Thursday, March 31, 2005

A Good Day

(1) I finished refinishing some furniture for the apartment. For some reason, doing manual labor is really appealing to me after spending ten weeks doing nothing but mental work.
(2) I restarted the Republic translation.

Greek Font

I've started using the SP Ionic font for Greek. If the Gr. is jibberish in the post below, that probably means you don't have SP Ionic installed. You can get it for free here.

Republic 330a7-b7

"Well, in which way, Cephalus," I said, "did you gain the most -- did you inherit it or did you earn it?"
"What's this 'did I earn?' Socrates," he said. "As a businessman, I have come to be somewhere between my grandfather and father. For my grandfather and namesake, having inherited something close to what I now have earned, made it many times larger. But Lysanias my father thereafter made less of the same substance. I would be pleased if I did not leave to my sons here less than this, but, even in some small way, more than what I inherited."

[I'm trying to use "well" to capture the force of de/. Gr. has the word po/terov, which means "whether of the two?" It's not really translatable, but I've rendered it "in which way." "The most" is really "the more" (ta\ plei/wn), but it is bad English to use the comparative to say "gain the more."

Adam offers the translation "Do you want to know what I acquired, Socrates?" He gives some reasons for it, but I'm an inadequate judge of whether he or, say, Shorey or Bloom is correct. The translations of the latter two invoke the sense of derision, which Adam rejects, in C.'s question.

"Businessman" is a translation of xrhmatisth\v. It may be a bit anachronistic, if one takes it to imply the existence of a free market economy. But LSJ also offer "a man in business." (It's odd that "man of business" is offered in the Middle Liddell but not in LSJ, is it not?) Strictly speaking, it is in the nominative case, but I've made it the object of an adverbial phrase in order to make it sound right in English.

The verb "have come to be" is ge/gona, from gi/gnomai, whose usual meaning is to be born or to come into being. It's meaning here seems to be the latter, though the former is not completely absent.

A question: Is it worthwhile to examine the fact that C. was somewhere in between his father and grandfather? Chronologically, he is not in between them but after them.

See Shorey for the bit about the namesake. The fact that grandsons often took on their grandfather's name leads to a bit of confusion about who's who in Plato's world. For example, exactly how many Critias's are there in Plato's world? See this book for a detailed hypothesis.

I'm not quite sure how to translate the phrase I translated "I would be pleased if I did not leave . . . less than this." In Gr. it's e)gw de\ a)gapw= e)a\n mh\ e)la/ttw katali/pw tou/toisin. The difficulty is deciding whether or not a)gapw= is subjunctive or not. I think it is because it's followed by e'an, but then one would expect katali/pw in the indicative. It's not; it's aorist. So I'm probably missing something.

"My sons here" is only tou/toisin, "these," in the Gr., but it seems clear that he's referring to someone close by, and since the discussion is about inheritance, his sons are the obvious choice.

In the sequel, we find out why S. asks C. about how he got his money.]

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Cheapskates or Profligates?

I found out today that the department in which I am a graduate student is no longer providing gratis copies of the books required for the classes for which grad students TA. We don't have to buy our own copies, but we do have to turn in the copies given to us at the end of the term. The reason given was that publishers are refusing to provide desk copies each term, especially if the same text was used last term or even last year.

I suppose I shouldn't complain about not getting free books since I am not entitled to the books. But at the same time, it seems that if publishers have a policy of distributing a certain number of desk copies per number of students enrolled in the class, then the publishers should fulfill that promise. It's another question of whether the department should pass on the books to the TAs. I suppose it doesn't have to. However, I am dreading the state of affairs that will probably be realized in a few terms when I am given TA copies that have underlining and notes in pen, indiscriminate highlighting, and (gasp!) broken spines.

When I think about it, I'm glad that the only thing I really have to complain about is not getting free books. I have a beautiful wife, a nice place to live, employment, time to read Plato, freedom of religion, etc., etc.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A Theological Discovery?

"There are no sacraments on the Internet."

So says the Catholic bishop's conference of Peru. I find it a bit disheartening that the bishops needed to issue a statement on this point. Did someone actually think there were sacraments on the Internet?

Attempting to Teach Ethics

Here is a summary of a recent exchange I had with a student in one of my ethics classes.

Me: Should people in the business world be honest even though it is thought that a majority of businessmen lie?

Student: Well, they won't make as much money that way.

Me: Perhaps, but ought they to tell the truth?

Student: Well, they probably don't want to tell the truth.

Me: Maybe, but ought they to tell the truth?

Student: Well, they might get caught if they lie.

Me: Yes, but ought they to tell the truth?

Student: Well, everyone else is pretty much lying most of the time.

Me: Yes, but ought they to tell the truth?

Student: Well, I'm not sure I would tell the truth.

Me: Yes, but ought you to tell the truth (putting aside extenuating circumstances)?

Student: I guess I don't get what you mean by "ought."

Me: I mean something you should do because it's the right thing to do.

Student: Well, what's right for some is different from what's right for others.

Me: Do you have a car?

Student: Yes.

Me: Would mind if another student in this class damaged your car?

Student: No.

Me: What if they think it's right for them to damage your car?

Student: Well, I don't think it's right.

Me: But what if they do?

Student: Well, I don't think it's right.

Me: So, you think that everyone should do what you think is right.

A few observations about this. (1) This student really had no clear conception of "ought." This seems to be worse than someone who just won't admit that they know they ought to do something but don't want to do it. He honestly seemed to lack a clear idea of what I meant when I asked him if he ought to do something. (2) At this point in the student's life, it will be nearly impossible to teach him ethics. Of course, I can "teach" him different ethical systems such as egoism, utilitarianism, or deontology, but he will probably never learn to be ethical.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


"For if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions" (Matt 6.14-15, from the gospel reading for the last Sunday before Lent, also called Forgiveness Sunday, in the eastern rite of the Orthodox Church).

I have lately wondered how the story of Genesis would change if Adam and Eve had forgiven each other on that tragic day in the garden. Would we still read the report of a son who murdered his brother out of envy and lied to cover it up? Would we hear of a world wiped out by floodwaters because of the wickedness of its inhabitants?

Perhaps Adam and Eve eventually did forgive each other. Perhaps they never learned how to forgive, nor how to ask forgiveness. There are surely many people today who do not know these things, including (all too frequently) myself. We all know how to apologize, of course; most of us learn how to say "I'm sorry" from an early age. But an apology of this sort often means something quite different than the words "will you forgive me." This can be illustrated by the ease with which "I'm sorry" is so often followed by "but..."

Imagine Adam and Eve apologizing to God:
"I'm sorry, God, but I just noticed that I was naked, and the woman..."
"I'm sorry, God, but that snake..."

There is another perspective: that of the person on the receiving end of the apology. In my own life I have observed that I have difficulty responding to an apology, sometimes even a simple one with no buts. Usually I say something like “it’s okay” when, in fact, “it” is not okay. All of this language is far too vague; it has the appearance of exonerating the sinner while implicitly justifying the sin.

The world we live in is no Eden, but what might it be like if God had simply said “it’s okay”? And – for our own sake and the sake of those around us – we ought to ask what the world might be like if Adam and Eve had asked for forgiveness rather than transferring their guilt to another. It is clear, at any rate, why they suddenly found a world of distance between themselves, and why they chose to hide from God. To say “will you forgive me” is to freely admit one’s guilt, to open oneself to another. Such vulnerability is difficult, which is probably why we tend to prefer apologizing to asking forgiveness.

So what has all this to do with Matt 6.14-15? It seems to me that this image of a stern father who offers only conditional forgiveness disappears when one considers the condition behind the condition. The person who is unwilling to forgive another quite likely avoids or refuses asking forgiveness of others. How can someone who does not admit their failures and shortcomings to another person sincerely ask forgiveness of God?

“…my king and Lord, let me look at my own sins and refrain from judging others: For you are bless'd unto ages of ages, amen” (from the prayer of St. Ephrem).

Friday, March 11, 2005


Working one of my day jobs as editor for a philosophy journal, I came across the following sentence.

Membership in the Trinity has its privileges.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Byzantine Speaks

From Procopius, Buildings:

[Describing a person entering Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, after a lengthy description of the building and its construction]
"And whenever anyone enters this church to pray, he understands at once that it is not by any human power or skill, but by the influence of God, that this work has been so finely turned. And so his mind is lifted up toward God and exalted, believing that He cannot be far away, but must especially love to dwell in this place which He has chosen. And this does not happen only to one who sees the church for the first time, but the same experience comes to him on each successive occassion, as thought the sight were new each time."

I have two thoughts on this. The first is academic: Procopius is emphasizing the Emperor's nearness to God throughout the Buildings. It is the essence of his project, and as Hagia Sophia is the starting point for his work, and is also a divinily appointed building by a divinely appointed Emperor, when we notice the nearness of God, in Hagia Sophia, we are noticing His nearness through the medium of the Emperor who has in a very real sense, revealed Him for us. I'm going to leave that as it is.

The second is to believe that perhaps this statement could also be taken at face value, as a genuine expression of piety; Byzantine rhetoric does not exclude personal sentiment. The sentiment expressed is not one usually associated with "late antique religion;" it would not be used in a paradigm for Byzantine Christianity, and her emphasis on the nearness of God (I don't think hardly anyone in the history department has ever thought to emphasize that). Perhaps it should.

Of course, a Western Christian today who walked into the same building would probably be overwhelmed by God's distance. Which is more important to have as the basic paradigm -- to insist on God the ineffable, or Jesus lover of my soul? In any case it is refreshing to enter, if only for a moment, into the world of a man who is inspired anew by God's nearness, as we search desparately for something to awaken in us a sense of God's otherness. A balance must be struck, for in the end this is simply the mystery of the incarnation revisited. Jesus who wept with women at the death of his friend is the same rider on the pale horse with all hell following behind him. However, I think that the divinity of Christ (and therefore the absolute holiness of God) must be the starting point: the incarnation is no mystery if you start (theologically) with the babe already born.

The Manolo

At right, on the list of places to burgle, you will find a link to the Manolo. I first linked to Manolo because of his lighthearted comments about fashion, particularly shoes. Recently, prompted by Martha Stewart's implicit endorsement of the poncho, Manolo posted the following:

The Manolo No-Poncho Pledge
"I (insert the name here) swear on the head and/or the grave of my sainted granny to never wear, buy, knit, crochet, or fashion from the old throw rug, the poncho. And if the poncho it is given to me as the gift, I will graciously thank the giver and then, when she has left, put the poncho into the dog's bed and/or the trash as the case she may be. Only by doing these things faithfully can I help end for the good of the humanity the scourge that is the poncho. So help me Manolo."

Then I noticed Manolo is reading the greatest mystery novel ever written.

And also, Manolo posted some very thoughtful comments on modesty and what is valuable and worth pursuing in life.

I promise a post on Plato/Republic soon.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Blog Game & New Burglar


There is a new blogger here at the Bourgeois Burglars. Please welcome Le Complice, whose first post is below.

Perhaps you've seen this circulating in the blogosphere. I've decided to play.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what’'s actually next to you.

Well, there are a number of books next to me, but this is the one I grabbed (and, okay, I was motivated a bit by the "cool" factor).

He [the "Guardian" in Plato's Republic] hates him whom he does not know, not for some wrong he has previously suffered from him, but for the very fact of his ignorance of him; just as he loves him whom he knows, not for some kindness he has previously received from him, but for the very fact of his knowledge of him. (From Averroes' Commentary on Plato's Republic, corr. ed., trans. E.I.J. Rosenthal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966).)

It's like the "six degrees" game, only smarter.

(HT: Brian Leiter)


Greetings fellow Burglars, jurors, and eyewitnesses (friends, Romans, countrymen?) . In my inaugural blog I thought I'd drop a bomb, of sorts, or at least comment on the dropping of bombs and other related acts of military violence. I recently saw a bumper sticker that asked the question "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" While it is an amusing riff on the ubiquitous (in some circles) WWJD theme, it also implies a critique of Christians who might see no irony in a bomber with the words "Jesus is my co-pilot" plastered on its hull. If the results of our recent presidential election are any indication, such Christians would seem to represent a sizeable number. Perhaps that's why we all saw maps of our country covered in red.

Now I live in a "blue state," and I've been a graduate student at what can only be described as a blue university (in more ways than one); these things have undoubtedly influenced my politics. Yet I cannot help but be struck by similarities between the rhetoric of ancient generals who defeated "tyrants" and brought "liberty" to Rome, and the rhetoric of a President who has declared a "war on terror" and brought "democracy" to Iraq. Terrorists are, of course, tyrants; the weapon they use to advance their tyranny is fear. But they cannot, and will not be overcome by machine guns, tanks, and bombs – even bombs with crosses painted on them and the legend "by this sign, conquer." Neither does the freedom we experience as Christians have anything to do with the form of government under which we live. Only when we recognize that there is no fear in love will we be free from tyranny, whether it is the tyranny of ideologically vacuous notions of "liberty" and "democracy" or the tyranny of terror.

I recognize that individuals and nations are often faced with difficult choices, and I am not a pacifist of the "egoistically vegetarian" sort described by Mother Maria (recently canonized Orthodox saint). But in the midst of all the rhetoric that is flying around, a crucial message has been obscured. As members of a church that claims as its Lord and Savior a man who was ignominiously put to death on a Roman cross, we are faced with a choice: we can take up our cross, or we can take up the hammer and nails.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Checkpoint Tragedy

The death of Nicola Calipari (the Italian secret service agent) while helping Giuliana Sgrena (the kidnapped Italian journalist) get out of Iraq is horrible.

That said, the comments by Sgrena in utter rejection of the U.S. explanation (that they were speeding despite US soldiers yelling and flashing lights) to me seems a bit disingenuous:

"Sgrena, who works for the communist daily Il Manifesto, did not rule out that she was targeted, saying the United States likely disapproved of Italy's methods to secure her release, although she did not elaborate."

" 'The fact that the Americans don't want negotiations to free the hostages is known,' Sgrena told Sky TG24 television by telephone, her voice hoarse and shaky. 'The fact that they do everything to prevent the adoption of this practice to save the lives of people held hostages, everybody knows that. So I don't see why I should rule out that I could have been the target.' "

A description of the incident leading to Calipari's death, on the way to the airport:
" 'I remember only fire,' she wrote in Il Manifesto, which fiercely opposed the war in Iraq. 'At that point a rain of fire and bullets came at us, forever silencing the happy voices from a few minutes earlier.' Sgrena said the driver began shouting that they were Italian, then 'Nicola Calipari dove on top of me to protect me and immediately, and I mean immediately, I felt his last breath as he died on me.' Suddenly, she said, she remembered her captors' words, when they warned her 'to be careful because the Americans don't want you to return.' " Sgrena wrote that her captors warned her as she was about to be released not to signal her presence to anyone, because 'the Americans might intervene.' "

Again, it is a horrible event, but this was obviously also traumatic in the extreme for the woman: could she be jumping to conclusions? that the US deliberately wanted her taken out for her governments tactics of rescuing prisoners??? Call me naively patriotic: I'm sorry, Guiliana, I want to believe you and I think you must have had an awful time and deserve all of your nation's and ours' congratulations and rewards for your bravery, but I simply cannot believe that the US is trying to keep the few allies it has by shooting them when they use a different set of policies for hostage rescue.

What seemed to me the most sensible piece to come out of the whole affair was this one in the Christian Science Monitor by Annia Ciezadlo: well worth the read. [Look at this one too.] Given Annia's comments, could it be that the advice Guiliana was given by her captors led to the US's misinterpretation of her vehicle's behavior? Could it be that this was the captors' intention??? Nah, couldn't possibly. Memo to self: when in hostage situation, always listen to what captors say: they have your best interests in mind.

Thank you, Annia, for rising above the chance to sling a fist of mud at public enemy of your choice and instead helping those of us who are sitting at home sipping a latte in slippers make some sense of the situation -- it stinks and doesn't make sense.

Go journalism, go!

Friday, March 04, 2005

A Note on Sedley on Plato's "Development"

From David Sedley, Plato's Cratylus:

There have been some recent proposals to jettison this whole chronological structure [of the development of Plato's thought], but in my view they represent, so far at least, little more than the understandable fact that people are getting bored with it. There is actually much to lose if we say goodbye to it. For by reading Plato's development along the lines I have summarised, we are enabled to understand how the youthful admirer of the maverick critic Socrates became in time the teacher of Aristotle and the august founder of a metaphysical system which was to dominate philosophy for the last half-millennium of antiquity and well beyond. (7)

The problem with this argument is that it mistakes the assumptions underwriting this kind of chronology for the conclusions it provides. The "development" theory of Plato's philosophy assumes that Plato developed from an admirer of Socrates into a full-blown metaphysician who bequeathed to Aristotle, among others, explanations and problems Socrates did not conceive of. In order for the development theory to be plausible, it has to assume a development.

Now when Sedley states that "by reading Plato's development along the lines I have summarised, we are enabled to understand how the youthful admirer of Socrates . . ." he is mistaking the conclusion of the development theory for its assumption. The only way the development theory "enable[s]" us to understand Plato's development is by assuming that Plato's thought developed.

But what if Plato's thought did not develop? What if, per Schleiermacher, Shorey, Kahn et al., Plato's philosophy stayed pretty much the same from the beginning of his philosophical career to the end? Call this the "stasis" theory. Now suppose I said something like what Sedley says, only in favor of the stasis theory: "By reading Plato's largely unchanging philosophical outlook in the ways suggested by Schleiermacher et al., we are enabled to understand how Plato arranged his dialogues in such a way that it only appears to the reader of his corpus that his thinking changed."

I do not know which of the basic hypotheses about Plato's development (or lack thereof) is correct, but it seems clear that the development hypothesis has become so dominant in Plato scholarship that its assumptions are being mistaken for its conclusions.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

On Fasting

Below is an article I wrote for my church newsletter. Readers should know that the Eastern Orthodox church calculates the date of Pascha (Easter) by a rubric different from Protestants and Roman Catholics. I'm not sure what the difference in the calculus is, but EO churches have not yet started Lent. It begins on March 16, and Pascha follows forty days later on May 1.

In the western rite of the Eastern church (that's not an oxymoron), the general rule is to eat one and one-half meals a day during Lent. Meat is allowed except on Wednesdays and Fridays. The rule is suspended on Sundays. The eastern rite of the Eastern church (not a redundancy) allows for three meals daily but prohibits dairy, flesh meat, sweets, and alcohol (among other things, I think). As always, any comments on this post are welcome.

Lent is upon us, and to most of us Lent means fasting. Have you ever wondered why we Orthodox Christians fast? It may seem a little strange when you think about it. What does food have to do with our spiritual lives? Well, the church has told us to fast, and so our first response should be to trust that there is something good about fasting. What follows are some simple observations that have helped me to understand why we fast and what good it does.

First, we should note that fasting is what is often called a discipline. But what is a discipline? Here are two ways to think about discipline. Usually when we think of discipline, we think of parents disciplining their children. If a child misbehaves, then a parent punishes him; this is discipline. We know that good parents do not punish their children for no reason; there must be a reason why they discipline. Good discipline is used to correct a child’s behavior, to teach the child not to do things that are wrong. This is one sense of discipline.

The second sense of discipline will take a bit longer to explain, but the concept is fairly simple. It is training ourselves to be able to accomplish something that we could not accomplish if we just tried to do that thing directly. Let me explain. Consider people who practice something, say an athletic game or a musical instrument. When athletes practice, we say that they are conditioning their bodies. It’s important to note how they do this. If you ever watch a basketball player practice, you’ll notice that he will practice things that look strange. For example, the basketball player might stand under the basket and repeatedly toss the ball off the backboard and catch it. What is he doing? He’s practicing the skill of rebounding. Of course, it is important to know how to rebound in the game of basketball, but when is the player ever going to need to perform these actions in a game? He’s not. In fact, if he repeatedly tossed the ball off the backboard during a game, his coach would take him out of the game. Then why did he perform those actions in practice? To learn the skill of rebounding.

To take another example, consider the piano player who practices her scales. She practices her scales in order to become a better piano player, but only very rarely will she need to play a whole scale during a song. Then why does she practice her scales? To learn how to play better. It’s important to remember that neither the basketball player nor the piano player could become better by just trying to become better or just by wanting to become better. They have to practice specific actions in order to become better.

In both examples, we see someone practicing a certain action, one that they will never use in a performance, in order to perform better. This helps us understand the second sense of discipline. The piano player who practices her scales is trying to become a better piano player, and she does this by practicing her scales. The same goes for the basketball player. What they are doing is practicing a discipline in order to become better at something.

I hope you can see that the same is true of fasting. When we fast, we do not fast for the sake of fasting, just like the piano player does not play scales for the sake of playing scales. We fast in order to become better at something: keeping our bodies under control. In order to live a holy life, we must be able to control our bodies. The piano player cannot become a better piano player without practicing her scales. So we cannot become better at controlling our bodies without practice. It’s very important to see that we cannot keep our bodies under control just by trying to or just by wanting to keep our bodies under control. The piano player could not become better this way, and neither can we. We both need to practice the small things, the things we have direct control over, in order to get better at the big things, the things we don’t now have direct control over.

If we put together the two senses of discipline (parents disciplining their child, and performers practicing a skill), I think we get a pretty good picture of the discipline of fasting. In the first sense, fasting helps to correct us; if we are gluttonous, it chastises us. In the second sense, fasting helps us to get better at keeping our bodies under control by practicing something we have direct control over.

One last thing about fasting. I don’t know about you, but in my experience I tend to become grouchy, and sometimes downright mean, rather quickly during Lent. Even the littlest things provoke me. What has happened? I thought fasting was supposed to help me become a better person, not a grouchy, ill-tempered person. Well, the Holy Fathers say that what happens is this. When we fast, and I think especially if you follow the Western rules of fast, we tend to be hungry more often. Normally, when we feel hungry we eat some food, and this helps us feel better.

But during Lent, we are not to eat more than the rule allows. When we become hungry we do not have recourse to our usual way of making ourselves feel better. This is one of the tests of Lent: How will I treat others when I do not feel kind and when I can’t use my usual way (i.e., eating) of changing my feelings? Will I treat others with kindness even though I feel grouchy and mean? You see, fasting forces us to both realize that we are often kind because we feel satiated and choose to live a holy life despite the fact that we feel, for example, grouchy and unkind. Furthermore, this choice to be kind even though I feel grouchy is one over which I have direct control, and the Holy Fathers tell us that if we make this right choice enough times (even though it may take a long time), eventually we will be able to live a holy life. We will be able to directly do then what we cannot do directly now, and this will be possible because we have disciplined ourselves, like the basketball and piano players, in the little things we can control now.

... The Worst of Times

The LA Times has become a propoganda machine for arguably the most tyrannical, despotic murderous nation in the world.

Hugh Hewitt's expose of the day: LA Times passes on some N Korea propoganda. Amazing. Unbelievable. Sick. What is the primary message we need to get about North Korea? They're misunderstood. They're misunderstood.

North Korea, Without the Rancor [Context: This is a front page article]
This is an interview in China with an "anonymous Businessman" from North Korea, a former N Korea diplomat who now tries to promote commerce to the country. He has "been assigned to help his communist country attract foreign investment." Unbiased source? Of course.

Incredible quotes [my comments in italics]:

[Beginning of the Article] "There's never been a positive article about North Korea, not one," he said. "We're portrayed as monsters, inhuman, Dracula … with horns on our heads."

Bless them, apparently the LA Times is trying to start filling the void.

"He believes that Americans have the wrongheaded notion that North Koreas are unhappy with the system of government under Kim Jong Il. "We Asians are traditional people," he said. "We prefer to have a benevolent father leader.""

I'm not Korean and I'm not Asian. But I did grow up in South East Asia. Yes, most Asian societies tradiationally are and still remain strongly patriarchal, especially compared with those of the West. However, id non sequitor: it does not follow that they are naturally drawn to appreciate the positive aspects of oppressive dictators that destroy the country's economy, oppress its people, violently enforce population control, and suppress political dissent in labor camps. What is amazing is that if I were to make this sort of comment in one of my history classes, all hell would break loose. "Roman women and slaves were traditional people, they preferred to have benevolent father figures despite the fact that they had to endure physical and sexual abuse without legal recourse." Or to drive the point home: "African slaves came from traditional societies, they preferred to have benevolent father figures to provide them with food, shelter and clothing, despite the relatively difficult working conditions." I almost never use this word, because of how much it is overused, but this is racism cloaked in the language of ethnic ideological profiling. It is paramount to stating that Asian people deserve dictators: it suits them. Even if most North Koreans don't have any other perspective, and actually believe their propoganda, it does not follow that they would continue to do so given another option, nor that it is an inherent Asian characteristic. This is the kind of thing that the Times, in any other context, would pride itself on condemning. Not here, however. Why, I don't know, but they are irresponsible and I am disgusted. FRONT PAGE.

"The most important point the North Korean said he wanted to convey in the conversation was that his nation was a place just like any other. "There is love. There is hate. There is fighting. There is charity…. People marry. They divorce. They make children," he said. "People are just trying to live a normal life.""

Here's whats unbelievable: even the editorial comments do not try to correct any of the crap, they perpetuate it. For example:
"But he faulted the United States for the collapse of a 1994 pact under which North Korea was supposed to get energy assistance in return for freezing its nuclear program. The agreement fell apart after Washington accused North Korea in 2002 of cheating on the deal, and the U.S. and its allies suspended deliveries of fuel oil."

Why did the United States break off talks? The North Koreans were secretly continuing to build nukes. This is common consensus--nobody is an angel in negotiations, but clearly it was North Korea who was not keeping their side of the bargain. They shot themselves in the foot. The North Korean Government is the reason their people are starving and eating grass. Take a look at a defector, Kim Duk Hong, perspective from 2003.

Just for reference, the U.S. Committee's report on Human Rights in North Korea. This describes the different types of detention facilities, and what goes on there as detailed by escapees' testimonies.

For instance:
"In the kwan-li-so [long term detention camp], tens of thousands of political prisoners — along with up to three generations of their families — are banished and imprisoned without any judicial process for usually lifetime sentences. Their sentences entail slave labor in mining, logging, and farming enterprises in the valleys of mountainous areas in north and north-central North Korea."

"But some prisoners are “political” in that they are convicted for actions that would not be normally criminalized: one woman interviewed for this report, for example, described being convicted of disturbing the “socialist order” for singing, in a private home, a South Korean pop song."

I don't need to say any more. I wish I had a subscription to cancel. How can one interpret this newspaper? Charitably as idiotic or are they downright evil?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Coincidentally from a Catholic

Not to confuse what the Grand High Burglar has been saying (I too am Eastern and proud), but today I read some comments by a recent Catholic convert, R. Reno, that resonated.

Apparently Reno wrote a book in 2001 or so on why conservative Anglicans needed to remain Anglican. The article detailed why though he was apparently eating his own words, the decision was actually faithful to his original principles.

In brief, Newman realized that he was falling in love with his idea of being a prophet among ruins, at the expense of his love for the Church, her members, and Christ. Discussing Augustine's Confessions, Reno traces a similarity between love for idea and theory (ie., the discipline of theology), and the eternal pursuit of "truth" as such: an eternal seeking of theory. What we realize in the end is that we are actually chasing our own mind, ourselves (What am I to myself but a guide to my own destruction?). The following paragraph reminded me of my own motiviations along the journey to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic.

"[John Henry Newman's] observation (drawn from his study of the Arian controversy) that 'the truth lay, not with the Via Media, but with what was called the extreme party' struck me as a bracing correction to the sensible liberalism of my childhood and education. He endorsed the principle of dogma. 'Religion as mere sentiment,' he wrote with denunciatory directness, 'is to me a dream and a mockery.' He had no patience for vague fantasies of spiritual fellowship. Like Augustine, he saw no hope in seeking. the basis of the Christian life is not our longing; it is the 'visible Church, with sacraments and rites which are channels of invisible grace.' We cannot move through the spiritual life the way we drift through the marketplace. Dogma and the sacramental system must define and circumscribe our belief."

The whole article is worth reading.

Incidentally, First Things and Touchstone are two journals that I am proud to support, and encourage anyone and everyone to make use of them. Last months' First Things also had a good article on the proper goals and methods of "interfaith dialogue" from an Orthodox Jewish perspective.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Turning of the Tide

That is an overly presumptuous title, but this struck me today as a significant event.

Demonstration at Iraqi Bombing Site
Over 2,000 Iraqi's spontaneously gather to protest the most deadly suicide bombing yet, with no mention of the Colaition they chant: "No more Baathism, No more Wahabism!"

[HT: Drudge]