Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Stunt City

Ok, so maybe this ad filled with stunts is over the top. But it's an enjoyable waste of 60 seconds.

Here we are now, entertain us

This is frightening. Paul Anka has an album of contemporary pop songs recorded with swing arrangements. Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" seems like is would merely be a novelty, but it actually sounds like it was written for Bobby Darin. The tight rhymed verses work with Anka's phrasing. File under Weird.

Hat tip: treefrog and DS.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Oriana Fallaci, infidel

The CNN headline is Author accused of defaming Islam. A judge has ordered that the author stand trial on charges of public defamation against Islam in her recent book. So the judge must be from Iran, right? No. Saudi Arabia? No. Pakistan? No. Turkey? No.

The author in question is Oriana Fallaci, and the judge is Italian. So Italian law now apparently grants a special status to Islam. Italians are free to decry, criticize, and ridicule Christianity. In fact, Fallaci has done her share of that (in the very books currently cited in charges), but no one is talking about bringing her before a judge because of that.

Fallaci, now a New Yorker, writes in her latest book that Europe is turning into "an Islamic province, an Islamic colony." The Italian court system is doing their best to prove that she got at least that right.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The New York Review of Books: The Case of Theresa Schiavo

Joan Didion has a comprehensive essay on the Terri Schiavo case in the New York Review of Books.

Republicans cower

The Republicans have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. On judicial appointments, they have promised not to eliminate the filibuster, in return for a promise by Democrats not to filibuster except for "extraordinary circumstances," to be determined by the discretion of individual Democrats. The only concession is that Democrats agreed to let Brown, Pryor, and Owen get a vote. Read more . . .

The Dems are cheering with ridiculous statements like "the Republic stands!", as if it hung by such a thin thread that modifying a single Senate rule of order (changed by Dems as recently as 1975) imperils our whole way of life. I would have thought that the Republic relies upon things like the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the rule of law, not a single rule of parliamentary procedure.

There's never been a corresponding House rule. There has only been a Senate precedent, subject to tweaking throughout the years to make it easier or harder to filibuster. At one point the Senate adopted rules that allowed for a filibuster to occur even when someone was not present on the floor continuously (eliminating the possibility of spectacles like that in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"). In 1975, the majority reduced the number of votes needed for cloture from 2/3 (67) to 3/5 (60).

Is it in "keeping with the spirit of the founding fathers?" The founding fathers left it up to the Senate and the House to determine their procedural rules. Was a two-thirds cloture rule in keeping with "the spirit?" What about a 3/5 rule? If a 3/5 rule doesn't make Jefferson spin in his grave, would an 11/20 (55)?

What if the filibuster were withheld for judicial nominations? The long-standing tradition in the Senate was not filibustering judicial nominees. The only case I'm aware of -- LBJ's nomination of Abe Fortas to Chief Justice -- was filibustered because the nominee was accused of corruption and bribery. Fortas withdrew his nomination, and the scandal continued to grow to such an extent that he also had to resign his then-current position as Associate Justice. If the Democrats were willing to limit their filibuster to substantial ethics charges such as these, we wouldn't have gotten to this point.

The Senate's role in appointments is described as "advise and consent." A supermajority approval is not mandated constitutionally. (Nor is it prohibited, Sean Hannity notwithstanding).

This marks the end of any hope that either Senator Frist or Senator McCain had for getting the presidential nomination in '08. Meanwhile, the fight over the Supreme Court is just delayed, not avoided.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Lucy in the sky with Shatner

You've heard Shatner's "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" cover on A Transformed Man or Golden Throats. Now see the fan video. Bill is the gift that keeps on giving.


Enjoy Happatai: yatta!. It's so easy! Happy-go-lucky!

Ok, you should be warned in advance about this video: these are Japanese guys singing and dancing in their undies with fig leaves sown over their, um, yattas. This is also the happiest pop song I've heard in decades. It's very strange.

Hitchens on Galloway

Excellent piece by Christopher Hitchens on George Galloway's publicity triumph last week:
[T]here struts a little popinjay who defends dictatorship abroad and who trades on religious sectarianism at home. Within a month of his triumph in a British election, he has flown to Washington and spat full in the face of the Senate. A megaphone media in London, and a hysterical fan-club of fundamentalists and political thugs, saw to it that he returned as a conquering hero and all-round celeb. If only the supporters of regime change, and the friends of the Afghan and Iraqi and Kurdish peoples, could manifest anything like the same resolve and determination.

Hitchens gives a good summary of Galloway's misdeeds. Please read it.

Who are you, Charles Curran edition

Treefrog informs us that former Catholic University theology professor Charles Curran has resurfaced, this time with Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey in tow. They've apparently released a remix of the Who's '79 hit "Who Are You?" with new lyrics by Curran, reprinted here:

I woke up in a DC dorm where
theologians knew my way.
I said, "I once had some tenure here,
was the glory of CUA."

But I went back to a podium,
And I trashed Humanae V
to students brought up on JP2
who watched his funeral on TV.

They said:
Who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
You'll never be the pope (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I don't really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

It was '68 when I challenged Paul,
I said that Catholics could dissent
Could take a pill or wrap it up,
As long as they had a pure intent.

And sodomy's not wrong for those
Seeking loving permanence
Why should we leave an urge ungratified?
Man, you'll only pitch a tent!

Well, who are you?
Ooh wa ooh wa ooh wa ooh wa ...


I know of a place I walked
In a long and tenured stay.
But now they've no time for sterile talk.
That’s the problem with kids today.

They spat me out like the lukewarm
By the Brookland Metro track.
How can I tenure as a Catholic now
When they don’t really want me back?

British researchers clone human embryo

Human embryo cloned for first time in Britain - Yahoo! News: "A human embryo has been cloned for the first time in Britain, where such work is strictly regulated, scientists announced."

Amazon.com's Koran Desecration Problem

Daniel Pipes describes an incident in which a Muslim woman ordered a used copy of the Koran through Amazon.com and found "Death to Muslims" written on one of the pages. Amazon has responded by suspending the third-party used-book vendor from selling Korans through Amazon. The third-party, Bellwether Books, has promised to fire anyone who defaces the Koran.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is unmoved. They want Amazon to publicly condemn such desecration of a sacred text with hateful speech targeting Muslims, terminate relations with Bellwether Book, and support and fund educational programs that foster religious tolerance (perhaps organizations such as ... MPAC?)

Comparison with the Catholic response to the sale of the Eucharist on eBay is instructive.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

South Korea gets us one step closer to a brave new world

Gina Kolata reports:

In what scientists say is a stunning leap forward, a team of South Korean researchers has developed a highly efficient recipe for producing human embryos by cloning and then extracting their stem cells.

Writing today in the journal Science, they report that they used their method to produce 11 human stem cells lines that are genetic matches of 11 patients aged 2 to 56.

Kolata is a good reporter, and she has a healthy respect for language. She says up front that in "therapeutic cloning" an embryo that is killed for its stem-cells.

This quote is ominous:

"You almost have no reason not to do it," said Dr. Davor Solter, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology in Freiberg, Germany.

In fact, Dr. Solter added, it now looks like it is much more efficient to clone and obtain human stem cells than it is to do the same experiment in animals.

Kolata then quotes Leon Kass and Richard Doerflinger's responses. Read it here.

Exhibit Honors John Paul II's Efforts

Exhibit Honors John Paul II's Efforts:

Jewish leaders who praised the way John Paul reached out to them during his papacy have joined with a Jesuit university for a historical tribute of his life.

"A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II & the Jewish People" includes hundreds of photos, murals, videos and artifacts starting with the childhood in Poland of Karol Wojtyla, who extended papal recognition to Israel and prayed for reconciliation at the Wailing Wall.

Sponsors hope it will tour Roman Catholic and Jewish universities and other venues in the United States before heading to Europe, and later becoming a permanent display in Israel.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Good luck with that, NYT

Editor and Publisher reports that the New York Times will start charging for some of their Web content in September:

The new, premium level of membership will be called TimesSelect, and participants will have exclusive access to Op-Ed and news columnists on NYTimes.com, easy and in-depth access to the paper's online archives, and early access to certain articles on the site, among other features.

Home-delivery subscribers will automatically receive TimesSelect membership. For non-subscribers, it will cost $49.95. Most news, features, and multimedia on the Times site will remain free.

The Times has been an online success and has become a ubiquitous fixture in the blogosphere in part by giving it away free. (Rumors abound that permanent links to Times content for bloggers may also go away, or require a fee from bloggers.) This change to paid content may make business sense, but I can't help that this would solidify the paper's new identity as a "blue-state" journal, as opposed to the Paper of Record.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Newsweek didn't kill anyone

I liked this piece by Andy McCarthy at NRO. McCarthy wants to make sure that we don't lose sight of who's actually responsible for the killing and violence:
What are we saying here? That the problem lies in the falsity of Newsweek's reporting? What if the report had been true? And, if you're being honest with yourself, you cannot say - based on common sense and even ignoring what we know happened at Abu Ghraib - that you didn't think it was conceivably possible the report could have been true. Flushing the Koran down a toilet (assuming for argument's sake that our environmentally correct, 3.6-liters-per-flush toilets are capable of such a feat) is a bad thing. But rioting? Seventeen people killed? That's a rational response?
Sorry, but I couldn't care less about Newsweek. I'm more worried about the response and our willful avoidance of its examination. Afghanistan has been an American reconstruction project for nearly four years. Pakistan has been a close American 'war on terror' ally for just as long. This is what we're getting from the billions spent, the lives lost, and the grand project of exporting nonjudgmental, sharia-friendly democracy? A killing spree? Over this?

McCarthy's right, we shouldn't make excuses for Islamic terrorists, as if these killings were unavoidable on their part. The entire article is worth reading.

Treat your mother right, says Mr. T.

A belated Mother's Day treat, courtesy of my namesake.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Catholic boycott of eBay is over?

The Catholic News Service ran this story claiming that eBay will not permit future auctions of Catholic communion hosts. This is good news. Can any readers out there confirm this?

Pakistan's Musharraf says al-Libbi arrest provides no clues on bin Laden

Pakistan's Musharraf says al-Libbi arrest provides no clues on bin Laden - Forbes.com: "The arrest of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Al-Qaeda's alleged number three, has failed to provide any clues on Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf was quoted as saying. "

Zarqawi wounded?

Was Zarqawi hit? Apparently, reports the London Times:

Iraq's most wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been seriously wounded, according to a doctor who claims to have treated him last week.

The doctor told an Iraqi reporter in the western city of Ramadi that Zarqawi was bleeding heavily when he was brought into hospital on Wednesday. After treating his wounds the doctor tried to persuade him to remain, but the Jordanian-born terrorist's minders drove him away.

Batty Uncle Pat

Pat Buchanan is a little confused. He starts out, rightly praising Bush for speaking the truth about post-WWII oppression of Central Europe. Then he goes to the extreme of calling World War II a failure because Stalin was not removed from power and the Poles merely had traded oppressors. Read more . . .The weirdest quote:

True, U.S. and British troops liberated France, Holland and Belgium from Nazi occupation. But before Britain declared war on Germany, France, Holland and Belgium did not need to be liberated. They were free. They were only invaded and occupied after Britain and France declared war on Germany – on behalf of Poland.

When one considers the losses suffered by Britain and France – hundreds of thousands dead, destitution, bankruptcy, the end of the empires – was World War II worth it, considering that Poland and all the other nations east of the Elbe were lost anyway?

If the objective of the West was the destruction of Nazi Germany, it was a "smashing" success. But why destroy Hitler? If to liberate Germans, it was not worth it. After all, the Germans voted Hitler in.

Huh? Not only does Buchanan doubt that Iraq was worthwhile, he doubts that World War II was worthwhile. It's not clear if he feels that sacrificing Poland would have preserved peace, so that accommodating Hitler would have been the prudent course. I'd like to see him try to argue that. This is crazy talk.

Maybe he's only saying that the war was fought to liberate Poland, but Poland wasn't liberated. True. Also exceedingly academic and irrelevant. Poland eventually was liberated, in part through the efforts of the U.S. and U.K. In this light, the Cold War can be seen as an extension of World War II, a series of full-scale wars, standoffs, proxy wars, espionage, and tensions that resulted in the destruction of fascism, national socialism, and international communist socialism.

Hat tip: Eleven Day Empire

Where does Uncle Sam go to clear his name?

Treefrog points this out:

Newsweek magazine said on Sunday it erred in a May 9 report that U.S. interrogators desecrated the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, and apologized to the victims of deadly Muslim protests sparked by the article. . . .

Editor Mark Whitaker said the magazine inaccurately reported that U.S. military investigators had confirmed that personnel at the detention facility in Cuba had flushed the Muslim holy book down the toilet.

The report sparked angry and violent protests across the Muslim world from Afghanistan, where 16 were killed and more than 100 injured, to Pakistan to Indonesia to Gaza. In the past week it was condemned in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and by the Arab League.

Read more . . .

Oops. Did we say someone flushed a prisoner's Koran? We meant his Korn CDs. Sorry.

At least these reporters aren't irresponsible, like those pajamahadeen bloggers.

You may recall that after Ray Donovan, Reagan's Secretary of Labor, was smeared and his name dragged through the mud, the ethics charges against him were found to be baseless and were dropped. He then asked, "Ok, where do I go now to get my reputation back?" Well, we've all been smeared now throughout the Muslim world, and there isn't a place we can go to fix that. Way to go, Newsweek.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Where's Osama?

These three stories from CNN, The Jerusalem Post, and Pakistan's Daily Times indicate that we may be getting close to Bin Laden. Inshallah.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Haithem al-Yemeni killed, Senior al-Qaeda terrorist

CNN.com - Sources: Key al Qaeda operative killed - May 13, 2005: "A key al Qaeda operative was killed earlier this week in Pakistan, two knowledgeable sources told CNN Friday.

They said a CIA-operated Predator drone aircraft fired a missile, killing Haithem al-Yemeni, whom U.S. intelligence had been tracking for some time."

Digital mystery solved

Finger Traced to Woman Who Blamed Wendy's - Yahoo! News: "The mysterious finger that a woman claimed to have found in a bowl of Wendy's chili came from an associate of her husband who lost the finger in an industrial accident, police said Friday."

Curt Jester, who are you?

Our buddy at Splendor of Truth responds in kind.

On This Rock, Baby, You Can Build (Satire)

Well known is Pope Benedict’s withering criticism of rock music ("the vehicle of anti-religion"), uttered when he was prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

But unconfirmed reports from Rome suggest that things might be changing in the offices to the left of St. Peter’s. With the appointment of San Francisco’s Archbishop William Levada as prefect of that congregation, three Americans now hold key positions there (the other two being the brilliant Fathers J.A. Dinoia and Charles Brown).

And change, perhaps, was in the air this morning, as tourists in St. Peter’s Square reported electric-guitar power chords emanating from behind the Vatican walls. Nearby journalists with periscopes said they saw three men, all in full black cassock, playing very good instruments (Fender guitars and Marshall amps, according to the most reliable reports).

Coincidentally, earlier that day, demonstrators had gathered to protest the recent silencing of Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., past-editor of America magazine. The 1970s singing group, the St. Louis Jesuits, were there, holding guitars — but, symbolically, not playing them. Three of the SLJ wore black armbands over their powder-blue leisure-suit sleeves. All the protesters wore gags emblazoned CDF.

What was the Vatican’s newly emerging garage band playing? Again, all of this is unconfirmed. But Italy’s premier fan ’zine, L’Osservatore Rocco, just moments ago, posted the following lyrics...


People try to put us d-down (talkin’ bout my congregation)
Just because we're doctrine-bound (talkin’ bout my congregation).
Things they do look awful . . . old (talkin’ bout my congregation).
Hope I die before I grow cold (talkin’ bout my congregation).

This is my congregation.
This is my congregation, baby.

Why don’t ya all s-s-s-say the creed (talkin’ bout my congregation).
Confess your sins in word and d-d-deed (talkin’ bout my congregation),
Your sins of thought and of omission (talkin’ bout my congregation).
And say it to my congregation.

This is my congregation.
This is my congregation, baby.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Kevorkian: "Drat! Foiled again!"

FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Woman Speaks First Words in Two Years: "ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. — A woman who couldn't talk or feed herself after suffering head trauma in a traffic accident has spoken her first words in more than two years."

Civility Kerfuffle

Instapundit.com's Glenn Reynolds recently attended a blogger’s convention in Knoxville, Tennessee. Noted blogger Dave Winer moderated a session that has received a lot of notoriety. Winer was condescending, belittling, and self-obsessed -- an immoderate moderator, if you will. What makes the whole kerfuffle even more precious is the subject of the session: "Respectful Disagreement"! Reynolds notes this in his usual cool, dispassionate manner. In addition to Instapundit's articles, you can read Les Jones session minutes for examples of Winer's tantrums. Winer, none the wiser from his own session, writes this crude response. Eyeonwiner has more.

This caught my eye because in the mid-90’s, Dave used a Macintosh-focused technical journal’s mailing list to send out an invitation to his journal to all subscribers. The mailing list copy was a one-time mistake, and this was before spam made this kind of broadcasting inappropriate. Not knowing this guy from Adam, I figured I'd check it out and subscribed. I forget the title but the premise was the off-the-cuff ramblings of Dave Winer. He was clearly talented enough and I initially kept up with his posts, but his tone was a bit self-important and eventually I lost interest. Now we see him responding uncivilly when someone has the temerity to disagree with him -- ironically in a forum intended to promote online civility.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

You don't have to live like a refugee

Finishing Virgil's Aeneid a few weeks ago was a great read for me. I urge everyone who hasn't read it to do so, and those who have to pick it up again. Virgil's takes his readers through the adventures of a band of refugees who are on their way to their destiny, the founding of the Roman republic. Unlike Odysseus, Aeneas is fleeing defeat and destruction, not returning to his homeland as a conquering hero.

It's a great book. Aeneas is full of nobility. He's not outsized in nearly inhuman greatness like Achilles. He's not the resourceful Everyman that Odysseus is. Aeneas is bound by duty and piety and finds his identity in them. That's something a lot of fathers can relate to.

There's a disturbing sense of circularity in the work. According to legend, Dardanus, the founder of Troy, was an emigrant from Italy, so his descendant, the refugee Aeneas, is also returning to a storied ancestral homeland in returning to Latium. In completing this circle, he finds himself in Carthage with Queen Dido, dooming her and setting up an emnity between Rome and Carthage that will come to fruition in the bloody Punic Wars that result in the total destruction of Carthage. Upon landing in Latium, he wrests the princess Lavinia from a would-be suitor Turnus, thus reenacting the ravishing of Helen by Alexander, and in the same manner, this causes a bloody war and siege. All history is a vertiginous cycle, round and round, no rest from the iron cycles of history, no respite from the caprices of the gods.

At the center of this is a journey to the underworld, similar to the one in the Odyssey. Unlike that trip, in this journey our hero passes through the netherworld to the upper regions, the Elysian fields, which somehow seem less than heavenly: they appear more like a pleasant distracting earthly holiday in a nice bit of real estate. From this vantage, Aeneas's dead father Anchises surveys future Roman history and the critical role his descendents will play in it.

I wish I could say more -- maybe I will someday. I'm still working on it.

In a Croce way . . .

Ingrid Croce, Jim Croce's widow, is a restauranteur these days.

You do mess around with Jim

Proposal for a bad science fiction novel: Messin' around with Jim: An experiment gone awry at Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider creates a singularity, and a tiny quantum event in the space-time continuum ripples through time and results in Jim Croce's miraculous survival of a 1973 plane crash. However, by some unknowable law of universal conservation, this self-same fluke results in the 1973 death of James Taylor by heroin overdose. Aside from this, our two universes are virtually identical, except from the effects that ripple out from this: fads such as 30-something men shaving their heads well before losing their hair mutate into 30-something men with toupees that resemble black curly shag carpets . Super Mario becomes the video game pop icon of the new millennium.

Possible title: SwarthyWorld.
Yes, it's abominable. This is why I blog, and will never write a novel.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

For this they send him to Brazil?

Nick Kristof has an op-ed today in the New York Times on the plight of the Church in Brazil. It's nothing we haven't seen ten thousand times before in the press. It features my favorite journalistic technique: the selective man-on-the-street/believer-in-the-pew interview, in this case for the supposed purpose of getting us in touch with what the Church is really like at the grass-roots level. Read more . . .

He quotes a São Paulo gynecologist who has never had a patient who objected to contraception. He could have stayed in New York and found a similar gynecologist. If he had been looking, he also could have found a gynecologist who not only has patients who don't use contraception, but also refuses to prescribe contraception for patients. Here's a clue: often Catholics who are faithful will seek out health practitioners who conform to their beliefs, rather than ob-gyn's who ask them at every visit whether they would consider aborting their child.

If Mr. Kristof is seriously interested, I can put him in touch with Catholic families, doctors, and clergy, right here in the U.S., who find that life is both possible and good without contraception. It wouldn't be hard for someone to find it in Brazil as well, and I would gladly do some investigative work there if the Times would be so kind as to send me on a junket, er, assignment in São Paulo.

Mr. Kristof begins and ends by suggesting that the Church's refusal to accommodate contraception might lead to a "second Reformation." That's just plain silly: the first Reformation already suffices for anyone who finds the teaching to difficult or contrary to conscience (that he or she has a positive duty to use contraception?). He never mentions the Anglican confession, which since the 1930 Lambeth conference has given its approval to the use of contraception, and has made great strides toward the legitimization of homosexual relations among the laity and clergy. It would have been instructive for him to try to find and report on those crowded Anglican churches in Brazil from the same "believer-in-the-pew" perspective. Or Episcopalian churches in America. Or Anglican churches in England.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Rock on

Every time I think Bush is going soft, he does something great like this: "Mr. Bush on Saturday seemed likely to anger the Russians even more, because he repeatedly used the word 'occupation' to describe the Russian acts in the Baltics - Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia - after World War II. "

He called it an "occupation"? Oh, what an outrage. Of course we know that the Russia were invited in, not just there, but across half of Europe. It's similar to the way the Czechoslovakia invited the Germans in 1938.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Reese's Pieces

The chill falling over worldwide theological discourse ran right up my spine as I read the New York Times’ story “Vatican Is Said to Push Jesuit Off Magazine.” “An American Jesuit ... resigned yesterday under orders from the Vatican as editor of the Catholic magazine America . . . In recent years America has featured articles representing more than one side on sensitive issues like same-sex marriage, relations with Islam and whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be given communion.” It’s a shame that all this had to happen before America could publish its twelve-part series presenting arguments for and against the articles of the creed. But such are the times we live in. Readers of Thumos, alert to the new career of Fr. Richard McBrien, were probably not surprised to see America’s former editor, Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., singing on David Letterman’s show last night. Since the St. Louis Jesuits had been silenced only three days before, Paul Schaefer backed him up on piano. . .

Both Sides Then
(as sung by Thomas Reese)

Tears through years of magazines,
religious women venting spleens,
and gray SJs who think they’re teens:
I’ve looked at life that way.
But now it’s just a memory.
The guy in Rome caught up with me
and then he took the papacy
one sad and mournful day.

I looked at Church from both sides then,
both pro and con, and con again.
We’re centrists of your fondest dreams
as long as we set the right extremes.

An editor’s an iron chef,
foregoing sweet or sour pref,
must sing in bass and treble clef,
if editing be true.
I chose the middle course to steer
by running pro- and anti-queer
and Card’nal Dulles twice a year,
then stirring up the stew.

I looked at Church from both sides then,
both pro and con, and con again.
I’m centrist in my fondest dreams
as long as I set the far extremes.

For seven years I raised up hopes
by lionizing former popes.
Both Paul and John were hardly dopes,
once they were safely dead.
At last we came to Pope JP
and saw his good belatedly
by reading him selectively,
the blue, but not the red.

I looked at Church from both sides then,
both pro and con, and con again.
I’m centrist in my fondest dreams
as long as I set the far extremes.

“The Problem with Ordaining Men,”
“Commandments? Seven Out of Ten!”
“Ignatian Masters Touting Zen” --
It’s all within the fold.
But now it’s not the thing for me.
It’s someone else’s ministry.
Perhaps a creed he’ll sometimes see
far from my mean of gold.

I’ve looked at Church from both sides, then,
with girls and guys and girly men.
It’s time this man put down his pen
and never took it up again.

Which side are these clowns really on?

I read this article over breakfast; "Play Draws Anti-Gay Protesters," about a protest in N.C. and can't help but wonder which side these clowns really on? It is so chock-full of absurd nonsense (e.g., "Thank God for 9/11" and "Matthew Sheppard and Pope John Paul II are buring in hell") that LAMBDA itself couldn't hope for a better protest.

Friday, May 06, 2005

What is dehydration like?

In Our Sunday Visitor, Dr. Brian Donnelly describes the truth about death by dehydration and starvation:

Starvation: Don't try this at home

In the last week of Terri Schiavo's life, while she was being starved to death, a newspaper article was published, first in the Los Angeles Times, then elsewhere, that discussed the "upside" of starvation. "Starvation isn't such a painful death" read the title. The subtitle in the newspaper here in Pittsburgh, PA, read "Medical experts say it typically brings on euphoric feelings." One physician was quoted as saying that his patients have told him that "there's nothing unpleasant about it -- in fact, it can be quite blissful and euphoric. It's a very smooth, graceful and elegant way to go." Hmmm. Perhaps those emaciated people we saw depicted in the concentration camps in the movie "Schindler's List" were, in fact, "blissful and euphoric"? Did Terri Schiavo really look "graceful and elegant" before she died?

It is impossible to know how many people will actually believe, from this article, that starvation is desirable. I know that my children, after a long afternoon of playing, wouldn't let me slip that one past them for very long. Would this be a reason for Americans to fail to donate to food banks, or to Catholic Relief Services, or to other organizations that feed the hungry? Or, as someone has sardonically suggested, will this be the ultimate solution to the impending Social Security problem?

Being starved of food and water will, over time, lead the body to break down its own energy stores. In the course of breaking down fat stores, free fatty acids and ketones are released. These substances can alter one's state of mind, as long distance runners can verify. This is part of the chemical explanation for what some have termed the "runner's high." But, to be clear, running a marathon under your own power is vastly different than being deprived of food and water against your will.

Suffering is certainly involved when one is starving to death. The article quoted doctors who deal with terminally ill patients. The testimony of one woman in particular, who kept a journal while she was dying of cancer, formed the basis for some of these opinions. But, as anyone who has been reading OSV would know, this testimony was taken out of context. For some cancer patients, who may well get nauseated at the very thought of food, starvation frees them from that particular symptom. In this context, starvation earns the praise it receives as detailed in the LA Times article.

A better medical analogy is frostbite. When tissue is damaged from prolonged exposure to the cold, the involved area hurts. After a while, as the circulation becomes more compromised, the area feels numb. The pain is gone. From that point, if the tissues can be rescued from the cold, and circulation can be restored, pain will again be generated as the frozen tissue begins to heal. This pain is usually much worse than the pre-numbness pain. If the numbed tissues cannot be rescued from the cold, tissue death, or necrosis, will follow. Gangrene and subsequent loss of the damaged tissue come next.

Of course, Terri Schiavo was not suffering from a terminal illness. Her problem was that her legal guardian/erstwhile husband wanted her dead, and the legal system allowed the deliberate termination of her life (or, as Father Frank Pavone succinctly, and courageously, put it: her murder) to happen.

We, as Catholics, know starvation cannot be desirable. Why else did Jesus tell us to pray to the Almighty using the words "Give us this day our daily bread"? Why else did he tell his disciples, the leaders of the first Church, to "feed my sheep"?

The bigger danger, it would seem, is that other, more "humane" means will be used in the future to terminate those whose lives are deemed, as was Mrs. Schaivo's, to be not worth living. Last month, the New England Journal of Medicine published a "protocol" used by a physician in the Netherlands for euthanizing newborn babies who have been judged too ill to live. And a New York Times article wrote glowingly of the Dutch pediatrician's efforts to end the babies' unbearable and incurable suffering." The slippery slope is now a slalom, complete with mass media chair lift, for those doctors who have been educated beyond their wisdom.

We can refer to the way the late, great Pope John Paul II eloquently expressed it in Evangelium Vitae : " 'Causing death' can never be considered a form of medical treatment, even when the intention is solely to comply with the patient's request." And : "Even when not motivated by a selfish refusal to be burdened with the life of someone who is suffering, euthanasia must be called a false mercy, and indeed, a 'perversion' of mercy. True 'compassion' leads to sharing another's pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear."

Speaking of irony: respect for life

Starving inconvenient people is one thing, but we must all attend to this vital matter.
h/t: Michelle Malkin

Phew! Good thing we didn't starve this guy to death

Brain-Damaged Man's Sudden Improvement Mystifies Doctors Does this count as a "dignified" recovery? It's ironic how this news story forgets about another recent national news story about another patient in a similar state.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Breaking news: Al Qaeda's No. 3 a major capture

Big news, courtesy of The Christian Science Monitor: "The capture of Abu Farraj al-Libbi, Al Qaeda's new No. 3 leader, in a remote region of Pakistan is a major step forward in the fight against terrorism, according to government officials and terror experts. "

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Sharansky's resignation

Joel Rosenberg has it here. It begins:
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign as Minister of Diaspora Affairs and Jerusalem.

As you know, I have opposed the disengagement plan from the beginning on the grounds that I believe any concessions in the peace process must be linked to democratic reforms within Palestinian society. Not only does the disengagement plan ignore such reforms, it will in fact weaken the prospects for building a free Palestinian society and at the same time strengthen the forces of terror. . .

Will Sharansky's move spark a turnover in Israeli politics? Netanyahu is said to be considering a run against Sharon.

Diet craze over? Fat chance.

Gina Kolata in the New York Times had a perceptive piece on the resistance of the fitness culture to facts: Read more . . .
After an article in a leading medical journal reported last week that people who are overweight, but not obese, have a lower risk of death than normal-size and skinny people, it might seem that pleasingly plump could finally become the socially accepted norm. But even the Centers for Disease Control, whose researchers helped conduct the journal study, continue to say that fighting fat remains a top public health priority.
And some social critics and medical researchers say that because there are so many groups with an entrenched interest in crusading against fat it is unlikely that the obesity epidemic will be declared over anytime soon.
"The operative term is moral panic," said Dr. Sander Gilman, a professor of liberal arts and science at Emory University. "There are moments when certain things become the focus of the society because they are believed to be a danger to the society. And it is believed that if you focus on it you will be able to avoid it or cure it."
No one disputes that obesity poses health risks that include diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnea. But based on the recently published research, those whose weight put them at a moderately greater risk of death turn out to be a narrowly defined group: people under age 70 with a body mass index of 35 or above. That group constitutes less than 16 percent of the population. (A person 5 feet six inches who weighs at least 217 pounds would fall into that category.)

None of this should be particularly surprising. There's been a lot of loose talk about an "epidemic." This article is walk-back from the edge of hysteria.

Monday, May 02, 2005

John Allen, the hardest working man in Pope business

Here's an excellent article from last fall by John Allen on then-Cardinal Ratzinger. It's a balanced, nuanced portrait.

Natan Sharansky, making the case for democracy

Recently finished The Case for Democracy by Natan Sharansky. A former Soviet dissident and currently active in Israeli politics (he resigned today from the Israeli cabinet today), . . . Read more . . .Sharansky defends this thesis: instead of dividing foreign policy theorists into realpolitik "realists" who prop up friendly foreign governments even when those are run by regimes that abuse their own people and Wilsonian "idealists" who see foreign policy as a way of achieving humanitarian goals, we should recognize that the promotion of democracy around the world is vital to the self-interests of countries like the U. S. Sharansky sees the desire to find non-democratic strongmen who can secure peace for Western democracies to be a failing that we have made time and again, whether we speak of the U.S. policy of detente, or Israel's attempt to forge a peace in the 1990's by effectively setting up Yasser Arafat as a Palestinian enforcer.

What makes this book more than just another bit of political theorizing is the personal perspective that Sharansky brings to these situations. When he was a dissident, he saw first-hand how terrified totalitarian regimes were of people who were willing to speak the truth. While in Israel, he saw how democracies were willing to deal with the devil himself if that devil promised peace. He also saw that the devil is incapable of delivering peace, as he rules and derives his power by inciting war -- peace renders him impotent.

Natan Sharansky's nice mix of memoir and advocacy is worth a read. I hope he has some influence in the way we think about foreign policy. President Bush and Condoleeza Rice have both said they were reading this book earlier this year. We'll see if they keep up the pressure on non-democratic regimes.

YMCA Indian Princesses and Y-Guides: Ten Cultural Respect Guidelines

My daughter and I will be completing our third year in the "Y-Indian Princesses" here in North Carolina. It's a fantastic program for getting dads and their children to spend more time together in ways that do not normally occur. I highly recommend it. (Now you know from where my "Dancing Ox" nom de cyber derives!) Read more . . .

"Y-Indian Princesses" has been under fire in some circles for promulgating stereotypes about Native Americans. While some of these critics went too far in their assessment, their concerns are not entirely unwarranted. Someone posted this thoughtful page, entitled "YMCA Indian Princesses and Y-Guides: Ten Cultural Respect Guidelines," in response. It offers some helpful suggestions for dealing with the issues raised by "Indian Princesses." Unfortunately, the national YMCA decided to scrap this program entirely. Their Web site shows that the Y-Guides program has been replaced with "Y-Adventure Guides." Where "Y-Indian Princesses" was charming and unique, "Y-Adventure Guides" is as cleaned up and devoid of character as a Soviet-style government complex.

The author of "Ten Cultural Respect Guidelines" argues that it would have been better to fix the Native American focus of Y-Guides and make it a learning opportunity, rather than shut it down. That's spot on. Our local Y is continuing the Y-Indian Guides program (and is tremendously successful, in terms of exploding membership) and after my cursory research here I'm glad that it continues here.

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