In order to reach a verdict, at least five of the six jurors had to agree. The jury voted unanimously that the Port Authority was negligent. It found the authority 68 percent at fault for the bombing, while the terrorists who carried it out were 32 percent at fault.In other news, a jury found Ford's Theatre to be 62 percent at fault for Lincoln's assassination, while John Wilkes Booth was 38 percent at fault.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Monday, October 17, 2005
Saturday, October 15, 2005
It also would help if just once, in his memoir, he didn't claim that he had made every call correctly. If it had been written in Lincoln's time, there would have been a passage where he writes, "I strongly opposed the choice of Ford's Theater, as the strong sentiment of the southern actors was well known. Unfortunately, my warning fell on deaf ears."
His treatment of Clinton's Mogadishu omits key facts that he must be aware of. It's utterly dishonest to say that Clinton is criticized for the deaths of 18 American soldiers. Rather, the criticism is that Clinton's response was to say, "Absolutely no more casualties. Let's formally recognized the man we were trying to arrest -- pick him up in a limousine instead of chains." Whether or not that criticism is fair, the reader deserves to hear it stated correctly before it can be rejected or accepted.
His treatment of the Millennium plot ignores the fact that NONE of his preparedness exercises were responsible for catching the LAX bomber -- it was a complete fluke, a customs official at the border deciding to pull a nervous guy out of the line, a man who then panicked and fled. Had he played it cool, LAX would have been bombed. Interestingly, Clarke's hero Sandy Berger was just convicted of illegal removing and destroying the after-action reports on the Millennium plot. A wild guess is that they painted Berger and Clarke's efforts as insufficient.
Clarke is never bothers to meet his opponents objections. He mischaracterizes arguments about the Iraq terrorism connection (arguments that he himself is on record making in the late 90's, when he claimed that the al-Shifa plant in the Sudan was making chem weapons with much help from the Iraqis). He gratuitously slanders Laurie Mylroie by totally misstating her theory about an Iraq connection to the first WTC bombing.
You'd have to go back to the Nixon Administration and its aftermath to find someone so intent on covering his ass and denying the obvious fact about his legacy.
Clarke depicts himself consistently as the smartest guy in the room in any situation. A small ego he does not have. No mean feat, considering he failed in his main responsibility for 9 years.
On the positive side, you do get an occasionally interesting behind-the-scenes look at U.S. counter-terrorism policy.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Friday, September 30, 2005
Carter recalled . . . a young Ethiopian girl’s eagerness to demonstrate that she, like her brother, could use the small latrine their father had made for them.Hat Tip: Jim Taranto
"She spread her skirt out very carefully and she squatted down to relieve herself." Carter said.
Carter added jokingly, "We took some pictures of it."
Friday, September 16, 2005
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Did you escape the hurricane without your birth control? As a courtesy to women fleeing Hurricane Katrina, we will offer one free cycle (one month) of birth control or one free Emergency Contraception kit to women presenting to a PPHSET clinic with a valid Louisiana or Mississippi driver's license. We also are offering one depo injection at a total fee of $41.00 (we are waiving the office visit charge, and offering the depo at a 50% discount). This offer is good until September 10th.
Hat tip: The Corner.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Friday, August 19, 2005
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Al Qaeda's leader in Saudi Arabia was killed Thursday during clashes with police in the western city of Medina, the Interior Ministry said.Hat tip: In the Bullpen.
Saleh Mohammed al-Aoofi was among six al Qaeda militants reported killed Thursday during police raids on numerous locations in the holy city of Medina and the capital, Riyadh, security officials told The Associated Press.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
WASHINGTON - The Iranian prosecutor responsible for jailing Akbar Ganji hinted that he would pursue prosecution of family members of the dissident journalist.Ganji is in the 69th day of his hunger strike.
As a matter of law, public schools may constitutionally teach Bible courses, as this opinion demonstrates:
[I]t might well be said that one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment. (Abington School Dist. v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963)).Note that the study of the Bible (either on its own or as part of a general discussion of religion) is specifically approved here. The Abington precedent has been cited as allowing the Bible to be studied for literary and historic qualities in later Supreme Court decisions (e.g., Epperson v. Arkansas, 1968 and Stone v. Graham, 1980). Mike asserts: "The Supreme Court (the folks we hire to interpret the Constitution) has ruled fairly consistently the government (i.e. public schools) cannot endorse one religion over another. A class teaching the Koran (Quoran) with no other classes teaching the texts of other religions available, would be just as biased and unlawful." There is much in the existing jurisprudence that is not based in the text, legislative history, or intent of the Constitution, but even the Court has ruled in these cases that mere teaching of the Bible as literature or history does not in and of itself constitute an establishment of religion. Is there a SCOTUS precedent that requires schools to teach the Koran as literature if the Bible is taught as literature? If so, is there a mandate to the Bhagavad Gita be taught as literature/history? What about L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics -- must that be taught as literature/history?
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
U.S. troops raiding a warehouse in the northern city of Mosul uncovered a suspected chemical weapons factory containing 1,500 gallons of chemicals believed destined for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces and civilians, military officials said Saturday.
Monday's early morning raid found 11 precursor agents, "some of them quite dangerous by themselves," a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, said in Baghdad.
Combined, the chemicals would yield an agent capable of "lingering hazards" for those exposed to it, Boylan said. The likely targets would have been "coalition and Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi civilians," partly because the chemicals would be difficult to keep from spreading over a wide area, he said.
Boylan said the suspected lab was new, dating from some time after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. . . .
BEIJING - A Shanghai online game player who stabbed a competitor to death for selling his cyber-sword has been given a suspended death sentence, which in effect means life imprisonment, state media said on Wednesday.
The case had created a dilemma in China where no law exists for the ownership of virtual weapons.
Qiu Chengwei, 41, stabbed competitor Zhu Caoyuan in the chest after he was told Zhu had sold his "dragon sabre", used in the popular online game, "Legend of Mir 3," the China Daily said.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Thursday, August 11, 2005
A collection of speeches, papers, and letters collected by his students for his 75th birthday, it examines the relationship between theology, faith, ecclesiology, and sacrament. It reveals a man who strives to be ecumenical in the most serious way -- who seeks real dialogue, which requires all participants to be as honest and searching about their beliefs and to accord dignity and respect to other interlocutors. This collection includes gracious letter exchanges with Orthodox Metropolitan Damaskinos of Switzerland and with Lutheran Provincial Bishop Johannes Hanselmann of Bavaria.
In the course of the works cited, Ratzinger deals in depth with these and other questions: What is theology, what is its relation to faith, and how can her methods lay claim to providing knowledge? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in ecclesiology, in our understanding of the Church? What is the relation between Communion as Eucharist and communion as Christian fellowship, and how does christology shape ecclesiology? What role to lay movements serve in the Church? How does the Church go about remembering and atoning for sins?
If there is a common theme, it is the primacy communion -- a vision of God as triune communion, a vision of the Universal Church with many local churches in communion, a vision of the ecumenical movement as a striving to realize Christian communion as a gift from God, a vision of sacraments as visible signs of communion. Also interesting is what he declares communion not to be. Specifically, it is not to be taken as a cover for blanket centralization of ecclesiastical authority in Rome.
It's a good read. A comparison with Wojtyla's style is perhaps inevitable. Ratzinger's writing is perhaps more pragmatic and concise, less grandiose. There's a quiet precision and grace here. Ratzinger seems like a quiet, patient teacher, a somewhat self-effacing man with a penetrating mind. It's an excellent way for Catholics to begin to learn their new pope's mind. It's a great book for other Christians who want an insight into how ecumenism fits into Pope Benedict's theological views. It's also a good book for non-Christians who wonder how the Church sees itself.
Please read the full report at www.tfn.org to learn why this particular curriculum is bad for our public schools.People interested in this issue should indeed read the full report. To start with, though, let's keep in mind that this curriculum is not currently for "our public schools." The issue is at hand is for the people of Odessa, Texas. Educational decisions are made at the level of the local school board. Standards and requirements are mandated at the state level. It's not clear why people outside Odessa should make this decision. The Texas Freedom Network should direct their efforts to the people involved.
Dr. Mark A. Chancey, professor of biblical studies at Southern Methodist University, wrote the full report, commissioned by TFN. Upon reading his report several things become apparent:
- The curriculum does seem to have defects and biases. Anyone who is remotely familiar high school texts knows that this is not news. Finding a good curriculum in any subject is a challenge.
- Chancey is not above using ad hominem criticisms. At the outset we learn that the "Advisory Committee's more than 50 members include many well-known figures associated with the religious right and conservative organizations." This is irrelevant.
- Several times Chancey strays from his field (biblical studies) into Constitutional law. One of the endorsers that Chancey dismisses is Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University. Rather than a simple endorsement, George has written a legal brief that finds that the curriculum passes constitutional muster. Interested parties are urged to read this as well.
- Chancey spends a lot of time criticizing works referred to, even though the curriculum explicitly disavows any claim of accuracy for these works. There's more than a smidgen of guilt by association in the report.
- The vast bulk of Chancey's report finds inaccuracies and limitations. Nowhere does he demonstrate religious indoctrination, and he is not an authority on matters of law.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Mickey Kaus, in his Kausfiles blog on Slate, sees this as vindication for the utility of mining publicly available data in a search for terrorists. He cites Heather Mac Donald's excellent piece last year in City Journal:
Mr. Weldon has long been a champion of the kind of data-mining analysis that was the basis for the work of the Able Danger team.
The former intelligence official spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he did not want to jeopardize political support and the possible financing for future data-mining operations by speaking publicly. He said the team had been established by the Special Operations Command in 1999, under a classified directive issued by Gen. Hugh Shelton, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to assemble information about Al Qaeda networks around the world.
It’s okay for Home Depot to buy my digitized credit-card receipts, says the privacy "community," to see whether I would be a soft touch for a riding mower. But if government agents want to see who has purchased explosive-level quantities of fertilizer, they should go store to store, checking credit-card receipts. Data-mining opponents would deny terror investigators a technology in common use in the commercial sector, simply because they think government should be kept inefficient to limit its power, a Luddite's approach to public policy. Remember: data mining would only speed government access to records to which it is already legally entitled. When a technology offers possibly huge public benefits, the rational answer to the fear of its abuse is to use technology to build in safeguards.Kaus concludes:
It's nice to see Mickey Kaus continue to uphold the banner of common sense at Slate, undoubtedly a lonely and thankless task. Restrictions on manipulating publicly available data when pursuing terrorists is just plain barmy.
It's been obvious for a while that we're going to match the terrorists in the cyberspace race we'll have to give up some of our privacy. Letting a government supercomputer scan my credit card receipts and Amazon searches seems a relatively inoffensive place to start.** It beats torturing people. ...
** Don't forget my library books! (Do you have an expectation of privacy when you check out a book from ... the government? I don't.)
Monday, August 08, 2005
Hat Tip: The Corner
George W. Bush invaded Iraq so that Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Republicans could oppress Iraqis.
George W. Bush had Michael Jackson arrested so that SUV owners could oppress welfare recipients.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
In our bookcases, these are the largest non-reference books:
By "biggest," we're not looking for number of words. We're looking for weight. Heft. Something you'd drop on invaders while defending a castle.
- Name your three biggest non-reference books (excluding the Bible and text books).
- Name your three biggest reference books.
- Tag three others.
- William Shakespeare: The Complete Works (The Oxford Shakespeare) (Hardcover)
by William Shakespeare, Stanley Wells (Editor), Gary Taylor (Editor), John Jowet (Editor), William Montgomery (Editor)
- The Lord of the Rings (50th Anniversary Edition) (Leather Bound)
by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II
by Fernand Braudel, single volume abridgement. (Mrs. Thumos's Ph.D. thesis ties for third, as does Mortimer Adler's Great Ideas).
- CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics
- History of Italian Renaissance Art
by Frederick Hartt, et al.
- Collegeville Bible Commentary, Hardcover
Friday, August 05, 2005
Often the spiritual figures who are held up are very extreme--for example, Mother Teresa. People can admire her, but it’s very difficult to be her. So I think people are searching for models who are closer to who they are, are searching for people like Bridget who is clearly in love with the world in every which way.You can't see or hear us now, but we're tittering. It gets better:
Q: Speaking of vices, why is sex spiritual?So, let's make sure that we understand this. Christian practice should legitimize our activities and gratifications. We need a Christ and a Cross that fit comfortably into our fornication. Just wanted to be clear on that.
Because we make it that way. Bridget and her friends, and everyone on Sex and the City, and all these other women characters in chick lit novels are all having sex outside marriage. So one of the things I was looking to do was to figure out, How do we incorporate this experience into our spiritual lives? Because people tend to divorce their sex life and their spiritual life, since religion teaches that marriage is the only legitimate place for sex.
Later, Freitas gushes over Elaine Pagels (of course):
I admire Elaine Pagels’ understanding of authority and the fact that we need to remember that we’re the authors of our own authority. There’s a self that’s implied there. You can give yourself authority. You have the authority to believe in someone. Can we stand with our own sense of authority and affirm sexuality as a spiritual thing? There is tons of literature within religious traditions that affirms sexuality. There’s erotic poetry, there’s all kinds of wonderful things about sexuality and marriage. One of the things I think we need to do is take that poetry, take that work done on marriage about the importance of sexuality and open that up beyond marriage to apply to our sex lives outside of marriages.Oh, thank goodness Dr. Freitas is looking out for us. Somehow, we're not truly affirming the goodness of sexuality unless we're affirming the goodness of adultery. For Freitas, the traditions of Christian spirituality (she cites Augustine, Hildegaard, Julian of Norwich, and Mother Teresa) were fine in their time, but we need something hipper and sexier. Maybe anonymous sex at a health spa. She tries so hard to be hip, but she's so square (baby I don't care).
As you can probably guess, Freitas is a professor of spirituality and religion somewhere.
Hat tip: libertyWatch
Thursday, August 04, 2005
A couple of things are clear -- even though Roberts participation as an advocate indicates nothing about his beliefs, this will undercut claims that he is an ideologue who cannot see beyond his preferences and beliefs. It also may make conservatives uneasy (Scalia wrote a scathing dissent in Romer). Certainly a lawyer should advocate for his client. But Ramesh Ponnuru and Mark Levin are right: the Senate confirmation hearings should feature more questions about legal philosophy and ideas, not less. Perhaps not, "how would you decide Roe today?" But something a little stronger than "would you faithfully interpret the text of the Constitution or would you make it say what you want it to say?"
Monday, August 01, 2005
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Prime Minister Tony Blair dismissed as "nonsense" yesterday the notion that his Iraq policy prompted London's terror bombings, as police confirmed the latest two suspects named in the attacks are legal East African immigrants, one of them a naturalized citizen.The reporters were, of course, being idiots, as this transcript shows:
In an often testy news conference, Blair said he wouldn't "give one inch" on Britain's deployment of troops in Iraq, despite a new poll in The Times of London finding nearly two-thirds of Britons believe that policy puts them at greater risk of attacks.
Question: The problem with that answer is you do appear to be insulting the intelligence of the British people. I mean people can accept everything that you have said, and at the same time they can feel, as indeed 64% did in a Times poll today, that your involvement with George Bush in Iraq - Britain's involvement - has increased the risk of terrorist attacks like the ones which took place in London. And that is the problem. It seems to me that when you talk about this honesty of wanting to open up this argument, by setting Iraq to one side by not dealing with ...Hmm, that's a question? That's funny, it's sounds to me like a monday morning quarterbacking by some wanker who hasn't a clue about how to fight Islamist terror but lives in a self-reinforcing BBC media bubble. Note how he cites some Times poll as proof positive that Blair is really to blame. Idiot. Blair handled it magnificently, of course. Read the whole thing.
The plot for the July 7 transit bombings in London, which killed 56 people, may have been much larger than previously known, ABC News has learned.
Sources familiar with the investigation tell ABC News an additional 12 bombs and four improvised detonators were found in the trunk of a car believed to be rented by suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer. Police believe the bombers drove the car to Luton, where they boarded trains to London.
"I believe that the explosives left in that car were left there for a second strike," said Bob Ayers, a London-based terrorism consultant with expertise in demolition. "But the metropolitan police responded so quickly, they were able to get to the car and take control of the car before the second team could get the explosives and leave."
Ms Korp - a Catholic - will have just days to live after her life support is withdrawn today. Public Advocate Julian Gardner, her legal guardian, has decided the tube should be withdrawn immediately.
Dr Tonti-Filippini told the Herald-Sun that medical evidence, from both Australia and Britain, showed that a decision to stop feeding people in Mrs Korp's condition should not be made within 12 months.
'It is far too early, on the basis of medical evidence, to have a definite prognosis,' he said. 'There is no evidence that feeding (Maria Korp) is causing any problems so the only reason for withdrawing feeding is to kill her.'
Ms Korp, 50, has been on life support in a vegetative state in the Alfred hospital since she was found in the boot of her car in February. Mr Korp will face court today in a bid to make a final visit to the wife he is accused of trying to kill.
Dr Tonti-Filippini said he fears Mr Gardner's decision might start a 'worrying trend' in treatment of people in a vegetative state.
'It is extraordinary that the official responsible for looking after disabled people is now responsible for the death of a disabled person by withdrawing ordinary and reasonable care,' he said."
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Joe Korp has arrived at Melbourne's The Alfred hospital to visit his dying wife, the woman he allegedly tried to kill. Korp arrived at the hospital about 1.50pm (AEST). He made his way into the hospital through a side entrance with a security guard between him and the media pack. Korp said nothing as he made his way to his wife, Maria Korp, 50, whom the state's Public Advocate has ordered not be given any food or hydration from today. Mrs Korp has been unconscious and in a vegetative state since she was found in the boot of her car in February.These questions are not going away.
Joe Korp, 48, faces a committal hearing on Monday on charges of attempted murder, conspiracy to murder and intentionally causing serious injury. His former lover, Tania Herman, 38, was sentenced to a minimum nine years' jail last month after pleading guilty to attempted murder Mrs Korp's life support has been stopped, says a spokesman for Victoria's Public Advocate.
Artificial nutrition and hydration have been stopped and palliative care has begun. The spokesman said the support tube would not be removed, to avoid further distress to her body. Public Advocate Julian Gardner has defended the decision to allow Mrs Korp to die, saying her physical state had deteriorated significantly. Mr Gardner, who holds the task of representing the critically injured woman's best interests, said artificial feeding was not sustaining her body, and it was naturally shutting down.
Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin acknowledged yesterday that he was the source for a newspaper column that reported earlier this week that Judge John G. Roberts Jr. said he could not rule in a Supreme Court case where U.S. law might conflict with Catholic teaching.
But the Illinois Democrat maintains that the column by George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley incorrectly captured the private conversation that the senator had with Judge Roberts in his Capitol office Friday.
When the column appeared Monday, Mr. Durbin's office clarified that "Judge Roberts said repeatedly that he would follow the rule of law."
Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral. Roberts is a devout Catholic and is married to an ardent pro-life activist. The Catholic Church considers abortion to be a sin, and various church leaders have stated that government officials supporting abortion should be denied religious rites such as communion. (Pope Benedict XVI is often cited as holding this strict view of the merging of a person's faith and public duties).Turley disapproves of Roberts's response. Turley says that Roberts should either accept his oath to uphold the law or resign. I agree, and as Turley points out, Scalia has said similar things. However, it should be pointed out that Roberts was speaking informally and off the record. Also, the terms of the hypothetical are somewhat extreme -- nothing in the text of the Constitution or subsequent amendments are contrary to Catholic doctrine. A Catholic jurist is bound to truthfully read the civil law as a matter of upholding a sacred oath. I'm somewhat disappointed that Roberts wasn't a little quicker on his feet here.
Renowned for his unflappable style in oral argument, Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself.
On his first visit to the Middle East, Ricky Martin declared he will try to change negative perceptions of Arab youth in the West.You have just heard the collective sigh of relief from Arab teens all over the world, who know that the auteur behind "Livin' La Vida Loca" will defend their reputations. No word on whether he has a plan for Arab youth who are coerced into suicide bombing. Perhaps he can explain that he never intended "She Bangs" to be taken literally.
"I promise I will become a spokesperson, if you allow me to, a spokesperson on your behalf. I will defend you and try to get rid of any stereotypes," the 33-year-old singer told youngsters from 16 mainly Arab countries at a youth conference on Monday.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's call for an ideological cease-fire in the Democratic Party drew an angry reaction yesterday from liberal bloggers and others on the left, who accused her of siding with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in a long-running dispute over the future of the party.Read more . . .The cost of admission to the political center has apparently dropped in recent years. Governor Clinton had to publicly repudiate hate-mongering rapper Sister Souljah. This was after years of working with the DLC. Now, apparently all you have to do is think fond thoughts of the DLC, and the Left will call you a party traitor.
Of course, all this is mere theater. Associating with the DLC will not prevent Senator Clinton from getting the Democratic nomination in 2008. And if she gets it, there's no way in hell that the Left will abandon her. Kos and MoveOn.org know this. They are, with a wink and a nod, engaging in a kabuki dance with Clinton to give her some plausibility when she runs in '08. If she's the nominee, they'll say, "Look at these Republicans! Still calling Hillary a liberal, even though we're holding our noses while we vote for her."
Hat Tip: Is It Just Me?
"The written informed consent of a minor's parent or legal guardian... must be obtained prior to providing body waxing on or near the genitalia."Oh, that those geniuses on the Senate judiciary committee who find the abortion license to be the hallmark of civilization (Schumer, Kennedy, Specter) would explain to the American people why, in their reading, the Constitution mandates that state governments cannot keep 14 year-olds from killing unborn children over the objections of their parents, but those same governments are empowered to use their legislative powers to fight the scourge of under-age Brazilian waxes. Yet another visible example of the manifest idiocy of Roe jurisprudence.
If Blunt signs the bill -- which he's fully expected to do -- budding bikini-wearers interested in ripping the pubic hair from their nether-regions will have to convince Mom or Dad to sign off.
"That's so a child under the age of eighteen can't go in and do a complete Brazilian wax without parental consent," explains Darla Fox, executive director of the Missouri State Board of Cosmetology, which proposed the law.
Can I get a penumbra, sumbuddy!? Thank yuh!
Hat tip: El Borak's Myopia
Again, recall that this same Rendell also said, "It's not the business of state government to support the war." This is a man who very much wants to have his cake and eat it, too.
Q: Doctor Navarro, even though you look very good for your age, you are 69 years old. Do you feel the sadness of declining?It's an excellent interview, with his experiences with both popes, and many personal reminiscences. Check it out.
A: "My reaction to growing old is rather one of surprise. Good grief, I say, I'm no longer capable of the great mastery in tennis that once was laughably easy. Am I perhaps out of training? No, I’m just getting old."
Q: And this doesn't make you afraid?
A: "Not at all. I look at the limitations of our culture, which experiences old age as an insult. Once the child making his first communion was dressed as an adult. Now the adults dress like children, and they are ridiculous. But the wonderful way in which the pope grew old may have been a corrective. He taught that life leads to death, but that this is not the final end of life."
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Read the rest. Hat tip: In The Bullpen
But even though Mr. Rendell said "our state supports the men and women who are fighting this war," he echoed Knoll's ghastly war remark: "It's not the business of state government to support the war."This is coming from a man who sought to eliminate ballots received late (not filled out late) from service men and women fighting in Iraq. He's also fighting to keep military bases open in his state.
And he's up for re-election in 2006. 'Nuff said.
Hat tip: Moonbattery
Asked by reporters whether Islam could be considered a religion of peace shortly before entering a meeting with priests and deacons of Valle d'Aosta in northwest Italy where he is spending a brief holiday, the pontiff refused to reply positively.I like this pope. There was no insult to Muslims, but no papering over the reality of Islam in the world today, either. Pope Benedict went on to urge Muslims to renounce violence, spare civilian populations, and embrace peace. How many imams have done the same?
"I would not like to use big words to apply generic labels," he replied. "It certainly contains elements that can favor peace, it also has other elements: We must always seek the best elements."
Hat tip: Undiscovered Country
Addressing Italian faithful on Sunday, Benedict deplored the "death, destruction and suffering in countries including Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Britain," and asked God to "stay the hands of assassins ... driven on by fanaticism and hate." Israel's Foreign Ministry said it summoned the Vatican ambassador to ask why the sermon had not mentioned a July 12 suicide bombing by the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad that killed five Israelis.According to the International Herald Tribune, the pope's spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, issued a terse defense noting that Benedict had referred in his sermon to attacks in "recent days."
"The Pope's omission of this incident cries out to the heavens," the ministry said in a statement.
"Aside from the moral stain implied therein, this cannot but be interpreted as a granting of legitimacy to the carrying out terrorist attacks against Jews," it said.
The Vatican issued a statement that said: "The Nuncio (Vatican ambassador) has already responded to the Israeli authorities." It gave no details of what was said.
"It's surprising that one would have wanted to take the opportunity to distort the intentions of the Holy Father," he said. "Obviously, the other week's grave attack in Netanya referred to by Israel falls under the general and unreserved condemnation of terrorism."
I'm sorry to see Israel and the Vatican in a disagreemen. But it's funny to see that the mainstream press merely plays up the conflict (which appears minor) but can't settle on an angle, a villain, probably because it despises both Israel and the Vatican so vehemently.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Also, a former Czech president, Vaclav Havel, has joined President Bush; a former Soviet dissident, Natan Sharansky, and European Union leaders in calling for Mr. Ganji's unconditional release from prison by the Islamic Republic. This newspaper has called Mr. Ganji, who has become a symbol of the democratic opposition in his country, the Iranian Havel. He has been on a hunger strike since June 11 in protest of his detention for urging a boycott of last month's presidential election in Iran."
The world of this novel is a place where familial relations exist, but appear as if in funhouse mirror images. The odd circumstance is that apparently almost everyone is someone's uncle. Prophet Mason Tarwater is schoolteacher Rayber's uncle. Rayber is, in turn the uncle of prophet-in-training Francis Tarwater, who has lived all his life with his great uncle Mason. These avuncular relationships approximate and seem to replace the paternal ones, but inadequately. And mothers qua mothers are absent entirely: women are only referred to in conversation, never seen in the actual novel, and the characters can only see the women who are mothers as whores or as confused women on a voyage of self-discovery. "Mother" is not in our characters' lexicon.
Reflecting this, the actions of the Tarwaters reveal a distorted and truncated trinitarianism, in which Father and Son are subsumed into the Spirit and vanish, leaving blind enthusiasm outside of relationship and fellow feeling. Similarly, Rayber is possessed of an impersonal drive to rational goodness, to the betterment of his fellow man. His uncle rejects him because he insists on holding all things and persons in the world in abstract judgment within his mind; both elder and younger Tarwaters refuse to let Rayber place them "inside his head," to reduce them from acting subjects to intellectual objects. Rayber paradoxically struggles to deny his natural affections for his retarded son Bishop. He seems capable of loving only in the abstract, indeed, to be following some rationalist maxim to stamp out the irrational wellsprings of love for his insufficiently gifted son.
It's powerful work. The first two parts in particular are tight and arresting leading to a tragic climax. The third part is somewhat cryptic. I have no idea how O'Connor intends us to take Francis Tarwater's resolution at the end of the novel, but that's a strength. This is a novel to be read again and again.
John Huston created a movie adaptation of O'Connor's first novel, Wise Blood, which I saw many years ago. Of directors working today, someone like Robert Duvall seems well-suited temperamentally and artistically for realizing O'Connor's terrifying and befuddling visions. However it happens, Flannery O'Connor's work deserves to be brought to life for another generation of viewers and readers.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Why? Was it broken? I vividly remember DST being maintained into the winter during the 1970's oil shortages. It was thought that money would be saved on office lighting. Of course, children who would have walked to school in the morning were now being driven because the sun had not yet risen. "Idiots!"
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Four "explosions or attempts at explosions" have hit three London Underground stations and a bus two weeks after the July 7 terror attacks, the city's police chief has said.Here's hoping Tony Blair keeps his famous resolve. And here's hoping that Ken Livingstone begins to see the idiocy of statements like this.
Thursday's small blasts came two weeks to the day after bombs on three Tube trains and a bus killed 52 people and the four bombers.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair said the situation was "absolutely under control." He told reporters there had been "one confirmed casualty and that is not a fatality."
While Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.'s views on abortion triggered intense debate on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, there is no mistaking where his wife stands: Jane Sullivan Roberts, a lawyer, is ardently against abortion.It will be interesting to see if and how pro-Roe Senators inject that fact into the ensuing debate. At the fundraising level, it is certain to be an issue -- it will galvanize NARAL and others into vehemently opposing Roberts.
A Roman Catholic like her husband, Jane Roberts has been deeply involved in the antiabortion movement. She provides her name, money and professional advice to a small Washington organization — Feminists for Life of America — that offers counseling and educational programs. The group has filed legal briefs before the high court challenging the constitutionality of abortion.
Feminists for Life is an excellent organization. They bring a sense of history and a holistic point of view to the women's movement for equality. They also have a college outreach program that supports young women who are pro-life in there struggles against educational bureaucracies that actively proselytize for abortion and seek to enforce ideological conformity on the issue. They are worth checking out.
Economists are supposed to be rational creatures, coolly examining numbers. Intuitively, they know that anecdotal evidence is just that. But Goldman Sachs economist Avinash Kaza suggests economists are being influenced on where they stand on inflation by where they sit - geographically, professionally, and on the income ladder. It's a variant of what Spy magazine once dubbed "personal-injury journalism," the process by which stories that directly affect editors become trend stories. Call it personal-injury economics.In summary, rich, urban people are seeing more inflation that others. There's something to this - I've seen a similar dynamic at work with people I know. New Yorkers and Long Islanders swear the official inflation numbers underestimate reality; others seem to agree with the prognosis.
Kaza set out his theory in a June 2 market comment that Barron's mentioned last weekend. The document isn't accessible to non-Goldman clients, although Kaza was kind enough to share it with Slate. In it, Kaza attributes the perception that inflation is being undermeasured to groupthink. The economists who make forecasts on inflation tend to be concentrated in and around New York; Washington, D.C.; Boston; Los Angeles; and San Francisco. They tend to be well-off and associate and work with other well-off people.
Hat tip: Paul Boutin
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Two more California women have died after taking abortion pills, and federal drug regulators say they suspect bacterial infections as the cause. As a result, the drug's label will be changed to warn women and doctors to watch out for signs of an unusual infection that is not always accompanied by fever, the Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday.
Five women in the United States have now died after taking abortion pills; four of them most likely suffered lethal bacterial infections, said Dr. Steven Galson, director of the agency's center for drugs.
Senate Judiciary Committee member Chuck Schumer got busy plotting away on the cellphone aboard a Washington, DC-New York Amtrak -- plotting Democrat strategy for the upcoming Supreme Court battle.We see Senator Schumer's priorities. Would that he were as vigilant about the real war as he is about the phony one (or about posing for publicity photos at airport security, reading from his version of "If I Ran the Homeland Security Zoo").
Schumer promised a fight over whoever the President�s nominee was: "It's not about an individual judge� It's about how it affects the overall makeup of the court."
The chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was overheard on a long cellphone conversation with an unknown political ally, and the DRUDGE REPORT was there!
Schumer proudly declared: "We are contemplating how we are going to go to war over this."
Ah, well, it couldn't happen to a nicer man. Stuart Buck relates Justice Scalia's comments on Roberts's temperament as a litigator:
For what it's worth: A few years ago, Justice Scalia said to a friend of mine that he and other Justices thought of John Roberts as far and away the best Supreme Court litigator in the country. I asked the friend why Justice Scalia said that, and (paraphrasing from my memory) the answer was something like this: "No matter how intense the questioning, Roberts is never flustered, and is always able to calmly answer any question whatsoever, while skillfully weaving in the substantive points that he wanted to make in the first place."This is going to be good.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
With his health failing and his family barred from visiting him, officials at Iran's Evin prison sent political prisoner Akbar Ganji to Tehran's Milad hospital, a decision seen by his supporters yesterday as a last-ditch effort to save the dissident journalist's life. Mr. Ganji has ingested only sugar cubes and water as part of a hunger strike begun when he was rearrested on June 11 for urging a boycott of last month's presidential elections.
Monday, July 18, 2005
Matthew Cooper, a reporter for Time magazine, said the White House senior adviser Karl Rove was the first person to tell him that the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was a C.I.A. officer, according to a first-person account in this week's issue of the magazine.The lead paragraph gives lefties their red meat: Rove outed a C.I.A. covert agent. Reading down four paragraphs, however, gives us:
Mr. Cooper said in his article that Mr. Rove did not mention the name of Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, or say that she was a covert officer. But, he wrote: "Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson's wife worked at the C.I.A. and may have been responsible for sending him? Yes. Did Rove say that she worked at the 'agency' on 'W.M.D.'? Yes.Here are some facts we never get in the article:
- The 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act defines the crime as applying only to "intentionally [disclose] . . . information identifying [a] covert agent . . . , knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States." [emphasis added]
- According to Section 426, Paragraph 4 of the U.S. Code, a covert agent for the C.I.A. would have to be stationed outside of the U.S. sometime within the previous 5 years. According to Wilson's own book, Plame has lived in the Washington with Wilson since their marriage in 1997, six years before the revelations to Cooper and Novak.
But lefties who never had any use for the CIA during the Cold War, who routinely claim that the CIA a force of evil around the world, now have the cojones call Rove "treasonous" for possibly, inadvertantly doing what they have applauded when performed by men like Phil Agee intentionally.
In a telephone interview from Tehran, a former political prisoner who was released temporarily from Evin prison at the end of June, Amir Abbas Fakhravar, told The New York Sun that Mr. Ganji's kidneys had failed and that he was seen yesterday by two fellow inmates in Evin's hospital wing laying unconscious on a floor as two guards tried to prop him up.Would it be too much to ask other major newspapers to cover this story? This might be melodramatic to say, but true nonetheless: a front page story in the New York Times or Washington Post could save this man's life and advance the cause of freedom in the Middle East a tiny but discernable bit.
"I received word this afternoon from two inmates who saw Akbar Ganji in the prison hospital and was not moving at all. Two guards were trying to get him to walk, but he was unconscious, lying on the ground and not able to walk," Mr. Fakhravar said. "He is on the verge of dying."
Ah, but there are bigger fish to fry (see post later today).
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Akbar Ganji, an Iranian journalist who since 1999 has been routinely sentenced to prison by the Iranian government for advocating free speech, is again in jail because of his political views. Through his now month-long hunger strike, Mr. Ganji is demonstrating that he is willing to die for his right to express his opinion. President Bush is saddened by recent reports that Mr. Ganji's health has been failing and deeply concerned that the Iranian government has denied him access to his family, medical treatment, and legal representation. Mr. Ganji is sadly only one victim of a wave of repression and human rights violations engaged in by the Iranian regime. His calls for freedom deserve to be heard. His valiant efforts should not go in vain. The President calls on all supporters of human rights and freedom, and the United Nations, to take up Ganji's case and the overall human rights situation in Iran. The President also calls on the Government of Iran to release Mr. Ganji immediately and unconditionally and to allow him access to medical assistance. Mr. Ganji, please know that as you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
If you can find a philosophical powerhouse who is also a member of a minority or a woman (like, say, Mary Ann Glendon), so much the better, but picking a powerhouse matters most.This is the first time I've seen Glendon's name mentioned, but it makes me very happy to see it. She is extremely intelligent, has a reputation for courtesy and commonsense (a left-leaning acquaintence of mine worked years ago in the Harvard Law School offices and commented often on Glendon's kindness and intelligence). She would make an excellent Justice. My only regret is that she wasn't nominated 12 years ago.
Brooks goes on to extol the virtues of McConnell (who I think would make an excellent Chief Justice -- maybe Bush should wait?)
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
"'While we are forced to live in a democracy with several branches of government, sometimes in a democracy the process is frustratingly slow,' Blagojevich said."
Yes, King Rod, thank you for allowing your subjects the illusion of government by consent. But as a point of information, you are not "forced to live in a democracy." We are blessed to live in a country with an extremely liberal emmigration policy. Feel free to check into it.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
A couple of nits: Levin dedicates a chapter to Marbury v. Madison, the landmark case that established the principle of judicial review early in the history of our country. This leaves the reader wondering whether Marbury itself is an example of judicial overreach -- a finding that Levin implies but doesn't state. While the idea that judicial activism became something that was destined to grow after Marbury has much to commend it, Levin should have pointed out that for a long time after Marbury, judicial review was quite limited. As Professor Robert Lowry Clinton has pointed out in First Things:
This is vital for fully understanding Levin's criticism of President George W. Bush's failure to veto the McCain-Feingold law, a law which the President claimed was unconstitutional at least in part, but about which he decided to defer to the Supreme Court. Levin and Professor Clinton both see this as a dereliction of duty, brought on by a pattern of acquiescence to judicial usurpation by both the legislative and executive branches of government.
A limited form of judicial review was already established by 1800, but only for relatively "clear cases." Marbury did not alter this, but rather established a clear precedent for the Court’s power to disregard congressional laws in cases "of a judiciary nature"—cases in which judicial functions were threatened by application of a questionable statutory provision. Marbury established only that the judiciary would play an important role in constitutional interpretation, not that it would play the ultimate role.
It's also not clear that Plessy v. Ferguson's infamous holding supporting "separate but equal" accommodations for whites and blacks result from judicial activism. It's an intriguing idea, but Levin doesn't really flesh out his argument. We really need to read the Fourteenth Amendment more closely and examine the arguments (revisiting Justice Harlan's dissent would also help).
Maybe I'm expecting too much from Levin here -- for a general audience, it may not be appropriate to get bogged down in hermeneutics. But even in the best of worlds, the Supreme Court does need to do hermeneutics, even if it does it well, that is, strictly and faithfully.
All that said, there is a lot to be learned from this, and I'm thankful to Levin for having written it.
Monday, July 11, 2005
That fear has already led to questions about why the British security agencies did not anticipate the attacks, why the wealthy nations have not done enough about the root causes of terrorism and why Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden continue to function after almost four years of the so-called war on terrorism. Many will wonder why the United States is mired in Iraq while Al Qaeda's leader still roams free.
There are no easy answers to these questions, just as there is no easy defense against acts of terrorism.
The implication that terrorism would go away if the U.S. just gave away more money is outrageous and offensive. The root cause of Islamic terrorism? Islamofascism, a totalitarian ideology that sees the West as weak, corrupt, and decadent, and seeks to impose Sharia upon the entire world. This is apparent to leftist writers such as Paul Berman. Why can't the Times see it? Of course, the Times uses weasel words and phrases: "Many" doubt the U.S.'s role in Iraq, they write. Why not come out and take responsibility for a position you're clearly espousing, weasels?
It is truly sad to see Judith Miller, a respected journalist, suffer because of the lunacy and inconsistency of her employer. Maybe she should consider changing employers.
O'Connor's work, at its best, made manifest and palpable abstractions such as sin and redemption. Her work shouts of a world of spirit that is larger than all our categories and schema, encountered in experience but never contained or mastered. Only through difficult and painful revelation can the Kingdom be realized. Writing about the South in the middle of the twentieth century, her work is suffused with the divisions and nuances of race and class. She was a master of the short story form, as well. You get the solid setup, the telling character detail, the punch at the end of the story. Especially good are "Parker's Back," "The Displaced Person," "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," "A Temple of the Holy Ghost," "Good Country People," "The Comforts of Home," "The Lame Shall Enter First," and the classic "A Good Man is Hard to Find." This is a wonderful anthology of work from a powerful writer. Again, do yourself a favor and read this.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Treefrog writes in an email: "I love this paragraph, and the priceless, parochial view of the universe it implies. Beyond the Hudson there be dragons."
Anderson quotes an interview that Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post's media critic, conducted with Lawrence O'Donnell, a political analyst and screenwriter for ''The West Wing,'' in which O'Donnell said, ''You'll never, ever get the Republican TV show.'' Anderson and O'Donnell imply that this has something to do with politics, but isn't it more likely a question of ratings? Would anybody, even a conservative fan of ''South Park'' -- especially a conservative fan of ''South Park'' -- want to watch a sitcom about churchgoing parents with two children who lead an uneventful life and make regular donations to the Fraternal Order of Police?
Friday, June 24, 2005
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
The book contains the parallel histories of what Augustine terms the City of God and the City of Man, both descended from Adam. The City of Man is founded on murder (specifically fratricide, the murder of a brother, viz. Cain and Abel, Romulus and Remus). The City of Man has been deceived and debased, fallen under the sway of pagan gods, which appear to be either demons or, at best indifferent or benign spirits that are mistakenly worshipped.
Augustine wants to explain the ways of God to man, but he does this from some humility, expressing his speculation in doubt. City of God also shows Augustine to be interested in the goods of Greek and Roman philosophy and rhetoric and in purging the negative elements of these while and Christian revelation. He's always intent on removing the possibility of gnostic/Manichaean distortions of Christian texts, such as St. Paul's admonitions not to "live according to the flesh" but rather "according to the spirit." Augustine is clear that this does not mean disdain for the body, but that one should refuse to live according to human ways, and consent to live by God's will.
Again, there's no way to give an adequate summary of a book like this, but it is surprising readable (if voluminous). I'm sorry I waited as long as I did to read it.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Today's release of findings in the autopsy of Terri Schiavo leave the central issues in her life and death unanswered, says a national disability rights group.
For example, contrary to articles stating the autopsy report 'supported' the diagnosis of 'persistent vegetative state (PVS),' a neuropathology expert today was careful to say that PVS is a clinical diagnosis rather than a pathological one. He added that nothing in the autopsy was 'inconsistent' with a PVS diagnosis.
The real elephant in the living room, of course, is whether or not we can really know how conscious anyone labeled 'PVS' really is. Several studies have revealed high misdiagnosis rates, with conscious people being mistakenly regarded as totally and irrevocably unaware.
The autopsy also documented significant brain atrophy, and the medical panel called the damage 'irreversible.'
This is not the same as saying she had no cognitive ability.
'It's always seemed to us that PVS isn't really a diagnosis; it's a value judgment masquerading as a diagnosis,' said Stephen Drake, research analyst for Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group that filed three amicus briefs in the case. 'When it comes to the hard science, no qualified pathologist went on the record saying she couldn't think or couldn't experience her own death through dehydration.'
"PVS isn't really a diagnosis; it's a value judgment masquerading as a diagnosis." That's the money quote. That the judicial system was making life-and-death decisions for a woman based upon a diagnosis as fungible as PVS went largely unremarked. The fact that our deaths may be decreed because a more powerful clique of doctors and lawyers have looked into our face and decreed that, like reading images in clouds, they have determined that we are no longer "there," this should scare us.
Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin.
Friday, June 17, 2005
And as crowd-pleasing movies so often do, they reflect what's in the air, a climate in which the president speaks in terms of good and evil, and religion is increasingly part of the country's social and political conversation.Ms. James is dutifully doing Frank Rich's work of making political commentary under the guise of an Arts review. Unfortunately, when discussing Manichaeism, she's out of her depth. . . . Read more . . . She apparently believes that any reference to clearly delineated good and evil is "Manichaean." She would do well to acquaint herself with the actual doctrines of Manichaeism, namely, that good and evil were effectively equal but opposing principles, and that the physicality per se is morally debased. Mere depictions of great good and great evil in the world are not Manichaean (or at least not uniquely Manichaean -- they are also Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Confucian, etc.)
. . .When Night Watch was released in Russia last year, it quickly became the highest-grossing film in that country's history. It's hard to predict how an action-fantasy with subtitles will do here, but its eternal battle between good and evil is simple to translate, and its language is familiar from statements like this: "We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name." Those words weren't spoken on the planet Tatooine, but by President Bush at West Point in 2002 (considering the lag time of movies, practically yesterday). By now, whether the real-life rhetoric of good and evil reminds us of the movies, or the other way around, is probably impossible to guess.
Ms. James, despite her misunderstanding, is essentially correct about the entire Star Wars series having Manichaean (and gnostic elements). These include a belief in a special elite knowledge and training given to Jedi that allow them special spiritual and material benefits, a general equivalence between the Good Jedi and the Evil Sith, a disdain for corporeal existence and a lack of physicality presented as an evidence of sanctity (the absence of blood in these movies, Obi-Wan and Yoda's bodies vanishing at the point of death, etc.). These elements are in the very first Star Wars installment, which predates the current administation by about twenty-five years.
Bush, on the other hand, clearly does not believe that evil is as strong as good generally. Such a belief would contradict both his stated Christian beliefs and his approach to evil in the world. Indeed, the prevalent criticism of Bush at the Times is that he is overly sanguine about the likelihood of success for his military ventures. A Manichaean would view the evil opposition as being as strong as the good protagonists.
If Ms. James is looking for a modern Manichee, maybe a better example would be George Felos. She could start with a review of his book Litigation as Spiritual Practice, in which describes joyously freeing a woman of her pesky body. Presumably she is one with the Force now.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
- Decapitate one person, repeatedly stab another
- Approach the American border
- Give up your bloodied chainsaw, homemade sword, and brass knuckles
- Be released
Well, it wasn't a perfect crime. Some smart detective put 2 and 2 together when corpses were found in the home of the man in question. The murderer is now in custody.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Monday, June 06, 2005
The submerged parts of this iceberg story include these details:
- There were no incidents of guards flushing the Koran.
- All of those who disrespected the Koran were immediately disciplined.
- The report finds that 4 out of 5 of the incidents occurred before strict guidelines for handling the Koran were sent to guards in January 2003.
- Some incidents were accidental.
- The report summary states that "the Southern Command policy of Koran handling is serious, respectful and appropriate."
- There were 15 incidents of prisoners desecrating the Koran, including ripping out pages and (drum-roll, please). . . shoving the pages into the toilet.
Friday, June 03, 2005
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Hat Tip: treefrog.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Although he specifically asked for books, none came to mind immediately. Rather, Scripture suggested itself. Two passages stuck in my head when considering forgiveness. The first was from Matthew 18:
Peter approaching asked [Jesus], "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.' Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 'Pay back what you owe.' Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?' Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart."
I thought about what my friend had said he felt, that in a Christian view, we are punished unless we forgive. So it seems God threatens us to get good behavior. It's possible to read this passage to confirm that, but I don't think that's quite right. One reason comes from Luke 11:
He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test."Christians connect our forgiveness of others to God's forgiveness of us. That connection is not simply "if we don't forgive others, God will turn up his nose at forgiving us." If that were true, we couldn't make sense of the unconditional guarantee of love and forgiveness that Luke talks about ("everyone who asks, receives"). Rather, as Christian readers, we're asked to read the two passages together. Then we begin to see that forgiveness is truly supernatural, even when we are the ones doing the forgiving. True forgiveness is like a miracle. True forgiveness (as opposed to a sham forgiveness that forever throws the supposed "forgiveness" in the face of the "forgiven" in acts of perpetual humiliation) may strike us as unnatural or impossible. God is not simply the One who requires forgiveness -- he is the One who makes forgiveness possible, he is Forgiveness and Love itself.
And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,' and he says in reply from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.' I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence."
"And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?"
So how do we read the passage in Matthew in light of this? To the extent that we are unable to forgive and love, we have not truly accepted God's love -- we have not surrendered our will to His. In the language of Luke, we have withdrawn before knocking, before asking. And that withdrawl of our will from God's keeps us from His Forgiveness, and keeps us from forgiving others.
One of the great Eastern church fathers, St. John Chysostom, delivered an Easter Sermon that contained this passage: "Let no one lament persistent failings, for Forgiveness has risen from the grave." Chysostom identifies Christ as not just forgiving, but as being Forgiveness itself.