Monday, December 31, 2007

Mormons Revisited

Here's an excerpt from a thought-provoking article by Mary Kochan, from Catholic Exchange. I've included the link to the entire article below.
Take their (Mormon) polytheism for example: as oddly fascinating and even appalling a doctrine as it is, you have to get behind it to understand its implications. Behind it is something called "the eternal progression": the god who created this world — the God of the Bible, they claim — was once a man living on a planet created by his father god, who was once a man living on his planet created by his father god and so forth. Now there is a philosophical problem with this: there is no beginning point — it is an infinite regress. But there can not be such a thing, because if you have to go back an infinite number of times, you never get to a beginning and without a point at which to begin, you never get to now and today. That is an insurmountable philosophical (logical) problem.

But more pertinent to the political question is the moral problem it generates. According to Mormon doctrine, the way that each god gets to become a god is by following the "law of the gospel." To Mormons, law (not god, or God) is eternal and law is prior (although "prior" has no real meaning when one is talking about an infinite regress) to god (or to God). God has not created law, it is not "of Him" or "from Him," rather, "law" — impersonal and uncreated -- has made the gods gods (made Him God).

This is not merely a radical departure from the Judeo-Christian concept of God, it is a radical deformation of the concept of law, both natural law and the positive (promulgated) laws that flow from it:

The natural law, the Creator's very good work, provides the solid foundation on which man can build the structure of moral rules to guide his choices. It also provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community. Finally, it provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected, whether by a reflection that draws conclusions from its principles, or by additions of a positive and juridical nature (CCC 1959).

Behind the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution stands precisely this Judeo-Christian concept of natural law as the participation of the human conscience in the eternal law of God. It is eternal because it "is the work of divine Wisdom" (CCC 1950), and has as its source an eternal Being, God. It is this concept of natural law from which positive law (ecclesiastical and civil) derives its just authority and its appeal to human reason. Furthermore it is exactly this concept of law that allows us to insist that no law can ever make abortion or euthanasia or embryonic stem cell research lawful.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mother whose virgin bosom was uncrossed
By any shade of thought to sin allied,
Woman above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature's solitary boast
. -William Wordsworth

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Powerful Lame-duck

From the economy, to the war, to owning the Democratic majority in Congress, Bush has reason to celebrate. Here's a nice article appearing in today's Washington Times:
The troop surge in Iraq is succeeding. America remains safe from terrorist attacks. And the Goldilocks economy is outperforming all expectations...Calendar year 2007 looks set to produce 3 percent growth in real gross domestic product, nearly 3 percent growth in consumer spending, and more than 3 percent growth in after-tax inflation-adjusted incomes.

Meanwhile, headline inflation (including food and energy) will have run at 2½ percent, with only 2 percent core inflation.

Jobs are rising more than 100,000 monthly and the stock market is set to turn in a respectable year despite enormous headwinds. Low tax rates, modest inflation, and declining interest rates continue to boost Goldilocks, which is still the greatest story never told.

Mr. Bush's optimism is well-earned, in Congress too. He has stopped a lot of bad legislation on higher taxing and spending. He won on S-CHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) and the alternative minimum tax. He mostly prevailed on domestic spending. And he got much of what he wanted on war funding without any pullout dates.

The Feast of Saint Stephen

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
Stephen was arrested, not without some violence it seems (the Greek word synerpasan implies so much), and dragged before the Sanhedrin, where he was accused of saying that "Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place [the temple], and shall change the traditions which Moses delivered unto us" (vi, 12 14). No doubt Stephen had by his language given some grounds for the accusation; his accusers apparently twisted into the offensive utterance attributed to him a declaration that "the most High dwelleth not in houses made by hands" (vii, 48), some mention of Jesus foretelling the destruction of the Temple and some inveighing against the burthensome traditions fencing about the Law, or rather the asseveration so often repeated by the Apostles that "there is no salvation in any other" (cf. iv, 12) the Law not excluded but Jesus. However this may be, the accusation left him unperturbed and "all that sat in the council...saw his face as if it had been the face of an angel" (vi, 15).
Stephen's answer (Acts 7) was a long recital of the mercies of God towards Israel during its long history and of the ungratefulness by which, throughout, Israel repaid these mercies. This discourse contained many things unpleasant to Jewish ears; but the concluding indictment for having betrayed and murdered the Just One whose coming the Prophets had foretold, provoked the rage of an audience made up not of judges, but of foes. When Stephen "looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God", and said: "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God" (vii, 55), they ran violently upon him (vii, 56) and cast him out of the city to stone him to death. Stephen's stoning does not appear in the narrative of the Acts as a deed of mob violence; it must have been looked upon by those who took part in it as the carrying out of the law. According to law (Leviticus 24:14), or at least its usual interpretation, Stephen had been taken out of the city; custom required that the person to be stoned be placed on an elevation from whence with his hands bound he was to be thrown down. It was most likely while these preparations were going on that, "falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (vii, 59). Meanwhile the witnesses, whose hands must be first on the person condemned by their testimony (Deuteronomy 17:7), were laying down their garments at the feet of Saul, that they might be more ready for the task devolved upon them (vii, 57). The praying martyr was thrown down; and while the witnesses were thrusting upon him "a stone as much as two men could carry", he was heard to utter this supreme prayer: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (vii, 58). Little did all the people present, casting stones upon him, realize that the blood they shed was the first seed of a harvest that was to cover the world.

Tomb of Saint Stephen at the Church of San Lorenzo Fuori i Muri, Roma. My friend Steve is praying at the tomb at the upper left corner.

View of the Church from Outside

The Baldacchino and Crypt

Slab of Marble upon which Saint Lawrence was Martyred (The two saints are buried together.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Reasons for the Revival

Michael Knox Beran has a very nice piece on National Review that explores the rationale behind Pope Benedict XVI's vision for sacred music within the Liturgy. Here is an excerpt.

Critics of the Tridentine rite who contend that the Latin is a barrier to what the pope calls an “encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist” overlook the fact that the words of the liturgy, beautiful and mysterious as they are, are but approximations of the Word (et Deus erat Verbum) that, according to the Gospels, was born in Bethlehem, died on the cross, and ascended into heaven — the logos which, St. Paul says in first Corinthians, we perceive now only as an αινιγμα, a dark saying, a riddle, an enigma. The music of the Mass does as much to illuminate this mystery as the words...

The Greeks cherished an Apollonian idea of order. Yet, such was their wisdom, they did not repudiate Apollo’s rival, Dionysus; they took his yelps and howls and made them into music. The dithyramb and the tragic chorus preserved the uncanny power of Dionysus while they at the same time restrained his savagery with the civilizing influences of rhythm. Thus the pope writes of “music that draws senses into spirit and so brings man to wholeness.” Such music “does not abolish the senses, but inserts them into the unity of this creature that is man. It elevates the spirit precisely by wedding it to the senses, and it elevates the senses by uniting them with the spirit.”

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Catholics Top Anglicans in England

Here's an interesting story from Reuters on the Catholic surge in the UK, thanks in large part to Polish and African immigrants.
"If we do not recognize that God was made man, what sense does it have to celebrate Christmas? We Christians must reaffirm with profound and heartfelt conviction the truth of Christ's Nativity." - Pope Benedict XVI

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On Rome

I came across this and thought I'd share.
From the table at which I write I can see three quarters of Rome. Before me, on the other side of the city, the dome of St. Peter's rises regally. In the evening, as it sets I glimpse the sun through the windows of St. Peter's and half an hour later this wonderful monument is silhouetted against the clearest orange-colored twilight, dominated on high in the sky by the first stars. Nothing on this earth is comparable. The soul is touched and exalts, it is filled with a quiet bliss. I do feel that, to be able to grasp these sensations, one must have loved Rome for a long time. A young man who has never experienced misfortune would not understand them." - Stendhal, Les Promenades Dans Rome, 1926

The Changing Face of the UK

From This is London:
In a reflection of the increasing influence of Islam on UK society, figures released by the Office of National Statistics yesterday showed that the most popular spelling of the name - Mohammed - had climbed five places to 17th in the annual list of most popular baby names.'+name+in+Britain/

This is not so much a commentary on Islam as it is an indication of a moribund culture in the secular UK. It's one thing to be an open society that respects basic freedoms, like religious freedom, etc., but it's quite another to allow an out of control multiculturalist ideology to sweep away all traces of indigenous culture and heritage. George Weigel has spilled enough ink on the subject but in brief: a nation that loses a sense of cultural identity and religious heritage has no substantive reason to pass anything on to posterity. Children become a burden. Living it up becomes the final purpose of life. The result: no children and a population of alienated, self-absorbed narcissists and more minarets peppering the skyline.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Harry Laments

Whined the Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate:

"Who's winning?" "Big oil, big tobacco. ... Al Qaeda has regrouped and is able to fight a civil war in Iraq. ... The American people are losing."

Reid is simply angry because the Republican minority owns the majority Democrats in congress; a feckless, impotent congress which, not surprisingly, boasts the lowest approval rating of any congress on record. The Dems have caved to Bush and the Republicans on every major issue. And "Al Qaeda has regrouped..." Just where is he getting this from? Al Qaeda has been almost completely extirpated in Iraq and violence is down there some 70%. Pick up a newspaper.

Understanding Mormonism

Here's a helpful site I found that deciphers the many assertions made by Mormons. As a disclaimer: I like Mormons. I've always had pleasant talks with them. And if Gov. Romney is the GOP candidate, I will support him with much élan. These theological observations are not intended to be attacks ad hominem. That said, here's a good place to start the discussion:

The Book of Mormon fails on three main counts. First, it utterly lacks historical or archaeological support, and there is an overwhelming body of empirical evidence that refutes it. Second, the Book of Mormon contains none of the key Mormon doctrines. This is important to note because the Latter-Day Saints make such a ballyhoo about it containing the "fullness of the everlasting gospel." (It would be more accurate to say it contains almost none of their "everlasting gospel" at all.) Third, the Book of Mormon abounds in textual errors, factual errors, and outright plagiarisms from other works.

If you’re asked by Mormon missionaries to point out examples of such errors, here are two you can use.

We read that Jesus "shall be born of Mary at Jerusalem, which is in the land of our forefathers" (Alma 7:10). But Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem (Matt. 2:1).

If you mention this to a Mormon missionary, he might say Jerusalem and Bethlehem are only a few miles apart and that Alma could have been referring to the general area around Jerusalem. But Bethany is even closer to Jerusalem than is Bethlehem, yet the Gospels make frequent reference to Bethany as a separate town.

Another problem: Scientists have demonstrated that honey bees were first brought to the New World by Spanish explorers in the fifteenth century, but the Book of Mormon, in Ether 2:3, claims they were introduced around 2000 B.C.

The problem was that Joseph Smith wasn’t a naturalist; he didn’t know anything about bees and where and when they might be found. He saw bees in America and threw them in the Book of Mormon as a little local color. He didn’t realize he’d get stung by them.

Tell the Mormon missionaries: "Look, it is foolish to pray about things you know are not God’s will. It would be wrong of me to pray about whether adultery is right, when the Bible clearly says it is not. Similarly, it would be wrong of me to pray about the Book of Mormon when one can so easily demonstrate that it is not the word of God."

Mormon Questions "Answered"

The Mormon "church", dogged by questions over some of its unorthodox teachings, has issued a set of answers to recurring questions about the tenets of its faith. Here are a few that I found interesting:
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God?

A: Mormons believe Jesus Christ is literally the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer, who died for the sins of humankind and rose from the dead on the third day with an immortal body. God, the Father, also has an immortal body.

Q: Does the Church believe in the divinity of Jesus?

A: Mormons believe Jesus Christ is literally the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer, who died for the sins of humankind and rose from the dead on the third day with an immortal body. God, the Father, also has an immortal body.

Q: Does the Church believe that God is a physical being?

A: Mormons believe Jesus Christ is literally the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer, who died for the sins of humankind and rose from the dead on the third day with an immortal body. God, the Father, also has an immortal body.

This is the same, rote answer I received when I was debating the nature of Christ with my Mormon visitors. You'll notice how they do not believe, as virtually all Christians do, that Christ is eternally begotten of the Father, that is to say, coequal in all things with the Father. They believe that the Father predated Christ, who came into being at a certain point in time. Now, when speaking exclusively of Christ's human nature, one can say that He entered history at the exact moment of the Incarnation. But Christ, in his Divine Nature as Logos, has existed from all eternity together with the Father and Holy Spirit. Mormons reject this entirely. This is why most Christians scoff at the assertion that Mormonism is a legitimate Christian church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints is rather a newfangled religion of bizarre, science-fiction-like teachings. It's extremely frustrating that Mormons are not more candid regarding this theological distinction. And the manner in which these three distinct questions were answered, with a lackadaisical cut-and-paste response, is regrettable. They may see it as a subtle thing, a distinction without a difference, but it's not that easy.


A Washington Post editorial discusses the disturbing silence from feminists on the left regarding the plight of women in certain quarters of the Muslim world. It seems that the circumspect followers of political correctness find themselves whipsawed. Dogmatic adherence to "tolerance" toward the bizarre cultural norms of other countries prohibits criticism even when those norms are clearly discriminatory.
Saudi propaganda, plus our own timidity about foreign customs, has blinded us to the fact that the systematic, wholesale Saudi oppression of women isn't dictated by religion at all but rather by the culture of the Saudi ruling class.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Conservative Doubts About Huckabee

Peter Wehner comments here on thoughts penned by Mike Huckabee in Foreign Affairs magazine. I've spoken with many who support Huckabee but I for one am convinced that he would be a disastrous choice for the Republicans to settle on in '08. I've never been impressed with him during the debates. He strikes me as not particularly deep intellectually, overtly preachy, patronizing and mawkish. The Dems would destroy him, period. I'm totally flummoxed by his rise in the polls but am convinced it will prove transitory.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The High Price We Pay for Ignorance

Here are scenes from the Save the Climate conference in Bali. This is so embarrassing. For the life of me, I can't believe the US even sent a representative to this thing. It's a complete circus. The folks in these pictures, mostly poor and uneducated or elite socialists, have been completely snookered into this craze. They have no clue. Besides,even if is were true that humans could alter the climate, a premise that I'm not willing to accept, it's capitalism not socialism that will save it. It is disgusting how prime movers in this movement like Al Gore have scared good people into believing this utter hoax.

Remember: It's all about economics and sabotaging the United States economy. Nothing more. All this kibitz about the climate is a red herring. And as a bonus, by tricking themselves into believing they're saving the planet, liberal elites are awarded with the self-righteous feeling that they are doing something that matters.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Man of the Year

Here is a very nice piece by National Review on why Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational force in Iraq, should be named Man of the Year.
When Petraues testified on Capitol Hill in early September, much of the media and the Left simply refused to believe that violence in Iraq was down. The Government Accountability Office’s comptroller general had appeared before Congress to ask why the Pentagon was reporting much lower numbers of Iraqi civilian deaths than the GAO had (answer: the GAO assessment was based on incomplete figures). And the day Petraeus’s testimony began, ran its infamous “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” ad. It said that “every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq shows that the surge strategy has failed”; that Petraeus “is constantly at war with the facts”; and that the general “is cooking the books for the White House.” Throughout his testimony, Petraeus continued to suffer slanders from members of Congress who cared about politics more than truth. Hillary Rodham Clinton stopped just short of calling him a liar, saying that to believe his report required “a willing suspension of disbelief.”

Read the rest of the article here:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gauging the Surge in Iraq

Here's a helpful article from the USA Today on the progress in Iraq.

"Our view on war in Iraq: Surge's success holds chance to seize the moment in Iraq. Instead, Democrats are lost in time..."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vatican Offers Powerful New Online Resource

The Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy has unveiled a new site that will help individuals read the Scriptures in the Catholic Tradition. It offers links to commentaries by Church Fathers, councils and other authoritative sources. I have to say, this is really a gem. According to the site:
This program offers Sacred Scripture, its interpretation in light of Sacred Tradition and the teachings of the Magisterium, with appropriate theological commentary and exegesis.
The downloadable version allows you to connect Sacred Scripture to the complete works of many Doctors of the Church, Councils, Encyclicals, teachings of the Popes, Catechisms, as well as commentaries from secular literature, etc.

Steyn on the Politics of Hope and Change

Here's a link and an excerpt from Mark Steyn's latest:
The Democrats are the party of stasis: on affirmative action, there can be no change; on abortion absolutism, there can be no change; even on a less cobwebbed shibboleth such as the Iraq war, there can be no change – they’ve booked the band and caterers for the big Defeat Parade and no matter what happens on the ground in Baghdad and Anbar they’re not going to change their plans.

Read the rest here:

Pope Urges Prudence Over Global Warming Hysteria

Here's a welcome piece of news from the Vatican:

"It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances.

If the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations.

Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken." -Pope Benedict XVI

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Thoughts on Romney

In brief, here are a few things that Mitt Romney has done in the recent past that have served to assuage earlier doubts.

- In the last debate, in response to a "Gocha!" question posed by an African American asking how, if elected, he would fight the "wars in the streets" back at home, Romney identified the importance of FATHERS and MOTHERS in raising children. BRAVO! Petrified by blanket charges of racism, many politicos seem to be afraid to discuss the alarming breakdown of the family in the black community. Instead they'll pander and prattle on endlessly about the need to invest more federal money into after school programs, etc.

- He identified religion as an essential element of American culture. In what is being referred to simply as "The Speech," Romney set aside the minutia of policy details to take up a more all-encompassing theme, transcendent in nature, reaching back to our very founding. Much to the fury of the left, he relied heavily on a series of quotes from the Founders that supported his thesis, whereby to attack Romney would have necessitated an attack on Washington, Jefferson and Adams. What a pickle for the foes of religion and freedom! The quote most intriguing and scandalous was, "Freedom requires religion." It's not a coincidence that the most bloodshed in history took place in the last century on the watch of militantly atheistic regimes in the Soviet Union and China/Asia.

- He doesn't equivocate when explaining that he was simply wrong when he was pro-choice. He's a changed man on the subject and we should believe him.

Sea Ice Areas Are Expanding + Meeting of Scientists

To those fearful over the fate of cuddly penguins and polar bears, take comfort in the following report from Dr. Roy Spencer. The following is an excerpt from an exchange between the professor and Rush Limbaugh regarding a claim that the ice caps are melting due to global warming.

"I'm sure you've seen the WWF report about penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula in decline based on the fact that the sea ice is melting. Yet sea ice around Antarctic has been running one million square kilometers above normal for the past couple of months." - Dr. Spencer, climatologist and NASA scientist



And here's a fascinating piece that covers a meeting of highly respected scientists who have convened in Bali, the site for the highly politicized conference on man-made global warming, to denounce the current hysteria and junk science. The article includes helpful links to pdf files of the scientist's research. Here are some of the more memorable lines from the meeting.

Lord Christopher Monckton, a UK climate researcher, had a blunt message for UN climate conference participants on Monday.

"Climate change is a non-problem. The right answer to a non problem is to have the courage to do nothing," Monckton told participants.

"The UN conference is a complete waste of our time and your money and we should no longer pay the slightest attention to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,)" Monckton added.

Evans, a mathematician who did carbon accounting for the Australian government, recently converted to a skeptical scientist about man-made global warming after reviewing the new scientific studies.

"We now have quite a lot of evidence that carbon emissions definitely don't cause global warming. We have the missing [human] signature [in the atmosphere], we have the IPCC models being wrong and we have the lack of a temperature going up the last 5 years," Evans said in an interview with the Inhofe EPW Press Blog. Evans authored a November 28 2007 paper "Carbon Emissions Don't Cause Global Warming."

Evans touted a new peer-reviewed study by a team of scientists appearing in the December 2007 issue of the International Journal of Climatology of the Royal Meteorological Society which found "Warming is naturally caused and shows no human influence."

"There is no evidence that carbon dioxide increases are having any effect whatsoever on the climate," Gray, who shares in the Nobel Prize awarded to the UN IPCC, explained.

"All the science of the IPCC is unsound. I have come to this conclusion after a very long time. If you examine every single proposition of the IPCC thoroughly, you find that the science somewhere fails," Gray, who wrote the book "The Greenhouse Delusion: A Critique of "Climate Change 2001," said.

"We have a split here. Official science driven by politics, money and power, goes in one direction. Unofficial science, which is more determined by what is actually happening with the [climate] data, has now started to move off in a different direction" away from fears of a man-made climate crisis, Evans explained.

"The two are splitting. This is always a dangerous time for science and a dangerous time for politics. Historically science always wins these battles but there can be a lot of causalities and a lot of time in between," he concluded.

National Review Endorses Mitt for President

National Review, the nation's most distinguished conservative journal, officially announced its endorsement for Mitt Romney. Here's why:


Looks like Oprah's touch might not be that golden after all. A recent poll says the talk show host's highly publicized appearances with the Senator could harm him more than help.

And here's a thought provoking excerpt from an article on the "political messianism" associated with the Obama campaign, highlighted by Winfrey's endorsement. Rich Lowry discusses the religious undertones of Obama's run for the presidency. Here are a few lines from the piece.
This was the pontiff of daytime television bestowing secular sainthood on the golden child of latter-day liberalism.

In her stump speeches on Obama’s behalf, Oprah zeroed in on the heart of the matter: Obama’s post-political messianism. In South Carolina, she declared that it isn’t enough for candidates to tell the truth, “We need politicians who know how to be the truth.” One wonders if in the news reports, it were merely a transcription error that “the truth” wasn’t rendered in divinized capital letters.

Michelle Obama spoke in the same terms: “We need a leader who’s going to touch our souls. Who’s going to make us feel differently about one another. Who’s going to remind us that we are one another’s keepers. That we are only as strong as the weakest among us.”

This isn’t merely overpromising. It’s a creepy inflation of a political figure into a secular version of the Second Coming. Oprah implied the same thing, quoting a film in which an old, long-suffering woman asks every child she meets — in a question fraught with messianic symbolism — “Are you the one?” Oprah continued, referring to Obama, “It’s a question the entire nation is asking — is he the one? South Carolina — I do believe he’s the one.”

Lowry's mention of "Obama’s post-political messianism" is particularly intriguing. I've read before that Obama represents the first viable "post-9-11 candidate" in American politics. His vision and hopes for American society and culture are totally foreign to the vision laid out by the nation's founders. I firmly believe that Obama has even more radical leftist strains to him than what he's revealing now. He's a hardened liberal, not a savior.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Much has been made as of late over questionable techniques used by the CIA while interrogating terror suspects. Democrats in particular have been uniquely hysterical in their criticism of the CIA and by extension the entire Bush Administration over what they perceive as Executive leniency toward harsh interrogation techniques, most notably, the procedure known as waterboarding. On just about any given day if you turn on C-Span, you're likely to see a Democratic senator or congressman denouncing the procedure as torture and implying that this, the most corrupt of administrations in US history is secretly condoning medieval, sadistic methods of information extraction. But evidence is trickling out of a secret meeting that took place in 2002 between CIA officials and a select group of Congressmen, Nancy Pelosi included. Various interrogation techniques were explained to the lawmakers, including that of waterboarding, and no objections were raised at the time. Here's a Washington Post piece that discusses the embarrassing revelation. But don't expect to hear much about this on the networks.
Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

Liberty and Security

Here's the link to a piece on a controversial plan supported by the president to monitor the activities of terrorists via phone surveillance techniques. It's called the Protect America Act. Some claim it is a doorway that invites violations of civil liberties. It's an interesting debate.

War in the Court

Should enemy combatants be granted American Constitutional rights in court? The Weekly Standard has a timely piece on the matter. An interesting point to keep in mind is the different nature of the enemy we are facing today. Gone are the days of military accouterments that distinguished soldier from civilian and the traditional rules of engagement, at least when talking about the enemy's MO. What does this "changing face of war" mean for due process and the court room, especially when dealing with captured combatants engaged in asymmetrical warfare?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mass Notes

When you're trying to focus your attention, there's nothing worse than silly, needless distractions. Today at Mass, during the recitation of the Creed I could hear amidst the unison of worshippers in attendance the dissenting voice of a woman who decided to replace every masculine pronoun in the Creed that referred to God with the word, "God." So, for instance, instead of "Through Him all things were made." She would say, "Through God all things were made." And instead of "And with the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified", in reference to the Holy Spirit, she said, "And with the Father and the Son God is worshipped and glorified". And so on. It was so distracting. Goings on like this are not really new in the Church however. I've grown inured to the omission in the creed of "men" in the part that reads, "For us men and for our salvation..." After all, women might feel excluded, so we should just use the more inclusive "us". And instead of the simple and ancient term of affection, "Brethren", now I have to listen to "Sisters and brothers", just in case someone in attendance might feel excluded. And finally, there's the Sanctus prayer, that reads in part, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Not long ago, I heard a guy behind me say, "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord." Don't we all feel better now? It's all so absurd. But today was different still. I've never heard such stubborn insistence to surgically remove every masculine pronoun in a prayer or profession as I encountered today with this woman. I couldn't help glancing over my shoulder to get a look at the offender, and probably giving her the very attention she wanted. I expected to see a 1960's type, (you know what I mean), but much to my surprise, this was an elderly woman, with a cute handkerchief wrapped neatly over her white hair. How on earth, I wondered, did this nice little old lady become so bewitched by the insanity that is the political correctness movement in America?

Several years back, Jacques Barzun wrote, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present. It's a hefty book that covers the last 500 years of Western Civilization. In it, he takes a brisk swipe at the petulant advocates of political correctness in contemporary academia. The all-to-familiar preoccupation, for instance, to drop the use of the noun "man" or "mankind" when referring to, well, mankind, and replace it instead with the innocuous term, "humankind" is particularly maddening, according to Bazun, who writes strictly as an academic and historian. For centuries, he argues, whenever "man" was used in writing or in speech to refer to everyone, it was automatically understood to refer to all of humanity. It was something so obvious that it didn't require a patronizing explanation. The trend today, to always include a "he or she", or "humankind", is not only patronizing but it's deeply distracting. Can't it be assumed that I am intelligent enough to know certain things, like when "man" is being used to refer to everyone or "he" to refer to both boys and girls? I guess not. But to have to endure this silliness during the Liturgy is simply too much. It's yet another reason why we should just stick with Latin.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Newt Tells It Like It Is

Here's a 3-hour long interview on C-Span with Newt Gingrich. If anyone has the time, I would highly recommend watching it. You can break it down into segments since 3 hours is a long time to sit at the computer. He offers some very insightful observations on contemporary American culture, both political and societal. His thoughts on presidential debates and the need for fundamental change in the current system are particularly noteworthy.

Follow this link and on the right side of the page you'll see a "watch Newt Gingrich interview," or something along those lines.

Friday, December 07, 2007

NBC Snubs the Troops, Then Backs Down

The non-profit organization, Freedom Watch put together a nice television commercial that features everyday Americans saying "Thank you" to American troops serving abroad in the War on Terror. CNN and Fox News are airing the ad, while NBC, claiming the ad is overtly political, decided not to run it. More specifically, the network objects that the organization included its website at the end of the commercial. And keep in mind, this is the same network that had no political scruples whatsoever about giving Al Gore and the global warming cause thirty-five hours of free air time to spew the hardly proven theories of man-made global warming. Some are calling for a boycott of NBC.,2933,315944,00.html

Watch the ad here:

There is a singular irony when the media turns its back on that very force which secures its right to cover and report news freely in the first place.



Here's the statement from NBC:

"We have reviewed and changed our ad standards guidelines and made the decision that our policy will apply to content only and not to a referenced Web site. Based on these amended standards the Freedom's Watch ad will begin to run as early as Sunday."

Romney on Religion in the Public Square

Pat Buchanan offers his thoughts on Mitt Romney's speech yesterday on the role of religion in society. I was admittedly somewhat skeptical of the timing of Romney's speech but having listened to it, I think he made a strong argument. In many ways, his reckonings on the role of religion in the public square were virtually indistinguishable from contemporary Catholic social teaching on religious liberty.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Savour: War in Iraq More Popular than Dem. Congress

Congressional Failures Par Excellence, Reid and Pelosi Take a Bow

Now this is just too rich. From a gallup poll taken today:
The War is twice as popular as Congress.

Under Democratic leadership, the 110th Congress is the least popular Congress since pollsters began measuring this. Various polls peg the disapproval at various numbers at various times. But one thing doesn’t change: Worst Congress ever.

Democratic apologists say that this is because Congress has failed to end the war. Well, that may explain the low marks on the Democratic end. But the 63 votes so far this year on the war obviously are turning off independents and Republicans.

Let us review. In November, Gallup pegged the Congressional job approval at 20% with 69% disapproval.

(This is my favorite) Apparently 69% say electing this Congress was a mistake. Only 20% apparently believe this Congress was not a mistake.

In December, Gallup found that 40% of Americans think the Surge is working, 39% say not working.


Global Warming: Revisited, Again

The High Priest of Global Warming Hysteria, Al Gore

As an environmental conference unfolds in Bali, Australia's Financial Post has a fantastic piece today on the dubious forces behind the man-made global warming hoax. Here are some salient points from the article. It says everything I've been saying for sometime now; namely, the global warming cabal consists primarily of socialist, Marxist-lite, anti-capitalist, anti-American/Western ideologues.

Just at the point where Marxism was being consigned to the dustbin of history, the more or less concealed power lust that had fed it found a new cause in the environment.

This simplistic narrative depended on carbon dioxide being the main driver of climate. Scientists who pointed that there were likely other more important factors, that climate science was in its infancy and that earth's climate had varied dramatically long before the invention of the steam, internal combustion or jet engine, were not scientifically refuted; they were howled down as "deniers" or industry shills.

The environmental left, centred in the UN, has achieved stunning success in building and pushing the climate change/sustain-ability bandwagon. They have done this first by funding, then hijacking, scientific research via the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They have also promoted and allowed access to an ever-proliferating group of activist NGOs (Bali, significantly, is overrun by the non-elected "representatives" of scores of radical organizations, who have in turn forced similar numbers of industry representatives to follow them). NGOs have also had great success in pushing their alarmist message through a sympathetic media and thus --along with more direct lobbying--in achieving grossly disproportionate influence with democratic politicians. "Progressive" pols, meanwhile, have embraced environmental alarmism because it gives a much-needed boost to their flagging relevance.

Climate-change alarmism couldn't be presented as simply a new justification for power-seeking, so it had to be cloaked--as social-ism has always been cloaked, both consciously and unconsciously -- in concern for "the poor." Addressing climate change has always been linked in the UN script with Third World development, even though it in fact represents the greatest threat to such development. Nevertheless, the prospect of more international redistribution has meant that poor countries' corrupt and/or incompetent governments have become enthusiastic supporters of the Kyoto "process."

They (Climate scare mongers) are not about effectively addressing specific problems, they are about exploiting ignorance about climate science, and continuing to demonize capitalism, in order to make ecocrats feel good, make others feel bad, pad incomes, and expand travel schedules. (As an aside, this point is right on.)

Democratic governments have no choice but to cater to the ignorance/alarm/hypocrisy engendered in their electorates. This catering in turn reflects greater or lesser degrees of cynicism, skepticism, or moralistic bloviation.

Papal Primacy

Pope Benedict XIV with Sts. Peter and Paul

Here's an excerpt from a letter between then-Cardinal Ratzinger and Metropolitan Damaskinos on the meaning of "first in honor" and "president in love" within the Catholic/Orthodox dialogue. While denying that papal primacy confers any juridical authority over other Churches, these are the appellations which the Orthodox Church applies to the See of Rome. Ratzinger offers a characteristically thought-provoking reply.

"The 'honor' of the first is not, indeed, to be understood in the sense of the honor accorded by worldly protocol; 'honor' in the Church is service, obedience to Christ. Then again, agape [love] is not just a feeling entailing no obligations, still less a form of social organization, but is in the final analysis a eucharistic concept, which is as such connected to the theology of the Cross, since the Eucharist is based on the Cross; the Cross is the most extreme expression of God's love for us in Jesus Christ.

If the Church in the very depth of her being coincides with the Eucharist, then the presidency of love carries with it a responsibility for unity, which has a significance within the Church yet, at the same time, is a responsibility for 'distinguishing what is Christian' as against worldly society, and therefore it will always bear a martyrological character." Emphasis added

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Here's an excellent analysis of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

And Former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton eviscerates the NIE report in this Washington Post article. Here's a pull-quote:
The NIE is internally contradictory and insufficiently supported. It implies that Iran is susceptible to diplomatic persuasion and pressure, yet the only event in 2003 that might have affected Iran was our invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, not exactly a diplomatic pas de deux.

The Appeal of Walkable Cities

A new study finds that Washington D.C. is the most walkable city in the nation. It also looks into the growing appeal of living in a city where everything, or most everything, is accessible via walking.
Walkable cities have been around for centuries, but Leinberger argues that after the rise of the automobile, planners and real estate developers hit on the lucrative suburban strip-mall formula and stuck to it. "For 50 years we had this collective amnesia about how to build great places," said Leinberger, whose institution describes itself as a nonprofit public-policy organization.

I've long scorned the sterile strip mall culture of the suburbs. They might have the endless line of shops but there is not a modicum of culture to be found, just well-to-do yuppies, caring not for their appearance, shopping in their atrocious Crock shoes and sipping coffee from paper cups at Starbucks. Ugh! The flight from cities that took place in the 60's and 70's has resulted in a lamentable neglect of many American metropolises. Fortunately, there seems to be a renaissance of sorts going on in many cities. Milwaukee is certainly experiencing a revival in the downtown and Third Ward area and from what I've noticed in the short time that I've been here, the same could be said of Saint Louis. There are many reasons to hope for a return to the "walkable city." For one, buildings and the city ethos become more aesthetically pleasing since people will give them more notice on foot than if they were zooming by at 40mph.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The "O" in Polemics

The other day I was reading an article in the New York Times that elaborated on the star-quality that Oprah Winfrey brings to the Obama campaign via her highly publicized endorsement of the Illinois Senator. An observer cited in the piece noted that Winfrey is a rarity in the entertainment world in that she represents the perfect embodiment of a "post-polemical" celebrity. The point was to underscore how controversial many Hollywood luminaries can be; think for instance of Mr. Clooney, Ms. O'Donnell, Mr. Gere, Mrs. Streisand, Ms. Fonda, etc. The list could go on. Would an nod from any of these celebs. be of any help to a particular candidate seeking to connect with the average American? In the '04 election, President Bush scored some potent points in Middle America by pointing out the dysfunctional, cultural bond of the 1960's between Sen. John Kerry and the Hollywood establishment. Obama, continued the observer, is the paragon of a "post-polemical politician." His campaign, centered on "The Audacity of Hope," has enraptured millions across the country, and he speaks quite eloquently of his goal to unite Republicans and Democrats into one America. So the tag team of Obama and Oprah are setting out to convince America that there's a different way of doing politics, we're not forever and hopelessly resigned to the status quo of an interminable polemical existence. But this strikes me as naive and chimerical. Everyone agrees that a certain decorum should characterize and accompany discussion of germane public policy. But we shouldn't confuse or equate genuine yet reasoned outrage and flummox regarding over-the-top remedies proposed by liberal democrats with boorish incivility. It is simply illusory to think that we can fashion our political reality into another segment on the Oprah Winfrey Show; that is, a boutiqueish, airy, feel-good therapy session.