Monthly Archives: January 2009

Nationalism and the Problems of the Middle East

One of the books I’ve been reading off and on over the last year has been Avi Shlaim’s The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. Shlaim is a one of the Israeli New Historians, which is essentially a “post-Zionist” revisionist school of Israeli history, who criticize the “old historians” of Israel of being too personally involved in the 1948 war and its aftermath, and thus writing history which is essentially apologetics for Israel.

There are places where I get the feeling Shlaim is leaning too hard in the other direction (for instance he spends a good deal of time on the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel in 1948, but glosses over the expulsion of Jews from surrounding Arab countries.) However, given that you know where his leanings are, it’s a fascinating read because it’s closely based on documented sources, and it focuses on the very real problem of Israel’s relationship with the Arab world. Among the things it made me realize, however, was how alien the modern sense of nationalism is to citizens of the US.

This may seem a strange conclusion at first,

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Fr. Neuhaus Update

Kathryn Lopez at the Corner reports that Fr. Neuhaus, editor in chief of First Things, received Annointing of the Sick last night, and is not doing well:

His friends and family are keeping vigil and he was administered last rites shortly after midnight. Fr. George Rutler, who gave him the Catholic Sacrament, says that “he is not expected to live long” and suggests “that it is appropriate that prayers be offered for a holy death.”

Please keep Fr. Neuhaus and his friends and family in your prayers.

A Suggestion for Israel

Over at Human Events, Ben Shapiro has an article about how Israel will lose the conflict in Gaza again.  His initial premise states that we keep seeing an essentially endless cycle repeated: Hamas strikes Israel, Israel retaliates, the world comes down hard on Israel, Israel retreats and gives Hamas another chance to strike Israel. Elsewhere, the debate about how justified Israel is in its current cycle of retaliations continues heatedly and almost unanimously denounces Israel’s actions.

As a personal opinion, I believe that Hamas, despite claims to the contrary, is directly responsible for its strikes into Israel.  I believe that Hamas deliberately hides behind civilian shields in order to protect themselves from retaliation and to milk the public for sympathy when Israeli attacks kill those civilian shields.  I believe that Hamas is single-mindedly dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and that Israel is justified in trying to defend herself against Hamas’ attacks.

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Another Day, Another Kmiec 180

Apparently Doug Kmiec’s change of heart last year was not limited to topics pro-life. As noted at the Volokh Conspiracy, he also reversed his position on the recent Heller decision, which overturned the DC handgun ban, in a span of about five months.

In February, Prof. Kmiec joined an amicus brief to the Court which argued “the [Second] Amendment secures to individuals a personal right to keep and bear arms and that the decision below correctly interpreted and applied the Amendment in this case.” When the Court affirmed the lower court decision overturning the ban as the amicus brief he joined suggested, Kmiec took to the pages of Slate to criticize the decision, arguing that the Heller majority misconstrued the Second Amendment, and their ruling had no basis in “Constitutional text, history, and precedent”. Here is Kmiec’s explanation for the switch as provided to the popular Volokh Conspiracy legal blog:

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Hmmm

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A bit more to the Richardson removal from consideration as Commerce Secretary than I first thought.  Apparently the Obama campaign got $30,000.00 from David Rubin, the man at the center of the Richardson pay for play investigation.  This would explain why, combined with the Blagojevich indictment, that Richardson was thrown under the bus so quickly.  Since Obama raised over 600 million in the Presidential campaign, one can imagine all the seedy characters who tossed substantial funds into the pot, no doubt solely because they believed in “hope and change”.  Bet that Team Obama is matching with a microscope their fund raising records against those of each nominee now.

Under the Bus-A Continuing Series

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This is the initial post in what I expect to be a long running series here at American Catholic:  members of the Obama administration who resign in disgrace.  First up:  Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico, nominee for Commerce Secretary, who announced on Sunday that he was withdrawing his name from nomination.

Why was he doing this?  Because he is enmeshed in a pay to play scandal.  Did this suddenly blow up?  Naah, this scandal has been brewing since 2004.  Why was he nominated?  Simple incompetence on the part of Team Obama, or did they not think it would matter until the Blagojevich indictment in Illinois?  Probably mostly the latter.  Expect more of this.  More than a few of Obama’s nominees, most notably Senator Clinton, have plenty of skeletons hanging in their closets.

Obama taps pro-life Catholic for DNC Chair? — Guess again.

“A Pro-Life DNC Chair!”, crows an apparently elated Michael Sean Winters in America, at the news that President-elect Obama has tapped the Virginian governor for DNC chair:

I never thought I would live to see the day. If anyone had any doubts about Barack Obama’s willingness to listen to pro-life Democrats, his selection of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to head the Democratic National Committee should settle those doubts. Obama means business.

Perhaps, perhaps not.

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Predictions for 2009

One of the ways pundits often get their kicks this time of year is by writing up lists of predictions for what will occur during the coming year. Seeing no reason why our contributors here shouldn’t have the chance to get in on the fun as well, I’ve invited everyone to add their own section of predictions in this post. Others should feel free to discuss or make their own predictions in the comments.

DarwinCatholic (Brendan)
1. The recession will continue through much of 2009, with unemployment reaching a high in the 2nd or 3rd quarter — possibly around 10%. Most of that number will be made up of workers in the construction and manufacturing sectors, and also workers with less than five years full time work experience.

2. Attempts by Republicans to label this the Obama Recession will be frustrated by President Obama mainly using traditionally Republican remedies from the last ten years including: tax cuts, stimulus payouts, tax credits, and free trade. (Those liberal pundits not disgusted with this will explain they’ve always been in favor of these when they’re done responsibly.)

3. Governor Blagojevich will resign or be removed from office.

4. The federal budget deficit will be larger than in 2008.

5. Israel’s offensive against Hamas will peter out and be declared a qualified success — but no one will be really pleased with the result.

6. Gas will not hit $2.50/gal (currently $1.40/gal in central Texas) during 2009.

7. FOCA will not pass, but the Obama administration will do as much as possible without hitting that level of visibility to return favors to the pro-abortion movement.

8. Pope Benedict XVI, turning 82 in April, will continue to seem in better health than when he became pope four years before.

9. The much discussed social encyclical will finally be issued — and all sides of the Catholic political spectrum will within several days claim that it supports the positions they already held.

10. Russia will continue to put political pressure on the former Soviet republics, but will not launch an attack on the scale of the Georgia invasion in 2009.

11. GM and Chrysler will receive enough “emergency” assistance from the Federal Goverment to keep going, but they will not succeed in turning themselves around and will lose market share to foreign car makers in 2009.

12. Principled progressives will be disappointed to find that in regards to foreign policy, the real divide in American politics is between the party in power and the party out of power, not the Republicans and Democrats.

Donald R. McClarey

1.  Bailout mania will continue, with the federal government adding 1.5-2 trillion dollars to the national debt in 2009.

2.  Two cabinet members in the new administration will resign in 2009.  (Make that one cabinet member.  I was counting Bill Richardson in my total and he withdrew as Commerce Secretary today because of an ongoing corruption investigation against him.)

3.  After he is forced out through impeachment and conviction, Blagojevich will spill his guts to Fitzgerald in a desperate attempt to forestall a criminal indictment of his wife and to gain sentencing leniency for himself.

4.  As a result of Blagojevich singing, Fitzgerald will open a series of new investigations on numerous Illinois politicians.

5.  Inflation will begin to take off by the end of 2009.

6.  Israel will attack the nuclear installations of Iran in 2009, causing a spike in oil prices and a wave of terrorist attacks around the globe.

7.  Card check, the number one political goal of Union bosses, will not receive a vote in Congress in 2009.

8.   Obama’s popularity rating will be around 40% by the end of 2009.

9.   A moratorium on residential mortgage foreclosures will be implemented by the Federal government in 2009 for 90-180 days, with the main result being an increasing reluctance of most financial institutions to write new residential mortgage loans except for borrowers with good incomes and pristine credit histories.

10.  The Clintons will become a rallying point for Democrats disenchanted with the new administration in 2009.

11.  There will be a major terrorist strike in the continental US.

12.  McClarey will be wrong on some of his predictions.

Tito Edwards

1)  Pope Benedict will appoint a strong orthodox cleric to Westminster such as Abbot Hugh Gilbert of Scotland or Englishman Fr. Tim Finigan. My personal favorite, besides the two aforementioned, is George Cardinal Pell of Australia who will be appointed as a change agent. With nearly 2/3rd’s of bishops and priests reaching retirement age the opportunity to transform the Church of England and Wales from a regressing congregation infested by unfaithful liberals to a vibrant church invigorated with practicing Catholics.

2)  Extremist Hindu groups will continue unabated attacking Christians, raping nuns, and burning down Churches, monasteries, seminaries, schools, and hospitals in eastern India and the mainstream media will deliberately ignore the violence against Christians because it doesn’t fit their perception of Christians being the aggressors.

3)  Fr. John Zuhlsdorf of What Does The Prayer Really Say? Will dominate the Catholic blog awards again by sweeping 90% or more of the categories.

4)  The State of California will go bankrupt unless President Obama bails them out with a $500 billion loan. Meanwhile businesses will continue to flee the Golden State as the legislature levy’s more ‘green’ regulations and other forms of taxes to fund social engineering projects and more bureaucracy.

5)  Secularists in America and Europe will have egg on their face when their ‘model Muslim democracy’, Turkey, continues to repress the Greek Orthodox Christians, refuse to acknowledge their role in the Armenian Genocide, and continue marginalizing the Kurds. The European Union will be hard pressed to reexamine their initial overtures towards inviting Turkey into their group as Turkey begins to resemble more and more a Middle-Eastern failed state.

6)  Three major conversion stories will occur when Bill Maher, Penn Jillette, and Tom Cruise will shock Americans with their jump in the Tiber.

7)  Christians in the United States will face greater pressures to succumb to worldly devices and probably even the beginnings of persecutions to the one true Church.  In the wake of the increased hostility to Christian ideals and values, many conversions, reversions, and the deepening of the faith will explode the further we retreat from our nations Christian heritage and patrimony.

8)  The Boston Celtics will win their second consecutive N.B.A. title with a six game romp of the L.A. Lakers (again).

9)  The Philadelphia Eagles will deliver a Super Bowl victory to the city of brotherly love in 2009.

John Henry

1. Many readers will stop reading the predictions before this point, and skip to the comments.

2. Obama will have the opportunity to appoint at least one, and possibly more, Supreme Court justices. Pro-lifers will not be pleased with the appointments. Doug Kmiec will praise them effusively.

3. The economy will not begin to rebound until after 2009. Unemployment will reach 10%.

4. Obama’s popularity will remain high; the New York Times and the Washington Post will continue conducting hard-hitting investigations of Obama and his appointments (consisting entirely of polite phone calls to designated spokesmen). Many Americans will not be able to correctly identify the name of the Vice President.

5. There will be countless Op-Eds (on the front page and in the opinion section) about Obama’s valiant struggles to rescue America from ‘the Bush recession’.

6. Card check will not pass.

7. FOCA will not pass.

8. Congress and President Obama will decide to force Americans to pay for the production of cars they choose not to buy. These payments will not improve the long-term prospects of the U.S. automobile industry.

9. Long-suffering Washington Redskins fans will continue to suffer. Long-suffering Wizards fans….well, this is getting depressing, let’s get back to the economy.

10. Oil prices will rebound, but not approach the highs of the summer of 2008.

11. Pope Benedict XVI will finally release the new encyclical. What Brendan said.

12. The Catholic Church will continue proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God will continue to bless His Church. Grace will be freely available in the Sacraments.

Ryan Harkins

Archaeology: A new artifact will be found in Jerusalem which will ‘challenge the whole Christian world and undermine current paradigms’. This artifact, actually found in the hands of a man who bought it from a second-hand antique store, which in turn had carefully kept the artifact on the shelf for the past 86 years, will not show that Jesus had brothers, or that there was a previous conception of a Messiah who will die and rise again, but will make the startling revelation that Jesus was a Jew.

Biology: Using adult stem cells, scientists will discover startling new cures for cancer in lab rats. However, this research is undermined by the discovery that embryonic stem cells can cause cancer in lab rats, which in turn is undermined by a more efficient method of abortion.

Chemistry: A seminal paper will be published detailing a cost-effective means of converting coal into gasoline, diesel, and kerosene. Shortly after, the publication is pulled from the journal and Secret Service agents appear at the home of the author.

Economics: Despite the naysaying of pundits who have their own plans to salvage the economy, the economy shows a distinct recovery by October. Unemployment remains at 6.5%, though, and 3% of every paycheck goes into paying unemployment benefits. CEOs contemplate firing themselves to collect unemployment.

Journalism: MSNBC restaffs with an even more liberal crew. FOX responds with an even more conservative crew. Ann Coulter writes another book that everyone denounces as “goes too far”. The New York Times retracts three articles by March due to faulty journalism.

Law: A new legal precedent is discovered permitting the wiretapping of American citizens, if there is reasonable suspicion of hate speech involved. Laws are passed in 12 states making it illegal to carry any material which refers to homosexuality as an abomination. A new version of the Bible, called the Revised Newsom’s Version, is distributed.

Liberal Arts: Majors have an even more difficult time finding employment.

Mathematics: A new prime number, exactly 22 times larger than the previously known largest prime, is discovered. The Riemann Hypothesis remains unsolved, but an addition 32 people learn what the Riemann Hypothesis is.

Philosophy: Philosophers realize that, absent any unproved foundational point of reasoning, nothing whatsoever can be known. However, out of pride, they keep silent on this revelation, and the public is left in the dark for another 2000 years.

Physics: Particle acceleration at the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN facility produces black holes that, sadly, devour the oft-searched for Higgs Boson before it can be observed. The rest of the earth is unaffected.

Religion: A new prophecy predicts the end of the world late in 2009. This is later revised to 2090, citing dyslexia, and further to 2900 due to poor math. A new sect of Christianity, called the Neopaulist Reductionists, becomes the fastest growing Church on the planet at 1200%. The Catholic Church makes a measly showing at 1.72%.

Sociology: New studies show that extramarital affairs strengthen marriages. Divorce rates jump to 65%.

Theology: The Catholic Church reiterates all its doctrinal teachings of the past 2000 years. The world reacts as though it is the first time it has heard any of this. Terrorists threaten the Pope. The Catholic Church in the United States is accused, alternately, of being the bearer of hate-speech and the promulgator of weeny liberalism.

Zoology: 15 species of insects, found only Texas, Colorado, and Wyoming, go extinct. At first global warming is blamed, but eventually the true story comes out that this was a secret job conducted by Dick Cheney, with the express permission of George W. Bush. 23 new species of insects are discovered in Brazil.

Epiphany, a Feast for the Gentiles

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For those of us who are gentile Christians, the feast of the Epiphany holds a special meaning, as it recalls that Christ was done homage as a king by Magi from the East at the time of his birth. Though Matthew’s gospel provides few details, the Magi are traditionally recalled as three, with the names Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.

The traditional date for Epiphany is January 6th, but since our bishops have seen fit to put the feast on the nearest Sunday, I hope that no one will take it amiss if I wish everyone a happy Epiphany today.

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The Mass-What is Optional and What Is Not

the-mass

Hattips to Rich Leonardi at Ten Reasons and Father Z at What Does The Prayer Really Say.  They brought to my attention the comments of Monsignor Joseph Schaedel, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to his parishioners at Holy Rosary Church after the Monsignor dropped the Sign of Peace at the Mass.  I find the Monsignor’s comments heartening, as I suspect will other Catholics in this country who have wondered “What next!” as they have sat through the numerous changes foisted upon the Mass over the past four decades.  Here are the comments with Father Z’s “color commentary” in red.

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Amazing Grace

I always think that I have an appreciation for the power of God’s grace, and then I find fresh evidence to prove, yet again, that I don’t know the half of it.  Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Sheik Hassan Yousef, speaks about his conversion to Christianity here.

Eternal Father

Something for the weekend.  I have always loved the hymn Eternal Father, Strong to SaveDozens of additional verses have been added over the years to this hymn.  The hymn has always brought home strongly to me how utterly dependent we are at all times on God’s power and love to sustain us.  My late father-in-law, John Stringer, served 18 years in the Navy as a petty officer from 1941-1959, most of it on sea duty.  I am eternally grateful that he got back safely from each of his voyages.  In regard to the video I would note that when a US naval vessel arrives back home, the first sailors off the ship, no matter what their rank, are the new fathers.

Thought for the Day

“The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.” The Defendant, G.K. Chesterton

Catholics, The 2nd Amendment, & Subsidiarity

Ryan Harkins took an initial look at how Catholics should look at the question of whether there is a natural right to own guns in a post last week. The basic thrust of Ryan’s argument, and I ask him to correct me if I misstate this, was to examine the question of whether the benefits of private gun ownership outweighed the potential social evils. This is, in a sense, an obvious way to look at the question. If one is trying to determine the rightness of allowing people to own something potentially destructive, it would seem natural to take a “do the benefits outweigh the dangers?” approach.

I’d like to take a slightly different approach, looking at both the actual text of the second amendment and Catholic Social Teaching. The second amendment reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The libertarian approach to this is to assert that an armed citizenry is required in order to provide a counter-weight to the power of the government. However, I’m not convinced that the thinking behind the second amendment was a merely a balancing of powers in this sense. Rather, it seems to me that to a great extent the US Constitution is written with the point of view that people possess certain natural rights and duties, and that from these spring rights and duties of the government. My understanding is that one of the major controversies in regards to the second amendment (one spoken to fairly definitely in last June’s District of Columbia v. Heller decision) has been whether it secures a right of state militias to have weapons, or a right of individuals to have weapons. While in effect my opinion on the matter lies closer to the individual right side, it seems to me that there is an important distinction which has been increasingly lost in our modern mass society:

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