Saturday, April 30, 2005

Sancti Thomae Mori Utopia

No, Tim, I never have tried translating Saint Thomas More's Utopia. At 59 pages, it would be quite a chore. Fortunately, there is no need, as an English translation is already available for free.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

More's Utopia and the Seri

Watched Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in The Road to Utopia last night. Turner Classic Movies had a short on Thomas More's Utopia and legends of "real" Utopias. They focused on the island of Tiburon, in the Gulf of California. This was a short film made in the 1930s, I'd reckon, and the Indians they came across were descendants of the Seri (spelling?), legendary creators of an island paradise hundreds of years earlier. By the time the film crew arrived, this tribe had reverted to a more primitive state, and the surviving 100 or fewer tribesmen had very recently decided that this was the end of them. They'd made a conscious decision to have no more children and go extinct. The youngest child was about four, and this would be the last. The eldest tribesman, I think referred to as a sort of medicine man in the film, had been entrusted with the tribe's history some years earlier. Then he had had his tongue cut out to keep him from telling anyone else.

I'm curious what became of these people. The youngest could easily be alive today. Did the tribe change its mind?

On a related topic, I found a Latin-English bilingual copy of Sir Thomas More's Utopia on Amazon. It would be a lot of fun to work through, but it's $100. There are probably some cheaper copies of the Latin text on its own.

Figulus--have you ever tried translating Utopia?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Sen. Mikulski on the new NASA Administrator

A friend sends along this transcript from NASA chief Griffin's Senate hearings last week:

And also we want to thank, that while Dr. Griffin has served the nation, his wonderful wife, Rebecca, has been behind him. And we know that behind every great rocket scientist was the woman who provided the rocket.

...I don't get it...

France and the Strategic Implications for China, Taiwan, and North Korea

France is the enemy. No, that is a little harsh. Perhaps I should write, "France sides with the enemy." Well, either way, as our enemy or as our enemy's ally, I don't see too much difference.

France has now put itself in the position of supporting Hitler's annexations of the Sudetenland and Austria, except in this case with guns blazing. After all, what's the difference between those actions and Red China's threat to invade and conquer Taiwan, if Taiwan decides to declare itself independent in law, as it already is in fact?

This unbelievable story is reported in today's Deutsche Welle (link via Instapundit). French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has begun a three-day visit to Red China, during which he said, "The anti-secession law is completely compatible with the position of France." Now, this anti-"secession" law is a misnomer in itself. A clever little bit of doublespeak. Taiwan is not ruled from Peking. It is an independent country, despite all of the linguistic pas de chat to the contrary. It is subject to no laws passed in or by Red China.

So to speak of the possibility of Taiwan "seceding" from Red China is to misrepresent the situation. The Prime Minister of France is complicit in this falsehood, as he uses the same phrase in describing the law (although it might have been only for convenience, I'll admit). The worst thing, of course, is that he says France agrees with the Communists in Peking on this. He says France will support the invasion of Taiwan if the latter stands up for itself and utters those unspeakable magic words, "We are independent."

What would change if Taiwan did so? Taiwan already acts as every other independent country, with the exception of some diplomatic formalities, and they already exchange ambassadors with a few small countries in the Pacific (good for them!). Has Red China gone to war with Taiwan already because Vanuatu has an ambassador in Taipei?

No, while a wider diplomatic representation is important, the utterance of these words would mostly just make everybody publicly admit what is already the case. And it is that wide public admission China cannot tolerate. At that point, they would have lost any pretense for claiming to rule the island, so they must set up this justification now.

It is not to our credit that the United States plays along with this charade, having recently subtly but significantly changed our stand on the issue. Our old formulation was that we recognized that both parties (Red China and Taiwan) had a "One-China Policy." But we did not say that we had this policy, ourselves. Today, after public statements by the Clinton administration and later by Colin Powell, we have worked ourselves into a corner, proclaiming that we have a One-China policy, as well. What's the difference between our One-China policy and that of Peking? Well, we think it should be peacefully resolved. They agree but hold onto a Plan B, of resolution by a missile barrage and an amphibious landing.

The only, make that two things that I can see excusing (well, partly excusing) our betrayal of a free and democratic country in this case is that (1) to force the issue now would cause a large and difficult war that we might not be ready for, just yet [And just when will we be ready for it? Come on, this problem has been around for a half-century!], and that (2) we need China's help to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem. North Korea is more pressing, and we should solve it first, if we can.

Of course, it could be that China is deliberately dragging its feet on North Korea for this very reason. They can get us to treat them with kid gloves longer and longer, as long as this situation remains unresolved. We can't very well say to them, "Come on now and fix North Korea quickly, so we can get on with confronting you about Taiwan," can we? So despite our talk about how a non-nuclear North Korea is in China's own interests, it might not be. China is unlikely to be attacked by their Communist little brother, and it might very well be in China's interest to let this issue fester, to distract us from the Taiwan problem.

Let me return to France. It is in the light of this whole mess that Raffarin throws his weight behind the aggressor. Let's keep this clear in our heads: Red China is a Communist tyranny. They are the bad guys. France wants to sell them weapons. I'm not talking about the Airbus sales or anything civilian. I mean weapons that will be pointed at the good guys. In the event of a war, they'll be used to shoot at our ally and quite possibly at us. And France wants those to be French weapons.

What is he thinking? How could there be any clearer case of a bad idea?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I'd like to thank the Academy...

We here at Hypotheses Non Fingo are proud to announce that we've been named one of the best Tennessee blogs by the fine folks at We're included in the "Best East Tennessee Blogs" and "Best Political Coverage" categories. In fact, in the latter, we rank right aboveInstapundit. Because it's in alphabetical order. Well, still...!

It's a new site to me, but we're happy to be on it. Thanks for the compliment, boys!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus papam, Benedictum Sextum-Decimum

I couldn't have been more wrong, and that is just as well. The cardinal electors have chosen the most prominent member of their college, its dean and prolific best-selling international author Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Pope Benedict XVI. He was elected by a 2/3 or more majority after between 4 and 6 rounds of voting within a mere 24 hours of his delivering a stunning homily to the college.

Saint Benedict is the patron saint of Western Europe; his religious order is credited with having saved classical civilization from the dark ages.

Ratzinger's new name

He's taking the name Benedict XVI.

...and the winner is...

Joseph Ratzinger

The Bells of Saint Peters

Now the Vatican bells are indeed ringing, a confirmation that the College of Cardinals has selected their new pope. And the crowd goes wild! Really. Fox News is showing people actually running towards Saint Peter's Square.

This is pretty exciting to watch, even for a non-Catholic like me.

I hear from the reporters that we've got about 45 min.---1 hr. to wait before we see who the new pope is. That'll be around 12:45---1:00 PM EDT.

What color is it?

Smoke's coming from the Sistine Chapel chimney right now. Its color is a little hard to tell against the sky, and there are mixed reports coming from local radio: Vatican Radio reports black (no choice made), while Sky Italia reports white (a new pope). The crowd is cheering, and the cheers are building and building. No bells ringing yet, which is a new indicator that will be given.

Looks white now, to me... Stay tuned.

What color is it?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Miracles, physical laws, and the Papal Conclave

I just read Michael Novak's interesting piece on how the Holy Spirit could be at work in the Papal Conclave in Rome this week, choosing the new pope.

Not being a Catholic, I might disagree with some of Novak's specifics, but I'm impressed with his thinking on the subject, because he gets to the heart of a longstanding problem: how can divine intervention (in the form of either miracles or more subtle effects) exist in a world governed by apparently unbreakable natural laws?

This has been a hot topic in science and religion since at least as far back as Newton. Newton and Leibniz, rivals for the credit of inventing calculus, also argued opposite sides of this debate. Newton, unlike the later Deists who would call themselves "Newtonians," believed that miracles were not only possible (a divine suspension of divinely-ordained laws) but even necessary.

I'll get into that debate some other time. For now, let me quote Novak:

... In between details like the weather, personal illness, chance encounters, and accidental perceptions thrown off by odd angles in the way people meet — not to mention unsummoned thoughts and images and intimations — there are a host of ways in which the Divine Artist of events can set the stage and arrange actions, without in the least interfering in the natural laws of human nature and history, or even in the perfect freedom of will of those who make decisions.

Read the whole thing.

Friday, April 08, 2005

De Conclavi

Back in January, George Weigel gave an excellent analysis of the next conclave, now scheduled to begin on Monday the 18th.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Signs of the Times

More interesting calendar coincidences regarding the date of the pope's death, from the Shrine:

1) On a first Saturday, which are specially dedicated to Mary Our Lady of Fatima,
2) On the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast he created,
3) Within the Octave of Easter,
4) In a New Springtime (only 12 days old), and
5) In the Year of the Eucharist

During the novena of mourning falls April 11, the feast of St. Stanislas, patron of his beloved Poland, whose name he had considered taking as Pope.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Quis Papabilis?

Speculating about the next pope is a game played by many in the blogosphere, and far be it from me to sit it out. Here, for the record, is my prediction, just so the world may see in the future how little I know about such things.

Most of the papabiles mentioned in the media are very much like John Paul II was - dynamic, charismatic, non-Italians well known all over the world. But I predict the next pope will not be like that at all.

Going by the pendulum theory, I'd guess that the next pope will be sort of an opposite to John Paul II. He will be an old (possibly too old to vote) cardinal, an Italian bureaucrat, a conservative who will not shake things up too much, an interim pope who will be hoped to smooth out the operational functions of the curia, which has been more or less in a state of shock for the last 26 years.

He'll be old because most (all?) of the electors in this conclave will have never voted for a pope before, so they will feel more comfortable electing an interim pope who will only reign for a few years. That way, in a few years, they'll get a chance to vote again.

But then again, the electors will be listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit, and not for the cries of their own anxieties. So who knows whom we will get? Spiritus, ubi vult, spirat.

Misericordia Divina

The death of Pope John Paul II dominates the blogosphere today, and on many blogs you hear mention of the Feast of the Divine Mercy. This feast is the second Sunday of the Easter season, i.e., the Sunday after Easter Sunday. Divine Mercy is a new feast, and it was established by John Paul II himself. "It is fitting", many say, "that Pope John Paul II should die on such a feast day, which meant so much to him." And so it is.

"But wait a minute," you think, "didn't John Paul II die on Saturday night? Why, then, all this talk about his dying on a Sunday?" The answer can be found in the oldest of Astronomical duties, the recording of times and the making of calendars, in this case, the Church's liturgical calendar.

The calendar of the ancient Romans which we still use today, slightly reformed by Lilius and Clavius under Pope Gregory XIII, counted and still counts each day as beginning and ending at midnight. In our day to day social lives, however, we tend to regard the day as beginning and ending with dawn, not midnight. Thus we commonly refer to 2 A.M. Sunday morning as being "Saturday night". In the Jewish calendar, however, the day is seen as beginning and ending at sunset, not sunrise.

According to the Gospels, Jesus rose from the dead before dawn on the first day of the week, i.e. Sunday. We might think that that means he rose sometime between 12 AM and 5:20 AM standard time in Jerusalem. But given that the Jewish day begins at nightfall, the first day of the week actually began earlier, on Saturday evening.

The early Christians were mostly gentiles, and they for the most part kept the Roman custom of beginning and ending days at midnight. However, they were well aware of the fact that the Jews did things differently, and that Jesus may well have risen from the dead on Saturday night. They accommodated this fact in the liturgical calendar by extending Sunday, the day celebrating the resurrection, so that it began Saturday evening. All other days continued to begin at midnight. So today in the liturgical calendar, Sunday has two evenings, while Saturday has none.

In later days, this practice was also applied to Solemnities such as Christmas and All Saints Day, and so the liturgies of these days also begin on the evening of the previous day. Today, if you go to a Catholic parish on a Saturday evening you will commonly find a Sunday mass being offered.

That is what happened Saturday night at Rome. In the last hours of the Pope, he and his closest friends chanted the first Vespers of Sunday (the second Vespers of Sunday being celebrated the next evening) followed by a Sunday mass celebrated in his bed chamber by Archbishop Dziwisz.

According to the regulations governing the death of a pope, Universi Dominici Gregis, the burial of the Pope is to take place on the 4th to 6th day of his death, "inter quartum sextumque post mortem diem". John Paul II's burial is scheduled for Friday, indicating that the cardinals are reckoning his death according to the liturgical, not the Roman, calendar.

It is understandable that they would want to bury him as late as possible, given the huge throngs lined up for the viewing.

After nine days of mourning, the conclave will begin. A new pope is elected typically after 2 to 4 days of conclave.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Tennessee Legislator blogs

An East Tennessee legislator (in the state General Assembly, not a congressman) from Knoxville, Stacey Campfield, has started his own blog recently. He's already gotten the liberals riled up for posting "15 ways to know if you are a Democrat in the Tennessee Legislature".


15. You define “capitalism” as selling your vote for $237,000.

You believe that self-esteem is more important than actually doing something to earn it.

Now he's gone and done it again, with a Scooby-Doo dream sequence imagining conversations with state House leader Jimmy Naifeh, Governor Bredesen, and perennial Lieutenant Governor Wilder (I can't remember a time when Wilder wasn't L.G.!) over the failed Tenncare program. This one's even funnier:


WILDER:Butterfly...Pretty butterfly....


GOVERNOR:YES!! Brilliant!! Do we have any in the house who we could tap for their knowledge?

NEIFEH: Well there is doctor Hensley.But..


NEIFEH:But governor he is A...A..A REPUBLICAN...

GOVERNOR:.......I see.....


I have this very distinct picture of L.G. Wilder right now...

I'll also note that Campfield includes references to South Park in his blog, making me wonder if he's going to become the E. Tenn. Jonah Goldberg. That's a compliment, of course!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Browsing the referral logs...

Following the tradition of The Rat and Old Oligarch, I've been browsing Hypotheses Non Fingo's referral logs today. I don't know how the person asking Google, "where do people in michigan get a female ecliptic parrot" came to our site, but welcome in!

For the person searching for "rhodes college" and "berlin wall," I'm curious if this was a fellow alumnus. Rhodes has a chunk of the wall, encased in the wall of Buckman Hall. Our former president brought it back from a trip to Berlin when the building was being put up around 1990-1.

And similarly, I got a little thrill seeing a Google search for "Richard Halliburton lost at sea" bring a visitor to us. Richard Halliburton is (was? He's long dead & lost at sea, after all.) my favorite travel writer, and I've had the pleasure of following in a few of his footsteps from his Latin American trip. Proud to call him a fellow Tennesseean, and Rhodes has Halliburton Tower, dedicated in his memory. Along with the 5th(?) largest bell in the US (something like that) at its top.

Sciavo and the Pope

I haven't posted on either of them--odd how I keep skipping the events of the day in this blog--but I will eventually. The Pope is timelier, now. I'll say quickly that although I'm not Roman Catholic, I respect the man, and he's played a large and constructive role in the happy ending of the 20th Century.

By that, I mean the overthrow of Communism. A Jewish friend of mine has remarked that the 20th Century was, on the whole, a bad one in the light of history, and I can't really argue with that. Its great achievements must be weighed against the rise of the great totalitarian regimes--Communist, Nazi, and Fascist (not sure of the differences between the latter two, but I often see people in the know list them separately)--and the outbreak of widespread slaughters, beginning with the Armenian massacre at the century's onset.

In rough order, you have the Armenian massacre, the Rape of Nanking, the Holocaust (by far the largest single event--I don't mean to minimize it by putting it in a list), the various Soviet massacres spread over the century, the terror of Pol Pot, and then Rwanda. I don't know numbers from the Sudan, but it may be big enough to put in here, as well.

But the century had a happy ending. Count the millions of people who were liberated from Communism less than a decade before the end of this era. And John Paul II had a role to play in this, for which we should all be thankful.

Open Secrets

Patrick Carver over at Southern Appeal (a big Rebel yell out to the boys there!) has a great post on political donations from those "59 former diplomats" urging the Senate to reject John Bolton for the UN ambassadorship. Turns out that even the ones who served exclusively under Republicans are donors to Democratic and liberal (left-wing) candidates and causes. No big surprise, there, but keep this in mind the next time your liberal friends claim that "even Republicans" are opposing Bolton. Great work by Carver--this is the kind of job that makes the blogosphere shine!