Monthly Archives: May 2010

Lori Berenson Set Free

Marxist activist Lori Berenson was convicted in 1995 for her acts of terrorism with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) in Peru.  She was set free on parole where she must finish her remaining five years in Lima without leaving the country.

She served 15 years and was granted parole today.  Lori Berenson probably benefited from the weight of the American government in reducing the original lifetime sentence to 20 years back in 2005.

MRTA was a Communist rebel group that looked to impose a totalitarian form of government in Peru through terrorist activities.  They’re most famous for their takeover of the Japanese embassy in Lima in 1997.

Over 70,000 Peruvians were victims of Marxist and Communist terrorist activities throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Continue reading

Populism: A Response to Elitist Political Masochism

1500 words. I promise.

Now that my obnoxious and pretentious title has grabbed your attention…

On my facebook profile, I give a reason why I am a populist, perhaps the main objective reason. It reads:

“In times such as these, the instincts of the people are based in healthy life drives and survival instincts, while those of the intellectuals are rooted in increasingly irrational spiritual disorders.”

So before I get to why I am a populist, I want to make clear up front that I am not an unconditional populist. That is why I say, “in times such as these.” By that I mean, among other things, that there are times during which I would not be a populist. I don’t hold the view that social elites are always and everywhere wrong – with the American founders, I would much like to see a “natural aristocracy” of talent (which the Church was too, by the way in the Middle Ages – where do you think all of the second and third sons of the nobility or the bright peasants who couldn’t rise by other means went?).

Read the rest here.

This might be a good discussion to have here. Comments are open.

John Adams, Sedition and the Obama Administration

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The greatest blunder of the John Adams administration was the Sedition Act.  It inflamed his adversaries and gave color to their accusations that Adams was a tyrant.  It is stunning that the same men who had fought in the Revolution and helped to found a new government could have implemented legislation in 1798 which was so blatantly unconstitutional and antithetical to the liberties that they had so bravely fought for.  The Act helped destroy the Federalists and assure the success of Jefferson’s Republicans.  The text of the Act is as follows:

SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled. That if any persons shall unlawfully combine or conspire together, with intent to oppose any measure or measures of the government of the United States, which are or shall be directed by proper authority, or to impede the operation of any law of the United States, or to intimidate or prevent any person holding a place or office in or under the government of the United States, from undertaking, performing, or executing his trust or duty: and if any person or persons, with intent as aforesaid, shall counsel, advise, or attempt to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly, or combination, whether such conspiracy, threatening, counsel, advice, or attempt shall have the proposed effect or not, he or they shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanour, and on conviction before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, and by imprisonment during a term of not less than six months, nor exceeding five years; and further, at the discretion of the court, may be holden to find sureties for his good behaviour, in such sum, and for such time, as the said court may direct.

SECT. 2. And be it further enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter, or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered, or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering, or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either House of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either House of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States; or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the Constitution of the United States; or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act; or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against the United States, their people or government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.

SECT. 3. And be it further enacted and declared, That if any person shall be prosecuted under this act for the writing or publishing any libel aforesaid, it shall be lawful for the defendant, upon the trial of the cause, to give in evidence in his defence, the truth of the matter contained in the publication charged as a libel. And the jury who shall try the cause shall have a right to determine the law and the fact, under the direction of the court, as in other cases.

SECT. 4. And be it further enacted, That this act shall continue and be in force until the third day of March, one thousand eight hundred and one, and no longer: Provided, That the expiration of the act shall not prevent or defeat a prosecution and punishment of any offence against the law, during the time it shall be in force. Continue reading

Celebrity Pay

People often demand to know why it is that we as a society consent to pay movie stars and professional athletes such obscene sums of money, while teachers and other people clearly providing greater benefit to society are paid so very little.

There are a great many economic and social explanations one can go into, but one basic point that probably bears pointing out is that society does not in fact spend more on Hollywood or on professional sports than it does on teachers. Nationally, the US spends an average of $10,000 per year on each student in public schools, and average college tuition (blending public and private) is roughly the same. Thus, a person with a four year college degree has had roughly $170,000 spent on his education — almost certainly more money than he will spend over his lifetime on movies or watching sports.

The reason why teachers make so much less than movie stars or professional athletes is that the total amount of money collected by these entertainment celebrities is spread over a much smaller number of people. There are under 500 players in the NBA, around 1700 in the NFL. The number of actors who make truly large amounts of money (especially when averaged over a career which often has long dry periods) is at most a couple thousand. By comparison, there are over six million teachers and three hundred thousand college and university professors.

Entertainers make so much money because modern means of communication allow large numbers of people to enjoy the performances of a comparatively small number of people.

Political Miscellania 5/25/10

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A roundup of recent political news.

1.  Rule one of a sex scandal:  Do not have your mistress interview you on the topic of abstinence education as Congressman Mark Souder (R.Ind) did in the above video.  Souder had the common sense to resign , and the Republicans should be able to hold the seat.  As for Mr. Souder, when you preach social conservatism, the first person you must convince is yourself.

 2.  Republicans lose Pennsylvania 12 special election.  I always thought this one was a long shot.  The Democrats enjoy a 2-1 voter advantage, and the corrupt Jack Murtha who had held the seat since 74 won re-election in 2008 in spite of being under investigation and calling his voters racist.  Perhaps there is some truth in this old Saturday Night Live video from 2008.

3.  Republicans win Hawaii 1.  Charles Djou is going to Congress as the first Republican congressman from Hawaii in 20 years.  Djou got in because the Democrats fielded two candidates and neither one would bow out.  The Democrats are confident that they will take the seat back in November.  I am not so sure.  Djou is a formidable campaigner and the Democrat vote may still be fractured come November with all the bad blood that has been generated, with a fair amount of Democrats deciding to sit out the vote or crossing over to vote for Djou.

4.  Best political campaign ad thus far in this cycle:

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Guns n' Liberty

This one will be under 1200 words, so help me. Your time is valuable, even if mine isn’t :)

A certain contributor to a certain blog, who is welcome to post a comment here if he likes, often makes a claim I find absurd and ignorant: that a defense of second amendment gun rights is necessarily a manifestation of “liberalism and individualism.” People who make this claim understand nothing about why we have a second amendment, what its political and social value is, and consequently, while people become so engaged in the defense of gun rights.

Now, I defend gun rights. I am a big a supporter of the second amendment, and of the natural right to self-defense. On the surface, it looks like a fairly libertarian position: I have an individual right to life, I have a right to defend myself, and in today’s circumstances, a personal firearm is often the best and even necessary weapon with which to do that. Provided a person isn’t mentally ill or has a history of violent crime, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to buy and own a gun.

But there is more to the argument than that.

Read the rest and comment here.

Texas, Textbooks, the Washington Post and Ann Althouse

The Left in this country has been having a hissy fit over conservatives on the Texas State School Board amending the social studies standards in that state.  For example, California State Senator Leland Yee (D. San Francisco) has introduced a bill that would require the California Board of Education to be on the lookout for any Texas content in reviewing public school textbooks.  He also makes the hilarious statement that the Texas curriculum changes pose a threat “to the apolitical nature of public school governance and academic content standards in California.”  This in a state where the legislature has instituted a Harvey Milk Day to propagandize students in the gay rights agenda, and where the California Education Association, the teacher’s union, is the largest spender on politics in the state.

To support the meme of the Left that evil conservatives were perverting educational standards in Texas, the Washington Post wrote a hit piece that may be read here.  Ann Althouse, law professor and blogger decided to compare the claims of the Washington Post to the new standards.  Here is what she found:

Let me embarrass the Washington Post. Below, the material from the WaPo article, written by Michael Birnbaum, is indented. After the indented part, I’ve located the relevant quote from the Board of Education text, found here. (I’m searching 3 PDF documents: Economics with Emphasis on the Free Enterprise System and Its Benefits Subchapter A. High School; Social Studies Subchapter B. Middle School; Social Studies Subchapter C. High School.)

The Washington Post writes:

The Texas state school board gave final approval Friday to controversial social studies standards….

The new standards say that the McCarthyism of the 1950s was later vindicated — something most historians deny –…
The students are required to “describe how McCarthyism, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the arms race, and the space race increased Cold War tensions and how the later release of the Venona Papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government…” The word “vindicated” is inflammatory and unfair. What is the Washington Post saying historians deny? One can be informed of the reality of what the Venona Papers revealed about communist infiltration into the U.S. government and still understand and deplore the excesses of “McCarthyism.”

…draw an equivalency between Jefferson Davis’s and Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural addresses…
Students are required to “analyze the ideas contained in Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address and Abraham Lincoln’s ideas about liberty, equality, union, and government as contained in his first and second inaugural addresses and the Gettysburg Address.” The word “equivalency” is uncalled for. The requirement is to analyze, not to be indoctrinated that the ideas are the same.

… say that international institutions such as the United Nations imperil American sovereignty…
What I’m seeing is “explain the significance of the League of Nations and the United Nations” and “analyze the human and physical factors that influence the power to control territory, create conflict/war, and impact international political relations such as the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), or the control of resources.” Where is the language that can be paraphrased “imperil American sovereignty”?

…. and include a long list of Confederate officials about whom students must learn.
Students are required to “explain the roles played by significant individuals and heroes during the Civil War, including Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, and congressional Medal of Honor recipients William Carney and Philip Bazaar.” Only Davis and Lee were Confederate officials! There is also this: “describe the role of individuals such as governors George Wallace, Orval Faubus, and Lester Maddox and groups, including the Congressional bloc of southern Democrats, that sought to maintain the status quo [in the Civil Rights Era].” That’s obviously not from the Civil War, but I can see why it’s annoying to Democrats.

They also removed references to capitalism and replaced them with the term “free-enterprise system.”
The document on economics does use the term “free enterprise system” throughout, but students are required to “understand that the terms free enterprise, free market, and capitalism are synonymous terms to describe the U.S. economic system,” so what is the problem?

Virtually everything cited in the article to make the curriculum seem controversial is misstated! Appalling!

ADDED: Birnbaum had an article in the previous day’s Washington Post that does contain quotes, and these have to do with changes that went through on Thursday (and which do not — but should! — appear in the documents that are available at the Board of Education website):

Students will now study “efforts by global organizations to undermine U.S. sovereignty,” an addition late Thursday evening encouraged by board member Don McLeroy (R), who has put forward many of the most contentious changes….

Another one of the seven conservative board members, David Bradley (R), added a list of Confederate generals and officials to the list of topics that students must study.

This provides support for Birnbaum’s statement that the standards “include a long list of Confederate officials about whom students must learn.” And it answers my question “Where is the language that can be paraphrased ‘imperil American sovereignty’?” My criticisms about “vindicating” McCarthyism, “the equivalency between Jefferson Davis’s and Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural addresses,” and the term “free-enterprise system” remain.

I have not been defending the Texas standards, only attacking the quality of the journalism that fails to quote or link to a text that is referred to. Birnbaum’s Friday article contains some useful quotes (though still not a link to the whole text). The Saturday article was unanchored to text and forced me to look for what I could find on line. I’m also criticizing inaccurate paraphrasing, like the use of the words “vindicating” and “equivalency.” Birnbaum’s take on the standards might be true, but in an article that refers to a text, I do need to see the text. Paraphrasing, without the text, raises suspicions, and I don’t apologize for having those suspicions.

Continue reading

Liberty Matters – And So Does Virtue

In recent months I have been walking a fine line between libertarianism and communitarianism. Now that Phillip Blond has made his American debut, everyone is weighing on the conflict between these ways of looking at the world. I already covered David Brook’s assessment in the NY Times a while back. A brilliant Catholic philosopher by the name of Edward Feser has also given much attention to the viability of the libertarian/conservative “fusion”, which shares many similarities with the libertarian/communitarian debate. And now a Patrick J. Deenen weighs in on Blond, for communitarianism and against libertarianism. And a Mike Gibson fires back on his blog.

Since I’ve had a lot to say about these issues in the past, I’m going to say a bit about the latest round of conflict between libertarians and communitarians, and explain why I don’t think there needs to be any conflict at all. For one thing is missing from almost all of these analyses and exchanges – mention of, let alone fidelity to, the US Constitution. Not only that, but I am convinced that “subsidiarity” needs to appear in any discussion or debate between these ideological camps, as it really does bridge the gap between them. I would venture to say that the US Constitution is fairly good embodiment of the principle of subsidiarity.

Read the rest here.

Pope Benedict on Pentecost

Homily given by Pope Benedict on Pentecost Sunday on May 15, 2005:

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Ordinandi,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The First Reading and the Gospel of Pentecost Sunday offer us two great images of the mission of the Holy Spirit. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of how, on the day of Pentecost, under the signs of a strong wind and fire, the Holy Spirit sweeps into the community of the disciples of Jesus who are in prayer, thus bringing the Church into being.

For Israel, Pentecost – celebration of the harvest – had become the celebration marking the conclusion of the Covenant on Mt Sinai. In wind and fire, God made his presence known to the people and then gave them the gift of his Law, the Ten Commandments. In this singular way was the work of liberation, begun with the Exodus from Egypt, brought to fulfilment: human freedom is always a shared freedom, a “togetherness” of liberty. Common freedom lasts only in an ordered harmony of freedom that reveals to each person his or her limits.

In this way the gift of the Law on Mt Sinai was not a restriction nor an abolition of freedom, but the foundation of true liberty. And since a correct human ordering finds stability only if it comes from God and if it unites men and women in the perspective of God, the Commandments that God himself gives us cannot be lacking in a correct ordering of human freedom.

In this way, Israel fully became a people, through the Covenant with God on Mt Sinai. Israel’s encounter with God on Sinai could be considered to be the foundation and the guarantee of its existence as a people. The wind and fire, which enveloped the community of Christ’s disciples gathered in the Upper Room, becomes a further development of the event of Mt Sinai and gives it new fullness.

They were gathered in Jerusalem on that day, according to what is written in the Acts of the Apostles: “devout Jews of every nation under heaven” (Acts 2: 5). Here is made manifest the characteristic gift of the Holy Spirit: all understood the words of the Apostles: “each one heard these men speaking his own language” (Acts 2: 6). The Holy Spirit gives understanding.

Overcoming the “breach” begun in Babel – the confusion of hearts, putting us one against the other – the Spirit opens borders.

The People of God who found its first configuration on Mt Sinai, now becomes enlarged to the point of recognizing no limitations. The new People of God, the Church, is a people that derives from all peoples. The Church is catholic from her beginning and this is her deepest essence.

St Paul explains and underlines this in the Second Reading when he says: “It was in one Spirit that all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized into one body. All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit” (I Cor 12: 13).

The Church must always become anew what she already is; she must open the borders between peoples and break down the barriers between class and race. In her, there cannot be those who are forgotten or looked down upon. In the Church there are only free brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. The wind and fire of the Holy Spirit must continually break down those barriers that we men and women continue to build between us; we must continually pass from Babel – being closed in on ourselves – to Pentecost.

Thus, we must continually pray that the Holy Spirit opens us and gives us the grace of understanding, so that we become the People of God deriving from all peoples. St Paul tells us more along these lines: in Christ, who as the one Bread feeds all of us in the Eucharist and draws us to him in his Body wracked on the Cross, we must become only one body and one spirit.

The second image of the sending of the Spirit that we find in the Gospel is much more hidden. Exactly in this way, however, all of the greatness of the Pentecost event is perceived. The Risen Lord passes through the closed doors and enters the place where the disciples are, and greets them twice with the words: “Peace be with you”.

We continually close our doors; we continually want to feel secure and do not want to be disturbed by others and by God. And so, we can continually implore the Lord just for this, that he come to us, overcoming our closure, to bring us his greeting: “Peace be with you”.

This greeting of the Lord is a bridge that he builds between heaven and earth. He descends to this bridge, reaching us, and we can climb up on this bridge of peace to reach him. On this bridge, always together with him, we too must reach our neighbour, reach the one who needs us. It is in lowering ourselves, together with Christ, that we rise up to him and up to God. God is Love, and so the descent, the lowering that love demands of us, is at the same time the true ascent. Exactly in this way, lowering ourselves, coming out of ourselves, we reach the dignity of Jesus Christ, the human being’s true dignity.

The Lord’s greeting of peace is followed by two gestures that are decisive for Pentecost: the Lord wants the disciples to continue his mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20: 21).

After this, he breathes on them and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound” (Jn 20: 23). The Lord breathes on the disciples, giving them the Holy Spirit, his own Spirit. The breath of Jesus is the Holy Spirit.

We recognize here, in the first place, an allusion made to the story of creation in the Book of Genesis, where it is written: “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gn 2: 7). Man is this mysterious creature who comes entirely from the earth, but in whom has been placed the breath of God. Jesus breathes on the Apostles and gives them the breath of God in a new and greater way.

In people, notwithstanding all of their limitations, there is now something absolutely new: the breath of God. The life of God lives in us. The breath of his love, of his truth and of his goodness. In this way we can see here too an allusion to Baptism and Confirmation, this new belonging to God that the Lord gives to us. The Gospel Reading invites us to this: to live always within the breath of Jesus Christ, receiving life from him, so that he may inspire in us authentic life, the life that no death may ever take away.

To his breath, to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord joins the power of forgiveness. We heard earlier that the Holy Spirit unites, breaks down barriers, leads us one to the other. The strength that opens up and overcomes Babel is the strength of forgiveness.

Jesus can grant forgiveness and the power to forgive because he himself suffered the consequences of sin and dispelled them in the flame of his love. Forgiveness comes from the Cross; he transforms the world with the love that is offered. His heart opened on the Cross is the door through which the grace of forgiveness enters into the world. And this grace alone is able to transform the world and build peace.

If we compare the two events of Pentecost – the strong wind of the 50th day and the gentle breath of Jesus on the evening of Easter – we might think about this contrast between the two episodes that took place on Mt Sinai, spoken of in the Old Testament. Continue reading

When You Believe

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Something for the weekend.  When You Believe  from the Prince of Egypt.  Whenever I see this video I always recall my favorite poem by William Blake:

Mock On, Mock On, Voltaire, Rousseau 

 
 
Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau;
Mock on, mock on; ’tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.
And every sand becomes a gem
Reflected in the beams divine;
Blown back they blind the mocking eye,
But still in Israel’s paths they shine.

The Atoms of Democritus
And Newton’s Particles of Light
Are sands upon the Red Sea shore,
Where Israel’s tents do shine so bright. 
 

Romance for Your Weekend

This weekend, I have for you some amazingly sensual and imaginative pieces to lose yourselves in for a little while. Some solo piano, orchestra, and then a piano concerto to tie it all together. Enjoy!

1. Frederic Chopin: Andante Spianato

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2. Peter Tchaikovsky: Symphony 4, 2nd movement

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3. Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto no.2, 2nd movement.

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Booming Traditional Religious Orders!

What has been an open secret is now backed by empirical evidence:

The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today.*

As I have been reading through the website of the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) I came across this nugget of information [Emphases Mine]:

Myth #4:  Women entering religious life want to wear habits.Fact:  Both men and women seem to be drawn to habited communities. About two thirds of the newer members say they belong to a religious institute that wears a habit. Among those that responded affirmatively, a little more than half indicate that the habit is required in all or most circumstances.

Interestingly, almost half of the men who belong to an institute that does not wear a habit say they would wear it if it were an option [and those that don't wear habits are obviously being disobedient and committing a mortal sin], compared to nearly a quarter of the women respondents.

Ann Carey of The Catholic World Report wrote that the study found several “best practices”:

  1. Involving membership and leadership in concerted vocation promotion efforts.
  2. Having a full-time vocation director.
  3. Using new media like the Internet.
  4. Offering discernment or “come-and-see” opportunities for potential members.
  5. Exposing young people to the idea of religious life from grade school through young adulthood.

What stuck out and confirmed what I’ve always thought in attracting people to religious vocations, as well as bringing in converts to the Catholic faith is:

“the example of members and the characteristics of the institute…have the most influence on the decision to enter a particular institute.”

Sister Elsa Garcia Practicing a Pagan Ritual

When you see a habitless nun walking around in her pants or muumuu’s you wonder what the attraction is when you could lead the same life without living in poverty.

As Saint John said in his epistle:

Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God, abideth for ever. (1 Jn 2:15-17)

The rest of this posting will be an excerpt of Ann Carey‘s article on The Catholic World Report where she sights some examples of booming traditional religious orders:

Continue reading

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