Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

"Very fun." -- J. Bottum, Editor, FIRST THINGS

"Too modest" -- Elinor Dashwood

"Perhaps the wisest man on the Web" -- Henry Dieterich

"Hat tip: me (but really Cacciaguida)" -- Diana Feygin, Editor, THE YALE FREE PRESS

"You are my sire. You give me confidence to speak. You raise my heart so high that I am no more I." -- Dante

"Fabulous!"-- Warlock D.J. Prod of Didsbury

Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006
Here are six headlines describing one place where the Holy Father said a prayer today as "Turkey Mosque." I guess "Turkish Mosque" sounds awkward to many editors (though why, I can't imagine), and "Blue Mosque," as the place is actually called, perhaps strikes some as reflecting excessive interest in decor. ("Oh but you must see the Mauve Synagogue!" "Can't tonight -- Gawain and I are going to the Green Chapel.") But "Turkey Mosque"?

"Cripes, they're building a mosque down the street."
"I just hope it isn't one of those turkey mosques!"
"All those turkeys comin' through here...!"
"And the parking...!"
"And the whole week before Thanksgiving -- you never heard such caterwauling...!"

Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Daily Mail: Passengers alerted as radiation traces found on planes in spy death probe.
The BA 767 planes operate on routes within Europe and up to 800 passengers on four flights may have been affected.
But they also use Boeing 767s on the Heathrow-to-Philadelphia route, no?

Oh well. Gotta glow.

Brussels Journal, a blog by European conservatives, considers Constaninople's great Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, its sad fate, and its lingering hope.

Our faculty's P&T Committee met today. We decided not to P in our T. Developing.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The Hill reports:
At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t.

Well Jim -- I calls ya Jim on accounta we both got sons what's Marine Lance Corporals and been/are in Iraq -- I tell you what. No, not nothin' 'bout the difference 'tween White House receptions and White House policy meetins', 'cuz I don' reckon the folks back home set no store on them kind o' hoyty-toyty distinctions, so neither do you.

No, what I'll tell you is that that guy you were talkin' to won him an election (or two: I know there's some everlastin' hollerin' goin' on about that) to be President, while you done win one to be a Senator, which is... legislative branch... separation of... you still with me, Jim? Look, Senator's high but not as high as President, 'zwat it boils down to, and only the President got him that Commander in Chief thing goin' in the Constitution.

Know what that means, Jim? Means he can tell you your son, or mine, to do any good-goddam thing he wants to. S'long as it ain't no war crime, our sons gotta do it. I know folks say he went for the tall grass during 'Nam, while the only tall grass you was in was the kind with VC in it. Know that; read your book; country honored you like it should, and all that. Know what all that's worth when it comes to who decides when your son comes home, or -- heck who knows -- when mine goes back?

That's right Jim. Yer lernin'.

Maggie Gallagher reports:
Six centuries after the fall of Constantinople, Patriarch Bartholomew's flock is tiny, perhaps just 2,000 people. But just before taking off, Pope Benedict spoke with reporters on the plane, according to National Catholic Reporter's John Allen: "Numbers don't really count," Benedict said. "It's the symbolic and historical weight (of the office) that matters."

Bringing together "the two sister churches of Rome and Constantinople," the pope said, is a "very important moment in the search for Christian unity." It is, he acknowledged, a symbolic encounter, but one that "is not just empty, but is full of reality."

Maggie also details "the disgraceful state of dhimmitude to which the patriarch of Constantinople and his church remain subject to this day."

Meanwhile, Mehmet Ali Agca wants a meeting with the Pope. Sorry dude: if you want to be in the news again, you'll have to divorce Kid Rock or make an ass of yourself in a standup comedy act or something.

Sunday, November 26, 2006
Needless to say, Christ is also king of Anatolia, or "Asia" as St. Paul called it, or "Turkey" as it has been known since the present Saracen occupation of Constantinople began in 1453.

I speak, of course, with the candor that comes of not being a Vatican official, and I urge understanding of the predicament of those who are.

Christ the King. Pope Benedict's message.

How did we get this feast-- actually, a solemnity? Pope Pius XI instituted it at a time when "laicism" -- meaning, aggressive official secularism in countries where Catholicism was, how shall I say, deep-seated -- had long been all the puff in France and Germany, had had a spell in power in Portugal, would lead to a major persecution in Spain starting the following years, and would take over briefly but ferociously in Spain six years later.

Under the circumstances, it was inevitable that this feast and some of its imagery would be appropriated by the clericalist rad-trad right, which cites Quas Primas like it owns it. Cela dit, however, QP is still part of the ordinary papal magisterium, and, however uncomfortable it makes us, it says, inter alia,
32. Nations will be reminded by the annual celebration of this feast that not only private individuals but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honor and obedience to Christ. It will call to their minds the thought of the last judgment, wherein Christ, who has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected and ignored, will most severely avenge these insults; for his kingly dignity demands that the State should take account of the commandments of God and of Christian principles, both in making laws and in administering justice, and also in providing for the young a sound moral education.
In the present calendar this feast is of course the last Sunday of the liturgical year, but Pius XI placed it, and the calendar in use in the 1962 Missal sector of the Latin Rite still has it, on the last Sunday in October. Is there signifance to the change? One effect is that in the U.S., this solemnity will always come well after Election Day instead of just before it. Hmmmmm....

Thursday, November 23, 2006
Litvinenko has died.

Why did it take ten days for the hospital to do toxicological tests?

It may have looked like common food poisoning at first -- Lenin's Cheka, and its successors, the KGB and today's FSB, have traditionally designed their poisons that way (see op-ed in 11/22 WSJ, not on line) -- but, in this day and age when massive testing is routine, if only for liability purposes, why did a sudden "violent" illness in a Russian defector known to be investigating the current regime's crimes not provoke any heightened suspicion?

What did these docs say to themselves -- "Gor'blimey, just another one of 'em Russian dissident blokes -- no need for any special worries about 'im"? Would they have diagnosed Anna Politskovskaya as having "excessive leaden missile intake"?

Why did they at first confirm, and later rule out, thallium?

ETA 1. "Sasha" Letvinenko's last statement, as dictated to a friend; plus his father's statement. Worthwhile.

ETA 2. It was polonium-210, not thallium -- at least for now. In the linked article, the Financial Times adds:
Tiny amounts of polonium-210 – made in nuclear reactors – are used in a few industrial processes but obtaining a lethal dose would be beyond the means of a lone poisoner.

...In the memorable words of Andrea Sella, a chemist at University College London: “My gut that whoever did this wanted not only to harm him but also to send a spectacular message to others – mess with us and we make you die a lingering death.”
ETA 3. And meanwhile, Russian rocket deliveries to Iran started. (Reminds me of a recent conversation I had with a friend whom you might call a Russophilic Islam-hawk. He said: "Russia will tell us, 'Hey, everyone's entitled to one terrorist ally, and yours is Saudia Arabia.'" The truth hurts.)

ETA 4: NRO's Jim Geraghty receives a message (scroll down), from an e-mail account at the European Court of Justice, hinting vaguely that the Letvinenko and Politskovskaya cases are linked to the "neocons" and the "Israel lobby." So, gradually, "never again" keeps turning into "maybe next Tuesday."

ETA 5:
"If this regime falls, and I think it will fall, because a regime with no morality and conscience is doomed, then the street where Alexander was born in the city of Voronezh will be named after him. He will always be in our hearts and in the hearts of the Russian people."

-- Walter Letvinenko

Wednesday, November 22, 2006
General James T. Conway, USMC, a hero of Fallujah, takes over as Marine Commandant, and says (in AP's paraphrase) that the Marine Corps "may need to increase in size in order to sustain continued deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan without sacrificing needed training or putting undue stress on the corps."

Today is November 22, and you know what that's the anniversary of. Yes -- the death of Aldous Huxley!

Just kidding. It's actually the anniversary of the death of -- C.S. Lewis!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Ain't it a blogwatch night?

Laodicea on how nominalism eviscerates good politics and dominates modern ideologies

Eve: ALL OF LIFE IS A CHOICE OF GENRE. Ermm, maybe so, if you're so postmodern, you need a mutual friend to introduce you to your reflection? Perhaps explain...?

Erik reacts to a particularly oily piece of theological revisionism, one that shows, as we see every day, what happens when you make the simple mistake of placing existence before essence.

Southern Appeal endorses Brownback, as will I, probably, very soon.

Litvinenko. The Daily Telegraph editorializes:
[T]he British government cannot be seen to accept a situation in which a citizen of the United Kingdom is subjected to a murderous attack under conditions that raise grave, and reasonable, suspicions of the involvement of foreign agents.

The Foreign and Home Offices must be seen to pursue this case with the greatest rigour and to the highest possible level, and to demand whatever explanations they feel are required from the Russian authorities. Otherwise, there will be a clear suggestion that Britain dare not offend a Russian regime that may hold much of Europe to ransom over energy resources within a decade.

Monday, November 20, 2006
Shetland sweater!

Head Warns Turkey: No, not a Thanksgiving-themed horror story: the full hedder is "Orthodox Church Head Warns Turkey over Pope Visit." The Patriarch of Constantinope is asking "Turks" -- i.e. Muslims: Patriarch Bartholomew is a Turk himself, if you want to talk ethnic -- to behave during the Holy Father's visit. Another small step in Rome-Constantinople solidarity, and thanks are due largely to the Regensburg speech.

I've been writing so snarkily lately that perhaps I should aver separately (as I here do) that the above is absolutely "straight."

Now for some more snark: Let the record show that for Thanksgiving, the Pope is visiting Turkey. And is the President planning the annual "pardon" of a turkey? He should say outright that he'll wait until January when they actually begin to arrive.

Sunday, November 19, 2006
More from Foucault's Pendulum:

The first text was a kind of demoniacal litany, a parody of a Semitic language:
Kuabris Defrabax Rexulon Ukkazaal Ukzaab Urpaefel Taculbain Habrak Hacoruin Maquafel Tebrain Hmcatuain Rokasor Himesor Argaabil Kaquaan Docrabax Reisaz Reisabrax Decaiquan Oiquaquil Zaitabor Qaxaop Dugraq Xaeolobran Disaeda Magisuan Raitak Huidal Uscolda Arabaom Zipreus Mecrim Cosmae Duquifas Rocarbis
"Not exactly clear," Belbo remarked.

"Demoniacal litany" my ass -- that's my shopping list for Walgreen's!! Reminds me, I've got to refill Docrobax and Zaitabor....

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Jim Webb promises to be a redneck class-warrior. What in the heck do you make of this part:
Still others [i.e. corporate execs he talked to during his campaign and whom he didn't like] have gone so far as to argue that these divisions are the natural results of a competitive society. Furthermore, an unspoken insinuation seems to be inundating our national debate: Certain immigrant groups have the "right genetics" and thus are natural entrants to the "overclass," while others, as well as those who come from stock that has been here for 200 years and have not made it to the top, simply don't possess the necessary attributes.

Most Americans reject such notions.
And so, clearly, does Webb. But what's the point of even bringing this up? To imply that corporate America is engaged in a race war against Webb's beloved Scots-Americans, the folks he wrote about in his book Born Fighting, and on whose behalf he cherishes obvious resentments based on both race and class ("those who come from stock that has been here for 200 years and have not made it to the top")?

And just who are these "natural entrants" into the "overclass" -- notions that Webb softens by putting them into his villains' mouths, but which he obviously thinks are in play? Who does Webb think -- exuse me: who does Webb think corporate America thinks -- are the "overclass"? Asians? Anyone else?

My point being: this op-ed features explicit class resentment, and implicit race resentment, and is therefore highly weird.

Sasha Cohen ("Borat") lands role of Pirelli in SWEENEY TODD movie. Good choice, assuming you're casting SWEENEY with non-singers anyway.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006
So many things run through your mind when you're hiding alone inside a periscope.

-- Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum

Arinze: "Take Latin out of the refrigerator."

(Note that, according to the diligent, detail-oriented reporter who wrote up this story: "Homilies, he said, should always be in the vernacular." I'm sure there was a lot of debate about that. After all, if medieval peasants and 1950s Irish mothers could understand homilies in Latin, why can't we? -- Of course, I can think of many homilies I've heard where congregational comprehension ought to have been minimized, but Latin is not the way to achieve that, given that, in the ideal world, we would all be fluent in it. -- Actually, in the true "ideal world," we will be, since it's what they speak in Heaven.)

Monday, November 13, 2006
Was in New York last Saturday night. Zandonai rules. More later.

Well I'll be.

Thursday, November 09, 2006
Ann Coulter sez: "History was made this week! For the first time in four election cycles, Democrats are not attacking the Diebold Corp. the day after the election, accusing it of rigging its voting machines."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Rumsfeld out, former CIA Director Gates in. Cripes. Way to stand by your man, W. Whether it's good news militarily or not, I defer to my military readers....

So why is it that Democrat-leaning precincts reported in late, as in Missouri and Virginia? Aren't those supposed to be the urban precincts, and aren't urban areas supposed to have the latest gee-whiz technology? Maybe it's the Ghet-Toe that's reporting in late, and maybe they have bad election machinery b/c, you know, the Man hates them.

But Falls Church? Oh yeah, bronze-age conditions out there. We'll naturally hear from the coal counties much earlier -- they'll be e-mailing in their votes while the Falls-Churchers are still loading their paper ballots onto pony carts.

Give. Me. A. Break.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Information paralysis. So here I sit, not unlike a moron, refreshing the CNN Senate race page every two minutes. And this is the guy who's now a scholar and has given up the life of the political junkie. (Or so it says on the labels someone sews into my underwear.)

Anyway. Annoying how CNN has called Maryland for Cardin, with 48% reporting, even though Steele is actually ahead at the moment, and has been for the last forty-five minutes. Yet they haven't called Missouri for Talent, even though he's maintaining a six-point lead over McCaskill with 46% reporting.

Oh and with 86% reporting and Corker leading Ford by three points in Tennessee, could we have a wee widdy call, please? Gaa. This is not a poll. Three percent is no longer within a "margin of error." It's win-ning.

Santorum and DeWine were carried out on stretchers round about eight o'clock. Santorum will be missed.

Allen is ahead -- by about 10,000 votes, of around 2.5 million cast; the percentage is 50-49.

Overall, it looks like the GOP loses four Senate seats, keeping the majority. The House -- kiss it g'bye for now. If they got Northrup, they'll get the rest that they need.

Anyway it's a good night 'cause the Marriage Amendment passed substantially in Virginia.

Monday, November 06, 2006
Man of Steele

You know, if St. Mathias, patron of contested elections, granted me one race tomorrow to decree by wand-wave, I'd wave in Michael Steele of Maryland. This Catholic, pro-life, black politician, already Lt.Gov. of his state, is exciting, and if elected would soon started getting mentioned for President. Someone like him could stir up American politics in a very good way.

He could actually win the Senate race tomorrow: though he hasn't led his opponent, Rep. Ben Cardin (D-Idiot), in any polls, he has recently had tons of "mo" (that's momentum, not Cardin's type of "mo," which is mo-ron), and has pulled up even with his barely-sentient opponent.

Moreover, in his night-before predictions, Robert Novak calls this one for Steele:
Maryland: The momentum in this race has all been going one way for weeks now. The problem is that for a Republican in Maryland, there is always such a long way to go. Not only has Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) run a near-flawless campaign, he has also benefited from several gaffes by his opponent, Rep. Ben Cardin (D) -- particularly one debate performance that can be described only as disastrous for Cardin.

Near the end, the two are tied in the polls. The question here is whether Steele will get the 12 percent of the black vote that those public polls suggest, or the 20-plus percent suggested by his internals.

The Braynard Group did a late poll for us showing Cardin leading, 48-38, and Steele attracting just 12 percent of the black vote. We had to consider this an outlier, particularly when Mason-Dixon, Survey USA, and the Baltimore Sun all showed a much closer race. However, the others may be missing something, and it is interesting how they share the 12 percent number in common.

The problem is that 12 percent would be consistent with a year in which Republicans did not win a single new black vote, and Steele has been collecting key endorsements from Democrats in the black community, and should do much better than the average Republican.

Steele may well outperform Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) on tomorrow's ballot, and we believe that both will win. Leaning Republican Takeover.
Other states?
Missouri: The race between Sen. Jim Talent (R) and state Auditor Claire McCaskill (D) is so tight that both sides are preparing for a recount....

Ohio: Sen. Mike DeWine (R) has shown some late signs of life, and a late ad attacking Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) may have helped him gain some ground. But it's too late. Ohio will be a disaster for Republicans this year, littered with GOP corpses. Likely Democratic Takeover.

Pennsylvania: State Treasurer Bob Casey (D) will bring an end to the career of Sen. Rick Santorum (R) tomorrow. Likely Democratic Takeover.

Tennessee: Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker (R) is running away with this one. Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. (D) probably lost at least 1,000 votes every time he opened his mouth to talk about "the Lord" in the past two weeks. Leaning Republican Takeover.

Virginia: We wrote last week that Sen. George Allen (R) was behind, but as the race has moved back toward positive campaigning in the final days, Allen appears to have successfully weathered any backlash from his slash-and-burn campaign tactics. Allen now appears to have surged, but this one will be very close.

Even if former Navy Secretary Jim Webb (D) does not beat Allen, he ends Allen's presidential aspirations for 2008. Allen never took his race seriously -- that is what will go on his tombstone if he loses. Leaning Republican Retention.
(This post brought to you by the 17th Amendment -- which should be repealed immediately, but that's another post.)

An article on packing, in yesterday's Washington Post, says chocolate is a no-no: "Stacked, it may alarm security officials." Because their machines can't see through it. Or, they may just want it. "Mmmmm, Hershey's! I need you to step this way, sir...."