Thursday, June 30, 2005

Loss of SEALs and Night Stalkers. Sad and Angry.

It has been a couple days now, and the facts of the "loss" are just coming out:

All 16 servicemen aboard the Chinook were killed when it was shot down June 28 by a rocket-propelled grenade round in the rugged eastern region of the country.

There is more:

Four Navy SEALs remain missing in the mountains of Afghanistan after the deadly crash of a helicopter full of Special Operations troops sent in to rescue them.

...

The events that led to the tragedy began when a helicopter inserted a four-man reconnaissance element from SEAL Team 10, based at Little Creek, Va., into the mountains near Asadabad, in Kunar province. Intelligence had indicated a large concentration of enemy forces, according to military sources.

The SEALs landed and hiked to a spot in rugged terrain where they established an observation post. Within several hours, Al Qaida or Taliban forces attacked the SEALs with small arms fire, and the SEALs called for a quick reaction force, or QRF, to help them, the sources said.

For the latest in updates, see Froggy Ruminations, both his posts and the comments.

Some words from Matt at Froggy not to miss:

One thing that I think is important to point out is the incredible bravery and heroism of the SOF operators involved here. Imagine being in a small group of operators reporting the activities of an enemy force 25 to 30 times your strength deep behind enemy lines. Well, our SOF operators don't have to imagine it, they do that every day. Imagine going in to rescue your embattled recon team facing 100 or more enemy fighters in a helo with 7 to 10 other SEALs in a high mountain pass in the middle of nowhere probably at night. Well, that's what my brothers were about to do when their aircraft took fire. Recognize that every one of these men know that if captured, they will be peeled like an onion by the savage heathen scumbags that it is their job to annihilate. Think about that.

I don't know about you, but as I wrote that, a chill went up my spine. While this incident is a terrible tragedy, it underscores the deep commitment of the American fighting man to defend this nation, and the incredible intrepidy of our SOF operators. This Independence Day weekend, take a minute and hoist a cold one for our boys. Because it is these men serving our nation around the world for the past 229 years that have made your BBQ possible.

And then from a liberal in the comments, responding to a fellow liberal's comment critical of the war and US troops fighting in Afghanistan:

"Afghanistan is THEIR country. American soldiers are in someone else's country? " [which is what the other liberal (Cathy) wrote]

And it was THEIR country which gave a safe haven to those who brutally murdered 3000+ of our people in OUR country. We have every right to be in that particular country, and our forces have succeed in overthrowing the terrorist government there. They have liberated people, including women, from unspeakable oppression. The terrorists they are fighting are not even NATIVE to that country, it's no more their country than it is ours.

Speaking as a fellow liberal, I encourage you to read a book.

Sorry guys, but I needed to say that.

See the post and the comments.

I am sad and angry. Yet, these downed heroes share the same grace the Marines share, as Reagan once recalled:

Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. The Marines don't have that problem.

And neither do these heroes.
Now, what to do?

Pray.

Then, go to United Warrior Survivor Foundation, also known as FrogFriends, and contribute to the fund to help "the families of fallen Special Operations personnel."

Contribute here.

Now go and do it.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

American Heroes

With all the doom and gloom from those on the Left, it is important to keep in mind just who is fighting on our side and sacrificing so much each and every day.

American Heroes,

Thank you for your service.

Leave the Package Alone!

On This We'll Defend's site, they have a video that clearly shows why you should "Never...NEVER...open a suspicious package laying in the middle of the road."

Note: not for the faint of heart. Video is somewhat graphic.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

More Bizarro: Italian "Justice" and Suicidal Europe

Recently, the Wall Street Journal printed the results of an interview with the courageous Italian, Oriana Fallaci. She is on trial for her critical comments of militant Islam.
Here are some of the highlights:

Oriana Fallaci faces jail. In her mid-70s, stricken with a cancer that, for the moment, permits only the consumption of liquids--so yes, we drank champagne in the course of a three-hour interview--one of the most renowned journalists of the modern era has been indicted by a judge in her native Italy under provisions of the Italian Penal Code which proscribe the "vilipendio," or "vilification," of "any religion admitted by the state."

In her case, the religion deemed vilified is Islam, and the vilification was perpetrated, apparently, in a book she wrote last year--and which has sold many more than a million copies all over Europe--called "The Force of Reason." Its astringent thesis is that the Old Continent is on the verge of becoming a dominion of Islam, and that the people of the West have surrendered themselves fecklessly to the "sons of Allah." So in a nutshell, Oriana Fallaci faces up to two years' imprisonment for her beliefs--which is one reason why she has chosen to stay put in New York. Let us give thanks for the First Amendment.

It is a shame, in so many ways, that "vilipend," the latinate word that is the pinpoint equivalent in English of the Italian offense in question, is scarcely ever used in the Anglo-American lexicon; for it captures beautifully the pomposity, as well as the anachronistic outlandishness, of the law in question. A "vilification," by contrast, sounds so sordid, so tabloid--hardly fitting for a grande dame.

"When I was given the news," Ms. Fallaci says of her recent indictment, "I laughed. Bitterly, of course, but I laughed. No amusement, no surprise, because the trial is nothing else but a demonstration that everything I've written is true." An activist judge in Bergamo, in northern Italy, took it upon himself to admit a complaint against Ms. Fallaci that even the local prosecutors would not touch. The complainant, one Adel Smith--who, despite his name, is Muslim, and an incendiary public provocateur to boot--has a history of anti-Fallaci crankiness, and is widely believed to be behind the publication of a pamphlet, "Islam Punishes Oriana Fallaci," which exhorts Muslims to "eliminate" her.

...

Ms. Fallaci speaks in a passionate growl: "Europe is no longer Europe, it is 'Eurabia,' a colony of Islam, where the Islamic invasion does not proceed only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense. ...

"Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder," the historian Arnold Toynbee wrote, and these words could certainly be Ms. Fallaci's. She is in a black gloom about Europe and its future: "The increased presence of Muslims in Italy, and in Europe, is directly proportional to our loss of freedom." ... When I ask her what "solution" there might be to prevent the European collapse of which she speaks, Ms. Fallaci flares up like a lit match. "How do you dare to ask me for a solution? It's like asking Seneca for a solution. You remember what he did?" She then says "Phwah, phwah," and gestures at slashing her wrists. "He committed suicide!" Seneca was accused of being involved in a plot to murder the emperor Nero. Without a trial, he was ordered by Nero to kill himself. One senses that Ms. Fallaci sees in Islam the shadow of Nero. "What could Seneca do?" she asks, with a discernible shudder. "He knew it would end that way--with the fall of the Roman Empire. But he could do nothing."

...

"You cannot survive if you do not know the past. We know why all the other civilizations have collapsed--from an excess of welfare, of richness, and from lack of morality, of spirituality." (She uses "welfare" here in the sense of well-being, so she is talking, really, of decadence.) "The moment you give up your principles, and your values . . . the moment you laugh at those principles, and those values, you are dead, your culture is dead, your civilization is dead. Period." The force with which she utters the word "dead" here is startling. ...

"I feel less alone when I read the books of Ratzinger." I had asked Ms. Fallaci whether there was any contemporary leader she admired, and Pope Benedict XVI was evidently a man in whom she reposed some trust. "I am an atheist, and if an atheist and a pope think the same things, there must be something true. It's that simple! There must be some human truth here that is beyond religion."

Ms. Fallaci, who made her name by interviewing numerous statesmen (and not a few tyrants), believes that ours is "an age without leaders. We stopped having leaders at the end of the 20th century." Of George Bush, she will concede only that he has "vigor," and that he is "obstinate" (in her book a compliment) and "gutsy. . . . Nobody obliged him to do anything about Terri Schiavo, or to take a stand on stem cells. But he did."

But it is "Ratzinger" (as she insists on calling the pope) who is her soulmate. John Paul II--"Wojtyla"--was a "warrior, who did more to end the Soviet Union than even America," but she will not forgive him for his "weakness toward the Islamic world. Why, why was he so weak?"

The scant hopes that she has for the West she rests on his successor. As a cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI wrote frequently on the European (and the Western) condition. Last year, he wrote an essay titled "If Europe Hates Itself," from which Ms. Fallaci reads this to me: "The West reveals . . . a hatred of itself, which is strange and can only be considered pathological; the West . . . no longer loves itself; in its own history, it now sees only what is deplorable and destructive, while it is no longer able to perceive what is great and pure."

"Ecco!" she says. A man after her own heart. "Ecco!" But I cannot be certain whether I see triumph in her eyes, or pain.

This, coupled with the recent attempt to arrest CIA operatives, only makes me wonder more and more about the slide toward European suicide that our new pope, amongst many, has spoken of. The CIA case can be found here: "Italy Judge Orders Arrest of 13 CIA Agents."

An Italian judge on Friday ordered the arrests of 13 CIA officers for secretly transporting a Muslim preacher from Italy to Egypt as part of U.S. anti-terrorism efforts — a rare public objection to the practice by a close American ally.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Our Bizarro World

Bizarro is a comic strip I enjoy reading. However, I usually find it on the Comics page of the paper, not the front page.

What is going on with our world?

Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes

By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writer

NEW LONDON, Conn. - Seven homeowners in this small waterfront community lost a groundbreaking U.S. Supreme Court decision Thursday when justices ruled that City Hall may take their property through eminent domain to make way for a hotel and convention center.

...

"The U.S. Supreme Court destroyed everybody's lives today, everybody who owns a home," said Richard Beyer, owner of two rental properties in the once-vibrant immigrant neighborhood.

In his majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens said New London could pursue private development under the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property if the land is for public use. He said the project the city has in mind promises to bring more jobs and revenue.

"Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government," Stevens wrote. He added that local officials are better positioned than federal judges to decide what's best for a community.

He was joined in his opinion by other members of the court's liberal wing — David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, as well as Reagan appointee Justice Anthony Kennedy, in noting that states are free to pass additional protections if they see fit.

...

"It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country," said Von Winkle, who said he would battle beyond the lawsuits and fight the bulldozers if necessary. "I won't be going anywhere."

In the Orange County Register, along with their criticism of the decision, they include in their Daily Quote these words from John Adams:

The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.

I think I heard this from Hugh yesterday or on his show, but perhaps a developer in the DC area should present a convincing case to the appropriate city council so that the homes of these five justices can be seized and developed for some better use, some better "economic development," as Justice Stevens concluded. Just about any use would seem to be better so that the justices realize the severity and injustice of their decision.

And then:

China Oil Company Bids $18.5B for Unocal

By JOE McDONALD, Associated Press Writer

BEIJING - China's third-largest oil producer made a hostile $18.5 billion bid Thursday for U.S. oil company Unocal Corp., marking the communist nation's most ambitious attempt yet to acquire a Western corporation and setting up a possible showdown with American politicians over national security issues.

Let's not forget Durbin's comments where Gitmo and our treatment of terrorists is equated with how the Nazis, the Communists, and Pol Pot's thugs treated "prisoners" under their regimes. This world is becoming more and more a world of topsy-turvy, a world of Bizarro-like qualities where up is down, down is up, you say good-bye when you arrive, hello when you leave, and sadly in our world, where good has now been called bad or evil, and evil is considered value neutral where the criminal himself is seen as a victim and in need of understanding.

Marxism is definitely alive, too bad it is alive in the minds and hearts of so many liberals in positions of power.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Acton, Froggy, NR, Dennis, and Steyn

Last week, I was at a conference hosted by the Acton Institute. The topic was globalization and the talks and discussion were all quite good. More on this another day. In the meantime, if you are a "future religious leader" or are in studies of religion, politics, economics, or philosophy and are interested in the promotion of liberty and religious values, then you might want to check out their introductory conference, "Towards a Free and Virtuous Society."

That said, a lot has been going on in the past week.

Froggy Ruminations has had some must-read posts:

The Left’s War on the Armed Services

It doesn’t take a tremendous amount of effort to notice the abject hatred for the Armed Forces by the Democrats, the MSM, and the international moonbat society (Amnesty Intl., ACLU, ANSWER, etc.). The problem in my view is that no one outside the right side of the blogosphere has lifted a finger to refute the lies or to defend the honor of our troops. This “movement” has been infecting the country since the invasion of Afghanistan. It started by throwing down the quagmire card before Christmas of 2001 and claiming that US forces were impotent against the mighty mujahideen in the snow capped mountain graves of thousands of Russians. Well, we were pretty much mopping up by the Spring of 2002, and since then the people have held elections, built roads and infrastructure, and are training up a viable Afghan Army to maintain peace for the first time in decades.

...

I would like to see some pushback starting here and now. The President and GOP leaders in Congress need to seize the moment, and rhetorically challenge these anti-American dirtbags. It’s time to haul out the grainy Auschwitz footage, the mass graves, the ovens, the starving gulag inmates and shove it down these Lefty’s throats in public. If GOP leaders are not willing to do this, we have two choices.

Actually start fighting dirty like we’ve been accused, or pack it in. If we are not going to do what it takes to win, then maybe we shouldn’t keep fighting at all.

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson writing for NRO:

A war that cannot be won entirely on the battlefield most certainly can be lost entirely off it — especially when an ailing Western liberal society is harder on its own democratic culture than it is on fascist Islamic fundamentalism...

Do yourself a favor and read this entire essay.

Then there is also

Why NOT Just Give Them a Trial?

This is something that liberals and RINOs like John McCain have been complaining about for some time now. The Left has skillfully used current events regarding Guantanamo to move this issue forward to the point where even squishy GOP members and pundits have glommed onto certain elements of the meme. Bill Kristol called for the closure of Gitmo on Fox News Sunday two weeks ago, McCain asked for trials for terrorist enemy combatants on Meet the Cuomo Aid yesterday. This round of sympathetic terrorist coverage started with Tom Friedman’s psychotic rantings in his NYT Column of May 27. This was quickly followed by the NEWSWEAK pack of lies about Koran abuse, the Amnesty International “gulag of our times” charge, and apparently Durbin was batting cleanup with his Nazi/Gulag/Pol Pot blast on the US military. Well, it’s a good thing that he struck out, and better still that he continues to swing wildly as of this writing refusing to even apologize or retract his DIRECT comparison between US troops and the SS. The political momentum that had been accelerating has for the moment been stopped so let’s look at why AQ detainees CANNOT ever be tried.

And

Durbin May Have Embellished FBI Memo

Via Myopic Zeal is the allegation that Durbin may have fabricated parts of his 'torture' example drawn from a confidential FBI memo. The charge is buried at the bottom of a Friday story on Foxnews.com:

"One knowledgeable official familiar with the memo cited by Durbin as well as other memos said the FBI agent made no such allegation and that the memo described only someone chained to the floor. Anything beyond that is simply an interpretation, the official said."

If true this means that the charges made by Durbin that US officials at Guantanamo Bay treated detainees in a manner commensurate with that of Nazis, Soviet gulags, and the genocide in Cambodia are not only obscene but also FALSE.

Just like Major K., Froggy Ruminations has become a daily must-read.

In an editorial led by the claim, "There is a case for optimism in Iraq," National Review concludes:

Thursday's Shiite-Sunni deal on the make-up of the constitutional committee is another sign that politics in Iraq is marching on, despite the insurgency and despite the weak leadership of Prime Minister Jaafari. The more Sunnis that are brought into the legitimate political process, the further isolated and weakened the insurgency should become. But this will take time and involve maddening fits and starts and unsatisfactory compromises. The training of Iraqi forces will take time as well. Have the numbers of trained Iraqis forces been exaggerated? Have those forces sometimes been disappointing in the field? Yes and yes. But we are making incremental progress every day toward more self-sufficient Iraqi forces.

At this point, President Bush doesn't need the gung-ho enthusiasm of the American public, but he does need its patience. He has to explain how victory in Iraq protects Americans’ security, and how defeat would endanger it. If we succeed in creating a decent, stable government in Iraq, it could shift the geo-political balance in the region against radicalism, ending its status as a caldron of murderous anti-Americanism. If we fail, Iraq might well break up and a rump Sunni-stan become a haven for terrorists that we will, sooner or later, have to try to clean out again.

The spring of '04 was a trough before a turnaround. The last few months may yet prove to be the same.

Let's hope. Real hope, that is.

Dennis has written another gem:

Our Father Is No 'It' or Gal God

Father's Day provides a fine opportunity to talk about our Father in Heaven. Why do Judeo-Christian religions insist on God being a father and not a mother? Is it still important to use masculine images and vocabulary to describe God? Or is that all a vestige of sexist religion?

That is the charge of "progressives" within Christianity and Judaism. Because men and women are equal, their argument goes, describing God, the highest being, in male terms is pure sexism. It simply discriminates against women and places men in a superior position. These arguments have great appeal in an age that confuses equality with sameness. So it is worth briefly sketching some of the arguments for preserving male depictions of God.

First, God is the source of moral rules.
...


Second, every civilization must check and then channel the male propensity to violence. ...

Third, God must be completely desexualized.
...


Fourth, humans need to feel that God is their protector. ...

Fifth, it is far more palatable for women to bow down to a male God than for men to bow down to a female god. ...

And closes with:

The current trend toward gender-neutral Bible translations and prayers ("Our parent who art in heaven") is not theologically serious — it emanates from secular feminism, not from the book that gave us the Judeo-Christian God. Indeed, that book expended great efforts to liberate the human mind and soul from goddesses. Returning to a female god is therefore the antithesis of progressive.

Lastly, for now, Mark Steyn has his typically unique take on Durbin's irresponsible and disgusting statements:

Durbin slanders his own country

Throughout the last campaign season, senior Democrats had a standard line in their speeches, usually delivered with righteous anger, about how "nobody has a right to question my patriotism!" Given that nobody was questioning their patriotism, it seemed an odd thing to harp on about. But, aware of their touchiness on the subject, I hasten to add that in what follows I am not questioning Dick Durbin's patriotism, at least not for the first couple of paragraphs. Instead, I'll begin by questioning his sanity.

Last Tuesday, Senator Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, quoted a report of U.S. "atrocities" at Guantanamo and then added:

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings."

Er, well, your average low-wattage senator might. But I wouldn't. The "atrocities" he enumerated -- "Not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room" -- are not characteristic of the Nazis, the Soviets or Pol Pot, and, at the end, the body count in Gitmo was a lot lower. That's to say, it was zero, which would have been counted a poor day's work in Auschwitz or Siberia or the killing fields of Cambodia.

...

Just for the record, some 15 million to 30 million Soviets died in the gulag; some 6 million Jews died in the Nazi camps; some 2 million Cambodians -- one third of the population -- died in the killing fields. Nobody's died in Gitmo, not even from having Christina Aguilera played to them excessively loudly. The comparison is deranged, and deeply insulting not just to the U.S. military but to the millions of relatives of those dead Russians, Jews and Cambodians, who, unlike Durbin, know what real atrocities are. Had Durbin said, "Why, these atrocities are so terrible you would almost believe it was an account of the activities of my distinguished colleague Robert C. Byrd's fellow Klansmen," that would have been a little closer to the ballpark but still way out.

One measure of a civilized society is that words mean something: "Soviet" and "Nazi" and "Pol Pot" cannot equate to Guantanamo unless you've become utterly unmoored from reality. Spot the odd one out: 1) mass starvation; 2) gas chambers; 3) mountains of skulls; 4) lousy infidel pop music turned up to full volume. One of these is not the same as the others, and Durbin doesn't have the excuse that he's some airhead celeb or an Ivy League professor. He's the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Don't they have an insanity clause?


...

And this is where it's time to question Durbin's patriotism. ...

The senator from Illinois' comparisons are as tired as they're grotesque. They add nothing useful to the debate. But around the planet, folks naturally figure that, if only 100 people out of nearly 300 million get to be senators, the position must be a big deal. Hence, headlines in the Arab world like "U.S. Senator Stands By Nazi Remark." That's al-Jazeera, where the senator from al-Inois is now a big hero -- for slandering his own country, for confirming the lurid propaganda of his country's enemies. Yes, folks, American soldiers are Nazis and American prison camps are gulags: don't take our word for it, Senator Bigshot says so.

This isn't a Republican vs Democrat thing; it's about senior Democrats who are so over-invested in their hatred of a passing administration that they've signed on to the nuttiest slurs of the lunatic fringe. It would be heartening to think that Durbin will himself now be subjected to some serious torture. Not real torture, of course; I don't mean using Pol Pot techniques and playing the Celine Dion Christmas album really loud to him. But he should at least be made a little uncomfortable over what he's done -- in a time of war, make an inflammatory libel against his country's military that has no value whatsoever except to America's enemies. Shame on him, and shame on those fellow senators and Democrats who by their refusal to condemn him endorse his slander.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

My Dad

Some time ago, I had to write an intellectual autobiography but one that also would deal with someone who has helped shaped me into the person I am today. There are tons of thoughts I have of my father. Many things I am thankful for. Here is most of it:


One of the childhood memories I hold on to is the day my father went to visit my first grade classroom during the first week of school. My parents and I had spent the previous couple of days at odds with each other. I could not figure it out. I knew I had not done anything wrong, and yet my parents were getting frustrated with my answers as to how each school day had gone. Having older brothers and sisters, I was able to meet up with them outside my classroom and walk home. Since my mother did not pick me up from school, my parents were trying to rely solely upon my answers, which for reasons I could not understand those first two days of first grade I was not able to give. I had gone to the school’s kindergarten the year before and my brothers and sisters had also attended this school. This gave my parents some assurances about the school. These assurances, however, were short-lived.

Each day at school I did not understand much of what was going on. I remembered the clock in the teacher’s hand as we all sat in front of her, trying to answer her questions. What was she asking? I was not sure, but I thought it had something to do with the time shown on the clock. When I heard my name, I just looked up and answered, “Huh?” After the teacher’s voice raced through some words I thought were beyond my vocabulary, quite foreign in fact, I sat in silence with what must have looked like an expression of total ignorance on my face. Realizing I was not going to answer, she moved on to someone I will call Andrew, a boy sitting next to me. Apparently, he responded correctly. I did not know. I did not even understand the question. Later that evening when my parents asked how the day had gone, I had very little to say. I just looked up at them and gave the universal response of kids throughout America, “Fine.” “What did you learn today?” “What did you talk about at school?” “Did you read a story?” “You must remember something.” To each question and statement, my response was either, “No” or “I don’t know.” After two straight evenings of this, my parents were not too pleased. Neither was I. Was I stupid? Was I an idiot? Why couldn’t I understand what happened each day at school so that I could give my parents some answers?

Well, after the second day, my father thought they should look into my folder to see if the teacher had sent home any notes, possibly one explaining their child’s lack of attention and understanding in class. Could their baby boy actually not be as smart as they thought? Could their little Billy not be as bright as they convinced him he was? My parents’ worst fears that evening were quickly assuaged. Did they find a note from the teacher? Yes. However, it was not what they had expected. “Estimados Padres,” this letter began, and gladly it did end the conflict brewing between my parents and me. Being bilingual, my parents were able to read the letter. They then asked me questions which, once I realized my parents might no longer be upset with me, I was able to answer with a bit more detail. It turns out I did not understand much of what was going on at school because it was all in Spanish. Though I knew some from conversations with my grandparents, I was by no means fluent or confident in front of strangers to speak any Spanish words. My father and his family had experienced some problems back when he was a child on a farm in the south of Texas, partially because of his Mexican heritage. Though he loved his ancestry and was proud of his Tarascan native-Mexican blood, he knew that speaking English and speaking it well was one major key to success in this country he loved dearly. For this was the country that offered him social mobility from a rural farm in southern Texas to a suburban middle-class home and occupation. He made much of the opportunities set before him. Though he had seen an ugly part of America, he did not let it taint his image of this land for he knew the freedom existing here in this country afforded each and every man the means to realize dreams. This he and my mother, another Texan but from the western town of El Paso, imparted to me throughout my childhood.

Well, with the experiences of discrimination in his past, he did not like it that his son had been put into a “bilingual” class without his permission. This was America—not a totalitarian state where families are dictated to—and his son would learn in English. No exceptions.

So, the next day my father drove me to school, and we first went to the principal’s office. After a few minutes listening to them talk, it became clear my father was angry and yet in control of this passion. At the same time, it was also clear that the principal was stretching for answers. One comment I will never forget is when my father referred to the principal’s own race. He was a black man, and my father resented the fact that a black man who obviously knew enough history to know the sins of racism and discrimination would not only tolerate but promote further programs of discrimination based upon one’s ethnicity. During the conversation, the principal let it be known that I was put into this “bilingual” class because of my Spanish surname. When my father asked why this would still be the case since I had gone to kindergarten (in English) the previous year and since their permission had not been sought, the principal returned to his swim against the stream of my father’s insistence. He struggled to get out an explanation, and each time he did my father candidly demonstrated why this latest reason was not applicable or valid. So, the principal said he would place me in the “English” class, adding that he wished my father would only visit the original classroom and observe the good things that could be accomplished for those not “used to English.”

The next few moments are a scene I have never forgotten and one that, as the years have passed, has made me extremely proud of my father. We entered the classroom and my father stopped cold in his steps. The principal looked back and wondered what was the matter. “Where is the flag?” my father asked. “Up against the side wall.” “No, I don’t mean that. I mean the flag, the American flag.” Then, it hit me. Each of the previous two mornings, we students in this California town in the United States of America had been led to pledge allegiance (at least go through the actions) to the flag of Mexico! Outraged is putting it lightly with regard to my father’s reaction. After he explained to the principal in some choice words (with surprising calmness still in his demeanor) that he did not make the sacrifices he had made in his life, including proudly serving our country in the United States Army and defending freedom in South Korea, so that his son could be placed, without his permission, in a form of inferior education that would most likely keep his last son behind the pace of others and, more importantly, possibly preclude him from reaching his intellectual potential. (As things turned out, my father was right. The “bilingual” education was not “bi” and it was truly inferior. Very little instruction was ever done in English, and of the thirty-plus students in that class, many did not graduate high school on time or at all, one notable exception being an understandably quiet child: a recent Filipino immigrant with a Spanish surname.)

This event marked me in ways that continue to offer lessons and guidance. America is a great place. Though there are dark places and have been some dark times, the light still shines. Reagan was right, we are a beacon of freedom to the world. This is what my father taught me through his words and through his actions, those I witnessed countless times and those I heard about from his life on the farm, being kicked out of his house at the age of fifteen after having already finished his high school education, striking out on his own, serving his country in a time of war and even suffering a wound from battle, starting his own newspaper business in East Los Angeles, being his own man and fending off the criticism for being one of the few public men of Mexican heritage who did not blindly join Democratic organizations but rather joined local independent and Republican-minded groups, believing that their philosophy best suited this country, him, and his family for greater prosperity. My father is a man who despises any race-baited thought and further has voiced his concern that the growing behemoth we call government is not suited to the freedoms of the common man.

This may sound like the biography of my father. In ways, it is. On a deeper level, it is my story because he made me so much of who I am today. Growing up in a home where the two public role models put before us were Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan tells a lot about the formation I received throughout the 1980’s. I was brought up to believe in the struggles against communism and the promotion of freedom not just here but throughout the world. And not just political freedom but spiritual freedom, which was expressed through our family’s commitment to Christ and the Catholic Church he established.

As the years rolled by, my parents consistently encouraged reading and intellectual curiosity. We had books throughout the house, and my father even was working on two books, one a historical novel and the other a type of philosophical treatise in the tradition of Plato but set on the streets of Los Angeles. Further, my mother went back to work and then both my parents were working in aerospace. We more adamantly became a defense-minded home, especially since my father worked in management on the B-1 Bomber and my mother, for a time, had a lot to do with the orders her company received for military aircraft. Defense build-up was necessary for our country and good for our family. In jest, I used to think, what better reasons to support Reagan: I wanted to continue eating and playing soccer!

Once I graduated high school, I attempted to follow my father’s example. I signed up with the United States Marine and was committed to go to boot camp the following November. However, due to a hearing loss I experienced from surgery to treat cerebral and spinal meningitis when I was five months old, I was not able to pass my final physical (even after many tries and additional trips to the doctors to attempt to fix the problem) and thus I was not able to stand before the U.S. flag and do as my father had: take the oath to serve one's country, an oath I had longed to profess.

...

Soon enough, tragedy knocked on our door. One semester, my father came down with cancer of the larynx. He was forced to take an early retirement from Rockwell International since he had suffered much physically and had his vocal cords removed. In all trials, God’s grace can help us find a good. I learned a lesson about love and marital devotion. My mother was saintly in her care for my suddenly frail father. Happily, he survived.

Time moved on, and I took advantage of an opportunity to travel to Italy and study in Florence for a semester. What a time! Not only did I think I had fallen in love each week, but I even managed to find a way to stay once courses were completed by taking a job at a country club-type establishment outside Rome: La Casella. Seeing this side of life began to change me and thus my goals. I saw numerous families in the countryside who appeared truly content and happy. Yet, they did not have a large home, fancy cars, or even much money. No, they did not have those material items. Rather, they had the intangibles. They had love and joy in their lives. From my observations, these seemed to be rooted in the fact that their family life was strong and frequent; their small villages were supplied with the essentials for living: food and some commerce; and most importantly for many of these paesani they had a chapel of God in their midst and each day He would empty Himself and descend upon us in the Holy Eucharist. I was struck by the difference in values and by the difference in pace of life. This was much better for the cultivation of family and order. However, this was the countryside and not the city, where the contrast is well-known and the stifling of creativity and freedom is currently killing traditional European society. To paraphrase one thinker, the next century will be religious or it will not be. Europe is rapidly paving its road to a literal u-topia: no place. For if it does not discover its roots, which can still be seen in many countryside towns, it will not be.

Upon returning, I began to take a stronger interest in my faith and philosophers who dared to believe. I later applied and was accepted to New York University. I thought I was smart. I thought I could compete with these elite students. Once at NYU, however, I quickly learned that though my mind could reason adequately, my breadth of knowledge was inadequate. I then sought a program that would educate me in the riches of Western Civilization. I wanted to know whom those names belonged to that I heard in discussions at NYU, and I wanted to know what the literature of the West was really about. They actually had a meaning relevant to our times? Yes, but where could I get those answers and understand our past as a whole, as something with a tradition that truly passes on from one generation to the next. Where could I be truly educated?

I found this answer in the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco during the 1990’s. I entered this Catholic Great Books Program and relished every moment there. I learned in ways new to me. I learned in the seminar and tutorial methods. I made friendships that are friendships for life, entering into the blessings of spiritual friendship that St. Aelred of Rievaulx wrote about. I was blessed once again to go to Europe, this time during my second year as a student from USF to study with the Dominicans at Blackfriars Studium in the once shining city on a hill, Oxford. I spent one year discovering many of the roots of my Catholic faith through reading the Early Church Fathers and Councils, seeing how Newman relied upon their secure judgment in his own journey of faith, studying Canon Law, and finally beginning to make up for part of my literary ignorance by delving into a year-long intimacy with the English novel from Bunyan to Greene and Britain's poetry from medieval lyrics to the best of the twentieth century. The year abroad culminated in a way I could not have imagined: going to Rome for one last quick trip and then ending up with an invite to a private audience with Pope John Paul II.

I returned to USF and completed two more years of the study of Western Civilization, each year growing closer and closer to St. Thomas Aquinas and many of his students throughout the ages, primarily Maritain, Simon, Gilson, and Pieper, in addition to G. K. Chesterton, whose writings became like a breviary to me, reading him daily and at times prayerfully.

The pinnacle of my studies at the St. Ignatius Institute introduced me to great Christian novelists and the mighty moral theologian, Fr. Servais Pinckaers, OP, whose true ressourcement has not only renewed the studies of moral and Thomistic theology but has also renewed my study of the moral life from a deeper and richer Christian ethics to a more profound analysis and exegesis of the Beatitudes.

Throughout my years at USF, I enjoyed writing for the student newspaper, something I must have inherited from my father who was also an opinion-based writer for a newspaper some years ago. I was apparently effective in fostering debate since I often received hate mail and even had close to a full page devoted to criticisms of my writings, headlined with the title, “PERALES FINDS FEW ALLIES IN THE WEST.” ....

...

I graduated with a double major in Philosophy and English Literature, along with a certificate for completing the St. Ignatius Institute Catholic Great Books Program. After graduation, I ended up coming home and eventually, by chance, took a long-term though temporary substitute teaching position at a Catholic elementary school .... I loved it, and once the school year ended I found a full-time position teaching the gamut of language arts at another Catholic elementary school .... I have been blessed with wonderful persons as students and with supportive families. Together, we have continued the fine tradition at this school and have caught the eyes of local high school teachers, as our students spend their years in grades 6-8 learning how to write essays, read and analyze great and classic children’s and juvenile literature, study Greek and Latin root words, memorize and recite poetry, as well as learn the other typical areas of a junior high English program.

That said, I still seek more. I seek greater intellectual fulfillment, the further development of Newman’s “philosophical habit of mind” and a greater understanding of freedom and order’s relationship to the formation and preservation of all that has been and still is good, beautiful, and true in Western Civilization. This is one reason why I am .... attending Loyola Marymount University’s graduate program in philosophy.

During the course of my still young life, I have enjoyed much and been blessed much. One event that stands out amidst the many happy memories is the birth of my child, Therese Marie. I have been truly blessed by the Lord to be her father. She is an angel, not just by bringing a message from the Lord but more substantially by bringing grace and beauty into my life. I hope to provide her with the necessary roots for a happy childhood and adulthood. I seek to be a good role model for her in my words and my actions. I seek to live up to the advice a college advisor, Mr. John Galten, told me upon learning that I had started teaching junior high: “Bill, be worthy of it.” I try to remember the purity and innocence of childhood not only when I teach but whenever I act, for it is the things I do each and every day (the little things, even, to borrow an expression from St. Therese) that will affect and hopefully enhance my ability to parent and my ability to be the man I am called to be—to be worthy of this fatherhood and truly care for this little one of God.

As I look back on the years God has given me, I learn a lot. I see His hand in many ways, especially His care during times of trial. I have been blessed to have wonderful and loving parents. They provided me with much, materially and spiritually. Whenever I think back to that bilingual first-grade classroom at Burbank Elementary School, I thank God for having a parent with strong convictions and the ability to control and channel anger. My father stood up for me, stood up to a man and an institution he understood to be harmful to his child’s well-being. Though it might have only been intellectual and educational, the stand was important, for the highest faculty of man is his intellect. And the formation of my intellect was at risk. Further, my dad stood up for his country and me by demanding the American flag fly in that California classroom. By the end of that week, it did. By the end of that week, his concern for me resulted in my placement in the “regular” classes. With that example of my father’s love, I saw a man who faced challenges for his child and country, regardless of who the opponent was. If the fight needed to be made, he made it. I can only hope and pray that one day my daughter may say the same thing of me: that he was worthy of his calling to be my father and a citizen of this great country.


Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Rape, Islamist "Justice," and Silence of Feminists (Again)

I am re-posting this because it is important to read it again, check updates on the Gates of Vienna links, and let others know about the kinds of enemies we are fighting in this War on Terror.

That we should fight these types over there so we do not have to fight them one day here on our soil.



Posted by Hello

I have often wondered why more feminists do not support the War on Terror. They may disagree with this or that, but how can they not voice support for women gaining more freedom as their dignity has humans and their rights are recognized? Human rights are for everyone, men and women, Western and non-Western, Christian, secular, Muslim, and Arab. Feminists should be out there praising the advances made by and for women in Iraq and Afghanistan. And yet, their silence continues.

The silence about one case in the Islamist world is disturbing. Thanks to places like Gates of Vienna, news of this travesty is getting some publicity:
The high court in Lahore has ordered that the men who gang raped Mukhtar Mai in 2002 be released on Monday. In addition, the men on the village council who ordered her rape will also be freed.

Mai's case is not unusual, except in one respect: after being raped for hours as retribution for her brother's misbehavior (a charge cooked up to cover over the fact that he himself had been sodomized by members of a powerful clan in their village), Mai didn't go home and conveniently kill herself. Instead, with the help of her imam and the support of her father and family, she fought back -- all the way to the high
court.


For three years now, since her young brother's rape in June, 2002, this woman has lived with and managed to transcend a nightmare. Having been awarded compensation by the Pakistani courts she took the money home and started two schools in her village, one for boys, another for girls. Inspired by her courage, money came from around the world. In March, Canada donated a large sum to Mai for the continuation of her education projects in Punjab.
From the Reuters article:
"The review board has held that there is no justification for the detention of these people and has ordered their release after depositing surety bonds of 50,000 rupees ($840) from each of them," Malik Saleem, a lawyer for the 12 men, told Reuters.
Where is NOW? Where are all those feminist groups?

For a glimpse of how women are treated in this part of the world, see this article on Asian women being "exposed to violence." (HT: Gates of Vienna)

Monday, June 13, 2005

Rules of War: A Must-Read

In a must-read article by Col. Brett Wyrick USAF and post by Blackfive, the rules of war are clarified:
The first rule of war is that young men and women die.
The second rule of war is that surgeons cannot change the first rule.
and then
I think the third rule of war should be that those who have given their all for our freedom are never forgotten, and they are always honored.
Go here to read the whole article with additional comments on the Blackfive site.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Be Still! Be at Leisure!

One of the most influential books I have read is Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper.

It is a philosophical reflection on the real meaning of leisure, work, being human, and life. The second half of the book is another reflection on the nature of the philosophical act of the intellect as it stands in awe of wonder, as it really experiences reality.

The Introduction to the most recent edition is written by Roger Scruton while the original English edition's Introduction was written by T. S. Eliot.

Here is a bit from Scruton's Introduction:

"Don't just do something: stand there!" The command of an American President to a fussy official was one of those rare moments in American politics when truth prevailed over industry. Josef Pieper's serene reflections on the art of being serene ought to be read by every practical person--and the more that person is involved in business, politics, and public life, the more useful will Pieper be to him. For here, in a succinct yet learned argument, are all the reasons for thinking that the frenzied need to work, to plan, and to change things is nothing but idleness under other names--moral, intellectual, and emotional idleness. In order to defend itself from self-knowledge, this agitated idleness is busy smashing all the mirror in the house.

Leisure has had a bad press. For the puritan it is the source of vice; for the egalitarian a sign of privilege. The Marxist regards leisure as the unjust surplus, enjoyed by the few at the expense of the many. Nobody in a democracy is at ease with leisure, and almost every person, however little use he may have for his time, will say that he works hard for a living--curious expression, when the real thing to work for is dying. (xi)

Berry Sunday Thought

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
Who do not tax their lives with forethought
Of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
Waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

-From Wendell Berry's “The Peace of Wild Things”

Friday, June 10, 2005

Militant Feminism: A Bad American Export

I am all for exporting goods from America to other nations, especially the more needy ones. However, seeing a McDonalds in a little town in Italy or out in the country of Mexico is not my idea of the exports I had in mind.

Militant feminism is another such regrettable export. However, sometimes the locals rise up and resist. Good that they do. This is from Karl Zinsmeister's article in The American Enterprise magazine (April/May 2005 issue):

Besides, there are plenty of social questions where modern Western solutions may not necessarily be the best ones. If Islamic nations choose to ban pornography, if they want a different balance between work and leisure, if they prefer their own patterns of family life, Americans should be perfectly satisfied to let them follow an alternate path. There are some forms of "enlightenment" that other nations could be better off without, as this amusing anecdote from Deepak Lal's new book In Praise of Empires indicates:

In 1995 I was staying in Beijing with the Indian ambassador to China. Beijing was hosting a U.N. Conference on Women, and the large number of female delegates were housed in a large tent city. One night the ambassador was woken by an agitated Chinese official asking him to rush to the tent city, as the Indian delegates were rioting. On getting there he found that the trouble began when some American delegates went into the tents of their Third World sisters and tried to initiate them into the joys of gay sex. With the Indians in the lead, the Third World women chased the American women out of their tents, beating them with their slippers.

Yes, sometimes the US is wrong and the "Third World" is right, especially when it comes to moral values.

Notice the date, 1995, when Clinton was President. Enough said.

Thomas for Chief Justice

Though I think smoking marijuana, in most situations, is unwise and eventually bad for the person, I do disagree with the Supreme Court's recent ruling: by a 6-3 vote, they decided that "Congress's constitutional authority to regulate the interstate market in drugs, licit or illicit, extends to small, homegrown quantities of doctor-recommended marijuana consumed under California's Compassionate Use Act, which was adopted by an overwhelming majority of voters in 1996."

As Charles Krauthammer points out, the ruling "was not about concern for cancer patients, the utility of medical marijuana or the latitude individuals should have regarding what they ingest."

It was about what the Constitution's commerce clause permits and, even more abstractly, who decides what the commerce clause permits. To simplify only slightly, Antonin Scalia says: Supreme Court precedent. Clarence Thomas says: the Founders, as best we can interpret their original intent.

The Scalia opinion (concurring with the majority opinion) appeals to dozens of precedents over the past 70 years under which the commerce clause was vastly expanded to allow the federal government to regulate what had, by the time of the New Deal, become a highly industrialized country with a highly nationalized economy.

Thomas's dissent refuses to bow to such 20th-century innovations. While Scalia's opinion is studded with precedents, Thomas pulls out founding-era dictionaries (plus Madison's notes from the Constitutional Convention, the Federalist Papers and the ratification debates) to understand what the word commerce meant then. And it meant only "trade or exchange" (as distinct from manufacture) and not, as we use the term today, economic activity in general. By this understanding, the federal government had no business whatsoever regulating privately and medicinally grown
marijuana.

How far should government's reach be? Weintraub notes the answer of Justice Thomas:

"Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana," Thomas wrote. "If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything and the federal government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers."

It is not, nor has it been for some time. Weintraub concludes:

Unfortunately, too many Americans who would be shocked and offended if their next-door neighbor said he knew what was best for them acquiesce when the government, which is really just millions of neighbors acting in concert, does exactly the same thing.

So what is an answer? Justice Clarence Thomas for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is one. This will not solve the fundamental problem of justices legislating from the bench, of justices adding more to the Constitution than is there, but it would be a telling sign and gesture in honor of freedom, federalism, and respecting the original intentions of the Founding Fathers. Krauthammer suggests just that as he distinguishes between the different ways Supreme Court Justices view the Constitution and their own role in interpreting this document:

With Thomas's originalism at one end of the spectrum and Scalia's originalism tempered by precedent -- rolling originalism, as it were -- in the middle, there is a third notion, championed most explicitly by Justice Stephen Breyer, that the Constitution is a living document and that the role of the court is to interpret and reinterpret it continually in the light of new ideas and new norms.

This is what our debate about judges should be about. Instead, it constantly degenerates into arguments about results.

Two years ago, Thomas (and Scalia and William Rehnquist) dissented from the court's decision to invalidate a Texas law that criminalized sodomy. Thomas explicitly wrote, "If I were a member of the Texas Legislature, I would vote to repeal it." However, since he is a judge and not a legislator, he could find no principled way to use a Constitution that is silent on this issue to strike down the law. No matter. If Thomas were nominated tomorrow for chief justice you can be sure that some liberal activists would immediately issue a news release citing Thomas's "hostility to homosexual rights."

And they will undoubtedly cite previous commerce clause cases -- Thomas joining the majority of the court in striking down the Gun Free School Zones Act and parts of the Violence Against Women Act -- to show Thomas's "hostility to women's rights and gun-free schools."

I hope President Bush nominates Thomas to succeed Rehnquist as chief justice, not just because honoring an originalist would be an important counterweight to the irresistible modern impulse to legislate from the bench but, perhaps more importantly, to expose the idiocy of the attacks on Thomas that will inevitably be results-oriented: hostile toward women, opposed to gun-free schools . . . and pro-marijuana?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Gitmo and Quran Abuse


Posted by Hello

But, the question is, do you condemn Arabs who "insult" the Quran? Do you condemn Muslims who "insult" the Quran?

Now that investigations into these charges are getting publicity, people are finally getting the truth, even if they do read Newsweek.

Charles Krauthammer writes:

The Pentagon reports (Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, May 26) – all these breathless "scoops" come from the U.S. government's own investigations of itself – that of 13 allegations of Koran abuse, five were substantiated, of which two were most likely accidental.

Let's understand what mishandling means. Under the rules later instituted by the Pentagon at Guantanamo, proper handling of the Koran means using two hands and wearing gloves when touching it. Which means that if any guard held the Koran with one hand or had neglected to put on gloves, this would be considered mishandling.

On the scale of human crimes, where, say, 10 is the killing of 2,752 innocent people in one day and 0 is jaywalking, this ranks as perhaps a 0.01.

Moreover, what were the Korans doing there in the first place? The very possibility of mishandling Korans arose because we gave them to each prisoner. What kind of crazy tolerance is this? Is there any other country that would give a prisoner precisely the religious text which that prisoner and those affiliated with him invoke to justify the slaughter of innocents? If the prisoners had to have reading material, I would have given them the book "Portraits 9/11/01" - vignettes of the lives of those massacred on Sept. 11.

Why this abjectness on our part? On the very day the braying mob in Pakistan demonstrated over the false Koran report in Newsweek, a suicide bomber blew up an Islamic shrine in Islamabad, destroying not just innocent men, women and children, but undoubtedly many Korans. Not a word of condemnation. No demonstrations.

Like I asked above, do they condemn Arabs who actually do damage the Quran? Do they condemn Muslems who really do destroy the Quran? How about those who blow up holy shrines and murder fellow innocent Muslims? Oh, yah, I forgot, murdering fellow Muslims is part of the Jihad.

So, what about these cases of "abuse"?

Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, answers this question:

All the headlines about "Abuse of the Koran at Gitmo" are absolutely accurate. Brig. Gen. Jay Hood's internal investigation has uncovered some shocking incidents. On at least six occasions, Korans were ripped up. They were urinated on three times, and attempts were made to flush them down the toilet at least three other times.

Why aren't millions of Muslims rioting in response to these defilements? Because the perpetrators were prisoners, not guards. As John Hinderaker notes on weeklystandard.com, the most serious desecrations of the Koran at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility were committed by the Muslim inmates themselves.

Um, Mecca, we have a problem. Muslims are "insulting" the Quran, not the Americans. Well, the truth never seems to bother Islamists anyway so why should this be any different.

Ok, but there must have been some episodes of Americans "insulting" the Quran. Right? Well, sort of.

The worst lapse, splashed (so to speak) across front pages around the world, occurred March 25, when a guard urinated outside an air vent and some of his urine blew into a cell and onto an inmate and his Koran. Human rights absolutists should be relieved (sorry, can't help myself) to know that the detainee received a fresh uniform and a new Koran, and the guard was reprimanded and reassigned.

That's the most heinous case of Koran abuse by Gitmo personnel. The four other verified incidents involved an interrogator kicking a Koran, guards accidentally getting a Koran wet with water, an interrogator (subsequently fired) stepping on a Koran and a "two-word obscenity" mysteriously appearing on the inside cover of a Koran.

Some of the most inflammatory allegations, such as guards flushing a Koran, appear to be the result of unsubstantiated rumors spread by inmates who may have been following Al Qaeda instructions to falsely claim mistreatment. Or maybe they were simply trying to deflect blame for all the Korans they were mutilating on their own.

Maybe. But then they would have to condemn themselves. Can't do that in the middle of Jihad.

For his usual humorous and perceptive take on this, see Mark Steyn's latest. Here's a snippet:

And what was it the Pentagon ‘confirmed’? Only the shocking details of Operation Qu’ran Desecration ...hang on, make that Operation Koran Desecration; might as well start the old desecration programme by losing all those whacky apostrophes and flipping the bird to the PC spellcheck. Anyway, Operation Koran Desecration involved ‘urine’, a word the media fell upon like Sarah Miles in a desert. They broke out the bubbly, sang a couple of choruses of ‘Urine the Money’, and splashed the urine around the globe: ‘Gitmo Quran Was Splashed With Urine’ (Associated Press), ‘US Admits Urine-Tainted Koran’ (the Sunday Times of Australia). What happened was that some shaven-headed, bull-necked, Christian-fundamentalist psycho colonel at Guantanamo instituted a regime of mandatory micturition upon the detainees’ Korans; each guard would chug down a case of Bud, just to make sure every sura was sodden.

Er, actually, no. What really happened was that one guard left his observation post and went outside to relieve himself al fresco just as the sultry Caribbean breeze changed direction, resulting in a soupçon of urine being wafted back through an air vent and landing on the Koran and a detainee’s uniform. According to the Pentagon report, ‘The sergeant of the guard responded and immediately relieved the guard’ who’d relieved himself so carelessly. ‘The sergeant of the guard ensured the detainee received a fresh uniform and a new Qu’ran’ — or perhaps a new Q’u-’ran, now with added apostrophes for even greater cultural sensitivity! As for the rogue urinator, he was reprimanded and reassigned to gate duty where he could empty his bladder out of range of any buildings.

So the golden shower turned out to be a golden droplet — one droplet, one time. As leaks go, this isn’t exactly Deep Throat. Other than that drop in the ocean, the incidents of official ‘disrespect’ to the Koran at Guantanamo number under a handful, and none of them, even if one accepts that one can ‘torture’ a book, is entirely satisfactory as an example of the Great Satan’s brutality: in one case, some water balloons thrown by guards resulted in several Korans in the vicinity becoming moistened; in another, a civilian interrogator stepped on a Koran and immediately apologised, but got fired anyway. It’s a good thing he’s not one of those touchy secularists given to suing over public Nativity scenes each Christmas, because he’d have a much better case that the extraordinary deference officialdom now accords the Koran is in breach of the separation of Church and state.

But that’s not how Fleet Street saw it: ‘US admits Koran abuse at Cuba base’ (the Observer), ‘Guards kicked and stamped on Koran, US admits’ (the Independent on Sunday). In fact, the headline should have read: ‘Guantanamo Muslims desecrate their own Korans’. The same report that produced five instances of US ‘disrespect’ for the book also turned up 15 documented instances of ‘disrespect’ by detainees. ‘These included using a Quran as a pillow, ripping pages out of the Quran, attempting to flush a Quran down the toilet and urinating on the Quran’ — the full bladder, not just windborne droplets.

Debate, Disagreement, and Cigarette Smoke: Iraqi Progress

Major K. has it again. He gives a first-hand glimpse into the rudimentary nature of democracy.

Getting the hang of this Democracy thing... (Click to see photo.)

This is what progress looks like. It is slow, painful, and usually accompanied by a lot of cigarette smoke, especially in this area of the world, where it seems like everyone smokes. This is the local council of Sheikhs meeting with the local leaders of the Iraqi Police, Iraqi Army and US Forces. There was plenty of arguing about security, the tactics of the Iraqi Army, and the Sheikhs using their influence to root out the arhabi in their neighborhoods and report them to the Iraqi authorities. Our interpreter was struggling to keep up with the number of people speaking. As usual, almost everyone was looking out for themselves, but the key was this. No one got shot, stabbed, slapped, punched or thrown out a window. In fact, they Iraqi leaders of the meeting admonished everyone to watch their tone and be respectful toward each other in spite of their disagreements. Just like meetings back in America, much more was said than was actually accomplished, but the fact the these folks are getting together without being at gunpoint is another sign that we're moving in the right direction. They all walked away, and will live to meet again next week.

How far Iraq has come! Would disagreement and this type of discussion and debate been allowed in previous times? I think not.

Huh?! Bizarro "Ends" to Life

Where do we live?

Bizarro?

First, here's the headline: "Teen Gets Life Sentence For Helping Girlfriend End Pregnancy."

"End Pregnancy"? Um, how do you end a pregnancy? Killing the baby, perhaps?
19-Year-Old Stepped On Stomach While Girl Punched Self

POSTED: 6:44 am CDT June 7, 2005

LUFKIN, Texas -- A 19-year-old East Texas man faces a life prison sentence for causing his teenage girlfriend to miscarry twins, even though she wanted to end the pregnancy.

Gerardo Flores was accused of causing the miscarriage by stepping on his girlfriend's stomach. He was prosecuted under the state's new fetal protection law.

Erica Basoria acknowledged asking Flores to help end her pregnancy. But the 17-year-old can't be prosecuted because of her legal right to abortion.

The defense contended that Basoria punched herself while Flores was stepping on her, making it impossible to tell who killed the twins.

The jury reached a verdict after deliberating four hours. Because prosecutors declined to seek the death penalty in the case, Flores received the automatic life sentence.

Ok, she wants to kill her baby. She punches herself. She gets him to step on her stomach. She gets off. No complicity. If she has a legal right to abortion, then why is what he did wrong? Isn't it just helping her "end" the pregnancy? I thought in this topsy-turvy world of "choice" (for some!), if she chose to kill her baby then those she obtained to help her with the murder were all part of her choice. The logic of our laws! Perhaps this further shows the problematic nature of Roe v. Wade and with legalizing abortion in general.

Bizarro world, indeed!

(HT: RomanCatholicBlog)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Deep Throat, "Gulags," and "Tolerant" Homosexuals

Deep Throat a hero?

Was Mark Felt really a hero? by Peggy Noonan:
Some wounds don't fully heal because they're too deep and cut too close to the bone. The story that Deep Throat was Mark Felt has torn open old wounds. Pat Buchanan, Robert Novak and Chuck Colson--all at the top of their game 30 years ago, all very much in the game today--were passionate in their criticism, saying Mr. Felt has little to be proud of, was unprofessional, harmed his country. Ben Stein was blunt: Mr. Felt "broke the law, broke his oath, and broke his code of ethics." Old Watergate hand Richard Ben-Veniste and the Washington Post's Richard Cohen called Mr. Felt a hero. The old battle lines fall into place. As to the higher themes of the story, some were credulous. On the "Today" show yesterday Chris Matthews called those who have criticized Mr. Felt "hacks and flacks," whereas reporters "are looking for the truth" and can be trusted. Glad he cleared that up.
Amnesty USA backs off Gitmo as 'gulag'
Amnesty International, which set off a storm by calling the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay "the gulag of our times," backed away from the label Sunday.
(HT: Hugh)
And some practically and perhaps deliberately unreported "Liberal Tolerance" in Priest hurt in mock gay marriage:

A PRIEST was slightly hurt at Paris's famed Notre-Dame Cathedral when clashes broke out between church security personnel and gay rights activists who performed a mock marriage of two lesbians.

About 20 members of the group Act Up entered the cathedral and proceeded to perform the mock marriage in front of baffled tourists and worshippers, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.

...

With security officials in pursit, they then fled the cathedral, but clashes broke out outside the Paris landmark, during which Monsignor Patrick Jacquin suffered a minor neck injury. He was treated at the scene.

...

Monsignor Jacquin said: "They are savages. I was pushed to the ground and trampled, kicked in the neck. "It's a scandal for these people to lash out at me and the Pope." He said he was considering filing charges against what he called "barbaric, odious and scandalous acts". (HT: IgnatiusScoop)

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Christ-haunted South and Shouting

"To be able to recognize a freak, you have to have some conception of the whole man..."

Through her writings, Flannery O'Connor is known for many things, one of which is a theological vision of man, a theological anthropology. Which is why she finishes the above sentence with "... and in the South the general conception of man is still, in the main, theological."

Yet, perhaps a more famous comment of hers is the clarification that the South is not so much Christ-centered as it is Christ-haunted:

I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. The Southerner, who isn't convinced of it, is very much afraid that he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God.

(Flannery O'Connor, "The Grotesque in Southern Fiction")

I was reminded of these words of hers as I read the following article by Russell Shaw in honor of the 40th anniversary of her book of stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge.

O’Connor’s Shocking Truths
06/03/05 by Russell Shaw

"She was a good Christian woman with a large respect for religion, though she did not, of course, believe any of it was true."

It's hard to imagine anybody writing that sentence, with its splendid mixture of dead-pan humor and barely suppressed indignation, except Flannery O'Connor. It occurs in "Greenleaf," one of the stories in the collection of O'Connor tales called Everything That Rises Must Converge, first published in 1965, the year after her death.

...

Flannery O'Connor was a Southerner and a Catholic, and both of those things served her well as a writer. Catholicism provided her with a theological vision of life. The South supplied a cultural setting in which the acting-out of such a vision by people ill-equipped to grasp it was a believable, if not exactly normal, occurrence. "All of my stories," she explained in one of her remarkable letters, "are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it."

Some people find reading O'Connor an upsetting experience, and it's easy to see why. Brutal, shocking violence often is central to the stories she tells. So, in Everything That Rises, a nine-year-old girl attacks her grandfather and he kills her, an elderly farm woman is gored to death by a bull belonging to her hired man's sons, a small boy mourning his dead mother hangs himself. This isn't light entertainment for the beach.

Why did she write about such disturbing things? The answer, she once explained, lay in the peculiar problem that today confronts "the novelist with Christian concerns."

"When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock — to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures."

There's no comprehending O'Connor without reference to the fact that she was a committed Catholic. "I write the way I do because and only because I am a Catholic," she said. "I feel that if I were not a Catholic, I would have no reason to write, no reason to see, no reason ever to feel horrified or even to enjoy anything…. Being a Catholic has saved me a couple of thousand years in learning to write."

O'Connor was 39 when she died. It's tempting to speculate on what she might have written had she lived. As it is, her achievement was enormous. She was, quite simply, one of the very finest writers of her generation and with Walker Percy, who died in 1990, one of two world-class American Catholic fiction writers of the last half-century.

O'Connor and Percy have had no successors so far, and none is currently in sight. Literature is the product of a culture as well as individual genius, and the collapse of the American Catholic subculture that set in around the time of Flannery O'Connor's death appears to have been inimical to literature as well as to faith.