Costco, the Country Club, and Abortion

Abortion is almost always about selfishness. Sometimes it's terribly hard not to be selfish, but Amy Richards' saga of aborting two of a set of triplets, told in Sunday's New York Times magazine reveals an incredible heartlessness.

If I belonged to NARAL-Pro-Choice America, I'd put Ms. Richards on my With-Friends-Like This... list and hope she didn't write any more stories for national magazines. Surely, even those who have few qualms about abortion must have squirmed when they read this:

"I felt physically fine up to this point, I got on the subway afterward, and all of a sudden, I felt ill. I didn't want to eat anything. What I was going through seemed like a very unnatural experience. On the subway, Peter [her boyfriend and the father of the triplets she was carrying] asked, 'Shouldn't we consider having triplets?' And I had this adverse reaction: 'This is why they say it's the woman's choice, because you think I could just carry triplets. That's easy for you to say, but I'd have to give up my life.' Not only would I have to be on bed rest at 20 weeks, I wouldn't be able to fly after 15. I was already at eight weeks.

"When I found out about the triplets, I felt like: It's not the back of a pickup at 16, but now I'm going to have to move to Staten Island. I'll never leave my house because I'll have to care for these children. I'll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise. Even in my moments of thinking about having three, I don't think that deep down I was ever considering it."

Having triplets would have been inconvenient in a five story walk-up in New York's East Village. It would also have reduced Richards' income, since she'd be in bed during her peak lecturing time.

"I looked at Peter and asked the doctor: 'Is it possible to get rid of one of them? Or two of them?' The obstetrician wasn't an expert in selective reduction, but she knew that with a shot of potassium chloride you could eliminate one or more."

The shot of potassium chloride is injected into the heart of the fetus.

Ms. Richards set her story up in such a way that the reader is supposed to sympathize--she had grown up without a father and in high school she had watched friends who were "helping to rear nieces and nephews, because their siblings, who were not much older, were having babies."

Quite laudably, Richards didn't want to end up pregnant and too young. But then the most telling remark: "I had friends from all over the class spectrum: I saw the nieces and nephews on the one hand and country-club memberships and station wagons on the other."

No, you don't want a financial drain, even flesh and blood, that will keep you from having your country-club dues.

It is interesting that, during the split second she considered what it would be like to have triplets, Richards envisioned a life of "shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise."

National Review's Jennifer Graham comments on the Richards article in "A Tale of Costco as Feminist Hell."

Meanwhile, feminist and New York Times guest columnist Barbara Ehrenreich is similarly hard-nosed:

"You can blame a lot of folks, from media bigwigs to bishops, if we lose our reproductive rights, but it's the women who shrink from acknowledging their own abortions who really irk me."

She should love Ms. Richards. "Despite the troubling picture drawn by Miss Richards's account, she is to be commended for one thing: She does not rely on the favorite pretext of the pro-abortion movement--women's 'health'," writes Shannen Coffin in another critique of Ms. Richards's piece.

Just Wilde About Oscar

Is the road to heaven sometimes paved with bad intentions?

Writing in the National Catholic Register, Joseph Pearce, author of "The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde," suggests that that's the path that Wilde might have taken:

"If it is true that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, it is also true that the road to heaven is sometimes paved with bad ones. Our very sins, if we repent, can be our teachers and guides. In recollecting our sins, and in recoiling from their consequences, we can be kept on the narrow path that leads purgatorially upward toward paradise.

"Thus the scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites, imagining themselves on the path to heaven, might be heading for an unpleasant surprise, whereas the publicans and sinners, learning from their mistakes and amending their ways, might reach the Kingdom to which Christ has called them.

"It is, therefore, a paradoxical pleasure to be able to celebrate the Decadent path to Christ taken by Oscar Wilde not as a celebration of decadence per se (heaven forbid!) but as a celebration of the path to Christ that it represents. God is always bringing good out of evil and the Catholic literary revival has reaped a wonderful harvest from the seeds planted in decadence during the 19th century."

More than the 18 ½ Minute Gap?

Loose Canon is amused that the press obviously doesn't want to cover the story of former Clinton security adviser Sandy Berger's pilfering classified material from the National Archives.

But this is an important story. Whatever Berger took, it may be far more important than the 18 ½ minutes of the tapes erased by Rosemary Woods, Richard Nixon's secretary, during Watergate. As Hugh Hewitt points out in the Weekly Standard:

"Berger's sticky fingers have left a gap in the record of the Clinton administration's response to the growing threat posed by al Qaeda. Unless other files exist with all the same drafts and handwritten notes that Berger destroyed, we will never be able to conclude whether Berger's actions were simply another display of fecklessness and recklessness on an issue of national security, or an attempt to bleach the record of Clinton-era malpractice on matters of terror."

The Pittsburg Post-Gazette opines that Berger is "too experienced to misplace documents."

Feeling Superior

Few things give members of the supposedly educated strata of society a bigger thrill than attacking the Christian fundamentalists to whom they feel so superior.

As marriage advocate Maggie Gallagher recently wrote:

"I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. Is the headline in The New York Times letters section an example of dangerously Orwellian doublespeak or an amusing form of self-parody: 'Religious Intolerance Among Americans'? Beneath the headline, Americans are judging religions they disagree with. For readers of The New York Times, that means Christian fundamentalists."

Gallagher takes on former Clinton Cabinet member Robert Reich, who recently wrote that Christian fundamentalists are a bigger threat to civilization than Islamic terrorists, and notes a statement in which Gallagher says that presidential candidate John Kerry sounds Reichian.

AIDS: Just Say No

O, Swami, I enjoyed your explication of sexual practices in Africa--and I thought the Kama Sutra was racy! Without getting into the specific issues of lubrication, membranes, etc., I must say that none of it changes my mind that the cheapest--and most humane--way to fight AIDS is to promote fidelity to one's mate.

You seem to deduce that promoting fidelity wouldn't work because of the ingrained practice by which older men "cleanse" themselves by having sex with young virgins. I'd like to quote the subhead from the article you linked to as supporting evidence:

"Child rape: A taboo within the AIDS taboo; More and more girls are being raped by men who believe this will 'cleanse' them of the disease, but people don't want to confront the issue."

Swami, I do want to confront the issue. Whaddaya bet these young girls would prefer it if these infected older men were prevented from having sex with them? You note that the dirty old men believe that the girls' hymens are sealed and that they not only won't contract AIDS but they'll cleanse the men. We should enlighten them--and work for the enactment of laws that put men who have "cleansing" sex with young virgins in the hoosegow. You said that, if I persist in my Just Say No prescription for AIDS, you will call me a racist and unchristian.

You might do that, Swami, but I doubt if these young virgins would call me racist for wanting to protect them from their rapists. They would probably prefer not to be raped, even if it's not very multicultural of LC to frown on such practices.

You also called to my attention a piece in yesterday's New York Times about women in sub-Saharan Lesotho. May I quote again?

"'One woman will go out with four or five men,' said Bolelwa Falten, a 26-year-old former seamstress. 'One will help with the rent. One, maybe, will drive a taxi and take her to and from work. One will help with food. One will help her pay her installments.'"

"Experts refer to such desperate arrangements by the dry term 'transactional sex.' This is one reason, though hardly the only one, that in Lesotho H.I.V. infects one in four men aged 15 to 24--and one in two women.'"

And Swami thinks it would be racist or unchristian to work to change the lot of these women? I think it's racist and unchristian not to try to bring change.

I realize that such change can't be accomplished overnight and that it is important not to judge the poor women who engage in "transactional sex."

It's easy to sit in our comfortable abodes in New York or Washington and take a benign view of the destructive practices of people in Africa or other third world countries. But I think this is racist.

Here's an interesting article on the fidelity vs. condoms controversy: Kerry Marsala asks, "What works 100% of the time to prevent sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS? The science of condoms? Or the ideology [fidelity to one's partner] presented by Ugandan President Yowen Museveni at the AIDS Conference recently held in Bangkok?"

In closing..."Abstaining from sex is oftentimes not a choice," Rep. Barbra Lee said at the Bangkok AIDS conference (the one that got Swami and LC riled up), "and therefore their only hope in preventing HIV infection is the use of condoms."

Let's work hard to make it a choice for more people--especially young women whose deadly initiation to sexual activity is all too often a sick older man. Is this racist and unchristian of me, Swami?

AIDS and The Beautiful People

Before I move along, I must address one other issue the Swami raised--AIDS and celebrities. I had said that you don't fight AIDS by sending administration representatives to rub shoulders with celebrities at star-studded AIDS conferences (where, despite our exceptional generosity, we are likely to be booed).

Recalling that I am a former gossip columnist--and "not a bad one," thanks for that grace note--Swami wrote:

"It's hard to believe she doesn't understand the dynamics of celebrities and causes. But on the off-chance she was home from school that day, Swami will now educate her--and those of you who like to know how the world works."

Swami, I realize, as you pointed out, that celebrities can raise money and boost visibility. Like John Kerry, I regard them as the "heart and soul" of America--and, of course, I love the Beautiful People because they're beautiful. I sincerely wish more Beautiful People were smart enough to be Republicans. But I stand by my contention that you don't fight AIDS by going to conferences with the Beautiful People.

For an assessment of what the Bush administration is doing to fight AIDS, I turn to Sebastian Mallaby of the Washington Post's editorial page:

"Inconveniently for those who enjoy stereotypes, the Bush administration is far and away the leader in the global AIDS fight. This year the United States will spend $2.4 billion on the pandemic, nearly twice as much as all other donor governments combined; attacking the Bush team for indifference to AIDS is like attacking it for inadequate defense spending."

The Purloined Classified Documents

Can you imagine the press's hysterical outcry if a Republican had been caught removing terrorism-related documents from the National Archives? Almost on the eve of testifying before the 9/11 Commission?

Maverick liberal blogger Mickey Kaus of kausfiles notes that the New York Times originally buried the story of Sandy Berger, former Clinton security adviser, doing exactly that, on page A16:

"I guess they wouldn't want to bump that late-breaking piece on untucked shirttails from the front page. ..."

The Washington Times' Tony Blankley suggests that inveterate Washington insider David Gergen's defense of Berger--"it's more innocent that it looks"--was perhaps the wrong tact:

"This doubtlessly heartfelt defensive effort was actually slightly counterproductive. By asserting that it was more innocent than it looked, he let any doubters know that the events looked not innocent, even to friend David Gergen."

Andrew Sullivan points out a discrepancy in the New York Times reporting on l'affaire Berger, and wonders why on earth Berger took the documents, vertently or inadvertently, and muses that "at times like this, I sure am glad we have the blogosphere."

Referring to reports--which Berger has denied--that he stuffed some of the documents in his socks and underwear, Andrew says he can hardly wait for "the fruits of the loom, I mean inquiry."

What Are Soldiers Really Like?

"I went to war as a believer in the citizen-soldier," writes Nathaniel Fick, a former Marine captain, in an eloquent piece in yesterday's New York Times. "My college study of the classics idealized Greeks who put down their plows for swords, retuning to their fields at the end of the war. As a Marine officer in Afghanistan and Iraq, however, I learned that the victors on today's battlefields are long-term, professional soldiers. Thus the increasing calls for reinstating the draft--and the bills before Congress that would do so--are well intentioned but misguided.

"Imposing a draft on the military I served in would harm it grievously."

Fick also refutes the notion that only poor kids go to the military and that they become cannon fodder:

"There is no cannon-fodder underclass in the military. In fact, front-line combat troops are a near-perfect reflection of American male society.

"Yes, some minority men and women enlist for lack of other options, but they tend to concentrate in support jobs where they can learn marketable skills like driving trucks or fixing jets, not throwing grenades and setting up interlocking fields of machine gun fire. African-Americans, who comprise nearly 13 percent of the general population, are overrepresented in the military at more than 19 percent--but they account for only 10.6 percent of infantry soldiers, the group that suffers most in combat. Hispanics, who make up 13.3 percent of the American population, are underrepresented at only 11 percent of those in uniform."

As somebody who once supported the draft but no longer does, LC suspects that there is a sinister reason behind a lot of the support for reinstating it--if we had the draft, a vocal anti-war movement could be vastly more influential by making soldiers who had no choice about going more determined to avoid service.

More on Kerry and Abortion

The liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal finds John Kerry's position on abortion troubling: "Defending a Catholic politician's access to the Eucharist is not the same thing as defending his or her support for unrestricted access to abortion. Sad to say, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's position on the legal status of abortion is extreme."

Hyperventilating Rage!

In a fawning review of "Outfoxed," the anti-Fox flick, A.O. Scott, the New York Times' dependably PC movie reviewer, opines that the movie "will inevitably be discussed in the same breath (or with the same hyperventilating rage) as Michael Moore's 'Fahrenheit 9/11.'"

A.O., honey, who's hyperventilating? It strikes me that the left these days is so enraged that it looks like it's about to hiss and shrivel up and dissolve into a puddle somewhat like the Bad Witch in "The Wizard of Oz." Except, of course, that it includes the chattering classes, which produce the elite papers and evening "news" shows, and therefore could very well go on to gloire in November.

This election will test whether George W. Bush, or any president so hated by the elite media, can long survive. Fox is so roundly detested because it has succeeded by not buying the rest of the media's prevalent bias. You've probably already heard about the remark by Newsweek's Evan Thomas--the "Inside Washington" panelist most likely to wander off the reservation.

If you missed it, Thomas said: "The media want Kerry to win. They're going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic, and this glow is going to be worth maybe 15 points."

(Thanks to the invaluable Media Research Center for preserving this quote for use throughout the coming months.)

Writing in The Washington Times, Tod Lindberg, editor of Policy Review Magazine, argues with confidence (hope it's not complacency) that "Hating and Waiting Is Not Winning":

First of all, you need to understand that Americans do not hate George W. Bush. You may hate George W. Bush, all your friends may hate George W. Bush, all of your friends may have written books about how fitting it is to hate George W. Bush and received handsome advances from their publishers for them. The bookstore shelves groan under them.

And yes, you are entirely within your rights to hate George W. Bush. No one will take that from you. Yes, Republicans hated Bill Clinton, and many still do. Yes, they also hate Hillary. If, on principle, you want to hate the Republican president just as much as Republicans hated the last Democratic president, no one will stop you. But Americans in general do not hate George W. Bush. And, by the way, if you're wondering just who those "Two Americas" are, you must read A.O.'s review of "Outfoxed"--the screening was sponsored by Moveon.Org, the anti-Bush group, and took place at a bar called Zebulon, a "modest" place in a "not yet completely chic block" in New York's Brooklyn neighborhood that serves reds and whites and Camembert on toasted slices of a baguette.

"So you might say," A.O. writes, "(or perhaps Fox News might say) that the crowd on Sunday--young, hip, and partisan--represented a bohemian, early-21st-century incarnation of a political archetype that flourished (at least in conservative imaginations) in the 1970's and 80's: the wine and cheese liberal."

Well, that's one America.

The Present Danger

Bravo for Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman and Republican Senator Jon Kyle for relaunching the Committee on the Present Danger. The old Committee on the Present Danger was formed in 1950 to make people aware of the threat from the former Soviet Union.

As reconstituted by Lieberman and Kyle, the committee will, as the two senators explain in an editorial published in today's Washington Post, focus on "the present danger our generation faces: international terrorism from Islamic extremists and the outlaw states that either harbor or support them."

Citing a BBC/Oxford Research International poll released earlier this month, the senators note that 55 percent of Iraqis today believe their lives are good or very good and 70 percent believe that Iraq needs democracy.

Here's a quote from the senators' editorial:

"The liberation of Iraq has important implications for the region and for the broader war on terrorism. The leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties have so far stood firm in their commitment to finish the job in Iraq and to fight to victory the war on terrorism. But that bipartisan consensus is coming under growing public pressure and could fray in the months ahead. Although the tide is turning in the war on terrorism, a political undertow in this country could wash out our recent gains. We must not let this happen."

The Loose Canon Book Bag

From time to time, LC hopes to recommend for your reading pleasure books and authors she has enjoyed inordinately--and the summer season is the perfect time to launch such an endeavor.

I thought I'd get the ball rolling with two authors who couldn't be more different from each other, though they both use religious themes and settings--Brian (pronounced Bree-an) Moore, whose novel "Black Robe" is about the Jesuits working among the native tribes of Canada, and Susan Howatch, whose bodice-ripping Church of England novels are entertaining and edifying (though you shouldn't let the last frighten you away--they're sort of what the prim English novelist Barbara Pym, chronicler of vicars and the spinsters who loved them, would have written if she'd been more interested in sex of a less repressed sort ).

Like the Church of England of which she writes, Howatch's body of work falls apart at the end, but the earlier C of E novels are great fun. My very favorite is "Glittering Images," which revolves around life in the English village around the Cathedral Town of Starbridge, based on Salisbury, home to the Turner-painted Cathedral, and known to readers of Trollope as Barchester.

The main character is--natch--a clergyman. He is Charles Ashworth, who won the glittering prizes at Oxford and went on to become a traditional C of E priest. He is sent to investigate the flamboyant Bishop of Starbridge, who opposes the Church's divorce rules, and there meets (as the dust jacket copy puts it) "the cool and beautiful Lyle Christie, Mrs. Jardine's companion." Is the Bishop of Starbridge outspokenly against the Church's strict divorce laws for a personal reason? Naturally, there's a secret in the episcopal palace.

As in many of Howatch's C of E novels, there is a complex spiritual crisis that is resolved through the ministry of a charismatic priest. (Howatch uses the word "glamorous," which will perhaps strike those who think of the clergy only in TV evangelist terms as odd.) Chapters are adorned with quotations from the likes of the mystic Baron von Hugel, but the plots are enlivened by misbehaving clerics.

In addition to "Glittering Images," I'd like to tout "Mystic Paths," in which Nicholas Darrow, a young priest, gets off track with his mystic gifts, inherited from his father, the Rev. Jon Darrow, the protagonist of a previous(and also recommended) book, "Glamorous Powers," who left his monastery--these are High Church books--to marry Nicholas's mother. I also love "Absolute Truths," in which Ashworth, now Bishop of Starbridge and a widow, faces a crisis. Well, stuffy old Loose Canon was shocked when the bip removed his crimson shirt to... but he ultimately ...well, I won't give away the ending.

Though I've compared Howatch's use of Salisbury to Trollope's, and indeed her social canvas resembles his, her work might nevertheless be correctly viewed as Harlequin romances for slightly high-brow readers who don't mind some very interesting spiritual direction thrown into the bargain.

Brian Moore, perhaps my favorite Catholic novelist after Evelyn Waugh and Walker Percy, isn't anywhere near the Harlequin genre. I'd say he's a Serious Novelist, as long as that doesn't imply that he's less enjoyable to read.

Several of Moore's novels have been made into movies, including "Black Robe" and "The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne," in which Maggie Smith played Miss Hearne, a man-hungry spinster in Catholic Ireland and alcoholic who moves from cheap boarding house to cheap boarding house:

"Alcoholic, she did not drink to put aside the dangers and disappointments of the moment. She drank to be able to see these trials more philosophically, to examine them more fully, fortified by the stimulant of unreason. Thus, she did not shirk the consideration of the fact that she had sat up all night in a chair, that she might have made a lot of noise, that everyone might know her secret. She was drunk, so she found these possibilities amusing but unlikely."

The loss of faith is a constant theme in Moore's work, and Judith Hearne is the story of a homely, middle-aged woman's ceasing to believe--hardly a glamorous subject, but it's a wise and wonderful and funny book.

"Cold Heaven" is also about faith--a militant atheist named Marie who left and hates the Church is confronted by a vision of the Virgin Mary when she goes to meet her married lover in a motel in Carmel, California. This echoes Carmel, site of an early appearance of Mary in Catholic tradition, and Marie's struggle with the apparition and the course of her affair with one doctor and the seeming death and resurrection of her husband, Alex, form the plot.

Moore's best book is "Black Robe," the story of a Jesuit's harrowing journey among the savage Hurons to reach a mission where he will spend the rest of his life: "He looked up at the sky. Soon, winter snows would cover this vast, empty land. Here, among these Savages, he would spend his life. He poured the water on a sick brow, saying again the words of salvation. And a prayer came to him, a true prayer at last. Spare them. Spare them, O Lord."

I almost put Catholic in quotes when I described Moore as a Catholic writer--in fact, Moore always claimed that he had lost his faith. Unlike most ex-Catholics, however, he has written dazzlingly and without malice about Catholic settings.

At least one critic argued that Moore regained his faith. If so, he was too much of an artist to tell us. He is a lapidary writer, and LC hopes he'll find a place in your book bag for the beach.

Mr. Sharon, Don't Tear Down that Wall

The "wall" that the Israelis are building to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers is a security fence that can be removed as the level of safety in the neighborhood improves. Though only about a fourth complete, it already has been highly effective in reducing the number of terrorist murders.

Never mind that. The International Court of Justice in The Hague has ruled that Israel's security barrier violates international law. In a nice touch, the ruling was read by a chief justice from China, which, of course, has such a sterling reputation in the field of human rights.

Though inconvenient--unfortunately so--to a number of Palestinians, the fence is serving a noble purpose: the deterrence of terror. In the last four months, only two Israelis have died in suicide bombings, as compared with 166 Israelis in the same time span during the height of the intifada.

The International Court of Justice's ruling, if obeyed, could cost untold lives, and the thinking behind it is spurious:

"Among the various principles invoked by the International Court of Justice in its highly publicized decision on Israel's security fence," wrote columnist Charles Krauthammer, "is this one: It is a violation of international law for Jews to be living in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. If this sounds absurd to you--Jews have been inhabiting the Old City of Jerusalem since it became their capital 3,000 years ago--it is. And it shows the lengths to which the United Nations and its associate institutions, including this kangaroo court, will go to condemn Israel."

From Benjamin Netanyahu, former Israeli prime minister and now finance minister: "While the advisory finding by the International Court of Justice last week that Israel's barrier in the West Bank is illegal may be cheered by the terrorists who would kill Israeli civilians, it does not change the fact that none of the arguments against the security fence have any merit...

"In the last four years, Palestinian terrorists have attacked Israel's buses, cafes, discos and pizza shops, murdering 1,000 of our citizens. Despite this unprecedented savagery, the court's 60-page opinion mentions terrorism only twice, and only in citations of Israel's own position on the fence. Because the court's decision makes a mockery of Israel's right to defend itself, the government of Israel will ignore it. Israel will never sacrifice Jewish life on the debased altar of 'international justice.'"

I simply don't understand why so many people are angry about the fence--it fences out terror. If the Palestinians renounce suicide bombings, the fence will come down. It is regrettable that many ordinary Palestinians face hardship brought on by the fence, but until they become, as a whole, good neighbors, the fence is the next best thing.

Of course, it was no surprise that the International Court of Justice ruled against Israel--Israel, after all, is a western-looking nation. As Robert Bork noted in a lecture at the American Enterprise Institute, the international court system is a "battleground, and perhaps the decisive one, in a transnational culture war involving a war which displays the same alignment of forces in all Western nations and in which judges everywhere play the same role."

Bork's "Coercing Virtue: The Worldwide Rule of Judges" is a must-read for all who worry about the development of an anti-western international court system.

A Shoo-in for the Martian Vote

Get ready for a big values fest next week in Bean Town. As columnist David Brooks noted in his Saturday New York Times column, the candidate shares your values: "I know that John Kerry shares my values," Brooks wrote. "I know that John Kerry shares your values. I know that John Kerry shares John Edwards's values, who also, by the way, shares my values. I know they both share your accountant's values, your butcher's values, your mechanic's values. If a Martian showed up from outer space, they'd share its values, too. They're just really into value sharing."

Privacy Matters Less if You're Dead

The decision not to electronically profile airline passengers is a victory for terrorists. Notes an editorial in the Boston Herald:

"They won. The privacy extremists, weak-kneed airline executives and queasy members of Congress forced the Homeland Security Department to drop a plan to electronically profile all air travelers. And make no mistake about it, this is a huge victory for terrorists, too...

"The so-called CAPPS II plan is built on a computer system in use by the Federal Aviation Administration pre-Sept. 11 to flag suspicious travelers. A passenger could be subject to additional security screening, for example, if he were to buy a one-way ticket or pay in cash."

Sophistry from the L.A. Times: Why Am I Not Surprised?

One of the favorite tactics of liberals seems to be to try to convince us conservatives that by opposing some outré item on the liberal agenda, we're being untrue to conservative principles.

A recent example from an editorial in the L.A. Times:

"The gay rights movement has protected and expanded freedom for all by getting the government out of our bedrooms. A tempting solution to the gay marriage controversy would be to extend that triumph one more step and get the government out of our marriages. Let churches and other private institutions define marriage however they wish. Gay marriage and traditional marriage would have the same legal status, and yet there would be no official sanction or approval of gay marriage. Both sides would have what they say they want. And what principled conservative could object to this major retrenchment of government authority in our lives?"

I am a principled conservative, and, as a rule I believe in government retrenchment from our lives. But when a minority of the populace is trying to do something as radical as redefine marriage--and that's what the above suggestion would do--it is the principled conservative's obligation to do to oppose it.

Muslim History Buffs

Ever get the feeling that Islamic jihadists are more interested in history than we are?

While the Crusades seem but yesterday to many of the Islamic faith, most westerners would be hard-put to say who won at the battle of Lepanto. As poet Robert Bove notes:

"It was the greatest naval engagement of its time, one still studied at Annapolis, as are the gargantuan World War II naval battles at Midway and Okinawa. 1571 is one of those dates, like 1492, that the Muslim world remembers and the West tries to bury in the cloying syrup of tolerationism that has gripped even Spanish voters who should know better, March 11, 2004, being the alarm they are struggling to suppress."

G. K. Chesterton, beloved by most right wing Catholics--oddly enough, I find his verbosity annoying--wrote a poem about Lepanto, and Bove praises the American Chesterton Society for bringing out a new edition of Chesterton's work that includes said poem.

"Out" of Their Minds

If you happen to be gay and are in the closet or planning to reveal your sexual orientation to those near and dear to you at a time and place of your own choosing, then you'd better not work for a conservative member of Congress.

Here's the lead to a piece in yesterday's Washington Post ("Capitol Hill Insiders Irked by Campaign to 'Out' Them") on the sinister campaign to out gay Republicans:

The phone kept ringing in one Capitol Hill office -- hourly, daily, all leading up to yesterday's Senate vote on the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Mike Rogers was on the line again. He knew something very personal about the press secretary of a Republican House member who supports the amendment, and he wanted to tell someone, preferably someone high-ranking, that the man is gay. Rogers cannot understand this. How can someone help articulate the opposition to homosexual unions when he himself is homosexual?
Rogers, a professional fundraiser, has sent around about 10,000 emails "encouraging or perpetrating" outings. He also passed out flyers requesting names of closeted Republicans at the Gay Price March in June.

I won't feign naiveté--a homosexual in the closet is less useful to movement gays and their agenda; being in the closet can also imply reservations about the gay lifestyle. Or not. Whatever it means for an individual, doesn't this person have the right to make a decision without the phone ringing off the hook with Mike Rogers on the other end, wanting to offer your office some very personal information?

Lynden Armstrong, who is quoted in the article, is an openly gay man who has worked for Senator Pete Demenica, a Republican opposed to gay "marriage," since 1995:

"[Armstrong] considers Rogers's campaign a 'personal attack' on gay staffers 'who haven't gotten to the point, emotionally and psychologically, that they feel that they can come out at work.'

"'That is a personal decision,' says Armstrong, 32, sitting in the office with Fox News playing in the background. A native of Fort Sumner, N.M., now living in the District and co-chairing the nonpartisan Senate Staff Caucus, he declines to comment on whether he supports the marriage amendment. His boss voted for it. 'I have to keep in mind that the senator has nothing personal against me or the gay community. He is having to do what he is elected to do--represent his constituents. And New Mexicans, if you look at the polls, are overwhelmingly supportive of the amendment.'"

Martha Got a Bum Deal--But Imagine How Much Worse It'll Be To Be Her Parole Officer

Last time I checked it wasn't a federal offense to be a rhymes-with-rich. Ooops!

I just checked again and it is--I refer, of course, to Martha Stewart's sentence of five months in prison followed by two years of supervised parole.

I agree with "Spin Sisters" author Myrna Blyth that Stewart is one of your less appealing people--but this shouldn't be enough to send you to the clinker. This is a miscarriage of justice--for Martha and the prison warden.

There He Goes Again

Swami has chastised Loose Canon for her post yesterday on the goings on at the lavish World AIDS Conference in Bangkok, where the U.S. is constantly bashed despite being the world's biggest financial contributor to the fight against AIDS.

Swami says that LC might learn "why other countries mock the world's biggest donor of AIDS money and medicine--[if] she'd look beyond conservative columnists for answers." To help LC get beyond her ghetto, Swami proffers a report on the AIDS conference in the New York Times.

Two of the complaints against the U.S. seem to be that the administration has adopted a "go it alone" approach by not funneling as much through something called the Global Fund because the fund wasn't dispersing the money in a timely fashion--that sounds pretty reasonable--and that the U.S. didn't send a big enough delegation to Bangkok.

O, Swami, Swami, AIDS is not fought by sending people to conferences to rub shoulders with Rupert Everett, Oprah, Richard Gere, and Ashley Judd, all of whom were making the scene--I mean fighting AIDS--in Bangkok.

The New York Times piece also says that Europe is a bigger financial contributor to the AIDS battle, adding, "Humanitarian and church groups also want credit, and the money that goes with it."

And the money that goes with it? That sounds a little like receiving, which of course is blessed in its own way.

And what about the least expensive way to fight AIDS--sexual fidelity?

Asked about this approach, Rupert Everett said that it would be "kind of criminal."

From conservative columnist Jim Pinkerton's latest dispatch from Bangkok:

"Yet way beyond dilettantes such as Everett and [Rep. Barbara] Lee, most AIDS professionals seem equally dead-set against abstinence. Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UN AIDS, one of the hosts of the Bangkok conference, declared, 'No country has been successful in bringing down the prevalence of AIDS without a strong condom promotion component--that's a fact.' Then, warming to his topic--and homing in on his true target--he vented against the Vatican, which has raised various objections to condoms, including the blunt reality that they sometimes fail. 'It is not acceptable to make statements like Cardinal Trujillo [Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family], that condoms spread HIV, because it puts people's lives at risk. There is no competency in the church about the quality of materials, and effectiveness--that's our job.' Piot might just as easily have said, 'Everyone is welcome to be part of the AIDS debate, except those heretics who disagree with us on matters of core doctrine!'"

They're Not Swingers

Will "Fahrenheit 9/11," "Outfoxed," and "The Control Room," the documentary that offers an approving take on the anti-America Arab network Al-Jazeera help convince more people about the evils of George Bush?

Are they effective as propaganda?

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Steven Zeitchik, an editor at Publishers Weekly, argues:

"[T]o call these films propaganda is also to misunderstand them. They don't seek to convince the unconvinced or herd the untamed. They aim directly at the sheep. Little wonder that the main means of distributing 'Outfoxed' is through house parties organized by MoveOn.org, the group whose Bush-bashing is at least as bald-faced as anything on Fox. Call them flockumentaries, movies people attend en masse, to nestle together in easy confirmation of their most cherished beliefs--to learn, really, what they already know."

More Clear-Cut Than the Kerry Question?

From a Catholic News Service piece:

"Father Aldo Buonaiuto, director of an 'emergency help line' that assists young people wanting to get out of satanic cults, expressed alarm this week at the growth of Satanism, which has created a 'market' for consecrated hosts in Italy.

"In statements published in the Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana, Buonaiuto explained that 'a proliferation of cults exists which practice black masses, with the profanation of consecrated hosts, rape, and torture.' He added, 'We know of cases of consensual vampirism, and also the assaulting of young people who have been drugged in the course of ritualistic orgies.'"

Christian Toe Rings?

Are you tired of seeing those downer crosses and yucky old stained glass windows depicting scenes from the life of Christ whenever you set foot in a church?

Why not a T-shirt that says "I Mosh For Jesus" instead? I have no idea what "moshing" is but that's what was on the T-shirt of a young man in John Leland's report on young evangelicals in the New York Times. The piece reported on the movement away from traditional churches and towards alternative churches or pop culture expressions of faith.

It's too late to get the Times piece free online, but a report on teen culture and alternative Christianity by Stephanie Kang from the Wall Street Journal is still available. Kang focused on some of the merchandise available:

"From tank tops to toe rings, secular fashion with a Christian message is pushing into the mainstream and grabbing the attention of finicky teens and others with a sixth sense for fads. Madonna, who is devoted to a form of Jewish mysticism, has been spotted wearing a 'Mary Is My Homegirl' T-shirt. So has Pamela Anderson.... 'You don't have to be hard-core Christian to think Jesus is my homeboy,' said Samantha Lee, a 19-year-old who bought a shirt so emblazoned at the Steve Madden store in Beverly Hills, Calif., after seeing it in magazines."

I can think of a lot of worse for a teenager to be doing on Friday night than watching "Joan of Arcadia," the show in which Amber Tamblyn plays a high-school girl to whom God talks. But there are troubling aspects of these alternative expressions of Christianity.

One young man told the Times reporter that the current "generation is discontent with dead religion ..." Youths today "don't want to show up on Sunday, sing two hymns, hear a sermon, and go home ..." He added that "the Bible says we're supposed to die for this thing. If I'm going to do that, this has to be worth something..."

Replying specifically to the Times piece, evangelical Christian Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries writes:

"That's obviously true. What's not as obvious is how playing basketball after church or worshiping in a coffee house brings us any closer to that kind of sacrificial faith and the hard demands of the Gospel."

Of these alternative churches, Colson notes:

"Their goals are to create a model church that conforms to the individual's needs and expectations, rather than the other way around. In other words, people demand a church that will tell them what's in it for them.

"But this isn't what the magisterial reformers had in mind when they spoke of the 'marks of the church': preaching the Gospel, rightly administering the sacraments, and exercising church discipline. It was John Calvin, not a renaissance pope, who wrote that God desires His children to grow into maturity 'solely under the education of the [visible] church.'"

Loose Canon much prefers Renaissance popes (talk about good taste!) to Jean Calvin, but she, too, worries about a creeping creedless Christianity.

Nero Hero?

A Beliefnet member chastised Loose Canon for her willingness that the Senate amend the Constitution to ban gay "marriage." Believe me, I don't take amending the Constitution lightly.

But I agree with columnist William Murchison, who notes in the Washington Times today that marriage is "an institution older than the Constitution and never before considered open-ended except maybe in Las Vegas."

Even the pagans were shocked when the Emperor Nero, heretofore not considered a role model, married a man. Yes, I am in favor of amending the Constitution in this case.

The conservative Family Research Council has an interesting map that shows how senators from every state voted on yesterday's defeated, at least for now, Federal Marriage Amendment, which described marriage as being only the union of a man and a woman.

The Washington Post hosted an interesting online chat on the subject yesterday with Matthew Spalding of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Among other things, Spalding said:

"This question is not about civil rights, it is about defending marriage. It is not about discrimination, but protecting a social institution that is widely recognized as being crucial to social stability and the family. Congress passed the federal DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act] overwhelmingly in 1996. It was signed by President Bill Clinton. Were they all--including Clinton--bigots?

"Amendments to the U.S. Constitution by definition define societal boundaries and limits; that is what this amendment does. In doing so, it recognizes the great importance of marriage and family and the right of children to have a mother and father. The last amendment to the Constitution dealt with Congressional pay raises. I think marriage is at least as important."

Still, They'll Take Our Money...

Columnist James K. Glassman has been attending the international conference on AIDS in Bangkok:

This city of glorious Buddhist temples and gigantic traffic jams is hosting 20,000 delegates from 160 countries--along with celebs like Ashley Judd, Richard Gere, Oprah Winfrey and Rupert Everett--at the 15th international conference to fight AIDS.

But, as usual at these global extravaganzas, the real agenda is kick the United States in the butt.

Never mind that U.S. taxpayers will provide more money this year to fight AIDS than the governments of the rest of the world combined. Never mind that U.S. research and development has given the world the drugs that now prevent a diagnosis of HIV infection from becoming a death sentence. Loose Canon is wondering if the President of Uganda is on the Do Not Invite list after what he had to say about fighting AIDS. Here's a report from Catholic World News:

President Yoweri Museveni, whose country is the lone success story against AIDS in Africa with an official pro-abstinence policy, said abstinence works every time it is tried. "I look at condoms as an improvisation, not a solution," Museveni told delegates on the second day of the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok. Instead, he called for "optimal relationships based on love and trust instead of institutionalized mistrust, which is what the condom is all about.

Uganda officially promotes an ABC model--Abstinence, Being faithful, and only after that, Condoms--to combat AIDS, an approach supported by the US government, which is sending billions of dollars to Africa to fight AIDS. Official figures show that only six percent of Uganda's 26.5 million people are infected, compared to 30 percent in the 1980s. Who's Your Daddy?

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is not too keen on the idea of young Ron Prescott, wayward son of our 40th president, addressing the Democratic convention:

Ron Reagan will be speaking solely because of his name and because, by implication, he is articulating his dead father's convictions. Maybe he is--I would like to think so--but there is no way of knowing where Ronald Reagan would have stood on stem cell research. He was not, to say the least, a rigorous thinker and might well have wound up in Bush's corner. Who knows?

What I do know is that Ron Reagan is going to speak at the Democratic National Convention because his name is Ron Reagan. He is not a famous Democrat and he is not a well-known ethicist or medical researcher. He will be there just to stick it to the GOP and Bush and to suggest, as do the selfish when they would rather golf than attend a funeral, that they have the permission of the deceased. There's a term for this sort of thing. Loose Canon is no more able to speak for our late president than his annoying son, but I will just say that Ronald Reagan was a stalwart of the pro-life movement, which came into prominence partly by being a crucial part of his coalition.

By the way, the Republicans are missing a beat if they don't get the real Reagan son, the adopted one who honors his father's beliefs, to speak at the convention.

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Adam and Steve

As he dreams of a picnic basket to celebrate Bastille Day, that commemoration of a particularly French method of dealing with dissent, Monsieur Le Swami can't resist a nasty swipe at those of us who oppose gay "marriage."

This is how he mocks President Bush for daring to oppose single-sex "marriage" when Osama bin Laden is still at large: "Osama is kinda sorta dangerous, but Adam-and-Steve are bigtime terrorists."

No, Swamster, Adam-and-Steve aren't terrorists. But I do think that we kinda sorta ought to think long and hard before we, as a society, go where no society (save a few particularly decadent places in Old Europe that are engaged in social experiments that have yet to be fully assessed) has ever been.

Almost as simplistic as Swami, the Washington Post described the proposed anti-gay "marriage" constitutional amendment that has been postponed until after the election as requiring senators "to take a public stand on a question of deep principle: Are they willing to warp the entire American constitutional structure to prevent people who love one another from marrying?"

A more reflective editorial in the Wall Street Journal notes that "just about everybody is skirting a genuine debate [on the issue]." The Journal advocates letting the public decide but admits that activists often find a way to thwart the will of the people:

"In 2000, 70% of [voters in the state of Nebraska] approved a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman and prohibiting civil unions or domestic partnerships.

"If activists really believed in leaving this to the states, it's pretty clear Nebraskans have spoken. But this state amendment is being challenged by the ACLU, which hopes to get a federal judge to throw it out. The state's attorney general testified in Congress that he expects the state to lose."

An insightful piece on Beliefnet suggests that there has been less groundswell against allowing gays to marry each other than one might imagine because the religious right has yet to get itself energized on the issue; initially it also took them awhile to become organized on the abortion front.

Michael Moore's Latest Outrage: Why Am I Not Surprised?

One of the emblematic scenes in Michael Moore's Bush-bashing "Fahrenheit 9/11" featured the grieving fiancée of Air Force Major Greg Stone, who died in Iraq, kissing her hand and placing it his coffin. The burial took place last year at Arlington National Cemetery.

But Moore omitted a salient fact about Major Stone--he was "a total Republican," according to his family, and a supporter of the Iraq war. The family says they have no idea how Moore came by the video.

"We are furious that Greg was in that casket and cannot defend himself," Kandi Gallagher, Stone's aunt, told the Washington Times, adding, "My sister, Greg's mother, is just beside herself. She is furious. She called [Moore] a 'maggot that eats off the dead.'"

Stone died in March 2003, killed by a grenade reportedly thrown into his tent by Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar, who is on trial for murder.

Those Sneaky Rich Guys

The Democrats are running the two rich guys who say they will raise taxes on the rich. This makes us wonder: How much do John Kerry and John Edwards kick into the IRS kitty?

The Wall Street Journal looked into the matter, and found that, while neither appears to have done anything illegal (and both Loose Canon and the WSJ applaud keeping all you can), the two proponents of higher taxes for the rich are personally "not wild about" paying taxes.

Edwards has spoken frequently of the need to provide health care for all, "but that didn't stop him from using a clever tax dodge to avoid paying $591,000 into the Medicare system." Kerry's taxes are less complicated because he's not as rich, though he's able to live like the very rich because of his marriage.

Teresa Heinz Kerry's finances are a closed book because she hasn't released her income taxes, though the paper notes that she has no doubt sheltered a great deal of her income from taxes--that's all legal, but it's something only the rich, who can afford the best tax lawyers, are able to do.

Notes the Journal:

"[W]hen John Kerry and John Edwards say that they want to tax the wealthiest Americans, let's be clear about what they really mean. They want to tax the most productive people at higher marginal rates and close loopholes for corporations, while they themselves dodge taxes by exploiting loopholes they plan to preserve."

The Fugitive Friar

The Dallas Morning News continues its shocking reports on Catholic priests who have been accused of molesting children but who manage to evade the law.

Franciscan friar Gerald Chumick, whose story is told in a recent installment, however, isn't just an accused molester:

"Franciscan friar Gerald Chumik is an admitted child molester. He has been a fugitive from his native Canada for 14 years.

"Church and state alike know where he is: living in a picturesque religious complex overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara, Calif.

"But nobody, it seems, has been willing to order him to go home and face justice..."

Scoundrel Time at the Democratic Convention

The body of former president Ronald wasn't cold in the grave before Reagan's disloyal son, Ron Prescott Reagan, a liberal who once said on the air that he had voted for Ralph Nader, began popping up on "Hardball" and elsewhere to try and prevent George W. Bush from claiming the mantle of Reagan.

Loose Canon disagrees with the Washington Post that young Ron's--one thinks of him as a kid, even though chronologically, he's not--decision to address the Democratic convention in prime time is a "public relations coup" for the Democrats.

This may be regarded as a coup in Georgetown, and from Woods Hole in Massachusetts to trendy Jackson Hole in Wyoming. But in between, nobody in his right mind thinks that the man whose 13th commandment was never to speak ill of a Republican would regard his son's actions as a fitting addition to his legacy. This means that Republicans must emphasize they are the heirs of Ronald Reagan--we owe it to the Gipper.

Robert Novak's column yesterday is a must read for those of us who love the Gipper. It includes excerpts from William F. Buckley's letter to Ron Reagan about his recent behavior, which seems much worse for the Reagan legacy than Patti's posing for Playboy.

Ron Reagan isn't the only new best friend who could prove problematic for the Democrats. Read Roll Call Executive Editor Mort Kondracke's "Edwards, Kerry Smile While Moore and Gore Stoke 'Bush Hatred'" which deals with the "coalition of the wild-eyed" that hates Bush so intensely and which has been embraced by the Dems.

Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said on TV a few weeks ago that Republicans should be sporting buttons that say "Win Another One for the Gipper."

Where can I get one?

"Our Man in Niger"

Speaking of scoundrels, another one seems to have gotten his comeuppance.

In a National Review piece, Clifford May writes:

"But now Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV--he of the Hermes ties and Jaguar convertibles--has been thoroughly discredited. Last week's bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report concluded that it is he who has been telling lies."

Compassionate Careerists: Fighting AIDS with Five Star Dining (for the AIDS Workers)

The tourists--oops! AIDS bureaucrats--were royally feted at the World AIDS Conference in Bangkok. "Yes, yes, fighting AIDS is important," writes columnist Jim Pinkerton of TechCentralStation, "the Thais seem to say. But all AIDS-fighting all the time makes Johannes and Johanna--as usual, Nordics are enormously over-represented here--into dull boys and girls."

"If the situation is this dire," Pinkerton continues, "shouldn't every penny be used to help the dying and the at-risk-of-dying? Well, that's one way of looking at the AIDS crisis. But another way of looking at AIDS is to say, in effect, that yes, people are dying, but yes also, that's a great way to make a living -- indeed, to live rather well. Am I being too cynical?"

Pinkerton notes that one only needs to "walk around Washington DC, or New York City, or Geneva--the three capitals of international do-goodery--to see that lots of folks are doing well by doing good."

But who can begrudge hardworking members of the AIDS community a little relaxation? Something more sinister is at work here, however. Writes Pinkerton: "[T]he real story of this conference: the emerging anti-AIDS agenda is about the whittling away--even the wiping out entirely--of all patents on all AIDS drugs. That is, making free drugs for all poor people, starting with AIDS. And then, activists hope, the progressive march will trample over patents covering tuberculosis and malaria drugs. And after that, in this bright new world, maybe all drugs should be 'open-sourced.'"

This may sound idealistic, but you can't just order companies to continue producing new medicines to save lives after the patents have been confiscated by the government. Ultimately, it is the sick who will suffer the consequences of what was dreamed up in Bangkok.

"Confiscation is usually a one-shot deal," writes Pinkerton, "because those who get confiscated tend to wise up after that; if the lunch must be free, the baker and the butcher stop offering it....What's Thai for 'killing the goose that laid the golden eggs'? And by eggs, I'm referring not only to corporate profits, shareholder value, and jobs. I'm thinking also of the medicines that could save our lives."

We Were Right to Go to War

Are any of my fellow hawks feeling ready to throw in the towel in the face of a media onslaught that seeks to make you forget that Saddam Hussein was not a nice man? Michael Barone of US News & World Report has written a terrific piece on appeasement--which in the short run always appears a "more conciliatory, thoughtful, nuanced way to deal with terrorists"--that should be required reading for registered voters:

"It's impossible to know exactly what Kerry would do as president or what Bush would do in a second term," writes Barone. "But Kerry seems far more inclined toward appeasement, as Clinton was.

"[Career diplomat] Richard Holbrooke, who would like to be Kerry's secretary of state, notes that Clinton was cheered in Ireland for his "peace process," while Bush was greeted with angry demonstrations there. But the British cheered Neville Chamberlain when he returned from Munich with 'peace in our time' in 1938. A year later, they thought very differently."

The Vatican: Who's in Charge?

With the pope aging and ailing, is the Vatican on automatic pilot? (Do I mean Automatic Pilot?) "John Paul's declining health marks a change in degree, not in kind, in how the Vatican operates," writes Vatican correspondent John Allen in an excellent piece in the National Catholic Reporter, a publication LC doesn't often praise.

Allen notes that the Vatican is "highly compartmentalized" with different dicasteries--central groups such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or various tribunals--working in relative isolation. This hasn't changed.

But there is an effect of having an elderly pope who is frail. "As a papacy nears its end," reports Allen, "there are two camps within the Curia. There are those who realize their service will end with this pope, and are anxious to complete their unfinished business. This camp will seem increasingly hard-line. The other camp would like to continue under a future pontificate. Since it is impossible to anticipate what the next pope will be like, it is safer not to burn bridges. This camp will seem increasingly open to compromise.

"Normally these tendencies towards independence are held in check by the Secretariat of State. By all accounts, however, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the current Secretary of State, is more interested in Italian politics and international relations than in the minutiae of ecclesiastical administration, meaning that he is often content to leave the dicasteries to their business."

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Columnist Mona Charen has a good piece about why the slow-talking trial lawyer might actually have made life more difficult for Americans having babies:

"Edwards specialized in medical malpractice cases," writes Charen. "The abuse of tort law in medicine has contributed to medical inflation (which Democrats then turn around and decry). Because doctors are spooked by the possibility of lawsuits, they order millions of dollars of unnecessary tests and procedures every year. And in some fields, like obstetrics, many doctors are bailing out altogether because the cost of malpractice insurance is so prohibitive. There are sections of this country where it is now impossible to find an obstetrician."

"Urged by Right"

The New York Times reports that, "urged by [the] right," President Bush is "escalating" his support for the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that the Senate takes up this week. Unable to look beyond the immediate politics of the issue, the Times notes that the president's support for the amendment was "voiced in a campaign appearance" on Friday.

Can anybody imagine how utterly bizarre a debate about men and men or women and women marrying each other would have seemed at any other time in the history of our country? In the history of mankind (pardon the expression), excluding some kooky countries in the upper reaches of decadent Old Europe?

"This marriage norm," Maggie Gallagher has noted in the Weekly Standard, "is embedded in Jewish and Christian (not to mention Muslim and Hindu) thought. It is also embedded in human biology--not just the facts of reproduction, but the hard-wired realities of gender difference that marriage is designed to help bridge. This ancient and powerful conception of marriage, grounded equally in faith and reason, won't just fade away."

Proponents of gay "marriage" have compared bans against it to laws against interracial marriages. This is a false comparison--there is no deep religious underpinning to strictures against interracial marriage, quite the contrary--but the comparison may have profound influence on what happens to the state of marriage:

"If favoring the traditional understanding of marriage is analogous to favoring racism," writes Gallagher, "then churches, faith-based organizations, and schools that continue to teach that marriage is exclusively the union of a man and a woman will eventually face penalties in the public square...

"[A]s a group of five legal scholars recently noted in an opinion for the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, if the courts actually equate laws defining marriage as the union of husband and wife with laws barring interracial marriage, then single-sex marriage statutes seriously threaten the ability of organizations adhering to traditional marriage to hold broadcasting licenses, have their colleges accredited by public bodies, or secure tax-exempt status for their schools and charities."

You might want to read about the president's radio address Saturday on marriage.

Second Lady Lynne Cheney, whose daughter Mary is a lesbian, on the other hand, believes that it's an issue for the states. Gay "marriage" advocate Andrew Sullivan says "thanks, Lynne" and praises her for "sticking to federalist principle."

I urge you to read what the aforementioned Maggie Gallagher has to say about the states-rights approach to marriage. While you're at it, Gallagher has a reply in another piece to those who say that government should not be in involved in the issue of marriage. She turned to an earlier marriage crisis:

"When the United States refused to admit Utah to the Union unless it rejected polygamy in the late 19th century, lawmakers and judges agreed: Marriage was not just a private taste or a values issue or even a religious issue, it was one of the handful of core social institutions that make limited government, and a constitutional republic, possible," Gallagher noted.

I have a strong reaction in favor of the marriage amendment, whether it can pass or not, but I hate talking about this subject in general. As somebody who spent her jaded youth in New Orleans's French Quarter and used to accompany friends to the gay bars, I'm the opposite of those who say they're "personally opposed" to abortion but refuse to legislate against killing the innocent. I don't give a hoot and a holler what people do privately or discreetly, but I'm not sure society can withstand the erosion of a bedrock institution.

Welcome to Satyricon, folks.

Piety and Politics

In an article headlined "Bush's God," former Labor Secretary Robert Reich predicts that the battle of our century is not between the West and Islamic terrorists but between "those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority...between those who believe in science, reason and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma."

In a piece in Sunday's L.A. Times, Charlotte Allen replies:

"Bush's religiosity frightens the Reichs of this world not because it promises theocratic tyranny, but because it speaks to a specific world view shared by millions of other Americans. If Bush happened to invoke Jesus in the name of, say, abortion rights or nuclear disarmament, we would not be hearing lectures from intellectuals on the dangers of religion."

Is Islam Above Reproach?
A law that would make the vilification of Islam a crime has been proposed in England. Proponents of the legislation seem to regard criticizing religion as the same as racism. Even Loose Canon, a Catholic, believes that Bob Jones University has the right to its strange opinion that Catholicism is diabolical or some such nonsense. I'm even glad that Robert Reich can criticize religion (though I note he seems more critical of my religion than of either Islam or its terrorist-affiliates).

Daily Telegraph writer Will Cummins argues that Islam should not be legally above reproach:

"To argue that Islam should have special protection because it is a 'religion' while Marxism or Conservatism are 'merely philosophies' is equally specious. All that divides a religion from a secular ideology is something whose existence-- supernatural support--is disputed by adherents of the latter. To privilege supernatural belief-systems by law would be to impose the view of the faithful about this on everyone, the situation that prevailed in the Middle Ages. This time, it is Islam, not Christianity, that New Labour wants to impose on Christendom."

And here's a thought from Mr. Cummins on which I'd like to hear the opinion of liberals:

"A society in which one cannot revile a religion and its members is one in which there are limits to the human spirit."

LC, whose religion is constantly reviled by the supposedly educated, nevertheless concurs.

Bum Advice from Father Joe?

A confessional book is certainly capable of raising questions about the life of the confessee. New York Times public editor Dan Okrent devoted his entire column yesterday to the question of whether his paper was correct in publishing accusations that Tony Hendra, author of a best selling book, "Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul," had failed to reveal one of his sins in the book. Jessica Hendra charged that her father had molested her.

I'd come down on the side that the paper did the right thing--a book about one's sins makes the sins of the author fair game. Unlike Swami, I haven't read "Father Joe."

But there were some things that raised red flags in the reviews. Was Father Joe giving young Tony, who'd been sent to the priest by the husband of an older woman with whom the lad was involved, the best possible advice?

Catholic writer Mark Gavreau Judge seems to think that young Tony got some bum advice. In the book, Father Joe tells Tony that sex is "almost a sacrament."

Writes Judge: "Hendra, shocked, asks if the priest is saying that sex is a sacrament. 'Don't tell the abbot!' Fr. Joe replies. Hendra presses on, demanding to know if Fr. Joe is claiming that sex is not a sin. Fr. Joe answers: Sex is a sin less often than we're led to believe. It's all a question of context. If you have sex to hurt or exploit another, or to take pleasure only for me, me, me, and not return as much or more to your lover...then it becomes sinful...We must take the fear out of sex as well.

"One would have to hire the staff of Playboy magazine and Dr. Joceyln Elders to come up with sentiments that more aptly summarize where we've gone wrong sexually. For Fr. Joe, sex is at once holy in and of itself--no need to get God involved--and coldly utilitarian...

"And what a tragedy that the sex-ed utilitarians are helping to destroy one of the last grand freedoms and adventures postmodern man has left. Losing our fear of sex, as Fr. Joe advises, is like seeing one of those behind-the-scene specials about your favorite movie: once you know how every trick is done, you can't watch the film with the same thrill anymore, and even begin doubting any film's ability to transport you."

Judge is also critical of the glowing review of "Father Joe" by Andrew Sullivan, whom LC admires on many but not all (!) subjects, in the New York Times.

Lost in Translation?

A pro-choice Catholic on the national ticket inevitably stirs things up, and LC believes this is good in that it forces us to think about moral issues that matter greatly.

Charges flying about that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C. watered down the directives of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the Communion and pro-choice politicians are the latest wrinkle.

McCarrick, who doesn't favor denying Communion to pro-choice politicians and is author of the oft-quoted remark that he doesn't want to have "a fight with someone, [while] holding the sacred body and blood (of Jesus) in my hand," served as head of a U.S. taskforce on the issue.

In that capacity, McCarrick told his brother bishops that the Holy See "repeatedly expressed its confidence in our roles as bishops and pastors. The question for us is not simply whether denial of Communion is possible, but whether it is pastorally wise and prudent."

Hmmmm. Ratzinger, who must have been surprised when he heard McCarrick's gloss, was actually a lot firmer than that implies. Here's the relevant portion of the letter, which was made public last week:

"Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia," Ratzinger wrote, "when a person's formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church's teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

"When 'these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible, and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it' (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration 'Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics' [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person's subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person's public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin."

When the U.S. bishops considered the matter recently in Denver, Colo., McCarrick told them that the task force did not advocate denial of Communion. The bishops issued a statement that reaffirmed the Church's teaching on abortion but stopped short of denying Communion.

Whatever you think about denying Communion, there's one thing hard to deny--the discrepancy between what Ratzinger said and what he was said to have said.

What About the Catholic Voter?

While Loose Canon doesn't have to wrestle with the question of whether to vote for John Kerry, it might be different if pro-choice Catholic Rudy Giuliani, a former seminarian, were running for president. Here's what Ratzinger says about voting for a pro-choice Catholic:

"A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons."

The Pelikan Brief

LC has a crystal memory of talking to a Jesuit priest in Beirut--this was in the late 1980s, on the eve of the last great Syrian incursion--who remarked that somebody had been willing to lay down his life for every clause in the Nicene Creed. Not a modern idea that, the notion that one should be willing to die for something called the truth.

People today often regard the truth as something that is relative or can't be known. That's not what those who helped formulate the early Christian creeds believed. Now that most readable of Christian authors, Jaroslav Pelikan, has come out with a new book "Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition."

An enticing review in First Things is sending LC out to the Barnes & Noble the moment she finishes toiling over her hot computer:

"Pelikan shows," writes University of Virginia professor Robert Louis Wilken, "that formal confessions of faith arise out of the nature of Christianity and the Holy Scriptures. The religion of the Greeks and the Romans was not creedal; it was an affair of rituals and practices. For Christianity, however, as for Judaism and Islam, each of which has its own form of creed, belief in the one true God and the conviction that God had been revealed in persons and events required that there be some sort of formula for the confessing of the faith."

Self-Hating Westerners

Loose Canon was ready to sign on as a rah rah multiculturalist when she thought mcism meant broadening our children's horizons by, say, forcing them to take Latin, a dead language that nearly killed LC, in high school.

But that is not what multiculturalism is. In the latest issue of The New Criterion, editor-in-chief Roger Kimball writes of the "corrosive imperatives of 'multiculturalism' and political correctness:"

"I use scare quotes because what generally travels under the name of 'multiculturalism' is really a form of mono-cultural animus directed against the dominant culture," writes Kimball.

"In essence, as [historian Samuel] Huntington notes, multiculturalism is 'anti-European civilization... It is basically an anti-Western ideology.' The multiculturalists claim to be fostering a progressive cultural cosmopolitanism distinguished by superior sensitivity to the downtrodden and dispossessed. In fact, they encourage an orgy of self-flagellating liberal guilt as impotent as it is insatiable. The 'sensitivity' of the multiculturalist is an index not of moral refinement but of moral vacuousness. As the French essayist Pascal Bruckner observed, 'An overblown conscience is an empty conscience.'"

Michael Moore: Hezbollah Loves Him

Anti-American Americans aren't the only fans of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11." Clifford May of the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which focuses on terrorism, notes in a piece on the "Hezbollah heartthrob" that Screendaily.com is reporting that the flick is set to debut in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.

"In terms of marketing," Screendaily.com announces, Mr. Moore "is getting a boost from organizations related to Hezbollah."

Ah, dear old Hezbollah, pioneers of the suicide bombings, second only to Al- Qaeda in the number of Americans it has killed. Writes Mr. May:

"[I]t's not as if Mr. Moore's views of America differ dramatically from those of Hezbollah. If you think I exaggerate, look at the two statements below. One is from Mr. Moore, the other from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Guess which belongs to the Hollywood celebrity and which to the mass murderer. (The answer is at the end of this column*.)

"'The U.S. government started the war with Iraq in order to make it easy for U.S. corporations to do business in other countries. They intend to use cheap labor in those countries, which will make Americans rich.'

"'This is the war of a despotic, arrogant, and cruel country against the nations of the world.'

"Mr. Moore is becoming as famous in Beirut as he is in Beverly Hills. 'He is considered an Arab supporter,' notes [managing director of the firm that is releasing the Moore flick in the Middle East Gianluca] Chacra. Perhaps that's because Mr. Moore fuels the fires of suspicion, prejudice and hatred that burn in the fabled 'Arab street.' For example, Mr. Moore says that the U.S. 'is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe....It's all part of the same ball of wax, right? The oil companies, Israel, Halliburton.'"

You'll have to read the whole piece to find out which quote is Moore's.

JFK or Bust: Style over Substance?

If Ronald Reagan makes the hearts of Republicans go zing, John F. Kennedy remains the most potent force in the Democratic Party. National Review editor Rich Lowry dubs Kerry-Edwards the "all JFK wannabe Democratic ticket."

"John Kerry and John Edwards are, in their own ways, John F. Kennedy wannabes--Kerry in his own mind, and Edwards in the minds of his supporters and of an admiring press corps," writes Lowry.

Lowry suggests that "between Kerry's Boston accent and Edwards' good looks" the two candidates will be able "to cobble together a reasonable facsimile of JFK."

The big question is why, after all these years, does Kennedy maintain such a strong hold over his party. "For one thing," writes Lowry, "he is all there is when it comes to Democratic presidential role models in the past 40 years. No one wants to be the next LBJ, JEC or WJC. It's JFK or bust.

"What do liberals like about Kennedy's substance? The caution on civil rights? The tax cuts on the rich? The entry into Vietnam? It's the rhetoric and the image--those gorgeous pictures of Kennedy with Jackie--that make for much of the appeal."

French Cardinal: Christians Ostracized

The hostility towards Christianity in the supposedly educated strata of society is quite shocking. Is it worsening? A report in Catholic World News suggests that it might be.

CWN quotes French Cardinal Paul Poupard on the subject:

"Speaking to the Italian daily Avvenire, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture observed that in Europe today: 'Christians are mocked for their faith; many young couples are ostracized socially if they want a lot of children; those who oppose same-sex 'marriage' are considered intolerant.'"

But This Is Kansas, Dorothy

In "What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America," author Thomas Frank ponders why denizens of his native state vote against the redistributionist policies beloved of liberals.

"He says 'the pre-eminent question of our times, is why people misunderstand their fundamental interests,'" writes columnist George F. Will. "But Frank ignores this question: Why does the left disparage what everyday people consider their interests?"

Is It the Good Turtle Soup or Merely the Mock?

Loose Canon realizes that she's not a movie reviewer and that Cole Porter, while the pope of popular music, wasn't really much of a guru. But I want to recommend the new movie about him, if you're in the mood for love.

"De-Lovely" has gotten deservedly rotten reviews (in the New York Times and in the Washington Post, for example). Despite the superb performances of Ashley Judd and Kevin Klein, the movie fails. It adopted a flash-back format that has Cole Porter coming across as a flighty Ebenezer Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmases Past. But it's still worth seeing, though not exactly good clean fun.

Why is stuffy old Loose Canon urging you to see an adoring film about a man who, in the words of Alan Jay Lerner, was "a homosexual who'd never seen a closet"? Well, I loved it because it's a love story-between Cole Porter and his wife, Linda, the Southern beauty who nursed Cole through numerous painful surgeries after his legs were crushed in a riding accident.

The New Yorker notes: "In 'De-Lovely,' Porter's preference is shown as a problematic and regrettable intrusion on his abiding romantic attachment to his wife. There is some truth to this approach, but not enough."

It was enough for this moviegoer.

I'd dearly love to know what Cole Porter would have made of the gay "marriage" movement, since he had a gay marriage of an old-fashioned sort that did, even though the Porters were periodically separated, ultimately, work.

P.S. Chuck Colson, whom I admire, holds an extremely different opinion of "De-Lovely." Colson thinks that the Porters' relationship, as shown in the movie, foreshadows a detrimental change in our attitude towards marriage:

"The prospect of a marriage where children, permanence, and fidelity are in doubt is supposed to make us pity Linda Porter," writes Colson in a column headlined "De-Lovely Couples," "even if she was complicit in her own plight. After all, who would opt for such an arrangement? Well, according to one scholar, many Americans have. And understanding how and why this is the case is crucial to understanding the push for same-sex 'marriages.'"

"According to Bryce Christensen of Southern Utah University, homosexuals don't want marriage, at least not marriage as understood for most of the past two millennia. They want what 'marriage has become' as a result of cultural changes and bad policy choices."

Just for the record, in the movie the Porters, inspired by the happy familial life of their friends Gerald and Sara Murphy, attempt to have children of their own.

Not an Odd Duck

The media is determined that the U.S. mission in Iraq fail. In a piece headlined "Paint it Black," Investor's Business Daily (yes--it's read by capitalists) notes, "No wonder the president doesn't find time to read or listen to what the media say about him. The coverage has gotten so unremittingly negative that he'd be a pretty odd duck if he did."

Luther or Leonardo?

Nothing drives Loose Canon madder that the oft repeated and unthinking refrain that what Islam needs is a Reformation. This was a favorite opinion a few months ago among the deep thinkers who do TV and radio commentary.

The problem, folks, is that Islam has already had its Reformation. As Stephen Schwartz, who shares LC's chagrin on this matter, notes:

[I]t is common to hear Westerners, who have read a few polemical articles and imagine themselves great experts on Islam, calling for 'an Islamic Reformation,' and an 'Islamic Luther.'

Other such are horrified to hear the argument, which is quite widespread among informed non-Muslim scholars as well as Muslims, that Islam already has a movement comparable to the Reformation, and had its Luther, or better, its John Calvin, in the form of Wahhabism and its founder, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. That is, the Islamic Reformation exists in the ultra-extremist cult that is the state sect in Saudi Arabia and the inspirer of al-Qaida. Wahhabis themselves are quite pleased by the comparison. Is this really so difficult to understand?
But if Islam has already undergone its Reformation, what's to be done?

"Islam needs to find its way to progress and prosperity, but in my view that way lies through a Renaissance, not a Reformation, and by way of a Leonardo, not a Luther," writes Schwartz. "Luther and his Reformation led to the kind of religious wars we all seek to avoid today, if we have any sense."

How I Luv Ya, How I Luv Ya, Ralph

Every morning Loose Canon thanks the Lord for that butterfly ballot. Next, she gives humble and hearty thanks for the continuing good health of Ralph Nader.

Nevertheless, Joe Conason's New York Observer piece on Nader does capture a certain pathos (or bathos?) in the old lib crusader's falling in with the likes of me.

"You don't have to be a Marxist," writes Conason, "to remember what may be the most widely quoted (and misquoted) passage from the works of Karl Marx: "Hegel says somewhere that all great events and personalities in world history reappear in one way or another. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce."

Unlike Conason, I don't think the Florida recount (in which, pace Michael Moore, if done fairly, Bush would have triumphed without the Court) was a tragedy. But the Nader piece is a fun read.

The Pot Runneth Out

On achieving the ignominious distinction of being the ordinary of the first diocese in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy, Portland, Oregon Archbishop Daniel Vlazny remarked, "The pot of gold is pretty much empty."

Of course, the reason the pot is almost empty is that the archdiocese did a lousy job of responding to reports that priests were abusing children. In the last four years alone, this has cost about $21 million in settlement money, and insurers have grown restive.

Plaintiffs in abuse cases set to begin this week, who together were seeking $155 million, are claiming that the filing was a ruse to head off further revelations.

Further revelations? It would be hard to come up with anything new that's more unsavory than what we already know about priestly abuse, including what is known about Portland's most notorious priest, the Rev. Maurice Grammond, who died in 2002 and who was accused of sexually molesting 50 boys.

The conservative Catholic blog Off the Record provided "a window into the mind of a molester" with an excerpted quote from Grammond's deposition:

"I'd say these children abused me," the priest said. "They'd dive in my lap to get sexual excitement."

Chapter 11 bankruptcy will mean that the archdiocese is able to halt for the time being the lawsuits, but in reorganizing, it will likely come under public scrutiny and then be forced to open books to the public.

Secrecy is a big problem for the Church. This forced openness will dint the propensity for hiding the truth that led to the mess in the first place. Maybe Portland will be a healthy trendsetter.

The Other John from Georgetown

Don't you love the it's-a-small-world-at-the-top feeling of John Kerry sneaking out of his (or hers?) Georgetown house to slip into Madeleine Albright's nearby Georgetown residence to vet neighbor John Edwards for the second spot on the ticket?

I don't like class warfare so I'm not going to make adverse remarks, especially as I love to read about the past glories of Georgetown, even if it was a hotbed of blue-blooded liberals.

But here are some good things to read about the other John:

From the Wall Street Journal: "Edwards has shared Mr. Kerry's slipperiness on anti-terror policy."

"A Tale of Two Johns," a good round up from Realclearpolitics, and from Techcentralstation, James Pinkerton on "John Edwards and the Strangest Mutation of Liberalism Yet."

God and Mr. Edwards

Beliefnet editor-in-chief Steven Waldman has pointed out that the U.S. is a religious country and that to win the presidency John Kerry needs to be able to talk about religion.

Is John Edwards to be the designated hitter on the religious issue? Edwards is a Methodist who has said he has had "an interesting faith journey over the course of my life."

"I was born and raised in the Southern Baptist church, I was baptized in the Southern Baptist Church and then later in life joined the Methodist church and like a lot of people, when I was in my college years, and I went to law school and became a lawyer and was raising my young family I moved away somewhat from my faith. And then I lost a son in 1996 and my faith came roaring back and it played an enormous role in my ability to get through that period. It stayed with me and has been enormously important."

On issues of importance to Christian conservatives, however, Edwards is not likely to give the ticket a boost. The Family Research Council already has put out a press release noting that both Kerry and Edwards have a 0% rating from FRC and a 100% rating from NARAL.

In addition, FRC charged that both Kerry, who has said that he holds the view that life begins at conception but nevertheless has been pro-choice in his political life, and Edwards were instrumental in blocking the nomination of a judicial appointee "simply because he holds private, Christian beliefs."

"As recently as this weekend," the press release said, "Sen. Kerry stated that his personal belief that life begins at conception should not keep him from serving as President because it does not influence his public policy record. However, both he and Sen. Edwards have repeatedly refused to extend that same courtesy--the presumption that one's religious beliefs shouldn't disqualify him from public service--to countless judicial nominees who happen to be pro-life."

Dems: Hello Toots--I Mean Torts

Okay, I must admit I was rooting for dull Dick Gephardt. But instead of getting the most boring politician in America, we get the prettiest. Even I must concede that John Kerry made the bolder choice.

"To pick [John] Edwards is essentially to pick a fight with the Republicans on their territory," writes John Hood of National Review, "and to up the political stakes down the ballot."

Much as I preferred Gephardt, I'm not sure Edwards is going to play well in the long run. Byron York, also of National Review, points out what was missing in Edwards's swoon-inducing "Two Americas" speech:

"Perhaps the most notable thing about 'Two Americas,' at least as it delivered from Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina and beyond, was that it said nothing--literally nothing--about the issue of terrorism. Nor did the speech cover the war in Iraq, which Edwards voted to authorize. Nor, for that matter, did it discuss foreign affairs in general."

Lucianne Goldberg sums up Edwards's missing terror credentials this way: "Dems have forgotten. They are trying to kill us!"

The liveliest chatter I've found of the Edwards pick is National Review's blog, The Corner, where a perceptive reader opines:

"Edwards is a loser for Kerry. His choice gives Bush an instant theme: 'The Flip-flopper and the Tort Lawyer.' There is a not a *trace* of principle or leadership in the choice of Edwards. It is pure calculaton: crass and even contemptuous of the needs of the nation."

On the other hand, Andrew Ferguson of the Weekly Standard says that Edwards is not just another pretty face.

Okay, So Now He Knows Something Aquinas Didn't Know
Even with such a weighty matter as when human life begins, John Kerry wants to have it both ways, as a report in the Washington Post makes clear:

"A Catholic who supports abortion rights and has taken heat from some in the church hierarchy for his stance, Kerry told the paper, 'I oppose abortion, personally. I don't like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception.'"

There's a certain flippancy, if not flip-floppancy, to this remark. If you truly believe a human life begins at conception, you'd have to be a monster not to defend it, never mind stepping on toes.

Interestingly, the Church, which teaches that all abortions are wrong, doesn't say for sure when a life begins (i.e., when ensoulment takes place). Theologians such as Augustine and Aquinas have debated this question; some contemporary theologians believe that modern science bolsters the idea that life does, in fact, begin at conception.

My favorite analogy: It is all right to dynamite an empty building on your property, but it's not all right if you don't know whether or not there's a human being in there.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Kerry--who once referred to Pope Pius 23rd--makes such pronouncements.

Cremation: It Mucks Up the Universe

A blog called "The Daily Ablution" ("Washing Brains Since 2003") quotes The Sunday Times to the effect that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is asking his clergy to persuade people not to be cremated:

"Clergy are to be asked to discourage cremation because of the greenhouse gases generated..."

Instead: "the dead are [to be] placed in biodegradable cardboard coffins or shrouds, and both corpse and container rot quickly without contaminating the soil."

The Amusing Germaine Greer

Germaine Greer has written a new book, "Whitefella Jump Up: The Shortest Way to Nation." In the book, not yet available in the U.S., she argues that her native Australia should become an Aborigine Republic.

A review in London's Spectator notes that Australia is already a nation.

"No concrete suggestion is forthcoming," the reviewer notes, "as to how the five million Sydneysiders, for example, are to transform themselves into a bow- and-arrow brigade, living on assorted roots, grubs and game."

Mobilizing Believers for Bush: The Left Still Believes in Sin!

As a Christian already thoroughly mobilized for George W. Bush, I am pleased to read that the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign is, as articles in the Seattle Times and elsewhere report, reaching out to "religious volunteers across the country asking them to turn over church directories to the campaign, distribute issue guides in their churches and persuade their pastors to hold voter registration drives."

The Seattle Times reported that campaign officials described the outreach to church members as "part of an accelerating effort to mobilize President Bush's base of religious supporters." This has left the left with an unaccustomed word on its lips--sin!

From the Seattle Times: "'I think it is sinful of them [the Bush/Cheney campaign] to encourage pastors and churches to engage in partisan political activity and run the risk of losing their tax-exempt status,' said Steve Rosenthal, chief executive officer of America Coming Together, a group working to defeat Bush."

Whether it's the black churches of the civil rights movement or Christians working to re-elect Bush, religious participation is always dicey. The Seattle Times reports that "tax experts" say that the campaign is "walking a fine line" between what is permitted and what actually does threaten tax status.

A clergyman's or church's endorsing a candidate would end the church's tax-exempt status--but the Bush/Cheney campaign's suggestions that volunteers hold potluck suppers, contact members of the congregation, or even use rolls sounds as if they fall within the bounds of the law.

If the campaign oversteps, you can bet your bottom dollar that somebody will report them to the IRS. Yes, I know that voting Christians are scary but all I can say is: Get used to us.

LC Defends Comandante Che

Why do the media persist in referring to thugs trying to undermine those who want a better life in Iraq as "insurgents"?

The word is too good for them.

As Steven L. Taylor points out on Techcentralstation, it brings to mind the insurgencies in Latin America during the Cold War, conjuring up images of the "iconic" Che Guevara in his beret and others who fought for revolution.

"Setting aside the wrong-headedness of their ideology for a moment, and acknowledging that in many cases extreme and unjustifiable violence was committed in the name of those ideas," writes Taylor, "I can't help but note the difference between those 'insurgents' and what we are seeing operating in Iraq."

The revolutionaries of Latin America "fought against the oligarchy, they fought for the peasant and the urban laborer and their goals were to create a society in which all could live in peace and equality. At least on paper they sought victory to improve the lives of their fellow citizens.

"Contrast that to the black-hooded thugs who decapitated Nicolas Berg and Kim Sun-Il, or to the faceless villains who explode car bombs on the crowded streets of Baghdad with no concern for the death caused to civilians. At least the guerrilla wars of the past mostly (although by no means exclusively) took their fights directly to the state and the military, not to families shopping at the local market."

It's been a long time since Loose Canon stayed up all night, drinking cheap red wine and humming Guantanamera.

Still, I can't help thinking that Commandante Che deserves better.

On the Fourth: Remember the Heroes

As we reflect on our own freedom on Sunday, I know that on this particular Fourth of July many of us will also remember the soldiers who gave their all to carry the hope of freedom to the people of Iraq.

As Rich Lowry of the National Review urges, let us think on the "real heroes:"

"We have collectively lost our ability to make popular battlefield heroes like [Sgt.] York," writes Lowry.

With a few exceptions--say, the extraordinary Pat Tillman, who left the NFL to join the Army Rangers--people become famous in our wars by being victims or villains. Jessica Lynch was captured by Iraqis and rescued, an ordeal to be sure, but not the kind of fearsome courage that has been celebrated by warring nations at least since Homer sang of Hector. Charles Graner has been pictured multiple times in most major papers in the country, appearing next to his inspiration--the stack of naked Iraqi prisoners. Lynch and Graner are each, in their very different ways, anti-heroes, but they are more well-known than troops who have done much more notable things.

"They are better known than Lance Cpl. Joseph Perez, who led his men to victory in a firefight in Iraq despite serious gunshot wounds. They are more famous than Marco Martinez, then a corporal, who launched a captured rocket-propelled grenade into a building full of Iraqis ambushing his platoon and then single-handedly captured the building. We know more about them than the more than 125 Americans who have been decorated with Silver Stars or other high honors for bravery in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fiddlesticks! It's Those Darned Brownshirts

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer contrasts the "flood-the-zone" reporting on Dick Cheney's use of the f-word to the more sober coverage of Al Gore's remarks about Republican "brownshirts" or the "Bush gulag:"

"In the face of Gore's real breach of civil political discourse," asks Krauthammer, "which of the following is the right corrective: (a) offer a reasoned refutation of the charge that George Bush is both Stalinist and Hitlerian; (b) suggest an increase in Gore's medication; or (c) do a Cheney."

According to Krauthammer (and LC), the correct answer is "C."

Pass the Crumpets and Praise the Lord

Think dainty little sandwiches with the crust cut off, Earl Grey's best, and granny's silver tea spoons. "What more non-threatening environment could there be to share the love of Christ?" asks a report on Christian tea parties being hosted by a group called Women Today.

Kerresy Heresy

Loose Canon fervently hopes that the heresy suit filed by a Catholic lawyer against John Kerry with the Archdiocese of Boston will be laughed out of court. The suit, by a Los Angeles canon lawyer, alleges that Kerry, a pro-choice Catholic, is causing "most serious scandal to the American public" by receiving Holy Communion.

Loose Canon wishes that those who don't support the Church's teachings would voluntarily absent themselves from the altar rail. But in a hierarchical church, such matters should be left to bishops, not freelancers. Nuff said.

Why Not Make It a Real Circus?

The trial of Saddam Hussein is about to get underway--thank heavens he's been read his rights. This should prove edifying to a certain type of person.

I refer to the type of person who nodded in agreement while reading a New Yorker "Talk of the Town" piece that appeared shortly after Saddam was captured:

"The twentieth century came and went without justice," it argued. This is because, "None of the century's great totalitarians ever had to sit at a defense table, confer with lawyers, rise with the court when the judge entered the room." It glumly notes, "Mussolini was hanged, Hitler committed suicide."

But that was justice. Hanging was about right for Il Duce. The subsequent mutilation of his body, while not commendable, was hardly shocking under the circumstances.

Now we're likely to see Saddam in the dock, conferring with his lawyers. The idea of a trial for defeated bad guys is a relatively new one, and not necessarily a good one.

The first trials of those defeated in war came after World War II with the Nuremberg trials. Japanese war cabinet members were also executed after a trial. Both Winston Churchill and FDR were originally opposed to trials, advocating the time-honored practice of summary justice without the benefit of trial.

This was not a victory for law but for legalism. Add to that, there's no way the trial of Saddam can be anything but a show trial. He is a monster who led a Stalinist regime--do we need to go to court to know this?

As is often the case, the ancients (you know, the folks who invented civilization) had a better way of doing things.

"As a college Latin teacher," my colleague Charlotte Allen of the Independent Women's Forum wrote when Saddam was captured, "I'm for the Roman method of dealing with one's vanquished enemies. Parade Saddam in chains down Pennsylvania Avenue, followed by Bush in a chariot with Karl Rove whispering 'Sic transit gloria mundi' into his ear."

Ms. Allen also cited Robert Bork, who argued in his book, "Coercing Justice," that the Nuremberg trials, while well-intentioned, were a travesty of justice, paving the way for legal monstrosities.

On the other hand, Saddam's shenanigans promise to be even better TV than the O.J. trial. So maybe we get our circus after all, and I guess as long as the trial is not held in the Hague, LC can survive.

The Dangerous Embrace of the "Loony Left"

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is one of the first on the left to recognize the danger for the Democrats of their love fest with Michael Moore.

Cohen opines that "the stunning box-office success of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' is not, as proclaimed, a sure sign that Bush is on his way out but is instead a warning to the Democrats to keep the loony left at a safe distance. Speaking just for myself, not only was I dismayed by how prosaic and boring the movie was--nothing new and utterly predictable--but I recoiled from Moore's methodology, if it can be called that. For a time, I hated his approach more than I opposed the cartoonishly portrayed Bush."

The Crawford Wives

An anti-Bush ad by NARAL-Pro-Choice America likens women who support the president to the robots in the movie "The Stepford Wives."

Featuring a photo of a suburb filled with look-a-like houses and picket fences, the ad intones: "Well, move over Stepford Wives, here come the Crawford Wives."

We then see the smiling faces of "Laura," "Karen" (Karen Hughes), "Ann" (Ann Coulter), "Lynne," "Condi," and "Kathryn" (Kathryn Harris)--none of whom are accorded the courtesy of a last name--who are all presumably idiots for holding views different from NARAL's.

Never mind that "Karen" ran a presidential campaign, "Ann" has written best-sellers, or that.NARAL feels free to condescend to them because they don't share the organization's views on abortion (I mean choice).

Keep it up, NARAL--you're about to lose the picket fence vote for your guy.

But you think they're morons anyway, don't you.

The Last Eunuch

An interesting discussion of celibacy devolved into one on castration the other day on this blog's chat board. Beliefnet member fromoz challenged LC for an opinion on the latter.

LC will have to consult all sorts of tomes and theologians before coming up with a reply, though off the top of my head I'd say it's against canon law. Still, the Vatican employed castrati to sing in the choir in the Sistine Chapel, and want to tell you about a remarkable, if somewhat sad, recording of the last of the castrati to sing in the Vatican.

Allesandro Morechi, who died in 1922, can still be heard on a record, "The Last Castrato." A review of the record on Amazon refers to the Vatican's castrati as being "these self-tortured, melancholy creatures."

I listened to Morechi's recording at somebody's house about fifteen years ago; the sound was decadent, strange and utterly unforgettable. The discussion made me think of this wonderful recording once again.

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