Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reid and the US Military

Here is a quote from Pat Dollard, a Marine in Iraq who understandably was a bit upset over Harry Reid's perfidious statement describing the Iraq situation as "lost." The address to his blog is below the quote.

"These families need us here. Obviously he (Reid) has never been in Iraq, or at least the area worth seeing, the parts where insurgency is rampant and the buildings are blown to pieces. We need to stay here and help rebuild. If Iraq didn't want us here then why do we have IP’s voluntering every day to rebuild their cities, and working directly with us too; same with the IAs. It sucks that iraqi’s have more patriotism for a country that has turned to complete shit than the people in America who drink starbucks everyday. We could leave this place and say we are sorry to the terrorists, and then we could wait for 3,000 more American civilians to die before we say “hey that's not nice” again. And the sad thing is after we WIN this war, people like him will say he was there for us the whole time."

Nicely put.

As for Reid: et tu Brute...?


Vatican News: Reuters

Gay marriage evil, abortion terrorism: Vatican
By Philip Pullella Mon Apr 23, 2:43 PM ET

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican's second-highest ranking doctrinal official on Monday forcefully branded homosexual marriage an evil and denounced abortion and euthanasia as forms of "terrorism with a human face.

The attack by Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was the latest in a string of speeches made by either Pope Benedict or other Vatican officials as Italy considers giving more rights to gays.

In an address to chaplains, Amato said newspapers and television bulletins often seemed like "a perverse film about evil." He denounced "evils that remain almost invisible" because the media presented them as "expression of human progress." He listed these as abortion clinics, which he called "slaughterhouses of human beings," euthanasia, and "parliaments of so-called civilized nations where laws contrary to the nature of the human being are being promulgated, such as the approval of marriage between people of the same sex ..."

Amato spoke at a time when the Vatican and Italy's powerful Roman Catholic Church are at loggerheads over plans for a highly controversial law that would give unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples some form of legal recognition.

The Church and Catholic politicians, even some in Prime Minister Romano Prodi's centre-left coalition, see the proposed law as a Trojan Horse and say it could lead to gay marriages.Amato, who is said to be very close to Pope Benedict, criticized the media's coverage of ethical issues. After denouncing "abominable terrorism" such as that carried out by suicide bombers, he condemned what he called "terrorism with a human face," and accused the media of manipulating language "to hide the tragic reality of the facts."

"For example, abortion is called 'voluntary interruption of pregnancy' and not the killing of a defenseless human being, an abortion clinic is given a harmless, even attractive, name: 'centre for reproductive health' and euthanasia is blandly called 'death with dignity'," he said in his address. Gay rights group have criticized the Pope and Catholic Church officials in the past over such comments, accusing them of interfering in Italy's domestic affairs.

Groups opposed to gay marriage and recognition of unmarried couples are planning a national rally in Rome next month. Italy's Roman Catholic Church, set up on diocesan and parish levels, has the organizational machinery to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people. A huge turnout, which is expected, could be a major embarrassment for Prodi's government.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Would the Real Hillary Clinton Please Rise...?

H. Clinton's natural maternal instincts to protect children and the liberation from those very instincts that radical feminism provides seem to kick in at politically opportune moments.

Hillary Clinton on Virginia Tech shootings: "As a parent, I am filled with sorrow for the mothers and fathers and loved ones struggling with the sudden, unbearable news of a lost son or daughter..."

Hillary Clinton on Supreme Court ruling upholding the ban on partial birth abortions: "This decision marks a dramatic departure from four decades of Supreme Court rulings that upheld a woman's right to choose and recognized the importance of women's health. As the Supreme Court recognized in Roe v. Wade in 1973, this issue is complex and highly personal; the rights and lives of women must be taken into account."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Britain, Iran and Consequences

Weeks after the Iranian government illegally abducted and subsequently released 15 members of the Royal Navy, troubling news keeps trickling out of Great Britain. The servicemen, upon arriving on British shores and after having received candy, new suits and a beneficent “pardon” from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, were more than eager to market their survival stories to the highest bidder. To be frank, the whole episode was a British embarrassment from beginning to end. Tory Party member Liam Niall echoed the concerns of many when he asked rhetorically, “Does no one feel responsible for the shame this episode has brought upon Britain at the hands of the pariah state if Iran?” The British government, the soldiers involved and the media failed in their duty to provide a united front against an outright act of war by one sovereign nation against another. Contrary to Iran’s far-fetched allegations that the British troops had wandered into Iranian territory, GPS technology has since proven that the servicemen were patrolling Iraqi waters, principally to guard against foreign, namely Iranian, meddling in Iraq. Further, the British presence in the Iraqi waters was sanctioned by the Iraqi government itself and the United Nations.

In the end, the hostages were released, but at what cost? Under duress, they were paraded on Iranian television, made false confessions and apologized to the Iranian people for their “indiscretion.” Iran came out of the fiasco looking stronger and more audacious than ever. The government of Iran won the PR war hands down by appearing, at the same time, strong and magnanimous before the Iranian people; magnanimous for having released those it could have executed for “trespassing” and strong because it proved capable of scooping up the UK soldiers in the first place. But the event also emboldened Iran because Great Britain, unquestionably the most powerful nation fighting the war on terror after the United States, came across as feckless and timid. If the episode was a test to determine to what extent an Islamo-fascist regime could have its way with a Western power, Iran passed with flying colors. The sad spectacle didn’t end with the soldier’s release. In a remarkable display of British ineptitude and illusion following the release of the servicemen, the Rev. Tom Burns, Bishop for the Royal Navy said, “Over the past two weeks, there has been a unity of purpose between Britain and Iran whereby everyone has sought justice and forgiveness.” What!? Britain was played by Iran like a Stradivarius, with the world stage serving as Carnegie Hall. Just where, may I ask, was this noble quest for “justice” when Iran illegally kidnapped foreign soldiers and proceeded to lie to the world about the entire circumstance? Judging by the stunning display of Iranian chutzpah, it’s almost as if they anticipated that Britain wouldn’t push hard on the matter. Would Great Britain under Churchill or Thatcher have kowtowed and dithered before Iranian threats and intimidation tactics as the present government has done? I doubt it.

But let us not forget another European embarrassment that took place in 2004. After terrorists bombed a series of metros, Spaniards angrily tossed out an able government that clearly grasped what Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Joseph Loconte has called the “adult appreciation for the moral complexities of the post 9/11 world.” In pursuance with the demands of al-Qaida, voters meted out their vengeance on Aznar’s government in 2004, replacing it with the carnival-like government of Zapatero. If al-Qaida can claim any trophies since the commencement of the war on terror, and there are probably very few, its most illustrious would be what’s left of Spain’s national pride. My fear however is that more people and nations in the Western world are inching toward the ignoble status of terrorist-whipped Spain. Do we really have the will to fight this war to the end? There are those who accept Loconte's premise and there are those who willfully turn a blind eye to it. Britain has been with us throughout the war effort, despite terrorist attacks in London and causalities in Iraq and Afghanistan and, unfortunately, despite dwindling public support. It is precisely because of Britain’s indispensability in the war and her close ties to the US that makes the hostage debacle so disappointing from the American point of view. Failing to seize the opportunity to project its power on a regime as dangerous, dellusional and provocative as Iran was an incredible opportunity lost, not just for Britain but for the Western world in general. It will be difficult for Britain to make up for this blunder.

And speaking of the “war on terror,” the British government recently announced that it will no longer use those exact words to describe the war effort. Labor secretary Hilary Benn explains the rationale, “We can’t win by military means alone.” Ah, right... It may seem insignificant, but this move is yet another concession, albeit more subtle, to our enemies and a dangerous step backward to a perilous pre-9/11 mentality.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Congressional Confusion

The Democratic leadership of Congress has rejected a White House invitation to discuss the Iraq funding issue. Pelosi and Reid argued that they would not go to a White House meeting as long as the President insisted that certain tenets of his policy were nonnegotiable.

But Pelosi had no problem flying to the Middle East to meet with President Assad of Syria. Certainly there are a host of issues Pelosi and Assad could clash over, and not resolve, but that didn't preclude her from engaging in dialogue with him.

In fact, she and Congressman Lantos have even left the door open to the possiblity of meeting with the powder keg Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Keeping in mind their refusal to engage in dialogue with Bush, here's what they both said about Ahmadinejad:

LANTOS: I would be ready to get on a plane tomorrow morning, because however objectionable and, um...unfair and inaccurate many of Ahmadinejad's statements are, it is important we have a dialogue with him.

LANTOS: So speaking for myself, I'm ready to go, and think the speaker, I think she might be.

PELOSI: A person of Mr. Lantos' stature and personal experience, is saying that I as a Holocaust survivor and even recognizing the outrageous statements of the president of Iran, I think it's important to have dialogue. I think that speaks volumes about the importance of dialogue.

Except with the President, of course.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Global Warming: Revisited

Here's a great Newsweek article by a professor of meteorology at MIT. He comments on the global warming hysteria fueled by people who have no idea what they're talking about...hello Sheryl Crow, Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Gore and probably everyone in the EU.

For whatever reason, the link feature isn't working so you'll have to cut and past this address. It's worth it though.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Catholics and Sacred Art

In so many ways, the fruits of the Protestant Reformation can still be seen in Europe. The great schism that bifurcated Western Christendom into Catholic and Protestant camps had far ranging consequences. Across the Continent, religious and political leaders, at the local and national level, viewed their nation’s religious association with Rome as a hindrance toward true independence at a time when nationalism was on the rise. The extent of Papal influence frosted many political leaders who took umbrage at a foreign pope asserting sweeping authority and demanding broad allegiance over all the faithful in the realm. The cultural and religious bonds that held the Continent together throughout the Middle Ages were gradually loosening. The potential for national greatness was enticing and quite often, lofty religious platitudes were issued forth by both Catholics and Protestants as a smokescreen to wage wars for territorial expansion and consolidation. While most of Europe ultimately remained Catholic, often at great costs, many regions and some entire countries succeeded in permanently breaking their ties with Rome.

One of the first things victorious religious revolutionaries did upon wrestling free from the Catholic Church was to consolidate and accentuate their status as independent churches and nations, free from the shackles of “Latinist” intrusion. As often was the case, Church property was swiftly confiscated and absorbed into the state to erase any vestiges of “papist” influence. Such acts of appropriation were a common occurrence in England and the Netherlands. To parallel the theological and doctrinal “simplification” they believed they were returning to via Protestantism, Lutherans and eventually all Protestants made it a point to simplify their houses of worship. In churches, paintings were reduced and statues eliminated. The expansive cathedrals of the Medieval period, with their dark corners, vaulted ceilings, stain glass windows and nooks and crannies, were gradually replaced by bland houses of worship stripped of aesthetic references to the divine. Catholic parlance like “altar”, “Sacrifice”, and “Sacrament”, were eclipsed by emphasis on table, meal and faith community.

In fact, just the other day I was having dinner with a friend of mine who has roots to England. She related to me that, even to this day, old churches in England reveal centuries-old displays of Protestant theological reeducation. Ely Cathedral for instance, located near Cambridge, contains a special chapel known as The Lady Chapel, originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary. After the English Reformation of course, the cathedral became a Protestant church. The Lady Chapel is filled with dozens of statues of various saints and the Virgin Mary. So far, so good, right? Well, my friend told me that the heads of the statues have long since been smashed off by Protestant “reformers”. So this beautiful, and ancient chapel, that still functions as a Christian house of prayer, displays dozens of decapitated statues. Touring the Cathedral, my friend assured me, is something of a surreal experience; as people go about their business of prayer and worship surrounded by these desecrated statues. The tour guide who led my friend and her family through the cathedral briefly commented on the statues in an insouciant, “matter of fact” style and then continued on with the tour. That Protestants chose centuries ago to leave these disfigured statues in place after their conquest of the cathedral, perhaps as a future reminder to Catholics, was and is pretty disturbing. My friend assured me that examples such as Ely Cathedral are abundant in formerly Catholic England.

As an early disclaimer, this commentary does not intend to suggest that historically, Catholic behavior in this regard has been beyond reproach. Many examples, unfortunately, can be cited of Catholic-incited desecration of sacred places. Crusaders plundered Jerusalem and sacked Constantinople, while a renegade band of Catholic and Protestant mercenaries succeeded in ravaging Rome mercilessly in 1527. So terrible was this act that one contemporary lamented, “In Rome, no Masses are celebrated and no church bells ring”. Tens of thousands were slaughtered, and the city itself was gutted of its treasures. Acts of desecration such as these however, were exceptional and were committed by Catholics who had clearly wandered from the path of righteousness. It has never been a part of official Church policy, at least in the West, to destroy sacred images. In addition there is no paucity of severe papal condemnations for Catholic perpetrators of violence.

Contrary to early Protestant aversion to sacred art, it has been the norm of Catholic teaching and tradition to promote religious art and music. The Counter-Reformation was a clarion call for artists to tap into their God-given talents to inspire the faithful through an appeal to the beautiful. Painting and sculpture was seen as an excellent way to educate the illiterate regarding the truths of the faith. But the Church’s appreciation for art also had a deep theological and anthropological strain to it. The Church teaches that creation, especially the human person, is in its essence good, albeit wounded and weakened by Original Sin. Christ’s Incarnation elevates the created world and the dignity of the person to an even higher level. He is “like us in all things but sin”, so in a very real way, He is more authentically human than the rest of us, since sin has no part in His human nature. Of course, sin was not part of God’s original plan for humanity; we chose it freely. So in light of Christ’s perfect human nature, it is easy to see how He shares a unique participation in the world, which was after all, created through Him. Creation itself is thus understood as graced and elevated supernaturally beyond measure. This means that there is a certain sacramentality to the created world, especially concerning the human body. Thus the artist’s attempt to represent the noble, even divine thread found in the created world is to be encouraged and applauded. It makes sense, then, how Protestant theology cannot appreciate art in the same way. For Luther and his disciples, creation was irreparably mangled as a result of sin. Christ’s redemptive act didn’t change this reality but covered it over. There’s nothing laudable about human nature, thoroughly corrupt as it is, so why attempt to depict it theologically? Why deceive people about the “dignity”, much less “glory”, of the human body when it is precisely that body and its lured passions that lead us astray? Holding that the veneration of sacred art smacked of the same degenerate paganism that brought down ancient Rome, Luther’s ilk bucked the 1,500 year-old Christian tradition of venerating religious images and icons; some of which still coat the walls of the early Christian catacombs. The destruction of the statues in The Lady Chapel in England, and elsewhere across the “reformed” Christian world, is merely a reaffirmation of Protestant theology and anthropology.

Catholic Europe rejected the misplaced scruples of Protestant Europe and wholeheartedly embraced the celebration of art and the beauty of the created world. In Rome and Florence especially, great artists like Michelangelo, Bernini, Bramante and Raphael, among others, worked feverishly to execute representations and portrayals of Christianity’s most revered people and memorable events. In Italy, sumptuous churches abound, housing some of the most stunning gems from the world of art. It goes without saying that you will not find anything comparable to Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa in your nearby Dutch Reformed Church.

With the discovery of the New World, the Catholic tradition of promoting art made its way across the Atlantic as well. In the United States, from Baltimore and Milwaukee to San Diego, resplendent Catholic cathedrals and basilicas, reflecting their European patrimony, are in abundance. The Church understands that sacred art speaks to us, it elevates our thoughts, helping us in our quest for union with God. It is for this reason that the Catholic Church has been the world’s greatest advocate of authentic art. Correctly understood, sacred art is not an obstacle or distraction but a window and a doorway.


One of my college professors passed on this quote to me. Looking at the current political landscape, it's hard to disagree.

“Politics is a wide-open candy store for the pathologically narcissistic.”

(Sorry for this one, hope you were sitting down)

Obama, as well, savior of the universe

Edwards with his compact

Friday, April 06, 2007

Some Notes on Globalization

Recently, in a 6-1 decision, the European Court of Human Rights ordered the government of Poland to award 25,000 euros to a woman who claims her human rights were violated when she was denied an abortion.

The court held that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, “reiterating that legislation regulating the interruption of pregnancy touched upon the sphere of private life, since, whenever a woman was pregnant, her private life became closely connected with the developing fetus.”

In 2000, a Ms.Tysiac, who has severe myopia, was told by several eye specialists that carrying her pregnancy to full term could put her eyesight at serious risk. However, neither the specialists nor her general practitioner would authorize an abortion. Following the delivery of her third child, Tysiac suffered a retinal hemorrhage and says she fears the possibility of future blindness.

Tysiac eventually filed suit with the European Court with the help of an NGO, Interights.

Poland’s current laws only allow abortion if the life or the health of the mother, fetal malformation, or as a result of rape or incest. According to the court’s summary of the judgment, “no procedural and regulatory framework had been put in place to enable a pregnant woman to assert her right to a therapeutic abortion, thus rendering that right ineffective.”

Now, upon submission to the EU accession treaty, Poland made the caveat that no EU treaty would “hamper the Polish government in regulating moral issues or those concerning the protection of human life.” In spite of this latest ruling, no changes are expected to be made in Poland’s abortion laws.

This case raises some important questions about human rights, globalization, and the EU. I'll list off some of the things that I was thinking about when reading this:

1. What happens when intra-national problems cannot be handled by local government due to international agreements? Here, the EU court is not only ruling on a national issue, but blatantly overruling the Polish government's decision to sign the accession treaty without giving up the right to rule on "moral issues."

2. European federalism. Can the American experiment be copied?

3. Despite the plethora of problems, is there still a place for a more prudent type of globalization?