Thursday, July 04, 2002
PBS is airing today (I'm sure it will be repeated) Rediscovering George Washington, a documentary hosted by National Review's Richard Brookhiser and based in part on his book, Founding Father. Check your local listing for air times. The website is a real treasure (I noticed that it was produced by the Claremont Institute with funding from the John M. Olin Foundation- which means that you can be sure it is quite solid. Other than watching 1776, which is great fun, what better way to commemorate the country's founding?
Wednesday, July 03, 2002
If it is too hot (as it is here) to enjoy fireworks, or if they are too far away from where you live, put some John Philip Sousa on the CD player, and click on this link. Enjoy!
For those men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd, 1776, the odds did not look very good. Public opinion polls, if they existed, probably would have told them that only one-third of the population favored the course upon which they were about to embark. One-third was indifferent. One-third opposed independence. The men gathered from the thirteen colonies in Philadelphia, even without polling, probably had a sense that this was the case.
The army which would be the primary instrument of winning independence was scarcely disciplined, poorly uniformed, badly armed, and ill-supplied with food and ammunition. Pay was a promise (which, in fact, was mostly ignored 7 years later). Its generals had no experience commanding larger bodies of troops than a battalion.
True, there had been some victories. Boston had been rendered untenable for the enemy, and he had evacuated it. Fort Ticonderoga had fallen to a surprise attack. The delagates in Philadelphia probably did not know it, but an enemy invasion of Charleston, SC had been averted a few days before.
But there had also been defeats. Despite inflicting heavy losses on the enemy, Bunker Hill had been captured. The attempt to capture Canada had failed miserably.
Most significant was what was coming. As the delegates debated independence, they knew that the British army that had left Boston was en route from Halifax, probably heading for New York. If their spies were accurate, that army would rendezvous with another escorted by an even larger fleet. Large numbers of British and German troops had driven the American Northern Army from Canada, and were poised to drive down Lake Champlain. These troops who would confront their own tattered, inexperienced army were the best Europe could field. British troops who had conquered an empire just 15 years before would be joined by excellent troops from Brunswick and Hesse Cassel, Frederick the Great's best allies. The enemy was supported by professional artillerists, and by a navy that was (despite peacetime decline and corruption) still, ship-for-ship, the best in the world. Thousands of their fellow countrymen would be happy to take up arms alongside the British army. To make matters worse, the Indian nations were ready to take up arms on behalf of the King, raising the prospect of burned farms, scalped settlers, and women and children abducted into captivity among the savages.
The men in Philadelphia must have found the prospect of declaring independence a daunting task. In the next three months, the most likely outcome was that the British army would take New York, flatten their own army, and then march on Philadelphia to hang them for treason. Their property would be taken from their families. At best they would become fugitives constantly on the run from British authorities.
But the best of them had a vision for the future, and strong reasons to feel the need to break with the past. The vision was that they would govern themselves, as they actually had for the most part, until the Imperial government decided to tap America for revenue to pay for keeping the peace with the Indians. John Winthrop's vision of a city set upon a hill remained a strong one, and merged with Locke's ideas about government, and newer ideas coming from Adam Smith about how an economy ought to be allowed to develop. A unified vision of a new nation which would serve as a beacon of liberty for all nations emerged, and was in the forefront of the minds of the men in Philadelphia. They had become a different nationality in need of a new nation
And yet, despite it all, it was the vision that prevailed, and not the balance of forces. It is that vision that we celebrate today. John Adams, who did more than anyone to push the cause of independence through Congress, wrote to his wife that July 2, 1776 (the day the Declaration was approved),
"...Will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverence by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more."
And so may it be.
Peggy Noonan's WSJ column on what works in America is well worth reading for July 4th meditation. The link might require registration. She mentions us poor-relations journalists and pundits- bloggers.
Tuesday, July 02, 2002
Arafat's Fatah movement, the most militant part of which is the al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, has called for jihad on the US worldwide if the government continues to push for the ouster of Arafat. Arafat denies and disavows, as he usually does before his murderers do their thing. Time to get rid of Arafat, and his followers. Read a thorough discussion here.
John Derbyshire in National Review On-Line has some reflections on what it is like to finish a a large production. Been there, done that, and he is right. Derb, the marmite is almost on the way.
The latest poll shows Governor Jeb Bush with a very comfortable lead over likely Democrat nominee Janet (the Wacko Pyro) Reno in the Florida governor's race. Bush is leading her 53%-37%. She is leading her most recognizable Democrat opponent by 45%-18%. Reno has a just-about-insurmountable 48% negative favorability rating.
Her unpopularity isn't surprising. Like the leaders of the Massachusetts' prosecutorial establishment, she made her name by conducting a child abuse witchhunt which resulted in the imprisonment of people who probably did nothing wrong. As Attorney General, her first significant act was torching the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, "to save the children". The children burned with the "adult" Davidian loons. Her last significant act was turning Elian Gonzalez over to Fidel Castro so Castro could dress him up in a Young Communists uniform and trot him out on significant occasions. In between, she functioned as the getaway driver for the Clinton Adminstration, refusing to appoint special prosecutors for the most flagrant Clintonian wrongdoing, and helping the Clintons and the Clintonistas stonewall the special prosecutors she was forced to appoint.
She is too unpopular to possibly win the governorship. She has too much name recognition to lose the Democrat nomination. Sounds good to me.
The story of the Pakistani gang rape has revolted the civilized world. In brief, a boy from a low-status tribe was caught walking with a girl from a higher-status tribe. The members of the girl's tribe demanded retribution. So the boy's tribe made his family turn over his older sister to be gang raped by four members of the other girl's tribe. This is sickening, revolting, and unacceptable.
I personally thought much better of Pakistani culture than this. During the Cold War, I, for one, grew accustomed to siding with Pakistan against India, since Pakistan was helping us in Afghanistan and India played much too cute a game with the Soviet Union. Maybe a change of inclination is required.
Paul Harvey prefaced this story this morning with the comment that "This is not one world." He was right. We are dealing here with a culture not far different, except in technology, than it was in the sixth century B.C. What do these tribesmen have in common with the world that produced Aristotle, Shakespeare, Mozart, Cervantes, Edison, St. Thomas More, Washington, Lincoln, even Arthur Mellon (inventor of the frisbee and the hula hoop who died this weekend)?
Is there a common humanity? Will these tribesmen's descendants one day be university professors, investment bankers, craftsmen, doctors? The answer is yes, though the process is not always a clear one. The way to that state runs through "Westernization", as it has already for thousands of Pakistani immigrants. Can they be westernized, without them coming to a West that is aleady leery of more Moslem immigrants? They can. Japan westernized in the late Nineteenth Century without huge waves of immigration. Trade, cultural seepage, and the Internet, coupled with somewhat pluralistic reforms at home can do the job. Let us hope that this terrible incident spurs that kind of reform there. As Churchill said of the Iron Curtain, "When the light is equal on both sides of the Curtain, the Curtain will be no more." He was right there. Let us hope this dictum applies to the Moslem world as well.
The death of a ten year-old girl today after being caught in the crossfire of gang members this weekend sickens all civilized people. Gang-related violence had been declining over the last decade in Boston. This year has seen a significant upsurge. Liberals will blame the gun, and the culture of poverty, and lack of jobs. But Massachusetts has strict gun laws already. It is true that we are in a difficult economy (though New England is faring better than the country as a whole), and that jobs are scarce for teenagers. But teenage gang members are hardly the sort who line up for jobs in the summer. If jobs were abundant, they would still be terrorizing the streets.
A much more plausible theory is that criminals who were taken off the streets in the late 1980s and early 1990s are now getting out. Liberal parole boards and an entirely Democrat Governor's Council seem to be the cause of this situation. An age cohort of violent offenders was removed from the streets, and behold, the streets grew comparatively peaceful. Now they are emerging from imprisonment, and the streets are reverting to the wild-West atmosphere of the mid-1980s, despite much stiffer gun laws. The fear of racial or ethnic profiling prevents police from doing what they should to keep the peace. They should be watching these released convicts closely, and if they so much as jay walk, they should be brought in, tried, and if guilty get a maximum sentence. Then the streets will grow quieter once again, and fewer young girls will be buried by grieving mothers.
Rev. Cliff Garner, the Dallas priest best known for his postings at St. Sebastian's Angels, the website for gay Catholic priests, has resigned from his parish under, he claimed, death threats. Rev. Garner gushed to the other readers at SSA about his love for hispanic men. He also posted praise of Bishop Reginald Cawcutt, the openly gay South African bishop who opined at St. Sebastian's about the hoped-for death of the Holy Father. His bishop refused to remove him from the parish.
No one likes to see people under threats of death or physical harm. Remember from my previous blog on this topic, Garner is not accused of any wrong-doing with minors. But it is clear that he has not demonstrated the sort of commitment to celibacy that is required for a Catholic priest. With his bishop stonewalling on removal, it is not surprising that angry parishioners who read his postings at SSA (thanks to its infiltration by a Roman Catholic Faithful member, who downloaded the content of the site) took matters into their own hands.
The Vatican made it very clear that homosexuals should not be ordained to the priesthood in the now-famous 1961 directive to the US Church. The Holy Father's spokesman Monsignor Navarro-Valls echoed this view in the Vatican's first reaction to the US crisis this year. Yet many have been-so many that studies indicate that 1/3 of Catholic priests in the US are gay. Some of these are indeed holy men who struggle to maintain a genuine commitment to celibacy. But those who contributed to Saint Sebastian's Angels, the content of which was in large part made up of comments like Garner's and homoerotic pornography are not that. Garner does not belong in the priesthood, or in that parish. Maybe he can give good service as a chaplain in a nursing home somewhere. But after reading his expressed views, I wouldn't want him as "youth minister" for any children of mine. I would have a hard time respecting his preaching (both on the obvious grounds, and because someone who thinks as he does is probably not capable of maintaining orthodoxy).
I don't regret him leaving his parish. I do regret that he was put in fear of his life. Hopefully his successor in that parish will serve it better.
Monday, July 01, 2002
It seems odd to me that the heat on the country's bishops has noticeably been turned down since Dallas. They did little to solve the problem, because they resolutely refused to address the core issues- homosexuality and dissent in the priesthood and clericalism among bishops and bureaucrats. Even though more pervert priests turn up just about every week, the heat from the national media is very much off.
A Boeing airliner and another plane appear to have collided in midair over southern Germany, near Lake Constanz. This is the Austro-Swiss-German border area. There are reports that the second plane was a Tupelov, a Russian manufactured craft- which means it may be another smaller airliner. There are reports of two balls of fire in the sky, and bodies and wreckage over a wide area. No official word on casualties. A prayer for the deceased and their families, and those (and we pray that not all died) injured would be very appropriate.
Another federal judge, this time a district court judge, has ruled against the death penalty. The federal death penalty statute, which has been in place for 14 years, and under which 31 offenders have been executed, was ruled a violation of due process rights. There has been no showing that any of the 31 executed were in fact not guilty of the heinous crimes they were convicted of. The judiciary is a necessary check and balance in our system. But here, the judge has set himself up as a legislature, overruling the expressed will of the vast majority of the American people, who view the death penalty as just and necessary. The Second (I think) Circuit should slap him down rather quickly. But who knows?
Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK), the fourth ranking Republican in the House and one of the more admirable members generally, will not seek a fourth term. Watts had a solid voting record. The loss spells even more trouble for Republican planners' efforts to hold the House. The prospect of Speaker Gephardt is depressing, but the Administration is playing for a tie, rather than for a clean sweep. Play to gain 1-5 seats, and you end up losing 20-30. You need the chutzpah to nationalize wedge issues in each district and go for a 50-60 seat gain. Then we might have swept the Senate along as we did in 1994. Republicans like Watts, and Gramm, and Thompson are getting out because they know they will be in the minority after Novemeber. They can't control the national strategy. That's the way it is.
Dave Konig, in National Review On-Line pens a paean to the glory that was the Cheney Administration. Hey, its a holiday week. Nothing is going on, unless al Qaeda pays us an unwelcome visit. Got to blog about something.
Bernard Cardinal Law left Boston for Rome last night. According to his spokeswoman, this was a long-scheduled trip that was required by Law's service in various congregations. One wonders, though.
A bus carrying Polish pilgrims to Medjugorie overturned. Nineteen of the passengers died in the accident. Prayers for the dead, and for their families are very much in order.
Sunday, June 30, 2002
Since we don't watch anything on TV except what we plug into our VCR or DVD, I missed the three-hour C-SPAN show on Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley, Jr. I'm hoping someone will tape it for us when it is rebroadcast on July 5th.
I've been doing some pre-July 4th reading. This weekend, I've been working my way through E Pluribus Unum, McDonald's account of how politics state-by-state in the 1780s led to eventual acquiesence in union. I'm up to the section on Maryland and the down-and-dirty politics and life of Samuel Chase. McDonald presents the Founding Fathers like real men operating within the realm of 18th Century politics, as they undoubtably were. I don't think it necessarily degrades their status to see them as such. That they worked together to assemble such a balanced form of government shows that the hand of God was indeed guiding them. By the way, Michael Novak has a new book out saying precisely that. I saw it in Barnes & Noble today, and believe it is called On Both Wings. It also looks like an interesting read.
Am I the only baseball fan who hates inter-league play? I don't want to see the other league's teams until the World Series. The Red Sox players must share my views. They have dropped from a 2-game lead to 1.5 games behind during inter-league play. They were just swept by the Braves (who were never as good when they played in Boston, or Milwaukee). Fortunately, the Yankees didn't do too much better during June, or the Sox would be 7-8 games behind.
I know how disappointed you all are about not being treated to Liturgical Abuses-Part IV (the Penetential Rite). But there is always next week. Sometimes, you just don't have your thoughts on a subject organized enough to do a first-class rant. As the weekend winds up, I'll just point out a few miscellaneous things.
Romulu Braschi, of Argentina, who styles himself "Bishop" of a cult he calls the Jesus Rey church (which has a worldwide congregation of 13,000) performed an "ordination" of seven Roman Catholic women from the US, Germany, and Austria as priests of the Roman Catholic Church. The "ordination" took place on a river boat sailing along the Austro-German border. Bruschi is an "expert" in karma, a Hindu concept. An American woman named Angela Wright, and a German woman named Gisela Forster were identified as "ordained" in this article from the Washington Times.
The event has no force in canon law whatsoever. These women who have done this, if they are indeed Roman Catholics, need to be made an example of, and quickly. Miss Wright indicated that at least a half dozen other American women are ready to participate in similar "ordinations". Miss Wright and her collegues should be offered a brief period to recant, about 30 days. Then, if they fail to recant, the Holy Father himself should publically and with great fanfare pronounce them excommunicated. This must be stopped, and stopped fast, not at the glacial pace the Vatican normally moves at. These women have put themselves in a direct rebellion against the practises, customs, laws, and traditions of the Church. There is no room for toleration here. Out they must go, and fast. Any other Roman Catholics who in any way participated in this farce should also get the boot. As I said yesterday, dismiss, defrock, and excommunicate.