Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Seal of All the Fathers

Today is the feast of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church. From his work on the Unity of Christ:

That the Nature of God the Word has been filled with true glory, Royalty and Lordship, how can one doubt? and that He is firmly to be conceived of as being in heights the most God-befitting? but since He appeared as man to whom all things are a gift and imparted: therefore He, Full and giving to all from out His own fulness, in human wise receives, making our poverty His own: and in Christ was an unwonted and strange marvel, in servant's form Lordship, in human mean estate God-befitting glory, that which is under the yoke (as to the measure of manhood) crowned with the dignities of Royalty, and in Supremest Excellences that which is low. For the Only-Begotten hath been made man, not in order that He might remain in the measure of the emptying, but in order that taking along therewith what is its, He might thus too be known to be God by Nature and might ennoble because of Himself the nature of man, rendering it participate of holy and Divine dignities.

Poem a Day 27


The mockingbird warbles with trills and with bells;
my ears are enchanted by touch of its grace.
All disturbance of soul its canticle quells.

Varied repetition a narrative tells,
with artful rendition and mimicry plays;
the mockingbird warbles with trills and with bells.

A cat's meow, a babe's cry, the tinker compels
to do a new task and to work in new ways;
the mockingbird warbles with trills and with bells.

Endless music from spirit endlessly wells,
conturbation, ring-echo, squirl interlaced;
the mockingbird warbles with rings and with bells.
My ears are enchanted by touch of its grace.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Two Factors of Education

Even the conventional everyday morality demands that man should hand down to his children not only the goods he has acquired, but also the capacity to work for the further maintenance of their lives. The supreme and unconditional morality also requires that the present generation should leave a twofold legacy to the next,--in the first place all the positive acquisitions of the past, all the savings of history; and, secondly, the capacity and the readiness to use this capital for the common good, for a nearer approach to the supreme goal.

This is the essential purpose of true education, which must be at once both traditional and progressive. The division and opposition between these two factors of the true life--between the ground and that which is built upon it, between the root and that which grows out of it--is absurd and detrimental to both sides.

[Vladimir Soloviev, The Justification of the Good, von Peters, ed. Catholic Resources (Chattanooga, TN: 2015), p. 445.]

Whewell also makes this point, calling the two aspects the 'permanent' and 'progressive'; although arguably Whewell takes them to be more detachable from each other than Soloviev does.

Poem a Day 26


The sidewalks burn with light.
The sun is rising high; its heat
burns our innocent feet.
All things shine that we see, and eyes
ache from the burning skies.
May we see, ere we die, the night.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Xunzi, Part I

What might be called Standard Confucianism consists essentially in the Four Books, which originate out of a commentary tradition on the Five Classics. The traditional acceptation of the Four Books gives a sense of how this works. Lun yu give us Confucius himself, as well as some of his immediate disciples commenting on his essential ideas; Da xue is likewise, according to tradition, a summary by Confucius of his ideas and a commentary by Zeng Zi, one of his most important students; Zhong yong is attributed to Confucius's grandson Zisi; and then we jump to the major commentator, Mencius, in the Mengzi. This gives Master Meng a significant pride of place as a semi-definitive comment on what the way of the scholar is; when the Four Books idea really develops, the commentators essentially focus on the tradition from Confucius to Mencius. But there are alternative forms of Confucianism, and the most important of these is Xunzi, who was essentially from the generation immediately after this Standard Confucian cut-off.

Xunzi was born Xun Kuang -- or perhaps Sun Kuang -- but beyond that we know very little about him. He first really shows up in the states of Qi and Qin in his fifties, and is thought to have lived out much of his later life in what would be the modern Shandong province. The most notable figures who are thought to have been his students, Li Si and Han Fei, were important anti-Confucians, so in a sense his tradition dead-ends with him. This is not to say that he did not have influence, since the absolute dominance of Mencian thought in Confucian circles only really arises in the Song dynasty, and the very fact that we have a surviving substantive work from him is a point worth considering. While Xunzi would often be criticized, it is only with the Song commentators that Xunzi becomes treated as a kind of Confucian heresiarch because of his heavy (but entirely Confucian) criticism of Mencius.

As with all the major Confucian texts, it is a matter of considerable controversy how much of the Xunzi text is actually due to Xunzi himself. It consists of thirty-two chapters that stand alone very easily. The text as we have it was compiled in the first century BC by Liu Xiang, who himself says that he started with over three hundred texts and edited it down to thirty-two -- some of those three hundred were duplicates, but we don't know in what proportion, nor do we know for sure what Liu Xiang did in building the thirty-two chapter work we have. For instance, each chapter has a title, but we don't know if all of these are Liu Xiang's or if some of them go back to the beginning. Because of its origin, there is no fixed chapter order, and new editors in new generations felt free to shuffle them around to an order that made more sense to them. Likewise, while some of the chapters would make nice stand-alone essays, others seem to be more miscellaneous chapters in which Liu Xiang put pieces he couldn't fit elsewhere, and the 'smoothness' of the chapters varies considerably. Without Liu Xiang's original sources, it is impossible to say how much of the text actually goes back to Xunzi himself; some of it, or even most of it, could be due to lesser known or unknown disciples. On the other side, though, there is no reason to think that the book is in any way unfaithful to Xunzi's thought, either.

The translation I will be using is that of Eric L. Hutton, who follows the most common chapter order, that of Yang Liang. David Elstein has a nice overview article on Xunzi at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and Dan Robins another such overview article at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

I. Quanxue (An Exhortation to Learning)

"Learning must not stop" (p. 1), that is to say, a constant state of refinement and improvement is necessary to life of the junzi, or noble. Learning as Xunzi conceives it is essential social: by building on the work of others you are able to go farther than you would be able to go on your own. This will tie in with one of Master Xun's constant themes: greatness and authority are not things you simply have, any more than you have a good view simply by your birth, but must be worked at. To have a good view, you must find a good place to stand. It matters where you live and with whom you associate. As he will say later, "In learning, nothing is more expedient than to draw near to the right person" (p. 6).

Learning likewise is a matter of slow accumulation. It is by small steps that you reach a destination worth reaching, and it is important for the process of accumulation not to give up simply because things get tedious or difficult. One starts with the classics, moves on to the study of ritual, and never stops until death. It must be upheld at all times: "To pursue it is to be human, to give it up is to be a beast" (p. 5).

The noble do not merely receive learning; they assimilate it. It sticks in their heart, diffuses through their body, is expressed in their action, so that everything they do is an expression of what they have learned and thus a model for others. The petty, Master Xun says in a striking image and joke, are such that learning enters their heart and leaves their mouth: "From mouth to ears is only four inches--how could it be enough to improve a whole body much larger than that?" (p. 5). Learning should be for improvement of self, not for impressing others.

The result is a very high standard. People who are inconsistent in their principles and actions are not to be trusted as teachers; only those who pursue important things wholeheartedly have a true grasp on learning, and thus are able to pass along in a proper way things they have learned. The noble person, then, will devote himself without qualification to learning, knowing that the flawed does not deserve praise.

II. Youshen (Cultivating Oneself)

Education is fundamentally a matter of self-education, and this means that all things are occasions for education. If you see goodness in another, look to see how you can cultivate it; if you see badness in another, look to see if you are guilty of or in danger of it. One should avoid flatterers, who may mislead you, and you should regard your critics, when right, as more friends than your supporters who support you no matter what. This is one of the distinctions between the noble and the petty.

Teaching has a necessary relation to what is good; it is contrasted with leading others to what is bad, which is flattery. (The argument here is quite similar to that of Plato in the Gorgias.) Education is thus by its nature practical: there are specific remedies to handle problems so that, for example, if you are sluggish or greedy, you need to cultivate "lofty intentions" (p. 11). This practicality means that your self-cultivation should proceed regardless of whether your situation is difficult or not (the farmer does not become more lazy in times of drought), and you need to have a good template or model to follow, which you then must proceed to use in a way appropriate to it.

Rituals are ways of correcting yourself; "to contradict ritual is to be without a proper model" (p. 14). We rely on teachers to help us to correct our implementation of them.

III. Bugou (Nothing Improper)

The noble only esteem what is in accordance with ritual and rightness. It is precisely this that guarantees that the noble man is consistently good and admirable, regardless of what temperamental or acquired traits he may have. Whether the noble are learned or unlearned, cautious or ambitious, renowned or in obscurity, pleased or displeased, wealthy or poor, the noble are in accordance with ritual and rightness. The petty are the opposite; they are discordant and sowers of discord whether they are learned or unlearned, cautious or ambitious, renowned or in obscurity, pleased or displeased, wealthy or poor:

A saying goes, "In both cases the gentleman advances. In both cases the petty man falters." This expresses my meaning. (p. 18)

The noble cultivate themselves by cheng, being true to their proper nature. Because the noble man is steadfast and consistent he becomes an element of the environment, so to speak; and just as heaven and earth and the seasons have their effects without having to use words, so the noble person teaches and improves the world simply by living nobly.

In making decisions, one must be balanced and thorough, looking at everything from each side in order to determine what is desirable or undesirable. Failure to do this may lead to an appearance of propriety or nobility that is purely an illusion.

Poem a Day 25

True Love

I have not yet met you on my way;
I guess I cannot marry you today.
I thought to meet you walking by the bay;
I missed you by a minute on the road;
I thought I might just catch you by the quay --
no such luck! Perhaps you did not make the boat,
or were held up by sudden, sad delay,
or perhaps had come and gone, and I too slow --
but as I do not know you, anyway,
I guess I cannot marry you today.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Dashed Off XIII

rhetoric and the logic of tone/coloring/illumination

apt inquiry: inquiry that finds truth by competence rather than luck
investigative competence

the integral parts of prudence & forms of being in the world

moods of inquiry: the cautious, the dreading, the enthusiastic, the perfunctory, the retaliatory, the musing, the hopeful, the suspicious, the hectic, the frantic
James's passional element of inquiry and the moods of inquiry

curiousity as craving for the new vs as love for truth vs as wondering

"An 'epistemology engine' is a technology or a set of technologies that through use frequently become explicit models for describing how knowledge is produced." Ihde & Selinger

investigative gear & handiness for inquiry
signs as gear for inquiry

handiness as accessibility + affordance

rational inference // alchemical transformation
(the parallel is not accidental; the latter borrows notions from spiritual conversion)

the spatiality of human inquiry

material; material semiotic; verbal semiotic; instrumental orientation; archetypal principle

Too many liturgical arguments err by assuming that there is only one possible mood for worship.

Collingwood reenactment // experimental repeatability
(the latter is mental reenactment with appropriate variations to clarify the non-obvious features)

accessible evidence vs admissible evidence

Whether something is probable cannot be assessed until you know what it means.

I & II Samuel and the principle of intercession

curation as an act of inquiry

the call of conscience as a participation in Logos
evening and morning knowledge and the call of conscience
conscience as making soliloquy possible

contiguity-searching for cause; resemblance-searching for cause; logical requirement/prerequisite-searching for cause
We most often use contiguity search for causes in singular cases without leisure for extended inquiry.

Every cause in its causing is a model for the effect it causes.

sacred liturgy progresses through (Mediator Dei):
(1) clarification of sacred doctrine
(2) improvement of ecclesiastical discipline in administration
(3) popular devotion and practice of piety
(4) progress of fine arts
(5) regulations to protect the purity of worship from abuses

the Lord's Prayer as summation of all Christian prayer

error accumulation in geometrical diagrams

the shape in which a pleasure exists, the seat in which it resides, the source whence it is derived, the inlet through it is derived

assessing inquiry in terms of
(1) intrinsic appropriateness
(2) sustainability
(3) promise of success
(4) accessibility
(5) likely fecundity
(6) likely avoidance of impediment
(7) general usefulness

People often appeal to 'Ockham's Razor' to perform the function that used to be performed by 'Uniformity of Nature'.

∃ as exception-to-not
∀ as not-exception-to

transitivity-breaking in analogy chains

Descartes's ideological argument for God can be seen as an argument that recognizing the being of anything requires recognizing being as such, characterized privatively by 'limitless' and 'lackless', and that this must be first being with respect to other being.

Skeptics about introspection tend still to assume the reliability of their introspective assessment of their own arguments and their understanding of them.

(1) identifying conceptual territory to explore
(2) scouting territory (initial probes)
(3) tentative mapping of territory (first approximate model of possible options)
(4) comparison to actual evidence of territory (history of problem)
-note that the history of the problem may itself provide the initial probes
(5) refinement of map

the works of religion transpose the potential parts of justice to a higher key:
filial piety to God as Father
honor to God as Good
truthfulness to God as True
gratitude to God as Benefactor
vindication to God as Lovable
amiability toward God as Friend
liberality with respect to divine glory
- note that in some cases, the virtue of religion can only do this at all if informed by charity (e.g., amiability) and in other cases can only do it imperfectly without charity

Virtue cannot be maintained without memory.

All believing entails some kind of knowing.

If language can only say those things we can imagine otherwise, that can be said,so we must be able to imagine that language can say things we cannot imagine otherwise.

The problem with too many pronouncements about philosophy is that they attempt to articulate a necessary principle structuring the most recent product of historical accidents.

All of the damned are after a fashion suicides.

weak-plausible vs strong-plausible
(wp is the most common sense, based on appearance; sp requires fit with what we can reasonably be said to know. wp can be inconsistent but sp cannot; wp makes few to no assumptions, sp makes substantive assumptions. A pyrrhonian, for example, can argue on wp, but not on sp.)

The problem with being seen as a victim is that everyone has a point at which they are more ashamed at the possibility of their own vulnerability than they are of the actual vulnerability of another. Past this point, strong will and clear sight is required.

the intrinsic warrant of the principle of noncontradiction

defeasibility as modally organized

Counterexample games are better for building distinctions than for building refutations.

Quantifier placement cannot ground a sharp distinction between de dicto and de re; it can only distinguish them relatively.

'Cicero' and 'Tully' are not proper names in the same language (the former is Latin, the second Anglicized), and Cicero and Tullius are not proper names with the same function. If I am referred to by 'Brandon' and by 'Watson', or someone is referred to by 'Tollers' and 'Tolkien', these proper names are not functionally equivalent and are not used the same way. And every propre name can be made a common noun and vice versa: Xanthippe and Africanus. There is no difference between them beyond the use.

Proper names clearly have 'tone' and applied to the same thing can tonally differ.

incorporation of description into proper name: Olympiodorus the Younger, Mad Max, Honest Abe, Johnny Appleseed, Robin Hood, Wayland Smith, Sir Lancelot, Jesus Christ, Peterson, etc.
Notice that these often are uses of description to make the proper name function better as a proper name.
Note that "without sense" proper names are typically atrophied descriptions (or imitations of such atrophied descriptions). It is clearly an error to ignore the fact that these atrophied forms are atrophied.

"Archeology, in fact, is to the body social somewhat as comparative anatomy is to animal organization." Balzac

the relation between undercutting defeaters for claims and rebutting defeaters for consequences of claims

prima facie appreciables in aesthetics

"The hater is more disturbed by his hatred than is the hated." Kant

signs as originated distinctions manifesting their origin

Blackstone on 'The king can do no wrong': the legal fiction, far from placing the king above law, provides a means of subjecting the king to legal constraint without use of force

Blackstone's deterrence theory of punishment -- three primary forms of deterrence: reform of offender, dread of example, deprivation of future power of mischief

positions about hell
(1) state of hell: vacantism, sempiternalism
(2) who gets out of hell: particularism, universalism
(3) what ultimately happens to the damned: annihiliationism, salvationism, punitionism

One must build one's life on reason; but it is a highly irrational life that is built on assessment of individual arguments. Such assessment has its role, but it is not enough.

the two senses of rest: cessation of work, satisfaction of desire

The modern universe is a less durable universe than the Aristotelian.

The desire for vengeance is quite often an outgrowth of sympathy, for those perceived as wronged.

Sometimes when people talk about 'following where the argument leads', they are confusing means and ends; at other times they are confusing it with important activity of seeing where the argument goes, which is not the same.

An argument that one actually deserves faith is an argument for believing in the first place.

former-argument remnants in later arguments

Anything that concerns matter required for persons to live as persons is moral.

to ask of any freedom, "What love does it make possible?" -- for that gives the character of the freedom

clothing as an expression of self-control and dominion in the world

There is no communion without common aim.

sartorial shame -- tending to shun clothing that can obscure the value of persons (of oneself and others)

By use of clothing we show a facet of rationality.

"Holy Job is a type of the Church. At one time he speaks for the body, at another for the head." Gregory Moralia 13.21

Is the tendency to think taht good requires evil related to the tendency to think good is the pleasant?

"A likeness of one thing existing in another is essentially an exemplar if it stands to the other as principle." SCG 4.11

Different oughts imply different cans.

John 8:41 and the virgin birth

When we get the plausiblity of a statement in different ways, we cannot assume that it will be equally plausible from each direction. We experience disparity of plausibility according to ordering effects, asymmetries of association, ease of inference, and many other things all the time.

Augustine's general principles of Gospel harmony
(1) divine providence
(2) order
(3) thematic differences (priest, king, God)
(4) distinct talents (active contemplative)
(5) consonance with sameness of sense
Augustine's Gospel harmonization is intrinsically perspectival -- it is inconsistent with Diatessaron-forming because it is based on the principle that the Four are not inter-reducible. (the difference between tessellating harmonization and perspectival harmonization)

Conceptual entailment is more properly a matter of consistency than psychological association.

How modest a hypothesis is, depends entirely on the evidence. It cannot depend on how many claims are made by the hypothesis, because claims can be differently portioned (broken up, given further explanation, put in terse form, reduced by a more powerful vocabulary, etc.). It cannot be about specificity, because that is relative -- a hypothesis may be more specific in one context and less when compared to other hypotheses. And the appropriate level of specificity itself depends on the evidential context. And it cannot be about narrowness of scope, for the same reason.

Evidence is not extrinsic to a hypothesis, if by that is meant that hypotheses can be understood and analyzed independently of any evidence at all; for instance, the very reason for proposing this rather than some wholly different hypothesis is constrained by relevance to evidence.

the maieutic character of good counsel

Human sympathy is not bare affection; it involves counterfactual reasoning.

character arc as role discovery

repentance // acceptance of refutation

Applying moral noncognitivism, moral error theory, and moral subjectivism to norms of reasoning gives us three varieties of sophistry.

philosophy as ascetic endeavor (the distinction between real and apparent good)

humility, confidence, and attention as conditions of inquiry

penitential (i.e., purifying) practices as the most natural expression of infused moral virtues

interjections as predicate-like
(1) they work a lot like predicates for demonstrative subjects (they are comments on real rather than verbal topics)
(2) they can easily be modified into normal predicates ('the song was wow')
(3) Normal predicates under the right conditions can easily be modified into interjections (Bright! Fire! Sorry! -- i.e., secondary interjections)

the aizuchi use of interjections

"Philosophy can be driven out only by more philosophy." Scruton

space and time as abstractions from light, broadly considered

institution of sacrament : apostolicity :: integral composition of sacrament : unity :: operative efficacy of sacrament : holiness :: necessity of sacrament for salvation : catholicity

sacrament as instrument, as sign, as vestment, as juridical act, as Church in expression

clothing as imperfect effects of a person (Hume)

A Church cannot be less than a nation.

the sacrifice of the Cross as the principal indulgence, other indulgences as direct or indirect unions with this (cp. Sertillanges)

plotting as organization of problems

organic regulation as a principle of good administration

Each sacrament unifies, sanctifies, catholicizes, and apostolicizes the Church.

Traditions are capable of preventing ordinary people from being wholly at the mercy of purported experts, and of protecting the weak from the strong. They do not usually address the underlying problems, but they are powerful mitigators and resilient buffers. And indeed it is precisely by buffering everyone with rules and rites that all can learn, and by bringing the same pressures on all, that they have such an effect.

Repenting of the good is a dangerous thing.

The etiological theory of function requires that function come in degrees.

act/potency -> change -> clock -> time
act/potency -> composition -> container -> location (place)
act/potency -> active/passive -> cause/effect -> force -> resistance -> interaction

"As long as the child is in the mother's womb, it is not entirely separate, but by reason of a certain intimate tie, is still part of her; just as the fruit while hanging on the tree is part of the tree." Aquinas ST 1.113.5ad3

tradition as temporal hierarchy (subsidiarity through time) and as temporal friendship (solidarity through time)

the obligation of piety to draw on what is good in our predecessors

Poem a Day 24


The heat has overflowed from day to night;
memory of your eyes haunts me tonight.

The world no longer brings joy to my sight;
to my eye night is piled onto night.

Once I would have looked up at starry light,
your sigh in my ear; it is dark tonight.

The moon no longer beams with face of white;
our love did not endure from night to night.

Return, my love, and set my heart to right!
I am alone when day turns into night.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Loving Nature for Its Own Sake

The end of labor, so far as material nature is concerned, is not to make it an instrument for obtaining things and money, but to perfect it--to revive the lifeless, to spiritualize the material in it. The methods whereby this can be achieved cannot be indicated here; they fall within the province of art (in the broad sense of the Greek τεχνη). But what is essential is the point of view, the inner attitude and the direction of activity that results from it. Without loving nature for its own sake it is impossible to organize material life in a moral way.

[Vladimir Soloviev, The Justification of the Good, von Peters, ed. Catholic Resources (Chattanooga, TN: 2015), p. 370.]

Poem a Day 23

Footsteps on the Moon VI

Challenges shape the course of destiny,
Exalting the minds that rise to them.
Reason finds hope in overcoming.
Never does the road to heaven perish;
Always it is there, a shining path.
Night skies sing of those who walked in them.

Spaces grand enough for spirit to grow
Call to the human mind at night,
Herald a morning on new spheres,
Mix our mortal thoughts with dreams of more,
Inspire us to travel beyond horizon's bound.
Truth is a treasure within our mental reach;
Transcended, Earth gives way to the stars.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Poem a Day 22

Loves of Dandelions

The dandelions flourish,
suns below for sun above,
by winds and waters nourished
with a wanton kind of love
promiscuous in passion
and libertine in touch,
vulgar in its fashion
and gaudy overmuch,
but cheerful in its crassness,
like men with taste for beer,
and valiant in its rashness,
untouched by dread or fear.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Islands of Miranda, Part II

This is the second part of a short story draft. Part I

Early the next morning, Diego ferried over to the floating airstrip for his flight to Costa Rica. It was uneventful, and customs went smoothly; under the dual-nationality agreement between Costa Rica and Miranda, he was required to use his Costa Rican passport to enter, and therefore did. As he was getting his baggage, he called the Mirandan embassy and they sent out a car to fetch him. They were just pulling through the embassy gate when he received a call from his sister saying that she and her husband's stay in the Bahamas had been extended, so they would not be back until later in the week. He sighed and wondered what he would do for the rest of the week.

When he checked in at the embassy desk to let them know that he would be expecting a message from the Council the next day, he found that there was already a message for him, asking him to meet Graciela Tovar in the top floor meeting lounge.

Diego had seen pictures of Tovar before, but on entering the little meeting room with its collection of arm chairs and side tables, he discovered that she was one of those beautiful people to whom photographs do no justice. She sat in the armchair as if it were a throne, and rose graciously to shake his hand as if she were a princess.

"It is good to meet you in person," she said, sitting down again. "I assume that you know that everything is cleared away for your appointment except the formalities."

"Yes, Teddy Chavez told me."

"Ah, yes. Would you like some wine to celebrate?" When he assented, she nodded her head at the waiter, who opened a new bottle -- a Château Angélus Cabernet Souvignon 2112, a very good vintage that no one simply has on hand for casual celebration -- and poured the glasses.

"May the Islands return," Diego said.

"May the Islands return," Tovar replied. "I've always found that toast so interesting. It is not we how return to the Islands; it is the Islands that will return to us. There is a great deal to that." She looked at him over her glass. "I seem to recall that you have spent the last few years in the Mirandan Navy."

Diego nodded. "Captain of the Dominic Seabourne."

"Seabourne? Who was that? The name sounds familiar."

"He was one of the volunteers in the Mirandan Marines who died holding off the Venezuelan invasion long enough for the Evacuation. I confess that I never understood why we name ships for historical figures until I was assigned to the Seabourne and learned more about him. He is one of those who made possible the very fact that I exist; it was an honor to contribute to the continuation of his memory."

The corner of Tovar's eyes crinkled slightly in what may have been either appreciation or cynicism; Diego could not tell. "And before that, a degree at Our Lady of Coromoto."

"Yes, naval engineering."

"Did you like Nuevos Aves?"

Diego laughed. "A little too cold for me. I don't know why they put it so far north."

"My understanding is that at the time it was so that the Venezuelan navy wouldn't be tempted to think they could get away with raiding it. Thus all the seasteads are in the Pacific or the North Atlantic. A great deal of what we have ever done has been shaped by the Left-Populist government of Venezuela; they don't like us at all, because we represent -- well, a failure for them, I suppose. And they are hot-tempered and reckless. You have heard, I suppose, of their accusations that we are to blame for their recent computer problems?"

"Yes, I saw something of the kind. They do seem to rant a lot."

"Very true. They would be much better served to have the proof in hand before making these kinds of accusations. Especially," she said, looking reflectively at her glass, "in a case like this, when what they say is true."

Diego, who had been on the verge of taking a sip, lowered his glass slowly. "You mean that we really are hacking Venezuela's essential systems? That could be seen as an act of war."

"Oh, but Señor Páez, it is an act of war. A very deliberate act of war. I do not know why they have picked now -- my suspicion is that something that was being prepared for later was accidentally set off before its time -- but there is no question that it is now the first step in what is the increasingly inevitable war between the Left-Populist Republic of Venezuela and the Miranda Organization."

Diego absorbed this a moment, then said, "I notice that you did not say the Insular State of Miranda."

"Do you think the Council of Self-Governance would approve this sort of thing? Can you imagine the Marshal of Los Roques or the Ranger of Los Aves signing off on a war? No, it is very much the Miranda Organization itself. There have always been two groups inside the Organization, those who held that war was the path to the return of the Islands and those like myself who have argued that patient diplomacy is more promising."

She swirled the wine around in her glass. "Not that I cannot see sometimes the point of the other side. If you have never looked at it closely before, look at the angel statue on the northern side of the embassy before you leave. It is one of the original Angels of La Orchila, commissioned by Leo Theodore himself. One was destroyed in the invasion, and the other three were sold off by the Venezuelans to help them recover some of the cost of turning our grandparents into exiles. One of them vanished into some private collection somewhere, and the last two, the one here and then one in the Washington embassy, were bought back at very great expense. They used to stand in front of the Church of Los Ángeles Santos, which is now an office building for the Venezuelan Navy. It is enough of an insult to make any Mirandan angry."

"But," she said with emphasis, leaning forward, "we must not let ourselves be distracted from such things. Those are old ways. The times are changing." She leaned back again. "I do not fully know how Leo Theodore conned the Venezuelan government into giving him the Territorio Insular Francisco de Miranda; it was an astounding feat of diplomacy. But he took a haphazard collection of a few thousand people, used to fishing and tourism, and made them a nation, and that was an even greater feat, for whether he knew it or not, he was making something completely new. Because there was so little land, everything he did had to be done in a decentralized way, so he invented a way to do that --"

"The Miranda Organization."

"Exactly. And not bound by the limits of territory, or the limits of thought created by it, Miranda became the wealthiest country in the Caribbean in a generation. That's what the Left-Populists thought they were going to get; having bankrupted their own government, they saw a treasury for the taking. But all they got were some offices, some petty cash reserves, a few chartered corporations whose operations were entirely in Miranda and Venezuela. And the Islands. But Miranda itself was not bound to the isles and cays, and it survived their loss. The Miranda Organization was still recognized by treaty law as the legal entity representing Mirandan citizens in the greater world.

"The era of the nation-states is over. They are property managers, and very poor ones. When Leo Theodore founded Miranda in 2073, a new age began. It is foolish to pine for the days when we were bound to the earth. And the direction we are heading will do nothing for us."

"Because we are heading for a war we cannot win."

"No, because it is a war that will harm us even though we will win. Of course we will win; they are Left-Populists squeezing a country they have bankrupted several times over, and these are not the old days when the Mirandan Marines were mostly concerned with customs and park-rangering. We can shut down half their country by twiddling our fingers on a keyboard. None of this is the point. The danger is precisely that when we win we will have the archipelagos around our necks like millstones, and perhaps Venezuela, too."

Tovar snapped her fingers and the waiter -- who, Diego suddenly realized, was not merely a waiter -- handed her a folder, which she handed to Diego.

"What is this?" he asked, opening it. It was filled with technical diagrams.

"A new satellite that the Space Agency will be putting into orbit next month. Under your supervision, of course, assuming you don't stop it." She waved her glass at her assistant, who refilled it, and sipped it appreciatively while Diego looked through the papers.

"Satellite design is not my specialty," he said slowly. "But this looks like a rather strange satellite."

"Not if your satellite is a weapon."

"You mean, like a tactical laser?"

"I am told that it is not technically a laser, but yes, a beam weapon along those lines."

Diego shook his head. "That makes no sense; you could have a cheaper and more effective weapon by dropping iron rods."

"More effective, perhaps, but not with the same precision. It would be child's play to put a bombardment system in orbit that would drop things on Venezuela until there was no more Venezuela, but that would run afoul of a long list of treaties and get half the countries of the world on their side. But surgical strikes? It is the sort of thing we can do and then ask for forgiveness. And anywhere in Venezuela, from a position that the Venezuelans can never dislodge. Absolute strategic high ground."

"Surely our allies will not stand for it."

"You'll find, Diego, that our allies will stand for anything, or at least not oppose anything, that fattens their pocketbooks. It is how we have survived for so long. Everyone makes money if Venezuela loses -- including probably Venezuela, given how the Left-Populists have handled things. Either they'll be quiet, or they'll sternly lecture us not to do it again, and that's it. And, while I don't know, I suspect the Americans are actually in on it. They are still smarting from their loss in the Polynesian War. Let us do the testing, and risk the international outcry, and, if it proves effective, they can have an even better system up within the year. Probably already have it ready.

"One of the first things you'll have to decide, Diego, is whether we should go to war. Can I count on your support to oppose this?"

Diego handed back the folder, wondering what the catch was. "This is quite a serious matter," he said warily. "I would prefer to avoid a war, but I would have to look more closely at all of the relevant information."

On Tovar's face, there was a brief flash of what Diego could only interpret as extreme skepticism, almost immediately replaced by a pleasant smile. "Of course," she said. "I could not ask for anything more. It just seemed a good idea to give you fair warning about what you are about to step into."

"Thank you very much for that."

"Are you intending on flying to Italy as soon as get the official notice? The usual expectation is that you would meet the Pontifical Commission within a week or two."

"I'm not sure. I had originally intended to stay in Costa Rica for the rest of the week, but that was when I thought my sister would be back from her trip already; now she won't be back until I was expecting to leave. Now I'm thinking I might move it up."

"Hm. Well, prepare to be lectured."

"Teddy Chavez said the same thing to me; he said that I would be lectured on ancient history."

"I think it differs according to the person. With me it was forty-five minutes, nonstop, on papal sovereignty. Binaisa is harmless, but he likes to pontificate. Just smile and nod."

She rose and extended her hand with a directness that made it clear that the interview was over, so he shook her hand and left. As he left, he looked back, and saw her looking at him with that same very skeptical look that he had seen earlier.

to be continued

Poem a Day 21

Footsteps on the Moon V

Yesterday's mountains, hard as stone,
Over long eons to dust erode.
Unknown and mysterious, time is a riddle;
Nothing but the mind can resolve it,
Great with courage, great with thought.

Destiny begins with one foot;
Under the high Earth it begins with a step.
Kick off the chains that bind the feet;
Earth is more fair when bright in the sky.