Friday, March 28, 2008

Samwise for Sauron


Good job, Rudy.
Admittedly not my best photoshop job ever, but I am supposed to be writing my thesis.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Viridiana Jones (and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart)

The Irish Rover examines the intersection of Catholicism and the University, but to what extent have the rise of information and communication technologies molded that relationship? I think that most of my fellow editors would agree the the widespread audience of the USNews and World Report Rankings has far too great an effect. But if you yearn for deeper understanding, perhaps you should visit Knowledge Rules, featuring none other than Notre Dame professor of Economics Philip Mirowski, who chronicles the adventures of the fictitious Viridiana Jones through the academic landscape.

I had Prof. Mirowski for my writing-intensive economics requirement: History of Economics in the Context of Intellectual History. His class was one of the most difficult I've taken in my collegiate career, requiring a 30 -plus page take-home research final due only one week after a 20-plus page term paper. None of the 12 or so students ever understood what he was saying in class, although we took notes at a feverish pace because there was no way we could glean the information of the readings -- they were simply too long and confusing.

I think that Prof. Miroswski's lectures were confusing because he is too brilliant to notice the point at which normal minds stop following his. He once lent me an article for use in my term paper, failing to realize that it was written in Dutch. He also discussed economics at a level so far above what we were introduced to in other classes that it was impossible to guess at his political or economic leanings.

For that reason, his blog posts, like his books, are not by any means easily accessible. If, however, you truly thirst for an understanding of how academia -- and thus the search for knowledge -- functions in today's environment, I suggest you take a look. Otherwise, consider this a routine notification of a Domer entering the blogosphere.

Compassionate Conservatism and the Liberal Politics of Intention

I really can't count the number of times that my father, who has sought to inculcate all of his children with Reagan conservatism since the cradle, has told me, "Rachel, remember that liberals believe in the politics of intention, not of action or reality. Whether or not liberal policies actually yield any real, beneficial results doesn't matter--all that matters is what they intend to do."

This just became exceedingly clear to me while perusing George Will's short article in today's Washington Post.

According to a recent study, he says in a sharp turn of phrase, "Conservatives are more liberal givers" to charitable causes.

Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism." The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives.

If many conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, Brooks, a registered independent, is, as a reviewer of his book said, a social scientist who has been mugged by data. They include these findings:

-- Although liberal families' incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

-- Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

-- Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

-- Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

-- In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.

-- People who reject the idea that "government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality" give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.


Brooks is a social scientist, and sees a correlation between conservatives' values and convictions and their altruism. Religious faith obviously has a large impact on the "time, talent and treasure" which Americans choose to give, and those who are identified as very religious tend to be more politically conservative. This is a sociological point.

But an even more interesting point Brooks makes connects the philosophical underpinnings of conservatism with conservatives' tendency to give more. It all has to do, Will says, with their idea of "the proper role of government."

While conservatives tend to regard giving as a personal rather than governmental responsibility, some liberals consider private charity a retrograde phenomenon -- a poor palliative for an inadequate welfare state, and a distraction from achieving adequacy by force, by increasing taxes. Ralph Nader, running for president in 2000, said: "A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity." Brooks, however, warns: "If support for a policy that does not exist ... substitutes for private charity, the needy are left worse off than before. It is one of the bitterest ironies of liberal politics today that political opinions are apparently taking the place of help for others."


An even more apt response to Nader, I believe, comes from Pope Benedict XVI, in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est.

The Church can never be exempted from practising charity as an organized activity of believers, and on the other hand, there will never be a situation where the charity of each individual Christian is unnecessary, because in addition to justice man needs, and will always need, love. (paragraph 29)


Perhaps Nader didn't realize that 'charity' doesn't just refer to the material aid given by one person to another. But charity is a theological virtue--love--and the only reason we even call 'charity' by that name is because we--long ago, perhaps!--understood it as the bringing to reality of our vocation to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Of course, to a liberal such as Nader, actually loving our neighbors in the here and now isn't necessary. Actually helping them to survive the hard times, to obtain the resources which they need to live and to flourish TODAY, doesn't matter. What matters is that we talk about changing the future; it's immaterial what happens today. What other lesson could one take away from this research?

NB - This post is not at all intended as a self-gratifying pat on the back. I really think that the philosophical/ideological issues at work here--and how they manifest themselves in reality--are stunning in their consequences.

Walk Out Video

The video of the walk out tonight. The actual "protest" is only about the first 30 seconds, and then at 2:33 one of the cast member cracks a joke about there being empty seats.
Courtesy of North Quad freelancer Aldrich Anderson


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Death of Marriage

Not only is the proportion of adults who are married in the UK at its lowest level since 1862, it is less than HALF of what it was then--when the population was HALF of what it is now!

This does not bode well for Western society...

The figures, from the Office for National Statistics, said that in 2006, fewer than ten in every 1,000 single adults in England and Wales were married.

Among men the rate was 22.8 in every 1,000, among women 20.5. When marriage-rates were first calculated in 1862 the level was 58.7 for men and 50 for women.

Even during the world war years marriage rates for women never dropped below 40 in 1,000. They fell below 30 for the first time in 1995.

The raw numbers of weddings in the figures for 2006 also tell the dramatic story.

There were 236,980 marriages, the fewest since 228,204 were recorded in 1895, a year in which Oscar Wilde was sent to Reading jail, W.G. Grace scored his 100th century and Queen Victoria had still to celebrate her jubilee.

In 1895, there were around 30 million people in England and Wales compared with more than 54 million now.

The general decline of marriage has been under way since 1972 when there were 426,000 weddings and marriage rates were more than 78 in 1,000 for men and 60 for women.

...

Religious marriages numbered fewer than 80,000.

Of the 157,490 civil weddings, 95,300 were held in "approved" premises - stately homes, hotels or even football ground hospitality suites which have been permitted to stage weddings since 1995.

The age of first-time brides and bridegrooms is continuing to increase. Women are nearly 30 while the man is almost 32.


On a more personal note, apparently I'm bucking the trend, what with my upcoming Catholic wedding at age 22 and all...

Monologues protests

Holding the Monlogues during Easter Week has caused quite a backlash, it seems.

A half-dozen students were outside DeBart before the play, passing out Bishop D'Arcy's refutation of Fr. Jenkins.
32 (by my count) students stood up and silently left the play after the first monologue - which was close to a fifth of the audience. They proceeded to the Grotto to pray the Rosary for the Notre Dame community.
The Rosary will also be prayed at 6.45 at the Grotto on this Thursday and Friday; all are welcome to join.
A mass letter was sent to The Observer for publication tomorrow; I'm not sure how many signatories there were (someone comment if you do).
And we even had out-of-town visitors:
http://media.www.ndsmcobserver.com/media/storage/paper660/news/2008/03/26/News/Visitors.Protest.Monologues-3284005.shtml

The student message has been loud and clear ... those who have ears, let them hear.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

He is risen! Alelluia!


150 Notre Dame juniors studying abroad converged on the Eternal City for Triduum, joining the Holy Father for the Way of the Cross on Good Friday at the Coliseum, and in St. Peter's Square on Easter Sunday morning in a thunderstorm for possibly the wettest celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord in history.

It just so happens...

Flying into DC last Wednesday night to visit my sister for Easter, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman seated next to me during a holding pattern above BWI airport. And when I say I struck up a conversation I mean he engaged me, because my policy while traveling is to maintain a vigilant and aggressive silence so as to enjoy a competitive edge if I have to elbow out an old lady for the last spot in the overhead compartment or perform a leg sweep on a high schooler who's trying to step in front of me in line for baggage pickup.

Anyways, this guy, who looked like he was in his mid- or late forties, noticed my ND sweatshirt and asked me if I went to ND. When I told him I did, he explained that his son is beginning the college search, and that he wants his kid to go to a Catholic college. Not just any Catholic college, though -- he wanted a truly Catholic university that maintained orthodoxy while still being academically rigorous.

So he wondered whether ND fit the bill, and asked me if I knew anything about the University's Catholic character or if I had any opinions about the matter. He was especially interested in whether there were any student organizations addressing Catholicism at Notre Dame.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Road to the Real World #1

With only two months (eight weeks!!) to go, I've decided to start a semi-regular series of posts leading up to graduation. It will include a jumble of reflections, links, and other odds-n'-ends that I have pulled together through various sources. The first of these comes from a friend in San Antonio, who sent the following via email:
Apparently, a self-important college freshman attending a recent football game took it upon himself to explain to a senior citizen sitting next to him why it was impossible for the older generation to understand his generation.

"You grew up in a different world, actually an almost primitive one", the student said, loud enough for many of those nearby to hear. "The young people of today grew up with television, jet planes, space travel, man walking on the moon. Our space probes have visited Mars. We have nuclear energy, ships and electric and hydrogen cars, cell phones, computers with light-speed processing...and more."

After a brief silence, the senior citizen responded as follows:

"You're right, son. We didn't have those things when we were young........so we invented them. Now, you arrogant little snit, what are you doing for the next generation?"

The applause was amazing.......
Just a little generational perspective at a time when many of you will no doubt be arriving back in the 'Bend after attending Easter-related family events. Send me ideas for future posts: m.virgil.smith@gmail.com .

Even the pope calls for peace...

Yeah no kidding. So do the American bishops. But apparently that didn't matter to six protesters who disrupted Easter Mass at Holy Names Cathedral in Chicago. During Francis Cardinal Gerorge's homily the six protesters created a ruckus with anti-war chants and fake blood. Security hastily removed the nut cases before they were able to cause more than the $3000 worth of damage that they did.

I can't even describe this, you have to read the article and watch the video (click the title of this post). Some people have no respect for anything. The Cardinal pointed out that no matter how noble the cause interrupting Mass is not appropriate. Especially since the Church is against the war and always has been. Do these people always think. The people that support them and say that they are proud of them are a complete embarassment to civilized society. And of course these cowards would never go into a radical mosque or a gang-infested neighborhood or even the state legislature and call for peace. They pick an easy target like the Church. Unfortunately they hurt their cause because they look like complete fools. Their causes were noble no doubt, I just hope that people can understand that there are appropriate times for action and inappropriate times for action. As the Cardinal said "We should all work for peace, but not by interrupting the worship of God."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

A very happy celebration of Christ's Resurrection to all!



Happy Easter!

Happy Easter from the Rover staff! Eat, drink and be merry for today the Lord of Hosts has triumphed over Darkness!

With that, I leave you with this Easter thought:

A blonde, a brunette and a redhead die and go to the Pearly Gates. They hadn't had the best of lives, but St. Peter decides to give them one more chance, so he asks them what the meaning of Easter is.

The brunette says, "Oh, is Easter the holiday where a fat man in a red suit gives presents to everyone?

St. Peter says no and sends her away.

Then it was the redhead's turn. She asks, "Is Easter the holiday where everyone dresses up in costumes to scare each other for candy?"

St. Peter says no and sends her away.

Finally it was the blonde's turn. "Is Easter the holiday that roughly coincides with the Jewish holiday of Passover, that is done in remembrance of Jesus being crucified and dying for our sins?"

St. Peter thought, "Finally, we're getting somewhere," and told her to continue.

The blonde finished, "And after he rose again on the third day, the stone was rolled away from his tomb, and if Jesus sees his shadow, that means there are six more weeks of Lent."