Monday, January 31, 2011

What He Said Back Then

The more I read, the more I like this judge.

From The Washington Times:
In ruling against President Obama‘s health care law, federal Judge Roger Vinson used Mr. Obama‘s own position from the 2008 campaign against him, when the then-Illinois senator argued there were other ways to achieve reform short of requiring every American to purchase insurance.

“I note that in 2008, then-Senator Obama supported a health care reform proposal that did not include an individual mandate because he was at that time strongly opposed to the idea, stating that, ‘If a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house,’” Judge Vinson wrote in a footnote toward the end of his 78-page ruling Monday.

Oh Yeah!

From Politico:
A federal judge on Monday ruled that the entire health care overhaul is unconstitutional, but he stopped short of ordering the federal government to stop implementing it.

Judge Roger Vinson ruled that Congress overstepped its legal bounds when it included the provision requiring nearly all Americans to buy insurance. Because the provision is key to the rest of the law, he declared the whole thing unconstitutional.

and the pièce de résistance,
“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void."

This is going to get very interesting.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The "Right's Weapon"

The United States Constitution, that is.

From Politico:
The federal lawsuits against last year’s health care overhaul were greeted with eye-rolling and snickers from many conventional legal scholars.

Nobody’s laughing now.

A federal judge in Virginia ruled late last year that a key underpinning of the health care law stretches the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution past the breaking point, while another judge in Florida is expected to rule on Monday. Both cases are likely to proceed toward the Supreme Court.

Pelosi famously reacted with, "Are you serious?" when questioned about the constitutionality of Obamacare's individual mandate. She now has an answer.

Bolting Egypt

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton offers his thoughts on Egypt. His is a somewhat less Pollyannaish view.

Roundtable: Egypt

A good two-part discussion on events in Egypt:

Friday, January 28, 2011

France: Faithful by a Thread

From the Associated Press:
PARIS – France's law prohibiting gay marriage does not violate the constitution, the country's top constitutional watchdog ruled Friday, all but challenging parliament to debate overturning the ban.

The decision by the Constitutional Council puts the politically sensitive issue at the doorstep of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's governing conservatives, ratcheting up the pressure as they face presidential and legislative elections next year. Gay rights activists quickly condemned the ruling.

The issue has bared a contradiction about France: The country retains a conservative strain on family values, but its image is often linked to love and romance — and polls suggest openness to gay marriage is growing.

We'll see where this goes. The trend in Europe on this issue over the past decade or so doesn't look too good...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Clinton Chides American Voters While Overseas

From the Associated Press:
"I'm very worried in the United States now, in the aftermath of these congressional elections, that the majority party in the House seems to believe that the most important public policy we can possibly have is to give me another tax cut and ... to pay for it by getting rid of all the foreign assistance," he said. "To pretend that the only thing that matters is to keep taxes as low as possible ... and strangle the government and that is what will give you a good result defies all evidence."

He chided the American voter as well: "What I mean by a parallel universe is one more time the American people rewarded the policies that they say they're against. Since 1981 when the Republicans departed from traditional conservatism into demonizing the government as an institution ... America has been dominated by them.

What is he talking about?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Only in America

From the Telegraph:
Utah plans to adopt official gun condemned by anti-firearms groups

Utah is on the verge of becoming the first US state to adopt an official gun in a move that has been condemned by anti-firearms groups.

The semi-automatic Browning M1911 pistol, which was a standard issue side arm for the US military from 1911 to 1985, would become an emblem of the state in honour of John Browning, the Utah gun-maker who invented it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Christian Perseverance in Iraq

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Ryan's Night

This piece from The Wall Street Journal Online takes a look at Rep. Paul Ryan, who is set to deliver the Republican response to the president's State of the Union address this evening.
In the past year, Mr. Ryan has gone toe-to-toe with Mr. Obama in high-profile venues. When the president a year ago addressed a conference of House Republicans in Baltimore, he called attention to Mr. Ryan's "roadmap" and jousted with him over the plan's details and implications. A month later, at a televised bipartisan summit on Mr. Obama's health-care legislation, Mr. Ryan delivered a stinging critique of the bill to the president's face.

The Conversion of Saint Paul

Caravaggio's The Conversion of Saint Paul

Monday, January 24, 2011

One More Insult to Boot

From CBSNews:
The Chinese pianist Lang Lang performed a widely-known anti-American propaganda song during his performance at the White House's state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao last week, the Chinese-American newspaper Epoch Times reports.

The song, "My Motherland," is the theme to film "Battle on Shangganling Mountain," about a communist "People's Volunteer Army" defeating U.S. military "jackals" in a Korean War battle.

Incidents of the outlandish and outrageous are becoming staples of this administration.

The Macabre Legacy of Roe

An excerpt from the editors of National Review Online:
In the academy, as well, liberals have been notoriously unable to articulate defenses of abortion that do not justify infanticide, and not particularly eager to try. Still less can they justify prohibitions on abortions late in pregnancy. The culpability of someone involved in an abortion may vary with the stage of pregnancy: The later it is, the less excuse there is for not recognizing the humanity of the unborn child. In gauging the immorality of an act we may rightly consider these subjective elements. But the objective injustice of abortion lies in the deliberate killing of a human being acting peaceably, and that injustice is identical regardless of the being’s age.

Concluding his statement, President Obama said, “I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.” Let us commit ourselves to ensuring that our sons and daughters have the opportunity to live; an opportunity cruelly snatched away from more than 50 million human beings since the day the president commemorated.

Urging Caution

From Reuters:
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict gave a qualified blessing to social networking Monday, praising its potential but warning that online friendships are no substitute for real human contact.

The 83-year-old pontiff, who does not have his own Facebook account, set out his views in a message with a weighty title that would easily fit into a tweet: "Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age."

He said the possibilities of new media and social networks offered "a great opportunity," but warned of the risks of depersonalization, alienation, self-indulgence, and the dangers of having more virtual friends than real ones.

"It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives," Benedict said in the message for the Catholic Church's World Day of Communications.

He urged users of social networks to ask themselves "Who is my 'neighbor' in this new world?" and avoid the danger of always being available online but being "less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

She Has a Point...

From the Telegraph:
The way in which people frantically communicate online via social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook can be seen as a modern form of madness, according to the leading sociologist.

Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writes in her new book, Alone Together: “A behaviour that has become typical may still express the problems that once caused us to see it as pathological.”

She explains that people are become isolated from reality due to such social networking sites because technology is dominating our lives and making us "less human".

I'm afraid however that most, denying that their own situation is all that extreme, will simply ignore the warning signs and Tweet/Facebook their lives away.

Paying for "Equality"

From the Telegraph:
The Government has been accused of wasting public money on "politically corrupt drivel" after admitting that the cost of implementing the new Equality Act will reach £100 million in the next 12 months.

Whitehall departments have launched a string of reports and initiatives in an effort to comply with the Act, which came into force three months ago.

The Daily Telegraph disclosed last week that the public sector alone will be forced to spend £30 million each year on new equality audits that include asking staff sensitive questions about their religion and sexuality.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Who Is Barack Obama? Who Knows?

This is incredible. A headline on ABCNews reads: Who Is Barack Obama?

My goodness, you've elected him president of the United States, leader of the free world, and only now, two years later, the question is being asked: Who is Obama? Shouldn't the media be concerned with these kinds of questions before the election?

This reminds me of an unbelievable conversation between Charlie Rose and Tom Brokaw below, where both of these top notch New York media talking heads admit, after the election, that they don't know much about Barack Obama and "the universe of his thinking.":

(Rush's commentary is pretty amusing.)

The Family and Its Enemies

The basic point of this article in The Wall Street Journal by Walter Williams is a pretty obvious one, but unfortunately, it is one that has become so hard to assert in the hyper-sensitive race culture in which we live today, where any criticism is twisted into an indicator of a sinister, latent racism on the part of the observer, which results in the delegitimization his point. As a black man, Williams has a little more room to speak candidly about the state of the black community in America today, that is, until Jesse Jackson calls into question Williams's "blackness."
Even in the antebellum era, when slaves often weren't permitted to wed, most black children lived with a biological mother and father. During Reconstruction and up until the 1940s, 75% to 85% of black children lived in two-parent families. Today, more than 70% of black children are born to single women. "The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn't do, what Jim Crow couldn't do, what the harshest racism couldn't do," Mr. Williams says. "And that is to destroy the black family."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Orthodox Call for Modesty

From Reuters:
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian feminists expressed outrage Wednesday after the country's Orthodox Church proposed women dress more modestly and refrain from walking down the street "painted like a clown."

Endorsed by Russia's leaders as the country's main faith, the Orthodox Church has grown increasingly powerful since communism fell and its dominance has drawn criticism from rights groups who say it undermines Russia's secular constitution.

"We should create an all-Russian dress code," top Church official Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said in a letter published by Interfax news agency Tuesday.

"Either scantily clad or painted like a clown, a woman who counts on meeting men on the street, in the metro or a bar not only risks running into a drunken idiot but will meet men with no self-respect," he said.

The Orthodox don't beat around the bush, which is exactly why I like them.

Fighting for Life

There's still a lot of work to do, but there is some good news on the pro-life front. The pro-abortion militants are getting nervous, always a good sign, in the wake of the November election. The battleground appears to be taking shape at the state level, where a surge of pro-life governors and state legislators (including Wisconsin) are hoping to chip away at access to abortion.

From the AP:
NEW YORK — Buoyed by huge election gains for their allies, anti-abortion activists head into their annual March for Life rallies sensing a prime opportunity in many states to rein in the broad abortion access established 38 years ago by the Roe v Wade decision.

Foes of abortion gained strength in Congress, among state governors and in many legislatures, raising hopes among social conservatives for a broad surge of anti-abortion bills.

"We are seeing a cultural shift toward protecting life and rolling back the tide of unrestricted abortions, said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, in a statement ahead of Saturday's anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Obama's Encomium to JFK and Obama

Once again, Obama celebrates someone else's life by referring back to himself. From the AP:

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Thursday paid tribute to the "unfinished life" of John F. Kennedy and said his inauguration 50 years ago and his accompanying call for Americans to serve their country still "inspires us and lights our way."

"We are the heirs of this president, who showed us what is possible," Obama said. "Because of his vision, more people prospered, more people served, our union was made more perfect. Because of that vision I can stand here tonight as president of the United States".

I am somewhat surprised that no one on Obama's team cues him in to this extremely annoying, narcissistic, habitual tendency of his.

Let's be honest,

Robert Verbruggen, writing for National Review Online, makes some sobering points about the abortion culture in this nation. It's well worth a read.
...the fact is that the majority of abortions — far from all, but the majority — serve as nothing more than routine birth control: Most women who have abortions became pregnant by willingly engaging in high-risk sexual activity, and many resort to abortion more than once. For a solid pro-choicer, this presents no problem; if unborn children have no rights, there is no harm done. But pro-lifers and moderate pro-choicers like Benjamin need to face the fact that while programs designed to talk women out of abortion are one useful tool in a pro-life strategy, they will not significantly lower the abortion rate by themselves. Those who are truly concerned about abortion should have two priorities: first, overturning Roe v. Wade so that states may ban abortion; and second, in the meantime, designing an anti-abortion program that will appeal to women who use the procedure as birth control.

The single most damning statistic about abortion in America was presented in Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s book Freakonomics: Following Roe v. Wade, conceptions rose by almost 30 percent, while births decreased by 6 percent. This quite clearly indicates that some women (and men) took the existence of legal abortion as a license to be less responsible in their sexual behavior; indeed, it suggests that a large majority of terminated pregnancies wouldn’t have existed in the first place if abortion hadn’t been legally available as a backup.

Echoes of Jefferson

From the Associated Press:
BOISE, Idaho – After leading the nation last year in passing a law to sue the federal government over the health care overhaul, Idaho's Republican-dominated Legislature now plans to use an obscure 18th century doctrine to declare President Barack Obama's signature bill null and void.

Lawmakers in six other states — Maine, Montana, Oregon, Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming — are also mulling "nullification" bills, which contend states, not the U.S. Supreme Court, are the ultimate arbiter of when Congress and the president run amok.

It's a concept that's won favor among many tea party adherents who believe Washington, D.C., is out of control.

Read more about Jefferson and nullification here.

First Amendment, Saved

Watch this extremely well-made video to get an idea of the importance of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that came out one year ago today.

Ryan to Rebut Obama

From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON – Republicans have selected House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan to deliver the party's speech after President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

A Wisconsin Republican, Ryan will play a key role in the GOP drive to cut federal spending this year. Party leaders say his selection was intended to emphasize that objective.

Walker's Wisconsin

Good news from America's Dairyland.

From the Associated Press:
MADISON, Wis. – On Wisconsin's highways, work crews are still changing the road signs that feature his predecessor's name. But in the state Capitol, Scott Walker is already breaking the speed limit.

In the last few days, the new Republican governor has been ramming through the state Legislature an agenda that changes the state's tax structure, provides new legal protections for businesses and reorganizes a major state agency. In rapid-fire fashion, complicated issues that normally occupy months of debate are going from bill to hearing to law.

"Everything's coming out in a breakneck pace," said Robert Kraig, a lobbyist since 1999. "I've never seen anything like it."
Walker is among the new governors who assumed power this month after the Republican midterm election sweep last fall. But his legislative blitz is unlike the scene in other state capitols, where the gears of government are just beginning to turn...

Walker's march reflects his approach to the job — brash and unconcerned about stepping on toes as he puts in place a pro-business platform he says will create 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin and attract new business. He also benefits from the fact that Republicans also won control of both houses of the legislature, and Democrats are still reeling.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Archbishop Carlson's Call

From the pen of Saint Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson:
A few years ago, I was asked why the Church devotes so much attention to abortion among all the challenges to life we face today, including end-of-life issues, capital punishment, HIV/AIDS, war, poverty, embryonic stem cell research, homelessness and more.

My answer was simple: abortion is the most serious challenge to the sacredness of human life because unborn children are the most vulnerable members of society and the most in need of our protection. They are innocent victims who must rely completely on the care and protection of others — first of all on their mothers and, ultimately, on all of us who are God's family...

In his final address as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Francis E. George, archbishop of Chicago, made the following statement: "Consistently, and ever more insistently since the sin and crime of abortion was legalized in the United States, our voice has been that of bishops of the Catholic Church ever since the first Christians condemned the abortion practices of ancient Romans. The act is immoral; and the laws that have permitted now 50 million children of our country to be killed in their mothers' wombs are also immoral and unjust; the laws are destroying our society." These are strong words that must be spoken — over and over again — until abortion becomes a thing of the past here in our archdiocese, in our country and throughout the world.

Archbishop Carlson's columns are excellent. He routinely and fearlessly confronts the big issues facing society, issues that too many leaders, even in the Church unfortunately, are loath to touch.

A Good Point

From Politico:
In eye-brow raising comments, possible presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is questioning how President Barack Obama - as an African-American - can support abortion rights.

Santorum, a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania who is seriously considering a run for his party’s 2012 presidential nomination, argued in an interview that a fetus is a person and said he considers it “almost remarkable for a black man to say ‘now we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.’”

Of course, the writers at Politico are shocked that anyone would dare say such a thing, but the bottom line is that it's a perfectly valid point. It's a great, tragic irony, and mystery, that the abortion logic so widely prevails within the black community.

That said, I don't think Santorum should run. He got shellacked in his bid for reelection in '08 and I don't think that would go over well in a general election against the seemingly unbeatable Obama. Perhaps a Cabinet position in a Ryan administration...

Taking Stock of China

Here's a well-written, and somewhat reassuring piece on China, appearing in The Wall Street Journal. The writer cautions against giving in to the common hyperbole regarding the threat posed by China, in light of its rather hidden, yet very real backwardness.


A sad story about life for Christians in Iraq from The New York Times:
HABBANIYA CECE, Iraq — The last Christian man in town goes to church each morning to clean the building and to remember the past. Romel Hawal, 48, was born in this town in Anbar Province back when most of the population was Christian. Now, he said, his 11-year-old son knows no other Christians and has no memory of attending a church service.

“When my son swears, it is on the Koran, not the Bible,” Mr. Hawal lamented.

His wife wants to leave town or leave the country, joining what is becoming an exodus of Christians from Iraq and throughout the Middle East. But Mr. Hawal said he felt an obligation to stay. And he found support from an unlikely source.

“What gives me courage,” he said, “is that my Muslim brothers say, ‘Don’t leave.’ ”


A sad story from The New York Times:
HABBANIYA CECE, Iraq — The last Christian man in town goes to church each morning to clean the building and to remember the past. Romel Hawal, 48, was born in this town in Anbar Province back when most of the population was Christian. Now, he said, his 11-year-old son knows no other Christians and has no memory of attending a church service.

“When my son swears, it is on the Koran, not the Bible,” Mr. Hawal lamented.

His wife wants to leave town or leave the country, joining what is becoming an exodus of Christians from Iraq and throughout the Middle East. But Mr. Hawal said he felt an obligation to stay. And he found support from an unlikely source.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ryan's Law

Here's another gem of an interview from Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, in which he schools CNN's John King on Obamacare. Can we settle this and simply have Ryan run for president in 2012? Please?

Rhetoric from the Left

Watch as Democratic Rep. Cohen brings up the Nazis, Joseph Goebbels and the Holocaust when attacking Republican opposition to Obamacare.

Strange Article

I've followed Politico for some time now, and I know more or less what to expect regarding the kind of stories that usually appear there. As the name suggests, Politico is a forum for discussing and reporting political news. That said, I have never come across an article like the one appearing here, written by Michael Kinsley. He uses the recent news of Pope John Paul II's beatification in May as a springboard to launch into an attack on the Church's position on embryonic stem-cell research and to undercut the miracle attributed to JP II's intercession. It's just bizarre for Politico to feature an entire piece on this. (Elsewhere in the article, Kinsley employs a weak analogy fallacy to try to make his case for the legitimacy of pushing ahead with testing on embryonic stem-cells.)
Of course there is another possibility besides a miracle: Maybe she [Sister Marie Simon-Pierre] never had Parkinson’s in the first place. There is no way to diagnose Parkinson’s for sure. You just eliminate other possibilities — generally far worse, such as a brain tumor — until Parkinson’s is the last malady standing, and often a welcome one considering the alternatives. But, according to the AP, “Vatican-appointed doctors” determined that “her cure had no scientific explanation.” That sounds bad, but actually it’s good. If there’s no scientific explanation, the explanation must be unscientific. In other words, a miracle. There’s nothing like a scientific explanation to spoil everything. Fortunately, none ever materialized. Therefore, the Vatican doctors concluded, it was a miracle. One down, one to go.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Growing Chorus

From the Associated Press:
PENSACOLA, Fla. – Six more states joined a lawsuit in Florida against President Obama's health care overhaul on Tuesday, meaning more than half of the country is challenging the law.

The announcement was made as House members in Washington, led by Republicans, debated whether to repeal the law.

The six additional states, all with Republican attorneys general, joined Florida and 19 others in the legal action, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said.

"It sends a strong message that more than half of the states consider the health care law unconstitutional and are willing to fight it in court," she said in a statement...

Joining the coalition in the Florida case were: Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Ohio, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The other states that are suing are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.

On Special Forces

A friend who served in the United States Army Special Forces sent me this article from Washington Examiner. It gives you a good idea of the caliber of the men serving there.
Besides the legendary physical, survival and martial training, Special Forces preparation covers a wide range of unconventional skills because Special Forces units currently serve in 40 nations overseas, often on missions that require everything from diplomatic talent in working with village elders to construction management to make sure a school being built by local contractors with U.S. assistance goes up properly. It's why Special Forces are increasingly called "warrior diplomats."

At least two members of every 12-man Special Forces unit have extensive medical training, while other pairs specialize in communications, weaponry, engineering and intelligence. Special Forces units are lethal: They've killed more Taliban insurgents than the rest of coalition forces in Afghanistan, but they've also treated an estimated 200,000 civilians with medical problems every year.

There are approximately 15,000 members of the Army Special Forces, with about 8,500 deployed overseas. In Afghanistan alone, Special Forces units conduct on average 30 operations every night.

On Wisconsin!

Better late than never.
From Reuters:
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Wisconsin, one of two states in the nation that prohibits citizens from carrying a concealed weapon, is expected to reverse this law during the upcoming state legislative session despite shootings in Arizona that highlighted lax U.S. gun laws.

Only Illinois and Wisconsin forbid carrying concealed weapons. A Republican was elected governor and Republicans won majorities in both houses of the Wisconsin legislature in November, bringing many more supporters of gun rights to the state government.

"You're going to see a concealed carry bill pass the Legislature, I have no doubt," said Chris Danou, a Democratic legislator from Trempealeau, Wisconsin. "The question is what kind of bill it's going to be."

Guns are a big part of Wisconsin culture as hunting is popular in the state, which has vast areas of forest and agricultural land. But it has traditionally restricted gun ownership and carrying weapons.

Bankruptcy Better than a Bailout?

From Thomas Sowell, writing for National Review Online:
Bankruptcy conveys the plain facts that political rhetoric tries to conceal. It tells people who depended on the bankrupt government that they no longer can. It tells the voters who elected that bankrupt government, with its big-spending promises, that they made a bad mistake that they would be wise to avoid making again in the future.

Legally, bankruptcy wipes out commitments made to public-sector unions, whose extravagant pay and pension contracts are bleeding municipal and state governments dry.

Is putting an end to political irresponsibility and legalized union racketeering dropping dead?

Politics being what it is, we are sure to hear all sorts of doomsday rhetoric at the thought of cutbacks in government spending. The poor will be starving in the streets, to hear politicians and the media tell it.

But the amount of money it would take to keep the poor from starving in the streets is chump change compared to how much it would take to keep on feeding unions, subsidized businesses, and other special interests who are robbing the taxpayers blind.

Troubling Signs

From the Telegraph:
Peter and Hazelmary Bull were breaking the law when they denied Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy a room at their hotel in Cornwall in September 2008.

Judge Andrew Rutherford made the ruling in a written judgment at Bristol County Court as he awarded the couple £1,800 each in damages.

Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, from Bristol, were seeking up to £5,000 damages claiming sexual orientation discrimination under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.

At a hearing last month, the Bulls denied the claim, saying they have a long-standing policy of banning all unmarried couples both heterosexual and gay from sharing a bed at the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion near Penzance...

In his ruling, Judge Rutherford said that, in the last 50 years, social attitudes in Britain had changed.

"We live today in a parliamentary democracy. Our laws are made by the Queen in Parliament," the judge said.

"It is inevitable that such laws will from time to time cut across deeply held beliefs of individuals and sections of society for they reflect the social attitudes and morals prevailing at the time that they are made.

"In the last 50 years there have been many such instances - the abolition of capital punishment; the abolition of corporal punishment in schools; the decriminalisation of homosexuality and of suicide; and on a more mundane level the ban on hunting and on smoking in public places.

"All of these - and they are only examples - have offended sections of the population and in some cases cut across traditional religious beliefs.

"These laws have come into being because of changes in social attitudes. The standards and principles governing our behaviour which were unquestioningly accepted in one generation may not be so accepted in the next.

While this sad tale transpired in merry old England, more of this sort of rubbish is heading our way, I fear, in the age of Obama and friends. The ruling from Judge Rutherford is remarkable in that it regurgitates, in elegant sounding legalese, the modern-day relativism and positivism that threaten the very foundations of our civilization, and enshrines it in law.

More and more, anyone who opposes the normalization of homosexuality will be faced with various brands of the U.K.'s "Equality Act Regulations," and hauled before such bodies as the "Equality and Human Rights Commissions." Such "Commissions" exist for one reason: to ramrod Marxist, materialist heresies about humanity and equality down the throats of everyone in society for the purpose of remaking society according to their vision of a post-Christian, amoral culture. Those who have the temerity to question their infallible dictates are branded as vile bigots of the worst kind, and slapped with all sorts of legal fees and punishments until they learn the benefits of docility and silence. Are Catholics ready for this?

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Cure

Worthwhile reading, from the Telegraph:
Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, 49, said she woke up in June 2005, two months after the Polish-born pope had died, suddenly cured of the disease she had suffered from for four years.

John Paul's successor, Pope Benedict, approved a decree last Friday declaring her healing a miracle and attributing it to the late pontiff, clearing the way for him to be beatified on May 1.

"When I woke up, I felt I was not the same," Sister Marie told a news conference at the bishop's office in this southern French city. "There was no more heaviness in my muscles, I could move normally. For me it was a new birth, a second birth."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Staring Down the Executive

George Will penned an excellent piece that appears in the Washington Times, in which he challenges the new Congress to assert itself and the Constitution before this president and the Progressives.
Regarding the relevance of the Constitution, you must remember this: Rep. Nancy Pelosi, asked about the constitutionality of the health-care legislation - a subject now being seriously litigated - said, "Are you serious? Are you serious?" She was serious.

She seriously cannot comprehend that anyone seriously thinks James Madison was serious when he wrote (Federalist 45), "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined." Unfortunately, for too long too many supine courts have flinched from enforcing the doctrine of enumerated powers, and too many Congresses have enjoyed emancipation from that doctrine. So restraint by the judiciary must be replaced by congressional self-restraint.

Cutié's Narcissistic Crusade

I was not planning to comment on Father Alberto Cutie, but after his repeated television appearances of late, in which he undercuts the call to celibacy for Catholic priests, I will make a few observations.

It is not at all surprising that Cutie, who was captured by the paparazzi in flagrante delicto, romping on the beach in the passionate embrace of his femme fatal paramour, and who has since left the Catholic fold for the "Anything Goes" Episcopalian communion, is now placing the blame for his own failure, infidelity and renegade brand of the priesthood on the alleged dangers and impracticability of celibacy in the modern world. It makes sense, right? For what is Cutie supposed to do? Admit that he was wrong, that he is the one who erred and violated his sacred vow made before God on the day of his ordination? Is he supposed to apologize for the immeasurable scandal and harm done to the Catholic faithful by his reckless beach frolics, the egregious public violation of his vow, capping it all off with the shameful abandonment of the Catholic Church? Not according to Cutie.

No, original thinker that Cutie is, he judges that the Church is the problem and it is the Church which needs realigning, certainly not his own moral life or his own priorities. So, after shedding Rome and trampling under foot the sacred vow to celibacy (to which he is still bound), the newly minted and liberated Episcopal priest, father and husband is taking to the airwaves, his strong suit to be sure, to advance his cause and explain his actions. Cutie's arrogance is nauseating, his actions, repugnant. I trust that astute viewers will not be seduced by his saccharine crocodile tears and soft-sofa psycho-babble. It's the hallmark of a true narcissus, and not unlike Marin Luther, to turn a blind eye to one's own problems and deep-seated complexes and instead use them as a springboard to launch a new crusade. It's a sophisticated inner defense mechanism to blunt the call of conscience. What Cutie fails to see is that, while yes, celibacy is hard, Catholics have a better way to understand it: a sacrifice. If it weren't a sacrifice, there wouldn't be much depth and meaning to love itself. That's the whole point, isn't it? Celibacy requires a whole lot of will from the individual, and more importantly, what we Catholics call GRACE, and supernatural grace at that, pouring in from God Himself in response to the "Yes!" of the priest. Has Cutie ever heard of grace before?

Cutie calls celibacy "unrealistic". At first blush, given man's profound limitations and shortcomings and his simultaneous call to live in union with God forever and to begin working toward that goal now, I think a lot of what God calls us to do, whether layman or priest, is "unrealistic" from the perspective of the world. But we strive. "For man it is impossible, but for God..." Sometimes we succeed, sometime we fail. But we strive to perfection nevertheless. We don't deny the standard due to our own weaknesses. That would be pride, and pride, wrote C.S. Lewis, "is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense." and also, "It was through pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind." By his actions and words, Cutie proclaims, "I couldn't do it, I failed, which must mean others have no chance as well." The pride on display is striking.

So, is perfection unrealistic? "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." Cutie's logic would counsel: don't bother trying, it's just too damn hard.

By his own granitic inability to accept the mysterious workings of grace in the hearts of priests, Cutie, blinded by pride and passion, myopically closes the door to the operations of God's love in His priests, who follow Christ in a singular way in their celibate state of life, wholly dedicated to Christ's bride, the Church. Few have said it better than the present pontiff: “With the eschatological life of celibacy, the future world of God enters into the realities of our time." This sounds a lot more edifying than Cutie's sophomoric lived axiom of, "Gosh, this is really hard, let's just give up."

Truthfully, given Cutie's predicament, and the path that brought him to this point, he has little credibility on which to stand and the power of the television camera cannot salvage his tarnished reputation. I don't think serious observers take so-called Father Oprah too seriously. Even those who don't understand or agree with the Church's teaching on celibacy can clearly see that Cutie alone is responsible for the violation of his vow, and no one else. And, generally speaking, people don't think much of a man who cannot be trusted to follow through on his word. "A man's word is his bond." Cutie made the vow, he broke it and, sadly, he continues to rationalize it.

Pray for him.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

La Serenissima, Revisited

One of my best shots from the Most Serene City: No car engines rumble, no horns break the calm sound of water lapping and people living.

With the crutch of a couple glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon, I am reading and heartily enjoying Garry Wills's enchanting book, Venice: Lion City. I didn't think I needed a reminder of why I loved Venice perhaps more than any of the great Italian cities, but reading about the mysterious, pageant-laden history of the mystical Serenissima enhances in una nuova maniera, the indelible memories that I have treasured for three years now. Wills's Venice is the perfect book to read before visiting Venice. I regret that I am reading after the fact. Wills deftly submerges the reader in the rich waters of the city's artistic and religious patrimony. I would even find his book ideal for reading while in Venice, thumbing through its pages, planted along one of its many alluring, serpentine canals, sipping an espresso and looking up from time to time to catch a gondola gliding by, or perhaps sitting near San Marco and gazing past the earthen piazza to the vast, calm sea, the womb of this great culture.

With Wills, I have come to love Tintoretto, whose paintings encase so many of the lavishly embellished palaces, halls and churches of Venice. Naturally, Tintoretto calls to mind the splendor of one of my favorite artists, Tiziano (truthfully, my untrained eyes finds them difficult at times to distinguish, so similarly do they strike me and so too is their unrivaled artistic effect on me, save Gian Lorenzo Bernini). Tintoretto's Last Supper is simply breathtaking. The delicate halos seem to lift Christ and His apostles off the the canvas.

Looking into my Word files, I came across these notes I took in the Spring of 2007 on my first thoughts upon entering San Marco. They are, naturally, rough and unpolished, but for the sake of authenticity, I preserved them (more or less intact) here.

- Showers of gold and light cascading from the massive domes

- A couple beams of light, stretched out and thin, stream through the windows in the dome and pierce the entire nave like a sword

- The bottom quarter, or half, of the basilica is marble, and darker; perhaps it serves to remind me of earth. But the upper half, (the heavens) is encased in gold and brilliant color and it is showered in light, amplified all the more by the gold. It thus markedly distinguished itself from the material world below. When I entered, the eyes and head are immediately turned upward, it’s an unavoidable motion.

- Question: Does heaven come down or am I swept up in gold and light?

- There is an unmistakable dimension of sacred mystery that sets this basilica apart from even Saint Peter’s. Prayer and meditation come more naturally to me here. The maneuvers of light and darkness, and the curious nooks and crannies profoundly stimulate the soul, if I let it. I didn’t perceive a museum quality inside this church, often an unavoidable sensation in Rome.

- Not necessarily symmetrical or uniform. It abounds with curves, grooves, more like the ebb and flow of humanity, my soul

- Shimmering gold conveys: royalty, grace, mystery, timelessness (eternity), depth, beauty

- The floor of the basilica was made of beautiful mosaics and was quite uneven and bumpy in some parts, it reminded me of mortality and the passage of time. There is a sacred bond with the present and past. This Church has seen countless people come and go down through the centuries; I am no different. One day, I will be long gone (hopefully into eternal gold and light) and this basilica will remain standing, the faithful continuing to stream in and out like the invading sun beams with the rising and setting of the sun. It is humbling and hopeful at the same time.

Another shot from inside San Marco, with a light from heaven that penetrates...and purifies.

More and Fisher are Smiling

From the AP:
LONDON – Three former Anglican bishops were ordained as Catholic priests Saturday, becoming the first ex-bishops to take advantage of a new Vatican system designed to make it easier for Anglicans to embrace Roman Catholicism.

The crowded ceremony at Westminster Cathedral in London made priests of former bishops Keith Newton, Andrew Burnham and John Broadhurst, Anglicans who had been unhappy with the church's direction.

The three declined to comment after the ordination presided over by the Most Rev. Vincent Nichols, Catholic leader in England and Wales.

Nichols called the ordination service a landmark event.

"Many ordinations have take place in this cathedral during the 100 years of its history, but none quite like this," he said. "Today is a unique occasion marking a new step in the life and history of the Catholic Church."

Flirting with the Absurd

From the AP:
WASHINGTON — A military advisory commission is recommending that the Pentagon do away with a policy that bans women from serving in combat units, breathing new life into a long-simmering debate.

Though thousands of women have been involved in the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have done so while serving in combat support roles — as medics, logistics officers and so on — because defense policy prohibits women from being assigned to any unit smaller than a brigade whose primary mission is direct combat on the ground. On Friday, a special panel was meeting to polish the final draft of a report that recommends the policy be eliminated "to create a level playing field for all qualified service members."

"A level playing field for all qualified service members." I'm not sure what that is supposed to mean.

I tend to agree with Margaret Thatcher when, in her book, Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World, she says something along the lines of, "A woman is better at wielding the handbag than the rifle." When will this egalitarian nonsense stop? Newsflash: men and women are different. Men, by and large, are much stronger than women thus making them naturally better suited for combat units. Biology has no "level playing field". Do we start making weapons lighter, training less strenuous? When does the incessant push for equality in everything, even in light of serious, unalterable differences, become absurd? Anyone interested in learning more about this should pick up Thatcher's excellent book. She writes with great lucidity and at some about women in combat roles.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What He Did

CNN's "Belief Blog", of all places, features a pretty good look at the relevance of JPII. Take a look at the following link: 9 Reasons Pope John Paul II Mattered.

My favorite:
7. While revolutionizing the papacy, he strictly adhered to traditional church teaching. "Change is often seen as a dirty word in the church, as though altering the smallest custom or tradition would start a crack in the entire edifice of faith," says Gibson. But John Paul reaffirmed the church's conservative stances on social issues like abortion and contraception, signaling a change of course after what some saw as the more liberal reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

"He ended the dominance of liberation theology... revivified the grandeur of traditional Catholic liturgy, and he reconnected Catholic social teaching to the witness of scripture," says Deal W. Hudson president of Catholic Advocate.

"John Paul II energized the 'evangelical' wing of the Catholic Church, meaning Catholics who embrace church teaching and want to take it to the streets to change the culture, which in the United States you see most clearly on the 'life issues' such as abortion and gay marriage," adds John Allen, Jr. CNN's Vatican analyst. "There’s now a whole generation of younger 'John Paul II' priests and bishops who share that mindset.

Of course, some find it shocking to learn that a pope "strictly adhered to traditional church teaching." But hey. I would also elaborate a bit more on the question of the liturgy and its revivification, but that is for another time.

Blurring the Line

From FoxNews:
A proposal by Senator Mark Udall, D-Colo., for bipartisan seating during the annual State of Union address is picking up support. The plan, that would sit Republicans, Democrats, and Independents should-to-shoulder during the President's address, is getting the thumbs up from both sides of the aisle and even right down the middle.

Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and a host of other Democratic and Republican Senators have signed on to the effort.

Several House members, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Texas, agree with the plan too, though McCarthy hasn't formally signed the letter.

In a long-standing tradition during the president's speech to the joint session of Congress, party lines are literally drawn right down the House Chamber's center aisle with Republicans sitting on one side of the speaker's podium and Democrats on the other. However, with no actual rules stipulating who sits where, it's completely up to members whether or not they integrate the two sides.

It's interesting how this silly idea (from a Democrat) comes after Obama's Party lost its majority. Viewers should see the gap between the two parties when one stands to applaud the Constitution and the other sits on its hands. State of the Unions, as Justice Scalia has noted, are pure political theatre, bordering on the utterly useless, but since Obama loves a good show, let's see his old guard diminished in stark terms. Dems on the left, GOP on the right.

Be Blessed

VATICAN CITY — The late Pope John Paul II was moved a major step closer to sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church on Friday when his successor approved a decree attributing a miracle to him.

The move by Pope Benedict means that John Paul, who died in 2005 after a papacy of nearly 27 years, will be beatified. Beatification is the last step before sainthood. The ceremony will take place on May 1 in Rome.

Church officials have said the miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope John Paul with God concerned Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, a 48-year-old French nun diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, from which Pope John Paul himself suffered.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How We Talk About Things

On Sunday, January 16, a Sunday, the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis will once again host a special “MLK Mass” to honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Now of course, with respect to King's fight for civil rights for all Americans, his is a legacy that should be forever cherished and remembered as long as this nation stands. After all, who doesn’t feel a wave of inspiration when listening to King's “I Have a Dream” speech? I suspect most people do.

The reason I bring this up is because, as honorable as King’s message is, it is simply confusing and odd to approach treating him with the solemnity of an officially canonized Saint within the Catholic Church by holding an “MLK Mass”, which sounds an awful lot like a Saint’s feast day. That it falls on a Sunday is all the more confusing. The Saint Louis Review Online, the archdiocesan newspaper, anticipates the Mass in the following language: “Abp. Carlson to celebrate 35th annual MLK Mass Jan. 16th.” Perhaps it is just a matter of nomenclature, but I think there’s something else afoot. Simply put, I don’t think that the liturgy, how we talk about it, etc., should be tinkered with, even if the intention is a noble one.

Perhaps the reason for the “MLK Mass” is to demonstrate to the African American community that the Catholic Church appreciates and reveres the timeless message of racial equality proclaimed so eloquently by Martin Luther King. Fine. But are there no other ways of conveying that sentiment except by sending the confusing signal that King has been raised to the altar? I am afraid that that is precisely the message being conveyed by this “MLK Mass."

Just what is an “MLK Mass?" So much is made of this event in the Archdiocese, year after year and, quite frankly, it vexes me. As most people know, King was not even Catholic, so what are we doing linking up the name of a non-Catholic to the liturgy in the manner that is reserved for Saints alone? Is as much publicity given to the day on the feast of Saint Teresa of Avila, or to Saint Thomas Aquinas? What about Saint Martin of Porres? Is the Mass on his day announced with such publicity and fanfare? A prayer service, or perhaps simply a reception and/or panel discussion would be more appropriate to commemorate MLK. (Incidentally, I recall that on Thanksgiving Day, there was only one Mass at the cathedral-basilica and the gloria was sung, as though the American holiday day were a Catholic solemnity.)

Now I love Thanksgiving, just like I love MLK, but why is our ancient liturgical calendar and liturgy imbibing the cultural norms of America? Sadly, we are witnessing (and have witnessed for the past several decades) the Church in America allow itself to be shaped and molded in conformity to the culture, rather than the other way around. That sends a bad signal, in my opinion. It evinces a Church that is not particularly confident. Some of the Church's own Solemnities and Holy Days have, in this nation, been merged to fit the Sunday Mass, in the name of convenience, further diluting Catholic identity and heritage. If the liturgy is endlessly reinvented and custom tailored to appeal to this or that group of people, depending on variable circumstances, the timeless element of liturgy itself is sacrificed and liturgy risks appearing transient and fleeting. It is precisely the timeless, enduring nature of sacred liturgy that gives Catholicism its unique character in a world of constant flux and upheaval. The times will change, but at its best, our liturgy demonstrates (or should demonstrate) a strong hint of the eternal, the transcendent, which defies the limits of time and reminds all people of their eternal destination and of the passing nature of this world, with all of its problems and tensions, problems so brutally real in the time of Martin Luther King. If the Church in America is confident, if she is proud of her ancient customs and traditions (the hauntingly beautiful rays emanating from the Old Mass come to mind first and foremost) then she can rest assured that all people will be drawn in by the universal yearning deep in all of our hearts for that ineffable encounter with the divine and the beautiful.

While I do not follow the so-called Catholic blogosphere, an interesting post on this matter was forwarded to me that appeared in the Saint Louis Catholic blog.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Double Standard

From the Washington Examiner:
On November 5, 2009, Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire at a troop readiness center in Ft. Hood, Texas, killing 13 people. Within hours of the killings, the world knew that Hasan reportedly shouted "Allahu Akbar!" before he began shooting, visited websites associated with Islamist violence, wrote Internet postings justifying Muslim suicide bombings, considered U.S. forces his enemy, opposed American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as wars on Islam, and told a neighbor shortly before the shootings that he was going "to do good work for God." There was ample evidence, in other words, that the Ft. Hood attack was an act of Islamist violence.

Nevertheless, public officials, journalists, and commentators were quick to caution that the public should not "jump to conclusions" about Hasan's motive. CNN, in particular, became a forum for repeated warnings that the subject should be discussed with particular care...

Fast forward a little more than a year, to January 8, 2011. In Tucson, Arizona, a 22 year-old man named Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a political event, gravely wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, killing a federal judge and five others, and wounding 18. In the hours after the attack, little was known about Loughner beyond some bizarre and largely incomprehensible YouTube postings that, if anything, suggested he was mentally ill. Yet the network that had shown such caution in discussing the Ft. Hood shootings openly discussed the possibility that Loughner was inspired to violence by…Sarah Palin. Although there is no evidence that Loughner was in any way influenced by Palin, CNN was filled with speculation about the former Alaska governor.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Taking Aim at the "Czars"

From FoxNews:
House Republicans have President Obama's "czars" in their crosshairs once again, introducing a bill this week that would effectively shut down their offices.

The bill, authored by Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., is a revamped version of a proposal that went nowhere in the last Congress. But with Republicans in charge of the House this year and a particularly combative Republican in charge of the committee that will be considering the measure, the proposal might have a fighting chance this time around.


From FoxNews:
The words “mother” and “father” will be removed from U.S. passport applications and replaced with gender neutral terminology, the State Department says.

“The words in the old form were ‘mother’ and ‘father,’” said Brenda Sprague, deputy assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services. "They are now ‘parent one’ and ‘parent two.’"

A statement on the State Department website noted: “These improvements are being made to provide a gender neutral description of a child’s parents and in recognition of different types of families.” The statement didn't note if it was for child applications only.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Unpleasant, but Necessary

From InsideTV:
Discovery Channel is teaming with the Vatican for an unprecedented new series hunting the deadliest catch of all: Demons.

The Exorcist Files will recreate stories of real-life hauntings and demonic possession, based on cases investigated by the Catholic Church. The project includes access into the Vatican’s case files, as well as interviews with the organization’s top exorcists — religious experts who are rarely seen on television.

New Order

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, stop and celebrate: Pelosi OUT, Boehner IN.

Fear Spreads for Christians

From the AP:
CHATENAY-MALABRY, France – Christian Copts in Europe are under tougher new police protection following Internet threats against their European places of worship, even as some prepare special services in honor of the 21 Copts killed in a weekend massacre at a church in their Egyptian homeland.

Police in France, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries have increased surveillance of Orthodox Coptic Christian churches. In Italy, Copts have asked for special protection. And in Chatenay-Malabry, just outside Paris, metal barricades surround the church of St. Mary and St. Mark — a vivid sign of the fear that has been injected into the Copts' season of peace.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Ninth Circuit Strikes Again

From CNN:
(CNN) -- A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a cross displayed on public property for nearly a century is unconstitutional.
Three versions of the Christian symbol have been erected atop 822-foot Mount Soledad in the posh La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, since 1913.

The current 43-foot cross was erected in 1954 in honor of Korean War veterans and has been the subject of near constant judicial back and forth since 1989, when two Vietnam War veterans filed suit against the city, saying it violated the California Constitution's "No Preference" clause.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the notion that the cross -- since the late 1990s surrounded by plaques and paving stones honoring veterans and war dead -- was solely a memorial.

"The use of such a distinctively Christian symbol to honor all veterans sends a strong message of endorsement and exclusion," the court said in its ruling. "It suggests that the government is so connected to a particular religion that it treats that religion's symbolism as its own, as universal. To many non-Christian veterans, this claim of universality is alienating."

"Alienating"...I mean, really?

The Maccabeats Do Hanukkah

This is pretty catchy. A first of its kind for The Forum. Enjoy it!

Dolan on Thanksgiving

This story is from November, but I'm catching up on things and only came across it this morning.

"We're grateful to God, we're conscious that somebody, some call him or her or whatever you want..."

Is this the manner in which one of the most prominent Catholics in the nation should discuss God on national television? Didn't Dolan give any thought to what he was going to say and to how he was going to say it? This comes off as cringe-worthy and sloppy at best. Can anyone picture the Holy Father employing this kind of "whatever" language when giving an address to a large audience? Seriously. Ever cautious of giving offense however, Dolan disappoints once again by pandering to the political correct cabal.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Back to Work 2011

I've been incommunicado for the past several weeks (Puerto Rico was nice, by the way), and thus explains for the paucity of posts on The Forum. We're open for business once again and so I look forward to picking up where I left off, which is pretty much everywhere. Here's to 2011! Eight years and running with The Forum, not bad.

Lessons from the East

Orthodox nuns receive Holy Communion during a Divine Liturgy. Speaks volumes.

Egypt, the Middle East and a New Genocide?

From CBSNews:
CBS/AP) BEIRUT - Extremist groups are waging a "genocide" against Christians in the Middle East, a former Lebanese president said Monday, after a New Year's suicide bombing of a church in Egypt killed 21 people.

Amin Gemayel, a Christian who served a six-year term as president in the 1980s, cited the attack in Egypt and recent violence in Iraq as he urged leaders to give Christian communities a larger political role.

"Massacres are taking place for no reason and without any justification against Christians. It is only because they are Christians," said Gemayel, who leads Lebanon's right-wing Christian Phalange party.

"What is happening to Christians is a genocide," he said.