Monday, August 31, 2009


A travel companion once made an anti-Catholic remark to President Theodore Roosevelt, hoping to ingratiate himself with the Protestant President. Refusing to take the bait, Roosevelt turned to him and stated icily:

"Archie, when I discuss the Catholic Church, I am reminded that it is the only church which has ever turned an Eastern race into a Christian people. Is that not so?"

Reflections from a father to his son on plans for an upcoming safari:

"I think I shall get a double-barrelled 450 cordite, but shall expect to use almost all the time my Springfield and my 47-70 Winchester. I shall want you to have a first-class rifle, perhaps one of the powerful new model 40 or 45 caliber Winchesters. Then it may be that it would be a good thing to have a 12-bore shotgun that could be used with solid ball...It is no child's play going after lion, elephants, rhino and buffalo."

And thus has Theodore Roosevelt won me over, despite his importunate progressivist policies. Nobody's perfect, after all.

(Taken from Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris)
From the American Spectator:
In 1939, Pope Pius XII issued the Eucharist to seven-year-old Ted Kennedy, who, biographer Joe McGinniss claims, was "the first American citizen ever to receive his first holy communion from a pope." In the seventy years since, Ted Kennedy's relationship with the Catholic Church has been problematic, to say the least. From receiving communion at Mary Jo Kopechne's funeral, to procuring an annulment for a marriage of 25 years that had produced three grown children, to revelations during the William Kennedy Smith rape trial that the senator had woke his son and nephew on Good Friday to instigate the ill-fated carousing in Palm Beach's bars, Ted Kennedy hasn't exactly acted as a model Catholic.

Highlighting this is the other major story -- the transformation of the Kennedy Compound into a museum -- to emerge from the Kennedy funeral. "Rose [Kennedy] wanted to turn the place over to the Benedictine monks before she died," Benedict Fitzgerald, the late Kennedy matriarch's personal attorney, told author Ed Klein for his book Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died. "I drew up the legal papers for her on my front porch. But when Ted found out about it, he ripped the thing in half. There was no way he was going to have the place turned into a monastery." Instead, as Fox News reported, "The Kennedy compound in Hyannis, Mass. will be converted into an educational center and museum as a tribute to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy."

With Boston archbishop Sean O'Malley offering a blessing at the senator's funeral, and the former archbishop of Washington, D.C. presiding over the burial, many of Kennedy's political antagonists are outraged, not that the Church was silent, but that it so loudly honored a man who fought to undermine church teaching.

"No rational person can reasonably be expected to take seriously Catholic opposition to abortion when a champion of the Culture of Death, who repeatedly betrayed the Faith of his baptism, is lauded and extolled by priests and prelates in a Marian basilica," C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, explained on Saturday. "This morning's spectacle is evidence of the corruption which pervades the Catholic Church in the United States."

Catholic Identity and the Tee Shirt and Jeans Nun

Pandering to the culture: a "fun nun", no doubt

This link gives readers an introduction to Sister Katy LaFond, a self-described "fun nun," of the School Sisters of Saint Francis in Wisconsin. Now, I don't know Sr. Katy. I'm sure she's very nice. She clearly knows all about coexisting, and that goes a long way, I tell you. But, judging by her striking, teenybopperish presentation (she's 29), one would be justified in proposing that Sister Katy stands out as a conspicuous paragon of the endemic watering down of Catholic culture and identity within certain religious orders across the nation. A traditional religious habit has never historically been seen as a tangential, optional or inconsequential accessory. So why has it been jilted in so many religious orders? And why are these "progressive" orders simultaneously facing sharp declines in vocations? A coincidence? This observation, to be clear, is not tinged with a drop of acrimony toward Sr. Katy. It is merely intended to serve as a "pot-stirring" statement of fact regarding the role of Catholic culture and identity.

That said, here is an encouraging story, from the Diocese of Austin, on the growing popularity of traditional religious orders for women.
While the last 40 years have seen an overall drop in the numbers of women entering religious life, a new book released by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious says orders that are more visibly countercultural seem to be flourishing.

The council represents the superiors of more than 100 religious communities of sisters whose members wear an identifiable religious habit. A canonically approved organization founded in 1992 to promote religious life in the U.S., the council notes that the average age of its member communities’ sisters is under 35...The Nashville Dominicans are among the orders experiencing the greatest success attracting new vocations, according to news reports. “It’s very much a radical call to live and give yourself completely to Christ,” she [Nashville Dominican Sister Mary Gertrude] said. “There is a real identity to who we are and what we are about. We want to put religious life in front of young women today."

Well said, Sister.

Countercultural Nashville Dominican Sisters, boldly proclaiming their vocation to the world

"Within Striking Distance"

From Politico:
After an August recess marked by raucous town halls, troubling polling data and widespread anecdotal evidence of a volatile electorate, the small universe of political analysts who closely follow House races is predicting moderate to heavy Democratic losses in 2010.

Some of the most prominent and respected handicappers can now envision an election in which Democrats suffer double-digit losses in the House — not enough to provide the 40 seats necessary to return the GOP to power but enough to put them within striking distance.

Top political analyst Charlie Cook, in a special August 20 update to subscribers, wrote that “the situation this summer has slipped completely out of control for President Obama and congressional Democrats.”

"Many veteran congressional election watchers, including Democratic ones, report an eerie sense of déjà vu, with a consensus forming that the chances of Democratic losses going higher than 20 seats is just as good as the chances of Democratic losses going lower than 20 seats,” he wrote.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Leviathan and the Left

The Almighty Leviathan

Nota bene, American Left:
The Hobbesian notion that individual liberty can be understood as the right of a man to obey his appetites ignores the higher capacities of the human soul because it necessarily gives rise to the "strongest powers" in order to maintain society in being. Jouvenel indicates that contemporary liberals fail to see that government based on free discussion and free opinion presupposes the human capacity to distinguish truth from falsehood and to define general principles of justice that transcend the human desire for power. -Dr. Daniel Mahoney, Bertrand de Jouvenel: The Conservative Liberal and the Illusions of Modernity ISI Books, 2005.

The accumulation and expansion of power is the Left's main preoccupation, nay, obsession. Read the scoop on Obama and The Alinsky Administration, by Jim Geraghty.
Moderates thought they were electing a moderate; liberals thought they were electing a liberal. Both camps were wrong. Ideology does not have the final say in Obama’s decision-making; an Alinskyite’s core principle is to take any action that expands his power and to avoid any action that risks his power.

As conservatives size up their new foe, they ought to remember: It’s not about liberalism. It’s about power. Obama will jettison anything that costs him power, and do anything that enhances it.

Are conservatives totally immune from this contagion? No. But true conservatives are, I think, at least partially immunized from the power-at-all-cost modus operandi that so doggedly ensorcels the Left. Read Montesquieu, Coke, Acton, Burke, Madison, Kirk, Buckley, Reagan, et al. for the conservative perspective.

Joseph Ellis notes that, from the point of view of the founders, "The worst thing about a consolidated government...was that, once in place, its relentless expansion of arbitrary power was unstoppable, its tendency toward corruption was inevitable, and its appetite for despotism was unquenchable."

As an aperçu to mercifully close out this somewhat disjointed post, I remember coming across an observation made by Speaker Nancy Pelosi explaining how, when she was a little girl, she wanted to be a priest because it was the priests who "have the power."

The Whole Lot of 'Em!

Common sense gains ground in America. From Rasmussen:
If they could vote to keep or replace the entire Congress, just 25% of voters nationwide would keep the current batch of legislators.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 57% would vote to replace the entire Congress and start all over again.

The Letter

Back in the Day: The Kennedy Clan at the Vatican, 1939

From CNN: Excerpts from Senator Kennedy's July letter to the Holy Father:
"Most Holy Father, I asked President Obama to personally hand-deliver this letter to you. As a man of deep faith himself, he understands how important my Catholic faith is to me, and I am so deeply grateful to him. Most Holy Father, I hope this letter finds you in good health, I pray that you have all of God’s blessings as you lead our church and inspire our world during these challenging times. I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines. I was diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago, and, although I continue treatment, the disease is taking its toll on me. I am 77 years old and preparing for the next passage of life. I have been blessed to be part of a wonderful family. Both of my parents, particularly my mother, kept our Catholic faith at the center of our lives. That gift of faith has sustained and nurtured, and provided solace to me in the darkest hours. I know that I have been an imperfect human being but with the help of my faith I have tried to right my path."

“I want you to know, Your Holiness, that in my nearly 50 years of elective office, I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I’ve worked to welcome the immigrant, fight discrimination and expand access to healthcare and education. I have opposed the death penalty and fought to end war. I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health care field and will continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone... Those are the issues that have motivated me and have been the focus of my work as a Unites States Senator. I’ve always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness, and though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teaching of my faith. I continue to pray for God’s blessing, on you, and on our church, and would be most thankful for your prayers for me.”

The Vatican conveyed the following thoughts:
"The Holy Father has read the letter which you entrusted to President Obama, who kindly presented it to him during their recent meeting. He was saddened to know of your illness, and asked me to assure you of his concern and his spiritual closeness. He is particularly grateful for your promise of prayers for him, for the needs of our universal church. His Holiness prays that in the days ahead, you may be sustained in faith and hope, and granted the precious grace of joyful surrender to the will of God, our merciful Father. He invokes upon you the consolation and peace promised by the Risen Savior to all who share in His sufferings, and trust in His promise of eternal life. Commending you and the members of your family to the loving intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Father cordially imparts his apostolic blessing as a pledge of wisdom, comfort, and strength in the Lord.”

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cash for Clunkers Silliness

Professor William Luckey explains here the sheer nonsense behind the Obama Administration's ill-conceived and now defunct "Cash for Clunkers" program. Will they ever learn?
Now, let me get this straight, and maybe put it in more truthful terms. If you were driving a real clunker, could it be that you could not afford a new car to begin with? Now you are to bring the ol’ jalopy in, and for $4500 in cash, go into debt for a new car costing, say, $25,000? While it is true that a clunker would not bring in much exchange value, so that this program would up the return, would you bring in your old car in for $4500 if you were not already going to sell it and buy a new one anyway? Just take my own experience. I drive a 2000 Buick. I bought it used, and it is a great car. I have no intention to sell it, but even IF I wanted to trade it in for a new one, and IF I could have gotten $4500 dollars for it, I still could not afford a new car. Would the promise of $4500 make me go into debt to buy a car I could not afford to make the payments on? Absolutely not. Forget the fact that I am a trained economist. My dog would not do that either.

Take another aspect. In my experience, real clunkers are driven by poorer people anyway. They can’t afford a new car either—hence they drive the clunker until it can drive no more. What do they do then? Buy another clunker from the used car market.

On Coffee

Some sharp witticisms on, well, coffee, in honor of those friends whose shared company and conversation make drinking it so enjoyable.

As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move...similes arise, the paper is covered Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle. - Honoré de Balzac

Nescafé no es café. (Instant coffee is not coffee.) -- Mexican saying

The morning cup of coffee has an exhiliration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine! -"Coffee Cantata", J.S. Bach

Strong coffee, much strong coffee, is what awakens me. Coffee gives me warmth, waking, an unusual force and a pain that is not without very great pleasure. - Napoleon Bonaparte

If you want to improve your understanding, drink coffee; it is the intelligent beverage. - Sydney Smith

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons. - T. S. Elliot

Clare Boothe Luce

"Just bring me someone who has seen the rise and fall of empires."

The reply given by Clare Boothe Luce when asked who she would like to hear her first confession, after having been received into the Catholic Church.
Obama rightly called Ted Kennedy "the soul of the Democratic Party" in his eulogy for the senator.

Now, which of the two major political parties has defended, to the hilt, the "right" to abortion? Whose voice within that party has been the loudest in defense of that "right?" And yet, the very man who was "the soul" of such an immoral party received a very public Catholic funeral Mass and send off. Does anyone else see a conflict of interests here?

A Thousand Words

Now, I've seen everything. The president has achieved ubiquity. He has free reign everywhere he goes. Even princes stand aside.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Funeral and a Scandal

A stinging piece from John-Henry Westen, writing for Life Site News:
August 26, 2009 ( - Saturday's grandiose Catholic funeral for Senator Ted Kennedy has the potential to be a scandal that will make Notre Dame's Obama Day a walk in the park. With all four living former Presidents in attendance and an address from President Barack Obama, the funeral is set to be a royal crowning, right inside a Catholic Church, of a man who betrayed the most fundamental moral teachings of the faith.

What example will this give to Catholics and the rest of the world looking in? It will surely belie the Catholic teachings on the sanctity of life and sexuality. "Surely," they will say, "if one of the most vociferous proponents of abortion and homosexuality in politics is so feted in the Church, the Church cannot possibly regard abortion as murder." Would anyone so honor one who so advocated what the church officially considers an "unspeakable crime"?

Rev. Patrick Tarrant, pastor of the Church where Kennedy is to be buried has informed the media that he was present at Kennedy's death and thus hopefully the senator made a last confession and was reconciled with the Church.

However, only a public repudiation of his militantly anti-life and anti-family actions would serve to lessen the scandal of the upcoming funeral extravaganza.

I don't discount that that might be coming. After all, Kennedy did have President Obama deliver a letter to the Pope when Obama made his visit to the Vatican in July. Although unlikely, given the Senator's recent, intense support for Obama's health care reforms, perhaps there was a public confession in the letter waiting to be released. We can hope and pray.

If we assume a private confession was made there could be a private funeral Mass for the family, without politicians and media. And of course there would still be a secular memorial event, with all the pomp and ceremony for this star of the secular world.

Who can disagree with Westen's assertions? I applaud him for having the temerity to write so forcefully on this matter. No one is judging Sen. Kennedy. As Westen says, we all hope that the senator died in God's grace. That is something solely between God and Kennedy. The more pressing matter here is the public nature of Kennedy's Catholicism and his regrettable support for unacceptable positions so contrary to the moral law.

At least with Notre Dame scandal, the main culprit was a rogue, freewheeling priest/president of the university; the bishops, for their part, made their disapproval known quite clearly. The high-profile Kennedy funeral,on the other hand, will unfold inside a Catholic basilica of the Boston Archdiocese. And to make matters worse, there has been a deafening silence from the leadership to boot. "The Death of Outrage" rings true once more. Where is Cardinal O'Malley's voice in all of this? Are faithful and exasperated Catholics simply expected to sit idly by, once more, and watch helplessly as the integrity of the Church's teaching is fogged-up as a result of a glaring lack of moral clarity and leadership? The whole thing is just totally surreal. How can confused Catholics be expected to take the moral teaching of the Church seriously (especially on abortion) when these kinds of mixed signals are proffered by the church leadership in America?

Well, we can hope, as Westen writes, for an upcoming public recant of previously held views. That would go a long way.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Catholic Milwaukee: The Last Eight Years or So

To give outsiders an idea, the initial sensation Milwaukee Catholics experienced with the arrival of Archbishop Timothy Dolan to their battle-weary, gloomy archdiocese back in 2002 can best be compared to the feeling of cracking open the windows in a stiflingly hot attic in the middle of a blistering summer heat wave. With attic-level temperatures, it’s not just the heat but the near inability to even breath on account of the heavy air that makes it so unbearable. The Milwaukee Archdiocese was, in 2002, that unbearable, unlivable attic. Archbishop Dolan was, by analogy and by all appearances, that cool, crisp gust of air that blasted away the accretions of stagnant air and musty effluvia from the previous twenty-four years of scandal and mismanagement under Archbishop Rembert Weakland. Finally, it seemed, the dark night was over and a new dawn was upon us.

I was one of the many early enthusiasts of Milwaukee’s jolly new leader, a man who came across to Milwaukeeans as the long overdue total package: the gregarious uncle, your best buddy at the ball game, and that favorite professor from your college days. In terms of personality, the contrast from the previous metropolitan could not have been more apparent: Dolan was the extrovert, larger than life, an overwhelming force who engulfed you with charm, smiles and hearty slaps on the back. Weakland was elusive, bookish, the quiet introvert, lean in stature and perennially aloof. Dolan burst onto the scene with a refreshing indefatigableness, an empathy and charisma, veering sharply from the soporific auto-pilot mode of the Weakland era that had lulled so many bleary-eyed Catholics into apathy’s deep slumber. Dolan was a beaming ray of light to Weakland’s long, dark shadow. I had the pleasure of meeting Dolan on several occasions in small company (once at his residence in Milwaukee) and found his initial “getting to know you” shtick very disarming. He rested his arm on my shoulder as we chatted amiably in our little group about this and that. Offering a wide smile, a cigar and a drink, it was impossible not to be ensorcelled by his optimism, his courtesies and booming laugh. I, like so many others, believed things were going to be different henceforth. Considering the unparalleled mess that Archbishop Dolan was expected to clean up, one couldn’t help but feel badly for him and wish him the best as he set about disentangling us from the Weakland web.

Thus coming into his new position, Dolan could claim a large mandate and a significant amount of capital to do what he saw fit in order to set the battered ship of a wounded archdiocese aright. Translation: We trusted him to clean house.

Early in Dolan’s tenure as Milwaukee’s Archbishop, I had a long conversation over dinner with a well-connected priest friend of the archdiocese regarding the particulars of the Dolan Doctrine. Some, he noted, had hoped and expected there to be a swift, across the board purgation of the local leadership, that heads would and should roll in the aftermath of the outrageous scandal and mismanagement of the previous quarter century. Dies Irae was in order for the entire Weakland apparatchik. This was one take, an understandable one, I thought to myself, but I was told flat out that this was not going to be Archbishop Dolan’s approach. The alternative strategy, the one apparently taken up by Dolan, was dilatory. It consisted in an attempt to slowly win people over to his camp through sheer force of charm, a genuine display of good will, and an expressed desire to bury the hatchet. This Catholic charm offensive would allow Dolan to gradually earn the trust of the faithful as he ever so discretely set about implementing piecemeal changes within the archdiocesan structure. In other words, better to have the vox populi on your side before making sweeping tectonic changes. Well, okay, I thought. While disagreeing with the approach and the tactics (as I preferred a more aggressive, immediate extirpation of the ancien régime regardless of popularity forecasts), I agreed with the desideratum, i.e., that real change was in order and long overdue, even if it required some time and patience to take effect. But as the years rolled on, punch-drunk Catholics quickly lost their patience, as anticipated, substantive, yet always chimerical changes eluded them again and again and the status quo ante eerily prevailed in the archdiocese. Where was the liturgical renewal? Where was the reform of Catholic schools? Where was the outspoken critique and substantive disciplining of vocal Catholic dissident groups who,to this day, find a certain cozy sanctum in Milwaukee?

Perhaps as an outsider to the archdiocese, Dolan never really grasped how strongly local Catholics wanted to be rid of Weakland and every vestige of his reign. Over the course of the last eight years or so, Weakland’s repeated special appearances across the archdiocese in the Dolan era truly stupefied a large number of Catholics who had hoped for a new chapter, a page definitively turned. Why was Weakland allowed to maintain a high profile in the archdiocese after his downfall, appearing at ordinations, archdiocesan events, confirmations, etc.? To many Catholic families, the relentless and ubiquitous Weakland Come-Back Tour was nothing short of scandalous, surreal even. It was as though Catholics were being told to forget what transpired there. The fresh breeze everyone initially thought had swept into Milwaukee turned out to be merely recycled air, not unlike that dry, fusty stuff that blasts out of the overhead vents on a plane.

Milwaukee-area Catholics await the announcement of their next leader. Prayers are already being offered for the selection process and for man who will have such monumental challenges waiting for him.

Exploiting a Death

Is anyone really surprised by this headline? Does anyone doubt for a second that it is true?

Democrats accused of using Edward Kennedy’s death to promote reforms
Democrats were accused of exploiting the death of Senator Edward Kennedy yesterday after immediately trying to use his name to revive President Obama’s flagging attempt to overhaul the US healthcare system.

Within hours of Mr Kennedy’s death on Wednesday leading Democrats were trying to turn it into a rallying point for healthcare reform — something that he had called the “cause of my life” — and suggested that any legislation should carry his name.

“[It was] the passion of his life,” David Obey, the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said. “Above all else, he would want us to redouble our efforts to achieve it.”

More on Kennedy

Naitonal Review offers this honest reflection on Sen. Kennedy's life.
As a member of the modern American aristocracy, Senator Kennedy believed that he had a mandate to use his power to do good for the least well-off among us, and that cast of mind is, at its core, admirable. Among the better achievements of his life, Kennedy lent moral support to important civil-rights and voting-rights legislation. Unhappily, he mistook power for wisdom, and he very often left things worse than he had found them. He meddled in Northern Ireland to no good end, contributed mightily to the politicization of the federal courts, sought to regulate and restrict political speech, appeased the Soviets, contributed to the American defeat in Vietnam, and attempted to apply the Vietnam template to Iraq. A child of privilege, he worked energetically to deny school-choice scholarships to poor black children in Washington, D.C. His ideas on taxes, immigration, and social welfare were reliably counterproductive.

Senator Kennedy was famed for the power of his oratory. Another way of saying that is to note that he was a gifted artist whose medium was slander, and he found his canvases in Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. Powerful a speaker as he was, it is not clear that Senator Kennedy’s rhetoric was powerful enough to sway the hardest hearts, including his own. Consider this: “Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain right which must be recognized — the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.” A beautiful sentiment, beautifully expressed — and callously ignored when the political winds changed and he felt himself compelled to denounce the “back-alley abortions” that would be necessitated in “Robert Bork’s America.” ... Senator Kennedy left behind his pro-life convictions when they became a political burden. This is an especially painful failing in Kennedy, whose family has traded on its Catholicism so profitably.

Driven to do good, he could not, because he was hostage to his own defects, personal and ideological. His best impulses deserve to survive him; his worst ideas and legislative agenda do not. RIP Edward M. Kennedy, 1932–2009: May he encounter the divine mercy that both the greatest and the least of us will require at the end.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"Real" Unemployment at 16%

An interesting (and I think valid) distinction highlighted by certain economists, that of unemployment and "real" unemployment rates, is discussed here. Basically, if I lose my job and finally, after months of looking for a full-time replacement, have to settle for a part-time gig flipping burgers and filling Happy Meals at McDonald's, while I would technically be "employed," I'd be described as a "discouraged worker." This kind of work, while great for some, would hardly be the kind of work I'd be looking for in a more virile market economy, both in terms of the hours I'm looking to fill and what type of job best jibes with my qualifications, interests, education and background. Many people today, unfortunately, find themselves in exactly this kind of situation. Don't look for this on MSNBC:
The real US unemployment rate is 16 percent if persons who have dropped out of the labor pool and those working less than they would like are counted, a Federal Reserve official said Wednesday.

"If one considers the people who would like a job but have stopped looking -- so-called discouraged workers -- and those who are working fewer hours than they want, the unemployment rate would move from the official 9.4 percent to 16 percent, said Atlanta Fed chief Dennis Lockhart.

Read the rest here.

On Ted Kennedy

Lots of thoughts are darting around in my head and in the press regarding Sen. Kennedy's death and legacy. The media's fawning, while totally in character, is over the top, of course, but on the other hand, one does not want to turn bitter either. The Gordian Knot is obvious: Kennedy's professed Catholicism and his simultaneous, unrelenting dissent from the Church on the most fundamental issues of natural law, i.e., his staunch advocacy for abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and gay "marriage." The American Life League issued a statement marking his death which I think is mightily appropriate:
"For 50 years, the Kennedy brothers struggled to reconcile their Catholic faith with the public square. Sen. Edward Kennedy’s legacy will, sadly, remain compromised in the eyes of faithful Catholics.

Kennedy’s claimed to be a Catholic while using his worldly power to condone and facilitate the deaths of innocent preborn babies. Kennedy emphatically defended their right to life in 1971, but tragically abandoned his Catholic principles as his presidential aspirations rose toward the end of that decade.

By breaking faith, Kennedy set a catastrophic precedent for “Catholic” public officials to publicly dissent from fundamental Church teachings while continuing to identify themselves as Catholics.

As Senator Edward Kennedy’s death provides a platform for others to applaud him as a historic figure, we mourn the loss of only God knows how many preborn children – lives snuffed out by this man’s advocacy of abortion. God have mercy on his soul.

We extend our prayer to his family during this time of loss. As his death brings an era to a close, we pray that it will also mark a new era in which American Catholics will set a far more faithful standard for Catholic conduct in public life."

I will only add that, in the future, America needs more Thomas More's than Ted Kennedy's.

Weakland: Still Relevant (in Milwaukee) After All These Years

Who is in charge in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee?

This is a question that exasperated Catholics have asked for quite some time. Besieged by scandal and a sense of liturgical listless for years now, we wonder "When will our time come?" By "our time" I make reference to a long-hoped for return to simple fidelity and faithfulness. For well over two decades, the Milwaukee archdiocese has stood unrivaled in the nation as a hotbed of unadulterated, high liberalism, scandal and dissent. Anyone who claims any scintilla of fidelity to real Church tradition, anyone who has grown up in Milwaukee, attended the typical, freewheeling Catholic schools, attended the run of the mill local parishes, etc., knows this. It's beyond doubt.

Next year's Cathedral Ministry Conference will host Rembert Weakland as its keynote speaker. The former head of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will be discussing his role in the controversial 2001 "renovation" of the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in downtown Milwaukee, a process which witnessed so many sins against good taste and tradition, even according to non-Catholics: the baldacchino was removed, its pillars smashed, the tabernacle was relocated to a less conspicuous location only to be replaced by an organ of all things, the altar was pulled out of the sanctuary and into the main body of the cathedral for greater "accessibility." And the list goes on. This is only a smattering of what unfolded at St. John's. Visitors can view the rest of the offenses to art for themselves. Interestingly, the Vatican lobbed a futile plea across the Atlantic, calling into question the wisdom of some of the more jaw dropping renovation plans, but the plea failed to find a home in Weakland, who resolutely dug in his heels and forged on with the wreckovation. Said Weakland, "We are not a corporation with head offices in Rome and branch offices around the world; we are not a military body; we are not a monarchy.” Weakland was operating within the legitimate perimeters of his great powers as an archbishop and so the cathedral gutting went on. The finished product, lauded by Catholic progressives but mourned by aficionados of fine art, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, became a monument to the man and the perfect outward manifestation of Weakland's singular vision of the church and of liturgy, which was nothing less than a "Power to the people!" revolutionary democratization of the Church from the top down.

Without dipping into the particulars of Weakland's long reign, which are well known and meticulously documented, one might hope that, after so many years in the limelight, he would opt gracefully and quietly to disappear into the thickness of the still-unsettled smoke resulting from his decades-long battles against Catholic traditionalists. Opponents of Weakland's soi-disant liberal dispositions took no delight in (or should not have taken delight in) the embarrassing revelations he very publicly aired as he closed out his time as head of the Milwaukee Archdiocese in 2002. Taking delight in another's agony or embarrassment is wrong. But it is not unseemly to expect certain things to follow as just consequences of bad decisions, whether committed in the personal or public realm. The bottom line is that Weakland attempted to experiment with many things, but that experiment, we can now safely say, has failed miserably. So why is he, time and again, the recipient of high-profile platforms in Milwaukee to peddle and defend his depressing, life-draining legacy in the archdiocese?

It is truly extraordinary that, after all that has transpired and been revealed in Milwaukee over the past ten years or so, there is not discernible a more vigorous desire on the part of the powers that be, to turn the page. Weakland still, and incredibly, appears to hold a rarefied seat of honor in Milwaukee. Have we already forgotten the not so distant past? Some say that, for better or worse, Americans are blessed/cursed with a short-term memory, but this short and over such serious things? I refuse to believe it. Perhaps some are hoping that we may have forgotten but that hope is chimerical, even delusional. We will not forget. We cannot forget.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Obama is No Reagan

An excellent article by Fouad Ajami:
His [Obama's] politics of charisma was reminiscent of the Third World. A leader steps forth, better yet someone with no discernible trail, someone hard to pin down to a specific political program, and the crowd could read into him what it wished, what it needed...In one of the revealing moments of the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama rightly observed that the Reagan presidency was a transformational presidency in a way Clinton's wasn't. And by that Reagan precedent, that Reagan standard, the faults of the Obama presidency are laid bare. Ronald Reagan, it should be recalled, had been swept into office by a wave of dissatisfaction with Jimmy Carter and his failures. At the core of the Reagan mission was the recovery of the nation's esteem and self-regard. Reagan was an optimist. He was Hollywood glamour to be sure, but he was also Peoria, Ill. His faith in the country was boundless, and when he said it was "morning in America" he meant it; he believed in America's miracle and had seen it in his own life, in his rise from a child of the Depression to the summit of political power.

The failure of the Carter years was, in Reagan's view, the failure of the man at the helm and the policies he had pursued at home and abroad. At no time had Ronald Reagan believed that the American covenant had failed, that America should apologize for itself in the world beyond its shores. There was no narcissism in Reagan. It was stirring that the man who headed into the sunset of his life would bid his country farewell by reminding it that its best days were yet to come.

In contrast, there is joylessness in Mr. Obama. He is a scold, the "Yes we can!" mantra is shallow, and at any rate, it is about the coming to power of a man, and a political class, invested in its own sense of smarts and wisdom, and its right to alter the social contract of the land. In this view, the country had lost its way and the new leader and the political class arrayed around him will bring it back to the right path.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Krugman vs. Ferguson

Here's a great article from the TimesOnline discussing the knock-down, old school brawl between two intellectual titans: Professor Paul Krugman, the world's most conspicuous apologist for Keynesian fiscal policies and Niall Ferguson, a brilliant British historian. What makes it fascinating is not simply the content but also the biting (and hilarious) salvos launched back and forth between the two. I'm delighted to learn that Krugman has more than met his match in Ferguson, as he (Krugman) is unbearably arrogant and patronizing, although George Will dispatched him pretty well yesterday on ABC's This Week: Roundtable.
Academic spats can, of course, be famously catty. Ludwig Wittgenstein once tossed a poker at his fellow philosopher Karl Popper at a meeting of the Cambridge Moral Science Club as they argued about whether issues in philosophy were real or just linguistic puzzles. At least Krugman and Ferguson haven’t come to blows yet, although at their next meeting it might be better to hide the blunt instruments. Still, it is a long time since the academic world witnessed a dispute as gladiatorial as this one.

Henry Kissinger, who knows a bit about fights, both political and intellectual, once observed that the reason academic tussles were so vicious was “because the stakes are so small”. And although that is true in one sense — it doesn’t matter very much whether the professor from Princeton doesn’t like his rival from Harvard — it is wrong in another. The stakes in this row are pretty high.

The argument is about whether the huge stimulus programmes launched by governments around the world, and the way central banks are furiously printing money, are lifting the global economy out of recession. Or whether they are just teeing up the next crisis — hyper-inflation and an even worse economic collapse.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Founders on Friendship

Some apropos observations on friendship:

"Friendship, like all Truth delights in plainness and simplicity and It is the Counterfeit alone that needs Ornament and ostentation." -James Madison

"A false friend and a shadow attend only when the sun shines." -Benjamin Franklin

"I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man's milk & restorative cordial." -Thomas Jefferson

"A line from my good friend is like balm to my soul." -Thomas Jefferson

Laughter: The Latest Act of Aggression

No joke. Just when you think you've heard of everything: "Humor is an act of aggression." From the Telegraph:
The ability to make others laugh confers a degree of control which dominant people exploit to show they are in charge, claims Helga Kotthoff of the Frieburg University if Education.

"Those 'on top' are freer to make others laugh. They are also freer to be more aggressive and a lot of what is funny is making jokes at someone else's expense," she said.

While the claim is patently ludicrous, if Helga is your formulaic angry feminist, her projecting aggression onto something as benign as humor and laughter fits the template for how feminist ideology operates. So how does one go about liberating him/herself from this devious form of control? No more jokes? I guess then, we have to take this study seriously and not laugh at it...

Old Habits Die Easily

Catholic Identity at Risk

One of the more curious developments in Catholicism here in the states over the past, say thirty years or so, has been the widespread jettisoning of religious habits by a good number of religious and priests. How did this trend come about? What are its fons et origo? And probing deeper, why did it happen? These are questions that have dogged me for some time, especially when paging through old, black and white pictures of nuns donning beautiful habits in times past. There was something mysterious and beautiful about these sisters, very modest, simple and humble, and yet, deeply feminine, secure, and convicted in who they were. The contrast to many of today's "reformed" nuns couldn't be more acute, as vast swaths have abandoned the old ways, beginning with the austere habits, preferring to dress like, well, everybody else, or at least, how they think everybody else is dressing nowadays. (Usually, they get even this part wrong.) Except, as religious, they're not just like everybody else. It's sad to see so many religious trying so hard to fit in, like the little kid at school who does anything just for the popular kids to pay her the slightest notice and to like her.

What was/is the driving force behind this insatiable desire to dumb down, to blend in with the rest of society, as opposed to boldly standing out, starting with the right interior life and then the exterior dress, as a Catholic religious in the world? Is it rooted in a sincere conviction that one can better "reach" the modern man/woman by more closely resembling him/her in dress? Or is the ubiquitous habit jilting fad among the LPNs (Lapel Pin Nuns) more the result of one seeking to avoid the glances and stares of the public in an increasingly secular world? Were those antediluvian habits simply too uncomfortable and too constricting, when held up to those dowdy yet ever so liberating Hillary Clinton inspired pant suits?

The Church has long taught that interior dispositions necessarily manifest themselves exteriorly. Traditionally, one of the visible means of expression of a religious' identity has been the ceremonial "putting on" of a religious garb, often a rather conspicuous garb at that. But why has the habit of old been whittled down in so many instances to a small lapel pin cross, barely visible when set against the backdrop of a garish outfit plucked from the sales rack at Penny's? Sister Mary and Sister Therese have been replaced by Sister Karen and Sister Betty. Is this what the founders of the various orders had in mind? I don't believe so.

For the past several decades, there has been a surreptitious effort underway to dilute the unique attributes and marks of Catholicism, allegedly to make the faith more palatable to a fickle public. "If we do X or get rid of Y, more will come, more will like us, etc." Again, the analogy of the attention-starved kid at school comes to mind. The end result of this experiment in pandering has been an endemic identity crisis, along with ample manifestations of bad taste, in terms of liturgical music, vestments and other sacred objets d'art. The questions must be asked: Who are we? What do we believe? What makes Catholics Signs of Contradiction in the world? (as opposed to searching out ways to merely "blend in") As has been well documented, (see the Pope's excellent book, The Spirit of the Liturgy) the Liturgy, and how it is understood by the faithful, has been transformed quite dramatically into simply a means by which the individual believer perceives that he is or is not being "moved" our "touched" in the subjective sense. If it doesn't "do" anything for me, if it doesn't make me feel good in the realm of the emotional, the worth or value of the Liturgy itself is called into question. In other words, the Liturgy must bend to fit the ever-shifting demands of a moody public. We've been playing this self-effacing game of appeasement and accommodation for the past thirty years and the dismal results are in, as contorted ideas of "Faith Community," in a quasi-narcissitic sense bordering on self-worship, have displaced the worship of God.

The implications for this transformation, some may justifiably call it a revolution, are enormous and cannot be glossed over as merely one man's opinion. The facts alone speak volumes. Consider the following:

- How many Catholics in the United States actually believe in the Real Presence?

- Ever since this liturgical tinkering commenced, how much has Mass attendance plummeted over the past several decades?

- At the surface level, merely looking at the external way that Liturgy is celebrated in a typical Catholic parish, is it all that different from the run of the mill Episcopalian or Lutheran service?

- Why are vocations to religious orders, especially progressive ones that have watered down their identity, hitting all time lows?

- Why are so many pastors content to have the execution of the central pillar of the faith, i.e., the Liturgy, unfold amid mediocre music, paltry solemnity and nose-diving attendance levels?

It's almost as thought there's a concerted effort to drive people away via Catholic kitsch.

Is it a stretch to propose that, in straining so hard to fit in (as the Catholic Church has done in this country for the past several decades), one risks losing hold of that which makes him distinct in the first place? Why the hyper-active eagerness to be average, to shed ancient traditions, to lower the bar and just blend in? By virtue of their baptism, Catholics are distinct, by virtue of their vows, religious are unique. By virtue of its status as the Bride of Christ, the Church isn't just one institution among many in a pluralistic world. That may be how non-Catholics perceive the Church, but that's certainly not how we should, as Catholics. What's wrong with demonstrating a little audacity, chutzpah even, and showing off our array of ancient customs, traditions and beliefs?

Failed Stimulus

From Mark Steyn: Why the Stimulus Flopped
For Obama, government health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture in which all elections and most public discourse will be conducted on Democratic terms. It’s no surprise that the president can’t make a coherent economic or medical argument for Obamacare, because that’s not what it’s about — and for all his cool, he can’t quite disguise that. Apropos a new poll, the Associated Press reports that Americans “are losing faith in Barack Obama.”

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Monks Marking Time

A fascinating story from the BBC on how Augustianian monks relied on sundials to tell time.
A new discovery at an island abbey in the Firth of Forth has revealed the Augustinian canons who once lived there measured time using a mass dial.

Conservationists working at Inchcolm Island found the remnants of a special sundial which they believe may have been carved into a wall.

Until now mystery has surrounded the method used by the order to tell time.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Marine Life in Afghanistan

Here's a brief report on the standard of living and austere way of life for Marines over yonder; a nice thing for us civilians to keep in mind when the going gets "rough" stateside.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Watch CBS Videos Online

"The virtues of the soldier are an integral part of man's inheritance." -Charles de Gaulle, The Edge of the Sword

Lutheran Tailspin

From the AP, news of a decision that would make even Luther recoil:
MINNEAPOLIS – Leaders of the nation's largest Lutheran church voted Friday to allow sexually active gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy.

Gays and lesbians are currently allowed to serve as ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America only if they remain celibate. The proposal to change that passed with 68 percent approval.

At 4.7 million members and about 10,000 congregations in the United States, the ELCA is one of the largest U.S. Christian denominations yet to take a more gay-friendly stance on clergy.

The final decision on whether to hire gay clergy in committed relationships will lie with individual congregations.

The Rev. Katrina Foster, a pastor in the Metropolitan New York Synod, pointed out that the church has ordained woman and divorced people in violation of a literal interpretation of scripture.

"We can learn not to define ourselves by negation," Foster said. "By not only saying what we are against, which always seems to be the same — against gay people. We should be against poverty. I wish we were as zealous about that."

Is being "against" an act coterminous with being "against" the person?

"Not to define ourselves by negation," counsels Foster. But didn't she just conclude by "defining" herself via a negation, i.e., against poverty? I find the selective application of just what negative we should allow ourselves to be defined by in this or that instance quite interesting. Doesn't Foster "define" herself against the negative of murder? Surely she is "defined" against the negative of capital punishment, war, against not recycling, against the second amendment, against driving an SUV, against not saving the polar bears, against voting Republican, against intellectual depth. You'd expect this kind of hackneyed, feel-good spiritual babble from a canting politician in the mold of Obama and other relativists of the day, but from an alleged spiritual authority, not so much.

The reverendess would benefit from the oft-repeated adage by Pope John Paul II that, "Behind every 'No' in the moral life is an even greater 'Yes.'

And, I might add, that behind every second-rate, deviant theologian lies a scandalous betrayal of the true Christian message.

The Bishops Take on Planned Parenthood

Responding to Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards' pre-packaged line of attack against the Church ("the bishops opposes emergency contraception," blah blah blah...), Richard Doerflinger nicely outlines the position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, offering much-needed clarity to a situation clouded by misinformation.
The Catholic Church has done more to fight AIDS in Africa than Planned Parenthood has. Planned Parenthood doesn’t want people to know that hormonal contraception has actually been associated with an increased risk of contracting AIDS. It has nothing to do with preventing AIDS, something to do with making it worse.

No dale un besito!

Pobrecito Santiago! From The Associated Press
MADRID - Spain's Catholic Church has new advice for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela: Don't kiss the saint.

For centuries, pilgrims have visited one of Roman Catholicism's holiest shrines — the cathedral holding the purported remains of St. James the Apostle, Spain's patron saint. It was customary for them to hug a statue of St. James and even kiss it.

Now, thanks to fast-spreading swine flu, the church is urging the faithful not to pucker up. It has even removed the holy water that worshippers use to bless themselves in the cathedral in the cobblestone old quarter of Santiago de Compostela, in Spain's northwestern Galicia region.

Post Partisan?

Ain't no such thing! A welcome piece from The Wall Street Journal that discusses the unraveling myth of Obama's soi-disant post partisan world.
Barack Obama campaigned last year on a pledge to end the angry partisanship in Washington. He wasn't the first to promise a post-partisan presidency: Both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton offered a similar change, only to see the mutual hostility between Republicans and Democrats increase while they were in the White House.

Now, just as his predecessors did, Mr. Obama is seeing that promise turn to ashes. Angry town-hall meetings, slumping presidential approval poll numbers and rising opposition to his signature health-care proposals suggest an early resumption of politics as usual.

In the run-up to the campaign, much was made of Americans "seeing purple" in the age of Obama; no red, no blue, just one color, one people. But if such an idea wasn't possible at the founding, it is certainly not possible in 2009. A post partisan world is not the real world and anyone who believes a post partisan world is doable is hopelessly naive. Those in power promising such a thing usually end up assuming the role of autocrat, the Legislator, Big Brother, or whatever. "Ni droite ni gauche!" was a favorite battle cry of Jacobin revolutionaries in France. Despite the soothing rhetoric, throughout his life, Obama has demonstrated his strident, left-wing partisanship. The myth about Obama as a post partisan, messianic unifier is the clever brainchild of the liberal media, who forged this lie in an attempt to gloss over the real Barack Obama, his chockablock rolodex of left wing radicals, and his extreme political and social pet projects: Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, abortion on demand, socialism, etc. You get the picture.

Opposition Mounts

More Americans are telling Obama to steer clear of statist-driven tinkering with the nation's health care system. From ABC News:
Public doubt about health care reform has grown as the debate's raged this summer, with a rise in views it would do more harm than good, increasing opposition to a public option – and President Obama's rating on the issue at a new low in ABC News/Washington Post polls.

The president accuses Republicans of trying to kill his health care reform.

Fewer than half of Americans, 45 percent, support reform as it's been explained to date, while 50 percent are opposed – with many more "strongly" opposed than strongly in favor, 40 percent vs. 27 percent. Support's at just 36 percent among independents, the crucial political center.

Obama's approval rating for handling health care has fallen steadily from 57 percent in April to 46 percent today, led by a steep 17-point slide among independents.

Political observers are flabbergasted by the extent to which the left, controlling the White House and Congress with robust majorities, has lost near total control of the debate on health care, a welcome sign for friends of the Constitution and freedom. From Politico:
Charlie Cook, one of the best political handicappers in the business, sent out a special update to Cook Political Report subscribers Thursday that should send shivers down Democratic spines.

Reviewing recent polling and the 2010 election landscape, Cook can envision a scenario in which Democratic House losses could exceed 20 seats.

There's a time and place for schadenfreude, and this is it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Diplomats for Hire

Governor Bill Richardson hosted a sit-down with North Korean diplomats to search out areas of agreement between the two estranged nations.

Senator Jim Webb darted off to Myanmar and secured the release of an American hostage.

Former President Bill Clinton bagged two Americans being held hostage in North Korea after a stealthy trip to schmooze the Dear Leader.

Which leaves one to ponder, "Just who is the Secretary of State?" Of course, it is none other than Hillary Clinton. But why are all these low-level proxies being dispatched by the Obama Administration in lieu of the Madam Secretary? Well, the success rate of the Diplomats for Hire outshines the paltry record of the peripatetic Mrs. Clinton, who embarrasses herself with repeated self-inflicted wounds, taking the form of outrageous, bizarre statements on the world stage. One is tempted to feel sorry for the Secretary of State for being so obviously iced out of major diplomatic ventures.

At some level, a diplomat ought to be at least a minimally pleasant person. And that quality is the gaping hole in Mrs. Clinton's resume.

Take a Number

Why is a socialized health care system a poor choice? Here's a short video from the Acton Institute:

The Logic of Big Brother

Thomas Sowell has a great piece appearing in National Review Online:
It is not just a question of what the government will pay for. The logic of collectivist thinking — and the actual practice in some countries with government-controlled health care — is that you cannot pay for any medical treatments with your own money if the powers that be decide that “society” cannot let its resources be used that way, or that it would not be “social justice” for some people to have medical treatments that others cannot get, just because some people “happen to have money.”

Whether intentionally or not, the left glosses over the most important point in the current debate about health care. When it comes down to it, it's really not about health care. If Obama, Pelosi, et al. were seriously interested in reforming our system, they would apply proven remedies that actually work, i.e., increasing competition (in the real sense of the word), and capping outrageous malpractice lawsuits, to mention only a couple of the more obvious. Those in power are using the mantra of "health care," just like they use other pet projects (man-made global warming, etc.), as a rhetorical testudo to hide their real objective: total control over every aspect of the lives of the citizens. Day by day, more Americans are perceiving this.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Death Panels: Macabre exaggeration intended to distract and scare or prescient insight that follows a logical premise? Andrew Klavan sheds some light on the question in this timely piece, appearing in the Wall Street Journal.

"Once government got its fingers on the health-care system, it was only a matter of time before it took it over completely. Now there's one limited pool of dollars while the costs are endless."

Monday, August 17, 2009

On Tennis

Tennis--the king of games and the game of kings--was mentioned by Chaucer two hundred years before Shakespeare put the game on the literary map; Erasmus devoted a colloquy to it, Rabelais made Pantagruel play tennis at Orleans, and people playing tennis were a feature of Swedenborg's vision of heaven. A print shows Charles IX of France at the age of two with a tennis racket already in his hand. -Jeremy Potter, Hazard Chase (1964)

[Theodore] Roosevelt put aside his foreign-policy toubles on the new White House tennis court. He played with intense concentration, quite unaware of the strangeness of his style. When serving, he grasped the racket stem halfway, forefinger pointing upward. His myopia kept him close to the net, but his reflexes were so quick that he nevertheless covered the court well, chasing the balls that got past him. After smashing a winning shot, he would rejoice with falsetto shrieks, and hop around on one foot, singing and laughing. -Edmund Morris, Theodore Rex

Polling Data

The American people still possess enough smarts and common sense not to be bamboozled by the President and congress over their faulty economic prognostics and policies. Here are some encouraging results from a recent poll.
A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll found 57% of adults say the stimulus package is having no impact on the economy or making it worse. Even more —60% — doubt that the stimulus plan will help the economy in the years ahead, and only 18% say it has done anything to help improve their personal situation.

Gone Sour

Anything by Victor Davis Hanson is worth reading. This article, touching on what has gone wrong for Obama and the left, is no exception. The points raised here are right on the money.
Third, many voters really believed in the “no more red/blue state America” healing rhetoric. Instead, polls show they got the most polarizing president in recent history — both in his radical programs and in the manner in which he has demonized the opposition to ram them through without bipartisan support. “Punch back harder” has replaced “Yes, we can.”

Fourth... after eight months, their president has proven not so postracial, but instead hyper-racially conscious. Compare the Holder “cowards” outburst, the Sotomayor riff on innate racial and gender judicial superiority, and the president’s Cambridge police comments. All that sounds more like Jesse Jackson than Martin Luther King Jr. Demagogues, not healers, trash their predecessors at the beginning of every speech.

Sixth, there is a growing fear that Obamism is becoming cult-like and Orwellian. Almost on script, Hollywood ceased all its Rendition/Redacted–style films. Iraq — once the new Vietnam — is out of the news. Afghanistan is “problematic,” not a “blunder.” Tribunals, renditions, the Patriot Act, and Predators are no longer proof of a Seven Days in May coup, but legitimate tools to keep us safe. Words change meanings as acts of terror become “man-caused disasters.” Hunting down jihadists is really an “overseas contingency operation.” Media sycophants do not merely parrot Obama, but now proclaim him a “god.” New York Times columnists who once assured us that Bush’s dastardly behavior was proof of American pathology now sound like Pravda apologists in explaining the “real” Obama is not what he is beginning to seem like.

Seventh, the Obama cabinet is sounding downright uncouth and boorish. The tax-challenged Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, unleashed a profanity-laced diatribe against bank regulators. Hillary Clinton’s recent outburst in the Congo, captured on YouTube, was something out of Days of Our Lives. Joe Biden cannot speak extemporaneously without causing an incident with the Russians or misleading the public about swine flu. Attorney General Holder sounds like a tired scold, only to be overshadowed by the president’s off-the-cuff cuts about the Special Olympics, Las Vegas, and the Cambridge police. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs makes Scott McClellan sound like a Cicero by comparison.

A Soldier's Encomium and Scorn

Penned by Staff Sergeant Andy McFarlane, a British soldier in Afghanistan:


The leviathan of the sky does land
In England's green and pleasant land.
Its cargo more precious than gold
The body of a hero, bold.

Once the giant's engines stopped
The cargo ramp is gently dropped
Carried by six on shoulders true
The hero is saluted by the crew.

The coffin draped in Union Jack
Is slowly carried out the back.
Out of the dark and into light
Slowly down the ramp and to the right.

The six approach the hearse all black
And place the hero gently in the back.
The six then turn and march away
Their duty has been done this day.

Politicians usually have much to say
No sign of them near here this day.
They hide away and out of danger,
Much easier if the hero is a stranger.

The hearse with its precious load
Moves slowly out onto the road.
The floral tributes line the route
While comrades snap a smart salute.

At the edge of a Wiltshire town
The cortege slows its pace right down.
The streets are packed, many deep,
Some throw flowers, most just weep.

The crowd have come to say farewell,
The church bell rings a low death knell.
Regimental standards are lowered down
As the hero passed through the town.

The cortege stops and silence reigns
The townsfolk feel the family's pain.
The nations' flag lowered to half mast
Our brave hero is home at last.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Challenging" the President

These town halls with the president have been pure theatre. Huge crowd after huge crowd of fawning sycophants swallows, hook line and sinker, all of his rehashed lines about health care, doctors and insurance companies. What is most irksome however, is watching the people seated behind him, smiling and gawking at the president in wide-eyed, giddy adoration. There were flashing moments of light however. Yesterday, a university student, after having challenged Obama to an Oxford style debate (don't hold your breath, kid), asked a very good question, which Obama didn't really answer. He hemmed and hawed, with repeated fillers like "this is a legitimate debate..." Careful observers will notice this. For instance, he never answers how a public option would operate "independently, not subsidized by tax payers." How on earth can you "craft" something like this? He then brings up FedEx and UPS vs. the USPS, claiming that the former entities "compete" with the government and are doing just fine. But the point is, nobody likes going to the USPS and there's reason for this! The lines are endlessly long, the workers are slow and surly. I was just at the post office the other day and waited forever, while one or two sluggish workers took customers seriatim. Eventually I left because it would have taken forever for my number to come up.

Now, back to this video clip: Criticism aside, you have to tip your hat to Obama's rhetorical skills. If you let down your guard listening to him smile and schmooze, you can't help thinking, "Man, he's good."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Keeping Cap and Trade on the Radar

In recent conversations with friends regarding political happenings, we've often compared the tiresome task of keeping up with and fighting against the liberal legislative onslaught to attempting to plug up holes and seal off cracks in a weakening dam, with new fissures and cavities appearing every day. The cap and trade legislation has been eclipsed by the health care "reform" juggernaut but it cannot be forgotten. Writing for the American Spectator, Roger Abbott and Iain Murray remind us why:
Amid the public outrage surrounding health care reform, another issue of equal importance for the average American has been nearly forgotten: the upcoming Senate debate on the Waxman-Markey "cap and trade" bill. This bill attempts to "cap" -- that is cut -- U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases by forcing all energy producers to pay for expensive emissions permits, which can be traded on the basis of need and cost. The idea is that making fossil fuel-based energy less affordable create incentives for investment in low-carbon energy supplies, or energy-efficient equipment, that otherwise would be prohibitively expensive.

Read it!

As I make my way through Edmund Morris' Theodore Rex, I'm repeatedly struck by his exceptional writing ability and gift for language. Virtually every page is peppered with a beautiful array of metaphors and lyrical imagery, bolstered and enhanced by a wonderfully rich vocabulary. He makes me appreciate the subtle, delicate intricacies of the English language, which may not roll and flow like the Romance tongues, but more than makes up for it with its unrivaled bounty of words. Quite often while reading, I find myself pleasantly stunned by Morris' way with words and I say to myself, "Wow! That's good!" I never though Joseph Ellis (author of Founding Brothers and American Sphinx and other first-rate books on the founders) could be matched in terms of his superb writing ability, but Morris comes terribly close. Pick up Theodore Rex if you get the chance. You won't regret it.

A few standouts I noted:

"He [Roosevelt] gave off a godlike aura of radiance and vitality, and the children luxuriated in it, like bees in sun."

"The sun was setting, and its rays gilded the misty transpirations of peach orchards and tobacco fields."

"To the west...he could see the nimbus of New York City, and, northeast across the Sound, the twinkling lights of Connecticut. At regular intervals, Falls River Line steamers en route to Massachusetts drew chains of gold across the water."

Describing J.P. Morgan: "There was something volcanic about Morgan. The hot glare and fiery complexion, flushing so deep that the engorged nose seemed about to burst, the smoldering cigar, the mountainous shoulders-merely to look at him was to register tremors."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Is the "Unthinkable" Possible?

1994 All Over Again in 2010?

With the town hall argy-bargy garnering more headlines every day, there's growing chatter that the political climate may be ripe in 2010 for major Republican gains in Congress. Unlikely? A long shot? Byron York offers his insightful analysis.

It's a possibility many Republicans speak of only in whispers and Democrats are just now beginning to face. After passionate and contentious fights over health care, the environment, and taxes, could Democrats lose big -- really big -- in next year's elections?

Ask them about it, and many Democrats will point to the continued personal popularity of Barack Obama. But that's not the story. "I think what's going to happen is Obama's going to be fine, and the Democrats in Congress are going to get their asses kicked in 2010," says one Democratic strategist who prefers not to be named.

Pelosi's Double Speak

If you can stand it, and it's difficult, I know, watch this brief clip. It shows an awkward Nancy Pelosi back in '06, during an appearance in that fusty cesspool of arch-liberalism known as San Francisco, asserting that she's a fan of "disrupters." In that instance they were the gals of Code Pink and other anti-war ne'er-do-wells. Now that the masses vociferously oppose her tainted agenda, she has taken to drawing comparisons between the "disrupters" and Nazis.