Monday, March 31, 2003

You have got to be kidding

Thanks to a Drudge link, I read this story about the Belgian prime minister's recent comments on the US. PM Guy Verhofstadt stated, "America, a power deeply injured, and has become very dangerous, and it thinks to take over the whole Arab world."

Huh? We want to take over the whole Arab world? Since when? What secret White House/Pentagon directive has Mr. Verhofstadt read which could possibly lead him to such a conclusion? We have absolutely no desire to take over Arab countries; the closest we would come to such a view is our desire to see our form of government flourish in those places, but that is a far cry from "taking over."

Saturday, March 29, 2003

No worries

I've gotten tired this week of the worrying in the media about the state of the war. As the President and innumberable officials and pundits alike have noted, we're only 10 days into this, and what we've achieved so far is remarkable in military history. Things are probably a bit tougher that Rumseld and others predicted, but that doesn't mean we need to bring the quagmire-talk back again.

And as far as all the reinforcements are concerned... that was always the plan. Whether or not the "rolling-start" was a good idea (and I tend to think that the Powell doctrine of assembling all our forces first would have been better, but hindsight is 20/20), we always planned to bring the 4th Infantry Division in through Kuwait once Turkey was closed, and the other divisions were also in the pipeline. Maybe their deployments have been accelerated, but the plan was still to bring them.

If you're worried about how things are going, read the following articles. They'll get your spirits up:

Ralph Peters, Guts and Glory
Victor David Hanson, History or Hysteria?
Mac Owens, Keep Thinking "Main Thing"
"A million Mogadishus"

This past Wednesday night, there was a "teach-in" anti-war protest at Columbia University. I first read about this protest in an article by a Columbia student, Matthew Continetti. Continetti quoted one professor, Nicholas De Genova, who said he desired that "a million Mogadishus" be visited on US soldiers fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In case you've forgotten, Mogadishu is the Somalian city wherein 18 US Rangers and Delta operators were killed in 1993. So this professor of higher education at one of the elite American universities is hoping for huge casualties among our soldiers. Un-be-lievable.

Fortunately, the press has gotten a hold of this. Do a Google news search for "Nicholas De Genova" and read all about it.

This guy has got to go. And that's this year's understatement. Fortunately, he's not tenured, so sufficient public pressure should be enough to get him tossed when his contract is up. Maybe he can find a position in North Korea, since Iraq won't be having him soon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The Balloon Has Gone Up

Operation Iraqi Freedom began several hours ago.

And interestingly, there is a large, 1000-man operation underway in Afghanistan to find Osama as well; that's the largest op there since Anaconda about a year ago.

Can we get both guys within a day of each other?

Monday, March 17, 2003


Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, has linked an amazing interchange between an Iraqi-American caller and a "peace activist" guest on a radio show in Seattle. The caller's question: "How exactly would leaving Saddam Hussein in power promote peace and justice in Iraq?" The activist never answers the question.

Go listen here. It's worth it. It shows the inability of one part of the anti-war crowd (not the part of that crowd which I have great respect for), to deal with serious questions.
"The window has closed"

The US, UK, and Spain have withdrawn their new resolution on Iraq. As Ari Fleischer put it this morning, "The diplomatic window has closed as a result of the U.N.'s failure to enforce it's own resolutions for Saddam to disarm."

The President is addressing the nation tonight at 7 pm central time.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

What France really wants

That's the title of this MSNBC piece by Dan Goure, who strongly argues that what France really wants is influence and power, both beyond its status as a "medium-sized power" in the international realm.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Moral Principles and their application

There's a good discussion going on in the comments to this post below, centering around the question of moral principles and how they are applied, and how each of them can be termed "official". I think a good analogy for trying to understand the difference between a principle and its application is the Church's teaching on a just wage.

The Catholic Church teaches that an unjust wage is immoral. But how is this moral principle to be applied? Good Catholics can disagree on this question of application, while they must believe in the principle of a just wage. Some Catholics -- e.g. the staffers at the USCCB -- believe that a just wage is enacted via the minimum wage. Other Catholics believe that there are better ways to apply the principle, e.g. on a case-by-case basis. Either way, the principle is held in common, while its application varies.

As far as "official" goes... every Catholic is free to seek different ways to enact a just wage in their society. When members of the Magisterium offer their views, they are simply doing what they have the right to do: argue for what they believe is the best way to enact a just wage. Some members of the hierarchy might believe that minimum wage laws are the best, but I am free to disagree with them on that (which I do), while necessarily believing that a just wage is still required.

I believe the same (or a similiar case) holds true on the matter of a war with Iraq. All Catholics must believe in the principle of a just war, but different Catholics may have different views on the application of those principles to the case of Iraq. As far as the Holy Father and other members of the hierarchy are concerned, they have just as much right as anyone else does to argue for their view in the public forum. What must be remembered is that the disagreement is over the application of a commonly-held moral principle, and when it comes to the application of a principle, legitimate disagreement (which is different from dissent, IMHO), is possible.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Is the Pope Catholic... Enough?

That's the title of this NYTimes Magazine story about Mel Gibson's traditional Catholicism, the traditional church he funds in LA, his movie on the last twelve hours of Jesus' passion, and most interestingly, the views of his father, which are, um... interesting, at least as indicated by the article.

Carl Olson at Envoy Encore posted on this Friday, noting Bill O'Reilly's description of the article as ", unfair, and malicious."

Interesting reading, either way.
Mini-documentary follow-up

Last month I linked a mini-documentary done on the anti-war protests by Evan Coyne Maloney. Now he's posted some follow-up questions & his responses.

Check it out.

Both the Washington Post and NY Times have good stories on President Bush's certitude and resolve in this crisis with Iraq. They make clear what many of us have known for some time, and what the President reiterated in Thursday's press conference: he believes that Iraq constitutes a grave threat to our national security; as our president, it is his constitutional duty to address that threat, and he is bound, determined, and resolved to do just that, in spite of whatever opposition he may face. As one of New York's senior senator -- liberal Democrat Charles Schumer -- put it in the NYTimes story, "Whether you agree with him or not, one of Bush's strengths is that he goes with his instincts. And at a time like this, when the winds are swirling around in all different directions, a president is well served who has his own internal gyroscope."

Amen. Maybe Bush is wrong -- although I don't think he is -- but at least he isn't acting according to polling data.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

Movie about St. Thérèse of Lisieux

I'm happy to post this in response to an email request:

Hey Everybody,
I want to tell you about the launch of a new web site for the movie THERESE, produced by Luke Films and scheduled for theatrical release October 2003. Please visit the site and support this beautiful family film on the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. There are all kinds of things to do and see on the site. You can learn about the people who made the film, learn more about St. Therese and join the discussion group, plus there's a contest where you can win a free trip to the movie premiere. The more of you who visit the site the greater the impact the film will have and it'll show the theater owners and the distributors what kind of films you want to see. Make sure you post a message on the discussion board to show your support. Here's your chance to make a difference in the entertainment industry.
Check it out,

Mike Masny
Luke Films
(800) 683-2998
A couple more links

I've linked two blogs that focus on nonsense on campuses: Erin O'Connor's Critical Mass and the team-blog Campus Nonsense.

I've also included the website for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, but I've put it under the blogs, as it seems to fit better there.

I also permalinked LT Smash's blog (he's the reservist now stationed somewhere around Iraq).
Dissecting a pro-cloner

Kevin Miller expertly dissects a column by Ellen Goodman in favor of cloning.

Check it out.

Friday, March 07, 2003

CL's charism

Sunday I posted a question, wondering about the charism of the (relatively) new Catholic religious movement Communion and Liberation, or CL for short. As I noted in that post, I'm somewhat familiar with the work and project of CL's founder, Italian priest Msgr. Luigi Giussani. What has been less clear to me is the charism of CL itself, as a religious movement within the Catholic Church.

Fortunately, a friend and member of CL put me in touch with a diocesan priest who is also involved with CL, and this week we had a very nice conversation about the movement. He was able to explain the group's charism in a very concrete way: CL's charism, as explained by this priest, is to promote the encounter with Jesus, especially through friendships. Now this in itself sounds like it is the charism of Christianity in general; what makes CL different -- in my opinion -- is the method by which it promotes this encounter: this encounter is fostered in the coming-together of members to discuss texts they are reading -- often Msgr. Giussani's works, but others as well -- and to reflect upon them with each other from their own experiences. Part of this involves a vocabulary which is somewhat unique to CL, in that Msgr. Giussani has a particular language he employs. The charism of CL also includes a critical openness to modernity, in which the true, good, and beautiful in modern society and culture is recognized and valued, while the rest is set aside.

Much of this is my own understanding, based on what this priest had to say, but I think it accurately portrays CL. In any case, the conversation was very helpful for me.
Just War and Dissent

Mark at Minute Particulars argues that the Open Letter written by lay Catholics to the President "undermines the authority of the USCCB and pope" and refers to the letter as a "statement of dissent." Disagreeing with Bill Cork, Mark argues that "the USCCB and the pope have indicated not only what the Church teaches, but how they believe it ought to be applied at the current moment." Mark says later, "I simply don't see how anyone can claim that the Church's teaching on just war has not officially been applied."

However, he also notes that one might disagree, saying, "I'm not suggesting that this is the only conclusion that one can draw about the Iraqi crisis in light of just-war theory." Further on, he notes, "It is clear that the bishops and pope do not think the present situation warrants an invasion of Iraq. Could they be wrong? Of course. Can I disagree? Of course."

To be honest, I don't see how Mark can hold that the position of the USCCB and John Paul II have given an official teaching on this situation which to disagree with is to dissent, and at the same time hold that one can legitimately disagree with the Holy Father. How can dissent -- even public dissent -- from official Church teaching ever be morally licit? I understand Mark's point about the importance of how one expresses his/her disagreement with the Holy Father's own personal judgment, but if one argues that what the Holy Father has said is not just his own judgment but is a Magisterial teaching (which is what "official teaching" means to me)... that's something else entirely.

Mark (or those who agree with him), can you help me understand your thought?
Rod and Greg

Today Rod Dreher has an article at the OpinionJournal in which he wonders why the Vatican didn't respond as quickly to the priestly sex scandal as it has to a possible war with Iraq.

Greg Popcak strongly replied at HMS Blog.

This is an interesting discussion. I side decidedly with Greg, but I'd recommend reading Rod's piece as well.
New Blog!

A few weeks ago I asked blog-watcher Evan Donovan why he didn't start a blog, in light of his many excellent comments at a number of different blogs.

I was happy to receive an email from him this week, stating that he started Out of Egypt.

Go take a gander.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Peggy hits a grand slam

Peggy Noonan's column today is outstanding... excellent.

In response to an apparent request from Andrew Cuomo for a contribution to a book of essays on the future of the Democrat Party, she wrote the piece appearing as this column. She begins by arguing that the Party has become focused on winning for its own sake, rather than for the sake of a philosophy. Such a philosophy, she later argues, is in fact missing from the modern Democrat Party.

The bulk of the piece, though, argues that the Party is controlled by a bunch of snobs who either openly or secretly look down their noses as Middle America and its values. In this context, she pens a great line, a line which she applies to too many Democrats, but can also be applied to anyone, if they are not careful: "You may mean to be helpful in the abstract, but you are not helpful in the particular."

Replace "helpful" with "compassionate" or "loving"... it's very easy to love humanity, but it's a lot harder to love the particular humans whom we come in contact with in everyday life. The Democrat Party, Peggy argues, has fallen prey to this mentality which enables us to believe that we are helpful, loving, and compassionate without ever actually having to be helpful, loving, and compassionate (again, this is something which afflicts more than Democrats, Peggy's piece not withstanding).

I'd highly recommend reading this essay... if you're a Democrat, I'd love for you to read the piece and then comment here.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Daily 9/11 Memorials

Karen Hall has been doing a thoughtful thing over the last several days: each day, she posts a picture and brief bio/comment about a 9/11 victim, and asks for a prayer for the deceased and their family.

Very touching.
CL's charism

Over the last couple of years, I've become interested in the writings of Italian priest Msgr. Luigi Giussani. I must confess that I have yet to read any of the volumes in his trilogy completely -- I'm suffering from a sort of literary paralysis, in that I've got too many great books to read and I can't decide where to begin, so I don't begin at all!

But anyway... Msgr. Giussani is the founder of one of the well-known modern religious movements in Catholicism, Communion and Liberation. I have some good friends who are members, and others who have inquired into the movement. One of those friends has purchased a gift subscription to the CL magazine, Traces, for my wife and myself.

But in the discussions I've had and the reading I've done, I have yet to put my finger on the charism of CL; I have a vague, nebulous idea of how CL understands itself and sees its role in the Church, but I've been unable to articulate it even to myself, let alone someone else.

So, if there is someone out there who is involved in or familiar with CL, I'd love to hear from you, either via email or in the comments.

Leading Catholics write open letter to Bush

A number of prominent American Catholics -- including Ignatius Press Publisher Fr. Joseph Fessio and political philosopher National Bioethics Committee member Robert P. George -- recently penned an open letter to President Bush, arguing for the morality of a war against Iraq. Here's the closing paragraph:

Catholics and all men and women of goodwill agree that the decision to use military force must never be taken lightly. Indeed, the tradition of just war theory holds that force may be justified only as a last resort. Hence, Bishop Gregory’s admonition to “pursue actively alternatives to war.” But if, in your careful and considered judgment, no alternative can be found capable of removing or disarming a proven aggressor whose willingness to murder his enemies is checked only by his capacity to accomplish the task without unacceptable consequences to himself, then the norms of justice permit—and your obligations of civic leadership require—you to act with the force of arms.
War Plan in Place

The Washington Post's Tom Ricks has an article today on the rough structure of Desert Storm II as it has been released in briefings, etc. One of the most interesting lines: "The framework that has emerged calls for a war that would be remarkably different from anything the U.S. military has done. It aims to combine the armored fist of the tank-heavy 1991 Persian Gulf War with the speed of the overnight 1989 U.S. takeover of Panama and the precision bombing of the 2001 U.S. campaign in Afghanistan."

This should be interesting.

But still, I hope and pray it never happens.

Saturday, March 01, 2003

Jim Kalb

Sometime ago I linked the blog Metanoia by prospective Catholic Jim Kalb.

Lately I've been looking closer at Jim's blog and other sites, and I think it's unfortunate that more people in this corner of the blogosphere haven't picked up on his work. He's got a couple of sites:

This one is his self-described catch-all site, which includes the blog Metanoia and some of his writings, among them a discussion of principled opposition to feminism , a discussion and resources on the culture wars, and an essay on science, rationality and the good, with resources.

Jim also has two political websites: On to Restoration! (the point of this site: restoring contact with tradition and the transcendent), and Human Rights: Critique and Reform, where Jim argues against the contemporary institutionalized form of human rights.

Finally, Jim also maintains a political blog, View from the Right.

Jim's blog on his journey to Catholicism is excellent, and based on what I've seen thus far, so is the content of his other sites and blogs.
Universal Salvation?

Tom at Disputations has decided to discuss the topic of universal salvation. His first installment, in which he lays out what he sees as the three possible views which might be held on this question, is here, although the link may not work until Tom makes another post (for whatever reason, links to the "top" post haven't been working -- if they ever did).

As Tom mentioned in the initial post on this, where he decided to discuss the issue, there seems to be a "Great Wheel of Catholic Debate." Tom explains, and shows the relevance of the wheel for Catholic blogdom: "The inescapability of the Great Wheel of Catholic Debate, the fact that every subject has its canonical discussion that repeats itself again and again through time, is what will eventually doom all blogs with functioning archives; they are destined to become like the comedians' club in the joke, where people tell jokes by number."

I think he's right, even on this issue. I believe that Tom was part of a brief discussion on universal salvation last year; for my part, I posted on the topic -- and my take -- here. Briefly, there is nothing which the Church teaches which requires Catholics to assert that there are definitely human beings in Hell. Furthermore, much of the Church's prayer -- including the liturgy -- includes prayer for the departed, with no limiting qualifications. In other words, we should pray for all those who have died. Now, if we knew that some souls were in Hell, then prayer for them would be purposeless, and it would be pointless to pray for all the deceased, as the Church does. Hence, we don't know if any human is in Hell, and we should pray that in fact no human being is there.

That's my take.