Monthly Archives: February 2011

It’s On: Jefferson v. Adams!

One of the more interesting aspects of the conflict between Jefferson and Adams is how little difference it made in the long run in American history, except, perhaps, for an early establishment of the two party tradition.  For all Jefferson’s partiality to France, when he was in office he steered a strictly neutral course.  The economic development of the country was little changed by the switch in parties in power.  The battles over internal developments that marked the conflicts between Democrats and Whigs, were matters for a later time when expansion and technological progress brought them to the fore.  The Alien and Sedition Acts which loom large in the below video:

involved less of principle and more of politics.  Jefferson, for example, was in favor of prosecutions of federalists under state sedition laws in states which his followers controlled.  Continue reading

“Carlos” (2010)

Carlos, the film, chronicles the life, and often-bungled operations, of infamous Venezualan terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez, aka. ‘Carlos the Jackal’ in service to various Marxist and Islamicist fronts (bankrolled by Syria, Libya and oh, yes — Iraq).

For one so fervently committed to “anti-imperialism”, the end of the Cold War must have been quite disillusioning. The toppling of the Berlin Wall and unification of Germany, the downfall of the Soviet Union, the implosion of the Socialist bloc, the mass revolt sweeping across Europe — the culmination of these events left the once proud, once feared, once notorious “Carlos the Jackal” a relic of ages past, now bereft of support and shelter. You almost feel sorry for the guy: Continue reading

Lincoln on Washington

Most lists of great American presidents have two names at the top:  George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  There is some debate as to which should be first.  If it were possible to ask Lincoln his opinion, I have little doubt how he would respond based upon the closing of a speech that he gave to the Washington Temperance Society in Springfield, Illinois on February 22, 1842: Continue reading

Prayers for Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch was rocked yesterday by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake.  There have been fatalaties and substantial damage was done to that lovely city.

Christchurch residents were going about their daily business when a violent 6.3 earthquake shook their city on Tuesday 22nd February. The earthquake happened at lunchtime and by 10pm that night the death toll was confirmed at 65. Mayor Bob Parker has warned people that this figure will undoubtedly rise. Approximately 120 people have been pulled from the rubble and it is estimated that another 100 are still trapped.

Bob Parker has appealed to the public to conserve water. The earthquake has caused extensive damage to the waterways and sewerage system that were already crippled by the 4th September quake. At this time, water is only being pumped to the northwest of Christchurch and this is not at full strength. People have been asked not to shower or flush toilets unnecessarily. All drinking water must be boiled.

It is estimated that 80% of Christchurch has no power after the earthquake damaged electrical substations. Power and gas to the city centre have been cut to the CBD but in spite of this, a couple of fires have broken out.

I know readers of The American Catholic will be besieging Heaven with prayers for our brothers and sisters in Christchurch, as well as making contributions to the relief funds I am sure will be set up. 

An update from longtime commenter Don the Kiwi:

Even though this quake at 6.3 was not as strong as the last one in September last year which was 7.1, the epicentre was much closer to the city – only 10 kilometers as opposed to 40 km., and was much shallower – only 5 km. as opposed to 20. So the effect has much much stronger and more devestating. Most of the older building in the city have been flattened or damaged beyond repair, as many modern buildings have also. Many building which had been weakened from the last quake but still habitable, have now been totalled. The Christchurch Cathedral – Anglican – has lost its Gothic spire, and much of the building, although still standing, is considered a right-off.

The Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is of Byzantine style, but I have not heard how it has fared this time. I will e-mail my friend Steve Sparrow in Chch to get an update.


I also have 2 friends from Tauranga down there – they are building contractors, and have been down there for some months doing damage assessments on mainly residential homes. In the last quake, 90,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. Now there are a few more. I heard of one person who just moved back into his renovated home 48 hour before this second quake – this time, he needs a new house.


I have e-mailed Don with a message from my friend in Chch – he is okay, but our Basilica appears to be history, along with the Anglican cathedral. Continue reading

Bernard Nathanson: Requiescant in Pace

One of the great strengths of the pro-life cause is its ability to make converts among its adversaries.  Bernard Nathanson was a prime example.  An obstetrician\gynecologist, Dr. Nathanson became an abortionist out of ideological committment to what he perceived as a necessary element in the liberation of women.  During his career as an abortionist, he took the lives of 75,000 unborn children.  One of them was his own child:   “In the mid-sixties I impregnated a woman… and I not only demanded that she terminate the pregnancy… but also coolly informed her that since I was one of the most skilled practitioners of the art, I myself would do the abortion. And I did.”  He was a founding member of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. 

Unlike most of his colleagues in the abortion trade, Nathanson was not a marginally skilled doctor.  He was highly trained and kept up with medical developments.  When ultrasound came along in the seventies he began to use it and quickly reconized its worth in pre-natal examinations.  It also revealed to him something he had done his best to ignore:  the humanity of the unborn. Continue reading

Washington’s Second Inaugural Address

“Nor, perchance did the fact which We now recall take place without some design of divine Providence. Precisely at the epoch when the American colonies, having, with Catholic aid, achieved liberty and independence, coalesced into a constitutional Republic the ecclesiastical hierarchy was happily established amongst you; and at the very time when the popular suffrage placed the great Washington at the helm of the Republic, the first bishop was set by apostolic authority over the American Church. The well-known friendship and familiar intercourse which subsisted between these two men seems to be an evidence that the United States ought to be conjoined in concord and amity with the Catholic Church. And not without cause; for without morality the State cannot endure-a truth which that illustrious citizen of yours, whom We have just mentioned, with a keenness of insight worthy of his genius and statesmanship perceived and proclaimed. But the best and strongest support of morality is religion.” Pope Leo XIII

The video above from the magnificent John Adams series depicts the first inaugural of George Washington.  Washington for me is the standard by which all our other presidents are judged.  Without him of course, in all likelihood, there would be no United States as the American Revolution would have been lost without him to lead the starving, ragged Continentals to an against the odds victory.  In turbulent times he then led the nation for the first eight years under the new Constitution, setting the nation firmly on a course of prosperity, growth and expanding liberty.  A statesman like Washington comes to a people once every few centuries if they are fortunate, and we had him precisely when we needed a leader of his calibre most.

Would that our other presidents, with the exception of Lincoln, had possessed half of his ability to lead and his wisdom to chart a sound course.  I also wish that our other presidents had one of his minor traits:  brevity.  Here is his second inaugural address in its entirety: Continue reading



Hattip to John at Powerline.  Anthony Maschek, pictured above with his fiancee, is a freshman at Columbia.  He decided to speak at a public meeting at Columbia University on bringing back ROTC to Columbia.  He spoke in favor of bringing back ROTC.  During his speech he was booed and laughed at by other students and taunted with cries of “Racist” which in libspeak I guess means now speaking in favor of ROTC.

Before he entered college, Mr. Maschek was an Army Staff Sergeant serving in Iraq.  He was seriously wounded, suffering 11 gunshot wounds.  He spent two years in a hospital recovering.  Those who jeered at Mr. Maschek, an American hero, are the living embodiment of something written long ago: Continue reading

Well, I Certainly Think This Example of Lying is Immoral!

The Catholic blogosphere has been debating the morality of the Lila Rose sting operation against Worse Than Murder, Inc. a\k\a Planned Parenthood, with a diverse crop of conclusions ranging from Mark Shea and our own Joe Hargrave who are opposed to this as an example of lying to be condemned, to Dr. Peter Kreeft and myself who find absolutely nothing wrong with it.  This of course obscures the fact that most Catholics understand that deceit in most circumstances is to be condemned.

Now, in one of those examples of synchronicity regarding events which help establish to me that God has an infinite sense of humor, we have an example of lying that I think all Catholics would condemn.  Teachers have taken the lead in the protests against the public employees union legislation proposed by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.  Thousands of teachers have called in sick to attend the rallies.  Doctors, as shown in the video above, have been passing out certificates to teachers, falsely indicating that they have examined the recipient of the certificate and that the teacher is ill.  To me lying to save innocent human life is one thing, lying to allow an employee to avoid work is quite another, even if one might be sympathetic to the employee on political grounds. Continue reading

Citizen Genet: The Undiplomatic Diplomat

The French Revolution was an early foreign policy crisis for the Washington administration.  Jefferson and his followers were enthralled by the French Revolution, viewing it as the culmination of what they had started in the American Revolution.  Federalists, including Washington, were appalled by the atrocities committed by the French revolutionaries.  More than that, Washington feared that America, due to the enthusiasm of many Americans for the French Revolution, was at risk of being drawn into a war against Great Britain on the side of France.

In the Spring of 1793 Edmond-Charles Genet arrived in America.  The ambassador of the French revolutionary regime, he insisted on being known as Citizen Genet rather than Ambassador Genet.  Genet’s mission to America was to enlist American privateers to wage war upon the British.  President Washington quickly told him that this was in violation of American neutrality and denounced all attempts by Genet to drag America into the war between Britain and France.  Genet’s attempts to ignore Washington alarmed Jefferson, who, as Secretary of State, had a meeting with Genet that degenerated into a screaming match.  Washington was furious at the behavior of Genet.

The American government formally requested his recall.  Genet received a letter of rebuke from his government:

“Dazzled by a false popularity you have estranged the only man who should be the spokesman for you of the American people. It is not through the effervescence of an indiscreet zeal that one may succeed with a cold and calculating people.” Continue reading

The Battle of Wisconsin, Part II: Abp. Listecki Weighs In

In response to continuing protests against (and some in favor of) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to severely restrict public employee bargaining rights, Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee issued the following  statement on Feb. 16:

The Church is well aware that difficult economic times call for hard choices and financial responsibility to further the common good.  Our own dioceses and parishes have not been immune to the effects of the current economic difficulties.  But hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers.  As Pope Benedict wrote in his 2009 encyclical, Caritas in veritate:

Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labor unions.  Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome.  The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum [60], for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level. [#25]

It does not follow from this that every claim made by workers or their representatives is valid.  Every union, like every other economic actor, is called to work for the common good, to make sacrifices when required, and to adjust to new economic realities.

However, it is equally a mistake to marginalize or dismiss unions as impediments to economic growth.  As Pope John Paul II wrote in 1981, “[a] union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore it.”  (Laborem exercens #20, emphasis in original)

It is especially in times of crisis that “new forms of cooperation” and open communication become essential.  We request that lawmakers carefully consider the implications of this proposal and evaluate it in terms of its impact on the common good.  We also appeal to everyone –lawmakers, citizens, workers, and labor unions – to move beyond divisive words and actions and work together, so that Wisconsin can recover in a humane way from the current fiscal crisis. Continue reading



Something for the weekend.  Charlemagne by the endlessly talented folks at music for history lovers, sung to the tune of Call Me by Blondie.

Charles the Great.  He found the crown of the Roman emperors lying in the gutter of time, and by his efforts, against the odds, restored, in alliance with the popes, a Western Empire.  Charlemagne laid the foundation that allowed Catholic Europe to survive the siege by Islam and to ultimately defeat the Vikings through conversion.  In his reign Western Europe began waking from the long night described by Chesterton:

For the end of the world was long ago,
When the ends of the world waxed free,
When Rome was sunk in a waste of slaves,
And the sun drowned in the sea.

When Caesar’s sun fell out of the sky
And whoso hearkened right
Could only hear the plunging
Of the nations in the night.

When the ends of the earth came marching in
To torch and cresset gleam.
And the roads of the world that lead to Rome
Were filled with faces that moved like foam,
Like faces in a dream.

And men rode out of the eastern lands,
Broad river and burning plain;
Trees that are Titan flowers to see,
And tiger skies, striped horribly,
With tints of tropic rain.

Where Ind’s enamelled peaks arise
Around that inmost one,
Where ancient eagles on its brink,
Vast as archangels, gather and drink
The sacrament of the sun.

And men brake out of the northern lands,
Enormous lands alone,
Where a spell is laid upon life and lust
And the rain is changed to a silver dust
And the sea to a great green stone.

And a Shape that moveth murkily
In mirrors of ice and night,
Hath blanched with fear all beasts and birds,
As death and a shock of evil words
Blast a man’s hair with white.

And the cry of the palms and the purple moons,
Or the cry of the frost and foam,
Swept ever around an inmost place,
And the din of distant race on race
Cried and replied round Rome.

And there was death on the Emperor
And night upon the Pope: Continue reading

1988: Best Year Ever!

Advisory Warning: The video is rated R for skimpy clothing and suggestive sexual behavior.  Youth should receive permission from their mother or father to view this video.

I’m a sucker for anything ’80s as you can tell, but you have to admit that it was pretty tamed back then compared to today.  You could say that the 1980s today is what the 1950s were back then, but much more fun!

Take Me Home Tonight is a movie in in the summer of 1988 as it winds down.  Three friends on the verge of adulthood attend an out-of-control party in celebration of their last night of unbridled youth. Starring Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler and Teresa Palmer.  Take Me Home Tonight is a raunchy, romantic and ultimately touching blast from the past set to an awesome soundtrack of timeless rock and hip-hop hits.

Raunchy is an understatement.

Nonetheless I probably wouldn’t let anyone under the age of 17 watch it.

Here’s the trailer.

Continue reading

This Issue’s A Bust

Once in a while the political news circuit gets stuck on a topic so amazingly trivial and foolish that the spectacle of such a large tempest raging in such a small teapot makes it hard to look away. This week, the leading ladies of the right and left have decided to fight it out over breastfeeding.

I picked this for obvious reasons, but the parent in me says “No diaper and white dress: Watch Out!”

How, you might ask, could something like breastfeeding become a hot political issue? It seems that as part of her Let’s Move program to reduce childhood obesity, Michelle Obama has decided to promote breastfeeding. A nurse-in at the White House? No, that might actually be interesting. Rather, the proposal is for the IRS to grant a tax deduction for breast pumps and other nursing supplies.

Seeing a chance to turn a phrase, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin have weighed in, saying that getting the government involved in breastfeeding is the ultimate in “nanny state” politics. And this has given political commentators on the left the chance to weigh in with “Palin attacks breastfeeding” and “Bachmann says government has no business telling women what choices to make about their bodies” type headlines.
Continue reading

Lying About the Historical Record


I would note that none of the following comments are directed at my blogging colleague Joe Hargrave for whom I have the greatest respect.  Joe is a first rate writer and an original thinker.  He and I disagree about the morality of lying under all circumstances, but that is not the issue that is being addressed in this post.

A controversy has arisen regarding the morality of the Lila Rose and Live Action brilliant sting operations against Planned Parenthood with some Catholic bloggers condemning these operations citing Catholic teaching against lying.  I disagree with them and believe that the sting operations are completely compatible with Church teaching and praxis, however that is not the issue I am concerned about in regard to this post.

A side controversy has developed recently regarding Pius XII since many people, including myself, have raised deceptions countenanced by Pius XII in World War II to save Jewish lives as an example where the Vicar of Christ approved lies in an attempt to save the lives of the innocent.  Now the proper response to this fact of history to those who hold that the Church teaches that all lies are immoral is to deal with it honestly.  One could argue that the actions of a Pope do not alter Church teaching.  That of course is a hard argument to make to a Catholic audience.  The easier, albeit dishonest path, is to attempt to pretend that what occurred simply did not occur.  The attempt to do that is beginning currently.

In a post at the Paulist site Busted Halo, Dawn Eden and William Doino, Jr., who has written in defense of Pius XII and who really should know better,  cites a biography of Pope John XXIII written by Peter and Margaret Hebblethwaithe for the contention that when  Pope John XXIII was papal nuncio in Turkey during World War II he did not, as popularly thought, issue fake baptismal certificates for Jews.  Go here to read the post and go here to read the passage in the book.

This passage in the post by Mr. Doino deserves careful reading:

Others have argued that the Church would sanction, or did sanction, lying to Nazis who sought to find and kill Jews. But this claim too has no foundation in the Catechism’s teachings, neither is it true of the actions of the Church during World War II — which did save hundreds of thousands of Jews , but not through faking baptismal certificates, as has been claimed.

This passage, to be blunt, is a masterpiece of deception.  Note how it shifts the general argument from whether the Church did sanction lying, to “refuting” the statement by claiming that the Church did not fake baptismal certificates.  The faking baptismal certifcates is further narrowed down to the single case of Archbishop Roncalli.  Bravo!  I make my living by engaging in litigation and I have rarely seen a better example of the art of seeming to refute an argument while in actuality not doing so. Continue reading

The Battle of Wisconsin

Last November the people of Wisconsin went to the polls and elected Republican Scott Walker governor and gave the Republicans a majority in both chambers of the state legislature.  Scott Walker, mirabile dictu, is actually delivering on what he promised to do in the campaign:

The proposal marks a dramatic shift for Wisconsin, which passed a comprehensive collective bargaining law in 1959 and was the birthplace of the national union representing all non-federal public employees.

In addition to eliminating collective-bargaining rights, the legislation also would make public workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage — increases Walker calls “modest” compared with those in the private sector.

Republican leaders said they expected Wisconsin residents would be pleased with the savings the bill would achieve — $30 million by July 1 and $300 million over the next two years to address a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.

“I think the taxpayers will support this idea,” Fitzgerald said.

Wisconsin has long been a bastion for workers’ rights. But when voters elected Walker, an outspoken conservative, along with GOP majorities in both legislative chambers, it set the stage for a dramatic reversal of the state’s labor history.

Under Walker’s plan, state employees’ share of pension and health care costs would go up by an average of 8 percent.

Unions still could represent workers, but could not seek pay increases above those pegged to the Consumer Price Index unless approved by a public referendum. Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold annual votes to stay organized.

In exchange for bearing more costs and losing bargaining leverage, public employees were promised no furloughs or layoffs. Walker has threatened to order layoffs of up to 6,000 state workers if the measure does not pass. Continue reading

The Horse Soldiers

In 1959 John Ford and John Wayne, in the last of their “cavalry collaborations”, made The Horse Soldiers, a film based on Harold Sinclair’s novel of the same name published in 1956, which is a wonderful fictionalized account of Grierson’s Raid.

Perhaps the most daring and successful Union cavaly raid of the war, Colonel Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher and band leader from Jacksonville, Illinois, who, after being bitten by a horse at a young age, hated horses, led from April 17-May 2, 1863 1700 Illinois and Iowa troopers through 600 miles of Confederate territory from southern Tennessee to the Union held Baton Rouge in Louisiana.  Grierson and his men ripped up railroads, burned Confederate supplies and tied down many times their number of Confederate troops and succeeded in giving Grant a valuable diversion as he began his movement against Vicksburg.

The video at the beginning of the post shows an interview done of Harold Sinclair during the making of the film.  Go here to read a note by Sinclair at the beginning of his novel in which he describes the liberties taken in the novel from the historical events.

John Wayne gives a fine, if surly, performance as Colonel Marlowe, the leader of the Union cavalry brigade.  William Holden as a Union surgeon serves as a foil for Wayne.  Constance Towers, as a captured Southern belle, supplies the obligatory Hollywood love interest.

Overall the film isn’t a bad treatment of the raid, and the period.  I especially appreciated two scenes.  John Wayne refers to his pre-war activities as “Before this present insanity” and Constance Towers gives the following impassioned speech:

Well, you Yankees and your holy principle about savin’ the Union. You’re plunderin’ pirates that’s what. Well, you think there’s no Confederate army where you’re goin’. You think our boys are asleep down here. Well, they’ll catch up to you and they’ll cut you to pieces you, you nameless, fatherless scum. I wish I could be there to see it. Continue reading

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