Saturday, December 31, 2011

President Obama Signed the Indefinite Detention Bill

Well, fun.  Excerpts:
President Barack Obama on Saturday reluctantly signed a defense authorization bill, saying he was concerned about some in Congress who want to restrict options used by counterterrorism officials.

"I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists," he said of the $662 billion legislation.

The White House had lifted a veto threat against the bill after legislators made changes in language involving detainees.

In particular, the legislators added language to make clear that nothing in the bill requiring military custody of al Qaeda suspects would interfere with the ability of civilian law enforcement to carry out terrorism investigations and interrogations in the United States...

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the legislation includes a "national security waiver" that allows the president to transfer a suspect from military to civilian custody if he chooses.

"I want to clarify that my administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens," Obama said in a statement Saturday. "Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation."

Obama said a section of the bill provides the "executive branch" with broad authority on military custody for non-citizen detainees...
Hm. He said "my administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens." He did not say his administration could not do this--merely that they would not.


41 Senators Need to Lose the Next Election

Let Jon Stewart introduce the issue:
And then, of course, there's wonderful moments like this from C-SPAN and the Senate floor:
At which point, I think there might be some valid concerns.  Because the administration asked that the language excluding US citizens from the bill be removed.  Also, they expressed concern that the bill unduly restricts Executive power.

And the bill, apparently (according to Senator Lindsey Graham), declares the whole world, "including the homeland," part of the battlefield.
The above refers to the portions of the bill which were passed.  When it comes to what might have been...well, the Senate has officially lost it.  Evidence:
"Offered to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2012 (S.1867), amendment No. 1274 would have allowed the U.S. government to detain an American citizen indefinitely, even after they had been tried and found not guilty, until Congress declares an end to the war on terror."
Sponsored by Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Voted for by 41 members of the US Senate, including two Democrats, one Independent, and the rest Republicans.

Let us review the Constitution...I was sure...ah, yes. Here it is.
Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Methinks the constituents of 41 US Senators need to make known, loudly and clearly, exactly what will happen next election.  They all need to lose reelection--every one of the 41 Senators who voted for this amendment.  If some evidence comes forward to show that Sen. Paul grossly mischaracterized the nature of the amendment, I'll take a different position.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal makes that really unlikely:
...the fight was closer over an amendment proposed by Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. The amendment focused on a scenario where an al Qaeda suspect is acquitted in a court—whether military or civil—but is still judged a terrorist threat...

"Like any other captured combatant, he can be held as long as hostilities continue...."

Mr. Paul didn’t think so, and he focused particularly on the case where the accused terrorist was an American citizen. “If the evidence does not support conviction, it would be against everything we believe in and fight for in America to still allow the government to imprison you at their whim,” he said last night in a statement.

Earlier in the week, he told the Senate, “There is one thing and one thing only protecting innocent Americans from being detained at will at the hands of a too-powerful state – our Constitution, and the checks we put on government power"...

The Sessions amendment failed on a 41-59 vote. Even so, under some interpretations of current law, the president could order the kind of preventive detention Mr. Sessions advocated.
But otherwise, this is gross misconduct.  These people are unfit for the office they hold.

Now, some claim there's nothing to be concerned about with Senate Bill 1867, otherwise known as the National Defense Authorization Act:
...Section 1031, which relates to the use of the armed forces to detain covered people “pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force,” has a very narrow purpose of describing detention “under the law of war” of people who either participated in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or is a member or “substantial supporter” of al-Qaida, the Taliban, or “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”

This DOES apply to U.S. citizens, but it has already been established in plentiful detail that traitors who join forces with the enemy are subject to military law, including detention and worse.

This concern about protecting Americans who might be judged by the government to be at war with the United States seems to be misplaced, at best, and mischievous at worst. There is a virtually nil chance that you or your neighbors will be swept up off the street and locked up in “indefinite detention” unless you are indeed engaged in war against the United States.

At that point, sorry, you lose most of your civil liberties...
Hang on. Wait a minute. Isn't there some crucial middle step in this process between "war with the United States" and "indefinite detention?" Something...oh, what's the phrase...due to people? Some sort of process? Involving law?
Article 3, Section. 3.

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
So the people who argue there's nothing to be afraid of end up giving me cause to be, frankly, rather afraid.

More Information:

Bill Number S.1867 for the 112th Congress 

Authorization for Use of Military Force
Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget on the bill.
The Washington Post
Mark Shea
The Anchoress

Senators Voting Yea on Sen. Sessions' Amendment
  1. Alexander (R-TN)
  2. Ayotte (R-NH)
  3. Barrasso (R-WY)
  4. Blunt (R-MO)
  5. Boozman (R-AR)
  6. Burr (R-NC)
  7. Chambliss (R-GA)
  8. Coats (R-IN)
  9. Coburn (R-OK)
  10. Cochran (R-MS)
  11. Cornyn (R-TX)
  12. Crapo (R-ID)
  13. DeMint (R-SC)
  14. Enzi (R-WY)
  15. Graham (R-SC)
  16. Grassley (R-IA)
  17. Hatch (R-UT)
  18. Hoeven (R-ND)
  19. Hutchison (R-TX)
  20. Inhofe (R-OK)
  21. Isakson (R-GA)
  22. Johanns (R-NE)
  23. Johnson (R-WI)
  24. Kyl (R-AZ)
  25. Lieberman (ID-CT)
  26. Lugar (R-IN)
  27. Manchin (D-WV)
  28. McConnell (R-KY)
  29. Moran (R-KS)
  30. Murkowski (R-AK)
  31. Portman (R-OH)
  32. Pryor (D-AR)
  33. Risch (R-ID)
  34. Roberts (R-KS)
  35. Rubio (R-FL)
  36. Sessions (R-AL)
  37. Shelby (R-AL)
  38. Thune (R-SD)
  39. Toomey (R-PA)
  40. Vitter (R-LA)
  41. Wicker (R-MS)
Here's the OMB's commentary on the bill.  Egregious excerpts:
“The Administration supports Senate passage of S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. The Administration appreciates the Senate Armed Services Committee’s continued support of our national defense…

While there are many areas of agreement with the Committee, the Administration would have serious concerns with provisions that would: (1) constrain the ability of the Armed Forces to carry out their missions;…

Detainee Matters: The Administration objects to and has serious legal and policy concerns about many of the detainee provisions in the bill. In their current form, some of these provisions disrupt the Executive branch’s ability to enforce the law and impose unwise and unwarranted restrictions on the U.S. Government’s ability to aggressively combat international terrorism; other provisions inject legal uncertainty and ambiguity that may only complicate the military’s operations and detention practices.

Section 1031 attempts to expressly codify the detention authority that exists under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) (the “AUMF”). The authorities granted by the AUMF, including the detention authority, are essential to our ability to protect the American people from the threat posed by al-Qa’ida and its associated forces, and have enabled us to confront the full range of threats this country faces from those organizations and individuals. Because the authorities codified in this section already exist, the Administration does not believe codification is necessary and poses some risk. After a decade of settled jurisprudence on detention authority, Congress must be careful not to open a whole new series of legal questions that will distract from our efforts to protect the country. While the current language minimizes many of those risks, future legislative action must ensure that the codification in statute of express military detention authority does not carry unintended consequences that could compromise our ability to protect the American people.

The Administration strongly objects to the military custody provision of section 1032, which would appear to mandate military custody for a certain class of terrorism suspects. This unnecessary, untested, and legally controversial restriction of the President’s authority to defend the Nation from terrorist threats would tie the hands of our intelligence and law enforcement professionals. Moreover, applying this military custody requirement to individuals inside the United States, as some Members of Congress have suggested is their intention, would raise serious and unsettled legal questions and would be inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets. We have spent ten years since September 11, 2001, breaking down the walls between intelligence, military, and law enforcement professionals; Congress should not now rebuild those walls and unnecessarily make the job of preventing terrorist attacks more difficult. Specifically, the provision would limit the flexibility of our national security professionals to choose, based on the evidence and the facts and circumstances of each case, which tool for incapacitating dangerous terrorists best serves our national security interests...

Section 1034′s ban on the use of funds to construct or modify a detention facility in the United States is an unwise intrusion on the military’s ability to transfer its detainees as operational needs dictate...In short, the matters addressed in these provisions are already well regulated by existing procedures and have traditionally been left to the discretion of the Executive branch...

Broadly speaking, the detention provisions in this bill micromanage the work of our experienced counterterrorism professionals, including our military commanders, intelligence professionals, seasoned counterterrorism prosecutors, or other operatives in the field. These professionals have successfully led a Government-wide effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents over two consecutive Administrations. The Administration believes strongly that it would be a mistake for Congress to overrule or limit the tactical flexibility of our Nation’s counterterrorism professionals.

Any bill that challenges or constrains the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation would prompt the President’s senior advisers to recommend a veto

Constitutional concerns: A number of the bill’s provisions raise additional constitutional concerns, such as sections 233 and 1241, which could intrude on the President’s constitutional authority to maintain the confidentiality of sensitive diplomatic communications. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to address these and other concerns.”

White House to Sign Off on Indefinite Detention Bill

Oh, brilliant. Excerpts:
The White House is signing off on a controversial new law that would authorize the U.S. military to arrest and indefinitely detain alleged al Qaeda members or other terrorist operatives captured on American soil.

As the bill neared final passage in the House of Representatives and the Senate on Wednesday, the Obama administration announced it would support passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains slightly watered-down provisions giving the military a front line role in domestic terrorism cases.

The administration abandoned its long-held veto threat due to changes in the final version of the bill, namely that in its view, the military custody mandate has been "softened." The bill now gives the President the immediate power to issue a waiver of the military custody requirement, instead of the Defense Secretary, and gives the President discretion in implementing these new provisions.

"We have concluded that the language does not challenge or constrain the President's ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the American people, and the President's senior advisors will not recommend a veto," the White House statement said...

While the bill never expanded the authority to detain American citizens indefinitely without charges, proponents said the legislation would codify court decisions finding the President does have the authority to declare "enemy combatants," as commander-in-chief and under the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force against al Qaeda and its allies. The administration, which has pledged not to use this power, believes the bill leaves this legal issue unresolved...

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
worship the LORD with cries of gladness; come before him with joyful song.
Know that the LORD is God, our maker to whom we belong, whose people we are, God's well-tended flock.
Enter the temple gates with praise, its courts with thanksgiving. Give thanks to God, bless his name;
good indeed is the LORD, Whose love endures forever, whose faithfulness lasts through every age.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Batman Attacked in China

Umm...I meant Christian Bale.
All Christian Bale wanted to do was tell a guy thank you, he said – but instead he got roughed up by a pack of apparent security guards and chased away from the home where a Chinese dissident has been held under house arrest for months.

“What I really wanted to do was shake the man’s hand and say thank you, tell him what an inspiration he is,” Bale said after the incident, which concluded with his party’s van being chased down the road by guards who jumped into their own vehicle and followed for more than half an hour.

“The man” Bale referred to is Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer and activist who has worked against China’s methods for enforcing its one-child policy – think forced abortion and sterilization. According to World Now, he has been kept under unofficial house arrest with his wife, mother and young daughter since September, when he was released after four years in prison related to charges he said he was not guilty of...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"At That Moment, I Was Pro-Life"

Remarkable. Excerpts:
...I kept saying, “You just made me pro-life!” I kept repeating it the next morning as well, awed by the change in me and how it had happened. It was completely unexpected, and more than a little unwelcome.

I went home and got on the computer and went immediately to pro-choice websites hoping to be unconvinced. Reality was setting in, and with it the understanding that a pro-life viewpoint was not compatible with my lifestyle, my friends, my political and religious beliefs, or my irreverent sense of humor. I felt a mild sense of panic, because if abortion was what I unfortunately now believed it was, then it was not only wrong, it was reprehensible. It was not just something I was going to disagree with, it was something I was going to have to fight.

The pro-choice websites couldn’t unconvince me of the wrongness of abortion, and the scientific information I found only made things worse. More than anything, I wanted to find those photos discredited as fakes or misleading, but instead I found more photos, and plenty of authentication. I found a video in which a former abortionist turned pro-life activist, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, handled an aborted fetus and described it to the viewer. I watched and wept...

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Challenge to Libertarians And Other Individualists

Citizens of the world, love thy neighbor as thyself.  Excerpts:
Humanity today must strive towards the goal of integral human development. Increasingly aware of his interdependence, man of today must feel that "everyone is responsible for everything" and that he must pursue the common good by promoting solidarity among generations, protecting the dignity of every human being and protecting nature. And without the fear that this common responsibility clashes with religious and cultural differences.

These are concepts dear to Benedict XVI, who confirmed them today to a group of 11 ambassadors received for the presentation of their Letter of credentials...

Mankind, noted the Pope, has understood that " the unity of the human family is now as an everyday fact." This has positive aspects, but "it is sometimes experienced as a burden," meaning that this unity "significantly broadens the scope of responsibility of each one of us, making the solution of problems proportionally complex to the number of those seeking to act".

Interdependence must be lived "not as a threat, but an advantage that men have to work with each other, for each other." Benedict XVI stressed in particular a positive aspect of this shared responsibility: the growth of inter-generational solidarity. "This finds its roots in the natural family, which must be supported so it may continues to fulfill its essential mission in society. At the same the education of young people remains the privileged way to broaden the field of solidarity and ensure promotion in the long-term . " A field towards which Benedict XVI encourages everyone, especially governments, "to show their creativity, to find and invest the resources necessary to give young people basic ethical foundations, in particular by helping in their formation and by fighting social ills such as unemployment, drugs, crime and disrespect of the person. "

Finally, he added that "there need be no fear that this common and shared responsibility for the good of all mankind will find a constant source of opposition in cultural and religious differences". The pluralism of cultures and religions is not opposed to common quest for what is true, good and beautiful." Human reason, purified by faith, allows man to rise and "is capable of overcoming the constraints or partisan interest, to recognize the universal good of which all men are in need. Among these, peace and the much desired social and religious harmony are linked not only to a just and suitable legislative framework, but also to the moral quality of every citizen, because solidarity contains two complementary aspects: social principle and moral virtue."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"The Muslim Brotherhood Is Not Credible"

Interesting point.  Excerpts:
“The Muslim Brotherhood is not credible. We want facts, not words,” said Fr Rafik Greiche, spokesman of the Egyptian Catholic Church, as he commented a statement made by Mohammed Badie, head of the Islamist organisation, in the defence of Christians...

“The Muslim Brotherhood is always issuing statements. In the beginning, they were very harsh against non-Muslims,” Fr Greiche said. However, “If a pro-democracy or Christian leader protested, they would quickly change their tune to avoid being labelled extremist.”

Time after time, this type of attitude manifested itself during the Jasmine Revolution, which the Brotherhood first resisted but eventually accepted for electoral reasons.

“In the past few days, one of the most important spiritual leaders (Mourshed) of the Muslim Brotherhood said that anyone who is opposed to Sharia should be expelled from the country, a clear reference to Christians. Yesterday, Mohammed Badie said instead that all citizens should be equal...”

For Fr Greiche, contradictions also characterise relations with Salafists, the hard face of radical Islam, whom the Brotherhood used in the campaign to scare moderate Muslims and religious minorities. Yet, in some ridings, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists ran on the same list...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Say Yes to God in Advent

As did the Mother, as did the Child.
...We are living in urgent times, where illusions are swirling all about, making it difficult to discern what is true and what is not. We are distracted by a thousand things, especially in this season — and our attention is being spun toward the promptings of every sort of gadget, gizmo and noisemaker.

What happens when we are constantly spun? We become dizzy and cannot see things with directness and clarity.

Directness and clarity are at an absolute premium, these days, and I think I am not alone in wondering if we maintain our willingness to be spun and distracted at our own peril...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jews for Pius XII

From a past issue of First Things:
...The New York Times is amused by the fact that Pope Pius XII has at least one Jewish defender. He is Mr. Gary Krupp, a retired medical-equipment dealer and the president and cofounder of the Pave the Way Foundation (PTWF), a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve relations among different religions. In 2000, Pope John Paul II honored Krupp for his charitable efforts by naming him a Knights commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St . Gregory the Great.

In the last few years, Mr. Krupp has devoted himself to defending the reputation of Pope Pius XII. Mr. Krupp used to accept the common allegations against Pius XII, but after taking the time to study the evidence, he concluded that the wartime pope has gotten a bad rap. The Pave the Way Foundation’s website,, contains its research on the wartime pope and includes many primary-source documents.

Reporter Paul Vitello portrays Krupp as an eccentric and loose cannon whose work is dismissed by mainstream scholars. In fact, in the last decade, many new books have been published in Europe that defend Pius XII. Unfortunately, the work of these scholars in Italy, Germany, and France is largely unknown in the United States (and apparently to the staff of the New York Times).

As for Gary Krupp, is he really the only Jew who has a favorable opinion of Pius XII? Since the late 1990s, a number of Jewish scholars and writers have defended the pope’s reputation. They include Prof. William D. Rubenstein, who tore apart John Cornwell’s biased and unreliable Hitler’s Pope in these pages; our friend Rabbi David Dalin, who wrote The Myth of Hitler's Pope: Pope Pius XII And His Secret War Against Nazi Germany (2002); Prof. Jacques Adler of Australia; Michael Tagliacozzo (who escaped the Nazi roundups of Jews in Rome and now lives in Israel); Serge Klarsfeld, the Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter; Bernard Henri-Lévy, the French philosopher and Jewish atheist; and Great Britain’s Sir Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill and a world-renowned authority on the Holocaust.

Earlier Jewish authors who defended Pius XII include: Leon Poliakov; Pinchas Lapide, the author of Three Popes and the Jews (1967); Jenö Levai, who testified as an expert witness at the trial of Adolf Eichmann and then wrote the book Hungarian Jewry and the Papacy: Pope Pius XII Did Not Remain Silent (1968); and David Herstig, the author of the German-language book Die Rettung (“The Rescue,” 1967). In 1963, when German playwright Rolf Hochhuth first turned Pius XII into a villain with The Deputy, Dr. Joseph L. Licthen, the late interfaith director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote a persuasive monograph, “A Question of Judgment: Pope Pius XII and the Jews,” which can be found on the Internet. Clearly, Gary Krupp has company...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Divine Takedown?

Oh.  Oh, wow.  Okay, so a Pakistani news source talking about weird sounding, apparently Hindu practices may not be the most reliable source.  The imagery of this bit is astounding.  Excerpts:
“...There was a temple called Kasai Kathi (slaughter house) in eastern Assam’s Sadia area where it was said human sacrifices were performed,” said Pradeep Sharma, a researcher on tantricism. “But we have no evidence to prove this as the temple is now razed to the ground after heavy flooding triggered by a killer earthquake that rocked the state in 1950...”
Does that resemble, in any way, this?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pius XII Was An Awesome Philosemite

Yet further evidence.  Excerpts:
The Jewish New Yorker who has made it his life’s work to clear the name of Pope Pius XII of being anti-Semitic believes the wartime pontiff actually went undercover to save the lives of Jews in Rome.

Gary Krupp came across the evidence in a letter from a Jewish woman whose family was rescued thanks to direct Vatican intervention.

“It is an unusual letter, written by a woman who is alive today in northern Italy, who said she was with her mother, her uncle, and a few other relatives in an audience with Pius XII in 1947.” Next to Pope Pius during the meeting was his Assistant Secretary of State, Monsignor Giovanni Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.

“Her uncle immediately looks at the Pope and he says, ‘You were dressed as a Franciscan,’ and looked at Montini who was standing next to him, ‘and you as a regular priest. You took me out of the ghetto into the Vatican.’ Montini immediately said, ‘Silence, do not ever repeat that story.’”

Krupp believes the claim to be true because the personality of the wartime Pope was such that he “needed to see things with his own eyes.”

“He used to take the car out into bombed areas in Rome, and he certainly wasn't afraid of that. I can see him going into the ghetto and seeing what was happening,” says Krupp.

Krupp and his wife Meredith founded the Pave the Way Foundation in 2002 to “identify and eliminate the non-theological obstacles between religions...”
The rest of the article has more evidence of Pius XII's wartime efforts to save Jewish lives. Pave The Way Foundation has a page dedicated to Pius XII here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How to Make Excellent Parish Websites

Complete with handouts, presentations, and everything you need (save that skilled webdesigner with the know-how)--see here.

We desperately need to improve our self-presentation in cyberspace--they're really rather awful, all too frequently. Remember--beauty is inherently attractive, and we need to let the beauty of the truth and goodness of the faith be made manifest through our art, our architecture, and our HTML.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

HHS Regulations Target Catholics

According to at least one read of the history of the language being used. Excerpts:
...The federal government’s new contraceptive and sterilization insurance coverage mandate includes a religious exemption whose language was designed specifically to counter Catholic institutions’ conscience protections, one Catholic health care leader told a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee Nov. 2.

The exemption’s “highly flawed” definition originated in a California debate about a state-level contraception mandate, William J. Cox, president and CEO of the California-based Alliance of Catholic Health Care, told a Nov. 2 hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health.

The definition was “painstakingly crafted by the American Civil Liberties Union to specifically exclude religious institutional missions like health care providers, universities and social service agencies,” Cox stated.

During the debate, the then-head of Planned Parenthood in California said the wording was designed to close the “Catholic gap” in contraceptive coverage...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Western Civilization Has Suffered A Stroke

and its memory is rapidly fading.  I'm tempted to say that the Know Nothings are back, though now Knowing Nothing of the origins of their own conservative movement.  Excerpts:
...If Mr. Limbaugh doesn’t recognize the importance of the liberal arts and classical studies, what does he hope to conserve with his conservatism?

From what little of I know of Limbaugh, I know he speaks affectionately of the Founding Fathers. But, of course, the majority of Founding Fathers were classically educated. It would have been impossible to have had an American Founding without the classics...

Limbaugh’s response to the caller yesterday is symbolic and representative not only of the loss of purpose of western culture, but also of the loss of unity. What holds American and western civilization together if not the humane and the liberal understanding of the human person as recognized in our “experiment of liberty under law”?

Western civilization has been the result of a long, difficult conversation. When we read the classics and greats of the western world, we join into a Great Conversation which began when God spoke the universe into existence, but we also remind ourselves and the rising generation that the conversation has yet to end, and will not end until all things have been redeemed through the One...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Why Do People Illegally Immigrate?

A bishop from Texas gives a rather revealing analysis of the current situation.  Excerpts:
...Fear is the new driving factor for crossing the border—legally or illegally.

“The dominant fact is that the women and children are here. The men are often still in Mexico working to support them. They visit when they can. This is a new phenomenon, and not one that fits into the usual descriptions of immigration that we hear about on the news.”

Bishop Flores makes a first-person account of his encounters with immigrant families in several different categories, from the traditional poor seeking jobs, to Central Americans crossing Mexico on their way north, to middle class and wealthy business people seeking to shield their families from the violence.

“The new reality is rooted in what each of these families have in common: fear. They do not live in the Valley, or in Laredo, or in San Antonio primarily for economic reasons; rather, fear of kidnapping, random shootings, being caught at the wrong time in the wrong place, these are the pressures moving them. They are driven also by the fear that their children will grow up in, and know only, a lawless and cynical community if they remain at home.”

The economic and social impact of this new reality didn’t escape Bishop Flores’ analysis.

“If the middle class and the employer class are leaving because of violence, then we can expect the effects will be felt in an increase in poverty in Mexico. And this will surely put more pressure on immigration into the United States, only it will be doubly propelled by fear of violence and by poverty.”

He also spoke to the role of the Church in this discussion.

“We in the Church must do more to live up to our indispensable obligation to contribute to the discussion in a way that keeps it realistic and keeps it human,” Bishop Flores said. “There is a moral distinction we as a civilized people should maintain: someone who overstays a tourist visa out of fear for their life is not in the same category as someone who is running a prostitution ring in the Valley to support the drug trade...”

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why Does the Pope Oppose Condom Distribution in Africa?

John Allen has the story. Excerpts
...First, the pope was simply giving voice to what Catholic bishops in Africa have been telling him for decades. African prelates usually say the condoms that arrive in Africa are often cheap and unreliable, and anyway, simply passing them out without education and moral formation sometimes encourages people to engage in even riskier behaviors. You can contest that, but it’s far from a peculiar papal hobbyhorse.

Second, other religious leaders in Africa hold the same view. The day after the “Great Condoms Debate” broke out, I interviewed the imam of the national mosque in Cameroon’s capital. When I asked him what he made of it, the imam said: “My only regret is that the pope didn’t wait to say it until he got here, so we could have said it together.”

Third, some secular anti-AIDS experts think the pope’s got a point. Edward Green of Harvard published an op-ed in the Washington Post three days later with data showing that nations which use the “ABC” approach, stressing abstinence and fidelity alongside condoms, have had more success bringing down infection rates...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Answer to Evil: Jesus Is Lord

What he says.  Excerpts: we are coming full circle where we have got to rediscover how revolutionary our Catholic faith truly is to this world gone mad. And as we proclaim healing and an allegiance to something other than this world, we will become increasingly obnoxious to the world around us.

Consider both things for which Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned:

1. They ate away at profit – Paul drove a terrible demon out of a slave girl, a demon that afflicted her, but profited her slaveholders. In this world today there is a lot of trafficking in sin and addiction. Terrible demons afflict many people regarding sexuality, drugs, and alcohol. And there’s a lot of money to be made selling pornography to sex addicts, and others. Sex sells, Hollywood movie producers, contraceptionists, pimps, escort services, abortionists, and even traffickers in the sex slave industry also feed at the trough. Drugs and alcohol are big money makers too. Not to mention the huge numbers of products that are sold using the demon of fear: You are not pretty enough, you are not healthy enough, you are getting old, you don’t drive the right car, you haven’t impressed your friends enough. You need to buy our product right away so you are not so pathetic. And thus the demon of fear and low self-esteem is exploited, along with the demon of greed.

But what would happen if the Church were to start effectively preaching unabridged Christianity which says, “You don’t need to be afraid of your health, your age, or what people think of you. You can also find serenity in Christ and so you won’t need all that extra alcohol and those drugs. And you can be set free from your enslavement to sex, take authority over your passions and discover the beauty of traditional marriage. What if we got back in the business of driving out demons?

Well, of course the answer would be that we like Paul would be and are, under attack. We are especially hated by the sex industry and the abortionists, since that is the most focused issue these days. To them we are public enemy number one. We threaten the vision, the addiction and the despair that fills their coffers. If we are too successful, and for now our successes are meager, their profits may go away. Yes, we must be dealt with.

But really, we will only be effective if we preach the unabridged faith. Not the faith that is trimmed and tucked under worldly priorities, the faith that insists on being “realistic” and makes endless apologies to the inevitable objections of the world no matter how much we water things down. The true faith is revolutionary in the freedom it offers from sin and the demons.

Paul and Silas didn’t end up in prison by preaching a watered down, tamed and domesticated moral vision. They unabashedly drove out a demon that was afflicting a girl, and in so doing they engaged in a revolutionary threat to a world that profits well on sin.

2. They threatened power – Calling Jesus Lord was a revolutionary threat to the incumbent power which seeks and demands our first and full loyalty. And thus today, many strive to make Catholics fit into neat little political categories. Both Republicans and Democrats want the Church to fit into their narrow little categories and march in lockstep with a party system. Even Catholics in those categories want the Church to conform. Many Catholics in fact are more loyal to their party than their Church, and are more passionate about their political views than their faith. If there is a conflict between a Church teaching and the party line, guess which usually gives way.

But in the end the Church will not just fit into some neat political category. The true faith is too revolutionary to fit into some worldly box.

And thus there is a lot of hatred and anger directed at the Church. Republicans say we’re too liberal, Democrats say we’re too conservative. More and more we are being shown the door, kicked to the curb and our very right to religious liberty is threatened. Religious exemptions to increasingly pernicious laws are being slowly removed, and lawsuits against Catholic Institutions are increasing. It will surely get worse as secular systems demand increasing loyalty and Church must refuse that loyalty.

Because, Jesus is Lord, not the Federal, State or local government. Jesus is not Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. He is God, and the faith he announces cannot be defined down or compromised to fit into a friendship with the world.

But here too, no tame, domesticated Christianity, will threaten or change this world. When Paul preached the people rioted, but too much modern preaching incites only yawns and indifference...
Note: the revolutionary act done by Paul and Silas? Preaching Jesus Christ, and acts of spiritual warfare. Christians are not at war with flesh and blood, but with the powers and principalities of this present darkness, demons that can only be driven out by prayer and fasting, by the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, and the name of Jesus. Marxist revolution, violent revolution is not for Christians (as Solzhenitsyn tells us), for that is based on the lie that if only we wipe out this present evil, utterly eradicate it, then the world shall be newborn. What is always overlooked is that this newborn would be received into a world covered, not in the blood of its mother, but the blood of others, the blood of innocent and guilty alike. This would be (has been) over and over again a monstrous child, a tyranny.

No--the Christian revolution cuts more deeply, more thoroughly than any other. reaching right down into the hearts of humanity, transforming, restoring the lost relationships destroyed in the fall, curing the sick, healing the blindness and deafness and silenced voice of all the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve--casting out the devil and his minions into the outer darkness, and letting light into the world again.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Infuriating: Nonsense on AIDs, Africa

The piece overall is good, and the bit that ticked me off really isn't the author's fault--it's a true representation of the beliefs of some people.  But the sheer absurdity of the belief...Gah.  Anyway, excerpts:
...Some liberals complained the program pushed for ineffective abstinence measures, to please the religious right, while some conservatives viewed it as a an unneeded expenditure. But in general, it has been considered an example of policy success in an era when Americans love to criticize government...(emphasis added)
"Ineffective abstinence measures?"

Let us examine the silliness behind this phrase.

We are discussing the transmission of AIDs, a disease which has largely been passed along by sexual intercourse over these last few decades. And initiatives encouraging people to refrain from sex are ineffective...why?

Because, the assumption runs, people cannot possibly abstain from sex.

Baloney. Anyone reading this who is currently abstaining from sex--congratulations. You are achieving the impossible, simply by sitting in a chair, not having sex. Well done.

Over a longer period of time? I say again--baloney. There are people the world over successfully living very contented celibate lives in a variety of religions or circumstances of life which preclude sexual activity.

And best of all--an abstinence policy to prevent the transmission of AIDs still has room for monogamous sexual relationships between uninfected partners. So what exactly is so mind-bogglingly silly about encouraging abstinence as a means of preventing the transmission of AIDs?

Are there married couples with one infected partner and one uninfected?  Yes.  Are there cases of transmission by rape?  Yes.  Are people prone to have sex outside marriage?  Yes.  Does any of this mean that abstinence has no place in AIDs prevention measures?

I'd take a lot of convincing on that one.  You want to curtail the spread of a sexually transmitted disease.  Gee.  What should we do?  Faithful marriages, no sex outside of marriage...transmission rates would do what?

"unneeded expenditure?"
"...At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.

"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

"And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"

"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."

"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" said Scrooge.

"Both very busy, sir."

"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Scrooge. "I'm very glad to hear it."

"Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?"

"Nothing!" Scrooge replied.

"You wish to be anonymous?"

"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge. "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."

"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."

"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides -- excuse me -- I don't know that."

"But you might know it," observed the gentleman.

"It's not my business," Scrooge returned. "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!..."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In the Long Run, It's Either Conscience or Cops

A fascinating piece.  Go read the whole thing.  Excerpts:
...Colson’s Law is science rather than sermon, empirical rather than ideological. We can see the law at work in the history of any body, individual or collective, and we can predict its future on the basis of this law. Any individual human body that loses its internal immune system will die, unless propped up by many artificial, external aids: pills, operations, prosthetics—and even then, it’s only a matter of time. The same is true of social bodies: Police states without consciences are brittle. The “Thousand-Year Reich” lasted twelve years. The longest-lasting societies in history were all highly moralistic: the Confucian (over 2,100 years), the Roman (about 700 years), and the Islamic (almost 1,400 years). The longest-lasting moral order in history has been that of Mosaic law: It has structured Jewish and then Christian life for 3,500 years (though not as a continuous civil society)...

A corollary of Colson’s Law is that a community’s longevity is proportionate to its morality—and to its religion, for no society has yet existed that has successfully built its morality on any other basis than religion. In theory, the natural law can be known without knowing the divine law, but in practice, it is very rare; there has never been a whole society of Platos and Aristotles. It is a massive and obvious fact of history that religion has always been the primary source of morality. This fact is so massive and obvious that no age ever ignored it except the one so blind and arrogant that it labeled the era lit by the Christian faith “the Dark Ages” and called its own time of darkness the “Enlightenment...”

We seem to have caught the disease during the Enlightenment, which closed our eyes to God. This linguistic irony is not surprising, for language is one of a dying society’s first organs to be infected, as Confucius clearly saw. Asked to name the single most important of his many social principles of reform, he answered, “the restoration of language,” that is, calling things by their proper names...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sarandon, the Pope, and the Nazis

A brief rundown of her initial comments and reactions.  Excerpts:
...the Oct. 15 remarks she made about how she had given a copy of the book “Dead Man Walking” to the pope. Sarandon hastened to add that the pope to which she had given the book was Blessed John Paul II, “not this Nazi one we have now,” meaning Pope Benedict XVI.

It’s been well-documented that Pope Benedict was registered into the Hitler Youth while a teen in his native Germany, but he never went to meetings, and his lack of participation resulted in hardships for his family. But you can’t let context get in the way of a good quip.

But pushback against Sarandon has emerged from both Catholic and Jewish circles, condemning the remarks and demanding an apology...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Doctor on the Economy

Doctor of the Church, that is.  St. Basil the Great says:
They say: whom do I wrong by keeping my property? What, tell me, is your property? Where did you find it and brought it to your life? Just like someone in the theatre, who had a seat and then stopped those who entered, judging that what lies common in front of everyone to use, was his own: rich men are of the same kind. They first took possession of the common property, and then they keep it as their own because they were the first to take it. If one had taken what is necessary to cover one's needs and had left the rest to those who are in need, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.

Isn't it true, that you fell off the womb naked? Isn't it true, that naked you shall return to the earth? Where is your present property from? If you think that it came to you by itself, you don't believe in God, you don't acknowledge the creator and you are not thankful to Him who gave it to you. But if you agree and confess that you have it from God, tell us the reason why He gave it to you.

Is God unjust, dividing unequally the goods of our life? Why are you rich, while the other is poor? Isn't it, if not for any other reason, in order for you to gain a reward for your kindness and faithful providence, and for him to be honored with the great awards of patience? But you, having gathered everything inside the bosom of avarice which is always empty, do you think that you wrong no one, while you strip so many people?

Who is the greedy person? It's him, who doesn't content himself with what he has. And who strips? He who steals what belongs to the others. And you think that you are not greedy, and that you do not strip the others? What was granted to you, in order for you to take care of the others, you took it and you made it your own. What do you think?

He who strips the clothed is to be called a thief. How should we name him, who is able to dress the naked and doesn't do it, does he deserve some other name? The bread that you possess belongs to the hungry. The clothes that you store in boxes, belong to the naked. The shoes rotting by you, belong to the bare-foot. The money that you hide belongs to anyone in need. You wrong as many people as you could help.

From Homily On Avarice 7
This is not a denial of the right to property, or that the wealthy can be good--it just indicates that the rich man can all to easily become he who cried out to Father Abraham for a single drop of water.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Why does he matter? What did Pope John Paul II do worth commemorating? A run down of his life, some Catholic awesomeness (jugs of blood borne aloft by robed virgins, anyone?), and Pope Benedict looking really, really happy.

Beatification of Pope John Paul II from Rocco Palmo on Vimeo.

Blessed John Paul II's Challenge to the World

The absolute, and yet sweet and gentle, power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of intellect, will and heart. It does not speak the language of force, but expresses itself in charity and truth.

The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no dusk. Make me a servant: indeed, the servant of your servants....

Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development.

Do not be afraid. Christ knows “that which is in man”. He alone knows it.

So often today, man does not know that which is in him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair.

We ask you, therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust: let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of life eternal.”

--Inaugural Homily of the Pontificate, 22 October 1978; Office of Readings for 22nd October

Pope Announces Year of Faith

Next year.  He appears to want a rather significant amount of preparation in the run up.  Excerpts:
..."The 'door of faith' is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into His Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace"...

"Ever since the start of my ministry as Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ. ... Whereas in the past it was possible to recognise a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people".

"In the light of all this, I have decided to announce a Year of Faith. It will begin on 11 October 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II, and it will end on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on 24 November 2013. The starting date of 11 October 2012 also marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a text promulgated by my Predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, with a view to illustrating for all the faithful the power and beauty of the faith"...

"The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us. The Council itself, in the Dogmatic Constitution 'Lumen Gentium', said this: ... the Church ... clasping sinners to her bosom, is at once holy and always in need of purification".

The Year of Faith, from this perspective, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world. In the mystery of His death and resurrection, God has revealed in its fullness the Love that saves and calls us to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins. For St. Paul, this Love ushers us into a new life. ... Through faith, this new life shapes the whole of human existence according to the radical new reality of the resurrection. ... 'Faith working through love' becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man's life".

"Through His love, Jesus Christ attracts to Himself the people of every generation: in every age He convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelisation in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. In rediscovering His love day by day, the missionary commitment of believers attains force and vigour that can never fade away. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy".

"Only through believing, then, does faith grow and become stronger; there is no other possibility for possessing certitude with regard to one's life apart from self-abandonment, in a continuous crescendo, into the hands of a love that seems to grow constantly because it has its origin in God"...

Monday, October 17, 2011

German Secularism and Benedict XVI

An interesting analysis of the German reception to Benedict XVI. Excerpts:
...A majority of Germans and other Europeans may well be indifferent to religion, but the fury with which the generals and soldiers of today’s Kulturkampf greeted Benedict suggests that these people are not blithe secularists, but rabid apostates from the Christian faith. They have consciously rejected their heritage, even if they never understood what it truly means. In its place, in Benedict’s words, they have created an “artificial world” that “resembles a concrete bunker with no windows, in which we ourselves provide the lighting and atmospheric conditions, being no longer willing to obtain either from God’s wide world.” Having fought hard to create this artificial world, they remain on guard against challenges from believers who seek to restore balance to a wayward reason divorced from faith.

Achieving this restoration is the theological and cultural project of Benedict XVI. For decades he has wielded his pen against this apostasy, and now as pope he marshals tens of thousands to his cause with each appearance abroad. But what makes Benedict’s counter-attack especially fearsome to the German intelligentsia is more than just the depths of his work, which offers a formidable challenge to their position. Rather, it is the fact that he is Germany’s native son who has escaped from their artificial world to see the truth of God, of reason, and of nature that they have long denied. And even more devastatingly, he has done so always with a gentle and warm smile. The dreariness of the concrete bunker cannot withstand the explosive power of genuine happiness wedded to truth, and Benedict’s critics know this.

Benedict’s person and message are one. By his very presence last week he offered his fellow countrymen a path out of the bunker and into the light of truth. It is no wonder that the lawmakers in the Bundestag did not bother to hear his speech: they knew what he had to say before he uttered a word, and they did not want to hear it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Egyptian Christians in Darkening Circumstances

A small sample of the difficulties of Christians in the Middle East.  Excerpts:
...Sources say Egypt’s military is powerless against attacks by Salafis who use money and promises to turn people in the poorest regions of the country against Christians.

The extremist group is spreading across the Middle East, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Iraq, and Lebanon.

Salafis are taking advantage of the region’s instability to get caretaker governments to impose their ideology based on Sharia and Islam’s supremacy on other religions.

According to a recent report cited by the Assyrian News Agency (Aina), about 100,000 Christians have already left the country since Mubarak’s fall.

“The figure is an exaggeration,” sources told AsiaNews, “but many Copts are indeed leaving the country. In Upper Egypt, but also Cairo and Alexandria, many parish churches lay empty. People are afraid and believe that if the Muslim Brotherhood wins, there will be no place for Christians in the country...”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Who Was Hitler?

An interesting and slightly odd video.
I don't like all of his tactics, but it's worth a view, no matter what you think of what he's doing or how he's doing it.  Why?  Parts are quite well done, parts are interesting glimpses into modern trends (such as an alarming lapse in historical memory), and parts are examples of a particular method of argumentation and exposition common in certain circles.

I'd welcome comments and thoughtful critiques in the comboxes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sons of the World

What happens when you become interested in alternative spirituality simply as a means of avoiding conforming to one of the major religions.  Excerpts:
...It was a dazzling farrago of crazy nonsense that kept me spellbound all the way to the airport.

But it got me thinking about that quote from Jesus. Scott was not stupid. Nor was he crazy.

He was simply what Jesus called a “son of this world.” In his own sphere, he was brilliant and gifted. But when it came to the things of heaven he was a living embodiment of the old saw that people who refuse to believe in God (Scott informed me he was an ex-Catholic) will believe in anything...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Prayer: Heart of the Spiritual Life

The essence of the spiritual combat and the spiritual life: prayer to become holy. Excerpts:
...What do demons seek to arouse inside us?

Gluttony, prostitution, avarice, anger, resentfulness and all the other passions that fatten the mind so that it will be unable to pray properly;

because when irrational passions prevail, they do not allow the mind to move logically.

Do not think that you have acquired virtue if you have not previously struggled for it, even unto blood.

Because, according to the apostle Paul (Eph 6:11) we must resist sin to the death, with a fighting spirit and an irreproachable manner.

A bound person cannot run. Nor can the mind, which works like a slave for a certain passion, be able to offer a true prayer, because it is dragged around and wanders here and there on account of impassioned thoughts and cannot remain undisturbed.

You will not be able to pray clearly if you are preoccupied with material things and are agitated by incessant cares, because prayer implies riddance of every care.

If you wish to pray, you are in need of God, Who grants true prayer to whoever persists tirelessly in the struggle of prayer.

Nilus the Ascetic of Sinai (d. c.430): On Prayer, trans. Holy Monastery of the Paraklete Oropos, Attica (Greece)...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Executive Branch Can Order Assasinations of Citizens

How bizarre.  Excerpts:
American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials.

There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House's National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.

The panel was behind the decision to add Awlaki, a U.S.-born militant preacher with alleged al Qaeda connections, to the target list. He was killed by a CIA drone strike in Yemen late last month.

The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a citizen is fuzzy...

Current and former officials said that to the best of their knowledge, Awlaki, who the White House said was a key figure in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate, had been the only American put on a government list targeting people for capture or death due to their alleged involvement with militants...

The process involves "going through the National Security Council, then it eventually goes to the president...

Other officials said the role of the president in the process was murkier than what Ruppersberger described.

They said targeting recommendations are drawn up by a committee of mid-level National Security Council and agency officials. Their recommendations are then sent to the panel of NSC "principals," meaning Cabinet secretaries and intelligence unit chiefs, for approval. The panel of principals could have different memberships when considering different operational issues, they said...
This is ridiculous. The people deciding who to include on this list are an anonymous mix of administration officials who now have the power of life and death without trial over American citizens. Words fail me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"We Are In A War" Said Kreeft

Another analysis of the culture by Peter Kreeft, philosophical popularizer extraordinaire.  Excerpts:
What is the problem?

The problem is to "fight the good fight".

Fight? What fight? Are we at war?

Yes, we are at war. And if you aren't aware of that yet, the most important task this chapter can do for you is to alert you to that fact.

The enemy is not people. The enemy is not humans, but dehumanization: the spectacular and unmistakable social, cultural, and above all moral decline and decay that our society has been suffering for decades.

A generation ago, the five most bothersome problems complained about in polled American high schools were:
  • disrespect for property
  • laziness; not doing homework
  • talking and not paying attention in class
  • throwing spitballs
  • leaving doors and windows open
Does this sound like another world? It is. The same poll was retaken a few years ago. The five leading problems in those same high schools now are:
  • fear of violent death; guns and knives in school
  • rape
  • drugs
  • abortion
  • getting pregnant
The streets are not safe. The schools are not safe. The society is not safe. Not safe physically and not safe morally...

What He Said

Bleah.  Why did the Occupy Wall Street protests get going?  Hint: it's not just the unions or the fringe.  Excerpts:
Ex-mortgage CEO sentenced to prison for $3B fraud

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The CEO of what had been one of the nation’s largest privately held mortgage lenders was sentenced Tuesday to more than three years in prison for his role in a $3 billion scheme that officials called one of the biggest corporate frauds in U.S. history.

The 40-month sentence for Paul R. Allen, 55, of Oakton, Va., is slightly less than the six-year term sought by federal prosecutors.


Homeless man gets 15 years for stealing $100

A homeless man robbed a Louisiana bank and took a $100 bill. After feeling remorseful, he surrendered to police the next day. The judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

Monday, October 10, 2011

How to Win the Culture War--By Peter Kreeft

Well worth reposting, though that article prompted one of the first posts on this blog.  Still timely--perhaps even more so than when he first wrote it.  Excerpts:
To win any war, the three most necessary things to know are: (1) that you are at war, (2) who your enemy is, and (3) what weapons or strategies can defeat him.

You cannot win a war (1) if you simply sew peace banners on a battlefield, (2) if you fight civil wars against your allies, or (3) if you use the wrong weapons.

Here is a three point checklist for the culture wars...

If you don’t know that our entire civilization is in crisis, I hope you had a nice vacation on the moon.

Many minds do seem moonstruck, however, blissfully unaware of the crisis—especially the “intellectuals,” who are supposed to be the most on top of current events. I was dumbfounded to read a cover article in Time devoted to the question: Why is everything getting better? Why is life so good today? Why does everybody feel so satisfied about the quality of life? Time never questioned the assumption, it just wondered why the music on the Titanic sounded so nice.

It turned out, on reading the article, that every single aspect of life that was mentioned, every single reason for life getting better, was economic. People are richer. End of discussion.

Perhaps Time is just Playboy with clothes on. For one kind of playboy, the world is one great big whorehouse. For another kind, it’s one great big piggy bank. For both, things are getting better and better.

There is a scientific refutation of the Pig Philosophy: the statistical fact that suicide, the most in-your-face index of unhappiness, is directly proportionate to wealth. The richer you are, the richer your family is, and the richer your country is, the more likely it is that you will find life so good that you will choose to blow your brains apart.

Suicide among pre-adults has increased 5000% since the “happy days” of the ’50s. If suicide, especially among the coming generation, is not an index of crisis, nothing is.

Night is falling. What Chuck Colson has labeled “a new Dark Ages” is looming. And its Brave New World proved to be only a Cowardly Old Dream. We can see this now, at the end of “the century of genocide” that was christened “the Christian century” at its birth...
Read the whole thing. Print it out, pass it around. Absolutely vital.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

No-Fault Divorce and the Family

A fascinating article.  A blast from the past, really, but it says a great deal about where we've been and where we're headed.  Excerpts:
...These cards and books point to an uncomfortable and generally unacknowledged fact: what contributes to a parent's happiness may detract from a child's happiness. All too often the adult quest for freedom, independence, and choice in family relationships conflicts with a child's developmental needs for stability, constancy, harmony, and permanence in family life. In short, family disruption creates a deep division between parents' interests and the interests of children...

...Sometimes the tables are completely turned. Children are called upon to invest in the emotional well-being of their parents. Indeed, this seems to be the larger message of many of the children's books on divorce and remarriage. Dinosaurs Divorce asks children to be sympathetic, understanding, respectful, and polite to confused, unhappy parents. The sacrifice comes from the children: "Be prepared to give up some things." In the world of divorcing dinosaurs, the children rather than the grown-ups are the exemplars of patience, restraint, and good sense...
Go read the whole (long) thing--extensive research on the family, the effects on children of the two-parent versus the single-parent versus the step-family. Fascinating, scary, and indicative of why we are where we are.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cookie Awesomeness

Definitely going to try this.  Other coolness follows in the comments.  Excerpts:
The dream of enjoying cookies and milk—or cookies and ice cream—at the same time is real, and all you need to do it is cookie dough and a muffin tin. Flip the muffin tin over, form the cookie dough around the cups instead of inside it, and bake the tin upside down. When the dough is cooked through, you'll have cookie cups, ready for any delicious filling...

Another Financial Crisis Roundup

Some rather odd stories floating around the net these days.

From Italy, we get Maurizio D'Orlando commenting on the downgrades of European nations, the troubles with Greece, and what he calls "a controlled demolition" of the global economy.  He sounds rather strongly pro-Berlusconi and defensive about the Italian economy, but I'm not that familiar with the Italian situation--anyone with more knowledge able to comment?

From Britain, we get one of the strangest, most inflammatory interviews with an independent trader imaginable.  That guy has no PR chops in evidence in this clip.  Further information on his background.
Meanwhile, the British are not being understated about the severity of the current bout of crisis. Excerpts:
...Sir Mervyn King, the Bank's governor, said "this is the most serious financial crisis at least since the 1930s, if not ever". He later told Sky News that global economic prospects had deteriorated over the previous three months. He declined to rule out even more gilts purchases in the months ahead. Economists predict that the latest round will be only one of several...
Former President Bill Clinton offers his set of recommendations for getting us out of the crisis.

And, from last year, the BBC on the Greek problem:
The man who appears to be the lead spokesman for the Euroskeptic movement at the heart of the European project speaks, declaring the upcoming "end of the Euro" many months ago.
No idea how accurate the man's criticisms are, but in light of the current situation, it seems quite relevant.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Death Sentence for Apostasy Reveals "Nuances?"

Cause being sentenced to death for converting to Christianity is the sort of post-modern experience that really challenges one's dominant narrative, right?  We go from the whole "I'm alive" paradigm to "Ah, the lights just went out, and...oh, look, the Pearly Gates!"

Nuanced.  Feh--it's a bad piece.  Excerpts:
The possible hanging of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for converting from Islam to Christianity has exposed a division among Islamic jurists on whether Iran would be violating Islamic law by carrying out the execution...

According to some of these scholars, the Quran not only outlaws the death penalty for the charge of apostasy, but under Sharia law, conversion from Islam is not a punishable offense at all.

"Instead, it says on a number of occasions that God prefers and even demands that people believe in Him, but that He will handle rejection of such belief by punishing them in the afterworld," wrote Intisar Rabb, an assistant professor of law at Boston College and a faculty affiliate in research at Harvard Law School, in an e-mail to CNN.

But Rabb also acknowledges that there is a more nuanced view to Islamic law, too...
Note the academic jujitsu here--the blunt, simplistic interpretation is that Islamic law doesn't prescribe the death penalty for apostasy. It's only when you pull out the microscope to examine the nuances and subtleties that suddenly a death penalty appears. So someone has got to really dissect this thing in order for it to read "Delete, delete, delete..."
"The problem in the modern period is that contemporary states apply medieval rules in unreflective ways that do not often match the classical Islamic legal tradition to which they are trying to adhere," wrote Rabb.
So--hang on a minute. It's only those people who adhere to medieval law in unreflective ways who decipher an obligation to execute in sharia? But I thought only those highly nuanced thinkers who subtly dissect Islamic law in order to discern an obscure call for the death penalty ever demanded death for apostasy?
"One of them would be to say traditionally in Shiite Islam, people have interpreted the scripture for apostates to be put to death," Lombardi said.
Of course. Sunnis don't do that sort of thing. Ever.
"The reality is the 13 scholars on our sites could give you a variety of different responses," Bhatti said. Islamic law has a "rich legal tradition and it is important for us to not convey something definitive or to suggest there is one answer."

The overriding opinion of each scholar was simple - the complication of Islamic law makes it somewhat difficult to predict what Iran will do...
Ah.  The answer is simple--it's complicated.  Lovely.  If the law is that unpredictable, is it really capable of being just?

Lombardi recalled a story in Afghanistan, where a man's neighbors hauled him to court for leaving Islam.

"The judge takes a look and says this person is an apostate and therefore the crime should be putting them to death," Lombardi said. "But then the judge said, Islam is such great religion, you could have to be crazy to have to convert from Islam. And therefore, I think this person should get off on ground of insanity."

Moral of the story, according to Lombardi: "There are all sorts of grounds for pardoning someone..."
But you can only pardon someone if they are actually guilty of a crime, right? So even though this is a real part of the law, we can find all sorts of reasons for ignoring it, right?


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