29 February 2008

Another Side

Neal Freeman, member of the Board of Directors of the National Review for thirty-eight years, recounted his memories—good and bad—working for Mr. Buckley’s magazine, and the reasons he resigned in 2004:
When I put down my copy of NR, I felt a genuinely new sensation. For the first time in my long association with the magazine, I was ashamed. If only in an attenuated way, I felt somehow complicit. All of the moral capital we had accumulated over the years, all of the credibility we had earned by weeding out the Randians, the Birchers, the racists, the anti-Semites, and the 24-hour nutbars -- all of it was used to leverage an ad hominem attack on one of our oldest friends.
You can read the rest here.

Ethical Alternative Vaccines

From Children of God for Life:

In a victory for pro-life families around the world, AVM Biotechnology LLC (AVM Biotech) today announced their decision to provide ethical alternatives in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and vaccine development.

Dr Theresa Deisher, AVM Biotech Research and Development Director and founder stated, “We will be working to bring commercially available, morally acceptable, vaccines to the US market and to use existing technology to produce new morally certified vaccines. Revenues from the vaccine business will also further the research, development and commercialization of morally certified therapeutics in other areas of medicine as well.”

McCain Embraces Endorsement of Rabid Anti-Catholic

Catholic League president Bill Donohue criticized McCain for accepting John Hagee's endorsement yesterday:
[Hagee] has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church. For example, he likes calling it ‘The Great Whore,’ an ‘apostate church,’ the ‘anti-Christ,’ and a ‘false cult system.’
“In Hagee’s latest book, Jerusalem Countdown, he calls Hitler a Catholic who murdered Jews while the Catholic Church did nothing. ‘The sell-out of Catholicism to Hitler began not with the people but with the Vatican itself,’ he writes.
Senator McCain is trying to shore up his weak evangelical base (where Huckabee is consistently strong); no doubt he also loves Hagee's near-fanatical support of Israel. Hagee goes so far as to claim the cup containing the blood of the saints, which the Whore of Babylon holds, represents the Jews who have died throughout history. (The Whore, of course, is the Catholic Church.)

Mr. Hagee in action

Nearer My God

Michael Cromartie interviewed William F. Buckley back in 1997 on his faith. Though he had an unfortunate position on birth control, it is clear he had a deep love of and attachment to the Catholic faith, and it guided all aspects of his life. An excerpt from the interview:
Many years ago Garry Wills said this of you: "Being Catholic always mattered more to him than being conservative." Is he right?

If he meant he has a higher loyalty to God than to civil society, then the answer is obvious: God has to be pre-eminent.
How do you explain your own steadfastness [in faith]?

Grace. I understand the nature of temptation, and I understand that the reach of temptation gets to almost everybody. But to the extent that one anticipates that possibility, in my case one has to reaffirm the postulates. And I never found any problem or conflict with these postulates and Christian doctrine.

You have some very moving pages about your mother and the naturalness of her relationship with God. You say, "Her worship of Him was as intense as that of a saint transfixed. And His companionship was as that of an old and very dear friend." And then you say about her that she had the "habit of seeing the best in everyone" and "a humorous spark in her eye." And she never broke her rule of "never, ever to complain, because, she explained, she could never repay God the favors He had done her, no matter what tribulations she might be made to suffer." She had a great influence on you, too.

Well, she did. She had a great influence on all her children. She was a devoted mother and a superb human being. There is a sense in which one has to resist the temptation to assign a uniqueness to her. Which we nevertheless thought was hers.

So both your parents had a great influence on your own faith, both your father's devotion and your mother's godly example?

Yes, they did. My father was never in any sense ostentatious about his faith. But, as I think I explain somewhere in the book, if I stumbled into his bedroom just before he left in the morning for wherever he was going, one would find him on his knees praying.
I should like to think that the inherent vibrancy of Christianity is waiting to be understood and appreciated. Mind you, I move among a set of people who are the intelligentsia. They are among the most deprived. If one were moving among most other sets of people, one would feel less loneliness in this matter. It is one thing to consult only with the faculty of Yale but quite another to consult the Civic Council of Columbus, Ohio. Christianity is more likely to be a staple part of their lives.

28 February 2008

Vive le Roi!

The NYTimes reported back in 1993 of the resurgence of monarchism in France, as evidenced by the memorial for the execution of King Louis XVI attended by 5,000 people, and the many Masses held in his honor.
With Cherubini's Requiem for Louis XVI blasting from loudspeakers, men and women carrying white flowers and banners with the royal fleur-de-lis crowded around the spot where the guillotine was positioned before dawn on Jan. 21, 1793.

The crucial moment -- 10:22 A.M. -- was marked by one minute's silent meditation. Then, after a reading of the King's final testament -- in which he forgave those who had done him wrong -- as well as prayers, hundreds of people left bunches of lilies, tulips and carnations in homage.
More recently, Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, has been the subject of a petition denouncing his governance's so-called drift towards monarchy. To a significant minority (in a recent poll, as much as 17%), this would seem a compliment.

There are several pretenders to the French throne backed by their parties (Bonapartists, Orléanists, Legitimists), but the Legitimists alone follow Salic Law and claim Louis Alphonse, Duke of Anjou (King Louis XX), is the legitimate monarch of France, being the heir of the elder Bourbon line (as opposed to Henri, comte de Paris, who descends from King Louis-Philippe, illegally placed on the throne during the July Revolution of 1830).

Louis Alphonse, Duc d'Anjou, with his wife Maria Margarita de Vargas y Santaella, Duchess of Anjou and their daughter, Princess Eugenie of Bourbon

William F. Buckley, R.I.P.

Joe Sobran, fired from National Review some years ago over differences in opinion, wrote warmly of his old boss back in 2006:
In 1993 I pretty much defied William F. Buckley Jr., my boss at National Review for 21 years, to fire me, and he did. I was sorry it had to end that way, but things had become very strained between us. I’ve told my side of that story before.

What I’ve never told is what Bill was really like. And now that I want to, I hardly know where to start.

I just got the news that Bill has emphysema and has checked into the Mayo Clinic. At 80, he hasn’t looked well lately in his television appearances, so this shouldn’t have been a shock. But it’s a shock, all right — such a shock that I’m not really writing, I’m babbling.

Like millions of young conservatives in the 1960s, I adored Bill Buckley. I met him at my Michigan university in 1971, and a few months later he invited me to come to New York to write for him. I was thrilled, and on September 11, 1972, I went to work at National Review’s Manhattan office, a starstruck kid of 26. The biggest news story was still being called “the Watergate caper.”

What fun it was! In private Bill was every bit as witty as his public reputation, but warmer and funnier. He kept the office as happy as a nest of singing birds, with affectionate and gracious gestures for all of us. It pains me to recall how callow I was in those days, but he was always too encouraging to let me feel like anything but a prodigy.

He had help. Two of his sisters worked in the office too, Priscilla, his managing editor, and his kid sister Carole, whose desk was next to mine. They shared that Buckley radiance and humor. So, I learned, did all his siblings. Magic seemed to run in the family.

Bill had founded the magazine in 1955, and had gathered and fostered remarkable young writing talents: Garry Wills, John Leonard, Joan Didion, Arlene Croce, George Will, Richard Brookhiser, Paul Gigot, and many others were among his discoveries. He’d also attracted such notable older conservative intellectuals as James Burnham, Willmoore Kendall, Russell Kirk, Frank Meyer, and Richard Weaver. These brilliant, headstrong people sometimes had sharp differences among themselves, but Bill’s genially magnetic personality usually kept the peace.

Over the years I came to know another side of Bill. When I had serious troubles, he was a generous friend who did everything he could to help me without being asked. And I wasn’t the only one. I gradually learned of many others he’d quietly rescued from adversity. He’d supported a once-noted libertarian in his destitute old age, when others had forgotten him. He’d helped two pals of mine out of financial difficulties. And on and on. Everyone seemed to have a story of Bill’s solicitude. When you told your own story to a friend, you’d hear one from him. It was as if we were all Bill Buckley’s children.

It went far beyond sharing his money. One of Bill’s best friends was Hugh Kenner, the great critic who died two years ago. Hugh was hard of hearing, and once, after a 1964 dinner with Hugh and Charlie Chaplin, Bill scolded Hugh for being too stubborn to use a hearing aid. Here were the greatest comedian of the age and the greatest student of comedy, and Hugh had missed much of the conversation! Later Hugh’s wife told me how grateful Hugh had been for that scolding. Nobody else would have dared speak to her husband that way. Only a true friend would. If Bill saw you needed a little hard truth, he’d tell you, even if it pained him to say it.

I once spent a long evening with one of Bill’s old friends from Yale, whose name I won’t mention. He told me movingly how Bill stayed with him to comfort him when his little girl died of brain cancer. If Bill was your friend, he’d share your suffering when others just couldn’t bear to. What a great heart — eager to spread joy, and ready to share grief!

Compared with all this, the political differences that finally drove us apart seem trivial now. I saw the same graciousness in his relations with everyone from presidents to menials. I learned a lot of things from Bill Buckley, but the best thing he taught me was how to be a Christian. May Jesus comfort him now.
And Justin Raimondo over at Taki's Top Drawer discusses Buckley's legacy:
It is hard to over-emphasize the importance of National Review for the young conservatives of the 1960s: there was no other magazine, no other center of intellectual nourishment, for us, but then none was needed. NR was quite enough. That’s because there was no party line, no neoconservative enforcers of the Frummian variety, no partisan sensibility that distorted the editors’ always sharp analysis of what we, as conservatives, ought to do, say, and think about this or that, no looking over one’s shoulder. In the pages of NR the intellectual heavyweights—Meyer, Russell Kirk, and the like—battled it out: Liberty versus Order, Fusionism versus Traditionalism, Rollback versus Containment. The Big Issues, and all very appealing to a callow youth in search of answers and intellectual adventure. And not all politics all the time, either, but columns on the arts, on travel, on matters great and small that revealed a much wider world than the suburban desert in which I lived, that gave me a hint at what life had to offer if only I kept up by subscription to NR—and a dictionary by my side.

Kookiness, or Sound Policy?

Due to nearly a century of inflationary monetary policy on the part of the Federal Reserve, the US dollar stands at historically low levels. Investors around the world are shunning the dollar, and millions of Americans see their salaries, savings accounts, and pensions eroded away by rising inflation. We stand on the precipice of an unprecedented monetary collapse, and as a result many people have begun to look for alternatives to the dollar.

As a proponent of competition in currencies, I believe that the American people should be free to choose the type of currency they prefer to use. The ability of consumers to adopt alternative currencies can help to keep the government and the Federal Reserve honest, as the threat that further inflation will cause more and more people to opt out of using the dollar may restrain the government from debasing the currency. As monopolists, however, the Federal Reserve and the Mint fear competition, and would rather force competitors out using the federal court system and the threat of asset forfeiture than compete in the market.

A free society should shun this type of strong-arm action, and the Free Competition in Currency Act would take the necessary first steps to freeing the market for competing currencies.

--Rep. Ron Paul, introducing the Free Competition in Currency Act, Dec. 13, 2007

Here is an enlightening exchange between Dr. Paul and Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, which took place yesterday.

Largest Fossilized Sea Reptile Found

The BBC reports:
A fossilised "sea monster" unearthed on an Arctic island is the largest marine reptile known to science, Norwegian scientists have announced.
The 150 million-year-old specimen was found on Spitspergen, in the Arctic island chain of Svalbard, in 2006.

The Jurassic-era leviathan is one of 40 sea reptiles from a fossil "treasure trove" uncovered on the island.

Nicknamed "The Monster", the immense creature would have measured 15m (50ft) from nose to tail.

Holy See on the Cuban Embargo

From Zenit:
HAVANA, Cuba, FEB. 26, 2008 - Benedict XVI's secretary of state has called the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba "ethically unacceptable."
"The Holy See repeats the words of Pope John Paul II: The embargo is ethically unacceptable," said the Vatican representative. "It is an oppression for the Cuban people and it is not a means to help the Cuban people win their dignity and independence. It's a violation of the independence of the people."

The cardinal revealed that he asked the U.S. government to facilitate the reunification of Cuban families, of which many members have emigrated to the United States.

Cardinal Bertone said this gesture would be a "humanitarian" one. "We will make every effort possible in that direction," he added.

Cubans residing in the United States are by law only allowed to visit their families every three years.

The cardinal is in Cuba to mark the 10th anniversary of John Paul II's apostolic trip to the island nation.

He met today with President Raúl Castro Ruz, who was elected to lead the nation Sunday. He succeeds his brother, 76-year-old Fidel Castro, who ruled Cuba for nearly 50 years.

27 February 2008

Hookers for Jesus

From Annie's testimony:
I can't tell you how many nights I slept "alone" with a man in my bed. No one knew my secrets, my pain, and my inner shame. So in the end I hated being a prostitute and exotic dancer--and no matter what people will tell you about that lifestyle, it really does rip you apart until you have absolutely NOTHING left--and, you will lose your soul in the process!
My passion is to help PROSTITUTES, PIMPS, and STRIPPERS... ANYONE IN THE SEX TRADE to see that there is a REAL life waiting for them to finally live outside of the sex industry.
On a related note, this website has testimonies of ex-porn stars and why they left the industry:

Jenna Jameson

Traci Lords

Linda Lovelace

And from commentary on the French porn industry:
There are very heart breaking and horrible things about the pornographic world. But, most of those things happened to actresses and actors long before they arrived in the pornography world. The pornography industry is just a place where a lot of victims relive their abuse, where they can continue to destroy themselves like their abusers destroyed them. That's what is the most disturbing to me. The incest, rapes, child abuse and neglect that become the springboard for a lot of participants to enter the industry. People in the industry will tell you this isn't true, but I learned everything to the contrary. This excuse makes it easier to go to work, that's all.

26 February 2008

Kosovo Constitution: No Protection for the Unborn

One sees the heavy hand of the U.N. and E.U. in the draft Constitution of newly independent Kosovo:
Article 25 of the draft document on the "Right to Life" removes protection from the unborn stating that, "every individual enjoys the right to life from birth," and Article 26 grants "the right to make decisions in relation to reproduction in accordance with the rules and procedures set forth by law," further giving each Kosovar "the right to have control over his/her body in accordance with law."

The draft constitution specifically ensures that "no one shall be discriminated against on the basis of … sexual orientation" but gives no special protection to the traditional family. In fact, the English version of the draft article on the "Right to Marriage and Family" leaves out mention of men and women, stating only that "Based on free will, everyone enjoys the right to marry and the right to have a family."

"Direct applicability" of eight international treaties would be imposed once Kosovo adopts the constitution, including the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Protocols.
This only highlights the point that Kosovo as a nation is a fiction; in reality it is our first postmodern state, a U.S.-E.U. backed protectorate, with little official say apart from the permission of their patrons.

You can read the entire draft Constitution here.

(hat tip: Jeff Miller)

Artist Hangs Herself After Abortion

From the Telegraph:
Her suicide note read: "I told everyone I didn't want to do it, even at the hospital. I was frightened, now it is too late. I died when my babies died. I want to be with my babies: they need me, no-one else does."
(via Mark Shea)

In happier news, a Catholic hospital, after pressure from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, has decided to bar its doctors from referring abortions or providing contraceptives.


Comprised of veterans like Generals Wesley Clarke and John Batiste, as well as soldiers who have fought in Iraq, the website offers their perspectives on the current war and why they oppose it. One can find a spate of videos here. You can also see their latest ad directed at John McCain here.

Speaking of McCain, some of his own thoughts:

January 2003: “But the point is that, one, we will win this conflict. We will win it easily.” [MSNBC, 1/22/03]

March 2003: “I believe that this conflict is still going to be relatively short.” [NBC, Meet the Press, 3/30/03]

June 2004: “The terrorists know that this is a very critical time.” [CNN, 6/23/04]

December 2005: "Overall, I think a year from now, we will have a fair amount of progress [in Iraq] if we stay the course.” [The Hill, 12/8/05]

November 2006: “We’re either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months." [NBC, Meet the Press, 11/12/06]

February 2008: "My friends, the war will be over soon..." [Ohio Town Hall Meeting, 2/25/08]

New Tests Done on Turin Shroud

The Telegraph reports:
The Oxford laboratory that declared the Turin Shroud to be a medieval fake 20 years ago is investigating claims that its findings were wrong.

The head of the world-renowned laboratory has admitted that carbon dating tests it carried out on Christendom's most famous relic may be inaccurate.
The Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP), comprised of a team of 24 scientists who examined the cloth for five days in 1978 and amassed a great deal of data, came to the following result:
We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin.
Close-up of the Shroud.

How the Shroud was woven.

Peculiar 3D Phenomenon of the Shroud of Turin.

Forensic Pathology of the Images on the Man on the Shroud.

Medical Forensics of the Shroud:
This is a 5-foot, 11-inch male Caucasian weighing about 178 pounds. The lesions are as follows: beginning at the head, there are blood flows from numerous puncture wounds on the top and back of the scalp and forehead. The man has been beaten about the face, there is swelling over one cheek, and he undoubtedly has a black eye. His nose tip is abraded, as would occur from a fall, and it appears that the nasal cartilage may have separated from the bone. There is a wound in the left wrist, the right one being covered by the left hand. This is the typical lesion of crucifixion. The classical artistic and legendary portrayal of a crucifixion with nails through the palms of the hands is spurious [wrong]: the structures in the hand are too fragile to hold the live weight of a man, particularly of this size. Had a man been crucified with nails in the palms, they would have torn through the bones, muscles, and ligaments, and the victim would have fallen off the cross.

There is a stream of blood down both arms. Here and there, there are blood drips at an angle from the main blood flow in response to gravity. These angles represent the only ones that can occur from the only two positions which can be taken by a body during crucifixion.

On the back and on the front there are lesions which appear to be scourge marks. Historians have indicated that Romans used a whip called a flagrum. This whip had two or three thongs, and at their ends there were pieces of metal or bone which look like small dumbbells. These were designed to gouge out flesh. The thongs and metal end-pieces from a Roman flagrum fit precisely into the anterior and posterior scourge lesions on the body. The victim was whipped from both sides by two men, one of whom was taller than the other, as demonstrated by the angle of the thongs.

There is a swelling of both shoulders, with abrasions indicating something heavy and rough had been carried across the man's shoulders within hours of death. On the right flank, a long, narrow blade of some type entered in an upward direction, pierced the diaphragm, penetrated into the thoracic cavity through the lung into the heart. This was a post-mortem event, because separate components of blood cells and clear serum drained from the lesion. Later, after the corpse was laid out horizontally and face up on the cloth, blood dribbled out of the side wound and puddled along the small of the back. There is no evidence of either leg being fractured. There is an abrasion of one knee, commensurate with a fall (as is the abraded nose tip); and, finally, a spike had been drive through both feet, and blood had leaked from both wounds onto the cloth.

The evidence of a scourged man who was crucified and died from the cardiopulmonary failure typical of crucifixion is clear-cut.
--From Verdict on the Shroud, Kenneth E. Stevenson and Gary R. Habermas, 1981, pp. 184-5

25 February 2008

Lost Moral Authority

After the U.S. Embassy was sacked in Kosovo, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. complained, "I'm outraged by the mob attack against the U.S. embassy in Belgrade. The embassy is sovereign US territory. The government of Serbia has a responsibility under international law to protect diplomatic facilities, particularly embassies." Jamie Rubin, Madeleine Albright's deputy, said, "It is sovereign territory of the United States under international law. For Serbia to allow these protesters to break windows, break into the American Embassy, is a pretty dramatic sign."

These complaints are particularly rich, when the United States breached international law by helping draft Kosovo's declaration, then accepting its independence, all the while showing no respect for Serbia's sovereignty. Although Serbian citizens acted wrongly in destroying American property, the United States government has little moral authority to complain of a violation of international law and a failiure to respect its sovereignty.

24 February 2008

Beauty at Any Price

The gorgeous and glittering set traipsing down the red carpet on Oscars night each carry about £12,000 worth of preparation:
Botox underarm injections £750

[Because] "Antiperspirant is so last century..."

Botox facial injections £950
Lip injections £200
Spa treatments £1,000

Lots of stars go for a Beverly Hills spa package including facials "body polishing", a hydro-massage mud treatment, detox seaweed wrap and contouring clay wrap.
Spray tan £250

A must these days. Jimmy Snyder, Hollywood's top "body-colourist will be on standby tonight with his spray gun and "emergency wipes" to touch up the tans of the likes of Eva Longoria, Teri Hatcher, Paula Abdul and Jennifer Garner - who will have had full sprays two days ago. He says: "I have seen more Hollywood stars naked than anyone else in the world."

Manicure and pedicure £500

Gina Eppoli to is known in Hollywood as Dr Nails. Stars such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Gisele Bundchen, Uma Thurman and Nicole Kidman flock to her before the awards. This year's hot Oscar style is, she says, "nude".
Hair colour and highlights £2,500

The Oscars rules are clear. One week before - colour. Two days before - condition. Day before - wash. British hairdressing duo Neil Weisberg and Amanda George are so in demand, they have been block-booked by Sienna Miller and Reese Witherspoon. Neil says: "Stars have got to look good. Their roots are really important as the flashbulbs on the red carpet are unforgiving."

Brow shaping £175

James Fox, who runs swank make-up firm Valerie Beverly Hills says: "...I do home visits as stars don't want to be seen having their hairy brows plucked."

Hairstylist for the day £3,000

A star needs a personal stylist. Chris McMillan, who invented Jennifer Aniston's "Rachel" haircut for Friends, will wash and blow-dry her hair the day before the ceremony and give it the full style using tongs, straighteners and curlers on the day. He will also go with her to the ceremony for any last-minute vital adjustments. He says: "Hair is your most important accessory."

Make-up artist for the day £3,000

It costs top dollar for the full personal service. The make-up artist goes to the star's home to get her ready and in the car to make sure she looks great as she gets out. They will even wait as she slips from party to party touching up her make-up as she goes. The fee also includes consultations in the run-up to the big day to make sure her make-up choice matches her clothes.

TOTAL: £12,325


The golden rule is: Free to those that can afford it, very expensive to those who can't.


£0 to £20,000

Designers are desperate to see a big name in one of their high-price creations - so if you are a serious star you can have your gown for free. It has to be an exclusive deal though. Nicole Kidman wears Chanel, Renee Zellweger wears Carolina Herrera and Julia Roberts Valentino. The finest gowns cost up to £20,000.


£0 to £3,000

Christian Louboutin is the favoured cobbler and his £900 satin slingbacks will show off the daintiest of feet. Designer Isaac Mizrahi says: "As Cate Blanchett is pregnant, I've heard she's going to wear a pair of flats - jewel-encrusted and worth £3,000. But, in the main, I would expect elegant high heels showing off perfectly-manicured toes."


£0 to £2million.

Glittering gems are the No 1 way to announce serious star-quality. Designer Martin Katz, who supplies Sharon Stone, Kate Winslett, Sandra Bullock, Angelica Houston, Kim Basinger and Minnie Driver, says this year one star will be dazzling everyone with a £2million ring.

£0 to £1,000

[T]he premier event is the post-Oscars Governors Ball, where 1,500 VIP guests will tuck into a £1,000-a-head dinner of Kumamoto oysters, French Valrhona chocolate and vintage Laurent Perrier champagne.

23 February 2008

Why We Need the Magisterium

A Protestant interpretation of the verse "I will destroy the man who pisseth against the wall." Incroyable.

(via Crunchy Con)

Prayer and the Servile State

John Zmirak offers further reasons to reject the nanny state:
I have my own theory about why Western Europe has slid so completely into secularism: Among other factors, the very government programs which Christians supported in the name of “security” and “social justice” helped remove one of the most important props of religious practice: A healthy fear of want. In the absence of a really generous welfare state, the economic insecurity which most of us experience at various points in our lives encourages any number of virtues: thrift, prudence, planning, and even prayer. I know that I never prayed so much or so often in my life as when I (and all my colleagues) were expelled from a magazine in an editorial coup… the day after I’d rented a pricey Manhattan apartment. As I watched my savings dwindle, and mailed off resumes, and paced the floor among my still unopened boxes, I felt my pride and sense of self-sufficiency drain away—and followed my feet to the nearest church, nearly every day. There’s nothing quite so primal, my friends, than kneeling down at an abandoned Slovak parish to pray for money. Not for career guidance, or inspiration, or even forgiveness—for money to buy the next package of Ramen noodles. It focuses the mind, and reminds you of your absolute dependence on a Higher Power, I can tell you.

I remember thinking at the time: “If I could just go down to a government office, haggle with a bureaucrat, collect a stipend to which I felt somehow entitled, would I be praying now? Or sulking at the scantiness of my (all-provident) government’s check? The heading over to join some leftist street demonstration....” Indeed, I really think that the presence of a nanny state reduces the psychological need for a Father God. Which is why you can pretty much trace the decline of the birth rate and church attendance to the rise of what Belloc called the “Servile State.” Enacting the programs of Christian Democracy helped produce today’s Pagan Bureaucracy. Be careful what you ask for.

Hoist with His Own Petard

The McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law is controversial because, although it has the good intention of reducing the power of special interest groups over political campaigns, it also has the unfortunate result of hindering free speech. How so? By restricting issue-based advertising a certain number of days before an election, as well as limiting the amount allowed in contributions. Monetary donations are one way of expressing one's viewpoint; by contributing to a particular political party, the donor makes a political statement of support for a certain body of ideas. In this sense, political contributions are a form of political speech. To restrict this is to take power away from groups less represented in the mainstream media (e.g., environmental groups or pro-life organizations) to get their message across about a candidate.

The law was controversial enough to land before the Supreme Court back in 2003, with appellents like Mitch McConnell, National Right to Life, and Ron Paul, among others contesting its constitutionality. As we know, a narrow majority upheld the law. Justice Scalia expressed his dismay in his dissenting opinion thus:
This is a sad day for the freedom of speech. Who could have imagined that the same Court which, within the past four years, has sternly disapproved of restrictions upon such inconsequential forms of expression as virtual child pornography, tobacco advertising, dissemination of illegally intercepted communications, and sexually explicit cable programming, would smile with favor upon a law that cuts to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government. For that is what the most offensive provisions of this legislation are all about. We are governed by Congress, and this legislation prohibits the criticism of Members of Congress by those entities most capable of giving such criticism loud voice: national political parties and corporations, both of the commercial and the not-for-profit sort. It forbids pre-election criticism of incumbents by corporations, even not-for-profit corporations, by use of their general funds; and forbids national-party use of "soft" money to fund "issue ads" that incumbents find so offensive.
McConnell v. FEC, 540 U.S. 93 (2003)(citations omitted).

It now seems the restrictions McCain has championed have come full circle and landed at his own feet:
Last year, when McCain's campaign was starved for cash, he applied to join the financing system to gain access to millions of dollars in federal matching money.... By signing up for matching money, McCain agreed to adhere to strict state-by-state spending limits and an overall limit on spending of $54 million for the primary season, which lasts until the party's nominating convention in September.... But after McCain won a series of early contests and the campaign found its financial footing, his lawyer wrote to the FEC requesting to back out of the program -- which is permitted for candidates who have not yet received any federal money and who have not used the promise of federal funding as collateral for borrowing money.
Although McCain has used no federal money, he promised federal funds as collateral on a $1 million loan taken from a Bethesda bank. The FEC's response to McCain's request to withdraw stated that, according to its rules, it would need a quorum to vote on his request, and also that it would need to review the loan provisions to decide whether or not McCain could be released from the federal matching funds program. If its ultimate decision is negative, this could have a drastic impact on McCain's campaign, as the $54 million spending limit has almost been reached (his campaign has spent $49 million thus far), with seven months still to go until the convention.

On a tangent, have you ever wondered exactly what a petard is?

The famous phrase is found in Shakespeare's Hamlet, who discusses letters of his own death warrant, which he hopes to turn around in his favor in order to execute Rosencrantz and Gildenstern (his schoolfellows) instead:
There's letters seal'd: and my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fang'd,
They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
For 'tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petard; and 't shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon: O, 'tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.
A petard was a small bomb hoisted up by some device and thrown over the enemy's wall. In some cases, the maneuver went awry, the soldier himself being caught in the ropes and blown up along with the petard. Thus, the phrase "hoist with his own petard" has come to mean "to fall into one's own trap" or "to be harmed by one's own plans."

22 February 2008

Mr. Smith reminds us there are still good men left in D.C.

"I'm not licked!"

"Plain, decent, everyday, common rightness--and this country could use some of that."

"One of us..."

21 February 2008

As Predicted

Palestine, looking to Kosovo's recent U.S.-backed independence, is now considering the same. If any nation has good reason, it is Palestine--but the U.S. government disagrees, claiming Kosovo's situation is more "unique" than Palestine's. Go figure.

Cuba and Free Trade

An end to communism in Cuba will come about most quickly through infiltration of western ideas, and that is best accomplished through free trade. This is why I'm disappointed the Bush administration immediately ruled out the possibility of lifting the embargo against Cuba. The 50-year embargo has not achieved its end; rather, it has worked to solidify Castro's power and keep his thugs in control, while it is the Cuban people who ultimately suffer. Lifting the embargo would not only improve economic conditions for the impoverished country, it would allow for gradual westernization of Cuba through exposure to American goods and, concomitantly, American ideas. The influx of American tourists would also expose Cubans to our way of life, and improve rapport between nations. The dollar also happens to be very strong in Cuba; the increased exchange of goods and currency will make the Cuban people more independent, which means, most significantly, less dependent on the corrupt government.

20 February 2008

Demographic Winter: The Decline of the Human Family

This documentary takes a stark look at the the declining birth rate among Western European nations, the economic collapse that will arise as a result of too many elderly and not enough young adults in the workforce, and the social factors that have contributed to this decline. The trailer is well-done and worth watching.

Closer to my heart, there is the genuine threat that the French, who are not reproducing enough to replace their population, may very well disappear in the not-too-distant future. Scary.

Meanwhile, Muslims are multiplying like rabbits everywhere (and, at least in England, the Labour Party is prepared to help them).
(via Rod Dreher)

A Kook?

Some claim that, if it weren't for Ron Paul's "kooky" ideas, they would find him attractive as a candidate. But his talk about the gold standard, the NAFTA Superhighway, the content of his newsletters, his foreign policy, etc. make him come off as a fringe candidate and conspiracy theorist. His opponents like to paint him thus by conflating some of his followers' ideas with his own; if you think he is a kook, more than likely you've listened to his detractors rather than read any of his arguments, which are actually articulate, intelligent, and not particularly strange.

For one, the NAFTA Superhighway is not a secret. CNN recently discussed the project here, openly stating that it is going to be built. I-69, which runs from Indiana to Canada, is a highway I've driven many times; Indiana has decided to extend I-69 to its southernmost border, and other states propose construction to connect the highway down through Texas to the Mexican Border (via the Trans-Texas Corridor). Although these are state initiatives, they would be approved and funded by the federal government. (Dr. Paul spoke with Lou Dobbs on CNN just last night on this issue.)

As to the gold standard, retired chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan has been one of the strongest advocates of the gold standard, linking it to property rights and economic freedom. Throughout his career, he has advocated a return to sound money and has offered practical advice on how to return to the gold standard. There is nothing particularly odd about the position, and no one has ever accused Greenspan of being a kook for holding it.

As to the bigoted content in a handful of newsletters that went out under his name, this has been rehashed for the past ten years, and Dr. Paul has already apologized for failing to exercise enough oversight over the content of his letters, written by hired writers while Dr. Paul was busy with a family, working as an Ob/Gyn, traveling, and authoring bills in Congress. He responded by firing those responsible, distancing himself from the writers, and exercising greater vigilance over his newsletters. It should also be noted that the controversy only involves a handful of letters out of hundreds issued over several decades.

I've discussed his foreign policy often on this website. It is probably the one thing that makes him most attractive to those tired of our policymakers' belief in their mandate-from-on-high to impose democracy by force upon peoples unwilling and unaccustomed to such, our good men and women dying in the process. The men in Washington can't seem to make up their minds; first we sell weapons to the likes of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in the hopes of engaging their help against our foes; then we criticize them for using those very weapons against their own people and against us. (Case in point: remember how the Bush administration excoriated Hussein for gassing his own people? No one ever thought to ask where he got that poisonous gas...) And then there's that canard that Islamofascists attack us because we are free, prosperous, and democratic; when Ayatollah Khomeini tried to raise support for jihad against America by using this same reasoning, he got absolutely nowhere. When bin Laden attempts jihad, he raises the issue of our occupation in the Middle East--and he gets recruits by the droves. But no, war hawks say, our foreign policy has nothing to do with Muslim radicals' hatred of us; to claim so would be unpatriotic. Though they may level the accusation against Ron Paul, they can't do that against our troops, who overwhelmingly support Paul over all the other candidates. (On a tangent, even Ann Coulter, as much of a neocon ideologue as one can find, concedes that Ron Paul is "very smart" and agrees with certain aspects of his foreign policy.)

It is time for opponents to stop making cheap shots by labeling him a "kook" and start seriously engaging his arguments.

19 February 2008

Archduke Otto's Birthday Celebration

Interesting compilation in Hungary, German, and English of Archduke Otto's 95th birthday celebrated back in December. It includes footage from the Mass at St. Stephen's, the parade, and the private dinner party, with pictures of the cake and the crown.

(via Wilson Revolution Unplugged)

More Disastrous Foreign Policy

Spain, Greece, Romania, and Cyprus refuse to recognize Kosovo's independence.

The United States not only helped to draft the declaration, it was among the first to recognize Kosovo's independence. Some are baffled; Kosovo is 90% Muslim, run by drug lords, human traffickers, and KLA terrorists, and is a breeding ground for Al Qaeda. International law has always held that national borders cannot be changed apart from agreement by all parties; this unilateral move by Kosovo over the strenuous objection of Serbia and Russia, supported by the largest Western European nations, is technically illegal, and props up the Muslim separatist movements agitating in other countries like Russia, China, and Spain.

Russell Gordon, an American journalist who has lived in Kosovo, observes:
Kosovo today is the nerve center of organized crime in Europe. The Kosovo Albanian mafia – whose capos are the ethnic Albanian leaders of Kosovo (Hashim Thaci, Agim Ceku, Ramush Haradinaj, and hundreds of others), and America’s allies – control most of the heroin, arms, and white slavery rings in Europe. Most of the luxury autos in Kosovo are stolen in central Europe, and given false papers; there are so many that prices are as low as 4000 Euros. Kosovo is the safe-haven for their laundered funds, often invested back into construction projects on real estate stolen from Serbs. Kosovo Albanians have committed armed robberies in France with automatic weapons and RPG’s, and have overtaken the Sicilian Mafia in Italy, largely due to their ruthlessness, and closed society. Their criminal rackets stretch into London and throughout the US.
In minority enclaves (Serbs, Gypsies, Gorani, Egyptians, Croats, Turks, Ashkali and others) populations live in a state of constant fear from Albanian intimidation or attack, which occur almost daily. Not one Jew remains. Serbs are wantonly and routinely murdered with no legal recourse, as the “justice” system is entirely in the hands of ethnic Albanians, placed there by Hashim Thaci and UNMIK officials. While 9% of the Kosovo Police Corps are ethnic Serbs, they are mere stage-props, as the real power is in the hands of its Albanian core that temporarily maintains a façade of minority tolerance to appease their backers in the “international community.”

Second Miracle of Blessed Karl I of Austria

This article reports the miraculous healing of a woman with breast cancer. Interestingly enough, she was (and is) a Baptist who was on the verge of death when she received a prayer card of Blessed Karl from a friend. She began praying to him, and her cancer was soon healed.
A judicial tribunal convened by the Diocese of Orlando and officially concluded Thursday has found that there is no medical explanation for the woman's dramatic recovery, and more than half a dozen doctors in two states -- most of them non-Catholics -- agreed.
From John Zmirak's Bad Catholics' Guide to Good Living:
Karl is known for abolishing flogging, dueling, and other abuses in the army he briefly commanded, restricting the use of poison gas and civilian bombing, and attempting to decentralize power among the ethnic groups of his polyglot monarchy, which he came to rule in 1917. Karl insisted on eating the same rations as an ordinary civilian—refusing even white bread, which he handed out to his troops. His court photographer reported seeing the newly-crowned emperor visiting a battlefield full of corpses—and collapsing into tears. Karl murmured, audibly: “No man can any longer answer to God for this. As soon as possible I shall put a stop to it.”

Almost immediately, Karl began attempts to negotiate a “peace without recriminations” to end the criminal slaughter of World War I. He was the only sovereign in Europe to attempt such a peace. Had he succeeded, the world might never have witnessed a Bolshevik or Nazi regime, a Holocaust, a Ukrainian famine, a Dresden or a Hiroshima.

Karl’s clarity and charity, alas, were no match for the war parties that ruled in London and Berlin, Paris and Washington, from 1914-1918. President Woodrow Wilson insisted personally on the dismemberment of the Austrian monarchy. Fighting dragged on another fateful year—giving Lenin the chance to seize power in Russia—before it ended with the collapse of Germany and Austria. The victors’ peace imposed by the Allies sowed the bitterness which would someday bring the Nazis to prominence. The weak republics carved out of Austria’s corpse would all, one day, fall first to Hitler’s armies—and then to Stalin’s. So went this world “made safe for democracy.”

Exiled on the wintry island of Funchal with his young family, Karl soon succumbed to disease, and died while still a young man. The night before he passed, he whispered to his wife Zita: “All my aspiration has ever been to know as clearly as possible the will of God in all things and to follow it, and precisely in the most perfect manner.” By the Church’s infallible judgment, he succeeded.
Blessed Karl of Austria, ora pro nobis!

18 February 2008

Was George Washington a Catholic?

Some food for thought on Presidents Day:
A picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary and one of St. John were among the effects found in an inventory of the articles at Mount Vernon at the death of George Washington, first president of the U.S.A. The Rev. W.C. Repetti, S.J., archivist at Georgetown University, reports he has discovered this information in an appendix to a biography of Washington. The book is a Life of George Washington by Edward Everett, published by Sheldon & Co. in New York in 1860. "The fact that he had a picture of the Blessed Virgin is rather unexpected, and, to the best of my knowledge, has not been brought out, " says Fr. Repetti. The long report among slaves of Mount Vernon as to Washington's deathbed conversion would be odd unless based on truth. These were not Catholic Negroes; it is part of the tradition that weeping and wailing occurred in the quarters that Massa Washington had been snared by the Scarlet Woman of Rome, whom they had been taught to fear and hate. Supposedly, Father Neale was rowed across the Piscatawney by Negro oarsmen; and men often talked freely when slaves were nearby, confidently ignoring their presence.
--Denver Register, May 11, 1952
It was a long tradition among both the Maryland Province Jesuit Fathers and the Negro slaves of the Washington plantation and those of the surrounding area that the first President died a Catholic. These and other facts about George Washington are reported in the Paulist Information magazine by Doran Hurley. The story is that Father Leonard Neale, S.J., was called to Mount Vernon from St. Mary's Mission across the Piscatawney River four hours before Washington's death. Washington's body servant, Juba, is authority for the fact that the General made the Sign of the Cross at meals. He may have learned this from his Catholic lieutenants, Stephen Moylan or John Fitzgerald. At Valley Forge, Washington forbade the burning in effigy of the Pontiff on "Pope's Day." Several times as President he is reported to have slipped into a Catholic church to hear Sunday Mass.
--Denver Register, February 24, 1957

And Fr. J comments:
The Notre Dame angle on the story supports it. Fr. Sorin in the 1870's built Washington Hall on the campus. It still stands today. He would not have named the building after a non-Catholic but named it for the first president considering his conversion a providential sign of the eventual conversion of this Protestant nation to the Catholic faith.

The naming of Washington Hall fits with other signs on campus of Sorin's belief that faith would prevail (and that Notre Dame would be at the heart of the Church in America) including the construction of a domed bicammeral main building reminiscent of the state capitols under construction throughout the nation at the time and a series of murals dedicated to the discovery of America by CC under her Catholic Majesty, Isabella.

At any rate, Sorin believed the Jesuit story of a call to Georgetown University for a priest to baptize the president on his deathbed. I have heard from several Jesuits that the story has credence.
Order in Quarters issued by General George Washington, November 5, 1775 pertaining to Guy Fawkes Day ("Pope's Day" in the United States):
As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form’d for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope–He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain’d, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused; indeed instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our Brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy Success over the common Enemy in Canada.
(hat tip to Vox Nova)

Heartening News

A former abortion clinic has been converted into a pro-life center:
What was once a well-known abortion clinic in Aurora, Illinois, will now offer only prenatal care to women, according to a special agreement made between the building’s new owner and tenant.

Michael Scheuer on O'Reilly's Radio Factor

Scheuer is a 22-year veteran of the CIA who served as Special Advisor to the Chief of the bin Laden unit. :
Smerconish: “Among all of them [i.e., the candidates], who gets it in your opinion?”

Scheuer: “Only Ron Paul understood what was going on.”

Smerconish: “And he gets portrayed as a crackpot in certain quarters when he speaks this lingo.”

Scheuer: “Not only as a crackpot but as an anti-American and an anti-Semite and all the rest of the vituperation that comes along with just recognizing the reality of the situation. … Mr. Paul was trying to convince the American people of the threat they lived under, and how to alleviate some of it, and instead he was called unpatriotic and other things.”
You can hear the clip here.

In the Republican Presidential Debate held back in May of 2007, Ron Paul claimed that American foreign policy was a "contributing factor" to the Middle East's anti-Americanism. Rudy Giuliani objected to this statement as "absurd". Michael Scheuer several days later in an interview said:
"I thought Mr. Paul captured it the other night exactly correctly. This war is dangerous to America because it's based, not on gender equality, as Mr. Giuliani suggested, or any other kind of freedom, but simply because of what we do in the Islamic World--because "we're over there," basically, as Mr. Paul said in the debate."
In September on Larry King Live, responding to a Fox News moderator's accusation that Ron Paul wants to take "marching orders" from Al Qaeda, Scheuer said,
"The truth of the matter is that it is all of the Democrats and the Republicans, except perhaps for Mr. Paul and Mr. Kucinich, who are marching to Osama Bin Laden's drum."

Ron Paul Defeats McCain in Nevada

By over 400 votes.

Update: A reader very kindly went out of his way to let me know Romney won Nevada, so this isn't a true victory for Paul. I thank him for his solicitousness and have revised the title of my post.

17 February 2008

Requiem Mass for Frà Andrew Bertie

A 7th day Requiem Mass was celebrated in the Conventual Church of the Order at the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, London on 14th February 2008 for the repose of the soul of His Most Eminent Highness Frà Andrew Bertie, Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, who died in Rome on 7th February 2008.

(Photos: Vernon Quaintance
From The New Liturgical Movement)

And here is one photo of Frà Bertie's body lying in state for the Requiem Mass in Rome.

Oh Dear...

Must be seen to be believed...
The hardline stance on immigration may be tempting in theory, but how does it bear out in reality? In at least one case, it has torn apart a Catholic family:
He has been granted employment authorization cards for the last six years from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. He has an Oklahoma driver's license and an Oklahoma nondriver identification card. His name is on the mortgage of his house in east Tulsa. He is married to a U.S.-born citizen, and together they have five children, all born in Tulsa, where they are parishioners of St. Francis Xavier Church.

He filed and paid income taxes from three different jobs over the past 13 years. He sought and believed he had been granted political asylum in 1993 from war-torn El Salvador.

Danny Franco-Torres was with his children when he was arrested Oct. 14 in his Tulsa home by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, and was deported Nov. 28.

Since then, his wife, Raquel Franco-Torres, said she and the couple's children have been living one day at a time.

Bring Back Men in Black

Fr. Damian Ference sees a comeback of the cassock:
Generation X and millennial Catholics have never experienced a pre-Vatican II church and don't carry around the baggage of the previous generation when dealing with the issue of religious garb. Habits and collars are not oppressive or clerical, but courageous, especially in the post-scandal era. As a matter of fact, the first time I ever wore my cassock at a youth gathering at my first parish, the young people thought I looked like Neo from The Matrix.
I have never been embarrassed to be recognized as a Roman Catholic priest. Sure, I have been persecuted at times because of my clothing, but the gospel tells us that such is to be expected. I can't begin to count the number of times I have heard Confessions, anointed the sick, or simply reminded someone that God is not dead precisely because I was wearing my clerics.
When I first arrived in France I wasn't quite sure what to expect of Catholicism here; I'd heard of the faith dying in Europe, the beautiful but empty churches, and the hostility to tradition. I've since been gratified to experience thriving parishes, to hear truth being taught from the pulpit, and to see priests wearing clericals in the streets of Dijon.

Don't miss the poll at the end of the article.
(via Dawn Eden)

National Review Downplays Waterboarding

[B]etter for sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul ... should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.
--John Henry Cardinal Newman

It's a disappointing but predictable position from a magazine that long ago lost its originality and now just tows the party line:
Waterboarding is an extremely rough interrogation tactic in which a detainee is tied down and made to fear imminent drowning. It treads close to the legal line of torture. It does not, however, appear to cross that line — at least not clearly. “Torture” is a special legal designation, reserved for especially sadistic forms of abuse, practices so heinous they stand apart, even from other cruelties, as meriting extraordinary condemnation. Though highly unpleasant, it is doubtful that waterboarding involves the type of severe, prolonged anguish required before a tactic meets the legal threshold of torture.
In the end, NR simply recommends we drop the subject altogether:
Congress should either give us an honest debate about what interrogation tactics should be proscribed or, better still, drop the subject. Waterboarding should not be part of the regular interrogation menu, and there is no reason to believe it is. But unless we’re prepared to say it should never be on the menu, no matter how dire the threat, we should stop talking about it.
Some of us are indeed prepared to say that, including CIA officials who oversaw its use. NR is incorrect when it states the detainee is "made to fear imminent drowning"; he is drowning. Malcolm Nance, advisor on terrorism to the Departments of Homeland Security, Special Operations, and Intelligence, who underwent the procedure as part of his military training and has seen it done on hundreds, has publicly denounced the practice unequivocally as torture. He describes his experience thus:
As a former master instructor and chief of training at the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, I know the waterboard personally and intimately. Our staff was required to undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception.
Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

How much of this the victim is to endure depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim's face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs that show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow-motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of blackout and expiration. Usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch. If it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia - meaning, the loss of all oxygen to the cells.

The lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threatened with its use again and again. Call it "Chinese water torture," "the barrel," or "the waterfall." It is all the same.
Meanwhile, while this debate rages, Jack Bauer's popularity grows. The cult hero of the popular Fox series 24, he is known for his tough guy tactics against terrorists, routinely torturing and executing the bad guys in each one-hour show. He is now a role model for American soldiers:
Army Brigadier Gen. Patrick Finnegan, dean of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, let producers and writers know that the show exerted a strong and noxious influence over his students. The newest recruits have been watching Jack Bauer since they were 14. The general told Mayer, “The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do.” One former Army interrogator related how soldiers in Iraq watch DVDs of the show and then try to imitate Bauer’s interrogation methods on their own prisoners.
As a Catholic, it's rather simple for me: one may never do evil in order to bring about good. (That's not to say anyone placed in a ticking-time bomb scenario faces an easy choice; he is met with a thousand temptations to justify the use of torture.) The "end justifies the means" philosophy finds no place in Catholic teaching, and thus it is especially disturbing when conservative Catholics, more in love with their political ideology than their faith, justify the use of torture. The justification, of course, is to save lives; but according to Christ, physical death is not the worst that can happen to one. Rather, the death of the soul is above all to be feared, eternal separation from God. According to Catholic teaching, torture is an intrinsically evil act (no matter what "good" it brings). If we think saving lives at all costs is the ultimate goal, even at the cost of losing our own souls, then we have misunderstood Christ's teachings.

Catholics still convinced "the end justifies the means" would do well to remember Caiaphas used that same reasoning to rationalize the death of Jesus: "You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." --John 11:50

16 February 2008

Modern-Day St. Gianna

Jeff Culbreath links to a heartrending story in the Daily Mail:
Four months into her pregnancy, Lorraine Allard was devastated to learn she was in the advanced stages of cancer.

Doctors advised her to have an abortion and start chemotherapy straight away.

Instead, with steadfast courage, she insisted on waiting long enough to give her unborn son a chance to survive, telling her husband Martyn: "If I am going to die, my baby is going to live."
Lorraine gave birth to her son Liam when he was only 25 weeks old (infants born then only have a 50% chance of survival). She was able to hold him a handful of times before she died two months later, at the age of 33. Liam is still in the hospital but responding well to treatment.

15 February 2008

Why Is Ron Paul Still Running?

With Romney's endorsement of McCain and his promise to hand over his delegates, which would put McCain's total very near the 1,191 needed to clinch the nomination, why is Dr. Paul still running?

Romney cannot "give" McCain his delegates; he can only encourage them to vote for him in September. Some of them are Ron Paul supporters, and others are conservatives not happy with McCain's record. It is unlikely all of them will vote for McCain this Fall.

Huckabee: Pro-Life, but Big Government

Huckabee Slams Ron Paul on Abortion
On January 22--the 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision--Ron Paul was the only presidential candidate who spoke at the March for Life in Washington DC. Huckabee did speak at a Right to Life rally in Atlanta, but said: "The logic that each of the states can come up with their own definition of how to respect human life is the logic of the Civil War." This is a slap at Ron Paul, who, although he strongly opposes abortion, believes that it should not be the concern of the federal government. Huckabee, like every other current and former presidential candidates (except Ron Paul), thinks that the solution to everything is a federal government solution. Could he explain the concept of federalism without consulting a dictionary? More proof: When asked last year if he would sign a bill to outlaw smoking in public places, Huckabee replied: "I would, certainly would." A Huckabee administration would be a big brother, nanny state--a religious big brother, nanny state.

Quelques Images de Dijon


L'intérieur, Cathédrale St-Bénigne



Maisons médiévales

Rue derrière le Palais des Ducs

La Moutarde Maille, depuis 1747

Iran from the Street

Iranians tell Americans what they think of them:
“Yes, we sell a lot of these,” said Amin Gorbani, a young bearded clerk at the cash register [speaking of "Rugrats Go Wild,” “Meet the Robinsons” and “The Incredibles" DVDs]. Then he stood up, extended his hand and said, “When it comes to disputes between Iran and America, that is between governments. But when it comes to people, I don’t see any problem between the people.”
Generally speaking, Iranians like Americans — not just American products, which remain very popular, but Americans. That is not entirely new: Iranians on an individual level have long expressed a desire to restore relations between the countries. But the sentiment seems much more out in the open now.

“I think the problem we have with the Americans is the way Americans perceive Iran as a threat, as a rogue state,” said Masoumeh Ebtekar, a Tehran city council member who served as spokeswoman for the students who seized the United States Embassy and 66 hostages in 1979. “This perception has to change. I believe if they understand who we really are, the basis for reconciliation will be based on respect and equality.”

She framed the conflict as a matter of perception, of misunderstanding. Yet, there was a time when that kind of talk was seen as subversive. Now, there is Baskin-Robbins.

Not the real Baskin-Robbins, apparently, but an Iranian bootleg version with its own display of 31 flavors. “I used to be the one who chanted ‘Death to America,’ ” said Abolfazl Emami, owner of the ice cream shop in Mohseni Square. “It was a slogan that came up during the revolution. People don’t mean it now.”

With a smile and his hand raised, he said: “I like American goods, and I prefer American people. It’s just the government I don’t like.”

It may be hard to reconcile the images of men punching their fists into the air and chanting “Death to America” with a man serving scoops of peanut-butter chocolate ice cream in pink paper cups and sugar cones. But it is in some ways a measure of how distant many Iranians feel from Mr. Ahmadinejad’s administration.

“We never like our own government, never, ever,” said Morad Saghafi, a writer and philosopher in Tehran. “So it is a big concern for our government that it is not loved.”

“They come in and shut us down periodically because they think we are too American,” said Mr. Emami, owner of the ice cream shop. That is why, Western diplomats in Iran said, the best thing Washington could do to encourage more moderate behavior in Tehran would be to ease off. Less pressure would make it harder for Iran’s leaders to keep out Western influences.

“Take the foot off the gas,” said a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to antagonize the Iranians.
“Even the ruling elite recognize that there are good things we can get from opening to America,” said a political analyst in Tehran who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. But, the analyst said, “We know we have to reconcile internally first.”
“Everyone here is thirsting for American brands, it’s that simple,” said Mehdi Mortazavi, who is helping create Friday’s, a restaurant in Tehran. The sign out front looks just like a T.G.I. Friday’s in the States, with red and white stripes. But the “T.G.I.F.” was dropped because Thursday is the last day of the work week here, and the reference to “God” might not have gone over well. But there will be waiters with suspenders decorated with buttons, Cobb Salad and hamburgers on the menu.

“Iranian people respect American business, American mentality, Americans’ demand to always have the best,” Mr. Mortazavi said.
One day in late January, Zahra Ahgangram pulled her black chador around herself as she visited the grave of a nephew, Mohsen Yazdani, 20, who died so many years ago. Her son, Amir Ali Muhamadalipour, stood by her side, and when he realized she was speaking to an American, asked that his message be delivered: “Iranian people like American people. We don’t get fooled by governments on both sides.”

Asked to elaborate, he looked down at his shoes and said, “We must self-censor.” And he and his mother walked away.

Is McCain Really "Pro-Life"?

Tom Piatek wonders.
Notably, neither McCain nor Bennett and Leibsohn mention McCain’s enthusiastic support for federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. It is impossible to square that support with principled belief in the pro-life cause, unless McCain’s operative principle is, “I will support legal protection for the unborn, unless it is politically inconvenient.” Neither of them mention McCain’s recent statement, reported in the Washington Post on Feb. 3, that “It’s not social issues I care about.” Nor do they mention his statement to the San Francisco Chronicle on Aug. 19, 1999, “[C]ertainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support the repeal of Roe v. Wade which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.” In the same interview, McCain stated he would not have a “litmus test” on abortion for judicial nominees.

Tent City

It began in July with twenty residents, and has now grown to more than 200. Unfortunate victims of the current housing crisis, these homeless men, women, and children set up their tents in a once-flourishing suburb of Los Angeles, and wait, looking for work, and hoping for lower rentals. Most of these homeless have had their homes foreclosed on, and cannot afford the sky-high rents of neighboring apartments. It's a trend seen in California, and throughout the country, as the housing bust continues to spiral downwards.

Devvy Kidd is not convinced the Economic Stimulus Package will accomplish much of anything:
This $1.5 BILLION dollar shell game will stimulate nothing and let me tell you why.

One: There is no money in the U.S. Treasury. As I write this column, the people's purse is overdrawn $9,203,187,681,379.26. Every one of those "economic stimulus package" checks sent out to the American people will be a hot check written against an account that's over drawn $9.2 TRILLION DOLLARS.

(Photos: Reuters)


Tom Piatek chronicles the little spat between NRO's David Frum and Ramesh Ponnuru over at The Corner. Ponnuru criticizes Frum's latest book Comeback for its inaccuracies, as well as for his "insufferable" attitude as a self-proclaimed "bold truth-teller who is being pounced on by ideological enforcers on the right." Frum hits back and attacks "Ramesh's distinctive Grand Panjandrum manner" and his "weird combination of vitriol and grandiosity."

I haven't read Frum's book, which apparently criticizes all that is wrong with modern conservatism (without including his own ideas as contributing to the problem: he is pro-choice and continues to support a war against a country that intelligence officials revealed has never had credible links to al-Qaeda).

In any case, boys, let's calm down and make friends...

Don't Listen to Me; Listen to Our Troops

Not only does Ron Paul have more contributions from the military than all the other candidates combined, his top contributors are the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force, respectively. McCain has none of them among his top contributors.

Top Contributors
US Army $68,817
US Navy $57,076
US Air Force $52,371
Google Inc $51,382
Microsoft Corp $46,079
US Postal Service $31,054
Lockheed Martin $26,754
Boeing Co $24,388
At&T Inc $22,398
IBM Corp $19,177
Verizon Communications $18,399
Hewlett-Packard $18,014
Apple Inc $17,314
Intel Corp $16,751
Northrop Grumman $16,067
General Electric $15,788
General Dynamics $15,584
Cisco Systems $14,702
US Dept of Defense $14,338
Wachovia Corp $14,231

Caricature him as you will, but our good men and women fighting overseas seem to think Ron Paul's foreign policy makes the most sense for our country.

More on Starbucks

A commenter notes that the coffee company proudly supports Planned Parenthood; and what's more, it has sponsored several Gay Pride events around the nation, such as the one in San Diego, where two convicted child molesters ran the event at which sexually explicit material was sold and several child-friendly displays were held. It's one thing to promote a homosexual agenda; it's quite another to financially back a parade organized by child molesters, where children are encouraged to participate and at the same time are exposed to sexually explicit material.

Count one less customer for Starbucks.

There's no point giving up their services if you don't tell them why.

Starbucks Customer Service E-mail Address

Update: A reader has informed me that the corporate headquarters does not support Planned Parenthood, although some individual stores have.

14 February 2008

Feisty Debate

Dinesh D'Souza, Larry Abraham, Doug Casey, and Ron Paul debate our foreign policy in the Middle East.

Learning to Love the French

Charles Coulombe tells us how:
To the average Frenchman, the United States are a band of uncultured striplings, whose sudden eruption upon the world scene, hamburgers, fries, and cokes in one hand, nukes in the other, determined to reduce the world to its own insufferable sterility. For the American, France is a nation of ungrateful whiners who not only have forgotten what was done for them in two world wars, they insist upon acting superior despite being political and military failures. Obviously, there is much truth in both views.

But it is a tad more complex than that. On the one hand, if the French have forgotten the two wars, Americans have also forgotten a few.

Bugs, Anyone?

You may have to suppress the gag reflex with this one: insects are touted as a potential global food source.
Is it time to start chowing down on some of those crawly critters we instinctively prefer to stomp on? The Feral Forager, a self-published 'zine excerpted in Sandor Katz's The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, rebrands pill bugs as "land shrimp"; grasshoppers are "surprisingly tasty and filling" and taste "something like popcorn"; crickets, "incredibly high in calcium and potassium." Roasted grubs make a fat-filled protein snack that, again, tastes "a lot like popcorn."

Earthworms make "a very nutritious flour," and ant eggs are edible, too; raw ant eggs reportedly taste "like couscous"...

If the thought of eating bugs and roadkill freaks you out, consider this: competition for the world's dwindling resources is heating up right along with the planet, and global warming is worsening food shortages all over the world. In this land o' plenty o' processed foods, most Americans can't imagine an era when we'd be forced to subsist on weeds, bugs, and -- till we run out of gas -- roadkill.

As Good As Gold

I'm afraid I've been making myself rather a bore over at Patum Peperium, which is now attempting to regain its lighthearted, apolitical, literary temperament by posting lighthearted, apolitical, literary pieces by that master of words, Waugh (the last one making a passing reference, certainement pas par hasard, to the gold standard). I wish the P's a lovely vacation, and promise to keep my political nonsense here (unless they bring it up over there, of course).

Speaking of the gold standard, David Frum smirks at Ron Paul (and errs in thinking he is about to quit his run):
Yet I wonder: isn't there something odd about Paul's desire to hold onto those imminently worthless federal shinplasters? Maybe there's something about finally laying hands on a great big pile of Federal Reserve notes that makes one think they might hold some value after all?
Charitably put, file this under "Failure to Grasp the Concept." Surely he agrees that $5 million a handful of years ago is not the same $5 million today? Five years ago, one American dollar could have bought a Canadian cup of coffee and a doughnut. These days, you're lucky to buy a Canadian cup of anything with that same piece of paper.

In any case, only two posts later, Frum is agreeing with his colleague Desmond Lachmann that the coming recession--one of epic proportions--has not a little to do with "the troubled state of today’s banking system".

What exactly is that elusive gold standard? A little history: In 1944, the American dollar became the world reserve currency, replacing the British pound. The world accepted our dollar (defined as 1/35th the value of an ounce of gold) as the world reserve currency. In the 1960s, when Europeans demanded we make good on our promise to give an ounce of gold for every thirty-five dollars paid, our Treasury was nearly drained; we had outprinted ourselves. In 1971, Nixon declared our insolvency, refusing to pay out the remaining 280 million ounces of gold. From now on, the U.S. could print currency without being held to the gold standard; instead, OPEC agreed officially to price oil in the dollar, thus backing the dollar's worth with oil. In return, we agreed to protect the oil-rich Middle East (making us even less popular among the radical Islamists). But because of the dollar's declining influence, there have been moves to start trading oil in euros: Saddam Hussein demanded his oil be traded for Euros shortly before we went to war with Iraq, Chavez offered the same idea for Venezuelan oil, and now Iran has made the same demand.

Returning to the gold standard would ensure far lower inflation, stabilization of currency, and would prevent overprinting of money. It also ensures a system of fixed exchange rates--which means I don't have to check monthly to see how much the dollar is worth in euros (here in France, I can say: not much). Although a return to the gold standard seems wishful thinking in this society so dependent on the Federal Reserve, it's not unwise thinking. No less noteable a man than Alan Greenspan has written:
An almost hysterical antagonism toward the gold standard is one issue which unites statists of all persuasions. They seem to sense--perhaps more clearly and subtly than many consistent defenders of laissez-faire--that gold and economic freedom are inseparable, that the gold standard is an instrument of laissez-faire and that each implies and requires the other. . . . This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists' tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights.
From Gold and Economic Freedom, Alan Greenspan, 1967

Breaking News

Starbucks will close all its stores for three hours on February 26th for an emergency training session of its baristas on creating shots and steaming milk. Meanwhile, the American people will try to cope.

13 February 2008

Liberty! Liberty!

What do you know? Perhaps National Review, that bastion of neoconservatism, can tolerate a genuine difference of opinion after all. John Derbyshire now supports Ron Paul:
How on earth did we arrive at this point of vast, bloated, and secretive government, in which the wives of inconsequential federal officials (the office of the vice presidency used to be a byword for inconsequentiality — “bucket of warm p***,” etc.) have chiefs of staff, whose actual staffs and actual budgets are undiscoverable by a reasonably intelligent citizen?
What I am seeking is an anti-JFK — a candidate who will transform our nation’s capital from a city of hope for middle-class intellectuals, into a city of despair for them. The despair of those intellectuals, I am increasingly convinced, is the hope of our nation. Looking at all but one of the Republican candidates (and, it goes without saying, all but none of the Democratic ones) I see nothing in prospect but a new draft of office-seeking intellectuals, primed and eager to bring us new expansions of federal power, new pointless wars, new million-strong reinforcements for the Reconquista, new thousand-page tax loopholes, new inducements for idleness and crime, new humiliations for the saps who follow rules and obey laws.
Are [Ron Paul] supporters crazy, as some colleagues tell me?

Perhaps they are, to be shouting for liberty in 2007, after decades of swelling federal power and arrogance, of proliferating taxes, rules, and interests, of gushing transfers of wealth to politically connected elites from working- and middle-class grunts, of the college and teacher-union scams, of the metastasizing tort-law rackets, of ever more numerous yet ever more clueless intelligence agencies, of open borders and visas for people who hate us, of widening cracks in our sense of nationhood (“Press one for English …”), of speech codes and race lobbies and judicial impositions.

If those people are crazy, though, I want to be crazy with them. I’m for liberty, too. That’s why I’m for Ron Paul. And why do we have 75,000 soldiers in Germany?
This from the man who originally said "Ron Paul is not possible."

Update: A friend has alerted me to the fact that NR's David Freddoso is also supporting Paul.

La Vraie Perfection

Nous ne devons pas prendre en compte si notre prochain est sage, courtois, libéral, ou doué d'autres qualités pour l'aimer: c'est assez qu'il porte l'image de la première beauté et bonté qui est souverainement aimable. Nous le devons chérir, l'honorer, lui souhaiter mille bénédictions, et nous employer volontiers pour son service, non pour l'amour de lui, parce qu'il porte le caractère de notre Père et créateur, parce qu'il est capable de participer à ses biens surnaturels de grâce et de gloire comme son enfant adoptif, parce qu'il est membre vivant de Jésus, son héritage et son acquisition qui ne lui a pas moins coûté que son sang et sa vie, parce qu'il est appelé à la même foi de nous et qu'il participe d'un même pain.

--Jean-François de Reims (+1660), La Vraie Perfection, I, 10

Theology, Not Politics

Just two years ago conservatives were busy scolding the Pope for his refusal to back our invasion of Iraq. One conservative media favorite even made the sickening suggestion that the Pope was the enemy of the United States because he would not support our aggression in the Middle East. The Pontiff would not ignore the inherent contradiction in being pro-life and pro-war, nor distort just war doctrine to endorse attacking a nation that clearly posed no threat to America – and conservatives resented it.
Liberals also routinely denounced the Pope for maintaining that Catholicism, like all religions, has rules that cannot simply be discarded to satisfy the cultural trends of the time. The political left has been highly critical of the Pope’s positions on abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, feminism, and contraception. Many liberals frankly view Catholicism as an impediment to the fully secular society they hope to create.

Both conservatives and liberals cannot understand that the Pope’s pronouncements were theological, not political. He was one of the few humans on earth who could not be bullied or threatened by any government. He was a man of God, not a man of the state. He was not a policy maker, but rather a steward of long-established Catholic doctrine. His mission was to save souls, not serve the political agendas of any nation, party, or politician.

To the secularists, this was John Paul II’s unforgivable sin – he placed service to God above service to the state. Most politicians view the state, not God, as the supreme ruler on earth. They simply cannot abide a theology that does not comport with their vision of unlimited state power. This is precisely why both conservatives and liberals savaged John Paul II when his theological pronouncements did not fit their goals. But perhaps their goals simply were not godly.

Unlike most political leaders, the Pope understood that both personal and economic liberties are necessary for human virtue to flourish. Virtue, after all, involves choices. Politics and government operate to deny people the freedom to make their own choices.

The Pope’s commitment to human dignity, grounded in the teachings of Christ, led him to become an eloquent and consistent advocate for an ethic of life, exemplified by his struggles against abortion, war, euthanasia, and the death penalty. Yet what institutions around the world sanction abortion, war, euthanasia, and the death penalty? Governments.

Historically, religion always represented a threat to government because it competes for the loyalties of the people. In modern America, however, most religious institutions abandoned their independence long ago, and now serve as cheerleaders for state policies like social services, faith-based welfare, and military aggression in the name of democracy. Few American churches challenge state actions at all, provided their tax-exempt status is maintained. This is why Washington politicians ostensibly celebrate religion – it no longer threatens their supremacy. Government has co-opted religion and family as the primary organizing principle of our society. The federal government is boss, and everybody knows it. But no politician will ever produce even a tiny fraction of the legacy left by Pope John Paul II.

--Representative Ron Paul, Speech on House Floor, April 12, 2005