A Rich Soup of Paranoia

Okay, a lot of people are turned off by President Bush's religious faith. No problemo. That's their right. But Frank Rich's dishonest column in today's New York Times, a report on a forthcoming DVD about the President's religious views, resorts to innuendo and distortions to misrepresent Bush's faith.

The title of the DVD is "George W. Bush: Faith in the White House." "More than any other campaign artifact," writes Rich, "it clarifies the hard-knuckles rationale of the president's vote-for-me-or-face-Armageddon re-election message." That's a lie--Vice President Cheney has said that a terrorist attack is more likely under a Kerry administration. That's something we have every right to debate. Nobody in the Bush campaign has said or implied anything about Armageddon, a loaded term referring to a Biblical battle at the end of time.

Here's another snippet: "'Will George W. Bush be allowed to finish the battle against the forces of evil that threaten our very existence?' Such is the portentous question posed at the film's conclusion by its narrator, the religious broadcaster Janet Parshall, beloved by some for her ecumenical generosity in inviting Jews for Jesus onto her radio show during the High Holidays." Mr. Rich seems unable to recognize that whoever wins in November will have to battle against evil in the form of jihad. And Janet Parshall, by the way, is a very nice lady who doesn't deserve to be mocked for asking Jewish converts to Christianity on her program.

"Past presidents have rarely, if ever, claimed such godlike infallibility. Mr. Bush never admits to making a mistake," writes Rich. Rich seems to be referring to Bush's refusal to answer a politically motivated question by a (most likely) politically motivated reporter about what mistakes he's made. This doesn't amount to a claim of infallibility. It's more a matter of not replying to a jerk.

I'll bet this column scared Swami, who's already frightened enough, to death. Frank Rich should be ashamed.

Only a Few Shopping Hours Left

Yup, John Kerry now has a matter of hours to come up a position on Iraq for the rumble in Coral Gables. I don't think that Howard Dean could have been elected (is it premature to say "either"?), but you can't blame Democrats for wishing they'd stuck with their first love. There's a superb piece in Slate by Chris Suellentrop on Dean nostalgia.

If you read one thing today, let it be George Will's piece on tonight's debates. "Presidential debates are to real debates as processed cheese is to cheese," writes Will. But he does offer a fantasy ploy designed to help us find the true position, if any, Kerry has on Iraq.

Moderator Bias: Will Bush get a fair shake from liberal moderators in the course of the debates? They may be a little shell-shocked by CBS's travails but don't count on it. Here's a good report from the Media Research Center.

Why Kerry will win even if he doesn't--from Instapundit:

"DEBATE PREDICTION: Unless Kerry melts into a puddle on the floor, the media spin will be that he did well and helped his campaign. This is for two reasons. One is, as Newsweek's Evan Thomas remarked, that the press "wants Kerry to win."

He Goes to Church with John Kerry! Wow!

Loose Canon has often wondered how somebody can go through seminary and not understand basic Catholic theology. Yes, I'm referring to James Carroll, the former priest who now bashes the Catholic Church for the Boston Globe.

Catholics are buzzing about Carroll's latest. "Kerry's positions on a range of issues," writes Carroll, "from abortion to the death penalty to the centrality of social justice, mark him not as a renegade Catholic but as one of that increasingly large number of faithful Catholics who understand that moral theology is not a fixed set of answers given once and for all by an all-knowing hierarchy but an ongoing quest for truths that remain elusive."

"James Carroll, the heretical former priest who writes columns for the Boston Globe does it again," says Suburban Priest. "He says, '[Kerry's] faith is informed by the spirit of the great renewal that occurred with Vatican II. At that council (1962-65), the Catholic Church finally and fully embraced the principle of religious liberty that had been pioneered in America.' He also says, 'It is not too much to say that Vatican II was the church's nodding to this country for what it taught the world about the primacy of conscience and the rights of all believers. That spirit of openness is reflected in the public positions advanced by John Kerry.'

"Mr. Carroll doesn't know the teachings of the 2nd Vatican Council very well. In the document of Vatican II on religious liberty, Dignitatis Humanae, the Council Fathers said the following regarding our conscience...."

Phil Lawler of Off the Record (one of your feistier blogs):

"Regarding sexual issues, Carroll continues, the Vatican doesn't understand that 'it is clear that the human race is undergoing a massive cultural mutation...' (I'm not making this up. I couldn't.)

"There's personal testimony here, too. Carroll reveals: 'I worship at the same Catholic church in Boston where John Kerry and his wife often attend Mass.'

"Yup. You're in the same church, all right. I wonder what church it is."

Say It Ain't So

Cancer, abortion-whatever: It was distressing but somehow not completely shocking to read that the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which has in the past raised money to fight breast cancer, has just made hefty financial grants totaling a reported $475,000 to Planned Parenthood. (Tip of my chapel cap to Fillingupspace for pointing out the item.) At least, Eve Sanchez Silver, a Komen analyst, resigned.

Life News reports:

"When confronted with data showing Komen made donations to Planned Parenthood, the information didn't sit well with Komen analyst Eve Sanchez Silver.

"'The Foundation has done so much for so many women through its programs and research grants,' Sanchez Silver told LifeNews.com. 'But this revelation about Planned Parenthood and [Komen], indicates a well thought out funding strategy.'

"Sanchez Silver is the director of Cinta Latina Research, an organization that conducts research into breast cancer issues and their effects on minorities. She is concerned that Planned Parenthood targets minorities and noted that such groups have abortions at higher rates than Caucasians."

Why did I say I'm not surprised by this latest development from a respected charity? Because Komen is a chic charity and chic people are pro-abortion. They regard children as possible lifestyle impediments.

It's the Resurrection, Stupid

Is the Resurrection of Christ a state of mind-your mind? "Big Anglican Guy says 'resurrection' = 'expansion of consciousness'" proclaims a headline on one of my favorite blogs, Relapsed Catholic. The Big Anglican guy is, indeed, a big guy, being none other than the Rt. Rev. Frank Griswold, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the U.S., and a guy whose leadership of the Church committed to his care has made Henry VIII's Cardinal Wolsey look like a rock.

Relapsed's link is to a hilarious send-up of a sermon Grissy actually preached, by a very witty writer for some publication called the Midwest Conservative Journal, whose comments will make you laugh out loud. Here's LC's rejoinder: Big Early Christian Guy Say: "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain (1 Corinthians 15:14)."

After the Fall: Advice for the Catholic Bishops

Loose Canon is not referring to the fall of man but to what the Catholic bishops must do after the fall election. They must not let the issue of pro-choice Catholics drop.

This is the best way for the bishops to show the world that they weren't just dabbling in electoral politics. They should ponder in their hearts an action taken years ago--and very quietly--by Bishop Rene Henry Gracida, now retired:

"A Texas bishop has revealed that he once barred a Catholic politician from the sacraments because of the legislator's outspoken support for legal abortion.

"In an essay that will appear in the October 2004 issue of Catholic World Report, Bishop Rene Henry Gracida argues that bishops have a solemn duty to rebuke public sinners, including those who persistently violate Church teachings regarding the sanctity of life."

Meanwhile: Will orthodox Catholics help keep George Bush in the White House? Put another way: Is abortion killing the Democratic Party? (I saw that headline somewhere but, alas, can't remember who deserves the kudos.).

Catholic? Kerrywatch offers thoughts on these hot topics:

"The anti-Catholic 'Catholics'--those so-called Catholics who reject fundamental dogmas of the Church, her moral teaching on controversial issues, and who seek a fantasy Third Vatican Council to implement their destruction of the Church--are enraged about the progress the Bush campaign has made among Catholic voters.

"A recent Pew Center poll gave Bush a seven point margin among Catholic voters. This fact sparks rage and panic among liberal Catholics when compared to the last election in which the Catholic vote split about evenly between the two major parties."

Only One More Day For Kerry to Devise A New Position on Iraq!

Yes, the clock's ticking. Washington Times columnist Tony Blankley has a delightful piece comparing the debates to Medieval jousts--with the warriors coming forward for mano a mano combat--but arguing that the debates matter less than we think:

"It's all quite charming--this drama of the first debate as presented by the courtly class of pundits, jesters and fools. But if history is any guide, Thursday night's joust will not be the decisive element in the presidential campaign--because the voters are not the damned fools that journalists think they are."

He Still Doesn't Get It: Charm-meister Al Gore advises Kerry on how to debate George Bush. Gore urges Kerry to go for the jugular--of course, the problem with following Gore's advice is you'll probably slit your own throat.

It's very unfortunate when your candidate turns orange on the eve of his big night: See the Drudgereport's Kerry on Orange Alert. Picture included. Kerry must feel like the bride who tries a new harirdo the day of her wedding.

Even if Kerry isn't able to return to a normal human skin tone and win the debate, the storyline is pre-determined: "Sure bet in this campaign is that the media will write a big October comeback story for John Kerry," writes Mike Murphy in the Weekly Standard. "It is evitable for three reasons. First, the media works in a pack that is happiest when following a simple narrative. Second, from moribund to miracle campaigner is Kerry's tiresome myth turned worn-out cliché. Third, this is indeed a tight race and--as with any incumbent seeking reelection--the undecided vote will break heavily against Bush, which will make Kerry look like he is surging late. ...The signs of this pending storyline are already apparent in the coverage of Kerry's new team of savvy advisors."

Israel & U.S.: Hate Objects of Mainline Churches?

The Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C. has just issued a report on human rights advocacy in mainline Protestant denominations.

"The IRD found that Israel and the United States, in that order, were, far and away, mainline Protestantism's major targets. To say the least, Maureen Shea, ECUSA's Director of Government Relations, was not a happy camper," writes the Midwest Conservative Journal (a great blog I've just discovered--it seems to be by a disillusioned Episcopalian).

Amy Welborn has this to say:

"The Institute on Religion and Democracy has released a report that all but accuses mainline churches of being anti-Semitic. The argument is this: Of all the human rights criticisms given by mainline churches and groups such as the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), along with the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches, only 31 percent of 197 statements were directed at countries other than the United States or Israel. Criticism of Israel amounted to 37 percent while statements leveled at the United States totaled 31 percent."

Vile Spectacle

If you read only one thing today, let it be Christopher Hitchens' devastating Slate piece on the "vile spectacle" of Democrats "rooting for bad news in Iraq and Afghanistan" before Nov. 2.

"There it was," the Hitch writes, "at the tail end of Brian Faler's 'Politics' roundup column in last Saturday's Washington Post. It was headed, simply, 'Quotable':

"'I wouldn't be surprised if he appeared in the next month.' Teresa Heinz Kerry to the Phoenix Business Journal, referring to a possible capture of Osama bin Laden before Election Day.

"As well as being 'quotable' (and I wish it had been more widely reported, and I hope that someone will ask the Kerry campaign or the nominee himself to disown it), this is also many other words ending in '-able.' Deplorable, detestable, unforgivable...."

Turf-Conscious Monks at the Holy Sepulcher: So What Else Is New?

Oh, dear, the monks are fighting again: Yes, Franciscan monks and Greek Orthodox priests came to blows earlier this week at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of the most sacred shrines of Christendom. The argument was over whether a door should remain shut during an Orthodox procession. But this has been going on for a long time, and not just between the Franciscans and Orthodox. The Coptic Christians and the Abyssinian Christians--who control the roof of the much-subdivided holy place--have been feuding for the last few centuries, too.

The petty quarreling among turf-conscious monks provides the basis for a hilarious scene in Muriel Spark's novel (1965) "The Mandelbaum Gate." Spark's small comic gem is followed by a beautiful sermon on the theme of, "We have a city not of this world," by an English priest. (If you'd like to read more about the divided Sepulcher, there is nothing better than H. V. Morton's "In the Steps of the Master", a retracing of the key places in Christ's life by a travel writer acclaimed as a master of the genre by none other than Jan Morris.)

No, Dave, It's Pride That Goeth Before a Fall

Writing in the Washington Post, David Broder, who's revered by journalists, came up with this bizarre root cause of the Rathergate and other recent journalistic scandals:

"We need to be asking why this collapse has taken place.

"My suspicion is that it stems from a widespread loss of confidence in both the values of journalism and the economic viability of the news business."

The column was headlined, "The Media, Losing Their Way." Anybody who thinks the media needs a self esteem course is Losing His Grip.

Only Two Shopping Days Left

John Kerry has only two days left to come up with a new position on Iraq before the first debate. Larry Kudlow does roadwork on Kerry's position as of breakfast this morning in the National Review: "Kerry, who despicably agrees with Kofi Annan that the Iraq war was somehow illegal, calls Iraq a 'profound diversion' from the battle against al Qaeda."

Columnist Brendan Miniter cocks an eye towards the rumble in Coral Gables and Kerry on Iraq in the Wall Street Journal:

"Mr. Kerry knows he's rallying his base when he complains about firehouses being opened in Baghdad and money going to the war effort rather than 'after-school programs' and when he says this is 'the wrong war at the wrong time.' But he's also hoping to avoid the fate of George McGovern, while also capitalizing on the natural unease Americans feel while their sons and daughters are in harm's way. Unfortunately for Mr. Kerry, that is likely to prove to be a nuance too far."

Teddy Kennedy's Mushroom Cloud

Loose Canon complained yesterday that we're not supposed to talk about who Osama bin Laden would prefer as President of the United States. Mickey Kaus of kausfiles seems to agree with LC's point of view:

"Ted Kennedy is going to be attacked for saying that the war in Iraq has 'made the mushroom cloud more likely, not less likely.' But why shouldn't he say it? That's what the campaign is mainly about--namely, whose policies will minimize the risk of a 'nuclear 9/11'. ...Dick Cheney was similarly within his rights to argue that if Kerry's elected 'the danger is we'll get hit again.' That's his argument. ...The point is that neither argument can be ruled out of bounds as excessive fear-mongering--after 9/11 fear of catastrophic terrorism in the U.S. clearly isn't excessive at all. The arguments need to be judged on their merits. ..."

Kaus loses me when he says that he thinks Kennedy has the better point because the Iraq war has made people in the Middle East angry. Note to Mickey: They were angry before the war.

This Is The Week That Is

We'll have a pretty good idea of who's going to be president for the next four years after this week's debate. I hope George Bush isn't as nervous as Loose Canon. National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru says that "there is still a chance for Kerry to win the race--if he can find a plausible position on Iraq and stick to it."

Doug Gamble, also writing in National Review, believes that Kerry's chances are slim:

"Rather than showcasing a Kerry whom more people will consider voting for, the debates will expose a Kerry most Americans will realize they cannot vote for. What will sink him is the same underlying squishy uncertainty, if not downright deviousness, on major issues he has displayed throughout his quest for the presidency."

On "Live with Regis and Kelly" Kerry mocked Bush's intellectual prowess. The AP reported:

"'The big hang-up was George Bush wanted to get life lines, you know, so he could call somebody,' the Democratic candidate for president quipped Tuesday while appearing on 'Live With Regis and Kelly.'"

If I were John Kerry, I'd watch that kind of remark. Just some friendly advice.

The blog Catholic Ragemonkey had a funny headline on the Kerry/Live with Regis show: "Now Regis Throws His Lot in with Belial [the devil]." Kudos to the headline writer.

Osama's Candidate, Kinsley's Sophistry

In an attempt to deflate the notion, afoot in some quarters, that John Kerry is "Osama's Candidate" (the column's headline in the Washington Post), Michael Kinsley engages in sophistry:

"Where does Osama bin Laden stand on gay marriage? What are his views on privatization of Social Security and stem cell research? Is he concerned about judges who place their personal opinions ahead of the Constitution? Or does he care more about corporations that outsource good American jobs to foreign countries?

"It seems we're going to have a national debate about whom bin Laden and al Qaeda support for president. Fair enough. Bin Laden's opinion, if only we could know it, would probably affect the judgment of voters more than that of any other independent thinker except, of course, John McCain. So far, the bin Laden debate has been pretty one-sided, with a string of Republican public officials claiming that terrorists are rooting for John Kerry and some bloggers and a columnist or two suggesting that he may prefer Bush."

No, Michael, Osama probably doesn't have a stand on the privatization of Social Security. He wants to blow us up before we receive it. He prefers whichever candidate would make this easier. We all know this. Why can't we talk about it?

Regardless of what he thinks about the Iraqi war--today--John Kerry's campaign's response to the visit to Washington by Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a staunch U.S. ally, were despicable:

"Is Kerry proud that his senior adviser's derisive comment about the leader of free Iraq will now be quoted by terrorists and by enemies of the United States, in Iraq and throughout the Middle East?" asks Bill Kristol. "Is the concept of a loyalty to American interests that transcends partisan politics now beyond the imagination of the Kerry campaign?"

Take Your Money and Stuff It

A few days ago, I noted that liberal Episcopalians in the U.S. are threatening to withhold money from African churches that don't support ECUSA's decision to consecrate an openly gay bishop. Not so fast. It turns out that the honorable African Anglicans didn't want money American churches that have forsaken the Gospel:

As the stalwart American Anglican Council reported several months ago:

"Anglican archbishops from Africa resolved Thursday to reject donations from any diocese that recognizes gay clergy and recommended giving the Episcopal Church in the United States three months to repent for ordaining an openly gay bishop. The archbishops also said they will refuse cooperation with any missionary who supports ordaining gay priests. They said the Episcopalians--the American branch of Anglicanism--should be disciplined for the election last year of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson has lived openly with his male partner for years.

Meanwhile, the Tablet, England's prominent Catholic newspaper, reports on the visit of Archbishop George Carey, formerly m'Lord of Canterbury, to confirm Episcopalians at Truru Episcopal Church in suburban Virginia, and the excellent Getreligion dissects the Tablet's biased report, including the venerable journal's failure to mention just how many Episcopal prelates in the U.S. have blessed same-sex unions.

But These Folks Will Take Your Money

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has just published the salaries of executives of major charities. They obviously believe it's blessed to receive, and the figures are pretty shocking.

With boards, rather than market forces at work, charity people don't have to do their good deeds out of the goodness of their hearts:

"The study being released Monday showed that the median salary of 215 chief executives was $291,356. The median is the middle point of that group, meaning 107 leaders made more than that figure and 107 made less.

"The publication determined that the middle range of the increases from 2002 to 2003 was 3.7 percent, almost twice the inflation rate of 1.9 percent last year. Still, the rate of compensation increase was the smallest since 1996, the figures showed."

Here's are the people who are doing the best by (we hope) doing good:

"The four top earners surveyed worked at hospitals: Harold Varmus, president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and Floyd D. Loop, chief executive of Cleveland Clinic Foundation, both of whom earned $1.7 million in 2003; Herbert Pardes, chief executive of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, $1,3 million; and Peter G. Traber, president of the Baylor College of Medicine, $1.2 million."

Oh, but...

"There's a lot of responsibility and a lot of background and experience needed for those jobs," [Daniel Borochoff of the American Institute of Philanthropy] said. "The nonprofit needs to hire qualified people."

As a rule, Loose Canon becomes livid when the envy crowd says there should be limits to what people can earn. LC also recognizes that people who work for nonprofits deserve to earn what they could in the market place. But LC has a feeling that there are many people pulling down salaries way beyond what they would make without compliant boards. That's why there are so many scandals in the charity world.

Briefly Noted

  • Spin City: Jeremy Lott of the American Spectator shows how former Bush Catholic advisor and former publisher of Crisis magazine Deal Hudson hasn't stopped campaigning to hold onto his power.
  • Out of the mouths of babes: "In late 2002, while Mr. Annan was lobbying against U.S.-led removal of Saddam," writes Claudia Rosset, "he was running a U.N. program in which money meant for baby formula, among other goods, was very likely flowing into the pockets of Saddam and his sons and cronies.
  • Sunday's gospel was the one about the rich man and the beggar at his gates. Did you, too, hear a sermon that sounded as if it had been written by the United Nations? "Pope John Paul II is a very holy man who doesn't understand basic economics," opines Relapsed Catholic. The same goes for many parish priests.
  • Pope on Pogo Stick: The BBC Backs Down

    The BBC has decided not to air Popetown, a comedy set in the Vatican that pokes fun at the Catholic Church. Ruby Wax was the voice of a senile pope, and Jerry Hall provided sound for an ambitious nun. The comedy, for a digital youth channel, was commissioned three years ago.

    "However," reports the Telegraph, "Stuart Murphy, the channel's controller, admitted that the 10-part animated series--which featured back-stabbing cardinals and an infantile Pope who bounced around the Vatican on a pogo stick--was too offensive to broadcast."

    If the show hadn't been for a kids' channel, I'd be sorry to hear it has been cancelled. That's the way these folks (see above) think about us, and it's good for the world to know it. Thanks to Relapsed Catholic for pointing out this item.

    Morgan Spurlock Is A Big Fat Snob

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I never expected to end up being a populist. But the snobbery of the New Class--the blue state intellectuals and chatterers and others who regard people who don't embrace their point of view as yokels--makes me see red.

    Their sneering contempt for ordinary folks is so much worse than anything the Old Class snobs of yesteryear ever came up with, and, unlike the snobs of yesteryear, the blue state bluenoses aren't ashamed of their attitude towards their fellow man. In fact, it's their sense of superiority that gives meaning to their lives.

    The acclaimed movie "Super Size Me" in which filmmaker Morgan Spurlock gets fat and then attractively throws up from eating at McDonald's is an example of this snobbery.

    As English reviewer Brendan O'Neill notes in "Bashing the McMasses:"

    "[The movie's] real target is the people who eat in McDonald's--the apparently stupid, fat, unthinking masses who scoff Big Macs without even asking to see a nutritional and calorie breakdown first. Spurlock and his ilk might hate McDonald's, but they seem to loathe the McMasses even more."

    And this:

    "In debates about 'bad' foods (McDonald's), fast foods (microwave meals), and fat mums in clingy leggings who make their kids fat too by feeding them 'junk', there's a barely concealed contempt for the working classes, who are presumed to be lazy, feckless and not sufficiently concerned with healthy cooking and fitness. It's there in the terminology: they are seen as 'junk' people."

    Spurlock also made menu choices guaranteed to make him fat--this was dishonest, and I hope he's stuck with the extra pounds. McDonald's has inexpensive offerings that are pretty good if you're hungry and not able to afford nouvelle cuisine.

    Today's second exhibit of New Class condescension is Naomi Wolf's piece comparing Laura Bush and Teresa Heinz Kerry in New York magazine. "Is it trivial to weigh Laura Bush's gentle, Xanax-like demeanor, her faultless librarian's poise and sincerity, against the imperious sexuality of Teresa Heinz Kerry?," asks Wolf.

    The chattering classes love Teresa because her second-hand opinions are their second hand opinions, and they only wish they had the billions to give them the right to call people "idiots" or "scumbags" and get away with it. I'd say Ms. Wolf, Al Gore's former fashion adviser, needs more than earth tones--she needs contact with earthlings.

    Ironically, Laura Bush may be the more thoughtful of the two women, with opinions of her own. Andrew Ferguson's review of the Kitty Kelley book notes that Kelley tries to give the Bushes the total Sinatra treatment but inadvertently presents Laura Bush as a thoughtful person. But, of course, for the chattering classes, she holds the wrong opinions.

    Be Very Afraid

    It's easy to look at the contorted face of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who has been in a coma for more than a decade, and conclude she's somehow less human than you or me. But she's not. That's why yesterday's right-to-die ruling that she can be denied life support is disturbing. It is Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael, who is remarried, who is asserting her right to die. He was awarded a $1.2 million judgment to take care of her a number of years ago. Don't applaud this ruling, be afraid--very afraid. We can all fall sick, and people in comas can awaken. Even if they couldn't, it's not a husband's right to argue his incapacitated wife's right to die.

    An Important Election Down Under

    Australia has been one of our firmest allies, including standing firm in the Iraq war. Presidential candidate John Kerry might call stalwarts a "coalition of the bribed," but Charles Krauthammer explains:

    "Australia does not share only a community of values with the United States," writes Krauthammer. "It understands that its safety rests ultimately on a stable international structure that, in turn, rests not on parchment treaties but on the power and credibility of the United States. Which is why Australia is with us today in both Afghanistan and Iraq."

    Australia's October election will decide between Prime Minister John Howard, who supports the United States in Iraq, and Mark Latham, who would pull the troops out of the country. It is a crucial election.

    Krauthammer writes:

    "The terrorists' objective is to intimidate all countries allied with America. Make them bleed and tell them this is the price they pay for being a U.S. ally. The implication is obvious: Abandon America and buy your safety.

    "That is what the terrorists are saying. Why is the Kerry campaign saying the same thing? 'John Kerry's campaign has warned Australians that the Howard Government's support for the US in Iraq has made them a bigger target for international terrorists.' So reports the Weekend Australian (Sept. 18)."

    Gee, Why Could That Be?

    The Guardian on the latest from the C of E: "The Church of England said yesterday that police counter-terrorism operations were directed disproportionately against Muslims and risked alienating them."

    I Hear There Are Some Nice Rentals in Brussels

    The President gave a perfectly nice address the other day at the United Nations. But Loose Canon has been wondering: Why bother?

    Victor Davis Hanson, the historian and frequent contributor to National Review, seems to be pondering the same conundrum. He writes in today's Wall Street Journal:

    "These are surreal times. Americans in Iraq are beheaded on videotape. Russian children are machine-gunned in their schools. The elderly in Israel continue to be blown apart on buses. No one--whether in Madrid, Istanbul, Riyadh, Bali, Tel Aviv or New York--is safe from the Islamic fascist, whose real enemy is modernism and Western-inspired freedom of the individual...

    "In response to such international lawlessness, our global watchdog, the United Nations, had been largely silent. It abdicates its responsibility of ostracizing those states that harbor such mass murderers, much less organizes a multilateral posse to bring them to justice. And yet under this apparent state of siege, President Bush in his recent address to the U.N. offered not blood and iron--other than an obligatory 'the proper response is not to retreat but to prevail'--but Wilsonian idealism, concrete help for the dispossessed, and candor about past sins. The president wished to convey a new multilateralist creed that would have made a John Kerry or Madeleine Albright proud, without the Churchillian 'victory at any cost' rhetoric. Good luck."

    There are so many things wrong with the U. N. I won't tell you what the first two faults of the odious East River debating society Hanson listed today, but here's the next one:

    "Third, the present secretary-general, Kofi Annan, is himself a symbol of all that is wrong with the U.N. A multibillion dollar oil-for-food fraud, replete with kickbacks (perhaps involving a company that his own son worked for), grew unchecked on his watch, as a sordid array of Baathist killers, international hustlers and even terrorists milked the national petroleum treasure of Iraq while its own people went hungry..."

    But we can't act unilaterally can we? That's just so tacky. But--wait--here's a quote from Jim Hoagland's column today:

    "I think some of my colleagues were perturbed by the briefings they heard at the Democratic convention in July about how much more Europe would have to do for President Kerry," says one European diplomat. "All the speeches since then saying U.S. allies and not just Halliburton have to rebuild Iraq just add to the concern."
    Morning Has Broken, the Blue Bird Is Grounded

    "Those who scoff at the idea that the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens could end up on the U.S. government's 'no-fly list' only show how unfamiliar they are with his beliefs and most prominent associations and activities over the last two decades," writes Stephen Schwartz in the Weekly Standard.

    Honesty compels me to admit that I have a certain fondness for "Moon Shadow," ("Yes, I'm bein' followed by a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow...") which Yusuf Islam wrote in his Cat Stevens days.

    But I can't forgive him his syrupy "Morning Has Broken" (the lyrics are actually by Eleanor Farjeon, but Cat/Yusuf did the gooey arrangement). Whenever it is sung in Church, I wish I could ground the choir director.

    Pro-Choice Catholics: The Let's Make a Deal Mentality

    Loose Canon quoted from Kenneth Woodward's important Commonweal piece on Cuomo, the pro-choice position, and the inconsistencies therein. The philosophical underpinning for the current position espoused by pro-choice Catholics can be traced, Woodward argued, to then Governor Mario Cuomo's speech in 1984 at Notre Dame. Woodward--and LC--regard the speech as sophistry of the worst sort.

    Well, the plot thickens with Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput also arguing that the intellectual dishonesty started with Cuomo:

    "In hindsight, Cuomo's speech is a *tour de force* of articulate misdirection. It refuses to acknowledge the teaching and formative power of the law. It implicitly equates unequal types of issues. It misuses the 'seamless garment' metaphor. It effectively blames Catholics themselves for the abortion problem. It selectively misreads history.

    "In the end, Cuomo argued that 'approval or rejection of legal restrictions on abortion should not be the exclusive litmus test of Catholic loyalty.' With those words, he wrote the alibi for every 'pro-choice' Catholic who has held public office since.

    "In deference to his understanding of pluralistic democracy, Governor Cuomo-- despite his personal opposition to abortion--went on to resist repeated attempts to restrict abortion in his own state of New York. He also supported public funding of abortion for poor women.

    "His Catholic conscience apparently did kick in on selective issues though, whether 'pluralism' liked it or not. Governor Cuomo vetoed legislative efforts to re-institute the death penalty--12 times." Chaput regards the compromise pro-choice Catholics make as "a deal with the devil, and it has a balloon payment no nation, no public servant and no voter can afford."

    A Few Short Takes

  • Oh, damned: "Evil and decay aroused Greene's imagination; as Milton did with Satan, he gives his wicked characters and dodgy dealers all the best lines," writes Matthew Price in a review of the latest Graham Greene bio.
  • Cats and Good Samaritans: There was a sweet story in Christianity Today about two Christian friends who smuggled in two cats as Lance Loud, who loved cats but was more famous for having come out of the closet on one of TV's first reality dramas, An American Family (1973), as he lay dying of AIDS. Before he became sick, Loud has been skeptical about Christians and they of gays, but nobody doubted that the cats' ability to heal. Cats aren't aloof when the chips are down.
  • Actually, I'm a sucker for cats: Take a look at the replica of a mega church Amy Hughes has fashioned out of LEGO pieces. It is incredibly detailed and dedicated to the memory of Ms. Hughes' cat, Precious, who died in 2002.
  • No, they don't have FEMA: An editorial in a Jamaican newspaper suggests that the Virgin Mary is protecting the island from hurricane damage. Well, stranger things have happened.

  • The New Deal: Sinner or Spinner?

    As somebody who wrote an extremely critical personal note regarding the situation at Crisis magazine to an official there, I feel queasy about commenting on Deal Hudson. Deal, the subject of much talk lately, was the Crisis publisher and Bush adviser whose sexual misconduct while a professor at a Catholic college nine years ago was the subject of an expose in the National Catholic Reporter.

    He resigned from the Bush campaign but held onto his day job. It's his Crisis job that forms the subject at hand.

    First, there's a report in the Washington Times by Julia Duin this morning that five of the magazine's most influential columnists have pressured the magazine's board to can Hudson. There's also this:

    "[S]pecific accusations of more recent sexual misconduct had come to the board's attention, one scholar said. 'This was not about one incident 10 years ago,' he said. 'It's surprising it was held down as long as it was. I haven't gone out of my way to track Deal Hudson's improprieties--I could be doing nothing else. But you began to wonder after a while if they are true.'"

    In an apparent preemptive move, Deal last night sent out an email headlined "Important Announcement." He thanked people for their support (!), and announced that he was stepping down as publisher of the magazine. Some excerpts from the email:

    As you can imagine, the past month has been very difficult for both me and my family. There's no doubt that the recent adverse publicity about me, and the criticism that followed, influenced my decision.

    ...As long as I remain publisher of CRISIS, I'll be a source of controversy. He will become director of the Morley Institute, headquartered in the Crisis building. Its functions, according to the email update, are to raise funds for Crisis and "support several new projects that I've wanted to pursue for some time."

    One annoyed wag commented that at least the bishops send a guy to a new parish instead of just changing the sign on the door.

    A Presbyterian Punch for Israel

    As someone who regards Israel as an outpost of Western values in a sea of chaos--and, no, before you go there, I do not expect the second coming to be there--I was disappointed that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) decided to divest their portfolio of companies that do business with Israel.

    I wouldn't go so far as to compare the Presbyies to the Syrians, as Eugene Kontorovich, a George Mason University professor and fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, does in today's National Review, but I found his thoughts quite pertinent:

    "The divestment action manifests a singular animosity towards Israel. The Presbyterians have not divested their funds from any of the cruel regimes of the world: not from China for its ethnic cleansing of Tibetans, and its repression of Muslims and Falun Gong; and not even from Sudan, currently engaged in the extermination of Africans in Darfur. But then again, Syria has not boycotted those states either.

    "One would expect the Presbyterian Church to use its economic clout with an eye to punishing the many regimes around the world that oppress their fellow Christians, and call attention to their plight. However, the church has not taken action against such nations as Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, or North Korea (whose government has reportedly murdered 300,000 Christians), where anti-Christian persecution has been detailed by Christian human-rights groups. Indeed, the Presbyterians have not even boycotted Lebanon, where Christians have been slaughtered by various Muslim groups. But then, neither has Syria, which controls Lebanon as a vassal state."

    Forget that St. Christopher Medal--the Bill Is Here

    A website, www.saintclinton.com, is offering "keepsake items" to "remind you of better times" that feature a painting of Bill Clinton in a Sacred Heart of Christ pose with a halo. "His timeless sympathetic words, 'I feel your pain' echo in his reassuring expression."

    I particularly like the coaster and lunchbox, and was thinking about buying some of these very special gifts for Swami until yesterday. Keep reading to find out why LC isn't giving Swami the St. Clinton lunch pail.

    Swami: Crossing the Line

    Swami--who has an endearing habit of referring to those who do not share his views as "the Stupids"--is upset by my comments on colorful literature mailed to voters in West Virginia by the Republican National Committee.

    The campaign literature featured a Bible with the word "banned" stamped across it, and further claimed that, if the Democrats win the White House, men will marry men. (Swami, don't you think men will be able to marry men?) I defended the mailings, noting that...

    "...the literature points to an anti-religious bias among liberals that can't be denied. Nope, they don't want to ban the Bible--nor do they want school children reading aloud from the Bible on school campuses. Which might be construed as a form of banning it."

    Swami replies:

    "Okay, let's go back to 9th grade civics, a class that millions of conservatives seem to have skipped. In the Constitution, Americans are protected from the establishment of the State Religion that LC so transparently craves. It's not a Liberal vs. Conservative issue. Or a God-fearing Christian vs. Liberal Atheist debate. For the record: Like many other Liberals--indeed, like sensible Americans of most political persuasions--Swami finds the presence of God an important part of his life. His private life."

    I do not "transparently crave" the establishment of a State Religion, and, in fact, regard this as a rather offensive thing to have said about me. The Founding Fathers were wise to forbid the establishment of a state religion.

    I think, however, that as deists or Episcopalians (the two dominant outlooks at the Constitutional Convention), the Founding Fathers would be shocked that many--not all but many--high profile liberals now want to do considerably more than maintain the barrier between church and state. They have an anti-religious bias, which is their right, as long as they don't try to inflict it on others.

    You see it everywhere. An atheist files suit to remove a cross from a Korean war memorial in San Diego or a judge in Colorado tells a Christian mother she can't share with her child her religion's teaching on homosexuality or when poor children are denied vouchers if their parents plan to use them at a religious school. Columnist Don Feder wrote several years ago on the controversy that erupted when a group called the Total Living Network passed out Ten Commandment book covers in Chicago schools:

    "'I am enthusiastically supportive,' says Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas. 'I view the Ten Commandments as history's value statements.' Vallas is commending the Total Living Network for distributing 100,000 of these book covers to schoolchildren.

    "Vallas' words enraged Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. The school's CEO 'has no business taking a position on whether the Ten Commandments or any other religious document is good, bad or indifferent,' fumes Barry Lynn, the group's executive director.

    "Not to be outdone, People for the American Way warns that, based on Vallas' comments, some children might be intimidated into using the covers for fear of 'disappointing school officials.' PAW inhabits a universe where students live in dread of hurting the feelings of school officials.

    "Americans United, PAW and the ACLU are determined to expunge any expression of God or God-based morality from the public domain, as a trip to Americans United's website confirms."

    There is a difference between passing out optional book covers and erecting a several-ton monument to the Commandments on public property, as former Alabama Judge Roy Moore did. Though I have repeatedly criticized Moore in this space, Swami tars me with a false association with him, asking...

    "...Is LC's religion so desperately in need of promotion that--in addition to its symbol on jewelry, houses, bumper stickers, lawns, movies, books, churches and billboards--it must be on public property as well?"

    Check the archives--I'm very much on record as thinking Moore has no right to unilaterally decorate public spaces. (On the other hand, a Beliefnet member compared poor old LC to Dan Rather, who is even more awful.)

    Since Swami has commented in some depth (and with some animosity) on my religious views, I feel I have the right to do the same. Swami raised the issue of the presence of God in his private life. What does he mean by this? I'd like to know more about Swami's God. Please, tell us about Him or Her. Of course, you don't have to--my license from the Inquisition has just expired.

    Can You Really Be Catholic and Pro-Choice?

    Loose Canon will not address today the question of when life begins. But she will urge you to read a brilliant piece in Commonweal, the liberal Catholic magazine, on when and how the current argument advanced by pro-choice Catholics began.

    Written by Kenneth Woodward, the former Newsweek religion correspondent, the piece shows where John Kerry and other pro-choice Catholics found the intellectual underpinnings for an argument that requires lots of mental gymnastics:

    "Listening to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry talk about his position on abortion ('We believe that what matters most is...not narrow appeals that divide us, but shared values that unite us...'), I hear loudly in the background the sonorous voice of Mario Cuomo, our foremost 'philosopher-politician,' as the Boston Globe has lately crowned him. It is twenty years since Cuomo delivered his famous speech at Notre Dame, in which he defined what has become the established rationale for pro-choice Catholic politicians. In a recent New York Times op-ed piece on Kerry and the Catholic bishops ('A Political Sacrament,' May 28, 2004), I dismissed that speech as a piece of 'ancient sophistry.'"

    The Cuomo speech at Notre Dame became the basis for the arguments on how they can be both Catholic and pro-choice for subsequent politicians, including Geraldine Ferraro and John Kerry. Woodward continues:

    "In his speech, the governor declared that as a Catholic and as a matter of conscience, he regarded abortion as 'sinful.' But this, he insisted, was his 'private' view as an 'obedient' Catholic raised in the 'pre-Vatican II' church. As a politician and public official, however, Cuomo said, he was not obliged to work for laws that reflected Catholic 'dogmas,' citing among other examples the fact that the bishops themselves no longer sought through laws to oblige non-Catholics to observe church teachings on birth control. While acknowledging that abortion is a graver moral issue than contraception, Cuomo further argued that it would be both wrong and impractical to seek laws restricting abortion. He gave two reasons. First, such laws would oblige non-Catholics and Catholics who disagree with the church's teachings on abortion, thereby violating their religious freedom: 'We know that the price of seeking to force our beliefs on others is that they might some day force theirs on us.' Second, since there is no public consensus in support of antiabortion legislation, any efforts to pass such laws would be divisive and unenforceable: 'The values derived from religious belief will not-and should not-be accepted as part of the public morality unless they are shared by the pluralistic community at large, by consensus.'"

    But here's the really important point:

    "At this point it is worth noting what Cuomo did not say, as well as what he did. Never once did he say that abortion was evil, intrinsically or otherwise. Never once did he say--as the bishops had, as he himself could have--that opposition to abortion as a matter of public morality is a defense of the human rights of the unborn. Never once did he say the abortion dispute is a disagreement over the scope of social justice. He did not say these things, and never has, I believe, because doing so would make his position difficult if not impossible to defend. He did not say these things, and never has, because, as I think his record makes clear, he does not believe them to be true."

    Can You Hear Me Now, Swami?

    Loose Canon's remarks on Tariq Ramadan, the Islamic scholar whose visa was revoked, seem to have been too nuanced for Swami (hey, I thought you guys liked nuance).

    "Swami saw lots of quotes in LC's post, but not LC's opinion. (Note to self: New reading glasses? Eye check? Or just ignore LC?)."

    LC's opinion is that a visa to the U.S. isn't a birthright and people who advocate or defend Islamic suicide bombers should not be given one. Yes, I believe that Mr. Ramadan should be denied a visa.

    I can do no better than include once again the original link to a piece by Stephen Schwartz, a Muslim who often writes on subjects involving Islam:

    "Tariq Ramadan should not be admitted to the U.S. He has written extensively on the challenge of assimilating Islam in Europe, but has shown by his public statements there that he is not an Islamic moderate at all, but a man committed to quite radical postures. Even Hicham Chehab, news editor of the Beirut Daily Star, a newspaper obviously dedicated to Arab interests, was forced to admit early this month that 'During the controversial visit to Britain last July by Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, himself accused of sanctioning suicide bombers, Ramadan defended Qardawi on the BBC television program "Hard Talk."'"

    I will try to resist the temptation to hit Swami over the head with my Bible and meditate quietly on his comments about my comments on the RNC mailer to West Virginia. As soon as I have digested them, I'll reply. But wouldn't a tranquilizer and a nice warm glass of milk be better than new reading glasses, Swami?

    Christian Chick Lit: Will Bridget Jones Find God?

    A Harlequin romance series for young women looking for a guy--and God? Bodice ripping with prayers?

    A piece in today's New York Times reports on the emergence of a new pop lit genre--Christian chick lit:

    "Jean Marlow Golan, senior editor at Harlequin, the largest publisher of romantic fiction, foresees an expanding market that will attract more and more young unmarried Christian women. In a recent study of reading habits by the National Endowment for the Arts, observant Christians were the only group of Americans reading more than in the past.

    "To satisfy that demand, several leading publishers, both Christian and secular romance houses, are rolling out what they call 'Christian chick lit' lines. These novels typically feature Bridget Jones types looking for the right man, the right chocolate, the right friends--and the right relationship with God.

    And the Envelope Please...

    Anna Katharina Emmerich, the German mystic on whose visions Mel Gibson relied so heavily in recreating Christ's crucifixion for "The Passion of the Christ," is receiving something even better than an Oscar for screen writing--she will be beatified on Oct. 3.

    Emmerich is one of five people Pope John Paul II will beatify that day. According to Zenit, the Catholic news service, John Paul II has proclaimed 1,333 blessed and 482 saints.

    It's No Longer a Tempest in a Teapot

    Remember when stories of in-fighting in the Episcopal Church were inevitably headlined Tempest in a Teapot? Well, it looks like the Episcopalians, once famed for their genteel ways, are now playing hardball.

    The Guardian newspaper reports that the U.S. bishops who favored the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, a practicing homosexual, plan to punish poorer churches in Africa that stand up for the ancient teachings of Christianity:

    "Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is being warned that North American bishops will cut off funds from the Anglican church in Africa if they are disciplined for supporting the election of a gay bishop, in a row which threatens to split the worldwide church."

    What's All the Fuss About?

    Loose Canon is not joining in hue and cry over a dramatic mailing with a religious theme, apparently from the Republican National Committee, received by voters in West Virginia. Here's how the Associated Press describes the mailer:

    "Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November.

    "The literature shows a Bible with the word 'BANNED' across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word 'ALLOWED.' The mailing tells West Virginians to 'vote Republican to protect our families' and defeat the 'liberal agenda.'"

    Yup, it's colorful all right. Sure, it's an exaggeration, but it's a political season, and frankly, the literature points to an anti-religious bias among liberals that can't be denied. Nope, they don't want to ban the Bible--nor do they want school children reading aloud from the Bible on school campuses. Which might be construed as a form of banning it.

    Swami--who's probably very alarmed about the RNC ad--calls the Religious Right the Religious Wrong. As long as liberals feel this way, mailers like this will probably be quite effective.

    As for the claim that, if liberals win, men will be allowed to marry men--is this not true?

    Message for Molester Schoolmarm: Don't Forgive Yourself Too Soon!

    One of the more bizarre topics aired on ABC's Prime Time Live--a sort of supermarket tabloid for people who don't want to admit to liking cheap thrills--was school teachers who seduce their young students (read about the cases of Mary Kay Letourneau and Debra Lafave). One segment featured host Cynthia McFadden earnestly asking one of the ex-teachers, who had a child with one of her students, "Have you forgiven yourself?" Not so fast, Cynthia--how about a little beating up on yourself for a terrible crime before the kind act of self-forgiveness?

    Prime Time treated the whole subject as a lurid and shocking example of "taboos broken." Absent on the part of those interviewed was any sense of having broken, in addition to "taboos," a serious moral law. The subjects, both the teachers and kids, seemed to have just wandered into their act. Asked to comment, one of the young men, his face hidden, seemed not to grasp the seriousness and, when probed by McFadden on his response, could come up with little more than that it "felt good."

    One of my favorite novels, "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" by Muriel Spark, features a sexual affair between a student and a male teacher. In the movie, there is a marvelous scene of Pamela Franklin, who played Sandy, the girl sleeping with the art teacher, Teddy Lloyd (played quite brilliantly by Sir Robert Stephens), getting out of bed, looking young and nubile, putting on her spectacles to look at a painting Mr. Lloyd has just done. Why is this less offensive than Prime Time on teachers and the students they seduce?

    Well, the facile answer might be that the movie is art and Prime Time decidedly isn't--but that's not the answer. In "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," Teddy Lloyd and Sandy aren't cut off from moral law, and they know that what they are doing has moral consequences beyond how it feels at the moment. If anything, Sandy--who's arguably the seducer in the case--is well aware of the devious nature of what she is doing, sleeping with her married art teacher, whom her spinster teacher, Miss Jean Brodie, loves.

    I think the real problem with the Prime Time series is, oddly enough, innocence. We are becoming so unhinged from traditional canons of morality that we are, in a way, innocent--innocent of moral law. The people in the ABC series seem to sense that they've broken some sort of taboo, but beyond that they are just too unplugged from morality to "get it." As a Catholic convert, Muriel Spark was sophisticated--in the real sense of the word--about good and evil. Prime Time, alas, isn't. And, by the way, I think McFadden's interviewee has forgiven herself--she's written a book about her experience, and I'm sure she's not giving the money to charity. (After all, she has a kid to support--the child of her former student.) Unfortunately, though I can locate some of the teacher seducers on the Prime Time site, I can't find this particular one, alas, and thus am unable to recommend the book. So, forget Prime Time, and if you haven't already, go for the "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" instead. It's one of the great novels of the last century. Dame Muriel, by the way, has a new novel out--it's called The Finishing School, and though I haven't read it yet, the Washington Post's veteran reviewer Carolyn See gave it a glowing review, with the delightful headline, "The Still Bright Spark." Thomas Mallon reviewed "The Finishing School" for the New York Times.

    The E-Pistles: I Said You Wouldn't Like It--But I Didn't Say I Agreed

    Loose Canon knew that some readers wouldn't be thrilled (to put it mildly) with Atlanta's RC archbishop who has said that Catholics can't ever vote for a pro-choice candidate. Here's a snippet of what the Archbishop John Donoghue said:

    "You have an erroneous conscience if you think there is some case in which you can vote for a pro-abortion candidate," Archbishop John Donoghue said in an interview. "You're wrong as far as church teaching is concerned."

    A number of Beliefnet members thought that this is my opinion--just for the record, I have cited on several occasions an interpretation of a letter by Cardinal Ratzinger, Rome's dogma watchdog, on the subject that recognizes that Catholics can, under certain conditions, vote for a pro-choice candidate.

    If a Catholic does decide to vote for a candidate despite a pro-choice stance instead of because of it, such a vote may be permissible. Even then, a Catholic should review the issue, including future judicial appointments, to determine if such a vote will promote a culture of death.

    Archbishop John Myers addressed the issue of a Catholic voter going for a pro-choice Catholic in the Wall Street Journal last week. A snippet:

    "Thus for a Catholic citizen to vote for a candidate who supports abortion and embryo-destructive research, one of the following circumstances would have to obtain: either (a) both candidates would have to be in favor of embryo killing on roughly an equal scale or (b) the candidate with the superior position on abortion and embryo-destructive research would have to be a supporter of objective evils of a gravity and magnitude beyond that of 1.3 million yearly abortions plus the killing that would take place if public funds were made available for embryo-destructive research.

    "Frankly, it is hard to imagine circumstance (b) in a society such as ours. No candidate advocating the removal of legal protection against killing for any vulnerable group of innocent people other than unborn children would have a chance of winning a major office in our country. Even those who support the death penalty for first-degree murderers are not advocating policies that result in more than a million killings annually.

    "As Mother Teresa reminded us on all of her visits to the U.S., abortion tears at our national soul."

    "Lifestyles of the Rich and Pious"

    One of the things that started the Protestant Reformation was Martin Luther's trip to Rome, where he saw all sorts of corruption, including Pope Julius II's opulent building programs.

    Well, golly, Luther should have stuck around for the Diocese of Orange County. Amy Welborn of Open Book posted an alarming item on the Orange County diocese, which is facing millions in lawsuits but has chosen to spend its money on lavish housing for priests. Amy's post came from the Orange County Weekly and bore the headline: "Lifestyles of the Rich and Pious: A Tour of the Orange Diocese's Most Transubstaintiastic Homes:"

    "Think it can only happen at Halliburton? Well, think again: you can enjoy all of this if you're a priest for the Catholic Diocese of Orange!

    "Yes, when Bishop Tod D. Brown became the spiritual head of Orange County's 1.2 million Catholics in 1998, he abandoned the Church's millennia-old practice of housing priests in humble rectories on parish grounds and began shacking up clergy in fancy digs few of the faithful could afford: quaint Balboa Island bungalows, beachside manses and other high-class abodes featuring three-car garages, walk-in closets and in-ground spas. In a confidential Sept. 3 memo written by Father Michael Heher to diocesan priests, Heher defended this practice by citing Brown's policy of allowing priests 'to live off-site, affording them more privacy and a place away from their work environment.' And just last month, Brown admitted to purchasing a gated-community lot on which he plans to have built a multimillion-dollar mansion for himself near the proposed site of the $100 million Christ Our Savior Cathedral in Santa Ana.

    "This is the same diocese currently pleading poverty in explaining why it can't reach a settlement with sex-abuse victims and why it laid off 11 diocesan workers in the spring. Brown has repeatedly said he will not sell church property--parishes, convents, church halls, etc.--to free up more money for his operation. But what about the $2 million house whose sole tenant is retired Monsignor Lawrence Baird? Or the San Clemente complex mere minutes from the ocean? Considering there appears to be more than enough room at the inn for priests in the diocese's 56 parish rectories, why doesn't Brown consider a fire sale of its secular properties? In fact, if Brown begins with the following 10 per cent, then the diocese could reap something like $8,837,323--very conservatively estimated--and get back to its main focus: paying out big-money settlements to victims of priestly rape."

    The Muslim Martin Luther?

    Loose Canon has been following the case of Tariq Ramadan, the European-born Islamic scholar who was denied the right to come to the U.S. to teach at Notre Dame University, the Catholic university in South Bend, Ind. There was an outcry and all sorts of talk about curtailing of academic freedom when Ramadan's visa to come to the U.S. was revoked.

    A tough piece on Tech Central Station makes a good case for refusing Ramadan permission to come to the U.S.:

    Ramadan should not be admitted to the U.S. He has written extensively on the challenge of assimilating Islam in Europe, but has shown by his public statements there that he is not an Islamic moderate at all, but a man committed to quite radical postures. Even Hicham Chehab, news editor of the Beirut Daily Star, a newspaper obviously dedicated to Arab interests, was forced to admit early this month that "During the controversial visit to Britain last July by Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, himself accused of sanctioning suicide bombers, Ramadan defended Qardawi on the BBC television program 'Hard Talk.'"
    The Tech Central article suggests that those who court people like Mr. Ramadan do it at the expense of finding Muslims who might actually find suicide bombers and violence abhorrent.

    One of the reasons Westerners are often sympathetic to Islamic scholars who might, on closer examination, turn out to be advocates of violent policies, is our fond hope that there will be "a Muslim Reformation." While we must earnestly seek to work with Muslims who are not hostile to our values, we also must not be blinded by wishful thinking.

    One more caution about the pitfalls of this kind of naiveté from Tech Central Station:

    [T]he Ramadan controversy is of far greater interest in what it reveals about attitudes toward Islam among non-Muslim Americans, whose own moderation is unquestionable, but who now fall quite easily into one of two traps when it comes to dealing with someone like professor Ramadan.

    The first trap is that of seeking representatives of a 'Muslim Reformation.' A whole category of Western pseudo-experts and demi-intellectuals has emerged since September 11th, who on the basis of a quick paging through Qur'an or a superficial review of their Western Civilization courses in college 30 years ago, have decided that Islam needs `a Luther' and `a Reformation.' Most of these amateur pundits seem not to know the difference between the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, or the role played in the development of new thought in medieval Christian Europe by Arab and Arabic-speaking Jewish translators of the Greek philosophical classics.
    Brit writer Frank Johnson argues that when Westerners embrace Islam, militant or otherwise, they do it not out of a sympathy with Islam but because they hate their own society. He compares this to an Englishman's embracing Napoleon:

    The story of Western apologists for Islam, be it militant Islam or otherwise, is familiar. Since the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, so many British intellectuals have tended to espouse the cause of their country's enemies. They do so, it seems, because of their dissatisfaction with what they see as their countrymen's unromantic and materialistic existence, and sometimes because of dissatisfaction with their status in their own country. Napoleon had the support of Fox, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt and Byron, each of whom had grievances. Fox was angry that his beloved father, a supporter of the king, had not received a peerage.

    Stalin had many a poet and journalist to champion him here. When Khrushchev discredited Stalin, they transferred their allegiance to Mao, Castro, Guevara or successive African dictators. For we must always remember the Western radical intellectual's wish to identify with the world's rising and most frightening power. Coleridge spoke of Napoleon's British admirers possessing a `prostration of the soul.' But perhaps the situation is not as bleak as it appears to me. The New Statesman, a stalwart of England's old left, is hardly one of my favorite periodicals. However, an intriguing article [reg. required] reports that there are signs of positive change in Islamic communities around the world:

    Both Malaysia's Islam Hadhari and Indonesia's deformalization emphasize tolerance and pluralism, civic society and open democracy. Both are likely to spread. Malaysia is trying to export Islam Hadhari to Muslim communities in Thailand and the Philippines. Meanwhile, Morocco is trying to persuade Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to adopt its model of family law.

    Muslims worldwide are acknowledging the need for fundamental change in their perception of Islam. They are making conscious efforts to move away from medieval notions of Islamic law and to implement the vision of justice, equality and beauty that is rooted in the Koran. If such changes continue, the future will not repeat the recent past.

    God: Not Dead Anymore?

    There's another terrific piece [reg. required] in the current Spectator (LC is a Spectator groupie, despite their allowing the odious hack Andrew Gilligan to write for them) by Oxford scholar and former atheist Alister McGrath. He writes about the sea of faith that threatens to engulf us:
    It seems that atheists are greying, inhabiting a dying modern world, while around them a new interest in the forbidden fruit of the spiritual realm is gaining the upper hand, above all among young people. ...Even 9/11, a religiously motivated assault, did not prompt an atheist backlash, but an upsurge in interest in Islam. What, I wonder, are the implications of such developments for the future of atheism in the West?
    By the way, I've already mentioned McGrath's The Twilight of Atheism in this space, and now the prolific don mentions a forthcoming book titled "God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life."

    Is It Happening Again?

    If you haven't yet read Rabbi Shmuley Boteach's Jews: Canaries in the Coal Mine on Beliefnet's homepage, I urge you to do so.

    It's about the frightening rise of anti-Semitism in the world, even among intellectuals. Rabbi Boteach writes:

    I do not believe that the Jews are more intelligent than other people. Less so do I believe that the Jews possess any physical superiority over any other nation. I do, however, believe that the Jews are G-d's chosen people, responsible for imparting to the world the message of G-d's law. It is therefore no coincidence that those who hate G-d hate the Jews as well. In this respect, the Jews have served as an almost infallible early warning system, alerting the world's leaders to the next great evil that will stalk the earth. If the world would just learn to be sensitive to Jewish life, it would save its own behind as well.

    Even if we ignore the idea of the Jews as the chosen people, the fact is that the Jews have, unfortunately, served as an effective early warning system precisely because thugs, bullies, and murderers usually attack the most vulnerable targets first. People who crave unbridled power always start with the weak. Jews have been easy targets. They are a tiny nation whose refusal to adopt the religious mores of their neighbors have branded them as outsiders. They have therefore been attacked and scapegoated by evil regimes throughout the generations, and had the world simply looked at who was picking on the Jews, they might have easily identified the next great threat to their own security. At the risk of making it old home week on LC, I want to recommend yet another author I've mentioned before-Maurice Samuel, whose important book The Great Hatred makes a point that sounds not incompatible with Rabbi Boteach's, that some who hate the Jews do so not because they believe Jews put Christ to death but because, deep down, they are angry that Jews brought us Christ in the first place.

    Here are two questions: Does anybody believe that, if the Palestinians halted all violence, the Jews would engage in violence? Does anybody believe that, if the Jews refused to engage in any form of violence, the Palestinians would also refrain from violence?

    The Word from Atlanta: You May Not Like It

    Amy Welborn's Open Book blog tipped me off to a news story on Archbishop John Donoghue of Atlanta, who has weighed in on voting, abortion, and Catholics:

    Abortion must outweigh every other issue for Roman Catholic voters, Atlanta's archbishop said Thursday after issuing an unusual letter telling his flock that Catholics are obligated to follow church teachings at the polls.

    `You have an erroneous conscience if you think there is some case in which you can vote for a pro-abortion candidate,' Archbishop John Donoghue said in an interview. `You're wrong as far as church teaching is concerned.'

    The bip's On Conscientious Voting is available online.

    "Queen of the Space Unicorns"

    No, this entry is not about some character from the Narnia tales. It's a link to an absolutely hilarious parody on CBS and Dan Rather:

    NEW YORK -- For the fourth time in as many days, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather interrupted his telecast tonight to reiterate his claim that he has been crowned Queen of the Space Unicorns.

    Glaring into the camera, Rather leveled a stern denunciation of his skeptics, terming them `hateful' and `jealous.'

    `I have told you again and again the tales of my ascension, my travels and adventures amongst the Cloud People, my ongoing struggle with Lord Gnarl and the Carved Army of the Fateful Forest. You've heard the facts, and that's the end of it. You think you can challenge my claim to the throne? Go for it. But you can't, can you? You can't, and you know it. So let's just get past this.'

    Not a parody: Former CBS correspondent turned best-selling critic of the liberal media Bernard Goldberg notes that when Dan Rather thinks his integrity has been attacked, Rather "gets hotter than an armadillo at a Fourth of July picnic, as you know who might put it."

    But, notes Goldberg, writing today in the Wall Street Journal, Rather is not doing any of the things required to salvage his reputation.

    The Faith of George Bush: Wild-Eyed Empire Builder or Mere Christian?

    Loose Canon urges you to read the long, front-page report on George Bush's religious faith in today's Washington Post. Swami will be glad that it quotes Jim Wallis of Sojourners, the liberal Christian group, saying that he believes that the president espouses a scary "theology of empire," but the article is quite balanced, quoting from people different points along the spectrum of belief.

    One of the matters addressed in the article is a remark Bush apparently made to the Rev. Richard Land. "I believe God wants me to be president," Land quoted the president saying. The quote has so frightened Swami that I hear he hasn't been able to leave the apartment for Le Cirque, Elaine's, or the Hamptons for days on end.

    But here's one explanation of it:

    'This is so conventionally Christian piety and Christian faith that of course it ought not to raise any alarms,' said the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the Catholic journal First Things. 'Any devout Jew, any devout Muslim, also believes God has purposes for his life and tries to divine them. There is nothing that Bush has said about divine purpose, destiny and accountability that Abraham Lincoln did not say. This is as American as apple pie.'
    Here's an interpretation that seems to me to be just about right:

    Some White House officials suggested that the reason Bush's beliefs seem hard to categorize is not that they are complex and nuanced, but that they are relatively simple and few.

    The fact that Bush has relatively simple and few dogmatic tenets of faith, while very different from Loose Canon (who subscribes to all sorts of dogmas), does not make him a moron.

    As suggested in the Post article by Tim Goeglein, who is the White House's liaison with the religious community, Bush is probably a "mere Christian," somebody who fits C. S. Lewis's definition of a Christian. By the way, it was funny that the Post referred to Lewis as an "Irish theologian," which is technically correct, though he spent his adult life in merrie olde England and is more associated with the Oxford U. group of Christians, the Inklings, that also included J.R.R. Tolkein.

    Self-Indulgence and the Twin Towers

    Art Spiegelman, the revered New Yorker cartoonist, has a new book, In the Shadow of No Towers. The concluding lines of Adam Begley's review ("Image of Twin Towers Ablaze Haunts Narcissistic Cartoonist") in the New York Observer say something important about both Spiegelman and the intellectual climate of our pampered, elite intellectuals:

    If the 10 strips show us a self-absorbed man shocked into a more perfect self-absorption, the preface is just plain irritatingly egocentric. In detail only publishing types could care about, we hear how the book came to be, what got left out, etc. From the first sentence (`I tend to be easily unhinged') to the last ('I still believe the world is ending, but I concede that it seems to be ending more slowly than I once thought ...so I figured I'd make a book'), the preface echoes with the clamor of the first-person singular.

    I Coulda Told Ya Dept.

    From a Christianity Today review of a book on the Mormons:

    In Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church (Signature Books), research scientist Simon G. Southerton of Canberra, Australia, notes that none of the nearly 7,500 DNA-tested Native Americans shows any link to ancient Israel. More than 99 percent show an Asian heritage. The Book of Mormon, however, says that Israelites emigrated to the Americas 2,600 years ago, with the now-extinct Lamanites and Nephites becoming the ancestors of American Indians.

    And a tip of my lace chapel cap to Relapsed Catholic for pointing out the review. (If you're too young to remember way back when women covered their heads in church, here's the deal: Anglican and Roman Catholic girls used to have lace head coverings that fit in a little plastic container for when they weren't wearing a full-fledged hat. Kleenex was a socially-acceptable alternative.)

    Buddhist Film Protest

    Are Buddhists in for the kind of treatment from Hollywood that Catholics and other Christians take for granted?

    If so, the Buddhists may be more effective in protesting. While Catholics tend to stand in front of movie houses saying the rosary (and possibly boosting ticket sales), Buddhists appear to take a harder line, this AP story reports:

    More than 500 Buddhist monks marched in the Sri Lankan capital Monday expressing outrage and demanding a ban on an upcoming Hollywood movie, threatening to fast--even to death--if their objections were not heeded.

    'Hollywood Buddha,' made by independent filmmaker Philippe Caland, will be released in California Sept. 24. It's about a struggling Hollywood producer who rents a Buddha statue at the behest of a Buddhist friend who believes it will bring him luck selling his feature film.
    The interesting thing is that the filmmaker, living in a world that doesn't really acknowledge deep religious beliefs, is probably stunned that he has offended people even unto death.

    "Dead But Lifelike"

    Well, CBS last night produced Marian Carr Knox, 86--the spry retired secretary of the late Jerry Killian, George W. Bush's commanding officer in the Texas Air National Guard--to say that, while the memos incriminating Bush as a slacker are fake, the allegations are true. LC is willing to concede that Bush in his twenties, aside from not being old enough to run for president, was a bit of a slacker and probably obnoxious as hell. (Even though Ms. Knox said he was a nice fellow.) CBS forgot to mention Knox is a Democrat, but ABC helpfully noted that for us.

    If the presidential race is going to be about what the candidates did in their twenties, I'd say that CBS versus the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is a pretty fair match up. But here are a few amusing tidbits on the controversy:

  • Ann Coulter calls the network C-BS.
  • The inimitable James Lileks (as quoted on Instapundit, which has emerged as a great clearinghouse for the whole document story) has this to say:
    In any case, the whole 'fake but accurate' line shows how tone-deaf these people are; it's like saying a body in a pine box is `dead but lifelike.' It boggles, it really does: the story is true, the evidence is faked, but the evidence reflects the evidence we have not yet presented that proves our conclusion - ergo, we're telling the truth. They just can't give it up; they just can't say the memos were typed by the guy in the "Dude, you're getting a Dell!" commercial and leave it be, because that that puts the knife in the story regardless of what happened. So they keep going.
  • Women's Votes, Women's Blather

    Loose Canon missed the Harvard University's Pluralism Project's conference on "Women's Votes, Women's Voices" held yesterday in Washington at the National Press Club, and let me tell you, LC could definitely have added some pluralism to the proceedings. Why don't these groups ever want to admit that-face it-they are gatherings of like-minded folks? There's nothing wrong with gatherings of people who think alike, but it ain't pluralism. Of course, to give a patina of pluralism, there were representatives from the Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, and Muslim, and Jewish faiths. Network, a Catholic "social justice" organization that will no doubt write to complain if I call them left of center, seemed to be the most prominent representatives from LC's own faith community. As far as I can tell, though, there was nobody who held a conservative position represented on any of the panels. That would be a little too pluralistic. You can click on the link and find out some of the things that were said, but the opinions were all of the liberal variety, if variety is the word. I don't call them the Religious Wrong-Swami's word for the Religious Right, which he doesn't care for-because they have every right to hold these opinions. They just aren't very pluralistic. Panelists talked about issues of interest to women: childcare, abortion "rights"" (note the rights-that's a tip off that the smarmy embrace of pluralism is extended only to those who regard abortion as something to which you are entitled), and international family planning. I didn't notice anything on Natural Family Planning, but I'm probably just not looking hard enough. I was appalled by the remarks (as reported in the transcript) of Laila Al-Marayati of the Muslim Women's League, who said that the voice of Muslim women is "pretty much absent from the public discourse" and that they are "clawing away at the edges trying to be able to participate." She complained about "individuals like Daniel Pipes," a commentator on the Middle East who has taken the line that terrorists shouldn't be called insurgents or freedom fighters. What was missing was any hint that Islamic terrorism must be condemned by U.S. Muslims. There simply was no acknowledgement that the Muslim community might need to take a stand against this abomination. Without that, anything she said, even if it had not been so self-pitying, was meaningless. God and PBS

    Having dodged the Harvard Pluralism Projects' confab on women, I'd probably have been inclined to also miss a PBS program about God that's based on a Harvard course and cast as a debate between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis, the Oxford Christian. A write-up from columnist Cal Thomas, however, means that my cat and I shall be glued to the tube tonight at 9 EST. Says Thomas:
    'The Question of God' is one of the finest programs to air on television in many years. While the Federal Communications Commission is reportedly set to fine CBS $500,000 for airing a brief shot of Janet Jackson's bare breast during this year's Super Bowl, people with faith that television - which was once good - might be good again will want to haul out the accolades and awards for this program. It is worth your time to watch. It is worth your time to investigate the claims discussed. It might even restore (or enhance) your faith.
    Worse than Bad Taste

    The Catholic pilgrimage site Lourdes is full of tacky stuff for sale, and pilgrims should not be disillusioned by the unfortunate taste on the part of some of God's followers. The same cannot be said of a scheme to sell souvenirs of Buchenwald, the concentration camp where men, women and children met horrific deaths, as reported in today's New York Times: "One [souvenir] used the thousands of buttons unearthed on the site as a metaphor, creating a simple, clear button pin with `Buchenwald' inscribed on it." I do hope somebody puts a stop to this desecration. The E-Pistles: Just Asking...

    There was an interesting post on the chat boards yesterday. A Beliefnet member wrote: "Jesus taught that to read the Bible without logic is sin." Well, I don't want to be too logical, but how did he do that? The Bible didn't exist at the time of Jesus's death. St. Paul, the greatest of Christian missionaries, had no Bible. The canonical books of the Bible were assembled in the early days of the Church, but not before at least the third century of the Christian era. There's a good article in the Catholic Encyclopedia about how the canonical books of the Bible were determined by the Church. And About Those National Guard Memos...

    I promised myself that I'd leave the overexposed subject of CBS and its apparently faked memos on George Bush's National Guard service alone today. But I can't stop myself.

    Michelle Malkin writes that this is the end of snob journalism as we know it:

    Dan Rather, Professional Journalist, and CBS News, Professional News Network, want us to keep believing that they are the ordained purveyors of truth. They are the mature and responsible mavens of media ethics. They are the information gatekeepers with unparalleled judgment, dedicated to the high principles of The Craft of Journalism, unwavering in their crusade for the public interest. As the saying goes in the blogosphere: Bwah-hah-hah.
    Mickey Kaus of kausfiles:
    New CBS slogan: Fake But Accurate. Like the best fiction, CBS News is truer than reality! ... Except, of course, that if Bush disobeyed a direct order to take a physical (what the 'fake-but-accurate' memos purport to document) it would be a degree worse than simply not showing up for an exam.

    Bush's Mission & Swami's Mission

    Swami feels that Loose Canon has misstated George Bush's sense of religious mission and that a bit of googling might have saved her the shame. O, great Swami, you are in error.

    The question at hand (as I saw it yesterday): Does President Bush think he is getting direct messages from God on how to run the country? I quoted the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, a Houston minister, saying that Bush doesn't believe that God told him to run for President.

    And then I commented:

    "Well, meaning liberals will no doubt see this as an attempt to 'distance' the president from his own beliefs. It is not. It is an attempt to explain that one can believe in God and seek his counsel without believing that the 'still small voice' comes out of a boom box, offering political tips and issuing military orders.

    "It is always dangerous when somebody claims to receive bulletins directly from God. Bush has never claimed this. Not that Loose Canon expects to convert the unconverted on this issue. In a world where the educated classes no longer accept the Judeo-Christian basis of our society, it's hard for people to grasp this simple, sane notion. But good luck, Brother Caldwell."

    Yes, it was hard for Swami to grasp what I was saying--and maybe he's right, the left and right no longer speak the same language. Sad thought. But let's try again. In his effort to see the president as a sort of Dr. Strangelove with a Bible, Swami cites an article in the English Guardian ("Bush Says God Chose Him to Lead His Nation") that quotes a book titled "The Faith of George W. Bush," written by Christian author Stephen Mansfield. Swami notes that in the lead-up to announcing his candidacy for president Bush told a Texas evangelist that he had a premonition of a national disaster. He also said: "'I feel like God wants me to run for President. I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen... I know it won't be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it.'"

    Well, golly, Swami, sometimes I feel like God wants me to do or not do something, but that hardly means I think he's calling me on the telephone to give me really specific directions. A premonition of national disaster? That hardly means more than the guy had a premonition.

    I guess I'd be more inclined to sit up and pay attention to Swami's complaints if Bush could explain his sense that the country was going to need him. "I believe God wants me to be President, but if that doesn't happen, it's OK." Bush is quoted saying in one of Swami's citations. Does that sound like a nutcase on a dangerous mission? He thinks God might want this, but, hey, he could be wrong, and, if he doesn't, that's okay, too.

    Commerce Secretary Don Evans is quoted saying something to the effect that he thinks Bush believes he's doing God's will in the White House--let's hope he is, though of course, this side of the grave, we never know. But, as long as Bush doesn't claim direct bulletins, there's nothing weird about this unless you live Uptown.

    I don't want to be less than gracious to Swami because, as he reported earlier this week, he has just emerged from a "brutal weekend of introspection," during which he saw "The Best Man," the movie about a Presidential convention written by Gore Vidal. Says Swami: "Talk about sophisticated."

    Then Swami adds, "Swami's dilemma is equally sophisticated. He wants the Religious Wrong purged from the White House. But how?" Well, one way the left has hit upon is to pillory their point of view. "Bush Says God Chose Him to Lead His Nation" is the sort of headline that furthers their crusade, if you'll pardon the expression.

    The Theology Deficit--It's Very English

    George Weigel, the pope's biographer, has penned an amusing and telling account of a dinner with an Anglican prelate: "This past summer I had a pleasant dinner with a senior British churchman who happened to be visiting Cracow while I was teaching there. His Grace was, in many respects, an Anglican prelate straight from central casting: handsome, charming, urbane, impeccably attired, emotions under control, disclaimers always preceded by a 'perhaps,' etc., etc. Earlier in the day, he had gone to Wadowice, the Pope's birthplace, and was clearly moved to have seen the roots from which a great Christian witness had sprung. What was disconcerting about our conversation was that it never touched on theology."

    False Compassion

    Ron Reagan has obviously had extensive coaching in buzz words before he gave his speech on stem cell research at the Democratic Convention. (Folks, you're welcome to him--we got the real son at our convention.) Gilbert Meilaender, a theology professor and member of the president's bioethics committee, has a terrific piece that takes the Reagan talk apart in the New Atlantis magazine.

    "No one can be against compassion, of course, and no one should be against it when it is properly understood," writes Meilaender. "But the debased currency of compassion in our public discourse today is by no means the real virtue itself. The meaning of compassion has been isolated entirely from any larger moral framework which might give it direction and set limits to what can be done in its name."

    The Old Man and the Sea Change

    I know that the CBS debacle over memos that are likely fake isn't really a spiritual matter (well, in the sense that I have to chastise myself for gloating, yes, it is), but it does signal a sea change in media matters. No, it's not on the level of Gutenberg, but it's very important.

    Here's how Tony Blankley of the Washington Times begins his musings on the subject:

    "'All major advances in civilization are processes which all but wreck the societies in which they occur.' That observation by the British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead came to mind this past week as I watched Dan Rather struggle violently like a proud old marlin caught on a hook by the young Internet fishermen. Twisting and turning, the great fish only drives the hook deeper in."

    Writing in the New Republic, blog stalwart Andrew Sullivan--we hope he's wearing his pjs--also has some well-chosen words:

    "Any journalist who starts mistaking himself for an oracle needs to be reminded who he is from time to time.

    "CBS News has failed on all these counts. It did shoddy reporting and then self-interestedly dug in against an avalanche of evidence against it. Rather can blather all he wants about the political motivation of some in the blogosphere--but what matters is not bias but accuracy. His attitude, moreover, has bordered on the contemptuous; and the blogosphere has chewed him up and spat him out. He has acted as if journalism is a privilege rather than a process; as if his long career makes his critics illegitimate; as if his good motives can make up for bad material. The original mistake was not a firable offense. But the digging in surely is. It seems to me that when a news anchor presents false information and then tries to cover up and deny his errors, he has ceased to be a journalist. I'd like to say that Dan Rather needs to resign from his profession. But, judging from the last few days, he already has."

    God Did Not Tell Bush to Invade Iraq--But It Was Still the Right Thing to Do

    Loose Canon has tried until she's blue in the face to explain to her liberal friends that the President doesn't believe that God told him to invade Iraq. It's an uphill battle, though, because of the distortions of our society's views about believers.

    Now the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, a Houston pastor who is close to the president--whom he calls "Brother President"--is trying to make the same point that poor old LC has. Here's a snippet from an interesting story on Caldwell's crusade on Beliefnet:

    "[The president] does not believe that God told him to run," Caldwell declared. "He does not believe God told him he would win. And he surely does not believe God told him to drop any bombs anywhere in the world."
    Well meaning liberals will no doubt see this as an attempt to "distance" the president from his own beliefs. It is not. It is an attempt to explain that one can believe in God and seek his counsel without believing that the "still small voice" comes out of a boom box, offering political tips and issuing military orders.

    It is always dangerous when somebody claims to receive bulletins directly from God. Bush has never claimed this. Not that Loose Canon expects to convert the unconverted on this issue. In a world where the educated classes no longer accept the Judeo-Christian basis of our society, it's hard for people to grasp this simple, sane notion. But good luck, Brother Caldwell.

    And Then They Came for the Children

    The most shocking development I've read about lately is euthanasia for children, a fact of life in the Netherlands, where a culture of death reigns.

    If you have any doubts that the Judeo-Christian culture that made Europe great is a thing of the past, you must read Wesley Smith's chilling report on the horror of euthanasia for little ones in the new edition of the Weekly Standard:

    "In the Netherlands, Groningen University Hospital has decided its doctors will euthanize children under the age of 12, if doctors believe their suffering is intolerable or if they have an incurable illness. But what does that mean? In many cases, as occurs now with adults, it will become an excuse not to provide proper pain control for children who are dying of potentially agonizing maladies such as cancer, and doing away with them instead. As for those deemed 'incurable'--this term is merely a euphemism for killing babies and children who are seriously disabled.

    "It took the Dutch almost 30 years for their medical practices to fall to the point that Dutch doctors are able to engage in the kind of euthanasia activities that got some German doctors hanged after Nuremberg. For those who object to this assertion by claiming that German doctors killed disabled babies during World War II without consent of parents, so too do many Dutch doctors: Approximately 21 percent of the infant euthanasia deaths occurred without request or consent of parents. Moreover, since when did parents attain the moral right to have their children killed?

    "Euthanasia consciousness is catching. The Netherlands' neighbor Belgium decided to jump off the same cliff as the Dutch only two years ago. But already, they have caught up with the Dutch in their freefall into the moral abyss. The very first Belgian euthanasia of a person with multiple sclerosis violated the law; and just as occurs routinely in the Netherlands, the doctor involved faced no consequences. Now Belgium is set to legalize neo-pediatric euthanasia. Two Belgian legislators justify their plan to permit children to ask for their own mercy killing on the basis that young people `have as much right to choose' euthanasia as anyone else. Yet, these same children who are supposedly mature enough to decide to die would be ineligible to obtain a driver's license.

    "Why does accepting euthanasia as a remedy for suffering in very limited circumstances inevitably lead to never-ending expansion of the killing license? Blame the radically altered mindset that results when killing is redefined from a moral wrong into a beneficent and legal act."

    That Memo Don't Hunt No More

    A friend just called to report that a well-known female scribe, who doesn't work for CBS, was on TV and looking on the verge of tears over the Tiffany network's apparently having fallen for an apparently faked memo impugning George Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard.

    Our nearly lachrymose scribe hinted darkly that Republican dirty tricks--she named Karl Rove, as they always do--were behind the memos. Well, honey, that's why you check documents rather than letting your desire to destroy George Bush cloud your judgment.

    I've written elsewhere this morning on CBS, but I do want to share a snippet of this brilliant essay from Powerlineblog that compares CBS's behavior with regard to the memo to that of suicide bombers.

    "Before September 11, important aspects of our security arrangements were based on the assumption that people, even terrorists, want to live. For example, airlines followed the rule that if a passenger's bags were checked but the person failed to appear for the flight, his bags would be removed from the airplane. The idea was that a bomb could have been planted in the luggage. But as long as the passenger was on the airplane, it was assumed that his bags were safe, since no one--it was thought--would blow up an airplane with himself on it. After September 11, security arrangements were changed to take into account the new reality (or newly recognized reality) of the suicide bomber.

    "When he defended CBS's publication of forged documents, Dan Rather spoke of the 'checks and balances' that ensure the reliability of news coming from CBS, as opposed to news and commentary from the blogosphere. What are those checks and balances? Ultimately, the main check on the danger that a powerful media giant like CBS might abuse its position of trust by deliberately propagating falsehoods is the assumption that the network values its reputation for accuracy and trustworthiness. In the past, most people have assumed that while broadcast networks, wire services like the Associated Press, and newspapers will occasionally make mistakes, and will certainly spin the news consistent with their political biases, concern for their reputation in the marketplace, and even more among their peers, would prevent them from spreading outright falsehoods.

    "In the wake of the CBS scandal, that assumption must be reevaluated."

    In a piece that lists all the things you'd have to believe to regard the CBS memo as authentic, Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard writes: "CBS has left the flap over purported documents involving President Bush's record in the Texas Air National Guard in this posture: Who are you going to believe, CBS or your lyin' eyes?"

    The big three networks are losing the power to determine who's respectable and what constitutes a story, and I love it, love it, love it. The best thing about it is that the sea change wasn't brought about by any form of censorship but by American ingenuity in the form of talk radio abd blogs. God bless Al Gore for inventing the internet.

    P.S. Writing in the Washington Times, Village Voice maverick Nat Hentoff has some interesting things to say about Fox-haters and Fox.

    Is Oprah Depraved?

    Loose Canon doesn't like being critical of Oprah Winfrey because Oprah has made it to the top by her own exertions and because she comes across as just such a darned nice person. BUT...

    Here's a description from a Christian web site via Relapsed Catholic of a program Oprah recently did on sex changes among...children (boy oh boy, or girl oh girl, talk about defining deviancy down):

    "The program, broadcast on Tuesday, Aug. 24, began with Oprah introducing the children seeking a sex change. 'This is going to be a very fascinating show, OK?' Oprah began. She then introduced her first young guest: 'He is an 11-year-old child. He likes skateboarding and PlayStation. He listens to rap, studies hard, gets good grades and wears those trendy baggy pants. He was also born a girl.'"

    The editorial adds:

    "Oprah and her guests were involved in an absurd and horrific exercise in moral insanity. What culture can survive such a rebellion against the moral order? What devastation and destruction will be brought into the lives of young children before some level of sanity is re-established?

    "The ideology of the homosexual movement has been subverting the reality of gender for decades. The very fact that human beings are created as male and female flies in the face of the utter rebellion against and rejection of the moral order that stands at the very center of the homosexual agenda."

    Death Be Not Used

    More than a thousand young men and women who "short days ago" "lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved, were loved" now lie, not in Flanders Fields, but in cemeteries across the United States.

    Some of my conservative friends had worried that there would be a backlash against the necessary war in Iraq when the death toll reached the symbolic 1,000 mark. This seems not to have happened outside the provinces of the anti-war left.

    James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal wrote earlier this week about the sly and shameful way two organizations of the left sought to exploit the dead:

    "MoveOn.org, along with an outfit called Win Without War, is sponsoring a series of 'candlelight vigils' tonight to 'honor' the servicemen who 'have given their lives in service to our country.' An e-mail announcing the event, from MoveOn's Peter Schuman, contained this statement: 'Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld diminished their deaths by calling the toll 'relatively small.'

    "Here is what Rumsfeld actually said:

    "'If you take all of those patrols, and look at the number of incidents, they're relatively small. If you look at them from our standpoint, a single loss of life is large, and it's a life that's not going to be lived. I don't know how to calculate it or calibrate it for you any better than that.'

    "It truly takes chutzpah for MoveOn.org to portray itself as 'honoring' the troops when in fact it is using their deaths in an effort to score cheap political points."

    I believe that the war in Iraq is just, and so I suppose my feelings about the proper way to honor our dead are quite different from MoveOn's. As the poem "Flanders Fields", which children used to memorize, puts it:

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    Were We Changed?

    Of course, the thousand dead mark isn't this week's only grim milestone. Did Sept. 11 change us briefly, for a few weeks when we all (or most of us) put out more flags, or were we permanently changed?

    I think we are changed, a more sober people, but there are some who think that in several important ways we have changed less than we must. Novelist and Claremont Institute fellow Mark Helprin and Loose Canon probably don't see eye to eye on the potentially transformative power of democracy in the Middle East, but his sobering thoughts are compelling.

    Helprin writes:

    "We have followed a confusion of war aims that seem to report after the fact what we have done rather than to direct what we do. We could, by threatening the existence of Middle Eastern regimes, which live to hold power, enforce our insistence that the Arab world eradicate the terrorists within its midst. Instead, we have embarked upon the messianic transformation of an entire region, indeed an entire civilization, in response to our inability to pacify even a single one of its countries. As long as our war aims stray from the disciplined, justifiable, and attainable objective of self-defense, we will be courting failure."

    Victor Davis Hanson, the historian, doesn't think we've quite come to terms with who our foe is:

    "But there is something else going on here besides the cloak of so-called Chechen nationalism. The perversion not of religion per se, but of Islam; the singular method of suicide bombing rarely found elsewhere; the frequent resort to the unique grotesquery of beheading; the now-common display of abject incompetence on the battlefield coupled with craven slaughter of the noncombatant and civilian aid worker. At some point, the leaders of the Western world (if there are any left besides George W. Bush and Tony Blair) are going to look at all this madness worldwide and come to the bitter conclusion that there is a disgusting pattern: Not every Muslim is a fascist terrorist, but almost every fascist terrorist is a Muslim. Killers are not screaming 'Hail Mary' when they machine gun children in the back, slit the throat of airline stewardesses, or blow pregnant women up on buses across the globe. And they are not the subjects of condemnatory fatwas in Iran or Saudi Arabia."

    Was the response in some quarters to the butchery of Beslan pre-Sept. 11? Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol looks at the world's reaction to Beslan and finds it wanting:

    "Will the forces of civilization be found wanting in the struggle against terror?

    "Perhaps. They were, after all, often found wanting in the last century. The 20th century spawned the twin evils of totalitarianism and genocide, and the civilized world was slow to respond. We confronted Hitler too late, and Stalin not at all. After 1945, we said "never again." But then we watched mass murder happen again, in Cambodia, in Rwanda, and now, in the 21st century, in Darfur.

    "Now we face a new challenge: jihadist terror. Leaders around the world claim to be united in vowing to deny the terrorists victories. And yet. In the immediate wake of the Beslan slaughter, one might have expected editorials in top U.S. papers simply to express grief, anger, and solidarity, and a commitment to winning the war on terror. Instead, they tended briefly to denounce the terrorists and then focus on the incompetence of the Russian security forces, and on rehashing the dismal history of Russian-Chechen relations."

    This Time It's Really Bad

    When Judge Richard Conway Casey struck down the ban on partial birth abortion earlier this summer, it was clear that he was shocked and saddened by the grisly procedure. But when federal Judge Richard Kopf of Lincoln, Nebraska became the third jurist to strike down the ban (see here and here), there were no expressions of revulsion. According to Fox News, Kopf:

    "...said that Congress ignored the most experienced doctors in determining that the banned procedure would never be necessary--a finding he found 'unreasonable.'

    "'According to responsible medical opinion, there are times when the banned procedure is medically necessary to preserve the health of a woman and a respectful reading of the congressional record proves that point,' Kopf wrote. 'No reasonable and unbiased person could come to a different conclusion.'"

    Christian blogger Travis McSherley of Fillingupspace responds: "Well, Congress managed to find quite a few 'responsible' medical experts who disagreed with the judge's conclusions. To then suggest that 'no reasonable' person could disagree suggests that the judge may have carried his own bias into the ruling. Regardless, it seems likely that the law will come before the Supreme Court, where I regrettably expect the decision to be similar."

    Talkin' 'Bout Your Guy

    Maverick liberal blogger Mickey Kaus of the eponymous kausfiles finds John Kerry's call for a Ministry of Wellness (he thinks this is a better use of money that making bad guys unwell in Iraq) "spirit-crushing foolishness from my candidate."

    Adds Mickey:

    "The nation is figuring out how to fight global terrorism and he's talking about having 'not just a Department of Health and Human Services, but a Department of Wellness.' How about a Department of F***ing Perspective? If Bush is smart he'll be ridiculing Kerry about this for the rest of the month."

    Embryonic Stem Cells: A Hidden Agenda?

    Anybody who thinks the stem cell wars is just about finding a cure should read Wesley Smith's latest on the subject in National Review. Writes Smith:

    "Members of the liberal media elite have become rather choosy when it comes to advocating stem-cell cures for degenerative medical conditions. To these commentators, cures using adult stem cells just aren't the "right" cures. For stem-cell therapy to really count, it has to come from embryos. Indeed, even the most astonishing research advances using adult cells are ignored by these arbiters of public policy as if they never happened. And since liberal elites dominate public discourse in the stem-cell debate, the American people remain generally unaware of these astonishing scientific advances."

    A New Poll Has Kerry Leading by 26 Percent!

    Loose Canon nearly dropped her teeth when she saw it: "Kerry Way Ahead in New Poll." Had the "60 Minutes" report that Lt. Bush had shirked a mandatory physical examination while serving in the Texas National Guard turned the tide that drastically?

    Gathering her strength, grinding her un-dropt teeth, and girding herself for despair, Loose Canon bravely continued to read James K. Glassman's story:

    At last, some good news for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry!

    A new poll, using a huge sample of 34,330 people, shows Kerry is favored by 26 percentage points over the incumbent president, George W. Bush...

    Only one problem for Kerry. The new poll, by a public opinion group called GlobeScan and the University of Maryland, did not survey Americans. It surveyed people in 35 foreign countries, from Mexico to Germany to Thailand.

    Loose Canon was relieved, of course--but not entirely. The feelings Europeans have about America right now are quite distressing. Even more distressing, American intellectuals feel pretty much the same way about their native land.

    Writing in Foreign Policy, Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria has some fairly alarming thoughts on the subject of why they hate us abroad:

    "In this post-ideological age, anti-Americanism fills the void left by defunct belief systems," he writes. "It has become a powerful trend in international politics today--and perhaps the most dangerous. U.S. hegemony has its problems, but a world that reacts instinctively against the United States will be less peaceful, less cooperative, less prosperous, less open, and less stable."

    Unlike LC, Zakaria does lay some blame on the Bush administration:

    "The wave of anti-Americanism is, of course, partly a product of the current Bush administration's policies and, as important, its style. ...When asked why they dislike the United States, people in other countries consistently cite Bush and his policies. But the very depth and breadth of this phenomenon suggest that it is bigger than Bush."

    Anti-Americanism may, in fact, be an inevitable result of being the world's only superpower:

    "Anti-Americanism's ascendance also owes something to the geometry of power," writes Zakaria. "The United States is more powerful than any country in history, and concentrated power usually means trouble. Other countries have a habit of ganging up to balance the reigning superpower. Throughout history, countries have united to defeat hegemonic powers--from the Hapsburgs to Napoleon to Kaiser Wilhelm and Hitler."

    But the world needs us:

    "Other countries might bristle at certain U.S. policies, but would someone else really be willing to bully, threaten, cajole, and bribe countries such as Libya to renounce terror and dismantle their WMD programs? On terror, trade, AIDS, nuclear proliferation, U.N. reform, and foreign aid, U.S. leadership is indispensable."

    As for Monsieur Kerry, Glassman has a parting thought on the perils of being popular in all the wrong places:

    "The results of this odd global poll are far more troubling for the Kerry campaign. They show just how out of touch the Democratic candidate--boffo in Rome--has grown from U.S. voters. To win, he's got to appeal more to Kansas City and Dubuque, even if it means appealing less to Paris and Berlin."

    A Voters' Guide for "Catholics"

    Wanna call yourself Catholic without having to embrace any of those yucky old teachings that make belonging to Holy Mother Church such a pain in the chic? Well, then, have I ever got the web site for you! It's called VotingCatholic.org.

    VotingCatholic warns against "a political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church's social doctrine." Hmm, now to what could that refer? VC also offers a nifty quiz to take to find out what kind of Catholic--or "Catholic"--you are.

    Unfortunately, the quiz is pretty much rigged and whoever wrote it deserves kudos for public relations skills but a rap on the knuckle by a good nun for manipulation of dogma.

    As for being rigged, you don't have an option to support capital punishment unless your support includes capital punishment for the retarded and juveniles. But it isn't all wrong--LC managed to rack up a gratifying minus 50 on "practicing global solidarity." (Did they say this is a Marxist or Catholic quiz?) Unfortunately, I was unable to reply to any of the abortion questions because none reflected Church teaching.

    What's a Poor Papist To Do?

    VotingCatholic isn't the only organization that's put forward a lousy guide for us poor benighted Catholic voters. At least, however, the U.S. bishops appear to have just shelved their unfortunate guide.

    As Catholic World Report reports:

    "The questionnaire had been heavily criticized by pro-life advocates, because it solicited the presidential candidates' opinions on a long series of issues, rather than concentrating on the key contested moral issues involving respect for marriage and human life. 'We have been critical of the presidential questionnaire because it improperly equates doctrinal issues like abortion with judgment calls like the minimum wage,' said Austin Ruse, president of the Culture of Life Foundation."

    Vanity, Hugs, Etc.

  • As long as we're on the subject of politics, columnist George F. Will has a splendid insight about Monsieur Kerry & his campaign in today's offering: "Kerry is the candidate of the intellectually vain--of those who, practicing the politics of condescension, consider Bush moronic."
  • Even those of us who are not huggy buggies can't help but wish that Evelyn Waugh, the great Catholic convert and novelist, had had a more pleasing personality: "The saga of the Waughs will convince the most cynical to support the late Princess Diana's campaign for more hugging," opines a review of "Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family," by Alexander Waugh, in the new issue of the Spectator.
  • It won't be an equestrian statue, will it? Relapsed Catholic reports on a news item that Canadian activists plan to "erect a bronze sculpture honouring draft dodgers, four decades after Americans opposed to the Vietnam War sought refuge in Canada."
  • No More Euphemisms!

    Loose Canon remarked yesterday that anyone who can't call the monsters of Beslan cold-blooded murderers should choke on his euphemisms. It is also important to open a debate on the relationship of a branch of Islam to these terrible acts, loath as we are to do so.

    Several commentators have said pretty much the same thing. Christopher Hitchens, writing in Slate, notes that "in the past week or so it seems to have become very slightly less OK to speak of jihad as an understandable reaction to underlying Muslim grievances. The murder of innocents in a Russian school may have been secondarily the result of a panic or a bungle by Vladimir Putin's 'special forces,' but nobody is claiming that the real responsibility lies anywhere but on the shoulders of the Muslim fanatics."

    Noting that the New York Times prefers the term "execution" to the more appropriate "murder" or "slaughter," Hithchens adds that the horror of Beslan may have nudged some Islamic leaders towards a "less euphemistic" approach to terrorism:

    "Even Abdulrahman al-Rashed, the general manager of Al-Arabiya television, was less euphemistic than that. In a column published under the unambiguous headline, 'The Painful Truth: All the World Terrorists are Muslims!' he wrote, in the pan-Arab paper Al-Sharq al-Awsat: 'Our terrorist sons are an end-product of our corrupted culture.' According to a very interesting AP report from Maggie Michael, this was part of a wider refusal and denunciation across Arab and Muslim media. It wasn't all unambiguous--some critics said that the Chechen outrage was so bad that the Israelis must have been behind it--but it had a different tone from the usual trash about holy war and martyrdom. By the same token, nobody coerced the majority of French Muslim schoolchildren into turning up quiet and on time, almost all unveiled, on the day of the murder 'deadline' set by the kidnappers in Iraq."

    Meanwhile, scholar Daniel Pipes, writing in the New York Sun ("They're Terrorists--Not Activists") has compiled a list of ways the butchers of Beslan, who killed more than three hundred people, around half of them children, have been referred to by various news outlets.

    Here are just a few examples: Insurgents (New York Times); assailants (National Public Radio); Commandos (Agence France-Presse, which likes both "membres du commando" and "commando"), separatists (Christian Science Monitor), and militants (Chicago Tribune).

    It Took the Modern Liberal to Get Misty-Eyed About Taxes

    Speaking of language, Swami has announced that he will no longer argue points with me because there's "no point. We are simply not speaking the same language."

    Even without Swami's backwards-reels-the-mind mini-essay on "framing" from a linguist called George Lakoff, he's right, sadly, that the left and right now speak different languages. But, Swami, you don't get off that easily. I still plan to correct your errors in plain English.

    Let's start with tax relief--which to Swami is "tax relief" because he doesn't regard taxes as a burden. (Hey, can I have the name of your accountant?) Here's what Swami's "linguist" has to say about tax relief:

    The phrase "Tax relief" began coming out of the White House starting on the very day of Bush's inauguration. It got picked up by the newspapers as if it were a neutral term, which it is not. First, you have the frame for "relief." For there to be relief, there has to be an affliction, an afflicted party, somebody who administers the relief, and an act in which you are relieved of the affliction. The reliever is the hero, and anybody who tries to stop them is the bad guy intent on keeping the affliction going. So, add "tax" to "relief" and you get a metaphor that taxation is an affliction, and anybody against relieving this affliction is a villain.
    With all due "respect," Loose Canon didn't learn about her tax burden by listening to the Bush White House or studying linguistics but by looking at her withholding taxes (Amity Schlaes is terrific on how we got the withholding tax and other taxing matters in "The Greedy Hand: How Taxes Drive Americans Crazy and What to Do About It") and going through her yearly ordeal over her freelance earnings. No, LC doesn't need a linguist to feel her own pain.

    Back to Swami:

    One suspects [LC]'d really like to pay none--or, at least, direct her taxes to programs she likes. That's not because she's a mingy person. She just "frames" taxes as a burden. Others--including people who surely pay a lot more than LC--would call taxes "dues," the price we pay for all we get in this great country.
    If I didn't know for a fact that Swami is a very nice chap, I'd think he was trying to be snobby with his "including people who surely pay a lot more (in taxes) than LC." These rich folk--Steven, Barbra, etc.--regarded their taxes as "dues."

    Well, the last time I looked dues were paid voluntarily to a club--not confiscated by a government. If by "dues" one means some sort of metaphysical debt, such as paying one's artistic dues, I'd submit that their "dues" could be better applied to traditional charities, ones that actually help people without creating a permanent subsidy class. Remember, the Good Samaritan helped the fellow over a rough spot--he didn't set up a permanent entitlement program.

    Many tax-supported programs are a way of transferring money from the industrious classes to the idle classes. Loose Canon has met all too many people--the 63-year old "artiste" living off Social Security, the alcoholic who contemplates drinking to enhance his chances of continued disability payments (Heather MacDonald is the expert on the disability racket)--to bear her tax burden with good cheer. Throughout history, people have reluctantly paid taxes, recognizing that they are necessary--it took the American liberal (most of whom are blessed with great accountants?) to get misty eyed about them. No, Swami, LC is not rich, but she suspects that, if John Kerry is elected, she'll be treated like a rich person on one very special day every year--April 15.

    Can This Church Be Saved?

    LC's Anglican friends, to whom she waves lovingly from across the Tiber, are on pins and needles as they await a report on the future of the communion.

    Conservative Christian David Virtue, whom LC finds reliable and simpatico, is reporting that the document will be tough and that it will deal a blow to those who would tamper with the Church's ancient teachings on sexuality and dogma in general. As much as I like Virtue's virtuous work, his report sounds too good to be true. But here's an excerpt:

    "The Lambeth/Eames Commission's report is going to have teeth; it will be disastrous for the Anglican Communion's pansexualists; there will be some kind of 'formal suspension' of The Episcopal Church [the Episcopal Church in the USA], following which there will be a radical restructuring of the Anglican Communion that could see the dissolution of the Anglican Communion Office in London because of its ultra-liberal pro-Western stance.

    "The Queen [who holds the title "Defender of the Faith" and as such is titular head of the Church of England] has apparently made it clear to [Archbishop of Canterbury] Dr. Rowan Williams that she will not permit the break up of the Anglican Communion over the gay issue, and that Williams must do everything to see that the orthodox are not 'penalized' for their views, sources in London told Virtuosity.

    "Virtuosity was told that Dr. Williams has made it clear that he will come down on the side of unity and will not risk losing the orthodox wing of the church.

    "The Anglican Communion will not break up, Virtuosity was told, but the liberals, including the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold are 'living in complete denial' about what is going to happen to them, said the source."

    Oh, Ratz!

    As Loose Canon mentioned some time ago, while she is not tempted to vote for pro-choice Catholic John Kerry, Rudy Giuliani or Arnold would be another matter.

    The Washington Post has another story today clarifying Cardinal Ratzinger's letter on the matter of whether a Catholic can vote for a pro-choice candidate without incurring grave sin.

    Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made it clear in the letter that 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."

    But a Catholic can still vote for a pro-choice candidate. The letter:

    "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."

    As Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for Washington's Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, is quoted saying, "a Catholic can never vote for a candidate precisely because the candidate supports abortion."

    It would seem to me that any Catholic contemplating a vote for a pro-choice candidate should consider the degree to which he or she will, by that vote, be promoting the culture of death--e.g., what kind of judicial appointments would their candidate make, and would public funds be used for abortions?

    Monsters Who Kill Children

    Who dares to look into the abyss? The slaughter of innocents in Beslan was so shocking that even the most relentlessly enlightened among us must be having a difficult time thinking of the killers as "freedom fighters" or "insurgents."

    The death toll of children at Beslan is more than 150. Some of the children were taken hostage when they arrived for their first day of school and had explosives strapped onto the bodies before they were eventually slaughtered. The monsters refused them water or food.

    As the Wall Street Journal noted in an editorial "on the unique depravity of modern Islamic terror": "It's hard to fathom now--with the images of Russian children in body bags scorched into our memories--but when the history of the war on terror is written, last week may go down as a turning point."

    It's only a minority of Muslims who embrace this kind of terrorism. But it's still not easy to talk about the relationship of Islam to these horrific acts of terror, as much as we need to. Writes Dennis Prager:

    "The truth is that everyone with a conscience has questions about Muslims and Islam. But the most powerful religion in America, the religion of tolerance, has rendered it almost impossible to ask any such questions. Most people are so afraid of being branded intolerant that the most natural and goodhearted questions are only posed by the handful who have the courage to do so (usually conservative Christians)."

    Prager continues:

    "It is, of course, only a minority of Muslims that engages in such horrors, but it is only Muslims who are doing all these things. Christians aren't--even among Palestinians, there are no Christian terrorists. Jews aren't--and when one Jew did deliberately kill innocent Palestinians in 1994, the rest of the Jewish world was horrified and demonstrated its revulsion in word and deed. Buddhists aren't--despite the destruction of Tibet by the Chinese Communists, no Buddhists have murdered innocent Chinese, let alone non-Chinese who deal with China."

    New York Times columnist David Brooks is quite chilling on the cult of death that is found among a certain number of Islamic militants. Note well: Brooks is careful to point out that only a minority of Muslims embrace the ideology of death--and he further argues that the killing isn't really about advancing Islam.

    Here's what he says:

    "[T]he death cult is not really about the cause it purports to serve. It's about the sheer pleasure of killing and dying.

    "It's about massacring people while in a state of spiritual loftiness. It's about experiencing the total freedom of barbarism--freedom even from human nature, which says, Love children, and Love life. It's about the joy of sadism and suicide.

    "We should be used to this pathological mass movement by now. We should be able to talk about such things. Yet when you look at the Western reaction to the Beslan massacres, you see people quick to divert their attention away from the core horror of this act, as if to say: We don't want to stare into this abyss. We don't want to acknowledge those parts of human nature that were on display in Beslan. Something here, if thought about too deeply, undermines the categories we use to live our lives, undermines our faith in the essential goodness of human beings."

    Columnist Ralph Peters, writing last week in the New York Post, was more sectarian in his approach:

    "The mass murder of children revolts the human psyche. Herod sending his henchmen to massacre the infants of Bethlehem haunts the Gospels. Nothing in our time was crueler than what the Germans did to children during the Holocaust. Slaughtering the innocents violates a universal human taboo.

    "Or a nearly universal one. Those Muslims who preach Jihad against the West decided years ago that killing Jewish or Christian children is not only acceptable, but pleasing to their god when done by 'martyrs.'

    "It isn't politically correct to say this, of course. We're supposed to pretend that Islam is a `religion of peace.' All right, then: It's time for Muslims to stand up for the once-noble, nearly lost traditions of their faith and condemn what Arab and Chechen terrorists and blasphemers did in the Russian town of Beslan."

    How Stupid Do These Nuns Think We Are?

    Loose Canon has been a squish on pro-choice Catholic John Kerry at the communion rail. She's alienated her fellow wingers by saying he should be able to make up his own mind (which, if he cares about the dogma of the Church, would be to kneel in prayer as others around him approach the Eucharistic minister).

    Not so with the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters in Detroit who, according to the Detroit Free Press, have donated $200 to Emily's List, the women's group that only supports pro-choice candidates. The bishop should bar the bad sisters from Communion--they're members of a religious order, and they should know better. Muddying the Church's teaching on important matters of dogma is a particularly terrible thing for a nun to do. Not to mention supporting people who would kill children in their mother's wombs.

    The donation, made in 2003, has just come to light--thanks to an electronic donor database. "We weren't making a political statement in terms" of abortion, Sister Mary Katherine Hamilton, the IHM vice president, told the Detroit Free Press. If sister thinks we're going to buy that, she must have a poor notion of the education her order so graciously provided for Catholic children in better days.

    Archdiocese of Detroit spokesman Ned McGrath said archdiocesan officials are "puzzled" about the donation. He added that Cardinal Adam Maida, who has repeatedly spoken about "the moral evil of abortion," would be "prepared, if necessary, to address what happened with the appropriate pastoral response." Loose Canon has already suggested a possible response, but this time it's the cardinal who'll most likely be a squish.

    Our Shameful Loss of Shame

    One of my favorite writers, Roger Kimball, editor of The New Criterion magazine, has taken on an important subject--our shameful lack of shame, in an essay headlined, "Does Shame Have a Future?" Let's hope it does.

    But heeere's Roger:

    "In Masaccio's great fresco depicting the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (ca. 1426), the Angel of the Lord hovers, sword in hand, above and behind the First Couple. Adam strides forward, naked, his face buried in his hands. Eve, however, a look of wailing misery on her upturned face, covers her breasts and privates as she walks. She is ashamed of her nakedness and strives to conceal it.

    "I thought of Masaccio when I stumbled upon Martha Nussbaum's essay 'Danger to Human Dignity: The Revival of Disgust and Shame in the Law,' which appeared last month in The Chronicle of Higher Education. How Nussbaum would disapprove of Eve!, I thought. For Martha Nussbaum--a classicist who is currently the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics in the Philosophy Department, Law School, and Divinity School at the University of Chicago--does not approve of shame. She is not too keen about disgust, either. Both emotions, she thinks, impede 'the moral progress of society.' And here we have Eve, ashamed of her body, modestly shielding her sex from view: how very unprogressive."

    Scared and Out of Touch in New York

    Why do so many of the intellectual nobs in New York and other blue places hate George Bush so much? Well, it's the snobbery. Make that effete snobbery. No, make it hilariously angry snobbery.

    The New York snobs had their chance to blather away about how "scary" George Bush is when London's Observer sent Robert McCrum to America. "Today, by some margin, George W. Bush is the most despised figure in America," McCrum reported.

    "Really?" replies columnist Mark Steyn replies. Here's Steyn's riposte to McCrum in the Telegraph (registration required):

    "The paper sent McCrum to America to interview nine novelists about the election. That's the first mistake right there: shipping a guy 3,000 miles to take the pulse of the nation by interviewing a bunch of guys who already agree with him. One of the reasons why the Bush-despisers will be waking up stunned on the morning of November 3 is because they spend way too much time talking to each other and sustaining each other's delusions.

    "These guys are out of touch with reality," twitters Wallace Shawn, referring to Bush and Dick Cheney rather than himself and McCrum. "They could--and probably will--do anything. This is the scariest I've known it."

    "If the graduates of the creative writing schools are beginning to sound drearily predictable, the humdrum gentlemen of the press are writing ever more creatively. Just over a month ago, John Kerry gave his 'I'm reporting for duty' convention speech. I thought it was typical Kerry--'verbose, shapeless, platitudinous, complacent, ill-disciplined, arrogant, and humourless,' as I wrote in the Telegraph back then. But what do I know? The American media hailed it as a triumph.

    "A day or two later, the numbers came in and showed that Kerry's 'triumph' had mysteriously not prompted the traditional post-convention bounce in the polls. Even Michael Dukakis got a bounce. But not Kerry. Indeed, according to Gallup, he had the first recorded instance of negative bounce. Fortunately, the Dems and their chums in the press were able to reassure themselves that this lack of bounce didn't mean anything."

    Which in Texas Is Called Walking

    There's a message contained in the very successful convention just completed by the Republicans in New York, and it's the same old chestnut your mother told you when you were nervous before your first date: Just be yourself, honey.

    In Boston, the Democrats tried to pose as Republicans, but with the Republicans also acting like Republicans (what a relief), the field is crowded. "I can't believe all of this whimpering and whining," Michael Moore writes ("Why Democrats Shouldn't be Scared") in the wake of the Republican convention. "Kerry has been ahead in many polls all summer long, but the Republicans come to New York for one week off-Broadway and suddenly everyone is dressed in mourning black and sitting shivah?"

    President Bush's speech showed him as the unwavering, you-know-where-I-stand sort of guy he is. Columnist Andrea Peyser of the New York Post notes something else important about the speech--"Tonight, I will tell you where I stand, what I believe, and where I will lead this country in the next four years,'" he declared. And then, the president did something amazing. Almost unprecedented. He kept his word."

    As Deborah Orrin, the Washington bureau chief of the New York Post (yes, it's my favorite daily paper), notes, Bush "did not shy away taking tough swipes at his Democratic opponent--blasting him as a man who stands for tax-and-spend 'politics of the past' and has turned his back on America's closest allies and heroic troops fighting on the front lines."

    The Kerry-bashing had the commentariat in high dudgeon--first they were against negative advertising (defined as advertising helpful to a Republican), and now, apparently, they're against taking any kind of swipe at the other side--unless you're making astute and clever comparisons of Bush to Adolph Hitler. That's okay.

    To digress, it was, of course, the highly effective Zell Miller's red meat feast of Kerry-bashing that really upset the pundits. Isn't this a time-honored aspect of politics? Both Andrew Sullivan and the Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes (in an account of Miller's post-speech run in with Hardballer Chris Matthews) have referred to Miller as a Dixiecrat, but James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal ("Zell Is Other People") points out that...

    "...blasting Miller as a 'Dixiecrat' is simply bizarre. The term Dixiecrat refers specifically to supporters of Strom Thurmond's third-party presidential bid in 1948 (when, as Glenn Reynolds notes, Miller was not even old enough to vote), and more generally to the segregationist Democrats who succeeded in blocking most civil rights legislation until 1964. How in the world could Miller's speech last night have been 'a classic Dixiecrat speech' when it not only did not defend segregation (a question that was settled long ago), but did not even remotely allude to race? The speech was entirely about national security."

    Bush did announce some new money-wasting programs (more money to community colleges--how about harder entrance tests instead?), but I guess that's the price we pay--literally--if we have a hope of remaining safe.

    Bush made two funny and self-deprecating remarks, the first on how his use of the English language is so bad that even Schwarzenegger Arnold can't resist correcting him and the second about how he is accused of having a swagger "which in Texas is called walking." Which maybe is more true than self-deprecating.

    But the real thing the president has going for him--and if he wins, this will most likely be the reason--is the way he has handled the war on terror. Charles Krauthammer is great on how he differed from the putative response of a Democratic president:

    "Bush acted. He declared war. Not just on terrorists--the old way--but on states as well. States that harbor terrorists, states that aid and abet terrorism, states that hunger for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It all looks obvious now. It was not then. It was new: radical, dangerous and absolutely necessary."

    By the way, don't you know denizens of the clubby, insular, crepuscular world of New York's intellectual elite are glad to have the Republicans gone. They must feel the way Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette would have felt if the women of Paris had suddenly turned back from Versailles.

    What Do Priests Get Suspended for Nowadays?

    All too many priests who have engaged in the sexual abuse of children have been transferred to another parish with a slap on the wrist, but sometimes a priest does something so dreadful, so awful, that he must be suspended from his duties:

    Here's an item about a renegade priest:

    "Father Stephen Somerville celebrated daily Mass in Latin, with [Mel] Gibson acting as his altar server, when the movie was filmed in Italy last year, reports the Toronto Star. Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in the film, also attended the 7:30 a.m. services most days before filming.

    "Somerville, who was a priest in the Toronto archdiocese for 48 years and who has strongly defended the movie against charges it and Gibson are anti-Semitic, was suspended by [Bishop] Ambrozic for celebrating Mass in Toronto for the Society of St. Pius X, a group that Ambrozic and the Vatican's ecclesiastical commission consider 'not in full communion with Rome.'"

    The Society of St. Pius X is not in communion with Rome, and, of course, Catholics should not be involved with it--but, in the light of what goes on today--I'm just noting that some transgressions seem to lead to suspension quicker than others. The artistic success of "The Passion of the Christ" also raised some questions about the aesthetic quality of current Catholicism compared with older expressions of the faith. But don't get me wrong: no Catholic should attend a Mass conducted by a member of the Society of St. Pius X.

    Is Britney Going to Pre-Cana Classes?

    While Father Somerville is being suspended for saying the Mass in Latin, singer Britney Spears, a recent devotee of Kabbalah, a brand of mystical Judaism embraced by Madonna (the pop singer, not the mother of Jesus), is being given permission to marry in a Catholic monastery in California.

    According to a news report:

    "[The] 'Toxic' singer and her fiance Kevin Federline have been having secret meetings at a Catholic monastery in California at the request of their Christian parents, who were devastated by Spears' plans to marry under the mystical offshoot of Judaism, reports Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper.

    < "the="" 22-year-old="" was="" impressed="" by="" malibu's="" serra="" retreat="" center="" [and="" settled]="" on="" using="" it="" for="" her="" big="" day,="" believing="" the="" secluded="" retreat="" will="" ensure="" her="" nuptials="" remain="" private.="" "the="" 22-year-old="" was="" impressed="" by="" malibu's="" serra="" retreat="" center="" [and="" settled]="" on="" using="" it="" for="" her="" big="" day,="" believing="" the="" secluded="" retreat="" will="" ensure="" her="" nuptials="" remain="">

    "A family friend says, 'Britney postponed her original summer at home wedding because she wanted to please her family, who are practicing Christians, and Kevin's family who take their Catholic faith very seriously."

    The Catholic Church does, of course, marry mixed couples--if the groom is a practicing Catholic (I haven't seen a report that clarifies this), that could be quite enough to get a Church wedding. But I'm not aware of provisions in canon law that allow a Church wedding to please the couple's parents.

    If neither of the couple practices the Catholic faith, the retreat center should not allow itself to be used as a backdrop of a celebrity wedding. Should this be the case, Father Junipero Serra, the Franciscan priest who brought the faith to California, and who was known for his "fortitude" and whose "most conspicuous virtues were insatiable zeal, love of mortification, self-denial, and absolute confidence in God," must be turning in his grave.

    P.S. A Catholic friend of mine insists that there's nothing wrong in Britney's being married at the monastery--if she is taking pre-Cana classes (the Church's introduction to the sacrament of marriage) and if she keeps her midriff covered. Two big ifs. I've seen no reports on whether Britney and Kevin are taking pre-Cana. Does anybody out there know?

    The Cathedral Conundrum

    Loose Canon, as you might know, laments the noisiness of the contemporary liturgy, the distracting handshaking known as the exchange of the peace (I've found that a simple, "I have ringworm" deflects outreached hands), and the ugliness (there are exceptions) of most modern churches. Did I leave out anything?

    But Catholic blogger Amy Welborn of Open Book has a provocative post from another Catholic blogger, Barbara Nicolosi (who also happens to be part of a network of Christians in Hollywood and was the RCIA--Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults--instructor for Joan of Arcadia producer Barbara Hall).

    Here's a snatch of what Nicolosi had to say after a trip to Spain:

    "This leads me to what became the central paradox I chewed over as we moved from gorgeous churches in El Escoriel to to Madrid to Barcelona. Everywhere I go here in the States, I whine and complain that we need beauty in our churches. I see it as a necessary component to weathering life in a holy way 'in this valley of tears.' So, here's the problem. Europe is chock-full of beauty in their churches, but they have mostly lost their faith.

    "So, what does that say about my theories about the urgent relationship between aestethical/liturgical beauty and faith? Maybe it is good that we Americans are surrounded by ugliness in our churches? Somebody help..."

    "Vote for John Kerry--He's Better than You Are"

    Snobbery has been rampant among the hacks at the convention in Madison Square Garden. Loose Canon regrets that Tom Shales, the Washington Post TV critic, is so condescending to Republicans that even his always sparkling prose doesn't make today's column palatable:

    "Unfortunately for the Republicans," writes Shales, "two very different men could speak in succession, but the crowd was the same for both, and to a large degree, the Republicans behaved like a bunch of yahoos who'd been bushed in expecting 'The Jerry Springer Show.' Nothing makes a worse case for the Republican Party than seeing a mob of them congregating. The crowd makes your average suburban tailgate party look like a black-tie-State Dinner."

    Many national journalists come from small towns in America, and they're eager to shed their small town ways and spurn the people they left behind. I don't know about Mr. Shales' roots, but his contempt for regular folks is, well, contemptible.

    When the crowd started swaying and shouting, "Flip flop, flip flop," Loose Canon suddenly wished she'd gone to New York to wear a cowboy hat and rhinestone W pin--it all looked like so much fun (and in a good cause).

    Columnist Debra Saunders has a jollier take on why the Republican convention was more successful (unless you're a Democrat or a reporter, which, generally are the same thing). Among other things, Saunders thinks that all the talk about how great John Kerry is, when not backed up by substantive issues or ideas, came out as "Vote for John Kerry, he's better than you are."

    Here are some Saunders nuggets on comparing convention highlights from Boston and New York:

    "Boston: America meets Teresa Heinz Kerry. John and Teresa's paths crossed because her late husband was a Republican senator. After she became a widow, the two bonded at 1992's Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

    "New York: Laura Bush had a less complicated and very American love story. She told the nation Tuesday that she met her husband 'at a backyard barbecue in Midland, Texas, and married three months later.'

    "Boston: Delegates did not warm to Heinz Kerry. No surprise. Looks-wise, there was a huge gulf between the would-be first lady and delegates of a certain age and income. I suspect some Democrats thought it wasn't natural for a woman in her mid-60s to look like Teresa Heinz Kerry.

    "New York: While many pundits panned Laura Bush, GOP delegates hung on her every word. They were so attentive that you could hear a cell phone ring on the convention floor. (A rarity, I assure you.)

    "Boston: Democrats were better dancers than the rhythm-challenged GOP delegates. No question about it.

    "New York: The Repubs, overall, dress better than the rumpled Dem delegates. It's not that the Repubs are stylish--they just respected the event enough to wear pressed clothes."

    Matins with George

    Loose Canon was delighted to read in Newsday that George Bush began his day today with a prayer service at Our Savior Catholic Church, at 59 Park Avenue, where the Rev. George Wiliam Rutler is pastor. A former Episcopalian (like the president), Rutler is one of the best preachers in Christendom, famous in New York for packing 'em in on Good Fridays for his "Three Hours Devotion," a service of prayer and meditation on the Christ's Seven Last Words from the cross. Rutler represents the polar opposite in the Church from the Paulist Center in Boston where Senator Kerry attends Church, which Jonathan Last of the Weekly Standard has described as a church for Catholics who don't buy Catholic dogma.

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