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June 2005 Archives

June 3, 2005

The Mainstreaming of Porn As We Know It

It used to be the case that pornography was frowned upon, and relegated to "red-light districts" but the entire internet itself is now a red light district. For example, here are the top ten searched terms according to a service I work with for web site optimization:

3. The top 200 long-term keyword report

Our current database contains 373,636,378 search terms
and represents the complete queries from the largest
metacrawlers on the web (Metacrawler/Dogpile etc.) for the
last 60 days (2 months).

Nos. Count Keyword
1 302993 sex
2 234751 porn
3 213259 paris hilton
4 174106 pussy
5 155497 google
6 142213 milf
7 124016 yahoo
8 121680 hentai
9 121086 ebay
10 119760 free porn

And now, the ICANN (the people who bring you .com .net and .org) is going to add a new .xxx extension to give porn sites a home of their own on the web.

The claim is this will create a separate space for porn sites, making them easier to filter out, but my guess is it is also a chance to provide a whole new bumper crop of available domains to bloster the already booming web porn business.

Culture of life evangelists may want to gobble up some of these domain names when they become available and redirect them to places like theseventhage.com!

Help Defend the Blogosphere from Government Regulation

On June 28th and 29th the Federal Elections Commission will hold public hearings regarding the possibility of regulating weblogs. The FEC released proposed new rules this March outlining how blogs fit into the political cuisinart known as ‘campaign finance reform,’ and today is the final day for the public to address comments to the FEC or to request to speak at the hearings.

Initially, the FEC declined to include Internet activity under its interpretation of “public communication” in the muddled Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. This is the change in election law that brought the term “soft money” into common parlance. The trusty federal judiciary, however, knew better than the executive agency charged with enforcement of the law and handed down its Shays v. Federal Election Commission decision suggesting that the FEC had drawn the definition of “public communication” too narrowly by excluding Internet activity. The proposed rules released in March are the FEC’s answer to Shays, and they cast a dark shadow of regulation over political discourse in the blogosphere.

Among other features, the proposed rules would require bloggers to disclose if they were on the payroll of a national committee. Also, campaign ads taken out on blogs would come under scrutiny. But this is only the beginning. Blogs would be enveloped into the Kafkaesque machinery of classification and governance that currently makes television and radio such a farce at election time. If I hear an ad on the radio featuring a candidate’ voice proclaiming his fitness for office, do I really need to hear a disclaimer that the ad was paid for by that candidate’s election committee? If a candidate wants to advertise on the Seventh Age, do we really have the resources to inquire into the ultimate source of the money, to classify it, and to perhaps report it? If I volunteer for a candidate’s election committee, must I disclose that fact in each post addressing the election? What are the blog’s liabilities if I fail to do so? Would that change if I were paid by the candidate? What if through the discourse we engage in through this blog I find a candidate I can happily endorse and only later do I receive payment? What if the candidate is my mother-in-law?

This is a free speech issue not reckoned with since the advent of television. Indeed, the fundamental question is whether blogging is more like television and radio or whether it is more like chatting on the phone or arguing at the pub. Though the Internet has all the trappings of television, it must not be overlooked that it is essentially a medium of communication without any intrinsic application. Political ideas are transferred, as are recipes, tax forms, family photos and financial transactions. At its core, the Internet that makes blogging possible is a form of free communication and ought to be protected. Ironically, television and radio once were as well, before they were regulated into bizarre contortions.

Continue reading "Help Defend the Blogosphere from Government Regulation" »

June 4, 2005

John Paul II's Notes ... Preserved!

In an entry in John Paul's testament from 1979, he asked his friend and secretary Stainslauw Dzisisz, newly names Archbishop of Krakow (isn't that interesting?) to burn all of his notes and personal papers upon his death.

It turns out, the newly-minted archbishop of Krakow did no such thing, citing the "great riches" contained within.

Of course, this is all very exciting. It will be amazing to read those papers when they are edited and released. However, I am not sure that what Dzisisz did was a good idea. Those are personal reflections, and as a friend and secretary, the late Holy Father trusted him with their demise. They may contain all sorts of things that John Paul never wanted the public to see. While I trust that Dzisisz will be prudent about their editing and release, what happens when he passes on and no longer has stewardship over them? I fear that they could set off a lot of fanaticism and destructive things if released to the public. But, time will tell. I can't say I like the choice of their release.

In other news, Sandro Magister from www.chiesa has an interesting post that features the philosophy of Vladimir Soloviev, political and theological intrigue between Cardinals Biffi and Martini, and Benedict XVI, as well as reflections on the spirituality of the Antichrist. Now that is weaving a lot of threads together.

In light of some of the conclave spiritual warfare intrique surrounding the Martini-Ratzinger battle for the papacy inside the conclave, the www.chiesa post is rather interesting.

Jim Wallis Debunked

One of the most insufferable characters on the political scene today is Sojourners magazine editor Jim Wallis, author of the best-selling book God's Politics.

Wallis attempts to re-invigorate the modern welfare state by recasting it in moral terms, supposedly consistent with scripture and "good theology." His book is a gameplan on how to frame doctrinaire Democratic policies in supposedly moral terms, and an exhortation to Democrats to "moderate" their position on abortion. Not, it doesn't seem, because abortion is a grave moral evil and a devastating genocide, but rather because it prevents Democrats from getting elected to push the welfare state, the real answer to all our problems. This is the strategy of so-called pro-life progressives, who claim a commitment to ending abortion, but whose real aim is to increase the welfare state, resulting in the end of abortion (or at least a drop in total abortions). Many, if not most pro-life progressives, do not favor traditional legal and political means of ending abortion. It seems that would necessarily make them political allies with the only game in town as far as the abortion wars are concerned (the GOP), and that is an intolerable result as everyone knows folks on the right are coarse, indifferent, uncaring, and mean, not the compassionate, authentic, and loving types that ascribe to "God's Politics."

What really ticks me off is that Wallis often lectures Catholics on their theological responsibilities and what Catholic Social Teaching supposedly says. Frankly, Wallis doesn't know a lick about it, besides mouthing some platitudes. If he wants to spin his own interpretation of scripture on his evangelical Protestant brethren, that's his issue -- and frankly he has a good point with those folks in that there are far more biblical texts about povery than same-sex marriage or abortion for that matter (although I'm not sure why concern for the poor means expansion of the welfare state). However, for this man to start acting like some authority on CST is appalling. Ironically, however, it is traditional Catholic Democrats who are his most receptive audience. But it seems that if they are falling for Wallis's schtick, they aren't getting behind the rhetoric. This isn't "beyond left and right," and it certainly isn't an agenda to end, or even curtail abortion. This is rhetorical strategy for Democrats using popular religious and moralistic language to play to a Christian pro-life audience, without offering any real practical solutions, because at the end of the day, there won't be any. I could write all day about this, but I'll let the following review of Wallis's book do the talking.

In this review of the book, fellow Twin Cities Chestertonian Chuck Chalberg does what may go down as the definitive Jim Wallis debunking. He has done everyone a great service by unmasking this hack, and his review should be widely disseminated. Thanks, Chuck.

June 5, 2005

A Theology of Food?

After living in Italy for a year, I heartily agree with Zoe Saint-Paul that the "shared meal" may be the path to cultural renewal. I'm not talking about the meal inside the Church, but outside it, but still, how Eucharistic? Very cool.

Swimming with Scapulars

... is the title of a great new book out from Loyola Press. It is a candid look at the life and challenges of a young, orthodox Catholic man in America today. The author, Matthew Lickona, might be described by some as one of the "new faithful."

Lots is beginning to be written about this book, but Lickona did a great interviw with Godspy.com that captures the gist of his writings. Here is an excerpt:

"Personally, if I were not a member of the New Faithful—if by that you mean a person interested in connecting with tradition and conforming to the truths proclaimed by the Church—I can't see why I would be a Catholic. If I didn't think the Church had the power to teach authoritatively in matters of faith and morals, if I didn't think those teachings were ordered to my spiritual well being and, ultimately, my salvation, I don't know why I would stay. But as it is, I think that the Catholic Church has the best grasp of the fullness of truth, so I'm all in, even if some of the teachings prove difficult to understand or obey. And perhaps most importantly, the Church has the Eucharist.

"I do know that at least some of the New Faithful are breeding. I was at a wedding a while back—the 17th of 17 children was getting married, and there must have been over 100 grandkids running around the reception. A friend of mine—the 16th—was best man, and he said during his toast, "Keep it going—we'll win by attrition." I think it's telling that there were so many grandkids. The children who grew up in that family of 17 kids didn't reject the culture their parents created. They carried it on. Granted, that's an exceptional case in terms of sheer numbers, but the pattern isn't unique. And if parents succeed in passing on the tradition they've inherited and preserved—a tradition that is friendly toward having children—then we're going to have a whole bunch of New Faithful in the years to come."

What is the Common Good?

The notion of the "common good" is one that is often bantered about, especially in discussions concerning the nature of justice, as well as the specifics of Catholic Social Thought.

Writing in Traces, the magazine of the Communion & Liberation movement, Notre Dame law professor Paolo Carozza has done everyone a service by providing some clarity as to the nature of this abstract concept.

Here is an excerpt:

The common good
A more complete understanding of the common good reveals at least two problems shared by both the historical example and the current one. First, the common good involves the good of each person in society; it cannot be the aggregation of a “collective interest” that considers the good of some number of individuals to outweigh the good of others. Second, the common good consists in the conditions that permit each of those persons, in community with others, to reach for themselves their fulfillment, to develop “the human vocation”(to use the Catechism’s beautiful phrase). So, the “blessings of liberty” are a part of the common good exactly so that each of us, acting together with others in the communities that together give life to our society as a whole, can be free to develop a life “founded on truth, built up in justice, and animated by love”(again, using the language of the Catechism).

Hat tip: Rick Garnett at Mirror of Justice.

Chesterton Comes to the Twin Cities

God bless new Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten. In her short stint at the "daily cat box liner," she has written columns criticizing bishops who talk economics, praised homeschooling, defended traditional marriage, and now completely outdone herself by writing about our good friend Dale Ahlquist and the American Chesterton Society.

For those of you that don't know, Chestertonian ground zero is the Twin Cities, home of both the ACS and the annual GK Chesterton Conference where yours truly will be giving a talk this year on the moral foundations of property rights. There is also a great book sale every year at the conference, which is just another reason you should attend.

If you've never heard of Chesterton, here is an explanation as to why:

"If Chesterton is so great, why is he almost forgotten today? Two reasons, says Ahlquist. "His thought is impossible to pigeonhole. We're so fragmented into highly specialized disciplines now that we don't know what to make of his incredible mind." More importantly, he adds, Chesterton said things that the modern age doesn't want to hear. "He argued eloquently against all the trends that eventually won out in the twentieth century: materialism, moral relativism, scientific determinism. And he criticized both capitalism and socialism."

Great stuff. Check out the ACS, and keep sane by reading Chesterton.

June 7, 2005

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

Some help on this essential feature of the good life from Mr. Everything Ben Stein.

Just a little excerpt since I'm not sure how long the link will be accessible:

"Now, I have found that I cannot predict the stock market except over very long periods. I cannot tell you when the housing bubble will burst - only that it will burst. I cannot tell you when the dollar will stop rallying - only that it will stop. So I cannot tell you anything that, in a few minutes, will tell you how to be rich.

But I can tell you how to feel rich, which is far better, let me tell you firsthand, than being rich. Be grateful. Be grateful you have a job, even if it takes you to the world's worst airport, Dulles, and to the world's worst security lines, also at Dulles.

Be grateful you have a job to travel to, even if you must travel to a hotel room where the previous tenant was a cigar tester for Fidel Castro. (But do ask for another room.) Be grateful about everything and you'll feel a lot richer than the billionaires I know who are always moaning about everything that happens and who lament, like King Canute, that they cannot control the waves of the market or the business cycle.

When I got to Washington with my novitiate driver, I rested. The next day, I spoke to about 250 kids, perhaps ages 5 to 15, about how grateful the nation was to them. Their fathers had died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and in training accidents. They were as good, brave, intelligent and yet haunted-looking as any kids I have ever met. Be grateful for their sacrifice and that your son or daughter is not one of them.

Then I spoke to about 500 widows, widowers, mothers, fathers, fiancées of men who had been killed in the war on terror. They were totally devoted to one another and to helping one another through their grueling losses. They were probably the most spiritually fit, unselfish human beings I have ever met. One showed me the contents of his son's wallet when his son was killed. A dollar bill still had a blood stain on it. The father cried when he showed it to me. Be grateful that the armed forces of this country have such brave families.

AS I told them, we could do without Hollywood for a century. We could not do without them and their sacrifice for a week. Gratitude. As my pal Phil DeMuth says, it's the only totally reliable get-rich-quick scheme. Gratitude. Losing the luxury of feeling aggrieved when, if you look closely, you have an opportunity. My father washed dishes at the Sigma Psi house so that he could build an education and a life for the family he did not even have yet.

At my house, I always insist on doing the dishes, and I feel a thrill of gratitude for what washing a dish can do with every swipe of the sponge. Wiping away the selfishness of the moment, building a life for my son. The zen of dishwashing. The zen of gratitude. The zen of riches. Thanks, Pop."

June 8, 2005

Washington's Election Ordeal is Over

This just in…the gubernatorial election in Washington is over. On Monday, Chelan County Superior Court Judge John E. Bridges ruled against Republican candidate Dino Rossi’s assertions that there was enough evidence of fraud and error in a few urban counties to require a new election. Rossi’s task was immense, as the burden of proof was onerous. He needed to show substantial evidence of fraud and error, and also that the fraud and error was determinative in Democratic candidate Christine Gregoire’s victory of a mere 129 votes. Despite sworn admissions from King County elections officials that felons’ votes were counted and absentee ballots were handled with "significant errors" for the benefit of Gregoire, the judge did not feel the burden of proof had been met. Yesterday, Rossi announced that he will not appeal the decision and the ordeal came to a close.

This saga has run since November without the national coverage it should have garnered. At the core of this story of institutional shortcomings, voter apathy and political opportunism is the disquieting sense that Washington in 2004 was no different than Florida in 2000,and also that there is no real difference between those places and any other state.

In line with a longstanding Democratic philosophy, King County responded to the election fiasco by hurling other people’s money at the problem, proposing a $22 million election center and more election workers. Bridges was unimpressed. "Clearly," he said, "the problems require more than just constructing new buildings and hiring more staff." To his credit, he declined to publicly spank individual King County election officials or scold the Democratic party. However, his rebuke and critique of government culture is sobering. "Almost anyone who works in state and local government knows exactly what this culture is," Bridges said. "It's inertia. It's selfishness. It's taking our paycheck but not doing the work. It's not caring about either our fellow workers or the public we're supposed to serve. It's not taking responsibility. It's refusing to be held accountable.”

"[I]t is the voters who should send a message," Bridges said, and he is right. These irregularities and mistakes invite exploitation. Indeed, the core argument in many Florida counties in 2000 and Washington counties in 2004 is the same: low-level election officials with partisan ties born of careerism and cronyism are able to keep counting and recounting until they get the result they want. They are vulnerable to threats and pandering. And there are no protocols in place to curb their power and the ambition, avarice and/or hostility that is fired by that sudden and fleeting power. The electoral process, so central to our national identity and so vital to a functioning government, is in serious jeopardy. And the only force that can correct the problem is the collective will of the very people who have been lazy for generations and whose tenuous grip on their elected officials is slipping with each passing election.

June 13, 2005

John Paul II and the Communion of Saints

In case anyone missed it on Friday, the Vatican announced the official opening of the cause for beatification of Pope John Paul II on June 28, the Feast day of Saints Peter and Paul, the patrons of the Holy See. John Paul’s dedication to clarifying doctrine and his ceaseless travels bringing that message to the world partakes of the legacy of both of these great saints. No doubt he is with them now, resting in the Lord after his efforts on our behalf. It can be said that many, many lost individuals would not have found their way home without John Paul’s heroic virtue as a beacon. That is certainly true of this inconsequential blogger.

The cause for beatification, like many of the seemingly rote protocols and corporate actions of the Church, reveals an awesome truth when a moment is taken to consider it. A potential saint must be thoroughly checked out, and in John Paul’s case this process admits of rapidity simply because his life and work were so public. But the process also requires two intercessory miracles attributable to the candidate after his death. Petitions to the late pope undoubtedly began within moments of his death, and though I have not heard of any yet, I am sure there are already many possibilities. But any such miracle requires the extraordinary default certainly that we communicate meaningfully with the dead.

Of course, this makes perfect sense in the context of Catholic doctrine. As St. Jerome said, “If the Apostles and Martyrs, while still in the body, can pray for others, at a time when they must still be anxious for themselves, how much more after their crowns, victories, and triumphs are won!” But the thought gives resonance to the doctrine of the communion of saints. All of the faithful among the living, together with the souls on purgatory and those in heaven are a part of the mystical body of Christ. Even those outside the Church share in it to the degree that the state of their will and soul allow. This, it strikes me, is the only mechanism by which a soul converts. An earthly condition is ultimately a meaningless detail in the ongoing communication between God and his creatures, and between those creatures looking out for each other. John Paul, even without sainthood, is as real to us now as he ever was. As St. Jerome points out, he simply has a lot more time to continue the endeavors he pursued among us. And as his beatification progresses, we can be assured of a prayerful advocate very close to the Lord’s heart.

So, we talk to dead people. A revelation of the obvious, perhaps, but a revelation nonetheless. I’m glad this wasn’t the first topic of conversation when I was converting.

It Ain't That Hard

Fr. James Schall, one of today's truly great minds, offers some simple, and very common sense advice about the Mass, and particularly lay participation. It's so commonsensical, it will never be put into practice.

Microsoft's Tyranny Chic

The Microsoft Corporation, sensing that other elements of the Western cultural and corporate world are vying hard to be at the forefront to usher in the reign of evil and Antichrist, have decided to team up with the communist, thug leadership of China to suppress movements of democratic reform. All web-browsers supplied by Microsoft, as well as operating software will be programmed to thwart users from searching for terms that might be dangerous to the government, like, you know, um, freedom.

What the article doesn't mention, is that terms such as "Christian," "Jesus," and especially "Pope" and "Catholic Church" will most surely be suppressed.

It wasn't enough for ol' Bill to sell out to Moloch and donate gobs to Planned Parenthood. His evil quotient just went unfulfilled for two long. Isn't there something our government should be doing about this, or is this what counts as "free trade?" Imagine if Microsoft put anti-porn censors on its browsers in this country, with warnings like "this will make you completely dysfunctional, and teach you to objectify and use others." People would have a conniption. Such is the state of things.

June 14, 2005

Sam Brownback for President II

Um, yes please. Looking at the already burgeoning list of candidates for president in 2008 -- including Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty -- for social conservatives and Christians, Brownback is the clear choice as of now. George Will gives the low-down on the candidate from Kansas.

Also, here is a post we had last year calling for Brownback to enter the race.

Hat tip: Southern Appeal.

From Darfur

First there was some very good news for Africa coming from the G-8 meeting that the World Bank and IMF would be forgiving the debt of sixteen African nations. This will allow African governments, at least the non-corrupt ones, to use the money for infrastructure and basic needs. This is a moment of promise for the continent.

However, the news in Darfur seems to get worse. I have been remiss about posting the latest weekly posts from the Coalition for Darfur. But, here is a collection from the last month:

May 18: Delays and Complications

May 25: Complexity as an Excuse for Inaction

June 1: Improvement is in the Eye of the Beholder

June 8: The Slow Reaction

Pray for the folks in Sudan!

Why is the Senate Apologizing for Lynching?

Despite the annoying interruptions of Social Security reform and judicial nominees, our august plenipotentiary body managed to stage a little ceremony to formally apologize for their collective failure to ever pass legislation making lynching a federal crime. The MSM reports the sad truth that though many such laws passed out of the House and several presidents urged passage between 1880 and 1960, such measures were routinely filibustered on the Senate floor or died in committee. Meanwhile, as many as 5000 people, the vast majority of whom were black citizens, were publicly murdered. The Senate passed what is known as a non-binding resolution that “expresses the deepest sympathies and most solemn regrets of the Senate to the descendants of victims of lynching, the ancestors of whom were deprived of life, human dignity and the constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States.”

Lynching is obviously one of the sadder features of American history, but yesterday’s media event leaves this Americans a little irritated. It partakes of the general attitude of politics perfected by liberals over the last half-century that sees the world in terms of victims and guilt. Also, it clearly misplaces the blame for lynching in America.

A little dose of the ancient discipline known as “history” reveals that the federal government was quite active in the defense of black Americans, even in the face of Southern resistance. Besides the sting of forceful and sweeping legislative initiatives enacted over time (Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1870 1871 and 1875, plus the 14th Amendment), Congress enacted 42 U.S.C. § 1983 also known as the "Ku Klux Klan Act" (as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871) because one of its primary purposes was to provide a civil remedy against the abuses that were being committed in the southern states, especially by the Ku Klux Klan. Criminal statutes were ineffective because Congress and the President lacked the power to force state and local authorities to enforce the law. Congress passed the Klu Klux Klan Act to provide a civil cause of action in federal courts for those whose rights had been unjustly violated by either private citizens or, significantly, by government officers. This meant that the local sheriff who was either cowed by KKK intimidation or complicit in the lynchings could be hauled into federal court. On the House floor, I’m fairly confident it was David Perley Lowe of Kansas who offered these remarks:

“While murder is stalking abroad in disguise, while whippings and lynchings and banishing have been visited upon unoffending American citizens, the local administrators have been found inadequate or unwilling to apply the proper corrective. Combinations, darker than the night that hides them, conspiracies, wicked as the worst of felons could devise, have gone unwhipped of justice. Immunity is given to crime and the records of public tribunals are searched in vain for any evidence of effective redress.”

Besides being awed by the bodacious locution “unwhipped of justice,” one cannot escape the conclusion that it is not the federal government as whole, nor even the collective Senate, that was responsible for the lynching phenomenon. That burden lies at the feet of the South exclusively.

The failure of the Senate to pass anti-lynching legislation was not a collective failure at all, but a Southern one. Southern senators marched in lock step to filibuster and otherwise thwart legislation designed to curb the injustice stemming from Southern recalcitrance. It would be interesting indeed to hear a reckoning from a Southern politician, and there may be excellent discussions on this topic of which I am not aware. But there was none of it yesterday. The Old South was able to hide amid the ringing “Yea” of a crowded voice vote without in any way addressing the specific crimes alluded to in the resolution. Such dissembling strikes me as the same attitude under which lynching flourished as a recreational activity in the South. The best way to show contrition is to be accountable for consequences and honest about history. Yesterday’s ceremony accomplished neither.

And Another Thing...

Doesn’t the Senate have a few more pressing matters? Last time I checked, they were neck deep in unconfirmed federal judges and a UN ambassador. There is also the pesky fact that Social Security could be defunct with a generation or two. Obviously, the Senate has a lot on its plate, and there is a certain good to be derived from little ceremonies like the lynching apology. However, take a look at the Senate's Legislative and Records website. It essentially lists what our elected officials have been up to this session.

A quick glance shows that the Senate is currently grappling with some serious issues. Abortion laws prohibiting the transportation of a minor across state lines to circumvent parental notification requirements and to require that women who seek an abortion be informed that their fetus can feel pain are in committee. Also, stem cell research and human cloning are under consideration. They have already dealt with laws concerning bankruptcy reform and oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And there have been the usual proposals for constitutional amendments defending traditional marriage and protecting the flag from desacration. Serious matters, all, and worthy of great attention.

However, this list of active matters also reveals that the Senate is tackling the illusory issue of drug testing for professional athletes. Also, the Senate is debating what words or phrases constitute indecency so they can tell the FCC what to punish on broadcast TV. And finally, the “Cheesburger Bill” is under consideration, dealing with somehow limiting civil damage awards stemming from obese “victims” of fatty food.

Also, the Senate issues an awful lot of resolutions. Besides the lynching apology, the Senate just last week proclaimed “National Military Families Week,” a federal expression of gratitude to the Small Business Administration, a resolution recognizing “the importance of sun safety,” and another resolution “recognizing the historical significance of the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo.”

Beyond poking fun at the Senate, however, there is a serious issue to be considered. The list of active matters this session features the following listing:

S.686 Title: A bill to provide for the relief of the parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo.
Latest Major Action: Became Public Law No: 109-3

Of course, that does not tell the entire story, since Ms. Schiavo’s parents received no federal relief. Instead, a federal court simply did not feel compelled to abide by the law. The bitter irony in the Senate issuing these non-binding resolutions is that the federal judiciary appears to feel that all legislative acts are non-binding resolutions. Some recent non-binding resolutions include the Child Pornography Prevention Act and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. A recent federal decision in Nebraska (discussed here) shows that the Defense of Marriage Act is also considered non-binding.

With every act of judicial usurpation, the Senate and Congress as a whole diminish, taking the influence of the people with them into the sunset. There must be space for the Senate to dispense with accolades and inconsequential diplomatic gestures as their collective wisdom dictates. These are not destructive or improper endeavors. However, unless the Senate wants to become exclusively a ceremonial institution, it will put aside the “business as usual” resolutions and other gestures and focus its collective energy on asserting its constitutional power against an ascendant judiciary. When the proper balance of political power is restored, the Senate can return to making apologies

...and the Faith is Europe

A few signs that the faith, right reason, and the residue of the Church's moral teaching still exist in Europe:

The first article from the National Catholic Register gives a glimpse of some wellsprings of faith in France, of all places.

Two more articles, show the possible influence of the papal transition and Benedict XVI on Italian political life, including Italy's protection of embryos from IVF, and a call to revisit abortion laws in light of the recent referendum. Check out this money quote:

"Today's Italy has proven to be different from that of yesterday, more attentive to the values of the Catholic tradition," Regional Affairs Minister Enrico La Loggia told the newspaper La Stampa. "These principles for the protection of life that are being affirmed today must be taken into account."

Pro-Life Rappers?

OK, now I've seen everything. In a positive sign that the pro-life movement is broadening its base (or maybe that the scourge of abortion is just too much to ignore), pro-life rapper Nick Cannon is burning up the charts (as they say) with his single "Can I Live?" It is no. 2 on the BET (Black Entertainment Television) hit list (or whatever they call it).

Frankly, the lyrics are chilling. Abortion has taken a heavy toll on the black community, and folks are beginning see the real effects, as people reflect on their absent brothers and sisters.

The lyrics are below;

Continue reading "Pro-Life Rappers?" »

June 15, 2005

Ordinations: Credit Where Credit is Due

There is a nice article featured today on the Catholic News Service profiling recent priestly ordinations in the Midwest. Our own Archbishop Harry Flynn is prominent in the article, and the news is good. 15 men were ordained to the priesthood last month, the largest number here in more than 40 years. Flynn’s 15 recruits were second only to Chicago’s 16, outdoing many larger urban areas. The total number of new diocesan priests ordained nationwide will only be about 500 this year, about the same as last year.

This is good news indeed, because the statistics are still distressing. For each of the ordinates at the Cathedral last month, three will retire, die, be defrocked or resign somewhere in the United States. Currently, there are more priests over 80 years old than under 30. Though the number of priests across America reached its nadir around 1990 and has begun to climb since, there are still only about 21,000 active diocesan priests to cover about 19,000 active parishes. Since the 1960s, the number of parishioners per priest has more than doubled from about 500 to over 1100. About 3,000 parishes have no pastor at all. And we are only seeing the leading edge of this phenomena as the vast majority of active parish priests are, like the rest of their generation in other professions and vocations, well over 50 and approaching retirement.

The article quotes Flynn telling the newly ordained that they should not "start battles" in their parishes but instead should "try to keep people together.” Such an apparent soft sell generates much wailing and gnashing of teeth among some because it means that the scandals at heterodox parishes will continue indefinitely. Also, such a strategy flies in the face of compelling evidence that the parishes and orders that are most known for orthodoxy and loyalty are the ones attracting talent.

However, Flynn is clearly doing something right. Some of the new priests mentioned in the article thanked him personally and mentioned the efficacy of the archdiocesan Prayer for Vocations and the generally encouraging culture at many parishes. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence abounds that the priests who are coming out of the seminary here are solid and zealous. Flynn seems to have paid special attention to vocations and the state of the seminary. For that, we can all be thankful to our Archbishop.

More Senate Pandering

The Senate Judiciary Committee today began hearing testimony on this nation’s detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay. After the MSM pedaled the tales of Koran desecration and Amnesty International’s concurrent labeling of Gitmo as the “American gulag,” I suppose it was only a matter if time before our illustrious Senators would smell a photo-op. And so the Senate Judiciary Committee, the same publicity coterie that can’t seem to process judicial nominations, is on the job. “Congress has its work cut out for it as we look at a very, very tough issue on how we handle detainees," said committee Chairman Arlen Specter. Hmmm.

Let’s review the work of Congress as found in that quaint museum piece known as the Constitution. “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” There is not even a pretense of legislative function going on here. The Senate has absolutely nothing to say about any decisions stemming from the war and enforcement powers of the Executive. Is Congress considering passing some relevant legislation? There are no bills or resolutions currently on the floor of the Senate relating to Gitmo. What does Specter expect to offer as the fruit of this inquiry? Will he order Gitmo shut down and all the detainees freed? No. Imperial utterances are reserved to the Supreme Court. The best Specter and his fellow publicity hounds can offer is their official opinion, which is utterly without value to their constituents. However, it gets them some face time on CNN.

The Senate is justified in holding hearings on the UN scandal because Congress controls the account that writes the check to Annan’s global pyramid scheme. Also, there is already legislation proposed that would tie UN dues to UN reform. The Senate is justified in taking testimony about the stability of Social Security since there are varying opinions and some of the economics is no doubt heady. But the Senate simply has no business haling the Secretary of Defense and other military leaders to Capitol Hill to account for an Executive decision. If the current statutes dealing with enemy combatants are inadequate, then legislate. Otherwise, sit down. There is work to be done besides bolstering one's reelection campaign.

June 17, 2005

DOMA Survives Another Day

A Federal District Court Judge this morning ruled that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act was constitutional. DOMA is designed to defend "the stability and legitimacy of what may reasonably be viewed as the optimal union for procreating and rearing children by both biological parents." Two homosexuals had challenged the law after their application for a marriage license was denied in Orange County, CA.

This is the third time that some aspect of DOMA has been challenged in federal court. I don’t have time at the moment to find the actual decision, so it’s not clear what the exact argument were. But it can be presumed that the judge found a reasonable state interest in protecting marriage. Also, he clearly rejected the obligatory claim that marriage is a fundamental right. Judge Taylor noted that a fundamental right is one "deeply rooted in this nation's history and tradition." Obviously the faddish innovation of “gay marriage” does not qualify. Its good to see sound reasoning from the federal bench. Of course, this case will be appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of appeals, so anything is possible.
One fascinating aspect of this case to be seen in the report is the careful orchestration behind the “gay rights” cabal. To “gay rights” activists are quoted as saying that they wish the case had not gone forward at all. It seems that this is not an auspicious time for a federal suit, in light of two previous federal setbacks in the attack upon DOMA. The absolute power of the federal judiciary works both ways, it seems. If they cannot find the right activist courts with the favorably disposed appeals court in the wings, they risk an unfavorable ruling that would set back their agenda.

No mention is made of taking their message to the people and building a consensus that would energize Congress. The reason, of course, is that it was a broad consensus not long ago that led to DOMA’s passage by a vote of 342-67 in the House and 85-14 in the Senate and a subsequent signing by a Democratic president. Yet despite this forceful statement of corporate will, and despite today’s judicial fit of responsibility, the quest for a DOMA constitutional amendment marches onward. It should make us all very nervous that there is a mechanism that a tiny minority can exploit to wipe DOMA from the books.

June 19, 2005

Demagoguery Defined

Creativity in feature writing may or may not be a skill of Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman (Minnesota's own Frank Rich). While he is willing to stretch a story to almost impossible dimensions to wring a controversy from it, he is running out of things to talk about. It appears that his repertoire is now limited to finding anything that pertains to Catholicism and trying to degrade it. Ol' Nick is not unique in this trade, as many a recovering Catholic seek to cut the Church down to size (Mo Dowd, anyone?). It's more disregardable this way.

In his latest screed, Nick has found a sympathetic "plaintiff" to make his case against the Church. It is stock in trade to take a story out of context, and then note how the sympathetic victim's faith has been "shaken" by the mean ol' Church. Usually, this happens every year where someone with celiac disease learns that the Church won't provide them with a rice wafer or some non-wheat substitute. The media does an "expose," and reports how the poor victim has left the Church.

Coleman seems to have found a case where a Catholic high school has denied admission to a kid with muscular dystrophy. Incidentally, the kid is currently a student at my sister's Catholic primary school (since not all Catholic schools are so mean). It turns out that Holy Angels did not have the resources to accomodate all of this child's needs. Considering what they charge for tuition, that seems to be an odd claim, but it is a very old building. Additionally, the school is not noted for its orthodoxy, and is a hotbed for social justice activists turned teachers who wish to "educate" the wealthy students who attend the school. So it's not as though the school doesn't "care," being more progressively-minded. However, the general public can't make this distinction. All they know is that those Catholics are being mean and insensitive again.

The question is, how far does a school need to go to accomodate a child with special needs? I'm sure there are plenty of instances where those expensive, progressive prep schools have turned away students just like this kid. But it's just so much more interesting when it is the Catholic school.

And really, it's quite a cheapshot and rather lame to report that someone's faith is shaken (even if it is) because someone sinned against them (assuming the school is clearly in the wrong, which we hardly know to be the case). This adds the spine-chilling effect of evil that these sorts of articles require. Obviously, when Christians sin, it means the religion is false, because Christians claim they never sin and profess to be perfect. Additionally, Coleman notes that the kid won't miss religion class since the whole episode has taught him enough about "religion." Lame, again.

I do feel for this family and their plight, but it just seems to be another episode where when something bigger than ourselves won't bend to accomodate our particular wish list, we cry foul. There are plenty of other Catholic high schools in town where her son could have attended. Did they abandon ship when one couldn't accomodate them? This story just seems a little cooked.

Where is Paul Harvery for the rest of the story?

June 22, 2005

The End (Or Beginning?) Of Blogs As We Know Them

If you thought you had a hard enough time keeping up with all the blogs you read, just wait until you have to start watching them!

Now Public announced today that they will debut their new collaborative video blogging tool tomorrow at Gnomedex 2005 (the premiere Internet Publishing Event for A-list bloggers, enthusiasts and influencers, in Seattle, WA).

Fighting for the God of Tolerance?

In a strange twist, a report today claims the Air Force Academy may be a little too religious.

Apparently some have been concerned by the amount of influence exerted by evangelical protestants at the institution.

Here is an excerpt of the CNN article:

The investigation was initiated after critics of the academy's handling of religion told Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that students, faculty, staff and members of the chaplains' office frequently pressured cadets to attend chapel and receive religious instruction.

Others said prayers were frequently conducted before official events.

Lt. Gen. Roger Brady, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for personnel, said in a news conference at the Pentagon that he found seven specific incidents that he referred to the military's chain of command for possible investigation. He did not provide details.

The Air Force report cites some incidents but does not go into details: religious slurs and disparaging remarks between cadets and statements from faculty and staff with strong religious beliefs that some cadets found offensive.

The classification of these "incidents" as problematic seems a reach at best. In this day and age anyone with strong convictions is a threat to the amorphous "totoleratarian" state.

Of course one wonders what would motivate a "non-religious" person to join the Air Force in the first place. If this life is indeed all there is no sense risking one's life in the Armed Forces.

June 23, 2005

The Wacky World of Judicial Nominations

Bill Kristol of Weekly Standard fame is speculating that we will have a Supreme Court vacancy as soon as next week (when the current term ends), but his feeling is that it will be O’Conner who steps down and not the ailing Chief Justice. Of course, Rehnquist can’t last forever at his age in declining health. The wistful conservative dreams of President Bush having a chance to appoint two Supremes may be closer to coming true.

If so, the confirmation circus we have seen over the last year or so will get even more bizarre. Already, Senate Democrats are polishing their empty rhetoric reactors for the staged public meltdown. Today it is reported that Senate Democrats have penned a letter to the White House demanding consultation on future judicial nominees…or else. Massachusetts’ gift to American government, Red…I mean, Ted…Kennedy offered an interesting proposal, one that is utterly unrelated to the Constitution or American traditions. "It doesn't take much to get our consent," Kennedy said. "All the president has to do is seek out his preferred non-ideological choices, ask us about them, and listen to our answers."

Such a magnanimous guy, that Red. All the President has to do to perform his Constitutional duty is refuse to exercise the sovereignty of his office, repudiate the mandate he received from the electorate and, as head of the majority party, bow down to the minority party that was recently spanked at the polls. Welcome to the Democrats’ world.

SCOTUS on Eminent Domain: Don’t Get Too Attached to Your Personal Property…the Government Might Need It

The legal principle of eminent domain has a long history and a strong case can be made for the government’s power to seize personal property in extraordinary circumstances. Imagine a seaside resort being seized for a vital coastal defense installation or a block of houses demolished to deter the spread of a wildfire. In more recent times, cities and states have seized neglected buildings and even entire slums in an effort to combat blight.

However, the Kelo v. New London decision handed down today by the absolute oligarchy extends this government power to an impermissible extent. The Fifth Amendment allows the government to take personal property for “public use.” The enduring issue that courts have been asked to answer turns on the definition of “public use,” and that definition has been growing ominously.

There are no invading armies or uncontrolled fires in Connecticut. New London is a small northeastern city with typical big economic issues. There is high unemployment and a shrinking population. Over the last decade, the state and city have tried to find ways to revitalize this area. This is a scenario that has played out countless times in this country. Justice Stevens goes on at length describing the brave, new utopia just aching to come into being in New London, if only the city could seize a few parcels of private land. He indicates that the question is whether or not the taking is “reasonable” to the city’s goals. But the better question is this: Is the city’s plan reasonable?

By its own admission, the city has been trying for ten years or more to revitalize the area with no success. There is strong evidence that Stevens and the majority should not be so optimistic that the plan will indeed result in “creating jobs, generating tax revenue, and helping to build momentum for the revitalization of downtown New London.” Any municipality in the nation would advocate these goals, but these same municipalities have a poor track record in bringing these effects about through grandiose development schemes.

The petitioners asked the court to rule definitively that economic development does not qualify as a public use. Though the majority is not interested, this would be the more reasonable position to take. Encouraging economic health and opportunity is indeed a basic government task, but it does not follow that private property can be seized for that purpose. What has been abandoned here is the fundamental understanding that personal property is the sole legitimate basis for economic health. The idea that prosperity can be brought about by central planning has been tried and found wanting. Socialism, I think they called it.

Also, the liberal worship of taxation is evident here. The Court comes dangerously close to supporting the idea, already circulating in lower courts, that the poor and disenfranchised have a constitutional right to tax money, and that states and cities, county councils and school boards have a duty to continue raising taxes to cover entitlements and ballooning budgets. The renegade brand of eminent domain legitimized today is simply taxation on steroids, accomplishing all at once the same middle class burden and stagnation that is inflicted slowly year after year under high tax rates and inefficient government.

Brownback for President III

Just another reason that folks should start getting behind Sam Brownback as a presidential candidate: he is convening a hearing on Capitol Hill to review the faulty legal underpinnings of Roe v. Wade.

June 24, 2005

More Supposed "Ordinations"

A bunch on European women deluded into thinking they are bishops added another "priest" to their supposed "Catholic" flock this week according to the BBC.

Of course reporter Julian Pettifer seems to be the Nick Coleman of the BBC, scouring Europe for any opportunity to get some digs in at the papacy.

And apparently this new "priest" is so excited about her new status, she isn't telling anyone out of fear she will lose her job teaching religious education.

It's 7:30 P.M. on a Wednesday night. Do you know who is teaching your child the faith? Does she think she's ordained?

Yet another compelling example that ideology is the tie that blinds.

More Thoughts on Kilo

There is much excellent discussion going on out in the blogosphere regarding yesterday's Kilo decision. Some are arguing that conservatives should shut up about Kilo lest they fall prey to base hypocrisy. After all, the SCOUTS here sided with majoritarian rule and stayed close to established precedent in the face of a challenge based upon individual rights. Such deference to legislatures is indeed an underutilized jurisprudential approach for the modern SCOTUS.

However, Kilo reveals the slow decline of our judiciary and is worth examining. The court is there to balance the powers of the government against the liberties of the people. These determinations are often subtle, dependent upon the precise facts of the case at hand. There are few simple equations in law. This is the reason we have human judges trained in the law. There must be a point at which even strong consensus in a legislative body cannot seize private property. This is the kind of boundary that the courts must draw. The court need not, must not, legislate from the bench and define the exact terms under which “takings” are valid. But they must look at the facts of a particular case and rule whether this particular taking goes too far, and why they feel that is so. Here, it seems clear that the seizure is unacceptable because the public good sought is so vague and the outcome so uncertain.

Continue reading "More Thoughts on Kilo" »

June 25, 2005

Kelo v. New London, Property Rights, and Catholic Social Thought

Over at Mirror of Justice, there is some excellent commentary on the Takings Clause of the 5th Amendment (as now understood by the Supreme Court in Kelo v. New London) and its (in)consistency with Catholic Social Thought.

Of particular note is the debate whether individual property rights help foster both community life and the common good, or, put another way, are property rights the basis of stable communities. As I argued at the Chesterton conference last weekend, emphatically, YES!

So far, no one has thought to mention Aquinas's writings on these questions. Dust off your Summas boys! Go to the Secunda Secundae, q. 66, art. 1,2,7. Then, dive into Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno.

Go read the conversation, including posts by Rob Vischer, Rick Garnett, Mark Sargent, Garnett II, Garnett III, and John O'Callaghan.

Thanks to a great blog for taking time to discuss this important issue.

The Society of St. Pius I

Oh, this is too funny. Someone thought to give the "rad trads" who shower scorn and contempt upon the new Roman Rite a little run for their money.

This satire notes that its really the Vulgate mass of Pope Gregory I that was the real novelty and break from "tradition."

Actually, this is a good page for some perspective on liturgical change and development.

June 26, 2005

What Movie Character or Famous Leader Do You Resemble?

OK, this is a fun time waster. But, I thought folks would have a good time trying it themselves. I'd love to hear what other people came up. Here are my results:

June 27, 2005

Establishment Flaws: SCOTUS Asserts Its Right to Self-Parody

What to make of the bizarre pair of Ten Commandment rulings handed down today? The Ten Commandments cannot be displayed framed in courthouses in Kentucky, but can be displayed outside the Taxes capitol building if sufficiently diluted with historical references or references to other religions. Apparently, the difference is one of “diversity.” The comedy here of course is the fact that the SCOTUS building and traditions are rich with Christian imagery. Moses sits in a judicial-looking chair on the outside of the building, and he is also to be found on the wall above the actual judges. Also there is the pesky, vestigial traditional invocation, “God save this honorable Court.” Not to mention the inconvenient fact that if Moses had not transmitted God’s law, the SCOTUS building would have had to have been built closer to the Potomac because they would still be pitching litigants into the river; the guilty sink, the innocent float, attorney's fees payable in oxen and dung bricks.

The SCOTUS frieze that feature Moses is illustrative. Have the majority signers not seen it? There is a tour a couple of times a day. The frieze is linear, and progresses with images of many pre-American, less perfect moments in the evolution of the law. The theme is “great lawgivers of history” and it passes across the North and South walls to portray the development of law. It begins with mere “authority” embodied by the ancients. It is no coincidence that the concepts of “equality” and “rights of man” are depicted among the Christian era figures. The frieze ends with “Liberty and Peace,” leaving no other interpretation but that the American republic, with ancient wisdom animated by Christian virtues, was the culmination of legal evolution.

So why can this blatant homage to the Christian foundations of American law be allowed to continue offending Americans in violation of the Establishment Clause? The only answer is a cynical one. It should now be apparent that nothing embarrasses the Court. The current SCOTUS liberal bloc clearly sees itself as another incarnation of the great lawgivers, and they are committed to rigidly enforced secularism is the public sphere. Unlike Hammurabi, they cannot simply decree the law and kill those who offend. Though no doubt the liberals in these two cases would prefer to order sandblasters to eradicate the friezes on their building, they know that the public still stubbornly clings to quaint Christian values. But there will be far less chance of mass uprisings if they quietly remove the Ten Commandments from far flung courthouses and federal buildings. This is another case of resetting the fringe of mainstream sentiment leftward with supreme confidence that over time lower courts and the media will coerce individuals into accepting the new agenda. It worked with abortion, and the messianic court will continue to employ this method until steps are taken to mitigate its power.

New Haugen-Haas Ice Cream!

The creators of the finest in liturgical music (aka the "Gather" song book) have teamed up to create a rollicking symphony of fine ice cream flavors.

Included in the new product line are:

Easter Sundae
Banana Schism Split
Iconoclast Vanilla


Thanks to Jeff at the The Curt Jester for being so darn funny.

If the Ten Commandments Can’t Be Displayed in a Courthouse…

…then I hope someone sues the City of St. Paul over the flagrant flaunting of religious imagery displayed at City Hall. Upon entering the seat of city government in our little burg, one is immediately assaulted by a 36 Foot Native American “God of Peace” emerging from the smoke of peyote pipes. Clearly, given today’s illumination provided by the robed Hammurabis, such primacy of place in a government building viciously violates the Establishment Clause with its menacing coercion of the defenseless, unsuspecting Christians of St. Paul into conformity with animist Native American hallucinogenic rites. I know that last time I was there for a city council meeting, I was basely humiliated and cowed by my lack of a peace pipe. 36 feet of dictatorial quartz made it clear in no uncertain terms that I was unwelcome in the halls of the Great Buffalo of Municipal Justice unless I came ready to toke up with my elected representatives. My government scowls at me and spits out this malediction: check your cute little Judeo-Christian deity at the door of the tee-pee, kemosabe. Now I know why St. Paul doesn’t have a city-wide smoking ban: smoking is a sacramental expression of the established religion!

I am certain that the ACLU, those defenders of liberty, will flock to my cause and advocate for the removal of the Pagan Colossus from City Hall. We’ll take it all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary. And if the Supreme Court won’t rule in my favor, then I don’t what they’re smokin’.

June 29, 2005

Looming Supreme Court Vacancies

The following information, reported by Feddie at Southern Appeal, seems to be about the most accurate account of what looms ahead regarding the potential retirement of TWO Supreme Court justices this summer:

"Rehnquist is out. It'll happen on or about July 5 [Ed. -- but why not do it earlier so the Gang can have a 3 day weekend to mull the implications and feel out the Senate before announcing a replacement on Tuesday?!] POTUS is leaning toward Luttig.

If, however, O'Connor beats CJ to the White House (though POTUS & Co., Inc. does not expect her till Labor Day), we go with Garza first and Luttig second.

If Luttig doesn't want it, we go with John Roberts next -- Rehnquist is pushing Roberts. Roberts is a Rehnquist protege.

If O'Connor does go at Labor Day and women are not back on board GWB's bus (a current POTUS & Co., Inc. concern), he scraps Garza and goes with Edith Brown Clement, an under the radar conservative from the 5th Circuit.

If any other spot opens, he goes with (a) Gonzales or (b) a sitting United States Senator from a state that currently has a Republican governor. Oh, and there just might be a third spot opening, but not until after January 1. Your guess is as good as mine on that one. Until then people in New York and Chicago will be speculating.

Source does tell me that POTUS1 really, really, really wants Gonzales and "POTUS is POTUS" but knows the political calculus of a Gonzales nomination would be devastating to the base and to the 14 who have to either vote for a possible Souter or vote against the first Hispanic nominee and then go on and try to get re-elected next year."

June 30, 2005

I'm Baaaaack

Ah, yes, I've finally made my way back to my own blog after along absence.

Why the absence? Well, there's my promiscuous posting on other sights like Ignatius's Insight Scoop and Alvin Kimel's Pontifications. There's also the fact that I was irritated because my first two months blogging I couldn't get the links right. (And I still have no frigging clue how to do it. These damn formulas are so long.)

But mostly I've just not been on the computer very much and that's fine by me. I occasionally have twinges of guilt about the amount of time I do waste on the computer when I could be writing longer, more substantive pieces or simply reading good books by people more interesting to read than I.

But I'm going to try and comment on this blog some more since I've been getting overflow thoughts that must be posted and that you must read--and BELIEVE!

Sorry about that last bit. The blog thing makes me demagogic. Another problem with any kind of opinion writers.

About June 2005

This page contains all entries posted to The Seventh Age in June 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2005 is the previous archive.

July 2005 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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