degree of honours conferred on him. To note them briefly before ending this post:
  • In 1847, Pope Pius IX honoured Newman with a D.D. degree (doctor of divinity).
  • Pope Leo XIII made Newman his first cardinal in 1879 four years after his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk where he outlined the above statements of doubt on the validity of the Vatican I definition in the weeks after it was promulgated.
  • Popes Pius X, Pius XI, and Pius XII all spoke respectfully of Newman — the latter saying that he had no doubt Newman would one day be a canonized saint.
  • Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI both spoke highly of Newman — Paul VI called the Second Vatican Council "the Council of Newman"- and both explicitly said they wanted to beatify him.
  • Pope John Paul II also wanted to beatify Newman but his cause has not gotten that far yet so he had to settle for a 1991 declaration of Newman as "venerable."
  • Newman's thoughts permeate several texts promulgated by Pope John Paul II including the section in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the section on "conscience" and the encyclical letter Fides et Ratio on faith and reason.
  • Like all his aforementioned predecessors, Pope Benedict XVI is quite fond of Newman and may well be the pope to beatify him. (As the postulator of his cause for sainthood announced that they had a miracle ascribed to Newman's intercession in October of 2005.)
So was this man of whom every pope since at least Pope Leo XIII² has spoken highly of a "dissenter from the magisterium" or not??? That is the question that I would like to see people such as Mark Shea answer but I am sure they will serve ice water in hell before that happens.
¹ On Torture and General Norms of Theological Interpretation Contra Certain "Apologist" Fundamentalist Hermeneutics--Parts I-III (circa October 13, 2006)
² Granting for a moment the premise that Pope Pius IX was always suspicious of Newman -a statement I have seen in enough places and without a counter-assertion to thereby view as the probable view of Bl. Pius IX.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

As for this ...

It strikes me that Mark has yet to understand the difference between imperialism and Empire, though this is probably a minor point.

Mark writes:
Yesterday, I posted briefly about the fact that Ron Paul--who has been subjected to all sorts of "He must not be allowed to share the stage with *decent* men like Rudy Giuliani!" agitprop since the first GOP debate--had, in fact, been one of the few GOP candidates to actually take seriously what JPII said when the Bushies and their media shill were agitating for war. I was particularly irritated that FOXNewscritters Hannity and O'Reilly had denounced JPII, that FOXNewscritters had fished for (and gotten) pledges of fealty to the New Bush Torture Ethic from virtually the whole field of candidates except McCain and Paul--and yet Paul was being treated like the Mad Uncle in the Attic. I found that too absurd to swallow.

To the best of my knowledge, no serious figure has criticized Ron Paul or suggested that he be barred from the debates due to his position on torture. It is instead because of his isolationist foreign policy views that he is currently ostracized by a majority of conservatives. And while McCain is hated or at least strongly disliked by any number of conservative figures, I suspect that you'll find his views on torture pale greatly compared to those who hate him because of McCain-Feingold, immigration, or the "Gang of 14." Indeed, most conservatives who criticize him because of his views on torture are at least willing to acknowledge that he holds a principled position on the matter - possibly because his views as he has expressed them are far more reasonable than those expoused by Mark Shea.

Also, this is just rich:
n fact, I remain cordialy skeptical of Libertarianism. However, if Paul remains as sensible on the few things I've noticed him talking about in the press, I'm willing to give him a listen. Until his Libertarianism makes war on the Catholic teaching concerning the common good, I have no problem with it. If it never reaches that point, then he may get my vote. So far he's impressed me. But if he turns out to be a kook (as Libertarians often do), I'll have to reconsider. Small kookiness I don't mind. Big kookiness can be dangerous. So far, on the big issues, his main kookiness has been of the right kind: he does not want the GOP to become the Big Tent of Torture and Abortion. If that's kooky, we need more of it.

Big talk from someone who has repeatedly derided libertarianism for years as an ideology for selfish people without children. But hey, I guess it goes to show how fast principles can be compromised in pursuit of the correct course of action. Incidentally, if Ron Paul's kookiness were only about torture and abortion, I suspect that he would not currently be a pariah among conservatives. It's his whole isolationist foreign policy argument that we tend to find the most repugnant.

Okay, let's back this up a bit ...

What I find most interesting about this post is, perhaps because Mark deliberately divorces himself from popular culture, he is seemingly unaware that some really macabre entertainment existed before the United States began to debate torture. The "ticking time bomb" scenario for instance far predates 24, for instance, I remember encountering it in all manner of comic books during my childhood in the 1980s. I also tend to think that any discussion of the coarse nature of modern popular culture has to include the rather large number of slasher films that significantly predate the torture debate.

One interesting point to be made here is that I will stake a rather large amount of money on the fact that 99% of the individuals involved in producing such material are vehemently opposed to anything involving the Bush administration.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Concerning Ledeen ...

I will bet that this quotation, possibly with ellipses and all, did not come from a primary source document. Also, concerning the martyrdom of Father Ragheed Ganni, maybe Mark can explain to me if he cares about the Chaldean population so much why he now endorses abandoning them to the tender mercies of al-Qaeda? He would strain a gnat when it comes to Ledeen while swallowing a camel when it comes to the actual fate of the Iraqi Christian population.

Mark writes:
Indeed, I remember a time when "revolutionary war" was what the Left called for, while conservatives (not to mention Catholics) were highly skeptical that the Millennium could be brought about by political revolutions. For every American revolution resulting in a stable free society (give or take a Civil War and an Indian genocide or two), there seem to be dozens and dozens of French, Russian, Nazi, Khmer Rouge, Maoist, and tinpot African dictator revolutions. Not a promising track record. How did such thinking manage to become parroted by conservatives, much less Catholic enthusiasts for Ledeen?

Probably because the type of democratic revolution championed by Ledeen is a very different thing from that championed by the communist left. As he makes explicitly clear in the NRO piece that Mark referenced:
To those who say it cannot be done, we need only point to the 1980s, when we led a global democratic revolution that toppled tyrants from Moscow to Johannesburg. Then, too, the smart folks said it could not be done, and they laughed at Ronald Reagan's chutzpah when he said that the Soviet tyrants were done for, and called on the West to think hard about the post-Communist era. We destroyed the Soviet Empire, and then walked away from our great triumph in the Third World War of the Twentieth Century.

Good thing we didn't take Mark's paleocon advice about the lack of viability of democratic revolution during the 1980s or the Iron Curtain would still be standing. Then again, that appears to be what Ron Paul is still arguing today, so maybe that's Mark is such a supporter.

This actually makes a lot more sense ...

In terms of understanding Mark's views on the war in Iraq:
All I know is what I read from people who are closer to the events than I am. I know it's gotta be frustrating for the troops on the ground who are bravely doing countless good things for the Iraqi people in trying to kill bad guys, get the lights and the water on, fix the smashed infrastructure and all the rest. I consider the troops on the ground heroic and always have. But I remain dubious that this Administration has a clue about what it is doing. That dichotomy is always present in my thoughts when I'm trying to evaluate what's happening in Iraq.

In other words, his fundamental position on the situation in Iraq is influenced more by his opinion of the administration (which, as we know from previous comments, is heavily influenced by the torture debate) than by the actual reports from the front. While this is somewhat defensible, I would hold that Mark clearly has a lot of emotional baggage (either "hate" or "righteous anger" depending on whether you're talking to me or him) when it comes to the Bush administration that makes him more or less irrational on the subject.

I also think, at the end of the day, Mark either does not follow or does not process much of the information he receives out of Iraq. For instance, he writes "We recently discovered that people we were training and equipping were part of the insurgency," as though he missed the entirety of the Fallujah Brigade story or the death squad activities that dominated the news through much of 2006. As long as he continues to exist within this willful ignorance, news stories can come and go but his emotional baggage towards the administration is likely to remain constant.

A reply to a comment that Victor made awhile back ...

Concerning why I would rather not vote than vote Giuliani if he won the Republican nomination. I don't think that it's at all unreasonable to argue that a Giuliani loss would be less destructive for the GOP both short and long-term then to have him win and have the argument that politicians need not concern themselves with social conservatives at the national level validated. In short, we could easily end up where Mark and Rod believe that we already are and I would just as soon not have it come to that.

Giuliani has expressly endorsed a position (pro-abortion) that I consider nothing short of a deal-breaker, pure and simple. So have all of the Democrats, so I have no intention of voting for them. I'm also not nearly as convinced as some people that he would be such a great foreign policy president either - his inability to date to criticize Bush in a substantive fashion at a time when both personal and political support for the man remains at record lows due a variety of factors is something that I consider a definite weakness. Romney, McCain, and (still undeclared?) Thompson have all criticized Bush from a conservative foreign policy perspective for his handling of the war in Iraq, something that I think needs to be done in conservative circles sooner or later and that I would rather be done in the primary than in the general election. Ultimately, I think that the Romney, Thompson, and McCain votes need to coalesce around a single anti-Rudy candidate and while my own preference remains McCain, I think that any of the three would be good picks and would have no problem voting for any of them for president.

The problem of caricatures ...

For someone who complains a lot about how our political system reduces everything to two sides, Mark sure has a tendency to do it himself:
One of the many stupid ways in which the War on Terror has been fought is to sneer whenever somebody proposes trying to understand why radical Islamists become radical Islamists. We prefer the Christopher Hitchens approach: just hate them and spit on any attempt to grasp the workings of their minds as intrinsically uninteresting.

The problem with this deeply stupid approach is that, as we discover, the net result is to breed more and more radical Islamists. This is due, in no small part, as all the worlds ills is due, to a faulty spirituality expressed in a faulty theology. The shorthand for this is Manichaeism. The Bush Administration and the various realpolitik types who support it tend to speak of good and evil in Manichaean terms: as opposites which have nothing whatever to do with one another. That explains not only why Bush has such great difficulty articulating when he has ever said or done anything wrong, but also why he is such a dunderhead in speaking about the enemy.

However, the problem isn't just Bush. The horror which greeted Ron Paul when he dared to suggest that some faint grasp of what animates our enemies and his suggestion that we consider the possibility that there might be some actual good they seek was enough to provoke the dolts in the GOP leadership to seek the expulsion of the blasphemer from the company of Decent Folk like Rudy Giuliani.

Ignoring the fact that Mark apparently cannot conceive of the question without turning it into a political one, I would note that there has been a lot of ink spilled on this one from such figures as Bernard Lewis to Mary Habeck to Gilles Kepel to Efraim Karsh as well as by any number of terrorism analysts including Rohan Gunaratna and Michael Scheuer. I doubt that Mark is even remotely familiar with the literature on this subject. Nor do I suspect that he has any desire to learn, as he sees his role here as that of teacher regardless of his own lack of understanding in the area:
The Hitchens approach is to scream at the one who desires God (who is the ultimate good sought by all) that they must not desire him and must instead be content with Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy! The proposal of much of our post-Christian secular culture is much the same. And since the human heart rebels at this the Muslim feels he has little choice between the Bronze Age Fanatic who offers a temptingly simple explanation of the universe or the decadent west whose chief exponents of war really do quite often openly and nakedly say that the good they seek (namely, God himself) is evil and that this should be thrown overboard for some sort of ultimate good compounded of atheism, TV, newspapers, and drinking binges to numb the soul.

... But when it comes to those who are not yet in the ranks of the Bronze Age Fanatics, our civilization of watered down therapeutic self-indulgence and violent sentimentality has failed dreadfully. We ourselves are engaged in the pursuit of various goods by wrong means and are engaged in the project, all day long, of denying the existence of any ultimate goods beyond Democracy Whiskey and Sex so we have no idea how to approach those in other cultures who are attempting to reach those goods by other, more simplistic and radical means. All we have is a hammer, and every problem is treated like a nail. And even the tiniest suggestion that we try thinking differently is greeted with howls of rage. The Middle Ages are dead.

First of all, this is a gross caricature of Hitchens, who seems more than capable of befriending Muslims. Indeed, if he truly held the views that Mark would ascribe to him I don't think he would be writing even half of what he does about the suffering of the Iraqi people and the need to stand up for them. Instead, I think it is important to understand that the reason that Hitchens hates and opposes Christianity so much is because he sees Christians as those most likely to jeopardize the lifestyle that he favors after that of radical Muslims. In this he is a consistent libertine, which is more than might be said for his fellow travelers on the left who seek to identify with those that hate them the most culturally.

I also don't even remotely accept his argument that the United States currently denies the existence of transcendent goods. The pro-war libertarians who coined the phrase that Mark loves to smear all supporters of the war with might, but the last time I checked pro-war libertarianism was far from the reigning political ideology in the United States. If what he said were true, we would have no real way to engage with our Muslim allies in Iraq as well as Afghanistan. Moreover, I think that statistical data will show that the United States military (who actually carries out said policies) is more religious than the general population. To argue that these people are currently engaged in denying the existence of a higher good in society is to adopt a grossly inaccurate caricature of our soldiers at best. Even al-Qaeda grants that most of them are of Judeo-Christian background - it's why they call our presence in places like Iraq or Afghanistan a crusade.

Now expect that Mark meant that he was talking about American society rather than our troops, but with all due respect American society is made up of Americans. To paraphrase one of his favorite quotes, a nation of Hindus may be ruled over by Swedes, but the majority are still Hindus and it is the Hindus rather than the Swedes that are most likely to favor the war. Mark might do well to keep that in mind when penning his next denunciation of the United States. Though the fact that the only authentic pro-war voice he seems to find are the libertarian ones suggest that perhaps he should broaden the scope of his reading.

Update: I just saw this and it's more of the same. For Mark, the only part of Western civilization that counts are the Swedes.