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, August 30, 2007
Introductory speech for Constitutional Law II (Individual Rights):
You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of constitutional rights-making. As there is little foolish rule-following here, many of you will hardly believe this is law. I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cert-pool with its shimmering issues, the delicate power of rhetoric that creeps through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses. I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death – if you aren’t as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach.
When first tried about three years ago, it got a few knowing chuckles. Last week, it got applause.

"British invastion" of men's shirts (herein of Charles Tyrwhitt)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Craig then handed the officer a business card that identified him as a Senator. “What do you think about that?” Craig said.

...dissolve to scene from G&S's IOLANTHE, involving the Fairy Queen and the Lord Chancellor, with light edits to suit the case:

Oh constable unwary
It's highly necessary
Your tongue to teach
Respectful speech
Your attitude to vary

Your badinage so airy
Your manner arbitrary
Are out of place
When face to face
With an influential fairy!

We never knew
We were talking to
An influential fairy!)

OFFICER (aside):
A plague on this vagary!
I'm in a nice quandary!
Of hasty tone
With Idahoan
I ought to be more chary.

It seems that he's a fairy
From Bob Bauman's library
And I took him for
A propositor
In an airport lavatary.

We took him for
A propositor
In an airport lavatary.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007
New cardinals soon? Mentioned: Abp. Donald Wuerl, Abp. John Foley, Abp. Leandro Sandri; also the new prez of the Italian bishops' conference, the one who keeps getting death threats from gay groups.

Want to send a signal? St. Louis was a red-hat see for a long time -- give one to Abp. Burke.

Feast of St. Augustine. There aren't many ways in which the Ordinary Rite is better than the Extraordinary, but one is the way it treats Gus. In the N.O. this feast gets its own readings; plus, one celebrates St. Monica the day before. In the Trid, only the Collect is specific to Gus; the rest of his feastday Mass is taken from In medio, the common Mass for a Doctor of the Church. ("In the midst of the Church the Lord opened his mouth...," Sirach 15; first line of the Introit for that Mass.)

Why the relative dissing of Augustine in the old days? Anything to do with his associations with Luther? With Jansenism? A regrettable side-effect of the marvellously pugnacious Thomism of that era?

Sunday, August 26, 2007
OK now, this Ginny/Harry/tattoo thing.

The mommies and daddies -- eventually -- of the next generation

(Fan-art credit)

When the bit of dialogue at issue came up in HBP, given that Ginny was "going out with" Harry at the time, and was reclining against his leg during the four-way conversation in question, there was (and I think JK meant that there should have been) a finite non-zero number of people who wondered just what was being signalled by this suggestion that Ginny was, at that time, thought to be an authority on what Harry looks like with (part of) his kit off.

After all, by this point in HBP, many readers were still reeling from Ginny's transformation from blushing baby sister to spitfire make-out champ, and were set up to believe a great deal.

Some, not many, said this was a full-scale sexual relationship, voilà tout, deal with it. Others said, no, a chaste swim in the lake would explain it (raising the question of whether there are any longer such things as chaste swims in lakes).

Still others, more sensibly, said duh (or in England, "dur") -- quidditch!

Harry's the Seeker, Ginny's a Keeper. (Put that in your Freud and smoke it!) They suit up down by the pitch, and though boys and girls may reasonably be supposed to have separate changing rooms (this is, after all, the school that causes the stairs of the girls' dorm to turn into a steep ramp and pitch the boys right out if they get in there; though, interestingly enough, the same charm does not cover the reverse situation -- "Happy Christmas to you too," said Hermione), even so, a bare male chest on the girls' side of the quidditch changing room once in a while would not, one fancies, add to Harry's total of rule-breaking. (What it would add to coed quidditch, I'll let female readers speculate.)

Well, DH went a long way toward settling all this: assuming the question of what kind of tattoo Harry has or doesn't have on his chest even got asked -- i.e., assuming Ginny wasn't telling a tall tale about the question as well as about the suppositious tattoo itself -- what happened was nothing more than Romilda Vane being catty towards Ginny, and Ginny taking a slice out of Romilda in response: declining to go into missish outrage over the question, and building a substantial "eat your heart out" factor into her reply. If this catfight really occurred, then plainly it was Romilda who withdrew from the battlefield in tears, quite contrary to her original plan.

Then, too, it's possible that Ginny's whole line of remarks in this scene (whether the firefight with Romilda occurred or not) was designed mainly to take the mickey out of Ron.

Technically, the polyjuice scene in DH did not answer the question of exactly how Harry and Ginny spent their time together in HBP. But it at least moves that question back to where it was before Ginny mouthed off to Romilda (or, as the case may be, bragged to Harry, Ron, and Hermione about mouthing off to Romilda). My vote is still with "no," because in a story-cycle in which all the "'ships" stop at "snogging" before marriage as far as we know, there is little reason (once the "tattoo factor" is neutralized) to suppose this one is an exception. And there is some reason to suppose the opposite: Harry's announcement to Ginny at the end of HBP, though still well motivated, is a little too icy for my taste if, well -- movin' right along, I'll post later about the Christian symbolism in DH, especially the blood.

How smart are you? - Are you dumb?

Saturday, August 25, 2007
Max Boot in the WSJ on Bush and the Vietnam/Iraq analogy: "for the editors," as they say (except for the words "for all his faults" in the eighth graf: no interest in Diem-bashing hereabouts).

Feast of King St. Louis IX of France, Crusader. Headnote for today's feast in the current edition of the Missal of Bl. John XXIII:
The pious queen of France, Blanche, educated her son Louis IX to be a model for all kings in his faith, courage, and love of justice. He undertook two crusades to reconquer the Holy Land. The plague, which decimated his army in Africa, struck him down and he died at Tunis. This most Christian king reigned from 1226 to 1270.

Friday, August 24, 2007
Astronomers find a hole in the universe

OK now, this is:

a. Where your Heathrow luggage ended up

b. John Warner's brain

c. The "dormant Commerce Clause"

d. Where all my commenters have gone

The problem: The Scotsman reports:
Hospital staff in the Lothians have been told not to eat at their desks to avoid offending Muslim colleagues during Ramadan.
The (temporary) solution: Mongolian BBQ in Edinburgh

Thursday, August 23, 2007
Michael Yon, one of the best web-based Iraq "embeds," reviews present and recent past in Anbar Province. Note details on how Al Qaeda made the Anbar sheiks our allies just by being Al Qaeda. Also, this tombstone.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007
A "Park Street Sub"

I'm looking for a new research assistant. Here is the ad I have put about. Have I left anything out?

Are you:
*Faster than a negligently driven automobile?
*More powerful than a vested third-party beneficiary?
*Able to convey marketable title to Blackacre in a single bound?

*Can you do the Certiorarus Curse?

*Is an armed citizenry your idea of Equal Protection?

*Is your Substantive Process due?

*Do you expect the Spanish Inquisition?

*Would you rather bake for Lochner than brake for Blackmun?

*Do you defer to Chevron?

*Is there a “you” in “unitary executive”?

*Can you tell a Chief Justice from a Dread Pirate?

*When you say you like The Smiths, you mean Free Exercise, don’t you?

*Do you give O’Connor “no endorsement”?

*Can you cope with the “mystery of existence” without a right to kill your child?

*Do you know the right answer to “Footnote Four, or Footnote Six?”

*Do you know the right answer to “Steve, or Guido?”

*Did you put the “con” in Con Law?

*Do you Yazoo?

Monday, August 20, 2007
Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

From the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on St. Bernard:
Alarming news came at this time from the East. Edessa had fallen into the hands of the Turks, and Jerusalem and Antioch were threatened with similar disaster. Deputations of the bishops of Armenia solicited aid from the pope, and the King of France also sent ambassadors. The pope commissioned Bernard to preach a new Crusade and granted the same indulgences for it which Urban II had accorded to the first. A parliament was convoked at Vezelay in Burgundy in 1134, and Bernard preached before the assembly. The King, Louis le Jeune, Queen Eleanor, and the princes and lords present prostrated themselves at the feet of the Abbot of Clairvaux to receive the cross. The saint was obliged to use portions of his habit to make crosses to satisfy the zeal and ardour of the multitude who wished to take part in the Crusade. Bernard passed into Germany, and the miracles which multiplied almost at his every step undoubtedly contributed to the success of his mission. The Emperor Conrad* and his nephew Frederick Barbarossa, received the pilgrims' cross from the hand of Bernard, and Pope Eugenius, to encourage the enterprise, came in person to France.
This is as appropriate an occasion as any to let readers know that my son, Lance Corporal Jonathan Lee Morris, USMCR (blog here; not recently updated), is going to Iraq again next year. Mobilization for training is in December (with a Christmas break). Actual deployment is expected to be April-October '08. We have reasonable hope that he'll be able to finish the present fall term in college; God willin' and the crik don' rise, he'll be able to resume college in January of '09.

* My old commander; see Paradiso XV 139.

"MySpace is for slags."

German Scientists Declare Speed of Light Broken. Must have been measuring Chuck Schumer on his way to a microphone.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Redwood rising?

Maverick "right-wing" (i.e., free-market, low-tax) Conservative MP John Redwood is in the news again. Good news. Very good.

Much of Britain's Conservative Party has always been strictly small-c conservative: cautious, managerial, muddling through, anti-principle on principle. Then there have been those in it who are devoted to a set of convictions plausibly designated Conservative, such as Margaret Thatcher. Mrs. T. led the Tories to three landslides in a row, but after that third time, a dip in the polls was deemed unacceptable by the "wet" establishment, and they threw her out.

One of the few Thatcherites left in a ministerial position after the "wet" coup of 1990 was John Redwood. When John Major, Thatcher's successor as party leaders and Prime Minister, proved to be too wet, Redwood challenged him for the leadership -- much as Mrs. Thatcher had done to the gormless Ted Heath in 1975, except that back then the party was out of office, while Redwood's challenge was to a sitting Prime Minister. This was in 1995. Redwood's ambition to be the new Thatcher were pretty evident: he even began introducing himself to the U.S. conservative community, lecturing at the Heritage Foundation.

Well, when you challenge your party's incumbent Prime Minister from within the party, you just better had win -- and Mr. Redwood didn't. By the usual rules, his political career should have been over. Plus, given his reputation as both a severe "right-winger" and a cold-fish policy wonk, he was tagged with the nickname "Spode," after P.G. Wodehouse's memorably insufferable fascist party leader.

After the Blair-led Labour victory of 1997, Mr. Major retired to a knighthood and a second career as a cricket author, and the Conservatives looked again for new leadership. Redwood did not even make the longest of long lists -- but he was biding his time, quietly developing policies for whomever his party told him his leader now was.

And those leaders? Coming and going like relief pitchers in a losing baseball game. First, the conservative but hair-challenged William Hague took as big a trouncing by Blair in 2001 as Major had done in 1997. (Mr. Hague is now Shadow Foreign Secretary, meaning, he minds foreign policy for the Conservatives in opposition. His biography of Pitt the Younger was well-received.) (Mr. Major, it will be noted, had excellent hair -- and pulled off a narrow and unexpected general election victory in 1992.)

Then Iain Duncan Smith was (a) elected leader and (b) chucked out without even a general election intervening. Michael Howard, "conservative" only if immigration restriction is your big issue, led the party into the next general election with the slogan, "Are you thinking what we're thinking?" "No," said voters, giving Blair a third term by another huge margin. (Trivia: Mr. Howard was the first Jewish Tory leader since Disraeli, and the first ever if you count Disraeli out for having been baptized as an Anglican. Out of Jewishness, I mean: in those days, it was still possible to be both an Anglican and a Conservative.)

So the Conservatives ousted Howard and his entire generation. Realizing their reputation as the "nasty" party gave them a p.r. problem, they chose a leader whose only experience before being elected to Parliament was as a p.r. exec: the present party leader, David Cameron. Cameron has since been busy re-branding the Conservatives to the left. Some good polls resulted for a while, leading many big-C Conservatives to tolerate Mr. Cameron. But it now seems those polls reflected Blair-fatigue more than Camero-mania: since Gordon Brown has been PM, the Tories have again slipped in the polls again. Problems such as terrorist threats, foot-and-mouth disease, and the implosion in the City should be problems for Mr. Brown: instead, they have only enhanced his standing as a leader, while Cameron is now seen as so obsessed with "image" that re-branding now is his image.

And what of John Redwood through all this? In or out of government, in or out of the shadow cabinet, he just keeps winning his seat, doing his free-market low-tax policy-wonking, and supporting the party leader du jour. Not for him the gesture-politics of defecting to UKIP or stirring up revolt among big-C Conservative backbenchers.

So here he is today, tasked by Mr. Cameron with developing economic proposals for the next Conservative government. He's not even in the shadow cabinet, but with the perception spreading that the party needs principles and not just branding, Redwood is suddenly just what the doctor ordered. He is now driving the debate. Opponents both within his party and in the Government find they have to respond to him.

Will he challenge Cameron for the leadership? What, and repeat his disaster of '95? Don't be silly. Torygraph scribblers say it would suicidal for the party to change leaders again before the next general election, and that seems correct to me. So Redwood has every reason to treat as radioactive any like-minded back-benchers who might be minded to egg him on.

(Number 1 rejected party slogan: "Tories: Every front-bencher a former Leader!" Rejected b/c there are also former leaders on the back benches and in the House of Lords. Number 2: "Tories: Leaders by the sixpack." Faux populism, you know.)

No, there's no escape from Cameronism until Cameron has taken a general election shellacking. But Redwood is clearly back in the leadership limelight. Here's what's going to happen: there will be a general election, either this fall or in 2009, and Gordon Brown will get a full term in his own right. Cameron's letter resigning as party leader, and the party's acceptance thereof, will cross in the mail. Many candidates will emerge, and John Redwood will be among them: as conservative as ever, but no longer an insurgent, and no longer "Spode" (he's often he's photographed tieless these days, including the picture on his own website -- he's loosening up! He's just like folks!), but instead, both a team-player and an ideas-man.

After that I can't predict anything, but my, how jolly it would be for this old last-ditch Thatcherite -- I mean me -- to see John Redwood as Leader of the Opposition, leading the party into the the general election after next.....

Sunday, August 12, 2007
Deathly Hallows

I've already started commenting, by means of the Snape picture and comments below (Aug. 4), but here I'll just throw out some odds and ends.

1. Happy ending: loved it. And in case anyone is fussed over whether it's good or bad or right or wrong, may I suggest that it's not so much any of these things as it is a genre-fixative. Because the Harry Potter cycle ends happily, it belongs to the ____ genre, and not to the ____, ____, or ____ genres. Fill in the blanks.

2. Ending in marriage and family. How common is that in current kids' fiction? Do you realize we have here a saga about teenagers in the 1990s -- and it turns out all their less-serious relationships are confined to "snogging,"* and their serious ones lead to marriage and childrearing?

3. Snape loved Lily. Some said this would be a lame plot line. JK looked those people in the face, placed the tips of her fingers squarely under her chin, and flicked them forward. Well maybe being Scottish, not Italian, she did something else, but the point is, she knew the story she wanted to tell and she didn't care who thought it was cornball. Good on her. Snape emerges, finally, as a sort of Phantom of the Opera character; more on that in future posts.

4. I knew she'd find a way to take the mickey out of Daniel over Equus! See Harry's thoughts on his own privacy when six other "Harrys" -- i.e. friends who have polyjuiced into duplicates of Harry -- are blithely changing their clothes in front of each other, in the chapter "The Seven Potters" (see p. 52, American edition).

5. Grindelwald. I was wrong in many of my predictions, but was I right that we'd hear more about this guy? Eh? In fact, as I think back on my first reading of DH, the scene that keeps emerging as the most powerful is Voldemort's last confrontation with Grindelwald in the tower-cell at Nurmengard: the former Dark Lord, now penitent and paying the price, locked in the prison he built for others, bidding defiance to the new Dark Lord...! "There's no much you don't understand, Voldemort!" Just what Dumbledore would have told Voldy; did tell him, in fact, in their confrontation in OotP.

OK, now here are a few things that didn't happen, but should have:

* The archway of death from OotP, with the blowing veils, should have reappeared and been clarified, perhaps by being linked to "King's Cross."

* Viktor should have taken part in the battle, perhaps vying amicably with Harry -- as one Seeker to another -- to catch an important object. It was good to see him again, though, even if only briefly.

* More of a predicate should have been laid in the earlier books re the Deathly Hallows objects.

* Luna should have imported from Sweden the first breeding pair of crumple-horned snorkaks ever seen in England, and called the first foal "Hermione."

*"'I knew Ginny was lying about that tatoo,' said Ron, looking down at his bare chest" while he's morphed into a perfect duplicate of Harry (DH, p. 52, American edition). Romilda Vane, back in HBP, was just being catty in asking Ginny that question, and Ginny was, characteristically, having a go at Romilda with her reply; that's all.

Saturday, August 11, 2007
Ames straw poll and the fortunes of "Huckaback": Romney won, of course, but, at 31%, not by a margin sufficient to shake off the others who competed. These include second-place finisher Mike Huckabee. Huck may be destined to be the social-con standard-bearer going into the real Iowa caucuses; but he, in turn, did not shake off the third-placer -- my guy, Sam Brownback -- scoring only 18.1% to Brownback's 15.3%.

The fact is, Huckabee and Brownback are splitting the pro-life, not-too-fussed-about-immigration vote. Together, "Huckaback" scored 33.4% -- beating Romney!

In Britain, independent television investigates hate-preaching at mosques, so police and prosecutors investigate -- independent television.

EDITED TO ADD: Telegraph columnist notes:
Extremists preachers can sleep easier, now that they have been classed as victims; investigative journalists will have to tread very carefully; and the public will have to wrestle with the knowledge that free speech is for the mad and dangerous, not the sane and law-abiding.

Friday, August 10, 2007
*Sigh* I wish I liked constitutional law professors more (as Sebastian might say). On a particular listserv that is heavy with them, in the course of a death penalty thread in which the foibles of the breed were vividly on display, I couldn't help posting the following:
Wearing my anti-death-penalty hat:
Nothing could better illustrate the dangers of consequentialism than a pure deterrence-based defense of the death penalty.

We've seen statistics in this thread purporting to show not only that the death penalty deters murder, but the exact numerical range within which each execution does so. Suppose the next study shows that the exact same effect is attained by executing perfectly innocent parties, pour encourager les autres. Licit? Moral? Of course not, b/c at that level, we're all retributivists (i.e. we link punishment to desert) and we're all non-consequentialists.

Wearing my pro-death-penalty hat:
Con law professionals have a tiresome habit of using "irrational" as an intensifier for "bad." Perhaps it comes of the (imo, equally tiresome) habit of reasoning as though we're the first generation ever to deal with a moral problem.

Rationality is a low threshold, and it has a long history. It's quite possible for something considered good for eons to be, in fact, bad. But the fact that eons'-worth of people, many of them no more irrational than most of us, thought it good, should be enough to rule out the conclusion that it's irrational. The opposite view -- that rational people always reach good conclusions, and that bad conclusions can only be irrational -- describes a species I am not familiar with.

Two Marines cleared in Haditha '05 case: charges dropped against Capt. Randy Stone and L.Cpl. Justin Sharratt. Charges remain pending against three other Marines.

Lt. Gen. James Mattis, presiding: "I am aware of the line that separates the merely remiss from the clearly criminal, and I do not believe that any mistakes Capt. Stone made with respect to the incident rise to the level of criminal behavior."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Antarctic Park

Ion Pacepa, formerly a Lt. General in the intelligence service of Communist Romania, and who defected in 1978, writes in today's WSJ:
Sowing the seeds of anti-Americanism by discrediting the American president was one of the main tasks of the Soviet-bloc intelligence community during the years I worked at its top levels. This same strategy is at work today, but it is regarded as bad manners to point out the Soviet parallels....

During the Vietnam War we spread vitriolic stories around the world, pretending that America's presidents sent Genghis Khan-style barbarian soldiers to Vietnam who raped at random, taped electrical wires to human genitals, cut off limbs, blew up bodies and razed entire villages. Those weren't facts. They were our tales, but some seven million Americans ended up being convinced their own president, not communism, was the enemy. As Yuri Andropov, who conceived this dezinformatsiya war against the U.S., used to tell me, people are more willing to believe smut than holiness....

"Reading something he already knew"

Aaron Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger,

Cardinal Lustiger, who died on Sunday aged 80, was the only Jewish convert to Roman Catholicism to become a French bishop in modern times.....

Monday, August 06, 2007
Michael Barone surveys recent pro-victory trends in both elite and popular opinion, and Democrat hair-tearing in response; many good links. And Bill Kristol, to the same effect.

Sunday, August 05, 2007
Trid Pro Mo: I hate linking to the New York Times, as readers know, but I must say: this guy stereotypes just like most writers who snipe at the old Mass -- but he stereotypes really really well:
Smart, devout, ambitious Catholics — ecclesial young Republicans, home-schoolers, seminarians and other shock troops of the faith — will have their Mass. The rest of us — a lumpy assortment of cafeteria Catholics, guilty parents, peace-’n’-justice lefties, stubborn Vatican II die-hards.
HT: Ross Douthat's blog at The Atlantic.

In related news:

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Old-syle Mass appeals to many

And I've heard, but can't verify, that Fr. McAfee at St. John's, McLean, VA, where Laura Pennefather is DRE, will offer the T; also, the bulletin from St. Mary's, Old Town, Alexandria, features a defense of Ratzingerian liturgical theology, including Summum Pontificum, by Fr. DeCelles.

Saturday, August 04, 2007