We Are the World--Yuck

Loose Canon was no less touched by the plight of tsunami victims than any normal human being--but the showy compassion of celebrities quickly palled. We are the world and we are wonderful--that sort of stuff. In a fine piece on "gesture politics" in Sunday's New York Times, Christopher Caldwell, who usually hangs his chapeau at the Weekly Standard, reveals how confusing and often empty public displays of compassion can be:

"The world's governments, churches and even terrorist-affiliated groups have thrown themselves into the tsunami relief effort. You would expect that passing judgment about which kinds of aid and which modes of delivery work best would be a complicated matter.

"But you would be wrong. In Europe, at least, the public has separated the heroes from the scoundrels with a simple yardstick -- lost vacation time. Chancellor Gerhard Schroder of Germany stands among the winners. He rushed back from a post-Christmas vacation in his native Lower Saxony to set up a crisis center in Berlin, and has since been a whirlwind of activity, pledging more than half a billion dollars in aid and devoting his New Year's address to the disaster.

"Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who chose not to cut short his own vacation in Egypt, finds himself cast as the arch-goat. Blair's government was quite active during the days that followed the tsunami. But even though Britain has offered substantial assistance to the wave-damaged region, that is somehow insufficient. For the past month, the British news media have savaged their prime minister for his 'colossal act of disrespect.' According to an editorial in The Independent, 'Blair has failed to grasp the essence of leadership.'

"If that accusation is fair, then the essence of leadership has changed into something that is less and less about significant undertakings and more and more about dramatic stunts. ..."

Is There a V-Chip?

USA Today reports that Rolling Stone magazine has switched and will run a Bible ad it previously rejected:

The ad, which will run unchanged in mid-February, doesn't mention God. But it describes the Bible as 'real truth' and carries the new translation's slogan: 'Timeless truth: Today's language.'"

And the Oscar for the Worst Movie Goes to...

One of the worst movies I've seen in a long time has been nominated for best picture--yep, "Million Dollar Baby," "a brutal euthanasia film slyly billed as romance by sympathetic critics," has been nominated for best picture. Also nominated in this category is the delightful "Finding Neverland," the life-affirming story of J.M. Barrie's friendship with the family that inspired Peter Pan and his realm of fantasy.

Why didn't Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" get a nomination? My guess is that Hollywood is trying to cool it. They don't want normal folks to realize they inhabit another planet. The nihilism of MDB is not apparent to many denizens of tinsel town or others who aspire to be chic. Despite the evidence to the contrary, they find this perverse film positively uplifting. FYI: Instapundit has an alternative theory on the Moore shut-out: "I think some people are unhappy with him for giving the election to Bush."

The Associated Press further reports:

"Also nominated for the best-actress Oscar were Catalina Sandino Moreno as a Colombian woman imperiled when she signs on to smuggle heroin in 'Maria Full of Grace'; Imelda Staunton as a saintly housekeeper in 1950s Britain who performs illegal abortions on the side in 'Vera Drake'; and Kate Winslet as a woman who has had memories of her ex-boyfriend erased in 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.'"

Let's see, I count one drug smuggler and an abortionist (though one of my favorite movie critics, Jim Bowman, hails "Vera Drake" as a worthy movie.)

The Associated Press also reports:

"Mel Gibson's religious blockbuster 'The Passion of the Christ' missed out on main categories, but did pick up nominations for cinematography, makeup and original score."

I understand it has an interesting plot, too.

Why Nicole Kidman Will Never Play Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O'Conner was weird. So why hasn't she made it into the pantheon of chic writers? Catholic blogger and National Catholic Register columnist Kathy Shaidle answers the question:

"The influence of Flannery O'Connor's (1925-1964) small oeuvre of bizarre, violent 'Southern Gothic' fiction (a term she loathed) is wide-ranging and uneven: think of Slingblade, The Cramps, Wild at Heart, John Waters, Raising Arizona, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Diane Arbus, Quentin Tarantino and the white Northern hipster's condescending fascination with Elvis, 'outsider art', televangelists and triple-named serial killers. For better or worse, all are hard to imagine without the example of Wise Blood or 'Everything that Rises Must Converge.'

"Yet biographies of O'Connor are as 'hard to find' as her titular 'good man.' Unlike literary icons Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, O'Connor didn't live a dissolute, suicidal existence of madness and adultery. She was sane and sober, lived with her mother and died a virgin--of an unglamourous disease at that.

"Nicole Kidman or Gwenyth Paltrow won't be playing O'Connor in a big budget Hollywood biopic."

And then, notes Shaidle, there was her Catholicism...

Don't Be Sashy with Cardinal Arinze!

Cardinal Arinze--whom Loose Canon is seriously considering nominating for pope--is having a feud with an American Archbishop who has publicly claimed that the cardinal told him it was okay to give communion to those who show up wearing sashes that proclaim their opposition to the Church's teaching on homosexuality.

In a letter sent to a columnist named Barbara Kralis, Arinze says 'taint so:

"Dear Ms. Kralis, His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Arinze, asks me to thank you for your communication regarding a news release from the 'Catholic News Service' dated December 14, 2004. It concerns the Cardinal's private discussion with the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, His Excellency Archbishop Harry J. Flynn.

"Cardinal Arinze wants you to know that the report was not exact and does not show his stand. He has written Archbishop Flynn about it.

"Rainbow Sash wearers, the Cardinal says, are showing their opposition to Church teaching on a major issue of natural law and so disqualify themselves from being given Holy Communion.

"I wish you a happy New Year. Sincerely."

And a happy reign--oops! I mean New Year--to you, Eminenza.

(Many thanks to Catholic World News for posting this story.)

Can Larry Summers Really Say That?

Did you harbor illusions that the groves of academe allow free inquiry? Surely you put away this fantasy when you heard the squawks that greeted Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers' remark that there may--repeat: may--be "innate" differences between men and women with regard to math and science talent.

The National Organization for Women is calling for Summers' resignation. But was what he said so bad?

Andrew Sullivan, who has the best piece on simmering Summers so far, thinks not:

"Women make up 35% of the faculty in US higher education (and a majority of students). But they make up only 20% of top positions in science. Summers prefaced his remarks by saying they were designed to provoke. [Summers] spoke of the fact that some women might prefer to spend critical research years bringing up children.

"Then he made the mistake of pointing to some interesting research by the University of Michigan sociologist Yu Xie and his University of California-Davis colleague Kimberlee A Shauman. Their hypothesis was that in science tests the median score for men and women was roughly the same. But for some reason men were disproportionately represented at the very bottom and the very top of the table.

"Or, as the Harvard Crimson reported: 'There are more men who are at the top and more men who are utter failures.'

"One possible explanation for this is genetics. Summers raised the possibility that this might have something to do with male preponderance at the very top of research science. And he immediately added: 'I'd like to be proven wrong on this one.'"

If this does turn out to be the case, it doesn't mean that Madame Curie should have been chased out of her lab--it simply means that a smaller percentage of women than men are interested in pursuing a scientific career.

To our credit, we are rendered uncomfortable by the notion that some people are smarter than others. Sullivan makes a very important point about about this:

"[T]here is a distinction between moral and political equality for all - the bedrock of a liberal society - and unavoidable natural inequalities between human beings and, in a few narrow areas, between social groups. This cannot and should not mean that any individual should be prejudged or denied opportunity. But it does mean that some imbalances in certain professions may not be entirely a function of prejudice or bigotry."

Loose Canon was pleased to note that some of the feminist reaction to Summers' statement was pilloried (particularly hilariously by Jonah Goldberg). Perhaps this is a welcome sign that the PC is losing its grip.

Life Goes On

Perhaps it was the inaugural festivities or the cold, but the March for Life seemed to come and go this year. But here's a piece from a London newspaper about a baby girl whom doctors deemed too defective to live. She refused to die:

"A premature baby that the High Court ruled should be left to die by hospital doctors has survived against the odds. So remarkable is the little girl's progress that lawyers for her parents will this week go to court and ask for the ruling to be lifted.

"Charlotte Wyatt, who weighed just 1 lb when she was born prematurely, was given only months to live after a hospital won the legal right last autumn not to resuscitate her if she stopped breathing.

"Doctors secured the ruling, against the wishes of Charlotte's parents, on the grounds that she was brain-damaged and it was in the baby's own interests not to be resuscitated since it would prolong her suffering and would be 'purposeless'.

"Doctors expected that Charlotte, now 15 months old, would succumb to an infection that would prove fatal without emergency intervention. However, she has survived 3½ winter months since the ruling; there is also evidence that her breathing is becoming stronger and she is less dependent on an oxygen supply - an improvement confirmed by hospital sources. The family claims she has some sight and can hear clapping."

Don't Call Me Mister

Loose Canon has already expressed fascination with "Road Less Traveled" psychiatrist M. Scott Peck's use of exorcism. The interest is coupled with a fear that nobody should be performing exorcisms except under the auspices of the Church.

But a Christianity Today review of Peck's new book, "Glimpses of the Devil," notes that...

"Peck criticizes the Roman Catholic Church's formal screening criteria for exorcisms because they focus too tightly on supernatural signs. Though strange things happened during Peck's exorcisms, what tipped him off to the patients' possession were subtle aspects of their behavior that could not be accounted for by standard psychological mechanisms."

Peck does use words from the Christian baptismal ritual and the Eucharist (I imagine it's an Episcopal Eucharist) in his exorcism. I was interested in his attitude towards the Devil:

"Throughout Glimpses of the Devil, Peck treats Satan with the kind of respect a child learns to have for fire. Nevertheless, Peck doesn't inflate the importance of Satan and demons: Satan is the lesser spirit and its footprints in this world are less visible than God's. Satan is limited: It needs to work through human bodies. It is not all-wise, and can be tricked by appealing to its vanity.

"Peck calls Satan 'it' rather than 'he,' because Satan is neither male nor female. 'Sexuality has to do with creation,' Peck explains to the patient named Jersey. 'The Devil doesn't create anything, it only destroys.'"

Catfight in the Cathedral Close

Classical Anglican dubs it "Desperate Bishops Wives," but the Telegraph compares a feud over perks by wives of C of E bishops to Trollope:

"Celia McCulloch, the formidable wife of the Bishop of Manchester, is being compared to Mrs Proudie, the domineering spouse of the fictitious Bishop of Barchester, for her no-nonsense response to criticisms of her role."

Mrs. McCulloch has been accused of being bossy in her role on the Bishoprics and Cathedrals Committee, which is part of the Church Commissioners, which manages the property of the Church. Her email has found it into the prints:

"[Mrs. McCulloch] dispatched a round-robin e-mail full of indignation after being rebuked by Lydia Gladwin, the wife of the Bishop of Chelmsford, for becoming 'too close' to the Commissioners who, in the words of one Church official, 'are God when it comes to deciding the perks - palaces, cars and the like - for bishops and their wives.'

"Such is the Commissioners' authority that they decide if official residences can be enlarged or redecorated, and even whether an oven or carpet can be replaced. These powers give ample room for tensions and disagreements, particularly when one bishop and his wife are considered to have received preferential treatment."

A God-Drenched Speech?

Loose Canon disagrees with Peggy Noonan, who thought that there was way too much God in George W. Bush's second inaugural address:

"It was a God-drenched speech. This president, who has been accused of giving too much attention to religious imagery and religious thought, has not let the criticism enter him. God was invoked relentlessly. 'The Author of Liberty.' 'God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind ...the longing of the soul.'"

In an age when the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance are considered offensive by many, the president did well to invoke the deity. One of the instances cited is actually quite modest--Bush is refuting the notion that he believes God has chosen the United States for some messianic purpose or that we could discern such a choosing:

"We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul."

But, as reporter Julia Duin notes, there was more God in this inaugural address that Bush's first:

"Four years ago, Mr. Bush, a born-again Methodist, had referred to God in vaguer terms as a 'higher power' and 'author'; used such words as 'democratic faith'; and referred to a saying by Mother Teresa and the parable of the good Samaritan to bolster his doctrine of 'compassionate conservatism.'

"This time, he called Americans to the kind of character necessary in wartime and according to high standards of greatness and morality set by God."

Duin goes on to note that Bush told editors of the Washington Times last week in an interview that he will continue a faith-based presidency. It was in this interview that he uttered the now-infamous words that he didn't see "how you can be president, at least from my perspective ...without a relationship with the Lord."

There was a time when an American president who claimed a relationship with God would not have been regarded as Dr. Strangelove.

W and Wilson

But I have figured out what it was about the inaugural address that made me nervous--it was Wilsonian. Start with Fourteen Points and pretty soon you've got a United Nations...

New Criterion editor Roger Kimball, writing in National Review, found the speech influenced by both Woodrow Wilson and Francis Fukayama. Kimball fretted:

"In some ways, the president's speech reminded me of Francis 'end-of-history' Fukuyama. You remember his thesis: liberal democracy was bustin' out all over. Hegel was right: freedom was near the end of its necessary march through the world..."

Loose Canon Misfires: In my blog on the speech yesterday, I incorrectly attributed the authorship of one of the commentaries--James Robbins, not former Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson, wrote the excellent column on why the speech made him nervous. I don't know what I was thinking. Mea culpa.

Valid but Vapid

Loose Canon attended a beautiful Midnight Mass with relatives who belong to the Reformed Episcopal Church. It was a tiny chapel but all was done reverently, with the priest (my cousin's husband) facing the altar when talking to God.

I was warned that the Catholic church to which I repaired Christmas day would disappoint. The best that can be said of the Mass was that it was valid but vapidly celebrated. Somehow the words "And here's Mary Katherine Barker on the keyboard" just didn't strike the right note.

Oh, and where was that tabernacle (the repository of a consecrated host, the focal point of a Catholic Church)? So many of us have forgotten the purpose of a church; that is why contemporary churches are so awful.

Catesby Leigh, who frequently writes on architecture, deals with the hard-to-find tabernacle and other aspects of modern church design in today's Opinion Journal. He compares an Episcopal church with a Catholic cathedral in Milwaukee:

"The renovators retained old stained glass and architectural ornament and recycled old liturgical furnishings. But the apse now boasts nothing more than new organ casework. It looks pretty naked. The cathedral's original design allowed the main axis to integrate celebration of the Eucharist with adoration of the Real Presence. But the renovators have discarded this sound logic in order to put the 'faith community,' whose members behold one another during the 'sacred action,' in the spotlight. The new arrangement undermines the idea of worship as something focused on a reality that transcends the self."

Good Thing Nobody Believes Them Anymore

Congratulations to Rather-busting Powerlineblog for finding what Jonathan Last calls "one of the most egregious bits of media bias yet recorded."

It was this item posted on ABC's web site:

"For a possible Inauguration Day story on ABC News, we are trying to find out if there any military funerals for Iraq war casualties scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 20. If you know of a funeral and whether the family might be willing to talk to ABC News, please fill out the form below:"

Powerline comments:

"Note that only the families of Iraqi war dead need apply. If a soldier died in Afghanistan, or aiding tsunami victims in Indonesia or Sri Lanka, or in a training exercise, never mind. That isn't the 'balance' ABC is looking for."

I noticed the story on ABC last night, but having to report on the inaugural festivities made Peter Jennings look as if he were attending his own funeral.

Toon Fan

Loose Canon had never heard of Peter Toon, an Anglican clergyman, until linking to a piece by him the other day. But now I'm a Toon fan. I loved his remarks on dying as a baptized believer. Like most believers, I love the part about eternal life but worry about repentance.

We Will Bear Any Burden

A wonderful celebration of America with a sparkling vista of snow and people as far as the eye could see. Who ever said democracies don't do ceremony? George W. Bush delivered a fine and stirring inaugural address.

It hewed mostly to an important theme: Freedom is the "urgent requirement of our nation's security and the calling of our time." It was an eloquent statement of why we are in Iraq and why we must persevere there:

"We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

Bush stated his sense of America's mission but he was not messianic:

"We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul."

The address seems to getting good reviews from those who aren't determined to act like skunks at the garden party. Ed Morrisey of Captain' Quarters (via Instapundit) gave the inaugural high marks: "In fact, in its own way, this might be one of the most radically classical-liberal American speeches in a generation." Blogging on National Review's The Corner, historian Victor Davis Hanson liked the speech, but acknowledges that the President is asking of our nation something quite difficult:

"I wholeheartedly endorse the president's historic stance, but also accept that we live in an Orwellian world, where, for example, the liberal-talking Europeans are reactionary-doing realists who trade with anyone who pays and appease anyone who has arms-confident in their culture's ability always to package that abject realpolitik in the highest utopian rhetoric. But nonetheless the president has formally declared that we at least will be on the right side of history and thus we have to let his critics sort of their own moral calculus."

As much as I liked the speech and its clear rationale for what we must achieve in Iraq, some of the heroics in the field of foreign policy made me nervous. In this I was a little (but only a little!) like James Robbins:

"Bush has just announced that we must remake the entire third world in order to feel safe in our own homes, and he has done so without sounding a single note of reluctance or hesitation. This overturns the nation's fundamental stance toward foreign policy since its inception. Washington warned of 'foreign entanglements.' The second President Adams asserted that 'we go not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.' During the Cold War, even Republican presidents made it clear that we played our large role upon the world stage only to defend ourselves and our allies, seeking to changed the world by our example rather than by force."

Something in Bush's address went just a bit too far. It made me think of the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat who embraced radical ideas and came to spread them in the U.S. But, hey, that worked out well.

And how right Bush was to ignore those who wanted America to be grim and apologetic today! It was right to have our inaugural festivities. The crowds in the streets made that abundantly clear. Did you ever see people having such fun?

We're Here, We're Christian, Get Used to It

No, it's not going to be a theocracy, but Loose Canon predicts that Christians are going to be increasingly active in the second Bush administration. I was interested to note that the Traditional Values Coalition held a Christian Inaugural Eve Gala at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. More than six hundred conservative Christians attended-enough to scare Swami out of his wits.

What does the Christian gala portend?

The Bush administration really is beginning to feel like Reagan Redux when it comes to Christian activists: They sense that the president is sympathetic, and this inspires them. I remember so many events sponsored by conservative Christians in the Reagan years, and I predict it's going to happen again.

The theme of the Ritz-Carlton Christian gala was "One Nation Under God," and the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the TVC talked about the role of Christianity in the founding of the United States:

"'America was founded on Christian principles and beliefs,' said Sheldon. "And these principles must remain the foundation upon which our nation continues to exist." Rev. Sheldon believes that George Washington's comment in his Farewell Address of 1796 expresses the importance of Christianity in our nation's history: "Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports....George Washington knew the importance of Christianity to an orderly and just society,' said Rev. Sheldon. 'We must not forget this truth!'

This no doubt has people on the Upper East Side and Georgetown quaking in their Guccis. But these Christians recognize the separation of church and state. They simply want to hold onto the heritage of a country founded mostly by deists and believers. What's wrong with that?

The Doctor Has Left the Building

Loose Canon hates to break the good mood (of some!) this inauguration day, but I do want to mention an essay by Theodore Dalrymple, the pseudonym of one of my favorite Brit scribblers.

Dalrymple is also a physician who has just retired from his medical career.

Americans might be interested in his bleak assessment of the state of the English hospital system:

"The now ineradicable managerialism so insouciantly introduced into the public service by the Conservatives, and that serves so well the megalomaniac centralising ambitions of the current government, for whom increasing bureaucratic clientelism is the key to eternal power, has created a Kafkaesque atmosphere in the health service, in which it is impossible to point one's finger at precisely who is responsible for what latest idiocy. The very expansion of management - 17.6 per cent in one year alone - dilutes responsibility to the point when it can no longer be said to exist with anybody. A miasma of intellectual and moral corruption hangs over every hospital and, though itself intangible, its effects are tangible, such as the decision of a very famous hospital to keep patients brought to casualty waiting in ambulances rather than allowing them inside, so that the waiting time in the casualty department could be brought into line with a target."

On the bright side, now that he's no longer doing rounds, Dalrymple will have more time to do something that heals my spirits: write.

Talk about an Uphill Battle...

British Hindus are trying to reclaim the swastika as a religious symbol:

"The swastika is a 5,000-year-old symbol that has been used for centuries by Hindus, Buddhists and many other traditions to denote good luck, but because of the Nazis it has come to symbolise hate, anti-Semitism, violence, death and murder. The campaign, announced today, comes after members of the European Parliament called for a Europe-wide ban on the symbol after Prince Harry wore a swastika armband to a fancy dress party."

What's Not to Celebrate?

Beautiful, snowy day in Washington, adding to the building excitement--we inaugurate a president tomorrow. We did more than just survive September 11th, and the United States shall continue to be a force for decency in the world. The inauguration celebrates that and more.

Some would like George W. Bush's second inauguration to be draped in sackcloth. They'll cite sympathy for tsunami victims, an acknowledgment that our troops are fighting abroad, or any other excuse to ensure that George Bush's second term commence amid malaise rather than high hopes.

Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, who leans to my side of the political aisle, makes a case for restraint in inaugural festivities. I don't agree, but here's a snippet:

"[G]iven current events - the war in Iraq, America's negative image in the Muslim world, the fact of thousands dead and more suffering in the tsunami's wake - Bush might have toned it down. We are, after all, in a PR battle as well as a military war."

But Parker admits:

"If [Bush] were to take his oath of office, make a few remarks and quietly retreat to the White House for dinner with friends, those who wanted anybody but Bush would find a way to spin gold into hay.

"He's ashamed, look at him, they'd say. He knows he's bungled the war and knows better than to show his face beaming over a parade. What a coward."

But here's another issue: All those who are protesting the inauguration seem to be having a grand old party. (Here's a piece by somebody who supports some of the left's issues but is embarrassed by latte activism.) They're having a ball. Why shouldn't the rest of us celebrate?

Can God Attend?

Thank--well--God that militant atheist Michael Newdow lost the first round of his battle to disinvite God to George Bush's inauguration. But the judge's reasoning was almost funny (that is, if it weren't so unfunny):

"The balance of harms here, and particularly the public interest, does not weigh strongly in favor of ... the unprecedented step of an injunction against the President," Bates wrote in a 50-page decision.

"There is a strong argument that, at this late date, the public interest would best be served by allowing the 2005 Inauguration ceremony to proceed on January 20 as planned," Bates stated.

The zany atheist asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and ban God, but Court refused.

Before the rebuff, Newdow's intriguing theory was that Chief Justice Rehnquist couldn't participate in the court's deliberations because he will participate in tomorrow's swearing in ceremony:

"Newdow is also asking that Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist remove himself from consideration of the case because he will administer the oath of office to President Bush, which contains the phrase 'so help me God.'

"'To suggest that the Chief Justice step aside from considering this case simply because he will administer the oath of office to President Bush - the same oath taken by the nation's first President George Washington - is a bizarre and troubling argument,' [conservative legal activist Jay] Sekulow said.

Of course, God has always gotten to inaugurations. Paul Kengor, who's written about Reagan and God and GWB and God, has a brief history of God's attendance at inaugurations. He prefaces his piece with a question:

"George W. Bush will soon be delivering his second inaugural address. Will he mention God? Or, perhaps the better question is: Will any mention of God by Bush be tolerated by the self-proclaimed 'tolerant' among us, by those who embrace 'diversity?'"

Well, sure he'll mention God--and, sure, those who are beset by an irrational (or maybe rational...hmmm) fear of hearing God's name will squawk.

Have I Been Too Nice to Darwin?

Has Loose Canon been too nonchalant about the theories of Chuck Darwin? I've assumed we evolved and don't really see what the fuss is all about--it had to start somewhere. But David Warren notes the intrinsic nastiness of Darwinism:

"What distinguishes Darwinism, in the end, is the nasty figurative edge to it, the popular use of it to communicate "nature red in tooth and claw". It became associated very early with Victorian atheism, and does the missionary work of the old Bloomsbury set that lost its Christian faith in the mid-19th century. It is an ideology that continues to reach beyond the strict realm of biology, into areas of philosophy and theology with which it has nothing to do. It sells a cosmos that is blind, random, purposeless.

"It is a religion, sez I; a religion with prophets like Thomas Henry Huxley, and Herbert Spencer, and Richard Dawkins today. (And I'm not seeking tenure in any university, so you can't get me for uttering my heresies against it.)"

I had also suggested that school districts that want to put an it's-just-a-theory disclaimer on text books should be allowed to do so and then move on to the teaching of science. But I was unaware that teachers in some jurisdictions were required to go further.

Warren again:

"But having said that, I must add that I champion freedom of religion. I think it is appalling that in several U.S. jurisdictions, laws have been passed, e.g. to compel teachers to read a disclaimer at the beginning of class, saying that 'evolutionary science' is just a theory, and that (crackpot) 'creation science' is an alternative theory. No law that compels a teacher to declare what he doesn't himself believe, can possibly be just. We need the same law to defend people who say 'evolution is a crock'."

LC is a creationist in that she believes God created us--but creationism isn't a science. Warren is right that this is going too far (at least in public schools).

Diogenes: All the Rage...

Loose Canon hears more and more from her fellow conservative Catholics about a feisty Catholic blogger who goes by the name of Diogenes: Is Diogenes so and so? More than one person? Clergy or lay?

Diogenes blogs for Off the Record, and he/she/they often get good stuff:

"The USCCB [U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops] has sent the bishops a draft Charter for review and comment. A copy has been acquired (as they say) by Off The Record. Check out the paragraph below:

"6a. While the priestly commitment to the virtue of chastity and the gift of celibacy is well known, there will be clear and well-publicized diocesan/eparchial standards of ministerial behavior and appropriate boundaries for clergy and for any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact..."

Sez Diogenes:

"Put aside the question of what it might mean to 'commit' to a virtue or a gift, and take note of the general thrust. Is this the language of men who see mortal sins of unchastity as intrinsically evil? ..."

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Bible Ads

Sign of the Times: The most intriguing religion story in the last few days was a yesterday's USA Today report that Rolling Stone magazine has rejected an advertisement for a new translation of the Bible aimed at younger readers.

Zondervan, the nation's largest publisher of Bibles, was planning a massive advertising campaign for its new Bible, a version intended for "spiritually intrigued 18- to 34-year-olds." The Rolling Stone ad was to be the cornerstone, but the cornerstone has been rejected:

"The magazine rejected Zondervan's Bible ad just weeks before its scheduled run date, citing an unwritten policy against accepting ads containing religious messages.

"Zondervan executives say the entertainment magazine was key in its $1 million campaign to reach young adults who have rarely, if ever, seen Bible ads before. Surveys show that 53% of this age group read the Bible less than once a year or never, although they are huge buyers of books on spiritual and religious themes. ...

"The rejected ad shows a serious young man, apparently pondering the problems of modern life. The text touts the TNIV [Today's New International Version] as a source for 'real truth' in a world of 'endless media noise and political spin.' A blue Bible peeks up from the corner of the ad."

Rolling Stone has every right to reject the ad--if they don't like it, they should not take it. But doesn't it say something awful about contemporary culture in general--and Wenner Media, Rolling Stone's parent company, in particular--that with all the odious stuff Rolling Stone publishes, like a naked cover photo of Christina Aguillera or a provocatively-posed Britney Spears, it's the Bible that's considered off limits?

Interestingly, The Onion, the satirical magazine, is going to carry an ad similar to the one Rolling Stone rejected. Maybe they're counting on readers to think that it's a joke?

What was it that was so offensive to the folks at Wenner Media?

"[E]very ad carries the slogan: 'Timeless truth; Today's language.'

"And that assertion of 'truth' evidently triggered the rebuff from Rolling Stone."

Maybe Zondervan should go back to the drawing board and design a sexy, new ad campaign featuring the Bible as a "banned book."

By the way, a Christian organization has been circulating Secret Service material that seems to ban large displays of crosses at inaugural celebrations. I haven't gotten into this controversy because I imagine the Secret Service is simply trying to prevent clashes. You see, it's not only Dracula who hates the sight of a cross nowadays. Are we going the way of the French who ban religious symbols?

Exorcism: Some Roads You Shouldn't Travel Alone

Beliefnet has a pretty amazing interview up right now--it's with M. Scott Peck, the psychiatrist who wrote the best-selling book, "The Road Less Traveled." Peck talks about how he became a Christian, how he came to believe in the reality of evil, and how he came to practice exorcisms.

That last scares the daylight out of me, but first I want to quote Peck's compelling discussion of how he came to believe in the Bad Guy:

"I had come to believe in the reality of benign spirit or God, as well as the reality of human goodness. I'd come to believe distinctly in the reality of human evil, and that left me an obvious hole in my thinking. Namely was there such a thing as evil spirit, or the devil specifically? In common with 99.99 percent of psychiatrists and with 80 percent of Catholic priests--as confidentially polled back in 1960, the figure would be much higher now--I did not believe in the devil.

"But I was a scientist, and it didn't seem to me I should conclude there was no devil until I examined the evidence. It occurred to me if I could see one good old-fashioned case of possession, that might change my mind. I did not think that I would see one, but if you believe that something doesn't exist, you can walk right over it without seeing it."

I won't spoil the fascinating story of how Peck encountered an old-fashioned case of possession. But here's what worries me: Peck is taking a huge risk. Exorcisms are dangerous, and should only be undertaken under the auspices of the Church (though the public doesn't know it, many dioceses have an official exorcist).

This should be apparent to everybody who has seen the excellent--and quite accurate--movie "The Exorcist," based on a real case of demonic possession in Mount Rainier, Maryland. Only a holy person--and Peck may well be one--should attempt an exorcism. But I hope he's not on a road he shouldn't travel.

Martyrdom Averted?

Are you as baffled as I am by the report of the Syrian archbishop taken hostage by terrorists in Iraq and then just as suddenly freed? The so-called insurgents are masterminds of pr, and I can only imagine that they perceive some public relations benefit.

Meanwhile, the Washington Times is reporting (via Powerlineblog) that the kidnapping might have been a case of mistaken identity. That doesn't clarify anything for me: Why would Islamic insurgents be so hands-off just because the guy they picked up is a Catholic clergyman? The Vatican says that it did not pay a ransom.

The Very Idea of a University!

Relapsed Catholic has gone into her "bulging College Makes You Stupid files" to cite a report on movie banning at a Florida University:

"In November 2004, the college banned the Christian Student Fellowship (CSF) from showing ["The Passion of the Christ"] because it was R-rated, despite the fact that the college has hosted a live performance entitled 'F**king for Jesus' that describes simulated sex with 'the risen Christ.'"

What Was He Thinking?

Loose Canon feels sorry for poor Prince Harry, who is being accused of all sorts of awful things in the wake of wearing a Nazi costume to a costume party. People everywhere are asking: What was he thinking?

Here's what he was thinking: What can I wear to the costume party? For someone who is the product of two millennia of inbreeding, questions of this sort are complicated. Prince Harry, like many of the Windsors not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, made an unfortunate choice. But in this case, wearing such a getup is no more an endorsement of Nazism than dressing up as a pirate is an endorsement of high crimes on the high seas.

As Mark Steyn points out, we've got more important things to worry about:

"Personally, I found the sight of the Prince of Wales climbing into the full Highgrove hejab for dinner with that bin Laden brother a week after the 9/11 slaughter far more disquieting: it seemed a rather more conscious act of identification than his son's party get-up. But a good indication of societal decadence is when it prefers to obsess over fictional offences rather than real ones.

"I suppose it's possible that, should fate bring Harry to the throne, he'd turn into a Victor Emmanuel or King Carol of Romania and lend a constitutional figleaf to some Fascist regime. But worrying about a minor Royal schoolboy's alleged Nazi bent seems something of an indulgence at a time when the neo-Nazis get as many votes in Saxony's elections as Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic Party; when from Marseilles to Paris, Jews are being attacked and their homes, schools, kosher butchers, synagogues and cemeteries burnt and desecrated in a low-level intifada that's been going on so long the political establishment now accepts it as a normal feature of French life; and when the Berlin police advise Jews not to go out in public wearing any identifying marks of their faith. ..."


It's getting to be that time of year again--January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Here is a compelling first person account of a young woman who survived abortion and lived to tell the tale.

Evolving Right Along...

Textbook stickers saying that evolution is "a theory, not a fact" are just the sort of thing intellectuals love to use to discredit believers. Here's Loose Canon's considered opinion on such stickers: Who cares?

Until further notice, I assume that God used evolution to create us. But isn't evolution a theory? Isn't it possible that some day scientists might advance some revolutionary new theory?

"By denigrating evolution, the school board appears to be endorsing the well-known prevailing alternative theory, creationism or variations thereof, even though the sticker does not specifically reference any alternative theories," U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper said.

Look, I don't like people meddling with the teaching of science, but the stickers don't seem to say anything beyond: the theory of evolution is a theory. I tend to agree with the school board attorney:

"Science and religion are related and they're not mutually exclusive," school district attorney Linwood Gunn said. "This sticker was an effort to get past that conflict and to teach good science."

Why not just allow the durned stickers and move on? But of course this solution wasn't acceptable to the fundamentalists in the ACLU.

Where Do Liberals Come from, Mommy?

Conservatives have been getting giddy at the thought that our team is out-breeding the liberals. We'll soon outnumber them, we've been telling ourselves happily. But not so fast... although liberals may not want to increase the sizes of their own families, a brilliant piece on Tech Central Station shows several ways they might practice asexual reproduction:

The remaining option is the Dracula option: the hijacking of little red-state kids through academia and the mass media. It's the lament of conservatives since time out of mind, and it's the plot of Tom Wolfe's latest novel: every year, conservative families spend outrageous sums in order to send their smartest, most capable children to elite colleges, wherein radical leftists brainwash them into newly-minted blue-staters. And the less-capable red-state kids hear the siren call of leftist values every time they flip the `on' switch on the idiot box. Prime-time television and the network news highlight the glamour and appeal of liberal places, beliefs, and lifestyles, while conservative values are either ridiculed (`dumb old Dad'), reviled (`The priest did it? The businessman was corrupt? Who'd've guessed?'), dismissed (`We at CBS News stand by our story'), or ignored (insert any aspect of religious life here). The old song is still mostly true: How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen a TV show about Paree?"
George W.'s Swearing-In Bible

Loose Canon has loved listening to Bush haters come up with one reason after the other why we shouldn't hold the inauguration this year-the tsunami, the war, the cost. Of course, it's a boon to our morale and good for business-those who'd like the parties called off remind me of Louis XIV's firing a gardener at Versailles when he learned about the existence of poverty, thereby plunging the gardener into poverty.

But I do hope George W. will decide to use the first George W's swearing-in Bible this time. According to an item by Andrea James for Religion News Service, he was going to last time--but the rain made it impossible to use the delicate, 237-year-old Bible. George Washington, Warren Harding, Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and his own father, George H.W. Bush have used the Bible.

A Priest, a Rabbi, and a Satanist...

Loose Canon is against designating some crimes hate crimes--all crimes are, in one way or another, hate crimes. With the notion that it's more wrong to harm some than it is to harm others, the law degenerates into absurdity. Speaking of absurdities:

"Two New York teens face 15 years in prison for allegedly attacking self-avowed Satanist Daniel Romano, who wears black clothing, has black fingernails and wears an upside-down crucifix. The teens allegedly yelled 'Hey Satan' and beat Romano with a metal club and an ice scraper.

"Queens district attorney Richard Brown announced this week the teens would be charged with "second-degree assault as a hate crime" along with two other charges, which could carry a 15-year sentence. 'What in heaven's name are these prosecutors thinking?' asked Joseph Seehusen, executive director of the Libertarian Party.

"'When a law supposedly designed to protect religious minorities is being used to protect devil-worshippers, our criminal justice system has been turned upside down,' Seehusen said.

"He pointed out that under the hate crime law, someone who beats a Satanist because of a 'religious bias' could be punished more severely than someone who attacks a priest, rabbi, or any regular citizen and steals their wallet, assuming they're motivated only by greed."

Ouch! This Has Got to Hurt

Loose Canon and others have been nattering on lately about how the media was the modern equivalent of the clergy until its luster was dimmed by all the yummy scandals of late.

Hugh Hewitt carries the Church/CBS analogy even further. Hewitt compares the way CBS handled its recent travails to the way the Catholic bishops handled the pedophilia recent scandals:

"The parallels between the Church's behaviors and those of CBS are particularly striking. For years complaints about predator priests, like complaints about political bias in the newsroom, were swept aside with disbelief or sneers. When particular facts gave rise to unavoidable conclusion of corruption, the offending priest was sent away to a distant parish or rehab. Any comprehensive attempt to warn leadership, like Father Thomas Doyle's 1985 report on the abuse problem to the Bishops or Bernard Goldberg's polemic 'Bias,' were buried or ignored. The astonishing details of indifference to the scandal by Church authorities can be found in David France's 'Our Fathers.' The go-to book on CBS's collapse of credibility has yet to be written, though my new book 'Blog' provides a concise summary of the Rathergate specifics.

"There is a temptation among many CBS observers to see the just released internal investigation led by Richard Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi as a full accounting and a sort of conclusion to the Rathergate scandal of last fall. Certainly CBS President Les Moonves treated the report that way, seizing especially on what he saw as the panel's exoneration of CBS News of the charge of political bias. Dan Rather, like Bernard Law, is being sent off to a tarnished semi-retirement, and the other cardinals and bishops of big media at least seem ready to put a bow on it."

MDB: Here I Go Again

Perhaps I should have been more careful before I revealed the end of "Million Dollar Baby" in my blog yesterday. But I want to talk about MDB again, and so I warn you: Stop here if you don't want to know how the movie ends.

Relapsed Catholic posted two items on MBD, and they both deal with euthanasia and they are both worth reading. A blogger called The Last Renaissance Man loved the movie:

"The claim has been made that Mr. Eastwood's entire purpose in making this film was to affirm that the Catholic Church is wrong in its stance on this particular moral issue.

"The very reason why Catholics and other conservative Christians are often the laughing stock of modern media is because of this type of reaction to films and books. ..."

But New York based writer Joan Swirksy was as appalled as Loose Canon:

"As critic Harry Forbes (Tidings online) finally admitted: 'What starts out as a formulaic, Rockyesque fight film takes a disturbingly downbeat turn, becoming a somber meditation on assisted suicide with a morally problematic ending which ... will leave Catholic viewers emotionally against the ropes. ...

"A film about a failed Catholic who is such a moral weakling that he vanishes after he commits murder. A film that both Hollywood and the media have knowingly lied about in order to entice people into movie theaters so they can cringe at its unending blood and gore and experience not enlightenment but pity at the heroine's fate and disgust at her trainer's cowardice."

Interestingly, it's been noted that many reviewers aren't telling you what the second half of the movie is about either.

Are they afraid that telling potential ticket purchasers would be helping the movie to commit assisted suicide?

Coalition of the Giving

In a piece on "The Coalition of the Giving," Mark Steyn writes about the outpouring of money for tsunami victims from the west as compared to the stingier contributions from Arab countries. Steyn noted this detail from an apparently little-noticed news photograph:

"As for the most striking photograph of this disaster, it's by AFP's Jimin Lai. I haven't seen it in any of the papers, oddly enough. It shows a tsunami-devastated village in Galle on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka: a couple of rescuers are carrying away a body while, behind them, smack dab in the centre of the picture, a young man looks on. He's wearing an Osama bin Laden T-shirt."

Trafficking in Platitudes

Loose Canon loves the Holy Father, but she has to admit that sometimes he disappoints her:

"In his annual meeting with the civil leaders of Rome and the surrounding Lazio district, Pope John Paul II called for special attention to the problems of drug abuse, inadequate housing, and traffic congestion."

Is There a PETA for People?

All I can really say about this story from the Times of London is that it renders me speechless:

"People are to be tortured in laboratories at Oxford University in a United States-funded experiment to determine whether belief in God is effective in relieving pain....

"While enduring the agony, they will be exposed to religious symbols such as images of the Virgin Mary or a crucifix. Their neurological responses will be measured to determine the efficacy of their faith in helping them to cope. ..."

Thanks to Open Book who got this weird little item from Mark Shea.

Another Secret of Fatima: Mel Meets Sister Lucia

Catholics aren't required to believe in apparitions (appearances of the Virgin Mary). However, since I'm favorably disposed towards these phenomena, the report that "Passion" filmmaker Mel Gibson secretly met with Sister Lucia, 98, the sole survivor of the three shepherd children who beheld and spoke with an apparition of Mary at Fatima in 1917, is quite intriguing. I love it that a participant in one of the most interesting episodes of Catholic history of the last century wanted to see Mel's movie!

Fatima and Lourdes, among the most famous of the Marian apparitions, have inspired great devotion among ordinary Catholics. At Fatima, the apparition appeared to the children from May until October of 1917, always bearing a message of penance. There were also prophecies, including the rise of an atheistic regime in Russia. The apparition requested repentance to help prevent Russia from "spreading her lies" and revealed three secrets (more on that in a minute).

On the last appearance, a crowd of 70,000 gathered, and witnesses claimed that the sun changed colors and danced in the sky. The two other children, Jacinto and Francisco Marto, died shortly after the apparitions and have been beatified. Lucia is a cloistered Carmelite nun.

Here's the basic scoop of Lucia and Mel:

"Fatima-based Unity Publishing's Richard Salbato recently revealed in an online report that after the nuns asked for a private showing of Gibson's film 'The Passion of the Christ,' Gibson not only OK'd the viewing, but the actor flew to Coimbra, Portugal to personally introduce the film to Lucia and her Sisters.

"During Lent of 2004, the nuns at the convent in Coimbra where Sister Lucia lives wanted to see the film as a devotional aid in preparation for Good Friday and Easter.

"Unable to leave the convent or meet face-to-face with outsiders because of the strict Carmelite rules governing cloistered sisters - and lacking the modern convenience of a DVD player - they sought to contact Mel Gibson's Icon Productions for help.

"According to Unity, word was sent out from the Convent to make contact with Icon or Gibson to get a DVD for the Convent."

There are some pictures of Mel shaking Sister Lucia's hand through her grille, and reportedly the nuns thought he was nice and humble. Do Michael Moore's fans describe him thattaway?

The nuns, including Sister Lucia, asked Gibson questions about the movie. Would love to know what Sister Lucia thought, but mindful that anything she said would be widely disseminated, the nun refrained from public comment.

The whole apparition thing is wildly bizarre to non-Catholics. Eternal Word Television Network has some material on them, including a general explanation. Ya gotta be careful with apparitions, and this article explains why.

Prophecy is also tricky, and the Third Secret of Fatima, which was kept in the Vatican and only made public in 2000, has inspired lots of scary stories. Like most prophecy it was garbled, but it dealt with tribulation (leading Cardinal Ratzinger to insist in commentary on the Third Secret that The End Is Not Near) and a pope's being shot. Many Catholics have concluded that the prophecy was fulfilled when John Paul II was shot and nearly killed in 1981.

High Priest Howard Reads the Entrails

Loose Canon, in her gleeful comments on the late events at CBS, compared the media's influence since Watergate to the clergy. I'm not alone in making the comparison. "Blaming Bush for the demise of a priestly class," is how Lucianne introduces Newsweek's Howard Fineman's utterly bizarre but totally revealing piece on the decline of the mainstream media:

"A political party is dying before our eyes - and I don't mean the Democrats. I'm talking about the 'mainstream media,' which is being destroyed by the opposition (or worse, the casual disdain) of George Bush's Republican Party; by competition from other news outlets (led by the internet and Fox's canny Roger Ailes); and by its own fraying journalistic standards. At the height of its power, the AMMP (the American Mainstream Media Party) helped validate the civil rights movement, end a war and oust a power-mad president. But all that is ancient history."

Yes, why blame disgraced former CBS producer Mary Mapes or former New York Times fabulist Jayson Blair for the media's waning influence when you can blame George Bush?

Post-Christian Europe Is Perplexed...

A regular writer for Opinion.Telegraph, Janet Daly has an interesting piece on how the English are invoking tolerance to deal with religious minorities who scare the living daylights out of them:

"What is the liberal democratic society to do about Muslims who burn books in a chilling evocation of the least tolerant society in modern history, let alone when they issue a fatwa against a novelist? What is an enlightened country, which has not closed theatres on theological grounds since Cromwell's time, to do when Sikhs use violence to shut down a play? What happens when the principle gets turned inside out, so that the very thing that you are being instructed to tolerate is intolerance? The liberal secular society does not have an answer to this because its mock-theological first commandment - to tolerate indiscriminately - becomes useless. ...

"Not that we are alone in this dilemma: France, a traditionally Catholic country where selling contraceptives was illegal within living memory, has banned schoolgirls from wearing the hijab. Everyone in post-religious Europe is confused and disoriented by a phenomenon that hardly anyone anticipated: the reintroduction into society of people who take religious belief seriously. Not only have Muslims and Sikhs themselves entered into public discourse with a robustness that has caught our liberal institutions on the hop, but, even more surprisingly, they have brought out of hiding an activist Christianity which had been invisible."

"Million Dollar Baby" Is Dead Wrong

"Million Dollar Baby," Clint Eastwood's new movie, which he directs and in which he plays Franike Dunne, a washed-up boxing coach, is really two movies [Warning: I'm about to give away a lot of the movie! You may want to stop here if you're hoping to see it.]: the saga of how a young woman, Maggie Fitzgerald (played by Hillary Swank), fights her way out of poverty, literally, by being a boxer, and an infuriating sermon on mercy killing, after Swank's character ends up a quadriplegic.

Like all homilists, the movie builds up to its theme, which seems to be that mercy killing is A Okay: Frankie Dunne is a daily communicant and he is always bugging the taciturn and annoyed priest after Mass with questions. "Can you spare a few minutes for the Immaculate Conception?" he asks. What is the point of all these shots? Well, the point is that, when Maggie asks Frankie to end her suffering, the state is set for Frankie to have a really irrelevant conversation with his priest--he talks to the priest about his dilemma, but what he is going to do is always clear. The Church's position is theoretical, the movie seems to say, but this is Real.

Many thanks to Open Book for posting a response to the movie by a disability activist. He refers to another bit of foreshadowing in the movie, Maggie's memory, while still healthy, that her father killed his dog Axel when the dog began to drag his hind legs:

In Maggie's story, there is no suggestion that the dog was suffering or wanted to die. Maggie and her brother laughed at the way he 'flopped' to get around, though. It's pretty likely Dad's motivation in killing the dog was that he couldn't count on anyone to care for it after he couldn't do it himself any more.

Frankie prays. He talks to a couple of people. He decides to 'help' Maggie, even though he doesn't want to. He doesn't want to be 'selfish' in keeping her alive. He sneaks in to the rehab facility in the middle of the night. No guards, no locks, no alarms. He wakes Maggie up and tells her he will do what she wants. He'll shut off the ventilator, she'll fall asleep and then he'll inject her with something so she "will stay asleep." The image on the screen showed a vial labeled "adrenaline." Yep, that was the sequence: Turn the vent off first, then inject with a stimulant. This is, in reality, a recipe for an agonizing death, combining suffocation with your heart feeling like it will explode.

This movie is set in contemporary times, yet the only place she can live is a glorified nursing home? This expensive care still results in a level of skin breakdown so severe it requires amputation? No locks on the door at night? No guard? No alarm? No warning buzzer when the equipment is shut off or Maggie's heart stops?

Anything wrong with this script?

Frankie allegedly "helps" Maggie because she can't do it herself. [Yeah, right.] We can assume, just from seeing the cars on the street in the movie, that this is post-1990. All Maggie has to do to die is to ask. No kidding. Court rulings in the 90s say that a person who uses a vent can request the vent be shut off, and the staff will give them a sedative and shut the vent off just as they start to lose consciousness.

It's that simple. It's already all legal. We've seen it play out too many times already in real life.

So what's this 'Frankie helps Maggie die' about? Why is it part of the script? I'll let you guess.

Thou Shalt Not Condescend

As a young reporter in New Orleans, Loose Canon was appalled to learn that many so-called educators let loose in the public school system thought kids growing up in a ghetto wanted reading texts about...kids growing up in the ghetto. This is condescension pure and simple.

This constitutes a failure to recognize that the accumulated wisdom of the ages--aka the classics--are valuable to rich and poor alike. And it's the prevalent view today among trendy academics:

"In 1988, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, president of the Modern Language Association, authoritatively stated (as something too obvious to require any evidence) that classic literature was always irrelevant to underprivileged people who were not classically educated," writes Jonathan Rose. "It was, she asserted, an undeniable 'fact that Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare do not figure significantly in the personal economies of these people, do not perform individual or social functions that gratify their interests, do not have value for them.'"

"One should not be too hard on Professor Smith. She was merely echoing what was, at the time, standard academic opinion...."

As Rose notes, the Victorians weren't nearly as condescending as modern liberals in the "education" establishment (or as unmindful of the value of the classics for all walks of life):

"Of course, a century ago elementary schools for the British working classes were in many ways grossly inadequate. Classrooms were crowded and under-equipped, discipline was enforced by the cane, and lessons emphasized rote memorization. But the schools taught at least one subject remarkably well. 'Thinking back, I am amazed at the amount of English literature we absorbed in those four years,' recalled Ethel Clark (b. 1909), a Gloucestershire railway worker's daughter, 'and I pay tribute to the man [her teacher] who made it possible. ... Scott, Thackeray, Shakespeare, Longfellow, Dickens, Matthew Arnold, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Rudyard Kipling were but a few authors we had at our finger-tips. How he made the people live again for us!'

Of course, the problem in modern public "education" is a bit like abuse--it's intergenerational. Badly educated teachers educate people badly.


Brit fans of Dan Brown's novel about Ms. Magdalene and the Lord will be scared out of their wits to learn that Opus Dei--the conservative Catholic group that practices mortification for sins--is thriving, despite Brown's negative portrait of them. The Times of London reports:

"Opus Dei, the conservative Roman Catholic organization that counts Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, among its members, has been given its first parish in Britain since it was founded in 1928.

"Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, is to hand over pastoral care of St Thomas More church, Swiss Cottage, to Father Gerard Sheehan, an Opus Dei priest.

"Father Sheehan is one of 17 priests in Britain who work for the Opus Dei organization. None of the others is a parish priest although Father Sheehan is local deanery secretary for the Westminster archdiocese and regularly hears confessions at Westminster Cathedral and St James' Spanish Place."

The article goes on to note that John Allen, Vatican correspondent for the liberal National Catholic Reporter has written a book on Opus Dei: "Opus Dei: Myth and Reality about the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church," which Random House is publishing this fall. I'll be interested in Allen's take, though one thing is certain: Opus Dei will survive negative publicity, if that is what it turns out to be.

Hypothetically Speaking...

CBS's report on how the best-paid journalists in America messed up and used apparently fake documents to try and harm George Bush is going to do the about same amount of good for the network at the New York Times' in-house report on the Jayson Blair fiasco came about--which is to say nada.

The panel may have refused to address that one issue that really matters--the role of bias--in the fiasco. But it was there, in the report itself, for the world to see. In other words, it's a would-be white wash that nevertheless gives you lots of inside scoop on how the scandal happened.

Powerlineblog's initial post-CBS report response yesterday still has best take. Powerline finds plenty of evidence of both bias and sleaziness. I'm going to quote a snippet about fired CBS producer Mary Mapes' interaction with Michael Smith, a freelance journalist in Texas with whom Mapes was working on the story about Bush's Texas Air National Guard tenure. This snippet may not establish bias (read the whole entry on P'line!), but it's super on the sleaze factor:

"On July 30, Mapes sent an email to one of her superiors at CBS in which she wrote: '...there is some very interesting Bush stuff shaking out there right now...Re...his qualification [sic] and refusal of service in Vietnam, etc. Lots of goodies.'

"On August 3, she emailed again: 'There is a storm brewing in Austin re the Bush stuff....It is much more intense than it was four years ago and there is a strong general feeling that this time, there is blood in the water.'

"Finally, on August 31, only eight days before the 60 Minutes show aired, at a time when Smith and Mapes were desperately trying to persuade Bill Burkett to give them the anti-Bush documents that they had heard he possessed, Smith sent an email to Mapes proposing that they set up a book deal for Burkett so that he could be paid in exchange for turning over the documents:

"Today I am going to send the following hypothetical scenario to a reliable, trustable editor friend of mine...

"What if there was a person who might have some information that could possibly change the momentum of an election but we needed to get an ASAP book deal to help get us the information? What kinds of turnaround payment schedules are possible, keeping in mind that the book probably could not make it out until after the election.

"Mapes replied: 'that looks good, hypothetically speaking, of course.'"

Why am I spending so much cyber ink on a CBS report on a religious blog? Well, because since Watergate, the liberal press has had more influence on the way we think about morals than the churches.

That may be changing, though.

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