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Friday, August 05, 2005

Reading the "Right Books"
What caused my about-face on Harry? First, there isn’t any sorcery or invocational magic in Harry Potter (the American publisher changed the original title, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, because he felt Americans wouldn’t buy a book with “philosophy” in the title). The scriptural objections to the witchcraft in Harry Potter are unfounded because the incantational magic of literature has nothing to do with the real-world occult.

As important for me, though, was the depth and evidently Christian meaning of the stories. I didn’t know then what I have learned since — that the author, Joanne Rowling, has an honors degree in Classics from the University of Exeter and is Church of Scotland in her faith (Presbyterian to us) — but her faith, intelligence, and classical training come shining through her stories. In the best tradition of English literature, which until very recently has been Christian literature written by Christians for Christians, Rowling “instructs while delighting” and “baptizes the imagination.”

Is Harry Potter for Catholics?
Good summary of why Harry Potter is fine for Catholics to read.

Al Gore's suffocating new cable TV network
Not that it isn't trying hard to pump things up. Words such as freedom, empowerment and revolution poured out of on-air hosts this debut week. We're "a bridge between the power of a generation and a mass outlet for its voice," they intoned. "It's all about being who you are and sharing it with the world." Would-be video contributors were directed to the station's Web site with the entreaty, "Be a citizen-journalist. . . . Everybody has a story to tell that's interesting."
I think the above paragraph shows why Al Gore's TV netowrk is doomed to failure. Who the hell talks like that? Only people trying (and failing) to be cool.

Nuclear weapons, then and now
Of course, for every Pershing missile that helped keep Western Europe free, a Soviet SS-20 helped keep Eastern Europe captive. In the hands of democracies, nuclear weapons safeguard liberty; in the hands of dictatorships, they safeguard despotism. It's doubtful the Soviet Union could have survived as long as it did had it never developed nuclear weapons. That's true for North Korea today, and it explains why the mullahs of Tehran seek to bolster their faltering regime with an atomic bomb.
Yet the notion that the nuclear genie can be willed out of existence through the efforts of right-thinking people is as absurd as it is wrongheaded. Just as guns and knives will be with us forever, so too will the bomb. We need bunker busters because North Korea and Iran are using underground facilities to build weapons that threaten us, and we must be able credibly to threaten in return. We need to have nuclear tests because the reliability of our principal warhead, the W-76, has been seriously called into question, and China must not be enticed to compete with us as a nuclear power. In neither case does the U.S. set a "bad example." Rather, it demonstrates the same capacity for moral self-confidence that carried America through World War II and must now carry us through the war on terror.

Jonah Goldberg: Bombers got rights, too, you know!
Now, some overly pedantic types might say, "Shows what you know! Islam has a very rich tradition of human rights."

To which I might reply, bully for Islam. The French have an ancient tradition of military bravery, but what have they done for me lately? Traditions are only impressive or useful if they actually shape conduct in the here and now. And in the here and now, the ideal states these nutjobs glorify have a much more vibrant tradition of cutting off heads, stoning women, and jailing nonbelievers simply for nonbelieving. If the Koran recognizes civil liberties, they must be using a "living" Koran in places like Saudi Arabia, the way we've got a "living" Constitution here, because the ideal societies of the Bin Laden crowd aren't sticking much to the original text.

Catholic World News : Large, expectant Australian delegation heads for World Youth Day
I know pregnant women can be large, but is it necessary to point that out in a headline?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Truth is Stranger than Fiction
Something occured to me recently while reading a meditation in the August issue of Magnificat. Given that we all generally accept that Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, what's stranger than the Christian message? God loves you so much, he sent his only Son down to earth to live as one of us, living a daily life of poverty, acting as an itinerant preacher in a backwater area of the world for 3 years before being tortured and murdered in a way reserved for the most heinous criminals. And because we did this to Him, we can have eternal life in Heaven.

That's too strange to make up. No human could conceive of that. Truth is stranger than fiction.

www.delawareonline.com | The News Journal | Bogus police stop is the real McCoy
An Elsmere man has been charged with impersonating a police officer after he allegedly activated flashing white-and-amber strobe lights on his Ford Crown Victoria and pulled over two plainclothes police officers, officials announced Wednesday.

The bogus officer proceeded to lecture the two undercover Newark officers about their driving, but quickly drove off when they questioned his authority, Newark police spokesman Lt. Thomas LeMin said.
This amuses me greatly.

How Mary Changed My Life
Her messages would not leave my heart; they kept nagging me. The first change was when I began to pray and by that I mean literally one minute a day.

In Defense of Theology
"Wow!" said my friend, looking up from his science magazine, "Did you know DNA is folded into each cell nucleus in your body in a very precise and compact way? It says here it's like 30 miles of spider web thread carefully folded into a cherry pit!"

I think this sort of thing is amazing too. But what strikes me funny is that the same friends of mine who just love to read this sort of thing in science magazines think nothing of dismissing theology as just so much "angels on pinheads trivia." Religion, they say, should be simple, not complex. They say this because moderns imagine religious truth as an airy speculation, unconnected to "real life," which somebody got a bunch of people to buy into. That's why we think Christianity could be made simple if "The Church" wanted to make it so, but we never imagine DNA could be made simple if "The Scientists" wanted to make it so. We know that Science is constrained to describe what is actually there, not what scientists would like to be there. But we have somehow forgotten that Theology is under the same obligation.

Rudolph Giuliani for President
Do I mean it? Am I in favor of a Giuliani candidacy? No. Unequivocally, no. Giuliani is “pro-choice” and an ally of the homosexual cause. If the Republicans were to nominate him it would signal the death knell for any serious attempt to turn the tide on legal abortion and the homosexual revolution.
But I do mean that the Republicans would do well to incorporate large chunks of what Giuliani represents into their platform. Catholic cultural conservatives are now a major segment of the Republican base. In large measure, they are what people mean when they use the term “Reagan Democrats.” In spite of Giuliani’s position on abortion and homosexuality, he brings important Catholic values to the public square. That may be unintentional. I don’t know to what extent he practices his faith any longer. But the man lived with us for a long time. Not everything took, but much of it did.

A Nail-Biter Nomination
In particular, that includes the introduction of his Catholicism into the debate. The subject was raised by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), a pro-choice Catholic, who wanted to know how the nominee would handle a case involving something the Church considers a sin. The implication is that a Catholic public official can't be loyal to his faith and also loyal to his public duties.

This scraping of the bottom of the barrel is a throwback to the Al Smith campaign of 1928 and the John Kennedy campaign of 1960. It's bigotry pure and simple, whether it comes from the KKK or a Catholic politician.

It is not recorded that during the confirmation process anyone asked the Supreme Court's two Jewish members, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, how they would handle a case in which US interests clashed with the interests of Israel — and it would have been outrageous if the question had been raised.

In part, the fuss over Roberts and his views on abortion reflects the success of pro-choice advocacy groups and their allies in politics and the media in their efforts to foster the perception that the pro-life position on abortion is outside the mainstream. The spin is that to favor the legal dismemberment of tiny humans before birth is to be "moderate," while to oppose it is to be "extreme."

Does Capital Punishment Save Lives? Catholics and Opposition to the Death Penalty
The notion that John Paul II was exercising his nonbinding prudential judgment concerning the death penalty is supported by Cardinal Avery Dulles, who wrote, “[i]n coming to this prudential conclusion, the Magisterium is not changing the doctrine of the Church.” Ditto for noted Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin: “To disagree with the pope on these issues is to disagree with his prudential judgment, not with Church doctrine.”

And none other than Pope Benedict XVI, writing as then-Cardinal Ratzinger, makes a crucial distinction between war and capital punishment on the one hand and abortion and euthanasia on the other:
Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment.
Here is Pope Benedict again: “There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

One Nation, Under God
Believe in the God-less Constitution? Here's why you're wrong!

Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus on National Review Online
That reminded me of one of my favorite Reagan stories: The governor's limo is surrounded by a chanting student mob, on one of the California campuses. They're shouting, "We are the future, we are the future!" The Gipper reaches for a notepad, writes something on it, and holds it to the window: "I'll sell my bonds."

On my way home through Central Park the other evening, I saw a softball game, featuring a team from Reuters. (They all had T-shirts.) I wondered: Since they're not allowed to call terrorists terrorists — am I allowed to call them softball players?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Thomas Sowell: Random Thoughts
If anyone ever doubts that Babe Ruth was the greatest baseball player of all time, ask him: How many shutouts did Ty Cobb or Barry Bonds ever pitch? Ruth still holds the American League record for shutouts in a season by a left-handed pitcher.

The government forces those who sell pharmaceutical drugs to list the possible side effects, even if only a few people will suffer those side effects. Unfortunately, the government itself never tells us about the bad side effects of the things it prescribes.

I can understand poor people who have to struggle to make ends meet. What I cannot understand are people who have plenty of money but who live so high on the hog that they have to struggle to make ends meet, just as if they were poor.

I never cease to be amazed at how often people throw around the lofty phrase "social justice" without the slightest effort to define it. It cannot be defined because it is an attitude masquerading as a principle.

Someone once said that a fool can put on his coat better than a wise man can put it on for him. The implications of that undermine most of the agenda of the political left.

People who say that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror are unaffected by the fact that the terrorists themselves obviously think otherwise, as they converge on Iraq from other countries.

Some ideas seem so plausible that they can fail nine times in a row and still be believed the tenth time. Other ideas seem so implausible that they can succeed nine times in a row and still not be believed the tenth time. Government controls in the economy are among the first kinds of ideas and the operation of a free market is among the second kinds of ideas.

With vastly more money available around the world as private investment than there is as foreign aid, why do Third World countries want or need foreign aid? Because private investors will seldom put their own money into projects that have no realistic chance of working or into countries too corrupt and unreliable to expect the money to be used responsibly, much less repaid.

"Why, it appears that we appointed all of our worst generals to command the armies and we appointed all of our best generals to edit the newspapers. I mean, I found by reading a newspaper that these editor generals saw all of the defects plainly from the start but didn't tell me until it was too late. I'm willing to yield my place to these best generals and I'll do my best for the cause by editing a newspaper." --Robert E. Lee

"Reducing America to the status of a second class nation, unable to make its voice heard in the councils of the world will surely be the prelude to another generation of Americans dying needlessly because of our mistakes." --Ronald Reagan

"History is evoked more and more these days, even as fewer of us read it. That apathy explains why when public figures turn to false historical analogies for political purposes, they're often given a free pass to exaggerate or distort. Take, for example, filmmaker Michael Moore who once compared terrorists in Iraq to our own minutemen, or Yasser Arafat who implied that the taking of Jenin was as brutal as the battles for Leningrad and Stalingrad. Even Sen. Dick Durbin recently likened the conditions found in Guantanamo Bay to those in Nazi death camps. So, the next time someone quotes philosopher George Santayana for the umpteenth time that 'Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it,' just assume that what follows will probably be wrong. Having a Rolodex of cocktail party quotes to beef-up an argument is not the same as the hard work of learning about the past." --Victor Davis Hanson

"You may have read about the controversy involving Ken Tomlinson, that dirty old conservative who heads up the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Democrats and liberals (mostly one and the same) have complained because Tomlinson wants to bring political balance to the generally left-leaning, tax financed National Public Radio. It seems to me there is an easy way to solve the problem. Abolish the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio and any other propaganda outlet financed by your tax money and mine. It is an outrage that the thieves in both parties who dominate congress can use tax revenues for no good purpose, including the financing of propaganda outlets. I say this knowing full well ain't nothing going to change: we are stuck with CPB and NPR, mainly because you, the voters don't give a darn or don't make your objections known and if you're content to let Congress squander your money on illegitimate programs the Congress will certainly continue to squander it with the tacit consent of the president. These guys are interested in buying votes; they're not interested in governing well." --Lyn Nofziger

"[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt." --Samuel Adams

"Vision is the art of seeing things invisible." --Jonathan Swift

"[J]ihadist terrorism has been carried out from Bali to Casablanca to Madrid to London to New York City to Washington by young Islamic men of North African, Middle Eastern and South Asian origin. This is not a stereotype. It is a simple statistical fact. ... But the overwhelming odds are that the guy bent on blowing up your train traces his origins to the Islamic belt stretching from Mauritania to Indonesia. Yet we recoil from concentrating bag checks on men who might fit this description." --Charles Krauthammer

"Though evidence shows that the terrorists are interested in acquiring nuclear weapons to use against our cities, a learned writer for the New York Review of Books insists that the real weapons of mass destruction are world poverty and environmental abuse. Of course, world poverty is rarely mentioned by terrorists, and those known to be involved have almost all been well fed and are well to do." --John

"A nominee for the court shouldn't be taking stands on political issues precisely because he is not running for a legislative or executive office. Instead he's been nominated for a seat on the highest court in the land, and there is a difference, a big one." --Paul Greenberg

"Today, this editorial board resolves to sacrifice another word -- 'insurgent' -- on the altar of precise language. No longer will we refer to suicide bombers or anyone else in Iraq who targets and kills children and other innocent civilians as 'insurgents.' The notion that these murderers in any way are nobly rising up against a sitting government in a principled fight for freedom has become, on its face, absurd. They drove that point home with chilling clarity Wednesday in a poor Shiite neighborhood. As children crowded around U.S. soldiers handing out candy and toys in a gesture of good will, a bomb-laden SUV rolled up and exploded. These children were not collateral damage. They were targets. The SUV driver was no insurgent. He was a terrorist. People who set off bombs on London trains are not insurgents. We would never think of calling them anything other than what they are -- terrorists. Words have meanings. Whether too timid, sensitive or 'open-minded,' we've resisted drawing a direct line between homicidal bombers everywhere else in the world and the ones who blow up Iraqi civilians or behead aid workers. No more. To call them 'insurgents' insults every legitimate insurgency in modern history. They are terrorists." --The Dallas Morning News

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