Friday, September 05, 2003

President To Address the Nation Sunday Night On Iraq & the Terror War
Looks like someone understood what I was getting at earlier today (not that anyone in the White House is reading my blog, they just came independently to the same conclusion).

Let's hope the networks cover the speech. They have been getting increasingly pissy about live coverage of presidential addresses since Reagan's time.

Developing Story
Talks between the Archdiocese of Boston and the victims' lawyers have apparently broken down. There is word that lawyers for about half the victims are refusing to participate in tomorrow's scheduled meeting with Archbishop Sean. I'm not exactly sure of the cause yet. The only report I have heard is WBZ News Radio Boston.

One wonders if the insurance companies are getting cold feet about settling (since the US Attorney may yet give them an excuse to just walk away from any liability) and the plaintiffs' lawyers are just reacting to some withdrawal of something that had been offered. Or perhaps, they are just trying to strong-arm the Archdiocese into a settlement by walking away from the table at a dramatic moment to force further concessions.

I'm sure we will know more soon.

Eric McLeish's firm withdrew from the negotiations because (they said) the press was going to be all over the location, and other attorneys were planning to hold regular briefings with the press during the session. We will pass over the irony of McLeish complaining about too much press coverage. Press coverage is good when you are trying to taint the jury pool. But bad when you are getting down to the serious business of negotiating a settlement.

They have asked the Archdiocese to reschedule for a private location and another time.

Further Update:
This article makes it pretty clear that this is a McLeish/Garabedian clash, and has nothing to do with the Archdiocese or the state of the negotiations. The Globe has finally managed to weigh in on the matter, about an hour after the radio news had the story.

Michelle Malkin Has A Great Take On Madonna's Latest Atrocity

I'm Sorry This Happened, But It Does Not Deserve To Be Treated As the Top Story on Radio, Newspaper, and TV

FBI Seeking 4 Terrorists Who May Be Planning Attacks On US Interests
They are not thought to be in the US.

Sox Play the Yankees for 3 This Weekend In New York
This is crucial. They are 31/2 back in the division, and a 1/2 game ahead in the wild card race. They really should take 2/3. If they are swept, they are in serious trouble. Losing 2/3 will not help, depending on what Seattle does.

A Lull Mistaken As Peace
National Review On Line carries Victor Davis Hanson today. As ever, VDH is clear-sighted on the present status of the war.

There is still much to do in the war on terrorism. Iran and Syria loom ahead of us. We are not quite sure how to deal with them. Our convential military forces are stretched thin across the globe. We have been expecting the Iranian government to collapse from within. But Iran, al Qaeda, Syria, and Saddam's loyalists continue to battle our forces in Iraq in a desultory sort of way. Basically, their efforts come down to trying to disrupt normalization and make life uncomfortable for US troops. In and of itself, that is not enough to be decisive, unless we get the shivers and cut and run, abandoning the fruits of our victory. That, under President Bush, I think we can predict, will never happen.

The presidential campaign will get in the way of taking the next steps. But once President Bush wins, we have four more years to wage the war, and it will probably take that much time.

Let's look at things from the enemy's perspective. At this point, Iraqi Ba'athism has merged with al Qaeda fanaticism and the enemy can be looked at as a unified whole, though it is sometimes helpful to remember that each element of the enemy has its own objectives.

We must understand that al Qaeda is fighting a war on many fronts against many enemies simultaneously. The US is the main enemy. Almost every place in the world where Islam comes into contact with the rest of us is a theater of operations for al Qaeda and its affiliated organizations.

1) Iraq. Al Qaeda groups have been identified in the fighting in that country. Here they have a chance to take shots at large groups of American troops. Iraq has become a magnet for many armed fanatics from all over the Moslem world. In a sense, we have a fair number of the maniacs in one place. We just need some way to get them more out in the open to make it easier to kill them. Just depriving the enemy of the resources of the Iraqi government is a major plus in the war on terrorism for the US. The de facto cooperation with Saddam's loyalists is declining. More and more of the leaders of Saddam's government (and resistance) are being rounded up or killed. It is just a matter of time before Saddam himself is killed. He can't hide there forever. His only options are to flee into Syria or Iran (unlikely). His death will demoralize the Ba'athists, and leave al Qaeda alone with only covert support from Iran and Syria. How much support they will get from Iran is questionable, since the bombing of the Shi'ite mosque was an al Qaeda operation. Yes Shi'ite Moslems like the Iranians are among al Qaeda's enemies, too, just further down the list than we are.

2) Afghanistan. There are still Taliban and al Qaeda units operating here. Slowly the new government is gaining some control over the country. This is forcing the enemy more into the hinterland and into hiding than they had been. Again, the enemy has lost the use of Afghan government resources, which weakens him overall.

3) Kashmir. I think there is little doubt that al Qaeda-affiliated operatives engineered the terrorist acts that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war here last year (the attack on the Indian Parliament). Why would they do that? Well, Christians and Jews are not al Qaeda's only enemies. They hate Hindus, too. They want to drive India from the part of Kashmir that it occupies, and force Islam down the throats of its inhabitants. More importantly, recall when this terrorist attack took place and what its effect was. It came just as the Pakistani government, itself riddled, especially in its intelligence organizations with al Qaeda supporters, was concentrating forces along its border to keep al Qaeda refugees fleeing Afghanistan from entering Pakistan. The result was that the troops along the Afghan border had to be dramatically thinned to provide troops for the Kashmir front, allowing lots of al Qaeda's key figures, perhaps including bin Laden himself, to escape into Pakistan, and perhaps cross and re-cross the border many times since then. Here, the war is in stalemate. Al Qaeda got the diversion it needed. You can expect al Qaeda to continue to attack India's interests in this area.

4) Chechnya. Yes, Russia is among al Qaeda's active enemies, too. The Chechen independence movement is strongly infiltrated, and in some cases directed by al Qaeda-affiliated groups. The suicide bombings and theater-takeovers that have happened in Moscow in the last year are part of al Qaeda's campaign. Russia, demoralized since the fall of the Soviet Union, has not been putting up a very good fight, though Putin is determined to hold on to Chechnya. The advantage is with the rebels, but Russia will need a lot more pushing before it is ready to cave in.

5) Indonesia/Malaysia/Philippines. These are places where the Moslem population is growing. As we have seen, Islam does not play well with others. Once the Moslem population reaches a certain critical mass, the impulse seems to be to make itself universal, and wipe out all opposition (recall that Islam means "submission," and those who don't submit are less than dirt). Because of the weakness of the governments in these places, they have been prime hunting grounds for al Qaeda. So far, what they have accomplished here have been mostly suicide bombings (hotels, nightclubs that cater to foreigners, malls, bus stops have been favorite targets). In the Philippines at least, US forces are assisting the government in bringing the Moslem terror network's local affiliates to heel. The Australians are very interested in bringing this region to peace (which is why they contributed forces to the Iraqi operation, too).

6) Pakistan. Yes al Qaeda affiliates have been busy internally in Pakistan. Their work has been made easier by the fact that the Pakistani government's intelligence organizations are full of al Qaeda sympathizers. But the war in Pakistan itself has been mostly against Christian missionaries, hospitals, schools. They usually don't attack government targets directly (for obvious reasons). The Pakistani president will lean whichever way the wind seems to blow from. That keeps him alive. Also, al Qaeda leaders from Afghanistan are still using parts of Pakistan as hiding places.

7) Northern Africa. There is little doubt that Libya is giving covert aid to al Qaeda and its affiliates. Al Qaeda operates in Algeria and Morocco. There are probably still camps turning out terrorists in all three countries. The targets here are largely Spanish and French, though some graduates of the camps here are undoubtably fighting us in Iraq.

8) Israel. Yes, the Palestinians are a home-grown problem. But Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, the al Acqsa Martyrs' Brigade, the PFLP all use the same tactics as al Qaeda, and in fact are al Qaeda affiliates. Here they are causing carnage among innocent civilians on a daily basis. But there is some hope that Arafat is on his way out (these things depend, in the end on the loyalty of people with guns and their own agendas) and that Palestinian tactics may change for the better-mannered, particularly if Israel is allowed to take the matter in hand without interference from the US. Israel has switched from massive retaliation against the Palestinians as a whole to targeted killings of extremist leaders. This is hurting the al Qaeda affiliates, though there appears to be no shortage of volunteers to take the places of those Israel wipes out. The fighting here is particularly bitter because Israel itself is seen as a affront to the dignity of the Moslem world. This enclave within the territory of the former Ottoman Empire is regarded by al Qaeda as a modern Crusader Kingdom. Granting independence to a part of the area under Palestinain control will not end the struggle. Al Qaeda and its affiliates will not be happy until the Zionist enclave is no more.

9) Saudi Arabia & Yemen. The war here is more muted, and the targets are westerners residing and working there, including the US military. The Yemeni situation, essentially a power vaccuum encourages al Qaeda to flourish. There was almost certainly inside help in the escape of the USS Cole bombers from a Yemeni prison. Saudi citizens make up a big part of al Qaeda, and lots of Saudis give it money as a "charity." Saudi government cooperation against al Qaeda is feeble and extremely half-hearted. As long as al Qaeda keeps most of its mayhem away from Saudi territory, and not directed at the House of Saud, the Saudis are willing to turn a blind eye to most of what al Qaeda does, and secretly applaud its strikes against us infidels.

10) The US & Europe. Cells of al Qaeda still exist, though the networks have been damaged by domestic law enforcement. The situation is more dangerous in Europe, because of the large Moslem population fecklessly permitted to grow in Europe over the last 50 years. It is less dangerous in the US, because AG Ashcroft is being pro-active in dealing with the threat, and because, per capita, we have fewer Moslems. Attacks here will be spectacular, and almost certainly directed at the civilian population, against economic infrastructure, and against high profile and symbolic targets (Eiffel Tower, Louvre, White House, the US Capitol, Palace of Westminster, the Liberty Bell, the Golden Gate Bridge, The Royal Family, London Stock Exchange, Wall Street, transportation systems, electric grids, the Internet, port facilities, food and water supplies, perhaps several at once in a coordinated effort). You can expect attacks in the next year, in order to influnece the US presidential election.

Money from various sources that used to flow to al Qaeda has been stopped. Other sources are continuing to be opened and the US lags behind in catching up with them. But as we find them, with the help of the civilized world, we shut them down. It is safe to say that al Qaeda has taken a financial hit or two in the war.

Safe bases in Afghanistan no longer exist. Facilities in Iraq can no longer be used. A vast potential ally in the Iraqi government has been taken out of the balance of forces of the enemy. Syria and Iran are feeling the pressure of encirclement with Iraq under US occupation. They will cooperate with the US, or they will be overthrown by the US military.

A lot of military resources have been lost during the last year. Huge weapons and munitions caches have been destroyed by the US during combat operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Lots of troops who bore arms under banners favorable to the terrorists are dead.

VDH is right. Al Qaeda is on the defensive, having lost bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rooting them out of the remaining safe places in those countries should take the balance of the year, if it is done thoroughly. But even a trapped animal can launch a sudden vicious strike at its opponent's vitals.

And President Bush can be faulted in this regard. He has not been open with the American people about the scope of the war on terrorism. We need more inspirational speeches that spell out the tasks remaining. The war will be brought to Syria and Iran and maybe Libya eventually. We need to understand how the parts of the overall operation relate to one another, and need to hear that it is all part of our unfolding response to September 11th. Of course, that would tip off the enemies we are planning to come after to our intentions, and tend to allow them to concert their efforts against us. But popular support for the war effort is flagging. The President needs to lead, not just passively sit back and allow things to happen without explaining the framework in which we are operating. We have heard precious little about the task ahead since the end of major combat operatios in Iraq. Even then, the only time President Bush effectively linked the Iraqi war to September 11th was in his speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

We have a long way to go to win the war. If the war is considered over now, we have not won it.

President Bush has much to do to solidilfy his position for re-election. And the US has much to do to win the war on Moslem terrorism. Now that summer vacation is over, it is time to roll up our sleeves, and get back to work.

Mother Theresa
On this date in 1997, Mother Theresa of Calcutta died. There is an entire web ring dedicated to her.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Dismissed, With Extreme Prejudice

I Love Father Rutler
Mark Sullivan at Irish Elk reprints a letter from Father Rutler in Crisis on vegetarianism. Utterly brilliant. Terrific stuff from Rod Dreher's former pastor.

Reminds me of a sign someone e-mailed me today: "There is room for all God's creatures--right next to the mashed potatoes."

BTW, another sign in the same e-mail that cracked me up was this one: "Dog Guardians, Please Clean Up After Your Dog. Dogs, Grrrr, Woof, Bark, Good Dog."

Moose Munching Your Fuchsias?
National Review On Line features an article by James Swan on the problem Anchorage has with moose eating garden flowers. The solution: moose is an excellent source of protein. May I have some more, please?

Hey, we have found that we greatly enjoy sausage made with reindeer meat. Why not moose? Plenty of people eat it already.

Mrs. F. has one good moose story of her own, and, since we look at Anchorage Daily News every day, we have seen some very interesting photos asnd reports about moose interactions with the neighborhoods of Anchorage.

Trust the Globe To Find Someone To Drop A Turd Into the Ave Maria Punch Bowl
The Globe sneers at the opening of Ave Maria University's Naples, Florida campus. Finding and quoting someone who hates the idea of a conservative Catholic college, and balancing it against the word of a freshman is not balanced reporting. A balanced report would be to merely interview Tom Monaghan and Father Fessio, and report what they have to say about the project. Then, if you really feel compelled to offer "both sides" (both sides of what?) you do a sidebar on what the opponents have to say.

How else is the article biased? The emphasis on the non-academic aspects of the project, that's how. The implication is that small farmers are being turned out onto the road without compensation to make room for golf courses for conservative Catholics transplanted from the midwest.

The overblown rhetoric of Eugene Kennedy is given far too much prominence. So the project is a bad thing because sometime in the future a student may be expelled for not adhering to the line? That happens at liberal colleges and universities far too often. One never hears Kennedy's protests about that.

Ave Maria is a college for serious conservative Catholics run by serious conservative Catholics. It will succeed quite remarkably. It will produce students who will put graduates of other "Catholic" colleges and universtiies to shame in regard to knowlwedge of and adherence to the Faith, and in regard to genuine academic achievement. It is an institution designed to be proof against the operation of O'Sullivan's Law (all institutions that are not aggressively, demonstrably, knowingly, and vigorously conservative become, over time, liberal). The objective is to produce devout, pious, knowledgeable conservative Cathoic students who more than hold their own academically with the graduates of Georgetown, or Notre Dame, or Fordham, or BC and will remain true to the Faith. Father Fessio has thought this through carefully. It should succeeed. We pray it will.

Miguel Estrada Withdraws Judicial Nomination
The Democrats were allowed to win this one. After 28 months in limbo, and fed up with the lack of action on his nomination, Miguel Estrada has asked the President to withdraw his nomination.

Whatever happened to all those Republican strategems to force up-or-down votes on judicial nominees? Why have they not even been tried? Senator Frist was supposed to be an improvement on Trent Lott's bankrupt leadership. I don't see it.

I guess it comes down to this: the Democrats are so determined to prevent conservative (even moderate, Estarada could hardly be called a Reaganite) judges on the open federal benches, they are actively subverting the democratic process.

We are going to need 60 reliable (conservative) Republican senators to get any judges through, let alone Supreme Court nominations. Once we have that, we should be merciless in appointing the most conservative jurists who will have the proepect of serving for the longest times (in their forties and in excellent health). Thank heavens that the Federalist Society has provided us with a pool of highly qualified potential nominees.

Pennant Race
The Red Sox stand this morning three games behind the Yankees for the American League East title. They are in a dead heat with Seattle for the American League wild card slot, both teams having 81-58 records.

Archbishop Sean Will Take Part In Settlement Talks Saturday, And Speak Directly To Victims
I can only see this as a positive. The sides are still tens of millions of dollars apart. The participation of the insurance companies in the settlement is threatened. Personal intervention by the Archbishop at this critical junction can only help.

Further Liberal Reforms In the Mass Tearing A Parish Apart
God bless those vigilant and well-informed parishioners who are not knuckling under.

Catholic Priest Photographed in San Francisco Gay Pride Parade
If he wants to march in a parade like that, fine. As long as his ecclesiastical superiors keep him away from contact with children (defined as anyone under the age of majority). But this guy is a parish priest, and the Archdiocese of San Francisco is doing nothing about him.

Not all homosexuals abuse children. That is undeniably true. But a disproportionate amount of abuse by Catholic priests we have heard about was directed at teenage boys by homosexuals of various stripes. The risk is disproportionate, and should not be accepted. There is no reason to de-frock the guy absent any direct evidence of wrongdoing. But precautions should be taken. Homosexuals should be screened out of the seminaries from this point on. Those who have already been ordained (and they may be a third of the priesthood) need to be watched very closely. And if someone is this up-front about his deviant sexuality, like Paul Shanley was, he is a special risk.

Not only, by his presence in a parade like this, does he seem to be giving the Church's blessing to something it does not bless at all, but condemns when it is acted upon, but also he is challenging the clear and unchanged teaching of the Church on a matter of morality. That can never be tolerated. And to involve members of his parish in such a public act of immorality, pretty darn close to blasphemy, is grave indeed.

A three year-old boy playing on a metal rocking horse at a park here in Salem complained that his legs hurt. His mother took him off the horse and brought him home, to find second-degree burns on both legs. Turns out, according to people in the neighborhood, teenagers were seen pouring something from plastic tonic bottles on the horse. Police are speculating that what was used was a chemical compound whose main ingredient is Drano (called a "Drano Bomb" in the patois of the streets).

How horribly disturbing such a thing is. There was a certain intention to harm a small child by this action. The perpetrators deserve significant jail time if caught.

Happy 85th Birthday To Paul Harvey!

The Pats Will Face Lawyer Milloy and the Buffalo Bills This Sunday
The boneheadedness of this roster move continues to astonish me and just about everyone else. One is reminded about what Bill Lee said at the trade of Bernie Carbo. "They tell us we are family. Well, they just sold one of the kids."

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Just Received the Latest Catalog From The Video Collection
Not my favorite video catalog. But I was paging through it the other day and happened to come across its description of Brideshead Revisited.

"A middle-class Oxford student experiences a glimpse of the glamorous, priviliged world of the upper classes at a classmate's magnificent family estate."

Where do you start with a description like that?

I just re-read Brideshead over the weekend, an annual back-to-school ritual, so the answers are right on my tongue.

Is Charles middle-class? No. His father's family is undoubtably gentry. His father was a younger son. His uncle and his family got the family estate, where the Ryders spend Christmas every year. This unequal division of property between children was not just customary, but necessary in order to preserve a family's wealth from generation to generation.

Charles' father may have done very well for himself in marriage, perhaps snapping up a moderate heiress. Or his father may have made an uncharacteristically generous settlement on his younger son. It is plain that they have plenty of money. Edward Ryder makes a generous allowance for Charles at Oxford, and spends his time doing nothing but buying up antiquities. Their Bayswater household keeps not just a maid or two to clean, but a butler. Bayswater may not be Mayfair or Belgravia, but it isn't too far from them socially. It isn't Wimbledon. The Ryders are gentlemen, and when his father dies, Charles will most likely inherit the London house and a substantial estate. They are closer in social status to Jane Austen's main characters, the Bennetts and the Dashwoods, except they have more money.

They are not of the same social standing as the Flytes. But they are not beneath their notice, as a "middle class" family would have been. If they had been, Charles would not have been welcomed into their circle so readily.

We have already pointed out that the Ryders have a family estate, too. It is the home of Cousin Jasper and his father and mother. It is no doubt no equal to Brideshead, and Sebastian is a bit condescending and impatient with Charles' curiousity on this point. But Ryder is familiar with country house life, just not on the scale of the Flytes.

Calling Sebastian Charles' "classmate" is a bit misleading, too. They may be in the same year, but are in different colleges and different schools. But for Sebastian puking into Charles open window one night, and making a grand apology, they might never have met.

But the most glaring thing wrong with this description is what it does not say. The novel is about the Faith; losing it, getting it back, coming to it anew. It is undoubtably the best Catholic novel of the last century. Not a word about that in that description.

It is also about the destruction of civilization by barbarians raised within (Hooper). Nothing about that there, either. The lament from Jeremiah used in the Maundy Thursday Tenebrae "Quomodo sedet sola civitas..." is not uttered twice in the novel for no reason.

I suppose the catalog description is better than one I read somewhere once: "It's about two gay guys at Oxford, and one of them has a teddy bear." But not much better.

The Hawthorne Hotel Just Bought the Publick House In Sturbridge
The former congressman (liberal Democrat, of course) Mike Harrington and his wife have owned the historic Hawthorne Hotel here in Salem for quite a while, with rather indifferent reviews. Now they have bought the Publick House in Sturbridge. Let us hope the Publick House is retained as a separate entity with its own unique atmosphere, rather than becoming a branch of the Hawthorne, which is nice, but too trendy (and spendy).

The Publick House does more with uniquely New England foods and period recipes than the Hawthorne does. I've also had rather poor reviews from friends who have stayed at the Hawthorne. A grand place, they say, but in need of renovation and modernization of the guest rooms (including adding air conditioning). Let's hope that the Harringtons are not planning to let the Publick House slide as they have the Hawthorne.

You can tell Harrington is a Democrat because his reaction to the building of another hotel in Salem was not, "Come on in, the water's fine. I'll beat any competition. And the more hotel space available in Salem, the greater the overnight tourist traffic will become." No, he went to court to try to prevent the other hotel, now under construction next to Pickering Wharf, from being built. Just like a Democrat: no notion of making the pie bigger and getting a bigger slice for himself in the process. No, for a liberal Democrat, the pie will always stay the same size, and any competition will just cut into his slice. That's how they understand business and the economy, so it should not surprise us that, when a liberal goes into business, he would carry that attitude with him.

Best Take-Down Yet of The Da Vinci Code
From Sandra Meisel at Crisis.

Catholic Home Schools Week At Recta Ratio
OK, I've been a little dilatory on the topic. School starts today, so I'll try to make up for it. First of all, you can look at the postings in my Archive for the first week in September, 2002 for a start on Catholic homeschooling.

I should start off with a link to the Baltimore Catechism On Line, a wonderful pedagogical tool.

Check out the website of Traditions of Roman Catholic Homes (TORCH), a national network with many suggestions for Catholic homeschooling families. I looked at the chapter links, and found nothing here in New England. I'm guessing that is because of complacency with "Catholic" parochial education.

Also, try Keeping It Catholic, also known as the Faith, Family, and Home Education Network. It has some suggestions on what to look out for (Red Flags) in homeschooling catalogs. There is an excellent listing of links to articles on Catholic homeschooling.

There is the Seton Program for a good-all-in one curriculum.

Laura Berquist is a pioneer in the field, whose recommendations are worth examining.

For materials, check out Emmanuel Books, among a growing number of sources.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

David Warren Decides To Cross the Tiber
Remember him and all of those considering jumping ship from the Anglican Communion in your prayers.

Thanks to Mark Shea for the link.

Patriots Release Lawyer Milloy
Because he is making too much money. How insane. So, I guess we are officially about to start a "building for the future" season, rather than trying to win it all this year with the best possible team we could field. That is the only explanation possible for this self-defeating move.

As I Said Recently, This Guy Should Never Walk Free, Until He Is Too Decrepit To Pull A Trigger

You Can Now List What You Like and Dislike About your Parish In Blog Form
What a great idea! This is a real service to Catholics who are travelling. Contribute to the database.

While Fabian Is Lurking to Our Southward Another Great Wind Bag Blows From South Carolina
Kerry's announcement speech was an extraordinarily mendacious collection of Bush bashing, pimping for every liberal special interest group (I heard appeals to those who favor discrimination on the basis of race, feminists, abortionists, gays, environmental whackos, organized labor, state-controlled health-care advocates, the anti-gun folks, and the ACLU).

It was also extraordinarily long. Kerry has picked up Bill Clinton's worst speaking habit, undisciplined speeches, the inability to leave anything out. Part of that is because of the nature of the Democrat Party, a collection of single-issue groups, each of which must be courted. But part of it is just lack of discipline and poor writing.

The man stepped on his applause lines so often, it was laughable. The tepid applause his hand-picked crowd of reliable partisans managed at what he obviously considered his most important points was also telling.

And as I said earlier, whoever decided to put in the background an antiquated and retired aircraft carrier had rocks in his head. It opened Kerry up (not that his anti-war rhetoric did not do so enough) to exactly the quip I made earlier: that with Democrat defense policies in place, the USS Yorktown would still be in frontline service. When you are a member of a party that has fought against every effort to increase defense spending for the last thirty years, and against the reasonable application of force in our foreign policy, you ought to take care to have yourself photograhed with state-of-the-art stuff behind you, and point out that you voted for it. The USS Yorktown, if I recall correctly, was built during World War II as a replacement for the carrier of the same name sunk at Midway.

Kerry, Dean, et al. have no hope on foreign policy short of some major disaster. A country at war will not turn out an incumbent President who has led us to victories, and has a plan to get us to complete triumph. People don't like the daily butcher's bill in Afghanistan and Iraq. It makes them uneasy. But we have a volunteer military who can shoot back at their attackers without political interference, and we continue to round up or otherwise account for Saddam's leading cronies.

Security? Ashcroft may be a tempting punching bag, but most people are proud of the job he is doing, and would not change a thing, other than to be even more rigorous. If polls were to govern our conduct, we'd be lobotomizing or executing the vermin down at Gitmo. Ashcroft has been moderate. People see that airline security is still a joke, but have hopes for increased numbers of sky marshals (the stupid idea of cutting funding for the program having been jettisoned).

With the stock market up for a seventh consecutive month, it appears the Democrats have little hope on the economy. Bush inherited a recession from Clinton. September 11th made it much worse. We have climbed out of the hole, slowly, and are just starting to see the economic engine rev again. Only another major terrorist attack on the US mainland will derail the economy. And that is something to watch out for, since the enemy will obviously try something like that to influence the outcome of the election.

The environment? Please. Most people in the Northeast 9and Alaska) want to see ANWAR open to selective oil drilling, as well as the Gulf Coast. The more domestic oil, the better.

Does Kerry seriously think there is a constituency beyond the fever swamps of the Democrat primaries for promises that all federal judges will be pro-abortion?

And Bush is fairly popular. His leadership in the early days of the war is fondly remembered. He is well-liked personally. People have been concerned about the economy, and Bush did not help himself here by delaying the greatest benefits from his tax cuts to the "out years." As tax benefits are deferred into the future, economic activity is also deferred to reap the maximum benefit, a lesson that should have been learned in 1981. But with the economy turning around, that concern will abate.

Yes, Bush has some vulnerabilities. But even with a wife who can throw megabucks into his campaign war chest and not miss it, Kerry is not the man to unseat the President. There may not be anyone (even "Hilary!") who could do that in 2004. This poll released today shows Bush secure against any Democrat candidate. And let us hope things continue that way.

Hurricane Fabian May Stop By
Hurricanw watchers are keping their eyes on Fabian, now near the Leeward Islands with winds near Category 4, which might pay us a visit next weekend. The current projected track will take it well out to our east, but we would still get quite a backlash of wind and rain from it.

Let's hope it finds out cold North Atlantic waters inhospitable.

John Forbes Heinz Kerry Makes It Official
He's a weenie.

Ooops. Wrong announcement.

He's running for President. That's the right one.

In fact he staged his announcement in front of the retired aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. That is very appropriate. If Kerry's preferences on defense priorities had been followed for the last 20 years, the USS Yorktown, now a musuem, would still be in front-line service and probably our most advanced naval technology.

First Classes Today At Ave Maria Univesity's New Florida Campus
Thanks to Amy Welborn for the link.

J.R.R. Tolkien Died 30 Years Ago Today
The man whose works continue to give so much pleasure to so many died on this date in 1973.

We watched the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring again over the weekend. I'm waiting for the deluxe version of the DVD to hit the market before buying The Two Towers.

For more Tolkien stuff than you could possibly want to look at, check out the Tolkien Society's website.

Archdiocese Selling Property That Housed Accused Pervert Priests
The property is in Milton, sits on 12.3 acres, and has an assessed value of $2.2 million. But the property is not being sold to raise money for a settlement with pervert priest victims. It is vacant, and was sold two years ago to the priests' retirement trust fund. The sale is to raise capital for that trust fund.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Requiescat In Pace
Just read that Charles Bronson died of pneumonia at the age of 81. Another of the surviving links to the golden age of the cinema has fallen over. Bronson's movies included The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Battle of the Bulge, The Dirty Dozen, The Mechanic, The Valachi Papers, and Death Wish. Requiescat in pace.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Catholic Home Schools Week At Recta Ratio
This is the traditional start of the school year here in Greater Boston. I know some places go back in late August, and others later in September. But they don't usually have February Vacations. Since this is the traditional start of the school year, I thought we'd start Catholic Home Schools Week here today. With luck, every day this week I will post links and suggestions that may be helpful for parents who are already homeschooling, or are considering it.

Since it is the middle of a holiday weekend, and not too many people are reading blogs, except for Mark Shea's ghost threads, I'll start our discussion of Catholic Home Schooling with re-running my essay of last year on the case against the parochial schools.

The Case Against Parochial Schools
At first glance, the case for Catholic home schooling seems to be less strong than that for protestant parents. The Catholic Church has reconciled itself to most aspects of modern science. The fact that evolution is taught in science class is not a major concern for Catholics, because ours is not a strictly literal interpretation of Scripture. Unlike our protestant friends, we have a school system of our own providing a better educational product than the public schools, and at less cost. But after one surveys the education products available, the conclusion must be reached that home schooling is not just viable, but necessary for some Catholic families.

Let us start with the relative decline of the parochial schools. This is an issue I recognize with reluctance, as I am a product of one, and my wife teaches in one. Nevertheless, the parochial schools, at least in the areas I am familiar with, are not what they were 30 years ago. The decline is due to several factors working in combination.

Most noticeable is the decline in the teaching orders, and the laicization of the parochial school teacher. The numbers of women in orders has declined precipitously since I was in school. Then, there were still 3-4 nuns per school. Now, there are many parochial schools where the entire faculty and administration (which in a parochial school consists of a principal and a secretary, with maybe a school nurse) is made up of lay people. If there is a nun on the staff, she is probably the principal. Moreover, the orders that are in the schools are among the most liberal in the Church (the School Sisters of Notre Dame spring to mind).

Now lay teachers are wonderfully dedicated folks, working at a relative loss in the parochial schools. Many of them are very good teachers. But they bring with them the same fallacious theories of education and attitudes that public school teachers have. Some have been wise enough to let the nonsense go in one ear, and out the other. But many have come to think of things like outcome-based education, bi-lingualism, multiculturalism, the whole language method, and self-esteem generation masquerading as education as natural and correct. Specific liberal attitudes absorbed in college are very common among parochial school teachers. Democrat registration is probably just marginally less than in the public schools.

Unlike nuns, most lay teachers are not outside the culture. Some, again, manage to rise above that. But for most of the younger teachers, TV shows like Friends are a good representation of reality. Their sense of morality is compromised by inculturation. With the post-modern culture comes relativistic morality. Very few people are detached enough from an immoral culture to be truly good exemplars for students. Thank heavens so many are in the parochial schools. But I do not think they make up a majority of parochial school teachers. I also think their numbers are bound to decline.

So, with increased employment of professional laity in the teaching role, multiculturalism, whole language, and other unsound accepted verities of the teaching profession have entered the parochial schools. The last issue of Today's Catholic Teacher my wife brought home had a cover story on teaching compassion for animals and the environment (not in and of itself bad, but given much more emphasis than it warrants, especially a few weeks before the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on our country). In August of 2002, Greg Popcak related a very annoying story about an 8th grade parochial school science class being directed to get in touch with Native American animal spirit guides by chanting and burning incense.

Going hand-in-hand with the increased role of the laity in parochial schools is a decline in genuine efforts to teach the Faith. Parochial (and CCD) religious instruction materials are watered down to the point where they convey only the message that Jesus was nice, and that good boys and girls should be nice like Jesus. References to the harsher realities of the Faith, like sin, Hell, and Satan, have been de-emphasized or omitted. The excellent instruction method of the Baltimore Catechism has long been abandonded for touchy-feely texts that do little to inculcate a knowledge of the Faith. The emphasis has been taken off knowing how the Church works and how the conscience should be governed to just doing nice things.

Also discipline is not what it was, even in the relatively lax period I was educated in. By the time I was in school, corporal punishment had disappeared. But students often got a good wigging for any transgressions. They were kept after school. Parents were called. Uniform codes were rigidly enforced. Silence in class was the expected, and vitally important norm. Students were expected to comport themselves like young ladies and gentlmen. Now, uniform codes are in the sights of "progressive" teachers and administrators. No one is kept after school, because that would be "unfair to the parents." Teachers who give students the reaming they richly deserve are dismissed for being "angry." The noise level in many classrooms, during lessons, is remarkable. The teachers who are inclined to do anything about this are treated as pariahs by their collegues and by the administration.

Not surprisingly, academic achievement has declined as well. Just a few years ago, parochial schools had a decisive advantage over their public counterparts in various objective measures of achievment. But the public schools in many places have been narrowing the gap. Charter schools, Latin schools, required passage of certain standardized tests, tougher standards for teacher certification, and in some places even dress codes and uniforms are slowly having an effect in improving the end product of public education. Meanwhile, the parochial schools are trending the other way, against dress codes and uniforms, and against traditional methods of instruction. The result is that the once-decisive advantage of the parochial schools is being eroded.

This is a brief, and by no means exhaustive statement, of the case against utilizing the parochial schools. I am not saying that the parochial schools are now just as bad as the public schools. But things are trending that way. I suspect that the trends will continue. Things may not be quite this bad in all respects where you are. But the fact that it is this bad in some places is a powerful incentive for parents to seek an alternative. For many, that alternative is home schooling.

They Are Still Out There, Folks
A priest from the Sunshine Coast says the crucifix ought not to be the symbol of Christianity.

All that suffering and dying is just too unpleasant for people today. They seem to want a bloodless sacrifice of one for all, a sacrifice in name only, not in reality. The Mass is the unbloody sacrifice they want. But to get that, there had to be an original blood sacrifice. But even being reminded of that is too much for our oh-so-sensitive people and priests of today.

The BC Opener Was Not Pretty
A 32-28 loss to Wake Forest. May be a long year on the Heights.

American Priest Who Began Long-Term Affair With A Girl At Age 14 Holds Vatican Diplomatic Post
The affair continued for years, into the girl's early 20s. The Vatican was made aware of the allegations. One source said the priest could never be promoted to ambassador because of it. Since he is not in a parish assignment, his official contact with young people is rather limited.

I'm a bit torn here. I'll stipulate that the guy is not a pervert, but was acting from normative sexual impulses. Even though a 14, 15, 16 year old girl might be attractive, an adult has to have enough restraint to stay away. And a priest is under a double obligation to do so because of not just his vows, but because of the trust reposed in him by his parishioners. It is not the same as a guy off the street having the hots for a teenage girl. There, there is just the sin of fornication (possibly seduction) and the crime of statutory rape. Here, the sin is multi-layered. The only thing missing is the usual unnatural acts, as the object of his abuse was a girl.

There are also other disturbing things going on with this guy. The idea that diplomatic immunity allows him to not pay for things, or ignore traffic tickets is extremely off-putting. One is reminded of the Lethal Weapon movie where the evil South African diplomat, when he runs out of ammo in his gun batle with Gibson & Glover, just says, "Diplomatic immunity," and expects to get away with his crimes.

What do you do? Well, you keep him away from teenagers or younger shildren in his duties, and keep an eye on him, at least. Is it necessary to defrock? If there is a single other instance of verifiable sexual abuse, yes. Otherwise, he needs to have his wings clipped by the Holy See, and be kept under the strictest watch. Maybe he should be stripped of his diplomatic immunity, and consigned to a very strict monastery for a few years. That might teach him to curb his appetites and his "I can get away with this because I'm special" attitude. And if he does not agree to go to such a place, he can lose all of his pension benefits. That has a wonderful way of concentrating the mind and assuring cooperation.

Fall In the Air
The temperature was in the 50s this morning. The leaves of the linden tree across the street are starting to turn yellow around the edges, as if on cue.

Ghost Stories
Mark Shea has been having fun with growing threads on ghost stories here and here, prompting Mark Sullivan to post a story he wrote about a haunting in Lowell. Scroll through Shea's two threads for Rod Dreher's postings. The man appears to be some sort of magnet for ghostly happenings.

I have a story about another haunting in Lowell, and one at a rectory in Malden, but I'm saving them until closer to Halloween.

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