Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Feast of Pope St. Pius V

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
He worked incessantly to unite the Christian princes against the hereditary enemy, the Turks. In the first year of his pontificate he had ordered a solemn jubilee, exhorting the faithful to penance and almsgiving to obtain the victory from God. He supported the Knights of Malta, sent money for the fortification of the free towns of Italy, furnished monthly contributions to the Christians of Hungary, and endeavoured especially to bring Maximilian, Philip II , and Charles I together for the defence of Christendom. In 1567 for the same purpose he collected from all convents one-tenth of their revenues. In 1570 when Solyman II attacked Cyprus, threatening all Christianity in the West, he never rested till he united the forces of Venice, Spain, and the Holy See. He sent his blessing to Don John of Austria, the commander-in-chief of the expedition, recommending him to leave behind all soldiers of evil life, and promising him the victory if he did so. He ordered public prayers, and increased his own supplications to heaven. On the day of the Battle of Lepanto, 7 Oct., 1571, he was working with the cardinals, when, suddenly, interrupting his work opening the window and looking at the sky, he cried out, "A truce to business; our great task at present is to thank God for the victory which He has just given the Christian army". He burst into tears when he heard of the victory, which dealt the Turkish power a blow from which it never recovered. In memory of this triumph he instituted for the first Sunday of October the feast of the Rosary, and added to the Litany of Loreto the supplication "Help of Christians ". He was hoping to put an end to the power of Islam by forming a general alliance of the Italian cities Poland, France, and all Christian Europe, and had begun negotiations for this purpose when he died of gravel, repeating "O Lord, increase my sufferings and my patience!" He left the memory of a rare virtue and an unfailing and inflexible integrity. He was beatified by Clement X in 1672, and canonized by Clement XI in 1712.

The tomb of Pope St. Pius V, in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Vilifying the Wrong Profit

If you want to make some friends these days, hurl some insults at the avaricious "big oil" industries. I was talking to a friend the other day who was bemoaning the gargantuan profits being raked in by the oil companies. "Something must be done!" So the argument goes. The implication here is that the government should step in to whittle down huge oil profits with the aim of helping Mr. Jones at the pump. I understand the noble intentions behind the desire to see lower fuel prices but sicking congressional goons on the oil industry, while always popular, is not the way to go about it. Oil prices are high, not because of a shortage in supply per se, but rather because of a deficiency in the means of production. For this, you can thank the radical environmentalists in our own country who go into conniptions whenever drilling in ANWAR is mentioned. We can also thank the misguided (and in one case deranged) leaders of nations like Venezuela, Mexico and Norway who, following the socialist model, are nationalizing their oil reserves, resulting in the expulsion of private companies.

Incidentally, how many trillions of dollars does the government siphon off from the American taxpayer each year? This is by far the more scandalous sum, a trillion-plus figure that makes oil profits look like chump change. Congressional Democrats, populists who have refined the skill of pandering to an art form, gain ample mileage on their political careers by threatening to go after oil profits on behalf of the little guy. What is needed is some soul-searching and fiscal responsibility on their part. Why not start by going after the government's profits? Leave industries and the market alone.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Disintegration of the Democratic Coalition

Here's a fascinating piece by William Tucker, writing for the American Spectator, on the end of the New Deal and the Democratic coalition.
The Pennsylvania primary was a clincher. Obama has two constituencies -- African Americans and college-educated liberals. They're both passionate bloc voters and will turn out in droves. But their numbers are limited. They'll give Obama Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Mississippi, Illinois, and maybe California and Oregon, but that will be about it.

Hillary's votes come from the Democrats' other constituency -- blue-collar workers, Catholics, and people without a college education. Catholics rejected Obama by 70 percent. That's scary. Catholics have been a core constituency for the Democrats since the days of Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion. If they drift over to the Republicans -- as they were doing under Ronald Reagan -- there's very little left in the Democrats' portfolio.

Read the rest here:

The Ravages of Biofuel

Mark Steyn offers a nice critique of the push to force biofuel on the market. It's a terrible idea (endorsed by too many Republicans who should know better) and the results can already be seen in third-world countries.
Western governments listened to the eco-warriors, and introduced some of the “wartime measures” they’ve been urging. The EU decreed that 5.75 percent of petrol and diesel must come from “biofuels” by 2010, rising to 10 percent by 2020. The U.S. added to its 51 cents-per-gallon ethanol subsidy by mandating a five-fold increase in “biofuels” production by 2022.

The result is that big government accomplished at a stroke what the free market could never have done: They turned the food supply into a subsidiary of the energy industry. When you divert 28 percent of U.S. grain into fuel production, and when you artificially make its value as fuel higher than its value as food, why be surprised that you’ve suddenly got less to eat? Or, to be more precise, it’s not “you” who’s got less to eat but those starving peasants in distant lands you claim to care so much about.

Heigh-ho. In the greater scheme of things, a few dead natives keeled over with distended bellies is a small price to pay for saving the planet, right? Except that turning food into fuel does nothing for the planet in the first place. That tree the U.S. Marines are raising on Iwo Jima was most likely cut down to make way for an ethanol-producing corn field: Researchers at Princeton calculate that to date the “carbon debt” created by the biofuels arboricide will take 167 years to reverse.

The biofuels debacle is global warm-mongering in a nutshell: The first victims of poseur environmentalism will always be developing countries. In order for you to put biofuel in your Prius and feel good about yourself for no reason, real actual people in faraway places have to starve to death. On April 15, the Independent, the impeccably progressive British newspaper, editorialized: “The production of biofuel is devastating huge swathes of the world’s environment. So why on earth is the Government forcing us to use more of it?”

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner have co-authored a book entitled Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges. It sounds very good, surely well written. Lawyers in the making, I can think of at least one, should find it useful...

Here's a synopsis:
In their professional lives courtroom lawyers must do these two things well: speak persuasively and write persuasively. In this noteworthy book, two of the most noted legal writers of our day Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner systematically present every important idea about judicial persuasion in a fresh, entertaining way. Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges is a guide for novice and experienced litigators alike. It covers the essentials of sound legal reasoning, including how to develop the syllogism that underlies any argument. From there the authors explain the art of brief-writing, especially what to include and what to omit, so that you can induce the judge to focus closely on your arguments. Finally, they show what it takes to succeed in oral argument. The opinions of Justice Scalia are legendary for their sharp insights, biting wit, and memorable phrasing. The writings of Bryan A. Garner, editor in chief of Black's Law Dictionary, are respected inside and outside legal circles for their practical guidance on the art of writing and advocacy. Together the Scalia-Garner team has produced a fresh, innovative approach to a timeless topic.

Orthodox Celebrate Easter

In Bethlehem

In Kiev

In Moscow

Friday, April 25, 2008

Feast of Saint Mark

In honor of his feast day, here are some pictures of Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice.

Saint Mark's Sarcophagus

Relic of Saint Mark

A picture of me in Piazza San Marco

Here's another shot of the facade.

This is a huge cross-shaped candelabrum that hangs from the ceiling.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Just for Laughs

Here's a tv classic. Lucy does a commercial for a dietary product that she doesn't know contains a healthy dose of alcohol. She soon becomes loopy from so many rehearsals. This clip has been called one of the greatest moments in television history. Enjoy!


While promising to unite a nation supposedly torn asunder by President Bush's macho jingoism and shenanigans, Senators Obama and Clinton are cleaving their own convoluted Party apart. Americans were to believe that the Democratic Party was the last sanctum for liberated women and oppressed minorities. The early struggle between Clinton and Obama, we were told, represented a sort of cultural and political apotheosis and yet, despite all of the promises, these two are shamelessly pitting race against gender in a marvelous display of political suicide. One must ask: How can the Democratic Party lay serious claim to any credibility? Republicans have their problems with a milquetoast nominee and an alarming dearth of conservative leadership in DC, but McCain is a storm that can be weathered. The crisis within the Democratic Party could prove fatal.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On Unity

Jonah Goldberg offers some coruscating thoughts on "unity" in this week's issue of National Review. He takes Senator Obama to task for his interminable yawping about the need for us to "unite"...around him, of course. Joseph Ellis makes a similar observation regarding constitutional modalities.
The founding fathers dedicated a great deal of thought to the subject of unity, and they found it was something to view with skepticism at best and, more often than not, with fear. Hence we have a constitution designed to thwart the baser forms of unity. Our government is set up so that the Senate cools the populist passion of the House, the executive thwarts the passions of the legislature and vice versa, and the Supreme Court checks the whole lot, to which its composition is in turn ultimately subject. "Divisiveness"-the setting of faction against faction, one branch of government against another, and the sovereignty of the individual over the group-was for the founders the great guarantor of our liberties and the source of civic virtue...If Obama and the Democrats believe unity in all things is the supreme political value, but the American tradition holds that liberty is a greater good, then could it not be argued that Barack Obama's greatest rival in this race is not the other candidates, but patriotism?

Hysteria vs. Reason, Science vs. Politics

Renowned climatologist and former NASA scientist, Dr. Roy Spencer has penned a fine book entitled, Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor

Here's a synopsis:
Roy Spencer shows that fears about global warming are vastly exaggerated and are driven by politics, not truth. A global superstorm has already arrived - but it is a storm of hype and hysteria. This ground-breaking book combines impeccable scientific authority with great wit to expose the hysteria surrounding the myths of global warming and climate change. Spencer shows that the earth is far more resilient than we think.

Mark Steyn was on to something when he mocked the chutzpah of the prime movers within the man-made global warming cabal. Liberals scoff at the "implausible" notion of tracking down illegal immigrants in our nation, "Impossible, it can't be done!" but when it comes to altering the very heavens...that is well within our power.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Quote of the Year

This goes to the Pope, who said the following on Saturday at Saint Joseph's Seminary:

What purpose has a "freedom" which, in disregarding truth, pursues what is false or wrong?

Global Warming and Socialism

Bolivia's President Evo Morales distinguished himself today as one of Latin America's most conspicuous lowbrow socialists. He attained this status by ripping into capitalism, claiming that it must be abandoned if the planet is to be spared from the ravaging effects of global warming.

"If we want to save our planet earth, to save life, to save mankind, we have a duty to put an end to the capitalist system."

Now, enemies of capitalism are a dime a dozen in Latin America, hence the ubiquitous turmoil, corruption and comical leaders that plague the region. But Morales' deed of associating the free market economy with the global warming hoax is most revealing. The Latin vulgarian's trite betrays the true inspiration behind the man-made global warming myth: contempt for the free market and a sickening infatuation with the kind of consolidation of power that is concomitant with socialism. The truth is, when applied correctly, capitalism and its wide-reaching consequences have elevated billions of people from the dregs of utter poverty. The good people of Latin America have an important decision to make: ditch the insane cadre of corrupt megalomaniacs presently running the show or face an embarrassing irrelevance on the world stage.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Environmentalists: Off the Deep End?

Uh...Yes. Here is the latest cover from TIME magazine.

Defending the solecism, TIME's Richard Stengel said,

[O]ne of the things we do in the story is we say there needs to be an effort along the lines of preparing for World War II to combat global warming and climate change. It seems to me that this is an issue that is very popular with the voters, makes a lot of sense to them and a candidate who can actually bundle it up in some grand way and say, ‘Look, we need a national and international Manhattan Project to solve this problem and my candidacy involves that.’ I don't understand why they don’t do that.

Maybe Richard, it's because most people are sane.

So for self-absorbed types like Mr. Stengel, remedying a fabricated hoax like man-made global warming ought to be afforded the same sense of urgency as combating the Nazi and Japanese terror! This reveals the sordid depths to which the left in America has fallen.

Jonah Goldberg offers salient insights into the darker ideological roots of environmentalism.

From Liberal Fascism:
A perverse and bizarre form of self-hatred has infected certain segments of the eco-left. When Charles Wurster, the chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, was told that banning DDT would probably result in millions of deaths, he replied, “This is as good a way to get rid of them as any" ...Hitler often claimed his vegetarianism was inspired by Wagner, who argued that meat eating and race mixing were the twin causes of man’s alienation from the natural world. Many leading Nazi ideologues also shared today’s deep-seated commitment to animal rights as opposed to animal welfare...The Germans needed to "reconnect" with nature. Animals have exactly such a balance because they are immune to reason. Vegetarianism, public health, and animal rights were merely different facets of the obsession with the organic order that pervaded the German fascist mind...and the liberal fascist mind today. Organic food was seamlessly linked to the larger Nazi conception of the organic nation living in harmony with a pre- or non-Christian ecosystem.

It's pretty obvious that the environmentalist lobby gleans much of its ideological currents from German Romanticism and, by extension, Rousseau.

Veterans of Iwo Jima, who understand quite well what constitutes a real threat to civilization, are furious over this journalistic rotgut and are making their voices heard. Best of luck to them.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The U.S. Army Band

Today at the White House, the U.S. Army Chorus sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic for the Pope. For me, it was the highlight of the event, tinging religious sentiment with patriotism. The last verse of the old hymn is particularly moving.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

The first link is to the U.S. Army Choir site, the second link will take you to a video clip of the South Lawn recital.

The Pope on the South Lawn

From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation’s founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the "self-evident truth" that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement. In our time too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue to find their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideals and aspirations...Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom born of firm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the nation...The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good (cf. Spe Salvi, 24). Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that "in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation", and a democracy without values can lose its very soul (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46). Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent "indispensable supports" of political prosperity.
-Pope Benedict XVI

Under a clear blue sky in Washington today, the Pope praised America's founding principles. He clearly admires our unique history and culture. He was exceptionally well received by those gathered. Thousands sang Happy Birthday to him as he looked over the White House balcony. Some news reports suggest that the Pope will find a more receptive audience here than in Europe; an argument not without some merit. It is a good day to be Catholic in America.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Jefferson on the Right to Bear Arms

Here's a bit of sound counsel from Thomas Jefferson, discussing the benefits of carrying a gun.

"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the Body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind . . . Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks."

Obama suggests that Middle Americans, boorish hayseeds they are, "cling" to guns (and religion) out of an understandable bitterness at the sordid state of things in our nation. Talk about being out of touch.

The Pope and the Professor

Here's a nice piece from The Washington Post by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus on expectations for the pope's visit.
Key to understanding the man [Pope Benedict XVI] is that he is much more of an Augustinian than a Thomist. Of all the great doctors (i.e. teachers) of the Catholic intellectual tradition, the fifth century St. Augustine and the thirteenth century St. Thomas Aquinas are the great lights by which most schools of thought are defined. To be sure, there are Augustinian Thomists and Thomist Augustinians, and the distinctions often have more to do with sensibility than substance. Put all too roughly, Thomists are devoted to a systematic presentation of unchanging principles of reason, while Augustinians are given to a discursive account of the complexities of mind and heart in pursuit of the right ordering of love to the truth, and ultimately to absolute truth, who is God.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Life Begins...

At a "Faith Forum" hosted by CNN, Senators Clinton and Obama were asked if they believe life begins at conception. Brace yourselves.

Said Clinton:
I believe the potential for life begins at conception. For me, it is also not only about a potential life. It is about the other lives involved. ... I have concluded, after great, you know, concern and searching my own mind and heart over many years, ... that individuals must be entrusted to make this profound decision, because the alternative would be such an intrusion of government authority that it would be very difficult to sustain in our kind of open society.

Said Obama:
This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. I think it's very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? ... What I know, as I've said before, is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we're having these debates.

Both seem to be open to the possibility that life begins at conception, while at the same time, both resolutely support the "right" of a woman to end that "potential" life. Even if, for the sake of argument, we accept the premise that we simply cannot know whether or not life begins at conception, would it not be wise counsel to err on the side of caution and protect by law the subject in question, for the very reason that it could be an innocent life? At least then, the conscience could divest itself of a horrific alternative: that of bearing the heavy guilt of knowing that it stood by silently as millions of unborn children were killed. I'd love to ask Clinton or Obama, "By admitting there is the potential for life, you have the responsibility of considering the consequences of that potentiality being real: What if it is a life? How, then, could you live with yourself?"

The "Catholic President"?

How "Catholic" is the Protestant President George W. Bush? A good argument can certainly be made that he is more Catholic than Kennedy. I can only agree. Here's a nice read from The Washington Post:
...people close to Bush say that he has professed a not-so-secret admiration for the church's discipline and is personally attracted to the breadth and unity of its teachings. A New York priest who has befriended the president said that Bush respects the way Catholicism starts at the foundation -- with the notion that the papacy is willed by God and that the pope is Peter's successor. "I think what fascinates him about Catholicism is its historical plausibility," says this priest. "He does appreciate the systematic theology of the church, its intellectual cogency and stability." The priest also says that Bush "is not unaware of how evangelicalism -- by comparison with Catholicism -- may seem more limited both theologically and historically."

Popes and Presidents Past

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Is Obama an Elitist?

A furor has erupted of late over comments made by Senator Barack Obama while on the campaign trail. Speaking at a fundraiser in San Francisco he said the following:

"It's not surprising, then, they (Americans) get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

It's an appalling statement, really. He now suggests that he should been more thoughtful in choosing his words but I think he knew exactly what he was saying. This isn't the first time Obama or his wife for that matter have made snide remarks dripping with condescension. Like far too many in Europe, Obama exhibits the typical liberal's scorn and disdain for certain caricatures of Middle America, esp. regarding religion and the right to bear arms.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Pope and the Internet

Here's Peggy Noonan's latest:
John Paul made you burst into tears. Benedict makes you think. It is more pleasurable to weep, but at the moment, perhaps it is more important to think.

A Vatican reporter last week said John Paul was the perfect pope for the television age, "a man of images." Think of the pictures of him storm-tossed, tempest-tossed, standing somewhere and leaning into a heavy wind, his robes whipping behind him, holding on to his crosier, the staff bearing the image of a crucified Christ, with both hands, for dear life, as if consciously giving Christians a picture of what it is to be alive.

Benedict, the reporter noted, is the perfect pope for the Internet age. He is a man of the word. You download the text of what he said, print it, ponder it.

Responding to Ron Paul

In this clip, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice picks apart all of Congressman Paul's all-too-predictable and slapdash accusations that come cloaked in the garb of "questions." Following Paul's statement, he finally proposes a question to Rice. She responds in kind and then proceeds to shoot down each of his previous assertions. Paul's accusations are getting a bit tiring. The light of any good points he may make (and he sometimes offers one or two) is dimmed significantly by his obsolete view of the role of the United States in the post-9/11 world. And therein, I think it's fair to say, is the schism within the conservative family: On the one hand, there are those who believe that 9/11 was a wake-up call to a new kind of war and enemy that demanded a fresh approach in dealing with such asymmetrical threats as rogue Islamic nations and Islamic terror cells within those nations. On the other side, one finds individuals like Congressman Paul and Pat Buchanan, who would rather lay the blame for events like 9/11 at the feet of the United States and its foreign policy. This understanding, both naive and deeply offensive, while not lacking a certain sophisticated speciousness, is revealed as untrue by the very statements of the terrorists themselves, who repeatedly remind us that they perceive this battle as fight-to-the-finish war waged in the name of Islam. Friends of mine from the Middle East have also rejected such theories as espoused by Paul and Buchanan, i.e., the belief that our foreign policy is the primary reason for the attacks perpetrated by radical Muslims against Western nations. As George Weigel put it in Faith, Reason and the War Against Jihadism, US foreign policy is the excuse, not the reason for the attacks against us.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Deconstructing Carter

I'd rather not be so overtly partisan but news like this makes it impossible not to be: Jimmy Carter (the golly-gee former president who presided over the most disastrous and morale sapping four-years for our nation than any president in recent memory) will be meeting with an exiled leader of the terror group Hamas, Khaled Meshal. The State Department is beside itself with incredulity. This is why Democrats cannot be trusted with the reins of power. Is this how Carter thinks he can remain relevant? Is this how we are supposed to forget about his humiliating series of blunders in office (virtually wrecking the economy, the Iran hostage fiasco and the mystifying insouciance toward the communist threat, to name only a few) and, finally, the forceful way in which America vomited him forth from its mouth in 1980 by electing Reagan in an overwhelming landslide? It's sad, really.

From the news report:
A senior Hamas official has confirmed that former President Jimmy Carter will meet with Khaled Meshal, the exiled head of the Palestinian terror group Hamas, during a visit to Syria next week, according to the Associated Press.

The official, Mohammed Nazzal, told the AP that Carter sent an envoy to Damascus requesting a meeting with Hamas leadership, including Meshal, and that Hamas "welcomed the request." The meeting will take place on April 18, he said.

The State Department has designated Hamas a “foreign terrorist organization.” Chief spokesman Sean McCormack once said of the prospect of meeting with Meshal, “That’s not something that we could possibly conceive of.”,2933,348989,00.html

Here's the 1980 electoral map of Reagan's victory over Carter. Red states: Reagan, Blue states: Carter.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Enjoying Chopin

I've been listening quite a bit to the works of the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin. It's hard not to fall in love with his genius. His music for the piano is romantic and passionate yet ordered and elegant, uplifting and airy while not void of a certain melancholy. There are times when I'm listening to say, Beethoven, and the intensity of his crescendos gets to me and I have to say, "Enough!" but this never happens with Chopin. Everything about his style is so gentle and smooth. I am admittedly a bit of a dilettante when it comes to the intricacies of deciphering the chords of music but Chopin's music is simply wonderful. It just exudes a Slavic ethos. Every time I listen to his work I am reminded of my time in Poland: the natural beauty of the country, the people, the tranquil town square in Krakow, etc., probably just as he intended it.

The Left and Taste

There's something undeniably cheeky about Italy's Silvio Berlusconi. He is often too much and goes too far but what I most like about him is his utter contempt for Communism. He will most likely be returning to power as Prime Minister this weekend with the elections. He's known the world over for making outlandish statements. The other day, he claimed his knowledge of Latin was so good that he could hold his own with Julius Caesar. Maybe so. This one, though, is richer still.

From the BBC:

Mr Berlusconi was quoted as saying that when he looked round parliament, he found that female politicians from the right were "more beautiful"..."The left has no taste, even when it comes to women," the 71-year-old was quoted as saying.

Quod erat demonstrandum

President Pays Tribute to Navy SEAL

Here's a short news clip of the Medal of Honor ceremony yesterday that recognized the heroism of Navy SEAL Michael A. Monsoor.

From the Medal of Honor citation:
The President of the United States, in the name of the Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to Master At Arms Second Class, Sea, Air and Land, Michael A. Monsoor, United States Navy. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Automatic Weapons Gunner for Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 29 September 2006.

Monday, April 07, 2008

What is the Likelihood?

Vice President Rice?

About Rice, McCain said, "I think she’s a great American, I think there’s very little that I can say that isn’t anything but the utmost praise for a great American citizen, who served as a role model to so many millions of people in this country and around the world."

It's still a long shot but I think there's a chance.

Gen. Petraeus Prepares His Testimony

Tomorrow, General David Petraeus will deliver his progress report to Congress on the state of things in Iraq. In that country, he faces terrorists' bullets and IEDs while here, in his own country, he is forced to endure the sanctimonious lecturing of liberal politicians who are at the beck and call of radical groups like Code Pink and Followers of such groups no doubt have had their seats reserved months in advance in order to disrupt the hearings with their shrill catcalls and accusations. They are immediately recognizable, all dressed-up in their chintzy pink costumes. Their shameless extravagances upon entering the hearing room might lead one to speculate whether they are, in the general sense, non compos mentis. At least that would excuse them. It's anybody's guess. I'm all for the expression of an opposing view, so long as it is done civilly but the obscene raucousness of fringe groups is out of the question.

These hearings have become circuses, even more so with the Democrats running the show. It's a painful thing to see, almost nauseating in fact: a four-star general sitting patiently by while feckless politicians perched on their elevated dais and borderline-insane relics from the 1960's roundly impugn his integrity and question his authenticity.

Senators Lieberman and Graham wrote a fine piece about the situation in Iraq for The Wall Street Journal. Excerpts and a link follow.
As late as last September, advocates of retreat insisted that the surge would fail to bring about any meaningful reduction in violence in Iraq. accused Gen. Petraeus of "cooking the books," while others claimed that his testimony, offering evidence of early progress, required "the willing suspension of disbelief."

Gen. Petraeus will be the first to acknowledge that the gains in Iraq have come at a heavy price in blood and treasure. We mourn the loss and pain of the civilians and service members who have been killed and wounded in Iraq, but adamantly believe these losses have served a noble cause.

No one can deny the dramatic improvements in security in Iraq achieved by Gen. Petraeus, the brave troops under his command, and the Iraqi Security Forces. From June 2007 through February 2008, deaths from ethno-sectarian violence in Baghdad have fallen approximately 90%. American casualties have also fallen sharply, down by 70%.

Kissinger Reflects

Here's an editorial by Henry Kissinger from today's Washington Post. Nice points are made, some of which I've italicized. The link to the entire piece is included.
The long-predicted national debate about national security policy has yet to occur. Essentially tactical issues have overwhelmed the most important challenge a new administration will confront: how to distill a new international order from three simultaneous revolutions occurring around the globe: (a) the transformation of the traditional state system of Europe; (b) the radical Islamist challenge to historic notions of sovereignty; and (c) the drift of the center of gravity of international affairs from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Conventional wisdom holds that disenchantment with President Bush's alleged unilateralism is at the heart of European-American disagreements. But it will become apparent soon after the change of administrations that the principal difference between the two sides of the Atlantic is that America is still a traditional nation-state whose people respond to calls for sacrifices on behalf of a much wider definition of the national interest than Europe's definition. The nations of Europe, having been drained by two world wars, have agreed to transfer significant aspects of their sovereignties to the European Union. Political loyalties associated with the nation-state have proved not to be automatically transferable, however. Europe is in a transition between its past, which it seeks to overcome, and a future it has not yet reached.

In the process, the nature of the European state has been transformed. With nations no longer defining themselves by a distinct future and with the cohesion of the European Union as yet untested, the capacity of most European governments to ask their people for sacrifices has diminished dramatically.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Un peu d'histoire

I paid a visit to the Old Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis today. It's a fine example of, I believe, a blend of French Baroque and Classicism. Here are some pictures and tidbits about the rich history of the church. I was told that the Cathedral Basilica carries a special indulgence, granted by the pope (perhaps John XXIII), that is equal to the indulgence given to pilgrims visiting the major basilicas of Rome. I'll make it my homework to get more details on that anecdote. I can only assume this resulted from the church's classification as a "basilica."
In 1826 St. Louis became a Diocese and the following year Bishop Joseph Rosati, C.M. became the first bishop of the Diocese of St. Louis. The cornerstone of the present Cathedral building was laid in 1831 and the dedication of the building took place in 1834. This was the first Cathedral west of the Mississippi and until 1845 it was the only parish church in the city of St. Louis. It is truly the "Mother Church" of the City of St. Louis.

On January 27, 1961, Pope John XXIII signed a Decree naming the former Cathedral of St. Louis, a Basilica, recognizing it as "a treasure of the universal church". It belongs in a real sense to the whole world and not just to our locality. The ornamental insignia of a basilica are the half open umbrella (canopeum), and the bell in the key shaped frame (tintinnabulum) which led papal processions. These insignia are displayed in the rear of the church.

Memorial Mass for WFB

A memorial Mass was celebrated at Saint Patrick's Cathedral last Friday for the repose of the soul of William F. Buckley, Jr. Here are some excerpts from a beautiful article written by Fr. Raymond J. De Souza, who was in attendance.
Buckley remains an outstanding example of the Christian in public life. His foundational convictions were animated by his faith, namely that every human life, originating in God and destined for Him, is entitled to that liberty which permits it to flourish in creative co-operation with the divine. His strongest political passion — anti-communism — was driven by his conviction that it was not merely inefficient, but evil, not merely mistaken, but theologically wrong.

Yet, for some 60 years in public life, he never conducted himself in an exclusive or confessional mode. His deepest convictions were religious; his public arguments were not.

It was his Catholicism that made him so keen to ensure that politics, that necessary and noble cause, served its true purpose, which is to leave plenty of room for the more necessary and nobler things still — the things which are beautiful and lovely, and to which we owe our love.

He did not often refer to his faith, but rather it provided the frame of reference for everything. In the latest book, published just a few months ago, he mentions in passing National Review: “the fortnightly journal of opinion with which I have been associated pre partum, in partu, and post partum.” That’s the old Latin formula specifying the dogma of the perpetual virginity of Mary; for Buckley it was as natural to refer to the catechism as it was nautical metaphors or historical allusions.

In an age when funerals are tending in the direction of testimonial dinners, and it sometimes seems that a reading of the curriculum vitae is more apt than the words of holy writ, the memorial Mass here was a splendid Christian rite for a splendid Christian soul, a faithful Catholic being given the final blessings of the Church he loved.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


A great American actor passed away today. Charlton Heston died at the age of 84. He was a diehard supporter of conservative causes such as the right to bear arms and he vehemently opposed abortion. This one is for a good friend, Sarge.

The Reagan Diaries

Anyone interested in taking a peek into the daily life of one of America's greatest presidents would be well served to purchase this hefty book.

Morality and Economics: Bridging the Divide

Here are some extractions from a very fine piece on economic theory by an Austrian economist, Dr. Thomas Woods entitled, Morality and Economic Law: Toward a Reconciliation. His insights on defining price, the consequences of the productivity of labor and the Spanish scholastics are especially noteworthy. Woods is to be commended for eviscerating widespread misconceptions about the free market economy on the part of Catholics. It was related to me a while back by my former economics professor that an otherwise traditional Catholic confessed to him that, were it not for the life issues (abortion, euthanasia, etc.) he would have, quite astonishingly, cast his lot for the Democrat in the last presidential election. Flabbergasted, my professor attempted to ascertain the reason for this individual's Democratic sympathies. "Social justice" issues, he believed, were better handled by the Democrats than the Republicans. Woods himself has been on the receiving end of not a little criticism from voices on the Catholic fringe. One dyspeptic Catholic who fancies himself an incarnation of the true "Catholic economist" even went so far as to suggest that Woods and his ilk are flirting with formal "dissent" from official Catholic teaching with their embrace of the free market and as a consequence warrant excommunication. To avoid ending up like this fellow, we should immerse ourselves in the wisdom of the Austrian School as we enjoy the unparalleled benefits brought about by the industrial revolution and the free market.
Pope Pius XI made a significant concession in his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (1931), which marked the fortieth anniversary of the issuance of Leo XIII’s seminal Rerum Novarum. He acknowledged that limits must exist to what the moral theologian may legitimately say within the economic sphere, since "economics and moral science employs each its own principles in its own sphere." To be sure, the Pope then went on to deny that "the economic and moral orders are so distinct from and alien to each other that the former depends in no way on the latter." But once it has been conceded that economics is a bona fide science possessing an internal coherence of its own, problems immediately arise for those who would claim that Catholic social teaching definitively settles all major economic matters in an absolute and binding way. As A.M.C. Waterman points out, this concession by Pius XI "throws doubt on the authoritative character of that very substantial part of Catholic (or at least papal) social teaching which consists not of theological and ethical pronouncements, but of empirical judgments about the economy."

Strangely, little or no acknowledgment is made in papal economic writings since 1891 of the enormous increase in living standards that became evident among the great mass of the population from the Industrial Revolution to the present, or the substantial increase in the purchasing power of wages that occurred throughout the nineteenth century, the century of laissez-faire. This is surely one of the most outstanding features of modern European economic history, yet for some reason it features not at all in the social encyclicals. To the contrary, the social encyclicals routinely speak as if the workers’ condition had actually stagnated or even deteriorated (as indeed popular opinion continues to believe). Professor Luckey writes that it is "hard to excuse Leo XIII" for his statements to this effect. "Using life expectancy figures, which ought to have been available to Leo, it is clear that at the dawn of the nineteenth century life expectancy in England was about 37 years, but after 1871-5, about 20 years prior to Rerum Novarum, there is an acceleration in life expectancy with no setbacks, so that by 1900 English life expectancy is about 50. Real per capita income begins to soar immediately after 1800 in all of Europe."

"What was wrong with Catholic social thought in the nineteenth century," writes Fr. James Sadowsky, "was not so much its ethics as its lack of understanding of how the free market can work. The concern for the worker was entirely legitimate, but concern can accomplish little unless we know the causes and the cures for the disease."

Friday, April 04, 2008

Falling Temperatures?

We shall see how much coverage this gets in the media. From the BBC:
Global temperatures will drop slightly this year as a result of the cooling effect of the La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said. The World Meteorological Organization's secretary-general, Michel Jarraud, told the BBC it was likely that La Nina would continue into the summer. This would mean global temperatures have not risen since 1998, prompting some to question climate change theory.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A Stimulating Discussion

For those with the time, here's an hour-long discussion from 2002 conducted by Bill Buckley entitled, Perspectives on America. Among others, Buckley, Fr. John Neuhaus and historian Richard Brookhiser share their thoughts on America, looking back and forward. The expression on Fr. Neuhaus' face as Buckley describes him with his inimitable cadence as "analytically keen and verbally absorbing" is priceless. The first 30 seconds or so of the clip are a bit skewed, but it recovers quickly.

A Must-See Church

Here are some pictures I took in Rome of the Portuguese Church of Saint Anthony of Padua. The church is hard to find, located on an inconspicuous side street not far from my alma mater, Santa Croce. Hard to locate, it certainly is (a fact somewhat ironic for Saint Anthony's church, no?) but I always believed it to be one of Rome's finest churches; relatively small and intimate yet intoxicatingly Baroque with its exquisite artwork from floor to ceiling. All of the marble is genuine and the detail of the gilding in the dome and ceiling takes your breath away. I wish I had grabbed more pictures. The church frequently hosts Classical music recitals. Experiencing such visual and audible beauty should be enough to convince any atheist of God's existence. My question to the unbeliever: Where does the artist's inspiration come from that results in such things as these?

Please click on the images to get a better look, especially the pictures of the dome and gilded ceiling.