New York, New York, It's a Wonderful Town--But a Bit Provincial

Loose Canon loves the notion that her fellow red staters are converging today on the capitol of blueness for the Republican convention only to be greeted by protests from real reds--just kidding. They're simply ordinary men and women who happen to believe that George Bush is the reincarnation of Adolph Hitler.

LC loves New York and hopes her fellow reds will have a marvelous time. Sure, the city is less congested when middle aged men and women aren't out protesting with flag-draped simulated coffins. But it's a great town. There's just one problem with New York--it's so parochial. New York parochial? As I have noted elsewhere this morning, it really and truly is.

Loose Canon was kidding in her crack about reds--but it's still important to recognize that some of those organizing the protests aren't just ordinary folks. I came across an interesting description of Leslie Cagan, one of the organizers of this week's festivities, and a leader of United for Peace and Justice, one of the key organizations protesting the Republican National Convention:

"To understand UPJ, consider the pedigree of its chief operative, Leslie Cagan. The New York Times has called her 'one of the grandes dames of the country's progressive movement,' a woman whose 'organizational skills are prodigious.' Indeed, Cagan has been active in New York City politics. She was a field director for the 1989 campaign of David Dinkins, who was elected mayor. But the Times neglected to mention her long-standing ties to the Communist movement. In reality, Cagan is a longtime revolutionary activist. She has spent the past thirty years mobilizing what must be counted as millions of protesters at demonstrations and rallies around the world. They denounce American foreign and military policies--the litany of alleged crimes 'against humanity.'"

Straight Talk about the 9/11 Commission

A terrifically provocative dissenting opinion about the 9/11 commission by Richard Posner, a judge on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and frequent writer on legal subjects had lots of good stuff.

Here is one good point:

"The tale of how we were surprised by the 9/11 attacks is a product of hindsight; it could not be otherwise. And with the aid of hindsight it is easy to identify missed opportunities (though fewer than had been suspected) to have prevented the attacks, and tempting to leap from that observation to the conclusion that the failure to prevent them was the result not of bad luck, the enemy's skill and ingenuity or the difficulty of defending against suicide attacks or protecting an almost infinite array of potential targets, but of systemic failures in the nation's intelligence and security apparatus that can be corrected by changing the apparatus.

"That is the leap the commission makes, and it is not sustained by the report's narrative. The narrative points to something different, banal and deeply disturbing: that it is almost impossible to take effective action to prevent something that hasn't occurred previously. Once the 9/11 attacks did occur, measures were taken that have reduced the likelihood of a recurrence. But before the attacks, it was psychologically and politically impossible to take those measures."

Here's a second (though by all mean not the only other one worth your consideration):

"The enormous public relations effort that the commission orchestrated to win support for the report before it could be digested also invites criticism--though it was effective: in a poll conducted just after publication, 61 percent of the respondents said the commission had done a good job, though probably none of them had read the report. The participation of the relatives of the terrorists' victims (described in the report as the commission's "partners") lends an unserious note to the project (as does the relentless self-promotion of several of the members). One can feel for the families' loss, but being a victim's relative doesn't qualify a person to advise on how the disaster might have been prevented."

A Swarm of Locusts: Plague on Secularists?

A plague of locusts is, well, plaguing the town of Matera in Italy, where the out-of-doors scenes in "The Passion of the Christ" were filmed. Writing on Tech Central Station, Dominick Standish is amused by the attempt to blame the plague on global warming.

Global warming, says Standish, is the secularist's faith:

"Many of the responses to the swarms of locusts and other extreme conditions have been reminiscent of biblical, pre-scientific times. Most media commentators report weather-related events without recourse to the science of climate change. They employ the language of global warming to 'explain' problems in a manner common to pre-modern superstition. Even the prestigious New Scientist journal ran an article this month with the following doomsday scenario on Europe's future:

"European winters will disappear by 2080 and extreme weather will become more common unless global warming across the continent is slowed."

The New Breed of Pilgrim

Writing in the Spectator, John Laughlin reports that on his recent pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain's holiest Christian site, most of the people were New Agers on a voyage of self-discovery: "Even the Archbishop of Santiago, in his sermon, told the throngs in his cathedral that 'We are all pilgrims'--a nice enough thought, perhaps, but rather irritating for those of us who actually were."

Sex Ed at Hogwarts?

Loose Canon had thought that Planned Parenthood's ghastly "I had an abortion" T-shirt was about as pathetic as you could get. But after pathos comes bathos.

In an open letter with fanciful illustrations reminiscent of those in the Harry Potter books, Joan Malin, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City, urges Harry's creator, J. K. Rowling, to add sex ed to the Hogwarts curriculum:

"We all care about Harry and his friends," writes Malin in one of those you-can't-make-this-stuff-up moments. "We want them to grow up to be mature, caring adults. I am not suggesting that the next book in the series become a part of the politics of sex education, but I do know that what happens to Harry has the opportunity to affect a generation's learning about love and sexuality."

Planned Parenthood does offer a few perfunctory overtures towards abstinence, of course, but can you imagine the Hogwarts sex ed program the PP folks really have in mind?

I don't share his view that the use of the occult makes the Harry Potter books doubtful for children, but blogger Travis McSherley of fillingupspace (which tipped me to the sex-ed-at-Hogwarts story), has this to say:

"Presumably, this would be a move to confuse (brainwash, if you wish) young kids who are captivated by the Potter series. The target audience for the books is about 12, which is far too young to be receiving intricate details about sex--regardless of what Planned Parenthood may think. And to bury such topics in the pages of a fantasy novel would be outrageous. Now, rest assured, parents, there's little chance in the world that Potter author J.K. Rowling would reference such controversial subjects in her books (though the fact that they deal with occult ought to be reason enough to have caution)."

But Most of the Time Planned Parenthood Isn't That Funny

There was nothing to make us laugh in Planned Parenthood's victory in a court ruling earlier this week that declared the ban on partial birth abortions unconstitutional.

Even Judge Richard Conway Casey who made the ruling seemed to find the whole thing pretty odious. (You can read the whole ruling here.)

Here's some good stuff from a National Review report on the sorry business:

"Judge Casey was clearly troubled by the morality, ethics, and purported medical justifications of this abortion method. After a three-week trial, he found that D&X abortions 'subject fetuses to severe pain.' Indeed, as the unrebutted testimony of a medical expert in infant and fetal pain showed, partial-birth abortion 'may subject fetuses beyond twenty weeks' gestational age to prolonged and excruciating pain,' especially when the skull is punctured or crushed. He also found that at least some of the doctors who performed these abortions--many of whom testified at the trial before him--were not concerned by the pain experienced by the aborted child and do not 'convey to their patients that their fetuses may undergo severe pain during a D&X.'

"Most importantly, Judge Casey concluded that many of the purported medical reasons that abortionists relied upon to justify the necessity of partial-birth abortion were 'false,' 'incoherent' or 'merely theoretical.' Rejecting the common myth that partial-birth abortion is justified by certain maternal medical circumstances, Casey reasoned: 'In no case involving these or other maternal health conditions could [the National Abortion Federation and its testifying witnesses] point to a specific patient or actual circumstance in which D&X was necessary to protect a woman's health.' Similarly, the many purported safety advantages proffered by abortionists in support of the banned procedure 'do not rise above the realm of the hypothetical.'

"So how on earth could Judge Casey find such a 'brutal' and 'barbaric' method of abortion protected by the Constitution? His answer--however reluctant--was relatively simple: The Supreme Court made me do it. Judge Casey reasoned that the Supreme Court's 2000 decision in Stenberg v. Carhart compelled him to invalidate the federal ban where plaintiffs were able to produce some doctors (supported by some medical associations) willing to testify that 'D&X has some safety advantages...over D&E for some women in some circumstances.' According to Judge Casey 'however hypothetical and unsubstantiated by scientific evidence' the abortionists' testimony at trial was, he was constitutionally compelled by the Supreme Court to accept it."

What's the Opposite of Love?

Beliefnet has a terrific interview with Christopher West, who has written about Pope John Paul II's "theology of the body" and what West sees as a "sexual counter-revolution" in the making.

What's so good about the interview is that the Church's sexual teachings are seriously explored instead of ignorantly mocked--which is rare today. There is a coherent theology, and it rests not on saying no but on love.

As West says:

"What's wrong with the world today is we no longer understand what it means to love. So often what we call love in our culture is nothing but a man and woman or two men or whoever using one another for our own selfish pleasure.

"The opposite of love, for the Pope, is not hatred. The opposite of love is to use someone as a means to my own selfish end. This is not some abstract theology--we know this to be true. When somebody uses us, treats us as a thing rather than as a person, we feel violated."

Trireme Vets for Truth

As Victor Davis Hanson, historian and National Review contributor, notes today, the trireme vets at the battle of Salamis had, like the Swift boat vets of Vietnam, differing accounts of what happened in the fog of war:

"The problem of reconstructing what happened at the battle of Salamis (480 B.C.) is not just the wide expanse of time that separates accounts in Aeschylus, Herodotus, Plutarch, and Diodorus. Instead, the more fundamental problem is that the thousands of Athenians who rowed there and provided the primary sources of knowledge for these later chronicles almost immediately gave very different versions of what they saw and did."

Let's move right along from triremes to swift boats...

"What is the lesson of all this?" ask Hanson. "That we should accept that Senator Kerry was a brave man who endured fire in service to his country, and leave it at that? But can we? You see, there is another problem with Mr. Kerry's current dilemma--and it is not his courage under fire, but rather something called Nemesis. Some of us in February of this year worried that Kerry's subordinates and surrogates were making a strategic error in grandstanding his own Vietnam military service while denigrating George Bush's controversial tenure in the National Guard. Moveon.org and its epigones had a field day slurring the president to Kerry's mute delight, and only a fool would have believed that there would not be some sort of payback come summer."

And there's this to consider:

"Swift-boat vets were probably willing to grimace and bite their teeth throughout the present campaign, but not when Kerry paraded his service, saluted the Democratic delegates ('reporting for duty'), and posed as a time-honored proud warrior of the American military.

"And so now we have the present mess that will go on for weeks and can only hurt Kerry. He is earning a reputation for once welcoming third-party hit ads, then (now) whining about them; for parading his service, then whining about scrutiny of it; for spouting braggadocio, then whining about hurtful speech. As the Greeks remind us, pride can lead to hubris and then to Nemesis--on its tragic and ultimate rendezvous with ruin."

A Serious Conundrum for Serious Catholics

Loose Canon mercifully has been spared a moral dilemma that apparently confronts many other Catholics--can a papist in good conscience vote for a pro-choice Catholic for president? I refer, of course, to John "Reporting for Duty" Kerry.

It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that LC isn't even tempted to vote for John Kerry. But what if you do have that sort of urge?

There are now two competing aides for the faithful Catholic. The first "Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility," distributed by the U.S. Catholic Conference.

As Catholic World News reports, it is not without its faults:

"[The document] has been criticized even within the Church for placing the paramount issue of abortion on a level playing field with other lesser issues like promoting 'social justice' and 'global solidarity.' Bob Laird, director of the Family Life Office of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, said, 'It equates abortion with debt relief. They are not equal.'"

A competing guide has been produced by Catholic Answers, a lay group. This guide places more emphasis on Catholic teaching on the so-called life issues:

"'Voters' Guide for Serious Catholics' is a 10-page booklet produced by Catholic Answers, a lay apostolate based in San Diego whose primary mission is defending Catholic teaching. Citing papal and Vatican documents, 'Voter's Guide' identifies five issues it calls 'non-negotiable': abortion, euthanasia, fetal stem cell research, human cloning, and homosexual 'marriage.' Supporting any of these issues, according to the guide, would disqualify a candidate as a viable option for a faithful Catholic."

Frank Norris, Catholic Answers' director of development, has said that more than a million of the guides have been distributed. The U.S. Catholic Conference reportedly discourages such distribution.

As LC says, John Kerry is not, personally, even a remote temptation. But what if it were Rudolph Giuliani, a pro-choice Republican, whom LC admires inordinately, who was running for president?

I think you'd have to weigh the matter very seriously, trying to determine how the candidate's pro-choice stand would affect judicial appointments and the spending of federal money for abortions. You'd have to decide if, by your vote, you supported somebody who simply holds a view that is utterly incompatible with church teaching or somebody who would actively promote a culture of death.

The Swift Boat Veterans: They Just Wouldn't Fit In at Tina Brown's

Forget the charges and counter charges of the competing bands of brothers. Former Talk magazine editor and CNBC talk show host Tina Brown gets right to the heart of the matter about the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth--they're old and ugly.

Here's Ms. Brown from her column in today's Washington Post:

"The worst thing about the Swift boat moment has been the steady march of aggrieved sexagenarians across our TV screens, banging the hollow drums of their pasts. They were heroes once and young, but look what politics has wrought: Gabby, flabby, John O'Neill, author of 'Unfit for Command', shifty George Elliott..."

Well, you get the picture. But there's a bright side. Ms. Brown says these yucky old guys have motivated donors to flock to fundraisers such as the one hosted in posh East Hampton by prominent Democratic fundraiser Alan Patricoff.

The Patricoff event was so inspiring that "some [guests] like the photographer Clifford Ross, who lives in the West Village, came back from the weekend fundraiser to start a 'battleground block party,' recruiting New York foot soldiers to go out and get out the vote in swing states."

Rest assured that these foot soldiers will be Beautiful People.

P.S. Ms. Brown isn't the only member of the chattering classes who finds the Swifties just tooo unattractive.

Don't miss Mark Steyn on L.A. Times scribe Ron Brownstein's reporting on the Swifties:

"As Lord Charteris, the Queen's courtier, remarked of Fergie: 'Vulgar, vulgar, vulgar.' That's Brownstein on the Swiftees."

Morituri te salutant: Candidate Kerry's visit to the Jon Stewart show was so awful that even Slate.com poked fun at it with a piece headlined "If He Only Had a Heart:" "And then, when the interview was over and Kerry rose to leave, he caused audible groans in my household by saluting the audience (just as he did at the opening of his convention speech: 'John Kerry reporting for duty.' Lieutenant Kerry, your first order is to stop saluting the audience. It makes you look like a total tool)."

The New York Post on the Kerry campaign's use of Max Cleland: "In one of the stranger photo-ops in an increasingly bizarre presidential season, former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland yesterday rode his wheelchair to the front gate of President Bush's Texas ranch to protest attacks on Democratic candidate John Kerry's Vietnam War record.

"Cleland lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam--hence the wheelchair--but we won't patronize him by pretending he is anything other than what he became after losing his Senate re-election race two years ago: bitterly resentful, highly partisan and an effective deflector shield for Kerry whenever the latter's military bona fides are called into question."

Abu Ghraib: No Black Eye for Rummy

The press will work over time to tout yesterday's report on the abuses at Abu Ghraib as a disaster for the Bush administration. Here's a reality check from the Wall Street Journal:

"The report offers invaluable perspective on the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib and is devastating to those who've sought to pin blame on an alleged culture of lawlessness going all the way to the top of the Bush Administration. John Kerry must be even more disoriented by the Swift boat story than he appears if he thinks now's the time to call for Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation.

"'The behavior of our troops is so much better than it was in World War II,' Mr. Schlesinger [former secretary of defense and head of the commission conducting the investigation] told us yesterday, by way of comparison. Of the Abu Ghraib photos, he added, 'It is preposterous that what these pictures show is we were prepared to use torture to get information,' as Senator Ted Kennedy and others have alleged. Rather, Mr. Schlesinger characterized the photographed Abu Ghraib abuses as 'free-lance activities on the part of the night shift,' echoing the testimony we've heard so far during the courts martial for the accused."

The Most Annoying Story in Today's Paper

The competition was stiff--after all, Thursday is the day that Tina Brown's column appears in the Washington Post (see above). But there was a clear winner.

The distinction belongs undeniably to a piece in today's Washington Post Style section headlined "Changing Our Tune" about the debate over the arrangement of the national anthem that is being sung at the Olympics.

Here's a nugget:

"Paul Breiner, whose 204 arrangements of the world's national anthems are being performed at the Athens Olympics, had no intention of wandering into the blue-state/red-state thickets when he arranged 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' But that hasn't slowed critics from reading political philosophy into his genteel, romanticized orchestration of the famous tune.

"A 'Europe-friendly version of the anthem,' designed 'to play down the notion of the U.S. as a chest-thumping, butt-kicking, jingoistic powerhouse,' sniffed a writer in the Wall Street Journal, quoting an unnamed musician. 'Even our warlike national anthem has been transformed, from blaring horns to peaceful, soothing strings' wrote Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, in a column about the toning-down of U.S. bravado at the Athens games.

A peaceful, soothing national anthem. LC doesn't know whether to laugh or weep.

Hell: It's Just Not Cool

Why do non-believers find hell such a hoot? Oh, yes, it's because we Christians are so ignorant that we'll believe anything. Hell just isn't cool. Christianity Today's excellent weblog, written by blogger Ted Olsen, reports that the pseuds are getting together to make fun of the belief in hell (and the folks, like LC, who believe in it):

"To lampoon (Christian) fundamentalist beliefs about hell," the secularist group Center for Inquiry-West is staging its own production of Hell House, the evangelistic drama created by Colorado youth pastor Keenan Roberts. The play has attracted a large cadre of hip comedians and actors, including Bill Maher (Satan), Andy Richter (Jesus), Richard Belzer, Simpsons producer and standup comic Dana Gould , former porn star Traci Lords, Patton Oswalt (whose website proclaims "Christians hate me"), David Cross, Sarah Silverman, 24's Mary Lynn Rajskub, The Daily Show's Matt Walsh, Six Feet Under's Justina Machado and Rainn Wilson, and, um, a guy named Craig Bierko."
The producer obtained the pastor's script by pretending to want it for a youth group-and then wittily named her company The Youth Group.

The promotional site for the play ("Witness a human sacrifice! Feast your eyes on a grody abortion!") explains that Hollywood Hell House "is not in any way an indictment of religion, Christianity, or the Bible. Its purpose is to demonstrate the absurdity of a literal interpretation of the Bible, specifically the belief in a literal everlasting hell."

Loose Canon believes in a literal everlasting hell, though it doesn't necessarily look like a Hieronymus Bosch painting (though, come to think of it, Bill Maher would have been the perfect model for Satan for HB). It you want to know more about the real hell-as opposed to the h ell of going to what is surely a lugubrious play-LC can refer you to a helluva piece in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

LC can't resist foisting upon you one of her favorite quotes, the epitaph on the frontispiece of Dame Muriel Spark's wonderful "Loitering with Intent"-which, by the way, is a helluva good novel.

Here's the quote: "What are the four last things to be ever remembered? A. The four last things to be ever remembered are Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven.--The Penny Catechism.'' Forewarned, Bill.

What They Don't Want You to Know

Swami is bent out of shape by attempts at fairness at AOL: "You may recall that Swami was upset by an AOL News screen that offered members a chance to view the Swift Boat Vets commercial and the Kerry response--as if they merited equal time."

Swami: Listen to yourself. Do you and your kind (as you once referred to the compassion mafia) get to decide or does the public get to decide?

Here are some articles specially chosen with an eye to acquainting the Swami with the First Amendment and the duties of the press: Syndicated columnist Robert Samuelson:
"We have entered an era of constitutional censorship. Hardly anyone wants to admit this -- the legalized demolition of the First Amendment would seem shocking -- and so hardly anyone does. The evidence, though, abounds. The latest is the controversy over the anti-Kerry ads by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and parallel anti-Bush ads by Democratic "527" groups such as MoveOn.org. Let's assume (for argument's sake) that everything in these ads is untrue. Still, the United States' political tradition is that voters judge the truthfulness and relevance of campaign arguments. We haven't wanted our political speech filtered."

Columnist Jonah Goldberg:
"The Swift Boat Vets for Truth have started a tragic, stupid argument. Oh, I don't mean the factual debate about John Kerry's war record. I'm referring to the argument over what sort of speech should be permitted during an election campaign. As for the steady bleeding the Kerry campaign has suffered over the Swift Boat controversy itself, let's just say it was a self-inflicted wound. No president in recent memory has more explicitly run as a war hero."

Columnist and TV pundit Tony Blankley:
"It was only after a CBS poll showed that Kerry had lost a net 14 percent of the veteran's vote to Bush -- without aid of major media coverage or substantial national advertising -- that the major media outlets began to lumber, resentfully, in the vague direction of the story. And even then, they hardly engaged themselves in the spirit of objective journalism.

"According to Editor and Publisher, the respected voice of official big-time journalism: `Chicago Tribune managing editor James O'Shea tells Joe Strupp the Swift Boat controversy may be an instance of a growing problem for newspapers in the expanding media world -- being forced to follow a questionable story because non-print outlets have made it an issue. `There are too many places for people to get information,' says O'Shea. `I don't think newspapers can be gatekeepers anymore -- to say this is wrong, and we will ignore it. Now we have to say this is wrong, and here is why.'"

Did you say gatekeeper?

Oh, Swami loves you.

But it won't work anymore.

Well, That's One Way of Looking At It

Here's a quote from a National Review piece that asks why John Kerry can't be more like James McGreevey, the New Jersey governor who announced that he was resigning and came out of the closet in one fell swoop:

"McGreevey is a pro-choice Catholic, in stark opposition to Church teaching. In June, Archbishop John J. Myers of the Newark diocese released a five-page statement titled "A Time for Honesty," in which he wrote that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not seek Communion. In response, New Jersey's pro-choice governor said that he would respect the archbishop's request and not seek the Eucharist at Mass. Oddly, McGreevey said he would accept Communion in private (whatever that means) but not in public, even though Myers made no distinction. Still, unlike most pro-choice politicians, he was willing to accept Church authority on an issue the Church understands as a matter of life and death."

Swiss Finishing School Docents for Truth

If you're sick and tired of the Swiss boat vets, the Weekly Standard has a hilarious parody in the form of a "news" story of charges headlined "Swiss Finishing School Docents for Truth."

In one of the ads, Bitsy van Rensselaer recalls being in Italy when George Bush called Positano Pensacola. "I was humiliated in front of my sommelier," pouts Bitsy.

Unfortunately, only subscribers can get the parody.

In the Beginning...

Loose Canon is a probably a bit looser than Christianity Today, the respected Protestant magazine. But Christianity Today raised a valid point about Newsweek's beautifully illustrated report on biblical archeology in Iraq and Israel.

Here's how the Newsweek story begins:

"What there was in the beginning, in the world of the Bible, is what there was in the land now called Iraq. There is nothing left of the Garden of Eden, no artifact at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers where myth has placed the Temptation and the Fall."

Christianity Today opines that "using the loaded word myth is a sure way to alienate a huge part of Newsweek's readership. And readers are going to get exactly the wrong idea about what the Bible says."

Loose Canon much prefers the word allegory to myth because the stories of the Old Testament contain, at the very least, a theological truth (and very often a historical truth). Will the use of the word myth alienate "a huge part" of Newsweek's readership? The newsmagazines enshrine the truth as seen by the media elite and for them, alas, all the stories of the Bible belong in a myth and symbol class.

Meanwhile, an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal by my colleague Charlotte Allen argues that claims that a recently excavated cave was John the Baptist's rest on "a combination of supposition and imaginative hypothesis:"

"Although the cave contains primitive drawings that seem to depict John's life, their placement and style connects them to a period several centuries later, when the Holy Land was part of the Byzantine Empire. Mr. Gibson derives his theory that John anointed his disciples in the cave from a foot-shaped depression over which oil could have been poured. The trouble is that, although the Gospels speak of John's baptizing with water, they say nothing of his anointing anyone."

Today's Swift Boat Item

Presidential candidate John Kerry's reaction to challenges about his four months in Vietnam by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth seems to boil down to this: Daddy, Daddy, make them stop saying mean things about me.

I refer, of course, to his campaign's asking the Bush campaign to stop the ads. But John O'Sullivan comments that the daily papers have been so circumspect in reporting on the charges that getting at the truth requires reading between the lines--just like at Pravda:

"Vladimir Bukovsky, the great anti-Soviet dissident, once reproved me for quoting the old joke about the two main official Soviet newspapers: 'There's no truth in Pravda [Truth] and no news in Izvestia [News].' He pointed out that you could learn a great deal of truthful news from both papers if you read them with proper care.

"They often denounced 'anti-Soviet lies.' These lies had never been reported by them. Nor were they lies. And their exposure was the first that readers had been told of them. By reading the denunciation carefully, however, intelligent readers could decipher what the original story must have been.

"That is exactly how intelligent readers now have to read most of the establishment media--at least when they are reporting on the 'anti-Kerry lies' of the swift boat veterans. Two weeks ago I pointed out that the main media outlets were ignoring the story that 254 swift boat veterans were accusing Sen. John Kerry of being, in effect, a liar and a blowhard. I doubted that this suppression could be sustained for long since free-lance journalists on the Internet were examining it--and uncovering what seemed like damaging evidence that at least some of the charges had substance.

Fertility Clinics: Just a Thought

A Beliefnet member raises an excellent point with regard to yesterday's post of a piece on the moral perils of embryonic stem cell research by columnist Charles Krauthammer:

"What I want to know is when the people who are pro-life, anti-abortion, whatever you want to call them, are going to face up to the situation with fertility clinics, where dozens of embryos are 'discarded' every day. Instead of lining up outside abortion clinics where, despite constant propaganda to the contrary, most women go because of rape, incest, or severe medical problems, why aren't they lining up at the fertility clinics? Every attempt at conception at a clinic requires a lot of fertilized embryos, and the leftovers, after everyone's decided they're done, are just thrown in the trash. And I'd also like to know how many of those go into the stem cell lines... Just a thought..."

I'd have to disagree with the reasons cited for abortions, but otherwise this is a very good thought--if I'm reading it correctly.

He Took a Camera--Why Didn't He Get an Affidavit, too?

A clever lawyer who advertises on Instapundit has come up with an advertisement based on the Swift Boat challenges to Kerry's seared-in-memory claim to have spent Christmas in Cambodia:

"SEARED in your memory--but didn't get it in writing? Don't give up the ship! We're lawyers who represent blogs, Web and brick-and-mortar businesses and other living things--decorated legal vets who do it better, swifter and cheaper."

Have Yourself a Kerry Little Christmas

Loose Canon has provoked knowing giggles from her fellow conservatives by suggesting that the major TV networks be declared 527s-you know, those groups that are unaffiliated with the political parties but which produce political ads.

LC is only joking, of course. She worships Tom, Dan, and Peter. But the media's desire to elect John Kerry is quite obvious, and their inability to control what constitutes a story--now that we have Fox Network News, talk radio, and the blogosphere--is sometimes comic.
"Some people wondered how long the major media would be willing to ignore the Christmas-in-Cambodia story," writes US News & World Report columnist John Leo in TownHall.com. "Well, the answer is in: at least 10 or 11 days." But-ho ho ho-we know the story anyway, thanks to the aforementioned networks: Kerry claimed for 25 years that he had spent the Christmas of 1968 in Cambodia and that the memory was "seared-seared into me." Not only have the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the anti-Kerry vets, placed the video-toting lieutenant elsewhere, but a hagiographic biography of Kerry by Douglas Brinkley places him 50 miles from Cambodia that Christmas. Notes Leo:
Like the issue of President Bush's National Guard service, the Cambodian Christmas story is important only for the light it may shed on a candidate's mind and character. But unlike the Bush story, Kerry's Cambodian story set off no media frenzy. Glenn Reynolds [of Instapundit] wrote of the big media: 'They're damaging themselves as more and more people notice that they're ignoring it.' Boston Globe reporter Anne Kornblut was asked to comment on the Cambodian Christmas story on Meet the Press. She blew off the question, possibly because her paper hadn't yet bothered to report the story.
Leo added:
When the Los Angeles Times finally decided to notice the story, it had an obvious problem: How should it report news it had ignored for 11 days? Simple: Lump it in with Kerry's other Vietnam controversies in a long, boring, and indecisive report ("what actually happened about 35 years ago along the remote southern coast of Vietnam remains murky"). And high up in the story, let readers know that the Times thinks the issue is old, irrelevant, and narrowly partisan ("the [anti-Kerry] ad, the book and the people behind them have become staples of conservative talk shows and Internet sites"). Of course, one reason it was a 'staple' of conservative media is that the major news media ignored it.
Feel you're drowning in claims and counterclaims by competing bands of brothers? Mickey Kaus of kausfiles has done yeoman's duty shifting through some of the conflicting reports. Torpedoes Ahead?

Whatever side of the Swift boat you pick, wounded World War II vet Bob Dole's remarks on the subject may, despite Dole's obvious partisanship, have more power to torpedo Kerry's candidacy than anything either group of vets has said:
I think [Kerry's] got himself into this wicket now where he can't extricate himself because not every one of these people can be Republican liars. There's got to be some truth to the charges. But this is on tape. This is on television. This is before the Senate committee... Maybe he should apologize to all the other 2.5 million veterans who served. He wasn't the only one in Vietnam. And here's, you know, a good guy, good friend. I respect his record. But three Purple Hearts and never bled that I know of. I mean, they're all superficial wounds. Three Purple Hearts and you're out.
Don't you love it when Bob gets curmudgeonly? Please Don't Transfer Me to Another Parish!

Embattled Crisis magazine editor Deal Hudson-who resigned from his unpaid post as a Bush campaign advisor after an episode of past sexual misconduct was recalled-has sent out a letter regarding the magazine. Deal's letter is available in toto on Open Book, one of top Catholic blogs, but here is a revealing tidbit:
I need to make one final point. There's much deserved condemnation coming down upon me right now, and I expect it will continue. But I do hope that this just anger will not spill over onto CRISIS Magazine. The simple fact is, CRISIS Magazine is far more than Deal Hudson. There is an entire staff of hardworking and faithful Catholics who, month after month, put together what has become the flagship publication for faithful Catholics. It would be a tragedy if my personal baggage were to harm CRISIS. Our many staff members, columnists, and writers have simply worked too hard and done too much good to be pulled down by my faults. Please don't let that happen.
Last I heard, nobody was blaming the copyeditor. Not At Any Price

Sometimes those of us fortunate enough not to suffer from any of those conditions for which embryonic stem cell research is said to be potentially beneficial feel funny raising the serious moral questions that must nevertheless be raised. Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer has no such reservation:
When I was 22 and a first-year medical student, I suffered a spinal-cord injury. I have not walked in 32 years. I would be delighted to do so again. But not at any price. I think it is more important to bequeath to my son a world that retains a moral compass, a world that when unleashing the most powerful human discovery since Alamogordo - something as protean, elemental, powerful and potentially dangerous as the manipulation and re-formation of the human embryo - recognizes that lines must be drawn and fences erected.
A tip of the hat to Amy Welborn of Open Book for pointing this out.

A Fat Tuesday to Remember--Or Not

One thing you've got to say about the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights: It'll never be known as the Catholic League for Chivalry Toward Women. I am referring to League president Bill Donohue's ugly remark in defense of Crisis magazine editor Deal Hudson, who resigned as a Bush adviser after an alleged 1995 incident of sexual misadventure with a student when Deal was a professor at Fordham University, a Jesuit institution.

"Regarding this incident," the Catholic League says in a press release posted on their web site, "[National Catholic Reporter editor Tom] Roberts says his newspaper 'decided he's [Hudson] such a public figure and he's been uncompromising in judging other people's behavior.' So this was the trigger that led the NCR to be uncompromising in judging Hudson's behavior with a drunk almost a decade ago. Take note, people--this is their understanding of what it means to be Catholic."

A drunk? Gee, that's nice. To me it sounded as if more than one person was tipsy. Cara Poppas, the woman in question, sounded quite credible to me. Here's Poppas on her relationship with "Dr. Hudson":

"'I told him everything about me,'" Poppas recalled in a four-page document she provided to Fordham administrators at the conclusion of the semester. 'He knew I was a ward of the court, without parents, severely depressed, and even suicidal. I discussed with him why I had lost my faith in God, in humanity, and in myself. He was extremely attentive and genuinely concerned.'"

Subsequently, Dr. Hudson asked this vulnerable young woman to join him and a group of students for margaritas at a bar to celebrate Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent. And quite a Fat Tuesday it appears to have been:

"Arms locked, drunk and staggering, they dispersed. Hudson and Poppas took a cab to the Metro North train station, headed, she thought, back to Fordham.

"'I was completely in Dr. Hudson's hands,' recalled Poppas. 'Not only was I unable to stand up, I had no idea as to how to get home.'

"'In the taxi Dr. Hudson began pulling me close,' according to Poppas.

"'On the train, he began to feel my breasts outside my sweater and coat. We missed the Fordham stop (I'm not sure whether on purpose or not). We went to his house, he put me in his car, and he went up to tell his wife he was bringing a student back to Fordham.'

"Once in the car, said Poppas, 'Dr. Hudson told me to lay my head on his lap, suggesting fellatio when he unzipped his zipper. I did both. I sat up and said 'Hold on a second, wait just a minute.' He replied 'Yes, let's wait till we get to my office.'"

It goes on, but I think you've read enough to gather that Dr. Hudson appears to have been tipsy, too. Donohue is most likely right in saying the Reporter ran with the story for political reasons--duh. But to smear this woman is inexcusable and I can't believe further dishonorable behavior is what is needed in this sad situation.

I grew up in my grandfather's house. Whenever he read in the paper that some woman had killed or maimed her husband, he always said the exactly same thing: "Poor dear, he probably had it coming." It is impossible to imagine him smearing a young woman who'd been led astray, instead of the man. But then my grandfather, unlike Mr. Donohue, was a gentleman.

Relapsed Catholic made a pertinent remark about my rather snide observation that Deal referred not to his annulment but to his annulments (plural):

If those annulments happened after Deal joined the Church, then yeah, I'd be kinda shocked.

But I really have no right to talk, as I said. However, don't you find it interesting that, say, Bill Clinton felt no such compunction to resign from his job? At least Deal Hudson has that much class.

And as I also said to Charlotte: don't be too impressed. I'm not being 'charitable' so much as humble--a first for me, I know. Points well taken, RC.

Further Proof that Civilization Is Doomed

A judge for the Booker Prize, England's prestigious literary award, tells what he learned from the arduous task of reading the entries:

"What have I learned? Distaste for the middle class was one common denominator. Writers are entitled to berate and conjure whatever they want, but it was curious to see how the middle class (particularly the white, home-counties middle class) got clobbered: racist, xenophobic, child killers or just generally evil.

"Any prostitute, beggar, asylum-seeker or non-caucasian was likely to have a heart of gold. The conformity was such that I felt sometimes that only members of the Socialist Workers Party were allowed to publish novels (I never want to see the words 'miners' and 'strike' adjacent again on the page)."

The New Model Army

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer had this to say about the liberal response to President Bush's long-overdue plan to take the troops out of Europe:

"The New York Times editorial page offered this reason for maintaining the status quo: Otherwise, 'the military will also lose the advantage that comes with giving large numbers of its men and women the experience of living in other cultures.' Seventy-thousand GIs parked in Stuttgart, practicing their German and listening to Wagner. Finally, a military deployment the New York Times can support."

What's the Deal, Deal?

The ever gossipy Catholic world (I swear it was this way even before Loose Canon and her loose lips arrived on the scene) is today convulsed with talk about a New York Times expose of Deal Hudson, editor of Crisis magazine and the erstwhile (as of a day or so, it appears) Bush adviser.

Deal resigned from his position with the campaign after former alleged sexual misconduct was "recalled," as the Times headline put it. This is a big story in the small Catholic world because Deal is a photogenic and rather charming advocate for conservative Catholicism, widely considered as a possibility to become the next ambassador to the Vatican, if Bush is reelected.

Even though I occasionally write for Crisis, have appeared on Deal's TV show, have partaken of several highly enjoyable lunches with the subject of this controversy, and have used material from the valuable email letters Deal sends around to interested Catholics, I feel the story is generating too much chatter for me to ignore it.

As we learn from the New York Times, the Bush campaign is not the first thing from which Deal has resigned under--shall we say--a cloud:

"At Fordham University, a Jesuit school in New York where Mr. Hudson taught from 1989 to 1995, a university spokeswoman confirmed that the episode had led to Mr. Hudson's resignation. The spokeswoman, Elizabeth Schmalz, said: 'Fordham followed its policy rigorously in this matter and initiated an investigation upon receipt of the student complaint. The professor later surrendered his tenure at Fordham.' A person involved with the university's investigation said that a freshman in one of Mr. Hudson's classes reported to the university that, after she had become drunk at a bar, Mr. Hudson made sexual advances toward her. After a period of weeks, she charged him with sexual harassment. The accusations were made near the end of a school year, and Mr. Hudson left academia.

"Mr. Hudson, a former Southern Baptist who converted to Catholicism at the age of 34, has been an influential adviser to President Bush and a close friend of the White House political strategist Karl Rove since the late 1990's. Mr. Hudson first caught Mr. Rove's attention by publishing a study in Crisis in 1998 arguing that Republican candidates could make inroads among traditionally Democratic-leaning Catholic voters by focusing on regular churchgoers, a strategy that dovetailed with Mr. Bush's emphasis on 'compassionate conservatism.'"

Deal wrote a piece for National Review yesterday that knowing papists immediately realized was a preemptive strike. But here's some advice for somebody attempting a preemptive strike from that great PR whiz known as LC: If you're going to try to head off a story by making your own revelations first, you've got to come clean. Really clean.

Deal's piece was headlined "The Price of Politics," indicating that he would attempt to portray himself as a martyr. Here's a slice of what Deal wrote:

"The questions arrived [from a reporter doing a piece on Deal] and were all targeted at my personal life--not my political beliefs. They dealt in scattershot fashion with a range of topics: questions about past annulments for my marriages before my conversion to the Catholic Church, other Catholic organizations I have been involved with, and allegations from over a decade ago involving a female student at the college where I then taught. At the time, I dealt with this in an upright manner and the matter was satisfactorily resolved long ago. It was now being dug up, I believe, for political reasons--in an attempt to undermine the causes I have fought for: the defense of Church teachings on life, the priesthood, the authority of the pope, and the need for faithful Catholic participation in politics."

It should be noted that the alleged Fordham escapade took place after Deal's "conversion to the Catholic Church." Deal says that he has Dealt with all these issues in his book--which should have been a blockbuster then!--but I am wondering if it wasn't something like, "I have sinned greatly and I regret it," which is somewhat less than the gory details other reformed sinners, such as, say, St. Augustine, have provided.

It will be interesting to see if the fallout goes beyond Deal's resignation from the Bush campaign. Deal has been a respected and constant voice for Catholic orthodoxy, and he has a high degree of panache that makes him an even greater asset than he might otherwise be. But here's the moral of the story (one of them, there are many): If you aspire to the role of being a public Catholic, it's a good idea to confess your sins--and not just in the confessional. This is the way life is in the media age. And did he say annulments? Is that plural?

This just in: The National Catholic Reporter article that started Dealgate is now available.

The Olympics and the Olympians

Loose Canon loves pagan myths, and I'm pretty sure that this isn't the first--and won't be the last--time I've implored Beliefnet readers, especially parents of young children, to dash out and buy a copy of "Bulfinch's Mythology," the joys of which still render LC and her big sister misty eyed.

The Rev. Thomas Bulfinch (1776-1867), scion of a prominent New England family (this is before New England went blue), divided the book into "The Age of Fable," "The Age of Chivalry," and "Legends of Charlemagne." The best thing is that the snatches of relevant poetry are included, and so you get the gods and the graces.

This is a roundabout way of getting to the subject of the Oympians and the Olympics. Beliefnet has several intriguing pieces on the subject, including one about Christian clergy who think that there is too much emphasis on the pagan gods and another on people who actually worship the pagan deities.

Here's a quote from the story about people who today worship the Greek deities: "[Andrea] Berman is a Hellenic reconstructionist--a practitioner of the religion of ancient Greece. A spare bedroom in her Boston area apartment is decorated as a temple room with statues of Apollo, Pan, Artemis, Dionysus and Eros. And like all Hellenic reconstructionists, she knows the original Olympics were not just a massive sportsfest, but a religious rite central to the worship of Zeus, chief among the Greek gods.

"Reconstructionists are a group of neo-pagans--people who look to pre-Christian cultures for their faith--different branches of which worship the gods of ancient Norse, Roman, Egyptian, and Druid peoples. And while scholars say their numbers are only a fraction of the neo-pagan community, they also say they are a vibrant illustration of the rejection of traditional religion in the United States. And, in a curious boomerang effect, they are part of a movement away from the more eclectic forms of neo-paganism, like Wicca, taken up by pagan pioneers in the 1960s and 1970s."

The return of paganism is one of the big religious stories of our day, and it's obviously dismaying to Catholics like me (though I certainly don't see anything amiss in Greece celebrating its glorious past at the Olympic games). For all its emphasis on the ancient, paganism strikes me as a very modern religion, in that the practitioners sort of create a religion that is more to their liking than any of the three religions of the book.

Even though I've read and reported on Wicca, I've never resolved this issue with neo-paganism in general: Do those who worship the gods of Olympus believe they are real and have continued to exist through the Christian era, or do they merely provide a sort of spiritual path that doesn't require a real deity?

Either way, those deities weren't very nice. I always wondered how the ancients managed to worship such childish gods and goddesses.

Gift of Finest Wheat

More travail at the altar rail: You may already have heard about the 8-year-old girl who cannot safely consume wheat because of a rare medical condition.

Because of her condition, she was given a different kind of host (consecrated wafer) at her first communion. The Church has informed her parents that because the wafer didn't meet canonical requirements it wasn't a genuine host.

Here's how CBS reported the story last night:

"Haley's first communion was a magical event, other than having to wear a dress, which the tomboy hated, it went off without a hitch. Then her mother found out that church officials invalidated her daughter's sacrament, reports CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin." You knew the minute CBS said that Haley's first communion was "a magical event" we were going to see some Church-bashing. The story featured the anger of the "communion mom" (as she is described on the network's web site), and the underlying theme is the Church wants to make people unhappy for no reason.

Why the outrage? You can't just consecrate anything and call it the Eucharist? And moreover, unfortunate as this is, the Church isn't trying to hurt Haley. This is the sort of problem--and it is a real problem--that can be worked out in some way.

"Come Fly with Me, Come Fly with Padre Pio"

Loose Canon is so opinionated today that you must think she's turning into a poor woman's Teresa Heinz Kerry.

But church architecture is one of my pet peeves--I think it's so bad because, in designing buildings, form follows function, and the modern world is on the verge of forgetting the function of a church.

So I was delighted to find this post on Bettnet, a Catholic blog I've just discovered:

"The New York Times architecture critic seems to think that if only we built churches that look like airport terminals, people would come back to church. Maybe Europeans think differently (after all that's where the ugly 'Euro' design style came from), but I can't imagine a bunch of buildings, beautiful or ugly, leading people back to the faith. Don't get me wrong, I think good architecture is a help, but I don't think it's as important as they're making it out to be. And certainly bad architecture isn't going to do it either.

"As [journalist now at the Dallas Morning News] Rod Dreher said in reference to the Padre Pio shrine that looks like an airport terminal: "Come fly with me, come fly with Padre Pio."

Here's to Gin and Butter

There's one faux Frenchie with an expensive haircut LC wants to praise today--no, it's not John Kerry. I haven't lost my mind. It's someone who made us happy.

"If someone with a fake French accent, or $400 haircut, told us that genes, not butter, would kill us, we might not believe her. But when Julia Child said it, we were ready to place our lives in her hands--and pass the leg of lamb," the Wall Street Journal wrote yesterday of Julia Child, who died last week.

A Smithie who grew up in well-to-do Pasadena, Child came from a background in which, ordinarily, the lady of the house restricts her culinary labors to planning menus. She learned to cook to please her gourmand husband. But it was more than just her kitchen skills that made her important to us:

"She addressed one glaring flaw in the American ethic--our aversion to actually enjoying what we've labored for," the Wall Street Journal notes. "In this she shifted the focus of pride at American tables away from the heartland cliché--that of 'plenty,' the visible fruits of labor--toward an emphasis on quality, and the senses. A purring palate was more important than a piled-up platter."

My colleague Charlotte Allen of the Independent Women's Forum also hymned the joys of Julia:

"[T]hank you, Julia! And it's been nice to read, as I did in one of her obits, that Julia loathed those crunchy, undercooked hotel-banquet veggies as much as I do. She shared most of my other food-people loathings: granola-ism, vegetarianism, vegetarianism 'except for fish and chicken,' nouvelle cuisine's antipathy to butter and cream, and those fussy vertical food-arrangements on the plates at most chic restaurants these days. Julia didn't go in for the culinary gene-splicing that's all the rage among hip chefs: making sherbet out of chopped liver, spritzing the entree with ground-up Altoids, or turning, say, the cod soup into 'foam.' She wouldn't have cared for New York Times arch-foodie William Grimes's dismay a few years ago that boorish Americans preferred to order steak at a restaurant rather than sea urchin. Julia Child's idea of a perfect meal was a fine piece of red meat and a gin-based drink. It's mine, too."

Why Can't Swami Be More Like Julia?

Why not just be grateful if good things come your way? Swami was in a glumkins mood yesterday, mired in soft-core guilt, because life has been good to him. His reflections were triggered by a movie titled "Bright Young Things," which is about the privileged few who had a heck of a good time before the sobering advent of World War II:

"For those of us who are not self-made, our good fortune is largely dumb luck, an accident of geography abetted by a system that rewards personable, educable people. But of course we don't see it that way--our success, we like to think, is a measure of our talent and hard work. And so we have a little trouble understanding--or maybe even caring--about people and problems far removed from our reality."

Swami's good fortune seems to induce a sort of guilt (odd because LC knows for a positive fact that Swami, under his alias of Jesse Kornbluth, is author of numerous terrific magazine pieces that had to take a lot of work). Swami's muddled malaise produces other feelings:

"Are Swami and his kind the only Americans who believe that compassion and empathy are Standard Equipment for humans? Are Swami and his pals the only Americans who think we can't exploit the world--and one another--endlessly and without consequence? Are Swami and freaks like him the only ones who worry that we have had a long, giddy, free ride--and that the bill is coming due?"

Oh come off it, Swam. You and "your kind" aren't "the only Americans who believe in compassion." But while we're on the subject of your compassion, please, Swami, remember that you are free to give all your worldly belongings to the poor. I have a dreadful hunch though, that to assuage your guilt, you'd prefer to tax folks like LC, who feels that she has worked very hard and is pleased as punch if fate throws her something nice, to banish your feelings of guilt or malaise. LC is very tired of paying high taxes to make "Swami and his kind" feel better about their advantages.

The United Nations: Fiddling and Diddling

One of the things most dismaying and perplexing about the Vatican is its fondness for the East River Debating Society, that band of rogues headquartered in midtown Manhattan and known, for some unknown reason, as the United Nations.

The Holy See is a permanent observer at the United Nations, and though it doesn't hesitate to chide the organization for family planning policies, the Vatican also insists that the Church and the U.N. stand for the same fundamental human rights. The Holy See, of course, was particularly cozy with the U.N. over opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Former deputy undersecretary of defense Jed Babbin has a new book out, "Inside the Asylum: Why the U. N. and Old Europe Are Worse than You Thought," which argues that the U.N. needs to do a whole lot of re-thinking (and how about moving to some other country and not tying up traffic in the East 40's?) and that the U.S. needs a new foreign policy that isn't hostage to the U.N. and hostile dictatorships or the bratty nations of Old Europe.

An interview with Babbin, conducted by Charles Mitchell, president of the Bucknell University Conservatives Club, is available on Townhall.com:

Mitchell: In your book, you heavily criticize "Old Europe" for trying to stop the U.S. from deposing Saddam Hussein. But some high-profile conservatives are now saying that had they known what they know now about Iraq, they would not have supported the liberation there. Do you share that sentiment?

Babbin: Not at all. We went into Iraq for the best of reasons, to end the threat of Saddam's WMD and to end his support of terrorist groups. Those who say Saddam wasn't hip-deep in terrorist activity are just plain wrong. The saddest fact about the Iraq campaign is that we delayed it for about six months while the UN fiddled and diddled about enforcing its disarmament resolutions. By doing that, we gave up the advantage of surprise and let Saddam have time to move his WMD and money and plan his own survival. We know that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head al-Qaeda operative in Iraq, was there no later than September 2002. We gave Zarqawi six months to organize the insurgency that is now killing Americans. Iraq proved one thing: the UN is the antithesis of our policy of preempting terrorist operations. We have to choose between the diplomatic quagmire and preemption. Preemption is the only sensible choice. In addition to being all wet, the U. N. is a hotbed of corruption, plain, old-fashioned corruption. Claudia Rosett, who does in-depth reporting on the U.N. for the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal (the good part of the newspaper) and is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, has been the best chronicler of the oil-for-palaces program that allowed Saddam Hussein and various U. N. officials to line their pockets at the expense of the poor of Iraq.

Here are two of Rosett's pieces that may help you decide for yourself if the U.N. is worthy of the Vatican's approbation: Food for Fraud and Strip Poker.

"Not Unassailably True"

Loose Canon never agreed on much with the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the Archbishop of Chicago, a liberal stalwart of the Church, but she thought he did one thing awfully well: He showed us how to die. Bernardin, who succumbed to cancer in 1996, conducted his battle with grace and courage. Since dying is in the cards for us all, it's always good to see somebody do it well.

I've enjoyed teasing a liberal Catholic friend by threatening to ask the late cardinal for a miracle to send him on the road to becoming the Blessed Joseph. But I am not going to make good on that threat. Catholic World News, a de rigueur stop for conservative Catholics, has just posted a speech made by Richard Sipe, a former priest and a much-quoted authority on priestly abuse. The speech is also available on the website of Voice of the Faithful, a liberal group.

I don't know why I'm just hearing this because the speech was delivered at a Voice of the Faithful conference last year. Here's an excerpt, presented without commentary because LC hardly knows what to say:

"A sad, and as yet unsolved, chapter of the sexual abuse saga in the United States is the story of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. This man probably did die a saint, as his close friends attest. Without doubt, he did many wonderful things for the Church in America.

"In the media flurry that surrounded the allegation of sexual abuse, an impertinent reporter asked the Cardinal, 'Are you living a sexually active life?' A simple "no" would have been sufficient. But the Cardinal said, 'I am sixty-five years old, and I have always lived a chaste and celibate life.'

"However defensible in the arena of public assault, I knew that the statement was not unassailably true. Years before, several priests who were associates of Bernardin prior to his move to Chicago revealed that they had 'partied' together; they talked about their visits to the Josephinum to socialize with seminarians.

"It is a fact that Bernardin's accuser did not ever retract his allegations of abuse by anyone's account other than Bernardin's.

"If, as reported, three million dollars were paid in handling the scandal, certainly there are still informed people in Chicago who know at least part of the story. And the story is complex. It holds repercussions far beyond Chicago and one allegation.

"I speak of this only as an example--a clue--to a mystery. This should not be sensational. Rather, it should be an occasion for the Church to divine an important pattern of its sexual operation. The principle players must speak for themselves. But getting to the heart of the Church's sexual crisis is like solving a mystery. And it is important for her integrity that truth not be stifled by silence and subterfuge....

"There have been a few heroic priests who have given witness to how the sexual system of the church works. One courageous bishop said years ago what we all know now--that one reason the American bishops have been slow to deal with sexual abuse of minors is because some of them have been involved themselves."

I know I said I wasn't going to comment, but: (1.) The reporter who asked Bernardin the question was not impertinent--he was asking a good question. (2.) With regard to the alleged settlement, did it come from the collection plate? (3.) Why the hell was a lie "defensible in the arena of public assault"? Especially if money from the collection plate was used to as hush money. Heavens, and Loose Canon had been in such a good mood this morning.

Ending Defense Welfare As We Know It

Perhaps Fritz will change his tune now that more of the burden of defending Europe against peril is about to fall on his shoulders. Yes, big armies are sooo Retro--but, wait, did you say the Americans were leaving?

The Bush administration's decision to recognize that the Cold War is really, really over and bring home the troops who've been guarding Europe, or deploy them elsewhere, is welcome news.

Like social welfare, defense welfare destroys those it supposedly protects. Part of the reason Old Europe has been so bratty about Iraq, for example, is that most Europeans are like spoiled (but old) children, unwilling to do their chores but glad to have a tolerant uncle who'll pick up the toys.

Here's Daily Telegraph columnist Mark Steyn on the subject:

"The basic flaw in the Atlantic 'alliance' is that, for almost all its participants, the free world is a free lunch: a defense pact of wealthy nations in which only one guy picks up the tab. I said as much in a Canadian column I wrote on 9/11, and a few weeks later the dominion's deputy prime minister, John Manley, conceded that his country was dining in the best restaurants without paying its way: as he put it, "You can't just sit at the G8 table and then, when the bill comes, go to the washroom." But in NATO, for generations, whenever the bill's come, there's been a stampede to the washroom, not just from the Canadians but the Continentals, too.

"Like any other form of welfare, defense welfare is a hard habit to break and profoundly damaging to the recipient. The peculiarly obnoxious character of modern Europe is a logical consequence of Washington's willingness to absolve it of responsibility for its own security. Our Defense Editor, John Keegan, once wrote that 'without armed forces a state does not exist.'"

Of course, we moderns tend to think that civilization rests on avoiding military conflict--and that's certainly a laudable goal when possible, but a society that can't defend itself in a hostile world is doomed. To the placard statement, "War is not the answer," Loose Canon would have to say, "Depends on the question."

Of course, of course, mes amis--you're right. This move to remove troops from Europe was not made in a political vacuum. New York Post columnist John Podhoretz nails the response of the Democrats:

"[W]hy are the Kerry people so hysterical in their denunciations? They realize they've been trumped. Kerry clearly believed he had hit upon the perfect way to come at the president both from the right and the left when it came to military matters.

"Kerry wants the American people to believe that he will bring soldiers home from Iraq in a year. But he doesn't want to appear weak, so he won't say how he's going to do it other than that he will mystically convince foreign leaders who oppose the U.S. presence there to fight the war for us."

Maverick liberal blogger Mickey Kaus of kausfiles is devastating on the inept response of one major Democrat and perennial Secretary of State wannabe in particular:

"Richard Holbrooke instinctively hits on the winning political response to Bush's troop redeployment: 'I know that the Germans are very unhappy about these withdrawals.' ... Note: Sometimes you really need to let [Kerry campaign strategist and word-meister] Bob Shrum vet your sound bites..."

Is There a Catholic Position on Farm Subsidies?

A few weeks ago, I quoted from Crisis magazine editor Deal Hudson's email update about the inadequate questionnaire that the U.S. Catholic bishops sent to the two presidential candidates.

The pusillanimous questionnaire made no distinction on life issues such as abortion and gay "marriage," on which the Church has a teaching, and almost seemed to elevate matters on which good Catholics can disagree to the same level.

A new update brings glad tidings from Deal, who comments on Bishop Rene Henry Gracida, the bishop emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas, who has "published a statement wondering about the usefulness of a questionnaire that doesn't make a distinction between imperative life issues and debatable social policy issues."

A quote from the brave bip:

"While certainly there could be and should be a 'Catholic' position on most, if not all, of the issues covered by the Questionnaire, from the perspective of the Church's teaching some issues far outweigh others in importance. For instance, there is no moral equivalence between the issue of abortion-on-demand and farm subsidies. The Questionnaire should have been much shorter and should have been limited to questions on those issues on which there is a clear unequivocal teaching of the Church, e.g., abortion, cloning, assisted suicide, embryonic stem-cell research and marriage.

"There is no clear unequivocal position of the Church on such issues as the minimum wage, immigration, farm subsidies, etc. The inclusion of questions in the Questionnaire can only result in confusion in the minds of Catholic voters who do not understand that there is no moral equivalence between these two groups of issues. I can only hope that both presidential candidates will refuse to reply to the Questionnaire, or, if they do reply, that the leadership of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will recognize the danger to Catholic voters and will publish those replies with a clear teaching on the greater importance which should be attached to the replies to the first group of questions I have listed above that have far greater moral implications for the nation."

Remembering Jimmy Carter: Is There Room for Two Faces on Mount Rushmore?

I must thank Relapsed Catholic, a blog to which I have become hopelessly addicted, for tipping me off to a review in the American Spectator of Steven Hayward's new book, "The Real Jimmy Carter: How Our Worst Ex-President Undermines American Foreign Policy, Coddles Dictators, and Created the Party of Clinton and Kerry." The book is being brought out by Swami's favorite publishing house, Regnery Publishing.

Here's the yummy quote from the review by Brock Yates, who repents having voted for Jimmah:

"A quarter-century later that brief interlude in the voting booth haunts me while it produces endless amusement for my wife Pamela, who saw the peanut farmer from Plains Georgia for what he was, a nasty, egocentric Lilluput whose Cheshire-cat smile shielded a blurred, disjointed, hopelessly murky and marginally schizophrenic personality that prompted comedian Pat Paulsen to quip, 'They wanted to put Carter on Mt. Rushmore, but they didn't have room for two faces.'"

Is It John's Cave?

In one of those stories you wish were true, the Associated Press reports that archeologists in Israel...

"...think they've found a cave where John the Baptist baptized many of his followers--basing their theory on thousands of shards from ritual jugs, a stone used for foot cleansing and wall carvings telling the story of the biblical preacher."

Loose Canon enjoys biblical archaeology as much as the next right-wing Christian, but archeologist Shimon Gibson's claim to have found the cave of St. John the Baptist seem pretty far-fetched.

I'd have to agree with Catholic blogger Sed Contra who concludes that "conclusive findings seem thin, but it's interesting nonetheless."

They Just Don't Get Us

Loose Canon doesn't generally read the dependably left wing Nation magazine to get her jollies. But the magazine's unintentionally hilarious piece on efforts by Democrats to close the "religion gap" had her in stitches.

The piece was a report on a June conference on closing the religion gap that was held in a "chandelier-lit-ballroom" (I love it when the Nation goes in for a bit of New Journalism color) of a Washington hotel and featured such luminaries as former Clinton administration official John Podesta and Pulitzer Prize winning author Taylor Brach.

Here's a revealing remark on why Democrats think they have an "image-problem" with regard to us backward Christers:

"Part of the reason for the image problem, however, is that Democrats have generally opposed efforts by social conservatives to impose their religious beliefs on other Americans, a stance that often leaves them open to attack as 'antireligious,' yet is crucial to preserving pluralism and tolerance. This is no small matter at a time when President Bush laces his speeches with biblical language, allows faith-based groups to compete for federal funding regardless of whether they proselytize, and enlists churches to register voters and actively assist his campaign. We are living, as Philip Roth has wryly noted, 'in the fourth year of the ministry of George W. Bush.' It was thus welcome that, in his introductory speech at the Center for American Progress forum, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, affirmed the importance of maintaining the wall of separation between church and state, reminding the audience that, far from inhibiting religion, this division 'has allowed religion to flourish' by keeping government out of the pews. Saperstein took to task the Catholic bishops who announced they would refuse to let John Kerry take Communion because he is pro-choice, arguing that while Americans have a right to know how a politician's religious beliefs influence his or her policies, it's wrong to demand that decisions be made solely on the basis of faith.'"

The bishops aren't saying that one has to make decisions solely on the basis of faith--they're simply saying that people who don't accept the Church's teachings might not be eligible for the Church's sacraments. They would be remiss in their pastoral duty, which includes the care of John Kerry's soul (not a job Loose Canon would want!), if they did not promulgate Church dogma.

But, as for having a president who "laces his speeches with biblical language," woo, woo, that's scary. You can debate faith-based initiatives, but they're hardly a plan to take over America, and if the president "enlists" churches (as opposed to those scary people who happen to belong to churches) to register voters as a church, you can be sure the IRS will be all over the campaign like a rash (which is what LC breaks into whenever she thinks about the IRS).

Swami, Swami, Say It's Not So

I recently chided Swami for his shocking belief that felons should be allowed to vote. The Swami shot back that he only wanted eligible felons to be allowed to vote.

Well, I though that he meant eligible felons like the eligible dead people in Illinois who helped elect John F. Kennedy, but it turns out that some states really do restore voting rights to felons.

Back in the spring, John Samples of the libertarian Cato Institute had a good analysis of the felon vote in the National Review:

"The New York Times recently reported on felons seeking to restore their right to vote in Florida. One felon who failed complained that politicians were standing in judgment over him. During their first debate, someone should ask John Kerry and George W. Bush whether a man convicted of committing 'a lewd act on a child' should be allowed to vote in Florida in 2004. Their answers will tell us a lot about the men who would be president."

Is This His Last Pilgrimage?

Pope John Paul II has always had a particularly strong devotion to the Virgin Mary, and that's why I think one should not be too quick to dismiss his remarks, made after kneeling in prayer in the grotto at Lourdes, where we papists believe that an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1850.

The Vatican is playing down the Holy Father's words--"I realize with emotion that I have reached the end of my pilgrimage"--but Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who was traveling with the pope, doesn't seem to me to be engaging in spin. A report from Catholic World News:

"When the Pope says, 'I end my pilgrimage here,' that could mean two things," Cardinal Danneels told Het Laatstste Nieuws. "It was his goodbye to Lourdes and maybe also to this life." The Belgian cardinal later clarified his statement, saying that he did not mean to suggest that the Pope's death is imminent. Although the Pope may continue to lead the Church for weeks or even months, Cardinal Danneels said, 'he does recognize that the end is approaching.'"

Lourdes is probably the most beloved Marian shrine in the world. If you'd like to know more about Lourdes, Patrick Marnham, former literary editor of the Spectator (the London one), wrote a marvelous book, "Lourdes: A Modern Pilgrimage," in the early 80s. While I know nothing of Marnham's religious views (I get the feeling he's a sympathetic non-believer), I can vouch for his being a terrific writer. Don't be put off by the candles on the cover.

Speaking of Marian pilgrimages: In one of those rare acts of true ecumenism (by which I mean nobody is asked to compromise on what they see as the truth), Muslims and Christians in the Middle East who joined together for a Marian pilgrimage that coincided with the Pope's visit to Lourdes.

An Asian news service reports:

"Terrorism and bombs have not dampened the faith of thousands of Iraqis who will make the pilgrimage today and tomorrow to the northern Iraqi town of Komane at the same time as the Pope visits Lourdes.

"Many Iraqis in the U.S., Syria, Jordan and Lebanon will also make the journey to the Marian Sanctuary of Komane, one of the oldest in the country."

Loose Canon Defends a Journalist!

Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz had a piece yesterday on Matt Cooper of Time magazine, who is facing contempt of court by refusing to reveal his sources in a story related to outed CIA operative Valerie Plame. When I wrote about Cooper last week, I apparently didn't make myself clear. I may carp about the press, but I do believe in the First Amendment.

A journalist who's given his word that he won't reveal a source should not reveal a source. Cooper is right. I was commenting on the media's support for Cooper, a liberal, compared with indications that they thought Robert Novak, the conservative columnist who broke the Plame story, should reveal his sources. Neither should reveal their sources.

Wait! This Is Not About Being Gay

"Well, so much for the argument that it's better for gays to try and live a straight lifestyle," a Beliefnet member opines apropos yesterday's "I-am-a-gay-American" speech by New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey, who is resigning from office.

Well, actually, there's a better lesson to take from the tell all in Trenton: If you're a politician straying from your lawfully wedded spouse, try to lavish your affections on a boy toy--or a girl toy--who is not the sort to slap you with a sexual misconduct lawsuit when the course of true love goes wrong. Furthermore, it is unwise to reward the object of your affections with a high government post in, say, homeland security without conducting a routine background check.

The New York Post summarized the story this way:

"New Jersey Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey stunned the nation yesterday by announcing he is resigning because he is gay and had an extramarital affair with a man who aides said tried to blackmail him for up to $5 million."

The New York Post and others are reporting that the other man is Israeli poet Golan Cipel, 35, whose 2002 hiring as New Jersey's homeland security adviser provoked a "firestorm of criticism." The Newark Star Ledger has a report on "the man who toppled a governor."

Meanwhile, McGreevey's performance--in which he described looking in the mirror to search for his true sexual identity--is receiving sympathetic cluckings from the gay community. "Because he'd publicly disagreed with his Roman Catholic faith on its teachings against same-sex relationships and he helped put New Jersey's domestic partnership law into effect this year, McGreevey can reasonably expect a smooth transition into gayland, if he wants it," writes Hank Stuever in today's Washington Post Style section.

Columnist Errol Louis of the New York Daily News has a different take, describing McGreevey as "just another Jersey pol": "With yesterday's spectacular act of political self-immolation, New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey became, at a single stroke, a national hero to the gay community and America's most sought-after candidate for psychotherapy. Unfortunately, McGreevey's personal drama is likely to serve as a smoke screen for what may well be the true motive for his resignation: the fact that a tidal wave of political sleaze swirling around the Garden State was about to swamp the governor's leaky, rickety boat."

This is not a great movement for the gay rights movement. McGreevey simply needed to get before the cameras and utter the word consensual, consensual, consensual before the lawsuit that Cipel is apparently filing became public. In other words, this was a politician's pre-emptive strike, not a warm and fuzzy coming out.

If anything, McGreevey's move shows not how difficult it is to be a "gay-American" but now socially accepted it is. Faced with a scandal, he prefers to stage a sympathy-garnering, guilt-deflecting coming out that is uncannily like the heretofore standard stunt of deflecting attention from the real matter by preemptively owning up to a substance abuse problem and joyfully trooping off to Betty Ford's.

During McGreevey's unnecessarily self-involved reflections upon his sexuality, his wife, Dina Matos, a Newark hospital executive, stood bravely beside her husband. He's right that he broke moral law by cheating on her, but, had he not given Cipel a plum job, apparently without reference to his credentials, his marital infidelities would in all likelihood have remained a matter between husband and wife. He is using his homosexuality to dodge the bailiff. It's a smart move for a governor who's been dogged by scandal before this particular one.

On a lighter note: Is there a "Queer Eye for the Queer Guy"? If so, McGreevey needs your help. Who else would come out of the closet in that boring old regimental tie? Yikes. I bet next time we see the gay guv, he'll have spruced up his wardrobe, now that he's out and all. But he may be sitting in the dock, and not because he's gay.

Ich bin Icky

Speaking of hyphenated Americans, McGreevey isn't the only one trying to make hay out of his minority status. A funny piece in the Dallas Morning News by writer Ruben Navarette notes that while John F. Kerry has always wanted to capitalize on the JFK thing, it is "Teresa who sets out to lay claim to Mr. Kennedy's legacy of empathy. 'Ich bin ein immigrant.' But while Mr. Kennedy's 1963 speech in West Berlin was warm and inspiring, Ms. Heinz Kerry sounds tacky and desperate."

Was Princess Diana a Heretic?

A wonderful hymn very much associated with Diana, Princess of Wales, was "I Vow to Thee, My Country," which was sung at her wedding and at her funeral. Loose Canon, a fool for Anglican hymns and plainsong, can't stop herself from quoting from the song that the future princess came to love while a girl at West Heath boarding school (and you can listen to it online):

"I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above
entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
the love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
that lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
the love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
the love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

"And there's another country, I've heard of long ago
most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
we may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
and soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
and her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace."

Now a dreadful bishop of the Church of England, the Right Rev. Stephen Lowe, the suffragan (for non-Anglicans: This means he doesn't have the right of succession-thank heavens!) bishop of Hulme in Manchester, is calling this beautiful hymn "heretical."

The Guardian reports:

"The second verse of I Vow To Thee My Country, with its emphasis on the kingdom of heaven, is probably acceptable. But the first verse appeared to call for 'unquestioning allegiance to what a country does, whether right or wrong,' the Right Rev Stephen Lowe, the suffragan Bishop of Hulme in Manchester, said yesterday. He said the unquestioning patriotism was 'heretical' and no longer welcome. It was even more unacceptable at a time when many people were opposed to the Iraq war."

The hymn was written in 1918, the year the first World War ended, and it's not about believing your country right when it's wrong, but about loving your country. There's nothing wrong about loving one's country even when it does the wrong thing--I am perfectly prepared to go on loving my country, for example, even if it elects John Kerry president.

I Wish I'd Said It First

Remember how even members of the Fourth Estate felt that Robert Novak, who outed CIA operative Valerie Plame, should reveal his sources for the story? I now wish I'd gone on record saying it, but I knew the second that Matt Cooper of Time magazine was asked to reveal his sources for the Plame story, the press would reverse its opinion.

Cooper, a liberal, you see, is in the in-crowd (and he also happens to be a nice and funny guy), while Novak, a conservative, is in the out crowd. The Wall Street Journal beat me to the punch by going on record with the press's double standard today:

"[W]hen columnist Robert Novak looked to be the main target of special federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, our professional press ethicists were tut-tutting about how they'd never "hide" behind journalistic privilege to abet a 'crime.' But now that a federal judge has held Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in contempt for refusing to tell a grand jury the sources for his own Valerie Plame story, suddenly the eyebrows furrow and talk turns to the threat to the First Amendment."

Here We Go Again: Re-Fighting the Crusades

Gird your swords: There's a new movie coming out about the Crusades, and apparently it's not a condemnation of the doughty Christians who answered the call to fight in the Holy Land. Uh-oh.

As a headline in the New York Times today trumpets: "Film on Crusades Could Become Hollywood's Next Battleground."

"The Kingdom of Heaven," as the movie is called, is a $130 million epic about the fall of Jerusalem in the 12th century and based on historical characters such as Balian of Ibelin, a Crusader knight who led the defense of Jerusalem, and Saladin, who defeated the Christians and retook the city. Oscar-nominated director Ridley Scott shot the movie in Morocco.

The Times quotes a Jesuit historian, the Rev. George Dennis, one of the five experts hired to advise on the script, saying, "I can't think of any objections from the Christian side. And I don't think Muslims should have any objections. There's nothing offensive to anyone in there, I don't think."

But Khaled Abu el-Fadl does find the venture offensive. A professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies Islamic law, el-Fadl says that the screenplay is "offensive and a replay of historic Hollywood stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims."

The real issue here is, of course, the Crusades, that series of events that took place hundreds of years ago but which still resonate. I think that Crusades have gotten a bum rap. As Piers Paul Read, the novelist and author of one of my favorite books about the Crusades, "The Dramatic History of the Knights Templar the Most Powerful Military Order of the Crusades," put it in the old publication The Women's Quarterly (which, truth in advertising, I used to edit and, in my crusade to rehabilitate the Crusades, I assigned the piece):

"The prevailing view of the Crusades has, until now, been damning. The philosophers of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, who dismissed Christian belief as superstition, ridiculed these wars fought in the name of Christianity. The Scottish skeptic, David Hume, thought them 'the most signal and most durable monument to human folly that has yet appeared in any age or nation.' Denis Diderot's Encyclopedie, published in 1772, said they were inspired by greed, imbecility, and 'false zeal.' The same strain of contempt continues through Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to our near contemporary, Sir Steven Runciman, who concluded his monumental History of the Crusades with the judgment that they were 'nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God, which is the sin against the Holy Ghost.'"

Golly, with friends like Sir Steven, the Crusades hardly need enemies. But a new school of thought (you can find out about it by reading Read's piece in the Quarterly) seeks to go beyond the image of the Crusades the developed during the Englightenment.

One of the leading historians in the nascent move to present a fair and balanced picture of the Crusades is Jonathan Riley-Smith, Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, and author of "What Were the Crusades?"

Piers Paul Read on Riley-Smith & Co.:

"What modern historians such as Jonathan Riley-Smith of Cambridge University have now established is that the motive of the knights who responded to this call was not greed for material benefits but a craving for spiritual ones. They believed--as do Catholics today--that the pope had inherited the powers given by Christ to St. Peter to 'bind and loose' their sins--in this case to compensate them for their services as warriors by letting them off the punishment due for their sins in the world to come. The prospect of booty, and even of establishing principalities which they could then rule, was an added incentive, but at the time was hardly controversial: It was universally accepted that to the victor should go the spoils. However, the expense of mounting such a complex expedition, and the extremely poor odds in favor of survival, made material profit implausible as a motive for going to war."

Pope Urban, who preached the Crusade, probably was happy to have a method to distract his Frankish knights quarelling with each other, and the Crusade was just the ticket. The Crusades were marred by atrocities (there were no Geneva Conventions back then), but they were also a chivalrous attempt to ensure that Christians might be able to tread where Christ trod, which was becoming increasingly difficult in the face of Muslim interference. The great Muslim leader Saladin, by the way, who fought against Richard Coeur de Lion, was hailed in Christian Europe as a chivalrous warrior.

Dreaming of a Cambodian Christmas?

As you may know, John Kerry has quite possibly flip-flopped on the issue of where he spent Christmas of 1968. This is important because Kerry has claimed he spent Christmas there, and if he didn't, he's fibbing--and the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth are truthing.

Here's a summary of the story so far from columnist Zev Chafets of New York Daily News:

"On March 27, 1986, Kerry told his fellow senators: "I remember Christmas of 1968, sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by the Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and the President of the United States telling the American people that I was not there, the troops were not in Cambodia.

"'I have that memory, which is seared--seared--in me.'

"Here's the problem: Kerry's commanding officers and some of his crew members reportedly deny that he was in Cambodia on Christmas 1968. They say he was stationed near the town of Sa Dec, 55 miles from the Cambodian border."

Kerry's supporters have tried to smear the senator's detractors as politically-motivated and funded by Republicans. Duh. But that's not what matters: What matters is: Is the charge true?

As posted by my pal Lucianne Goldberg on Lucianne.com, a Kerry spokesman explained it this way to Fox News: "I believe he has corrected the record to say it was some place near Cambodia he is not certain whether it was in Cambodia but he is certain there was some point subsequent to that that he was in Cambodia."

"So maybe it wasn't Christmas--it was Easter and there was a big bunny," suggests the ever helpful Lucianne.

"Democrats haven't been this upset about an American engaging in free speech since Juanita Broaddrick opened her yap," writes Ann Coulter in a column that takes particular notice of Democratic attempts to keep an ad by the Swifties off the air.

Stop the Swift Boat--I Want to Get Off

Have Swami and I been driving you nuts lately with our endless to and fro about the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? I thought so. Still, it's hard for us Republicans to let go because, frankly, we smell blood in the water.

A recent Gallup poll suggests that the fallout from the SBVT allegations is a wash, but the night is young.

Maybe after Swami's meditated response to my thoughts about the Swift boat controversy, promised for tomorrow, we should just declare a truce on the issue?

But, Great Swami, I am glad you are taking some time to answer me--a bunch of things in your previous "rebuttal" were wrong--e.g., when I say that we can't accept your emailing yoga instructor's claim that Kerry saved his life (by preventing him from going to Vietnam), it's not, as you put it, a matter of "language."

I'm actually saying we have no idea whatsoever what would have happened to him in Vietnam. For all we know, he could have made friends with Jane Fonda and run for president. I'm not offering a "language" challenge. Ditto your "experience doesn't count" charge--that I believe that one must make a moral argument does not mean I reject experience. As you'll note if you calm down and read my post, I said that a moral argument can be made for going to Vietnam and turning against the war. That doesn't negate experience, but, as conservatives are wont to do, puts in in a moral framework.

Does this Mean that Most Felons Are Democrats?

I have one more bone that I must pick with Swami, who yesterday indicated to my horror that he wants felons to vote.

Oh, Swami, felons have, by their actions, forfeited their right to vote. People who have ended up behind bars should not, even when they are out, be helping us elect a president. There's a price to pay for crime, and the loss of voting privileges is one. Why are the Democrats so eager to sign up the felons? Here's why (according to the ever prophetic Phyllis Schlafley):

"Despite President George W. Bush's high poll numbers [this piece appeard in January], the Democrats think they have the key to winning the 2004 elections. Get the votes of convicted felons. Don't laugh; the Democrats are deadly serious.

"The nation's 4 million convicted felons could be enough to swing the November election. Surveys show that the overwhelming majority would vote Democratic if they could, so felons are a voting bloc that Democrats are just itching to harvest.

"In addition to providing the magic bullet to elect their candidates in November, this issue reprises all the sour grapes whining by Democrats about the president winning Florida in 2000. The Democrats know that if felons had been allowed to vote in Florida, Al Gore would have won Florida and be president today."

Don't Row the Swift Boat Ashore Too Soon

Democrats are having a hissy fit about the book "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry" by John O'Neill, a veteran, and a professional writer called Jeremy Corsi. But wouldn't it be easier on the coronary arteries just read the book and make up your mind? (Well, maybe not.)

Urges Washington Times columnist Tony Blankley, who has read the book:

"The book has the ring of sincerity to it, and the mark of careful research and writing. If they are not telling the truth, all these men have exposed themselves to financially ruinous libel actions by Mr. Kerry--who has the private resources to prosecute such actions. Even as a public figure, he might well win such an action, if this book is the pack of lies the Kerry camp says it is.

"If it is not a pack of lies, the nation needs to know that, too. I would encourage some of the major voices of the non-conservative mainline media--Tim Russert, Dan Rather, Leonard Downie Jr. of The Washington Post--to do as I did. Spend an evening reading the book.

Truer Words Were Never Spoken Dept.: A Kerry staffer is quoted in the American Spectator explaining that the senior staff isn't worried about the book because "the media wouldn't have the nerve to come at us with this kind of stuff. ...The senior staff believes the media is committed to seeing us win this thing, and that the convention inoculated us from these kinds of stories. The senior guys really think we don't have a problem here."

Conservative media watcher Brent Bozell agrees and opines (with asides about CBS reporter/Kerry fan club prez Byron Pitts) that the media doesn't want to probe Kerry's war stories:

"What's depressing here for the American people is that the 'mainstream press' is so relentlessly partisan that they have so utterly failed to see it as their job to explore the full biography of a man who stands a very decent chance of becoming the next president.

"Since 1999, this national press corps devoted weeks to unproven charges and shadowy assertions that George W. Bush was hiding things about his service in the Texas Air National Guard. This national press corps has treated every nasty Democratic soft-money group and Michael Moore in-kind contribution to the Kerry campaign as just a sign of great liberal vigor. The Kerry war stories were their test to see if they're reliable watchdogs or if they're just another coordinated part of the Democratic campaign machine. The results are in."

Tim Graham also charges on National Review that the media is more interested in electing Kerry than reporting on him.

LC hopes we'll pay more attention to the book than we did to Gennifer Flowers, who turned out not to be lying after all; what she said was predictive of a lot that happened in the administration.

But there's no way Flowers' revelations would have prevented Clinton from being elected in a landslide--the electorate appears to be closer this time. Committed Democrats will vote for the policies and not the stiff, but I can see other voters weighing the vets' charges before they decide.

It's the Flip Flops, Stupid

Conservative columnist Linda Chavez on why God-talk at the Democratic convention may not save John Kerry:

"[W]hy aren't his words resonating with the people of faith Kerry talked about? Although Kerry attends mass regularly, and carries a rosary and prayer book with him on the campaign trail, he is at odds with his Church on abortion and gay marriage. But perhaps more importantly, Kerry's positions on these issues seem motivated more by political expediency than principle.

"He says he opposes gay marriage, but voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, one of only a handful of senators to do so. He has said that he believes that life begins at conception and that he is personally opposed to abortion but then votes consistently counter to these professed moral principles. Kerry has voted against legislation to outlaw the gruesome practice of late-term, partial-birth abortion each time it has come up. And just weeks ago, he abandoned campaigning to return to the Senate floor to vote against the 'unborn victims of crime bill,' which would allow federal prosecutors to treat violence against a pregnant woman as a crime against two victims."

But Surely Liberal Believers Like His God-Talk?

Here's the blurb to an article in Commonweal, the prominent Bible (or should I say Missal?) of liberal Catholics: "Can John Kerry reach 'persuadable' Catholic voters? Not until he starts talking about his Catholicism in a way that avoids disowning it by blithely invoking the separation of church and state, argues Amy Sullivan. Toeing the tired middling line of church-and-state rhetoric won't wash with Catholics of any stripe."

He Didn't Save Any Lives in Saigon

Everybody who doesn't live in an igloo knows by now that John Kerry is a hero who saved the lives of his Swift boat colleague Jim Rassman, who cut an ad for him, and Licorice the hamster, who has been strangely silent during the campaign season. Both were fished from a watery grave by the future presidential aspirant.

Isn't that enough for one war hero? Apparently not, because now my Swift boat colleague, the Swami, is giving John the Gaunt credit for saving practically an entire generation that might otherwise have perished in Vietnam. Hold on, Swami.

As evidence of this claim, Swami cites an email from a formerly young man who decided not to go to Vietnam because of John Kerry's "passionate and eloquent" congressional testimony against the war. Swami's pen pal is worth quoting in some detail:

"In 1971, as a lost 17-year-old with no future, I was about to enlist in the Navy. I had no illusions about saving the world from the 'domino theory' or the Red menace. Like countless others, then and now, I saw military service as a way out, a free education and a shot at the G.I. bill.

"Then I heard about Kerry's congressional testimony as a Vietnam Veteran Against the War. Not only did his passionate and eloquent testimony profoundly influence the course of our involvement in that misbegotten and mismanaged war, it changed the course of my life in a way I couldn't truly appreciate or understand for years."

There are all sorts of things wrong with the above. Why was he a "lost 17-year-old with no future?" Swami's emailer simply states as fact that he would have been killed in Vietnam instead of growing up to be a Hatha Yoga instructor. Many people returned from that conflict. Tragically, many didn't. But it is only by positing the claim of the ineluctable death can this man can claim that Kerry saved his life.

Regardless of whether Kerry saved the life of the future Yoga instructor, I don't think many in Saigon would credit him with saving lives. The fall of Saigon in 1975, occasioned in part by the protests of Kerry and his ilk, was an unmitigated disaster, costing the lives of thousands of Vietnamese and creating the phenomenon of the boat people fleeing that hell. Conservative columnist Mona Charen notes in her useful book "Useful Idiots" that by 1980 as many as 800,000 had taken to their boats to escape Communist Vietnam.

No, Kerry and Jane Fonda didn't save lives in Saigon. Au contraire, as he might put it.

Moral arguments can be made for (1.) going to Vietnam to fight, (2.) not going to Vietnam for reasons of conscience, and even (3.) going to Vietnam and returning to fight against the war. What is harder is making a case protesting by way of participation in the star-studded Winter Soldier Investigation, of which Kerry was a luminary.

A "highly influential publicity stunt," as Charen calls it, the "investigation" featured "vets" who came forward and testified to horrors committed by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. Charen:

"Many of the veterans who were listed as attendees at the Winter Soldier meeting had not in fact been anywhere near the place. In other words their identities had been pirated by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Fake veterans thus testified to fake atrocities."

Kerry, of course, was a real vet who testified, though his charges that U.S. soldiers "raped, cut off ears, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of Vietnam" have not been verified.

"Vietnam Veterans Against the War," writes Charen, "did do some good for one real veteran, a decorated veteran at that. John Kerry, tall, handsome, and highly ambitious, was able to use VVAW as a launching pad for his political career. He had returned from service in Vietnam 'as a rather normal vet,' according to one friend: 'He was glad to be out but not terribly uptight about the war.' But the ambitious Kerry quickly gauged the political mood in Massachusetts and before long became the highly telegenic spokesman for VVAW."

This is not, as somebody in Ted Kennedy's office so felicitously put it when asked about his 1970s mini-feud with Teresa Heinz, water under the bridge. The scary issue today is, as Reason magazine puts it, if Kerry becomes president, will there be "Saigon on the Tigris?"

"When it comes to Vietnam, it was John Paul Vann who embodied stubborn faith in the possibility of victory in a war most contemporaries considered a lost cause. His biography, "A Bright Shining Lie," earned Neil Sheehan a Pulitzer Prize. Yet Sheehan wrote about Vann with the affection, and hard eye, one reserves for the quixotic. Kerry, in contrast, gave up on the whole affair early, and it's fair to wonder whether his faith in victory in Iraq will prove as short-lived."

Swami on My Mind

As Beliefnet regulars might not be surprised to learn, Swami and I are not in the same boat when it comes to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the vets who oppose John Kerry and say he has lied about his experiences in Vietnam.

I have to quote the Swamster at some length:

"Swami posed a blunt question to Loose Canon: Those Viet vets who say Kerry faked injuries, didn't deserve his medals and was unfit to lead a boat, much less a country--they also say they were his shipmates. Were they?

LC's response: 'While the vets' claim to have served with John Kerry is technically correct (they are Vietnam vets of his era), they were not on his Swift boat.'

"Translation: It depends what your definition of 'is' is.

"Let's try LC's logic: Swami was in New York City when the President came to town. A few months later, Swami gets headlines by claiming that he saw Bush drinking Red Bull-and-vodka in a gay bar. Obviously, this is a lie. But say Swami writes in the next day's blog, 'Hey, Swami and Bush were on the same island at the same time.' Then he's framed the line as something less than the total fib it is. You could--if you were a Republican apologist--almost say he's presented a rejoinder. And he has, if you assume his readers are morons--or capable of being stunned into abject stupefaction."

Swami, there is a difference in being in the Swift boat directly behind John Kerry's Swift boat, as one of the vets claims he was, or on a nearby Swift boat, as others were, and being at, say, Elaine's, the trendy New York watering hole, while George Bush is addressing the United Nations.

Retired Adm. Roy Hoffman admitted to the New York Times that the men in the anti-Kerry advertisement weren't on the same boat as Kerry, but explained, "We were on the same operations, we were operating within 25-50 yards of him all the time..."

On the brighter side, I commend you for your honesty in admitting that you have not seen GWB drinking a Red Bull and vodka in a gay bar. No doubt, however, some of your pals in the Democratic Party are now contemplating similar charges.

John Kerry and the "Fog of War"

Who's telling the truth? The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth or John Kerry? It's hard to know. As Clauswitz observed, the "fog of war" obscures what actually happens on a battlefield.

This was a theme harped upon by Leo Tolstoy in the talkier chapters of "War and Peace." Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum made a similar point in her Sunday review of a more recent book on the same war that inspired Tolstoy's ruminations, "Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March to Moscow" by Adam Zamoyski:

"Certain historical events become so covered in myth and significance, so overlaid with patriotism and emotion, that over time many people forget what really happened and why. Napoleon's fatal 1812 march on Moscow is one such event. As Adam Zamoyski puts it, 'No other campaign in history has been subjected to such overtly political uses.'"

Why are we talking about Kerry's war experiences if the fog of war hides the absolute truth? Isn't it just another overtly political use of the war?

We're talking about it because Kerry raised the issue and because, despite the fog of war, you can learn about a man's character from his war experience. One of the questions that the Swift boat vets raise is whether Kerry's claim that he spent a Christmas in Cambodia is true. It seems to me that this is one that the media, if it so desired, could investigate. The answer would tell us who's lying.

Columnist Mark Steyn says the Christmas in Cambodia claim doesn't add up:

"As he told the Boston Herald in 1979, 'I remember spending Christmas Eve of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real.'

"LBJ was President on Christmas Eve 1968, but let that pass. Here's an Associated Press story from 1992: 'Navy Lt John Kerry knew he had no business steering his Mekong River patrol boat across the border into Cambodia, but orders were orders... By Christmas 1968, part of Kerry's patrol extended across the border of South Vietnam into Cambodia.'

"Just one problem. It never happened. Every living officer up his chain of command says Kerry was never ordered to Cambodia. At least three of his five crewmen say their boat was never in Cambodia. And if you don't believe any of his fellow veterans, read the excerpt from Kerry's own journal published in "Tour Of Duty", the recent hagiography by Douglas Brinkley."

More on Going Straight

In response to yesterday's entry on Randy Thomas, who forsook the gay life to become a husband and father (and provoke the enmity of the gay movement), a reader sent me a piece that turns out to be by fellow Beliefnet contributor Diana Keough.

Diana's piece, which recounts the sexual journey of another man, is downright gripping--I read it wondering if he'd go straight or kill himself. "With so many people," Diana told me in an email, "it does seem to be a lifelong struggle--the same struggle that former cigarette smokers and alcoholics talk about. My editor (at the Plain Dealer) and I are just surprised that no other secular newspaper (my word, not hers) have ever written on this, in such depth, b/f. Whether you believe it can happen, or not (she doesn't) it's a great story... (I'm surprised how few evangelicals know about programs such as this one)."

How Do You Say Die Gotterdammerung in Atheist?

Atheists have a hell of a time, expending all that energy railing at Somebody who doesn't exist. But now the godless are confronted with a problem that has long bedeviled Anglican vicars: the empty pew, atheist style.

Forty years ago, when Time magazine did the infamous "God Is Dead" cover, an estimated half the world did not believe in God. Ah, those were the days. But "the tide has dramatically turned," argues Christian Science Monitor religion editor Jane Lampman in a review of Oxford scholar Alistar McGrath's "The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World."

The heyday of atheism was, according to the book, between the fall of the Bastille and the fall of the Berlin wall, and it received its initial impetus from the goal of throwing off the shackles of oppression.

But atheism has turned out to be a bummer. Lampman notes:

"Atheism envisioned a glorious future for a humanity freed from outdated religious dogmas and restrictions, with unlimited potential provided by scientific advancement and the human imagination. Human beings could not only be good without God, but much better.

"The reality has been very different. Along with progress, scientific advance brought environmental devastation and the potential to eliminate human life. Atheistic regimes dominating a huge proportion of the globe created new forms of tyranny (including mind control) and executed unprecedented millions."

And some atheists take their brawling against God to unattractive lengths:

"[McGrath] acknowledges that atheism, like Marxism, has always been more popular in Europe than in the US because of the fight against entrenched institutions. In telling the story of Madalyn Murray O'Hare, he suggests the unattractiveness of the US atheist community is another reason."

McGrath admits that Christianity hasn't yet recovered from the 1960s, but Loose Canon is already wondering, How do you say Die Gotterdammerung in atheist?

By the way, Lampman describes "Twilight" as "accessible intellectual history," and, if it's anything like his earlier "In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture," it is, indeed, a delight to read.

I can't resist plugging "In the Beginning," such a marvelous book that LC was willing to wink at McGrath's deeply Prot sympathies (hardly a surprise--he is a don at Oxford's Wycliffe Hall, named after the 14th century Lollard preacher). Add it to your shopping cart.

Another Scary Thing about George Bush

McGrath's glad tidings have yet to reach the chattering classes. Here's a delightful nugget from The American Enterprise magazine by L.A. Daily News editorial page editor Chris Weinkopt:

"'Do most Americans realize just how fervent the President's evangelical faith is?' So asks the New York Times' Alessandra Stanley, in her review of the PBS 'Frontline' documentary, 'The Jesus Factor,' which examines the role of faith in George W. Bush's life and Presidency. Stanley believes that Americans would be distressed to know that Bush engages in such outlandish behavior as daily Bible-reading, prayer, and allowing his spiritual life to inform his political one. After all, she is. Among members of the establishment media, Stanley is not alone...."

Randy Goes Straight

I never intended to grow up to be the sort of person who's intolerant of gays-and I didn't. But the gay movement has become so vicious, especially toward those who decide they want to change, that I can't sit back and ignore what's happening.

A case in point is the way Randy Thomas, who works for a group called Exodus, was treated after he appeared in an L. A. Times ad ("I questioned homosexuality. And when I found a way out, I took it.") paid for by the group.

Writer Warren Throckmorton of the conservative Grove City College described Thomas's ad-venture:

Times columnist Steve Lopez called the Thomas ad 'the largest singles ad in publishing history.' Why? Mr. Lopez is a bit skeptical of Randy's changes, preferring to consider him a bisexual who is now more in touch with his straight side. And so he suspects Randy's motives for appearing in the ad are to attract both men and women to the phones to learn more about that handsome guy pictured in the paper. Ex-gays are used to that 'you-were-never-gay-but-really-bisexual-all-along' rap so that was expected."

Meanwhile, Joan Garry, Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) claimed on its website that the Times had opened "its pages to ads and groups promoting an agenda of fear and intolerance toward our community."

Why doesn't Randy Thomas have a right to make a choice--it's a very difficult choice, fraught with difficulties, and Thomas deserves our support.

Terrible Spinning

Maverick liberal blogger Mickey Kaus of kausfiles is a hoot on the anti-Bush response to the terror alerts:

"Old Anti-Bush Spin: Why are you warning us about these threats now?

"New Anti-Bush Spin: Why are you telling us why you are warning us about these threats now?

"Old Anti-Bush Spin: Why did you wait three weeks before issuing the alert? "New Anti-Bush Spin: Why didn't you wait longer?"

How Many Angels Can Dance on the Head of a Pin? At Last, the Answer

Swami accuses Loose Canon's oeuvre of being "another valiant effort to count the number of angels (no, none of them are Democrats) dancing on a pinhead (no, not the President)."

O, Swami, I hate to say it but: this is a pinhead way of claiming that poor old Loose Canon traffics in the irrelevant (you know, life, death, the sanctity of marriage, etc.). It is an allusion to the supposedly equally irrelevant concerns of medieval churchmen.

Well, St. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest Scholastic of them all, may have been dubbed the Dumb Ox, but he wasn't that dumb, Oh Great Swami. The notion that Scholastics got their habits in a twist over the question of angels on a pinhead is most likely a 17th century canard.

A notable propagator of the nefarious rumor was Isaac D'Israeli (1766-1848), the father of Benjamin, LC's second favorite English Prime Minister (after Lady Thatcher) of modern times. The elder D'Israeli, author of several popular books of the day, mocked the Scholastic philosophers, in particular Aquinas, for their propensity to debate the fine points of metaphysics.

Here's the straight dope on angels-on-a-pinhead from a well-nigh infallible web source called The Straight Dope:

"Aquinas wrote several ponderous philosophical tomes, the most famous of which went by the awe-inspiring title Summa Theologica, 'summary of theology.' It contained, among other things, several dozen propositions on the nature of angels, which Thomas attempted to work out by process of pure reason. The results were pretty tortured, and to the hipper-than-thou know-it-alls of the Enlightenment (i.e., D'Israeli's day), they seemed a classic example of good brainpower put to nonsensical ends....

"Fact is, Aquinas did debate whether an angel moving from A to B passes through the points in between, and whether one could distinguish 'morning' and 'evening' knowledge in angels. (He was referring to an abstruse concept having to do with the dawn and twilight of creation.) Finally, he inquired whether several angels could be in the same place at once, which of course is the dancing-on-a-pin question less comically stated. (Tom's answer: no.) So the answer to your question is yes, medieval theologians did get into some pretty weird arguments, if not quite as weird as later wise guys painted them."

Bringing in the Votes--Oops I Mean Sheaves

Loose Canon struck up a chat with a fellow traveler on the subway who was sporting a handsome red white and blue Bush-Cheney button. Turns out he was a Democrat who believes his party has done a lot to help the poor but that it has become the party of abortion and gay "marriage."

Contrary to what some on the chat boards seem to believe, Loose Canon does not think that all the Christians in the Democratic Party have been fed to the lions. She realizes that there are millions of Christians in the rank and file of the party (very special kudos to the Rev. Jim Wallis for trying to get the Dems to make room for pro-lifers), but LC readily confesses to believing that the party's high muckety mucks regard us a backwards and unhip. They simply have no concept of the content of religion for the relatively traditional believer, and that is why their repeated references to faith verge on the comedic.

Don't miss Weekly Standard Publisher Terry Eastland's take on a faith-based gathering of Democrats in Boston:

"In the sanctuary hung a cloth sign stating that 'Lesbians, Gays & Friends at Old South Church' are 'Open and Affirming.' One of the nation's most progressive political pastors, the Rev. Dr. James Forbes of the Riverside Church in Manhattan, who had spoken to the earlier luncheon, delivered the sermon. The service ended with a 'statement of our vision' in which attendees committed themselves to public policies favoring 'full employment,' 'a true livable wage,' 'universal access to pre-kindergarten and childcare programs,' and a 'progressive tax policy.' Not exactly the Apostles Creed, but you have to remember that progressive, even prophetic, faith was astir."

Scary Civil Rights Threat!

No, it's not from Attorney General John Ashcroft. It's from the Democrat lawyers who're trying to prevent an ad by anti-Kerry Vietnam vets from airing.

The ad is pretty tough--it features Vietnam vets claiming that Kerry lied about his service in Vietnam. The Drudge Report and Human Events have made it available online. Human Events also reports that, despite an allegedly misleading headline in the Boston Globe, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, as they call themselves, are hanging tight.

While the vets' claim to have served with John Kerry is technically correct (they are Vietnam vets of his era), they were not on his Swift boat. Some of their charges are outrageous and seem implausible. The vet I'd most like to hear from is the physician who claims to have treated Kerry for a war wound.

The NAACP ran ads in 2000 that practically accused George W. Bush of the dragging death of James Byrd Jr. by three white supremacists in Texas. It was a hideous, ugly, unfair advertisement, but I am glad GOP lawyers didn't shut it down. I don't care for the crude propaganda of "Fahrenheit, 9/11" (yes, I saw it), but I certainly don't want the movie closed down by lawyers.

A column in the Seattle Times points out that Kerry's campaign might be making a mistake in attacking the vets against Kerry:

"If Kerry wants the leadership campaign to be about his time in Vietnam, he and his emissaries should be careful about impugning the motives of his veteran detractors. As one of them said, 'We didn't lose the war on the ground in Vietnam, we lost it at home, and at home John Kerry was the field general.'"

Meanwhile syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer has a theory on why the Swift boat vets onstage with Kerry in Boston weren't able to row their man, if not to victory, at least to bounce:

"The convention gave no bounce because it consisted of but two elements: Vietnam, plus attacks on the president. The press swallowed the claim that the convention, following a directive from on high, was not negative. In fact, that meant simply that Al Gore was not to repeat his charge that the Bush administration is allied with 'digital brown shirts' and running a 'gulag.' And that Bush was not to be attacked by name."

Remembering the Peoples' Princess

Loose Canon earlier this week mused on how we talk about the dead. But what about memorializing them? Princess Diana, who must have made the royals wish they could employ the Ann Boleyn Solution to troubling royal wives, is being remembered by a Hyde Park monument that has been dubbed "the puddle" because of the profusion of waterworks.

Some don't--and others do--feel that it does the princess justice. A report on the matter:

"Diana's mother was hoping for something a bit more stately, and criticised the memorial's 'lack of grandeur.' But this is exactly the point, insisted head of the memorial panel Rosa Monckton: 'I particularly didn't want to have a colossal fountain. Something that becomes a spectacle. I feel that so much of her life she was a spectacle and this circle of water is somewhere children can play and people can go in and out.

"A memorial that is ever changing and inclusive, that doesn't really mean anything but kids can splash around in it...some might say that this was a fairly accurate way of remembering the late princess. But memorials normally lie, they make a weak man out to be strong and a dull person out to be interesting. Just look at Trafalgar Square, where the self-obsessed and philandering George IV is shown looking very noble on his horse. While past artists might have made something up, the maker of the Diana memorial showcases the fact that there wasn't much to her subject."

Struck by Lightning?

Is it really that hard to find a director of religious outreach who doesn't turn off ordinary Christians? Well, apparently so for the Democrats. The Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson, who was to be the Democratic National Committee's official religious guru, has resigned after serving fewer than two weeks.

Religion News Service reports:

"Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson said it was 'no longer possible for me to do my job effectively' after the New York-based Catholic League issued three blistering press releases attacking her positions. 'As of today I am resigning my position as the director of religious outreach because it is no longer possible for me to do my job effectively,' Peterson said in a statement to Religion News Service. 'I continue to believe, as do leading faith leaders across this country, that John Kerry should be the next president of the United States and that John Kerry's values of opportunity, family and responsibility are America's values.'"

Her sin? She was one of 32 members of the clergy who filed an amicus brief in support of removing the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. In other words, she wasn't quite the right ambassador to the suddenly coveted religious voters that the Democrats are so eager to embrace, even if it means putting a clothes pin over their noses.

"And this is the person the Democrats want to dispatch to meet the heads of religious organizations? Are they out of their minds? Would they hire a gay basher to reach out to homosexuals?" asked the [Catholic] League's president, Bill Donohue, in a press release on Monday.

I think that this contretemps points to a bigger problem the Democrats are going to have in attempting to woo the ordinary religious voter--they don't know many. The Democrats have gotten religion (and values, did I mention values?) but their faith and values have very little content in common with the faith and values of those whom they seek.

But Loose Canon must clear up an item of confusion: When Peterson was appointed to her guru job--why it seems like yesterday, and it just about was--LC hoped that Mara Vanderslice, who had earlier been appointed director of religious outreach by the Kerry campaign, was in a better place.

But she is not in a better place--she is in the same place. Vanderslice works for the Kerry campaign, while Peterson was appointed to work at the Democratic National Committee. Contrary to a number of reports (including one from LC), Vanderslice's job was not affected. Mea culpa.

Like Peterson, Vanderslice, who has spoken at events sponsored by the anti-Catholic group ACT-UP, has come under fire from the Catholic League.

Will: Questions for Kerry

Columnist George Will has important questions to ask the man who would (over LC's dead body) be president:

Mr. Kerry, in your convention speech you threw caution to the wind and endorsed what you called "one of the oldest Commandments: 'Honor thy father and thy mother.'" Oldest? Were they not all published together?

You invoke the Commandment to explain why you "will not cut" Social Security benefits. Does that include raising the retirement age, which Congress set at 65 in 1935, when the life expectancy of an American male was 62?

Regarding military action, your platform says "we will never wait for a green light from abroad when our safety is at stake." But the platform's preceding paragraph denounces President Bush's "doctrine of unilateral pre-emption." If unilateralism is wrong, are you not committed to some sort of "green light from abroad"? Will asks other pertinent questions, and, good as they are, don't expect answers from a campaign that's determined to traffic only in bromides.

The Party of Lawyers Threatens to Sue. Again

Here's a really depressing item from Instapundit:

"CRUSHING OF DISSENT: Kerry's campaign is threatening to sue stations that air the Swiftboat Vets ad. They're claiming that the people pictured aren't who they say they are."

The Swiftboat vets in question are ones who oppose Kerry and include John O'Neill, who took over Kerry's Swift Boat, who has coauthored a book, "Unfit for Command" that (as an item on the Drudge Report puts it) has "uncovered the bizarre truth behind Kerry's three Purple Hearts, his Bronze and Silver Stars."

Some of the claims in the book strike me as bizarre indeed--for example, that Kerry "earned his Silver Star by killing a lone, fleeing, teenage Viet Cong in a loincloth."

Why do I just not believe this?

But the way to fight back is by refuting such claims--not by shutting down the vets' right to speak.

This is a political campaign, and sometimes things get rough--but it portends ill that the Kerry campaign is trying to shut down free speech.

Biased in Baghdad-and Elsewhere

Loose Canon today proffers sage advice to get you through the next three months: don't believe what you read in the newspapers. It will be biased. (Of course, it's okay to partake of Fox News Channel and a few other acceptable outlets that give it to you straight.)

Take, for example, the Iraq war. One of the most crucial questions facing us in deciding whom to vote for in the presidential election. Yet, thanks to news media biases, most of us haven't the foggiest what's really going on there.

The majority of the members of the press corps opposed the war in Iraq, and their reporting tends to enforce the notion that it was a huge mistake. Karl Zinsmeister, who spent time on the ground in Baghdad to report his book Dawn Over Baghdad: How the U.S. Military is Using Bullets and Ballots to Remake Iraq, has a devastating piece on the cause and effects of skewed reporting in on Iraq in National Review.

"The bias toward failure is fanned," writes Zinsmeister, "by what [U.S. News & World Report politial columnist] Michael Barone calls the 'zero defect standard' of today's media. For months, armchair journalists without the slightest understanding of what real war is like have howled that this guerilla struggle hasn't been run according to a tidy 'plan.' Why did we 'allow' the looting? How come nobody anticipated the IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) threat? Isn't it wrong for GIs to invade people's houses?"

Media misperceptions permeate the coverage. For example: "If I tell you that scores of Iraqi detainees have been killed and maimed this year in Abu Ghraib prison," writes Zinsmeister, "you may not be surprised. But you're probably guessing wrong about who hurt them. The moronic American guards who are now on trial for improperly humiliating some Iraqis caused no deaths or injuries: The many casualties in the prison were all inflicted by Iraq's guerilla terrorists..."

"Or take another of the Iraq stories most loudly trumpeted in our media: the electricity shortages. You know Baghdad continues to suffer periodic blackouts-- news reports remind us of that ad nauseum. Just one more example of U.S. ineffectiveness in this war: The generating system is broken and nothing gets fixed, right?

"Wrong. Despite continuing efforts by guerillas to sabotage the grid, Iraq is now generating more electricity than existed in the country before the war."

The media's bias is oft times helpful to America's enemies:

"Unbalanced war reporting can have fatal effects. Any guerilla war is as much a struggle of truthful images as it is a military encounter. Unbalanced coverage can demoralize forces of good, and encourage the sowers of chaos."

Media bias isn't, of course, contained in Baghdad--here's an item from the web site of the invaluable Media Research Center on New York Times reporter John Tierney's informal survey of media bias at the Democratic convention:

"The New York Times's John Tierney found twelve times as many Kerry supporters as Bush backers when he surveyed Washington-based reporters at the Democratic convention. But on FNC last night, Tierney insisted that his findings don't mean that journalists are liberal. Tierney claimed journalists just 'tend to go after who's ever in power. So they've been going after Bush now, but they went after Clinton, too.'"


And while we're on the subject of media bias, Brent Bozell, founder and president of the aforementioned Media Research Center, has a new book entitled "Weapons of Mass Distortion: The coming Meltdown of then the Liberal Media." "So why the hysterical claims of conservative domination of the media?" Bozell asked recently in National Review. "Because liberals fear that their monopoly on news coverage is in jeopardy."

Should Pro-Choice Catholics Take Their Medicine?

Golly, remember when the Church used to actually excommunicate people?

The Church's wrangling with pro-choice Catholics has called to mind (well, some minds) the excommunications of arch segregationists in New Orleans in the 1960s. As reporter Bruce Nolan of Religion Journal recalls the drama:

"The blow fell just before Easter 1962, in a city attuned to the solemn rhythms of traditional Catholicism. On Monday of Holy Week, Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel announced the excommunication of three Catholic public figures for loudly condemning his decision to integrate the archdiocese's Catholic schools.

"Until they repented, Rummel declared, Leander Perez, Jackson Ricau and Una Gaillot were outside the church. New Orleans knew them well as furious public warriors against integration. But without a change of heart, Rummel said, they could not receive the Eucharist, the center of Catholic life, nor would they be buried in the embrace of their church."

Rummel agonized over his decision, worrying about a possible split in his diocese and the spiritual effect on the three people he excommunicated.

Nolan's article notes:

"Today the battleground has shifted from segregation to abortion. And threats of excommunication then have morphed into threats to deny Communion to certain Catholic politicians."

I once interviewed Una Gaillot, the only member of the trio still alive, and it was obvious that being excommunicated was a horrendously painful experience--but not, alas, so painful that Mrs. Gaillot asked forgiveness and asked to return to the Church. That seems to be her position today:

"She will not give in. But defiance takes its toll, she acknowledged. 'If you only knew how hard it is. It used to be harder; it's starting to help.'

"'But Good Friday,'--she hesitated, tearing up--'Damn, Good Friday's hard. And Easter Sunday. Those two days are hard. Because I can't go to church." That's not, ideally, the way it should work. The hope in excommunication is that the sinner will repent and return to the fold. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains:

"It [excommunication] is also a medicinal rather than a vindictive penalty, being intended, not so much to punish the culprit, as to correct him and bring him back to the path of righteousness."

The Cradle of Christianity: Is There Hope?

Shortly before the recent church bombings in Iraq, Beliefnet conducted a fascinating interview with Fr. Clarence Burby. Burby, a Jesuit working with Iraqi refugees in Jordan, believes that Christians fared better under Saddam's regime.

Christians are in a perilous condition in Iraq, but a more hopeful assessment of the situation of Iraqi Christians comes from--of all places--England's left-leaning Guardian.

Guardian reporter Martin Wainwright reports that Turkish Christians, who also live under primarily Islamic rulers and were once under attack in much the same way Iraqi Christians are today, have seen their lives improve vastly in recent years. Wainwright points to an "intriguing shift" that has taken place in an ancient Christian stronghold, barely outside Iraq, in Turkey's Tur Abdin, the "Mountains of the Servants of God:"

"Pilgrims, students, and tourists of all faiths and none, are returning to nearby monasteries, which were 700 years old when the first stones were laid at Fountains or Rievaulx. Four-and-a-half centuries after the English abbeys were dissolved by Henry VIII, the cloisters still ring with Syriac chants.

"Yet it is only 20 years since the pocket-sized congregations lived in terror, with bombs going off outside their walls. Almost everyone with the money to do so had fled to the west."

By the way, I am taking the Guardian off LC's Index of Forbidden Newspapers--it's leftwing, but it has interesting, well-written stories, some of which, like the one above, don't hew the lefty line.

Don't They Need More than a Time-Out and a Trip to the Shrink?

"Suppose you're shifting some books on the dresser of your 13-year-old boy when out from between the pages of the Columbia Encyclopedia drops a raunchy photo from Penthouse. Do you send him away for counseling?"

This is how a post on a bishop's lenient treatment of a priest found reading pornography begins. It is on "Off the Record," one of the most consistently interesting of the Catholic blogs. Caveat: OTR's pens are dipped in sulphur.

Is There a Buddhist Mel Gibson?

LC just came across National Review's Michael Potemra's charming review of a Korean movie titled "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring." Potemra compares the film to Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," and notes: "But within this ahistorical view of the cycle of life, the diagnosis of the human problem is remarkably similar to that of Christianity."

Is There a Buddhist Mel Gibson?

LC just came across National Review's Michael Potemra's charming review of a Korean movie titled "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring." Potemra compares the film to Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," and notes: "But within this ahistorical view of the cycle of life, the diagnosis of the human problem is remarkably similar to that of Christianity."

The Democrats: Have They Lost Their Minds?

Praying for victory, the Democrats acquired a new religion guru. She's the Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson, who's replacing Mara Vanderslice as the Kerry campaign's director of religious outreach. No word on the reason for Ms. Vanderslice's departure, but Loose Canon hopes she's in a better place.

Well, if the old saying "by their directors of religious outreach shall ye know them" is true, the choice of the Rev. Peterson, an ordained minister in the Disciples of Christ Church, is an illuminating pick.

She may appeal to more liberal segments of those God-fearing folks the Democrats are suddenly wooing, but more conservative types are likely to be turned off when they learn of one of her most notable actions--she was one of 32 members of the clergy who filed an amicus brief in support of Michael Newdow, the atheist who sought to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. Newdow, you might recall, filed the suit in the name of his daughter, whose mother is raising her as a Christian.

The Catholic League, a conservative group, has put out a release saying that the choice of Peterson "shows infinitely more concern for the sensibilities of atheists like Newdow than it does for the 90 percent of Americans who believe in God."

"And this is the person the Democrats want to dispatch to meet with the heads of religious organizations? Are they out of their minds? Would they hire a gay basher to reach out to homosexuals?" League president William Donohue asked.

Swami asked us to come up with prayers for the Rev. Jerry Falwell, that bete noir of the religious right, to deliver if he's asked to speak at the Republican convention.

I only regret not having heard the Rev. Peterson pray at the Democratic convention. If she did I missed it, but her post on the Democrats "Kicking Ass" web site includes a prayer she recently delivered. In it, she beseeched God to forgive us if we "stigmatize, marginalize and homogenize" his vast creation.

Frankly, I wouldn't even know how to go about marginalizing creation. I'm not entirely sure what it means. Perhaps, however, stigmatizing, marginalizing, and homogenizing are the new Deadly Sins? Beats me.

The Bishops: Have They Lost Their Courage?

The Catholic bishops have been bashed because some of them don't want to administer Holy Communion to pro-choice Catholics. But the questionnaire that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has sent to the two presidential candidates apparently lets pro-choice Catholic John Kerry off the hook.

Deal Hudson, whose magazine, Crisis, caters to Catholics of the LC ilk, has seen the "questionable questionnaire." In his latest email update, Hudson writes:

"I had noted that the Left-leaning USCCB might try to bury the pro-life questions in with a bunch of irrelevant issues... thereby hiding Senator John Kerry's extreme pro-abortion voting record. They did something similar with the 2000 presidential questionnaire (wherein, they actually let Al Gore get away with claiming to be 'pro-life'!).

"Unfortunately, it seems that the same thing is happening again this election. The questionnaires are with the candidates right now, but CRISIS has been able to get an early look at the document.

"First, the questionnaire makes no distinction between life issues-- clearly of primary importance to Catholics--and particular policies that the conference supports on issues as wide-ranging (and non-binding) as rural development, housing, and immigration.

"The document has 41 questions, broken down into sections by topic. The largest single section of the questionnaire is on... immigration. Yes, immigration. That category gets a full six questions.

"The next-largest section is education (five questions). Abortion gets a total of three questions (tied with aid to low income families).

"In fact, in the entire questionnaire, only eight questions deal with life issues--including abortion, capital punishment, physician-assisted suicide, cloning, and embryo research. Amazingly enough, the section on broadcast communication had more questions than any of the life sections except abortion and capital punishment."

Before you say that conservative Catholics care about nothing but abortion, I want to make a pre-emptive comment.

We care about feeding the poor as much as our liberal fellow Christians. But there are different ways to go about this, and the Church can't pronounce infallibly on which path is the correct way. Some Christians legitimately believe in a big role for the federal government, while others (including LC) reject this path.

The Church can pronounce definitively on abortion, and it's too bad that our bishops, in attempt to push a government-based agenda many Catholics reject, don't give it more play in their questionable questionnaire.

Speaking of the Dead

It's hard to find the right way to speak of the dead. CBS's nightly tributes to "fallen heroes" bother me, but I only realized what is wrong with them when I read law professor and all-round intellectual Jeffrey Rosen's brilliant piece on what was wrong with the "Portraits of Grief" that the New York Times ran after Sept. 11:

"The Portraits were intended to be democratic--showing the personal lives of janitors as well as chief executives. Above all, they attempted to recognise the victims as distinctive individuals, each distinguished from the crowd. 'One felt, looking at those pages every day, that real lives were jumping out at you', said Paul Auster, the novelist, when interviewed by the New York Times about the profiles. 'We weren't mourning an anonymous mass of people, we were mourning thousands of individuals. And the more we knew about them, the more we could wrestle with our own grief.'"


"The homogenising effects of the Portraits of Grief were inherent in the project itself. The New York Times instructed its reporters to convey a sense of the victims as distinct individuals by extracting from conversations with their families a single representative detail about their lives that would give readers the illusion of having known them. In each case, complexity and accuracy had to be sacrificed to the narrative imperative of finding a memorable quirk of personality with which the audience could quickly identify.

"The Portraits of Grief were not designed to do justice to the victims in all of their complexity. They were designed as a form of therapy for the families of the victims and as a source of emotional connection for the readers of the New York Times. They aspired to give all Americans the illusion of identifying with the victims, and therefore allowing them to feel that they themselves had somehow been touched by the horrific event. What was flattened out in this juggernaut of democratic connection was the individuality of the victims themselves.

"This flattening resulted from a broader demand: the crowd's insistence on emotionally memorable images at the expense of genuine human individuality...."

Coveting the Religious Right Voter

College girls who dabble in lesbianism and then return to their accustomed sexual mode upon graduation are called Lesbian Until Graduation (LUG). The Democratic Party is going through its Religious Until November (RUN) phase.

Mother Jones, the magazine that caters to the left wing's left flank, proposes that, in the interest of winning, it may be necessary to overcome one's disdain for Christians. "Can [progressives] rid themselves of a nagging contempt for the unhip, the poorly educated, and the God-fearing? If the left is not a movement of and for working people--blemishes and all--then it has little chance to regain its previous influence," says a piece in Mother Jones magazine.

Let's see: unhip, poorly educated, God-fearing. Blemishes and all. Regain its previous influence. This unwitting display of contempt for God-fearing voters came in a review of "The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America," a book on why the conservatives have been succeeding by two reporters from the Economist magazine.

A pro-choice Catholic--whose very presence on the ticket ignited a controversy about his eligibility for the reception of Holy Communion--is not going not going to chip away at the suddenly coveted religious right.

Nevertheless, the Democrats are taking refuge in patriotism and talking about faith. CNSNews.com reports that Kerry is now talking up God and guns on the campaign trail.

Christian voters who get in bed with these false friends will awaken Nov. 3 to find they've been had.

Male and Female, He Created Them...

Just when curmudgeonly Catholics such as Loose Canon, who're always critiquing the homily and complaining about the aesthetic aspects of the Mass, fear they're doomed to perpetual gloom, the Vatican does something that reminds us of why we believe Holy Mother Church will stick up for the truth in season and out.

The Vatican critique of feminism, released Saturday, gets to the heart of the matter with so many societal ills of today--the blurring of sexual lines occasioned by radical feminism.

As the Washington Post reports in an article headlined "Vatican Letter Denounces 'Lethal Effects' of Feminism:"

"The letter argued that 'the obscuring of the difference... of the sexes has enormous consequences,' including inspiring ideologies that 'call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.'"

As the Post report makes clear, the letter doesn't criticize women who want to achieve professionally, but makes it clear that women have the right to chose from diverse roles:

"[The letter] said women should not be stigmatized or penalized financially for wanting to be homemakers. It also said women 'should be present in the world of work and... have access to positions of responsibility which allow them to inspire the politics of nations and to promote innovative solutions to economic and social problems.'"

But it is the condemnation of feminism that--rightly--is going to get the ink. This letter is brave and important because it is, as the Washington Post correctly puts it, the "latest Vatican salvo against trends it regards as undermining its teachings on sexuality and the family."

The Vatican's courage--what else can the Rock do but be a rock?--puts one in mind of a quote from the great Catholic novelist Flannery O'Connor (thanks to Relapsed Catholic blogger Kathy Shaidle for posting the quote):

"Push back against the age
as hard as it pushes against you."

Saturday the Holy See pushed against the age.

Beware of Democrats Quoting Scripture

From Catholic World Report's Off the Record blog, here's what's really important about Kerry and the Whichever Commandment:

"Kerry suggested that the commandment, 'Honor thy father and thy mother,' is God's way of telling us to raise federal government spending on the elderly. Actually, isn't it more plausibly read as a reminder that we should care for our parents--not ask the government to do it?"

"Dialogues of the Carmelites"

"'Carmelites', Outdated but Still Fervent," was the headline on Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Tim Page's review of a new production of Francis Poulenc's "Dialogues of the Carmelites" in the Washington Post.

Page began: "One wonders whether the time for Francis Poulenc's 'Dialogues of the Carmelites' (1957) has come and gone. Much of the music is pretty in a Stravinsky-and-sugar sort of way, and the final scene remains smashingly effective musical drama. Yet I can't believe I was alone in finding this ecstatic paean to religious martyrdom not only wrongheaded but curiously repellent as it surged through Lisner Auditorium on Friday night."

I sat in curiously rapt attention in Lisner Auditorium Sunday afternoon and wondered how any opera company had been brave enough to stage this marvelous and completely un-PC opera in this day and age. I know nothing about the Opera Internation, which mounted the production, but I thank them for a splendid Sunday.

The opera, written in 1957, though it feels like it had to be much longer ago, is based on the true story of an aristocratic young woman who, "plagued by fear her entire life," (the program notes) joins the Carmelites and is martyred during the French Revolution. It is taken from a play by Georges Bernanos, who's perhaps most famous for his novel, "The Diary of a Country Priest."

Poulenc left the Church and became a member of an intellectual group called Les Six, but returned after the death of a friend. "Like Bernanos," the program notes recall, "he was afraid of death, and that fear, in addition to his failing health in the 1950s, set the course for this opera."

Indeed, the last scene is the nuns going up to the guillotine. Sister Blanche, who had been so fearful all her life, is the last to face death meekly. Reviewer Page opines that "French-Revolution bashing is a fine and noble sport," but what troubles him is "religious fanaticism," which is "no picnic either" "as we have learned to our cost."

He's comparing the Carmelite martyrs to Islamic jihadists? You got it. The nuns, who could have saved their skins if not their habits by renouncing Christ, are just like the Islamic jihadists. Page's view is, in the e-words of my friend and colleague Charlotte Allen, "fashionable leftism." Quite rightly, she contrasts this with "Poulenc's seeing totalitarianism for what it is. The nuns were executed for a bunch of Stalinesque thought-crimes."

Their thought-crime, of course, was mainly prayer. Though it's too late to hop a flight to Washington to see this production of Poulenc's masterpiece, there are a number of recordings, including a DVD with Joan Sutherland singing the role of the second prioress (recreating a role she sang in 1958) with Richard Bonynge conducting.

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