Saturday, May 31, 2008

On Choosing Wisely

In the November election, Americans will have to answer a simple question: Are we safer now than we were eight years ago or could we be safer still under the alternative brand of leadership offered by the Democrats and their presumptive leader, Senator Obama? Republicans, taking their lead from President Bush, and Democrats, with Sen. Obama, espouse vastly opposing views on how best to confront the threat of Islamic terror. It's fair to say that the Democrats have been vociferous critics of many of the president's policies, ranging from the war in Iraq, to the Patriot Act, to the proper treatment of captured combatants. This editorial, taken from The Wall Street Journal, will help spell out the fruits of the President's method. The voters will decide.

Friday, May 30, 2008

This I Believe

William F. Buckley eloquently discusses the reasonableness of a belief in God.

When Serious Thought Withers

Just the other day, the Holy See, via the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a strongly worded and unequivocal warning aimed at contumacious souls tinkering with the stogy idea of “ordaining” women to the priesthood. The document makes clear that any such charade “ordination” will result in automatic excommunication for the guilty parties involved, across the board. The news has particular poignancy for the soi-disant “Rome of the West,” the city of Saint Louis. In March, three women incurred the penalty of excommunication for participating in a flaccid “ordination.” That potent word, “excommunication” sounds so atavistic, intolerant and downright mean. In a society marinated endlessly in the argot of the self-esteem culture, where “me, myself and I” is the recipient of interminable pep-talks and oleaginous flattery, to hear mention of “excommunication” is a cultural wakeup call akin to the jolt of being tossed in an ice-cold shower. Those inured to around-the-clock opinion-flattery don’t take kindly to the suggestion that their heuristic intuitions regarding matter of doctrine may be somewhat off kilter. Excommunication is precisely the kind of word that causes the massaged egos of today to cringe and delicate ears to bleed.

I first read about this story on MSNBC and, as I was scrolling down to read further, I noticed in conspicuous red letters an option for the readers to voice their opinion on the matter by clicking to “Vote: Should Women be Priests?”. I suppose for statistical purposes, it may be illuminating to see what percentage of Catholics believes what, but the problem with the modish “Vote Now” trope, all too common in today’s narcissistic culture, is that it applies a deceptive veneer of infallibility to something that is inherently shifting, namely, public opinion. When this approach is carried over to questions of religion, the situation gets stickier still. The amorphous opinion of the masses…now that’s something I’m keen on entrusting my immortal soul to! Are we to surrender the most solemn and sacred teachings and Traditions, handed down for over two-thousand years, to the feckless winds of a people’s collective opinion? Perhaps the better question is: Are we to believe that a God who truly loves us would transfer certitude of our knowledge of Him to our own fallible intellects and passions? If the answer were yes, who could resist the temptation to despair? I find it easier to believe that a solicitous God, whom we are instructed to call “Father,” wittingly bequeathed to his children a singular vessel, in the person of the pope, to serve as a bulwark to protect and articulate His benevolent designs for us, often in spite of our fickle nature. The Church preserves and defends that which Christ has already given to us. That’s what we call the Deposit of Faith. To suggest that we mere mortals can rearrange these immutable things according to our own whims represents the apotheosis of what the New York Jew would call chutzpah.

Advocates of female “ordination” to the priestly ministry gin up support for their hopeless cause by caterwauling about the need for an allegedly hidebound and patriarchal institution to “change” and “get with the times,” their strategy as transparent as their logic is weak: arguments emanating from mawkish plaints cast the offended party as the hapless victims, placing the Church on the defensive as an archaic tool of repression. Christ chose exclusively male apostles, they tell us, because he was bound by certain shibboleths of the time. This claptrap is an embarrassingly lethargic intellectual attempt to justify the ultimate aim of their movement and, incidentally, it severely underestimates the liberties with which an omnipotent God can indulge with regard to his own creation. Readers of the Bible will notice how, on several occasions, Christ kibitzed with women about the perennial questions, sometimes raising the eyebrows of his own disciples, who were in fact bound by or at least accustomed to conventional mores of the day. Christ, as God, was not similarly limited and yet he still chose men for his apostles. The female priest cabal would be well served to disentangle itself from the lust for power and disengage from the war against masculinity and instead apply itself to some serious thought on a subject that isn’t really all that complicated.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Sad Anniversary

From Clifford May. 555 years ago today:
There’s an anniversary this week we might do well to recall. On May 29, 1453 — just 555 short years ago — troops led by Mehmed II broke through the walls of the ancient Christian capital of Constantinople.

Mehmed the Conqueror — as he would be known from that day forward — rode triumphantly into the city on a white horse. Soon, churches would be converted into mosques. Constantinople would become Istanbul.

“For the West this was a dark moment,” writes historian Efraim Karsh in his masterful book, Islamic Imperialism. “For Islam it was a cause for celebration. For nearly a millennium Constantinople had been the foremost barrier — physically and ideologically — to Islam’s sustained drive for world conquest and the object of desire of numerous Muslim rulers.”

Mehmed cast himself as not just as a master builder of the Ottoman Empire, but also as the caliph — the supreme spiritual and temporal ruler of all the world’s Muslims, chosen to “act as Allah’s Sword ‘blazing forth the way of Islam from the East to West.’ ” He would go on to conquer Greece, Serbia, the Balkans south of the Danube and the Crimean peninsula. His grandson and great grandson would extend the caliphate to include the Levant, Egypt, the Arabian Hijaz including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, Iraq, North Africa, and most of Hungary.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Medal of Honor Recipient

Here's an inspiring story for the Memorial Day weekend. Army Pfc. Ross McGinnis will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on June 2. He died from injuries sustained in Iraq after he jumped on a grenade that was thrown into his Humvee. Four soldiers were saved because of his decision to absorb the impact.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On the Merits and Perils of Diplomacy

Rich Lowry offers us a nice piece on the question: Is the brand of diplomacy presently advocated by Sen. Obama of the same kind as that diplomacy practiced by President Kennedy in the 1960's and President Reagan in the 1980's?

Monday, May 19, 2008

On Hillary R. Clinton (Briefly)

Today, the latest issue of National Review arrived in the mail. It's always nice to see it resting on the floor under my mail slot. Here's a zinger from one of the news blurbs that I have to pass along.

-Hillary Clinton says she is winning the votes of "hard-working Americans." Maybe so, but she needs a majority of Democrats.

Very rich and very true.

On Taxing Capital Gains

Here's a slick ad from the RNC. The point is a sound one: Raising the capital gains tax would hurt the middle-class, in particular, those who own stock or run a business.

I shot some basic questions about the capital gains tax to an economics professor from my undergrad days. He neatly limns some of the troubles associated with Obama's tax scheme.

A capital gains tax is a tax that is put on the sale of an asset, as opposed to regular income. So, if I sell a house and make a profit, I have to pay a capital gains tax. The reason that this will hurt the middle class is two fold:

a. Small business entrepreneurs usually raise capital by selling things they own, like houses and stock. As one increases the capital gains tax, they are discouraged from doing so, so the capital remains frozen.

b. Frequently, middle class people sell stock to pay for catastrophic things such as serious illnesses, or college tuition. They have no choice about these things, so they are directly penalized.

Some people use stocks to get an income from, but this is not capital gains; they buy annuities from which they get a regular income and pay regular income taxes.

Notice Obama never mentions spending cuts, nor in the clips given, mentions why we need a tax increase. This is, in my opinion, a punish the rich scheme to get votes form the ignorant who are envious of those who are successful.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Reagan on Conservatism in the GOP

We, the members of the New Republican Party, believe that the preservation and enhancement of the values that strengthen and protect individual freedom, family life, communities and neighborhoods and the liberty of our beloved nation should be at the heart of any legislative or political program presented to the American people. Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business … frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise. They are the residue of centralized bureaucracy, of government by a self-anointed elite. Our party must be based on the kind of leadership that grows and takes its strength from the people. Any organization is in actuality only the lengthened shadow of its members. A political party is a mechanical structure created to further a cause. The cause, not the mechanism, brings and holds the members together. And our cause must be to rediscover, reassert and reapply America's spiritual heritage to our national affairs. Then with God's help we shall indeed be as a city upon a hill with the eyes of all people upon us.
-Ronald Reagan

Is anyone in our Party today speaking along a similar vein?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It's difficult to put into words the disgust I feel toward the GOP leadership, Senator McCain most notably. Conservatives are thirsting for authentic leadership in the Republican Party, a leadership that, for some time now has been conspicuously MIA. Slothful, Republicans have abandoned true conservatism as a guiding light. Cowardly, they are petrified of going after Obama for fear of being labeled racists, bigots, or whatever. They accept a host of liberal premises and try to gloss them over with a faux "conservative" veneer, i.e., man-made global warming, universal health care, amnesty for illegals, etc. They castigate those remaining conservatives who dare suggest a return to first principles or who attack liberals in an "unsavory" way. The litany could go on and on and on. The sole reason I will reluctantly support the maddeningly complex, sporadically inarticulate and always arrogant John McCain is to avoid the total disaster of an Obama presidency. God help us. I think the GOP may be catching on, but is it too late? Mark Steyn put it nicely:

John McCain has decided in effect to run for president as an Independent. And, given the assumptions about the diminished appeal of the Republican brand, that might not be a bad idea - at least in terms of his own personal ambition. Maybe I don't get out and about enough but I meet only three kinds of Republicans:

1) A small number who are disgusted with the GOP and say this Bob Barr/Ron Paul/Whoever chap is going to get their vote.

2) A small number who are disgusted with the GOP and plan on sitting on their hands this November.

3) A much bigger number who are disgusted with the GOP but say it's a waste of time flirting with Barr or flouncing off in a huff because it's going to be Obama or McCain in the Oval Office so we have to vote for McCain faute de mieux

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Obama and Abortion

Despite repeated claims to the contrary, Barack Obama is the most liberal-minded politician to run for office in fifty years, if not more. The piece linked below, from the National Catholic Register, highlights Obama's particularly radical stance with regard to abortion. This alone should disqualify him from any serious consideration for the office of president of the United States, perfectly legitimate questions about his utter incompetence and vapidity aside.

The question remains: Will the emasculated GOP leadership have the audacity to go after Obama on this issue?

“Look, I’ve got two daughters, 9 years old and 6 years old. If they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.” -Barack H. Obama

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

High Prices

Thomas Sowell offers his thoughts about who is to blame for the high cost of fuel. Here's a nice point:

"If corporate 'greed' is the explanation for high gasoline prices, why are the government’s taxes not an even bigger sign of “greed” on the part of politicians — since taxes add more to the price of gasoline than oil company profits do?" -Thomas Sowell

Monday, May 12, 2008

Christ the Good Shepherd and the Madonna

Here are two pictures a friend took the other day at the catacombs in Rome. Depicted are early Christian frescoes of Christ and the Virgin Mary. Ordinarily, taking pictures in the catacombs is forbidden, but she was given a private tour and was allowed to snap some shots.

Iran and Lebanon

Claudia Rosett writes an interesting piece on Iran's meddling in Lebanon.
In Lebanon, the Iranian-backed vanguard of terror known as Hezbollah has again drawn its weapons to provoke the worst crisis since it launched a war against Israel in the summer of 2006. The fighting that began last week in Beirut, and then relocated east to the Chouf Mountains and north to Tripoli, is the latest act in the relentless smothering of the Lebanese democratic state. At best, we might next see an uneasy respite in the killing while the usual players haggle, President Bush trolls the region for that oh-so-elusive Middle-East-peace legacy, Hezbollah further stocks its arsenal and from behind the barrel of a gun consolidates its grip, United Nations peacekeepers get paid to watch — and Lebanon’s hopes for democracy slide ever deeper into the pit.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Warming Predictions Way Off

Here's a link to a piece from Live Science that discusses the fallout from the inaccurate predictions regarding the supposed warming of the Antarctic.

Cold Water Thrown on Antarctic Warming Predictions
By Andrea Thompson

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

What Does Obama Believe?

Here's a sobering piece by Sean Higgins, appearing in the American Spectator, that raises some questions about the values and belief system of Sen. Obama. For instance, is he an agnostic? It's a fair question to ask. The article offers a brief biographical sketch of a man who guards an inner core that remains elusive and mysterious. Touching on Obama's discussion of religion in his The Audacity of Hope, Higgins comments:
What is striking about the story it tells, though, is what isn't there: any sort of claim to a truly religious epiphany.

That's a key part of most conversion narratives. The skeptic casts aside doubt and takes the proverbial leap of faith, embracing the religion in all of its doctrines -- even the more peculiar ones.

Obama pretty clearly indicates that wasn't the case with him. At the end of the chapter Obama describes tucking his daughter into bed and trying to answer her question about what happens when we die.

"I wondered whether I should have told her the truth, that I wasn't sure what happens when we die, any more than I was sure of where the soul resides," he writes.

No happy bedtime talk about heaven for this father.

Right from the Start

Fox News put together a nice series that takes a look at the incredible life of William F. Buckley Jr. The interview with Buckley was conducted only a few months before he passed away. Here it is, in six parts.
Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Part IV:

Part V:

Part VI:

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Bolton Urges Action on the Iran Question

Here's a piece from the UK's Telegraph on the Iranian threat and how former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton suggests we ought best deal with it. Given Iranian involvement in sabotaging our efforts in Iraq by attacking our troops there, it's not bad advice, although it's sure to provoke the rancor of the fiercest paleo-conservatism.
Mr Bolton said that striking Iran would represent a major step towards victory in Iraq. While he acknowledged that the risk of a hostile Iranian response harming American’s overseas interests existed, he said the damage inflicted by Tehran would be “far higher” if Washington took no action.

“This is a case where the use of military force against a training camp to show the Iranians we’re not going to tolerate this is really the most prudent thing to do,” he said. “Then the ball would be in Iran’s court to draw the appropriate lesson to stop harming our troops.”

Monday, May 05, 2008

Catholics and the Free Market

Economics as a Science: A Catholic Defense of the Free Market by Thomas Woods
Put forth a robust defense of the free market as the most morally and materially satisfying economic system and you invite all manner of invective and accusation. What are you, some kind of dissenter?

Not so fast. Although the documents of modern Catholic social teaching normally begin with Rerum Novarum (1891), students should instead start with Pope Leo XIII's Quod Apostolici Muneris(1878), an encyclical entirely devoted to socialism, in order to understand that socialism and the free market are not being described as equally objectionable. For while socialism is per se condemned, the market is criticized only for alleged abuses.

Nor could the Church condemn the market in and of itself, since it rests on the inoffensive principle of peaceful, non-coerced exchanges between rightful property owners. Breathless claims to the contrary notwithstanding, that is all the free market amounts to. With Leo XIII having described the rights of property as "inviolate" in one encyclical and "sacred and inviolable" in another -- phrases the Left has spent the past century trying to explain away, I might add -- the Church would have to acknowledge the essential justice of a market economy at some level, even if she might for whatever reason still have complaints to register here and there.

Read more here:


As the war in Iraq plugs along, the old debate about the rational behind the war rages on with it. September 11, 2001 it seems, has dissolved into the stuff of mere memory for some. Iraq, we are told, is an insolvable disaster, a foreign policy blunder, pari pasu with Vietnam itself, forged by the delinquent "neo-conservative" chicken hawks in Washington, hell-bent on sucking out the last drops of oil from the sands of the Middle East. The war in Iraq has seen the formation of unlikely allies: Ron Paul and the bubble Catholic clique on the far right and the inscrutable far left cabal led by the screeching femme fatals of Code Pink. Both sing in unison and tell us that the US should simply "Get out now!" This view, at once both naive and dangerously irresponsible, is thankfully, not taken seriously by the military commanders on the ground in Iraq, or elsewhere for that matter. Most war critics offer shallow lip-service to the military via specious, yet semi-attractive assertions claiming that the war in Iraq has diverted valuable resources from the soi-disant "real war" in Afghanistan. Iraq has, in effect, hamstrung the true battle unfolding in the Hindu Kush. Far from making America safer, we are told, the war in Iraq has fundamentally undermined American security. This view, of course, conveniently ignores the conspicuous fact that the homeland has been undefiled from Islamic terror for seven years and that numerous plots have been foiled. Stubbornly ignoring repeated statements from top-tier al-Qaida personnel who insist that the front lines of the war are indeed in Iraq, the Ron Pauls and Jane Fondas of the world warble the same old tune. "Get out now!" It's getting a bit onerous having to bear these folks, isn't it?

What are we to take from the Iraq war? As a qualifier: I had a friend in Rome who initially disagreed with the decision to go to war in Iraq and who, nonetheless, held fast to a belief in realism and in taking seriously the assessments of individuals like Gen. Petraeus. We had respectful debates about the initial decision and, while we disagreed strongly, I respected his view and continue to do so. Incidentally, this friend was an ardent defender of America and the Iraq war in the face of typical Euro-bluster emanating from a particularly irritating Roman professor. Further, I've been fortunate to discuss the matter with several good friends in the Navy, the Marines, the Army and the National Guard and their thoughts on the matter have contributed mightily to my own. There may not be universal consensus on each particular however all agree on the need to face reality. Looking back and wondering "What might have been?" is time wasted. Adults look forward and deal with the facts as they are. The issue is not whether or not war should have been waged. The issue is: What to do now? Realism is an essential precondition in any serious discussion. Pulling out, reasonable minds agree, would result in an unmitigated disaster on all fronts: It would be an insult to the enormous sacrifices made by the military and it would be a shameless disregard for the thousands of Iraqis who would suffer the immediate consequences of the genocidal pandemonium that would inevitably follow. Indeed, to "pull out now!", à la Clinton, Obama or Paul, is a view that is not only wildly irresponsible but deeply selfish. Foreign policy experts have said as much and I've liberally posted links to their articles and essays on this blog. We need to move beyond the Ron Paul approach to foreign policy. The fanatical minority on the right and left clinging to it (if I may use that in-vogue term) are living in a pre-9/11 world and it is dangerous.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Feast of Saints Philip and James

Here is a picture of the sarcophagus of Saints Philip and James at the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles in Rome, as well as some shots of the basilica's interior.

Friday, May 02, 2008

A Word on Cheese

I picked up a small wedge of cheese the other day called Murcia al Vino. This particular cheese is from goat's milk and, as the name suggests, hails from the region of Murcia, Spain. As it is prepared, the cheese is soaked twice in red wine, which imparts to it a rich color and flavor. I had it in the refrigerator for a while, reluctant to slice it up because it looked so nice (go figure), but I soon gave in and decided to share the goods with a friend. I couldn't keep it all to myself, after all. It is very soft and smooth with a subtle taste that lingers, which I greatly appreciate. Sometimes certain cheeses can be overly pungent and overpowering, leaving a bitter taste on the palate. Cheese, for me at least, is a difficult thing to get right on. Murcia al Vino is a nice treat that goes down quite well with a glass of sweet, red wine.

Black Churches?

I may be missing something conspicuously obvious but in the aftermath of the Rev. Wright controversy, a lot of media attention has honed in on the so-called "black churches" in America. Here's the question that has been dogging me ever since: Why are they called "black" churches? Of course, the easy answer is that most of the attendees are black. Fair enough I suppose. But I suggest that this issue is more than a matter of nomenclature. Are there any "white churches," "Latino churches," "Asian churches" in America referred to simply as such, in the collective sense? Indeed, there are religious communities whose ethnic composition, based on locality, is predominantly one of these races, but the church (as far as I know) is not defined solely by that feature. To be fair, Wright's church is more precisely called the United Church of Christ but he seems to prefer the "black church" taxonomy when speaking in reference to the entire black Christian community. Further, one of the primordial and defining marks of the Christian body is that it is catholic, katholicos, which is to say universal, open to the Jew, the Greek and the rest of us. So, when I hear the endless blathering about the "Black churches" on the part of Wright and his ilk, I demur. As I see it, this appellation has more to do with the inability (or unwillingness) on the part of some African Americans like Wright to move beyond the race issue. Unable to extricate themselves, Wright and his pugnacious flock are hopelessly stuck in racial quicksand. They have seen to it that the entire ambit of their reality is dictated and determined by questions of race and so it's not at all surprising that religion itself is beholden to and defined by the paradigm of race. It's a mirthful irony when a Christian community ascribes itself an exclusive denomination.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

New Catholic News Site

H2ONews is a Catholic news service. A few friends of mine work for H2O in Rome. I included the link below.
From the site:
H2onews springs from the Pope’s request to use modern methods of communication for evangelization and promoting peace and development (cfr. World Social Communications Day, May 8, 2005).

H2onews was born during the First World Congress of Catholic Television in Madrid in October 2006, hosted by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

The goal of H2onews is to respond to the need for growth in worldwide Catholic communication. This challenge was taken up by a group of television and information professionals who have created H2onews. This team draws on the professional experience of the sisters of the Home of the Mother, which has been gifted with a talent for audiovisual communication.