Monday, March 31, 2008

Medal of Honor

Here's a story about the latest sailor to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor threw himself on a grenade and absorbed the force of the explosion, thereby saving a number of his friends.
On Sept. 29, 2006, while on a mission in Ramadi, Iraq, Monsoor and other members of a Navy SEAL sniper team were within a moment of death. An insurgent had tossed a grenade into their hideout, hitting Monsoor in the chest before bouncing to the floor. In an instant, Monsoor was on the grenade, using his body to shield his comrades from the blast. "He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it," said a lieutenant who sustained shrapnel wounds to both legs that day. "He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs' lives, and we owe him." For that action, President Bush on Monday announced that Monsoor will be posthumously honored on April 8 with the the nation's highest military honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor.,2933,343918,00.html

Saturday, March 29, 2008

GOP Nonsense

President Bush and the Treasury Department are gunning to consolidate even more power in the hands of the Federal Reserve to "oversee financial market stability." Republican shenanigans like this make me angry. Haven't Republicans learned anything yet? On domestic issues, most especially the economy, Bush warrants an F, simple as that. This is truly outrageous. How vexing it is that on some things, Bush is right on, to wit, the War on Terror, while on other matter, he is way off in the stratosphere: education (Kennedy), campaign finance (Feingold) and his embrace of the man-made global warming myth, to mention a few. Democrats complain that the legislation in question here doesn't go far enough in terms of regulation, even more reason to hold the idea suspect. A McCain presidency, while infinitely superior that what a Clinton or Obama circus would offer us, will only be more of the same, as he is not an authentic conservative. Conservatives have to go back to square one it seems and start from scratch to find a new generation of leadership. Here's an excerpt and the link to the story.
The Treasury Department will propose on Monday that Congress give the Federal Reserve broad new authority to oversee financial market stability, in effect allowing it to send SWAT teams into any corner of the industry or any institution that might pose a risk to the overall system.

The proposal is part of a sweeping blueprint to overhaul the nation’s hodgepodge of financial regulatory agencies, which many experts say failed to recognize rampant excesses in mortgage lending until after they set off what is now the worst financial calamity in decades.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

On the Latin Mass

I somewhat belatedly purchased National Review's memorial issue for Bill Buckley. Interspersed throughout its pages are collections of brief observations by WFB on various matter. Here's a nice one I came across on his appreciation for the Lain Mass, entitled, appropriately, Hooked on the Latin Mass.
I have always been impatient, and so it was I suppose surprising that I came so quickly to feel at east with the daily Mass, becoming progressively more engrossed in the words and the ritual. The liturgy took hold of me, and I suppose that this means nothing more than that liturgy has theatrical properties. Yes, but something more, I reasonably supposed, and suppose so now. Thirty years later I would write a scorching denunciation of the changes authorized by Vatican II and of the heartbreakingly awful English translations that accompanied the jettisoning of the Latin. The Mass, in Latin, had got to me. They say about alcoholics that they are never "cured." I am a senior citizen and my faith has never left me, and I must suppose that Fr. Sharkey and Fr. Paine and Fr. Manning had something to do with it. They, and the closeness I felt, every morning, to the mystical things that were taking place at the altar.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Here's Where We Stand

The two Democratic candidates running for president are tearing their Party apart, all the while promising to unite the country after the "insidious" years of the Bush presidency. Er...ok. Barack Obama nestled up closely to a racist, hate-spewing pastor (see a few posts down) and Hillary Clinton was caught recently in an embarrassing bald-faced lie that reveals her utter contempt for the military. The story is all over the news, so I won't rehash the particulars. In short, she claimed that as First Lady, her helicopter, en route to Bosnia, was taking heavy sniper-fire and was forced to make a "cork-screw landing." The lie continued: She said that, upon exiting the helicopter, she had to run, head down, for cover. Recently released video of the arrival ceremonies revealed that Clinton was lying through her teeth. There were children greeting her, there was a welcoming ceremony, in short, it was a pleasant arrival because the military did their job to protect her. The scope and breadth of the lie is astonishing, even by Clinton standards.

So these are the best and brightest the left has to offer?

Prediction: McCain wins presidency in November as a result of the Clinton-Obama self-destruction. Polls are already showing that a fair number supporters of both Clinton and Obama will go over to McCain if the other secures the nomination. The dems will pick up seats in Congress though.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Q & A

Here's an interview between National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez and George Weigel. He discusses the recent baptism of a former Muslim, Egyptian-born Italian journalist, Magdi Allam at the hands of Pope Benedict XVI and the event's implications for the Muslim world. Weigel makes some good points. I always appreciate his realism.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: What’s the most important message about the war we’re in coming out of Magdi Allam’s conversion from Islam to Catholicism?

GEORGE WEIGEL: The war against jihadism is, among many other things, a war in defense of religious freedom, the first of human rights. That war is, at bottom, a war of ideas — of different ideas about the human person and different ideas of human obligation. Magdi Allam has courageously defended the religious freedom of all while sharply criticizing those currents of thought in Islam which would deny the right of religious conversion to Muslims. Now he fights the war of ideas from a different foxhole, so to speak.

LOPEZ: Who, among Muslims, should be held up as to encourage those who want to fight jihadism?

WEIGEL: The kind of Muslims who will be our most effective allies in the war against jihadism are those Muslims who want to make an Islamic case for tolerance, civility, and pluralism. The temptation to think that the answer to the problem of jihadism is the conversion of 1.2 billion Muslims to Western liberal secularism ought to be stoutly resisted as the ivy-league fantasy it is. The question is whether, and how, Islam can effect what Christian theology would call a “development of doctrine” on issues like religious freedom and the separation of religious and political authority in a just state. A lot of 21st-century history is riding on the answer to that question.

LOPEZ: Should we be worried about riots in the streets of Rome given his prominent baptism by the pope?

WEIGEL: During a recent work period in Rome I was regularly reminded that the normal patterns of Roman street life could well be classified as riotous, at least by other cultural standards.

Seriously, though, I would hope that the Italian authorities would take firm steps to ensure that a man’s act of conscience in a religious matter, freely undertaken, should not become the occasion for civil disturbances.

LOPEZ: Is Islam the enemy? Or just Osama bin Laden’s version of Islam?

WEIGEL: Bin Laden’s Islam is the enemy of those Muslims who do not share bin Laden’s conception of what Islam requires, as well as the enemy of the rest of us.

LOPEZ: Has Pope Benedict been an important voice in this war? Is he being listened to?

WEIGEL: I think Benedict’s Regensburg lecture of September 2006 was the most important papal statement on a public question of global consequence since John Paul II’s 1995 U.N. address in defense of the universality of human rights. As I put it in my small book, Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism, the Regensburg Lecture identified the linked problems at the center of a lot of turbulence in world politics today: the detachment of faith from reason (as in jihadism) and the loss of faith in reason (as in much of western Europe and too much of American high culture). The former leads to the notion that God can and does command the irrational, such as the killing of innocents; the latter leaves the West intellectually disarmed in the face of the jihadist challenge. At Regensburg, the pope also gave a pluralistic world a vocabulary with which to deal with these grave problems: the vocabulary of rationality and irrationality. Whether these issues are understand in the world’s chancelleries and foreign ministries in the terms in which the Holy Father understands them is another question altogether.

LOPEZ: Is there a message about the war you expect he’ll be bringing with him to the U.S. next month?

WEIGEL: I wouldn’t be surprised if the pope spoke at the U.N. about the natural moral law — the moral truths we can know by reason — as a kind of global “grammar” by which the world can rationally discuss the world’s future. And that has everything to do with the war against jihadism.

LOPEZ: Do we deserve to win if we wind up electing Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama president?

WEIGEL: Whether we deserve to win or not, we’re much less likely to win with a president who manifestly does not understand the nature of the enemy or the multifront struggle in which we are necessarily engaged. A return to the Nineties — to foreign-policy-as-therapy — is not going to see us, or the Magdi Allams of this world, through to a future safe for the exercise of religious freedom.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Saddam and Terror

A new report issued by the Pentagon highlights the former Iraqi dictator's ties to terror cells around the globe. It probably won't change any minds. Those opposed to the war will not be convinced otherwise, while those who supported it from the get-go will consider the report as more evidence that urgent action was required in '03. The report should remind honest citizens on both sides of the issue that the debate is not as black-and-white as some suggest. Here's an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal.
"The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the region gave Saddam the opportunity to make terrorism, one of the few tools remaining in Saddam's 'coercion' toolbox, not only cost effective but a formal instrument of state power," the authors conclude. Throughout the 1990s, the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) cooperated with Hamas; the Palestine Liberation Front, which maintained a Baghdad office; Force 17, Yasser Arafat's private army; and others. The IIS gave commando training for members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the organization that assassinated Anwar Sadat and whose "emir" was Ayman al-Zawahiri, who became Osama bin Laden's second-in-command when the group merged with al Qaeda in 1998...The main Iraq intelligence failure was over WMD, but the report indicates that the CIA also underestimated Saddam's ties to global terror cartels.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

English, Please

Here's a refreshing story from the AP about one American who is drawing a line in the sand when it comes to the importance of speaking English.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The owner of a famous cheesesteak shop did not discriminate when he posted signs asking customers to speak English, a city panel ruled Wednesday.
In a 2-1 vote, a Commission on Human Relations panel found that two signs at Geno's Steaks telling customers, "This is America: WHEN ORDERING 'PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH,'" do not violate the city's Fair Practices Ordinance.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Some Points Worth Considering

Americans and Europeans who see the world through a post-Freudian fog imagine that people who perpetrate such atrocities have bizarre personality dysfunctions, exacerbated by American foreign policy. That instinctive reach for the psychiatric ignores the fact that, by their own testimony, jihadists do what they do because they believe God commands them to advance God's cause by any means - even detonating retarded women. The marriage of a stringent, politicized Islam to a nihilistic cult of death poses a grave threat, both to Muslims with a different idea of their faith's demands and to the rest of us...Avowed commitments to peace and human rights, however heartfelt, give no one a pass from reality. And they certainly do not confer a claim to the moral high ground. In a world in which the wicked try to impose their will by terror and claim God's blessing in doing so, naming threats correctly and understanding their origins is the beginning of wisdom, prudence, the defense of decency, and the pursuit of peace. -George Weigel

Still Worth It

On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, an assorted congeries of anarchists, pacifists, socialists and old-fashioned liberals are taking to the streets en mass to denounce what they see as our generation's most egregious foreign policy decision: the war in Iraq. Taking advantage of the freedom to demonstrate publicly, a freedom that was for decades denied in an absolute sense to the people of Iraq under the Hussein regime, these foolhardy booboisie seem impervious to shame or to the pangs of irony and hypocrisy. They are an embarrassment to honest Americans who maintained a principled opposition to the war rooted in serious debate, not the talking-points of the radical leftists. Considerate of the sensibilities of the readers here, I won't stain this blog with images of these obscene marches, so I thought I'd post some links to a couple thoughtful articles that argue (as I always have) that Operation Iraqi Freedom was, and still is, worth the high cost.

No Surrender

In Iraq, America was surrounded by enemies who were sure from the start that the great foreign power was destined to fail. They could not be given the satisfaction of a hasty American retreat. The stakes had grown: We were under the gaze of populations with a keen eye for the weakness of strangers. It was apt and proper that the leader who launched this war did not give up on it.

Speaking in Nashville, Tenn., to the convention of National Religious Broadcasters on March 11, President Bush defended, yet again, the war in Iraq: "The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision early in my presidency; it is the right decision at this point in my presidency; and it will forever be the right decision."

Iraq War Veterans Say U.S. Needs to Keep on Fighting Insurgents
Workman (an American soldier) fought house to house there (Fallujah) in 2004 and when he left the city, it was in ruins. "I gotta be honest," he said. "I thought that the city is in shambles and I don't know if the people are ever going to get back on their feet." Then he described the scene when he went back to the town in 2007: shops open, weddings being held and people walking the streets without fear. Don't ask Workman if he thinks the war can be won. "That's the dumbest question anyone can ask," he said. "Hell, yeah, we can win."
-Emphasis added

Fickle Americans, living in comfort thousands of miles away, could learn a great deal about resolve from Workman's refreshing retort.

Thoughts on the Speech: It's about Hatred NOT Anger

The headlines in the mainstream media are unanimous: The Obama speech on race was a smashing success. He displayed the audacity of hope, courage and tough candor. His wife, overcome with emotion, reportedly wept after the speech. Immediately after the listening to "the speech" I spoke with fellow Forum contributor Megan Gray. We agreed that Obama should get gold stars for his delivery. This shouldn't come as a surprise. Obama is renown for his ability to "construct cathedrals with words," as Jonah Goldberg so nicely put it. But precisely because of that, I reiterated the need to be on guard when listening to Obama. A gifted orator, Obama seems to have the ability to hypnotize people with his airy words and smooth delivery. His speech can be admired for aesthetics but the content of the speech was deeply troubling. Once again Obama subtly revealed his infatuation with old-school, worn-out leftist ideology. His liberalism will be exposed as the campaign unfolds. Beyond the political ideology, it was Obama's sweeping generalizations and creepy moralizing that most bothered me.

For starters, Obama repeatedly equated the justifiable anger that results from discrimination with the kind of blind, foaming-at-the-mouth hatred and racism on display in the person of Rev. Wright. Anger and hatred are not the same thing. Obama further spoke about his inability to disavow Wright; saying that to do so would require a racial divestiture, of sorts, of the entire black community and further, the disavowal of his white grandmother. So what is Obama saying here, that the hate-filled bile of Wright is by necessity the prerequisite baggage of all blacks by virtue of a shared history? He repeatedly referred to Wright's rants as "controversial." But again, there is a big difference between statements that are controversial and those that are outright wrong and hateful. While most statements fitting the bill for the latter adjectives could certainly be described as controversial, it is not necessarily true that all statements that are controversial are necessarily wrong. The injunction to "Turn the other cheek." could be perceived as "controversial" at the time it was issued but it is by no means a malignant command. In fact, as a "sign of contradiction" much of the Christian message remains perennially "controversial." But the moral character of that message is not in question. Wright's statements are controversial (Obama concedes as much) and they are morally repugnant. Sitting in the pews listening to controversial statements is one thing but tolerating hateful rhetoric is another. Refusing to do anything about it for twenty-years is inexcusable and, dare I say, it betrays a tacit endorsement of those very statements.

Further, Obama's oft' repeated pastor/family comparison is mightily flawed. "We all have that uncle in the family who says things you don't always agree with..." So the analogy goes. It doesn't take much reflection to arrive at the obvious conclusion: You can't choose who your aunt, uncle or grandparents are but you do have the freedom to choose your spiritual advisor and church. There are still many unanswered questions that can't be airbrushed out of the controversy or buried beneath an avalanche of pithy words: Why did Obama remain a member of this church for twenty years? Why did he contribute so much money to the church? Why would anyone with any modicum of sound judgment expose his family to the kind of poisonous hatred on full display in Wright?

Prediction: This issue will not go away. The speech made yesterday might help in the short-term but down the road, especially in the general election, the intimate Wright-Obama alliance will come back with a vengeance to torpedo the Senator's aspirations. Polls are already showing a storm on the horizon for Obama.


For further reading:
A story from the mainstream media that actually scrutinizes Barack Obama's multi-layered contradictions. Here's an excerpt and the link to the entire story.

Buried in Eloquence, Obama Contradictions About Pastor:
In Speech, Obama Contradicted More Than a Year of Denials About His Knowledge of Rev. Wright's Sermons

"I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial," Obama said at a community meeting in Nelsonville, Ohio, earlier this month. "He has said some things that are considered controversial because he's considered that part of his social gospel; so he was one of the leaders in calling for divestment from South Africa and some other issues like that," Obama said on March 2. His initial reaction to the initial ABC News broadcast of Rev. Wright's sermons denouncing the U.S. was that he had never heard his pastor of 20 years make any comments that were anti-U.S. until the tape was played on air. But yesterday, he told a different story. "Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes," he said in his speech yesterday in Philadelphia. Obama did not say what he heard that he considered "controversial," and the campaign has yet to answer repeated requests for dates on which the senator attended Rev. Wright's sermons over the last 20 years.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"Bargaining" with Race?

This is a very thought-provoking piece by Shelby Steele, a prominent black, conservative author, on the Obama-Wright controversy. It's well worth a read. Here's an excerpt that addresses the question, from Obama's point of view, of how to make a political advantage out of being black.
The answer is that one "bargains." Bargaining is a mask that blacks can wear in the American mainstream, one that enables them to put whites at their ease. This mask diffuses the anxiety that goes along with being white in a multiracial society. Bargainers make the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America's history of racism, on the condition that they will not hold the bargainer's race against him. And whites love this bargain -- and feel affection for the bargainer -- because it gives them racial innocence in a society where whites live under constant threat of being stigmatized as racist. So the bargainer presents himself as an opportunity for whites to experience racial innocence.

Very interesting. Read on.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Meeting: Pope and Patriarch

Pope Benedict XVI met informally with the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew of Constantinople. I vividly remember attending a special service at Saint Peter's, when Pope John Paul II returned the relics of Saint John Chrysostom to Patriarch Bartholomew. Seeing both of them process down the center aisle of the nave was something I'll never forget: the black-robed Patriarch, staff in hand, (he seemed so exotic, so eastern) at the side of the Vicar of Christ. I remember thinking how, in many respects, the traditions and cultures of each were so different, but in the things that really mattered, there was far more in common. The mutual desire for unity between West and East, Rome and Constantinople, at that event was palpable. It was an emotional experience. We can only continue in our prayers. Here's an excerpt from the story, from Britain's Catholic Herald and a link.
...instead of participating in a liturgy, they walked into the tiny Chapel of Urban VIII near the papal library, stood in front of a painting of the Nativity and prayed silently. After a few moments, the two began reciting the Lord's Prayer in Latin. When the prayer was finished, the Pope turned to his guest - as if to see if he was ready to leave - and the patriarch began reciting the Hail Mary in Latin. The Pope joined in. When the prayer was finished, the two turned to their aides and together blessed them.

A New Look at Mozart

From the BBC: A portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that lay unidentified for more than 200 years has been proved to be authentic, according to an expert on the composer. Professor Cliff Eisen from London's King's College has spent more than a year trying to confirm that the picture was of Mozart, who died in 1791. He said: "This is arguably the most important Mozart portrait to be discovered since the composer's death."

As an aside, my favorite Mozart piece, hands down, is his Piano Trio No. 5 in E Major, (Andate Grazioso). It has to rank as one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written...just my humble opinion.

Book Recommendation

"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." -John Adams

Dr. Thomas Sowell's latest book, Economic Facts and Fallacies (not to mention his Basic Economics) is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of the market. He goes to great lengths to demonstrate how many of the so-called "problems" of the market parroted by critics of the free-market economy are actually derivative of nefarious government intervention. His book is divided into eight chapters, each dedicated to the exposition and refutation of a common solecism in economic reasoning. I just cracked the binding today, so I've only made it through part of the second chapter. In a nut-shell, Sowell deftly shows how sky-rocketing housing prices in certain locales are not the result of avaricious housing corporations but rather the fault of obscene government regulation on building and expansion. He compares the cost of living in San Francisco to that of Houston. In the latter, there are virtually no government-imposed restrictions or regulations on building and the cost of living is far below that of San Francisco, a city shackled down with government oversight in its home building laws. Of course, Sowell goes into greater detail in the book but the overarching gist throughout is that economic policies advocated by the left, and some on the far right (economics make strange bedfellows), that are ostensibly aimed at helping the "little guy" and minorities actually make the situation worse for everyone, especially the little guy. Here are the chapters of his book:

Chapter One: The Power of Fallacies

Chapter Two: Urban Facts and Fallacies

Chapter Three: Male-Female Facts and Fallacies

Chapter Four: Academic Facts and Fallacies

Chapter Five: Income Facts and Fallacies

Chapter Six: Racial Facts and Fallacies

Chapter Seven: Third World Facts and Fallacies

Chapter Eight: Parting Thoughts


Here are some moving images from last Thursday in St. Peter's.

Palm Sunday at St. Peter's

"To recognize God, we must abandon the pride that dazzles us, that seeks to push us away from God. To find God we must learn to see with a young heart, one which isn't blocked by prejudice and dazzled by interests." -Pope Benedict XVI

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Obama Responds

In fairness, here is what Obama had to say regarding the Wright controversy in a rare appearance on FoxNews. That he felt it necessary to lower himself to appear on Fox is indicative of the degree to which this controversy has flared. To be sure, I don't buy his strained analysis for a second and I get the idea that more trouble is on the horizon for the senator. It's key to remember here that Mr. Wright is not a random, disparate supporter of Barack Obama. A long, intimate history exists between the two. Are we really to believe that, after a nearly twenty-year relationship, Obama is only now getting a true sense of Wright's extremism? Please! And by the way, where on earth is McCain in all of this? He should be leading the tough questioning here, instead of leaving it to the new media. His silence evinces a principle reservation I have always maintained regarding his candidacy. He is not interested in positioning himself to be a leader in the conservative movement. He's too concerned about "playing nice" with the very liberals who seek to devour him whole. A dose of realism, if you please.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hardly a Message of Hope and Unity

Barack Obama sought desperately this afternoon to distance himself from the obscenely maniacal ravings of his racist pastor, Jeremiah Wright. A frantic Obama scribbled off a rather tedious screed on The Huffington Post, a favorite left-leaning website, strongly denouncing Wright's past assertions that America received its just deserts on 9-11. A Chicago-based "pastor," Wright is a notorious race-baiter who routinely spews forth from his mouth a noxious combination of 1960's styled, black-power rhetoric tinged with the poisonous venom of liberation theology. If his shrill diatribes (barely comprehensible as they are, given his loose grasp of the English language) weren't so offensive, they would be risible to behold. His sermons, and I cringe to assign them the appellation of "sermon," are heavily laced with profanities and preposterous accusations. The United States, President Bush in particular, white people in general and of course, "rich white people" rank among his targets of choice. Strip away the pulpit and ridiculous robe, and Wright is a Marxist, pure and simple, although even Marx probably would have blushed at the sight of such a conspicuous churl as Wright parroting his talking points. Those who think they can stomach it can watch clips of his performances on Youtube. Here's an excerpt from one of Wright's sermons. Take a deep breath.
Who cares about what a poor black man has to face every day in a country and a culture controlled by rich white people? Somebody missed that. You got nervous because we got some white members here. I am still in Bible country. I am still in the text. Jesus was a poor black man who lived in a country and who lived in a culture, that was controlled by rich white people! The Romans were rich. The Romans were Italians -- which means they were European, which means they were white -- and the Romans ran everything in Jesus' country. It just came to me with -- with -- within the past few weeks, y'all, why so many folk are hatin' on Barack Obama. He doesn't fit the model! He ain't white, he ain't rich, and he ain't privileged. (cheers) Hillary fits the mold. Europeans fit the mold! Giuliani fits the mold. Rich white men fit the mold. Hillary never had a cab whiz past her and not pick her up, because her skin was the wrong color. (applause) Hillary never had to worry about being pulled over in her car as a black man driving in the wrong lane! I am sick of Negroes who just do not get it! Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single parent home; Barack was. Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people! Hillary can never know that! Hillary ain't never been called a n-----. Hillary has never had her people defined as nonpersons. Hillary ain't had to work twice as hard just to get accepted by the rich white folk who run everything, or to get a passing grade when you know you are smarter than their C-students sitting in the White House. Ooooh, I am so glad that I got a God who knows what it is to be a poor black man in a country and a culture that is controlled by and run by rich white people! He taught me, Jesus did, how to love my enemies. Jesus taught me how to love the hell out of my enemies, and not be reduced to their level of hatred, bigotry, and small-mindedness. Hillary ain't never had her own people say she wasn't white enough! Jesus had his own people siding with the enemy! That's why I love Jesus, y'all. He never let their hatred dampen his hope. There is a name I love to hear, I love to sing. It's worth --

Much has been made of late about the "guilt-by-association" effect this deranged pastor is having on Senator Obama. But that is where the inquiry in the mainstream media stops. The controversy must be probed further. For instance, no one in the media is asking why Obama has remained a member of this church for twenty years. Further, why has Obama donated substantial sums of money to this notorious pastor's house of worship? A financial contribution implies, at the very least, tacit consent with an organization's message. We have to believe that these racist, hateful sermons were the standard order of the day at this church for many years, so why did Obama remain silent for so long in the face of such abject intolerance emanating from the pulpit, and further, why did he subject his wife and children to Wright's verbal poison? In fact, Wright officiated at Barack and Michelle's wedding and baptized their two girls. Obama has admitted that Wright is, or at least was, his spiritual advisor. Understanding the place of honor that men of faith usually accord their spiritual advisors, are we not to draw certain conclusions then about Obama's personal views and the extent to which they line up alongside Wright's? It was Wright who was slated to recite a prayer before the gathered masses in Illinois on the day Obama announced his run for the White House. Only as the final plans were being reviewed did Obama, perhaps displaying some clairvoyance, replace Wright with someone less offensive. Further, Obama pulled the title of his book, The Audacity of Hope, from one of Wright's sermons. Theories abound. One holds that Obama, divided deeply by his biracial background, clung to the black church as a way to bolster his "black street creds" and mitigate the undying echo of his "whiteness." Who knows. But it wouldn't be unfair to suggest that Obama remained a member of this sordid church (again, for twenty years) because he found an affinity for at least some of Wright's twisted message, remember the financial contributions. I suspect that more will bubble up with regard to the Wright issue and I think Obama may pay a high price for his ties to this questionable church and its racist pastor. He will not be able to wriggle out of this pickle with his characteristic equivocation-with-a-smile. I doubt even Oprah will be able to extricate Obama from this difficulty.

Here are some links. I couldn't bear to post the actual video, there are standards here after all, but so that you don't have to take my word for it, you should take a listen to some of Wright's vulgar rants to get a sense of the tormented man. He should be pitied.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Chance or Purpose? Buy It!

"The Christian idea of the world is that it originated in a very complicated process of evolution but that it nevertheless still comes in its depths from the Logos. It thus bears reason in itself." -Pope Benedict XVI

Here's a great book by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn that offers a serious, thoughtful approach to understanding and reconciling the singular role that "rational faith" plays in the heated debate over creation and evolution. I picked it up the other day (it's a short read) and I highly recommend it. Schönborn is as tough and scrupulous intellectually in dismantling the mindless propositions of American Fundamentalists, who, somewhat embarrassingly, assert that the world is only 6,000 years old, as he is in picking apart the straw-man arguments of the sterile, boring atheists, who narrowly squeeze out any room for God in their cold theories and dismiss the complexities of reality as random accidents of mere chance. To get a sense of the book's content, here is the publisher's synopsis:
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn's article on evolution and creation in The New York Times launched an international controversy. Critics charged him with biblical literalism and "creationism".
In this book, Cardinal Schönborn responds to his critics by tackling the hard questions with a carefully reasoned the "theology of creation". Can we still speak intelligently of the world as "creation" and affirm the existence of the Creator, or is God a "delusion"? How should an informed believer read Genesis? If God exists, why is there so much injustice and suffering? Are human beings a part of nature or elevated above it? What is man's destiny? Is everything a matter of chance or can we discern purpose in human existence?
In his treatment of evolution, Cardinal Schönborn distinguishes the biological theory from "evolutionism", the ideology that tries to reduce all of reality to mindless, meaningless processes. He argues that science and a rationally grounded faith are not at odds and that what many people represent as "science" is really a set of philosophical positions that will not withstand critical scrutiny.
Chance or Purpose? directly raises the philosophical and theological issues many scientists today overlook or ignore. The result is a vigorous, frank dialogue that acknowledges the respective insights of the philosopher, the theologian and the scientist, but which calls on them to listen and to learn from each another.

Patriotism and the Left

Indeed, patriotism is far preferable to mere unity. (Mafia syndicates and terrorist cells are unified, after all.) Patriotism is a species of unity that has some redeeming moral and philosophical substance to it. In America, patriotism — as opposed to, say, nationalism — is a love for a creed, a dedication to what is best about the “American way.” Nationalism, a romantic sensibility, says, “My country is always right.” Patriots hope that their nation will make the right choice. When Democrats do speak of patriotism, it is usually as a means of finding fault with Republicans, corporations, or America itself. Hence the irony that questioning the patriotism of liberals is a grievous sin, but doing likewise to conservatives is fine. - Jonah Goldberg

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What Made Us Unique?

Joseph Ellis is probably one of my favorite contemporary writers. He writes about the American founding with great insight and eloquence. I've read several of his books, one on Jefferson, another on Washington and then his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Founding Brothers. His latest book, American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic, just arrived in the mail today. In the prologue, he draws on the contributions of fellow contemporary writers on the founding era and adumbrates four reasons that made the American founding so unique. In a nutshell, here they are:

1. Douglas Adair: The founders were obsessed with their legacy. They spent an exorbitant amount of time and energy editing and polishing their letters and correspondence. To quote Ellis: "They were always on their best behavior because they knew we would be watching." Adair's contribution helps us understand just why the founders have been so revered by successive generations. They were, according to Ellis, continuously "posing for posterity."

2. Gordon Wood: I found his observations extremely insightful and relevant. The founding era was, according to Wood, a congeries of a post-aristocratic and pre-democratic age. One the one hand, the post-aristocratic component of the founding era allowed for Washington, Adams and Hamilton, etc., (men who, in the old world, stood little to no chance of achieving greatness due their to run-of-the-mill, bland blood-lines) to rise meteorically through their own talents and leave their mark on history. The pre-democratic component is even more interesting. Wood argues that the founders belonged to an older age in a sense, because they were not a bunch of sycophants. They instinctively eschewed the fawning over "the people;" a practice very much in vogue today. "Public opinion...was regarded as flighty, undependable, shortsighted, and easily manipulated." The founders were more concerned with "the public," (as opposed to "the people") which had to do with "the long-term interest of the citizenry."

3. Bernard Bailyn: In many respects, it's almost an unanswerable riddle to figure out how such an impressive collection of brain power could manifest itself in a locale that was considered by many in Europe a provincial, lonely backwater of Western Civilization. None of the founders were educated in the esteemed universities of London or Paris and yet, look at what they managed to accomplish! Bailyn turns this perceived disadvantage into a strength. According to Ellis, "Being far removed from the cultural metropolises, which were laden with what Jefferson liked to call 'the dead hand of the past,' the revolutionary generation was freer to question the old self-evident truths and invent their own without fear of offending established sources of power and authority because, in fact, there were none."

4. Joseph Ellis: Ellis perceives another great strength where others may see a weakness; namely, that most of the founders often disagreed vehemently on monumental questions of the day. "The American Revolution never devolved into a one-man despotism that became the sole face of the revolutionary project. Political and personal diversity enhanced creativity by generating a dynamic chemistry. Every major decision...produced a bracing argument among the founders of different persuasions about revolutionary principles. This...replicated the checks and balances of the Constitution with a human version of the same principle." Touching on this point, some may argue, and I tend to agree, that the American Revolution is more appropriately described as The American War for Independence, since the "Revolution" did not seek a dramatic overhaul of the established order of things as did the French, Russian and Chinese Revolutions. The American struggle had much more to do with recovery and revival than revolution. Perhaps it is fair to maintain that the constitutional arrangement, after the war had been won, was revolutionary.

End Game

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has reached the end of the road after revelations trickled out of a dalliance with a prostitute. A political life some thought would lead all the way to the White House one day came to an abrupt end. "How the mighty have fallen." America will be better off without him. A recidivist arch-liberal, Spitzer is a rabid opponent of the right to bear arms, an uncompromising supporter of abortion who harried crisis pregnancy centers with groundless subpoenas, further, he favors granting drivers licenses to illegal immigrants in New York, and as a clincher, (as though more proof were needed) he is an avid supporter of Hillary Clinton. Spitzer is a ruthless, slash-and-burn politician who made destroying his opponents a personal vocation. One conservative labeled him the most destructive politician in America. Deepest sympathies to his wife and family, of course, but as to Spitzer the politician, good riddance. Republicans in the state legislature should follow through with articles of impeachment if Spitzer doesn't step down today.

Vaclav Klaus

Czech President Vaclav Klaus is unique among world leaders in that he is, as far as I can tell, the only prominent politician in Europe, and perhaps the world, who has not jumped aboard the group-think bandwagon of the man-made global warming hysteria. A student of the Austrian School of economics, he understands what few others do in Europe and elsewhere; that what's at stake here is our freedom. In environmentalism, Klaus perceives similar traits once distinguishable in life under Communist tyranny. Here's a dandy of a quote from Klaus, lecturing the hapless, yet maddeningly sanctimonious booboisie at the United Nations Climate Change Conference last September.
If I am not wrong I am the only speaker from a former communist country and I have to use this as a comparative -- paradoxically -- advantage. Each one of us has his or her experiences, prejudices and preferences. The ones that I have are, quite inevitably, connected with the fact that I have spent most of my life under the communist regime. A week ago I gave a speech at an official gathering at the Prague Castle commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1948 communist putsch in the former Czechoslovakia. One of the arguments of my speech there...went as follows: "Future dangers will not come from the same source. The ideology will be different. Its essence will, nevertheless, be identical. The attractive, pathetic, at first noble idea that transcends the individual in the name of the common good, and the enormous self-confidence on the side of its proponents about their right to sacrifice man and his freedom in order to make this idea a reality." What I had in mind was, of course, environmentalism and its current strongest version, climate alarmism.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Is Condi in the Cards for '08?

Here's a piece from The New Yorker on growing speculation over Sen. McCain's options for the VP slot. While I still hold that it's long shot that Secretary Rice will be chosen by McCain, it's a fascinating thing to ponder. The race/gender factor, at least for me, is a non-issue and unfortunately the article gives excessive attention to race and gender instead of the issues. It's the Democrats who obsess about such things as race and gender and, by extension, perceived racism and sexism in America. A ticket combining Ms. Rice's qualifications with Sen. McCain's experience would certainly prove a powerful one. Here's an excerpt from the piece:
To deal first with the obvious: Rice may be “only” the second woman and the second African-American to be Secretary of State, but she is indisputably the highest-ranking black female official ever to have served in any branch of the United States government. Her nomination to a constitutional executive office would cost McCain the votes of his party’s hardened racists and incorrigible misogynists. They are surely fewer in number, though, than the people who would like to participate in breaking the glass ceiling of race or gender but, given the choice, would rather do so in a more timid way, and/or without abandoning their party. And with Rice on the ticket the Republicans could attack Clinton or Obama with far less restraint.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Latest Purchase

I ordered a rare two-volume set of books published in 1946 and written by Charles Baker entitled, The Gentleman's Companion. Here's an excerpt from a review I came across online:
The magazine (Town and Country) sent its distinguished writer, Charles H. Baker, on assignment around the world to find the very best food and drink. The result was an eclectic compilation called The Gentleman's Companion, a legendary and extremely rare literary work, worthy of Jules Verne's Phileas Fogg.

The two volume set, including both an "Exotic Cookery Book" as well as an "Exotic Drink Book," provides a provocative and insightful snapshot of the civilized 1940s. In The Gentleman's Companion, Baker outlines a grand cocktail tour that takes the reader on imaginative flights fueled by drinks like the Vladivostok Virgin, "being a risky little heart-warmer from out Frozen Siberia," or "the unpredictable Balloon Cocktail from Calcutta's smartest restaurant, Firpo's." American readers whose idea of exotic travel goes no farther than the Grand Canyon can prepare an Aguacate Cubano, a spine-stiffening matter of Bahama Conchs, or Queen Elizabeth's Roasting Marinade for Saddle of Venison.

Few books, before or since, have even approached this urbanely masculine treatise on gastronomy.

Sounds interesting enough. On one website, the going rate was around $400 for the set, but for those interested I found it on Abebooks at a substantially reduced price. I'll offer a review as soon as I finish it.

McCain Rejects Anti-Catholic Remarks

Senator John McCain sought to put to rest any possibilities of a guilt-by-association backfire in reaction to comments made by anti-Catholic lowbrow, John Hagee. Hagee is a fairly prominent evangelical minister, among certain types of evangelicals I suppose, and a McCain supporter who routinely maunders on about the perceived malignancies of the Catholic Church. I was concerned that McCain wouldn't respond forcefully enough but I'm relatively pleased with what he had to say.
We've had a dignified campaign, and I repudiate any comments that are made, including Pastor Hagee's, if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics. I sent two of my children to Catholic school. I categorically reject and repudiate any statement that was made that was anti-Catholic, both in intent and nature. I categorically reject it, and I repudiate it. And we can't have that in this campaign. We're trying to unite the country. We're uniting the country, not dividing it...I am responding by saying that I am against discrimination and anti-Semitism, anti-Catholic, anything racial, and I have proved that on the campaign trail. -John McCain

Hey, I'm all for "uniting the country" but sometimes it's necessary to, as Mr. Buckley once put it, "excrete the kooks" from one's cause for the greater good. Mr. Hagee and his loathsome ilk come to mind.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Final Thoughts

I thought I'd post my final entry in a series of reflections on William F. Buckley. A friend who knows of my admiration for Buckley forwarded to me an article by Father Raymond J. de Souza (linked below) on the influence Catholicism played in the life of WFB. He cites George Weigel's claim that “Bill Buckley may have been the most publicly influential U.S. Catholic of the 20th century; he would certainly be on any serious list of the top five.” Since Buckley's passing, I had been waiting for an article that touched exclusively on Buckley's faith. As a public figure, he deserves commendation for an unflinching embrace of his faith in a time in our national history when Catholicism still faced stubborn, vestigial prejudices of an older era. His son Chris said of his father's religious convictions: "Deeply, profoundly and sometimes exasperatingly Catholic." Sounds like my kind of guy. I remember watching a wide-ranging interview with Buckley on the Charlie Rose Show. It was probably conducted within the past couple of years. Buckley was asked by his interlocutor if he had any desire, if possible to do so, to be a 25-year-old again. "Absolutely not." snuffed Buckley. The aged Buckley confessed to being "tired of living." To some this might initially sound indistinguishable from despair and to be honest, the first time I saw the interview, I was taken aback by the lack of any pause between the question and the answer. Buckley wasted no time to reflect on what he would say. But the more I thought about it, I gradually came to the realization that he said this within the context of expressing total contentment with a well-lived life. As always, he chose his words carefully and any other answer would have been inappropriate. Even though he readily admitted that he was ready to go, Buckley remained a consummate Catholic who, till the end, enjoyed the finer pleasures of life: good wine and mixed drinks, Bach and the harpsichord. And even though greatly saddened by the loss of his wife, Patricia, in '07, he remained a source of encouragement for others. In the aftermath of his wife's passing, Buckley would frequently admonish his son not to give in to gloom: "Remember, despair is a mortal sin."

As this article points out, even when Buckley struggled with a particular teaching of the Church earlier on, for instance, that of the use of contraception, in the end, he always came down on the side of the Church, saying, “The answer, for a Catholic, has got to be: the position taken by the Pope, as spokesman for the magisterium.” I think this takes real courage and should be taken as more reason to esteem WFB. As I see it, to confess one's inner struggle or lack of perfect understanding is a sign of honesty and integrity, and to have the conviction to set that aside in an act of acceptance to something you know to be greater reflects, I think, humility.

And just a final thought on the oft spoken "future of conservatism." Much ballyhoo and speculation has been offered regarding the "future" of the movement that Buckley forged. Many in the mainstream media, barely able to conceal their glee, interpret Buckley's passing as a harbinger of things to come for a now leaderless movement, a flock without its shepherd. I'll leave the intricacies of discussing, or rather refuting such ludicrous claims for another day. Conservatism, to be sure, is in need of a leader and President Bush, I think it's fair to say, has been singularly disappointing in this regard- in that he never really cared to champion conservatism as a political movement and as its leader. As Buckley said of Bush's father: "He is conservative, but not a conservative." Like father, like son. But that said, I do not believe that conservatism is in its death throws. Perhaps it is true that it has become a victim of its own success and that at present, the cause is undergoing certain growing pains. Buckley himself noted that many in the movement had become "slothful." As conservatism has grown, ample room has surfaced for respected thinkers to disagree on various issues. But why is it that vigorous debate is an indicator of imminent collapse? Conservatism, if guided correctly, will be just fine. To be sure, Buckley's passing leaves a void. To tweak a compliment that Jefferson once applied to Hamilton: Buckley was a colossus to the Republican Party, a host within himself. He will be missed.

Rather, I am more concerned with what Peggy Noonan expressed in her wonderful tribute to Buckley, that, with his passing, we're losing a unique kind of person- as she put it so nicely, "the elegant, the cultivated, the refined...people who were deeply, broadly educated in great universities when they taught deeply and broadly, who held deep views of life and the world and art and all the things that make life more delicious and more meaningful. We have work to do as a culture in bringing up future generations that are so well rounded, so full and so inspiring." Indeed.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Playing Politics with the Weather

Has The Weather Channel dabbled too far into the business of political proselytizing? The founder of the channel, John Coleman, believes so. Here's an excerpt from an intriguing story. The link follows.
Coleman...told the audience his strategy for exposing what he called “the fraud of global warming.” He advocated suing those who sell carbon credits, which would force global warming alarmists to give a more honest account of the policies they propose.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Buckley in Black and White

Here's a sample of Mr. Buckley during a 1965 Meet the Press debate. At the time, he was running on the Conservative Party ticket for mayor of New York City against a liberal Republican and a Democrat. His candidacy was something of a lark, he probably knew he wouldn't win, but he ran nonetheless to make a point. Enjoy the young WFB in his element, especially when asked to explain his having referred to President Johnson as "Uncle Corn Pone." You'll get a good laugh out of his retort. The clip runs about 8 minutes but it's worth watching, as it offers a rich sampling of the famous Buckley panache.