Saturday, November 10, 2007

Malfunction

TSO says it's about time for a new post, so I thought I'd pop up from the inferno to say hi. For I am, you see, in hell. Research paper-grading hell. If there is a hell and I go to it, this is what it will be like, a place in which one is compelled, on pain of an even worse punishment, to read infinite reams of white paper filled with numberless assertions of the pressing need for the legalization of gay marriage, prostitution, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and the recreational use of marijuana, all thoroughly documented according to a format I spent hours explaining, but to which only a few seem to have paid much attention. Some contesters are on the other side of those issues, and one fellow I haven't gotten to yet will even be arguing for the existence of God. I look forward to it because, when I do get to hell, I don't think they'll allow that topic down there.

If it were a sin not to keep up with one's fellow bloggers, mine would be mortal. My apologies. I just don't have time. When I do steal a moment to visit someone, like, say, Christine of Laudem Gloriae, I'm always in for a jolt. For example, she now has a picture to accompany her profile, and it turns out she's rather stunning. Somehow I knew she would be, but I'm still stunned. There's always seemed something special about her (as is true of a number of the lady bloggers (some of the guys are ok, ho-hum)). I wonder if it is that she's got some Asian in her. Vietnamese, I think. Like Culbreath's wife. I tell you what, you take an Asian woman and give her some Christianity and you're in the company of a wonder of the modern world. (Or you could just do Asian period.) It also seems that she (Christine) has moved to Dijon, France while I wasn't looking, of which she posts some beautiful pictures, and I want to know what kind of life this is, that one graduates from Oxford, goes to law school at Notre Dame, and ends up living in a picturesque village in France. She also has a lot pictures concerning Britain's role in WWII; I don't know what inspired it (and the pictures aside, she's put up a whole bunch of good posts) but I hate falling behind. Did you know that I didn't know that the Supreme Court back in April upheld the partial birth abortion ban? Yeah. And no exception for the life and health of the mother. I didn't even know that Amy Welborn had switched to a new website. I don't think I'll ever catch up.

I also came out of my hole once only to hear on the news that Hilary was leading everybody in the Presidential sweepstakes, and pondering the prospect of that puckered shrewish face letting loose that shrill, shriekish voice for eight years of my American life sent me hunting for relief. So I found these. I love this stuff. Can't help it: here, here, here, here, and here.
*          *          *
I guess I shouldn't be so hard on the students, though. The fact that some of them are wrong about very important things doesn't mean they aren't bright. The ones that favor, say, embryonic stem cell research simply think that the medical benefits to be gained outweigh the taking of a dubiously human embryonic life. The ones in favor of abortion are mostly not for it (for themselves) but are rather in favor of the freedom to choose, a not uncommon affliction in which one believes either that the mother's life outweighs in importance that of the dubiously human embryo she's carrying, or, (taking the legalistic approach) that the mother's right to bodily autonomy outweighs our right to tell her what to do with it, which doesn't seem to me to make those students any dumber than, say, Rudy Giuliani. They, like Rudy, are simply trying to have it both ways. Rudy, for example, is pro-abortion, but finds the procedure so repulsive that he promises to appoint judges who might be willing to overturn it. One might presume that this approach - this habit of condemning a thing while reserving the right to indulge it - is a peculiarly liberal way of treading the path of righteousness, but then my National Review magazine shows up in the mail, and as I'm flipping through the first few pages of this Leading Conservative Voice, I'm treated to the editors' teaching on torture:
Waterboarding is certainly close to the line of torture (which, under U.S. law, is defined as an act "specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering"). But it has long been used against our own military in interrogation-resistance training: If it is torture, we are guilty of war crimes against ourselves.
Isn't that cute? What we do in training is the same as what we do to the enemy. Maybe we'll put ourselves on trial someday.
A better case can be made that it constitutes "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" treatment, also forbidden by U.S. law. Even here though, there are ambiguities in the law that make it a complicated question.
Here's how it works. If a thing is simply bad, but you think you might want to do it sometime, call it "complicated".
We think the use of waterboarding should be limited to high-value captives with knowledge of ongoing plots, such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who reportedly broke within minutes of being subjected to the technique.
So it might or might not be torture, but you'll break within minutes of being subjected to it. It's ordinarily a bad thing, too awful to waste on low-value captives, but if you're high-value it suddenly becomes, mirabile dictu, a good thing. And you thought 24 was just a TV show.

The misery continued when I bumped into a colleague out at school - a golfer, a Catholic and a conservative. (No, I didn't walk into a mirror.) He asked me if I was prepared to vote for Rudy, apparently on the assumption that he will be the Republican nominee. I said no. He accused me of being a "purist" and further announced that I would be personally responsible for electing Hillary and the havoc she was sure to wreak on the Republic. I said that, no, Rudy would be responsible, and told him how I'd come to this conclusion. Some days ago Paul Cella sent me a link to a magazine article in another Leading Conservative Voice, the American Spectator, in which the author's thesis is that Roe v. Wade is still law today because, in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, Anthony Kennedy was there to cast the deciding vote and Robert Bork was not; and that Bork was not there because of a 1986 election in which a number of Republican congressmen and senators did not get re-elected; and that they did not get re-elected because certain conservatives among us did not turn out in sufficient numbers, the relevance of it all being that if we behave similarly in this coming election - as James Dobson has threatened to do if someone like Giuliani is nominated - we will be responsible for cementing Roe into American law unto perpetuity. As the author puts it: "An amazing thought, no? Roe v. Wade: the conservative legacy."

So I wrote a letter to the editor:
It's interesting that Mr. Lord would require a certain brand of conservative voter to shoulder the blame for the persistence of Roe v. Wade in law. His counsel is that it is not wise to be too "pure". We must sacrifice a principle here and there for the greater good.

And then I wondered: why must it be this way? Why can't (just for example) Rudy Giuliani sacrifice his principles. Why can't he chuck his pro-choice stance and claim conversion to the pro-life cause? Others have done it before him and gotten away with it. Why can't he let go of his pro-gay marriage position and get behind the Federal Marriage Amendment? Well, because it would be too obviously opportunistic, and voters value honesty above all in their candidates. (But, apparently, not in themselves.) Better that the voter be a hypocrite, so that his candidate need not be.

Another implication of Mr. Lord's argument is that what we are really voting for when we enter the polling place is not a candidate, but a judge, someone who doesn't even hold elective office. If we must lie to our conscience to vote for a candidate who will then appoint a judge who will then rule over us as Mr. Lord sees fit, something's badly wrong. Constitutionally, you might say.
Sincerely, etc.
Not that I've checked, but I don't think they published it.

I've come to the conclusion that the mode of thought (the one in which we make safe a little place for evil in case we need it sometime) embraced by NR's editors, the Spectator's article, and my teaching colleague (whom I genuinely like; it's possible to like people even when they're wrong; good thing, too, or I wouldn't have any friends and not a lot of family) is normal. That is, it is the pattern of moral musing common to the great lot of men, a pattern into which their minds naturally fall and to which they most easily give consent. It genuinely appeals to their sense of right and wrong and their desire to do justice. Perhaps this is why I am often drawn to abnormal people. For example, if you have read Veritatis Splendor in its entirety, I consider you abnormal. If you have read it and understood it, you probably occupy, in terms of numbers, that human demographic represented by an Aborigine in the Outback. If you have read it, understood it, and given it your consent (that is, to the proposition that you may not ever, under any circumstance, no matter how urgent, do evil that good may come), you are probably so rare among men as to be nearly of another species. Which is my customarily roundabout way of saying that I suspect most Catholics are normal. I am currently working on a scientific study to back up this assertion. Well, to be perfectly honest, the study is still in the planning stages. But I will work on it as soon as I'm released from hell.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, those students don't look so bad anymore.
*          *          *
I've made it sound like every time I come up for air, something bad is there to greet me. But it's not entirely true. A good reporter has an obligation to reveal the good news as well. I hear the surge is working. Deaths among both military and civilians have gone down in Iraq. I don't remember where I heard it, but I did. The bad news is that a lot of people don't seem to care. (Just can't leave the bad news alone, can you Mr. L? Sorry, but that's the way the world is. It's a bad news-good news kind of deal.)

Another piece of good news is that Francis Beckwith has joined the W4 crowd. You've probably heard of him, or read some of his articles or one of his books. Sometimes contributes to First Things, Touchstone, etc. Philosophy prof at Baylor. A former colleague of Lydia McGrew's at Right Reason, they are now re-united. Now I don't feel so bad about leaving. With him, they don't need me. Oh, and Dr. Beckwith - after serving some high profile time in the Evangelical movement - is a recent convert to the Catholic faith. You can never have too many of those, I guess. As long as they're abnormal.

Well, that's it for the good news. Wait! My girls are coming home for Thanksgiving. (How long, O Lord?)
*          *          *
My wife accused me of immaturity the other day. I don't know how it came up. I probably saw some half-dressed female on TV or something and displayed a suitably juvenile sense of appreciation.

"When are you going to grow up?" she asked.
"What?"
"When are you going to grow up? You know, like for good."
"I am grown up," I said.
"See what I mean?"
*          *          *
All right, one other bad thing I didn't want to tell you about. I surfaced a few weeks ago and made my monthly visit to the Sitemeter pages and found this URL. The host believes in a young earth. There were some comments to the post, and I was thinking it was all very interesting but also wondering what it had to do with me. In short, whence the link? There was a commenter named William arguing against the host's thesis, but so what? Common name. I skimmed quickly, but noticed in William's second comment a link to an old post of mine for which William claimed to be the author. Outraged, I fired off an email to TSO:
...purely by accident I found a post at this site in which the blog host argues for a young earth, and in comments some guy calling himself William tries to refute, in the process linking to one of my posts and implying that he is the author. In short, me. But it wasn't me. I mention it because I notice you commented in a later post...and that guy is there again, and by then the host must have thought that "William" and I are the same person. It's strange how much it pisses me off. It happened back in April 2006, and I wasn't even aware of the blogsite until today.
TSO was duly sympathetic:
Wow, I've heard of people impersonating other people on the 'net - it's obviously ez to do - but never knew anyone who was...
So I headed back to the site. I'd fix William. I entered comments and composed one of my own:
Mr. Wiseman [the bloghost], the commenter above who calls himself "William" links to a post at my blog and gives the impression that he wrote it. Well, I am the host of that blog and author of that post, and I want it understood that I neither made any of the above comments, nor do I consider "William's" imposture the sincerest form of flattery. It's just another form of plagiarism, also known as stealing.
That should take care of it. Still fuming, I went up and started reading William's comments more closely. Hmm, I thought, sumbitch writes pretty well. Kind of full of himself, though, as when he begins: "I don't have time to refute all your 'beliefs' (which is what they are)..." As I read further, I found myself somewhat agreeing with William - 'yes, that's a point worth making' - and even: 'you know, he sort of sounds like me in places; best damn impersonation I've ever...' - and then a synapse fired somewhere in the cranial recess and it all started coming back. I remembered. Vaguely, but I remembered. Made so many comments in those days they're all just drifting, forgotten, in the cyber ether. Damn. Now what?

I returned to my email client. Ahem. Dear TSO:
After re-reading, I realized those comments at the young earth blog were mine. I could tell by the style and content. I swear I don't remember making them. I'm going freaking senile. So now I've accused myself in public of impersonating myself. There's got to be some fodder for a post in there somewhere. If I can just figure out how to reveal it without embarrassing myself too much. It'll be hard to pull off, pretending not really to be the person I thought was not me. You still with me?
He responds:
That is hilarious. You know, as I was reading it I thought "well, this sounds like Bill and it's a position I could easily see Bill taking." I thought as long as someone is impersonating you it may as well be someone who agrees with your views. And if it's you impersonating yourself, all the better. I'd be glad to post this on my blog, using your name, of course. It is blogworthy.
I declined. If humiliation must needs come, it would come at my own hands. I also put a final comment in the box. I don't want to reproduce it. It's there if you're interested. A man can only take so much. The place hasn't been updated since 2006, so with luck the bloghost will never read it. A few others will stumble upon it by accident. So what do I care what they think?

The point of it all being that anyone whose mental functions are so poorly ordered ought to get back in his hole and stay there. So...'bye.

26 comments:

Christine said...

William,
You are very kind. The photos of WWII London (and the spate of other war-related posts) were inspired, of course, by Veterans Day.

As to the other query, I was born to a French mother and a Vietnamese father. I'm here in Europe while my dear husband continues doctoral studies at the University in Dijon.
Kind regards,
Christine

TS said...

but then my National Review magazine..

Jonah Goldberg must be reading you & Zippy because he says he's coming around on seeing torture as a non-negotiable, a taboo that you shouldn't even have to argue against. Here.

I want to know what kind of life this is, that one graduates from Oxford, goes to law school at Notre Dame, and ends up living in a picturesque village in France.

Charmed? She's like me - I graduated from Oxford (Ohio) and ended up living in Paris (Kentucky). (a joke) :-)

My wife accused me of immaturity the other day...

Me too, and I don't have the excuse of having a job in which I'm constantly surrounded by the influence of barbaric juveniles (pardon the redundancy).

I wonder if it is that she's got some Asian in her.

That could be read multiple ways you know. (Whereupon I prove my juvenility.)

...that human demographic represented by an Aborigine in the Outback.

I think you're seriously underestimating the population of the Aborigine in the Outback.

The point of it all being that anyone whose mental functions are so poorly ordered ought to get back in his hole and stay there.

Nice try but it didn't work given this engaging post; the "I'm too busy" was far more persuasive. Don't stay in that hole so long next time...

TS said...

Why can't (just for example) Rudy Giuliani sacrifice his principles. Why can't he chuck his pro-choice stance and claim conversion to the pro-life cause?

As indeed Romney has done.

William Luse said...

Christine, I got from one of your posts that your "dear husband" (some guys have all the luck) don't speak French too good. Will you be attending class with him?

TS, I'll read that Goldberg thing.

I hope you're wrong about the Aborigines.

Wouldn't it be neat if Giuliani searched his conscience, bumped into the grace of God and, in mid-campaign, felt morally bound to flip-flop? It would have to be for real, because he's too shrewd a politician to think anyone would buy it under any other auspice. That would then shift the burden to the American people: would they believe him? Would it hurt or help him?

William Luse said...

The Url didn't work. This, instead.

Jeff Culbreath said...

Another great read, Bill. And perfect timing too. Thanks for checking in.

I laughed all the way through the Level Wise-young earth comments. Why? I recently came across the Level Wise site myself and had a similiar experience. Thing is, my "impersonator" was writing the blog entries. What to make of that? I read through some more of the blog and discovered that someone, somewhere, had archived my old El Camino Real blog entries on this site. They are not from 2006, but from 2003 (I think). My entries are mixed in with a few others by someone else, but there is no attribution so it is impossible to tell the difference unless you are really paying attention.

Anyway, Bill, that debate you were having was actually with me. Looking back I can see that you probably kept your gloves on for friendship's sake.

P.S. If I had any "it's a girl cigars", I'd share them with you and TSO tonight. Happy days.

alaiyo said...

"Wouldn't it be neat if Giuliani searched his conscience, bumped into the grace of God and, in mid-campaign, felt morally bound to flip-flop? It would have to be for real, because he's too shrewd a politician to think anyone would buy it under any other auspice. That would then shift the burden to the American people: would they believe him? Would it hurt or help him?"

This is a good question. I just returned papers in which students argued that a certain short story character was dynamic (truly changed at heart) because he *said* at the end of the story that he had changed. But the fact that nothing was *shown* afterwards that denoted a change actually brings his words into question -- because words are cheap and we require action to believe them. So what could Giuliani *do* to convince people if he really did have such a conversion, say, today? I don't know that there is anything now -- I'm not sure I would believe him at this point.

As for research papers . . . Oh, joy, I have that in my future -- but at least not till next semester. Of course, looking at the quality of responses to relatively easy assignments, I'm thinking I might need to do something really drastic to get out of it . . . I have a semester's worth of sick leave saved up; maybe I could desperately ill just for three months with something that would allow me to write and think but not teach . . . any ideas?

I do, at least, get mostly a Christian perspective on issues my students write about. However, it is definitely a mixed blessing, because they don't argue any better on the "conservative" side of things, and tend to reduce it all to "God said so." So we have to try to show them why this is inadequate without drawing the parents' ire that we are attacking their faith . . .

Let's see, how many years till retirement . . . ?

Beth
who is procrastinating from grading papers, obviously

zippy said...

I've been trying to think of something to add to the comments here, but I'm still stunned.

William Luse said...

Jeff, are you telling me that I was arguing with you and didn't even know it? That you were maintaining that site anonymously and signing with a pseudonym? You...you mountebank. Or did I know and it's another of those things I've forgotten? Somebody shoot me. And are you also saying that LeXuan has given birth? Again? If so, girls are the best. Enjoy.

Beth, I'm there with you, except for the "Christian perspective" part. (I have a few.) You might try telling them that the words "God says so" are forbidden in any argument paper.

Zippy - grow up.

zippy said...

Zippy - grow up.

I'm trying, I really am!

Jeff Culbreath said...

"Jeff, are you telling me that I was arguing with you and didn't even know it?"

Well, you knew it the first time!

"That you were maintaining that site anonymously and signing with a pseudonym?"

No, no, no. I don't know who maintains that site. Wiseman is the name he gave to ... me. Those entries are from my ECR blog a long time ago.

"You...you mountebank."

Conceded.

"Or did I know and it's another of those things I've forgotten?"

Most likely.

"Somebody shoot me."

OK. But first let me check with Zippy. Zippy, can you run that consequentialist positivism stuff by me once more real quick?

"And are you also saying that LeXuan has given birth? Again?"

Yes indeed.

"If so, girls are the best. Enjoy."

Will do.

zippy said...

Zippy, can you run that consequentialist positivism stuff by me once more real quick?

Friend Billy, no shooty.

William Luse said...

ha.

TS said...

Congrats Jeff! I think you should've broken your blog fast with this news. What did you name her? Something appropriately traditional I trust? :-)

Jeff Culbreath said...

Thanks, TS. We named her Anne Josephine, which I hope is appropriately traditional! I'm calling her "Annie Jo", but my kids think that sounds "too redneck". I reminded them that we're in Orland now and they had better get used to it.

Lydia McGrew said...

I'm still laughing my head off over this whole business about Bill's thinking someone was impersonating him and...gosh, it's so complicated, I'm not sure I'll be able to explain it to my family over dinner for their edification. But it's hilarious.

Kudos on the letter about the Lord article, Bill. That article made me angry in exactly the same way for exactly the same reason. It's always the conservatives who are to blame, isn't it? And always, the more principled they are, the more they are to blame. Grrr.

Can't you make your hell less bad by assigning them something else to write about? Not that I have any brilliant ideas coming to mind, exactly.

Willliam Luse said...

I hope Valicella didn't take too much comfort from the Lord article.

Can't you make your hell less bad by assigning them something else to write about?

I could, but then I wouldn't be able to have the fun of arguing with them in class. They have to defend their theses. It's one of the few pleasures afforded me.

Let me know how it goes, explaining my self-impersonation to your family.

Lydia McGrew said...

Tim guessed the punchline halfway through. I guess I don't have much of a poker face.

But I'm still not sure I get the part about Jeff Culbreath. Was he posting in the comments thread too and arguing with you there? Or was it just his original post that had been stolen and reposted by the host?

Jeff Culbreath said...

"But I'm still not sure I get the part about Jeff Culbreath. Was he posting in the comments thread too and arguing with you there? Or was it just his original post that had been stolen and reposted by the host?"

Hello Lydia. Both the original post and the comments were reposted from my old blog. Except for the last comment or two left by Friend Billy. :-)

William Luse said...

So I guess the guy was stealing from Jeff. Unless he asked permission. So I thought I was arguing with the bloghost, but it was Culbreath. I think. I am soooo confused.

Jeff Culbreath said...

See Bill, it's like this. The argument you stumbled upon was between you and me, lifted from the old ECR blog and placed onto a new blog run by an anonymous person. When you found this conversation you added new comments - but of course, I'm not the host of the new blog, so the comments you thought were addressed to the original poster (me) were really addressed to the anonymous host of the new blog, who is not me, but probably should be, and just might be someday if I can convince him to take over my present blog, or if he convinces me to take over his, or vice versa.

William Luse said...

Yeah. Like I said. He was stealing from you. We sure have come a long way from Christine's blurry but stunning picture, haven't we?

Lydia McGrew said...

So, Jeff (if you're still reading this thread), did that guy rename you for all the comments as well as for the post? That's so weird. I mean, he must have had to edit the entire thing, including redating every single comment, to make it look like your and Bill's discussion took place just then in 06 instead of 03. Didn't Bill ever call you "Jeff" in the original exchange, and if so, did the guy who stole the stuff edit that out?

One wonders why he bothered.

William Luse said...

Probably idol worship. The guy wanted to be Culbreath, but figured out sometime in 2006 -once he realized it involved milking goats, castrating male cow calves, and shoveling manure - that it wasn't as much fun as he thought it would be. So the guy being impersonated was Jeff, not me. Jeff says his original post was from 2003. If my comments were made in 2006, who was answering me? But why wouldn't I have made those comments at Jeff's original blog? And if the original post was from 2003, why date it 2006 if his goal was to preserve certain gems from the ECR archives? Maybe my comments were from 2003. The person who answered them sounded a lot like Culbreath. But Jeff says it wasn't he. And he's not a liar. Normally. Culbreath could have been feeding the guy answers by email, but that would be lying by omission and we've already noted that Jeff is not one of those. So you can see why I'm confused. Somebody needs to get to the bottom of it. I think it ought to be Culbreath since it was his stuff being ripped off - I mean preserved for posterity. The primary victim of a crime has a duty to alleviate the pain of those (like me) suffering collateral damage. There must have been something about his writing that would inspire others to want to imitate him. Jeff thinks he's cleared it all up, but to me it's as murky as ever.

Jeff Culbreath said...

"So, Jeff (if you're still reading this thread), did that guy rename you for all the comments as well as for the post?"

Yes. He apparently renamed me "Wiseman".

"That's so weird. I mean, he must have had to edit the entire thing, including redating every single comment ..."

I think the comment dates were probably automatic, reflecting the date he pasted the comment into the comment box.

" ... to make it look like your and Bill's discussion took place just then in 06 instead of 03."

I doubt this was intent. I think he probably just archived everything in '06.

"Didn't Bill ever call you 'Jeff' in the original exchange, and if so, did the guy who stole the stuff edit that out?"

I don't remember, but it would seem likely. If so, he probably did edit that out since wanted to anonymize me for some reason.

"One wonders why he bothered."

Well, if he didn't anonymize me, he may have felt compelled to ask permission to archive everything on another blog. I might have denied this permission. Just a guess.

Bill wrote:

"Jeff says his original post was from 2003. If my comments were made in 2006 ..."

All but your last two comments were made in 2003 on the original ECR blog. They were probably pasted into the LevelWise blog (and maybe edited?) in April of 2006.

"... who was answering me?"

Me.

"But why wouldn't I have made those comments at Jeff's original blog?"

You did,

"And if the original post was from 2003, why date it 2006 if his goal was to preserve certain gems from the ECR archives?"

I doubt that he dated anything on purpose. I think the dates just reflect the time he set up the blog and began archiving.

"Maybe my comments were from 2003."

Yes, they were.

"The person who answered them sounded a lot like Culbreath."

It was Culbreath.

"But Jeff says it wasn't he."

What I meant was that I didn't put those comments on the LevelWise blog!

"And he's not a liar. Normally."

Uh, thanks.

"Culbreath could have been feeding the guy answers by email, but that would be lying by omission and we've already noted that Jeff is not one of those."

Lying by omission? Is that in the catechism too? What's an honest liar to do?

"So you can see why I'm confused. Somebody needs to get to the bottom of it."

I hope I have cleared things up for you by now.

"I think it ought to be Culbreath since it was his stuff being ripped off - I mean preserved for posterity."

That's how I'm trying to look at it: "preserved for posterity". I didn't save much from that blog so it's kind of nice to see these things again.

"The primary victim of a crime has a duty to alleviate the pain of those (like me) suffering collateral damage."

Another catechism detail I must've overlooked. I'm not sure how I would qualify as a victim since it hasn't cost me anything. Sorry about your confusion, however!

William Luse said...

I've almost got it all straight now.

Re-read the catechism. That thing about collateral damage is in there. Somewhere. It's a big book.

I still say someone needs to find that anonymous impersonator and...do something. He messed with my mind.