Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Some light fare.

I'd recommend visiting ScrappleFace.com, some of the writing is very humorous. A sample:

Bush Visits Canada, Does Not Seek Asylum

(2004-11-30) -- A White House spokesman today denied reports than President George Bush will defect or seek asylum in Canada as a way to protest what some experts see as a right-wing takeover of the U.S. government.

The initial report apparently came from an unnamed Canadian immigration official who said, "Mr. Bush is a celebrity who is outspoken about his political views. Usually, when someone like that crosses the border, we just automatically start the asylum paperwork."

The White House immediately denied the report, noting that while the president is disappointed that conservative lawmakers have blocked the intelligence reform bill, he loves his country and will remain and fight for change no matter who currently controls things in Washington.

The spokesman quoted Mr. Bush as saying, "My Canadian trip is just a diplomatic visit to our faithful neighbors whose partnership with the U.S. over the years has been inconsequential in so many ways."

Canada on Drugs

David Warren is at it again!

We learned from the Canadian Addiction Survey this last week that the use of marijuana has nearly doubled in the last ten years. Perhaps no other single fact better explains the drift of Canadian politics. Indeed, the report (sponsored by Health Canada and others) may offer a one-stop shop for those trying to account for a wide variety of political and social developments in Canada since Jean Chrétien came to power.

The part that surprised me least was that pot-use "increases with education and income"; which is just what they say about the Liberal vote. It's been a long time since there was any correlation between formal education and learning, or between high income and social utility; I therefore find no paradox to confront. The response of the Liberal Party has been to make efforts to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana, and who could blame them? They know their constituency.

The flaw in the libertarian argument, is that people don't need permission to misbehave. That is the part of human behaviour that comes naturally. Instead, it takes a considerable amount of repressive tradition, social stigma, and legal threat, to get anything good out of the species.

The primary question is, do we want the drug culture to become our public culture? For that is the unseen goal we now approach: in a word, Holland.

Call me square, but it's yet another horror I would like to have shoved back in its closet, and a bolt driven through the door.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Usurping the Usurpers?

Nov 29, 3:11 PM EST

Court Declines to Hear Gay Marriage Case

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court on Monday sidestepped a dispute over gay marriages, rejecting a challenge to the nation's only law sanctioning such unions.

Justices had been asked by conservative groups to overturn the year-old decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage. They declined, without comment.

Can't say I disagree with this. Should the Supreme Court have to police the state courts to prevent judicial fiat? The best thing it can do is lead by example, and avoid it itself. But there are political processes available to Mass citizens to deal with this, and if they are not up to it, that is no reason to scrap federalism. (Of course, if a national election were riding on this, that would be another thing.)

However, something tells me they did not do it for the right reasons. Were the case reversed -- and someone were petitioning to force gay marriage on a state -- I rather suspect the case would be heard, and we would have to fear dictatorship from those quarters that are now so silent. But maybe I'm just morbid, despite the motto. ;)

Speaking of Which . . .

Just to prove the topicality of a recent discussion:

The Catholic News Agency reports that two Australian priests are in hot water for baptizing children using a "New Age" formula:

Two days ago, Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane stated that children baptized at the South Brisbane church using non-traditional words – "creator, liberator and sustainer" instead of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" – would have to be re-baptized.

The priests, as might be expected, have responded with holy calmness and intellectual rigor. One of them, Fr. Kennedy, has stated:

"It's fundamentalism to argue that the actual words are all-important," he said. "That's the trouble with the Church; under the present Pope you're not allowed to have different opinions."
-- Insight Scoop

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Rehnquist on the way out.

The seriousness (or aparentness) of Chief Justice Rehnquist's near-death condition has been the focus of some speculation about who ought to replace him. Terry Eastland wrote an editorial for the The Weekly Standard suggesting that the replacement of Rehnquist ought to be painless for republicans:

Those Senate Democrats who insist on maintaining the Court's current ideological balance cannot credibly object to a successor to Rehnquist who holds the same philosophy as he. And moderate Senate Democrats can tell liberal interest groups that, after all, because this is already a "conservative seat," they can't be expected to go up against a recently reelected president on this nomination.

Could be. Eastland's suggestion is that Bush is thinking seriously about "former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson" -- a man of no small experience, and a man whose "judicial philosophy" is established. And furthermore, Bush did not select Thompson to replace the retiring AG John Ashcroft. At any rate, whomever Bush selects to replace Rehnquist, it's virtually a no-brainer that he should choose a judge like Rehnquist. One would think that an extra effort to establish the ideas of Rehnquist's replacement beforehand is required. An obvious point perhaps, but it's hard to forget Justice Souter.

Happy New Year!

And that, knowing the season, that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed and the day is at hand. Let us, therefore cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ. -- Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, 13

Let's try to keep Advent (and hence Christmas) holy! For some ideas, try EWTN and Ignatius.

The Centrality of Liturgy

A while back I promised Phil some further comments on liturgy, and I have not forgotten. (Given the verbiage I am about to unleash, some may wish I had!) A recent exhchange at Catholicism, Culture, and Politics has pushed this to the fore, so I will take the plunge now.

In the midst of his excellent reflections on the sacraments, Concerned Catholic let slip the following:

I am not the type to walk into a folk 'Mass' where the Redemptionis Sacramentum is being ignored and to refuse to take Communion. I can believe that the Sacrament of the Eucharist is still valid, regardless of the priest's intentions or beliefs; however, I would likely not make it a regular habit of attending Mass with that priest.

I took some exception to this way of handling it, on the basis of the teaching that, in order for a sacrament to be valid, the priest must intend to do as the Church does, which is highly questionable given the spirit of these "folk masses". After a bit of exchange, I discovered a more precise formulation. St. Thomas indeed teaches that "it is necessary that [the priest] intend to do that which Christ and the Church do", but in response to the objection that "one man's intention cannot be known to another", answers that "in the words uttered by him, the intention of the Church is expressed; and that this suffices for the validity of the sacrament, except the contrary be expressed on the part either of the minister or of the recipient of the sacrament".

This is reassuring, especially with respect to the "simple, people of the earth" whom CC does not want to see "condemned because of their priest's heterodoxy". It's a great relief to me, given how many suspicious Masses I've unfortunately attended.

I don't think it settles the question, though. There is something to be said about the qualification, "except the contrary be expressed on the part either of the minister or of the recipient of the sacrament". And also lots to be said against minimizing the damage of bad liturgy, even if technically valid.

Let me give a little background on how I think the Mass has to be viewed. But first let me say I am not a theologian or even a lifelong devout Catholic. My return to the Faith was fairly recent, and any significant instruction I have dates from a couple years ago. The circumstances of trying to practice Catholicism seriously in today's environment have forced me to do a number of crash courses in vital areas, however, and I have applied some brain cells to these things, for whatever that's worth. Still, it is the importance of the topics more than my expertise that causes me to speak, and I welcome valid correction on anything.

There are basically two features I want to note about the Catholic Mass: it is the real Sacrifice of Our Lord on Calvary perpetuated by the Church as He commanded; and consequently it is a conduit of God's grace (and the resultant virtues of character and soul) to those who properly participate. I say consequently because the first causes and defines the second, as I shall try to explain.

The Mass is the real (unbloody) Sacrifice of Our Lord for our sins. Since we are redeemed by His merits in that most holy of acts, we need access to the act (His death on the cross). This is made possible through Transubstantiation, or the consecration of bread and wine such that they actually become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, we would have to receive grace by contemplation of a remote historical event, which would be an exceedingly weak source given the way the human mind works; or from some action of the Holy Spirit here and now disconnected from that Sacrifice and hence from the Second Person of the Trinity who brought us the Spirit in the first place -- hardly a sensible theory.

So much for the dogma. Now how does this relate to the Liturgy?

The chief purpose of Liturgy is to achieve Transubstantiation and give us access to God's grace. But the technical validity of the Sacrament does not settle the issue, for we cannot receive that grace if we are not aware of what's going on and do not approach the Sacrament with the right intentions and right disposition.

And let's be real. Though there is nothing difficult about these dogmas seen in the proper light, they are "abstract" from a human point of view and far from "common sense" if this is defined without relation to proper Catholic formation.

I went to church all through childhood and young adulthood having only the faintest clue about Transubstantiation and knowing next to nothing of its signifiance in my life. In part this was due to bad catechesis or lack thereof. But that's not all. For even if we know what the Mass is and what it does, it isn't something that's easy to visualize or keep in mind. It's not easy to achieve the right disposition in these matters; we need help.

Thus, by and large, our full reception of grace depends on the invisible truths of Sacrifice and Transubstantiation being made visible to us -- through Liturgy. This is its secondary though absolutely vital task -- for we will not receive the benefit of Christ's merits (or not as much as we should) without it. Everything in the Mass ought to be visibly directed toward our participation in the Holy Sacrifice that IS the Mass, or someone is sleeping on the job.

How is this done? In describing this, I will simultaneously give my critique of what is commonly done today, and thus what is at the heart of the Church's problems in my opinion. In doing this my framework will be as follows: I will compare the Tridentine Mass, which I regularly attend, with the standard freewheeling liberal Mass of today, of which I've had nauseatingly much experience.

Let me insist that I'm not one who claims that only the Tridentine Mass is valid, and I don't mean to deny or overlook all the reverent and piously done versions of the New Mass out there. In particular, I would point out right now that the Novus Ordo Mass in Latin is only a truncated form of the Tidentine Mass -- not as good in my opinion, but largely the same. It's mainly the purposefully and malevolently distorted English translation of the New Mass that makes it a travesty in my eyes, though it's the liberalization of even that bad translation that accounts for some of the more truly unendurable things I will mention. I make no attempt to sort all these gradations of problems out in this post, else it would be book length.

But I will say right now that if you go to EWTN, Ignatius Press, Adoremus Bulletin, and other places that are part of the Catholic conservative movement, you will see people addressing the issues I'm talking about in more or less the way I think is necessary.

The first thing to note is that the old texts always emphasized that Mass is a Sacrifice, while the new tend to refer to it exclusively as a communal meal. This latter practice points to the Protestant intention of denying the Transubstantiation, which ramifies through and explains the malevolent intentions behind all of the changes I will note.

The old Mass refers dozens of times to the Sacrifice, which actually takes place about 3/4 of the way through. In fact, virtually everything before and after Communion refers to it, as I'll touch on in a moment. There are fewer explicit references in the New Mass (Latin) to the true nature of the Eucharist, yet fewer in the English bastardization, fewer still in the improvised little speeches many priests substitute for the written prayers they are supposed to say.

A few things on church structure. The Tabernacle is where the Sacred Host -- the Body of Our Lord -- is housed between Masses. Traditionally it was on the altar in the sanctuary, which was blocked off from the rest of the church by a rail. Thus, the Holy of Holies (going back to the Old Testament when God walked among the Hebrews and led them out of Egypt) is visible for all to see at all times. That is why we genuflect when entering, and a sense of quiet and reverence pervades the place even when Mass is not being said.

Today altar rails are gone, the sanctuary is just a raised spot skipped over at whim, the crowd often encircles the sanctuary (churches have been gutted and rebuilt to make this so), staring at itself as much as anything else; and the Tabernacle is gone, off to the side if one is lucky, in a back room all too often (in the equivalent of a broom closet in the church where I grew up!).

If you ask why the Real Presence of the Lord is not given centrality anymore, the answer tends to be "we are the church", a heresy. Actually, the Church is the body of which Christ is the head. In coming together we do not of ourselves constitute the Church; only in uniting in facing Our Lord, our beginning and end, do we become what we are, head and body, fully the Church. This is prevented or largely obscured by the deplorable practice of sticking Christ in the corner or back room.

In the old rite the priest almost always faces the Tabernacle as do the people. We are all united in looking to our God. We are one people, He is our Lord. Now the priest faces the people, so as not to offend democratic sensibilities. This means people are looking at each-other, not God. It suggests humanistic self-worship, and tends in that direction.

I will skip over sprinkling with holy water and the use of incense, which are beautiful but inessential. The Tridentine Mass begins with an acknowledgement of the distance between us and God brought about by sin as encountered in the world. It repeats the phrase, "I will go in to the altar of God, the God of my gladness and joy." It speaks of the anguish of soul resulting from being separated from God and the joy of finally being reunited with him. It prepares us for the series of prayers that dwell on our sin, the need for purification, various stages and forms of purification and preparation, and the magnification of the desire to approach ever closer to God.

These prayers unfold from here, beginning with a double Confiteor where the priest confesses to the people and the people confess to him. This reminds us of the necessity of seeking penance through the Church's sacraments, administered by priests to the people, whereas the single Confiteor (often even omitted today) of all to one another feeds the illusion that we need not seek absolution outside of Mass, that we are one amorphous democratic love-fest of a "church".

Before the priest reads the Gospel, he says "Cleanse my heart and my lips, O Almighty God, Who cleansed the lips of the Prophet Isaiah with a burning coal. In Your gracious mercy deign so to purify me that I may worthily proclaim Your holy Gospel." This is but one example of the brilliant poetic imagery, taken from the Holy Scriptures, that pervades this Mass, some wonderful instances of which are missing from the new. (I have italicized the omitted part.)

For another example, as the priest washes his hands before consecrating the Host, he says:

I wash my hands in innocence, and I go around Your altar, O Lord, giving voice to my thanks, and recounting all Your wondrous deeds. O Lord, I love the house in which You dwell, the tenting place of Your glory. Gather not my soul with those of sinners, nor with men of blood my life. On their hands are crimes, and their right hands are full of bribes. But I walk in integrity; redeem me, and have pity on me My foot stands on level ground; in the assemblies I will bless You, O Lord.

The New Mass: "Lord, wash away my iniquity; cleanse me from my sin."

Perhaps I am wrong, but I think this speaks for itself. The hand that redacted that, I cannot regard as having been moved by the same spirit that wrote it.

Sometimes in the New Mass the priest will sing the Sursam Corda (Lift up your hearts) -with the people's response. In the old rite this is done in Latin, all facing God together, responding to the priest: Habemus ad Dominum, We hold them up to the Lord. I can't tell you how moving this image is, holding one's heart up to God in unison with everyone, sacrificing oneself in unison with Our Lord's Sacrifice on the Cross, being purified by His perfection and for His sake. It is easily one of the most awesome things I have ever experienced.

After this these days there tends to follow an Our Father where all hold hands followed by handshaking and hugging and kissing. In the Tridentine Rite, the priest sings the Pater Noster and we respond Sed libera nos a malo -- but deliver us from evil. Our reverence is not disturbed before the most holy act we can perform on earth. We don't need to squeeze flesh to be united because we are united in devotion and awe at what is transpiring.

Now the Consecration occurs. I won't try to describe everything. All details converge to indicate to the most casual observer exactly what is happening. All are kneeling (I have not even mentioned the importance of kneeling, which is impossible in many churches today since they often don't have kneelers, and even when they do they are hardly used) as the priest says the words of consecration, kneels and bows deeply (bell rings), stands and raises the Host for all to see and revere (bell rings), and kneels and bows deeply again (bell rings). If one had not been taught the dogma of Transubstantiation before one would have to invent the notion to explain what one sees.

Before going up for Communion, the priest and people separately say (striking their breast) three times: Dominus non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea -- Lord, I am not worthy to receive Thee under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

The italicized words are omitted from the present English bastardization, and they are important. As I approach the altar for Communion and say the words "under my roof", I see the Tabernacle before me, the roof under which the Lord has been waiting -- usually gilded or otherwise made to *look pure, reminding me that to invite the Lord under my roof I also should be pure -- which was the intention of all the prayers leading up to this point.

That one is not to receive Communion with mortal sin on one's soul is far more obvious from this, and from the posture used to receive Communion -- kneeling at the altar rail, receiving the Host on one's tongue to signify that only consecrated hands may touch it. Today the typical thing is for people to saunter up to the front of the church, where a phalanx of lay people (wrongly called Eucharistic ministers, really "extraordinary ministers" who are not extraordinary at all) stand to slap a Host in your hand. I have seen the irreverence this fosters and have heard of people walking off with hosts, even non-Catholics being handed one and not knowing what to do with it. None of these sacrileges could occur were communion properly administered. The whole method of distribution common in America -- and sometimes illegally enforced on parishioners by priests and bishops -- was a product of rebellion "legitimized" by the scandal-craving American Bishops and reluctantly conceded by the Vatican -- very, very bad stuff. (EWTN has a useful account of this, as of many other things.)

I'll end it here, though it's important to note that what comes after Communion is also centered on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The point I've been trying to make is that the mere validity of the Sacrament does not reach the question of the damage being done to souls by the corruption of Liturgy. Everything in the Old Rite serves to remind one of the truths of the Faith and to prepare one's soul for the act of self-sacrifice and reception of the Lord which are the wellspring of the Christian life. Here we receive divine grace and also are assisted in the practice of the virtues we must employ out there in the world -- and since virtue begins with proper habituation, this is where the divine virtues especially are best cultivated.

Even for someone well-versed in the Faith and used to the Old Rite, the New Mass as generally performed in America today not only fails to reinforce what one knows, but in many instances actively distracts one from or even seems to deny those truths. I don't know how anyone could endure it and not be harmed in the Faith. Some whose faith is far better than mine might be able to "take it" and persevere, but there's little doubt in my mind that their souls are being tested or tempted by objectively evil influences right where and when they most need objectively good ones. That is not a risk I would want to endure for long. I flee bad Masses whenever possible and would advise anyone else to do the same -- find the best and most solid Mass you can possibly attend regularly, and do so! This is for your the sake of your own soul, the souls of those you affect in life, and also probably the best thing a lay Catholic can do to encourage reform.

And as for reforming the Liturgy -- I don't necessarily hold that we must return to the Tridentine Rite, though I strongly condemn those American bishops (the majority) who, contrary to the express wishes of the Holy Father, deliberately put obstacles in the way of those faithful who seek the Old Rite and who deserve to have it. It should be readily available to all who want it, within reason. Those bishops who frustrate this holy wish, while all hell breaks loose in so many of the churches under their care, are sinning gravely, in my opinion (obedient to them in due measure but more so to God and the Pope).

I would contend though that Liturgical reform could do no better than taking the Tridentine Rite as its guide. (Not knowing much about other Rites, such as the Eastern Catholic ones, etc., I can only hazard a guess that they are probably very good as well!) I would recommend that anyone involved in liturgical formation be required to attend the Tridentine Mass regularly for long enough to get a good sense of the things a few of which I described, and consider how to apply this to whatever they choose to recommend, permit, or mandate. (I imagine that at least some in the Vatican already take this tack when it comes to liturgy.)

For example, Redemtionis Sacramentum is a beautiful document. But it says nothing clear about Tabernacle placement. I see no reason not to mandate that in all or virtually all cases, the Tabernacle be up front and center. This would do wonders for reverence and make it very hard to pass off heretical beliefs like "we are the church"; at least if priests tried to ignore the Tabernacle many people would see this for what it is and be reminded despite them of the Real Presence. Seemingly small things like this would accomplish miracles, I think.

Anyhow, I've rambled on enough. I'm not sure if this has been helpful or stimulating for anyone. Please let me know.

Quote of the Week

It is an odd paradox of human nature, seen in sergeants' messes as well as boxing gyms, that there is never more ease of manner, concentration on mastering tasks and skills, and warm fellowship among men than when they have come together in a group to perform lawful acts of physical violence. -- John Derbyshire

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Shopping, Distraction-Free!

Some interesting comments from Joseph Knippenburg on Target's decision to ban Salvation Army bell-ringers from its stores:

the spirit of commerce is crowding out the spirit of Christmas. The bell-ringers help to remind us that our generosity is reflected not just in the gifts we give to our loved ones, but in our willingness to reach out to hungry and homeless strangers. And, according to studies cited by the Salvation Army, roughly 90% of us take the hint.

Well, we’ll have to get the hint somewhere else now, because Target wants us to have a "distraction-free shopping environment in which to shop," as someone from customer relations wrote (not very elegantly) in response to my impassioned protest email. Target wants me to concentrate on spending money in their stores, not on "the reason for the season."

Target is also apparently concerned that if they say "yes" to the Salvation Army, they can’t say "no" to any other non-profit that wishes to solicit in front of its stores. While it of course requires less thought to say "no" to everyone—in the name of the high principle of a "distraction-free shopping environment"—it’s not all that hard to say that there is a long-standing American tradition, quintessentially represented by the Salvation Army, of encouraging holiday good cheer to extend beyond family and friends. Respecting and upholding this holiday tradition—more august even than the Budweiser Clydesdales and Burl Ives as Frosty the Snowman—would be good enough for me. After all, holidays are all about traditions, about celebrating stories handed down from the past and preserved for the future.

The Salvation Army here is the victim of two forces—the tendency of the marketplace to be no respecter of traditions and the growing pluralization of the culture, with an ever-increasing array of groups, all claiming to be worthy and all clamoring for our attention. In a homogeneous society, the uniform authority of the culture could stand up to the forces of commerce, either taming them or moderating their effect on our sentiments. In a pluralistic society, the multiple cultural bases of authority are individually too weak to resist the marketplace. Out with the bell-ringers, in with wardrobe malfunctions and desperate housewives! Merry Christmas, or should I say, happy shopping!

Also see my good pal Concerned Catholic.

This One's For Phil

By Kathleen Parker (thanks to Peter Shramm):

In Thursday's New York Times, cosmopolitan New Yorkers grappling with Kerry's unthinkable defeat, told the story.

"New Yorkers are more sophisticated and at a level of consciousness where we realize we have to think of globalization, of one mankind, that what's going to injure masses of people is not good for us," said Joseph, as he shared coffee and cigarettes with Cohn at an outdoor café.

The two-America divide isn't fiction after all. And the division, as nearly everyone has noted, is about values. But what the Democrats got wrong, and what the New York Times subjects seem to be missing, is that traditional values and sophistication are not mutually exclusive. Nor does sophistication equate to intelligence, we hasten to add.

People who believe in heterosexual marriage because the traditional family model best serves children and therefore society are not ipso facto homophobic. Americans vexed about our casual disregard for human life are not necessarily Stepford-Neanderthals. And, those people who believe in some power greater than themselves are not always rubes.

In small towns across the nation, especially in the Deep South, one can find plenty of well-traveled, multilingual, latte-loving, Ivy-educated Ph.D.s, if that's your measure of sophistication. But they're not snobs, nor do they sneer at people who pay more than lip service to traditional values. In fact, they often share those very values in quiet, thoughtful, deliberative ways.

If, after reading this, I can't turn to Umbrae Canarum, what am I going to do?

The devil made me do it (again and again).

Fake Saudi princess-model countersues American Express

Excerpt from the article (first two paragraphs):

NEW YORK (AP) It's not my fault. I'm mentally ill. That's the argument a woman is using to sue American Express for two (M) million dollars after she ran up nearly one (M) million dollar in charges and couldn't pay the bill.

Prosecutors say the woman - 40-year-old Antoinette Millard - posed as a Saudi princess to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. She is now suing America Express saying she was mentally incompetent when she opened her account and the company should have known it.

What can one say: bloody creditors, and bloody insane women.

Friday, November 26, 2004


David Frum, whom some of you may know from NRO, is being sued for libel by the Canadian chapter of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations. He explains,

Over the past year, CAIR's Canadian and U.S. branches have served similar libel notices on half a dozen other individuals and organizations in the United States and Canada. Each case has its own particular facts, yet they are linked by a common theme: That we defendants have accused CAIR (in the words of the notice served on me) of being "an unscrupulous, Islamist, extremist sympathetic group in Canada supporting terrorism."

Until recently, [CAIR] has had considerable success winning acceptance in the United States and Canada as something close to an official spokesman for local Muslim communities.

The facts, some of which Frum lists, tell a different story. Among them:

CAIR was founded in 1994 by alumni of an older group, the Islamic Association for Palestine. The IAP, founded by senior Hamas figure Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, calls for the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state under Islamic law in Israel's place. (In 1996, CAIR would condemn the U.S. government's decision to deport Marzook as an "anti-Islamic" act.)

CAIR's first executive director, Nihad Awad, publicly declared himself a supporter of Hamas at a 1994 forum at Barry University in Florida.

One of CAIR's original advisory board members, Siraj Wahhaj, served as a character witness for Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. Rahman is the blind Egyptian cleric convicted in 1995 of conspiracy to bomb New York landmarks. CAIR described Rahman's conviction as a hate crime.

A founding member of CAIR's Texas chapter, Ghassen Elashi, was convicted of conspiracy and money-laundering charges in connection with the shipment of high-technology items to Syria and Libya in July, 2004.

Etc. They bill themselves as "moderates". Better not criticize them, though.

Procreation and the Family.

An articled linked from the Drudge Report shows that more women are opting, with the aid of medical science, to have children after the age of 40. The article suggests that the advance of medicine is the cause, and raises the question whether it is healthy for women to have children later in life. An interesting statistic, I'd say, but an advance in medical science does not fully explain why "there were 1,512 first-time mothers between the ages of 45 and 54 last year."

I would suggest that the feeling of necessity to start a family of ones own has been lost on the young. In other words, the expectation for the young to marry and have children has withered like a fruit left on the vine. It is quite possible, and likely, for the young to enter into the world of adults, as the psychologists say, with their identity in a state of "moratorium," guided by a vague or undirected sense of urgency, or nothing. This means, that for the young (young women in particular), the only limit on their "moratorium", and starting a family, is the biological limit imposed by their bodies. In other words, in the absence of a sense of duty only a creeping awareness of a biological limit is the remaining source for women to take this aspect of their life seriously. It may be asked whether in the absence of a belief in duty (here the sense of duty to start a family) is it necessary that the experience of confronting a natural limit, generally speaking, will be felt as intolerable and arbitrary? Perhaps, but not necessarily, I'd say. Although, this is where the claims and advances of medicine enters the picture.

We may rightly ask, what has medicine accomplished by extending the time in which women may consider having children? After all, the same pressure exists with reference to mortality, only now the fear of complications, and the fear of being seen as ridiculous come into play as well. Medicine wishes to be seen as the humane science, by offering a picture of life, through medicine, as one of a prolonged youth of body. If we follow the logic up to this point, we may see that this "aspiration" of medicine to prolong youth of body matches up quite well with the desire to put off adulthood for as long as possible. After all, it's not quite sufficient to feel young at heart, is it?

Ben Franklin once said: "He that lives upon hope will die fasting." Surely, that says it all.

Whose Choice?

From Ignatius Insight:

the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other pro-life groups have won a strategic battle with the November 20, 2004, Congressional vote to approve a $388 billion spending bill that includes a rider protecting the right of conscience.

Passage of the Hyde-Weldon Amendment is a major pushback against a well-organized abortion rights campaign to force abortion coverage or abortions on all health care entities as a woman’s "right" which supercedes any moral objections, Catholic officials said.

The Hyde-Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment to the Health and Human Services section of the appropriations bill says state and local governments that receive federal funds may not discriminate against health care providers and companies that refuse to perform abortions, pay for abortions, provide coverage for abortions or make abortion referrals. The bill goes to President George W. Bush for his signature.

The amendment protects doctors and other health care professionals, hospitals, HMOs, and health insurance plans, among others, the National Right to Life Committee said.

Pro-abortion groups decried the measure. The NARAL Pro-Choice America termed the amendment "a major new restriction." Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt called it discriminatory and said it infringed on state and local government rights. "It allows any health care provider or institution, religious or otherwise, to refuse to provide a much-needed reproductive health care service," Feldt said.

More than forty states have passed conscience clauses at the same time Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, NARAL, Catholics for a Free Choice and the Alan Guttmacher Institute are working for "right of access." The ACLU sponsors a Reproductive Freedom Project. It includes a report and kit aimed at requiring all hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, to provide abortion. NARAL has the Abortion Access Project.

"They don’t recognize the existence of a valid conscience in anyone who disagrees with them," said Richard Doerflinger, director of the bishops’ national prolife office. "It’s amazing they continue to call themselves pro-choice."

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

More on Money

Bill objects to the statement that "the love of money is the root of all evil", admitting it is the root of some evil.

I think we could show that the love of money -- for its own sake -- is an evil. Aristotle does so in Politics I.9, concluding:

Hence some persons are led to believe that getting wealth is the object of household management, and the whole idea of their lives is that they ought either to increase their money without limit, or at any rate not to lose it. The origin of this disposition in men is that they are intent upon living only, and not upon living well; and, as their desires are unlimited they also desire that the means of gratifying them should be without limit.

Thus they miss the mark, or sin in Christian terms. One cannot serve two gods, or take what is a mere means as an end.

Further, we could see the love of money or avarice as a type for all cupiditas, in the following way. It is love of a means rather than an end. Since Christ proclaims himself to be "the way, the truth, and the life" -- the one true end -- the love of anything but God for its own sake is sinful. This at any rate is St. Augustine's view, as described here. For example:

Chap. 27.—The order of love

Now he is a man of just and holy life who forms an unprejudiced estimate of things, and keeps his affections also under strict control, so that he neither loves what he ought not to love, nor fails to love what he ought to love, nor loves that more which ought to be loved less, nor loves that equally which ought to be loved either less or more, nor loves that less or more which ought to be loved equally. No sinner is to be loved as a sinner; and every man is to be loved as a man for God's sake; but God is to be loved for His own sake. And if God is to be loved more than any man, each man ought to love God more than himself. Likewise we ought to love another man better than our own body, because all things are to be loved in reference to God, and another man can have fellowship with us in the enjoyment of God, whereas our body cannot; for the body only lives through the soul, and it is by the soul that we enjoy God.

Getting to the Root

I'm a little slow on this, but Bill Vallicella over at Maverick Philosopher has an interesting question regarding a famous Bible passage: "The love of money is the root of all evil". Bill, who appears to take his Bible straight from the Vulgate (this guy never lets us down!) cites it thus:

Radix enim omnium malorum est cupiditas

Note the absence of any reference to money; the word cupiditas has a much more general connotation.

My contribution to this inquiry is as follows. My 1952 Catholic Bible (based on the Vulgate and an updated version of the famed Douay-Rheims) has this:

Covetousness is the root of all evils

Bingo! The version Bill objects to is found in the King James version, which many (including Catholics) take to be authoritative though the D-R was supposed to offer an alternative to it.

My "Catholic" New American Bible (confirmation gift) copies the KJV word for word.

There is still one variable, though: what is this in Greek? I found it on this site:

riza gar pantwn twn kakwn estin h filarguria

The same site defines filarguria, n  {fil-ar-goo-ree'-ah} as "love of money, avarice".

Over at Bible Gateway they have "Young's Literal Translation", which renders it thus:

for a root of all the evils is the love of money

Perhaps some Greek-having person would care to help us out with the best translation?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Hands On Part Two

Here's the video. What a gas!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Was Hat Habermas Gesagt?

From Against the Grain:

Italian journalist Sandro Magister reports that the atheist philosopher Habermas is speaking out on the Church's behalf in his latest book:

Between the likes of Ratzinger and Habermas, naturally, the distance remains intact. Habermas defines himself as, and is, "a methodical atheist." But to read his most recent essay translated in Italy, "A Time of Transition," published by Feltrinelli and available in bookstores since mid-November, Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization:

"To this day, we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter."

Habermas says he is "enchanted by the seriousness and consistency" of the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, the opposite of the feeble thinking that pervades current theology:

"Thomas represents a spiritual figure who was able to prove his authenticity with his own resources. That contemporary religious leadership lacks an equally solid terrain seems to me an incontrovertible truth. In the general leveling of society by the media everything seems to lose seriousness, even institutionalized Christianity. But theology would lose its identity if it sought to uncouple itself from the dogmatic nucleus of religion, and thus from the religious language in which the community's practices of prayer, confession, and faith are made concrete."

More on this if I'm able to track down Hab's essay . . .

The 'Neo-Con' Position

One of that camp's alleged ringleaders states his position on liberal democracy, and I can't think of a more judicious way to put it:

I was and am a liberal in my devotion to liberal democracy, which is the only decent politics on offer in the contemporary world. . . . As Augustine viewed the Roman Empire, so I, mutatis mutandis (admitting the differences are great), view liberal democracy. Although it is of the city of man and is characterized by disordered love and the lust for power (libido dominandi), it is deserving of our qualified allegiance, support, and remedial efforts. Such is the circumstance not of our choosing short of the promised triumph of the City of God.

-- Richard John Neuhaus, First Things, November 2004.

A Hands On Kind of Guy

This is a priceless moment in the history of international affairs:

Even before the pre-dinner altercation, U.S. officials had been joking that Bush's two days in Chile had occasionally seemed like a wrestling smackdown. APEC has 21 member countries, and tension inevitably results at international gathering when the U.S. president barges in with a small air force, an entourage of 260, a press corps of 100 and a motorcade of 20 vehicles.

U.S. officials said Chilean police had been chafing for a week about a demand by Secret Service agents that they control the president's space, even when he was on sovereign turf. Now, it was payback time.

The incident involving the bodyguard Saturday evening began when Nick Trotta, the number two agent on Bush's security detail, opened the door of a black Cadillac limousine for the president and first lady Laura Bush when they arrived at a former train station that was the site of the closing dinner of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

Bush and the first lady walked into the beaux-arts banquet hall, and Chilean officers, who appeared to be waiting for the moment, stepped in front of Trotta, blocking him from entering.

It took Bush several minutes to realize what was happening. Then Bush either realized he was missing something, or he heard the commotion. The president, who is rarely alone, even in his own house, turned and walked back to the front door unaccompanied, facing the backs of a sea of dark suits. Bush, with his right hand, reached over the suits and pointed insistently at Trotta. At first the officials, with their backs to him and their heads in the rumble, did not realize it was the president intervening. Bush then braced himself against someone and lunged to retrieve the agent, who was still arguing with the Chileans. The shocked Chilean officials then released Trotta.

Trotta walked in behind Bush, who looked enormously pleased with himself. He was wearing the expression that some critics call a smirk, and his eyebrows shot up as if to wink at bystanders.

The incident was played scores of times on satellite channels viewed around the summit. Conversations about it quickly overwhelmed talk of formal summit business, which is focused on such issues as development, trade and investment.

Chilean journalists were critical of Bush's actions. Marcelo Romero, a reporter with Santiago's newspaper La Cuarta, said: "All of us journalists agree that President Bush looked like a cowboy. It was total breach of protocol. I've seen a lot of John Wayne movies, and President Bush was definitely acting like a cowboy."

U.S. officials took a lighter view of the events. "The president is someone who tends to delegate," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said at breakfast. "But every now and then, he's a hands-on kind of guy."

White House officials did not say much about the Chilean hospitality, but one aide ventured a prediction: Lagos need not watch his mail for an invitation to Bush's ranch.

Hat tip: James Taranto.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Just Try It

This one speaks for itself. But for David Warren, what I wouldn't say about that country!

Let's Get the Boyscouts!

Pentagon Agrees to End Direct Sponsorship of Boy Scout Troops in Response to Religious Discrimination Charge

November 15, 2004

CHICAGO - In response to a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, the Defense Department today agreed to end direct sponsorship of hundreds of Boy Scout units, which require members to swear religious oaths, on military facilities across the United States and overseas.

Under the terms of today's settlement, the Defense Department has 60 days to issue a statement to U.S. defense facilities and military bases across the world making clear that Defense officials may not sponsor Boy Scout organizations. The settlement, however, does not prohibit off-duty government employees from sponsoring Boy Scout troops on their own time. The Boy Scouts will still also have access to any military facilities that are currently made available to other non-governmental organizations.

The federal court in Chicago still must decide whether the Defense Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development can spend millions of taxpayer dollars to support Boy Scout units that practice religious discrimination and require religious oaths. The ACLU of Illinois has raised concern, for example, about the Pentagon's handpicking the Boy Scouts of America - and no other organization - for the expenditure of an average of $2 million each year to support the national Boy Scout Jamboree. A decision on this and other issues is pending.

Is it just me, or does anyone else want to puke all over the ACLU?

(Hat tip: James Taranto.)

A Killer Buried

Perhaps a bit late, but I just wanted to acknowlege the passing of Arafat. For some reflections on the deceased I recommend Phil's treatment of the subject. Also, Phil has some thoughts on being an a conservative in academia. Sad to say it's all true, but nonetheless I think we should encourage Phil to soldier on, since he is putting up such a fine fight, and is an inspiration to the rest of us. KBO, man!

Monday, November 15, 2004

Towering Blasphemy

James Taranto notes some dissatisfaction at the photo Mr. Eaton recently posted. But,

The fuss over smoking warriors is nothing new. In 1917 G.K. Chesterton published an essay called "The Dregs of Puritanism" about a minister in Bromley, England, who was objecting to people sending cigarettes to British soldiers fighting World War I:

There is the lack of imaginative proportion, which rises into a sort of towering blasphemy. An enormous number of live young men are being hurt by shells, hurt by bullets, hurt by fever and hunger and horror of hope deferred; hurt by lance blades and sword blades and bayonet blades breaking into the bloody house of life. But Mr. Price (I think that's his name) is still anxious that they should not be hurt by cigarettes. That is the sort of maniacal isolation that can be found in the deserts of Bromley.

These days, of course, fanaticism over hygiene is a largely secular phenomenon. Indeed, one wonders if some of those who're offended by Cpl. Miller's vice won't soon be complalining that this photo violates the separation of church and state.

This goes back even farther than Taranto knows. In 1840 Tocqueville remarked the following about Puritan laws:

The Code of 1650 abounds in preventive measures. It punishes idleness and drunkenness with severity. Innkeepers were forbidden to furnish more than a certain quantity of liquor to each consumer; and simple lying, whenever it may be injurious, is checked by a fine or a flogging. In other places the legislator, entirely forgetting the great principles of religious toleration that he had himself demanded in Europe, makes attendance on divine service compulsory, and goes so far as to visit with severe punishment, and even with death, Christians who chose to worship God according to a ritual differing from his own.

But these are all minor excesses of the sectarian spirit. It gets worse, though:

Sometimes, indeed, the zeal for regulation induces him to descend to cares most unworthy of him: thus a law is to be found in the same code which prohibits the use of tobacco.

This is one thing for which we cannot blame the French!

Saturday, November 13, 2004

A Referral

Phil will hold me to my promise re: discussing liturgy. Well, I still have the excuse of being swamped. However, I refer anyone interested in the state of the Church today to this wonderful post on catechesis. Some good stuff over there on Catholicism, Culture, and Politics, though I want to register some skeptical thoughts on a couple points that require a lot more thought on my part, maybe sometime in calandar year '05 . . . .

Let's Party!

This may be one of the more useful charts to illustrate just what happened this election. Even where Bush lost, he made gains, sometimes major ones. What does this say about the future of the Republican party?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

"Sorry Everybody"...


"What's this site about?

Most people who think carefully understand that Americans are not really any more jingoistic or xenophobic than people in other countries, but it never hurts to reinforce, especially considering what happened on November 2nd, 2004. What must it have looked like to the world outside our borders? America proudly re-appointed her reckless, incompetent and corrupt government. How much of America? Fifty-two percent. The rest of us are aghast and dismayed.

[dot dot dot]

Also, come on, it's kind of amusing."

Aha. A class of people who vote on the "basis" of their perception of how foriegners perceive them? Sorry that they disappointed the expectations of foriegners; sorry that a majority of the country voted for Bush; and so on. If you want to know what it's like to live in hell, begin with this Web site.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Marlboro men.

They Cry 'Peace, Peace!' . . .

George Weigel on why he sometimes has to abstain from certain prayers in Mass.

I particularly dislike the now-widespread custom of jumping immediately from a pro forma prayer for the universal Church or the pope to a second, much lengthier petition for some political desideratum, often accompanied by a protracted secondary clause suggesting, not too subtly, that all social goods are to be secured by government action.

He takes particular umbrage to this one: "That all world leaders may put aside their political differences and work for true and lasting peace, let us pray to the Lord."

I couldn’t say “Lord, hear our prayer” to that oleaginous petition because it smacks of the psychobabble that has corrupted Catholic thinking about world politics for forty years or more. In the classic Catholic understanding of the word, peace is “order”: the “order” of law-governed societies whose domestic and international affairs are guided by a commitment to the rule of law and the political adjudication of conflict. “Peace,” as Catholics have understood it since Augustine, is not a matter of therapy; it’s a matter of law and politics. But you couldn’t tell that from the petition above, which sounds far more like Rodney King (“Why can’t we all just get along?”) than the City of God (“Peace is the tranquillity of order.”)

My "favorite" is the one that calls for our government officials to end poverty -- apparently, we are now to consider the words of Our Lord "a stale paradigm". This is what passes for worship?

I am tempted to go on at length about liturgical decadence, but I will spare you for now, still being on the hampster wheel. Just wait until the semester is over . . . ;)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Open Letter to Senator DeWine

NRO has this helpful info. on Ohio's Senator DeWine, who apparently has the power to nix Specter's accession to the throne, and just might be the man to do it! Here's my bit:

Dear Senator DeWine,

I want to let you know how much I and my wife (and daughter-to-be) appreciate your tireless efforts on behalf of the unborn. Your record is noble and we are hoping you can help stave off the latest threat to so many innocent lives.

I'm sure you are familiar with the controversy surrounding Senator Arlen Specter's possible chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee. Given Senator Specter's known commitment to so-called privacy rights (really a disguise for the abortion licence) and his recent statements about how he would treat judicial nominees, those of us around the country who care about the sanctity of life and the integrity of our nation's jurisprudence strongly believe that Senator Specter is not an acceptable candidate for this job.

As a member of that committee whose commitment to truth and justice is known, I'm sure you share our concerns. We are calling on you to take a stand for the Constitution and for the true rights of all citizens.

The Republican party is pro-life and for judicial restraint as opposed to judicial activism. Knowing this, the American people reelected our President and gave the Republicans a larger majority in the Senate and House. It would be a betrayal of the party and of the democratic process as well as of moral principle to let secondary rules of procedure override these much more important mandates. But some people are unfortunately arguing we must prefer those secondary rules.

We understand that the rules of the Senate would bar Senator Specter from taking the aforementioned seat if one Republican Senator on the committee refused his consent. We urge you to take a principled stand for the rule of law and prevent Senator Specter's taking a position for which he is not qualified.

Please know you will have our admiration and full support, and those of many many others, should you take this courageous action.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Global Test

Finally, we know what Senator (ha!) Kerry was talking about!

Bad Manners

Thanks to MrPaw for pointing out Hugh Hewitt's plea to take it easy on Arlen Specter. Here's Hew:

genuine progress in the fight to return American public opinion to an affirmation of life before birth cannot be made through strong-armed tactics and almost certainly will not be lasting if it is accomplished through a putsch. Institutions that are destabilized for expediency's sake do not regain stability after a convenient alteration. That was the lesson of the Roman Revolution, where a series of departures from settled precedent in the name of urgent expediency eventually brought down the entire structure. For the past four years Republicans have complained bitterly of Democratic obstructionism that upended the traditions of the Senate. Should the GOP begin its new period of dominance with a convenient abandonment of the very rules they have charged Dems with violating repeatedly?

Now, I would be the last to advocate any measures that would undermine the cause we're fighting for. (Does this make me "center-right" even though I "embrace pro-life politics"?) But allow me a couple of raised eyebrows here.

The collapse of the Roman republic? Senate seniority rules? The connection is . . . ?

And how does intra-party discipline compare to the obstruction of Republican judicial nominees by Democrats (or by a raging "independent" Republican)?

I am not persuaded that anything vital will be sacrificed to get that bum out of a seat from which his unworthiness repels him. There comes a time when convention must bow to nature. (What we really want, in my opinion, it to put pressure on him to give up the chair.)

For more on this issue, see Down to the Piraeus.

Thou Shalt Not Kill

Mark Steyn Reports:

As Americans were voting on marriage and marijuana and other matters, the Rotterdam police were destroying a mural by Chris Ripke that he'd created to express his disgust at the murder of Theo van Gogh by Islamist crazies. Ripke's painting showed an angel and the words "Thou Shalt Not Kill".

Unfortunately, his workshop is next to a mosque, and the imam complained that the mural was "racist", so the cops arrived, destroyed it, arrested the television journalists filming it and wiped their tape.

Steyn's point? Here in red-state America, "NOUS SOMMES TOUS REDNECKS", and thank God!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

We have them cornered . . . . ;)

Thanks to The Votemaster (who appears to have left the country by now in response to the "facts on the ground" so to speak) for this great map!


Hear! hear!

"Organized as a project of RedState.org - NotSpecter is dedicated to the proposition that the Republican party, the conservative movement, and the country would all be better served without Arlen Specter as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. For decades, Specter has shown that his personal interests and the President’s agenda are at odds."

Visit @ http://notspecter.com.

Time for Adjustment

From Stratfor (by George Friedman):

The re-election of Bush creates a new reality at all levels in the international system. His intransigence,coupled with American power, forces players to think about whether they can hold their positions for at least four years, or whether they must adjust their positions in some way. As the players -- from sheikhs to prime ministers -- reconsider their positions, U.S. power increases, trying to pry them loose. It opens the possibility of negotiations and settlements in unexpected places.

This applies to coalition-building:

Countries that made the decision not to support Bush did so with the assumption that they could absorb the cost for a while. They must now recalculate to see if they can absorb the cost for four more years -- and even beyond, if Bush's successor pursues his policies. For many countries, what was a temporary disagreement is about to turn into a strategic misalignment with the United States. Some countries will continue on their
path, others will reconsider. There will be a reshuffling of the global deck in the coming months.

It also applies to Iraq:

Throughout the Sunni areas of Iraq -- as well as Shiite regions -- elders are considering their positions, caught between the United States and the guerrillas, in light of the new permanence of the Americans. The United States will be aggressive, but in an interesting way. It will be using the threat of American power as a lever to force the Sunni leadership into reducing support for the guerrillas. Coupled with the carrot of enormous bribes, the strategy could work. It might not eliminate the guerrilla war, but could reduce it to a nuisance level.

Friedman still worries that Bush's lack of caution will precipiate some disater or another -- but Friedman's own analysis undermines the notion that Bush's strategy is fundamentally incautious, rendering this worry little more than the expression of knee-jerk intellectual discomfort with a man of action.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Pop the Vote?

Mark Steyn:

The lesson of Moore's underwear, P.Diddy's "Vote or Die", Bruce Springsteen's "Rock the Vote" and all the other celebrity props of the Democratic Party is very simple: having the most popular figures in popular culture on your side does nothing for your popularity. Every time Kerry was seen cavorting with Hollywood A-listers, he was alienating the Z-listers -- the American people.

This was explained 164 years ago:

In aristocracies readers are fastidious and few in number; in democracies they are far more numerous and far less difficult to please. The consequence is that among aristocratic nations no one can hope to succeed without great exertion, and this exertion may earn great fame, but can never procure much money; while among democratic nations a writer may flatter himself that he will obtain at a cheap rate a moderate reputation and a large fortune. For this purpose he need not be admired; it is enough that he is liked.

The ever increasing crowd of readers and their continual craving for something new ensure the sale of books that nobody much esteems.

In democratic times the public frequently treat authors as kings do their courtiers; they enrich and despise them. What more is needed by the venal souls who are born in courts or are worthy to live there?

Democratic literature is always infested with a tribe of writers who look upon letters as a mere trade; and for some few great authors who adorn it, you may reckon thousands of idea-mongers.

Just add TV/MTV and movies and there you go. People do not look to their entertainers for guidance on serious issues. . . .

Canada Update

Reuters actually published a dispatch from Ottawa reporting that "Canadian officials made clear on Wednesday that any U.S. citizens so fed up with Bush that they want to make a fresh start up north would have to stand in line like any other would-be immigrants--a wait that can take up to a year."

The "news" service notes that "recent statistics show a gradual decline in U.S. citizens coming to work in Canada, which has a creaking publicly funded healthcare system and relatively high levels of personal taxation." It's one thing to advocate such policies, quite another actually to live under them.

(From Best of the Web)

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Open Letter to Senator Frist

Thanks to Downto for this idea:

Dear Senator Frist,

I am writing to you in your capacity as Senate Majority leader and in mine as a registered Republican and proud American citizen. I would like to begin by offering my hearty congratulations on our party's resounding electoral victory, and most particularly on the gains we have achieved in the Senate under your leadership. You ought to be proud of a job well done and I know our country will be proud of what we will accomplish together in the coming years.

I also write regarding an issue that I hope will not be allowed to spoil these high hopes. I refer to Senator Arlen Specter's recent declaration of sympathy for and cooperation with the obstructionist activities of the Democratic party in their plans to block the appointment of Supreme Court justices who would restore responsible jurisprudence relating to abortion.

I understand that Senator Specter expects to sit at the head of the Judiciary Committee in the coming term, and that his expectation rests on the customary policy of seniority in the Senate. However venerable those customs may be, they are not absolute. I urge you with all due respect to ignore those conventions in this case and to act urgently to prevent Senator Specter from obstructing a process of tremendous moral and historical significance to our country.

Two days ago our nation spoke very clearly, in the language of democracy, expressing its support for the Republican party, the party of ordered and moral liberty. The Republican party stands for the dignity and protection of innocent life, and opposes the sacrifice of innocents on the altar of unregulated and illiberal autonomy. Everyone knows this. That is the party to which the American people have given decisive control of all three branches of government. And they did so with the full and express intention of preserving and restoring our country's moral fabric.

The party that, these days, will stop at nothing to preserve a mistaken and destructive judicial error has clearly fallen out of favor. Their capacity to obstruct the legitimate process of judicial appointment is significantly diminished. This is an opportunity that must be seized with enthusiasm and courage by those of us who know that our wonderful nation can do far, far better than to turn its back on the wrongful death of millions of its own.

The whims of one headstrong Senator, however well-intentioned in his own mind, cannot be permitted to undermine our efforts to rectify this injustice. I respectfully submit that Senator Specter's threat should disqualify him to serve in any leadership position in matters related to this issue, whatever the standard practices may be. I hope you will agree that the profound importance of this matter justifies what would otherwise be an extreme measure. I hope as well that he will have the sense to realize his grave mistake and the decency to relinquish his claim to the said office.

Once again, please accept my warmest congratulations on a truly magnificent victory. Thank you for your time and please know that you have my prayers and best wishes in your governance of this great nation.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Bush Wins Swinger Vote!

Sweet Victory

Well, pretty much what I expected. A comfortable victory for Bush, absolving him of the taint of that disputed tie last time, establishing that a majority of Americans, however slight, does not hate him. The boost in Congress adds a touch of enthusiasm, though not overwhelming. The sweetest thing is the dethronement of Dashle, and I take it a few other nuisances. The Democrats will perforce be reorganizing around this defeat, and how they do so will be interesting to watch.

Bush ought to be able to accomplish more, if he plays this hand wisely. I think it's hilarious listening to the media insist that somehow he has to "reach out" "more" to the Democrats because of the slim margin of victory. Hello? He's gone from a hanging chad to three million more supporters, and from a Senate majority hanging on a thread to one nearing the 60 it takes to move things through. Will this help him get good judges through? I sure hope so, and if he can he must, in my opinion.

I would have been happier with a more resounding victory, not for its own sake, but because if (as is being argued) this election turned more than was expected on moral issues, I would like to think that the issues at play these days would garner much more support than that. (Not that I entirely agree with this premise -- the idea that anyone who cares about the economy or the war would obviously vote for Kerry strikes me as yet another absurdity proposed by the gliberal media for propagandistic purposes.)

And yet I think when it comes to morality leadership is what is needed. Tocqueville spoke of the massive influence courts have on the American mind -- in everyday speech as well as in the practice of politics we adopt the terminology and thought processes of our judges. This is as true today as in the 1830s. Just think of "separation of church and state" -- a phrase that does not exist in our Constitution but that virtually all of us have come to accept as carved in stone, definitive of the rights our country was founded on! Almost wholly a concoction of the 1940s-onward Supreme Court!

Ditto goes for "abortion rights". I saw Bob Kerrey being interviewed and asked how the Dems would respond to the "moral values" (a pox upon that word!) gap. What do you want us to do, he pleaded; ban abortion? This is disingenuous, as the effectual truth of the Democratic litmus test is not only abortion on demand but downright infanticide. But regardless, I don't buy the view that abortion will be ended by popular mandate any more than it was established that way in the first place. Proper jurisprudence by competent justices that either returns it to the states or establishes a civilized dispensation in itself will perhaps not be be greeted with equal enthusiasm on all sides (now if that aint an understatement I'm Patricia Ireland), but if accompanied by a body of jurisprudence that on this and other points moves us away from the nihilism of defining our own meaning of existence, it will serve an educational purpose that may enrich our public morality considerably.

Not that I expect this to happen so easily, or even at all. This is what Bush should be striving for, I believe. But there is the problem of words -- who has the words to explain to modern men that absolute freedom is self-destructive? I bet the courts could accomplish something, something more than almost anything else our liberal institutions could manage.

Of course this would never ultimately work without a resurgence of faith. But judges no longer concerned with stripping the public square of all piety just might be a part of such a resurgence. In any case, I would love to see the left lose their death grip on this most vital of our governmental institutions -- the one that claims to be our oracle of the just and the good.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Bloody Tuesday?

Phil has some fears about what's going to happen today -- let's hope not, but important reflections nonetheless.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Such a Storm!

For a long while before the appointed time has come, the election becomes the important and, so to speak, the all-engrossing topic of discussion. Factional ardor is redoubled, and all the artificial passions which the imagination can create in a happy and peaceful land are agitated and brought to light. The President, moreover, is absorbed by the cares of self-defense. He no longer governs for the interest of the state, but for that of his re-election; he does homage to the majority, and instead of checking its passions, as his duty commands, he frequently courts its worst caprices. As the election draws near, the activity of intrigue and the agitation of the populace increase; the citizens are divided into hostile camps, each of which assumes the name of its favorite candidate; the whole nation glows with feverish excitement, the election is the daily theme of the press, the subject of private conversation, the end of every thought and every action, the sole interest of the present. It is true that as soon as the choice is determined, this ardor is dispelled, calm returns, and the river, which had nearly broken its banks, sinks to its usual level; but who can refrain from astonishment that such a storm should have arisen?

Alexis de Tocqueville


A useful note on reading the polls going into election day, from James Taranto:

USA Today claims a Gallup poll shows Bush and Kerry tied at 49%, but the poll actually shows Bush up, 49% to 47%. The inflated Kerry figure comes from assuming that of the 3% of voters who are undecided, nine out of 10 will go for Kerry. Given the palpable lack of enthusiasm even among supporters of the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam, that seems an unwarranted assumption.

In other words, the bash-Bush crowd has already decided long ago; hence the present undecideds are going to have to choose, dispassionately, between a sitting president and a zero. At least one can hope they will see it that way . . . .

Nice and Easy

Bill Buckley summarizing some stats from Mark Helprin:

Helprin gives us an economic perspective. The U.S. produces $11 trillion worth of goods and services annually. We allocate $400 billion to military spending. That amounts to 3.6 percent of the GDP.

By contrast, during the peacetime years between 1940 and 2000, we spent 5.7 per- cent of the GDP on defense. In the war years, we spent 13.3 percent on defense. By the last years of WWII, we were spending as much as 38.5 percent of the GNP on the military. To put the same level of effort into the war on terrorism, we would need, for military spending, $4.2 trillion, ten times the existing budget.

Just to give you an idea of how easy we're currently taking it.

(From the October 11 National Review. As you can see I'm getting behind on my mag reading, as well as my posting. Really it's nothing personal, netizens!)

What Ails Us?

OK, I'll have to admit feeling trepedatious about these elections. And not just about the outcome. I'm talking about the closeness of this race.

Granted, this may be exaggerated in polls. As David Warren notes, they aren't necessarily telling us much about what will happen tomorrow:

The election result is not predictable: to begin with, the turnout will be far higher than in recent U.S. elections. The polls we have been reading are all adjusted to accord with models of voter behaviour that assume previous levels of participation, and much less at stake. They assume such things, as that the "core undecided" will break about two-to-one for the challenger, as has happened in the past.

Hence, "nonscientific" evidence might be as good as any right now (if not always). Sadly, the signals I'm picking up on this score are not all that great. Mark Steyn is putting his job on the line for a Bush victory, and claims he can read the mood of the nation from New Hampshire. I pray he's right! But I am hearing different things.

Here and there I find someone who's aware of what's at stake here, who knows that the next generation of Supreme Court cases will almost certainly be decided in this election, who understands that nitpicking the details in Iraq or the war on terror generally is no excuse to elect someone innately hostile to American strength and hence security. But much more often I am hearing prevarication and excuses.

I am hearing conservatives who are opting for the Constitutional Party (or as I call them the Fairy Godmother party, who will erase abortion with the wave of a magic wand) and people who should be conservatives but routinely allow themselves to be hoodwinked by the media complaining how these are the worst choices we've ever had in American history and how it's so difficult to choose and they won't say who they're voting for, etc.

This is very, very sad. Have we degenerated to the point where so many of us can't make up our minds faced with such a stark choice? Have we become so wedded to our private fantasies that we literally forget that the fate of a nation (and to a large extent the world) hinges on the direction our feeble minds turn on Nov 2?

For some time now I've been expecting a comfortable Bush win, and I hope that proves right. Even so, I'm very disconcerted by the apathy and resignation on display among many conservatives or should-be conservatives right now. I felt the same way in 2000 even when 9/11 had not been imagined -- and look how vital it was that Bush not Gore was in office then! But as far as I'm concerned an electorate that thinks any elections can be coin-tossed or that we can ever afford to slack off in the face of the progressive deconstruction of America is pretty damn pathetic.

With the war on terror, a bloated government, homosexual marriage, partial-birth abortion (not to mention the other sorts), cloning, euthanasia, fetal experimentation, the Supreme Court, etc. on the table, Bush and the Republicans should be sweeping these elections. Bush supporters should be on a massive offensive.

Of course, we have the gliberal media to blame, and they are despicable. But it's not just them. So-called conservatives are opting for Kerry and the rest of us are mired in apathy or, in my case, complacency.

Am I expecting too much from people? Are the choices modern life presents us with simply too much for human beings to handle? Are we doomed to slouch to our destruction? All I can say is that there is something truly bizarre about the spectacle I see before me.
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