Does Senator Frist Have Principles?
Well, we've lost Senator Bill Frist. Frist has not only broken with President Bush's limitations on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research but he is now also speaking gibberish.
What on earth does the good senator mean when he argues that pouring more money towards new scientific advances will help "bridge the moral and ethical differences" of the stem cell issue? Since when do scientific advances bridge moral and ethical gaps? Beats me.
Ramesh Ponnuru also notices the Fribberish: "Re-read one of the lines in Frist's speech: '[Embryonic stem-cell research] should advance in a manner that affords all human life dignity and respect -- the same dignity and respect we bring to the table as we work with children and adults to advance the frontiers of medicine and health.' If it's going to be 'the same dignity and respect,' does that mean we're going to carve up, and kill, children and adults whenever there's a chance to make a medical advance?"
Wesley J. Smith, one of the most prolific and astute writers on the subject of embryonic stem cell research, is "not in the least surprised" by Frist's new position (and, in fact, Smith implies that it's not such a deviation from Frist's old position):
"Four years ago [Frist] stated he favored federal funding ESCR on condition that only leftover embryos from IVF treatments be used to derive the stem cell lines.
"But Frist's support for increased funding for ESCR was not supposed to be a stand-alone proposal. Rather, Frist envisioned the (then proposed) federal funding of ESCR as one part of an overarching federal policy that the good senator humbly labeled the 'Frist Principles.' Under the Frist Principles funding of ESCR was to be joined with the outlawing of all human cloning. In other words, Frist advocated trading greater funding for ESCR in return for a total ban on human somatic cell nuclear.
"One can agree or disagree with that position. But by explicitly not conditioning his support for expanded federal funding of ESCR with the passage of a cloning ban, Frist has surrendered his own supposed principles."
Without a personality transplant, the heart and lung transplant doc was probably never going to be president. This makes that just about certain. It ruins Frist with the all-important religious right, though it wins plaudits from Democrats. Whoopee.
Sizing Up the Debate
Speaking of embryonic stem cell research, Mona Charen says there is a battle between Democrats and Republicans that might be answered by science:
"[T]he argument we are engaged in concerns whether it is moral or ethical to use normal, fully functioning human embryos as mere research material. If we can produce embryonic stem cells some other way, we will be able to obtain the full benefits of medical research using these cells (bearing in mind that the potential for cures has been wildly oversold by advocates) without transgressing important moral boundaries. ...
"Advocates of unrestricted embryo destruction make two principal arguments; first, that 400,000 embryos left over from fertility treatments are going to be thrown away anyway, and second, that an embryo is not a human being because it is extremely tiny.
"As to the first argument, the RAND Law and Health Initiative examined the matter and found that while nearly 400,000 embryos remain frozen in fertility clinics around the nation, only about 11,000 of these have been designated for medical research. The vast majority are held for future family building. Of those 11,000, only about 65 percent would survive the thawing process, resulting in 7,334 embryos. Only about 25 percent of those would likely develop to the blastocyst stage, and even fewer would be able to produce stem cells. Honest proponents of embryonic research admit that cloning of embryos would probably be necessary to obtain the optimum number of stem cell lines.
"As to the second objection: Is size morally relevant? Is a 21-year-old man three times as precious as a 7-year-old boy? We can barely see an embryo with the naked eye, yet, as Dr. Hurlbut points out, from the vantage point of space, no human is visible on the Earth's surface. He quotes philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal, who noted more than who noted more than 300 years ago that 'human existence is located between infinities -- between the infinitely large and the infinitely small.' Pascal continued, 'By space the universe encompasses and swallows me up like a dot -- by thought I encompass the universe.'"
It Takes One to Know One
Do most liberal theologians still believe in God? Baptist minister Albert Mohler suggests that many don't in an interesting essay on essay on liberal theologians:
"'It takes one to know one,' quipped historian Eugene Genovese, then an atheist and Marxist. He was referring to liberal Protestant theologians, whom he believed to be closet atheists. As Genovese observed, 'When I read much Protestant theology and religious history today, I have the warm feeling that I am in the company of fellow nonbelievers.'
"Genovese's comment rang prophetic when Gerd Ludemann, a prominent German theologian, declared a few years ago, 'I no longer describe myself as a Christian.'..."
Ludemann, however, did not let this minor inconvenience stop him from making his living as a theologian--indeed, he went from strength to strength, producing some riveting rifts on the Christian gospel:
"Ludemann argued that Jesus was conceived as the product of a rape, and stated clearly that he could no longer 'take my stand on the Apostles' Creed' or any other historic confession of faith. He continued, however, to teach as an official member of the theology faculty--a post which requires the certification of the Lutheran church in Germany....
"Gerd Ludemann's theological search-and-destroy mission eventually ran him down a blind alley. As he told the Swiss Protestant news agency Reformierter Pressedienst, he has come to a new realization. 'A Christian is someone who prays to Christ and believes in what is promised by Christian doctrine. So I asked myself: 'Do I pray to Jesus? Do I pray to the God of the Bible?' And I don't do that. Quite the reverse.'
"Having come face to face with his unbelief, Ludemann has now turned his guns on church bureaucrats and liberal theologians. Many church officials, Ludemann claims, no longer believe in the creeds, but simply 'interpret' the words into meaninglessness. Liberal theologians, he asserts, try to reformulate Christian doctrine into something they can believe, and still claim to be Christians. He now describes liberal theology as 'contemptible.'"
LC would love to hear members of the liberal Jesus Seminar, which comes up with interpretations of Christ that seem aimed at the destruction of the gospel, think about Mohler's piece.
The Use of Force
Victor Davis Hanson, LC's favorite vineyard-owning classicist/historian, points out the contrast in hijacker Mohammed Atta's father Mohammed el-Amir's words immediately after Sept. 11--when the father declared his son could never have done something so awful--and today, when Mohammed el-Amir says he'd like to see more Sept. 11-style attacks.
"The father of Mohammed Atta is emblematic of this crazy war, and we can learn various lessons from his sad saga.
"First, for all their braggadocio, the Islamists are cowardly, fickle, and attuned to the current political pulse.
"When the West is angry and liable to expel Middle Eastern zealots from its shores, strike dictators and terrorists abroad, and seems unfathomable in its intentions, the Islamists retreat. Thus a shaky al-Amir once assured us after 9/11 that his son was not capable of such mass murder.
"But when we seem complacent, they brag of more killing to come. Imagine an American father giving interviews from his apartment in New York, after his son had just blown up a shrine in Mecca, with impunity promising to subsidize further such terrorist attacks. If our government allowed him to rant and rave like that in such advocacy of mass murder, then we would be no better than he."
A Surprising Papacy?
Amy Welborn of Open Book has ferreted out a nice quote about Benedict's first hundred days from the liberal U.K. Tablet:
"John Paul II was perhaps the last Pope to embody the best of the Counter-Reformation tradition; Benedict XVI offers a link with far older roots of European civilization such as those of the Fathers of the Church, and of the founders of European monasticism, like his namesake. That may give him a deeper insight into the European soul than his predecessor, and suggests this could be a much more creative and surprising papacy than many might at first have expected."
Lose Your Faith--Get Rich
"Say you're a theologian in the religion business who's concluded that your company's oldest and most trusted product doesn't really exist. What do you do after the death of God?"
That is the godless theologian's conundrum as posed by Christianity Today. A theologian in such a spot might feign faith and wait for retirement or go into an allied line of work.
"Or," notes CT, "like Mark C. Taylor, you could become an entreprofessor, a broker in the emerging intellectual markets, trading in some of the hottest stocks in cultural capital. Pooling your dwindling fortunes in theology and philosophy with venture capital from postmodernism, you nimbly navigate the volatile and bubbling markets in profundity, hang out with the rich and famous, and after a while you're a pioneer in internet education, adulated in the Sunday New York Times. As long as the bubbles don't burst, and as long as the old business doesn't revive, you're as safe as a tenured academic-which, of course, you are already."
Taylor is author of "Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World Without Redemption." For those of us who believe in a world with redemption, it sounds sort of awful:
"A consummate bourgeois bohemian (or Bobo, to borrow from David Brooks)," notes CT, "Taylor embodies the merger, or perhaps the now-unmistakable fraternity, of countercultural iconoclasm and late-capitalist business culture. (Call it the hipness unto death.) So even if it's read only by a few thousand academics, Confidence Games is symptomatic of the tony nihilism that pervades the American professional and managerial classes."
The bad thing about this kind of pseudo intellectualism is that it will (like so much in today's culture) be intensely appealing for the half-educated.
A final quote from CT:
"'Confidence Games' is certainly brisk and truthful enough to seduce the uninformed or the intellectually fashion-conscious. Religion, art, and economics form an 'intricate interplay.' (Stroke chin, furrow brow, don't insist on distinctions.)..."
Beware of People in Bulky Clothes
The minute I heard that "random searches" of New York subway riders would be conducted, I thought: Why bother? Random searches don't make us safer. Searches of people who arouse suspicion might save lives.
But searching suspicious people instead of grandmothers in wheel chairs would involve making generalizations--and making generalizations has been demonized as profiling. But a remarkable piece in today's New York Times (!) entitled "When the Profile Fits the Crime," Paul Sperry shows why profiling isn't racially based--and why it is needed:
"Young Muslim men bombed the London tube, and young Muslim men attacked New York with planes in 2001. From everything we know about the terrorists who may be taking aim at our transportation system, they are most likely to be young Muslim men. Unfortunately, however, this demographic group won't be profiled. Instead, the authorities will be stopping Girl Scouts and grannies in a procedure that has more to do with demonstrating tolerance than with protecting citizens from terrorism.
"Critics protest that profiling is prejudicial. In fact, it's based on statistics. Insurance companies profile policyholders based on probability of risk. That's just smart business. Likewise, profiling passengers based on proven security risk is just smart law enforcement.
"Besides, done properly, profiling would subject relatively few Muslims to searches. Elderly Muslim women don't fit the terrorist profile. Young Muslim men of Arab or South Asian origin do. But rather than acknowledge this obvious fact, the New York Police Department has advised subway riders to be alert for 'people' in bulky clothes who sweat or fiddle nervously with bags.
"Well, a lot of people wear bulky clothes."
The Anglican Church in England has decided that lady bishops are okay--they somehow seemed to think that ordaining women to the priesthood was one decision, while letting them be bishops was a second one.
In Loose Canon's mind this boils down to saying that a church can have invalidly ordained priests but it has to debate again before deciding to have invalidly ordained bishops.
If Anglicanism hasn't managed to be confused on its own, now Sister Joan Chittister (dubbed "Batty Old Chittister" by my favorite Anglican site) wades in to help them with a piece in the National Catholic Reporter.
Pontifications has a witty piece on Sister Joan's pontifications:
"Ever since John Paul II slammed the door shut on women's ordination with Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994), Chittister has been holding the candle for it even higher before many audiences--ones sprinkled, I notice in the pictures, with the same generous proportions of gray hair as she and most of the Catholic progressive wing. Her latest salvo has been launched into the current C of E flap about the looming prospect of women bishops, over which many traditionalist Anglican clergy are threatening, rather to her bemusement, to bolt to Rome. Freshly written for the National Catholic Reporter (known among non-cafeteria Catholics as 'The Distorter'), Chittister's piece is an object lesson in theological fatuity."
The nomination of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court has put a media spotlight on Little Flower Catholic Church in Bethesda, Md., where the judge and his family are communicants.
The Washington Post has an excellent piece on the altar boys and girls at the parish--they are numerous and well-trained. Interestingly, it didn't have any glaring errors (the author doesn't quite get the meaning of the word acolyte--it's still used and is an exact synonym for altar boy or, alas, girl).
Here's a snippet:
"Initially, says [Father] Stuart, 'the geography of the sanctuary, the significance of the symbols -- they didn't understand any of that.' Now, knowledge of traditions, such as the keeping of martyrs' relics, helps draw them in. 'They think it's cool that there are bones in the altar,' he says."
Quiz: Did Osama bin Laden Sign the Geneva Convention?
Loose Canon believes we should observe the Geneva Convention--with those who have signed the convention. But you don't observe agreements with those who have not entered into them.
Sounds like LC is belaboring the obvious, doesn't it? But by the time opponents of Supreme Court nominee Judge John Roberts finish muddying the discussion of his verdict in the Hamdan case, you'll need to be reminded of that very simple fact.
But, as an excellent piece on Tech Central Station by Michael Rosen points out, the Hamdan case is important for understanding what kind of justice Roberts will be. Salim Ahmed Hamdan was Osama bin Laden's personal driver and factotum. He was captured and sent to Guantanamo.
The U.S. was on the verge of trying Hamdan as an enemy combatant before a military commission when he filed a habeas corpus petition in federal court. This court said that Hamdan couldn't be tried with a conclusion that he was not a prisoner of war in accord with the Geneva convention.
But the Court of Appeals (on which Roberts sat) reversed the pro-Hamdan verdict on a number of points. It ruled that the Bush administration had the power to hold tribunals. The D.C. Circuit Court also held that the Geneva Convention does not apply to terrorist groups. They are not signatories and they do not operate in accord with the rules of war.
Tech Central notes:
"On the whole, the decision is eminently reasonable, although it will almost certainly be appealed to the Supreme Court (where a Justice Roberts would presumably have to recuse himself). It places all necessary power in the hands of the Executive Branch to carry out the war on terror. It refuses to reward terrorist groups the benefits of the international treaties and human rights they abjure. And it declines to interfere significantly with the military's establishment of tribunals designed to thwart and punish enemy combatants. At the same time, it continues to leave open the potential for relief in American civilian courts, reflecting the lengths to which our system travels to ensure justice for the accused, even if such justice would never be reciprocated by our enemies.
"By signing onto the ruling, Judge Roberts demonstrated that he can capably confront one of the most critical issues before the Court this decade: balancing the protection of fundamental liberties against the defense of our homeland.
"In short, if Roberts' foes are looking to Hamdan to undermine his nomination, they're barking up the wrong tree."
Is Diversity a One-Way Street?
Loose Canon, a genuine multiculturalist in that I appreciate the art and other achievements of various cultures, abhors multiculturalism--the notion that one can't make value judgments about cultures. The always iconoclastic Brit journalist and essayist Julie Burchill has some choice words on how the reactions to the London bombings have revealed the folly and one-sidedness of multiculturalism:
"[I]f this is such an unwelcoming, racist place to live, why do all races continue to flock here, as they do to evil, imperialist America?" asks Burchill.
"[T]here was something a little creepy about the way in which certain people went on about the diversity of the dead. For one thing, it showed a willingness to believe the best of the bombers: that if only they had known that they had murdered delegates of all creeds and colours, they wouldn't have done it.
"B-llsh-t. This sort of Islamofascist hates multiculturalism. Just you try building a church in Saudi Arabia! They won't even let our troops out there celebrate St. Valentine's Day. And as for any idea of the races being equal ... it is the Muslim world that keeps slavery alive, and Muslim governments, as in Sudan, that see nothing whatsoever wrong with ethnic cleansing. Recently a Muslim columnist wrote sorrowfully of how in her culture a Muslim girl marrying a black man was the greatest shame that could fall upon a family. So much for equality under Islam.
"There was also the implication from some quarters that if all the dead had been white Christians, the tragedy and abomination would have been somehow less. This seemed particularly inappropriate at a time when we were celebrating this country's wartime suffering and resilience. We were white then - but did we bleed less because of it?
"In an effort to fight racism, certain people like to pretend that there was no fun, no culture, no nobility here before multiculturalism - but there was. And to follow that weird logic, you'd also have to say that the Third World also had none of the above before the white man went there and interfered. And before you know it, you're making all sorts of mad claims."
Out of the Closet and Into the Frying Pan
Loose Canon is always distressed by the faulty logic by which gay people who oppose gay "marriage" are considered hypocritical. Therefore I was pleased to happen upon (via Relapsed Catholic) an anti-gay marriage piece by "Civilization and Its Enemies" author Lee Harris, who writes in the piece that he is gay. According to Relapsed Catholic, Harris "has decided to reveal his homosexuality now because gay marriage (and worse, he fears) is becoming the norm. He feels it is his duty to denounce it."
In his lengthy piece, Harris asks if tradition is valid in determining whether or not gay "marriage" should be introduced into society:
"Too often, cultural relativists cannot get beyond drawing this one conclusion, which they use as ammunition against traditionalists: 'The traditions you think of as having an absolute claim on the human race are merely those that happened to have come down to us, and which we have blindly accepted.' While this objection does follow logically from the cultural relativists' premise, so too--and just as logically--does this conclusion: If we cannot use our traditional ethos to attack another's, it is equally illegitimate for him to use his to attack ours. If our cultural relativists must forgive those who sacrifice their infants to Moloch, they must also forgive members of their own society who wish to abide by their own traditions. The cultural relativist's position, practiced consistently, collapses into reactionary obscurantism: All cultures, including his own, are incommensurable, so it is impossible to judge any of them by higher standards than those offered by the cultures themselves. The appeal to enlightened reason rings hollow, for if enlightened reason can guide us to condemn characteristics of our own culture by offering us a higher standard by which to judge them, the same standard may also be used to judge other cultures as well. The cultural relativist must make up his mind: Either there is a higher standard or there isn't. If there isn't, it is impossible to judge among competing traditions, as the cultural relativist argues; if there is, it is possible to judge tradition A to be superior to tradition B, provided A meets the higher standard and B does not....
"In the current debate on gay marriage, its advocates are cast in the role of long-oppressed suppliants demanding their just due. Indeed, the whole question is put in terms of their legal and moral rights, against which the opponents of gay marriage have nothing to offer but 'residual personal prejudice,' to recall again the memorable words of the chief justice of the Canadian Supreme Court.
"But it is a mistake to conflate the automatic with the irrational, since, as we have seen, an automatic and mindless response is precisely the mechanism by which the visceral code speaks to us. It triggers a rush of emotions because it is designed to do precisely this. Like certain automatic reflexes, such as jerking your hand off a burning stovetop, the sheer immediacy of our visceral response, far from being proof of its irrationality, demonstrates the critical importance, in times of peril and crisis, of not thinking before we act. If a man had to think before jumping out of the way of an onrushing car, or to meditate on his options before removing his hand from that hot stovetop, then reason, rather than being our help, would become our enemy. Some decisions are better left to reflexes - be these of our neurological system or of our visceral system..."
If any nation has suffered from terrorism, it is that of our elder brothers in the faith. Therefore, though I am a huge fan of Benedict XVI, I am very sorry that he omitted Israel's name in a prayer for countries hit by terrorists.
A Brit newspaper mapping terrorist attacks since 1993 made the same mistake. Conservative columnist Joel Morbray shows why the Palestinians who have sent suicide bombers into Israel most definitely belong on the map.
Speaking in Code
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley has a piece ostensibly on "the faith of John Roberts"--it is actually on John Roberts and abortion. Here is the relevant portion in which a meeting with several senators is described:
"According to two people who attended the meeting, Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral. Roberts is a devout Catholic and is married to an ardent pro-life activist. The Catholic Church considers abortion to be a sin, and various church leaders have stated that government officials supporting abortion should be denied religious rites such as communion. (Pope Benedict XVI is often cited as holding this strict view of the merging of a person's faith and public duties).
"Known for his unflappable style in oral argument, Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself.
"It was the first unscripted answer in the most carefully scripted nomination in history. It was also the wrong answer. In taking office, a justice takes an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States. A judge's personal religious views should have no role in the interpretation of the laws. (To his credit, Roberts did not say that his faith would control in such a case)."
To his credit, Jonathan Turley in his wrongly reasoned piece did not beat around the bush--he came right out and used the word abortion.
As my colleague Charlotte Allen notes in an excellent piece on Beliefnet, word combinations such as "deeply held Catholic faith" are now usually "...code for asking Roberts how he plans to vote if the issue of overturning Roe comes up before the Supreme Court again--as it most certainly will. It's also code for creating a de-facto rule that, since the Catholic Church teaches that the taking of innocent human life is a grave moral wrong that no public official should support, any Catholic who takes the teachings of his or her church seriously should be automatically disqualified from holding high office in America. That's quite a turnabout for the Democrats, who built their party's grassroots constituency among ethnic Catholic who had suffered generations of anti-Catholic prejudice from an Anglo-Saxon Protestant majority that often voted Republican. Unless it stops itself, the Democratic Party, will have become the party of bald anti-Catholicism."
But my side is speaking in code, too. The very same code words that make the other side quake with fear for Roe give us hope that Roe will be chipped away, if not overturned:
"Several press accounts have noted that John Roberts and his wife Jane Sullivan Roberts followed [prominent Catholic priest] Monsignor Vaghi from St. Patrick's, his old parish in Washington, D.C., to Little Flower, and that Vaghi presided at their wedding. This has given conservative Catholic leaders who respect Vaghi confidence that Roberts is not cut from the same liberal cloth as Catholic Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Observing that the Robertses are close to Monsignor Vaghi, Austin Ruse, president of the Culture of Life Foundation, told the press that 'For people like me who are reading the tea leaves, it is another marker that we can breathe easy.' Leonard Leo, who is executive vice president of the Federalist Society and spearheads 'Catholic outreach' for the Republican Party, has also assured conservative Catholics that Roberts will not follow the same path as Anthony Kennedy."
Are You Sure It's a Dentist She Needs?
Unitarian seminarian Lisa Sargent is a paid Planned Parenthood chaplain. Here's a description of her encounter with a young woman:
"Dark circles ring her eyes. Are you religious, spiritual, Sargent asks the woman after introducing herself.
"No, the woman says.
"'I believe there's a higher power. I'm not sure what it is.'
"'I hear ya,' Sargent says. 'Do you believe there's a loving God that cares about you?'
"It's hard sometimes, when bad things happen to you or other people, the woman says, looking down.
"At her annual PAP smear, she learned she had a venereal disease, from a former boyfriend, she explains. Now her fiancé has it.
"'I'm glad you're here,' Sargent says. 'I'm glad you're taking good care of yourself.' It's hard, the woman says.
"With no insurance, no dental insurance, it's hard, pointing to her decaying teeth.
"Sargent gives her information about a dental clinic that could help."
In "The Gospel According to Planned Parenthood," Dawn Eden comments on Sargent's interesting practices of handing out rocks and her ritual of washing her hands between patients:
"The Lady Macbethian hand-washing, we're told by reporter Jill Tucker, is 'a ritual. A cleansing, allowing [Sargent] to move on to the next person.'...
"[Sargent's] message to patients is simple: 'Your life is important to God.'
"Translation: 'Your' life is important to God. Your baby's is not. Here, take a nice, shiny rock."
"In the past two weeks," writes columnist Michael Portillo, "Britain has been stunned to discover that there are people living here who have resisted integration and who loathe this country.
"London's resilience tells a more encouraging story. The capital's population is extremely diverse. As proof of that, fewer than half the names of those killed on the 7th look Anglo-Saxon. Today's Londoners come in all colours and from every cultural background. Yet they have inherited the city's historic attitudes of nonchalance, bloody-mindedness and defiance from the generation that survived the blitz. Mass murder in London has not been greeted with wailing in the streets but with a determination to continue life as usual in this city of perpetual sirens....
"It is easy to explain how the Londonistan phenomenon (the concentration of Muslim political activists in the capital) has come about. For years foreign governments have complained that dissidents settled in Britain were using the fax and the internet to foment discontent in their countries. Our response has been dilatory. Under our asylum rules we have made no distinction between the innocent victims of persecution and others intent on bringing down states."
Can You Hear Me Now?
Cardinal Arinze spoke to a group of Catholics in Pennsylvania and gave the best answer yet to an oft-posed query:
"One question concerned whether Catholic legislators who support legal abortion should 'be refused' Communion.
"'Should the person be given [Communion]? And I ask you, do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to find the answer?' he said to laughter and applause from an audience of 120 ardent Catholics. 'Are there no children from First Communion to whom you can pose the question and receive the answer? You do not need a cardinal to answer that. Because it is a straightforward matter.'"
Thanks to Amy Welborn of Open Book for spotting this.
Is Multiculturalism Fatal?
One of the most intellectually daring results of the London bombings is that multiculturalism-that academic trend that refuses to make value judgments about cultures-is coming under scrutiny.
"The Blair Government's intervention in Iraq is not to blame," writes former Australian treasury secretary John Stone. Rather, successive British governments have persisted in the multiculturalist folly that a nation can be built on separate but equal cultures. Moreover, under Tony Blair in particular, Britain's immigration policies and border controls against illegal immigrants have become international jokes, and now a national tragedy."
Stone offers some suggestions to prevent Australia from becoming a breeding ground for those who hate her:
"[T]he precious gift of Australian citizenship must be harder to obtain. The permanent residence requirement for citizenship is a derisory two years. If we value citizenship so lightly, how can we expect newcomers to do otherwise?
"[C]itizenship should be conditional on reasonable fluency, appropriately tested, in English. If ethnic ghettos are to be avoided, newcomers must learn our language.
"[C]itizenship applicants should also have to pass a reasonable written test of citizenship's meaning: parliamentary democracy, respect for others' rights, the rule of law and a general understanding of the Australian values to which they swear commitment.
"[E]mphasis on English in our immigration policy should be enhanced. Today, English-language proficiency earns points towards an applicant's overall score. It should be made an absolute requirement (including, in other than exceptional cases, for our humanitarian intake)."
Just to make it clear, I want to quote a final point that Stone makes:
"All this has nothing to do with race, but everything to do with culture, and particularly with people whose culture is such that they are unlikely readily to integrate into society. For the world's problem today, whence the London bombings derive, is that Islam has become a failed culture."
Loose Canon considers herself a real multiculturalist. I appreciate other cultures. But I feel it is important to make judgments about our culture and other ones. I especially feel that when people immigrate to a country they owe it a degree of loyalty.
The Faith of the Wife
I remarked yesterday on the superficiality of a New York Times profile that dealt with John Roberts's faith. There is a much better piece on Jane Sullivan Roberts today in the Washington Post--you get a sense of what her Catholicism means to her. And the reporter's tone is respectful--but I don't expect that to last.
Tiptoeing Around Terrorists
Even though yesterday's bombings in London were less murderous than 7/7, there will be those who use them as a pretext to do what they have wanted to do all along: pull out of Iraq.
But can you appease terrorists? Would it reduce their attempts to destroy civil society? Here is the answer to these questions from an excellent piece on the logic of trying not to make the terrorists angry:
"Let's assume for the sake of argument that appeasing some of Al Qaeda's demands (those precious few that are actually appeasable) will at least put a given country lower down the hit list if not actually all the way off it. Okay then. Why not go as far as possible? If it's worth doing something to mollify Al Qaeda, then it's worth doing another thing to mollify them even more. If the whole point is to keep your head down, then keep your head down. Lowering your chin but not your forehead is not going to cut it.
"It's real simple. If invading Iraq was a bad idea because it enraged Al Qaeda and handed them fodder for recruitment propaganda, then invading Afghanistan was likewise a bad idea because that, too, enraged Al Qaeda and handed them fodder for recruitment propaganda. If military action provokes retaliation, and retaliation must be avoided, then any and all military action must be avoided always and everywhere. Fighting the enemy anywhere at all will produce exactly the same result: they won't like it and will want to fight back. That always happens in war. Otherwise it wouldn't be war.
"And we're still assuming (solely for the sake of argument) that Islamists only commit terrorism in retaliation, which is demonstrably false."
Quiet Before the Storm?
Am I the only person who worries that the reason Democrats have been restrained about the nomination of Judge Roberts is that this will make them look more legitimate when they erupt later on?
This quote from Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University, makes me think that Roberts is not going to be palatable to them:
"'The pro-life and pro-family movement has never demanded anything more, but is unwilling to accept anything less, than constitutionalist judges ...,' law and ethics specialist Robert George told reporters in a July 20 conference call. 'By constitutionalist judge, what we mean, and have always meant, is a judge who recognizes the distinction between interpreting the law and making the law and, together with that, understands that in a system of limited government, judges too are under the rule of law. They don't simply make up the law. They are constrained by the constitutional limits of their own power and they must avoid usurping the power of the elected representatives of the people and thus violating the constitutional principles of deliberative democracy that we have.
"'It's clear from the record that Judge Roberts is a constitutionalist judge,' said George, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics. 'That means that the president has kept faith with his pledge to appoint such a person to the Supreme Court ... so this is an appointment the pro-life and pro-family movement should applaud.'"
Faith of the Nominee
Loose Canon couldn't help but notice that the treacle quality of the comments on the role of religion in the life of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts in a New York Times profile. Here's the patch I have in mind:
"Friends of Judge Roberts and his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, a lawyer at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, say they share a strong faith. 'They are deeply religious,' said Fred F. Fielding, the former White House counsel for President Reagan, 'but they don't wear it on their sleeves at all.'
"The couple are members of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Md., a Catholic congregation that includes about 1,500 families. Like many Washington-area churches, its members have included prominent political figures. Thomas O'Neill, the former speaker of the House known as Tip, as well as Edmund Muskie, the former United States senator, secretary of state and presidential candidate, once attended, said Gary R. Davies, a church deacon. More recently, L. Paul Bremer III, who served as the United States' administrator in Iraq, was a member.
"The church, Mr. Davies said, is not particularly political, though it does organize two or so busloads of members each year to participate in an anti-abortion rally marking the Roe v. Wade decision. 'I have never heard anyone talk about politics,' Mr. Davies said. 'It just does not belong.'
"Some who know Judge Roberts say he does not let his personal beliefs affect his legal views. 'He's not going to allow political or theological interference with his opinions,' said Mark Touhey, a partner in the Texas law firm of Vinson & Elkins."
Okay, let's try to understand this: You're "deeply religious" but it has absolutely no impact on your legal views? Loose Canon doesn't want a Supreme Court Justice who's likely to try to impose dogma on the country. But she doesn't want a schizophrenic either.
It's a good sign that Roberts belongs to the John Carroll Society (famous for orthodox and stimulating Friday talks by Monsignor Peter Vaghi) and that his wife has been on the board of Feminists for Life.
Because of the viciousness of the confirmation process, we are left reading tea leaves about John Roberts. But blogger and constitutional law professor Hugh Hewitt's verdict on Roberts is encouraging: "[With Roberts] You're trading O'Connor for Rehnquist. And you're getting thirty years. And you're getting guy who, the president mentioned a letter that's been signed onto by everybody who knows John Roberts."
P.S. The New York Times seems to find it worthy of note that people don't talk about politics at church. I know it's weird, but we tend to focus on the Mass.
The USA Today story to which I have already linked contains this unfortunate phraseology:
"The couple tried to have children of their own. But after some time they were, 'as they will say, blessed to be able to adopt a couple of adorable young kids,' Shannen Coffin, a former deputy assistant attorney general in Bush's first term and a Roberts friend, told reporters Wednesday."
Little Jack and Josie Roberts are the couple's "own children."
Don't Be So Understanding
We don't yet know who is responsible for today's London bombings. But, if it turns out that young jihadists did it, please spare me the what-happened-to-make-these-youths-do-this efforts to "understand" that came in the wake of the July 7 bombing. From some news outlets, you'd have thought that something strange had happened to the nice boy down the block.
With the caveat that the latest bombing, which wreaked even less havoc than the previous one, could be the work of somebody who had no religious or political motive, here's what happened to the young men involved in the previous London bombing: Radical Islam happened to them. It is at war with us, and we'd best acknowledge this fact before it is too late.
Washington Times columnist Diana West is very good on our society's refusal to look at radical Islam ("Burnt Offerings on the Altar of Multiculturalism") because of political correctness:
"Without it -- without its fanatics who believe all civilizations are the same -- the engine that projects Islam into the unprotected heart of Western civilization would stall and fail. It's as simple as that. To live among the believers -- the multiculturalists -- is to watch the assault, the jihad, take place un-repulsed by our suicidal societies. These societies are not doomed to submit; rather, they are eager to do so in the name of a masochistic brand of tolerance that, short of drastic measures, is surely terminal.
"I'm not talking about our soldiers, policemen, rescue workers and, now, even train conductors, who bravely and steadfastly risk their lives for civilization abroad and at home. Instead, I'm thinking about who we are as a society at this somewhat advanced stage of war. It is a strange, tentative civilization we have become, with leaders who strut their promises of 'no surrender' even as they flinch at identifying the foe.
"Four years past 9/11, we continue to shadow-box 'terror,' even as we go on about 'an ideology of hate.' It's a script that smacks of sci-fi fantasy more than realpolitik. But our grim reality is no summer blockbuster, and there's no special-effects-enhanced plot twist that is going to thwart 'terror' or 'hate' in the London Underground anymore than it did on the roof of the World Trade Center. Or in the Bali nightclub. Or on the first day of school in Beslan. Or in any disco, city bus or shopping mall in Israel."
Should Terrorists Set Our Foreign Policy?
A reporter asked Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who was in London when word of the latest bombings came, if Iraq is the reason. Powerline has Howard's excellent reply:
"Can I just say very directly, Paul, on the issue of the policies of my government and indeed the policies of the British and American governments on Iraq, that the first point of reference is that once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it's given the game away, to use the vernacular. And no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats, and no self-respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.
"Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq.
"And I remind you that the 11th of September occurred before the operation in Iraq. ...
"Now I don't know the mind of the terrorists. By definition, you can't put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber. I can only look at objective facts, and the objective facts are as I've cited. The objective evidence is that Australia was a terrorist target long before the operation in Iraq. And indeed, all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggests to me that this is about hatred of a way of life, this is about the perverted use of principles of the great world religion that, at its root, preaches peace and cooperation. And I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances rather than the abuse through a perverted ideology of people and their murder."
It Could Still Get Nasty
Okay, the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts isn't flashy. However, as Bill Kristol notes, it's solid, will affect the direction of the court--and it avoids the pitfall of identity politics:
"The occasion was an opportunity to reshape the Supreme Court. Bush seized the opportunity, in two ways: He moved the Court a solid step to the right (to speak vulgarly), and he elevated its quality. It's true that Roberts is a Rehnquist, not a Scalia or a Thomas. He'll be a little more incremental, a little more cautious, than some of us rabid constitutionalists will sometimes like. But he is a conservative pick, and a quality pick--and, to my surprise, a non-PC, non-quota pick."
Although Roberts is not widely seen as somebody who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, there are two affiliations that will strike fear into the blood pumping organs (I can't bring myself to say hearts) of abortion rights types: Roberts is a Catholic, and his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, has been of counsel to Feminists for Life, an anti-abortion organization (heretofore its most famous-possibly only famous-member has been Patricia Heaton, best known as Debra on "Everybody Loves Raymond").
An MSNBC commentator argues that Robert's Mr. Establishment credentials ("When he was nominated for the appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2003, he was praised by Walter Dellinger and Seth Waxman - two former solicitors general in the Clinton administration. And, Roberts is respected by the Washington legal establishment as one of the very best Supreme Court advocates of the present day.") will prevent the expected bloodbath and he will be confirmed. Nevertheless, such stalwarts of the left as NARAL, Moveon.org have wasted no time rallying their troops to oppose the nomination.
Loose Canon would not be a bit surprised if things do turn nasty. And it may turn out that abortion, though the underlying issue, will not be used in the frontal attack. As Captain's Quarter's noted, the opening salvo has been fired by Emily Bazelon on Slate in a piece that implies that the nomination is a reward for Roberts's being one of the judges to support tribunals for some detainees at Guantanamo:
"Bazelon goes on to construct a technical argument, one that has a huge flaw in its reliance on the Geneva Conventions -- the fact that Hamdan doesn't qualify for treatment as a POW. That formed a crucial basis for the DC circuit court. Bazelon wants to allow terrorists to disregard Geneva Conventions -- in fact, their tactics and strategies are the antithesis of what the GCs established -- but hold the US unilaterally responsible for treating their detainees to the highest standards of the treaties, even though they explicitly do not apply to non-signatories. Bazelon's argument for civil rights and civil trials for terrorists captured abroad in civilian garb holds little coherence or factual support. It's based purely on emotion and moral equivalency.
"However -- and this is highly important -- this decision allows the Democrats to once again pick up the Gitmo thread. They can use Hamdan to rhetorically tie Roberts to alleged abuses at Guantanamo Bay and the abuses at Abu Ghraib. In short, they will use Roberts as a stand-in while they spend their time railing against the war and its conduct. Two of the war's most rabid and incoherent critics, Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin, sit on the Judiciary Committee. Roberts' confirmation hands them a two-for-one opportunity that they will not refuse."
It seems to me that conservatives were so glad yesterday when we learned that the nominee would be Roberts and not a Louisiana judge that Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu (!) likes that there was a collective sigh of relief. Not sighing with relief is iconoclastic Ann Coulter, who regards Roberts as "a Souter in Roberts clothes:"
"It means nothing that Roberts wrote briefs arguing for the repeal of Roe v. Wade when he worked for Republican administrations. He was arguing on behalf of his client, the United States of America. Roberts has specifically disassociated himself from those cases, dropping a footnote to a 1994 law review article that said:
"'In the interest of full disclosure, the author would like to point out that as Deputy Solicitor General for a portion of the 1992-93 Term, he was involved in many of the cases discussed below. In the interest of even fuller disclosure, he would also like to point out that his views as a commentator on those cases do not necessarily reflect his views as an advocate for his former client, the United States.'
"This would have been the legal equivalent, after O.J.'s acquittal, of Johnnie Cochran saying, 'hey, I never said the guy was innocent. I was just doing my job.'"
In non-Roberts news today, the citizens of a small town in Florida report that they are being driven mad by bell-ringing monks:
"The controversy began when three monks moved their monastery from Peaks Island, Maine, to an 11-acre tract at 2075 Mercers Fernery Road in June 2004. Two bells, one of which weighs 4,000 pounds, are rung at 8 a.m., 9 a.m., noon, 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. ...
"'If I blow my horn or play loud music, there's an ordinance to stop me,' said[a neighbor]."
The Dollar Position
Whether you actually practice yoga or not, you're paying for it:
"NIH is funding a yoga study at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). The agency calls it a '[c]ollaboration with the Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF and the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana in India to establish the Center on Yoga, Health and Meditation.' This is part of what NIH calls its effort 'to establish global collaborations and cross-cultural exchange among foreign and U.S. institutions to design and implement research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches that have emerged from traditional indigenous medical systems.' In other words, it is a form of foreign aid."
He Didn't Go Wobbly
Oh, George, I foolishly doubted thee for several hours yesterday: But your choice of Judge John Roberts to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court is good news indeed. For starters: He's a boy. That means that O'Connor's position on the highest court in the land doesn't become a permanent affirmative action spot. For those who want another quick indicator, Roberts has ties to the Federalist Society, which is devoted to challenging the liberal orthodoxy that dominates today's law schools.
Loose Canon wasn't the only conservative who was faint of heart yesterday as rumors of a possible stealth justice made the rounds: "Last night George Bush kept his campaign promise that he would name a justice in the mold of Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas," writes new Wall Street Journalist columnist Manuel Miranda (a survivor of the Memogate scandal). "And I for one am ashamed that I ever doubted him. I should have understood the president better. In John Roberts, the president got what he wanted, and we conservatives did too.
"Pop the champagne corks, conservatives," says conservative lawyer-run Powerline. "Roberts is a fantastic choice, a brilliant and bulletproof conservative. And it was fun to see Pat Leahy and Chuck Schumer on television tonight; they looked just awful. After President Bush's terrific, upbeat presentation of Roberts, and Roberts' graceful, brief talk, Leahy and Schumer sounded like they had just dropped in from another planet. They were dour, hateful, and came across as sad and pathetic minions who have been sent on a hopeless mission by their bosses at 'People for the American Way.'"
The reaction of liberal lobbies has been relatively muted so far, but that doesn't mean they have been defanged. A line in a 1990s brief (written when Roberts was deputy solicitor general) argued that the reasoning of Roe v. Wade was flawed and that the ruling should be overturned. Roberts's client was the Bush I administration, and it will undoubtedly be said repeatedly that he was merely representing his client.
The National Right to Life Committee put out a statement that basically said what is at stake without taking a position on Roberts. "The Supreme Court is clearly divided 5-4 on partial-birth abortion," the National Right to Life Committee's Douglas Johnson is quoted saying. "The successor to Justice O'Connor will cast the deciding vote on whether the brutal partial-birth abortion method remains legal."
President Bush is apparently going to make this summer in Washington even hotter than it's been in the last few days: He is going to nominate somebody to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court this very night.
By the time you are reading this, you may already know if rumors that Bush is appointing Judge Edith Clement of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans are true.
I hope the rumors have proven false (though I have a feeling they are on the mark). Not because I don't like Judge Clement. I know nothing about her, and even some people well-informed about judicial matters know little about her.
And that's one of the problems: It indicates that the White House went out looking for somebody relatively unknown. Instead of relying on courage and the Republican majority to get the best justice possible, Bush will have imitated his father and chosen another stealth candidate. If he thinks that this is going to make getting her confirmed easier, he's probably wrong.
As far as Judge Clement's record goes, I'm going to have to wait until I know more. There do seem to be preliminary signs that she is not acceptable to pro-lifers, many of whom supported Bush solely in hopes of changing the Court. Fox News reports: "The thought of Clement on the bench also has eased fears among abortion-rights advocates. She has stated that the Supreme Court, 'has clearly held that the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution includes the right to have an abortion' and that 'the law is settled in that regard.'"
This may simply mean that she wouldn't reverse Roe v. Wade, an unlikely event in any case. However, it's not a good omen that Bush may have chosen somebody to allay the fears of the pro-abortion side. It was pro-lifers who helped him hang onto his job. We believed him when he said that Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were his models. I hope I don't end up saying: Et tu, George?
Pro-life group Operation Rescue has already issued a press release announcing "Judge Clement Gravely Concerns Us."
On a much more hopeful note, Edith Clement was on Bill Kristol's list of suitable female judges Bush might wisely elevate to the Supreme Court. Kristol follows this stuff more closely that most of us. Let's hope that the nominee will be great.
Can Christians Be Wild about Harry?
Loose Canon has already noted Pope Benedict XVI has not "condemned" the Harry Potter books (scroll down). Catholic writer Michael O'Brien, however, thinks that the books are dangerous to the building of a Christian outlook in children.
O'Brien believes that the Potter books contribute to the "paganization" of children's literature.
Obviously John Granger, who is teaching a course on Harry at Barnes and Noble University, has every reason to want to play down the criticism from Catholics. He and O'Brien tangled on CNN.
But until I have read the books, I am going to let my (tentative) final word be a letter to Granger from Regina Doman, who writes books for a teenaged and young adult readership. A Catholic, Doman (whom I quoted in my previous Harry post) likes the Harry Potter books, with some caveats.
One of the complaints of the anti-Harry side is that the books "promote occult magic." Here is part of what Doman says:
"[T]he students at Harry's School of Wizardry are not learning real-world occult magic. In fact, the bulk of the 'spells' they learn are simply Latin words for different commands (the author is a Latin scholar). From an occultist's point of view, the spells in the books could never work, because there's no 'motor, no invocation to a spiritual power. This is probably not coincidence. Just as organized religion is noticeably absent from [Catholic writer J. R. R.] Tolkien's imaginary world, there are no spiritual powers in Rowling's world for the characters or the reader to worship or put before God."
Quite a Dame
"Ralph Nader once mused to me about what a terrible thing it was that Jack Kevorkian was (at the time) the world's most famous doctor," writes Wesley Smith in the Weekly Standard. "He was right. That distinct honor should have belonged to Dame Cecily Saunders, the founder of the modern hospice movement who died last week at age 87 in London at St Christopher's, the hospice she founded in 1967."
Dame Cecily was sort of an Anglican Mother Teresa. She made the process of dying less painful and more filled with meaning that it might otherwise have been for many, many people. If you're interested in the subject of a good death, something I certainly desire when the time comes, Wesley Smith's piece is well worth reading.
Suicide Bombers Who Want to Live
Conservative journalist John O'Sullivan raises an interesting question: Were the young men who perpetrated the London bombings suicide bombers who wanted to live?
O'Sullivan suggests that the young men were duped into dying, a policy of pioneered by the IRA terrorists:
"[T]he IRA faced one great difficulty: Its terrorists wanted to live. They wanted to plant bombs and get away. And if you want to get away, that complicates the difficulty of exploding the bomb. It has to be detonated either by a timer or by remote control; it has to be left lying around. These difficulties explain the IRA's ingenuity in inventing more and more ways of planting bombs without being caught. They explain why IRA 'experts' are sought by less experienced terrorist groups like the Colombian FARC to train their operatives. It is no exaggeration to say the IRA pioneered almost all the modern methods of terrorist murder: car bombs, pub bombs, remote control detonators, even suicide bombers.
"In the IRA's case, however, the suicide bomber was involuntary. They took a hostage, packed him with explosives, drove him to a British Army checkpoint, and threatened to murder his family unless he approached the soldiers. The poor man tried to warn the soldiers -- God rest his brave soul -- as he drew near and was blown up. Now, the fascinating theory has emerged in British intelligence circles that the four young Muslim terrorists may have been 'suicide' bombers of the same involuntary kind.
"Here is the evidence: They bought return railway tickets. Their bombs were not strapped to their bodies but carried in knapsacks as if to be left behind on the trains. None of them was heard to shout the customary 'Allah Akhbar' before the bombs exploded. Unusually for suicide bombers, they left identification on their bodies. And surveillance videotapes show them laughing and joking casually -- rather than grimly determined or prayerful -- as they caught the Underground train.
"These little pieces of circumstantial evidence suggest the possibility the bombers were duped. Maybe they were told by their controllers that the bombs were timed to go off five minutes after being detonated rather than immediately. It would not be the first time that al-Qaida had deceived its devotees: Osama bin Laden revealed that not all the 9/11 hijackers were aware that the planes were to be flown into buildings. And the bombers' 'suicide' would protect the terrorist network against the chance that they might be caught and persuaded to talk."
"O, Allah, Make America Stronger!"
Loose Canon has been grumping since hearing the worshippers in a Washington, D.C. Catholic church pray that "the warrior might hang up his bow." This pseudo-poetic plea occurred during the always passive aggressive "prayers of the faithful" at Mass Sunday before last.
Don't get me wrong: I long for the lamb to lie down with the lion. But I do hope our warriors won't do any thing so foolish before the other side has hung up its RPGs and car bombs. How I long to beat the authors of these silly prayers into ploughshares.
Apparently, Muslim worshippers also face annoying rhetoric. My new heroes are the Muslims in Kuwait, a country that has quite a bit of firsthand knowledge of why American might is a good thing, who reportedly have shouted down the anti-American preaching of their radical imams.
A counterterrorism blog posts a story (based on what appears to be a report from a newspaper named Al-Siyasah) that when one Kuwaiti imam tried to preach against America, his flock erupted in cries of, "O, Allah, make America stronger!" from the faithful. Now, should Loose Canon follow the example of these brave Muslims and shout down similarly misguided notions in the prayers of the faithful?
Joking aside, this common sense from Muslims in Kuwait is a good omen. Let's hope the report is accurate and that this is a harbinger of things to come. (There is also an interesting piece by a Muslim writer named Irshad Manji, who says alienation is not a factor in producing terrorists.)
If a Martian Came to Earth...
Columnist John Leo points out that, reckoning without the internet and other means of mass communication, a Hollywood screenwriter went to Canada to reveal that "War of the Worlds" is about the evils of American power in Iraq:
"David Koepp, who wrote the screenplay for War of the Worlds, says the Martian attackers in the film represent the American military, while the Americans being slaughtered at random represent Iraqi civilians. I see it differently. I think the Martians symbolize normal Americans, while those being attacked are the numbskulls who run Hollywood. Perhaps the normals went a bit too far in this easy-to-understand allegory, but think of the provocation."
Leo is amusing on why pampered Hollywood is doing such stupid things:
"Hollywood has grown eye-poppingly angry with the rest of the country, mostly over Bush and Iraq, but partly, at least, because the left-coasters apparently thought they were somehow entitled to a string of Democratic presidents after Clinton. The upshot is that even mild-mannered nonpropagandists like George Lucas have come under pressure to display their lefty credentials with silly political touches. The first three, brilliant Star Wars had no such touches, but the last three, nonbrilliant ones surely do."
Maybe a Martian at Paramount made this decision: Conspiracy maven Oliver Stone has been tapped to make the movie about 9/11.
"Stone, who's coming off the flop 'Alexander,' has long been a lightning rod for his controversial stances on everything from Kennedy to Castro. In the aftermath of 9/11, the director was excoriated by members of the press for suggesting that the attacks were a revolt against multi-nationals, 'a rebellion against globalization, against the American way,' he said at the time."
Of course, every now and then a great film gets made. LC has been a veritable Ancient Mariner fixing everybody I meet with a gleaming eye and urging them not to miss "March of the Penguins." My colleague Charlotte Allen makes the same plea in a piece on Penguin Family Values:"
"Penguins are completely monogamous (no commitment-phobes!), and they get together for the most important reason on earth: raising the next generation. Once mated, Ma and Pa Penguin take turns cradling their egg, and then their little one, on their feet so it won't freeze on the ice beneath, while either Ma or Pa heads off 70 miles to the nearest ocean to fill up with fish, much of which will be regurgitated to the little one. Icy winds, blizzards, exhaustion, near-starvation: sorry, but kids come first in the penguin family, which is always a two-parent family, because penguins know that every child needs both a mother and a father. ...
"In only one aspect does penguin family life seem less than ideal in human terms: once the kids are sufficiently grown, their parents separate, to find brand-new mates the next mating season. 'Grow Old Along With Me' is not their song. But isn't that about equivalent to the human parents who don't get along but bravely stick with the marriage until their offspring turn adult?"
I Wouldn't Buy Their License Plates--Even If I Knew How to Drive
In the same way I defend Bob Jones University's right to be anti-Catholic, I also defend the rights of a Protestant adoption agency that will not place children with Catholic couples:
"A Christian adoption agency that receives money from fees for special anti-abortion car license plates said it does not place children with Roman Catholic couples because their religion conflicts with the agency's 'Statement of Faith.'
"Bethany Christian Services stated the policy in a letter to a Jackson couple this month, and another Mississippi couple said they were rejected for the same reason last year."
They have the right to do this, and I admire people who stand up for their beliefs--but their stand is a pity, both for children who want parents and Catholic couples who want children and would make great parents.
The agency raises money by selling anti-abortion license plates--and, if I had a car, I certainly wouldn't buy anything from Bethany Services. Plus, I do wonder if their rejection of Catholics is based more on ignorance than theology. Just a thought.
Tough Times for Atheists
Why does the notion of an ill-attended atheist march give me the giggles? Thanks to Get Religion for noticing this L.A. Times story on the plight of atheists and also for noticing that the newspaper accepted their claims of receiving "hate mail" so uncritically.
Is Dumbledore Winston Churchill?
Pope Benedict XVI may have doubts about Harry Potter (see yesterday's Loose Canon), but the Weekly Standard's Jonathan Last, writing in today's Opinion Journal, is not only wild about Harry but suggests that the latest installment may have something important to say about the futility of appeasement.
Last contends that previous Harry Potter adventures are like Hardy Boys stories, but that this one has a bigger meaning:
"In the fifth book, 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,' something interesting happened. The author, J.K. Rowling, abandoned the mystery genre and gave her readers something more challenging: a historical allegory. Through sleight-of-hand, Ms. Rowling took a children's book and transformed it into a parable about 1930s England. We've heard a lot recently about London and the Blitz. Ms. Rowling's unfolding saga may illuminate that dark historical moment, not only the ordeals that led up to it but also--who knows?--the triumphs that followed.
"The parallels between this volume and Britain's prewar dithering are so great that the book is perhaps best read as a light companion to 'Alone,' the second volume of William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill."
Last asserts that the parallels between the Potter story and prewar England are so striking that J. K. Rowling must have studied the correspondence of Neville Chamberlain, the prime minister who felt he had bought "peace in our time" through appeasement to Hitler.
According to Last, the characters in the Potter adventure have counterparts in history: Valdemort, the warlock with ambitions of world dominion, is Hitler; Fudge, the Minister of Magic, is Chamberlain, and Dumbledore, the headmaster who tries to sound the alarm about Valdemort, is Winston Churchill:
In retaliation for sounding the alarm about Voldemort, Fudge strips Dumbledore of his many honors and has him driven from Hogwarts. He also uses the Daily Prophet--the wizarding version of the London Times--to print nasty stories about Harry and Dumbledore and to suppress reports about the Dark Lord. Fudge even has a toadying adviser--Dolores Umbridge--who, like Lord Halifax, exists to give the cut to Dumbledore and peddle the notion that Voldemort poses no danger. Umbridge--an appeaser if there ever was one--replaces the curriculum of Hogwarts' Defense Against the Dark Arts class with lessons such as 'Non-Retaliation and Negotiation.'
"Neither Churchill nor Dumbledore take their abuse lying down. Churchill spent the 1930s cultivating an ad hoc network composed of well-connected civilians, informants from Whitehall and foreign officers. Churchill's information--including constant updates on Germany's troop strength, economic output and diplomatic maneuverings, as well as on the status of British arms--was thought to be better than the government's."
The Enemy Within
Appeasement is both particularly tempting and particularly dangerous when the enemy is within one's society. Charles Krauthammer deals today with the subject of "Europe's Native-Born Enemy:"
"The most remarkable discovery is that Europe's second- and third-generation Muslim immigrants are more radicalized than the first. One reasonably non-political and non-radical Muslim activist, raised in the suburbs of Paris, explained himself (to the Wall Street Journal) as having 'immigrated to France at the local maternity ward.'
"The fact that native-born Muslim Europeans are committing terrorist acts in their own countries shows that this Islamist malignancy long predates Iraq, long predates Afghanistan and long predates Sept. 11, 2001. What Europe had incubated is an enemy within, a threat that for decades Europe simply refused to face.
"Early news reports of the London bombings mentioned that police found no suspects among known Islamist cells in Britain. Come again? Why in God's name is a country letting known Islamist cells thrive, instead of just rolling them up?"
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson notes (registration required--but well worth it to get the whole piece):
"We seem to have pulled off the rare feat of breeding suicide bombers determined to attack the very society that incubated them; and the question is why. Why does America import its suicide bombers, while we produce our own?"
We do have enemies within, though, such as the Islamic scholar in Northern Virginia who urged followers to join the jihad against the U.S. Fortunately, this enemy has been sentenced to life in prison--even though the judge in the case publicly lamented the harshness of the mandatory sentence!
A parting word from Krauthammer:
"Decadence is defined not by a civilization's art or music but ultimately by its willingness to simply defend itself."
A Good Shepherd
One of my heroes is Archbishop Peter Akinola, the leader of Nigeria's 18 million Anglicans. He believes that Holy Communion and the doctrines of his Church actually mean something, and in his staunch fidelity reminds me of the great bishops of early Christendom.
Christianity Today reports on Akinola's steadfastness in Christian witness:
"When the highest-ranking bishops (called primates) met in October 2003, the issue of celebrating Communion came up immediately. That meeting occurred between the time of Robinson's approval by the Episcopal Church's legislative body, General Convention, and his consecration as a bishop by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and nearly 50 other bishops. In 2003, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told the primates they would begin their meeting with Communion. Some primates, including Akinola, said the Communion would suggest a spiritual unity that had been broken by the Episcopal Church's actions. Either the meeting would begin with Communion, Williams responded, or the meeting would not proceed. The Global South primates joined in the service.
"The ground had shifted, however, by the time the primates convened again, this last February in Ireland. Before that meeting, Akinola and other Global South primates wrote Williams to say they would not receive Communion with Griswold and Hutchison. When Williams suggested an alternative that still required all the primates partaking together, Akinola didn't budge, emphasizing that 'unity of doctrine preceded unity of worship,' according to a report in The Church of England Newspaper. Press reports say about a dozen primates abstained from the daily Eucharist."
The decadent Episcopal Church was nonplussed:
"Reaction was swift among some Episcopalians. The Rev. Stephen Gerth, rector of St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church, Times Square, saw Akinola's initiative as a threat to the tolerant spirit of Anglicanism. 'I've been under the impression that in our day excommunication was a Roman Catholic answer to difficult questions, not an Anglican one,' Gerth wrote on St. Mary's online Angelus newsletter. 'I can't help wondering whether Rowan Williams really wants to be held hostage by Peter Akinola and his friends over this issue. Does he really want the Anglican Communion to solve its problems by excommunication? Is Canterbury still in England or did it move?'"
Yes, but Akonola has more power of the spirit:
"The archbishop of Canterbury still lives and works at Lambeth Palace in London, but the balance of moral authority has moved in the Anglican Communion. This year's meeting marked the first time, apart from the once-per-decade Lambeth Commission, that Global South primates began leading accordingly. If ["The Next Christendom" author Philip] Jenkins is right, what's happening in the Anglican Communion foreshadows what may happen in other Christian bodies over the next few decades."
Dictators and Rock Stars
Sounds like a writer from Africa, Jean-Claude Shanda Tonme of Cameroon, has had enough of condescension from aging rock stars. He has said exactly what needed to be said about the Live 8 concerts. His piece is headlined, "All Rock, No Action":
"Live 8, that extraordinary media event that some people of good intentions in the West just orchestrated, would have left us Africans indifferent if we hadn't realized that it was an insult both to us and common sense. ...
"Don't insult Africa, this continent so rich yet so badly led. Instead, insult its leaders, who have ruined everything. Our anger is all the greater because despite all the presidents for life, despite all the evidence of genocide, we didn't hear anyone at Live 8 raise a cry for democracy in Africa."
My little cat Ottoline would be miffed if I neglected to note that wise Pope Benedict is a fellow cat fancier. It's the talk of the town in Rome. Benedict is not the first pope to have a pet.
The Pope and Harry Potter
First of all, the pope has not condemned the Harry Potter novels. A piece of private correspondence containing a brief negative comment on Harry Potter and written while Benedict XVI was still Cardinal Ratzinger has surfaced.
The letter, written in 2003, was to Gabrielle Kuby, a German writer, who had authored a book critical of the Harry Potter novels. Here is what it said:
"Many thanks for your kind letter of February 20th and the informative book which you sent me in the same mail. It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.
"I would like to suggest that you write to Mr. Peter Fleedwood, (Pontifical Council of Culture, Piazza S. Calisto 16, I00153 Rome) directly and to send him your book."
Loose Canon can't tell if this is just a polite acknowledgement of Kuby's letter or if Ratzinger really regarded the books as a threat to the development of a Christian consciousness. Still, I think we should take this letter seriously--without going overboard. I wish the Holy Father had said more about "subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul" and how this applies to the Potter novels.
I haven't read the Potter novels but can't imagine that Harry's being a sorcerer in and of itself makes them inappropriate for children who are being brought up in a Christian environment--after all, Merlin, one of my favorite characters from children's lit, was engaged in the same occupation. That's not to say that we shouldn't be careful about encouraging kids to read about books with characters with supernatural powers.
The most interesting comment I've seen on Potter and the pope comes in an interview with Regina Doman, a Catholic writer of stories for teenagers and young adults. Doman is a fan of the Harry Potter books, with caveats and pending the final installment. She thinks that one's experiences with the occult may be a factor in determining how one reacts to the books:
"Those who have had direct experience with demonic possession, occult occurrences, or who have repented of or are susceptible to the sin of occultism -- all of these people have, almost without exception, an allergic reaction to Harry Potter. They want nothing to do with it, they are alarmed and they naturally (and perhaps rightly) want to protect the rest of us - or at least the innocents under their care -- from it. The chief exorcist of Rome and Michael O'Brien [a key critic of the Potter books] are both men who have had encounters with the Evil One (O'Brien portrays this chillingly in his writings), and I can understand their reaction to the books. ...
"My husband was involved in the New Age movement before he returned to the Church. He wants nothing to do with Harry Potter, doesn't want us to own the books. I respect that. Our children are not reading Harry Potter, nor do we have plans for them to do so -- but no doubt it's a bridge we'll have to cross at some point.
"But myself -- I'm not the sort of person who's tempted by secret knowledge, the inner circle, spiritual power, that sort of thing. It's just not my sin. I did read the books, first for my own information, then with a bit more interest. The first book is a negligible achievement, the second admittedly clever, but in the third book I found things I wasn't expecting to read in the most popular blockbuster in children's literature in today's crass culture, namely that: a son needs a father. A young boy needs a father, needs him badly, and needs to search for him. I wasn't expecting that Harry Potter, of all people, was going to affirm fatherhood and -- dare I say? -- masculinity. And so I think I understand why kids are devouring these books - especially kids from divorced and fatherless homes. J.K. Rowling is tapping into those questions they desperately need answered.
"And as I said, we don't yet have her final answers. So I am deferring judgment. But I will say that in terms of plot, I've yet to meet a young adult writer of her caliber. A badly needed standard of quality. All Judy Blume could do was break taboos. [J. K. Rowling] can tell a story."
Perhaps the best thing is for parents to read the books and provide the proper guidance. As a writer for the American Spectator notes in a piece on "Harry Potter and the Chair of Peter":
"Harry Potter may not exactly lead young Jimmy into a lake of fire, but it is not a reach to say that it could without guidance detract from the Church's message -- just as a child watching 'Desperate Housewives' might get the wrong idea about what marriage is really like."
Meanwhile, Jimmy Akin is good on how this story has been a tad blown out of proportion.
Get Me Rewrite!
One of my favorite Anglican blogs noted the contrast between Pope Benedict XVI's and Griswold III's (Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA) message to the people of London in the wake of the bombings. Give you two guesses who yada yadas on with all the pc sentiments.
As I've said before, I'm not in favor of torture but have no problem with harsh interrogation practices designed to save American lives. That is why the posturing on the news last night of senators who were shocked--shocked, I tell you!--at some of the tactics employed at Guantanamo were so extremely irritating. Here's a description:
"Interrogators at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, forced a stubborn detainee to wear women's underwear on his head, confronted him with snarling military working dogs and attached a leash to his chains, according to a newly released military investigation that shows the tactics were employed there months before military police used them on detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq."
I'm a polite person. I rarely sic my Himalayan cat on visitors or ask men to put panties on their head. But if these acts save our lives, all I have to say is bravo to those willing to do them for us.
"Even in January 1942, when German armies were at the gates of Moscow, George Orwell wrote in Partisan Review that "the greater part of the very young intelligentsia are anti-war... don't believe in any 'defense of democracy,' are inclined to prefer Germany to Britain, and don't feel the horror of Fascism that we who are somewhat older feel."
Now as then appeasement is fatal:
"The problem was that Hitler's stated demands were a pretext for his maniacal ambitions. He was unappeasable. So is Osama bin Laden, who wants to avenge centuries of humiliation supposedly suffered by Muslims at Christian hands and who dreams of establishing a Taliban-style caliphate over all the lands once dominated by Muslims, from western China to southern Spain. Pulling out of Iraq would only whet his insatiable appetite for destruction, just as giving up the Sudetenland encouraged Hitler to seek more.
"Orwell's words, written in October 1941, ring true today: 'The notion that you can somehow defeat violence by submitting to it is simply a flight from fact. As I have said, it is only possible to people who have money and guns between themselves and reality.'"
In Terribilis Veritas?
Loose Canon has been praising the Britons who never will be slaves for their exceedingly stiff upper lips. I've been thinking that the lack of extensive media hysteria over the London bombings is an overall good thing. I've reasoned that this made the attack less satisfying for the terrorists.
Tony Blankley of the Washington Times disagrees with me about the playing down of the bombings:
"They have taken 'stiff upper lip' to the point of parody.
"A very disturbing pattern of response in the West is developing to terrorist attacks. Within hours of the event -- almost literally once the dust has settled -- intensity of reporting slackens. Government officials, perhaps still concerned about panicking a manifestly somnambulant public and governing class, understate the danger and concern and talk about the terrorist attack largely as just another police investigation.
"And of course, the evil influence of political correctness quickly suppresses honest language and clarity of thought. In the immediate aftermath of the terror attack, reporters blurt out the truth. 'In terribilis veritas.' Once they have calmed down, political correctness regains control.
"As has been noted by AndrewSullivan.com, the BBC offered a particularly Orwellian example of political correctness: 'Early on Friday morning another BBC webpage headlined 'testing the underground mood,' spoke of 'the worst terrorist atrocity Britain has seen.'
"But at 12:08 GMT, while the rest of the article was left untouched, those words were replaced by 'the worst peacetime bomb attacks Britain has seen.'"
The real questions are whether the West has the courage to face the truth and the will to fight back. A blogger called Burkean Canuck addressed these matters in a piece on the day of the bombings that was headlined "A Loss of Nerve and Loss of the Will to Live?":
"Today's bombings in London -- as with the 9/11 and the Air India attacks -- call to mind the same question with respect to the West's willingness to fight Islamic terrorism -- and it is Islamic -- and to defend itself. But this is more than a question of military, para-military, police, and border security. The West's birth rates continue to fall, and are already below replacement rate. The West appears to believe in nothing transcendent, except a delusion of the transcendence of the autonomous self. The West loathes its 'western-ness,' and the very moral, spiritual, political, legal, economic, and constitutional foundations that brought it to a hegemonic position in world civilization.
"A professor of mine characterized Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Harvard Commencement Address, June 8, 1978, here, as questioning the ability of the West, then failing to face down Soviet totalitarianism, as suffering from a loss of nerve and a loss of the will to live. I can think of no better encapsulated analysis of what is wrong with the West than Solzhenitsyn's."
The site provides some provocative excerpts from Solzhenitsyn.
Why Do They Hate Us?
Yesterday, I blogged on Muhammad Bouyeri, the murderer of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. Bouyeri told a Dutch court, "I did it out of [religious] conviction. ...If I ever get free, I would do it again."
As James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal points out, Bouyeri has finally given a definitive answer to the plaintive question, "Why do they hate us?"
"This had nothing to do with Israeli 'occupation of Palestinian lands,' America's 'unilateral invasion' of Iraq, 'torture' of prisoners at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, the widening 'income gap,' or any of the other litany of complaints that the terror apologists trot out. Islamist terrorism arises from religious fanaticism and hatred, plain and simple."
A Beliefnet member takes me to task for my remark that a romantic attachment by a priest was more passionate than agape, a form of love that is not sexual: "'A tad more passion than agape' - those who cannot see that agape should be felt with all the passion in one's soul, sadly, have likely never felt it." Quite right. I should have chosen a word that expressed difference in kind rather than degree. Agape rightly evokes great passion, especially among the good.
Vitality Questions for the Cardinal
Loose Canon was stunned and distressed to read that Father Winthrop Brainerd, a dedicated priest, a brilliant man, and an all-round delightful person, is being moved unwillingly to a new parish. The last time I saw the 65-year-old Brainerd he remarked in passing that he would be buried from Epiphany Church in Georgetown, the small church he's done so much to beautify. Not anymore.
"Parishioners at the red-brick Church of the Epiphany, where Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry occasionally worship and manners maven Letitia Baldridge is a member, have demanded a meeting with the cardinal on the transfer of the Rev. Winthrop Brainerd.
"'People were stunned, and they started coming up to me and asking what they can do,' said Gregory Doolan, chairman of the parish council.
"Parish council members say they are getting no response from Cardinal McCarrick on their request for a meeting.
"Cardinal McCarrick told The Washington Times that Father Brainerd is 'a good priest' and a great deal of 'thought and prayer' went into the priest's reassignment. But he declined to discuss the matter in detail, saying it was a personnel issue.
"Members attending July 3 Masses at the church said they were stunned to find a farewell letter from the priest in the Sunday bulletins.
"'You will all know this was not my choice,' Father Brainerd wrote. Retirement 'was forced upon me so that there would be 'more vitality' at Epiphany. You will excuse me if I say that I had not noticed the lack of it.'"
Under Father Brainerd, a former Episcopal priest noted for his orthodoxy and wit, Mass attendance had tripled. There had also been an increase in younger people at the Mass. I've had the privilege of reading a condescending brush-off letter the cardinal wrote to a Knight of Malta (which means he's a big financial contributor to the Church), so I can't imagine that mere parishioners will rate much response.
Straight Talk from Mohammed Bouyeri
Slain Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, whose film "Submission" depicted Islamic violence against women, died with the words, "Can't we talk about this?" on his lips. It was a futile question. Admitting his guilt today in a Dutch court, Van Gogh's killer, Mohammed Bouyeri, apparently, a man of few words, did have this to say: "I did it out of conviction. ...If I ever get free, I would do it again."
Bouyeri turned to Van Gogh's mother to inform her, "I don't feel your pain," adding: "I can't feel for you because I think you're a nonbeliever."
Let us hope the West is beginning to realize the magnitude of what it's up against. No amount of conflict resolution will deter fanatics who want to kill us.
In what is sure to be a controversial piece, Mark Steyn argues that Islam does foster terrorism.
"Terrorism ends when the broader culture refuses to tolerate it. There would be few if any suicide bombers in the Middle East if 'martyrdom' were not glorified by imams and politicians, if pictures of local 'martyrs' were not proudly displayed in West Bank grocery stores, if Muslim banks did not offer special 'martyrdom' accounts to the relicts thereof, if schools did not run essay competitions on 'Why I want to grow up to be a martyr.'"
Pub Crawling: Hazardous to the Priestly Vocation?
Recently, the L.A. Times had an achingly poignant piece about a priest challenged by the celibacy vow ("Though he never doubted the theology that drew him to the priesthood, [Air Force Chaplain Father Terry] McDonough began questioning the rules he had lived by. One of his most alarming realizations, he said, was that 'everyone called me Father, but I was never going to be one.')"
One night he went to an Irish pub where he met Susan, the woman he would come to love with a tad more passion than agape.
"Let me guess," says Diogenes. "He was midway through vespers when he got an emergency call to come and anoint the bartender's uncle, who'd collapsed on the floor. Susan was the paramedic nurse, and their eyes met ..."
With regard to the coming Supreme Court nominations, Loose Canon only hopes that Republicans realize that the public is fed up with the Democratic habit of turning confirmation hearings into donnybrooks.
Here's an item on the subject from Powerline:
"This Rasmussen poll on the public's view of the coming Supreme Court battle highlights the Democrats' dilemma. Rasmussen found that 58% of likely voters say that Senate Democrats should vote to confirm a qualified conservative nominee. Only 24% say the Democrats should oppose a nominee merely because he or she is a conservative. Even among Democrats, only a slight majority (53%) favor such obstructionism."
In a piece on why George Bush shouldn't nominate Alberto Gonzalez, a former Senate aide now at the Heritage Foundation points out other reasons Republicans can ultimately prevail, if they don't lose the stomach for battle:
"Once, two swords of Damocles hung over a high court nominee's head - the filibuster and, more commonly, rejection by the Senate. Now, a sword hangs over the filibuster's abuse - Majority Leader Bill Frist's 'constitutional option.'
"Mostly, Republican presidents have had to worry about a Democrat majority thwarting their Supreme Court nominations - but not now..."
Terri Schiavo and Sun Hudson
My mention of Terri Schiavo yesterday brought forth several comparisons of her death to that of Sun Hudson, a child who died in a Texas hospital with his mother pleading for his life.
One Beliefnet member wrote:
"The Hudson case, which Operation Rescue ignored, all the pro-lifers ignored, involved a minority child. It makes them look hypocritical, because in both cases, we are talking about brain damaged people who could not live without medical intervention."
Actually, it was on a pro-life blog that I found the story of Sun Hudson, who was born with a fatal form of dwarfism. I am ashamed to admit that this unfortunate child's name did not ring a bell with me.
Here is an account of his mother's farewell:
"'I talked to him, I told him that I loved him. Inside of me, my son is still alive," Wanda Hudson told reporters afterward. "This hospital was considered a miracle hospital. When it came to my son, they gave up in six months .... They made a terrible mistake."
"Sun's death marks the first time a hospital has been allowed by a U.S. judge to discontinue an infant's life-sustaining care against a parent's wishes, according to bioethical experts."
"There are cases where heroic measures and life-prolonging procedures should not be utilized. Even ethicists with religious backgrounds agree with this. I don't know what those ethicists would say about the Baby Hudson case.
"Many might say that the baby should have not been put on a respirator at the beginning. Others might agree--but would take the position that once he was placed upon it--he should not be removed. I simply don't know about the medical aspects of the case.
"I do know that, as an attorney representing health providers--including hospice--I have given presentations to providers about the legal aspects of treatment options under Texas Law for children with terminal diseases. One thing that I taught was that the Courts would always defer to the treatment decisions of the parents.
"I was wrong. I will have to revise my powerpoint presentation because of the judge in this case--and this bothers me.
"It is certain that this baby was funded by Medicaid. Had the parents--or an insurance company been paying the bills--I do not believe that the hospital would have gone to the courts to pull the respirator. It is probable, in my mind, that this respirator was pulled because of the issue of money. That should bother everyone."
Sun Hudson and his mother came up against the Texas Futile Care Law, which stipulates that a terminally sick patient may be removed from life support if the family cannot afford to pay for the medical expenses.
Killing Babies: It's Beautiful in a Way...
When Terri Schiavo died, they tried to tell us it didn't portend danger for all of us. But have you noticed the spate of pro-death articles since Schiavo's death?
The latest: a pro-infanticide piece by Jim Holt in yesterday's New York Times magazine. The headline was breathtakingly frank: "Euthanasia for Babies." Holt imagines the subject of infanticide coming up at a dinner party, and that's about the level of his philosophical reasoning.
He did, however, correctly point out the origin of our distaste for killing babies:
"Infanticide -- the deliberate killing of newborns with the consent of the parents and the community -- has been common throughout most of human history. In some societies, like the Eskimos, the Kung in Africa and 18th-century Japan, it served as a form of birth control when food supplies were limited. In others, like the Greek city-states and ancient Rome, it was a way of getting rid of deformed babies. (Plato was an ardent advocate of infanticide for eugenic purposes.) But the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all condemned infanticide as murder, holding that only God has the right to take innocent human life. Consequently, the practice has long been outlawed in every Western nation."
Holt treats the Christian teaching on "extraordinary means" as merely casuistry designed to camouflage the flexibility of the "sanctity of life doctrine."
In reality, the Church's teaching that extraordinary means are not required is a well-reasoned approach to handling life issues--it would not, for example, have countenanced the starvation of Terri Schiavo.
Holt deals approvingly with the work of two physicians in the Netherlands ("the very heart of civilized Europe"!), who have developed the Groningen protocol, "guidelines for what they called infant 'euthanasia.'" One of the physicians has helped kill four babies in three years by using a deadly intravenous drip.
Here's another snippet:
"The debate over infant euthanasia is usually framed as a collision between two values: sanctity of life and quality of life. Judgments about the latter, of course, are notoriously subjective and can lead you down a slippery slope. But shifting the emphasis to suffering changes the terms of the debate. To keep alive an infant whose short life expectancy will be dominated by pain--pain that it can neither bear nor comprehend--is, it might be argued, to do that infant a continuous injury.
"Our sense of what constitutes moral progress is a matter partly of reason and partly of sentiment. On the reason side, the Groningen protocol may seem progressive because it refuses to countenance the prolonging of an infant's suffering merely to satisfy a dubious distinction between 'killing' and 'letting nature take its course.' It insists on unflinching honesty about a practice that is often shrouded in casuistry in the United States. Moral sentiments, though, have an inertia that sometimes resists the force of moral reasons. Just quote Verhagen's description of the medically induced infant deaths over which he has presided -- 'it's beautiful in a way. ... It is after they die that you see them relaxed for the first time' -- and even the most spirited dinner-table debate over moral progress will, for a moment, fall silent."
Beautiful in a way? Yes, a very sick way.
Blogger Diogenes, as is often the case, has the final word on the Holt piece:
"Got that? Moral sentiments -- mere emotions -- have inertia. Like unwanted elderly patients, they linger. They linger to give us that uneasy feeling that makes us reluctant to murder the innocent, even when it yields a net gain. Reason, on the other hand, bolstered by 'unflinching honesty,' sides with infant euthanasia."
Was Evolution Random?
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, a man considered as a possible next pope before Benedict XVI was elected (Schonborn is relatively young so maybe he still will be pope one day), has written an op-ed to clarify the Catholic position on evolution. I am dismayed that it is being seen by some as a swoon towards the fundamentalists or as anti-scientific.
This is the key passage:
"Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science."
There is also something key at the end of the piece:
"Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of 'chance and necessity' are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence."
What more can I say?
Nothing. I think that this piece says it all--and says it very well.
Keep Your Eye on the Birdie
If Hollywood made more movies like the splendid "March of the Penguins," which LC saw this weekend (and may see again next weekend!) it would have fewer problems at the box office:
"Tom Cruise is being savaged at the US box office by a troupe of lovelorn birds.
"March of the Penguins, a low-budget wildlife film about the mating habits of the emperor penguin, is promising to be the surprise hit of the northern summer after pulling in larger audiences at the 20 cinemas where it has been shown than Cruise's War of the Worlds and Batman Begins combined. It has proved so popular in its first two weeks that it was opening at 350 others this weekend.
"'This film is awesome,' said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which analyses ticket-buying habits for Los Angeles studios. "No one saw it coming and where it's been released so far it's out-performing all the big boys. It's all down to word of mouth rather than studio hype."
"The film - described by one critic as an avian When Harry Met Sally - was born with an advertisement in a French newspaper in 1991 that read: 'Wanted, biologist willing to spend 14 months at the end of the world.' Luc Jacquet, who at 24 had just graduated with a Masters in animal biology from Lyons University, applied and found himself in Antarctica with a 35mm camera and instructions to 'follow the bloody birds around until they mate.'"
As of this writing, none of the stars have aired their opinions on psychiatry or the Bush administration.
Where There's a Will, There's a Win
With regard to the SEALs lost in Afghanistan, Wretchard of the Belmont Club explains why winning is a matter of will:
"The US response to the loss of the recon team was not to run but insert hundreds of troops into the area to find the missing men and possibly to complete the unfinished mission. The Al Qaeda might ask themselves what manner of men these are, who fight to the death rather than surrender, and who though injured evade over high and cold mountains until they have outdistanced their unwounded pursuers. It's not an idle question. One of Osama Bin Laden's strategic assumptions when he wrote contemptuously of the US in his 1996 fatwa was that he was facing cowards."
Casualties, Not Victims
Why do we persist in describing those killed or maimed in terrorist attacks "victims"? They are casualties, not victims. The refusal to use the correct word is a reflection of the refusal of many to admit that we are at war.
The media of course is in deep denial. Kathryn Jean Lopez, the doyenne of The Corner, took down these words of Soledad O'Brien, who was covering the bombings:
"Their wounds are almost like they are war wounds" she said to Dr. Gupta."
"Breaking news: THEY ARE WAR WOUNDS."
Oh, but isn't it politically incorrect to be at war?
"In WWII we didn't care much whether in fighting Bushido some thought we were in a war against Buddhists," writes Victor Davis Hanson. "We weren't, and that was enough.
"We knew the enemy were Nazis, not simply Germans, and didn't froth and whine to prove that distinction.
"But not now.
"To criticize Islamic fascism is supposedly to be unfair to Islam, so we allow on our own shores mullahs and madrassas to spread hatred and intolerance, as part of our illiberal acceptance of 'not offending Islam.'
"It is not that we don't believe in Western values as much as we don't even know what they are anymore. The London bombings were only a reification of what goes on daily with impunity blocks away in the mosques and Islamist schools of London.
"The enemy knows that and thrives on it. That refuge in religion is why imams shout that 'Islam doesn't condone such things' - even as bin Laden has become a folk hero on the Arab Street. Jihadists sense that even here at home more Americans are more concerned about a flushed Koran at Guantanamo Bay than five Americans fighting for the Iraqi jihadists or Taliban sympathizers in Lodi, California.
"As long as there is not any price to be paid for Islamism, either by governments abroad or purveyors of its hatred in the West, the propaganda works and the killing will go on. But when a renegade Saudi Prince, Pakistani general, London imam, or Lodi mosque leader screams out to the jihadist, 'Stop that before those crazy Americans really do go to war,' the war, in fact, will be over and won."
But What about Kyoto?
You Can't Make This Stuff Up Dept: Don't miss Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland dressing down the London bombers for being insufficiently concerned about poverty in Africa.
Liberals will be holding up retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as the ideal in the next few months when there are perhaps two (or maybe even three) vacancies to be filled on the Supreme Court.
Charles Krauthammer explained why liberals love O'Connor:
"She had not so much a judicial philosophy as a social philosophy. Unlike a principled conservative such as Antonin Scalia, or a principled liberal such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, O'Connor had no stable ideas about constitutional interpretation. Her idea of jurisprudence was to decide whether legislation produced social 'systems' that either worked or did not. ...
"That is what made O'Connor so unpredictable. Sure, she was headed for what she judged to be socially a stable settlement. But you could never know what empirical judgments she would make to get there. Would she decide that the long-term stability introduced by returning abortion to the elected branches of government would outweigh the short-term instability it would produce? You could not be sure. What you could be sure of was that she would come up with some ad hoc constitutional principle to justify her empirical judgment."
Hail to Thee, Blitz Spirit
I'm beginning to feel a bit like Nanny Hawkins in "Brideshead Revisited." Speaking to Sebastian, who is paying a visit to the patriotic old lady in her attic, Nanny says that Mr. Hitler must be feeling very small after being dressed down by an English politician. I can't help thinking that those who planned the London bombings may be feeling a bit unfulfilled thanks to the calm reaction of the Brits. As Christopher Hitchens, who has been so good on the goings on in his native land, wrote:
"Somewhere around London at about a quarter to nine yesterday morning, there must have been people turning on their TV and radio sets with a look of wolfish expectation.
"I hope and believe that they were disappointed in what they got. There just wasn't quite enough giggle-value for the psychopath."
The bombings brought out the best in Andrew Sullivan, who's still brilliant when not on his hobbyhorse. Andrew quoted the lyrics of a Noel Coward song that is just the right tone (flippant but tough) for telling the terrorists what they're up against:
"London pride has been handed down to us,
London pride is a flower that's free.
London pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it forever will be.
Taken so for granted
For a thousand years.
Cradle of our memories and hopes and fears.
From the Ritz
To the Anchor and Crown,
Nothing ever could override
The pride of London Town."
Relapsed Catholic is not as hopeful as those of us who belong to the "Britons Never Will Be Slaves" school of thought: "I hope all these people are right," Relapsed Catholic writes. "But I wonder. After all, these are not the same 'British' who, with grim determination and not a little humour, trudged down to the relative safety of the tube every night while volunteer fire wardens stayed up top."
National Review's John Derbyshire quotes an exchange between Norfolk and Cromwell in Robert Bolt's "A Man For All Seasons" to show that the English character hasn't changed in centuries--and that England "will do a Spain."
Let us hope Derbyshire is wrong.
Apparently, There Will Always Be an England
An enemy who hates civilization has struck in a busy section of London, apparently quite near the British Museum, home of some of the great artifacts of mankind's history, killing at least 37, and changing hundreds of lives forever. Yet so far the Brits have reacted with a kind of courage and calm that provides a stark contrast to the shame in Spain.
One Londoner who was at work today sent a description of the scene to National Review's The Corner blog (it is so good I must quote it in full):
"I'm writing this sitting in my office in London working as normal.
"As I look out the window I see no buses, very few cars but lots of people walking on the streets; however, these are not the images of Sept 11 - people walking in one direction out of the city. These are Londoners walking left, right, up the street, down the street, going about their normal lunchtime business.
"We have faced terror before - Nazi terror, Irish Republican terror - and have not been beaten. This will not beat us either.
"The overwhelming feeling round our office is 'Is this best they can do?' - it looks and sounds much worse on 24hr news channels than in person."
As Christopher Hitchens points out, it was bound to happen:
"When the telephone rang in the small hours of this morning, I was pretty sure it was the call I had been waiting for. And as I snapped on the TV I could see, from the drawn expression and halting speech of Tony Blair, that he was reacting not so much with shock as from a sense of inevitability.
"Perhaps this partly explains the stoicism and insouciance of those Brits interviewed on the streets, all of whom seemed to know that a certain sang-froid was expected of them."
One of the best pieces I've seen is aptly headlined "Cool Britannia," and it ends with a discussion of the English character as expressed in hymns and national songs:
"There're grandmothers in that city bombed today who spent five years of their youth dodging bombs, doodlebugs and rockets while the menfolk were off strangling the enemy with their bare hands. These aren't people that fear and panic easily. ...
"There's one of those 'Veddy British' things called the Last Night of the Proms where there is a mixture of classical music and then at the end there are three songs that are always sung, massed choirs, orchestra and the assembled mob all bawling out the words to them. There is the National Anthem, of course, and the two songs that have at times been seriously suggested as alternatives to it. One is Jerusalem, from the poem by William Blake with the last verse:
"'I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.'
"Yes, we do believe a better world can be built. The third song is always thought to be a little too jingoistic for this modern age, it being Rule Britannia. It does indeed grate in some of its verses but the second line of the chorus is:
'Britons never will be slaves.'
"And I think that's true. I don't think we ever will be slaves. I have no doubt that we can be killed, that we could even be conquered or beaten, but not that we would cower like slaves, give in to threats of further violence. Far from the 'fear and panic from the north to the south' there is something very different going on. Yes, of course, there will be the usual idiots making asinine political points (just read the comments sections of the various blogs for that) before the blood of the murdered has even cooled, I have no doubt that fools will blame all Muslims, or those wearing turbans (given the state of the education system it is difficult to blame those who do not realize that Sikhs are not Muslims...a few years back a crowd was so enraged over a child molester that they tried to burn down the house of a paediatrician), when the responsibility belongs to those who carried out the murders, that extreme minority that have twisted Islam so grievously. But my fellow Britons? Give in, give up? No, I don't think so. We'll bury the dead, comfort the bereaved and carry on in the way we know best. The police will chase the terrorists, the military will continue in the War on Terror and us? The last word to Nosemonkey:
"'God, us Brits are great. Hardly any panic -- more just getting p-ssed off that it's going to be a bugger getting home. I love this country sometimes.'"
May I add one more poem that catches the English love of country that is so bound up in the national character?
Here is the beginning of Rupert Brooke's greatest poem:
"If I should die, think only this of me;
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's breathing English air,
Washed by rivers, blest by suns of home."
Let us pray the mood holds.
Cynical Left: What's Rove's Role?
Those enemies of civilization on the American left have reacted differently to the bombings. If you can stomach it, Powerline has a compendium of their responses ("I am so cynical... That all I can think is 'how convenient' that this happened to take the light off Karl Rove." "I don't think anything is on the 'up-and-up' anymore, not even terrorist attacks.)
Even the less odious left will raise the question of Iraq and the London bombings, and I can do no better than to cite again Hitchens piece of this morning:
"It is ludicrous to try and reduce this to Iraq. Europe is steadily becoming a part of the civil war that is roiling the Islamic world, and it will require all our cultural ingenuity to ensure that the criminals who shattered London's peace at rush hour this morning are not the ones who dictate the pace and rhythm of events from now on."
No More Bellyaching, Saint Pancreas!
Speaking of things that are hard to stomach: National Review's John Derbyshire reports that he just heard a woman on Fox News Network talking about a railroad station named "St. Pancreas." This also comes from The Corner, which is just about the best place to keep up with the news from London.
With the Brits behaving with such sangfroid (if you'll pardon my French), the terrorists might not get as much mileage as they had hoped out of the attacks on London. As Clifford May of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies points out, the only place our enemies in Iraq are winning is on TV:
They hold not a single province, city or town. In fact, militarily they have achieved virtually nothing. So why is there a debate over who is winning?
"Here's why: Our enemies in Iraq are not aiming for a military victory. They are aiming for a psychological victory, to be followed by a political victory. By littering the streets of Iraq with bodies, they mean to demoralize Americans and cause politicians in Washington to begin to accept the prospect of retreat and defeat.
"To accomplish this, our enemies must rely on the Western media to broadcast the havoc they wreak. The media have been cooperative. "If it bleeds, it leads" is a rule that applies not only to local news. Encouraging developments out of Iraq are seldom photogenic."
What the Dickens?
Like the G8 Summit and those involved in the Live 8 concerts, Mrs. Jellyby in Charles Dickens's "Bleak House" was "devoted to the subject of Africa," at least "until something else attracts her."
In a splendid piece ("What Dickens Knew that Geldof Doesn't") Harvard history prof Niall Ferguson explains why the eights, G and Live, are not going to help Africa any more than Mrs. Jellyby did:
"Like Mrs. Jellyby, Live 8 supporters not only want to Do Good; they want to Feel Good while doing it. She got her kicks by dictating sanctimonious letters to public bodies. They think they can 'stop 30,000 children dying every single day of extreme poverty' by chanting along with Coldplay.
"Why, you may ask, should philanthropy not be fun? No reason - as long as it's also effective. Unfortunately, Live 8 will not be.
"It may come as a surprise to Live 8 fans, but the top three reasons why most African countries are economic basket cases are not lack of aid, excessive debt service payments and protectionism by developed countries. The real culprits are chronic misgovernment, recurrent civil war and the high incidence of diseases such as malaria and AIDS."
It is ironic that the G8 leaders are being asked to approve more aid for Africa when the continent is "choking on aid money," as German journalists Erich Wiedemann and Thilo Thielke explain:
"Rambak [in Sudan] threatens to become a bitter example of how development aid doesn't really help. Again and again finance is hurriedly provided for one project after another, without any evidence of a convincing overall concept. The money is just thrown at projects as quickly as possible. In this case, Norway has made $500,000 available for just 500 refugees in the camps. The windfall immediately sparked off further need and a second camp, this time home to 345 people, has sprung up. It is the Italians who are footing the bill for the new camp.
"Money is, for the Europeans, the solution to all of Africa's problems. But despite yearly payments of, at last count, some $26 billion, the majority of the continent resembles something approaching one big emergency military hospital.
"Already today there are increasing numbers of Africans who call for an end to this sort of support. They believe that it simply benefits a paternalistic economy, supports corruption, weakens trade and places Africans into the degrading position of having to accept charity. 'Just stop this terrible aid,' says the Kenyan economic expert James Shikwati."
Interestingly enough, poverty in Africa has grown worse as the developed world has thrown cash at the problem. In a piece on how to make Africa poorer, James K. Glassman notes:
"[Tony] Blair believes that dispensing an extra $25 billion in aid per year will help pull Africa out of stagnation. That's a dubious proposition. Academic research shows that aid rarely helps and often hurts. Africa's poverty won't be lifted unless its kleptocratic governments and feudal economic systems change. We'll just be throwing good money after bad. President Bush's approach is to tie aid to economic reform, but that policy won't help suffering innocents in countries ruled by corrupt dictators."
It's time to ask: Do we want to feel good about ourselves or actually help Africa?
Dogma as Gateway
One of the delights of the Washington Post's Style section is book critic Jonathan Yardly's periodic reassessments of classics. Today he did Flannery O'Connor, whose letters to a friend and aspiring writer known only as A should be used in catechism classes:
"Whatever the explanation for A.'s insistence on anonymity, it remains that O'Connor's letters to her explore and explain her Catholicism as does little else written by (or about) her. In her very first letter to A., O'Connor made the 'bald statement' that 'I write the way I do because (not though) I am a Catholic,' and she expanded on that theme in letter after letter: 'For me a dogma is only a gateway to contemplation and is an instrument of freedom and not of restriction,' and (to another correspondent), 'I feel that if I were not a Catholic, I would have no reason to write, no reason to see, no reason ever to feel horrified or even to enjoy anything,' and, describing a literary evening to A.:
"'Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. [Mary McCarthy] said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the 'most portable' person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, 'Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it.' That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.'"
Just a Beginning
Choosing the right man or woman to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is just a start: Judge Robert Bork, the brilliant jurist who didn't get on the Supreme Court, thinks that it will "require a minimum of three appointments of men and women who have so firm an understanding of the judicial function that they will not drift left once on the bench" to restore integrity to the Supreme Court.
While I was off, the New York Times ran a piece on summer camp for the kids of agnostics. One of them is 12-year-old Alex Houseman:
"At Camp Quest, on the other hand, [Alex] was not worried that his fellow campers would judge him. 'It's good to know there are other people out there who don't believe in God,' he said."
"Guess We Won't Be Singing Kumbayah," observes Christian blogger Travis McSherley of Filling Up Space.
Loose Canon has been off finishing a book for two weeks and hasn't had time to absorb the news of Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement. I for one don't care if the battle to replace her is bloody because: (1.) Bush is tough and will ultimately prevail, and (2.) I think that the populace is about to get fed up with the scorched earth tactics of Democrats in Washington. That said, I don't envy the nominee because, whoever it is, she or he will be smeared by Democrats.
Law professor and author Jeffrey Rosen has an excellent piece setting forth the various schools of conservative thought. I don't agree with Rosen's choice of what kind of conservative should be appointed, but he's very clear in explaining the various schools of thought.
Without quibbling with some of the semantic differences between Rosen and Tech Central Station Pejman Yousefzadeh, I want to also commend Yousefzadeh's piece on Justice Clarence Thomas. Here are the two relevant snippets:
"Recently, the Supreme Court has handed down two particularly distressing decisions: Gonzales v. Raich (This explains the case) and Kelo v. City of New London. (Here's an explanation of the case.) If there is a bright spot in both cases, it is the intellectual courage, commitment to originalism and common sense approach to legal and policy issues displayed by Justice Clarence Thomas, who has emerged as perhaps the most emphatic champion for libertarian conservatives on the Court. It's high time he got some praise for it. It's also high time that his legal philosophy gained the respect it deserves....
"Those who -- like me -- are disheartened by the decisions in Raich and Kelo may potentially take heart in the hope that Justice Thomas's powerful dissents will have sown the seeds for the emergence of a Court majority in the future that will reflect Justice Thomas's thinking. Perhaps that new majority will be crafted via help from Justice O'Connor's successor -- who could do worse than to adopt Justice Thomas's approach to the law and to intellectual issues. As law professor Orin Kerr puts it, 'The next time someone insists that conservatives like Justice Thomas will do anything to defend corporate interests against the powerless -- and particularly against powerless racial minorities -- feel free to point them to Justice Thomas's eloquent dissenting opinion in Kelo. So much for that idea.'"
Real Help for Africa
As the aged rockers prepare to go home after their Live 8 concerts--supposed in some manner to alleviate the enormous suffering of the poor in Africa--the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof has a piece on somebody who really has done something for Africa's poor.
"Those who care about Africa tend to think that the appropriate attitude toward President Bush is a medley of fury and contempt.
"But the fact is that Mr. Bush has done much more for Africa than Bill Clinton ever did, increasing the money actually spent for aid there by two-thirds so far, and setting in motion an eventual tripling of aid for Africa. Mr. Bush's crowning achievement was ending one war in Sudan, between north and south. And while Mr. Bush has done shamefully little to stop Sudan's other conflict - the genocide in Darfur - that's more than Mr. Clinton's response to genocide in Rwanda (which was to issue a magnificent apology afterward)."
Kristof's piece is pegged to the summit of leaders from the developed nations, which gathers this week to focus on Africa. But in light of the Live 8 concerts (see also Simon Jenkins's piece, "With a song in their heart and not much at all in their heads" in the Sunday Times of London), Kristof's comparison of how liberals and conservatives deal with trying to help Africa is especially instructive:
"The liberal approach to helping the poor is sometimes to sponsor a U.N. conference and give ringing speeches calling for changed laws and more international assistance.
"In contrast, a standard conservative approach is to sponsor a missionary hospital or school. One magnificent example is the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, where missionary doctors repair obstetric injuries that have left Ethiopian women incontinent.
"Liberals also often focus on changing laws, but in a poor country, the legal system is often irrelevant outside the capital. Sudan, for example, banned female genital mutilation back in 1957; since then, the practice has expanded steadily. Sure, lobbying for better laws is important, but it's usually much more cost-effective to vaccinate children or educate girls. Nobody gets more bang for the buck than missionary schools and clinics, and Christian aid groups like World Vision and Samaritan's Purse save lives at bargain-basement prices."
Loose Canon's friend Charmaine Yoest is doing a wonderful job of blogging the G8 meeting from Scotland--don't miss her funny take on Richard Branson, who's opening a new Virgin Airlines in Nigeria, addressing the subject of African poverty with a sexual metaphor. Har de har har.
Speaking of the Live 8 concerts, columnist Mark Steyn raises an important question: If you can't sneer at rock stars in the Daily Telegraph, where can you sneer at them? He also points out why capitalism rocks. Instapundit Glenn Reynolds also has some fair and balanced notions on what Africa really needs.
(I can't move onto the next item without noting that Kristof did take a dig at Bush for cutting taxes of "the richest people on earth." Doesn't he know that tax revenue has gone up since the cuts?)
A Toast to Oriana Fallaci
Is post-Christian Europe's fear of Islam at the heart of the persecution of Oriana Fellaci? I think that's at least part of why this great journalist is being persecuted by way of being prosecuted.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal's opinion section, Tunku Varadarajan makes us grateful for the First Amendment:
"Oriana Fallaci faces jail. In her mid-70s, stricken with a cancer that, for the moment, permits only the consumption of liquids--so yes, we drank champagne in the course of a three-hour interview--one of the most renowned journalists of the modern era has been indicted by a judge in her native Italy under provisions of the Italian Penal Code which proscribe the 'vilipendio,' or 'vilification,' of 'any religion admitted by the state.'
"In her case, the religion deemed vilified is Islam, and the vilification was perpetrated, apparently, in a book she wrote last year--and which has sold many more than a million copies all over Europe--called 'The Force of Reason.' Its astringent thesis is that the Old Continent is on the verge of becoming a dominion of Islam, and that the people of the West have surrendered themselves fecklessly to the 'sons of Allah.' So in a nutshell, Oriana Fallaci faces up to two years' imprisonment for her beliefs--which is one reason why she has chosen to stay put in New York. Let us give thanks for the First Amendment."
Former CBS reporter turned media critic Bernie Goldberg has made a list of the 100 worst Americans. "You have to reach a certain level of indecency to make it in the book," Goldberg said.
"Openly gay, yes, but Bruce has harsh words for gay extremists, whose agenda, she says, is not about tolerance but about seeking to sexualise society's children. She is not religious, but acknowledges 'the extraordinary value of Judaeo-Christian ethics' and uses old-fashioned words such as decency and temperance."
(Many thanks to Relapsed Catholic for spotting Bruce's interview.)
Godless Vicar Watch
Oh, we've outgrown all that: A new report by the General Synod of the Church of England points out an interesting discrepancy between the clergy and the laity:
"The report says that if committed Anglicans are clear about one thing it is the existence of God: 97 per cent have no hesitation in affirming His existence. Yet, it continues, one in 33 clerics doubts the existence of God. If reflected throughout the Church's 9,000 clergy the finding would mean that nearly 300 Church of England clergy are uncertain that God exists."
Charlotte Allen will guest blog for Charlotte Hays from June 21 through July 1. Allen is the author of "The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus," co-edits the InkWell weblog for the Independent Women's Forum.
Please--Not Another Sandra Day O'Connor
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is retiring after 24 years on the Supreme Court bench (President Bush's statement making it official is here). When Ronald Reagan appointed her to the bench in 1981, that seemed a good thing.
She was not only the first woman Supreme Court justice but she was a good friend and law-school classmate of her fellow-Arizonan now-Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and she exuded Out West values of individualism and what seemed to be a healthy skepticism about the East Coast liberal theory of unlimited government power. O'Connor's seemed to be a sure vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, a ruling that if nothing else represented an unprecedented power grab by the Supreme Court, nullifying the abortion laws of all 50 states on the basis of no constitutional authority whatsoever. You don't have to oppose abortion to regard Roe vs. Wade as a legal travesty.
Then--Sandra Day O'Connor moved to Washington, D.C. It proved too tempting for her, like many a Supreme Court justice with no constituents to answer to, to "grow"--that is, to temper her views to meet the approval of the paladins of the Northeast intellectual elite, to whom Roe vs. Wade has iconic significance.
In her early years on the Supreme Court, O'Connor voted to uphold what few state restrictions on abortion still remained permissible under Roe, but by 1990, she was voting with the court liberals to nullify a tough state parental-notification law. Then in 1992, she joined a 6-3 high court majority in ruling essentially that, sure Roe vs. Wade might have had no constitutional basis, but it's the law of the land anyway, because people--or at least some people--have gotten used to it. Then, in 2002, she cast a swing vote striking down Nebraska's ban on partial-birth abortion, a procedure so ghastly that even many pro-choice liberals oppose it. Such was the "growth" of Sandra Day O'Connor.
I'm in accord with National Review's Edward Whelan on O'Connor's Supreme Court record:
"The media routinely portrays O'Connor as a 'moderate conservative,' but this label cannot plausibly be applied to someone who pretends that the due process clause guarantees a right to abortion (indeed, an essentially unrestricted right throughout all nine months of pregnancy and a right to partial-birth abortion), that the equal protection clause prohibits differential treatment of homosexual conduct, and that the establishment clause bars governmental affirmation, acknowledgment, and promotion of respect for religion. If her positions on these culture-war issues were merely her own political views, they would place her well to the left. By wrongly entrenching them in constitutional law, she has usurped the power of the people to act through the democratic processes."
We are going to be hearing a lot from Democrats in the near future about how Bush has a duty to replace the old Sandra Day O'Connor with a new Sandra Day O'Connor who will vote exactly the way she did. The idea is that Bush has an obligation to retain the "balance" of the high court.
That is nonsense. In 1993, Justice Edward White, an old-fashioned Democrat who had dissented, along with Rehnquist, in Roe, retired. Bill Clinton replaced him with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is surely everyone's pick for Supreme Court justice furthest to the left. So, enough of "balance." It's time for Bush to do another Ginsburg.
The Catholic Revival in Europe Is a Good Thing--Except at the National Catholic Reporter
Many see hopeful signs of a Catholic re-awakening in the traditionally Catholic countries of Western Europe where the Church has seemed to be in terminal decline in the face of a militantly secular culture. A few weeks ago there was a massive demonstration in Madrid--some 500,000 people--to protest Spain's Socialist-dominated government's support for gay marriage. Spain's Parliament indeed allowed gay marriage this week, but political analysts say the turnout at the demonstrtion bodes ill for the Socialists' next project: liberalizing Spain's fairly restrictive abortion laws.
Similarly, voters in Italy failed to support a referendum that would have relaxed that country's restrictions on in vitro fertilization--and the analysts say the measure's failure was in large part due to the Church's vigorous campaign against it. And the rejection of the European Union's draft constitution in France and the Netherlands, a constitution that omitted all reference to God and minimized Christianity's contribution to European civilization may indicate that ordinary people in both countries are finally sick of the rabidly anti-religious stance of Europe's intellectual elite. The branch of that elite that runs the EU so loathes religion that it could not stomach the thought of the devoutly Catholic Rocco Buttiglione's holding office in Brussels.
Many Catholics are rejoicing at these signs of new life in the long-moribund European Church. But not the editorial board of the National Catholic Reporter, where fear of "the religious right" always trumps the moral values inherent in Catholic orthodoxy. Here's NCR's take:
"[I]t would be a serious mistake for European Catholic activists to mimic the rise of the 'religious right' in the United States, which essentially wedded the 'religious vote' to the Republican Party. The result is that 'faith and values' as a political force in the United States has come to be tightly identified with conservative positions on a handful of hot-button cultural issues -- especially abortion, homosexuality and stem cell research."
Maybe that's because conservative political parties--the Republicans here in the United States and non-social democrats in Europe--are the only political parties that regard such issues as abortion, homosexuality, and stem-cell research with moral seriousness and make room in their ranks for those believe that gay marriage and the taking of innocent human life are morally wrong. To the NCR editorialists, abortion is just a "hot-button cultural" thing--something that gets people all riled up when they really ought to be thinking about social justice, the only issue of "faith and values" that counts in the NCR's eyes.
Fortunately, the Catholic activists seem to think otherwise. Note that they're not to taking the streets to demand even bigger welfare states in Western Europe.