Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Memo to TIME magazine's Jeff Israely: The Pope doesn't have an "act".

The Pope Tones Down His Act in Turkey: Long known for his rigid thinking, Benedict XVI shows new flexibility in trying to mend fences in the wake of his controversial speech about Islam

This is what comes from living and working in a bubble of superficial "diversity". White liberals, black liberals, asian liberals, latino liberals, gay liberals, straight liberals, liberals who drink regular hazelnut lattes, liberals who prefer the decaf... Outside the bubble are all those cartoonish conservatives. Rather than chortling over a presumed "gotcha", maybe Mr. Israely should consider that he doesn't know Pope Benedict XVI as well as he thinks. The media caricature of Joseph Ratzinger as a "german shepherd" ought to have been dispelled by now. If the media's been paying attention, at least. And didn't have a condescending disdain of Catholics, to boot.

Credit where credit is due: Mr. Israely allowed as how the Pope is not altogether wrong-headed, here.

Wonder if Richard John Neuhaus or J. Bottum will pick up on this.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Rabindranath Tagore on Christianity as evidenced by Mahatma Gandhi

This really deserves to be on the internet in its entirety. It's some sort of speech, I think, from the Twenties or Thirties. The speaker is the great Bengali literary sage Rabindranath Tagore.

(Tagore was far from being the modern stereotypical "Bentley-driving guru", preying
on affluent young Western skulls full of mush, as you can see.)

Anyway, I found this in an omnibus of his writings, A Tagore Reader.

"While India lay cramped and divided, betrayed by its own idealism, it was called upon to meet the greatest trial in her history, the challenge of Western imperialism. For the Aryans and the Muslims may have deprived a few Dravidian and Hindu dynasties of their rule in India, but they settled down among the people and their achievements became India’s heritage. But here was a new impersonal empire, where the rulers were over us but not among us, who owned our land but could never belong to it. So disintegrated and demoralized were our people that many wondered if India could ever rise again by the genius of her own people, until there came on the scene a truly great soul, a great leader of men, in line with the tradition of the greatest sages of old, whom we are today assembled to honor—Mahatma Gandhi. Today no one need despair of the future of the country, for the unconquerable spirit that creates has already been released. Mahatma Gandhi has shown us a way which, if we follow, shall not only save ourselves but may also help other peoples to save themselves.

"He who has come to us today is above all distinguished by his freedom from any bias of personal or national selfishness. For the selfishness of the Nation can be a grandly magnified form of that same vice; the viciousness is there all the same. The standard of conduct followed by the class called politicians is not one of high ideals. They think nothing of uttering falsehoods, they have no compunction in vitally hurting others for their own aggrandizement. . - . Such people plume themselves on being practical and do not hesitate to ally themselves with the forces of evil if they think that evil will accomplish their end. But tactics of this kind will not pass the audit of the Dispenser of our fortunes; so while we may admire their cleverness, we cannot revere them. Our reverence goes out to the Mahatma whose striving has ever been for truth; who, to the great good fortune of our country at this time of its entry into the new age, has never, for the sake of immediate results, advised or condoned any departure from the standard of universal morality.

"He has shown the way how, without wholesale massacre, freedom may be won. There are doubtless but few amongst us who can rid our minds of a reliance on violence, who can really believe that victory may be ours without recourse to it. For even in the Mahabharata, not to speak of the “civilized” warfare of the modem age, we find Dharmayuddha to be full of violence and cruelty. Now it has been declared that it is for us to yield up life, not to kill, and yet we shall win! A glorious message, indeed, not a counsel of strategy, not a means to a merely political end. In the course of unrighteous battle death means extinction; in the non-violent battle of righteousness something remains; after defeat victory, after death immortality. The Mahatma has realized this in his own life, and compels our belief in this truth.

"As before, the genius of India has taken from her aggressors the most spiritually significant principle of their culture and fashioned of it a new message of hope for mankind. There is in Christianity the great doctrine that God became man in order to save humanity by taking the burden of its sin and suffering on Himself, here in this very world, not waiting for the next. That the starving must be fed, the ragged clad, has been emphasized by Christianity as no other religion has done. Charity, benevolence, and the like, no doubt have an important place in the religions of our country as well, but there they are in practice circumscribed within much narrower limits, and are only partially inspired by love of man. And to our great good fortune, Gandhiji was able to receive this teaching of Christ in a living way. It was fortunate that he had not to learn of Christianity through professional experts, but should have found in Tolstoi a teacher who realized the value of non-violence through the multifarious experience of his own life struggles. For it was this great gift from Europe that our country had all along been awaiting.

"In the Middle Ages we also had received gifts from Muslim sources. Dadu, Kabir and other saints had proclaimed that purity and liberation are not for being hoarded up in any temple, but are wealth to which all humanity is entitled. We should have no hesitation in admitting freely that this message was inspired by contact with Islam. The best of men always accept the best of teaching, whenever and wherever it may be found, in religion, moral culture, or in the lives of individuals. But the Middle Ages are past, and we have stepped into a New Age. And now the best of men, Mahatma Gandhi, has come to us with this best of gifts from the West."

Tagore spoke too soon on the bit about "without wholesale massacre", of course. But it's still a lovely sentiment.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving to all readers and ROFTers!

The schtick of this blog notwithstanding, I'm not Catholic. But, I'm thankful for much the same things that GKC was, 80 years ago, for the same reasons:


The Convert

After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white,
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead.

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

--GK Chesterton

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Another political assassination in Lebanon

A Christian political leader, Pierre Gemayel, was killed, no doubt by Syrian- and/or Hezbollah-backed gunmen. Maybe now, with the events of the past few months, Baby Assad feels it's okay to start plinking wayward Lebanese politicians again.

This harkens back to another glimmer of hope in Lebanon, which was also violently betrayed, a long time ago:

…In the name of all the Christians of the Middle East, and as Lebanese Christians, let us proclaim that if Lebanon is not to be a Christian national homeland, it will nonetheless remain a homeland for Christians. Above all a homeland for Christians, though one for others as well if they so choose a homeland to be protected and preserved, in which our churches may be rebuilt at the time and in the manner we desire.
-- Bashir Gemayel, 14 September 1982

Gemayel was assassinated shortly thereafter, and over the next decade the churches of Lebanon were used by the Syrians, the PLO, and various Islamic militias as stables, garages, and firing ranges. His brother Amin Gemayel helplessly presided over the chaos.

*sigh*...Now this. Here's a fair-enough history of the Gemayel family, in al-Jazeera of all places.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Happy Man - A Romp Through the Mind of GK Chesterton

Here's a promo clip for a theatrical celebration of G. K. Chesterton. Sounds like it'd be fun to see!


The area I live in is a magnet for illegal aliens, mostly from Mexico and Central America. I have serious misgivings about having a flood of by-definition illegal newcomers taking root here. If we are a nation of government by law, and the newcomers are the products and progenitors of a government by la mordida, that's bad. Tens of millions of people who have an entrenched cultural disregard for the rule of law cannot help but spell trouble, however they conduct themselves individually.

Expatriate curmudgeon Fred Reed lives in Mexico, and frequently shoots barbs at American retirees who live in gated communities in Mexico. Here's a rare example of him turning his wit to a more even-handed appraisal of the two populations:

Americans, here and elsewhere, usually regard Mexicans with unconscious condescension as a race of maids and gardeners. In the local English-language fish-wrapper, the Ojo del Lago, one finds endless articles, apparently written by middle-schoolers, about how the writers just love the culture and why, they just had some wonderful Mexican experience only the other day and just respect Mexico sooo much; the tone reminds me of admiration of a collie’s adroitness with a Frisbee. They do not know that they are doing this. The Mexicans regard the Americans as helpless greyhairs who always seem lost, and walk with the body language of a mouse in a herpetarium; Mexicans do not know that many of the gringos have had lives and know things and were not always old and out of their element. It is an orgy of mutual underestimation.
-- Fred Reed, "Night in Joco"

The Rolling English Road Recital

I was invited, along with the rest of the local G. K. Chesterton Society, to a poetry-reading soiree in the home of some people whom I did not know. So, as a small gift I took along a booklet of GKC's poems, which I have quite serendipitously found earlier in the week.

One of the people scheduled to be there was someone who had committed a lot of Chesterton's poetry to memory, and was going to recite some of it. But he very rudely begged off via phone, after the evening was underway. So, gallant fellow that I can be at times, I offered to read some poems out of the booklet I had brought. I'm not familiar with his poetry that much, me being more of an aphorism lover. But I do enjoy reading aloud, so I gave it a go. Here's one of them:

The Rolling English Road

Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.

His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.

My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

-- G.K. Chesterton

Friday, November 17, 2006

Courage and Evil

Former Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky summed it up neatly, in a blurb for Melanie Phillips' Londonistan: In a dictatorship, you need courage to denounce the evil. In a free society, you need courage to see the evil.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Theocracy at 30,000 feet?

If you're an Indian flying in India, you may be required to obey Hindu dietary laws, like it or not.

Of course, there are a lot worse things religious fanatics can get up to in an airliner...

(Cross-posted at Protein Wisdom)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Old dinosaurs can learn new tricks!

Today I learn that CNN hired conservative radio talkshow host Glenn Beck, and that his show tomorrow will be a MEMRI-style expose of Islamic radicalism in Middle Eastern media. Hardly very scoopy at this late date, especially for an old lizardoid like me. But it is a heartening sign that CNN may finally be moving away from Ted Turner's diktat of enforced multicultism. You can't hang on to Family Of Man delusions forever, when some members loudly and actively want you dead-dead-dead.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

...And this is fairly astute, too...

I've edited the abortion stuff out of this most interesting point by Joseph Bottum, at the First Things blog. Looks like I spoke too soon, earlier!

Curious things have resulted from this imbalance between the ways the right and the left see the war. One is that conservatives could oppose invading Iraq without ceasing to be conservatives. [...]

On the left, however, to support the war meant, and continues to mean, that one must cease to count oneself on the left. After September 11, the blogosphere was full of people—Roger Simon is a good example—who insisted they were old-fashioned liberals who merely wanted a strong foreign policy. And no one on the left believed them, precisely because no one on the left could believe them. A use of the American military is necessarily a vicious thing, and opposition to the war is a marker of liberal credentials. Just ask Joe Lieberman, elected last night as Connecticut’s senator without a party.

The middle in American politics, the non-ideological voters, were always changeable. If the war went well, they would support it; if the war went poorly, they would lose patience. But [...t]he fact is that conservatives, too, were changeable on the war, and they varied as the result seemed to prove or disprove the foreign-policy theory under which we went to war.

Only the left wouldn’t change. [...E]ven if the war were working out easily, the people on the far left would oppose it in exactly the same numbers they now do. It isn’t that they reject American foreign policy, although that’s the effect. They reject the notion that this is a foreign-policy question. It’s a culture war, and they are looking to win here the battles in the culture wars they believe they have lost elsewhere.

I think he's got something, there.

A bright spot....

From the same First Things blog, which I just slagged in the previous post.

I think the marriage victories should be a lesson to everyone. Seven new states passed constitutional amendments supporting real marriage. With one exception (Arizona this year), every time a marriage amendment has been put to the electorate in the form of a popular vote it has passed with a large majority. Same-sex marriage or its equivalent (under a different name) has succeeded only through judicial fiat. To prevent judicial imposition, twenty-seven states now have constitutional amendments explicitly rejecting same-sex marriage. And all but a few have statutory provisions doing the same. Tuesday’s marriage amendments passed even in Colorado and Wisconsin. Wisconsin was the state the LGBT activists focused on and were most certain was going to go their way. What happened? Why did these states uphold marriage?

Maggie Gallagher explains: “Why? Look at the Catholic vote. Sixty percent of Catholics in Wisconsin support the state marriage amendment, much higher than in a state like Virginia (where Catholics voted “no” 48 percent to 52 percent). Can the Catholic vote on marriage in Wisconsin be repeated in other states? Increasingly that’s where the political battle is going to lie.”

Looks like the gender benders have a little more "consciousness raising" to do, before they can get the public to swallow the redefinition of our society's fundamental building block. That, or go back to imposing it by judicial diktat.

Election coverage on First Things

I have reluctantly found that election coverage at First Things's blog can usually be skipped without major loss. The only thing they talk about at length is abortion, and if that isn't your hot button issue, then there's not much else there. I would actually be surprised if Richard John Neuhaus and J. Bottum went out for full-fledged punditry anyway, given the pre-political nature of the journal. But it does seem that abortion, and only abortion, calls them into the public square at election time.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Still guest-blogging at Protein Wisdom

Jeff Goldstein apparently isn't ready to come back full time yet, so I'm still spreading my meager creative faculties around over there. My inner smart-alecky adolescent is buried too deep, alas, for me to make a first-rate showing, most days. I am a little proud of this one, though: If, in addition to being the dextrosphere’s post-election analysis, the dextrosphere’s post-election analysis were also an old Crosby Stills and Nash song…

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Republicans sweep to victory, score historic wins....

...here in Georgia, that is! Sonny Perdue is the first Republican governor to be re-elected here since Reconstruction, and Casey Cagle is the first Republican lieutenant governor ever. Republicans won most of the down-ballot races too, save for a couple that were still too close to call this morning. So, in opposition to the Democrat victories elsewhere, Georgia only got redder.

So, hats off to the Dems, and to the American Left. The Dems have come back to power, and the Left, the 1960s-Nut-Coast-stop-the-war-off-the-pigs-the-Man-can't-bust-our-music Left, in the person of Madame Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, is two heartbeats away from the Presidency. They won fair & square, and you'll hear no whining like this from my little soapbox. (You won't hear it from the same media who were doing the whining in '94, either, but that's another post.)

Fallout? Well, Donald Rumsfeld didn't last 24 hours of the polls closing. Let's see if Condi Rice is next. It's a pity about Rumsfeld. My military online acquaintances praise him for sharpening up the military and raising morale, after the big Clinton Drawdown of the 90s. And it has been disgusting, really, to listen to progressives attack the Bush administration through him by feigning concern for the troops. Yet, success is the best retort, and Iraq is not a success story at present. A leader should be judged, and expect to be judged, by his results and not his efforts. And so it has happened in Rumsfeld's case.

The Bush tax cuts: will the Dems revoke them, or let them expire, or what? They don't directly affect me, much, but I supported them. They at least kept the notion of fiscal responsibility in the air, if not on the table. And those of us who came along before the Republican revolution can't read the words "fiscally responsible Democrats" without suppressing a snort. It sounds almost ungrammatical.

Maybe we'll now have a respite from news of corruption for awhile. Corruption seeks those in power, no matter who they are. It's impossible to entirely shut out the Jack Abramoff's of the world--but it's good at least to force them to update their speed dials from time to time.

And God help the poor people of Iraq, if they get thrown under the train by this incoming Congress. *Shudder*...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Be sure to vote Tuesday

This old Bill Mauldin cartoon from the late Forties has something to say to us, I think.

Ted Haggard is a liar and a deceiver

Further proof that anglo-Protestant morality doesn't keep you from committing sin, so much as it prevents you from enjoying it. I wish him and his surprisingly un-demoralized flock well. It sounds like a strong congregation, not an amen corner for a charismatic narcissist, like some other evangelists we could name.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

"Hans Kung in a Trojan horse," ha!

"Islam in its final form is [...] innately hostile to the infidel (as history has borne out), and so peace with Muslims can only be had if they betray or truncate their own revelation. This means that we "infidels" could never hope for peace with orthodox Muslims but only with their heretics and apostates. The attempt to make Islam "moderate" will really be the attempt to pit Muslims against their own tradition in order to keep them sedate. This time, we won't send them Richard the Lionheart on a warhorse but the Islamic equivalents of Hans Kung in a Trojan horse."
-- David Elliot, Toronto School of Theology, letter to the editors, First Things, Nov. 2006

Guess that'd be better than having to kill them in joblots. Or getting killed the same way.

And Madonna's already bored with her new lifestyle accessory!

I've long resisted indulging my dislike of Madonna, and my dislike of flighty-headed celebrity trends Third World adoption. But I can't resist when I see things like this. What's mere parenthood when you're on a much more important mission?

Miss Vieira pointed out: "Well, you could be home like that, if you wanted to. You've made all the money you ever need to make. You've got a nice life."

Madonna agreed, "Uh-huh," and added: "Well, I obviously I have things I want to say and accomplish... and I don't...

"Just staying home and looking after my children and being a mother and a wife is not what I want. I want more.

"If you want to affect change in the world, you do have to have a platform to stand on. And in order to have a platform to stand on, you have to keep doing your job. So, I guess that's why I'm juggling still."

Somebody misspelled "jiggling".

And, inevitably...

David [ Banda ] was born a Christian, will he be raised a Christian, she was asked? She said: "He's only you know 13 months old. He's too young to have been indoctrinated into any kind of belief system. But if David decides he wants to be a Christian, then so be it.

Maybe she'll also let him decide what language he prefers, before she teaches him how to talk. Since we're disguising our parental dontgiveadamnitis as freedom of choice, you know...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"...rodents, reptiles and small mammals..."

MSM science reporting is so ignorant it's funny sometimes. Like this: What's wrong with this picture?

The big bird, which stood about 10 feet tall and probably weighed 400 pounds, was fleet of foot and able to chase down and devour rodents, reptiles and small mammals 15 million years ago on the plains of Patagonia. Not for nothing are its closely related species, a group known as phorusrhacids, more commonly called the “terror birds.”

This, instead of "lizards, rodents, and small reptiles."