Archive for December 2006

On Saddam, Capital Punishment and Catholicism

December 30, 2006

I was, I confess, slow to accept one of the basic tenants of my religion; that capital punishment is never acceptable. And trust me, the case of Saddam Hussein (and also, the case of Slobodan Milosevic) tries my faith.

But in the final analysis, I still believe that capital punishment is wrong, and it is always wrong because it always diminishes us. It diminishes not just the executioner, but also those who are part of the society that permits it.

This, from the Vatican Press Office:

DECLARATION OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE PRESS OFFICE OF THE HOLY SEE, FR. FEDERICO LOMBARDI S.J.

With regard to the capital punishment of Saddam Hussein, which happened last night, the director of Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., released the following declaration to journalists this morning:

Capital punishment is always tragic news, a motive of sadness, even when it’s a case of a person guilty of grave crimes.

The position of the Catholic Church against the death penalty has been confirmed many times.

The execution of the guilty party is not a path to reconstruct justice and to reconcile society. Indeed, there is the risk that, on the contrary, it may augment the spirit of revenge and sow seeds of new violence.

In this dark time in the life of the Iraqi people, it can only be hoped that all the responsible parties truly will make every effort so that, in this dramatic situation, possibilities of reconciliation and peace may finally be opened.

Hit tip to Amy Welborn.

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Chickens and Eggs

December 30, 2006

It’s reported that a new poll shows the young are apathetic about space. Some blame Google.

I didn’t realize that there ever was much interest in space, actually. Really. Outside of a few Sci-Fi fans and dreamers, who but the military really showed much interest, even at the height of the Apollo moon landings? (Yeah, I’m talking about you, Mike Robinson, when you said in 1969 “Ok, we landed on the Moon. Now lets spend that money on the earth.”)

I understand that. Space is (generally) not profitable. Only satellite TV has found gold in them thar particular hills, and not much of it, for the effort. There will be plenty of interest in space travel to the Moon, or to Mars or anywhere it’s demonstrated that a good buck can be made. But so far, it can’t.

So all we have to do is send enough people and stuff up there so that it (it being industry our industriousness) becomes possible. See in the dictionary under “Chicken and Egg Problem”.

It’s like 1951, when Eisenhower realized that what this country needed was a good set of highways, even before the industry to use them (and pay for them) didn’t exist.

Great Observatories, Great Results

December 19, 2006

The Hubble Space Telescope is not the only great observatory in space. One of the others is the Spitzer Space Telescope, which isn’t quite so famous only because it takes data in the infrared part of the spectrum, not in the visible.

But from a scientific point of view, that makes it more important for cosmology (because light from the earliest, most distant objects is shifted to the red part end of the spectrum, where Spitzer is most sensitive). The very earliest objects, stars that are perhaps 1000 times the mass of the sun (and quite unlike anything we see in our galaxy, or any galaxy, for that matter), are within its grasp.

“We are pushing our telescopes to the limit and are tantalizingly close to getting a clear picture of the very first collections of objects,” said Dr. Alexander Kashlinsky of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., lead author on two reports to appear in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “Whatever these objects are, they are intrinsically incredibly bright and very different from anything in existence today.”

This will lead to yet another revolution in our understanding of the universe. Most lightly, it will show that almost everything we thought we knew before was wrong, like usual.

Anglican/Episcopalian Split?

December 17, 2006

Over at Get Religion there are two informative entries on the vote in two Northern Virginia Episcopal Churches in which

a small percentage of American Episcopalians are trying to rebel against their national church. This is one way to express the conflict. The other is that the national Episcopal Church is rebelling against the overwhelming majority of the world’s Anglicans, when it comes to issues of biblical authority, church tradition and sexual morality.

The issues are, to put it bluntly, sex and money (well, property, anyway). But Catholics should keep vigil on this for three reasons. First, Pope John Paul the Great spent a good deal of energy in ecumenical efforts with the Anglican Church, and we do not know how these events affect his works. Second, there are parallels in the differences between the worldwide Anglican Communion and their American (Episcopal) counterparts and the differences between the Vatican and the American Catholic Bishops (though I admit that to my outsider’s P.O.V. the former seems much more serious than the latter, currently) which may contain lessons for us all.

Finally, we should pay attention to these events to watch God’s Will unfold even as we pray for the reunification of his Universal Church. We should do this because these are our brothers and sisters.

New Horizons in the News

December 16, 2006

Presenting Popular Science’s Best of What’s New awards; in the running, New Horizons!

The Rest of the World

December 16, 2006

We are (or, at least, I am) so concerned about happenings in this country and, currently, happenings in the mid-east that we tend to forget about some major parts of the globe. The MSM is complicit in this, of course.

Today I found this blog entry, which nicely connects the recent history of Russia (after the collapse of communism) with its (lack of) religion and surfeit of Vodka. Definitely +1 Insightful. It quotes Stanley Kurtz at length:

Our modern battle between religion and secularism is generally posed as a choice between the left-liberal secularism of Europe (and parts of “blue” America), on the one hand, and “red” American religiosity on the other. The Russian case needs to become part of this debate.

The press constantly reminds us about the Islamization of Europe, but the secularization of Russia should be at least a pressing concern.

Ashamed of America

December 16, 2006

As they say in Linux-ville, WTF? Jeralyn Merritt writes in the Washington Examiner

I am ashamed of the United States today. These raids remind me of World War II when the Japanese were rounded up and put into interment camps. The policy is no more acceptable today than it was then.

Among other things, Ms. Merritt supports the elimination of criminal sanctions for “immigration violations”. I, for one, don’t see how illegal immigration can be tolerated and even encouraged by our corporations. If there is reason to liberalize the immigration laws to permit more legal immigration (and I think there is, btw), then by all means, let’s do that. If you think so, then advocate for it. Corporations that need skilled or unskilled laborers to fill job slots at a rate they think the market can afford can advocate for more liberal immigration laws (and have, in fact, done so in the past).

But ignoring and disobeying (and not enforcing) the law is not an answer, and not an option.