Recently in Politics Category

How hard can it get to feed the poor? Pretty hard.

Bobby and Amanda Herring spent more than a year providing food to homeless people in downtown Houston every day. They fed them, left behind no trash and doled out warm meals peacefully without a single crime being committed, Bobby Herring said.

That ended two weeks ago when the city shut down their "Feed a Friend" effort for lack of a permit. And city officials say the couple most likely will not be able to obtain one.

"We don't really know what they want, we just think that they don't want us down there feeding people," said Bobby Herring, a Christian rapper who goes by the stage name Tre9.

And Kathy Barton, Houston's spokeswoman for the Houston HHS department said this:
The regulations are all the more essential in the case of the homeless... because "poor people are the most vulnerable to foodborne illness and also are the least likely to have access to health care."

Pretty outrageous that private citizens are forced to stop doing charitable work because the government assumes the worst if you don't have the magic permit.

The silver lining here is that the Houston city council is talking about adjusting the statute so that people like the Herrings are exempt.

Things are getting desperate


Whenever I turn on the TV or radio, the news is right in my face: there's obvious danger, desperate people are crying for help, trapped in wreckage that has collapsed after decades of corruption and shoddy work; outsiders are trying to rescue them, appealing for money, but it may be too late to save Martha Coakley.

A rare and odd contribution

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I gave twenty-five bucks to Scott Brown's senatorial campaign yesterday. I rarely donate to political campaigns, since we usually blow our money on extravagances such as food and chidren's clothing (can't they stop growing, at least for a year or so?) I'm quite sure I've never given money to a candidate who wasn't completely pro-life. I don't think I've ever donated to an out-of-state campaign, either.

But this seems important. Brown might be ostensibly "pro-choice," but on life issues that are likely to come up in the Senate in the near future (the "conscience clause," Federal funding for abortion, partial-birth abortion) he is on the right side. Even more than that, he has promised -- in explicit terms -- to fight the monstrous health-care legislation that is oozing its way through Congress.

I'm sure most pro-lifers in Massachusetts are planning to vote for Brown on Tuesday. For those who aren't, do you honestly think that if the Federal government regulates all aspects of our health care that our country will be more friendly to life? Nonsense. Look at Western Europe -- not, as many conservatives do, because of the quality of their health care. No, look at how they treat their own population. Once a national government starts taking care of its citizens like pampered children, it will start regarding its citizenry as a burden, and will take steps to lighten that burden. A look at Europe's birthrates will help confirm that theory.

President Obama is a committed statist, believing that there is no area of human life outside the government's regulatory sphere. Statism is the political ideology of the cuture of death, squeezing out the family, religion, businesses, private associations, and all the other institutions of free peoples. Absurdly, he spoke out today in the name of independence, saying that Attorney General Coakley would represent the people of Massachusetts over her party.

This is one of Obama's favorite verbal ploys: accusing opponents of something he himself is doing, or saying he isn't doing X, when he is indeed doing X. The whole reason he was in Massachusetts was to support a member of his own party's senatorial campaign, so she would vote in lockstep with the 59 other members of the Democrat caucus. If he had promised to oppose the health care bill, or any other item on Obama's agenda -- which would signify something like independence -- you can bet that he wouldn't have made the trip.

"...[I]t's easy to say you're independent, and you're going to bring people together, and all that stuff, until you actually have to do it," said Obama at the 14:50 mark in his speech. He should know, since he's managed to alienate virtually all Republicans since his inauguration a year ago. But maybe that's not giving him enough credit. The polls tell us that independent voters across the U.S. oppose Obama by a 2-1 ratio, and that Massachusetts independents are going for Brown by a similar proportion. So it looks like Obama is uniting the country after all, just not in the way he had hoped.

The preacher feature

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It took me a while to figure out why the fracas about minister Jeremiah Wright undermines Mr. Obama so thoroughly. It cuts to the most fundamental claims about the senator's character. Obama presents himself as a candidate who invites us to bridge ethnic, economic, and partisan divisions, and a man of great integrity who insists that his fellow campaigners adhere to high standards of conduct and demeanor.

However, he was willing to spend twenty years under the spiritual tutelage of a racist who espouses insane theories, in a congregation that made ethnocentrism and opposition to "middleclassness" its principles. He stayed in that congregation and subjected his children to the man's bizarre teaching, which he insists he doesn't believe, out of opportunism, in order to secure his status in Chicago black-community politics.

Six weeks ago, the Senator was entrancing crowds, and they were ready to make him emperor, but now the emperor has no clothes.


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Eric Ewanco tells me he got a message from the Family Research Council, and it's leaving me a bit unsatisfied as it does him. The message discusses the Federal gummint's "economic stimulus" bill just enacted in DC, and goes on to opine that it won't help the economy as much as a permanent tax decrease.

While the rebates may provide some instant reprieve, they will do little to bring about the long-term resilience that permanent tax relief policy would.

It's an interesting point, and I think it's probably correct.

But how does some issue of technical economic policy become an issue occupying the time of this respected pro-life, pro-family, pro-morality organization?

Deacon Keith Fournier looks at the movement that carried the standard of faithful, orthodox Christians' political activism: 20080214fournierkeith.jpg

The “religious right” movement ended up becoming a politically conservative, Republican and mostly evangelical Protestant movement. Though it claimed to include both Catholic Christians and evangelical Protestant Christians, most Catholic Christians never joined; and even those who worked with the movement on pro-life and pro-family issues did not fit in within the culture or model of the religious right movement.

Though faithful Catholics and Protestants certainly shared what has been called the “socially conservative” agenda, the “religious right" movement was built upon --and thrived within --a "persecuted minority" model of activism.

Some of the movements’ efforts were premised upon an "anti-" approach to effecting social, political and judicial change. The emphasis was placed on opposing the current problems and less on proposing alternatives and solutions.

The movement spoke almost exclusively of what was wrong with the culture and failed to articulate a better way forward. It focused on criticizing what was unjust and wrong and little on offering a compelling vision for a truly just social order.

It developed what could be called a hope deficit, failing to give a compelling vision for a better, more caring Nation. It did not often premise its positions within a framework of an integrated vision of the human person, the family, the social order and principles of authentic social justice.

It became co-opted by -- even submerged into -- the existing conservative political movement, a secular movement, and obscured by peripheral causes whose connection to Christian faith and doctrine is not obvious.
It may have been due to a lack of a cohesive social teaching in the particular Christian tradition and formation of the leaders involved in the movement. However, the sad effect was that much of the rhetoric which emerged made it sound as though all politically “conservative” ideas were somehow “Christian”.

Thus the movement lost its “religion” and became just another extension of the conservative movement. [...]

For example, I will never forget the day when I took exception to a conservative icon's claim that the Second Amendment (protecting the right to bear arms) secured what he called the “first freedom”. I insisted that the first freedom was not owning a gun but rather religious freedom and that the first right was the right to life.

Based upon the reaction of that one early leader of the religious right, you might have thought I had blasphemed [....]

In this election season, Christian social conservatives in the Republican party have been chafing at their status as a mere faction, often an ineffectual one, in the GOP, so Dcn. Fournier's arguments are timely.

(A hat-tip to The Catholic Knight who spotted the article.)

Political notes

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The candidates of "hope" and "experience" are vying for Democrats' support by competing on which one has more zeal for abortion. Well, doesn't that just make you feel it's morning in America?

In the meantime, the Fox News Channel has excluded Ron Paul from its candidates' forum on Sunday, although he got over 10% support in the Iowa GOP caucuses. Seems a bit anti-democratic to me, and ironic for the company whose election slogan is "You Decide". (For the record, I'm supporting Huckabee so far.)

Has anyone else noticed this? if there's ever a docudrama about the life of Mitt Romney, Tony Snow could play the lead!

Here's the meme of a movement

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Warsaw, Jan. 2 ( - An entirely secular state is an "anachronism," according to the Catholic Archbishop of Warsaw. In an interview with the tabloid Fakt, Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz rejected the idea that the influence of faith should be confined to within the churches. That notion, he argued, had been tested during the 20th century and proven a failure. "The Catholic Church in Poland should tell Europe: We know what happened when the Catholic Church was separated from public life," the Polish archbishop said.

Bill Donohue thinks that Mike Huckabee's Christmas greeting ad contains a subliminal message.

Catholic League president Bill Donahue said Huckabee went beyond wishing people a joyous holiday. Donahue said he was especially disturbed by the cross-like image created by a white bookcase in the background of the ad, saying he believed it was a subliminal message.

"What he's trying to say to the evangelicals in western Iowa (is): I'm the real thing," Donahue said Tuesday on Fox News Channel's "Fox and Friends. "You know what, sell yourself on your issues, not on what your religion is."

Huckabee said the bookshelf is just a bookshelf and shrugged off the controversy: "I will confess this: If you play the spot backwards it says, 'Paul is dead. Paul is dead.'"

This is sad: a formerly constructive Catholic organization is now headed by a man who treats even the shape of a cross as something insidious. Heaven only knows what Donohue thought when he heard Huckabee actually mention the name of Christ!

This sort of nonsense makes me sorry I ever supported the League. Now it seems to fear evangelicals rather than seek common cause with them.

Also, notice the AP's spin:

Huckabee is courting evangelical voters and other religious conservatives in his bid to win the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3. In Texas for a fundraiser, he said the ad was a harmless holiday greeting even though it excludes other religions.

"If we are so politically correct in this country that a person can't say enough of the nonsense with the political attack ads could we pause for a few days and say Merry Christmas to each other then we're really, really in trouble as a country," Huckabee said.

Apparently for the AP, merely expressing one's own religion in public without mentioning others is considered as offensive -- as "excluding".

That's another sign of the misguided thinking that drives religion out of common culture and into the private sphere. It must not stand.

Quote of the day

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Fr. Neuhaus deftly summarizes the significance of candidate Willard ("Mitt") Romney's religion:

Few Catholics believe that a candidate is disqualified by being a Mormon. The reason is obvious: Catholics are accustomed to having heretics in the White House.

Anong the more nauseating moments in Nancy Pelosi's coronation yesterday was this:

"For our daughters and granddaughters, today we have broken the marble ceiling,'' she said. ``For our daughters and our granddaughters now, the sky is the limit.''

I do not want my daughters to turn out like Nancy Pelosi, or any other liberal female pseudo-Catholic politician. I did not think their future happiness hinged upon the success of any politician.

And even though Pelosi says that Congress will now consider "the children" in all of its business, I'm a little nervous. For our family, the only things I want from any government is to 1) let us raise our kids in the way we see fit; and 2) let us keep as much of our money as possible. Last year, we paid something like $15,000 in Federal, state, and local taxes. That's more than we spent on groceries, or anything else except our mortgage. Somehow, I don't think helping "the children" in those two areas will be on Speaker Pelosi's agenda.

Rally for Marriage

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Here in Massachusetts, our overlords in the legislature have been obstructing the progress of a marriage-protection amendment to the state constitution by refusing to vote up-or-down on the petition. On Sunday afternoon, there's an opportunity to talk back to them when marriage supporters rally at the State House.

Well, that proves they're in on it!


The editor of Le Monde diplomatique complains because international observers are not accusing Mexican officials of vote fraud. Normally, when international observers watch an election and don't protest, then one is left with the impression they didn't find anything major to protest about. But for Mr. Ramonet and the Mexican Left, the existence of massive fraud must not be questioned. Foreigners' silence only means that they are part of the American hegemony that gives victories to "the ruling Catholic rightwing National Action party (PAN)" (boo, hiss).

Human Events asks: will Pennsylvania social conservatives decide to stay with Rick Santorum once they learn that senate candidate Bob Casey opposes a marriage protection amendment?

(HT: CaNN)

Back in the years c. 1990-2000, George Will was probably the best and most effective conservative columnist around. His syndicated columns, Newsweek commentaries, and full-length books usually received respectful notices, including from liberal publications. Even within the confines of an opinion column, Will managed to pack more erudition per column inch than any other writer.

Yet there were problems for anyone who admired Will. The first sign of creeping jackassery was back in the '80s, when Will got it into his head that tax cuts were bad and that the Feds should raise taxes to cover the deficit. Not an uncommon opinion (among Democrats), and not totally indefensible. But it was the way he dissented from the conservative line that was so infuriating. If you didn't agree with him that an additional 50-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, you were irresponsible and childish. He was the schoolmaster, you were the naughty little child who couldn't seem to pay attention in class.

It was this magisterial style that I appreciated when it was deployed against people who were truly childish and immature, like President Clinton. When he used it to argue against my own views, I began to understand why my left-wing friends found him so maddening. A high-church Episcopalian, Will often displays the worst tendencies associated with that tiny sect: haughtiness, snobbery, and a habitual preference for talking down one's nose at one's intellectual inferiors -- which includes just about everyone.

He will brook no dissent himself, even when he has his facts wrong. Here's a telling excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for George Will:

Will's journalistic ethics, along with those of the newspaper that syndicates his column, The Washington Post, have also been questioned by conservative critics at Accuracy in Media (AIM). In their Media Monitor, AIM revealed that in December of 2004 The Post, in an article related to the Indian Ocean tsunami, claimed that, after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, Catholic priests "roamed the streets" hanging suspected heretics, whom they blamed for the quake. Such a charge appears nowhere in the historical record, and The Post was duly informed of that fact. Not only did The Post fail to retract the calumny, but its columnist, Will, quoted as fact the same charge as it appeared in the 2005 book A Crack in the Edge of the World, by the English author Simon Winchester. Though notified of the complete falsity of the charge, neither Will nor Winchester, unlike others who mistakenly made the claim, has taken any steps to correct his error.
He's also showing disturbing signs of Paleocon Disease, where every fault of American foreign policy can be blamed on the "neoconservatives":
The administration, justly criticized for its Iraq premises and their execution, is suddenly receiving some criticism so untethered from reality as to defy caricature. The national, ethnic and religious dynamics of the Middle East are opaque to most people, but to the Weekly Standard -- voice of a spectacularly misnamed radicalism, "neoconservatism" -- everything is crystal clear: Iran is the key to everything.
"No Islamic Republic of Iran, no Hezbollah. No Islamic Republic of Iran, no one to prop up the Assad regime in Syria. No Iranian support for Syria . . ." You get the drift....
Will doesn't bother to refute the Standard's premise that Iran is driving much of the murder and mayhem throughout the Middle East. It's like writing in 1983 that the actions of Nicaragua, East Germany, and North Korea had nothing to do with the Soviet Union -- or that the Soviets were largely irrelevant. Does Will think that Iran isn't bankrolling and directing Hezbollah? That they aren't allied with Syria? That's news to most people, I should think.

Will isn't quoted much in the conservative blogosphere anymore. His general opposition to most aspects of the War on Terror has something to do with it, but I suspect it's also because people have grown weary of his hectoring tone. Maybe they're tired of the hackneyed baseball references, which are supposed to show Will's "egalitarian" side:

Neoconservatives have much to learn, even from Buddy Bell, manager of the Kansas City Royals. After his team lost its 10th consecutive game in April, Bell said, "I never say it can't get worse." In their next game, the Royals extended their losing streak to 11 and in May lost 13 in a row.

Hang it up, George.

The cause of "Tibet" appears, at first glance, to be one of those fashionable causes that celebrities love to embrace. Anything endorsed by Brad Pitt, Richard Gere, and the Beastie Boys is suspicious, don't you think?

Yet Tibet the nation, as opposed to Tibet the cause, has a very legitimate grievance against the Chinese government that has attempted to absorb it. China has murdered several hundred thousand Tibetans during their obscene occupation, and driven a similarly large number into exile. Now they are encouraging Han Chinese immigration into their restive "territory," and ethnic Tibetans will soon be a minority in their own ancestral lands.

The one bright spot for Tibet is its spiritual and would-be temporal leader, the Dalai Lama. Normally, one may safely assume that any Eastern spiritual leader known to Westerners is a charlatan, more interested in selling books and conducting seminars than achieving inner peace. A sure mark of the religious dilettante is the remark, "I'm interested in Eastern spirituality."

Real Eastern spirituality, as opposed to the denatured, consumerist version, has some rough edges to it. For one thing, the various moral codes differ, but they generally agree that giving into one's sexual passions is not the way to achieve happiness. Many strains of Buddhism place a very low priority on any bodily activity; celibacy is widely practiced and considered a highly desirable state for advancing in the life of the soul.

All of these points are raised in this account of an interview with the Dalai Lama. He takes a dim view of homosexuality, which might surprise his lefty fans. Not to mention his chummy behavior with their Black Beast:

Although he appeared not to approve of the war in Iraq, he was admiring of [President] Bush.

"He is very straightforward," said the monk.

"On our first visit, I was faced with a large plate of biscuits. President Bush immediately offered me his favourites, and after that, we got on fine. On my next visit, he didn't mind when I was blunt about the war.

"By my third visit, I was ushering him into the Oval Office. I was astonished by his grasp of Buddhism."

This passage could have come from Popes Benedict or John Paul:
"It is fascinating. In the West, you have bigger homes, yet smaller families; you have endless conveniences -- yet you never seem to have any time. You can travel anywhere in the world, yet you don't bother to cross the road to meet your neighbours," he said.

"I don't think people have become more selfish, but their lives have become easier and that has spoilt them. They have less resilience, they expect more, they constantly compare themselves to others and they have too much choice -- which brings no real freedom."

I read another article where he condemns syncretism, and gently chides Westerners for trying to combine elements of Buddhism, Christianity, and bits and pieces of other religions and spiritual practices. He doesn't think that's healthy, and usually recommends that people work from within their tradition unless they have a true conversion of the heart.

The late Holy Father attempted to reach out to leaders of other religions, including the Dalai Lama. Over the years, self-styled defenders of the faith have criticized him for this. But isn't this a man we should be working with? Sure, make it politely clear that we are not compromising our faith in the One, True God, but we as Catholics should work with any man of good will.

Read the whole article. It isn't very long.

Making the poor more prosperous


Nate Nelson takes issue with several points I raised in a post about the French labor riots. He uses my words as a springboard for other commentaries. Fair enough; Lord knows I've done that before, too. But the ideas that Nathan indirectly ascribes to me are not my own.

For one thing, I don't think that employers should be able to fire workers "for any reason without even providing a reason." In the U.S., employers cannot terminate someone for having black skin, for being a woman, or having other immutable characteristics. This seems perfectly fair to me.

But I do think that companies should have the flexibility to dismiss employees when they see fit. The alternative, as in France, is that a government bureaucrat will second-guess the dismissal and possibly even prevent it. The bureaucrat probably has no particular expertise in the company's industry, and no direct responsibility for the company's prosperity. Yet he may reject a cost-cutting layoff because the company did not demonstrate to his satisfaction that it was justified.

Smart companies do not fire people for trivial reasons. Layoffs are often a sign of a troubled corporation, and they devastate morale among the remaining employees. They will only undertake such a measure if they are convinced it is essential to their long-term survival. That is why smart companies survive, and stupid ones eventually die or stave off destruction by creating iPods.

The question of whether capitalist or statist economies are more effective at creating prosperity. France enjoys roughly the same standard of living as Alabama, which is a fine American state but not exactly an economic powerhouse. The countries that have adopted a free-market model are the ones on the rise -- the U.K, Australia, Ireland, India, etc. They are also the ones that offer the best hope for their poorer citizens to be gainfully employed. Merely observing those facts isn't "a glorification of laissez-faire capitalism."

Nate says that "Eric Johnson and other Catholic conservatives can feel free to correct me if I'm wrong" about us never having had a minimum wage job, or send our kids to crappy schools, etc. I'm not sure who else Nate is addressing, but as for myself, I started making minimum wage back in 1987 when it was $3.35 an hour. But like most other minimum wage earners, I soon made more, and also like most, I wasn't suppporting a family.

Productivity is the key to making the poor more prosperous. That usually means education, combined with diligence, prudence, and avoiding the social pathologies that are pandemic in poor communities (alcoholism, drug abuse, illegitimacy, crime, gangs). If someone's labor is worth more, companies can afford to pay him more.

Showing their mastery of Cartesian logic, French students and labor unions took to the streets to engage in rational dialogue with their government over changes in employment legislation.

Wait, sorry! The French are screaming and burning things to protect their sclerotic society. The main problem with France's economy is that French companies don't want to hire new workers unless they are absolutely forced to do so. That is because French workers are very costly due to the glorious Republic's "social policies," mandating strict limits on work hours and lavish benefits.

Plus, you can't fire French workers, even for gross incompetence. We're not talking about government workers, either — these are private-sector jobs. Every sentient being who has studied this problem agrees that employment laws are the reason that a quarter of young Frenchmen are unemployed. (The generous unemployment benefits play a part, too.)

So the "conservative" government of France has proposed some tiny little free-market reforms to loosen labor markets in France, and a half-million people protest and riot. Inevitably, they have torched a McDonald's. (Is there a French law requiring demonstrators to attack McDonald's? Does Ronald's funny hair make them crazy?)

And what is driving them to the streets?

The law would allow businesses to fire young workers in the first two years on a job without giving a reason, removing them from protections that restrict layoffs of regular employees.

If you're an American employed in the private sector, you're probably thinking, "Why is that remarkable?" Most U.S. workers are "at will" employees, meaning that the employer or the worker have an indefinite arrangement between them. The worker trades his labor for the company's compensation. If either party doesn't like the terms of the arrangement, they can walk away.

The worker has to make sure his labor meets the standards of his employer. But it works both ways, as the employer has to make sure that working conditions are safe and humane, and that its workers are compensated fairly. Otherwise, the workers will walk away in favor of a better employer. There are moral considerations that come into play on both sides. Employers have a responsibility not to cheat their employees, who in turn have a responsibility to work honestly and diligently for their employers.

"Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages," Pope Leo XIII wrote in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. Leo took on the question of human labor at a time when the balance of power was skewed toward employers. Today, in the U.S. and other free-market economies, the balance has shifted closer to equilibrium, and in many sectors, it favors the workers over employers. The system rewards virtues, particularly diligence, severely punishes sloth, and works to suppress other personal vices, as people who can be fired are generally on their best behavior.

Plainly, the French malcontents understand none of this. They regard employment, not as an opportunity to exchange their time and skills for sustenance, but as a kind of birthright. And why wouldn't they? In the socialist scheme of things, the state makes a bargain with its populace: you give up your economic freedom, and we will provide the benefits of prosperity, without all of the messy uncertainties of life. It is a parody of "give us this day our daily bread," and a parody of Divine Providence. The younger generation is looking at their parents' generation, retiring at age 55 with full pensions, and wonders why they aren't getting a piece of that scam.

You can only maintain a socialist economy if you have a wealthy society and a high proportion of workers to retirees. Yet the primary mechanism of socialism is to transfer wealth from productive citizens to unproductive citizens. That might work for a while longer, if the French were making enough new Frenchmen, but they are not — like every other European population save little Ireland, their population is declining.

Socialism destroys wealth. Socialism weakens families and social networks, including churches. Socialism kills society, and thus it is nothing more than a slow-motion suicide pact.

(P.S. Read Rerum Novarum when you get a chance. It isn't a tough read, and the principles Leo explains are still valid today.)

The newsroom of the Washington Post is getting smaller, and I couldn't be happier.

This isn't schadenfreude (did I spell that right?) It isn't as if workers are being thrown out on the street — they're either taking early retirement, or they aren't being replaced when they switch jobs. No individuals will be harmed in the downsizing of this media property.

I grew up reading the Washington Post, starting with the comic section in 1977, graduating to Sports, then the "Style" section (as opposed to "substance," to be sure). When I was a teenager, I started devouring the front section. Although the Post approached the news with a liberal slant, it was hardly the Village Voice. Yes, they downplayed the evils of communism, and they were relentless cheerleaders for feminism, and shameless apologists for racial favoritism, but the reporting was (mostly) intellectually honest enough to mention the other side.

Not today. I have nothing but contempt for the Washington Post, and I hope I live long enough to see the company fail, or at least transformed into something less odious. My visceral dislike began almost three years ago in Al Kut, Iraq, where my Marine unit was administering one of the provinces. Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran visited the city for a few hours, then went back to Baghdad to file a story about how the civilians hated us and we were afraid to mess with a local thug who took over city hall and proclaimed himself mayor.

The truth, as I wrote in June 2004, was that almost all of the civilians were friendly, except for the thug and his small number of supporters. A short time after Chandrasekaran's article appeared, the "occupation" of city hall ended with the thug slinking away without a fight.

My article made the rounds in the blogosphere, prompting dozens of people to e-mail me with encouraging messages. However, Tom Ricks, the Post's senior military correspondent, sent me a message disputing my account of the events in Al Kut in spring of 2003. Was Ricks in Al Kut back then? No. Did he have other sources disputing what I said? No. Did he raise any logical or chronological questions about my account? No.

What it came down to, for Ricks, was that Chandrasekaran was a reporter for the Washington Post, and I was not. Furthermore, Ricks thought I sounded like a "staff guy" who gave upbeat press briefings.

In real life, during the war I was a sergeant who carried a rifle 24 hours a day and went 37 days without showering. My civil affairs team were all awarded combat action ribbons, which you don't get for being a "staff guy" (unlike combat pay, you only get that ribbon if somebody is actually trying to kill you.) Tom Ricks, senior defense correspondent for the second-most-important American newspaper, didn't bother to figure that out. Nor, when I sent a polite response informing him of this, did he deign to respond.

When the Post has journalists like this on its payroll, and abject buffoons like Dana Milbank covering the White House, it is not entitled to anyone's respect or deference. Not to mention the paper's role in the various trumped-up "scandals" like "domestic spying," to name one of many.

I used to regard Post-haters with bewilderment: who could hate a left-of-center but basically responsible newspaper with such a great Food section? Now, I reluctantly count myself as a detractor. Eighty fewer people at the Post is a mighty good start, as far as I'm concerned.

According to an article in the evangelical magazine Faith Today, two groups shifted markedly in the recent federal elections: practicing Protestants across the continent swung to the Conservatives (64%, up from 51%) and practicing Catholics in Quebec abandoned the Liberals (their 56% support in 2004 fell to 29%). Andrew Grenville says that "conscience, corruption, and the Church" made the difference.

Mr. Bean beats Mr. Blair

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Britain's House of Lords has gained a rare victory by persuading the House of Commons to defeat a proposal by Tony Blair's Government.

After the Government put a bill on "hate crimes" and "hate speech" through the House of Commons, it went to the House of Lords, where a majority opposed its overreaching provisions as a threat to freedom of speech, and to religious speech in particular.

The Lords amended the bill to protect speech that was merely offensive and not threatening, and to give explicit protection to religious and anti-religious speech. Then, when the bill went back to the Commons, many Labourites joined opposition MPs in an unusual reversal and defeated the Labour Government's attempt to undo the changes.

England may yet endure.

France continues its nightly bouts of rioting and mayhem, perpetrated by "youths" (i.e., north African Muslims). The French assumed their vastly superior culture would overawe the backward immigrants. They assumed wrong.

Some articles worth reading on the subject: First, there is always, always, Mark Steyn. Ever his own best publicist, Steyn points out that he predicted this "uprising" in February of this year. (At the time, I thought he was extrapolating too far, but as he notes, he was being optimistic.)

Second, Israeli professor Steven Plaut recommends that France ought to take its own advice that it gives to Israel: give up large parts of its territory and capital city in exchange for vague promises of "peace." His words are bitter, but his logic is compelling. I would add that we should refer to the Muslim thugs as "freedom fighters."

Finally, Newsweek has a good overview of the riots.

What is France supposed to do? From the reports, it sounds like most of the rioters are citizens, and as such they cannot be deported back to north Africa. Even if they could, how would the authorities go about deporting that many people?

The "nice" approach doesn't seem plausible, either. Unemployment surely fuels the rioters' anger, but if the French government knew how to create economic opportunities it would have done so already. It cannot hand out jobs because there are no jobs to be had in France.

The smart money says the French will do what good leftists always do when confronted with evil on the march: blather and capitulate. If the jihadis are smart, they will present "community leaders" to the French government, to receive the customary promises of government money, slobbering declarations of "respect" for Islam that they would not dream of applying to Christianity. They will say things like....

Please don't incinerate 1,300 cars every night. A few dozen would be acceptable.

Didn't you notice that we hate America just as much as you do?

When you are done with all the other infidels, please slit our children's throats last.

Scratch a moonbat, find a bigot


It didn't take long before the Moonbat Left started employing anti-Catholicism against Judge Alito. No sooner was he nominated to the Supreme Court, but the loons on Daily Kos started hyperventilating about a CATHOLIC MAJORITY ON THE SUPREME COURT!!! They didn't notice that Scalia and Kennedy often find themselves at odds, and neither of the judges use their religion to justify their rulings, as well they shouldn't. (In fairness, several commenters dissented from this display of raw bigotry.)

Alito would join faithful Catholics Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts. That would make a 4-1 ratio of decent Catholics to Judases on the Court. Not as good as the 11-1 ratio at the Last Supper, but for a secular institution, not bad.

MoDo and the goddess that failed


The best thing I can say about this article by Maureen Dowd is that I didn't hate it from the very first line. The tipping point came here: "Men, apparently, learn early to protect their eggshell egos from high-achieving women." This was in a middle of a passage where Dowd tries to convince us that men don't like to marry women who are too darn smart and successful. (Like her: fifty-three years old, a columnist at the most powerful newspaper in the world, and as single as an ace of spades.)

This opinion is backed up by a bunch of pseudo-scientific claptrap:

"A study by psychology researchers at the University of Michigan, using college undergraduates, suggested that men going for long-term relationships would rather marry women in subordinate jobs than women who are supervisors. Men think that women with important jobs are more likely to cheat on them. There it is, right in the DNA: women get penalized by insecure men for being too independent."
There probably is an evolutionary explanation for that phenomenon, assuming it's true, but it isn't what Dowd thinks. If evolution is all about perpetuating your genes, then men will naturally tend to avoid many high-achieving women, because they presume that these women will want to spend more time on their career and less time caring for their offspring.

For women, the reverse isn't true, because primarily they want men to contribute two things to families: moral leadership and physical sustenance. If Dowd thinks that will ever change, she's fooling herself. Women will only behave differently if they are under the sway of false ideologies such as radical feminism, or if they aren't thinking of marriage at all.

Long-time Catholic Light readers will recall that I've asked whether Dowd is "the dumbest prominent columnist in America, or the most prominent dumb columnist in America." This piece has all of Dowd's hallmarks, from the embarrassingly unreadable sentences ("Jurassic feminists shudder at the retro implication of a quid profiterole") to the lengthy passages where she assumes everybody agrees with her already:

Many women now do not think of domestic life as a "comfortable concentration camp," as Betty Friedan wrote in "The Feminine Mystique," where they are losing their identities and turning into "anonymous biological robots in a docile mass." Now they want to be Mrs. Anonymous Biological Robot in a Docile Mass. They dream of being rescued - to flirt, to shop, to stay home and be taken care of. They shop for "Stepford Fashions" - matching shoes and ladylike bags and the 50's-style satin, lace and chiffon party dresses featured in InStyle layouts - and spend their days at the gym trying for Wisteria Lane waistlines.
I wonder if "many women" hated Betty Friedan and her ilk because back then, there were many recent survivors of real concentration camps, who probably didn't appreciate the equasion of Buchenwald and the suburbs.

Be that as it may, Dowd's article, excerpted from a forthcoming book, is not a screed, and for her that's saying quite a lot. When she writes, "...the feminist revolution would have the unexpected consequence of intensifying the confusion between the sexes, leaving women in a tangle of dependence and independence as they entered the 21st century," it's a startling admission.

In the '90s, feminists argued that feminism hadn't succeeded in making women happy because feminism wasn't yet fully implemented. (Just as Marxists said that no state had ever implemented communism correctly, so you couldn't say it had ever failed.) Feminism originally appealed to many women (and not a few men) because of the spiritual emptiness of postwar American consumerism, as well as the undeniable injustices that men often perpetrate upon women. At its best, feminism affirmed that women needed lives with dignity and self-worth, and should not be treated as means to an end.

As a living intellectual movement, feminism ran out of ideas a long time ago, and as a political movement it committed suicide by defending Bill Clinton's disordered sexuality. Its fundamental mistake was to seek material solutions for spiritual problems. For example, feminists demanded that women should be able to work outside the home and thus gain their own status; the American tendency to value money too highly was left unchallenged.

What began as a ringing challenge to treat human beings as uniquely valuable has shriveled into an increasingly strident, narrow demand that unborn children should be treated as worthless blobs of cells, which (if you'll pardon the phrase) seems to be their sole remaining viable political issue. Had they rooted their movement in an authentic anthropology such as the late Pope John Paul II's, or at least left the door open for an understanding of what humans truly are, they might have survived. Instead, feminism still wanders the world, doing much damage but having forgotten why it began in the first place.

Virginians know that God created Maryland to make Virginia look even better than it is. But we can envy our northern neighbors for its lieutenant governor, Michael Steele, who is running for the U.S. Senate next year.

Steele grew up in poverty to a single mother, attending Catholic schools on his mother's earnings in a laundromat. He's more conservative than the Republican governor, and he's charismatic and loquacious. At the 2004 Republican National Convention, he gave a solid prime-time speech.

What's more, Steele is openly pro-life in a very pro-abortion state, and one of his personal heroes is John Paul II, whom he quoted in his announcement speech. In a state where elections are decided in two places -- Baltimore and the D.C. suburbs -- Steele's race won't hurt him, either. Keep an eye on Michael Steele, because you might be seeing more of him in the very near future.

If you're a Virginia resident, for the second year in a row you have the opportunity to decide between a pro-life, conservative Protestant and a pro-abortion sell-out Catholic. This time, instead of Bush and Kerry, it's Kilgore and Kaine. (Too many "K" names, I know.)

Tim Kaine, the current lieutenant governor, is the liberal former mayor of a big city who alternatively runs away from his record or tries to conceal it. Virginia is a solidly right-of-center state, and the only reason we have a Democrat governor is because he swore up and down that he wasn't a liberal. Kaine has to win by simultaneously pretend he isn't a lefty, while sending enough lefty vibes to urban and suburban liberals to keep them interested.

It probably won't work, although it isn't for lack of smarmy pandering. Read this statement on "Values and the Family." He quotes scripture, talks about being a Catholic'd think this was a true son of the Church. This abortion statement would lead an unsuspecting voter to believe that Kaine is pro-life because of his Catholicism: "I have a faith-based opposition to abortion."

That is so misleading that it constitutes a lie. He does not want any abortions prohibited, so far as I can determine (feel free to send me evidence to the contrary.) He wants to promote contraception as an alternative to abortion:

Kaine said the state should emphasize "tried and trusted ways to cut abortion," including contraception access. He does not support abortion, citing his faith, but said he would enforce laws allowing it.

Worse, Kaine doesn't even stand up for his own principles. He used to be an opponent of the death penalty, which enjoys massive support among Virginia voters. Executing murderers, along with abolishing parole, liberalizing concealed-carry permits for firearms, and imprisoning more criminals, led to a dramatic drop in the statewide crime rate over the last decade, significantly more than the national average.

Kaine called for a death-penalty moratorium in the past, and as an attorney he represented capital-murder defendants. His opposition seemed honorable, but now he's running advertising where he practically promises to kill death-row inmates with his bare hands. "My faith teaches me that life is sacred," Kaine says into the TV camera, "but I will carry out death sentences handed down by Virginia juries, because that's the law."

His opponent, Kilgore, has been running tough ads attacking Kaine's previous views on the subject, and so Kaine decided that the law trumps faith. Had he said, "I believe that the death penalty is necessary to defend society against the worst criminals," he would have remained within Catholic tradition. But unlike abortion, where he will merely look the other way, Kaine is willing to take an active role by signing convicts' death warrants. It's the kind of thing that gives weak-willed politicians a bad name.

Kaine's candidacy is an opportunity squandered. In 1928, Virginia gave its electoral votes to Republican Herbert Hoover because the Democratic candidate was Catholic, marking the first time that our commonwealth had ever gone Republican. It's heartening to see that Kaine can showcase his Catholic faith for this overwhelmingly Protestant electorate, but it is unconscionable that he should attempt to conceal his moral and political cowardice with a veil of religion.

Which is why on November 8, I will vote to give him the sound electoral thrashing that he so richly deserves.

A few years ago, Zimbabwe was a major food exporter, and one of the few African economic success stories. Its president, Robert Mugabe, saw that white Zimbabweans (most of whom had lived there for generations) were largely responsible for this success, and he wanted his black countrymen to be more prosperous.

So he immediately implemented free-market legal reforms, including an anti-corruption campaign to secure private property. He worked with religious and tribal leaders to gain their support, emphasizing education and entrepreneurship as the keys to prosperity, along with the virtues of hard work, honesty, and looking out for one's community.

Kidding! Mugabe got armed bands of thugs to throw the white farmers off of their land. Those farms, which don't magically sprout crops but require hard work and planning, don't grow much food anymore. Now 200,000 people are facing starvation, according to Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncumbe.

But despite Mugabe's responsibility for the deaths of thousands of black Africans so far, with thousands more to come, the international Left has largely been silent. Why? Because Mugabe is one of their fellow loons, attending international conferences to denounce their favorite targets:

"Must we allow [Bush and Blair], the two unholy men of our millennium, who in the same way as Hitler and Mussolini formed [an] unholy alliance, form an alliance to attack an innocent country?" asked Mr Mugabe, apparently referring to Iraq.
And this was at a food summit! While his countrymen are going hungry because he blew up his own economy simply to stir up racial resentment! Imagine if a white dictator caused mass hunger on this scale, with thousands of Africans facing death? Would he be invited to any fancypants international conferences?

The racialist modern Left is always willing to cut murderous dictators lots of slack -- just as long as the dictators are Darker People, and regardless of whether Darker People are the ones watching their kids die for lack of food. This demonstrates that Leftists are motivated primarily by hatred of the West and capitalism, and the United States most of all. When they encounter someone who shares their hatreds, they will look the other way, even when innocent people are killed and oppressed.

Postscript: A bishop named "Pius Ncumbe" must be a total badass.

Congratulations to Warsaw mayor Lech Kaczynski!

Remember Senator John Edwards (D-Prell)? Okay, probably not. He was the guy who lost the presidential election along with that other guy, you know...the one with the gray bouffant hairdo and obnoxious wife.

Anyway, before running on the Al Qaeda Proxy Candidate ticket, Senator Edwards ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. He told voters that there are "Two Americas," one with gold plated toilets, the other with no indoor plumbing, one that shops at Tiffany's, the other that can't afford to shop at Wal-Mart, etc. This clumsy quasi-Marxist theme didn't play well, even with hard-core Democrats, who, if they believed in the death penalty, would limit its use to anyone making over $200,000 a year.

Nevertheless, without so much as a self-serving press release, John Edwards took a look at both Americas, and decided that the leather seats and martinis of Rich America looked better than the folding chairs and Pabst Blue Ribbon in Poor America. He's joining a private investment group so he can "[develop] investment opportunities worldwide and strategic advice on global economic issues."

Edwards was worth about $50 million when he ran for VP eleven months ago, so it's not like he needs the money. The BusinessWeek article notes that other politicians have gone into the financial sector, but none of the examples they list had ever run on a haves vs. have-nots agenda before doing so.

Democrats say they're for "social justice," which is why far too many Catholics buy their rhetoric and vote for them. But that platitude translates into sordid things like racial set-asides and massive income transfers from working families to the often-undeserving elderly. And for all their talk about compassion for the "little guy," when it comes to the littlest guys at all -- babies in the womb -- they have no compassion at all.

Bravo for John Edwards: he isn't going to pretend to work for the wretched and the oppressed. He's going to make buckets full of money and throw them on his pile. At least Jimmy Carter has done some demonstrably good things in his well-deserved retirement.

There are plenty of sleazy Republicans, too, but at least under their policies, we get to keep at least a little more of our money, and nobody ends up dead.

Conscientious abstention

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Pope Benedict won't be voting in the German elections today. As Deutsche Welle puts it,

"Sundays are bad, because I kind of have to run a major world religion."

It's all somebody else's fault


The Mayor of New Orleans is disgruntled and understandably so. But before he starts complaining about the response of outside agencies, perhaps he should reflect on mistakes right in his own administration. He didn't declare evacuation mandatory until Sunday, when the system was already moving in over the city.

In a critical failure of the city's preparation, it appears the police have no communication infrastructure, and thus no command-and-control system for organizing their activities. One division of police even evacuated to Baton Rouge!

All in all, I think this has been a learning experience for the mayor.

Update: Good news: computer guys running an ISP on the scene report "no visible looting" today.

2nd update: The mayor's relieved now that the Army's on the scene with a take-charge general at the head of the operation.

Dowd and Sheehan, soul sisters


Maureen Dowd has resumed writing her column, thus reclaiming her title as America's Stupidest Columnist at a Major Newspaper. Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, the runner-up for that title, performed the official SCMN duties during her absence, but Cohen will occasionally surprise you by being thoughtful or non-ideological. Dowd is pitch-perfect, reflecting the views of the elite journalistic world with not a trace of critical thought.

Almost all of her columns are truly masterpieces, because we know that her zig-zagging logical paths and tortured sentences are intentional. She isn't a nobody with a Typepad account, she is somebody with a huge newspaper's full panoply of resources behind her -- there are copy-desk editors, the editorial-page editors, the senior editors who, one assumes, will at least occasionally read what appears in their paper. The New York Times employs research staff, administrative assistants, and other literate persons. Yet not one of them has the guts to tell Maureen Dowd that she writes unreadable dreck, and she should thus make a concerted effort to re-learn how to compose a polemical essay, if indeed she ever knew how. To wit:

The Bush team tried to discredit [Cindy Sheehan] by pointing reporters to an old article in which she sounded kinder to W. If only her husband were an undercover C.I.A. operative, the Bushies could out him. But even if they send out a squad of Swift Boat Moms for Truth, there will be a countering Falluja Moms for Truth.
How to unpack this three-sentence paragraph? Cindy Sheehan did meet with the president and she did not sound angry after she emerged; nobody "outed" any CIA operatives except at least one journalist; the White House didn't send out the Swift Boat Veterans -- the vets sent themselves. But if you are Dowd, that doesn't matter, because your goal is to make at least three venomous anti-Bush attacks per column inch.

A smarter columnist would try to feign intellectual honesty; she would throw in a few statements like "Bush might think he's doing the right thing by doing _____, but he's not," or "It's understandable that Rumsfeld might say _____, but he is incorrect." But Dowd, and her many, many compatriots on the left, have two explanations for any action of the Bush administration, or anyone on the right: they're either evil or dumb. The prose they generate could be distilled into simple binary patterns which newspapers could print, e.g., "evil, dumb, dumb, evil, dumb, evil, evil, dumb," to spare us the trouble of having to read their rubbish.

This would shield us from the stylistic mistakes, too. Dowd writes about "the more than 13,000 wounded, many shorn of limbs," apparently unaware that the word "shorn" is the past tense of "shear," and is used in connection with cutting, not explosions or bullet wounds, which is how most amputees lost their limbs. The only people "shorn" of anything in Iraq are the decapitated victims of terrorists, for whom Dowd shows no recollection or outrage.

Luckily, we have Christopher Hitchens as an antidote. Hitchens, an erratic and indispensible commentator, addresses the case made by Dowd and Cindy Sheehan and reduces it to rubble:

Sheehan has obviously taken a short course in the Michael Moore/Ramsey Clark school of Iraq analysis and has not succeeded in making it one atom more elegant or persuasive. I dare say that her "moral authority" to do this is indeed absolute, if we agree for a moment on the weird idea that moral authority is required to adopt overtly political positions, but then so is my "moral" right to say that she is spouting sinister piffle. Suppose I had lost a child in this war. Would any of my critics say that this gave me any extra authority? I certainly would not ask or expect them to do so. Why, then, should anyone grant them such a privilege?
I am inclined to ignore Sheehan's words and actions, except to note two things: first, her opinions are indistinguishable from the bleary-eyed hysterics who post things on Daily Kos and the other left-wing blogs. She has drunk deeply from the poisonous brew of "no blood for oil/Halliburton/those filthy Jew neocons," and her paranoic rantings should be dismissed, though we should heap contempt on those who exploit her grief and loss for their own desire to score the cheapest of political points.

Second, Cindy Sheehan demeans her son by treating him as something less than he was. Casey Sheehan was a 24-year-old man who voluntarily re-enlisted in the military, and volunteered to go on the particular mission in which he was killed. He was not a child in need of protection. He knowingly risked his life on the field of battle against a vicious enemy that slaughters the weak and the innocent in the name of God.

But our news media glamorizes a risk-free protest by an unhinged mother, instead of the heroism of her dead son. Such is the debasement of our national culture.

Relatives of the late Marine Staff Sgt. Joseph Goodrich are upset over what they consider to be Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll's cynical intrusion on their mourning.


"When (Knoll) found out (Kubiak) was Joe's aunt, she handed her a business card and told her she attends 90 percent of these 'functions' across the state," Rhonda Goodrich said.

Read the Full Story

Many misguided people, particularly those who have spent too much time in university classrooms, think that economic rights are for the rich and powerful. The opposite is true: in the absence of a legal system that safeguards private property, the rich can always protect their interests by hiring muscle and buying influence. (That's how organized crime was born.)

Jews and Christians agree that private property is divinely sanctioned, which is why God explicitly forbade theft in the Seventh Commandment. But the right to property is a natural right, and thus accessible to anyone with a functioning intellect. Ancient civilizations, East and West, prohibited thievery and often prescribed death as a punishment. Indeed, besides preserving the lives of its members, a mark of a functioning society is the ability to keep one man's hands off another man's goods.

The United States was founded on the ideal of private property. Our forefathers were so incensed with practice of housing British soldiers in private homes that they outlawed it in the Bill of Rights. They affirmed this fundamental right by only allowing a citizen's property to be taken under two circumstances: if he was convicted of a crime, or if the public good demanded it.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court, without asking the people's permission, has authorized multi-billion-dollar corporations to steal people's houses, as long as the corporation can pay more taxes to the city government. You'd roll your eyes if a screenwriter came up with a plot that involved a major drug company commissioning a city council to destroy people's homes in order to build an office park, but that's pretty much what's going to happen in New London, Conn. Here are some of the little people whose homes are going to be demolished:

Petitioner Wilhelmina Dery, for example, lives in a house on Walbach Street that has been in her family for over 100 years. She was born in the house in 1918; her husband, petitioner Charles Dery, moved into the house when they married in 1946. Their son lives next door with his family in the house he received as a wedding gift, and joins his parents in this suit....
Big corporations are essential to modern life, as they are the best instruments for doing big things like creating new medicines, building airplanes, or running communications networks. But they're also made up of sinful human beings who can commit evils, and they should be restrained by the law appropriately.

This ruling represents a failure of justice at all levels of government. Theft is theft, whether it is performed by a burglar in the dead of night, or by a city council's decree, duly ratified by our unelected judicial tyrants.

Amnesty confronts Bushitler!


Amnesty International, like Greenpeace, is an organization I would join if it wasn't run by ideologues. Human rights should unite everyone of good will, but Amnesty has always been harder on Western or pro-Western governments than on the truly repressive regimes.

Now they have veered into Bush-hating territory. Two weeks ago, they caused a minor fracas by referring to the terrorist detainee camp in Guantanamo as a "gulag," then admitted they had no idea whether that was true. (Hint: unless it's a slave-labor camp, it's not a gulag.)

Dr. William F. Schulz (no relation to John or Steve), the director of Amnesty International USA (isn't that name an oxymoron?) said, "We have documented that the use of torture and ill treatment is widespread and that the US government is a leading purveyor and practitioner of this odious human rights violation."

At best, Dr. Schulz is misrepresenting and exaggerating Amnesty's findings. Even the few details they provide are questionable:

The Bush Administration cited Egypt for beating victims with fists, whips and metal rods. And yet US Major Michael Smith testified at an administrative review hearing last year that an autopsy of a captured Iraqi general revealed he had suffered five broken ribs that were "consistent with blunt force trauma, that is, either punching, kicking or striking with an object or being thrown into an object."

Five broken ribs might be painful, but that couldn't have been the cause of death. And who broke those ribs? Dr. Schulz implies that it was U.S. troops. Yet for all he knows, it was the general's fellow inmates.

Don't take my word for it — read the report yourself, or at least some of it. The country findings are long on summary, short on detail. The moral equivalence would be laughable if it weren't so sickening:

US-led forces in Iraq committed gross human rights violations, including unlawful killings and arbitrary detention, and evidence emerged of torture and ill-treatment. Thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed during armed clashes between US-led forces and Iraqi security forces on the one side, and Iraqi armed groups on the other [emphasis added].

On the one side, you have thugs and murders who bomb mosques, churches, marketplaces, civilian vehicles; who kidnap and behead the innocent in the name of God; who desperately want to beat the rest of Iraqi society into submission so they can administer their "human rights violations" (and you can bet Amnesty won't be invited to observe.) On the other, you have thousands of Iraqis and Americans trying to stop these human beasts and build a more just society. But to Amnesty, it's just two sides fighting.

Dr. Schulz calls for "a truly independent investigation into the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and other detention centers" and says not doing so "is tantamount to a whitewash, if not a cover-up, of these disgraceful crimes." Why isn't the Justice Department and the military judicial system equal to the task? Are they not independent? If not, who are the guilty men who are going free?

This irresponsible statement is an accusation against dozens of Bush Administration figures: "You're a criminal. Prove you aren't." Ironically, if a government presumed that a suspect was guilty and made him prove his innocence, they'd be violating the accused's human rights, and Amnesty would complain. Ye hypocrites!

Thomas Sowell on target


"Looking Back" over at Town Hall

What will future generations think when they see the front pages of our leading newspapers repeatedly preoccupied with whether we are treating captured cut-throats nicely enough? What will they think when they see the Geneva Convention invoked to protect people who are excluded from protection by the Geneva Convention?

And here's a related story about how we can't patrol our borders without wondering if we're introducing non-indigenous plantlife into the desert! Give me a break!

Border Patrol Horses Get Special Feed

Dean still out of his bean


HoDean, always good for a quote:

"You know, the Republicans are not very friendly to different kinds of people. They're a pretty monolithic party. Pretty much, they all behave the same, and they all look the same… It's pretty much a white Christian party,'' the former Vermont Governor [Howard Dean] told a San Francisco roundtable in reaction to a question about the lack of outreach to minority communities by political parties....

The comments are another example of why the former Vermont governor, who remains popular with the party's grassroots, has been a lightning rod for criticism since being elected to head the Democratic National Committee last February. His comments last week that Republicans "never made an honest living in their lives," which he later clarified to say Republican "leaders," were disavowed by leading Democrats including Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Pretty funny coming from a former governor of a 97% white state. One could say that, at least demographically, the Democrats are a "Christian" party, given that over 90% of Americans identify themselves as Christians, over twice the number that say they're Democrats.

Unless "Christian" is a code word for "Evangelical" or "fundamentalist," Dean probably means that the Republican party is the home for people who place their faith first in their lives. This nutty little man will drive off religiously serious voters, who tend to be morally conservative but are probably persuadable when it comes to, say, education or tax cuts.

And that's bad for the country. Both major political parties ought to be friendly toward religious voters — they used to be. 1984 was the first year that (to my knowledge) a pro-abortion Democrat ran for national office. Evangelicals used to split their votes between the parties, and Catholics used to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.

Now, one major political party forces believing, orthodox Christians to betray or ignore their faith, if they vote for its candidates. You cannot be in favor of medical experiments on tiny human beings, gay marriage, easy divorce, condoms for schoolkids, abortion, and pornography, and reconcile that with Christianity. In the long run, you either cast your lot with the ways of the world, or the ways of God. It isn't that the GOP is the party of God and the Democrats aren't; that is far too simplistic. Rather, the Democratic platform contains elements that go against the plain meaning of Scripture and 2,000 years of Christian tradition. On top of that, a large number of Democrats hate — the word is not too strong — people of faith and disdain them with words normally reserved for people who commit mass murder or high treason.

Democrats will either abandon their quixotic quest to build their free-love, quasi-socialistic, pacifist utopia because the American people have rejected it, or they will convince Americans that the post-Christian society is the way to go. The only way they've been able to keep their party going is through racial demagoguery and promises to sustain middle-class welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare. Most Americans don't think that 13-year-old girls should have sex, much less get abortions without their parents' permission, and they don't think two men can make a marriage. If the party would drop its advocacy of those two issues alone, it would cause serious damage by stealing away weakly committed Republicans. But then a lot of hard-core Democrats would have to abandon deeply-held religious beliefs of their own, whether or not they label those beliefs as such.

Space gear = bad photo-ops


You could be forgiven for thinking that Gerhard Schroeder schroeder.jpg were losing his grip as the Eurofederalist constitution melts down, but no, he's just having a bad photo-op. Since he's got an election coming up in a few months and is likely to lose, I guess you could call it a John Kerry moment.

When I saw the headline above in the New York Times, my heart lept with joy. At last, we are getting serious about the war on terror!

Then I realized that the lawyers were going to Guantánamo to serve as legal representatives for the detained thugs. They weren't going as prisoners. My heart stopped leaping.

Ah, well. Maybe someday.

I would bet a bottle of gin that not one in five American adults could tell you what a "filibuster" is. Perhaps one in ten Americans think it's important, and that ten percent is scattered across the political spectrum. This is after weeks of public discussion about the proper use of the filibuster and the "nuclear option" (i.e., voting when the majority decides to vote).

But the chattering classes care about the filibuster, because it is the method by which the Democrats' dwindling minority gets to keep "religious extremists" and pro-lifers off the Federal bench. The Republicans could have given Senator "Ku Klux Klam" Byrd the smackdown he richly deserves, pleased the GOP's most fervent supporters, and made the judiciary more friendly toward economic rights, less friendly toward judge-made law, and possibly made some progress toward stopping the secular sacrament of abortion. The cost? Some nasty editorials in liberal newspapers. But those editorialists hate Republicans anyway, and would find something else nasty to say about them.

Yet a small group of Republicans managed to sell out their party, not to mention the constitutional principle that the Senate has a duty to examine and confirm judicial nominees. Even though they've been in the majority for most of the last decade, the Republicans once again demonstrate that they play like amateurs, and the Democrats play for keeps.

Defending Hillary


I want to like Hillary better, I really do. The Democratic Party has pretty much reduced its political agenda to government giveaway programs, unrestricted abortion, and the acceptance of buggery. They need to get serious about being a national party again, and Senator Clinton (D-Standbyourman) is one of the few leaders who can stand up to the shrill, narrow constituencies of her party.

So when I see her get tough on North Korea and their nukes, my heart is gladdened. During her time in the Senate, and especially with her work on the Armed Services Committee, she has tried to be a serious voice, and by all accounts she works hard to understand the issues under their purview. States are primarily about enforcing worldly justice, by enforcing the law internally and by defending against external aggressors, and anyone who wants to be president must take that seriously.

Yet through it all, she is a Clinton, and being a Clinton means that you have to get in a nasty cheap shot while ostensibly doing something for the public good. When Admiral Jacoby, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, delivered the assessment that North Korea has the capability to put nuclear warheads on missiles that can reach the U.S., Clinton called it

...the first confirmation, publicly, by the administration that the North Koreans have the ability to arm a missile with a nuclear device that can reach the United States....Put simply, they couldn't do that when George Bush became president, and now they can.
She apparently forgot that her husband was president when North Korea promised to stop its offensive nuclear program in 1994, in exchange for fuel and other goodies. Well, they took the fuel, continued the program, and that's why we're in this situation today: because her husband accepted the word of an insane tyrant. The problem didn't start with President Bush (and, in fairness, it didn't start under President Clinton, either), it was inherited by him.

Disagreeing about the best way to defend the nation is healthy and good, but using the subject primarily for political ammunition is a grave betrayal of public trust. Someday, there will be a nationally-known Democrat with some degree of intellectual honesty whose name is not Joe Lieberman. Maybe that person will be Senator Clinton. She's got about three years to make it happen.

He is not our worst ex-president — that would be Jimmy Carter, affectionately known in Springfield as "History's greatest monster — but he's trying his best to claim the title:

[Clinton] said he had met "two great popes" in his lifetime, John Paul II and John XXIII. Clinton said he recognized that John Paul "may have had a mixed legacy," but he called him a man with a great feel for human dignity.
This from the guy who is primarly remembered for messing aroud with the White House help:
Specifically, 53% of Americans named "Monica Lewinsky" or the "affair, adultery, sex scandal" as the most memorable moment of President Clinton's eight years in office, more than four times the number who cited "the economy" (12%).
UPDATE: As I typed this, Drudge has posted the full quote:
“[Pope John Paul II] centralized authority in the papacy again and enforced a very conservative theological doctrine. There will be debates about that. The number of Catholics increased by 250 million on his watch. But the numbers of priests didn't. He's like all of us - he may have a mixed legacy.”
Getting carnal favors in the Oval Office, standing up for 2,000 years of Christian's all pretty much the same, right?

One of my best friends studied under a strictly orthodox professor at a prestigious Catholic university, and that scholar did not like America. He is well-known in Catholic intellectual circles for his critique of the American founding, which, he says, was flawed because it is rooted in secularism.

That is not enough to conclude that he dislikes America. A nation's political arrangements will reflect its character, sure, but that isn't the only component. But this professor rejects American society in many respects. He condemns the superficial way people relate to one another. He decries its music. He condemns our fast food, and it bothers him that we Americans have no room in our hearts for metaphysics.

I met this professor in person twice, and he is quite engaging and personable. His contempt for his motherland is nothing if not rational, although tinged with elitism. Indeed, I agree with many aspects of his critique. Most American popular culture is vulgar garbage. Far too many of our fellow citizens revere rootlessness, and I certainly would not defend what passes for food on many dinner tables.

But where the professor's critique breaks down is his choice of Italy as an exemplary nation. Now, I love Italy, as it happens. I've been there a couple of times (our honeymoon was in Rome), and my wife and I could easily spend several months happily touring and eating our way around the peninsula. I show my kids books with Italian art, and often I cook Italian food.

Yet to anyone looking with Catholic eyes, Italy has some serious problems as well. Italy maintains a deeply Catholic culture, but it is dying. I don't mean that it is changing into something else. I mean it's literally dying: the Italian birthrate is 1.2 children per adult woman during her life. Other social indicators are better than the States — their abortion rate is very low, as is the divorce rate (which reflects traditional attitudes toward marriage, true, but also widespread acceptance of extramarital sex and cohabitation.) Italy has tons of priests, and more Italians go to church than in any other European country, save perhaps Ireland.

Yet it is the birthrate that is the most telling statistic. It shows that, far from being the generous and people-oriented people the professor would like them to be, Italians are deeply selfish, content to wallow in the vita bella without perpetuating it. They care about their cultural riches the same way the prodigal son cared about his father's wealth: as a source of stimulation and amusement, not something to be protected and nourished.

So it would seem that the professor, while ostensibly approaching the matter from a Catholic perspective, has very little to stand on here. America — largely Protestant, and officially secular — has a higher level of religious committment than Catholic Italy, which teaches religion in state-run classrooms. The source of his antipathy must lie elsewhere.

But it is not for me to probe his psyche. Rather, I have to ask: if you're that deeply dissatisfied with the U.S., and you think another country is a utopia, why not move? He has taught in Italy before, and speaks fluent Italian. If being in Italy is good for your soul, and America is hazardous for your spiritual health, well then, isn't the choice obvious?

Personally, I don't think I would want to leave America even if I agreed with the professor's critique. If you think your nation has gone astray, you ought to love her the same way you might love an alcoholic mother: with sadness, to be sure, but always with prayers and actions directed at reforming her character.

Leaving it when you don't love it


As Merle Haggard famously sang, "If you don't love it, leave it." Thousands of Americans are taking him up on that offer, and none too soon. If you think you are too good for America, I, for one, will not convince you otherwise. Take your revenge on Bushitler and AmeriKKKa! Deprive us of your intelligence and moral certitude!

Unfortunately for Pete, these folks are moving to Canada. Given the close-run scare the Left received in the last Canadian elections, they should be lobbying for our American moral betters to move north.

The imitation of Uncle Joe


When Stalin was in charge of the Soviet Union, "enemies of the state" would often appear in public to recant their "crimes." When Ivy League presidents mention uncomfortable truths about human sex differences, they pretty much have to do the same thing:

"I have long been aware of the many challenges women face in pursuing academic careers, but in the past several weeks the nature and extent of these challenges have been made particularly vivid to me," said President Summers. "It is time for Harvard to step up and affirm in strong and concrete terms its commitment to the advancement and support of women pursuing academic careers...."
Does anyone seriously think Harvard has been discouraging women from seeking tenure?

As far as I know, nobody has taken the time to refute Summers' original point: men tend to be overrepresented at the left and right ends of the bell curve when it comes to math and science aptitude, so they will be overrepresented at the elite levels of those disciplines. (They also make up a higher proportion of the remedial students.) That doesn't mean "women can't do math or science." It simply means that fewer women have the capacity to do those things at the highest levels of achievement.

Also, it's a well-known fact that women give birth, and many of these mothers want to care for their children full-time, at least while they (the kids) are young and helpless. This is great for the kids, but it can put one's career in slow-motion for a while.

And what's wrong with that? In the grand scheme of things, what's more important — being a good mother, or being a good Harvard professor? (Hint: dozens of societies have succeeded without Harvard professors, but no society has figured out how to perpetuate itself without mothers.)

Congratulations, Iraq


The Iraqi elections are over, and by all accounts they have been successful: fewer murders than expected, and millions of people showed up, including many Sunnis (though personally I don't care if ex-oppressors get all pouty and decide not to play.) The winners will then build a new Iraqi constitution, which will pave the way for a permanent government later this year.

Meanwhile, I look forward to hearing from the Democrats who asserted that "the security situation" precluded Iraq from having a fair election. They were to see an additional "miserable failure" they could hang around the Bush administration's neck. They should rehearse a few phrases for the news shows tomorrow morning, such as, "I'm glad I'm wrong," "Boy, those dark-skinned people can really surprise ya sometimes!" or "Maybe the president is onto something with this 'democracy' thing."

The left-wing blogs, usually a leading indicator of the next crackpot party line the leading Dems are about to take, have already started moving the goalpost: "This Election is simply, in my estimation, an exercise in pretty pictures" (Daily Kos). Or this choice quote from the Democratic Underground: "I can't believe the Iraqis are buying into this 'democracy' bulls---."

Given the intelligence, wit, and sensitivity of Catholic Light readers, I don't need to point out the high irony of people calling themselves "Democrats" yet dumping all over democracy itself. To them, the Constitution is a sacred document when it refers to free speech and press freedoms, but infinitely malleable when it comes to gun rights, property ownership, religious expression, states' rights, or commercial activity. Democracy is good as long as Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy are elected by left-wing constituencies, but bad if it means George Bush and Tom Delay. In fact, any political phenomenon can be evaluated not in terms of justice or goodness, but whether it advances your ideology.

To the Iraqi people: may God bless you and your country, and may you defeat the enemies of your freedom and well-being. Ignore those who would rather you live under someone else's boot — a situation they would never accept for themselves or their families. Millions more are cheering for you.

After the new Italian state stripped the Papal States from the Vatican, the Holy See forbade faithful Catholics from participating in Italy's government. This included voting in democratic elections. Something like a third of the Italian population dutifully obeyed, and the result: Benito Mussolini. The Fascists and Communists, who began with small percentages of the population, did not face any electoral competition from serious Christians, and thus the playing field was left to various monsters large and small.

A mirror-image situation is about to happen in Iraq. The Sunni Muslims look like they are going to boycott the January 30 elections for the interim government. That means the new government will be dominated by the minority Kurds and the majority Shiites. The Sunnis will thus have little say in Iraq's rebirth, and that may well spell trouble for them. They have been oppressing the Kurds and Shiites for the last half-millennium or so, under the Ottoman Empire, the Hashemite kings, and the Baathists.

As the brilliant Charles Krauthammer pointed out, the U.S.-led coalition has basically been fighting a civil war against the Sunnis for the last year and a half. Once Iraq gets its native lawmakers together and they form a constitution, the formerly oppressed groups may want to extract some payback from the Sunnis if they're still misbehaving. Who can blame them? Whereas if the Sunnis at least try to be conciliatory, they might receive mercy. But their ingrained Arab pride will get the better of them, and they will be arrogant to the last.

For similar reasons, I don't think Catholics should stop participating in mainstream society, which is why I am not generally in favor of homeschooling (and neither is the Church, which considers Catholic schools to be the first option if it is at all possible.) It isn't even possible to shield your kids entirely from the effects of our diseased culture: it still seeps in through the cracks. So go out and try to transform it as best you can, and choose what is good and encourage it.

A Fair Deal for Newfoundland


From a Newfoundlander now living in Washington, D.C., a new website has arisen that provides supporters of Newfoundland with the opportunity to take political action via the internet. Fair is fair. Just because Newfoundland is not Quebec does not mean that Prime Minister Paul "Mr. Dithers" Martin should not be forced to keep his promise to the province. Does President Bush know what type of character he's dealing with in the Canadian Prime Minister? Anyway, please visit A Fair Deal for Newfoundland

Responding to one of my posts over at Canadian Republic, some constitutional monarchist and Canadian loyalist (who sounds an aweful lot like a self-proclaimed "proud member of the Orange Lodge" I had been debating at Free Dominion) left the following love-letter in my comments box:

Yes, get him [me] a green card, INS!

Which is, Mr. Vere? Do you want a green card, and the chance to move down there? Or do you want to turn us into a complete clone of America?

The first step to getting a green card, Mr. Vere, Ms. Shaidle, Albertadude, Adam Yoshida, and all the rest of you traitorous "conservative" (not really) Canadian bloggers, is to apply. Tell them how much you hate your homeland, tell them how much you idolize America, tell them how you'd be willing to take a bullet for Uncle Sam. Fight for Uncle Sam in a foreign war, then maybe, just maybe, you'll be granted citizenship, if you come home not in a box. Or promise to be as talentless a hack as your fellow traitor Mark Steyn, and maybe they'll let you in to write neocon agitprop! (Don't worry; you're more than half-way there already!)

BTW, you criticize the U.N. (which I don't like either, incidentally) for being "basically a coalition of banana republics, terrorist states, and tinpot dictatorships" and then say "the reality is that the US (a Republic) did the right thing in taking charge". But since you love republics so much, why is one republic and member of the U.N., the U.S., taking charge necessarily preferable to coalitions of various kinds of republics (banana, terrorist, tinpot dictatorship - almost none of these are monarchies, after all), including free republics such as the same nation you wish to be in charge, the U.S.? What does America's being a republic have to do with anything, in this case?

And if the American revolution was a good thing, and one Canada should emulate, in your opinion, then why is it bad if some countries change governments continually through revolutions? You contradict yourself, when you support revolution as a legitimate means of changing forms of government, on the one hand, yet see political stability as a desirable goal, on the other!

BTW, should America's "Coalition of the Willing" members Great Britain and Australia dump their monarchy, too, or just us Canucks? After all, their having the monarchy, just as we do, hasn't stopped them from having the sort of foreign policy you like - whereas our government does differently - so is the problem really the monarchy, or is it just that you don't like what Chretien and now Martin have done, foreign-policy-wise, since 9/11/01?

Get your green cards and get out, all of you! Frig, much as I loathe my nation being flooded with all manner of foreign subhumans, whether clit-removing ragheads or dog-eating coolies or crack-gang violent homeys, at least some of them actually like the country which has let them in, in contrast to you traitors - I'm tempted to vote Grit to continue completely unbridled immigration, just to offset your influence in Canada by importing a new populace, at least some of which will actually be grateful to their new home...

(And in case you read this, MWW, I said "my nation", and meant it; your people lost a half millennium ago, deal with it.

You too, Mr. Levantine; not all of us are shabbos goyim...)

Does this explain why Canada's Progressive Conservative Party, until it merged with the Canadian Alliance just prior to the last election, had lost practically every election to the Liberal Party in the last fifty years?

Actually, I think in theory the UN is the right authority to coordinate the response to the recent natural disaster in South-East Asia, but practically speaking this presumes the UN is functioning reasonably close to how it is suppose to be functioning. It is not. And given how corrupt the UN has become -- it is now a coalition of banana republics, terrorist states, and tinpot dictatorships -- the reality is that the US has to take charge.

This way, the developed world knows: 1) the aid will get to where it is suppose to be going, and 2) the money doesn't end up lining the pockets of some corrupt official in a country that changes government through revolution more often that the French go on vacation. So while the UN should be coordinating the effort in theory, realpolitik necessitates the US taking the lead.

That being said, Canada continues to prove its inneptitude by charging a surviving victim $100 to replace her passport so that she can go home, while our Prime Minister continues to enjoy his holiday, and Liberal legislators complain they don't have the time or energy to get personally involved but then they slam America's response. Get me a green card quickly.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

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unless you state otherwise.


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