Wednesday, December 30, 2009

F

This is an excellent piece from Toby Harnden, writing for the Telegraph, in which he meticulously analyses the manifold breaches in security leading up to last week's near miss in Detroit:
There’s a continued, unfortunate tendency for everyone in Obamaland to preface every comment about something going wrong with a sideswipe against the Bush administration. On Sunday, Bill Burton, Deputy White House Press Secretary, briefed: “On the Sunday shows, Robert Gibbs and Secretary Napolitano made clear that we are pressing ahead with securing our nation against threats and our aggressive posture in the war with al Qaeda. We are winding down a war in Iraq that took our eye off of the terrorists that attacked us, and have dramatically increased our resources in Afghanistan and Pakistan where those terrorists are.” Why pat yourself on the back for “winding down a war in Iraq that took our eye off of the terrorists that attacked us” when the issue at hand is why the US government under Obama, er, took its eyes off a terrorist who did try to attack us and nearly killed 300 people? It’s bordering on the juvenile. Obama’s been president for a year now. It’s time for him to accept that things that happen as his responsibility, not Bush’s. It’s time for him to echo Ronald Reagan, who said over Iran-Contra: “I take full responsibility for my own actions and for those of my administration.”

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Arrogant

As is usually the case, economist Thomas Sowell gets it right. Here are some excerpts from a piece appearing on National Review Online:
The only thing healthy about Congress’s health-insurance legislation is the healthy skepticism about it shown by most of the public, as revealed by polls. What is most unhealthy about this legislation is the raw arrogance in the way it was conceived and passed.

Supporters of government health insurance call its passage “historic.” Past attempts to pass such legislation — going back for decades — failed repeatedly. But now both houses of Congress have passed government-health-care legislation and it is just a question of reconciling their respective bills and presenting President Obama with a political victory.

In short, this is not about improving the health of the American people. It is about passing something — anything — to keep the Obama administration from ending up with egg on its face by being unable to pass a bill, after so much hype and hoopla. Politically, looking impotent is a formula for disaster at election time. Far better to pass even bad legislation that will not actually go into effect until after the 2012 presidential election, so that the public will not know whether it makes medical care better or worse until it is too late for the voters to hold the administration accountable.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Don't Despair!

It's not over yet, folks. In spite of the Senate's dastardly deed this Christmas Eve, there's still a significant chance that Obamacare will fail.

Some encouraging considerations from Jeffrey Anderson, writing for National Review:
Harry Reid had the Senate meet for 25 consecutive days for the first time since the United States was deciding whether to enter World War I, and he held the Senate's first vote on Christmas Eve since the 19th Century. Such is the zealotry of those who champion the cause of government-run health care. Gaining control over what will soon be one-fifth of our economy is apparently so important that it requires a Christmas Eve vote — for a bill that would essentially start about four Christmases from now.

However, from the start of Christmas week, the important and interesting question was not whether the Senate would pass its bill (that was a foregone conclusion once Ben Nelson yielded to party pressure and waived his abortion objections in exchange for a nice helping of pork). It was whether those of us who believe in the longstanding American ideals of individual liberty, personal freedom, and private control, would continue to match the Democrats' determination to impose the opposite. For while passage of the Senate bill was a foregone conclusion, follow-on passage of a compromise bill in both chambers is not — not remotely.

The Democrats passed a highly unpopular bill with two votes to spare in the House and none to spare in the Senate. Now they have to blend the bills (mostly reflecting the Senate one) and get them back through both chambers — after hearing from their constituents over the holidays.

Furthermore, the House bill passed only because of relatively strong anti-abortion language demanded by pro-life Democrats in particularly precarious seats. The Senate bill doesn't contain that language. So either the anti-abortion Democrats in the House or the pro-abortion Democrats in the Senate are going to have to cave. Combine this with other issues, and the Democrats' almost-nonexistent margin for error, and final passage is anything but certain.

Additionally, the Democrats' bills would not go into effect in any meaningful way until at least 2013. They could have been written to go into effect immediately, but the Democrats made the calculation that it was better to delay implementation by several years so that they could mislead the American people by citing "10-year costs" for six years' worth of of Obamacare. That enabled them to pitch an approximately $2.5 trillion bill (its real first-10-year costs, according to the Congressional Budget Office) as an $871 billion bill. But that decision has left us with this reality: The Democrats can only implement their overhaul, and avoid is repeal, if the American people choose to send them back to Capitol Hill and to the White House in 2010 and 2012. The American people, and not the Democratic party, will ultimately decide Obamacare's fate.

But the American people will also decide the fate of Obamacare in a much more immediate sense. Across recent weeks, Democratic representatives in both congressional chambers have taken tremendous heat from the Obama administration. Now, over the holidays, they'll get to interact with their constituents face-to-face. They've felt the immediate pressures of Washington; now they'll get to feel the pressure from those who sent them there — the vast majority of whom oppose Obamacare.

They'll get to hear from people who don't want to pay higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher overall health costs; who don't want to lose their consumer-driven health plans; who don't want to see colossal sums of money siphoned out of Medicare and spent on Obamacare; who don't want a health-care system based on political cronyism (witness the shameless exemption of the longshoreman's union from the tax on "Cadillac plans," and the survival of Medicare Advantage in Florida but not anywhere else). They'll get to hear from people who don't want to see a trillion dollars over 12 years be transferred from taxpayers to insurers; who don't want to see deficits rise and the quality of care fall; and who don't want to have the federal government inject itself into the historically and rightfully private relationship between patient and doctor.

And the Democratic members better listen. In the wake of Hillarycare's defeat in 1994, the voters took out their frustrations on typical Democrats, but they went much easier on the more conservative ones who had largely prevented Hillarycare’s passage. So, if history is any guide, those Democrats who vote against the final version of Obamacare (and, in the Senate, against the final cloture motion) will likely be spared, while those who vote for it will invite the voters' wrath.

In short, now is not the time for anyone who opposes Obamacare to despair or to quit. Now is the time to fight.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Catholic?

Shakespeare the Catholic? A fascinating thought.

From the Telegraph:
The Venerable English College in Rome has found documents which may suggest that Shakespeare was a secret Catholic who spent some years in the city. It’s only conjecture – but the news will certainly excite the large number of people who believe that the Bard was a Papist.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Closer


From the Associated Press:
VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI has moved Pope John Paul II one step closer to possible beatification, the milestone before sainthood.

Benedict on Saturday approved a decree attesting to John Paul's heroic virtues. Benedict still must sign off on a miracle attributed to John Paul's intercession before the late pope can be beatified.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Destroy Capitalism, Save the Planet?

Writing for National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg tears into the Socialist hypocrites ensconced in Copenhagen. He takes particular umbrage with Latin America's numero uno blatherskite, Hugo Chávez.
The big name in the anti-capitalism club was, of course, Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan national-socialist strongman. In a typical stem-winder, he belched: “Capitalism is a destructive model that is eradicating life, that threatens to put a definitive end to the human species.”

I don’t know how to say “chutzpah” in Spanish, but you’ve got to hand it to the leader of the world’s No. 5 supplier of oil for bemoaning the system that keeps his regime afloat by buying his product.

As the World Turns

Climategate continues to burgeon. All the while, world leaders continue to pretend the scandal doesn't exist. Have they no shame?

From the Telegraph:
Climategate goes SERIAL: now the Russians confirm that UK climate scientists manipulated data to exaggerate global warming

Climategate just got much, much bigger. And all thanks to the Russians who, with perfect timing, dropped this bombshell just as the world’s leaders are gathering in Copenhagen to discuss ways of carbon-taxing us all back to the dark ages.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

On Terrorism and Its Causes

Andrew McCarthy, writing for National Review Online, offers his insights on the oft heard claim that the Guantanamo Bay prison is an enduring rallying cry for the recruitment of terrorists, and should therefore be closed.
After 17 years of attacks, we should have learned the difference between causes of terrorism and pretexts for terrorism. Terrorism is caused, and terrorist recruitment is driven, by Islamist ideology and by American weakness in the face of terror attacks. In that sense, Senator Durbin causes more terrorism than Gitmo ever will. Terrorist organizations are encouraged when they come to believe they can win — when they come to believe they can outlast America because we lack resolve.

Spinning History, Spinning the Truth

National Review's Victor Davis Hanson offers an excellent analysis of Obama's knack for twisting history in order to fit his template.

On the Cairo speech, for instance:
The following can be said of Obama’s Islamic mythography: a) Islam did not pave “the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment.” To the extent Islam was involved at all, it was Greek scholars fleeing Ottoman pressure at Byzantium who sparked the Western Renaissance, while the Enlightenment’s Romantic movements proclaimed a desire to free classical lands from supposed Ottoman backwardness. b) Breakthroughs in navigation, pens, printing, medicine, etc. were largely Western or Chinese innovations. c) “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Córdoba during the Inquisition.” Córdoba had few Muslims when the Inquisition began in 1478, having been reconquered by the Christians well over two centuries earlier. d) Left unsaid was that the great colonizers of the Middle East were not the Europeans, but the Ottoman Muslims, who were far harsher and ruled far longer...

In these minor and major historical distortions, there are two recurrent themes. The most obvious is that George W. Bush has been culpable, and that a far more sensitive and astute Obama is here to set things right. Historical citations will be crafted, in deductive fashion, to support that thesis.

But there is a second sort in which the self-proclaimed global healer Obama marshals history for noble purposes. And in service to his inspirational global ecumenism, the president apparently feels free to twist and fudge the past in order to suggest that our cultures are all roughly equal, with pasts that are likewise both good and bad, and thus we now need to bond and unify with appreciation of one another’s differences.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Letter to Archbishop-elect Listecki


The Basilica of Saint Josaphat, Milwaukee

Your Excellency,

Congratulations on being chosen by the Holy Father to lead the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Since the news broke of your selection, many have been praying for you as you prepare for your new role on a much higher profile. Few bishops coming into a new archdiocese have faced the challenges you presently face, as you take up the Milwaukee mitre. At the same time, there are also unique opportunities before you, as you will soon hold the lever to set into motion the long-overdue revitalization of a once-great hub of Catholic culture in the United States.

First though, the unsavory business: The manifold problems dogging the Milwaukee Archdiocese are well-known by you and to anyone else not living in a cave for the past couple of decades. However, despite the archdiocese's nation-wide renown for unpleasant events, it has regularly surprised me and others that so little has been done, substantively speaking, from the higher-ups over the course of the past ten years or so. Frankly, many of us are thoroughly exasperated that our home archdiocese has persistently ranked number-one in the nation in pariah status when it comes to scandal and theological/liturgical heterodoxy.

No rational person expects perfection or overnight miracles at the snap of a finger, and it is very true that pleasing everyone is impossible (especially when all that truly matters is pleasing God). Yes, in an imperfect world, archbishops often have to approach controversial issues with a prudent sense of balance and measure to avoid even worse consequences and to keep the peace. But Milwaukee is far beyond that. As you surely know, Milwaukee is not a typical case. Intrigue and secrecy have become the established norm, along with rampant liturgical abuse and foggy guidance from the leadership. (Examples of this have been recorded on this blog for some time now.) All the while, traditional Catholics (for lack of a better term) are proffered the occasional lip service but, in substance, disowned and iced out of the family. Such Catholics who have the temerity to raise a hand in protest to make their voices heard are disparaged and cast as shrill whiners, distracting gadflies, intolerant blockheads, even half-crazy and summarily dismissed.

From parish to parish, Catholic school to Catholic school, the aberrations and confusion have long since become the norm in Milwaukee. In the quest to set things right, some have opted for a sort of charm offensive in their dealings with the unorthodox, hoping to win them over and placate the intensity of their liberal drive. One can understand the initial reasoning behind this attitude, but such a strategy will only work however, if there is an iron fist inside the velvet glove. For the last eight years, there has been no iron fist of last resort, just a limp, soft glove applied over and over again with little effect. The experiment to try to massage the opposition into complacency through charm has unquestionably failed. Far from mitigating the extant problem, the opposition in Milwaukee has only been reaffirmed and emboldened, knowing that they were able to bamboozle anyone thinking they could be won over with a smile and slap on the back.

It's time to employ another strategy. Of course, this doesn't necessarily translate to a fire and brimstone, "my way or the highway" approach, but it does require firmness of purpose, a clear vision of the actual situation and what needs to be done from day one, and the recognition that some people, for all their encomiums, are in principle, not going to be with you when the chips are down.

That said, there are many wonderful, holy priests, and lay faithful in Milwaukee who will be there to support you in your work.

All the best as you begin your new assignment. The prayers of thousands of Milwaukee Catholics, a truly great community of warm and loving people, will be with you as you hit the ground running on January 4.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Prayer Service for the Environment

This is absolutely absurd. From ABC News:
"Don't be afraid!" said the archbishop of Canterbury to the packed cathedral.

The congregation stretching out below his pulpit was led by Denmark's stately queen, Margrethe II, and a dozen clergy who included not only Lutherans but Catholic and Eastern Orthodox priests, South Africa's Desmond Tutu and two Buddhist nuns.

But it was the children at the head of the processional signaling the start of this Ecumenical Celebration for Creation -- held midway through the two-week climate summit in Copenhagen -- who had set the tone.

As the organ boomed and voices soared with "All creatures of our God and King/Lift up your voice and with us sing ..." up the aisle, two by two, the children led the adults.

In their hands they held the reasons for fear -- strange offerings for any church service.

First, held out in the cupped hands of the first three pairs of children, were pieces of dead bleached coral from the Pacific, "a symbol of rising sea temperatures, polluted, suffering and dying ocean worlds," as the program informed the congregants.

Then came three pairs of African children carrying cobs of dried-up African maize -- "symbol of drought and desertification, of failed crops, human hunger and suffering."

Then came children, each carrying stones uncovered by retreating glaciers in Greenland, "symbol of melting polar worlds, of rising sea and river levels, and loss of life-giving mountain water resources."

Melting Support


From CBS News:
With world leaders debating how to address climate change in Copenhagen and the U.S. Senate poised to take up a climate bill in the coming months, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds that just 37 percent of Americans believe the issue should be a priority for government leaders.

That's a significant drop from April of 2007, when 52 percent of those surveyed said the issue should be a high priority.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thoughts on the Church in America


The big divide between Catholics (especially in the US as a result of the proximity to pick-and-choose Protestantism) is between those who, on the one hand, believe that the Church cannot err when teaching on faith and morals (only) and those who do. The former group recognizes the important, yet basic distinction between dogma and Tradition (immutable) and tradition (mutable). This key distinction is one of the most basic elements of Catechesis 101, but unfortunately, it has been poorly understood (if at all) by many Catholics who simply never received proper formation in the fundamentals of the faith, and here in the States, there are scads of such Catholics. Tradition and Dogma (otherwise known as the Magisterium) by its very definition, cannot change. Jesus is, as St. Paul tells us, "the same yesterday, today and always." What the Church taught about Christ after the first Council is the same as what the Church teaches today, albeit the language has developed somewhat, but more on that later. Similarly, with regard to morals and the ethical life, the teachings of the Church cannot change because they deal with guide posts set out by "nature and nature's God" in order for humans to reach their end, qua persons made in God's image and likeness. Why would a benevolent God leave His children with no way of knowing with certainty which actions are pleasing to Him and which are not? Or, perhaps even better put: Why would God tell us that action X is wrong yesterday but not today? What kind of confusion would result from such ambiguity? Look at the Episcopalians and you'll see the answer to that query. They are splintering off left and right, with no sign of stopping. God, in His love and mercy, provides us with the teachings of the Church in order to help us along the way to Him. This is not an exercise in triumphalism or arrogance, to suggest that the Church, when teaching the essentials about life and the articles of faith, is infallible. No, it is simply a recognition of our status as creatures in need of God's assistance, and that is nothing but an embrace of realism, not a dance with utopian naïveté. It is precisely because of our incredible weakness as human beings, from laymen to priests, popes and bishops, that the Holy Spirit graciously illuminates us on the essentials via the Church's teachings. We cannot do it on our own. We need help. This constitutes a firm rebuttal to the narcissistic, stomach turning "Yes we can" mantra of a secular political campaign. I am fond of Archbishop Chaput's thoughts on the meaning of true hope:

For Christians, hope is a virtue, not an emotional crutch or a political slogan. Virtus, the Latin root of virtue, means strength or courage. Real hope is unsentimental. It has nothing to do with the cheesy optimism of election campaigns. Hope assumes and demands a spine in believers. And that’s why – at least for a Christian -- hope sustains us when the real answer to the problems or hard choices in life is ‘no, we can’t,’ instead of ‘yes, we can.’


Again, this is pretty basic stuff for those of us who have studied Socrates, Cicero, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Newman, JPII, et al. Human nature does not change; a man of one-million years ago has the same basic needs (physical and spiritual) as any of us today. Murder and theft were wrong then, and are wrong now. Eating a balanced diet was good for mankind then, and it is good for us today. Let's not over-inflate the vague notion of "change" so as to justify any newfangled idea the crops up today or tomorrow. In that regard, I'm more of a Burkean conservative than a Rousseaunian revolutionary. A lot of people like to say that because change happens, the Church must adapt with the times, etc.. In other words, the Church should change her stance on the whole gamut of issues to better suit my needs today. Interestingly enough, this is the same apparatchik that peddles the "living Constitution" theory in politics; a theory stating that the Constitution is a "living document" that needs to grow with the evolving standards of the times, etc. No, it is emphatically not a living, organic document. Scalia is right in this regard. The document was written down precisely for that reason, i.e., so that it wouldn't bend and curve to fit different demands. Constancy is why we write things down. Now, there is a way to change the Constitution, and it's called the amendment process, which the Founders intentionally made cumbersome and hard to do...for a reason. In any event, those who believe that faith, the moral life and even politics, should be dictated by change hold one overarching world view in common and that is relativism. Sure, how we understand doctrine can develop, in terms of the language we use to grasp this or that teaching, but that does not mean that the teaching itself changes. (I recommend reading Newman's excellent work on the development of doctrine.) Again, the question doctrinal development is a fundamental tenet of the Church's teaching that many miss because of poor catechesis. And so, we arrive at the second group of Catholics in the States.

Whether we identify them as relativists, or by the more cheeky nomenclature of "Cafeteria Catholic, the modus operandi is always the same, rooted in the following assertion: "The Pope is not infallible when he speaks on matters faith and morals, but I am inerrant because I say that the pope isn't." That is pretty much the logic of those Catholics who are pro-abortion, pro-contraception, pro-gay "marriage", etc., and go around believing themselves as Catholics in good standing with the Church. They take it upon themselves to declare what is true for them. For such folks as these, "Truth" is in itself an offensive idea because it implies objectivity, which, down the road will, by necessity, imply a personal commitment by means of conforming one's life to that standard of objectivity. This is a process that begins and ends with an important virtue often lacking in such people: humility. And as an aside, the Church is very clear about what issues are not open for compromise. Some on the left gain a lot of mileage by throwing the death penalty and war in with the aforementioned scourges on humanity, but these two cases are not intrinsically evil, as abortion. Here is what then-Cardinal Ratzinger had to say on this very point back in '04:

Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.



Quod erat demonstrandum, I might add.

But, hey, if you're a Cafeteria Catholic, the solution is easy: you can just agree to disagree with the very man who is now the successor to Saint Peter. What a convenient strategy! Pick and choose whatever sounds nice to you at the time. Isn't that what Luther and company finally decided to do, after all? Why bother with the Church of Christ if I can have the Church of me, myself and I? Tu es Petrus..."big deal", these people say, "ego sum Petrus", or rather, "ego sum Deus". Ironically, for those who do not believe that God provided one way to discern the most important questions about life (through the Magisterium that is safeguarded by the Pope), by necessity they must confer upon themselves an almost God-like power to define the most fundamental questions of reality on and by their own authority. What hutzpah! Either that or despair in utter existential nihilism because there's no point to anything...so why even bother? Take your pick, relativist.

The problem with contemporary education is not so much that people are being programmed to believe that there is no such thing as truth, but rather it is that students are being convinced that "my" truth is just as valid as "your" truth. Truth is debased to the level of mere feeling and the level of the subjective. This is problematic for the Catholic because for us, Truth is not just an idea or concept, but rather a Person. "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." And again, "Christ is the same, yesterday, today and always." (Hebrews 13:8)

Let's do a little logical syllogism based on Scriptures:

- Christ is Truth

- Christ is always the same

- Ergo, the Truth is always the same

In other words, TRUTH DOES NOT CHANGE.

To be honest, I'm getting a little tired of the hackneyed and intellectually barren talking points put out by liberal Catholics espousing all this relativist drivel; it's insulting to the intellectual and spiritual patrimony of Athens, Jerusalem and Rome. Sadly, these people are better versed on the inane ramblings of MSNBC talking heads like Rachael Maddow and Michael Moore than on the timeless wisdom of Aquinas and von Bathasar. As we well know, the Catholic Church has a beautiful, ancient culture and boasts an array of rich traditions going back about two-thousand years. Many of these are on display most conspicuously during the liturgy, when properly celebrated. I'm fed up with seeing all of this beauty watered down and erased by the demands of liberal ideologues (and vulgarians, I might add) pushing a political agenda and harboring a chip on their shoulder. If anyone claiming to be Catholic doesn't hold fast to the totality of the Church's teachings, why not join the Episcopalians, you can get the incense, bells and vestments without having to be inconvenienced by a "restrictive" moral code. To hold on to the noble things of the past and to the teachings of Christ, as passed on to us through His Bride, the Church, both in and out of season, is not old-fashioned and mossy but rather admirable, even heroic. It's the stuff from which Saints are made. Why else do we admire and honor the martyrs of the Church? Martyrs gain instant access to heaven precisely because of their final decision to cling unreservedly to the Christ and His Church, even unto a bloody, painful death.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Copenhagen Bound

Several Republican congressmen are set to make an appearance at the Copenhagen climate summit in order to hinder Democratic-led machinations on any international climate legislation. Talk about entering the lion's den.
From Politico:
House Republicans are preparing for a trip to Copenhagen and looking to derail Democratic efforts to negotiate an international climate agreement.

About a half-dozen Republicans will make the trip to Denmark to oppose plans for cap-and-trade legislation, express their discontent with the scientific community that researches climate change and call for the United Nations to halt any negotiations until the academic scandal known as “Climategate” is resolved.

At least Texas Rep. Joe Barton, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, along with Republican Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Darrell Issa of California and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee are making the trip.

House Republican leaders Tuesday laid out their plans for the U.N. climate conference, which will be to essentially buck all Democratic climate-change platforms.

Sympathy

From the Times Online
Nicolas Sarkozy stoked the debate over immigration today with a warning to Muslims to practise their religion discreetly or face rejection by moderate Islam in France.

The President voiced sympathy for Swiss voters who opted last week to ban minarets as he tried to reassert himself in a debate over national identity which he launched last month but that has since spiralled out of his control.

But in a column for Le Monde, Mr Sarkozy returned to his theme and said that the result of the Swiss referendum showed how important it was for France to define its identity.

"Instead of condemning the Swiss out of hand, we should try to understand what they meant to express and what so many people in Europe feel, including people in France," he wrote. "Nothing would be worse than denial."

Addressing himself to Muslims, he wrote that anything that could appear as a challenge to France's Christian heritage and republican values would "doom to failure" a moderate Islam in France.

Sometimes, the French President misfires, as when he talks about climate change and corporatism, but when he's right, as when he points out Obama's rank inexperience and naiveté or raises the question of national identity and culture, he's right on the money.

The Last Ten Years

COP15: Hip but meaningless

So the last ten years were the hottest on record (so we're told be the experts who know far more than we can ever hope). That decade just happens to coincide with the two terms of the Bush presidency. Somehow, I don't find this conclusion coincidental. What a joke. Much like a swinging nightclub in Manhattan's upper east side, the sleek climate conference in Copenhagen is swanky to be sure, and it has just about as much substance.

"Creating Jobs" Myth

Thomas Sowell, once again, gets it right about "creating jobs". From National Review Online:
President Obama keeps talking about the jobs his administration is “creating,” but there are more people unemployed now than before he took office. How can there be more unemployment after so many jobs have been “created”?

Let’s go back to square one. What does it take to create a job? It takes wealth to pay someone who is hired, not to mention additional wealth to buy the material that person will use.

But government creates no wealth. Ignoring that plain and simple fact enables politicians to claim to be able to do all sorts of miraculous things that they cannot do in fact. Without creating wealth, how can they create jobs? By taking wealth from others, whether by taxation, selling bonds, or imposing mandates.

War and Peace (and 26%)

More Americans are supportive of our mission in Afghanistan, but a very small number think the President deserves the Nobel Peace Price (anyone surprised?). Good news for the troops, bad news for the President.

From Politico:
Good news/bad news Q Poll on war and peace for Barack Obama.

Approval for the Afghanistan escalation is up by nine points in the past month -- voters now think the war is a good idea by a 57-to-35 percent margin.

A healthy 60 percent favor his new troop surge, according to the Quinnipiac survey, which has a two percent margin of error.

But only 26 percent think the president, who has been in office for less than a year, deserves to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Q: "The jump in public support for Obama’s war policy comes as voters say 66 – 26 percent he does not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize he will be awarded this week, and 41 percent say the Nobel committee’s choice of Obama for the award causes them to think less of it, while 6 percent say it makes them think better of the prize and 49 percent say it makes no difference."

Monday, December 07, 2009

SEALs Arraigned in Court for "Abuse"

From the Associated Press:
Two Navy SEALs accused in the mistreatment of an Iraqi suspect in the 2004 slayings of four U.S. contractors were arraigned in military court Monday, and one SEAL said he was gratified by support from the public and some members of Congress.

The judge scheduled courts-martial next month for Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe of Perrysburg, Ohio, and Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas of Blue Island, Ill. A third SEAL will be arraigned later.

The SEALs have received an outpouring of public support on the Internet, and a California congressman has led a campaign urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to intervene. About three dozen protesters, including the mother of one of the slain contractors, stood outside the Norfolk Naval Station gate Monday morning holding signs of support. ...

The charges stem from an alleged assault after the SEALs captured Ahmed Hashim Abed in early September. Abed is believed to be connected to the killings of four Blackwater security guards who were protecting a convoy when they were attacked by Iraqi insurgents. Their burned corpses were dragged through the city, and two of them were hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River.

Surreal

Democrat Senator Warns President

From the Washington Times: Democratic Senator Jim Webb has issued a tersely written missive to the president on his planned interventions in Copenhagen.
Dear Mr. President:

I would like to express my concern regarding reports that the Administration may believe it has the unilateral power to commit the government of the United States to certain standards that may be agreed upon at the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties 15 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The phrase “politically binding” has been used.

Although details have not been made available, recent statements by Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern indicate that negotiators may be intending to commit the United States to a nationwide emission reduction program. As you well know from your time in the Senate, only specific legislation agreed upon in the Congress, or a treaty ratified by the Senate, could actually create such a commitment on behalf of our country.

I would very much appreciate having this matter clarified in advance of the Copenhagen meetings.

Sincerely,

Jim Webb
United States Senator

Emphasis added

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Cooling or Warming: Which is it?


Whatever fits the template, I guess. From Gary Sutton, writing for Forbes:
Many of you are too young to remember, but in 1975 our government pushed "the coming ice age."

Random House dutifully printed "THE WEATHER CONSPIRACY … coming of the New Ice Age." This may be the only book ever written by 18 authors. All 18 lived just a short sled ride from Washington, D.C. Newsweek fell in line and did a cover issue warning us of global cooling on April 28, 1975. And The New York Times, Aug. 14, 1976, reported "many signs that Earth may be headed for another ice age."

In 1974, the National Science Board announced: "During the last 20 to 30 years, world temperature has fallen, irregularly at first but more sharply over the last decade. Judging from the record of the past interglacial ages, the present time of high temperatures should be drawing to an end…leading into the next ice age."...

While scientists march to the drumbeat of grant money, at least trees don't lie. Their growth rings show what's happened no matter which philosophy is in power. Tree rings show a mini ice age in Europe about the time Stradivarius crafted his violins. Chilled Alpine Spruce gave him tighter wood so the instruments sang with a new purity. But England had to give up the wines that the Romans cultivated while our globe cooled, switching from grapes to colder weather grains and learning to take comfort with beer, whisky and ales.

Yet many centuries earlier, during a global warming, Greenland was green. And so it stayed and was settled by Vikings for generations until global cooling came along. Leif Ericsson even made it to Newfoundland. His shallow draft boats, perfect for sailing and rowing up rivers to conquer villages, wouldn't have stood a chance against a baby iceberg.

Those sustained temperature swings, all before the evil economic benefits of oil consumption, suggest there are factors at work besides humans.

Change the Family to Destroy the Family

I may have already posted this, but it's definitely worth reposting. From the Times Online:
Looking at the headlines last week you might have thought the nuclear family had had its day. The Family and Parenting Institute published a report claiming that because of rising divorce rates and cohabitation, the traditional family is no longer the “norm” in Britain.

What we are seeing, apparently, is the emergence of a new kind of extended family, one in which parents, step-parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents will play an ever bigger role in the care of children in so-called “communal parenting”.

Confusion


From the Telegraph:
Sen McCain, who has led criticism in Washington over the President's most controversial element said that senior administration officials had only contradicted each other when trying to explain how the timeline for the beginning of a US troop withdrawal would work in practice.

"Since the President made his speech we have not had further clarification, in fact we have had further contradiction," he said.
"On the one hand we see the Secretary of Defence and the Secretary of State say it's just a flexible date, then the president's spokesperson says it's chiselled in stone and he has the chisel. There's a real contradiction there."

The muddled messages, after three months of deliberations and nine top level White House meetings, has left many in Washington's foreign policy community aghast.

Emphasis added

Saturday, December 05, 2009


As usual, Mark Steyn does a nice job of dissecting Obama's carefully crafted speeches. This time, it is Obama's Westpoint discourse. From National Review Online:
Obama’s speech is only about Afghanistan if you’re in Afghanistan. If you’re in Moscow or Tehran, Pyongyang or Caracas, it’s about America. And what it told them is that, if you’re a local strongman with regional ambitions, or a rogue state going nuclear, or a mischief-making kleptocracy dusting off old tsarist dreams, this president is not going to be pressing your reset button. Strange how an allegedly compelling speaker is unable to fake even perfunctory determination and resilience. Strange, too, how all the sophisticated nuances of post-Bush foreign-policy “realism” seem so unreal when you’re up there trying to sell them as a coherent strategy. Go back half a decade to when the administration was threatening to shove democracy down the throats of every two-bit basket case whether they want it or not. Democratizing the planet is, in a Council of Foreign Relations sense, “unrealistic,” but talking it up is a very realistic way of messing with the dictators’ heads. A pipsqueak like Boy Assad sleeps far more soundly today than he did back when he thought Bush meant it, and so did the demonstrators threatening his local enforcers in Lebanon.

More on the SEALs' Dilemma



We can't let this story fade into the background. From the Washington Examiner:
As former President George W. Bush would say, Ahmed Hasim Abed is an evildoer. He masterminded the killing of four American military contractors and ordered the desecration of their bodies in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004. Abed was considered a high-value target in the war on terror, so when three Navy SEALs brought him to justice, they should have been hailed as heroes.

Instead, they were reprimanded for allegedly injuring Abed. After being turned over to Iraqi authorities, Abed complained of being punched, which caused -- quelle horreur! -- a bloody lip. All three SEALS requested and were granted court marshals in order to clear their names. Those proceedings will convene in January. The SEALs surely believe they acted appropriately because military courts are notoriously strict and severe compared with civilian courts.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Writing for the Washington Post, George Will throws in his two cents on Climategate:
Skeptics about the shrill certitudes concerning catastrophic man-made warming are skeptical because climate change is constant: From millennia before the Medieval Warm Period (800 to 1300), through the Little Ice Age (1500 to 1850), and for millennia hence, climate change is always a 100 percent certainty. Skeptics doubt that the scientists' models, which cannot explain the present, infallibly map the distant future...

Some climate scientists compound their delusions of intellectual adequacy with messiah complexes. They seem to suppose themselves a small clerisy entrusted with the most urgent truth ever discovered. On it, and hence on them, the planet's fate depends. So some of them consider it virtuous to embroider facts, exaggerate certitudes, suppress inconvenient data, and manipulate the peer-review process to suppress scholarly dissent and, above all, to declare that the debate is over...

Copenhagen is the culmination of the post-Kyoto maneuvering by people determined to fix the world's climate by breaking the world's -- especially America's -- population to the saddle of ever-more-minute supervision by governments. But Copenhagen also is prologue for the 2010 climate change summit in Mexico City, which will be planet Earth's last chance, until the next one.

Applying Alinsky to Afghanistan

From Andrew C. McCarthy, writing for National Review Online:
...the president is a power politician who shrewdly reads the vulnerabilities of both his opponents and his backers. He knows conservatives want to support both our troops and presidential initiatives that at least seem supportive of our vital interests. That makes conservatives a cheap date for Obama. He feels free to run down Bush and to tar our history: “We are not as young — and perhaps not as innocent,” he told the cadets at West Point, “as we were when [Franklin] Roosevelt was president.” He also frames national security as a distraction from his more important work socializing our economy. He knows that as long as he is tepidly supportive of a military mission — even one that neither aims to achieve nor can possibly achieve victory over America’s enemies — conservatives will not only overlook the slights; they will anxiously commend him and help the New York Times take the lash to those who won’t.

The president also knows the Left has no place else to go. They’ll grumble about “escalation.” We’ll get the occasional Michael Moore outburst. But as Horowitz observes, this is the same theater that has gone on for decades. Alinsky’s principles hold that open radicals unwittingly betray the cause by honestly urging their radicalism on a society that doesn’t want it. The trick, which Obama has internalized, is to masquerade as a concerned but benign member of that society and speak in high-minded abstractions – “our values,” “social justice,” “equality,” “dignity,” and the like. That way, you sell yourself as a well-intentioned leader but, upon acquiring power, determinedly shift Leviathan toward your own radical conception of values, justice, equality, and dignity.

Weakland's Web

There is a bit of reluctance on my part to post this depressing news story from Milwaukee, but as followers of this blog know, tracking the history of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is a recurring theme here, in the hope that a restoration of a decimated vineyard will one day be upon us.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online
Weakland shredded copies of sex abuse reports, documents say

Former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland routinely shredded copies of weekly reports about sexual abuse by priests, according to formerly sealed testimony turned over to Milwaukee County's district attorney on Thursday.

In a 1993 deposition, Weakland admitted destroying copies of the reports in his office, according to a partial transcript of the deposition released by Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Summits Galore!

The Beer Summit of last summer (I hosted a couple of my own in honor of this.)

From the New Republic:
It should hardly have been a surprise, then, that Obama would go a bit summit-crazy once he was actually in the White House. Little more than a month after taking office, he held a “Fiscal Responsibility Summit” where he solicited ideas for battling the deficit; a few weeks after that he hosted a “Health Care Summit” to kick off his drive for health care reform; and later still came the “H1N1 Preparedness Summit” and the “Distracted Driving Summit.” Then there were the assortment of international summits (Summit of the Americas, NATO Summit, G-8 Summit, G-20 Summit, ASEAN Summit), head-of-state summits (Karzai, Zardari, Medvedev, Hatoyama, Hu), and, of course, the Beer Summit with Henry Louis Gates and Sergeant James Crowley. And today Obama's summitry comes full circle when he holds another jobs summit, where he and 130 other people (including Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, and even Eric Schmidt, in case he has any new ideas he didn't put forth 14 months ago) will chew over how to get the unemployment rate out of double digits. Add it all up and that's an astounding amount of gas-baggery in such a relatively short period of time.

Emphasis added.

N.B.: IT'S ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION WITH THIS PRESIDENT

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

"Offramps" in a Time of War


Writing for National Review Online Stephen Yates and Christian Whiton offer a withering critique of the tone and content of Obama's speech last night.
After three months of delay, President Obama has finally responded to the troop request from his military commander in Afghanistan. But the increase in forces comes with a poison pill. Mr. Obama’s hesitation created the space necessary for liberals in his own administration to trump his national-security team and lay the groundwork for an eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan. He let politics hijack national security. The resulting policy is one of managed failure.

It is true that General McChrystal will eventually receive more troops for the mission Mr. Obama ordered him to execute last March. But the White House’s message has focused much more on “offramps” and the notion that the U.S. must ultimately withdraw completely from the battlespace. Given that it may take six months for the additional forces to reach Afghanistan, and that the dominant narrative is already withdrawal, there is really no commitment at all to winning what Obama called the “war of necessity” just this summer.

Emphasis added

And another blistering review from Der Speigel Online
Never before has a speech by President Barack Obama felt as false as his Tuesday address announcing America's new strategy for Afghanistan. It seemed like a campaign speech combined with Bush rhetoric -- and left both dreamers and realists feeling distraught.

One can hardly blame the West Point leadership. The academy commanders did their best to ensure that Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama's speech would be well-received.

Just minutes before the president took the stage inside Eisenhower Hall, the gathered cadets were asked to respond "enthusiastically" to the speech. But it didn't help: The soldiers' reception was cool.

One didn't have to be a cadet on Tuesday to feel a bit of nausea upon hearing Obama's speech. It was the least truthful address that he has ever held. He spoke of responsibility, but almost every sentence smelled of party tactics. He demanded sacrifice, but he was unable to say what it was for exactly.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

What?

While lamenting the conspicuous dearth of rah-rah enthusiasm among West Point cadets for President Obama tonight, MSNBC's Chris Matthews referred to the place as "enemy camp".

Obama in the Eyes of the Arab World

Fouad Ajami has a fascinating piece appearing in the Wall Street Journal:
Steeped in an overarching idea of American guilt, Mr. Obama and his lieutenants offered nothing less than a doctrine, and a policy, of American penance. No one told Mr. Obama that the Islamic world, where American power is engaged and so dangerously exposed, it is considered bad form, nay a great moral lapse, to speak ill of one's own tribe when in the midst, and in the lands, of others.

The crowd may have applauded the cavalier way the new steward of American power referred to his predecessor, but in the privacy of their own language they doubtless wondered about his character and his fidelity. "My brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the stranger," goes one of the Arab world's most honored maxims. The stranger who came into their midst and spoke badly of his own was destined to become an object of suspicion.

For It Before He Was Against It, Part II


The Wall Street Journal lays bare the rank hypocrisy of Senator John Kerry and decimates his recent criticism of the Bush strategy in the initial days of the war in Afghanistan.
President Obama unveils his new Afghanistan strategy today, and in the nick of time Senator John Kerry has arrived with a report claiming that none of this would be necessary if former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had only deployed more troops eight years ago. Yes, he really said more troops.

In a 43-page report issued yesterday by his Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Kerry says bin Laden and deputy Ayman Zawahiri were poised for capture at the Tora Bora cave complex in late 2001. But because of the "unwillingness" of Mr. Rumsfeld and his generals "to deploy the troops required to take advantage of solid intelligence and unique circumstances to kill or capture bin Laden," the al Qaeda leaders escaped...

In 2001, readers may recall, the Washington establishment that included Mr. Kerry was fretting about the danger in Afghanistan from committing too many troops. The New York Times made the "quagmire" point explicitly in a famous page-one analysis, and Seymour Hersh fed the cliche at The New Yorker.

On CNN with Larry King on Dec. 15, 2001, a viewer called in to say the U.S. should "smoke [bin Laden] out" of the Tora Bora caves. Mr. Kerry responded: "For the moment what we are doing, I think, is having its impact and it is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimalize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively and we should continue to do it that way." The Rumsfeld-General Tommy Franks troop strategy may have missed bin Laden, but it reflected domestic political doubts about an extended Afghan campaign.
Emphasis added

War Analysis

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A Different Kind of Leader, No More?

Michael Moore and the left are in a state of apoplexy and total breakdown as their beloved leader prepares to align himself with the baleful neocons (as they see it).

The fact is, liberals are bracing to learn a cold, immutable fact about politics: there's nothing new under the sun. As Barack Obama prepares to announce the surge in Afghanistan (finally), the left is painfully realizing that he is not le Roi Soleil they had hoped for.

From Rich Lowry, writing for National Review Online:
Prepare for the advent of Barack Obama, neocon. On the Afghan War, he is throwing in with the lying, warmongering running dogs of neoconservatism by ordering a surge of some 30,000 troops.

Obama has to become a president of victory even though he hails from a party of defeat. The responsibilities of office separate him from a political base that only sounded stalwart on the Afghan War so long as it was a handy political tool with which to beat George W. Bush about the head and shoulders.

Monday, November 30, 2009

On the Art of War


“As a portrait painter I am drawn to the human drama, the psychology and bravery. In the theatre of war, experience is condensed, there is an intensification of life.”

From the Telegraph: Arabella Dorman spent about a month as a war artist, embedded with British troops in Afghanistan. In the process, she whipped up some powerful portraits.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Art Appreciation

Annibale Carracci's Coronation of the Virgin

Read more about Baroque Rome here.

The Nuclear Family, No More?

From the Telegraph:
Nuclear family is broken warns parents' group:

The traditional nuclear family has irretrievably broken down and it will soon become normal for children to be raised by relations other than their parents, the head of a Government-funded parenting group has predicted.


Aunts, uncles, grandparents and even siblings will take on increasing childcare responsibilities in a form of “communal parenting” to cope with the effects of marital breakdown and growing pressures in the workplace, according to the Family and Parenting Institute.

Rising divorce rates, fewer marriages and the growth of civil partnerships mean that the traditional family model is no longer “the norm” and Government efforts to rescue it are futile, according to Dr Katherine Rake, the organisation’s new chief executive.

Liturgy: There to Here in 40 Years

How did Catholic liturgy, once awe-inspiring and ineffable to behold, so quickly find itself laden down by the accretions of gringe-worthy soppiness, folderol and kitsch? Some answers may be found in excerpts from an excellent article written by Kenneth J. Wolfe, appearing in the New York Times (of all places):
...it was Pius himself who was largely responsible for the momentous changes of 1969. It was he who appointed the chief architect of the new Mass, Annibale Bugnini, to the Vatican’s liturgical commission in 1948.

Bugnini was born in 1912 and ordained a Vincentian priest in 1936. Though Bugnini had barely a decade of parish work, Pius XII made him secretary to the Commission for Liturgical Reform. In the 1950s, Bugnini led a major revision of the liturgies of Holy Week. As a result, on Good Friday of 1955, congregations for the first time joined the priest in reciting the Pater Noster, and the priest faced the congregation for some of the liturgy.

The next pope, John XXIII, named Bugnini secretary to the Preparatory Commission for the Liturgy of Vatican II, in which position he worked with Catholic clergymen and, surprisingly, some Protestant ministers on liturgical reforms. In 1962 he wrote what would eventually become the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the document that gave the form of the new Mass.

Many of Bugnini’s reforms were aimed at appeasing non-Catholics, and changes emulating Protestant services were made, including placing altars to face the people instead of a sacrifice toward the liturgical east. As he put it, “We must strip from our ... Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, that is, for the Protestants.”

How was Bugnini able to make such sweeping changes? In part because none of the popes he served were liturgists. Bugnini changed so many things that John’s successor, Paul VI, sometimes did not know the latest directives. The pope once questioned the vestments set out for him by his staff, saying they were the wrong color, only to be told he had eliminated the week-long celebration of Pentecost and could not wear the corresponding red garments for Mass. The pope’s master of ceremonies then witnessed Paul VI break down in tears.
(Emphasis added)

It's not a stretch to propose that the virtual disappearance of a distinct Catholic culture and identity in the United States can be traced directly back to this attack on the ancient liturgy. Thanks to this experiment to make the Church more congenial to Protestants, an entire generation of Catholics (perhaps even more by now) has been denied the beautiful celebration of the liturgy that their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on and so on, going back over one-thousand years, experienced. Bugnini's wrecking ball changed all that within the short span of forty years. It's both remarkable and sad.

Swiss Surprise


From the BBC:
Swiss voters have supported a referendum proposal to ban the building of minarets, official results show.

More than 57% of voters from 26 cantons - or provinces - voted in favour of the ban, Swiss news agency ATS reported.

The proposal had been put forward by the Swiss People's Party, (SVP), the largest party in parliament, which says minarets are a sign of Islamisation.

Raising questions about the political underpinnings and agenda of the Islamic creed is entirely legitimate. Muslims in Switzerland will understandably question the Swiss commitment to freedom of religious expression, but that very freedom to express one's faith publicly is denied to Christians in many Muslim countries as well.

If the people of Switzerland (and Europe in general) were dedicated to passing on their traditions, this, coupled with a strong birth-rate and a high percentage of practicing Christians, would make concerns about Muslims and minarets less pressing.

More on the Climate Change Industry

Peter Hitchens has a great piece on the climate change hoax, appearing in the Daily Mail:
Many people – and bodies – presented as experts actually have little or no knowledge of the science involved. Gullible politicians and gullible media men and women have repeatedly fallen for it.

Hucksters, profiteers, world-government fanatics and, of course, the EU (always searching for an excuse to increase its power) have latched on to it.

Huge public subsidies, including the carbon-trading racket and the tragicomic building of hideous, worse-than-useless windfarms, now depend upon it.

But take, just for example, the famous picture of polar bears on a melting ice-floe, supposedly doomed victims of global warming.

The USA’s ex-Vice President, the propagandist Al Gore, got audiences going ‘Aaah!’ by saying the bears had ‘nowhere else to go’. Really? The picture was taken in August, when the Alaskan ice always melts. The polar bears were fine. Think about it.

They can swim and they weren’t far from land. Recent studies show that most polar bear populations are rising.

The world was warmer than it is now in the early Middle Ages, long before industrial activity increased CO2 output, a fact that the warming fanatics have worked very hard to obscure.

Oh, and the most important greenhouse gas by far is not CO2 but water vapour, which is not influenced by human activity at all.

Meanwhile, an English court of law (despite buying the CO2 argument) has identified nine significant errors of fact in Gore’s Oscar-winning alarmist film An Inconvenient Truth, ludicrously being inflicted on children in British schools.

Among these: sea levels are not going to rise by 20ft any time soon; there’s no evidence that atolls in the Pacific have been evacuated because of rising waters; the Gulf Stream is not going to shut down; the drying-up of Lake Chad, the shrinking of snow on Mount Kilimanjaro and Hurricane Katrina were none of them caused by global warming; the only polar bears that have drowned were four that died in a storm.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Blogger vs. Castro

Old Havana

Yoani Sanchez is waging war against the Castro regime in Cuba. For that she has been harassed and beaten. Her crime: speaking the truth about life under the Castro brothers. Her weapon of choice: her blog. From the Telegraph:
Attacking a blogger might seem an unnecessary strategy in Cuba, where access to the internet is amongst the lowest in the world and only a small number of carefully vetted individuals are allowed to have internet accounts at home. Ms Sanchez believes her roughing up was a signal that the days of tolerance of Cuba's embryonic blogging community are over. "The Cuban government is currently nervous, as a result of the dire state of the economy", she said.

When Raul Castro took over the reins of power from his ailing elder brother, Fidel, three years ago, there were high hopes that the changeover might usher in an era of greater political freedom and economic growth. Instead, the younger Castro is now at the helm of a country which appears close to bankruptcy, the global economic crisis having left the country facing shortages not seen since its chief benefactor, the Soviet Union, collapsed in the early 1990s.

When will this rotting, corrupt regime finally be done away with?

Friday, November 27, 2009

SEALs, Revisited

News that borders on the surreal. From the New York Post:
Punch a terrorist -- head for the brig.

Welcome to America's thoroughly modern military.

The notion beggars the imagination, but three Navy SEALs who helped capture one of the most notorious terrorists in Iraq now face courts-martial -- because the terrorist acquired a bloody lip after the takedown.

Ahmed Hashim Abed organized the brutal 2004 attack on four US civilian contractors working as security guards in Fallujah. After murdering the guards, terrorists dragged their bodies through the city, burning and hanging two of them over the Euphrates Bridge.

Fast forward to this past summer: Navy Petty Officers Matthew McCabe, Jonathan Keefe and Julio Huertas were part of a SEAL team that captured Abed.

Abed complained that he was punched on Sept. 1 during his initial detention. A fat, bloody lip was offered up as proof.
Imagine that.

Now McCabe is charged with assault, dereliction of duty and making a false statement; Keefe is charged with dereliction of duty and making a false statement; Huertas has the same charges as Keefe, plus one of impeding an investigation...

And so the SEALs will be arraigned on Dec. 7 -- another reason for the date to live in infamy.

The Sacred Made Real

Archbishop Vincent Nichols offers a beautiful reflection on three stunning works of art from the Spanish Baroque period. The exhibit, called The Sacred Made Real, is currently on display at the National Gallery in London.

The Sacred Made Real from Catholic Westminster on Vimeo.

Trouble Looms for the President

Peggy Noonan has an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal:
Mr Obama is in a hard place. Health care hangs over him, and if he is lucky he will lose a close vote in the Senate. The common wisdom that he can't afford to lose is exactly wrong—he can't afford to win with such a poor piece of legislation. He needs to get the issue behind him, vow to fight another day, and move on. Afghanistan hangs over him, threatening the unity of his own Democratic congressional base. There is the growing perception of incompetence, of the inability to run the machine of government. This, with Americans, is worse than Obama's rebranding as a leader who governs from the left. Americans demands baseline competence. If he comes to be seen as Jimmy Carter was, that the job was bigger than the man, that will be the end.

More Fallout from Climategate

From the Wall Street Journal:
The real issue is what the messages say about the way the much-ballyhooed scientific consensus on global warming was arrived at in the first place, and how even now a single view is being enforced. In short, the impression left by the correspondence among Messrs. Mann and Jones and others is that the climate-tracking game has been rigged from the start.

According to this privileged group, only those whose work has been published in select scientific journals, after having gone through the "peer-review" process, can be relied on to critique the science. And sure enough, any challenges that critics have lobbed at climatologists from outside this clique are routinely dismissed and disparaged.

This is starting to get interesting...

Pope to Beatify Newman


From the Catholic Herald Online:
The Pope is to waive his own rules so he can preside in person over the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman during a papal visit to Britain next year, according to sources close to the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI will personally take charge of the ceremony to declare the Victorian convert Blessed when he visits England in early September at the invitation of Gordon Brown.

The Pope has previously insisted that all beatifications are carried out by a Vatican official in the diocese in which the candidate died, which in Newman's case is Birmingham.

But because the Pope has such a strong devotion to Cardinal Newman and his theological writings he has decided to break his own rules and beatify the cardinal himself.

Senate Bill

Charles Krauthammer, writing for National Review Online, takes a look at the bill up for debate in the Senate:
Throw a dart at the Senate tome:

- You’ll find mandates with financial penalties — the amounts picked out of a hat.

- You’ll find insurance companies (who live and die by their actuarial skills) told exactly what weight to give risk factors, such as age. Currently, insurance premiums for 20-somethings are about one-sixth the premiums for 60-somethings. The House bill dictates the young shall now pay at minimum one-half; the Senate bill, one-third — numbers picked out of a hat.

- You’ll find sliding scales for health-insurance subsidies — percentages picked out of a hat — that will radically raise marginal income tax rates for middle-class recipients, among other crazy unintended consequences.

The bill is irredeemable. It should not only be defeated. It should be immolated, its ashes scattered over the Senate swimming pool.

The Right Kind of Setback

From the Associated Press
MOUNT LAUREL, New Jersey - The state-to-state march to legalize gay marriage across the left-leaning northeastern United States has lost more momentum since a major setback three weeks ago at the ballot box in Maine.

Since then, legislatures in New York and New Jersey have failed to schedule long-expected votes on bills to recognize the unions in those states.

"If they are unable to pass gay marriage in New York and New Jersey, combined with the loss in Maine, it will confirm that gay marriage is not the inevitable wave of the future," said Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which mobilizes social conservatives to fight against same-sex unions.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks

Liturgical Disconnect



Today, it hit me (again): Do we nurture, in the United States, a distinct Catholic culture and identity, apart from the ubiquitousness of corny English hymns? (Of course, I speak with the implicit recognition that Christ in the Eucharist is the singular source of unity of the liturgy. I am not speaking in terms of the Sacrament, but rather the aesthetic.) In fact, with regard to sacred music, the saccharine hymns of the past thirty years or so seem to be one of the stand-out, unifying marks of the Catholic Church in America.

I attended Mass at the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis today. The building's design is inspired by Saint Mark's in Venice and, going back even further in Church history, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, formerly Constantinople. In other words, it is simply breathtaking, in all of its byzantine splendor. I say regularly that it is easily one of the most beautiful churches in the nation, perhaps even in the Americas. Gold, mosaics, marble and candles are everywhere. Upon entering, the church's setting instantly captures you and elevates the mind and soul to things above. Adding an even richer touch to the already impressive mise en scène of the Cathedral today was the presence of Archbishop Robert Carlson, who celebrated the Mass. In short, all of the stars were aligned for a memorable encounter with beauty. The choice of hymns, however raised some questions. The choir of the Cathedral is excellent, at the technical level, served by dedicated, decent and hard-working people. But what is conspicuously lacking is an appreciation for Latin and the theology of sacred music, and their place in liturgy. Today, for instance, hymn after hymn came from the schmaltzy pen of Marty Haugen. "Taste and See" was (shudder!) the Communion song. How utterly predictable and in line with the mediocrity of the past thirty years! Two tectonic plates, one representing the Cathedral's beauty and the other, the mawkish tone of the hymn, clashed violently inside my mind as the song expanded to fill every crevice of the mighty church. "America the Beautiful" was the recessional "hymn"; a lovely song, I'll be the first to argue, but it is in no way a sacred hymn, and therefore it really has no place in the liturgy, even if it is inserted as the recessional hymn on Thanksgiving day. Save it for the parades and rallies. One would hope that, in light of the majesty of the Venetian-styled Cathedral, the presence of the Archbishop, and, of course, the sacrifice of the Mass, a more solemn selection of hymns would have been offered, but it was not to be. Latin hymns are woefully sparse at the Cathedral-Basilica, an oddity that is nothing short of astonishing. On those very rare occasions that the choir churns out a Gloria, a Sanctus and an Agnus Dei, they are done beautifully, which makes its eschewing of the language and hymns all the more curious. Taken together, this evinces disturbing lack of understanding of the role and place of sacred music in liturgy. It's fine to have the technical skills to carry a tune, but grasping the theology behind sacred music's genius is yet another skill that requires training and study.

Looking back on my years in Rome, I will never forget the experience of attending a Papal Mass in Saint Peter's. The choir would always chant the Gloria, Credo, Santus, and Agnus Dei in LATIN. (Most of the liturgy was, in fact, offered in Latin.) Words cannot do justice to hearing "Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus..." echo through the cavernous basilica, in the presence of the Pope. Immersed in such beauty (the Baroque basilica, the Latin hymns, and in the presence of the successor to Saint Peter) the mind, soul and heart are caught up and carried to the very heights of heaven. And isn't that just what they're supposed to do? All the manifestations of beauty present are coherent, unified. And, as far as human efforts go, they serve as a fitting tribute to God among us in the Eucharist. Time and again, year after year, under the roof of that basilica, I stood with thousands of faithful from around the globe. We came from different countries, spoke different languages, adhered to different cultures and traditions, but with those ancient hymns, around that pope, we were all one: one God, one faith, one language. It would be difficult to find a more convincing location to experience and understand what the universality of the Church really means. Stepping outside the basilica, pilgrims fall back into their native tongues, but inside, if only for the duration of the Mass, e pluribus unum, one.

The cringe-worthy music that so dominates the liturgical life in the United States (the same music I grew up with in Milwaukee) is truly a thing to lament and seek to overturn. That it carries the day in modernist, gymnasium-esque church buildings is not surprising, but when it seeps into such sanctums as the resplendent Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, more forceful objections ought to be raised, in defense of beauty, first and foremost, but also in defense of good taste.

Schmaltzy Marty Haugen Hymn + Byzantine-Inspired Cathedral-Basilica = Painful Disconnect. The two don't jibe.

"Merry Christmas" said the Muslim

From The Independent:
Suheil Azam was sitting in a coffee shop in east London last month when one his friends began a debate on whether it was permissible under Islamic scripture for Muslims to wish their non-Muslim friends happy Christmas. As a 23-year-old professional who socialises widely, Mr Azam had never considered the possibility that someone in his community might frown upon him for going round to his neighbours at Christmas or partying during New Year. But his friend, who had become increasingly devout, was adamant that such behaviour was haram (forbidden).

"Personally I think he's wrong," explained Mr Azam. "But it's difficult to argue against him because all the information he gets is taken from the internet and it makes him sound very knowledgeable."

Such a debate between two young British Muslims would have been almost unthinkable two decades ago. But today it is frequently the internet that young Muslims turn to when looking for spiritual advice. And what they find in cyberspace is often shockingly intolerant. "Do not congratulate [the unbeliever] on their festivals in any way whatsoever," warns one prominent site. "That implies approval of their festival and not denouncing them."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mr. Bolton was RIGHT

I've always defended John Bolton on this blog; he is brilliant and boasts an encyclopedic knowledge of international relations and UN machinations. His vilification over the years by the left makes the following story all the more sweet. From CBS News' Richard Grenell:
I certainly don't expect the New York Times to admit that one of their greatest bogeymen turned out to be correct about Iran's nuclear game-playing. However, the Times Editorial Board did once say "John Bolton is right. Kofi Annan is wrong."

Unfortunately it wasn't about the Iran nuclear issue they were talking about - it was about his opposition to the UN's ineffective Human Rights Council.

Nevertheless, someone needs to say it now. John Bolton was right.

When the Obama Administration proclaimed victory on October 1st by announcing that a break-through had been reached in Geneva and that Iran had committed to shipping 2,600 pounds of fuel to Russia, expert Iran watchers were appropriately cynical. Bolton cautioned, yet again, that the Iranians had used some of the same diplomatic nuances they had been using for years to successfully buy more time to continue enriching uranium and fake cooperation with the international community.

Usually, the Europeans were the first to take the bait but this time the Obama Administration got hooked first. Bolton, however, was the first to stand up and call the Iranian pronouncement a sham - and he did it within hours of the announcement.

The Deepening Scandal of Climategate

From the Daily Mail
The controversy surrounding the global warming scandal today deepened after a BBC correspondent admitted he was sent the leaked emails more than a month before they were made public. Paul Hudson, weather presenter and climate change expert, claims the documents allegedly sent between some of the world's leading scientists are of a direct result of an article he wrote.

In his BBC blog two days ago, Hudson said: 'I was forwarded the chain of emails on the 12th October, which are comments from some of the world's leading climate scientists written as a direct result of my article "Whatever Happened To Global Warming".'

That essay, written last month, argued that for the last 11 years there had not been an increase in global temperatures. It also presented the arguments of sceptics who believe natural cycles control temperature and the counter-arguments of those who think it's man's actions which are warming the planet.