Bayou Calvinist

A Somewhat Eclectic Discussion by a Law Student Concerning All of Today's Major Topics, as well as, a Few Not So Major Topics

Friday, August 26, 2005

New VDH Article

Victor Davis Hanson Article on the strange convergence of the far left and far right in their opposition to the War in Iraq.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Revelation and True Knowledge

One of the basic precepts with which I approach any argument concerning the big question (aka the meaning of life/existence) is that without some type of revelation humanity is incapable of knowing the final Truth. This is for several reasons: 1) It is impossible to prove a negative: such as trying to prove that there is no GOD; 2) Despite how advanced man becomes in his scientific understanding his understanding cannot touch upon the imperceptible (for science by its very nature is only able to study what we can in some way observe...Either directly observe, observe as the thing studied affects a third observable object, or deduce from past observations theoretical notions of truth); 3) Human nature allows for multiple interpretations of the same few facts and beliefs, so that all human understanding is open to near infinite sub-groups of understanding...all of which can't be true. So obviously if there is a God the only way humanity could come close to knowing the Truth in any type of detail would be through some sort of revelation from a greater knowledge source. If, on the other hand, there is no greater knowledge source, then humanity is bound to never be able to completely understand this final Truth. I don't at all believe that this fact in anyway proves the existence of God, because it certainly doesn't. I do, however, argue that for anyone of faith (any faith in any greater Being) their faith must be based on some type of revelation (either a holy text, a vision, or piecing together clues left to humanity by the greater Being) on which they base their understanding...otherwise their understanding is most likely nothing more than personal beliefs writ large (obviously many would argue this is also the case with those who use revelations...and so the case may be). Simply put we should be careful when demeaning a person for their reliance on what they perceive as a Holy Revelation in their understanding of the final Truth...because for anyone who claims an understanding of the Final Truth these revelations are a necessity. So what is the revelation that allows those who don't believe in revelations or any greater Being to believe what they believe when it comes to their understanding of final Truth?

Monday, August 22, 2005

New Kiev Pics

I just recently received from one of my friends more pictures of our trip to Ukraine last December. So I have decided to post these pics and also include an article I wrote concerning the trip for my law school's student paper (see below for article).
This is a picture of Matt and I (two guys walking away from camera on the left--I am the furthest left) walking to one of Kiev's oldest churches...St. Mathews. This was taken on the last full day we spent in Kiev and though it is hard to tell from the picture I was suffering from a massive hangover from a vodka drink off the previous night.

This is St. Marks and was about 10 miles from where we all stayed. This area of town, while slightly poorer than where we stayed, was home to Kiev's art community and the residence of many of Ukraine's most prominent poets. Just a few blocks behind St. Marks lies the British and French Embassies, where we unsuccessfully tried to find shelter when the snow became too heavy.

Below is a picture taken in front of the Gate of St. Matthew. From Left to Right are Matt, myself, Anna, and Josh. Anna was a English student at the University and was very helpful in showing us around. This is probably the last time we spent together before leaving for the night (we returned home the following morning).

This is a picture of Brady, myself, Matt and Andry at a party thrown by Kiev University's English Club in honor of our arrival. Everyone was very nice and extremely interested in learning both our language and culture. They actually demanded that we correct them when they made a mistake in conversation. It made for many drawn out discussions about rather mundane topics but all and all it was thoroughly enjoyable. Also there were several very good English speakers which talked about politics, music, sports and in one instance women with us.

This is a picture of the center of Kiev's nicest mall. For the most part shopping in Kiev is what one might expect from a developing former Soviet Republic...but at least here the shopping experience rivaled most western malls.

Again a picture of us in front of St. Matthew's Gate. Below are three great English students and our good friend and all around go to guy Gela. Next to them are myself, Matt, Anna and Josh. What I remember most about these students was their interest in my ancestral make up. They were floored to learn that I was a mixture of many different ethnicities, instead of the single or double ethnic backgrounds which most of them recognize. Also of particular interest to them was my description of my church in comparison to the highly decorated churches found in Kiev, as well as my faith's minimalist worship services. Like Most Ukrainian's they all took great pride in the breadth and age of their history (and never missed an opportunity to remind me how much older Kiev was than the United States).

Here we are on a guys night out approximately three drinks in to me and Andry's vodka drinking competition. Notice the relative calm in Andry's eyes and the oh so subtle drunken haze over mine. From left to right: Matt, Me, Gela, Andry, Brady, and Josh.
This is a picture of Andry and his beautiful wife Lucy. Andry is throwing up the trident sign with his left hand (representing the Ukrainian Coat of Arms) and he and his wife share an Orange scarf symbolic of the ongoing Orange Revolution and their support of the pro-Western Presidential Candidate (now President) Yoshenko. Andry and his wife have just recently been blessed with their first son. Andry was a great conversationalist and boy did he have great stories. He served in the Soviet Army and was even sent into East Berlin just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. He has visited both Canada and the US and is one of the most thoroughly western Ukrainians I met. At the same time he was unreservedly Ukrainian and proud of his nationality. If only people of all the world's state's could be a little more like Andry.

Here we are nearing the end of the night and as is obvious both Andry and I are a little worse for wear following my not so stunning defeat in the Vodka showdown (actually the showdown still had a few more drinks to go...which led to my complete collapse and Andry's near collapse). We are all again showing the trident sign and holding up the gifts Gela and Andry bought us....surprise, surprise, it's more vodka.

Kiev Viewed Through an Orange Lens by Blake Canfield

I didn't know exactly what to expect as our plane ended its taxi and came to a stop several hundred yards from the Borispol airport terminal in Kiev. Running through my head was the images in the news of just a week ago, which showed what appeared to be a volatile situation begun by the earlier disputed and discounted runoff between Ukraine's top two Presidential candidates. The Orange Revolution, named after the party color of the challenger Viktor Yoshenko, had along with the brave actions of the Supreme Court already invalidated the results of the initial runoff. Ukraine's Supreme Court had also set up a second and hopefully final runoff to decide the presidency. As I arrived in Kiev for a ten day vacation, that election was still two weeks away and so too I hoped was any chance for violence.
While my plans to travel had been made prior to the first election, I had even then been a bit uneasy about the prospects Kiev might hold. Ukraine would be my first experience of Eastern Europe, my first experience in a former Soviet state, and the first time I had traveled to a nation whose language and culture would be completely foreign to me. The excuse for my trip was to visit, along with several of my friends, another friend who had spent the past four months studying in Kiev. Closer to the truth, the real reasons for my visit included the novelty of the experience, a general interest in both Russian history and politics (which I had briefly studied as an undergrad), and extremely cheap plane tickets. If nothing else, I knew prior to my arrival that Kiev was going to surpass any desire I had to experience Eurasian politics. What I was unaware of at the time was how much Ukraine and its people would exceed my expectations concerning beauty, hospitality, cuisine, culture, and progress.
The beauty of the historic churches and buildings was indescribable. The Orthodox monasteries and churches which I had the chance to visit were intricately decorated and lovingly preserved. They were also some of the oldest structures which I had ever seen in person (many were far older than any of the churches I had seen in France, Spain or Holland not to mention far older than any building to be found in the U.S.). The people I met and befriended were incredibly hospitable and kind. Despite their crushing poverty (which is rampant in most places outside of downtown Kiev), nearly everyone I met went out of their way to share their city and country with me. The food, regardless of what certain stereotypes might have you believe, was delicious. Had it not been for the almost ritualistic serving of the borscht, I would even say that the food was surprisingly diverse. The small differences between Ukranian and Russian culture, which were lost on an ignorant foreigner like myself, were a great source of pride for the people I met. The hope seen in the faces of most of those whom I met for their country's future was contagious. Everyone I talked to in this highly pro-Yoshenko area of Ukraine took it as gospel that the election of their man would lead to the sudden end of corruption, the upswing in the economy, and an overnight rise in Ukraine's geopolitical stature.
I found myself despite many reservations being unable to tell these wonderful people that even with the inevitable (as they perceived it) victory of their man (Yoshenko) in the upcoming election, Ukraine's many problems would not change overnight. It may be that much of the idealism I witnessed, was in large part due to difficulties in translation. It is also possible that this sentiment is because the majority of those whom I spoke with were English students at a pro-western university. It also may be that they were aware that the many problems facing their country would require systemic change, but they felt Yoshenko was the right man to bring these changes about. However, the impression I was left with was a nation filled with many proud people who truly believed that the victory of their candidate (whether it be Yoshenko or Yanikovich) was the only change which needed to be made for Ukraine to live up to its vast potential. With what seems to be a relatively certain conclusion to the election (in favor of Yoshenko) this past week, it now waits to be seen whether Ukraine will be able to take its place alongside several other of the former Eastern Block countries as a consensual democracy, a society based on the rule of law and a significant power. For the benefit of Ukrainians and of the world I pray that the Ukraine will.

More Kiev Pics

Here is a picture of the inside of the apartment in which we stayed while in Kiev. Above is a picture of the living room where my friends and I watched such great tv programming as SMS videos and gay hitler comedy bits (not to mention really demented Japanese comedy). Also I slept on the living room couch for most of the trip (not too comfortable, but better than most people have it, I was told).
This was our kitchen, which to me didn't seem too great but had all that one would need and for Kiev was considered quite spacious. At different times during our stay both the kitchen table and window sill were used as beds for the highly intoxicated. The window looks down onto a cobble stone courtyard where the permanent residence parked their BMWs and Mercedes (we were in the "wealthy" part of town, remember).
This was the master bedroom, in which my friend Matt (who had been in Kiev for four months slept). Lucky bastard...but turns out the joke was on him, there was a major hole in the right center of the mattress.
Here was our front door and all around storage area. And yes, that plant is fake.
This is the view from our apartment's balcony onto a rather upscale portion of mid-town Kiev. The first floors were mostly dotted with groceries, pharmacies and boutiques. Notice the nice and new cars parked below.

Here I am pointing out the thermometer reading during a return walk from a night club. It is approximately 3 in the morning and to the best I could tell, not exactly remembering my Celsius to fahrenheit conversion, cold as hell. Turns out it was only 39F. But give me a break, I'm from south Louisiana and it was snowing.

Jazz is still relatively popular in Kiev and on the advice of our good local friends Andry and Gela we visited this underground Jazz club. Quickly we learned that we were in over our heads when it came both to Jazz knowledge and drinking. As was demonstrated by the fact that several twelve year olds easily matched us shot for shot and continued to converse on whether Bill Evans was heavily influenced by Art Tatum or rather was too tonal for that to be the case.

Here Brady shows the people of Ukraine what they are missing with his patented "white tornado" dance move. But as Brady stated when I e-mailed him this pic:
"In my defense, though my dancing sucks...I was in the top 10% for that place."

Techno and house were the only music played and being that we were all novices at those dance styles and suck at dancing, in general, I feel that we did really well.

This appetizing dish is the classic beet soup known as borscht. It is certainly an acquired taste. But I found, to my surprise, that it is very good with sour cream. I have been trying to find a good bowl of it here in South Louisiana since I returned (unsuccessful so far).

Here are a few of the more outgoing English students from the local University which Matt attended. Everyone there was extremely nice and in the case of a few (not necessarily those shown above) a little too friendly.

Below is a shot of the Orange Revolution protestors in one of the several shanty towns they erected throughout the capital city. By the time we arrived they had already seen the Ukrainian Supreme Court call for new elections and so were relatively confident that their man, Yoshenko, would prevail.

And of course any photo collection from Kiev would be incomplete without a shot of Independence Square where the major protests and rallies of the Orange Revolution played out. It is only approximately 5 o'clock in this picture but as you can see Kiev gets dark early in late December. But as is also apparent Kiev, in places, is extremely beautiful.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Polish Solidarity with Belarus

Solidarity founder and Nobel peace prize winner Lech Walesa sits below an original banner for Solidarity at the exhibition center at the shipyards in Gdansk on Thursday Aug. 4 , 2005 , where he led strikes 25 years ago this month. (AP)

Walesa backs Belarus revolution

The former leader of the Solidarity movement in Poland has said he would support a people's revolution in neighbouring Belarus.
Lech Walesa who won a Nobel Peace Prize and went on to become Poland's president, was speaking on the 25th anniversary of the union's founding.
In an interview for the BBC's World This Weekend programme, he said Belarus should expect no support from the West.
He said the European Union should be ready to support a reformed Belarus.
Iconic figure
Lech Walesa likes to describe himself as a revolutionary.
Even 25 years after the founding of Solidarity, the trade union movement which eventually toppled Communist rule in Poland, he is regarded still as an iconic figure by many in central and eastern Europe.

Alexander Lukashenko has led Belarus for more than a decadeNow he is turning his attention to Poland's neighbour, Belarus, considered to be the most repressive state in Europe.
President Alexander Lukashenko brooks no criticism and opponents are often treated harshly.
Mr Walesa says he would support a revolution there, similar to those which have taken place in Ukraine and Georgia.
However, he gave a warning that the people of Belarus should expect no help from the West, just as Poland had been left to struggle on its own in the 1980s.
But he said that if there were to be a change of regime there the European Union should immediately open its doors to Belarus as a way of encouraging democracy.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Monumental Reflections

A great article in today's Daily Standard got me thinking about what monuments and memorials represent.

Obviously the look, meaning and interpretation of monuments are greatly shaped by the time period in which they are built. An obvious example is comparing the Vietnam War Memorial with the Iwo Jima Memorial. Being built after WWII during a time when America was optimistic and proud of its recent accomplishments, the Iwo Jima Memorial touts the courage and bravery of the American soldier. This is even spelled out on the base of the monument: "Uncommon valor was a common virtue." The Vietnam War Memorial, on the other hand, focuses on the great loss the country suffered; not specifically the bravery and valor of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It clearly reflects the disaffection the country had with itself and specifically its military.

Designs have changed with the times as well. When Classical designs were in vogue (especially in the late 19th Century when American Empire was on the move) the monuments were made in the classical mold. When minimalist modernism has been more fashionable, the monuments have followed suit (again see Vietnam and to a lesser extent the FDR and Korean War Memorials). The WWII memorial is more in the classical style than its nearest predecessors (in tune with the times), but the spacing suggests a larger intent of its place within its surroundings (specifically it was caused by activists who didn't wish the view between the Washington and Lincoln Memorials to be obstructed--again in tune with the times).

Also interesting is the events and people we have chosen to memorialize; and what these choices tell us about ourselves. In the case of memorials dedicated to politicians, often the political party in charge at the time determines who it wishes to lionize. Even those legendary figures we now see as demi-god-like were at one point in time disliked by large portions of American society. With the exception of the Washington memorial all other politicians had to wait for their heirs apparent to regain power before they were to be frozen in time (Lincoln with the Republican controlled governments of the early 20th Century, FDR with the Democratic controlled government of the early 1990's). Unfortunately these monuments often become more about making political statements than about the actual individuals they purport to represent. With FDR's memorial complete it is little wonder that Republicans now want a monument to Reagan. Don't get me wrong I respect both men and think they both deserve a memorial of some kind, but does that memorial necessarily have to compete against the opposing party's latest addition to the production line of monuments?

Each person, despite (and some times in spite) of the creator's intent will take away what they want from each monument. Someone proud of their service in Vietnam might not see that memorial as a comment on the war's hopelessness. Instead they see it as a source of pride and honor (honor and pride for their fallen comrades, maybe). The monuments also shape how we see people and events from the past. How can one who has seen the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi frozen in bronze not picture that famous landmark when they hear the refrains of the Marine Corps Hymn. Or who is able to imagine Lincoln without at some point picturing him seated just as he is at his memorial. Memorials and monuments are strange art they are both shaped and shape those who build and experience them. But unlike some art they are accessible to nearly everyone.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Catholic/Christian Justices

UCLA Law Professor S. Brainbridge discusses whether a judge's religious convictions should: 1) be considered in confirmation of that potential justice and/or 2) disqualify a potential justice.

He clearly states that the answers should be 1) yes and 2) no.

Professor Brainbridge states:

"Even in the "worst" case scenario, Judge Roberts's decisions would be driven by his faith only in a small number of cases. And, in at least some of those, the teachings of the Church may well coincide with moral norms sufficiently widely shared throughout the community and/ or nation to satsfy the social support criterion required of moral norms proposed to be drawn upon in adjudiciation, in which case the analysis above of the use of social norms in adjudication suggests there would be no objection to the judge drawing simultaneously on his faith and consistent more broadly social norms. In the remaining cases where the teachings of the faith cannot be reconciled with the prevailing moral norms of society, which I believe will be few in number, the problem can be managed on a case-by-case basis."

I would tend to agree in this assumption that the vast majority of cases touched on by the Supreme Court would not necessarilly be overwhelmingly influenced by a justice's religious beliefs (by overwhelming I mean, when the law leads the justice to one conclusion and his religion leads him to another--so religious considerations overwhelm the legal). And so I would also agree with Brainbridge's final conclusion that in no way should a justice's Roman Catholicism
nor a justice's Christianity disqualify them for a position on the federal bench.

Professor Brainbridge goes onto state:

"In the end, however, I come down with Garvey and Coney - where a Catholic judge believes his participation in a particular case would constitute formal cooperation with evil, the judge should recuse himself. The possibility that a judge (or justice) might have to recuse himself in occasional cases, however, does not strike me as a legitimate reason to deny the judge a seat on the bench."

On this point I disagree. This view, I'm afraid assumes that if one is to base their opinions on religious rather than secular reasoning that their opinions are somehow less deserving of recognition. I understand the fine line which must be walked in order to avoid a theocratic state, but I would only state that if an issue arises upon which legal disagreement is possible and one person makes their final decision based on secular/humanistic reasons and another on beliefs which are in keeping with the Roman Catholic Church, then both justice's should be able to make their opinions affect the nation's jurisprudence. If on the other hand the law cannot be obeyed at the same time one is obeying their religious beliefs, then that person is under a moral perogative to vote against this law. How then does one avoid theocracy? In this case it would be important to determine whether that person's religious views are keeping with the views of society as a whole. If they are not, then a case has been made for impeaching the justice. Granted this is perhaps unfair to a justice of a minortiy faith, but life is unfair and their must be some higher standard by which society is governed and each society in some ways determined by that society.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

¡Ya no mas!

A great phrase for the fight against Castro (much like the phrases: "Solidarity" in Communist Poland and "Razzam Nas Bahoto" in Ukraine during the Orange Revolution) is being promoted by George Moneo over at Babalu Blog. Here is, in part, George's argument:

I feel very strongly that this idea – this meme* -- can begin to infect the Cuban people with the strength and will to overcome what they are going through. Overcome the fear of the military, the fear of the CDRs, the fear of the filthy chivatos in the neighborhoods, all of it. Since armed insurrection is not possible at this point, my modest proposal to the people of Cuba is simple. Whenever it gets to the point that the situation seems hopeless, all of you have to say are three words written in Spanish: ¡Ya no mas! – "I've had enough!"

To the folks on the island, I want you to say these three simple words: repeat them, believe them. Don't just say them. All of you on the island have to understand that despite the CDRs, despite the lack of electricity, despite the lack of fresh milk for your babies, despite the all of these things, you are still human beings, you have dignity and worth, you are God’s children like the rest of us. And when the frustration is too much, you have to rise up and yell, ¡Ya no mas! -- "I've had enough!"

Everything around us, that is created by man, was once just a thought. The power of the mind to create reality is beyond dispute. These words can empower the people of Cuba with the spirit of liberty. Despite all that the government can do to them, they can still say them and they can still think them. I hope they pass the meme along, paint the words on buildings, write them on the sidewalk, write them in their ration books. All they have to do is to believe them.

“I’ve had enough.”

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Run to the Border

In honor of the trip I took along with my friends Brady,
Liz and Matt (Josh and Val honorable mention). Let us
never go back to Nueva Laredo again.

UPDATE: It appears that we were far luckier to have survived our trip than we had origionaly believed. Look at the warnings coming out of Mexico City and the US State Department.

The Sad State of Hugo Chavez

Great article about the dangers of Hugo Chavez over at the Weekly Standard.

It never fails to amaze me how humanity is able to repeat the same grotesque mistakes over and over again. Such is my amazement at Hugo Chavez and the state of Venezuela. It is not hard to imagine how a demagogue such as Chavez is able to gain power. In a world all too afraid of calling a spade a spade and all too ready to call those they disagree with much worse, it is little wonder that most people have difficulty in spotting the true threats to society. Perhaps to some degree this also explains how someone can hold the beliefs of a Castro, Hussein, or Chavez in today's world and still actually believe that what they are doing is best for their country, their people, and humanity in general. In attempting to find how a leader such as Chavez is able to justify his views and actions, I in no way mean to minimize the fact that he may be just as concerned with obtaining power for personal or even ulterior motives. But my confusion remains as to how does one see the failures of Communism and Fascism and still believe that perhaps a populist fascism is what will bring my country to prominence. Not only are the Venezuelans now far down the road to fewer civil rights and crappy overall economic prospects, but their generalisimo is also doing his best to raise tensions with the US and her allies. Of course the US is commonly the target for such governments who see every act by those in a better situation than themselves as imperialism, but it is also a common tactic used by totalitarians to hold onto power. Creating the outside threat to justify the clamping down on his own citizens is the oldest play in the despot playbook. I fear that without a severe international response (note: I don't necessarily mean anything military) in the near future Chavez will become as embedded in his "Bolivarian" Bastion as Castro is in Cuba and will certainly end up being a well spring for proto-Chavez terrorism throughout Latin America and the world.