"Aside from the unintended irony that the classical historian Arnold Toynbee himself was not always 'adroit,' but wrong in most of his determinist conclusions, and that such criticism comes from a high official of an administration that witnessed on its watch the Iranian-hostage debacle, the disastrous rescue mission, the tragicomic odyssey of the terminally ill shah, the first and last Western Olympic boycott, oil hikes even higher in real dollars than the present spikes, Communist infiltration into Central America, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Cambodian holocaust, a gloomy acceptance that perpetual parity with the Soviet Union was the hope of the day, the realism that cemented our ties with corrupt autocracies in the Middle East (Orwellian sales of F-15 warplanes to the Saudis minus their extras), and the hard-to-achieve simultaneous high unemployment, high inflation, and high interest rates, Mr. Brzezinski is at least a valuable barometer of the current pessimism over events such as September 11.

"Such gloom seems to be the fashion of the day.

"The story of the war since September 11 is that the United States military has not lost a single battle, has removed two dictatorships, and has birthed democracy in the Middle East. During Katrina, critics suggested troops in Iraq should have been in New Orleans, but that was a political, not a realistic complaint: few charged that there were too many thousands abroad in Germany, Italy, the U.K., Korea, or Japan when they should have been in Louisiana."

Should liberal opinion prevail--and it could--we will face an American debacle.

And the Envelope, Please

Loose Canon's first Courage Award to a writer who refuses to toe the multicultural line goes to Australian author Roger Sandall for these curmudgeonly words, occasioned by Jared Diamond's lament for the loss of Mayan culture in his book "Collapse:"

"I don't care if the Maya civilization did collapse. I don't think we should shed a single retrospective tear. It might be interesting to know how or why it fell-whether from war or drought or disease or soil exhaustion-but I don't much care about that either. Because quite frankly, as civilizations go, the Mayan civilization in Mexico didn't amount to much."

Artful Dodger?

Mayan civilization isn't the only thing that's declined and fallen. What about the Episcopal Church? It was once the nursery of American civilization, but now appears on the brink of a formal split.

The upcoming General Convention (June 2006), which is scheduled to elect a new Presiding Bishop, the head of the communion in the U.S., is seen by some as the occasion of the split. Therefore Christian Challenge, a small publication put out by Episcopalians who still believe the ancient teachings of Christianity, sees a dodge ("Altruism-Or Artful Dodge?") behind a suggestion that the Episcopalians just skip this confab-and give the money to charity:

"In munificent gesture, gay activist Louie Crew--a member of the Episcopal Church's (ECUSA) Executive Council--wants the church to cancel its 2006 General Convention and give the money thus saved to Hurricane Katrina victims who have no insurance.

"No General Convention? On the surface, it also seems like the best gift to orthodoxy in years.

"Of course, it's probably just a coincidence -- or is it? -- that this would be the same convention that Anglican primates expect to decisively answer whether ECUSA--now suspended over its pro-gay policies--will walk with or apart from the Anglican Communion."

Unfortunately, an Episcopal parish in Arkansas (of all places) has joined the ranks of those who refuse to give their assent to historical Christianity.

He Carried His Crow's Ear High

It's amazing how ignorant the media is about religious usages, not to mention dogma and history. A Canadian Catholic comments on this apparently invincible ignorance:

"British journalist Libby Purves got it quite right when she observed recently and humourously in her column in The Tablet: 'On 4 April an old convent school friend speechlessly thrust a copy of the International Herald Tribune into my hand and pointed to the paragraph about the catafalque: 'The 84-year-old Jean Paul was laid out in Clementine Hall, dressed in white and red vestments. Tucked under his left arm was the silver staff, called the crow's ear, that he had carried in public.'

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