Thursday, November 30, 2006

Broken Promises

"Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss."

Well, that didn't take long.

Remember when the Democrats promised to implement all of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations?

The WP's Jonathan Weisman does. Observe:

It was a solemn pledge, repeated by Democratic leaders and candidates over and over: If elected to the majority in Congress, Democrats would implement all of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that examined the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But with control of Congress now secured, Democratic leaders have decided for now against implementing the one measure that would affect them most directly: a wholesale reorganization of Congress to improve oversight and funding of the nation's intelligence agencies. Instead, Democratic leaders may create a panel to look at the issue and produce recommendations, according to congressional aides and lawmakers.

Because plans for implementing the commission's recommendations are still fluid, Democratic officials would not speak for the record. But aides on the House and Senate appropriations, armed services and intelligence committees confirmed this week that a reorganization of Congress would not be part of the package of homeland-security changes up for passage in the "first 100 hours" of the Democratic Congress.

"I don't think that suggestion is going anywhere," said Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee and a close ally of the incoming subcommittee chairman, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.). "That is not going to be their party position."

It may seem like a minor matter, but members of the commission say Congress's failure to change itself is anything but inconsequential. In 2004, the commission urged Congress to grant the House and Senate intelligence committees the power not only to oversee the nation's intelligence agencies but also to fund them and shape intelligence policy. The intelligence committees' gains would come at the expense of the armed services committees and the appropriations panels' defense subcommittees. Powerful lawmakers on those panels would have to give up prized legislative turf.

But the commission was unequivocal about the need.

"Of all our recommendations, strengthening congressional oversight may be among the most difficult and important," the panel wrote. "So long as oversight is governed by current congressional rules and resolutions, we believe the American people will not get the security they want and need."

Now Democrats are balking, just as Republicans did before them.

Politics before the public. What a surprise!

Our esteemed members of Congress--from both sides of the aisle--prefer their own "legislative turf" to the protection of the voters whom they serve. However, the ones doing the latest Potamic Two-Step is the party that promised to change the tired business-as-usual schtick of the GOP. Didn't take long for them to disappoint, did it. And on a national security issue, no less!

What a surprise.

This egregious break of a sensitive promise reveals the true colors of the new Democratic-controlled Congress. They intend to serve the sacred cows of their Reasonable, mouth-foaming masters. If they must sacrifice their integrity--and their position in 2008--to do so, then so be it.

Beware the faction of string-pullers that refuses to take the War against Jihadists seriously. They will inevitably leave all of us vulnerable. And clearly for these servants, what could be more important than the continuation of their influence within the Capital. Priorities, people!


An Interreligious Moment

Pope Benedict XVI continues to upset fundamentalist muslims and RadTrad Catholics alike. He insists on imitating Christ in welcoming his brother--estranged as that brother may be.

How shocking. How scandalous.

How Foolish.

The AP has the details:

Pope Benedict XVI prayed alongside an Islamic cleric in Turkey's most famous mosque Thursday in a dramatic gesture of outreach to Muslims after outrage from the pontiff's remarks linking violence and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

The pope bowed his head and closed his eyes for nearly a minute inside the Blue Mosque after Mustafa Cagrici, the head cleric of Istanbul, said: "Now I'm going to pray."

As the pope left the famous 17th century mosque, the pope turned to Cagrici and thanked him "for this moment of prayer," the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

"This visit will help us find together the way of peace for the good of all humanity," the pope said during only the second papal visit to a Muslim place of worship. Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, visited a mosque in Syria in 2001.

(AP) A Turkish police woman checks the bag of a woman wanting to cross a restricted area near Istanbul's...
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The mosque visit was added to Benedict's schedule as a "sign of respect" during his first papal trip to a Muslim nation, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said last week.

The pope removed his shoes before entering the carpeted expanse of the mosque, which is officially known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque after the Ottoman sultan Ahmet I, who ordered its construction. But it's widely called the Blue Mosque after its elaborate blue tiles.

Benedict received a gift of a glazed tile decorated with a dove and a painting showing a view of the Sea of Marmara off Istanbul. The pope gave the imam a mosaic showing four doves.

"Let us pray for brotherhood and for all humanity," the pope said in Italian.

Lombardi said the pope "paused in meditation" inside the mosque and "certainly his thoughts turned to God."

(AP) Turkish police check the bags of people wanting to cross a restricted area near Istanbul's...
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The pope has offered wide-ranging messages of reconciliation to Muslims since arriving in Turkey on Tuesday, including appeals for greater understanding and support for Turkey's steps to become the first Muslim nation in the European Union.

But Benedict also has set down his own demands.

After a deeply symbolic display of unity with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Christian Orthodox, the pope again repeated his calls for greater freedoms for religious minorities and lamented the divisions among Christians - including the nearly 1,000-year rift between Catholics and Orthodox.

What could the Holy Father possibly have been thinking? Why would he bow his head in silent prayer with an obvious non-believer.

Oh, I don't know. Perhaps a certain document called Nostra Aetate had something to do with it:

The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.(4)

The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.

Horror of horrors! The Catholic Church refuses to categorically deny that other's religious experiences and traditions contain some degree of truth! She may even call her members to prudently "promote the good things, spiritual and moral,...found among these men."

But, of course, sharing a moment of prayer with one of these couldn't possibly be a legitimate expression of such promotion. Everyone knows that Muslims are idolaters that refuse to recognize the One True God. Right.

Wrong. Any Fool, particularly a Catholic one, will face the obstacle of revelation as interpreted through the Magisterium, if they want to believe that. Again, Nostra Aetate:

The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

So why would Pope Benedict silently pray while the chief Mufti of Istanbul offered a vocal prayer? He has sought to develop relationships between Catholics and both muslims and Orthodox Christians. Both of these aims have origins in both the pastoral teachings of the Church through the Second Vatican Council. Pope Benedict prays not to embrace a meaningless moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam. He prays in order fulfill the call of the Holy Spirit as he sees it: united all the brothers in spite of the scandalous divisions that exist between them. How can he hope to welcome muslims if he refuses to share in the significant spiritual experience of their tradition--prayer to God? Whether the mouth-foamers from both ends of our respective traditions recognize it or not, Christians and Muslims pray to God. Nostra Aetate attests to this. We defy this teaching of the Church at our peril.

Pope Benedict XVI said at the beginning of his Pontificate that he sought to listen to Christ and lead others to listen to him. He continues to exemplify this on his pilgrimage in Turkey. May we all do the same!

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Pestilence Squats

Rasping lungs draw breath,
Stab in the back, in and out,
Fatigue as I wake!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Panel has Spoken

We'll soon learn what they'll say.

Yahoo! News has more:
The study group is expected to recommend regional talks involving
Syria and
Iran. The administration has been reluctant to engage those two countries, which it says have abetted the violence in Iraq.

It was unclear what the group would recommend regarding possible U.S. troop withdrawals, an issue that proved divisive during meetings this week. The members — five Democrats and five Republicans — were split over the appropriate U.S. troop levels in Iraq, and whether and how to pull American forces out, according to one official close to the panel's deliberations.

A second official has said the commission was unlikely to propose a timetable for withdrawing all U.S. troops, but that some members seem to favor setting a date for an initial withdrawal. That is an idea favored by many congressional Democrats.

The Iraq panel is expected to brief the administration and congressional leaders before making the report public.
A moderate proposal that has bi-partisan support. The Reasonable flame-throwers of both the right and left will surely hate every word of it.

That bodes well for the document.

I don't believe engagement with Iran or Syria will alleviate Iraq. They both have reasons for ensuring the Arab nation fails. However, plenty of others believe the troops should leave immediately. We may both be wrong.

Thus, the panel has an opportunity. If they make smart recommendations, then the US may have a plan to set Iraq on the right track. If they offer warmed-over half-heartisms that ultimately change nothing, then Iraq will continue to decay before our eyes. And the world's.

That will absolutely be on our hands as Americans?


We broke it, we bought it. Granted, Iraqis need to do their part. But we're the force for security in the nation and have been since Baghdad fell. Our policy blunders--from blanket Baathist bans to inadequate military police and occupation specialists to Abu Graib--provided the fertile ground for the terrorists to wage their reign of terror.

Yes, we removed a brutal dictator that should never have been allowed to rule. Yes, the people benefitted from the right to control their own destiny through democratic participation. However, we did not secure their nation when we had the greatest capacity and authority to do so. As a result, the Iraqi government scrambles to assume the security burden--with inadequate personnel that we're still training.

Meanwhile, factions of both Sunni and Shia Iraqis tire of waiting for the security everyone has promised them. They now take matters into their own hands.

Aided and abetted by the cynical puppet-masters in Damascus and Tehran, undoubtedly.

Doesn't matter. The final responsibility rests with us because we overturned the existing order in Iraq.

I hope that we succeed there. But if we don't, then the blame rests with us. Plain and simple.

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Colbert on Pope Benedict

Is this priceless comedy or what?

Hat tip to Gerald Augustinus and the Curt Jester.

What can one make of Mr. Colbert? Is he truly a believing Catholic and a genuine Fool? Or is he the most Foolable of pretenders out to ham up his ratings?

CVSTOS FIDEI believes he is:
Last nights Colbert Report on the Comedy Central had Stephen Colbert (the host of course) on his "The WØRD" segment come out defending the Pope in Turkey and putting Islam in their place because Jesus is the Son of God, not a prophet. The audience seemed a bit shock but they came around to his comedy and began applauding again, after Stephen Colbert recited the Nicene Creed of all things!

Stephen Colbert is a comedian that is the host of this show. It's basically a mock-news show of a clueless conservative playing to the crowds liberal sensibilities. I've been wary to say if he is orthodox in his Catholicism, but every little bit that I see of him brings me closer to the realization that he is at least an honest Catholic trying to practice our Catholic faith. Maybe even a practicing, dare I say, orthodox Catholic? One can only hope.
I'd like to share his hope. Mr. Colbert himself offers an interesting testimony:


He certainly jokes about Catholicism and Catholics like an inside man. Even if he's not, it doesn't change one thing: He is one funny comedian!

Update: Welcome, Happy Catholic readers!

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Still Harping?

Archbishop Desmund Tutu isn't satisfied. According to the famed cleric of S. Africa, Pope Benedict XVI still has some "fence-mending" to do:

It seems to me that his Holiness might have made whatever point he sought to make less provocatively and given the heightened tensions already abroad -- what with controversies over cartoons, the wearing of veils, etc. -- all, especially high profile people, require the wisdom of a Solomon not to exacerbate already fraught situations.

It seems too from the Pope’s pointed apology not for the offending quotation but for the reaction it provoked, it does seem as if we will require some fence-mending.
Since the Pope quoted a critic of Muslims' excesses in a lecture meant to emphasis a dialog routed in reason, he hasn't practiced wisdom. Ah, profound!

Well, commenter Pete offers an appropriate response:
With respect, I wonder if you read the Regensburg speech?

Even a cursory reading shows the Pontiff chose his words quite carefully. Any reasonable reading of the speech also leads one to conclude that it was an earnest attempt to dialogue with Islam by beginning to unite faith and reason. That is the chasm that Benedcit XVI and John Paul II said must be bridge. (see Fides et Ratio)

Simply put, God, the Logos, (Reason) is Love. When one acts counter to Love by accepting or promoting violence one acts counter to God (and thus Reason). I believe that is the main point of Regensburg and I am not sure how the reasonable man can reasonably disagree.

As you know, Christianity is adamant in stating that we are called to image Christ through the love (charity) and service of neighbor. As you also know, man is made in the image and likeness of God. And this image reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. (see Gaudium et Spes #24.)

I suspect Benedict XVI wants us to focus upon Western cultures need to re-discover the concept of service, in charity, to all. For when one serves others hundreds of times a day in the small and the big things in life one finds their true "Self" their "Personhood". And this true Self, this Person is Christ--for we are all called to be Alter Christus (other Christs). And that is why I am sure you will agree that Christianity is more akin to an anthroplogy than a religion.

I strongly suspect that the Holy Father would welcome a dialogue that begins to harmonize faith and reason. As you have noticed the Pontiff did not "apologize" for Regensburg for it would be improper to do so. Rather he stated something like he was sorry if his words caused anyone to be hurt. Why can't he "apologize"? Simply because to do so would be against reason. His faith prompts him, in charity, to be ever "reason"-able and thus to image Christ to every one he meets--in his thoughts, deeds and words. Love hurts. And if we need any proof of that--look at a crucifix.

Finally, post Regensburg the easy thing to do would be to "sugar-coat" the discussion, to "water-it-down". Rather, I suggest the Pontiff evidences true love (charity) by a seeking fullsome and open dialogue. For why would one want to explore issues/questions with friends who will agree with you. True dialogue and understanding comes from discussion with those friends who disagree with you.
Well said, in my humble opinion. Would that Archbishop Tutu had considered such a perspective before offering his well-meaning but misguided advice.

If we can't agree on reason (not Reasonableness) as the basis upon which we can agree on a world-view, we're all lost. The Pope said nothing more--and nothing less--than that. The world would be wise to acknowledge that.

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Ramapo Mountain Rising

Dawn over mountains,
A rising shade of deep blue
Night bows before day.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Night Raving

A splattered moment,
Mind all over the damn place!
Can't settle down now!

Still Resolving the Torture Question

Mark Shea responds to Jimmy Akin here:
the fact is, I have no huge problem with attempts to define torture in the abstract (though, as we shall see, I think there are problems with trying to be purely abstract in the real world). Nor do I claim that my definitions are definitive. Personally, I think the person I know (cyberly speaking) who has done the most rigorous thinking about the question of defining torture is Zippy, whose archives I urge you to read, both at his blog and at Enchiridion Militis. Likewise, there is little left for me to say in response to Jimmy's cogitations that Zippy (whose comments I urge you to read on this thread) has not said.

However, I will add this: while there may be, in some other world, a way to get to something that looks an awful lot like torture but is not intrinsically immoral and therefore not necessarily condemned by Veritatis Splendor, I can't help but think that this is mighty far removed from reality. Moreover, in *this* world where torture is being conducted by the State and its apologists and advocates in the real world are not much troubled by such fine-tuned arguments and typically operate on the basis of pure consequentialism, I can't help but wonder if "What is torture?" is still a profoundly wrong-headed question.

What I mean is this: it's fine, in the abstract, to wonder "What is famine?" and go into a long exploration of precisely how to define famine. What's the difference between famine and dieting? What about countries where food consumption is just normatively lower than, say, the United States? Are they suffering famine? How many people, as a percentage, have to be going hungry (and how do you define "hunger" precisely?) before a state of "famine" exists? Questions like this can be multiplied forever. They are all reasonable, thoughtful, and so forth. Yet, if we spend a huge amount of time on them and (most importantly) never come to any conclusions during the middle of, say, a state-enforced famine under Stalin we will, like it or not, begin to start sounding like we are making excuses for Stalin's actions. It begins to start sounding like we're saying, "Oh sure, a lot of people are "hungry" (as it's popularly called) but does it really qualify as a "famine". Lots of evil get shrouded by quotation marks.

Now, to be very clear, I am NOT saying that Jimmy is doing this. If Jimmy had been writing for a year, making every conceivable excuse for torture, starting up blogs devoted almost exclusively to attacking those who oppose torture, and endlessly expressing hopeless confusion over what is torture (while resolutely refusing to acknowledge any positive definition of torture) it would be a different story. I think he's making a first stab at trying to respond to a question he has not addressed a lot of thought to. He's welcome to give it a whack. I wish more people were trying to do it. It certainly beats pondering the meaning of the works of Eminem. And by the same token, I think Zippy has done a pretty good job of pointing out the weakenesses in the comboxes.

But beyond that, I think a paradigm shift is necessary. Our task as Catholics is not to probe the bare minimum of what is ethically necessary and hug it like a limpet. Our task is not to try to get as close to torture as possible without crossing a line. Jimmy himself recognizes this, I think, in his Big Red Disclaimer. But I think the tidal pull of the "What is torture?" question in the context of current events makes it hard for a lot of people to make the paradigm shift.

The paradigm shift is this: "Do not torture and abuse prisoners" is not the only thing the Church says about our obligation in wartime. There is a positive command as well: Treat prisoners humanely and with respect for their human dignity. If we are seriously obeying that, we will not be asking whether there are things we can do to them that look like torture but are not intrinsically immoral. That, at the end of the day, is not the real issue. Therefore, the question "What is torture?" while interesting in an abstract way, is a question that has, for far too long, derailed the real discussion. For the real question is, "How do we conduct interrogations while being sure to treat prisoners humanely?" Until we start asking that, we are barking up the wrong tree.
His commentators on a previous thread offer a diversity of thought.

As for me, I find the mad rush of Fools to go Foolable to the Right as laughable as going Foolable for the left. Some have done this by obscuring the meaning of the word torture with the very question. Some have done it by asking if ridiculously non-tortures are torture under someone's definition. Others take the minimalist approach.

Personally, I like Richard Comeford's take: Love your enemy. Practice that love in the context of military detention. Army Field Manuel sans current-politically-correct, OK-to-torture manure does the job nicely, from what I've seen.

How about we continue spreading the Foolishness our Master has entrusted to us? Leave the Foolable water-carrying aside. The Reasonable--of the right or the left--can carry their own.

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Turkey in the EU?

Pope Benedict XVI has reversed his position on the entry of Turkey into the EU.

The Times of London has more:

The Pope arrived in Turkey yesterday and within minutes appeared to back the country’s bid to enter the EU. He appealed for Christian-Muslim reconciliation and called on all religious leaders to “utterly refuse to support any form of violence in the name of faith”.

His controversial and potentially hazardous visit to an overwhelmingly Muslim country — it was intended originally to help reconciliation between Catholics and Orthodox Christians — was “pastoral, not political”, he insisted.

The build-up has been marked by setbacks in Turkey’s bid for EU membership — which Benedict XVI as a cardinal once termed a grave error — and a row in the Muslim world over his remarks about Islam in a university address two months ago.

His attempt to launch the four-day trip in a spirit of dialogue immediately came up against political realities. Asked by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, about the country’s EU prospects moments after his arrival, Pope Benedict voiced his support. “He said, ‘We’re not political, but we wish for Turkey to join the EU’,” Mr Edogan told reporters after the meeting.

However, a papal spokesman later clarified the Pope’s remarks, saying that he had told the Turkish leader that the Vatican did not have the power or competence to intervene, but “viewed positively and encouraged” the process of Turkish entry into the EU “on the basis of common values and principles”.

Mr Erdogan had also made an about-turn by agreeing to greet Benedict XVI at Ankara airport and hold talks there. In a break with protocol he greeted the Pope, 79, at the steps of his aircraft, a mark of respect from a leader who had initially said that he was too busy to meet him.

The Pope in turn appeared to nod understandingly when Mr Erdogan explained that he had to attend the Nato summit in Riga. Mr Erdogan said: “The most important message the Pope gave was toward Islam, reiterating his view of Islam as peaceful and affectionate.”

Pope Benedict's reversal makes sense in the context of his mission to Turkey. He seeks to promote a dialog between Christians and Muslims, as well as promote the unity of Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians. He could hardly accomplish these goals if he continued to object to Turkey's petition for EU membership.

I hope that he won't allow that reversal to become a blind eye to Turkey's incultured discrimination against Christians in the secular nation. If Turkey truly wants to become an EU member, it must act like one. That means not zoning discos across the street from parish churches and the like. Dialog with Muslims must not come at the expense of Christians. Otherwise, it ain't dialog.

Considering the Holy See's support for reciprocity, I don't think that will be the case. The Holy Father's welcoming of Turkey into the EU may, in fact, help ease tensions against him, and against the West in general, which have flared up there lately. Time will tell.

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Pope Benedict XVI in Turkey

The Church needs to breathe with two lungs.

The world's largest monotheistic faiths need to live in mutual respect and peace.

Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Turkey to further those goals.

The AP has the story:

Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Turkey Tuesday on his first visit to a Muslim country, where he will seek to ease anger over his perceived criticism of Islam and mend a split with the world's Orthodox Christians.

The pope's airplane landed in the Turkish capital of Ankara, amid a massive security operation designed to thwart any attempts to disrupt the pontiff's four-day trip at a time of heightened tension between the West and Islam.

Before departing for Ankara, the pontiff said in Rome that he was embarking on a "trip of dialogue, brotherhood and reconciliation at this difficult moment in history."

Turkish police monitored the highway leading to Ankara from the airport, where Turkish and Vatican flags waved in a light breeze. Snipers climbed atop buildings and hilltops. In wooded areas along the route, soldiers in camouflage fatigues set up observation points and sniffer dogs passed along bridges.

Benedict's journey is extraordinarily sensitive, a closely watched pilgrimage full of symbolism that could offer hope of religious reconciliation, or deepen what many say is a growing divide between the Christian and Islamic worlds.

The outcome depends partly on the words and gestures of Benedict, who triggered an outcry in September when he quoted a 14th century Christian emperor who characterized the Prophet Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman."

The Vatican said the speech was an attempt to highlight the incompatibility of faith and violence, and Benedict later expressed regret for the violent Muslim backlash.

The original goal of the pope's trip to Turkey was to meet Bartholomew I, leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians. The two major branches of Christianity represented by Bartholomew and Benedict split in 1054 over differences in opinion on the power of the papacy, and the two spiritual heads will meet in an attempt to breach the divide and reunite the churches.

Benedict leaves Ankara on Wednesday for Ephesus, where the Virgin Mary is thought to have spent her last years, and will then travel to Istanbul, a former Christian metropolis known as Constantinople until Ottoman Turks conquered it in 1453.

His visit has immense implications for all of us and for the world. We can all pray for his security and success on this pilgrimage. Jimmy Akin offers us a prayer that a reader forwarded to him:


NOV. 28 – DEC. 1, 2006

Heavenly Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, we humbly ask that you sustain, inspire, and protect your servant, Pope Benedict XVI, as he goes on pilgrimage to Turkey – a land to which St. Paul brought the Gospel of your Son; a land where once the Mother of your Son, the Seat of Wisdom, dwelt; a land where faith in your Son’s true divinity was definitively professed. Bless our Holy Father, who comes as a messenger of truth and love to all people of faith and good will dwelling in this land so rich in history. In the power of the Holy Spirit, may this visit of the Holy Father bring about deeper ties of understanding, cooperation, and peace among Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and those who profess Islam. May the prayers and events of these historic days greatly contribute both to greater accord among those who worship you, the living and true God, and also to peace in our world so often torn apart by war and sectarian violence. We also ask, O Heavenly Father, that you watch over and protect Pope Benedict and entrust him to the loving care of Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Fatima, a title cherished both by Catholics and Muslims. Through her prayers and maternal love, may Pope Benedict be kept safe from all harm as he prays, bears witness to the Gospel, and invites all peoples to a dialogue of faith, reason, and love. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Prayer composed by Bishop William E. Lori,
Knights of Columbus Supreme Chaplain

So Say We All!

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Overcast Dawn

Veil of dark skies lifts,
Broad swath of gray envelops
The promising day.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Night Travels

Distant din of cars,
Rumble down damaged asphalt,
Hudson on their path.

Jimmy Akin Defines Torture

Throughout the War on Terror, Catholic bloggers and blog commentators have struggled with torture. As I've seen the flame-wars play our:
  • We nearly all agree that torture is intrinsically evil.
  • We virulently differ on a definition of torture and what specific acts constitute torture.
  • A loud minority of us obscure the second step in an effort to blank check the current Administrations interrogation policies as licit.
Well, Jimmy Akin may have a proposed definition that helps clarify the debate. The lede:

Thus far we have seen that torture involves the infliction of pain but that not all infliction of pain counts as torture. There can be legitimate reasons for inflicting even extreme pain (as in the case of an emergency operation when anesthetic is not available) and there can be legitimate reasons to inflict pain in order to achieve legitimate behavioral goals (like getting people to obey the law).

I don't think that a definition of torture that focuses exclusively on the level of pain or on the purpose of the pain will be successful in capturing much of our commonsense understanding of torture (Parameter 1) and in picking out something that is intrinsically evil (Parameter 2).

Instead, I think that a more satisfying definition of torture can be developed by relating the quantity and purpose of the pain.

You'll note that one of the things that the Catechism said regarding punishment was "Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime" (CCC 2266). This statement contains an insight that I think will allow us to develop a more robust and intellectually satisfying definition of torture.

The money quote:

Going this route seems to allow us to propose a definition that would capture a great deal of the things that our commonsense understanding would count as torture.

So let's try this definition and see how it works: The sin of torture consists in the disproportionate infliction of pain.

My one concern? Seems a tad convenient--misses some acts that common sense would dictate as De Facto acts of torture:

Some might be disappointed that the definition I have proposed does not automatically classify certain physical acts as torture but allows them to be or not be torture based on the situation.

Take waterboarding as an example. I would say that waterboarding is torture if it is being used to get a person to confess to a crime (it is not proportionate to that end since it will promote false confessions). I would also say that it is torture if it is being used to get information out of a terrorist that could be gotten through traditional, less painful interrogation means (it is not proportionate to the end since there are better means available). I would not say that it is torture if it is being used in a ticking time bomb scenario and there is no other, less painful way to save lives (it is proportionate since there is not a better solution). And I would not say that it is torture if it is being used to train our own people how to resist waterboarding if it is used on them (this is apparently something we do, and it is proportionate on the understanding that there is no better way to help people learn to resist waterboarding).

I'm sorry, but I don't buy that. Can the simulation of drowning in any way ever be a proportionate infliction of pain? If so, then what's to stop other equally morally revolting methods from passing the disproportionate smell test?

Jimmy Akin's definition has potential as a concept to clarify the definition of torture for the legitimate seekers of said definition. I think the application of this definition to specific controversial acts, however, is wanting. If we start using it to justify the unjustifiable, then we've simply reinvented Proportionalism and forgotten Veritas Splendor.

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Pope Benedict XVI on Love and Truth's Invitation

Love and Truth does not impose. Love and Truth invites.

Don't bother grammar-checking me. I'm shamelessly ripping off Max Lucado to make his point.

God, Love and Truth himself, respects our free will. He offers. We choose to accept. Or not.

Pope Benedict reinforced this in his talk before his weekly praying of the Angelus:

"Answering the Roman governor's questions, Jesus affirms His kingship but says it is not of this world. He did not come to dominate peoples and lands, but to free mankind from the slavery of sin, and to reconcile him with God. And He added: 'For this ... I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth'."

"But what is this 'truth'," the Holy Father asked, "to which Christ has come to bear witness in the world?" And he answered: "His entire existence reveals that God is love. This is, then, the truth to which He bore full witness with the sacrifice of His life at Calvary. The Cross is the 'throne' from which he demonstrated the sublime regality of God-Love. Offering Himself in atonement for the sin of the world, He defeated the dominion of 'the ruler of this world' and definitively established the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom that will be fully realized at the end of time, after all the enemies - and in the last instance, death - will have been defeated. Then the Son will consign the Kingdom to the Father and, finally, God will 'be everything to everyone.'

"The road to reach this goal," the Pope added, "is long and no shortcuts are allowed. Indeed, it is necessary for each individual to freely accept the truth of God's love. He is Love and Truth, and neither love nor truth ever impose themselves; they knock at the door of the heart and the mind and, where they are allowed in, they bring peace and joy. This is the way God reigns, this is His process of salvation, a 'mystery' in the biblical sense of the word, in other words a plan that is revealed little by little over history."

Misguided members of the Church--present and past--have ignored God's invitational nature. They thought they could coerce people into Faith, when God himself has always stretched out a hand, not a fist. The more malicious of those misguided members have even abused the misplaced efforts of their brothers, pursuing their own ambitions through inappropriate coercion.

Nevertheless, the truth remains. God calls us. He yearns for us. When we're honest, we realize we yearn for him, too. Our encounter with the mystery of his profound reality reveals to us the meaning we've always sought. Our discovery of the singular exception that is Christ opens us to the full experience of this mystery. We hunger for ultimate Reality. What a joy to realize he comes looking for us!

We can accept him and live the lives we've always wanted. We can reject him and try to nourish our starving selves on the same transient illusions. Either way, we begin to live our eternity in the wake of that decision. Yet while we live, we can always change our minds. For better or worst!

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Advice for the President

Look to Reagan. Look to Clinton.

That's what Peter Baker of the WP suggests:

Historical comparisons are always fraught with peril, since each president faces his own distinct challenges and brings unique faculties and flaws to the task. But veterans of past administrations see patterns that offer hope even to badly weakened presidents such as Bush. Adversaries who assume that Bush has been permanently crippled by the Democratic takeover of Congress, they say, misunderstand the opportunities still available to him.

Both Reagan and Clinton found that the power of the bully pulpit still gave them an advantage over a Congress controlled by the other party. Both Reagan and Clinton used a mix of cooperation and confrontation, moving to the middle on selected issues to pass legislation while standing firm on others that touched on core principles. Both pounced when the other side overreached.

Whether Bush could emulate those examples is an open question. He points to his time as Texas governor, when he worked with Democratic legislators. But since winning the White House, he has only sporadically reached out to the other side. And unlike Reagan or Clinton, he presides over an unpopular war with no end in sight.

"He really has to make a fundamental decision, and if he hasn't made it by now, it may be too late," said Leon E. Panetta, who was Clinton's chief of staff in 1994 and now serves on a bipartisan commission on Iraq. "He has to decide whether he's going to be willing to sit down with the Democratic leadership and cut deals and get things done. And he has to decide whether Iraq is going to be his whole legacy, good or bad, or whether he wants to get other things done."

Bush's opening message since the election has been one of conciliation, in firing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, as many critics had urged, and in reaching out to incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.). "Let's let the election go," White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove said in a recent interview. "Let's say, 'Okay, where are some places where we can work together?' "

At the same time, Bush may wait for the right moment to take on Democrats. He has issued only one veto in six years in office but would be eager to veto Democratic spending bills. "The question is if they want to test him on the veto," said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy. "If I were them, I wouldn't. If they're trying to present themselves as the party of fiscal discipline," it would be a mistake to let a spending bill be vetoed.

The President's party lost Congress because the party and the President appeared lost touch. The president vetoed one bill--one that would have restored funding for human embryonic stem-cell research. He has never vetoed a spending bill. He has never called for the kind of fiscal responsibility from his own party that Reagan called for from the Democrats. He has failed to effectively communicate the nation's strategy in Iraq. He's played fast and loose with constitutional due process and the natural law by supporting policies such as rendition and legislation such as the recent "torture" bill.

The President can regain his footing by returning to the principles that the people support. A limited, fiscally-responsible government governs best. A government protects Americans without sacrificing Americans' souls. America fights wars she has to fight--and wins. If the President convinces the public that he stands for these, he will regain their trust.

If he doesn't, then the Democrats will take back the White House in 2008.

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Early Winter Blues

Gnawing at my throat,
Heavy cough, deep in my chest;
Rising with the cold.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

An Outting

We plan to see the trains.

The annual Christmas Train Show has returned. Well, NY Botanical Garden calls it the "Holiday Train Show." Tough! We know what it is.

Anyways, you might remember some of my pics from last year.

Blogging may be light today.

Expect me when you see me!


Atypical Sunday Morn'

Resting on my lap,
Sucks his thumb, cries, "No kisses!"
Opens pop-up book

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Politics of Naivete

David Ignatius of the Washington Post means well. He feels heartsick at the "politics of assassination" that currently rule the Middle East. It's not surprising that he looks to abstractions and institutions-as-ideals for solutions.

Unfortunately, his approach suffers from a lack of reality. In his effort to generalize, he misses the context in which the violence occurs.

For instance, when he says:
This is a time of convulsive change in the region, and many doors are being pushed open. Syria has an opportunity to leave behind its drab Cold War trench coat and become a modern, prosperous Mediterranean nation; Hezbollah, the militia that represents Lebanon's dispossessed Shiite population, has a chance to lead its followers into political power and prosperity. But they won't realize these opportunities so long as the politics of assassination rules the region. If Syria and Hezbollah keep brandishing their power like a grenade, it will ultimately blow apart in their hands.
He misses the reality in which both Syria and Hezbollah operate. Syria has long sought to destabilize Israel and re-secure the Golan Heights. The occupation of Lebanon has helped Syria to pursue this strategy. How? Their pernicious influence weakened the Lebanese in the North while allowing Iran-supported Hezbollah to concentrate its power in the south. Lebanon thus became a proxy-server for Israel's enemies--right on her northern border.

Speaking of Hezbollah, this same "militia that represents Lebanon's dispossessed Shiite population" provoked Israel into invading Lebanon by abducting IDF personnel--in Israel! Hezbollah already had a prominent role in the Lebanese government. Why would this representative of the people defy their own government and drag their Shia followers into an unwinnable war with Israel? Because they could pose as the true deliverers of Lebanon from the Satanic West. They cultivated the image of the defiant defender against Israeli aggression, even as they lost engagement after engagement. Their tactic placed the Lebanese government in the untenable position of having to either support their terrorist tactics or leave their southern populace at the mercy of the IDF. The government's inept handling of the crisis may have caused many Lebanese to rethink their support. Who else in Lebanon remains, especially for the Shia, but Hezbollah?

That serves both Iran and Syria's interests. Bashir and the Mullahcracy want to become the counterpoint to US and Israeli influence in the Middle East. Destabilizing Lebanon puts Israel on her heels and may give the US pause should an administration seek to invade Tehran or Damascus. Never mind that no credible policy-maker even suggests the likelihood of such a move in the near future. The perceptions of the powers behind the Syrian-Iranian axis drives their policy.

They clearly will use any means necessary to enact their policy. The recent assassination of Mr. Gemayel may be an example. His death--along with another attempted assassination--would have collapsed the government that will approve a UN Special Tribunal. The world in general--and Damascus in particular--expect the Tribunal will prove Syria masterminded the recent political assassinations that plagued Lebanon. Syria will not let this happen.

Mr. Ignatius is right when he says that Syria and Hezbollah's brandishing violence will ultimately backfire on them both. The power-brokers in each don't understand that. They've never had to account for the blowback their politics of violence has caused. Until they do, they'll continue to do what they've done.

Indian Summer Day II

A leaf-blower's low hum,
Creaks and streams of running gold
Under a blue sky

Friday, November 24, 2006

Whistling Past the Huddled Masses

Should we seek definitive solutions to contemporary problems?

Must we solve for all time the crises that plague us in the moment?

Or should we solve present-day conundrums now?

Peggy Noonan thinks out loud:
Immigration in Lincoln's day was open and legal. Now it is open in effect because overwhelmingly illegal in practice. If you want to come across the border, you can, essentially, come. You make the decision about what is best for you; America does not make the decision as to what is best for it. Both Congress and the White House, our official deciders, will likely do in the next session what they did in the last: spend a lot of time trying to confuse people into thinking they're closing the borders without actually closing them. There will be talk again of fences, partial fences, fencelike entities and virtual fences. While they dither and mislead, towns and cities will continue to attempt to make their own immigration policy.

You know the facts. Immigrants are here in huge numbers, unlawfully, in the age of terror. They swell the cost of local life--emergency rooms, schools--which has an impact on local taxes. There are towns and cities that feel, and are, overwhelmed. And no one will help them.

The essential reason, I think, is that America's elites don't want America's borders closed. Businesses want low-wage workers; intellectuals are wed to global visions of cross-border prosperity; politicians want Hispanic loyalty and the Hispanic vote. It's not convenient for any of them to close the borders. If Americans on the ground are enduring difficulties over this, it's . . . too bad. This is further eroding America's already eroding faith in its institutions.

I think there are two unremarked elements of the debate that are now contributing to the government's inability or refusal to come up with a solution.

The problem is not partisanship. It is not polarization, not really. Sentiments on this of all issues in the nation of immigrants are and would be complicated, nuanced. The problem is doctrinaire-ness. Even as both parties have become less philosophical, less tied to their animating philosophies, they have become more doctrinaire. The people who should be solving the immigration problem are holding fiercely to abstractions--to big-think economic theory, to emanations of penumbras in the law--instead of facing a crucial, concrete and immediate challenge.

The second element is definitiveness. Our political figures say they have to concentrate on an overall, long-term, comprehensive answer to the immigration problem. So they huff and puff about the long-term implications of this move or that, and in the end they do nothing.

They are like people in a burning house who sit around discussing the long-term efficacy of various kinds of water hoses while the house burns down around them.

Elites can protect themselves from the unintended consequences of their sacred cows. The Everyman can't. Elites can ignore the economic, social and cultural complications that unfettered illegal immigration impose on communities. They can afford to play the ideologue or the cynical pragmatist. Unfortunately, their posture at standing on principle costs ordinary people not so fortunate or blessed.

Including illegal immigrants.

Those here illegally live in fear of being discovered. They may become trapped in a black-market economy in which they work at wages well below fair-market. Their children face obstacles to securing financial aid for higher education. Yes, some exploit the US' social services. Many, however, simply seek to make an honest living. The circumstances of their entry into the country immeasurably complicate this simple desire.

Meanwhile, who asks legal immigrants how they feel about others illegally enjoying the benefits of residence? Legal immigrants have to wait for VISAs and sponsorships. They jump through infuriating bureaucratic hoops in order to legally live in the US. Meanwhile, people that had the fortune of living on the same continental land mass as the US enter the US without undergoing those rigors. Should any of us wonder when some legal immigrants ask, "Why bother?"

Never mind the struggles communities face when illegal immigrants settle down there. School overpopulation, stress on health care institutions--and the corresponding increase in local property taxes--represent the tip of the iceberg.

Our society can't afford the selfish blindness that our national leadership--from both political parties--demonstrates. The people of the United States--all people--deserve far better.

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Indian Summer Day

Sunlight seeps through drapes,
Tinges of blue sky beyond the shade,
Warm daylight unfolds!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Await the Feast!

Naked, plump turkey
roasts on rails in the oven
Sumptuous fragrance!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

The Essence of Giving Thanks

Our ancestors offered their thanks for their survival in a harsh new world.

We can never show enough gratitude for the blessings each of us has received.

Nevertheless, here are five things I am grateful for this year:

1. Frankie's health, happiness and growth

2. Mira and I deepening our commitment to writing together and positively responding to serious economic challenges.

3. The creative fruit I've born this year.

4. Meeting wonderful new people, whom I share a unique bond.

5. Our family passing through difficult circumstances.

What five things are you grateful for?

Pass it on!

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CFCA's 25th!

When we serve the poor, we serve Christ. When we deny the poor, we deny Christ.

Five Catholic lay people in Kansas took the gospel at its word. The fruit of their commitment is the organization Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. This service provider of the world's neediest children and seniors celebrates its 25th anniversary. Catholic online has the story:

Twenty-five years ago, a group of lay Catholics from Kansas City agreed the world could benefit from a personalized sponsorship program based on Catholic social teaching and true friendship across borders. Brothers Bob, Bud and Jim Hentzen, their sister Nadine (Hentzen) Pearce and their friend, Jerry Tolle, founded Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, which was incorporated on Nov. 20, 1981. Today, thanks to the generosity of sponsors from all 50 states and 60 countries, CFCA works with more than 310,000 children, youth and aged in 25 countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Those sponsored through CFCA receive vital benefits such as food, education, medical care, clothing and training in income-producing trades.

“God has deeply blessed CFCA on its journey across these 25 years,” said CEO Paco Wertin. “CFCA has been shaped by those we have reached out to serve. Grounded in Catholic social teaching, we dedicate ourselves to life-giving relationships that will, over time, transform our world.”

Nov. 20 kicked off a series of commemorations of milestones for the organization, which is based in Kansas City, Kan. The first child was sponsored in the Bogota, Colombia, project in early 1982. In 1984, the organization added sponsorship of the aged and is the only major sponsorship organization to include the aged in its sponsorship program.

In 1988, CFCA hosted its first mission awareness trip to Guatemala. Mission awareness trips provide an opportunity for sponsors to travel to CFCA projects in other countries to meet their sponsored friends and witness the program in action. In 2006, CFCA led 492 travelers on 28 mission awareness trips to 13 countries. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Kansas City, Kan., archdiocese is CFCA’s Silver Jubilee sponsor. Archbishop Naumann sponsors Rolando Condori Vallejos, a third-year seminarian at Mayor Nacional San Jose Seminary in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Besides children, youth and the aged, CFCA offers the opportunity to sponsor candidates studying for religious vocations in developing countries. Co-founders Bob Hentzen, Bud Hentzen and Pearce remain active in CFCA. Bob Hentzen is the organization’s president, overseeing CFCA’s international operations from his home base in Guatemala.

The Blushing Bride and I had individually sponsored a child before we had met. I had been blessed by the experience. The child one sponsors sends letters and a picture to his or her sponsor. I felt so touched by the communication I received from my beneficiary.

As I recall, less than 10% of all donations go toward administrative costs. The rest benefits the recipients of the organizations' mission. Many charities have administrative overhead of at least 33% of donations, and sometimes even higher.

CFCA deserves every Reasonable, Foolable and Fools' support. We can all agree that helping an organization help the poor benefits them and our world. If you can, show CFCA your support. What better way could any of us express our gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day?

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FyF's Thanksgiving Morn'

Footsteps down the stairs,
Through the open door below,
to his grand-parents!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Defenders of the Faith

"For Whoever is not against us is for us."
Mark 9:40

Defenders come from all corners. Benjamin Rodkin delivers an impassioned defense of the Faith--from outside the Communion! Behold:
First, Porcaro states that the Church has affirmed its stance against "gay rights." I do not know if she has ever bothered to read the catechism (I know it's long and boring, much easier to just criticize the Church than actually read what it teaches), but the Church affirms the dignity of all people regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. The Church does oppose gay marriage, which I understand some people see as a "right" (except of course when it comes to polygamy, then all of a sudden the right of people in love to marry no longer becomes inalienable), but such opposition does not equate itself with being against "gay rights."

Porcaro is quite right to say the Church condemns the homosexual lifestyle and she also correctly notes that it condemns divorce and pre-marital sex of any kind, but she then goes overboard by writing "I don't see the Vatican issuing edicts targeting divorcees or college students and their places in the church. There is a famous story in the Bible where the prostitute Mary Magdalene is to be stoned. Jesus stands in front of her and tells the men that 'he without sin may by the first one to throw a stone.' Guess how many rocks were tossed?"

The Church does in fact regularly condemn divorce and heterosexual sex outside of marriage - again, its all there in the catechism, do take the time to read it - and Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical "God is Love" criticizes modern culture, which has turned sex into something about selfish pleasures rather than real romantic love. Porcaro is also wrong to say Magdalene was a prostitute; she was not. Furthermore, what did Jesus say to the sinful woman after he had defended her from those who wished to stone her? "Go your way and from now on sin no more!" (John 8:11).

Yes, Catholics and Christians in general (the same goes for Jews or any other religious group) have an obligation to love their fellow man and woman, but that does not mean condoning everything they choose to do. Porcaro is right to say that the judgment should be left to God, and that, in fact, is what the Church teaches, but no one is obliged to condone sin. You may love your friend dearly, but if he or she was a thief, a drug addict or worse and did things you knew to be wrong, you may love him or her nonetheless but would not say what he or she were doing was somehow OK. If Porcaro thinks the Church's view of homosexuality or sexuality in general is wrong, that is her opinion and she is entitled to it, but what is unfair is for her to force her opinion upon the Church.
Eloquent, empathetic and completely on-target! Mr. Rodkin's Foolishness evicerates his Reasonable interlocutors typical tripe with an account of the Church's teachings. I salute his fair defense.

More like him, please!

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Lebanon Pleads for Help

Desperate times, and all that.

Two ministers go, the government falls. Meanwhile, the UN "Special Tribunal" looms--if Lebanon approves.

Which She can't do if her government loses quorum, which it holds by two ministers.

The Times of London has more:

The Lebanese Prime Minister asked the UN yesterday to help to find the killer of Pierre Gemayel, as the Christian minority prepared to bury the latest prominent anti-Syrian figure to be assassinated in the country.

Fouad Siniora, the embattled Western-backed leader, made the request as his Government fought off collapse and the country’s 20-month political troubles moved towards a possible climax. His call came a day after the UN Security Council endorsed the creation of an international court to try political assassins in Lebanon.

The court will also handle 14 related assassinations and terrorist attacks aimed at prominent critics of Syrian influence in Lebanon, and could extend its jurisdiction to Mr Gemayel’s murder as well.

Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, told the Security Council that Mr Siniora had “requested technical assistance for the Government of Lebanon’s efforts to investigate the murder of Mr Gemayel” and asked for UN investigators to “be in touch with the relevant Lebanese authorities”. Diplomats said, however, that Russia might try to block a UN role.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, used Mr Gemayel’s assassination to issue an impassioned plea to Arab states to send peacekeepers to the UN force in south Lebanon. “The Middle East is simmering. There are calls to do something about it but are you going to just sit on the sidelines like a spectator? Are you going to just give out advice?” In Beirut, the Government cancelled Independence Day celebrations and streets in the city were deserted as anxious Lebanese observed three days of mourning for Mr Gemayel.

Why do I get the feeling that the SC will drag its feet?

Oh, that's right: because Iran will want Russia and China to do so.

Perhaps they'll abstain. Perhaps. But don't color me hopeful on that score. Iran's alliance with Syria ensures that they want Lebanon's government to fall. A UN Special Tribunal will prove Syrian involvement in assassination of anti-Syrian politicians. That finding will nail the coffin of Syria's dominance over Lebanon shut for good. The Mullahcracy won't let that happen.

The US and the Europeans on the SC had better find a way to get Russia and China to behave. The tribunal must proceed. That means Lebanon's government must stand.

How seriously will the West fight for Lebanon? The time of decision looms.


Divorce in "Paradise"

The way some wax poetic about "Gay marriage", a Fool might expect that they have discovered heaven-on-Earth. If he didn't know better.

For human nature takes it's toll. The Lede observes the collision between ideology and reality, already in progress:

Just in time for the holidays! A preliminary hearing has been set for Dec. 5 in the case of a lesbian couple in Rhode Island who have filed for a divorce. Thing is, in Rhode Island, like most states, the laws don’t really recognize gay marriage, much less gay divorce.

The couple was married in Massachusetts, which became the only state to legalize gay marriage in 2004.

Divorce papers were filed on Oct. 23, and according to the Associated Press, state officials are uncertain how to proceed:

Rhode Island Family Court Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah Jr. has yet to decide whether his court has jurisdiction and said he believes it is the first filing for a same-sex divorce in the state.

Divorce is always a defeat. In this case, legality complicates the tragedy. These women--presumably unhappy with one another--find themselves bound by the decision they made in MA.

Law can't define reality. A couple's desire--even for a divorce--won't dictate terms to the people of a state. The more our Reasonable overlords insist otherwise, the more complicated problems we'll all continue to encounter.

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Robinson on "Kramer"

The sky truly falls. No, not just the rain over the Northeast!

I agree with a MSM columnist.

Eugene Robinson, writing for the WP, discovers what lurks beneath the outbursts of both Michael Richards and Mel Gibson. Take a closer look:
The other lesson is that in each case, something ugly erupted from somewhere so deep inside that I'm not sure Richards, Gibson or Allen even knew the ugliness was there.

Richards's heckler just happened to be black. As far as we know -- the video clip begins with the comedian losing it -- there was no racial content in the heckling. But something inside Richards was triggered, some hidden fail-safe switch, and he went immediately to race as if that were the reason the man was annoying him and thus an appropriate way to strike back. He didn't see the heckler as a man, he saw him as a black man -- one who needed to be reminded that once upon a time he might have been lynched for his impertinence, and who needed to be put in his place with the most explosive word in the language.

Gibson's rant about Jews was a similar thing. Allen's fumble was less unforgivable, but then again he's a United States senator, not an actor or a comedian.
I ranted with a colleague about a headline in one of the NY tabloids. The headline ran: Art made Kramer crazy. The paper appeared to put Kramer's racism behind him in a mere two days, while the MSM hammered Gibson for his anti-semitic outburst for far longer. The double-standard infuriated me.

Mr. Robinson redeemed that unfortunate copy editor's transgression. He touches on the darkness within us all that awaits the opportunity to consume us. Mr. Richards wraith lashed out in pure racism at a mere heckler. Mr. Gibson's imprudence gushed out anti-semitism unworthy of a civilized man. Both of them surrendered to their darkness in a moment of unadulterated emotion.

We could be either of them. Perhaps we'll not pour out venemous racism or insidious anti-semitism. We'll flood our surroundings with more original sins, nevertheless. Our lack of vigilance ensures that we'll stop loving our Creator and his creation. Let us beware when we're falling asleep at the wheel.

Mr. Robinson rightly calls Mr. Richards to task. No responsible commentator will give him a pass while slamming Mr. Gibson. They both deserve the criticism they've received.

Yes, we must forgive them both. We must extend forgiveness to them both. We must not, however, whitewash one man's sins while condemning another for his own. Hypocrisy is a luxury we can't afford.

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Fatigue Behind the Wheel

Rain-splattered windshield,
light-littered haze in my eyes,
Long commute to home.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Some people should never speak to the MSM before consulting a PR specialist.

Amy Welborn has a case study (hat tip to Mark Shea):
Well, there's been worse. But the Bishop Kate Schori interview in the NYTimes Magazine is gaining fast. Especially this part.
How many members of the Episcopal Church are there in this country?

About 2.2 million. It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.

Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?

No. It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.
Amy's response? Perfection!
Well, I would respond to this but I'm afraid I'm going to occupied for the next few hours practicing reading the next Henry and Mudge book before I attempt to read it to my 5-year old. 'Cause it's really hard, you know. Oh, and then I'm going to go out and throw my 5th child's dirty diapers in the St. Joseph River. 'Cause I'm a Catholic.
Bishop Schori, thank you for your heartfelt and ecumenically sensitive broadbrush of sixty-five million US Catholics. We appreciate your description of us as uneducated breeding machines. Nothing but love for ya!


Gemeyal Assassinated

Pro-Syrian forces--perhaps in coordination with Damascus--struck Lebanon today. Assassins murdered Industry Minister Pierre Gemeyal.

The AP has more:

Pierre Gemayel, an anti-Syrian politician and scion of Lebanon's most prominent Christian family, was gunned down Tuesday in a carefully orchestrated assassination that heightened tensions between the U.S.-backed government and the militant Hezbollah.

Anti-Syrian politicians quickly accused Damascus, as they have in previous assassinations of Lebanese opponents of its larger neighbor. Gemayel, 34, an outspoken opponent of the Syrian-allied Hezbollah, was the fifth anti-Syrian figure killed in the past two years and the first member of the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora to be slain.

The assassination, in Gemayel's mainly Christian constituency of Jdeideh, threatens further instability in Lebanon at a time when Hezbollah and other parties allied with Syria are planning street protests unless Saniora gives them more power.

The United States denounced the killing, calling it "an act of terrorism."

(AP) Two supporters of anti-Syrian Christian politician Pierre Gemayel, who was assassinated in a suburb...
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Saniora went on national television to call for unity and warned that "sedition" was being planned against Lebanon. He linked the slaying to the issue that sparked the crisis with Hezbollah: plans to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri before an international court.

"I pledge to you that your blood will not go in vain," Saniora said, eulogizing Gemayel. "We will not let the murderers control the fate of Lebanon and the future of its children."

Gemayel, Lebanon's industry minister and a member of the Phalange Party, had just left a church and was traveling through Jdeideh when a vehicle in front of him slammed to a stop, causing his car to ram it, security officials said. Witnesses said Gemayel's car was also struck from behind.

Three gunmen stepped out of the other vehicles and shot Gemayel at point-blank range with automatic weapons, security officials said.

Michael Totten sees a Syrian coup in progress:
UPDATE: Abu Takla in the comments says "one more to go, not 2. If they assassinate one more minister, the cabinet is automatically dissolved, because it would lack the two-thirds + 1 it needs to be constitutional."

UPDATE: Another member of Lebanon's political cabinet, Michel Pharaon was targetted with assassination today. He survived. But if the bastards had gotten him, the government would have fallen and stage one of the coup would be over.

The Counterterrorism Blog agrees:
In fact, the timing and the murder of anti Syrian Christian Minister Pierre Gemayel should not be any surprise. Indeed for months now, anti Syrian Lebanese personalities have been under heavy physical threat. Some of them have been even shuttling between Paris and Beirut to lessen the odds of them being killed. Even French President Chirac has been pointing out about the imminent dangers and offered in some cases protection for top leaders. Also recently a list has been circulated with the names of the potential victims of Syrian terror. The most prominent politicians including Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblatt, Fuad Siniora, Samir Gegea are rounding the top spots on the list.
While there's no doubt that Syria is all over this latest murder as it was in the 2005 targeted assassinations of anti Syrian activists, intellectuals and journalists, the operatives might turn out to be pro Syrian Lebanese, including potentially Hezbollah members. Indeed it's no coincidence that Hezbollah left the Siniora government ten days ago and is preparing massive street demonstrations for Thursday; Jumblatt actually thinks it's going to be part of a coup.
Syria and Iran would like nothing more than to destabilize Lebanon. A pro-Syrian Lebanon ensures that Damascus will re-occupy the country. This will put considerable pressure on Israel and the US--especially as Iraq comes apart and the Iraqi government makes overtures to Syria and Iran. At the very least, a Lebanon torn apart by civil war creates a chaotic situation in which Syria can maximize its influence.

The assassins were one hit away from collapsing the Cabinet. Syria or her proxies will try again soon.

The West must not allow them to succeed. Otherwise, Iran and Syria will become the new hegemony in the Middle East. Expect no quarter from them.


Fine Young Fool Mid-Afternoon

Resting in my arms,
Groaning, groggy from his nap,
He smiles at last!

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Good, The Bad

The Good:

News Corp sees the light:
O.J. Simpson's book and TV special were canceled Monday, an astonishing end to an imaginary confession that had sickened the public as the very worst kind of tabloid sensation.

"I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," said Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. (NWS) owns both Fox Broadcasting and publisher HarperCollins. "We are sorry for any pain that this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson."

"If I Did It," in which Simpson was to have described how he would have killed his ex-wife, had been scheduled to air as a two-part interview Nov. 27 and Nov. 29 on Fox. The book was to have followed on Nov. 30.

HarperCollins spokeswoman Erin Crum said some copies had already been shipped to stores but would be recalled, and all copies would be destroyed.

"I think News Corp. finally stepped up, admitted they made a mistake and did the right thing," said Jonathan Polak, the lawyer for Fred Goldman, Ron's father. "This is everything we have been asking News Corp. to do for the past two weeks. We want to thank the American people for helping make this happen."
The Bad:

Michael Richards swallows the darkness--and lets his inner klansman scream!
Michael Richards exploded in anger as he performed at a famous L.A. comedy club last Friday, hurling racial epithets that left the crowd gasping, and TMZ has obtained exclusive video of the ugly incident.

Richards, who played the wacky Cosmo Kramer on the hit TV show "Seinfeld," appeared onstage at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood. Kyle Doss, an African-American, told TMZ he and some friends were in the cheap seats and he was playfully heckling Richards when suddenly, the comedian lost it.

The camera started rolling just as Richards began his attack, screaming at one of the men, "Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your (bleep!)"
Enough of that...this is a family blog, after all. So follow the link with care!

God is love. OJ Simpson and Michael Richards' stunts aren't. America's outcry is our tough-love response to both of them.

Every now and then our enshadowed society feels a pang of conscience. Right before gorging on the next decadent new thing.

Wonder if Mr. Richards will remain in the celebrity doghouse as long as Mel Gibson?

Not holding my breath, now. After all, he didn't direct a $600 million-earning film that honored Christ. He only made Jim Crow the fashion of the mili-second.

Time will tell.


Turkey Looms...

...the journey, not the bird.

Pope Benedict XVI travels to Turkey for historic talks with the Patriarch of Constantinople.

"Reciprocity"--the granting of Christian minorities in Muslim lands the same rights as Muslim minorities enjoy in non-Muslim countries--would benefit all Christians there.

But Regensburg looms. So does history. NCR columnist John Allen has more:
Often, however, the obstacles facing Christians are a matter of petty bureaucratic harassment rather than formal legal discrimination.

In Mersin, for example, a port city on the Turkish Mediterranean, a handful of Capuchin missionaries once operated a center for the formation of young Turkish Christians. Shortly after 2000, however, it was shut down on the grounds that it was "not authorized by the Ministry of Public Instruction." The government moved to expropriate the facility, triggering a legal challenge by the Capuchins which will probably drag on for years. The Capuchins also offered courses in Italian and English for Turkish adults in Mersin, with no catechetical agenda, yet those courses too were ordered closed.

In Adana, another Mediterranean city, a Catholic parish was forced to close in 2005 after a bar and disco opened up in an adjacent space featuring round-the-clock, ear-splitting music. The mayor had promised the Catholic pastor that the bar would be moved, especially since the spot was not zoned for commercial activity, but in the end nothing happened. Eventually the parish closed because it became impossible to conduct normal pastoral activity. Given that it's virtually impossible to obtain permission to build a new church in Turkey, today the few hundred Catholics in Adana have to travel 80 kilometers to Mersin for Mass, while the pastor relocated to Iskenderun.

These and similar stories make up the daily fabric of Christian life in Turkey. Yet when I interviewed Patriarch Mesrob II, head of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Turkey, last year, he rather surprisingly said he hoped Benedict would not bring up such matters, saying it would amount to "interfering in the internal affairs of Turkey."

Why the sensitivity?

Because Western challenges regarding the status of Christians in Turkey today don't occur in a historical vacuum. In fact, there's a long and not terribly edifying history of foreign governments, especially Europeans, insisting upon special privileges for Christians within the old Ottoman Empire, which from the 16th to the 20th century was the main carrier of Islamic civilization. Such appeals are associated in the Turkish mind with treachery and anti-Islamic hostility, so that Benedict's rhetoric on "reciprocity" risks being misunderstood as merely the latest installment in a centuries-old story of Westerners who don't have Turkey's best interests at heart using the status of Christians as a classic "Trojan Horse."

For centuries, Greeks and Armenians as well as other Christian groups within the Ottoman Empire prospered, so that it was fairly easy for many Orthodox to say, "Rather the turban of the Turk than the tiara of the pope." Part of the reason was that almost from the very beginning of Ottoman rule, the emperors granted a series of what came to be known as "capitulations," first to the French in 1536, then to all foreign merchants operating in the empire. These capitulations granted exemptions from various taxes and laws as well as a series of special privileges. Eventually the capitulations were claimed as an extraterritorial right by all Christians living in Ottoman lands.
He has a suggestion:
Thus if Benedict XVI elects to push the reciprocity issue in Turkey -- and there are powerful arguments for doing so -- he should understand that he doesn't begin with a blank slate. It will be important for the pope to make clear that he's not talking about a new form of "capitulation" aimed at privileging Christians, or undermining Turkey's power or prestige.

One possible way to do that is to engage the religious liberty issue across the board in Turkey, for Muslims as well as Christians. It's still a delicate question in an officially secular state where many public forms of Islamic faith and practice are discouraged or officially banned. Under the modernizing program of Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey in the early 20th century, the Islamic caliphate was abolished, Islamic courts and brotherhoods were banned, and both the female headscarf and the traditional Turkish fez were prohibited. The Muslim calendar was replaced with the European system, polygamy was banned, and the Turkish language was rendered into the Latin alphabet.
The School of the Americas
School of the Americas: Nov. 6-21
NCR cafe is covering the lead up to and the annual protest at Fort Benning, Ga., with podcasts and discussion tables about nonviolence, Christian peacemaking and U.S. Foreign policy.
Listen and read the material, and then join a disucssion: SOA material.

While many of these measures had the desired effect of placing Turkey on a pro-Western, modernizing course, they also drove Islam underground and converted it into a permanent source of political radicalism. Today, Turkey is struggling to strike a balance between healthy expressions of religious faith while at the same time preserving the secular character of its state.

If Benedict phrases his reciprocity challenge in terms of a broad appeal for religious freedom for all Turkish citizens, it could resonate with many Muslims who themselves feel frustrated with what many see as an overly restrictive environment. (A recent poll found that 68 percent of Turks regard the ban on headscarves, which is widely flouted in practice, to be a violation of religious freedom). In the long run, this may prove a more effective way of improving the lot of Turkish Christians, as opposed to a direct challenge on their behalf.
He makes sense.

But is this Pope Benedict's agenda?

The Holy See has certainly expressed reservations over Turkey's involvement with Europe. Vatican officials have objected to EU motions that would fast-track Turkey's membership. The Pope himself, while still a cardinal, had questioned the cultural compatibility between Europe and the secular-Muslim democracy. He made the case for the importance of all faithful to adhere to reason and reject violence committed in God's name.

But doesn't the Body of Christ have a more pressing need? Isn't it long past time that we all breathe through two lungs?

I hope that the Holy Father seeks to further the fruitful cooperation between Catholic and Orthodox communions. I pray that through his efforts--and the Patriarchs' response--the Catholic Church of East and West finally become one once more.

The world needs our united witness.

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Facilities for the Modern Educator

Jarring rhythm plays,
confining walls, closing in:
Teachers' new prep room

Sunday, November 19, 2006

At the Close of The Chronicles

A voice, long thought lost
Pierce the heart with poignant note
Narnian love song

Another Epiphany!

There are Epiphanies:

And then there are Epiphanies.

The Reasonable foamed at the mouth:
A portrait of the Savior hung in a school!
A Fool laughed.

The Foolable slobbered his shirt:
"'One-issue' Christian voters deny social justice!"
A Fool laughed.

Week after week,
tortured debate in the pew:
Was he free? Was it so bad?

He needed the help, didn't he?

Up he rose,
wife by his side
on his way to the altar

Did this Fool laugh then?

An accidental hypocrite,
the most insidious fall to Foolability
for journeyman or saintly Fools alike.

The Log in our eye,
we proudly keep to better see
the splinters in theirs.

A time alone,
Truth burns the wood away:
He faces what he's done.

He accepts, stands aside
kneels as Fools pass him by
on their way to the altar.

Yes, there are epiphanies.

Thank God!

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At Ease

Flow across the yard,
tired, withered leaves at rest,
fallen on my yard.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


What do we choose? The Ephemeral, or the Eternal? The lasting or the passing?

What we choose, we receive. We sow, we reap.

Penitens reminds us of the stakes of our decision:
Many people today, especially young people, desperately want to be seen as being "with it" - in sync with what is fashionable and "up-to-date."

In the end, they are disappointed, for the fashions of the moment inevitably collapse into the ash heap of history: forever "out of it."


May we root ourselves in the eternal truth of Christ (forever "with it"), not the flowing quicksand of passing philosophy and contemporary culture.
Love lasts. Illusion fades. When we choose to love, we live in Love. When we love one another, we live in union with the Person who is Love. And since Love is eternal, we participate in eternity to the extent that we love. Our eternity begins with our lives here and now. Will we share in it, and rise up on that fountain to everlasting life with him?

Or will we squander it, and spend eternity in pursuit of every passing illusion?

Our choice. Made with every decision we make every day.


Late Autumn Wind

Windchime melody
Whispered roar around the yard
Swirl of dried, fall leaves

Friday, November 17, 2006

Reasonable Religio-cides Breach the Gate!

Who could imagine the oppression this portrait caused?

If you walk the halls of Bridgeport High School in Bridgeport, VA, you might still hear them. The screams, that is. You might catch the last horrified breaths of those poor students. Imagine the horror that parents went through. For thirty-seven (that's 37) years, those eeevil Christianistas imposed their insidious propaganda on the citizens of Bridgeport.

That's how long the portrait above hung on the wall of the Principal's office.

Thanks to the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the familes of Bridgeport High School students may sleep well from now on.

Dimittri Cavelli, writing in the Opinion Journal of the WSJ, has the story (hat tip to Gary Stern's On Religion, a LoHud blog:
The town of Bridgeport, W.Va. (pop. 7,300), recently became the site of the latest skirmish in the culture wars. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the West Virginia chapter of the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of two plaintiffs against the county board of education and other local officials. The suit alleged that Bridgeport High School violated the Constitution’s Establishment Clause by hanging a copy of Warner Sallman’s famous portrait, “Head of Christ,” on a wall outside the principal’s office.

The two sides recently settled the case: The school has agreed not to display the portrait but may use textbooks and other curriculum-related materials that reproduce it. Although such a settlement sounds amicable and fair, the case itself remains troubling and illustrates some of the tactics used to push religion out of the public square.

One fact that made the claim of church-state violation so odd in this case was the time-line: The disputed portrait had been hanging in the school for a long time. In 1969, a retiring guidance counselor, who had the portrait in his office, gave it as a farewell gift to the school’s principal (now also retired), who decided to hang it outside his office. Thus students, parents, teachers, employees and visitors to Bridgeport High School apparently suffered from this violation of the First Amendment for 37 years.
But wait! The great defenders of the people may have overlooked another religious symbol! O the humanity! Somebody stop those horribile Buddhaistas!
According to board member Michael Queen, when Mr. Sklar was asked by the principal “to organize an effort to help the school develop a ‘Wall of Great Teachers’ to include other religious figures,” he declined. Mr. Queen believes that both the ACLU and Americans United were being “very selective” about what they considered a violation of the Establishment Clause. He notes that both groups had no objections to a two-foot statue and a portrait of Buddha that remain displayed in two classrooms in the school. (The settlement does not affect these two religious items.) “If they wanted to make it religion-free, why didn’t they go through the entire school?” Mr. Queen asks. It would seem that some religious symbols are bigger violations of the Establishment Clause than others.
My emphasis, of course. And there's a reason for their omission.

Christians are the obstacle. There's no room for Foolish Christians mucking about in the Public Square. The US must become more Reasonable!

Their unfortunate hyperventilating over one painting exposes them again. Any fair-minded person--not to mention Fools--can see the gross overreaction of these committed Religio-cides. They're gonna start asking, "What's your angle?"

Think they'll like it when they discover what it is?

Smile, Fools!

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