Thursday, December 31, 2009

Back to Catholic Hospitals . . .

In earlier blog posts here and here, I linked to efforts to get to the bottom of the New York Times story about a rift between the American Catholic Bishops' position on the current Health Care bill and the position of the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The CHA was quick to deny that it had equivocated on the issue of abortion. Like others, I was relieved to hear that the Times' story was overblown.

Alas, it might not have been. This will be my last post on this unpleasant subject. I just don't have the heart to follow the depressing money trail. Since I raised the issue, however, I feel obliged to link to this sad follow-up. This may bounce around for a while before the reality of the situation is finally revealed, but after this you're on your own. I find this kind of thing tremendously disheartening.

Here's the latest I've seen, a piece by Theodore Kettle, entitled "Catholic Hospitals' Pro-Abortion Money Trail":
The New York Times dropped coal in Catholic pro-life stockings on Christmas Day with an article reporting a split on abortion between the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference and the Catholic Health Association, which represents about 600 Catholic hospitals.

CHA president Sister Carol Keehan had issued a statement that said, “now that a public health insurance option is no longer on the table” in the Senate’s health care reform bill, the CHA is “increasingly confident” that a compromise formulated by Catholic Democratic Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania “can achieve the objective of no federal funding for abortion.”

Pro-life activists call Casey’s proposal phony. National Right to Life legislative director Douglas Johnson, for example, said the Casey language “apparently would make it the default position for the federal government to subsidize plans that cover abortion on demand, and then permit individual citizens to apply for conscientious objector status.”

A year ago, Keehan defended ill-fated Obama HHS nominee Tom Daschle and his choice for deputy health care director Jeanne Lambrew, both abortion rights supporters.

But after last week’s New York Times story, Keehan claimed that the CHA is committed to health care for human life “from conception to natural death,” adding that “There is not a shred of disagreement between CHA and the bishops.”

A look at the campaign contributions of the governing board members of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, however, tells a very different story.
There's more. The rest of the article is here.

Tolerance Alert

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting:

As many as 50 Muslim villagers armed with clubs and axes recently attacked a showing of the 'Jesus' film near Sargodha, Pakistan, injuring three part-time evangelists and four Christians in attendance.

Two of the evangelists were said to be seriously injured. The Muslim hardliners also damaged a movie projector, burned reels of the film and absconded with the public address system and donations from Christian viewers in Chak village, about 10 kilometers northeast of Sargodha.

Officers at the Saddr police station refused to register a case against the Muslim assailants, sources said.

What might the noun "hardliners" mean in this report?

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

Rocket launcher found in Houston along with Jihadist literature

Rocket launcher? Check. Jihadist writings? Check. But no worries -- the Feds found no ties to terrorism!

Keystone Kops Alert from Houston thanks to Robert Spencer.

According to Houston's Channel 2 News: "Houston police said they did a thorough investigation and did not find any ties to terrorists or a terrorist network."

Happy Coincidence

When I exploit the work of other writers and bloggers, I acknowledge it . But in all honesty I posted the earlier blogpost before I happened to see this cartoon by Glenn Foden. The similarities are purely coincidental.

News: Fox raids the Chicken Coop

While the pom-pom media were sitting on the eggs they laid in 2008, hoping they would not hatch, some did and were dutifully ignored. Had it not been for the blogosphere and the dreaded "conservative" outlets, these stories would have been left for historians to unearth. If you want to know why the mainstream media is hemorrhaging readers and viewers, here is a short list of stories they chose to sit on. Once other outlets broke these stories, the mainstream responded by mocking them.

Kevin Jennings

Popular Resistance

Global Warming "Science"

The "science czar"


"Green Jobs" -- Van Jones

Go here for the rogues gallery of ignored stories.

Beauty -- Part VI

On the run-up to the new year, here is Part VI of British philosopher Roger Scruton's exploration of beauty and its decline.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Tough Democrat . . .

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, has this to say in tonight's email:
Rep. Bart Stupak informed Greta Van Susteren of FOX News that the White House told him to keep silent on abortion until the President had a chance to walk him through the pro-abortion Nelson-Reid Amendment.

Stupak responded, "I don't need you to walk me through the amendment. I can read, and this amendment is unacceptable." He went on to explain his objections to the Senate bill:
  • It recognizes abortion as a benefit covered under disease prevention (by this logic, the baby must be the disease)
  • It forces taxpayers to subsidize health care plans that pay for abortions (in direct violation of the Hyde Amendment)
  • It forces every enrollee in the federal exchange to pay a monthly fee to fund "reproductive rights" (abortion)
Here's more:

What will it take?

Jeff Jacoby, who holds the chair of reason and realism at the Boston Globe, has a fine summary of the our long, slow and far from complete recognition of the reality of radical Islamic totalitarianism. I commend his latest to your attention. He begins:
AFTER THE SEPT. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, it was widely asserted at the time, nothing would be the same. What Pearl Harbor had been for our parents and grandparents, 9/11 would be for us: a shattering national wake-up call revealing both the gaping holes in America's homeland security and the reality that we were at war with an implacable enemy whose defeat would require years of sacrifice and resolve.

But it became clear after a while that for many Americans, 9/11 had not marked a break with old ways of thinking. As the near-unanimity of 9/11 receded, Americans divided into what the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes dubbed September 12 people, for whom 9/11 had changed everything, and September 10 people, who believed the terrorist threat was being exaggerated by the Bush administration and who regarded the fight against Islamist extremism as chiefly a matter of law enforcement.

Would that divide have closed if Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had succeeded in blowing up Northwest Airlines flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day? If al-Qaeda, which reportedly trained Abdulmutallab in Yemen and is claiming responsibility for the thwarted attack, had succeeded in carrying out another 9/11, would the short-lived unity and moral clarity of that terrible day in 2001 have returned?
But the column gets better as it goes along. Read it all here.

Women in Gaza: Culture Matters

The Jerusalem Post reporting:
The vast majority of women in Gaza face violence of varying types, a new survey has found.

The study, by the Gaza-based Palestinian Women's Information and Media Center, found that violence against women in Gaza has increased since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in the June 2007 coup and Israel subsequently imposed restrictions on the coastal enclave.

The study found that 77.1% of Gazan women have experienced violence of various sorts, with almost half experiencing violence of more than one type.

A quarter of the women said they do not feel safe in their own homes because of violence and more than a third said they were unable to fight back as they had more urgent priorities to deal with.

67% of the women surveyed said they had encountered verbal violence, 71% mental violence, 52% physical violence and more than 14% sexual violence.
The Post journalist leans over backwards to emphasize that a poor economy is a contributing factor in this violence, which I'm sure it is. But would the same level of economic distress produce the same level of misogyny and violence in, say, North Brookfield, Massachusetts where I live. Let me assure you it wouldn't.

Huda Hamouda, Director of the PWIC was quoted as saying: "laws to combat violence against women were lax and contributed to a culture of impunity for perpetrators, especially in relation to honor killings."
Honor killings are cases in which women accused of bringing dishonor to the family are killed by relatives. Killings often involve women suspected of fraternizing with men who are not their husbands or relatives.
Multiculturalists please call your office.

Full story: here.
Hat Tip: Jihad Watch


Of Europe, Aidan Nichols, O.P. writes:
... the very word entered the popular vernaculars in the early modern period not just because of the influence of classical humanistic thought but via reaction to the threat from Islam in the shape of the Turks. However, the spiritual capital of the concept of Europe has been squandered. In the Great Revolution of the West, God was dethroned as the public summum bonum and replaced by the nation.
The most salient date for this transition was the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Exactly two hundred years later, the second shoe dropped with the wave of revolutions rippled out from the French Revolution. (Forgive the mixed metaphors.)
After 1848, the socialist tradition replaced the nation here by the proletarian revolution. Meanwhile, its capitalist alternative found yet another idol, creating the consumerist dystopia in which 'their God is their stomach.'
For some clarity on the situation, Nichols turns to Joseph Ratzinger -- now Pope Benedict XVI -- and in doing so touches on a point that should be of supreme interest to us in this critical moment in our society's history:
[Ratzinger] points out the curious tendency of the pursuit of freedom to throw up fresh forms of constriction ... The revolutions of the past transferred power from persons to institutions so as to secure objectivity in the exercise of power but they all too often produce a grey bureaucratic uniformity of the sort described in Kafka's novels.

Robin of Berkeley

A writer who goes by the name "Robin of Berkeley" -- and who is a former liberal (isn't everyone?) living on planet Berkeley and doing her best under the circumstances -- has a touching piece here about her Christmas Eve experiences. She begins:
As a Jewish child, I never celebrated Christmas. I found out what I was missing on Christmas Eve, 1973.

My high school boyfriend Brian invited me to join his family for their celebration. The event floored me. It wasn't just the illuminated tree, the music, and the pleasure of opening gifts. It was the power of the holiday to transform Brian's ordinary family.

Laughing, singing hymns, praying -- they were absolutely radiant. I had never seen them so joyful. And in their presence, I felt joyful, too.

That was my one and only Christmas experience, and it never occurred to have another one. But this year's Christmas felt different.
It's a heartwarming story. Read it all here.

Not that it matters much . . .

In the post below, I left out the not-insignificant word "not" in the last paragraph. It should read, and it now does read:

Personally, I'm not as optimistic nor as comfortable with the Health Care Bill even if it doesn't federally fund abortion. But it is as reassuring to discover that the Catholic Health Association is still Catholic as it is exasperating to discover that the New York Times is still trying to drive a political wedge into the American Church. (emphasis added here)

Beauty -- Part V

On the run-up to the new year, here is Part V of British philosopher Roger Scruton's exploration of beauty and its decline.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Possible Correction . . .

Following up on the earlier post, which began with a reference to the New York Times story mentioned below, this from

Disputing a December 26 New York Times story, Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, has denied that her organization has split with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops over federal funding for abortion in health care reform legislation.

“There is not a shred of disagreement between CHA and the bishops,” she said. “We believe there is a great possibility and probability that in conference committee we can work toward a solution that will prevent federal funding of abortion.”

Personally, I'm not as optimistic nor as comfortable with the Health Care Bill even if it doesn't federally fund abortion. But it is as reassuring to discover that the Catholic Health Association is still Catholic as it is exasperating to discover that the New York Times is still trying to drive a political wedge into the American Church.

Apologizing for Our Predecessors' Accomplishments

My friend Eric Gans' latest Chronicles of Love and Resentment is an absolutely "must read." It is his review of Pascal Bruckner's La tyrannie de la pénitence, a critique of the Western self-abnegation. Eric begins this way:
Although the term “white guilt” was inspired by the historically fraught relationship between America’s two principal racial groups, the phenomenon itself is more potent today in Europe than in the United States. Where the US had slavery and Jim Crow, Europe had colonialism and the Holocaust, and it is the last of these that has had the determining effect on the postmodern era. Furthermore, although the US has had its share of European-style penitents, including the last two Democratic presidential candidates, it also has world responsibilities that require it to maintain a dominant military establishment, while Europe, with its limited commitments, reposes comfortably under the American umbrella. Thus whatever one's affinity for the European model in foreign affairs, the United States cannot give itself over to the kind of penitential posturing that Pascal Bruckner examines in his against-the-grain La tyrannie de la pénitence : essai sur le masochisme occidental (Grasset, 2006).

Bruckner accuses Europe in general and France in particular of taking a “masochistic” stance toward the world of its former colonies and dependencies. He detects in this self-flagellation an inverted moral narcissism through which former great powers attempt to retain their place at the center of the world by taking the blame for all its ills. Europe has become, in Bruckner’s view, a Hegelian “beautiful soul” who recoils from any concrete engagement with the world’s problems while pretending that they can all be solved through peaceful “dialogue,” leaving the heavy lifting to the United States.
And here are a few salient passages:
Bruckner’s book provides a welcome occasion for reflection on our civilization’s self-destructive tendencies. Is it implicit in the development of an economically and technologically advanced social order that it will become paralyzed with guilt at its own superiority and succumb to blackmail from its purported victims rather than defend itself as the only conceivable source of benefits for the rest of the world? Can Western firstness sustain itself long enough to transmit its advantages to the rest of the planet, or is the resentment it arouses fated to destroy it from within as well as without?

Bruckner would like guilt-obsessed Westerners to remember their contributions to moral progress. The West may have practiced slavery, but so did every other society capable of profiting from it; yet the West abolished it, while it persists to this day in Africa and the Arab world. The West may have created the twin monstrosities of Nazism and Stalinism, but it also defeated them, while brutal dictatorships continue to flourish elsewhere. But the very need to make such obvious points, or to refute the absurd notion that Western prosperity is a product of the exploitation of the rest of the world, demonstrates the elemental power of the originary moral model, which, in the absence of ideological barriers, reads every unequal configuration as a zero-sum game whose winners can only have stolen from the losers.
Eric's conclusion:
Bruckner’s lucid analysis of European white guilt and its dangers offers finally little reassurance against Mark Steyn’s ominous vision of Europe's failure to resist jihad from without and depopulation from within: America Alone.
Read it all here.

Beauty -- Part IV

On the run-up to the new year, here is Part IV of British philosopher Roger Scruton's exploration of beauty and its decline.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot?

Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, has written an email to those on her mailing list that begins this way:
Congress is on the verge of authorizing the greatest single expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade - and your tax dollars will be paying for it.

For years, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and their pro-abortion allies have been quietly developing a formidable grassroots army. In its latest annual report, Planned Parenthood's Action Network claims to have recruited "more than 200,000 new supporters," with "affiliates [that] reach every corner of America." Planned Parenthood has also been amassing a considerable "war chest" to spread its pro-abortion message to vulnerable Americans. Last year, it reported a $1 billion budget and a profit of $85 million!
Dr. Yoest's email is not only informative but it is also pleading for financial contributions to help offset this massively financed push on the part of the pro-abortion forces. All non-profits are today suffering from the economic hard times we all experience, and for one non-profit to call its supporters' attention to the funding needs of another non-profit may not be the most expedient thing to do under the circumstances. As much as the Cornerstone Forum would welcome your tax-deductible donations at this 2009 eleventh hour, I would nevertheless like to direct you to the remarkably fine work Americans United for Life is doing. When the history of the struggle against the "silent holocaust" of abortion is written, AUL will have a place of honor comparable to the one we now rightly accord to the opponents of slavery.

HERE is where you can make your financial donation.

If there's a bit left over after you give AUL a little help, the Cornerstone Forum would be most grateful for your help as well. In any case, keep us in your prayers.

Alinsky: Tell them what they want to hear.

It apparently works quite well on those with stars in the eyes.

From Diogenes,without the irony, which is nevertheless right on target:

The New York Times reports that the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious think the Senate got it right:

In an apparent split with Roman Catholic bishops over the abortion-financing provisions of the proposed health care overhaul, the nation’s Catholic hospitals have signaled that they back the Senate’s compromise on the issue, raising hopes of breaking an impasse in Congress and stirring controversy within the church. …

Just days before the bill passed, the Catholic Health Association, which represents hundreds of Catholic hospitals across the country, said in a statement that it was “encouraged” and “increasingly confident” that such a compromise “can achieve the objective of no federal funding for abortion.” An umbrella group for nuns followed its lead.

As for the "objective of no federal funding for abortion," no serious pro-life organization feels that the present Health Care Bill achieves that objective. To say that it does is to simply repeat the president's strategy of telling people what they want to hear regardless of how poorly it fits the facts. As in this:

Quite to the contrary, here is the actual situation today according to the Americans United for Life:

... insurance plans that cover elective abortions will receive these federal subsidies," Americans United for Life explains.

"Finally, there is an additional limitation on choice in Majority Leader Reid’s amendment that has been largely ignored, and for the first time in U.S. history imposes an abortion tax on unwilling Americans," AUL adds.

"Under Majority Leader Reid’s amendment, ALL individuals who participate in plans in the Exchange that include elective abortion coverage, even if they do so unwittingly, will directly pay part of their own premiums into an account that pays for nothing but elective abortions," the pro-life group says.

"The amendment provides that each and every enrollee in such a plan (or their employer on their behalf) must write a separate check for elective abortion coverage, even if that enrollee never intends to have an abortion. That amount cannot be less than $12.00 per year," it notes.

On this issue, as on others, the watchword is: pay attention to what he does and not what he says.

In case you think this is a recent development:

The thing to remember is that our president spent years employing and refining the political ethics (if that's the word) of Saul Alinsky.

Beauty -- Part III

On the run-up to the new year, here is Part III of British philosopher Roger Scruton's exploration of beauty and its decline.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

When dialogue become collaboration

Back in 1985, when the New York Times' columnist E. J. Dionne was rehearsing the liberal Catholicism which has now become so reflexively predictable, he conducted an interview -- via correspondence -- with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the cardinal's capacity of the prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. In the exchange, Cardinal Ratzinger acknowledged a lesson he had learned in trying to enter into dialogue with the radicals of the May, 1968 uprisings in Europe. It is something that it might be beneficial for our president to think about as he scurries around the world courting the favor of sundry international ideologues and thugs.

Cardinal Ratzinger said: "I learned that it is impossible to discuss with terror and on terror, as there are no premises for a discussion -- and such a discussion becomes collaboration with terror ... I think that in those years, I learned where discussion must stop because it is turning into a lie, and resistance must begin in order to maintain freedom."

Beauty -- Part II

On the run-up to the new year, here is Part II of British philosopher Roger Scruton's exploration of beauty and its decline.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Second Day of Christmas

My friend "Athos" has a wonderful post -- beautiful image and bracing lines of poetry -- here. Both the poetry and the image are so good that I have copied them both, shamelessly feasting on the crumbs from my friend's table.

Beauty -- Part I

On the run-up to the new year, here is Part I of British philosopher Roger Scruton's exploration of beauty and its decline.

Friday, December 25, 2009

"Embattled Christians" on this Christmas Day

Nina Shea had a piece the other day which is worth noting as Christmas day draws to a close. It is about the seemingly gradual -- but in historical terms breathtakingly rapid -- disappearance of Christians and Christianity from the Middle East.

Shea writes:
The lengthy exodus of ancient Christian congregations from the greater Middle East’s last redoubts of religious pluralism is accelerating. Terrorism, conflict, and the rise of intolerant Islamism are to blame, Vatican officials explain. There is a real fear that the light of Christian communities that was enkindled personally by the apostles of Jesus Christ could be extinguished in this vast region that includes the Holy Land. . . .

The disappearance of living Christian communities would signal the disappearance of religious pluralism and a moderating influence from the heart of the Muslim world. . . .

Within our lifetime, the Middle East could be wholly Islamicized for the first time in history. Without the experience of living alongside Christians and other non-Muslims at home, what would prepare it to peacefully coexist with the West? This religious polarization would undoubtedly have geopolitical significance. So far, official Washington has not taken this under consideration.
This last sentence stands as a reminder that the religious freedom of many of our brothers and sisters in other lands -- non-Christians and non-believers as well as Christians -- depends on support from the "west" in general and the U.S. in particular, and that the inculcation of multicultural pieties has dissuaded us as a society from the task of championing the cause of the religious freedom.

Nina Shea's article is here.

Again, I say: Rejoice . . .

The God who chose history’s forgotten people as his own, and who came into the world in obscurity and ignominy, and who thereafter inserts himself into human history by way of a Church as outwardly motley and inwardly magnificent as a Bethlehem cowshed, now enters “the rag and bone shop of the heart” as a little piece of bread.

Could the Good News get any better than this?

Have a Blessed and Joyful Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"If it is true, it changes everything."

At the "midnight" (10 p.m. this year) Mass at St. Peter's, here are a few things that Pope Benedict XVI had to say in his homily:
Dear Brothers and Sisters! "A child is born for us, a son is given to us" (Is 9:5). What Isaiah prophesied as he gazed into the future from afar, consoling Israel amid its trials and its darkness, is now proclaimed to the shepherds as a present reality by the Angel, from whom a cloud of light streams forth: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:11). ... It is a message that cannot leave us indifferent. If it is true, it changes everything. If it is true, it also affects me. Like the shepherds, then, I too must say: Come on, I want to go to Bethlehem to see the Word that has occurred there. The story of the shepherds is included in the Gospel for a reason. They show us the right way to respond to the message that we too have received. What is it that these first witnesses of God's incarnation have to tell us?

[The Gospel] tells us that after listening to the Angel's message, the shepherds said one to another: "'Let us go over to Bethlehem' they went at once" (Lk 2:15f.). "They made haste" is literally what the Greek text says. ... For most people, the things of God are not given priority, they do not impose themselves on us directly And so the great majority of us tend to postpone them. First we do what seems urgent here and now. In the list of priorities God is often more or less at the end. We can always deal with that later, we tend to think. The Gospel tells us: God is the highest priority. If anything in our life deserves haste without delay, then, it is God's work alone. The Rule of Saint Benedict contains this teaching: "Place nothing at all before the work of God (i.e. the divine office)". For monks, the Liturgy is the first priority. Everything else comes later. In its essence, though, this saying applies to everyone. God is important, by far the most important thing in our lives. The shepherds teach us this priority. From them we should learn not to be crushed by all the pressing matters in our daily lives. From them we should learn the inner freedom to put other tasks in second place however important they may be so as to make our way towards God, to allow him into our lives and into our time. Time given to God and, in his name, to our neighbour is never time lost. It is the time when we are most truly alive, when we live our humanity to the full.

Some commentators point out that the shepherds, the simple souls, were the first to come to Jesus in the manger and to encounter the Redeemer of the world. The wise men from the East, representing those with social standing and fame, arrived much later. The commentators go on to say: this is quite natural. The shepherds lived nearby. They only needed to "come over" (cf. Lk 2:15), as we do when we go to visit our neighbours. The wise men, however, lived far away. They had to undertake a long and arduous journey in order to arrive in Bethlehem. And they needed guidance and direction. Today too there are simple and lowly souls who live very close to the Lord. They are, so to speak, his neighbours and they can easily go to see him. But most of us in the world today live far from Jesus Christ, the incarnate God who came to dwell amongst us. We live our lives by philosophies, amid worldly affairs and occupations that totally absorb us and are a great distance from the manger. In all kinds of ways, God has to prod us and reach out to us again and again, so that we can manage to escape from the muddle of our thoughts and activities and discover the way that leads to him. ...

Let us pray that he may come to us each day, that we may be able to say: I live, yet it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20)" (in Lk 22:3).

Yes indeed, that is what we should pray for on this Holy Night. Lord Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, come to us! Enter within me, within my soul. Transform me. Renew me. Change me, change us all from stone and wood into living people, in whom your love is made present and the world is transformed. Amen

Christmas in the Meantime . . .

Take a look at this website to see which retailers continue to have some reverence for the feast day on which so much of their commercial success depends, and which have chosen to either neglect or mock it.

More importantly, however, is the little video (I hope it's still there, so hurry in case it is replaced) in the upper right hand of the website. (I could not copy the embedded code, so you have to go to the website to see it.)

It's quite beautiful. Again, it's here.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


A person who has learned to love his enemies doesn't have to spent his whole life trying not to make any or pretending not to have any.

The first act of charity toward one's enemies may well be to thwart their ambitions and, if necessary, bring them to their knees -- figuratively or literally. At which moment, one can fall on one's knees beside them and begin putting the world back together again.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A legislative monstrosity . . .

This from Robert Samuelson, a Newsweek and Washington Post journalist whose area of expertise is economics:
Obama's plan amounts to this: partial coverage of the uninsured; modest improvements (possibly) in their health; sizable budgetary costs worsening a bleak outlook; significant, unpredictable changes in insurance markets; weak spending control. This is a bad bargain. Benefits are overstated, costs understated. This legislation is a monstrosity; the country would be worse for its passage. What it's become is an exercise in political symbolism: Obama's self-indulgent crusade to seize the liberal holy grail of "universal coverage." What it's not is leadership.
The whole piece is here.

Thank who? . . .

Nancy Pelosi praised the Senate Health Care Bill, expressing special delight in the fact that (quoting) the "abortion language that is completely different from the House -- thank God."

"If you do not come too close . . ."

If you do not come too close, if you do not come too close,

On a Summer midnight, you can hear the music

Of the weak pipe and the little drum

And see them dancing around the bonfire.
So wrote T. S. Eliot in East Coker. I read these lines both before and after I became acquainted with the work of René Girard, and, like so many other things in my life, the “before” version required a good deal of updating in light of Girard’s work. The word “bonfire” comes from bone-fire, and it was originally a fire so hot and consuming that it would reduce even bones to unrecognizable ashes. The value of doing this would have greatly enhanced a community’s effort to render a comforting account of the fate of those whose bones – had they survived the fire – might have constituted evidence for a harsher truth than the myth the community is ritually laboring to make plausible. Those familiar with Girard’s work will know where all this comes from and where it leads. I needn’t pursue it further here. I only want to bring into focus the phrase “if you do not come too close.”

Many years ago, when the reality of “partial-birth abortion” – the gruesome procedure Barack Obama would later so vigorously defended in the Illinois legislature – was receiving some media attention, I made the mistake of reading a description of the procedure out loud while my 10-year-old daughter was in the room. She instantly broke into sobbing tears. At that moment, my moral revulsion for this barbarous act became more than that. Aña’s completely visceral reaction made me realize what abortion was doing to everyone. Its presence as a “fact of contemporary life” was causing us all to die inwardly. My daughter had exactly the right reaction. Why, I wondered, didn’t I break down as she had? Rather I read the story as though it were just another outrageous development in a world where many outrages exist.

In his “While We’re At It” commentaries in the current edition of First Things, editor Jody Bottum contrasts the stories of two abortion industry workers, Abby Johnson, who resigned her Planned Parenthood job after assisting at an abortion and seeing up close what an abortion is, and a midwest abortionist who experienced a similar “moment of disillusionment” while dismembering an eighteen week old unborn child at the moment when she herself was eighteen week pregnant. Bottum quotes the woman’s own words:
I felt a kick – a fluttery “thump, thump” in my own uterus. It was one of the first times I felt fetal movement. There was a leg and a foot in my forceps, and a “thump, thump” in my abdomen. Instantly, tears were streaming from my eyes – without me – meaning my conscious brain – even being aware of what was going on. I felt as if my response had come entirely from my body, bypassing my usual cognitive processing completely. A message seemed to travel from my hand and my uterus to my tear ducts. It was an overwhelming feeling – a brutally visceral response – heartfelt and unmediated by my training or my feminist pro-choice politics.”
Astonishingly, Bottum tells us, this woman managed to suppress this anatomical response to the horror of abortion and continue aborting babies for a living. Given, however, that the woman admitted that performing trimester abortions “did not get any easier after my pregnancy” and that “dealing with little infant parts of my born baby only made dealing with dismembered fetal parts sadder,” there is reason to believe that this is not the end of her moral journey.

The reason I have related these two stories is because, for me, they represent the strongest evidence I know for the existence of an immutable moral law, written on the heart of everyone, as St. Paul insisted it is.

If you do not come too close, certain rituals work fine, but beware of coming too close. Once exposed to them more intimately, the spiritual, moral and psychological price to be paid for ignoring their moral reality is considerable. The heart that would have broken, hardens. The heart of flesh becomes a heart of stone, and it does this so incrementally that one might not realize what is actually happening. Ours is today a world where too many of us – and to a degree almost all of us – have allowed our hearts to harden in this way. But, thanks to sonograms and similar technologies, more and more of us are coming too close to be able to suppress the reality.

Compared to the reality which Abby Johnson found so disturbing once she “came too close,” the reality to which my 10-year-old and the midwest abortion doctor reacted with such visceral revulsion, “feminist pro-choice politics” represents little more than the “weak pipe and little drum” accompanying the pagan fertility cult of T. S. Eliot’s poem. These instruments for warding off reality work for a while, but then – more suddenly than one might have expected – they vanish, at which the erstwhile ritual participant sees – not the charming singing and dancing – but “dung and death.” It is at this point, that one’s spiritual revival begins.

EVERYONE will pay for abortion

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Chicago Way

Thanks to Daniel Foster at National Review Online's Doctor! Doctor! here's how the politics of the "Chicago Way" worked for a few of the senators who played hard to get.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.):

—$1.2 billion over ten years for a permanent exemption from Nebraska's share of the Medicaid expansion. The only state so exempted under the bill.

—Exemption for Nebraska from an excise tax on non-profit insurers.

Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.)

—Exemption from the non-profit excise tax for Michigan insurers. Michigan and Nebraska were the only two states so exempted.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.)

—$10 billion for "community health centers".

—Protections from cuts to Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in Vermont.

—$250 million over six years in expanded federal Medicaid funding.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., La.)

—$300 million increase in Medicaid funding in Louisiana.

Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), Sen. Paul Kirk (D., Mass).

—Three years of expanded federal Medicaid funding.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.), Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.)

—Special treatment for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D., Hawaii), Sen. Daniel Akaka (D., Hawaii)

—billions in new funding for something called “Disproportionate Share Hospital” (DSH) payments (financed, in large part, by $18.5 billion in cuts to DSH payments in other states).

Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.), Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.), Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.), Sen. Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.), Sen. Tim Johnson (D., S.D.)

—Higher federal Medicare reimbursement rates for low-population “frontier” states (also qualifying under the bill’s definition of frontier states are Utah and Wyoming, represented in the Senate by Republicans).

Even those familiar with the less savory aspects of the legislative process are amazed by the shameless venality of the administration and its congressional allies.

We cannot give up.

I am not a Republican, nor do I carry water for the Republican party, but when the vote in the Senate along strictly partisan lines demonstrates clearly that the Health Care Bill is owned lock, stock and barrel by the Democratic party, one can only turn to those in the opposing party who continue to struggle to prevent the moral, economic, and political damage this terrible piece of legislation would cause.

I don't know what the chances might be of defeating this bill when it goes to conference committee to resolve the differences between the Senate and House language, but that appears to be the last chance to stop it. And so what little hope we have depends on people like Representative John Boehner of Ohio, the minority leader in the House of Representatives:
“The American people have rejected the Democrats’ government-run approach to health care loudly and clearly, and it’s time to scrap Senator Reid’s bill and start over. The bill will fundamentally change something as personal and important as the relationship between a patient and a doctor, and yet Democrats are attempting to sneak the bill through before Christmas in the hopes the American people aren’t watching what they’re doing. Why? Because Senator Reid knows the more the American people find out about this bill, the more they oppose it.

“The Democrats’ government takeover of health care will increase premiums for families and small businesses, raise taxes during a recession, cut seniors’ Medicare benefits, add to our skyrocketing debt, and put bureaucrats in charge of decisions that should be made by patients and doctors. The bill also authorizes government-funded abortions, violating long-standing policies prohibiting federal funding of abortion. That’s not reform. My message to the American people is: now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to fight harder. When the American people are engaged, Washington listens. Now is the time to speak out, more loudly and clearly than ever, against this monstrosity.”
As the Wall Street Journal editors put it:
The rushed, secretive way that a bill this destructive and unpopular is being forced on the country shows that "reform" has devolved into the raw exercise of political power for the single purpose of permanently expanding the American entitlement state. An increasing roll of leaders in health care and business are looking on aghast at a bill that is so large and convoluted that no one can truly understand it, as Finance Chairman Max Baucus admitted on the floor last week. The only goal is to ram it into law while the political window is still open, and clean up the mess later.
P.S. While the Heath Care Bill is the Democratic party's very own Rube Goldberg gargoyle, it is also true that the House Democrat Bart Stupak will be among the heroes of this struggle -- win or lose -- as may others on both sides of the aisle in the House, especially if they manage somehow to finally scuttle the bill. Republicans and independents in their districts will have good reason to remember them fondly next election time.

And you thought it was about economics ...

The same people who so shamelessly bribed Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska in order to get the necessary 60 votes to pass the economically and morally devastating Health Care Bill, have been using the massive pile of stimulus dollars to pay back their political allies for their support.

Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft -- fast becoming one of the finest journalists we have -- has the story here. He quotes the Washington Examiner, which in turn cites a study by the Mercatus Center at George Washington University:
The Mercatus Center analysis also found that Democratic congressional districts received on average almost double the funding of Republican congressional districts. Republican congressional districts received on average $232 million in stimulus funds while Democratic districts received $439 million on average.

“We found that there is a correlation [relating to the partisanship of congressional districts],” de Rugy said. Her regression analysis found that stimulus funds are expected to decrease by 24.19 percent if a district is represented by a Republican.

“During the appropriations process, you're not surprised to see the Democrats are getting more money, but in this case a lot of the money we're looking at is going through HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development], or Department of Education, Department of Transportation etc. and they're following a formula,” she said. “But the correlation exists, and not only does it exist -- when you look at how much money we're talking about, it's a pretty big deal.”
According to the Washington Examiner:
The Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia is one of the nation's most respected economic and regulatory think tanks and has a Nobel prize-winning economist on staff. The econometric analysis was done using data provided by -- the government website devoted to tracking the stimulus data -- as well as a host of other government databases.
So, it's business as usual for the Saul Alinsky Chicago politicians who sit at the controls.

"a date which will live in infamy"

"A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more." - Matthew 2:18
There is all the more reason for weeping, inasmuch as the taking of innocent life has not only become public policy -- the majority party's sacred cause -- but it now requires that every tax-payer to be financially complicit in the slaughter of the innocents that continues day-in and day-out. Herod of old would blush at the scale of the slaughter.

The Obama revolution rolls on.

Writes Dr. Charmaine Yoest, President of Americans United for Life:

“60 U.S. Senators just made history by voting to move forward with a bill that imposes a first-ever mandatory abortion tax on the American people. Majority Leader Reid held this vote in the middle of the night because he knows that the vast majority of Americans don’t want this new tax and don’t want tax dollars bankrolling insurance plans that cover abortion. A ‘yes’ vote is a solid ‘yes’ to the expansion of federal funding for abortion. We will be making this tragic decision clear to those constituents who have been misinformed that their Senator is pro-life.”

It is yet another day that will live in infamy, but this time the president of the United States will congratulate his political allies for bringing it about.

There are many reasons for opposing the Health Care Bill which will now be forced on the American people, and I oppose it for most of them, but the federal funding of abortion is the most morally odious of them all.

The darker strains of the Christmas story are being lived out in our time. The brighter strains of that story must sustain us -- and fortify us for our resistance to the unconscionable -- in the "meantime."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Recycling: Who needs the exegetes?

Thanks to my friend John Meenagh, this definitive definition of Christmas. Oh, for the days ...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's smoke and mirrors time again.

This from Emily Buchanan, Executive Director, Susan B. Anthony List:
I regret to inform you that this morning the last pro-life Democratic holdout in the Senate, Ben Nelson (D-NE), publicly caved in to a "pro-life compromise" authored by Bob Casey (D-PA) and Harry Reid (D-NV).

This so-called "pro-life compromise" dresses up taxpayer funding of abortions with more fancy language, more conscience protections, and more federal funding for assistance to teenagers who are pregnant. The "compromise" also forces all states to carry a health care plan that does not offer abortion coverage and allows the states to "opt out" of having to carry a plan that covers abortion funding. ...

Unfortunately, the citizens of any state that "opts out" will not be exempt from paying federal taxes, which will be used to fund plans that cover abortions in other states. This compromise forces you and me, no matter what state we live in, to fund abortions, and SBA List utterly rejects it.
There are very few "smoke-filled rooms" anymore, but they've been more than adequately replaced by smoke-and-mirrors charades. This is one of them. The senators lie and babies die. Where have I heard something like that before?

Worse still, the babies don't die, nor are the killed in combat for which they volunteered, they are methodically and clinically murdered by people who make a living doing such things.

Worse still, you and I will be financing their murders.

God help us.

I love stories like this.

New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan and Rabbi David Posner
Seven nights after the archbishop of New York lit the Hannukah menorah's first candle (above) for his new Fifth Avenue neighbors -- and a month before B16 makes the second-ever papal visit to Rome's Synagogue -- late yesterday the following announcement came from the Big Apple chancery:
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan will celebrate the 10:15 a.m. Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent on December 20, 2009 at the Cathedral of Saint Patrick in New York.

In a spirit of inter-faith friendship and good will, joining Archbishop Dolan at the Mass will be Rabbi David Posner, who will light the fourth candle on the Advent Wreath, marking the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Rabbi Posner is the Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, located on Fifth Avenue at 65th Street in Manhattan. In a similar way, Rabbi Posner had Archbishop Dolan light the menorah for the first night of Hanukah on December 11 at Temple Emanu-El.
A member of the national Jewish-Catholic dialogue since 2004, Dolan formally became the US church's lead hand on Jewish relations last month in succession to Cardinal William Keeler, who led the dialogue's Catholic delegation since 1983.
Source: Whispers in the Loggia

Let's get practical ...

Pope John Paul II joked about how to solve the crises swirling around the late 20th century. We had two choices, he insisted: a practical one and a hopelessly naive mystical one. The practical one was to fall on our knees a pray for the intercession of our Lady of Czestochowa. The hopelessly naive one was to organize a meeting of politicians and bureaucrats.

David Warren has contempt for the ideologues and unelected bureaucrats pushing the climate change crisis, but he has solid advice about how to address the real ecological problems we face. He writes:
We could -- I know this sounds a little idealistic, but bear with me -- try to export the best of our old Christian civilization, instead of the worst of our post-Christian one. For my reader may recall that civilization had nothing to do with conspicuous consumption, and put more of its money in cathedrals than into personal and corporate display.

To say this would be "good for the environment" is an understatement: there is so much joyful life we could recover, by simply discarding what is not genuinely useful, and getting on with the root human task of salvation, through the advancement of the good, the beautiful, and the true.
I second his suggestion.

Read his column here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Inconvenient Facts:

In response to an earlier post, here, a friend assured me that Lord Christopher Monckton was a fool, to which I responded that he might be and that so might I be, but he seemed to have given the kind of attention to the fashionable global warming alarms that few others have. Here he is again at the global warming -- aka, climate change -- conference in Copenhagen:

Now that we have announced that the U.S. will donate 100 billion dollars to the cause of easing the effects of global warming -- the money going often enough and coincidentally enough to the global warming crusaders and to regimes whose history of political corruption is less than inspiring -- why be bothered with facts?

Religion in the Public Square

Jody Bottum, the editor of First Things, has some thoughtful things to say in the current issue of that journal about the role of religion in "American exceptionalism," not least what he quotes from Stephen Carter. Here it is:
When people are well formed by family, church, and all the other institutions of civil society that mediate between the individual and the state, they naturally resist the politicization of life and the encroachments of the state even as many are motivated to become and remain civically engaged. But atomized, self-defining individuals need a Levithan to direct and protect them, as the only alternative to anarchy. And under today's social conditions, there are more and more such people.
Whereupon Bottum soon quotes from Stephen Carter's God Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics:
Religion is what we profess and morality is what it moves us to do. Politics needs morality, which means that politics needs religion. In a nation grown increasingly materialistic and increasingly involved in urging satisfaction of desire as the proper subject of both the market and politics, the religious voice, at its best, is perhaps the only remaining force that can call us to something highere and better than thinking constantly about our own selves, our own wants, our own rights. Politics without religion must necessarily be, in today's America, the politics of me.
Well said.

As for the "politicization of life and the encroachments of the state," one might add: and the super-state. Oversimplifying, but not by much, the need for health care reform -- a legitimate if rather over emphasized need -- is the best available excuse for those eager to politicize every facet of our lives, allowing the state to encroach into every nook and corner of them, just as the much more dubious global warming "crisis" is the best available excuse to turn ourselves over to some of the most questionable bureaucrats at the U.N., the E.U., the Arab League, and sundry unelected international institutions deeply at odds with the principles upon which our own society -- and western civilization itself -- was founded.

A Classic Rubicon

In Thursday's Wall Street Journal Online, Peggy Noonan perfectly describes the experience that turns moderates and even liberals into "Rubicons" of the sort I have previously defined.

America is good at making practical compromises, and one of the compromises we've made in the area of arts and entertainment is captured in the words "We don't care what you do in New York." That was said to me years ago by a social conservative who was explaining that he and his friends don't wish to impose their cultural sensibilities on a city that is uninterested in them, and that the city, in turn, shouldn't impose its cultural sensibilities on them. He was speaking metaphorically; "New York" meant "wherever the cultural left happily lives."

For years now, without anyone declaring it or even noticing it, we've had a compromise on television. Do you want, or will you allow into your home, dramas and comedies that, however good or bad, are graphically violent, highly sexualized, or reflective of cultural messages that you believe may be destructive? Fine, get cable. Pay for it. Buy your premium package, it's your money, spend it as you like.

But the big broadcast networks are for everyone. They are free, they are available on every television set in the nation, and we watch them with our children. The whole family's watching. Higher, stricter standards must maintain.

This was behind the resentment at the Adam Lambert incident on ABC in November. The compromise was breached. It was a broadcast network, it was prime time, it was the American Music Awards featuring singers your 11-year-old wants to see, and your 8-year-old. And Mr. Lambert came on and—again, in front of your children, in the living room, in the middle of your peaceful evening—uncorked an act in which he, in the words of various news reports the next day, performed "faux oral sex" featuring "S&M play," "bondage gear," "same-sex makeouts" and "walking a man and woman around the stage on a leash."

People were offended, and they complained. Mr. Lambert seemed surprised and puzzled. With an idiot's logic that was nonetheless logic, he suggested he was the focus of bigotry: They let women act perverse on TV all the time, so why can't a gay man do it? Fifteen hundred callers didn't see it as he did and complained to ABC, which was negligent but in the end responsive: They changed the West Coast feed and apparently kept Mr. Lambert off "Good Morning America."

Mr. Lambert's act left viewers feeling not just offended but assaulted. Again, "we don't care what you do in New York," but don't include us in it, don't bring it into our homes. Our children are here.

I don't mean to make too much of it. In the great scheme of things a creepy musical act doesn't matter much. But increasingly people feel at the mercy of the Adam Lamberts, who of course view themselves, when criticized, as victims of prudery and closed-mindedness. America is not prudish or closed-minded, it is exhausted. It cannot be exaggerated, how much Americans feel besieged by the culture of their own country, and to what lengths they have to go to protect their children from it.

Make sure you read the whole piece here. But in case you're in a rush, here's her closer:

I'd like to see a poll on this. Yes or no: Have we become a more vulgar country? Are we coarser than, say, 50 years ago? Do we talk more about sensitivity and treat others less sensitively? Do you think standards of public behavior are rising or falling? Is there something called the American Character, and do you think it has, the past half-century, improved or degenerated? If the latter, what are the implications of this? Do you sense, as you look around you, that each year we have less or more of the glue that holds a great nation together? Is there less courtesy in America now than when you were a child, or more? Bonus question: Is "Excuse me" a request or a command?

Interview with Rene Girard

To see Peter Robinson's interview with Rene Girard, go here for the first segment, and here, here, here and here for the remaining four segments, the last one being a kind of Christmas card.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Happy Hanukkah

The Canticle of Zechariah:
This was the oath He swore to our father Abraham:
To set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship Him without fear,
Holy and righteous in His sight
All the days of our life.
Happy Hanukkah, belatedly. Thanks to David Goldman for the reminder.

And you thought it was about the weather ...

Hat Tip: Gateway Pundit

Multiculturalism and Political Correctness as "Moral Exhibitionism"

Anthony Daniels is a British medical doctor who worked for years in the prisons and slums of England. He writes under the nom de plume of Theodore Dalrymple. His essays are insightful and often brilliantly so. In a recent one, he wrote as follows:
British intellectuals, as George Orwell once remarked, have long harboured a hatred of their own country and its culture. This attitude has deeply infiltrated the political class and has therefore come to affect legislation. All cultures are equal except ours, which is the worst.
The first thing to notice about this attitude is that it is insincere. Those who adopt it are not genuine admirers of other cultures, for genuinely to admire other cultures it is necessary seriously to study them. To know another culture is not just a matter of slipping down once in a while to a restaurant that serves its cuisine: it is very hard work indeed and the more different that culture is from one’s own the harder the work it is.

So when members of our political class express their adherence to multiculturalism they are not expressing their love of other cultures, they are expressing hatred of their own and it is this which explains the discrepancy in the way a Christian who derides Islam can now expect to be treated by comparison with a Muslim who derides Christianity. The hatred of that section of the political class for their own country’s culture, traditions and past is insincere in another sense also.

By expressing that hatred they imagine themselves to be exhibiting their own moral superiority for all the world and especially the intelligentsia, to see. Their hatred is actually moral exhibitionism. We all know the kind of odious patriot who believes everything in his own country is best merely because it is his own and who therefore despises every thing about all other countries, from their language to their cooking to their way of dress.

Our political class is a mirror image of this kind of person but preens itself on being morally superior to him.
My question is: how applicable is this diagnosis to our current president?

Are the wheels coming off yet?

This video -- sobering as it might be for those who support this reckless monstrosity -- at least ends humorously.

Last Minute Christmas Signing

The number of signatories to the Manhattan Declaration is about to go over the 300,000 mark. If you haven't signed, I encourage you to do so.

The Declaration address three issues:
  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.
To read the Declaration, go here. To sign it, go here.

Iraqi “ethnic cleansing” against Christians

Christmas in Mosul:
In the late morning, a car bomb exploded in front of the Church of the Annunciation in the al- Mohandiseen neighbourhood, damaging walls and windows. The attackers also threw grenades against the nearby Christian school, killing a baby girl and injuring 40 more people, including five high school kids. Saad Younes, father of the 8-day-old child, said that the blast occurred when his daughter and sister-in-law were leaving the nearby hospital.

A second attack targeted the Syro-Catholic Church of the Immaculate in al-Shifaa, a neighbourhood in northern Mosul. An explosive device went off in the street in front of the building’s gate. No one was killed or injured.

Yesterday’s attacks are the latest episodes in a series of violence against Christian places of worship. On 26 November, terrorists razed to the ground the Church of Saint Ephrem and the Mother House of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine. A source told AsiaNews that most nuns left; only a few have remained but “are afraid of going out”.

Such attacks are a “warning” for Christians to leave en masse. Many “families have fled north, into Kurdistan, but are jobless and have no hope for the future. The Christian community is destined to die,” the source said.

Read the whole depressing update on the religion of peace here.

Another Reminder

It's not getting-and-keeping, but giving-and-receiving.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Abortion: the one thing necessary . . .

This from Matthew Archbold at Creative Minority Report:

I've always wondered what was more important to secularist liberals, abortion or socialism. Sure, the two seem to be linked but when it comes down to it, which one, I wondered, was the principal which liberals would cling to no matter what.

And this week gave me my answer. The Senate Democrats needed 60 votes to pass healthcare but Senators Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman stood in the way for different reasons, presenting the White House and Senate leadership with a choice. Lieberman swore he wouldn't vote for a public option while Nelson said he couldn't vote for public funding of abortion.

And this week, Harry Reid did what seemed unthinkable just a month ago. He told Lieberman that they would take out the public option out of the healthcare bill. It's telling that the Democrats in the White House and the Senate surrendered the public option before they were willing to take abortion out.

Let's remember, the whole point of this healthcare bill and the main focus of Barack Obama's first year in the Presidency was the public option. And they just gave it away so that they wouldn't have to take out federal funding of abortion.

So in short, while liberals say that they believe that everyone is entitled to healthcare even at taxpayer expense what they really mean is that everyone is entitled to an abortion at taxpayer expense. They have proven with their actions that abortion is the bedrock principal of the Democratic Party.

Our Mother Tongue

In the 1950s Mother Geneviève Gallois wrote an appropriately little book about a legendary saint known as Little Placid. In it she describes the way this humble man was shaped by the liturgy:
The Liturgy put into his mouth words he never dared utter. His words formed his thought and his thought formed his being. And so, the Liturgy enfolded him as in a mould, and when it had transformed him, then rose to God as the expression of his own being . . .
Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, for all his immense theological erudition, is also a very simple and humble man, a man who also has a great devotion to the liturgy. The liturgy, he writes, is the Christian's mother tongue. Through the liturgy, he says, "the language of our Mother becomes ours; we learn to speak it along with her, so that gradually, her words on our lips become our words."

The humblest of saints and the greatest living theologian are here united in their love for the liturgy and its subtle transforming effects.

Madmen with nuclear weapons . . .

Where were the adults when we needed them? Everyone except those with their heads buried in ideological sand saw this coming long, long ago.

Isn't it a shame that evil exists and that it is so impervious to high flown oratory?

The Obama administration has been played like a violin, a violin of the sort that Jews were encouraged to play in the death camps, something to cheer up their doomed companions and keep them from fully realizing what was happening around them.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cicero: A distant mirror . . .

A funny thing happened to me on my way to a more irenic life. As some of my close friends know, I have lately wearied of blogposts bewailing the sundry anthropologically ludicrous assaults on social, cultural, political, and economic reality. Blessed is the occasional respite from such "watchman on the watchtower" duty. I have been working myself up to at least a partial renunciation of this duty, and I have certainly not abandoned that idea altogether.

However, as my resolve was forming, I happened today to see Mary Ann Glendon's piece on Cicero in the current edition of First Things, in which she praises Cicero for his ability to combine a philosophical and a political life. Among the many differences between me and Cicero (!) are my philosophical ineptitude and my distaste for political partisanship. (Yes, it's true. For those with longer than usual blogosphere memories, you may recall that almost exactly three years ago I am emphatically announced that I was not a neo-con or a theo-con (though I comes close to the latter). I was, I declared, a "rubicon" -- with all the mockery the term invites. The original thesis is here, and here, and here.

My abandonment of early and naive liberalism in favor of a conservative response to the juggernaut of loopy-liberalism-turning-totalitarian was just that, a response to radically changed circumstances in our culture. At some point in this persistent erosion of common sense and common decency, a moral and cultural Rubicon was crossed, and what I regard as a natural and healthy conservatism awakened in me.

Be that as it may, I am as tired of the culture wars as any well-balanced person must be, but, like any other kind of war, and contrary to the "peace now" bumper stickers, culture wars don't end when one of the proponents abandons the field. When that happens, the other side wins. This is pretty simple stuff; if anyone is having trouble with it, just give it two seconds thought.

Anyway . . . even without the Mary Ann Glendon article, I am not about to abandon the pro-life or pro-traditional marriage causes, nor am willing to go quietly into the dark night of cultural irresponsibility into which our present leaders are beckoning us. But . . . I was, and to some extent still am, pondering a more occasional foray into those matters. But then I read this in Professor Glendon's encomium to Cicero:
Although philosophy, as he told his son, was "indispensable to everyone who proposes to have a good career," it was always, for Cicero, a handmaiden to politics. Even philosophers, he said, have an obligation to concern themselves with public affairs, not only out of civic duty, but also for the sake of philosophy itself, which requires certain conditions to flourish.

In times when he was excluded from political life or overcome with personal sorrow, Cicero plunged into his philosophical studies with prodigious energy. On the those occasions, he could not help casting a glance down the path not taken. "Now that power has passed to three uncontrolled individuals," he wrote to his friend Atticus during the Triumvirate of Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus, "I am eager to devote all my attention to philosophy. I only wish I had done it from the outset.
The mood didn't last, for the three uncontrolled individuals and many others were pulling at the cultural fabric of a social order which -- for all its many and egregious shortcomings -- was the sine qua non of the civilization of his day -- not unlike what is happening today.

Again, nothing could be more ludicrous than to invite a comparison with Cicero. It's just that I find Glendon's reflection on him a mild corrective to my recent weariness with the culture wars. Without extraordinary effort on the part of all those who feel called to it, the world we bequeath to our children may be unconscionably toxic and precarious, and we must do what we can to provide something healthier for them.

As usual, Mary Ann Glendon has provided wise guidance.