Old Oligarch's Painted Stoa

Past Posts of Note
Substantative, in chronological order
The Sunday obligation and illness: question, research & my answer

Denial of personhood: Dei Filius & Terri Schiavo

On Modesty 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Differing with Dulles 1 & 2 on pro-abort politicians

Mad About Manuals 1 & 2

Absinthe recherches early, required reading, 2, 3, 4.

First time at an abortuary

The Maundy

TPOTC impact & analysis and more

Contraception reflections 1, 2

Meiwes, propheta, übermensch

Headship Loggerheads 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5

Matrix: Revolutions

Matrix: Reloaded
1, 2 & 3

Terrorist Attack Preparations, and follow-ups 1 & 2 & 3


Casuistry of Drinking

Review of Auto Focus

Parish Review 1

The Power of Shame

Biblical Hermeneutics

Ayoob on Guns

Against the Ordination of Women

Two Cents on Braveheart


Thematic Meditations

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Any e-mail I receive is fair game for publication, with comments, unless you explicitly say so beforehand.

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Zorak already noted this: Paul VI School Dean Resigns Over Photo On Lurid Web Sites. How anyone could be so stupid is beyond me. The Wash. Post says, "The dean of students at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax County resigned this week after his name and photo were discovered on sexually suggestive Web sites devoted to leather, motorcycles and homosexuality."

Suggestive? If a "suggestion" is punching someone in the face, then yes, those sites are suggestive. Have your own look at what follows. Google has removed Santora's own picture by his request, and the gay group has taken down that web page, but Google still has the thumbnail in its cache:

Take a look at what goes on at this little party: Santora's buddies.

He's also credited as being the "Founder of Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend" here. Nice resume, sodomite.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/28/2003 04:09:00 PM | link

Oh beautiful, fermented vine, dark amber distilled grains...

Earlier I mentioned more favorable medical news regarding tipping the bottle. This article has the detailed analysis, plus some fun commentary. Since you're lazy, dear reader, I'll summarize for you:

"Half an alcoholic drink every other day, be it wine, whisky or beer, can reduce the risk of heart attacks by a third, a new study shows. The 12-year study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the frequency of drinking was the key to lowering the risk of heart disease, rather than the amount, the type of alcohol, or whether or not it was drunk with food.

"Identifying the frequency of use as a key factor was a surprise, says lead researcher Kenneth Mukamal of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston. The study compared nearly 40,000 male health professionals aged 40 to 75. Men who drank three or four times a week cut their risk of a heart attack by 32 per cent compared to men drinking less than once a week. But those who had a tipple just once or twice a week cut their risk by only 16 per cent. The researchers also found that half a glass was as effective as two. The alcohol may help to keep the blood thinned, speculates Mukamal. . . . Alcohol also helps raise the levels of good cholesterol in the blood."

And the commentary in italics, with my responses interspersed:

The frequency of drinking may be important because alcohol breaks down relatively quickly in the body and its effects on red blood cells are short-lived, he adds.

Pace yourself. Don't start before noon...

people with a gene that makes them metabolise alcohol slowly seem to benefit the most from moderate drinking.

That would be Zorak, not I. Non-clinical studies have shown Zorak metabolizes half as fast as I do, but unfortunately gets sleepy much sooner, too.

However, medics warn that the findings should not seen as a reason for people to hit the bottle, due to other risks associated with alcohol, such as liver and brain damage.

All playfulness above aside, that would be damage from frequent overconsumption, if I'm not mistaken, as opposed to a glass or two every other day. I don't know why they throw water on the drinking option so quickly.

And now for the kicker:

"We do not advise the public to begin drinking to prevent heart disease. There are well-proven ways that do not have the risks associated with alcohol consumption," says Claude Lenfant, of the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. These include lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, keeping weight in check, physical activity and stopping smoking."

Dr. Lenfant, if you were a true pragmatist, you would never have let such absurd alternatives persuade you in not recommending increased, moderate consumption. Think about it: You're talking to the average guy. Which policy recommendation is more effective in getting people to do something for their health? If you want to cut your risk of heart attack and stroke, are you going to:

Drink a beer or quit smoking?

Drink a beer or go for a three-mile run?

Drink a beer or give up eating steak?

I'll drink the beer, thank you.

Lest I get any puritanical e-mails in reply, let me qualify the foregoing:

Yes, it's great if you quit smoking. You can, and you should. I like to smoke every once in a while, from pipes, to cigars to cigarettes. But I smoke about once a month, with the exception of final exam week, when I usually smoke a bit more. But I've never been addicted, and I can go without smoking indefinitely. If you're hooked, it's a vice from which you should free yourself. But in the meantime, have a beer.

My enthusiastic recommendation of alcohol may not be best for everyone. Especially those whom I know already put back several a day. (You know who you are!!) Drunkenness is bad. Alcoholic levity is not.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/28/2003 03:28:00 PM | link

A pro-life victory in the courts: Court rules against NOW in RICO case. (From Widening Gyre.)

The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 Wednesday that nationwide abortion protesters did not violate federal racketeering law by trying to shut down women's clinics.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/28/2003 02:42:00 PM | link

Welcome to my 20,000th visitor!

Someone from the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library visited the May 2002 archive from a Google search for "Alistair Crowley, a christian critique." (I'm ranked #2 for that on Google, but I don't have said critique in the archive.) The visitor checked in at 1:39:32 pm EST today, and stayed for over 30 minutes. In celebration, I've changed to a numerical counter. Hurray!

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/28/2003 02:34:00 PM | link

One person asks:

I've already purchased gas masks for myself and my family. We have them at home and work. Is there something I can do for those times when I am in neither location, and I am not able to carry something large?

Yes, there are some less effective, totally portable prophylactic measures you can take. (Even as a Catholic...sorry, bad pun.) Here are three of my recommendations, increasing in terms of effectiveness and cost. The problem with the first two recommendations is that they only protect you from some of the possible threats, and do so only partially. But again, it is much better than nothing in many cases, and you may not be smack dab in the middle of a toxic situation.

1. Disposable shield: $2 or $3 each The smallest, cheapest thing you can carry around with you is a disposable respirator that shields your mouth and nose. Basically it is an industrial version of the thing the dentist or doctor wears over his mouth. Something like the Wilson Safety Saf-T-Fit N99 filter will remove 99% of particulate matter. Here it is:

This would be good against a biological agent like anthrax, or unknown dust or debris from an explosion, etc. It does nothing against gas or vapor agents like sarin. The advantage: They are dirt cheap! Sharpe Safety Supply, a company unafraid to mention its commitment to God on its homepage, offers a box of 10 for $22. I keep four in the car, for me and any passengers I might have. They are so small you can easily tuck one in your purse, or keep it in your desk.

You must try one to get used to wearing it properly. Products like these are poor-fitting around the nose, and have a flexible metal band that must be pressed down around the top of your nose to make a good seal.

A word about the filter ratings. N99 means that it filters 99% of particles in a non-oily environment. (Oil and oily vapors often reduce filter efficiency.) For the NIOSH 24 CFR Part 84 ratings, a common way for certifying the efficiency of industrial filters, refer to This CDC document, especially Part One and Appendix E

I don't think it is possible to make an N100 filter like this (99.97% effective or better) simply because of the poor fit to the face and negative-pressure concept of the mask. If anyone knows of an N100, or an N99 with a good activated-carbon vapor-filtering layer built in, please e-mail me. The product has to have some kind of official certification for me to recommend it.

2. Evac-U8 Emergency Escape Hood: $70. About the size of a large 24 oz. soda can, this hood offers some protection against both particulate contaminants and vapors. It is designed to help you escape from a fire, so it is flame-resistant as well. It has an N95 particulate filter (filters 95% of particles down to 0.3 microns), which is not great. (Only a twenty-fold reduction in concentration.) But it also filters vapors using the activated carbon layer. Technical specs here, but it is not NIOSH rated for vapors. You breathe in air through a snorkel-type mouthpiece, which exhales into the hood itself, creating an intermittent slight positive pressure inside the hood, which further helps to keep some contaminants out of the imperfect seal around the neck.

The main drawback here is low performance in both the particle and vapor categories. You also only get about 15 minutes of vapor filtration, enough for a quick evacuation from a relatively local threat environment. Of course, you could also keep it around the house for its designated purpose: fire safety. (The hopcalite layer in the filter converts carbon monoxide, the primary vapor danger in a fire, to carbon dioxide, which is less toxic.)

3. Quick2000 Escape Hood: $180. This product offers a gasmask-like level of protection. I did not buy this product 18 months ago since it did not have any third-party certification then. Although it is still not NIOSH certified, they have done independent certification of their product in the meantime through the U.S. Army Soldier Biological / Chemical Command. They also have an impressive list of customers. The Quick2000 Escape Hood protects against particulate contaminants as well as many chemical agents. Product information is here, but for the technical data, you need to consult the PDF specsheet.

The chemical filtration is good. Why can't I find a stat on the particulate efficiency of the filter? Is the "Protection Factor 50,000" supposed to indicate 99.998% efficiency? The good thing is that this unit lasts for much longer than 15 minutes. For chemical agents, you have an hour. (It is customary not to give a hard spec on particulate filter duration since the time varies according to the concentration of particles in the atmosphere.) It is also the bulkiest of all three options presented here. Of course, if you are going to spend $180 for it, you may consider carrying it around with you everywhere instead of buying a mask like the Homeland Hood. Short of a hard figure on particulate filtration, I am not going to recommend that.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/21/2003 06:12:00 PM | link

Fr. Johansen of Thrownback has been requested to stop blogging by his bishop. Take a moment today and read Fr. Bob's blog.

Clerical culture being what it is, I'm somewhat surprised so many orthodox, outspoken Catholic priests are actually allowed to blog. This a good thing. So is pseudonymity! In academic circles, I've thrown myself on the liberal sword often enough, thank you! I'm not implying an analogous situation with Fr. Bob and his bishop. I'm only pointing out that in these days of Google, anyone who publishes anything with his name on it eventually gets "reviewed" by his superior for it...

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/21/2003 01:25:00 PM | link

Garrr. I listen to my wife's MP3's once and now I can't get Morrissey's "Hairdresser on Fire" and "Interesting Drug" out of my head for two days!, despite listening to other music in between.

Since I'm stuck in Morrisseyland (can you imagine a theme park like that?), a question for my readers familiar with the artist: What is the song "Lucky Lisp" about? Please help settle a standing argument between Zorak and I. (Where angels fear to tread, I'm sure...) Answer can be sent to my e-mail, below.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/21/2003 01:19:00 PM | link

D.o.D. gives gas masks to 20,000 Pentagon workers. What, no plastic wrap and duct tape?

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/20/2003 10:56:00 PM | link

A relic more precious than that great picture in Mory's of Carrie Nation standing next to five Yalies swigging gin?

Welcome to the Google searcher looking for "St. Mory's towel"!! O Searcher, if you do find this third class relic of St. Mory, please come back and tell me. Yahoo believes that I am the only repository on the web for such information.

I was not aware that old Mory had been canonized, although his food and service was saintly. Not to mention the club's policy of buying everyone a round when you came to pay your bill. Lest those non-Yalies visiting the site think Mory was some saint of the old dispensation (like Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego), Mory is short for Mr. Moriarity, the original proprietor of that Temple Bar where a group of lost Wiffenpoofs once wandered and deigned thereafter to dwell.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/20/2003 10:54:00 PM | link

In case you haven't seen it: www.ready.gov, the Office of Heimatsicherheit....er Homeland Security's emergency preparations page. (I actually don't have anything against "Homeland" although Domestic is more idiomatic.)

Some good common sense information is there, and a much more detailed "Emergency kit" packing list than mine. I note, however, that they are still sticking by the old duct-tape and plastic bit. Again, better than nothing, but not substantial protection.

Just walking around my little apartment today, for example, I noted several sources of indrafts that the average person might not think of. Rewiring a coax socket for the TV, I removed the cosmetic faceplate, similar to the thing that covers all your light switches and electrical sockets. It was a windy day, and I felt a nice breeze blowing between the walls. Obviously when the plate is on, less air comes in the room, but contaminated outside air is clearly getting in there nonetheless.

A few weeks ago, I removed a wall panel in the hallway, on the back of the wall opposite my shower. The panel provides access to cut-off valves for the water, and a way for the plumber to repair the faucet valves and stems without punching a hole in the wall. Those pipes run vertical, four stories down to the basement. Immediately, a nice gust of air from the apartment below, because of the pressure difference between the top of the building and the bottom. That means there is a slow leak through there all day.

Likewise I can smell the cigarette smoke from the next apartment through the common stove vent we share.

Finally, most people may not realize that when you flush the toilet, you can let in air from the outside. Many toilet installations have an air vent that runs to the roof. (Thus the "gurgle" at the bottom of the flush, at the moment when the vacuum is broken and the tank begins to fill again. That's air coming inside from outside, through the drain pipe vent.)

Ok. Enough for now.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/19/2003 11:51:00 PM | link

Welcome to the Google searcher looking for "ridiculous Germans" (I'm ranked #2).

How in the world did I get to be #1 on Google for "painted boobs" and "nice painted boobs"? Arghh! Go away!!

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/19/2003 03:56:00 PM | link

I could have told you that without a quiz.

You are Bavarian
You are a Bavarian.

What's your Inner European?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/18/2003 06:57:00 PM | link

You're a Rusty Nail!!  A smooth, short blend of scotch whiskey and drambuie.  You're seriously cool and you love guitars, cars and the bluuuuuees, man!!
""Which cocktail are you?""

brought to you by Quizilla

Damn thing told me I was a cosmopolitan before I changed my preference from vodka to whiskey. Talk about sensitive dependence on initial parameters! I actually do order rusty nails on the rare occasions I go to the bar. (I'm one of those jerks who likes to play "test the bartender" by ordering fairly arcane prohibition-era drinks: sidecar, stinger, etc.)

You're a cosmopolitan!  Your drink is made up of vodka, triple sec and cranberry juice.  The ultimate style guru your other loves are cats and eating out.  A sophisticated little star!
""Which cocktail are you?""

brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/18/2003 06:49:00 PM | link

Hopelessly Romantic Geezer Named Alfred

What's Your Personality Type?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/18/2003 06:43:00 PM | link

Elinor Dashwood of Mommentary and The Rat remark about the V-day spate of DeBeer's diamond commercials. (You know, the ones shot in black and white, with the violin music, where the woman completely melts upon seeing the giant rock. Man smiles confidently, knowing he has just pierced the bullseye of the female heart.)

The women I know are generally nauseated by them. I admit that they are stupid, too. But I'm never repulsed by them. I usually end up saying to myself, "I know I shouldn't like these commercials, but I do..." IMHO, their success is premised on the following:

1) How to make the woman happy is often a completely opaque mystery to men, even to a relatively attentive, devoted man. Especially early in the relationship.
2) Moments of complete success in thrilling the woman are rare. Who can't empathize with the happy guy in the commercial? The babe is knocked off her heels. Boo-yah. He has communicated a profound emotion successfully, and it has been received with enthusiasm.
(Now the marketing ploy: You're swept up in identifying with the protagonist, and thinking "Way to go, buddy." You momentarily forget that anything more than crass materialism may be going on here. Then marketing inserts the following suggestion:)
3) The diamond is what you've been looking for: the foolproof way to cut through all that feminine emotional complexity and wow her with an unambiguous display of your love. After all, everbody knows that women generally go crazy, cry, jump into your arms, etc. when you give them a diamond...

The Rat thinks the diamond commercials depict a more aggressive, purely self-interested mentality on the part of the man -- a "trump card" in the bid for emotional superiority, if I understand her correctly: Give her a diamond, and she'll have to love you. (Or do something else, as the Rat's link suggests.) I don't think that's the case. Or certainly not always the case. Zorak despises when I speak for all men, but I'll say this much: If you presume, as I do, that the man is usually at a disadvantage in the emotional realm, the diamond commercial's suggestion that she'll love it, guaranteed appeals to men precisely because the vast majority of the time, they don't hold the emotional trump cards. The suggestion that the occasional diamond may pull you out of the quagmire of complicated female emotions and put you in a position where you can easily accomplish what you want is powerful. To avoid misinterpretation, I underscore: "What you want" = "to make her completely happy with you." It's childish to think dropping $5k on a diamond would do that in any enduring way, but the suggestion is basically benign albeit shallow. I think The Rat has an unduly hostile view when she reads the diamond exchange as an extension of the old, "we have to make out, I bought you dinner" schtick.

With somewhat less hostility, Elinor writes: "How can any self-respecting woman stand the implication that her affection, loyalty, care, and fidelity are capable of being rated at a price and paid for with a rock dug out of the ground?"

I don't think the man's intention is to cancel his indebtedness to the woman for all her care, loyalty, etc. by "paying for it" with a diamond. Rather, I think most guys merely want to recognize that love and loyalty in a concrete way. It's liturgical: you surround yourself with tangible objects which reflect intangible realities. You put spiritless carbon in the service of something spiritual. Just like we lay the treasures of the earth at the feet of the Lord by giving him a tabernacle of gold and an altar of marble; in a lesser way, men give precious ornaments to women, who mean infinitely more than silver and gold. By turning cash into something utterly "useless," it's a male way of offering a holocaust to the transcendent value of his wife.

So yes, if I had money (which I don't!) I would buy Zorak more jewelry. But I'm poor, and she hates jewelry, so all I can do is write about it.

Insert all the common-sense caveats here: Spending money on jewelry is much less important than spending it on things like an education for the kids; if the woman is the kind of woman who constantly needs (=demands) baubles to validate her worth, she's infantile, etc.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/18/2003 03:32:00 AM | link

Those Microsoft Word settings you've been looking for:

(From wallick.net.)

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/18/2003 02:15:00 AM | link

With trepidation, I took the Schmies vocab test and scored 172. I don't think you'll find any of those words used on this blog. I am sure Zorak won't believe that I beat her by five whole points when she wakes up in the morning and reads this, so I'm printing out the results for proof. (She is Queen of All English Usage in our household.) I came within three points of Eve, but a baleful ten short of The Rat. I was planning on something much lower, and I attribute my ability to weasel through these tests to a large amount of foreign-language vocabulary and an almost pervese interest in etymology. Insert comment about why the SAT / GRE vocab section is therefore inane here.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/18/2003 02:09:00 AM | link

Why most emergency-preparedness statements aren't the best option for you

or, Ditch the herd, Doubt the Duct-Tape

Earlier I presented my opinion about what constitutes good emergency preparedness. It differs in several regards from the advice you commonly hear from civil government and the news media. I think it is important for you to think about why.

Both the government and the news media are bound to recommend public policy based on a least common denominator, utilitarian type of thinking. They do not recommend options which many people either can't afford or don't have sufficient intelligence to do correctly. (Moreover, no public official wants to be the "alarmist" who sets off a buying spree for gas masks when nothing actually happens that month. Let's leave that last point beside, and focus on the first two.) Suppose you live in downtown NYC or DC. Nobody wants to recommend a policy that includes buying a $100+ gas mask for each member of your family, simply because it becomes immediately apparent that many low-income people cannot afford such a countermeasure. So it never gets recommended at all, because it looks bad politically. And if those masks are never used, that policy-making body catches hell. In the meantime, if (God forbid) there is a terrorist strike, all those who could have bought good masks and used them could potentially suffer grave injury or die. In the greatest-good approach, you, the smart one lose.

Moreover, suppose some agency did recommend that people buy gas masks. That's about all most people will hear: "Buy a gas mask." The majority of people will buy anything after they hear that. They will buy those crappy old Israeli civil defense masks, or something completely inappropriate to their situation. They will get ripped off by disreputable internet dealers. Then they will blame the source of that advice. Most folks don't have the patience or intelligence to sit and listen to a long explanation, with scientific and medical terms, telling them about what kind of mask to get. Can you imagine the majority of your urban neighbors listening to stats about NIOSH ratings, with words like "microns" and "mean time before failure?" Can you imagine explaining to everyone in your apartment building or block the importance of getting a mask that can filter both particles and vapors?

Even if the public is given a choice of vendors who sell good masks, those vendors get unfair treatment, and likely will sell out immediately. This kicks off a buying frenzy, and then there are not enough masks around to cover a whole city, so people panic because they can't get the good masks, etc. These are just a few examples of why you don't want to go by the advice given to the herd. My point is this: The government's advice is least-common-denominator device, i.e. poor advice. You suffer because of the financial and / or mental limitations of others. Do not equate their public policy recommendations with personal safety!

A similar example concerns the advice to stay in your house if anything happens near you. First, I highly doubt people will actually stay put. Maybe they will, but I bet many people will flee anyways. If you have no protection against contaminants, it is slightly better to stay in a well-insulated house than just gulp in the contaminated air while fleeing outside. Only slightly better! Really sealing your house against outside contaminants is very hard to do with just duct tape and plastic. For it to be effective at all, it must be done well, and long in advance of the threat.

What you really need is to over-pressurize just one room using a set-up like this, or get an over-pressure filtered tent for everyone to climb into. (These are just examples. I haven't really looked at these sites in depth.) Fiddling with plastic wrap while panicked by the thought of incoming deadly toxins is not a good scenario. Even if you've already sealed most of the room, it must be done well, and without overpressure, you're going to have leaks.

Example: I live in a small apartment. Here alone, I would have to seal a sliding door patio door, three sets of full-sized windows, seven forced-air vents, two bath vents, one kitchen vent and a front door. Even then, if the air pressure outside is greater than inside, or greater on one side of the apartment than the other, air will flow through leaks. Maybe not immediately, but certainly within a few hours. Even if I sealed the windows in advance, that leaves the ducts (presuming I want to use my forced air heat until there is a threat!) and the door. And once you open the door, you're SOL. Once again, if you want to do it right, you have to spend money and use professional equipment.

Also: you don't want to seal yourself into a small space and asphyxiate yourself. Check out this NYT article. Discard the advice "Duct tape your windows if it makes you feel more empowered and less terrified" as psychobabble. Better than comforting yourself with a placebo, actually do something. Skip down a few lines and read: "Some real-home trials found that sealing doors, windows and vents reduced air flow into the room by up to two-thirds. Even then, however, outside air completely cycled through the room within hours. In the tests, some people were able to seal rooms in a few minutes; others took nearly 40 minutes." Even if you have a technofascist, Prussian disposition like mine, I doubt you could achieve better than 90% sealed in under 30 minutes. I've constructed laboratory clean rooms for physicists before. The short answer is: if you don't overpressure a well-made room ahead of time, don't bother.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/16/2003 01:13:00 AM | link

Apropos of my comment that a bearded man needs a positive-pressure mask, one reader writes:

My husband bought gas masks for all 7 of us during the initial anthrax scare, even kiddie-sized masks; however, I'm not sure that he made a special effort to find one that accomodated his beard.

My remark that a bearded man needs a positive-pressure mask is true, although there are possible exceptions. Very many negative-pressure masks require a tight seal to operate properly, but not all. For most tight-seal masks, when donning it, you should align it to your face, push in slightly, inhale, and create suction. (Then exhale through the mouthpiece, keeping the suction seal.) If the suction stays, you've got a tight seal. Not every mask works this way. Some don't seal very well at all. For example, the old Israeli civil defense masks (ubiquitous on the net; often no good for many reasons: cracked rubber, old filters, etc.) often don't seal tight. The basic idea though, is simple: If you're breathing heavily, and you feel air moving in and out along the sides of your face, where the rim of the mask is, then it's not protecting you very well. You are breathing a mix of contaminated and filtered air. (This is better than nothing, but not much. A poorly-sealed mask provides much less protection than if all the air was going in and out of the filter.)

Other negative-pressure masks use a snorkel-concept: it has a glorified clothespin to prevent nasal breathing, and you inhale and exhale with your mouth locked onto a snorkel-type mouthpiece that goes into a filter. These don't require a tight facial seal, but you also have to remember not to take your mouth off the mouthpiece until you're in a better environment. This kind of negative pressure mask is an option for a bearded man, but prevents talking, so I skipped over it in my first post. In my book, you'll probably want or need to talk in a panic situation, and you might also just plain forget and inhale with your mouth off the mouthpiece before you're in a safe environment.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/15/2003 11:51:00 PM | link

Two new noteworthy blogs:

Kathy the Carmelite's Gospel M*I*N*E*F*I*E*L*D

Tom Harmon's excellent idea: Ever Ancient, Ever New, a weblog extension of Catholic College Students website.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/15/2003 11:45:00 PM | link

Welcome to the Google searcher looking for: Champagne Cocktails Kyrie [sic] Royale.
Kir = Cassis + white wine
Kir Royale = Cassis + Champagne
Kyrie Royale = Cassis + Ambrosia?

Also welcome to the Austrian Google searcher looking for "One Night in Bangkok humble head."

Here comes the frantic Google searcher looking for "Diabetic + drank 4 martinis." Since Zorak says I have the medical knowledge of a Medieval barber, you better look elsewhere.

Lastly, I get my hundredth hit from a Google porn addict looking for "painted boobs." Why not paint over your monitor instead? Note to other bloggers: This is why you don't ever want to use words like "boobs" on your website! Even the very dumbest members of the porn-searching herd are vast in number. I usually get a hit for "old lady porn" once a week, usually from Germany. Go figure.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/15/2003 10:24:00 PM | link

Paratus: Preparations For An NBC Attack

We have been at Code Orange for over a week now, so it's a good time to share something I've been wanting to blog about for a while: Basic, sane preparations to make in case we are attacked with a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon. I feel even more compelled to share this info since people are flocking to stores to buy tape and plastic wrap for the windows. If you think this will really protect you, you are a moron looking for a superficial remedy designed to help you cope psychologically rather than actually survive. Repeat: Duct-taping your windows is the "duck-and-cover" equivalent for terrorist attacks. Repeat: Don't comfort yourself with a placebo defense: actually do something.

I offer the following simply as a statement of my own preparedness measures. It is not professional advice, nor something you should take as gospel, nor grounds for complaining to me because it didn't suit your needs when an emergency struck. Don't even think about claiming I'm legally responsible for whatever you end up doing as a consequence of reading this article.

Executive Summary: You want:

1. A gas mask: Go to http://www.homelandgasmasks.com/ and buy one for each member of your family. For beardless adults, buy a Tychem Homeland Hood presently listed at $95. If you have a beard, you must pay more money and get the FR-3. Children likewise cannot breathe through a conventional mask, and must get something like the CH-14.

2. An "Emergency Kit" packed and ready. (See below.)

3. For protection against radioiodine fallout from a fissile (non-"dirty") nuclear bomb of the usual uranium or plutonium type: buy cheap insurance in the form of Potassium Iodide.

4. For protection against known anthrax exposure, get your own supply of Ciprofloxacin. I know you have heard instructions not to stockpile. My response is below. The CDC recommended dose is 500mg by mouth twice a day (=p.o. b.i.d.). You can get it from any number of disreputable on-line drug vendors.


1. Why A Good Respirator?
In most cases, you want to flee the area of a threat. BUT you may not be able to flee to a safe area in time, or you may have to flee through contaminated air. You want to be able to protect yourself from exposure to nuclear, biological and chemical toxins. The best overall method of protection is a good respirator. Yes, essentially, a gas mask. I know you've probably heard 101 reasons "why we don't need gas masks." Most of these are irrelevant, and set up the straw-man case of the person who wants to be 100% protected against any kind of attack at any time. You will never be able to eliminate all risks or the possibility of a surprise attack. There's no silver bullet against all terrorist threats, including a gas mask. If that's what a mask means to you, forget about it. There's no foolproof counter-terrorist strategy. That's reality, and we have to live with it. Yet prudent measures can be taken to significantly increase your safety in many situations, during most of the day, and the cornerstone of these prudent measures is a mask.

Before proceeding, let me address a few typical responses that shrug off the need for a mask. The first objection is: "I'll have to carry it around everywhere." Wrong. You are most likely at home for almost half the day, and at work for the other half. A mask in both places covers you for 90% or more of your time during the week. Second objection: I will need to know about a threat ahead of time for the mask to be effective. True: surprise is the enemy's greatest advantage in terrorism. If you live or work in downtown DC or NY, you may be caught totally off guard. If a large-scale release of some toxic agent like anthrax is only detected hours after the fact, or worse, when people start getting sick, then of course you are S.O.L. However, there are many other situations where you get a little forewarning. Suppose the Air Force shoots down a crop duster 10 miles east of Washington DC. Are you going to wait for whatever it was carrying to waft across the city and hold your breath for the next day? Or are you going to wish that you weren't held captive to the fact you need clean air to breathe? Suppose a dirty nuke explodes across town. You will know in minutes that there was a suspicious major explosion in the city. That's enough time to protect yourself. Suppose you live a few miles from a metro station where they catch a group of Arab nuts releasing a mysterious aerosol? You could just hope the laws of physics are miraculously suspended, and all the contaminant just happens to stay in one place and doesn't blow around anywhere. Or, you could put on a mask and get out of the area.

My point is this: The U.S. has been continuously developing all sorts of early detection and alert policies for NBC attacks. As time goes on, your likelihood of getting some advance warning of an attack increases. With even a few minutes' warning, you can don a protective mask. Even if you are exposed to some contamination, with many toxins, your likelihood of death increases with the duration and level of exposure. Better to suffer a little exposure, put on a mask and live, than to sit there helpless and breathe contaminated air until no medical treatment can cure you of the effects of full lethal exposure. The question you have to ask yourself at the end of the day is: How will I feel if I forfeit my life to terrorists when I could have enacted a countermeasure and lived?

Qualities of a Good Respirator
There's an old maxim of software design: good, fast, cheap -- pick two. Likewise with respirators. You want something that filters a broad range of contaminants, does this with a high level of efficiency, and doesn't cost a lot of money. Again: pick two. If you are going to plunk down any money for a respirator, the cheap one is virtually useless. Do not buy a toy; buy a real tool to get the job done.

Trust me: I've shopped over a dozen major designs and brands. If you really want to know what you are doing, you need to read up on each of the major kinds of potential terrorist-deployed contaminants: gas vapors (like sarin), aerosolized pathogens (like anthrax), etc. and the types of filtration necessary to eliminate them. I will not review this literature here. There is plenty of info on the net. It will likely take you a week to digest it. There are also a million vendors out there, from reputable to fly-by-night. Instead, I'll just tell you my choice for a respirator that kicks ass:

Go to: http://www.homelandgasmasks.com/ and get a Homeland Hood or better, the full-bore First Responders FR3 Positive Pressure Hood.

A few remarks:
a) Homeland Gasmasks is a reputable dealer. They cannot say it on their website, but they are basically a front-end shop for Neoterik Industries, which makes the masks. (For business reasons, Neoterik, the wholesale manufacturer, and Homeland Gasmasks, the direct-to-customer reseller, maintain separate legal identities. Basically, the good folks at Neoterik responded to the sudden and massive civilian demand for their products by opening their own direct-from-factory store. They are fast, safe, professional, and can answer any question you might have since they make the masks.

b) Any good dealer will give you the full technical specs on their filters, and have subjected them to rigorous laboratory testing, such as NIOSH certification: like this. If your dealer can't give you these stats, don't bother. They don't know what they are doing.

c) Positive pressure versus negative pressure. A negative pressure mask is more common: Your lungs do the work of drawing air through the filter canister. Because you are sucking air in, and the canister always provides some resistance, the mask must be sealed tight to your face. If not, you will be sucking in some contaminated air through the gaps between your face and the mask. This is bad. (Think of those swimming masks which cover the whole middle third of your face: Because it is vacuum-sealed onto your face, any small gap lets in water.)

In order to use a negative-pressure mask correctly: It must fit your face, you must not break the seal ever while in a contaminated environment, and you must know how to use it during a panic situation. Not every respirator fits everyone's face, although most respirators fit most people's faces. If you have a fat face, or very round or very angular face, you may not be able to use a mask. It is hard to say ahead of time. Also, if you are rushing around and whack the mask against something, and it pops off your face, breaking the seal, you've just inhaled contaminant. Or, if you don't pay attention, and put the thing on with a thick lock of hair caught underneath it (esp. important for girls), the hair creates an airway into the mask. For all these reasons, you must practice donning a negative pressure mask and be aware of when it is on correctly.

In a positive air pressure respirator (PAPR), a fan forces air through the filter canisters for you, and a hose brings the clean air into the mask. This means the inside of the mask has a higher air pressure than outside. If there are any gaps between the mask and your face, clean air blows out, rather than contaminated air leaking in. This gives the user a much wider margin for user error. You don't have to worry about whether your seal is perfectly tight on the mask. In fact, they intentionally don't seal tight. (If it was perfectly tight, the pressure inside would get too high, and overwhelm the fan.)

Men with beards (like me!) and children must use a positive-pressure mask. Why? It is impossible to get an air-tight seal on a bearded face, and children do not possess adequate lung strength to draw air through the filter canisters, and can become exhausted by trying.

2. The Emergency Kit Be Ready To Get Out

Preparing for sudden evacuation is the easiest thing to do. Obviously, if you are at "ground zero" when a bomb goes off, or inside a thick aerosol cloud of anthrax spores, you are S.O.L. and there's nothing you can do. But suppose you have 10 minutes' warning time? Or suppose you are on the periphery of a threat? A toxic agent is usually lethal in proportion to its concentration in the air during your exposure to it, and concentration rapidly declines with distance from the release point. You might save your life, or avoid more serious injury if you are ready to get out in time.

Prepare an "Emergency Go Kit" affectionately called by some a "bug-out bag."

It should be small, fully packed, and ready to take with you in a moment's notice. You want to be able to grab your wallet, keys, and bag in a minute and get out the door. Put the bag in a designated area in your home, or in the trunk of your car, if you know that particular car will be with you and you will use it to evacuate. (Zorak and I, for example, have one car, and we would use it in an emergency to get out, so our bag is there.)

What should go in the bag? Basically: water, food, medicine, a first-aid kit, money, vital information such as maps, basic warm clothing, and other supplies. I've packed for 3 days of being completely on my own, with a few exceptions, noted below.

(a) Water: It's not pleasant, but you can survive for days without food. You cannot survive for days without water. In a full-tilt crisis situation, most "official" emergency guides (like DC's) recommend 1 gallon per person per day, on the presumption no potable water will be available. That may sound like a lot, but remember: You will be exerting yourself in an emergency situation. The problem is: water is bulky and heavy, and you want your bag to be small and light.

I've preferred to hedge my bets, on the presumption there will only be a short-term unavailability of water. I've packed a gallon for Zorak and I, and an Exstream Orinoco Water Purifier used by outdoorsmen. This little bottle makes potable water from natural bodies of water -- ponds, streams, etc. Up to 40 gallons or so on a single filter cartridge. It purifies the water of particulate matter, cysts, bacteria, viri and some chemicals. Obviously this won't make a deliberately poisoned water supply drinkable again, or be useful in situations where fallout enters the water supply, but I'm betting that after a day of evacuation from a chemical or biological attack, I'll encounter some relatively uncontaminated natural water source that only needs this level of filtration, or maybe even store-bought bottled water.

I also packed several cans of soda. I'm a caffeine addict, and I bet that some sugar and caffeine would be helpful in a crisis situation. I know that packing only water would keep me more hydrated, but I'm making allowances for my bad habits here.

(b) Food: Include a few days worth of canned food. High calorie, high protein foods are good. Nothing that needs cooking. Perhaps 2200 calories per person per day. I've packed canned ham, tuna, ravioli, fruit, etc. You must pack a can opener! Many rightfully suggest M.R.E. (military rations: "meals ready to eat") which can be purchased at Army / Navy stores and online. They last forever and have a full meal in each.

(c) Medicine: Put all medicine together in a separate little bag or vial, so it is readily accessible. Pack every kind of medicine you take daily, in addition to things you would like in an emergency, such as Tylenol or Pepto-Bismol. Pills take up so little room, it's easy to just throw a few in a bag. Rather than take all kinds of separate jars and bottles, I've just made a list of each medicine, its shape, color and marking, and dose. (You can recognize most pills you take regularly by sight anyway.) Include a first-aid kit in case you get mildly injured somehow.

(d) Money: Don't presume there will be an ATM full of money on every corner, and don't presume the telephone lines will be open to take your credit card! Neither was the case for many on Sept 11th. People rightfully got nervous and pulled out lots of cash, which drained many ATMs. It was hard to get a cell phone connection that day, and I even got "trunk line busy" messages from phones in DC. Better to have cash on hand. I don't think $500 of ready money is unreasonable.

(e) Maps & Vital Information: Get maps of your own state and the neighboring ones. A basic national highway road map is good too. Copy all important phone numbers, e-mail addresses, bank accounts numbers, medical information, etc. you might need.

(f) Basic warm clothing: Self-explanatory. Something waterproof is good, too. I've packed a nice warm blanket in case we have to sleep in the car.

(g) If you're a little edgy about panicked people, or looters, or ending up in a strange place, why not bring along a weapon?

(h) Plan emergency routes of evacuation and drive them. You aren't going to have time to ask for direction or get lost in a panic situation. Plan at least two routes in case one major road is jammed tight.

(i) Decide a family policy about how you will contact each other in the event you are separated when an emergency strikes. The power of the cell phone was amazing on Sept. 11th, but have a contingency plan in case you can't reach each other by cell. The networks get jammed quickly in a disaster.

3. Fallout Protection

In a nuclear bomb situation, there's nothing you can do about the immediate explosion or release of radiation, but if you are out of the blast zone, you want to protect yourself against inhaling radionucleides in the air (fallout).

For uranium- and plutonium-based weapons, the most common form of fallout injury outside the immediate effects of the blast comes from inhaling radioactive isotopes of iodine, which destroy the thyroid gland. The thyroid readily absorbs iodine, radioactive or not. In a fallout environment, your thyroid soaks up the radioactive iodine in the environment, and the radiation damages your thyroid and surrounding tissue. A simple countermeasure is overwhelming the thyroid with natural iodine as soon as you learn about a nuclear emergency. By "filling it up" with natural iodine, you block absorption of the radioactive isotope.

Potassium iodide is a cheap, easy way to do this, and is very safe for the vast, vast majority of people. For more information than you ever could want, go to KI4U.com. They ship quickly, and it's cheap insurance.

Dirty bombs are a different story, since they also contaminate the air with a lot of radioactive material that did not undergo fission, and may not be anything in the plutonium radioactive decay chain. For instance, the bomb could be made out of radioactive cesium. In these cases, once again, don a good respirator, and get the hell out.

4. For known anthrax exposure, have enough Cipro for your family.

I know you've heard a thousand times not to hoard Cipro. Here's my take: Even given the fact that the US has stockpiled enough Cipro, my question is: Can they get it to you in time? Imagine you live in downtown DC: The air is contaminated. People learn they may be breathing anthrax, and there's panic. Tens of thousands of people may have been exposed. God willing, we will never see a situation where a plane releases anthrax over the whole city, and millions of people suddenly want to get this drug -- NOW. Do you trust the DC government to get Cipro to you in time? Even if the military steps in to distribute the medication, how long do you think it will take to get it? And are you going to want to hang around, and wait in line, in a contaminated environment?. It will be chaos, and your chances of fighting off anthrax increase as soon as you begin taking Cipro. Even 12 hours or a day could give your immune system a good head start.

I was watching TV just the other day, and Dr. Fauci (director of the NIH) said that there would have been many more cases of anthrax among those working in the federal building if they hadn't begun cipro prophylaxis on the spot. Take that for what it's worth. The FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research is notably laid-back in their attitude toward the suggestion that one buy one's own Cipro. Their main concern is that you do not do things like: take it for anything but anthrax, or throw it away / flush it down the toilet, since a lot of diluted Cipro in the environment fosters the evolution of Cipro-resistant diseases. They also don't want you to get ripped off by a shady dealer.

I guess I should therefore add: If you do buy Cipro, wait until you know it's anthrax before you take it. I should also add: A common way to get it from online dealers is to say you plan on travelling internationally in a remote location, and want it in case you get a bad case of traveler’s diarrhea from the water. That will net you a small amount.

Cipro is expensive when you buy it on your own. You may prefer to hedge your bets and only get a enough to get you through the crunch-time during the first few days when everyone will be scrambling for the drug. A week's supply (two 500 mg pills per day, for every adult in your family) may be enough.

Your remaining questions may be things such as: Why doesn't the government give this advice? and Why doesn't the media give this advice? My answers will follow in another post, or I will update this one later. In the meantime, go read some good counter-terrorists studies, and learn about NBC agents and filters.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/14/2003 04:30:00 PM | link

The Brief Military History of France, compliments of Cacciaguida.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/10/2003 11:18:00 PM | link

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/10/2003 10:47:00 PM | link

Tried Gentleman Jack. Basically, they run it through the charcoal mellowing process twice (slow drip through several feet of charred wood) instead of once like they do for regular Jack. The result is noticeably refined. It brings out a sweeter edge to the whiskey, and cuts the back-of-the-mouth bite significantly. If you like Jack, try this. It's worth the price differential for a liter bottle.

For those worrying about the folks in Lynchburg needlessly tooling around with a fine Tennessee tradition, I checked it out. They say that Jack Daniels himself experimented with this very method of double-mellowing, but deemed it too difficult and expensive to do profitably on a large scale during his lifetime. So they're doing nothing Jack himself wouldn't have wanted if he could.

I also got the low-down on Jack Daniels "Green Label," the most enigmatic sub-species of Jack to appear. It's apparently 6 proof lower than regular Jack. To this day, I've yet to see a package store with a brochure on what Green Jack is and why I'd want to try it. I personally can't wait until the micro-brew fad passes from the whiskey department.

Oh, and by the way, have you tried Blanton's yet? What are you waiting for? This is probably the best bourbon you'll find for under $50 a bottle!

Of course, if you're going over to the Mother Isle of all Scotch production, then it's Lagavulin all the way.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/10/2003 04:27:00 AM | link

A nice reversal: browsing through a religious goods catalogue (Leaflet Missal), I find Amy Welborn's new books Prove It! Jesus and Prove it! Prayer. Funny to see a name you know first from the blogosphere somewhere else in Catholic lit land. Or maybe that's why she's stopped blogging! Gak.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/10/2003 02:20:00 AM | link

Vulgar ‘Vagina Monologues’ Scheduled for Showing at 43 Catholic Colleges

FALLS CHURCH, VA -- About one of every five Catholic colleges in the United States is scheduled this year to present the vulgar play "Vagina Monologues", complete with a favorable reminiscence about a lesbian rape.

According to the organizers of the "V-Day College Campaign" -- a marketing ploy that encourages campus showings of the play in the form of a fundraiser to help prevent violence against women -- students and faculty at 656 colleges worldwide have requested the rights to present the play in February and March. They include 43 Catholic colleges, among them Boston College, Creighton University in Nebraska, DePaul University in Chicago, Fordham University in New York, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., La Salle University in Philadelphia, Loyola University of Chicago, Saint Louis University, the University of Dayton in Ohio, the University of Detroit Mercy, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and the University of San Francisco.

A complete list of participating Catholic colleges, as listed at www.vday.org, is below. The website also identifies 28 Catholic colleges that presented "Vagina Monologues" last year.

The play is a collection of monologues by women describing their personal stories, replete with vulgarity, frequent use of "vagina" to represent women and femininity, and explicit discussions of sexuality and sexual encounters including lesbian activity and masturbation. In one scene, a woman describes her lesbian, pedophile conquest of a 13-year-old-girl and proudly declares it "a good rape".

"This kind of vulgarity has no academic or social value to students at a Catholic college, and it’s spiritually destructive," said Patrick Reilly, President of the Cardinal Newman Society. "The play is not being studied; it is being presented to students and faculty, usually with the full endorsement of college leaders or at least with the use of a Catholic college’s name, facilities and funding. That is a clear conflict with Ex corde Ecclesiae and the Catholic college’s promise to care for the spiritual development of its students."

Ex corde Ecclesiae is the 1990 apostolic constitution that provides general guidelines for colleges that carry the label "Catholic". The constitution requires that a Catholic college “informs and carries out its research, teaching, and all other activities with Catholic ideals, principles and attitudes."

Students and alumni protested last year’s showing of "Vagina Monologues" at the University of Notre Dame. The Notre Dame Society (www.notredamesociety.org) is planning again to protest this year’s showing on March 3 and 4, just one day before Catholics begin to celebrate Lent in preparation for Easter. The event is sponsored by Notre Dame’s Program in Gender Studies and its Film, Television and Theatre Department.

The play will also be presented a second year at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. The college’s president, Rev. Michael McFarland, S.J., announced this month’s showing in November while disparaging Holy Cross alumni who called last year’s production “pornographic”. The college is now threatening to sue the Holy Cross Cardinal Newman Society – not formally affiliated with the national Society – for using its alumni directory to encourage protests from other graduates.

Sharon Sobotta, the new Sexual Assault Awareness Coordinator at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California, proudly told the Contra Costa Times in December that one of her first actions would be to organize a production of “Vagina Monologues” on February 14.

Georgetown University has been presenting “Vagina Monologues” since 1999, probably the longest run of the play at any Catholic college. Each production has generated an outcry from students and alumni. In 2000, a campus newspaper censored a student’s regular column that was critical of the play and subsequently fired him for objecting. Robert Swope, then a Georgetown senior, dared to complain about the production’s sponsors, arguing that the event “exposes the [Georgetown] women’s center for what it really is: an indoctrination camp for lesbians and feminists”.

Soon after complaining about last year’s showing of “Vagina Monologues” at the University of San Francisco, Rev. Joseph Fessio, S.J. was reassigned by his Jesuit superiors to the chaplaincy of a small hospital in California. The action was widely seen as retaliation for Fessio’s outspoken criticism of the university and his role in founding Campion College, a two-year Catholic college nearby the University of San Francisco. Fessio has since become chancellor of the new Ave Maria University outside Naples, Florida.

At least one Catholic college this year has already taken a brave stand by banning the play. Warren Rosenberg, provost of Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, told students in December that “Vagina Monologues” was inconsistent with the college’s “history, traditions and community composition”. Last year, the president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington banned the play from campus, but a university-recognized student group moved the production to a nearby hotel. In 2001, after hearing numerous complaints about the previous year’s production of “Vagina Monologues”, the president of St. Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana insisted that students find a better play to help raise awareness of women’s issue – but the students rebelled with an on-campus reading of the play.

Cardinal Newman Society is a national organization dedicated to the renewal of Catholic identity at Catholic colleges and universities. The Society recently protested links and referrals to Planned Parenthood and other abortion services on the websites of at least a dozen Catholic colleges. Many of those links and referrals were subsequently removed.

For more information about Cardinal Newman Society, see www.cardinalnewmansociety.org or call (703) 536-9585.

Catholic Colleges Scheduled to Present “Vagina Monologues” in 2003

(Source: www.v-day.org)
Bellarmine University (KY)
Boston College (MA)
College of New Rochelle (NY)
College of Saint Benedict (MN)
College of Saint Rose (NY)
College of Santa Fe (NM)
College of Saint Scholastica (MN)
College of the Holy Cross (MA)
Creighton University (NE)
DePaul University (IL)
Barat College, DePaul University (IL)
Dominican University of California (CA)
Edgewood College (WI)
Fordham University (NY)
Georgetown University (DC)
Georgetown University Law Center (DC)
Gonzaga University (WA)
John Carroll University (OH)
La Salle University (PA)
Loras College (IA)
Loyola University of Chicago (IL)
Marist College (NY)
Marymount Manhattan College (NY)
Mercyhurst College (PA)
Mount Mercy College (IA)
Nazareth College (NY)
Providence College (RI)
Regis College (MA)
Rivier College (NH)
Saint John Fisher College (NY)
Saint Joseph’s College (NY)
Saint Louis University (MO)
Saint Mary’s College of California (CA)
Saint Mary’s College (IN)
Saint Norbert College (WI)
Saint Thomas University (FL)
Seton Hill College (PA)
Siena College (NY)
University of Dayton (OH)
University of Detroit Mercy (MI)
University of Notre Dame (IN)
University of Portland (OR)
University of San Francisco (CA)
Wheeling Jesuit University (WV)
Xavier University (OH)

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/09/2003 07:53:00 PM | link

To my conservative bachelor friends: There is hope!

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/07/2003 04:57:00 PM | link

War Links o' the Day:
Conservative Observer has a nice article on the real threats that will follow our forthcoming exercise of super-power hegemony: Increased domestic pressure to be loyal to the U.N.

Weinberger says Go In!

Iraqi - Al Qaeda link, and its less exciting cousin.

Junk Yard Blog muses on the fact we're at CODE ORANGE.

And lastly,:

I think Little Tiny Lies makes a good point about understanding the Arab mind when it comes to the meaning of negotiations. At least the uncivilized stripe of Arab we're dealing with. The Harry the Haggler sketch from The Life of Brian is also a useful refresher course on negotiating with Arabs in their native style. Skip the first three "prophet" speeches. They're a transition from the other sketch. Start with Brian's "How much?"

Tiny Little Lies is also involved in the noble calling of Tricking Nigerian spammers into calling the FBI. Bravo!

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/07/2003 04:39:00 PM | link

Creepily accurate personality assessment, especially given my exclusive devotion to Win 98 OS for our home systems:

Which OS are You?

Which OS are You?

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/07/2003 04:20:00 PM | link

The Combivir pill - per - cruise missile exchange rate
I am loathe to talk any more about it, but Jack of Captain Yip's sent me such a calm and reasoned e-mail after my brief polemical outburst, I had to ante up a response. He writes:

Well, one can also make a sound national security argument in several ways. Africa is a great incubator of disease; if the HIV mutates there to be able to spread in the human population via airborne transmission, we're in trouble indeed.

I'm not a microbiologist, and thus pliant to suggestion that such a mutation is a genuine threat, but only given some stats about other blood-borne viral pathogens which have mutated into air-borne ones. Is this a common problem?

The sheer extent of the problem in Africa may cause civil society to collapse into chaos, and chaotic, hopeless societies have already been shown to generate terrorists.

It's not clear to me that eliminating the medical problem alone is going to turn the region from "hopeless" to "hopeful." Poor medical conditions are one cause among many that contribute to "hopelessness." Unless we plan to overhaul the whole network of political, economic and medical problems, it's not clear to me that a national security investment in just one contributing factor to instability will give any reasonable expectation of substantive payoff in terms of long-term African stability. As far as I can tell, fundamentalist Islam generates terrorism faster than poor medical conditions and poor economics combined. Let's do something about all of those Eastern African nations becoming dominated by Islamicist regimes first if we're worried about terrorism. And if we are planning to overhaul the whole political, economic, and medical situation in Africa, it will cost trillions, and after that, we should own the place, which of course, we never will. Sorry. I don't buy that argument. If a see a diplomatic plan which says more than "Throw money into the great, dark continent and wait to see if anything good happens" I might be interested. But until then, I think it's a worthless gamble in terms of a "national security investment."

You may argue for international aid based on purely charitable grounds, but that's a very different argument, and raises the prickly question of what ethical system the government will appeal to in attempting to convince the average American that he has a charitable obligation enforceable by law to millions of foreigners across the globe. I'd like to see that argument made. That would be genuine charity. It would cut through the b.s. which masquerades as charity: part appeasement, part global socialism, part national security gamble. I'm also for anything that would eliminate the current diplomatic charade that Bush's aid-for-Africa program is genuine charity, rather than what it really is: a do ut des approach to fighting a war with Iraq. I'd like to see the Combivir pill -per - cruise missile exchange rate on that one.

Then there is the spin-off effect. Spending the money and spiking research may well lead to breakthroughs in virology that will benefit us directly; this kind of research is mostly trying one thing after another, over and over again, and the more people and time thrown at it the better. There are dangers in improper use of medication, and the more muscle we can lend the more proper follow up there will be.

To restate: You suggest Africa can be our guinea pig for AIDS medications. I'm fine if Glaxo et al. want to take this approach on their own. By all means, let private interests engage in international humanitarian aid if it helps their research. But a government-funded initiative is asking me, not Glaxo, to foot the bill. Sorry. Not interested. Why? Because every human being already possesses the ability to prevent almost all means of infection. The disease could be stopped in its tracks by simply following the guideline:

1) Don't put your penis in someone who's not your wife.
2) Before you're married, get tested for AIDS.
3) If you have AIDS, don't screw anyone, ever.

Of course that means lots of people don't get to have sex, and we've already demonstrated time and again that we are willing to kill to have sex, never mind paying through the nose for it. We're willing kill each other through careless transmission of disease, or to kill the children conceived in the process. (Let's leave the less quantifiable violence arising from divorce and broken families aside.)

As you may have noted elsewhere on my blog, pointing out the amount of cultural problems which vanish instantly as soon as people are forced to keep their genitals under control is one of my pet peeves. Here's my proposal for a new vice tax: $50 per orgasm out of wedlock. That should make a dent in the total tax burden directly arising from modern sexual license. When somebody screws somebody else and gives them AIDS, it takes money out of all of our pockets. Bottom line.

As you may have guessed, I'm tired enough of hearing about all of the social obligations I owe to those who screwed themselves into terminal illness in this country. Fat chance someone is going to convince me I am suddenly responsible for a continent full of foreigners who did likewise.

That may sound profoundly uncharitable. It is. Here's why: As I've hinted at already above, I think the present ethical standard used to defend things like international humanitarian aid is, at bottom, a sad mess of incoherent principles: part Christian, part socialist, part untermenschly will-to-pleasurism (more commonly called "the unlimited right to sexual autonomy"). Not only is this ethic incoherent, it deceives. Those who are persuaded by it into thinking they act rightly insofar as there is some resemblance between their own personal conviction and the ethic itself ultimately tacitly accept an ethical standard in contradiction to their own. Too fast? OK. I'll back up, but only once.

I'm firmly convinced that the only reason we as liberal Westerners have a global scope to our governmental and charitable endeavors is because of the remnants of a Christian mindset. It was Christianity, after all, which taught the West to transcend national and cultural differences because of the universal (=catholic) scope of evangelization. All men are made in the image and likeness of God, worthy to hear His Gospel. No more Greek or Jew means the replacement of isolated national and cultural ethics with a universal Christian ethic, or at least the sublimation of the former into the later once incompatible elements have been removed from the former. (And not the other way around!)

You may counter-argue that the Enlightenment's exclusive insistence on living by pure reason alone also created an ethic with universal scope. I counter that the Enlightenment only possessed the default prejudice that "rational" = "pan-cultural" based on the empirical data of Christendom which preceded it and the Christian insistence that the barbarian could possess the fullness of truth through evangelization if one only tried hard enough to teach him. We can fight about this, of course, but I will submit only one more piece of historical evidence: The other demythologizing Enlightenment of pure reason we've ever known -- the Greek Enlightenment of the 4th & 5th century BC -- was just as stridently "rationalistic," and located in a cosmopolitan, multi-cultural environment, and yet it did not come to the conclusion that all men could lead lives of equal rationality by a long shot. The Greeks always considered Northern Europeans knuckle-dragging savages. And if you look carefully at Jacobin France, you'll see that Enlightenment rationalism was more than willing to revoke the humanity of those it deemed irrational when necessary to advance those ends it felt were the dictates of reason as known by the philosophes in power at the time. The international scope of socialism as well owes a similar, but more complicated historical debt, to Christianity.

The point of the foregoing is this: We in the West are still responsive to the lingering bits of Christian ethos still left in our culture, including the universal scope of obligation to our fellow man. Be certain of this: I think the Christian doctrines of the fundamental spiritual and moral equality of all human beings, together the universal obligation to charity as man's highest end, are two precious, irreplaceable, vitally important truths for personal and social living. But these principles make no sense amputated from the rest of the worldview that has given them to the West: a worldview that includes a concrete morality based on man's relationship to God.

Now back to the main point: The ethical standpoint most commonly advanced for international aid is a monstrous combination of Christian, socialist and profligate agendas. When I, as a Christian, hear an appeal which begins along the lines of: "We have a charitable obligation to help those in need..." something in me responds. When I find out the logic is something like this:

(1) Universal scope of charity + (2) Desire to facilitate consequenceless sexual autonomy for human race --> (3) Fund AIDS research

I get sick to my stomach. Likewise:

(1) Universal scope of charity + (2) Hey, they've got a lot of under-utilized labor and raw materials over in Africa --> (3) Develop African infrastructure.

In each case, if Christianity isn't the basis for (1), I want nothing to do with it. If it's not out of some latent Christian concern for one's fellow man, (1) is usually motivated by international socialism of some sort. Moreover, even if (1) is put forward out of latent Christian "brotherly love," (2) is advanced from a completely unrelated, if not incompatible, worldview. In the first example above, the tattered scrap of Christian ethos which leads the average American Joe to consider building a hospital in the Congo is completely at odds with (2), which may be the motivation of many world AIDS organizations or other "development" organizations like Planned Parenthood. Insofar as average American Joe is suckered into concluding 1+2 --> 3, he's been snookered on the basis of the lingering sentiments of (1) to tacitly accept the legitimacy of (2). After all, is it loving to say "no" to Mbutu who is only 17 and has full-blown AIDS? After all, he wouldn't have full-blown AIDS if he had expensive, developmental drugs and/or more condoms.

Q.E.D. for most well-meaning, latently Christian Western liberals IMHO, which is the problem. I have no desire to perpetuate that problem.

Final point, in case it isn't clear: I am willing to give financial donations to private, international charitable organizations which help AIDS victims in Africa, as well as groups which educate Africans about moral ways of AIDS-prevention. But the organization must have a Christian ethos, and demonstrate its effectiveness before I'd even consider giving to it. I know there are some great Christian missionary endeavors over in Africa which are doing truly great work. I've personally known Catholic priests who do tireless, devoted work with AIDS victims and for AIDS prevention in places like New Haven, CT. But the spirit of their activity was always squarely within the Christian framework of mercy, care for the body and care for the soul, within the context of a transcendent view of man's ultimate end and the way to achieve it. That's a totally different basis than the hackneyed humanitarian agenda Bush asks me to support.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/07/2003 03:51:00 PM | link

Medical research has already concluded that one or two drinks a day lowers your risk of heart attack by 16%.

Now research also seems to show that two drinks a day can lower the risk of stroke by almost 30%.

What a fitting natural allegory that we make the Medicine of Immortality (a old patristic title for the Eucharist) out of wine.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/05/2003 03:15:00 PM | link

Question on Social Teaching:

Mailbag was full today. Cicero writes:

I didn't notice anything at your site that directly addresses the topics in the subject of this message [establishment of religion, toleration, religious liberty, etc.] But I would be interested in your reflections, as a learned and (apparently) at least more or less orthodox Catholic Theologian.

I guess that is more or less a complement, apparently. Moving on:

I would recommend first taking a look at the major documents from Leo XIII to the present. There are some nice collections in:

Shannon & OBrien, Catholic Social Thought: The Documentary Heritage.

Deberri, Schultheis, Henriot. Catholic Social Teaching: Our Best Kept Secret.

Yet such an approach may paper over important issues arising from the transition from the ancien regime in Europe to post-Enlightenment government. Some of this comes up, for example, in Leo's encyclicals on America, like Longinqua, but not much. So you might also try to find a collection of materials that begins with something like Thomas Aquinas' De Regno and covers documents arising from the investiture struggle, including Boniface VIII's Unam Sanctam and the political theses condemned in Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors.

Then, for two secondary sources from conservative writers (broadly speaking), check out the writings of Michael Novak (very pro-religious liberty & disestablishment) and David Schindler (very opposed).

Two points on method:

1) I notice that my inclination to Catholic arguments which maintain that the separation of church and state is theologically unjustifiable varies according to how ethical our current President and Congress are. Obviously, this is not the only factor in my consideration of the issue. But when things are going wrong, we tend to focus on the top. And when things are heading into the dumper religiously and socially in America, sometimes we Catholics of the paleo-trad variety tend to the conclusion that the obvious change that must be made is establishment. This is by no means an immediate or coherent conclusion by itself.

1) Almost all of the 17th through 19th century material was written with Europe exclusively in mind, or at best, Europe plus Russia and what used to be the domain of the Eastern empire. Here, the overthrow of Catholic authorities from their long-established place in government was the typical situation. Frequently this was preceded by the Protestant religious revolt. America, by contrast, has a rather unique situation, since the people de novo were a religious plurality of all sorts of Christians, with no real prior regime. Arguments about the colonial monarchy aside, the point is: Unlike England, France or Germany, a religious movement did not touch off the violent overthrow of a once-Catholic government in America, so the ecclesiastical condemnation of democratic movements in the European countries has to be viewed with this in mind, and the formation of democratic government in America should not automatically be rejected with the same force with which the Church opposed the formation of democratic government in France.

Whether the other aspects of separation of church and state, such as those found in America's history, are subject to criticism on the basis of older Catholic social teaching is the question, however.

And I won't answer it, because it would take me a long, long time, I'm swamped right now, and my jury is still out on the matter. Ask Cacciaguida. He's both an orthodox Catholic and a law professor who teaches Constitutional Law.

- O. O.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/05/2003 03:07:00 PM | link

I survived four days in New Haven!

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/05/2003 03:02:00 PM | link

Ok. So several people have told me that the $15 billion (which amounts to about $50 out of my pocket), will only be distributed over a period of several years. And yes, a Christian government has to have some concern for the social well-being of its people. But that's the point: the world isn't our people. We're not the world's cop even though our global interests require us to deal with hostile nations, and we're not the world's doctor. Let private organizations alleviate the suffering of Africa, if that is their primary concern. And let drug-research companies and trade interests which are interested in the African AIDS epidemic do their own thing.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 2/05/2003 02:57:00 PM | link


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