Sunday, January 26, 2003

British on the War and the U.S.

Interesting piece at the Washington Post on the British attitude towards the U.S. and a possible war with Iraq.

While the typical attacks on Bush and "American idiocy" get my ire up (they never seem to offer real alternatives), I can nonetheless understand (if not agree with) their concern over our dominance: if you were them, would you like the fact that there was another country that was basically able to do whatever it wants in the world, if it puts its mind to it? I don't think they should be worried, because we generally do operate with good intentions, but I can still understand their unease.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

Wanna know what's bad for the environment?


I'm serious! Go read this! Four university profs have found that divorce can negatively impact the wellbeing of our environment.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Good news from Cali

Many of you may have already heard about the great news from Sacramento, where Bishop Weigand supported one of his priest's decisions to confront pro-abortion Catholic [sic] governor Gray Davis about his stance. Weigand made his comments in his homily at the diocese's annual Pro-Life Mass on Tuesday. You can read the homily here.

Also from the diocese is this: Bishop Weigand last year invited the Legion of Christ to establish their first full-fledged university in the U.S. in the Diocese of Sacramento.

Things are looking good out there!

Amy Welborn today posted a question the National Catholic Reporter asked House Minority Leader and pro-abortion Catholic [sic], Nancy Pelosi, in their story entitled, "Priesthood's Loss is Capitol's Gain." The question and answer from the article Amy posted is, "Is it more difficult today to be a pro-choice Catholic then it was, say, 10 years ago?" I won't spoil the answer... you'll have to go read it.
Another blog

I should also mention a group-blog I'm a part of... The Lidless Eye Inquisition. In the future, any posts concerning integrists or quasi-schismatics to the "right" (for lack of a better word) will be posted there and linked here.

NB: disagreements with fellow orthodox Catholics who have more "traditional" preferences (again, for lack of a better word) will be posted here.
Byron on Daschle

Econ and finance prof Mark Byron has a solid post on Daschle's "stimulus plan." I recommend reading it.
Power instead of Service

Tom at Disputations has a great post on how the National Catholic Reporter and like-minded folks have it all wrong about the priesthood. These people see it as a power thing, when it's supposed to be about service.
NBC on "our allies"

Andrea Mitchell tonight reported on the rift developing between the US and "its allies," without noting that the rift is only between the US and France & Germany. No mention of our other allies (beside the UK) who are supporting us. The way Mitchell described it, France & Germany are our only allies!

There was also a lot of talk about not going it alone, not acting unilaterally. But as Rumsfeld made clear the other day, we have allies who are willing to support us. Again, the fact that France & Germany may not go alone, or that there may not be a UN resolution, doesn't mean it's a unilateral, "going it alone" action. As someone pointed out, the little war in Serbia wasn't done with UN support.

Fortunately we have other sources of media to get a more accurate picture of what's really going on.
New blog

Disordered Affections by screenwriter/producer Karen Hall.

Check it out.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

And Powell goes hawkish

This Washington Post story indicates that Colin Powell has gone hawkish on war with Iraq over the past week or so, and that the public French veto threat on Monday was the clincher.

Way to push the one guy in the administration closest to your views over the edge, Paris.
Rummy's not popular in Paris

The French government wasn't too pleased with Rumsfeld for his dismissal of the French and German leaders as "old Europe," according to this story.

Know what I say? Too bad. The article quotes one French minister as being "profoundly vexed" over Washington's stance on Iraq. Huh? Our position is vexing? I think the minister has got it a little reversed.
Safire's take

Bill Safire thinks that European political power plays are driving France and Germany's recent stances viz. Iraq, in this column today.
More on Le Carré

Richard Cohen at the Washington Post today had a great column on the dumbfounding nature of that Le Carré piece I looked at last week.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Surfacing for a moment...

FYI, I haven't blogged in a week because writing the dissertation has (finally) begun. If anyone wants to know about how the U.S. Lutheran-Catholic dialogue is contributing to a solution the ecumenical dilemma over the simul justus et peccator email me at the link at the bottom left.

For the rest of you... I've got to blow a little steam off. I'm really ticked at the French and Germans. Don't get me wrong... I tend to like the people (hey, I've got relatives in both places), and they definitely have their pros. But their respective governments are acting without any sense that I can see.

What exactly do they think can come from their policy viz. Iraq? Are they trying to hide something? How else can one rationally explain their behavior of late? I'm completely befuddled and frustrated by Schröder and Chirac. And I'm not the only one. Go read today's Washington Post editorial. Or check out some of the more speculative thoughts linked at this post from Instapundit. Or this old column from George Will.

Their behavior is inexplicable. Fortunately, we aren't pinning our hopes on them. Rumsfeld rightly notes that there are a lot of other countries in Europe beside France and Germany, and those other nations are with us. That's U.S. us.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Those wacky religious people!

Mark Shea posts today about a blog on which the writer tries to be cute by comparing the goofy beliefs of the Raelians with Christian dogma, or at least that writer's view of it. In this case, part of it includes a belief in a literal seven-day creation, but as Mark notes, most Christians don't believe that.

Details, details.
Honesty from an Abortion Rights Supporter

Writing an op-ed piece in the NYTimes, Peggy Loonan (yes, Loonan, not Noonan) first tells her fellow pro-choicers to stop spinning the issue, and second utters this gem: "Legal abortion kills pre-viable human life. But the rights of a pre-viable human life should not take precedence over the rights of a woman."

Ms. Loonan acknowledges that abortion kills human life. On the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. Can you believe it?

Unfortunately, she follows it up by denying that the right to life trumps every other right, which it does, at least in the case of two innocent people with opposing rights.

Still... to see that first sentence in a column in the Times... wow.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

That's the title of the fifth Potter book, set to be released on June 21st, according to this CNN story. The new book has 250,000 words and is more than a third longer than the fourth book, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire", which was already a good-sized book.

As I may have mentioned before, I read the third and fourth books after seeing the second Potter movie in November, and I generally enjoyed them. They definitely are not worthy of the over-concern many people give them.
National Sanctity of Life Day

Today President Bush proclaimed this coming Sunday National Sanctity of Life Day.

A positive sign, to be sure. I'll be curious to see if he makes any comments on the 22nd, the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Catholic Politicians

According to this EWTN story, on Thursday the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- headed by Cardinal Ratzinger -- is going to release a document on the responsibilities of Catholic politicians.

Should be pretty interesting reading. Maybe St. Blog's Parish should make sure it gets in the hands of Ted Kennedy et al.
Anti-Americanism and its Intellectual Roots

OpinionJournal has published a Policy Review piece by Lee Harris on the intellectual origins of contemporary anti-Americanism.

It's a very interesting article, but be warned: it's long.
Arrogant and Utopian

Echoing comments I made yesterday in "Crowing for Peace", former Marine and current Atlanta attorney Adam Mersereau has an interesting article on the arrogant and utopian tendencies of too many of those opposing the war at all costs.
A Vietnam Vets' Counter-Protest

According to this CNS story, a group of Vietnam veterans are planning to hold counter-protests in opposition to protests planned by groups opposed to any war against Iraq.

What is really curious about this is that one of the vets' groups has received over 150 violent threats from "people identifying themselves as anti-war and peace activists." Can you believe this?! "Anti-war" and "peace" activists making threats of violence, and against Vietnam vets, of all people!

Who has gone mad???

The London Times today published an opinion column by author John Le Carré titled, The United States of America has gone mad.

Le Carré says that the post-9/11 period of American history is the worst era of American madness he can remember... worse than McCarthy, the Bay of Pigs, and Vietnam.

Why? Because of the wars on terrorism and (prospectively) on Iraq by the "Bush junta". However, Le Carré writes that bin Laden was only the unintended catalyst for an otherwise intended war:
    The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world’s poor, the ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties. They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.
In other words, "years" before 9/11, the Bush junta was planning a war to direct the public's attention away from the stealing of the election, etc. The ridiculous nature of this column is exemplified here: the literal meaning of Le Carré's words is that a "wag the dog" scenario was in the planning stages before Bush even took office! Remember, 9/11 occurred less than nine months after Bush was inaugurated, and less than a year after Election Day; yet our writer claims that the war was "years" in the making! Huh?

Le Carré also makes the clichéd arguments about Bush's oil connections driving the war, revenge for the planned assassination attempt on Bush 41 being the determining factor, etc. etc. He finally gets around to addressing the central issue, as far as the Administration is concerned: Saddam and his drive for weapons of mass destruction. Le Carré responds thus:
    Baghdad represents no clear and present danger to its neighbours, and none to the US or Britain. Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, if he’s still got them, will be peanuts by comparison with the stuff Israel or America could hurl at him at five minutes’ notice.
Le Carré is a successful author, but his argument here doesn't reflect that (or maybe it does: his genre is fiction). Essentially, his case is this: Saddam doesn't have WMDs, and if he gets them, he wouldn't dare use them, because Israel and the US would nuke him.

Readers of this blog will know that I am not at all impressed with this line of argumentation, nor are a number of scholars who know more about Saddam and his behaviorial patterns that John Le Carré does. If we don't stop Saddam, he will get WMDs. Nobody on either side of the war argument seriously doubts this. At that point (when Saddam gets his nukes), Le Carré and those who agree with him believe that the Cold War doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (that's right: MAD) will set in: just as the US and the USSR never got into a shooting war because each side threatened the other with nuclear annihilation, analogously so will Saddam not do anything stupid with his WMDs, because we and Israel will make him pay!!! Aside from the serious moral problems associated with the MAD doctrine, other factors render this line of thought moot in Saddam's case. My favorite one is this: no one is really concerned that Saddam would precipitate a war (with anyone) by using WMDs. But he could use his WMD arsenal to prevent the US or anyone else from stopping his forays into other countries, for whatever reason suits his fancy. To give a specific example: what if Saddam -- having acquired a few small nukes -- decides he wants Kuwait back, and invades. But this time, he prevents us from acting by threatening to reign his nuclear devices down on the Saudi oil fields, thus removing nearly a quarter of the world's oil production from the market and plunging the global economy into a severe recession, if not a depression. Is this scenario really that unlikely, given Saddam's prior behavior? I don't think so, and I would want to risk it.

But such a scenario apparently never occured to Mr. Le Carré. He seems to believe that Saddam would act exactly as he would in this situation, a belief all too common, and all too erroneous, as history demonstrates (nobody thought that Saddam would really invade Kuwait, either).

Too bad: a good author makes a blustery attempt to explain and refute President Bush's stance viz. Iraq, and he fails miserably.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

The "New" Mass

Jeff Miller has a great post on all the "problems" with the restored rite of the Mass.
Han Solo and the Seven Dwarfs

Mark Byron today comments on the Democratic nominees seeking their party's nomination for 2004's presidential race, and, noting that there is a substantial amount of gravitas in the group (more than in the '87-'88 crowd which gave us Michael Dukakis who did give Bush 41 a run), he recommends the GOP not get cocky.

Good advice.
Catholics & tax cuts

Kevin Miller notes some opposition to tax cuts by Catholics, referring you to another post in which he notes more of the same and briefly comments.
Movie Changes

To return to the topic of the LOTR briefly... Robert Gotcher recently posted on the changes in the movies, and I think he's right on.

Most of the changes are irrelevant, but some of them touch important aspects of the story, especially concerning the characters' personalities.

One of my sisters-in-law remarked that the movies don't seem to get Tolkien's combination of tenderness and strength right in the male characters like Aragorn and Faramir, and that seems right. However, I suspect this comes less from deliberate decisions on Peter Jackson's part as it does from the simple inability to conceive of and portray those kind of combinations on the part of Jackson and the actors.

That's my take.
Objective Beauty

After my reversion to Catholicism, I had a strong desire for objective truth and goodness. But the notion that beauty was objective was initially foreign to me, having grown up in the typical American setting. Over time, however, I came to recognize beauty as one of the transcendentals, having just an objective "nature" as truth, goodness, and unity.

With those brief remarks, I'm linking to a discussion of objective beauty going on at Disputations and Flos Carmeli (begin here and work up).

Very interesting thinking going on out there. (I mean that positively, of course :-)
This particular Sunday

I'm hoping Tennessee and Tampa Bay win, but I'm not so sure they'll be able to, especially Tennessee in Oakland. Tampa has a fair shot in Philly, but the Titans barely beat Pittsburgh at home.

By the way, I'd like to see the NFL switch to a college-style overtime. It'd be a lot more exciting. As others have noted, an NFL OT is pretty much determined by the coin-toss.
K-Lo, Condoms, and Symptom-Solving

Kathryn Jean Lopez -- editor of National Review Online -- has a good piece today on the NYTimes' Nicholas Kristof's column The Secret War on Condoms.

Kristof is stupified by the objections of some to condom use, especially in light of the ability of condom's to prevent the spread of AIDS [sic]. But as Lopez demonstrates, Kristof and other like-minded elites ignore the latest news coming from Africa -- Uganda in particular -- in which HIV is declining in the face of "a nationwide campaign, lead by Uganda's president and supported by the whole of the government and church-based relief agencies, [which] has focused on behavioral change in combating AIDS, rather than the easier, less-effective, more-accepted Western approach: condoms." Lopez links the USAID study, What Happened in Uganda?: Declining HIV Prevalence, Behavior Change, and the National Response which explores this common-sense success story.

This got me thinking on a broader topic... have you ever noticed the tendency of our society and culture to solve the symptoms of their problems rather than the underlying problem, because we don't want to change our behavior? Look at our health: we eat too much of the wrong things and get stuff like high blood pressure. So do we address the real problem and change our lifestyles? All too often, no: we'd rather take a pill for our blood pressure so that we can continue to feed our body Big Macs and Cokes on a regular basis.

There are other examples, but the point is clear: we want to have our cake and eat it, too. We want to do things we shouldn't but avoid the consequences, rather than make more-than-superficial changes to the way we live, think, and believe.

This sort of thing can only go on for so long, before it all catches up to us.
Crowing for Peace

With sense of morbid curiosity, I watched the American Music Association award show last night. I hope Dick Clark learned his lesson and won't be inviting the Osbournes back as hosts next year... they kept the censors busy with their bleepers.

Sheryl Crow was there, and won pop-rock female artist of the year. Coming up to the stage, she was sporting a coat over a white t-shirt with black lettering which read, "war is not the answer". Later in the show when presenting an award, she asked everyone to get involved in a peace-movement of some sort. And according to this AP story on the show, backstage she offered her thoughts on the looming prospect of war with Iraq: "I think war is based in greed and there are huge karmic retributions that will follow. I think war is never the answer to solving any problems. The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies."

Now, I can appreciate the pacifist sentiment, in that the horrors of war are just that: horrors. This fact has been on my mind more and more over the last few months. If there is a way to achieve the aims of a war with Iraq without actually going to war, I hope and pray that President Bush finds it. But at this point, I have no idea what that course of action might be, and hence I support war as a last resort. Saddam cannot be allowed to develop weapons of mass destruction. Everyone agrees with this. But if there is a way to be as sure of this as we need to, and it doesn't require a war, I don't know what that way is.

And this is where the words of people like Sheryl Crow really bother me. Contrary to what many people (including Crow) probably believe, the President doesn't want war. But it doesn't look like he has an option. If Sheryl has a solution, she should offer it. But she doesn't, and that's precisely where I give little credence to that kind of "peace movement". Oppose the war. But offer another solution at the same time.

Sheryl's recommendation that the best way to avoid war is to not have enemies is, of course, naive and utopian. Yes, we should strive for that, I agree with her. But until Jesus comes again, one man will hate another. This isn't pretty, but it's the truth.
Third Viewing

It's been over a week since my last post, so I might as well go ahead and continue the same line of discussion... I saw LOTR:TT last Wednesday for the third time, and yes, it was even better. Although Aragorn and Gollum remain my favorite characters, I have become more and more impressed with Eomer and Theoden in each successive viewing.

What a movie.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Second Viewing

I saw The Two Towers a second time tonight, and like most repeat viewers, I enjoyed it even more this time.

Packers lose a home playoff game for the first time since 1933, and it wasn't even close.

A billion more for Title I... not enough???

According to this AP story, President Bush's new budget seeks a billion dollar increase in federal programs which seek to help education poor children, bringing the amount allocated to Title I to $12.3 billion.

Ted Kennedy called the increase "pocket change".

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Happy New Year!

Here's to a Happy and Holy 2003 for everyone who does and does not read this blog!

If you're looking for commentary, read this NYTimes column and then forget it. That's all it's really worth. I'd comment on it more, but I'm too tired.

Happy New Year!