Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Touchstone, Santa, and Cash

The new Touchstone is out. This is a doozy, as usual. Nathan Schlueter enters into the Scholastic Tradition with, "Yes, Aquinas, There Is a Santa Claus." A fun read, though too bad it is not available online. Have to buy the magazine.
Then there is the cover feature, the one that caught my eye: "The Soul of Johnny Cash." It is actually two articles. The first is titled "Real Hard Cash: Russell D. Moore on the Path of the Man in Black:"

There was an empty seat at this year’s MTV Music Video Awards. The late Johnny Cash wasn’t there. It’s not as though Cash frequented the Generation X/Y annual awards program. He was old enough to be the grandfather of the most seasoned performer on the platform. Still, two years ago, even while he was sick in a hospital, the Man in Black was there.

At the 2003 awards show, Cash’s video “Hurt” was nominated for an award—up against shallow bubblegum pop acts such as that of Justin Timberlake. Cash didn’t win. But the showing of the video caused an almost palpable discomfort in the crowd. The video to the song, which was originally performed by youth band Nine Inch Nails, features haunting images of his youthful glory days—complete with pictures of his friends and colleagues at the height of their fame, now dead.

As the camera pans Cash’s wizened, wrinkled face, he sings about the awful reality of death and the vanity of fame: “What have I become? My sweetest friend/ Everyone I know goes away in the end/ You could have it all/ My empire of dirt/ I will let you down, I will make you hurt.” Whereas Nine Inch Nails delivered “Hurt” as straight nihilism, straight out of the grunge angst of the Pacific Northwest’s music scene, Cash gives it a twist—ending the video with scenes of the crucifixion of Jesus. For him, the cross is the only answer to the inevitability of suffering and pain.

The second is "Just As He Was: Mark D. Linville on Why Johnny Cash Sang from His Mother's Hymn Book," which also is not available online.
These remind me of an article by Steve Beard that I read a little over two years ago, "The Man Came Around: Johnny Cash's search for Heaven." Worth reading.

Cash's freedom from long-term drug addiction came through of the power of prayer and the stern hand of his wife who walked by his side through the dark night of the soul. Looking back on the difficult years, Cash says that the drugs "devastated me physically and emotionally — and spiritually. That last one hurt so much: to put myself in such a low state that I couldn't communicate with God. There's no lonelier place to be. I was separated from God, and I wasn't even trying to call on Him. I knew that there was no line of communication. But He came back. And I came back."

Back in the 1970s when he became more serious about his faith, Cash says it was Billy Graham who advised him to "keep singing 'Folsom Prison Blues' and 'A Boy Named Sue,' and all those other outlaw songs if that's what people wanted to hear-and then, when it came time to do a gospel song, give it everything I had. Put my heart and soul into all my music, in fact; never compromise; take no prisoners." Cash subsequently sang in the sold-out honky-tonks of the world and the jam-packed arenas of the Billy Graham crusades — never allowing himself to be too easily pigeonholed by the holy or the heathens.

Johnny Cash was an irreplaceable American original who will be remembered as a cross between Jesse James and Moses-an enigmatic man in black, with a heart of gold, and a voice that could raise the dead. Now that the Man has come around for him, one imagines he's met his June in Heaven.

Perhaps these will shed more light on the man in black, at least more than is expressed in the very good movie Walk the Line.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Happy Birthday

It is the 230th birthday of the Marines. Joe Carter has a good reflection on why he loves being a Marine:

I served my country because I love freedom. I love it so much that I was willing to sacrifice some of my own freedom, or even my life if necessary, to secure it for myself and my nation. The young girl had the luxury of being uninformed about the military because my fellow Marines had bought that liberty for her. For 230 years, Marines had paid the cost to allow her to have the freedom to think - or not think - as she chooses.

...

After 9/11, we lost much of our innocence and it’s unlikely you'll find college students, even at Evergreen, who are unaware of the Marines. But it has been four years since the terrorists attacked us on our own soil; time enough to allow us to relax our guard, if only slightly. We haven’t won the war on terrorism yet, and we have many battles ahead -- including years of hard work in Iraq. But we should all take pride in the men and women of our military whose constant vigilance keeps the enemies outside our gates.

It is a good and short read. Well worth your time.

Froggy has birthday salutations too, "Happy Birthday Teufelhunden," but with a reminder:

Just don't forget it is Navy Corpsmen that keep you all in business!

Spoken like a true SEAL.

Teufelhunden? Devil Dogs. Here's the story.
As well, Mackubin Thomas Owens has his own Marine birthday reflection:
On November 10, 1775, 230 years ago, the Continental Congress authorized the formation of two battalions of Marines. Tradition says that the earliest recruiting of Marines took place at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, owned by Robert Mullan, who later became a Continental Marine officer. The Marines' first operation was a raid on a British base in the Bahamas. As I like to say, the Marine Corps was formed in a bar and then immediately went on a Caribbean cruise.
... As Marine general Jim Mattis says, "The Marines: no better friend, no worse enemy."
...
And these Marines did a remarkable job against some pretty tough odds. As [Jim] Webb writes:

Dropped onto the enemy's terrain 12,000 miles away from home, America's citizen-soldiers performed with a tenacity and quality that may never be truly understood. Those who believe the war was fought incompetently on a tactical level should consider Hanoi's recent admission that 1.4 million of its soldiers died on the battlefield, compared to 58,000 total U.S. dead. Those who believe that it was a "dirty little war" where the bombs did all the work might contemplate that it was the most costly war the U.S. Marine Corps has ever fought — five times as many dead as World War I, three times as many dead as in Korea, and more total killed and wounded than in all of World War II.

Significantly, these sacrifices were being made at a time the United States was deeply divided over our effort in Vietnam.
As I always do, I'll be attending the Marine Corps Birthday Ball this year. It's one of the great social events of the year here in Newport, and there will be Marines as old as 90 and as young as 18. What do they have in common? That old and young alike are members of a remarkable martial fraternity — the United States Marine Corps. That those who have gone before have set a high standard. That those who can meet that standard ought to be very proud of themselves.
At the ball, I'll drink all the official toasts, but I'll save a special one for Jack, Carl, and all the rest of my "band of brothers." They lived up to the standard and have now passed it on to the latest generation. Happy Birthday, Marines, and Semper Fidelis!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Truth about the War in Iraq

Among the many distortions, misrepresentations, and outright falsifications that have emerged from the debate over Iraq, one in particular stands out above all others. This is the charge that George W. Bush misled us into an immoral and/or unnecessary war in Iraq by telling a series of lies that have now been definitively exposed.

What makes this charge so special is the amazing success it has enjoyed in getting itself established as a self-evident truth even though it has been refuted and discredited over and over again by evidence and argument alike. In this it resembles nothing so much as those animated cartoon characters who, after being flattened, blown up, or pushed over a cliff, always spring back to life with their bodies perfectly intact. Perhaps, like those cartoon characters, this allegation simply cannot be killed off, no matter what.

Nevertheless, I want to take one more shot at exposing it for the lie that it itself really is. Although doing so will require going over ground that I and many others have covered before, I hope that revisiting this well-trodden terrain may also serve to refresh memories that have grown dim, to clarify thoughts that have grown confused, and to revive outrage that has grown commensurately dulled.


...

... In his press conference on the indictment against Libby, Patrick Fitzgerald insisted that lying to federal investigators is a serious crime both because it is itself against the law and because, by sending them on endless wild-goose chases, it constitutes the even more serious crime of obstruction of justice. By those standards, Wilson—who has repeatedly made false statements about every aspect of his mission to Niger, including whose idea it was to send him and what he told the CIA upon his return; who was then shown up by the Senate Intelligence Committee as having lied about the forged documents; and whose mendacity has sent the whole country into a wild-goose chase after allegations that, the more they are refuted, the more they keep being repeated—is himself an excellent candidate for criminal prosecution.

And so long as we are hunting for liars in this area, let me suggest that we begin with the Democrats now proclaiming that they were duped, and that we then broaden out to all those who in their desperation to delegitimize the larger policy being tested in Iraq—the policy of making the Middle East safe for America by making it safe for democracy—have consistently used distortion, misrepresentation, and selective perception to vilify as immoral a bold and noble enterprise and to brand as an ignominious defeat what is proving itself more and more every day to be a victory of American arms and a vindication of American ideals.


By the way, why did we not hear that much about the 1.7 metric tons of radioactive material found ... you guessed it ... in Iraq? This story (from BBC News) is from July 2004.

The US has revealed that it removed more than 1.7 metric tons of radioactive material from Iraq in a secret operation last month.

"This operation was a major achievement," said US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham in a statement. ...

Along with 1.77 tons of enriched uranium, about 1,000 "highly radioactive sources" were also removed.

The material was taken from a former nuclear research facility on 23 June, after being packaged by 20 experts from the US Energy Department's secret laboratories.

It was flown out of the country aboard a military plane in a joint operation with the Department of Defense, and is being stored temporarily at a Department of Energy facility.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog - the International Atomic Energy Agency - and Iraqi officials were informed ahead of the operation, which happened ahead of the 28 June handover of sovereignty.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Standing Up and Speaking Out ... Unless You're Catholic?

In an earlier post, I mentioned the difficulties going on in the Sacramento area, where a teacher at a Catholic school was dismissed for deliberate public actions that were contrary to the Catholic faith--supporting the alleged "right" to kill a baby in the womb and escorting women into the local Planned Parenthood, that place where women can go and have their babies killed--which was then followed by the expulsion from the Catholic school of the fifteen-year-old girl whose mother reported the teacher's actions.

Well, as usual and expected, the events continue (also found here):

A former Loretto High School drama teacher alleged Thursday that her firing last month for having volunteered at a Planned Parenthood clinic was a case of sexual and religious discrimination and violated her free-speech rights.

Marie Bain, 50, of Sacramento, filed two separate employment complaints Thursday with the state against Loretto, the religious order that sponsors the school, the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento and Bishop William K. Weigand.

One complaint - with the state Department of Labor - calls for an investigation of the employment practices of the diocese. The other - with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing - is a first step toward a lawsuit.

This is ridiculous, but it is also the way things go in this country. Certain groups are not tolerated to run their organization in the way they see fit, in a way that is in accord with their beliefs. What happened to tolerance? Why can't an employer, especially a religious-based one, dismiss an employee who does not share its vision, dismiss an employee who publicly acts in a way that is contrary to the goals and mission of the employer?

"Loretto rightly prides itself as an academic institution committed to vigorous debate of ideas and beliefs," said Bain's attorney, John M. Poswall of Sacramento. "Unfortunately, the action of the bishop, cowering to noisy fundamentalists, threatens to turn Loretto into a Taliban-style institution of thought control and repression."

"Taliban-style"? Perhaps this shows their lack of justification for what they are doing.

I don't know about Loretto, but the diocese of Sacramento and most Catholic schools (at least through their mission statements) claim to be institutions committed to transmitting the values and moral outlook of the Catholic Church. Truth, or even what the Church's institutions put forth as truth, outweighs the so-called "debate" Bain's attorney speaks of. Debate is fine and it has its place. The position of a Catholic school teacher who is seen as a role model is not the place for one who publicly disagrees with a key teaching of the Church, at least not if you want to support and promote that moral teaching. It sounds like the bishop wants just that while the school is not as committed.

Weigand called for Bain's firing in early October in response to demands from an anti-abortion activist and mother of a Loretto student.

Weigand argued that Bain's previous volunteer work presented an irreconcilable conflict with church teachings and set a poor example for students at the all-girls school.

Poswall stated in the complaint that Bain's firing constituted sexual discrimination because it targeted "her beliefs and actions related to women's reproductive rights" and sought to make "an example of her as a woman, to other young women."

School officials knew Bain was not a Catholic and had her "own personal beliefs" when they hired her in August, Poswall stated.

Punishing her for having supported opposing values in the past is tantamount to religious discrimination, Poswall said.

Regarding the free speech claim, Poswall argued that Bain's volunteering was akin to a "political activity," which is a protected class of speech and a "fundamental right of all California employees."

There are a few issues here, but the fundamental one seems to be whether or not a private organization--religious-based at that--can expect its employees, at minimum, to not act deliberately and publicly against the mission and tenets of the employing organization.

Teachers employed by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles sign an employment agreement wherein the following statement occurs:

The Teacher is called to be a role model and a witness to the Gospel of Christ and, therefore, the Teacher shall adhere to proper conventions and Christian morals. The Teacher shall maintain by words and actions a position that is in conformity with the teaching, standards, doctrines, laws and norms of the Roman Catholic Church as interpreted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

I would presume Bain signed a similar document. If so, her actions supporting and promoting abortion do not "adhere to ... Christian morals." Further, it is clear that her actions as a volunteer at a place that kills babies in the womb are not "in conformity with the teaching, standards, docrtines, laws and norms of the Roman Catholic Church." Questions remain. Did she sign such an agreement? If so, she should not have any case in court. If she did not, she still should not prevail in this matter because a religious organization should be able to dismiss employees who do not share its religious mission. That is fundamental. What happened to religious freedom? Or does that not apply to the Catholic Church?

Here, the bishop has the right, the authority, and especially the duty to ensure that teachers in Catholic schools do not cause scandal by deliberate behavior that is directly at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church. What the principal does not do must be done by the bishop.

In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Teacher Employment Agreement, one of the causes for termination is

... [P]ersonal conduct constituting bad example to students according to standards of the Roman Catholic Church as interpreted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

It is only a shame that the school itself and its principal did not do something sooner, like standing with the Church, standing with Christ, in either guiding this teacher to the truth of the humanity of those killed in abortions or dismissing her on their own. Either of these would have avoided the scandal and disturbance that ensued when the bishop had to get involved.

And Katelyn, the fifteen-year-old girl, would still be a student at the Catholic school she wanted to attend.

Sadly, that is not how things have transpired, and as a result she is now subject to some vile attacks on her blog, Stand Up and Speak Out, all because she did what we teach our youth, Catholic and non-Catholic, to do: stand up and speak out when there is a clear and serious wrong happening in our midst. To do otherwise is to betray those being wronged. The voice of the innocent children could not be heard. Instead, we heard Katelyn's. I thank her for that.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Supreme Court Bingo? A Catholic Majority on the Bench

In light of the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the SCOTUS, some have realized this could create a Catholic majority on the SCOTUS bench. What might that mean?

Joseph A. Tranfo at BenedictBlog speculates:

TOP TEN CHANGES A CATHOLIC MAJORITY WOULD MAKE TO THE SUPREME COURT

10) Meat-less Fridays all year round in the Supreme Court cafeteria;

9) Oral arguments in Latin;

8) The bones of Chief Justice Marshall will be disinterred and placed in a glass coffin in the center of the Supreme Court bench;

7) Collections between each session of oral argument;

6) Supreme Court windows replaced with stained glass;

5) On close votes, the Justices will consult a statue of St. Thomas More. If the statue weeps, they affirm; if no tears, then they reverse.

4) Incense at the start of each session;

3) Supreme Court opinions will be deemed infallible and unreviewable by any earthly authority [Ed. - Sorry - that does not appear to be a change at all]

2) Catechism of the Catholic Church will now be "persuasive authority";

And, the number one change which a Catholic majority would make to the Supreme Court . . .

1) Wednesday night bingo!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Catholic Anti-Catholic Bigotry?

My somewhat small and handy Diamond English Dictionary (somewhat common amongst college students in England, at least it was when I was there) defines a "bigot" as a "person intolerant or not receptive to ideas of others, esp. on religion." (46) Hmmm.

I bring this up because of the following story:

A drama teacher at a Catholic high school in Sacramento was fired Thursday after church officials learned she had previously volunteered at an abortion clinic, school officials said Friday.

Marie Bain, 50, of Sacramento, who had taught at Loretto High School since August, was dismissed after a student's parent obtained pictures showing Bain escorting people into a Planned Parenthood clinic last spring.

Now, you might think I am speaking of bigotry towards the teacher. Not so. A Catholic school should be able to expect its teachers (and thus role models) to be supportive of Catholic teachings--the very thing the school is supposed to stand for--and even try to live in a way that is not directly and intentionally at odds with such tenets:

Dom Puglisi, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Sacramento, said parents have a right to expect their students will be taught in accordance with Catholic principles. And allowing teachers to publicly display contrary beliefs sends the wrong message, he said."It sounds like we play hardball, but they know up front, whether they are Catholic or non-Catholic, that these are Catholic schools and we go by the teachings of the church and Rome," said Puglisi.

The local newspaper has run articles on this:

Teacher fired for work at clinic [You can also read it here.]
By Todd Milbourn and Cameron Jahn -- Bee Staff Writers Published 2:15 am PDT Saturday, October 15, 2005

Anti-abortion mother got teacher ousted [Or here.]
By Todd Milbourn -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PDT Saturday, October 22, 2005

I bring this up because the girl who is responsible for letting someone (her parents) know about the teacher's public and contrary-to-Catholic-teaching activities was recently expelled from the school.

That's right. A Catholic school expelled a Catholic student who was supporting Catholic teachings. I have not found any official reason for the expulsion, but I will post it as soon as I find one.

In a post dated Oct. 31, 2005, Katelyn Sills, the high school student in question, writes:

Expulsion from Loretto
As of Saturday, October 29th, I was given official notice by express mail that I am expelled from Loretto High School. This was given completely without forewarning, without a meeting, and without a chance to say goodbye. My family is now seeking legal advice, and more details will follow.

Now, I actually am not surprised by this action. Saddened, but not surprised. In the world of education, there is little open discussion and free inquiry from schools run by leftist-minded folk, especially those in favor of a woman's right to kill her child. As well, within Catholic schools there is an unofficial but prevailing attitude (amongst the admin.) that tolerates pro-abortion views and even activities but tries to stimy activities that aim at protecting the unborn and innocent child in the womb. I have seen it for many years and from many folks in positions of authority at Catholic institutions. Like I said, saddened, but not surprised.

It is a very sad day, indeed, when persons in official Catholic positions lend support to those who contribute and promote practices that are contrary to Catholic teaching (the killing of innocent children in the womb) and further when they punish those who aim to support and uphold the Catholic Church's longstanding and clear teachings.

Sad indeed. Perhaps even bigotry.

UPDATE:
Bishop Weigand's letter on the dismissal of the teacher (in .pdf) or you can read it here in regular format.

Friday, October 28, 2005

"Five" Books for the College Student

Over at OneTrueGodBlog, Hugh has asked the panel to choose five books for the Christian college student.

Please recommend the five books you would have a Christian college student read who was interested in deepening his or her faith but who also had all the time constraints and background education of most college kids today. (In other words, no Summa Theologica or Institutes.)
Here are my suggestions:

1. Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

2. Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (and everything else by him)

3. The Religious Sense by Msgr. Luigi Giussani

4. The Shadow of His Wings by by Fr. Gereon Goldmann

5. Happiness Is a Serious Problem and Think a Second Time by Dennis Prager (they really complement each other well)

And for the more serious college student (and anyone else interested in the more intellecutal aspects of life): The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods by A. G. Sertillanges, O.P.

Honorable Mention: Father Elijah and Sophia House by Michael O'Brien (they should be read one after the other)

It is hard not to have Fr. James V. Schall on the list. His writings are a must.


For others, visit OneTrueGodBlog answers, One Clear Call, and Mere Orthodoxy.

Quote of the Week: Protected by a Strong Military

Here is a great and sadly true perspective on the state of the American will:

1st Lt. Bruce Bishop, 31, a Salt Lake County firefighter, said he'll stay [in the military] "because as I look around at the state of this nation and see all of the weak little pampered candy-asses that are whining about this or protesting that, I'd be afraid to leave the fate of this nation entirely up to them."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Monks, Moms, and Happiness: Aristotle was right

It seems behavioral scientists are now (unconsciously perhaps) coming to the same conclusion as Aristotle (and Aquinas too) when he said that happiness is found, culminates in, the life of contemplation.

Katherine Ellison comments on a recent report:

Brain-scanning studies led by University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson find that mothers gazing at pictures of their babies and Tibetan monks contemplating compassion both show marked activity in the left prefrontal cortex, an area apparently tied to happiness.

Davidson's research on meditating monks (more extensive than his work on moms) suggests their brains also produce very strong gamma waves, which have been linked to concentration and memory.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Cosby in Compton


Billy Cosby continues his social commentary and reflections on Black communities throughout America, calling on them to show the good that is or from part of their lives.

The city, he said, needs to honor Venus and Serena Williams — the tennis superstars who rose from the public courts of Compton to the top of the world rankings.

"How difficult is it for Compton to have a parade so that parents can bring the children and hold them up and say: 'They're from here'?" he asked the hundreds of residents who came to talk about turning things around in their violence-plagued city.

"And then one of the sisters was shot and murdered," he said, referring to the 2003 killing of the Williamses' half-sister Yetunde Price. Cosby paused for the audience to complete his sentence.

"In Compton," they replied.

"And the verdict was mistrial — in Compton," Cosby said. "Still no parade.

"Come on, Compton. You understand?" Cosby said to murmurs from the crowd.

...

By coming to Compton, Cosby journeyed to one of the birthplaces of the hip-hop slang and gangsta dress and lifestyle he has criticized. He caused controversy last year when he called some in the black community "knuckleheads" for what he sees as their disrespect of the legacy of the civil rights movement by embracing sloppy grammar and diction.

...

He and other speakers traced many of the problems back to the home — calling on parents to take a firm hand, to participate each day in their child's education, to demand excellence, and to be role models for self-sufficiency. Acknowledging that many young black children are being raised by single mothers, several people called on black men to take on a fatherly role not only to their own children but to other children in the community.

...

"People who say, 'I'm not going to flip some burgers. I'm going to sell some drugs, and if I get killed I get killed,' that's mind-boggling," Cosby said, "because we didn't come from giving up. We came from surviving."

Let's hope enough heed the call.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hibbs on To Kill a Mockingbird

Thomas Hibbs has a good commentary on the Legacy Series two-disk set of the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird. One of my favorite books, this story is a must-read and -see for all:

The film's central lesson, to which the title points, concerns a bedrock principle of natural and human law: the defense of the innocent. When Jem takes an interest in guns, Atticus gives Jem the advice his father gave him. He can shoot inanimate objects but, if he must shoot birds, he must remember that it is a sin to shoot a mockingbird, which causes no harm and only provides pleasure by its singing. That law should be about the protection of the innocent is obvious. Yet in application even a principle as fundamental as this can be, as Aquinas puts it, eroded from the human heart, because of “depraved customs and corrupt habits,” in this case by blinding
prejudice.


The makers of Mockingbird achieved remarkable success with their fundamental task: showing children awaken to the complexity of adult virtue and vice. If the film is itself suffused with wistful nostalgia for childhood, then the extras, which constitute a sort of extended testimony to Gregory Peck's career and character, are likely to induce nostalgia of a different sort, for the passing of old Hollywood, which for all its corruption was also a world that welcomed and at its best fostered the grace, charm, and wit of actors like Gregory Peck.

Eucharistic Thoughts from Rome

Communion and Liberation's Fr. Carron has offered some thoughts on the Eucharist at the Synod of Bishops in Rome.
The situation of contemporary man is riddled with difficulties, but none of these can take away his heart’s expectation. The very nature of man’s heart moves him to hope. At the same time, it is difficult to find an answer and this leads him to doubt that a positive destiny is possible.

...

Only the unique Presence of the Lord can move the person to the very depth of his heart’s expectation. This is why, in the face of the challenge of our times, the sacrament of the Eucharist becomes indispensable in all the effectiveness of its fruits of true communion and of new humanity. We see this effectiveness revealed in the favelas of Brasil, in the Universities of Kazachstan, among the victims of Aids in Uganda, and in the great metropolises of the United States. Today, we all need the presence of witnesses who truly live in this communion that the Lord gives us sacramentally, the communion of those “chosen, according to God’s Providence, to carry on, in their turn, the succession of his witnesses”(Newman). Thus, by meeting them, we will acknowledge, with astonishment and gratitude, that the presence of Christ is in them and we will glorify God for the person of his Son (Gal 1:24) and for the gift of the Eucharist. We ourselves, in this sacramental dynamics, will be transformed according to the glorious image that attracts our gaze (2Cor 3:18). So we shall be able to reflect Christ’s light through the whole of our lives, so that men and women of our time find reasons for believing and hoping for the fulfilment of the promises inscribed in the depths of our hearts, revealed and realized fully in Christ’s Eucharistic self-giving.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Supposed Conclave Leak in Electing Pope Benedict XVI

This is interesting and telling at the same time: "The Vatican Codes: This Is How I Rewrite My Conclave." In an article by Sandro Magister, he discusses

New “revelations” on the conclave that elected Benedict XVI. All aimed against him. The strange legends built upon cardinals Martini and Bergoglio.

Further down in the article,

According to the diary published in “Limes,” Ratzinger obtained 47 votes in the first scrutiny, 65 in the second, 72 in the third, and 84 in the fourth, out of a total of 115 votes.

But instead of focusing on the dazzling rapidity of this election, the author stresses the forces that are supposed to have opposed him, personified by cardinals Carlo Maria Martini and Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Problem of Mystery and Christian Love

Here you can find some thoughts on "The Problem of Mystery," discussing the distinction between things that are a problem and things that are a mystery.

***

I was listening to Dennis Prager this morning and he had a Christian call up and express confusion over loving a sinner, even loving a very evil person. What is a Christian to do, in light of the command to love your enemy? More to the point, what is this love the Bible speaks of?

Is it to have warm feelings for someone? Is it to make them feel better? Is it the same love a parent has for a child? Or is it something else? Like wanting what is good for them? Which would mean justice since justice is a good and therefore would allow someone to love another and still seek just punishment for a crime they have committed.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Michael Jordan, Christ, and Being Young Again

In a recent issue of Touchstone, Ryan J. Jack McDermott compares the phenomenon of the Michael Jordan "discipleship" from not too long ago with that of the ever-present deification in Christ:

I woke to an epiphany in the middle of the night. I had been dreaming of Michael Jordan on the Wheaties box, coupled with the slogan, "Be like Mike." When I came out of the dream, I saw, as in a vision, that part of the Gatorade commercial where Jordan tilts his head back to slug a bottle as his body turns into a silhouette, and the yellow and orange electrolytes swim down to his toes, and I thought: Gregory of Nyssa!

The "Be like Mike" campaign is proof that the patristic doctrine of deification--of deep and intimate union with Christ--was never forgotten, just culturally transposed. The Gatorade commercial could just as easily have illustrated Gregory of Nyssa's explanation of how the body actually metabolizes the Eucharist to make the flesh incorruptible as it participates in Christ's divinity. While many Christians may need retraining to think in terms of union with Christ, of bodily sanctification, of physical imitatio Christi and Eucharistic reconstitution of the body, analogous cultural apotheoses obsess secular culture.

Touchstone publishes some articles on their website, but this one was not one of them. The magazine is worth the subscription for anyone interested in

a Christian journal, conservative in doctrine and eclectic in content, with editors and readers from each of the three great divisions of Christendom — Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox. The mission of the journal and its publisher, the Fellowship of St. James, is to provide a place where Christians of various backgrounds can speak with one another on the basis of shared belief in the fundamental doctrines of the faith as revealed in Holy Scripture and summarized in the ancient creeds of the Church.

Prager, Jews, and Anti-Semitism


Cognitive dissonance is also what American Jewry is experiencing, according to Dennis Prager, a cognitive dissonance "the likes of which it has never known." In his latest column for the LA Times Sunday opinion section Currents, Prager analyzes the role that universities are playing in increased anti-Semitism, even amongst Jewish students: "When young Jews major in anti-Semitism."

After stating four reasons why "Jews revere the university," he counters that with the reality of what universities are actually doing:

Yet universities have become society's primary breeding ground for hatred of Israel. This hatred is often so intense that the college campus has become a haven for people who use anti-Zionism to mask their anti-Semitism. Moreover, anti-Zionism itself is a form of anti-Semitism, even if some Jews share it. Why? Because anti-Zionism is not simply criticism of Israel, which is as legitimate as criticism of any country. Anti-Zionism means that Israel as a Jewish state has no right to exist. And when a person argues that only one country in the world is unworthy of existence — and that happens to be the one Jewish country in the world — one is engaged in anti-Semitism, whether personally anti-Semitic or not.

Not long ago, on my radio show, I invited a UCLA student who, on the occasion of Israel's birthday, had written a hate-filled article about the Jewish state in the Bruin, the school newspaper. I asked her if she had always been anti-Israel. She said that as a Jewish girl growing up in Britain, she was actually a Zionist who had visited Israel a number of times on Jewish student trips there.

"What changed you?" I asked.

"The university," she responded.

That sort of transformation may be what inspired Harvard University's president, Lawrence Summers, to deliver a speech in which he identified the university as replacing the far right as a center of anti-Semitism. "Where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists," he warned, "profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent."

...

To make matters worse for many Jews' psyches, not only has the institution they most revere turned out to be a moral wasteland and the most congenial place for enemies of the Jewish people — and of the United States (but that is another story) — at the same time, the people whom many Jews have most feared, conservative Christians, have turned out to be the Jews' most loyal friends. That the secular university is bad for Jews, and conservative Christians are good for Jews, is more than enough cognitive dissonance for a Jew to experience in a lifetime.

...

Jews for whom liberalism has become a surrogate religion — and who therefore do not wish to acknowledge a god that failed — will not acknowledge the moral failure of the university, and they will find every reason to dismiss support from conservative Christians as somehow illegitimate.

...

As more Jews rethink their commitment to secularism, the left and their embodiment in the university — without abandoning their commitment to the less fortunate — Jewish and American life will change dramatically. For the better.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Oklahoma and 9/11?

In case you have not heard the latest with regard to the Oklahoma City Bombing some years ago, this is getting strange:

This is a very strange case. He was a Muslim, he wasn't a Muslim. He went to the mosque, he didn't go to the mosque.

And from the WorldNetDaily article:

As WorldNetDaily reported, investigators say they also found "Islamic jihad" material in Hinrichs' apartment when they searched it. Hinrichs, it turns out, attended a mosque near his university-owned apartment – the same one attended by Zacharias Moussaoui, the only person charged in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

On Miers: Against, For, and Left Somewhat Wondering

With regard to President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to SCOTUS:
Ouch, ouch, and ouch again. There are many more, but I will leave it at this for now.

For a different take on her nomination, see here, here, here, and here (and all the links therein).

And for a libertarian take, with some hoped for conspiratorial elements, see "A Skeptical Take on the Miers Nomination" by Tom Bell:
Even if you think Bush an idiot (which I do not), how can you explain Rove letting Miers pass? I wax incredulous.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Christianity, Killing, and Murder

Some time ago, I responded to a letter whose writer said that all killing was wrong.

He has recently responded in the comment section. See here.

Well, here is my response. The blue words are his from an email (and some of them are from the comment mentioned above).


Thank you for your response. ...

I hope to answer your main points so please let me know if I do not or if I misunderstood what you wrote.

First, you wrote:
To violently take a life is to kill--the image and likeness of God present in each person born into this world. It is therefore impossible to justify the killing of that presence of God, for whatever reason. You cannot love one another, including the enemy, and justifiably kill/murder them simultaneously. Thus, thou shalt not kill (period) has no exceptions.

You seem to be equating killing with murder. Do you regard them as the same? As having the same moral weight?

I do not. I, along with most traditions of morality (both east and west), see a distinction. Killing (a human) is an act whereby a human's life is ended. This can be shooting them, choking them, hitting them with a car, injecting them with a chemical, giving them something poisonous to eat, etc. The death can be unintended or intended. Killing is an act that results in the death of someone. Murder is when someone intentionally takes the human life of an innocent other. You may disagree with this distinction, but it is the distinction advocated by Christianity from its beginnings. The Church has maintained it. She did not come up with it. The Jews had already understood this as can be seen with statements and distinctions drawn from the Old Testament.

So if you regard killing and murder as the same, with no distinctions, we are arguing from different bases. Which means we probably will not come to agreement. But please realize, since you bring in the Christian component to this moral issue, that your view is at odds with Christianity, with the Bible, with God's own words (Gen. 9:6), and with the authority and interpreter of God's Law and Word: the Catholic Church.

The second command God gives humanity (after "be fruitful and multiply") is to kill murderers: "If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; For in the image of God has man been made." (Gen. 9:6) Because of the value of the human being, God demands the just killing of those who murder, of those who desecrate the special status humans have (as being in the image of God) through murdering them. "Just" because it is giving to one what is his due. "Just" because God, the Creator of humans, demands such a response.

I presume you are Catholic based on your writing in The Tidings. If I am wrong, then appealing to Church authority probably does not carry weight. If I am right, then how do you square your view being at odds with the Church?

As regards God's Word, the fifth commandment should not be understood as literally meaning "Thou shall not kill." Why? Because first off in the Hebrew, it reads "Thou shall not murder." Hebrew has two words that could be used. The one meaning "murder" and not "kill" is used. Therefore, what God said was "Thou shall not murder."

Why did Christians write it differently? Perhaps it is an issue of the Greek language. I will look into that: if Greek had two words to distinguish this and what the Greek translation of the Old Testament had.

Regardless, from the beginning, as can be attested to through a reading of the Early Church Fathers, the Church always regarded the commandment as meaning murder. There was never a blanket prohibition on any killing. (If you say there should have been, then you are departing from the Christian moral tradition, let alone the original meaning of what was said and believed; on this latter point, see St. Paul's writing where he acknowledges the state does have the authority to kill certain criminals. Cf. Romans 13, esp. 13: 1-5.
It is therefore impossible to justify the killing of that presence of God, for whatever reason.
The presence of God is not material. It is not physical stuff in a human. It is an immaterial presence, a spiritual presence, in the person. Therefore, any physical act (killing) cannot kill the immaterial component of a human. We do not say that someone's soul dies. No, we do not because the soul is immaterial and cannot be killed, especially by a physical act. We do not have that power. Thus, the killing of a human being is not the same nor can it be as killing the presence of God within them.

More to your point, "for whatever reason."
There are no times someone may be killed? What about in self-defense? What about to stop Nazis from killing millions of innocent civilians? What about to stop someone from raping a young child? What about from stopping a persistent criminal from attempting to kill your own child? I argue and so does the Church and the Bible that there are times when one may kill. In fact, even should kill. The "should" may sound too strong, but my only point is to show that there are times when one may justifiably kill.

You cannot love one another, including the enemy, and justifiably kill/murder them simultaneously.
What do you understand "love" to mean? Love, as understood by the Church and many of the great thinkers in the Church, is to will the good of another. What is the good of another? What his nature calls for and what is his due. Love means we facilitate his journey to Christ. Love means we are witnesses to truth in this world. Love also means that one supports another getting what is his due. If someone is guilty of a crime, they much pay the punishment. It is not a lack of love to support punishment. It is not love to say someone should not be punished. If someone merits Hell, love does not say God is mean. Rather, love says that is what the person chose through their actions. They are getting what they sought: a life separate from God. Here, however, it is an everlasting life. Thus, to love someone is to seek the good for them. The good is what their nature calls for and/or what they deserve by their actions. This can be rewards or it can be punishments. Killing murderers is a just punishment. (I am not saying all murderers should be killed. I am saying that it is permissable by morality and by biblical morality. I think those who have demonstrated a willingness to murder by actually doing so and are a continued threat to hurting others should be put to death. I think just war is a possibility and that enemy combatants in a just war may be killed. And these instances, by definition, are not murder and are thus morally permissable.)

Thus, thou shalt not kill (period) has no exceptions.
Wrong. It does have exceptions. The Bible itself speaks of times when killing is not only permitted but called for (cf. Gen 9.6, Rom. 13). The Church has always understood "Thou shall not kill" as meaning "Thou shall not murder" because some forms of killing are permissable.

Your next paragraph has a lot to consider. First, all the examples you state are moments of personal not civil instruction. I understand this to mean that one should not take the law into his own hands. That when one wrongs me, I should turn the other cheek. That does not mean that when one wrongs an innocent and vulnerable person that I turn their cheek or even mind. I defend the innocent and vulnerable. I defend them even if that means inflicting force on the aggressor. I defend them even if that means having to kill the would-be rapist, attacker, murderer, etc.

There is a difference between violence and force. Force is typically the use of power of some sort (physical, emotional, moral, psychological, etc.). Violence is the unjust use of force. An important distinction.

God alone, as the author of life, has the right to give and take life.
And God has the authority as the author of life to instruct us to impose punishment and even to take the life of murderers: Gen. 9:6: "If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; For in the image of God has man been made." Does not God have the authority to transfer this right? As possessor of this right, to demand those in this world to administer justice? He does and did. Here in Genesis and further through the ages.

NO WAR (war is terrorism)
War by its very nature is terrorism? Was the fight against the Nazis terrorism? Was the fight against the Japanese terrorism? Was the fight against the Communists attempting to bully and persecute the South Koreans terrorism? Was the fight against Saddam Hussein and his invasion of Kuwait terrorism. Iraq invades Kuwait. What is Kuwait to do? Turn the other cheek and be massacred? I am not saying every war the US has fought has been just. I am only saying that some wars can be and are just. Some wars are morally permissable. Further, war is not terrorism. You are conflating the terms. Some wars may entail terrorism, but war in itself is not terrorism. Terrorism means to attack innocent civilians (non-combatants) for some political or ideological purpose. There is a difference. What some Arabs in Israel have done is terrorism. They target innocent civilians to further their cause. The same was true of the IRA in North Ireland and Britain. The same was/is true of ETA in Spain. And so on.

I find it interesting that you included in your list "NO POVERTY."
Do you think that poverty is engineered or intended to keep people down? Who wants to continue this "poverty"? All public officials or representatives I know of want to help those in poverty. There is just disagreement on how and what works best.

Curious, do you think direct abortions are wrong and should be outlawed (either outright or gradually)? Is this a form of oppression and violence upon those innocent and vulnerable ones in the womb?

That said, I realize I probably did not answer all your points. I hope I answered the main points and enough of the points to cause you to rethink some of your positions. If they continue to be your positions, that is your choice, but they are not the views of the Church nor of traditional Christianity.

In Christ,

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

"Only in America"

What a way to start "being an American"!

Man Takes Citizenship Oath, Wins Lottery

DES MOINES, Iowa (Sept. 27) - A man who immigrated from Kenya to the United States found prosperity beyond his expectations on the day he became a U.S. citizen.

Shortly after Moses Bittok, of West Des Moines, took the oath of citizenship on Friday, he discovered he had a $1.89 million winning ticket from the Iowa Lottery's Hot Lotto game.

"It's almost like you adopted a country and then they netted you $1.8 million,'' Bittok said Monday as he cashed in his ticket. "It doesn't happen anywhere - I guess only in America.''

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Democrats and Descartes

Perhaps Descartes was right. Some centuries ago, Descartes coined the phrase, "I think therefore I am." Known by many as the Cogito (Cogito ergo sum), it basically means that since I can think in some way (even doubting many things), since my mind is at work in some way, I must exist. Cogito ergo sum. I must exist because if I did not exist then I could not perform the act of thinking. If I can think, then at least I am certain that I exist.

That said, The Borowitz Report hits on a striking irony:

SCIENTISTS DOUBT EXISTENCE OF DEMOCRATS

Opposition Party Could Be Black Hole, Expert Says

With President George W. Bush’s approval ratings plummeting in recent weeks, the inability on the part of Democrats to capitalize on the president’s waning fortunes has caused some leading scientists to postulate that the Democratic Party may not exist at all.

Dr. Marisa Drazin, a leading scientist who for years has been questioning the existence of Democrats, said today that what many have thought to be the Democratic Party may in fact be nothing more than a black hole.

“When the president loses ten or twelve approval points, one would normally expect those approval points to go to the opposition party,” Dr. Drazin said. “But instead, those points have vanished into thin air, leading one to conclude that the so-called Democratic Party does not exist.”

Theories about the nonexistence of the Democratic Party are nothing new, said Dr. Drazin, who pointed out that scientists first developed them during the 1988 presidential campaign of then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

While the silence of the Democratic Party in recent weeks seems to bolster theories of the party’s nonexistence, she said, there are still some nagging pieces of evidence to the contrary, such as the perpetually outspoken DNC chairman, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

“I’ve discussed the Howard Dean phenomenon with my colleagues,” Dr. Drazin said. “And it’s the consensus of the scientific community that there is no logical explanation for Howard Dean.” [Because there is no logic in his rants?]

This just might explain quite a bit.

If thinking is one sign of a thing's existence, then would the contrary be applicable? Non-thinking is a sign of non-existence? The leaders of the Democratic Party and other Leftists are often known for their lack of thought and rational activity with regard to policy decisions (as Dennis Prager has so clearly demonstrated). They are better known for their alleged empathy. They feel the pain of those involved, of those victimized. They express emotional responses to political problems rather than rationally-based answers. They seek legislation that makes certain people "feel" better about issues. Thus, the absence of thinking going on. No thinking, no existence? Hmmm. No political/public existence of Democrats because they are not/cannot think politically? Hmmm. Borowitz might be on to something.

Special Forces Kill No. 2 Terrorist in Iraq

WASHINGTON — U.S. Special Forces killed Al Qaeda's No. 2 terror mastermind in Iraq, Defense Department officials said.

FOX News has confirmed that Abu Azzam, who was believed to have been in charge of the financing of terrorist cells in the war-torn country, was killed during a raid in Baghdad early Monday morning Iraq time. Azzam is thought to be the top deputy to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraq's most wanted terrorist.

Azzam is the latest in a series of top Zarqawi deputies that have been killed or captured by coalition forces in recent months. Zarqawi's Al Qaeda in Iraq group has taken responsibility for some of the country's most horrific acts of terror including car bombings, kidnappings and beheadings of Iraqi civilians and westerners.

I wonder what would happen if the media reported the good news too. For that, go here and here.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Rita and SciGuy

Hope they are not hit as hard as some think. Here is a projection of where it will hit.



Houston Chronicle's SciGuy has good updates and links.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Wright Athlete

Here is an article on the Wright kind of water polo player: "Wright in the Middle."

Wright is a 2004 All-CIF Southern Section Division I second-team selection, a two-time first-team Press-Telegram Dream Teamer and a 2005 Junior Olympics Honorable Mention All-American. He even made the U.S. National Youth Age Group team over the summer.

"He's really a mobile player and he's quick. We kind of switch off him depending who is in foul trouble," Newport Harbor attacker Clay Jorth said. "We don't drop off him because we know that he's a big threat. We try to keep him out of the picture."

A high school athlete worth knowing about.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Hugh's Questions and Demons

Hugh has started a blog for theologically-based discussion: OneTrueGodBlog.

He poses some questions and gets responses from these Christian (Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic) thinkers: Albert Mohler, John Mark Reynolds, Mark D. Roberts, Amy Welborn, David Allen White. In the first set of posts, the discussion is based upon these questions:

Subject one: The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a movie about demon possession. Millions of Americans --the majority of them young adults-- have seen this movie.

Questions: Do you believe in demons? Why? What should be the attitude of a mature Christian believer on the subject?

What are your answers? Mine will follow somewhat soon. However, to answer the first, yes, I believe not so much in demons as that they exist. A significant difference.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Clinton Legacy Lives On


Aspects of the Clinton legacy.

These are not good signs, but they are what our society has reaped.

You can check out one of his effects on our society here in this UCSF study published in Pediatrics. (HT: Al Rantel)

And let's not forget "MOMMY, WHAT'S A RAINBOW PARTY?"

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Intelligent Military


You have got to love this photo!
The picture shows that this soldier has been thru Survival School and learned his lessons well. He's giving the sign of "coercion" with his left hand. These hand signs are taught in survival school to be used by POW's as a method of posing messages back to our intelligence services who may view the photo or video. This guy was obviously being coerced into shaking hands with Hillary Clinton. It's ironic how little she knew that he would so inform us about the photo---perhaps because she's never understood our military to begin with.
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Judge Roberts: Play Ball!

In his confirmation hearings for SCOTUS Chief Justice, Judge Roberts compared the role of a judge to that of an umpire.

"Judges are like umpires," he said.

"Umpires don't make the rules. They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire." Then Judge Roberts promised: "I will remember it is my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat."

Lynn Swann: A Future in GOP?


"I believe Pennsylvania needs leadership from outside the box."

Swann is a rare creature, indeed. The son of Democrats is an African-American Republican, something once thought to be an oxymoron. His potential ability to excite both suburban conservatives and urban African-Americans intrigues national GOP operatives. A year from November, Swann arguably could be the nation's highest ranking elected Republican African-American -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was, of course, selected by President George Bush. From that platform, it would not be inconceivable to imagine a run at the presidency in 2012.

...

Swann's staff includes some of the same experts that got Tom Ridge, a once-obscure congressman from Erie, in the northwestern corner of the state, elected governor in 1995. Ridge served during 1995-2001, before becoming Bush's first Office of Homeland Security advisor. Ray Zaborney, who helped engineer Ridge's victory, is executive director of Team 88. Mark Holman, Ridge's former chief of staff, is a consultant.

...

In a September 2004 Web chat organized by the Bush campaign, Swann addressed the issue of his diversity: "I am always somewhat amused by the fact that some people would ask, 'Why as an African-American am I a Republican?' In many cases, my response is, 'Why not a Republican?' Why is it such a grand assumption that African-Americans should be Democrats when historically the Republican Party has been a leader on issues important to African-Americans?"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: If Blame Is What They Want, Look amongst Their Own

There are so many on the left who are criticizing--no, make that highly condemning--the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Read into that a vicious attack upon President Bush. The federal response may be subject to criticism, but Democrats and leftists seem to imply from their critiques that Bush is the main one, and perhaps only one, responsible for the resulting dire circumstances that ensued.

This just seems to fly in the face of common sense. Why are they not looking into the actions of those local officials who were/are most directly responsible for situations like these? What about the mayor? What about the local politicians, city council? What about the governor?

Why did the local officials not follow the emergency plans that were drawn up for this type of situation?

Why is it that it was President Bush who had to intervene because the mayor and the governor were negligent in their duties?

Bob Williams in "After the Storm" explains with detail many of the lapses of judgment and thus action on the part of those officials who were much closer to the situation, those who are more directly related and responsible for the horror that resulted.

Subtitled "Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin failed their constituents," Williams goes on to write that

Many in the media are turning their eyes toward the federal government, rather than considering the culpability of city and state officials. I am fully aware of the challenges of having a quick and responsive emergency response to a major disaster. And there is definitely a time for accountability; but what isn't fair is to dump on the federal officials and avoid those most responsible--local and state officials who failed to do their job as the first responders. The plain fact is, lives were needlessly lost in New Orleans due to the failure of Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco, and the city's mayor, Ray Nagin.

The primary responsibility for dealing with emergencies does not belong to the federal government. It belongs to local and state officials who are charged by law with the management of the crucial first response to disasters. First response should be carried out by local and state emergency personnel under the supervision of the state governor and his emergency operations center.

The actions and inactions of Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin are a national disgrace due to their failure to implement the previously established evacuation plans of the state and city. Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin cannot claim that they were surprised by the extent of the damage and the need to evacuate so many people. Detailed written plans were already in place to evacuate more than a million people. The plans projected that 300,000 people would need transportation in the event of a hurricane like Katrina. If the plans had been implemented, thousands of lives would likely have been saved.

In addition to the plans, local, state and federal officials held a simulated hurricane drill 13 months ago, in which widespread flooding supposedly trapped 300,000 people inside New Orleans. The exercise simulated the evacuation of more than a million residents. The problems identified in the simulation apparently were not solved.

...

Mayor Nagin was responsible for giving the order for mandatory evacuation and supervising the actual evacuation: His Office of Emergency Preparedness (not the federal government) must coordinate with the state on elements of evacuation and assist in directing the transportation of evacuees to staging areas. Mayor Nagin had to be encouraged by the governor to contact the National Hurricane Center before he finally, belatedly, issued the order for mandatory evacuation. And sadly, it apparently took a personal call from the president to urge the governor to order the mandatory evacuation.

...

The city's evacuation plan states: "The city of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas." But even though the city has enough school and transit buses to evacuate 12,000 citizens per fleet run, the mayor did not use them. To compound the problem, the buses were not moved to high ground and were flooded. The plan also states that "special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves or who require specific lifesaving assistance. Additional personnel will be recruited to assist in evacuation procedures as needed." This was not done.

The evacuation plan warned that "if an evacuation order is issued without the mechanisms needed to disseminate the information to the affected persons, then we face the possibility of having large numbers of people either stranded and left to the mercy of a storm, or left in an area impacted by toxic materials." That is precisely what happened because of the mayor's failure.

Instead of evacuating the people, the mayor ordered the refugees to the Superdome and Convention Center without adequate security and no provisions for food, water and sanitary conditions. As a result people died, and there was even rape committed, in these facilities. Mayor Nagin failed in his responsibility to provide public safety and to manage the orderly evacuation of the citizens of New Orleans. Now he wants to blame Gov. Blanco and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In an emergency the first requirement is for the city's emergency center to be linked to the state emergency operations center. This was not done.

As for the governor,

The federal government does not have the authority to intervene in a state emergency without the request of a governor. President Bush declared an emergency prior to Katrina hitting New Orleans, so the only action needed for federal assistance was for Gov. Blanco to request the specific type of assistance she needed. She failed to send a timely request for specific aid.

In addition, unlike the governors of New York, Oklahoma and California in past disasters, Gov. Blanco failed to take charge of the situation and ensure that the state emergency operation facility was in constant contact with Mayor Nagin and FEMA. It is likely that thousands of people died because of the failure of Gov. Blanco to implement the state plan, which mentions the possible need to evacuate up to one million people. The plan clearly gives the governor the authority for declaring an emergency, sending in state resources to the disaster area and requesting necessary federal assistance.

...

I am not attempting to excuse some of the delays in FEMA's response. Congress and the president need to take corrective action there, also. However, if citizens expect FEMA to be a first responder to terrorist attacks or other local emergencies (earthquakes, forest fires, volcanoes), they will be disappointed. The federal government's role is to offer aid upon request.