Here and There . . .

An irregular roundup of blogs, articles and commentary.

  • These things get longer and longer with every installment: Good News from Iraq, Part 28 – a regular series on Iraq’s state of affairs — social, economic, reconstruction, humanitarian aid, and the coalition — from Arthur Chrenkoff.
  • Also by Arthur Chrenkoff: An open letter to George Lucas, taking on Star Wars‘ creator for his remark at the Cannes’ film festival that the “Evil Empire” in his films is actually the United States. (The films are good “eye candy” — pleasant to the eye — but it appears that Lucas’ politics might very well be as atrocious as his writing.)
  • Greg Mockeridge (Cooperatores Veritatus), on The Meaning of True Peace
  • If It Walks Like a Holy War, Sounds Like a Holy War and Looks Like a Holy War . . . – Benedict Seraphim of Blogodoxy on the New York Time‘s reluctance to “avoid the obvious.”
  • Displaying a great deal more optimism than many critics here at home, Foad Ajami believes that “The Middle East embraces democracy–and the American president” (Bush Country Wall Street Journal May 23, 2005):

    Unmistakably, there is in the air of the Arab world a new contest about the possibility and the meaning of freedom. This world had been given over to a dark nationalism, and to the atavisms of a terrible history. For decades, it was divided between rulers who monopolized political power and intellectual classes shut out of genuine power, forever prey to the temptations of radicalism. Americans may not have cared for those rulers, but we judged them as better than the alternative. We feared the “Shia bogeyman” in Iraq and the Islamists in Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia; we bought the legend that Syria’s dominion in Lebanon kept the lid on anarchy. We feared tinkering with the Saudi realm; it was terra incognita to us, and the House of Saud seemed a surer bet than the “wrath and virtue” of the zealots. Even Yasser Arafat, a retailer of terror, made it into our good graces as a man who would tame the furies of the masked men of Hamas. That bargain with authoritarianism did not work, and begot us the terrors of 9/11.

    The children of Islam, and of the Arabs in particular, had taken to the road, and to terror. There were many liberal, secular Arabs now clamoring for American intervention. The claims of sovereignty were no longer adequate; a malignant political culture had to be “rehabilitated and placed in receivership,” a wise Jordanian observer conceded. Mr. Bush may not be given to excessive philosophical sophistication, but his break with “the soft bigotry of low expectations” in the Arab-Islamic world has found eager converts among Muslims and Arabs keen to repair their world, to wean it from a culture of scapegoating and self-pity. Pick up the Arabic papers today: They are curiously, and suddenly, readable. They describe the objective world; they give voice to recognition that the world has bypassed the Arabs. The doors have been thrown wide open, and the truth of that world laid bare. Grant Mr. Bush his due: The revolutionary message he brought forth was the simple belief that there was no Arab and Muslim “exceptionalism” to the appeal of liberty. For a people mired in historical pessimism, the message of this outsider was a powerful antidote to the culture of tyranny. Hitherto, no one had bothered to tell the Palestinians that they can’t have terror and statehood at the same time, that the patronage of the world is contingent on a renunciation of old ways. This was the condition Mr. Bush attached to his support for the Palestinians. It is too early to tell whether the new restraint in the Palestinian world will hold. But it was proper that Mr. Bush put Arafat beyond the pale.

    Fouad Ajami teaches at Johns Hopkins University, and is author of Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey (Vintage, 1999), a fascinating study of Arab politics and history.

  • The Birth of a Bad Statistic – “Abortions rising under Bush? Not true,” says Factcheck.org:

    A number of politicians and organizations have been circulating an interesting and surprising idea: that abortions have gone up under George W. Bush’s watch. The claim is repeated by supporters of abortion rights as evidence that Bush’s anti-abortion policies have backfired, or at least been ineffective.

    But the claim is untrue. In fact, according to the respected Alan Guttmacher Institute, a 20-year decline in abortion rates continued after Bush took office . . .GET THE WHOLE STORY.

  • The Other Stem Cell Bill, by David Schrader @ Catholics in the Public Square May 23, 2005 — on a morally-sound piece of legislation sponsored by New Jersey rep. Christopher Smith, “creating a new federally-funded stem cell therapeutic and research program for the scientifically sound collection and inventory of umbilical cord blood”:

    Umbilical cords are a rich, non-controversial source of stem cells, but currently hospitals throw millions of them away each year because we do not have the infrastructure needed to properly collect and store them,” said Smith who has been championing this legislation for three years. “The best kept medical secret has been that thousands have been successfully treated with cord blood stem cells for more than 67 diseases including Leukemia and Sickle Cell Anemia. The infusion of federal funds will make this medical miracle available to thousands more and will ensure that research continues so that this source of stem cells can treat many other debilitating diseases,” Smith said.

In religion . . .

  • If I had met more pleasant traditionalists earlier on, I’d probably be one by now. – Dale Price @ Dyspeptic Mutterings on people who give real traditionalists a bad name:

    In retrospect, they were typical Feeneyites–loud, insecure, and not nearly as bright (not even close) as they thought they were. But they made up for these deficiencies by going “hahahaha!” a lot and calling themselves “the Hammer” and “Heretic Crusher”–things like that.

    It got to the point where I began to suspect they did actually wear homemade capes while web surfing for error to vanquish. Or at least adult-sized pajamas with the feet still in them. . . .

  • War and Capital Punishment – Can We Agree to Disagree?, by Jimmy Akin. This Rock
    Volume 16, Number 3. March, 2005.

  • Dreadnought takes on Donna Quinn and the Rainbow Sash Movement.
  • “Blogs Gone Bad” The New Atlantis on unemployment, mental/physical exhaustion, demeaning utilitiarianism and “The Darker Side of the Blogging Boom.”
  • Boston College had a panel discussion of the 2002 document “Reflections on Covenant and Mission”, with attention to the question of “Should Catholics Seek to Convert Jews (If Jews Are in True Covenant with God?)” — Bill Cork has an excellent analysis of the event. As he notes, “No alternate viewpoints were represented.” I guess Fr. Schall, Ronda Chervin, Martin Barrack, Mark Drogin, David Moss and Cardinal Avery Dulles weren’t available for further comment. Too bad, it would have been a lively discussion.
  • What’s in the box? – Mark C. N. Sullivan tears into the newly renovated — some might say dismantled — Rochester, N.Y., cathedral. “The diocesan communications director who narrates the Flash presentation says the effect is more intimate. Well, it may be, if your idea of intimacy in interior design is to cart off all the furnishings in a place and replace them with folding chairs around a steamer trunk.”
  • “How Does the Force Stack Up As a Religion?” asks Orson Scott Card, of George Lucas’ Revenge of the Sith:

    . . . the Force is just the sort of thing you’d expect a liberal-minded teenage kid to invent. There’s no God and there are no rules other than a vague insistence on unselfishness and oath-keeping. Power comes from the sum of all life in the universe, and it is manichaean, not Christian — evil is simply another way of using the Force. Only not as nice.
  • We like the chase better than the quarry – a good discussion of the Rosary by Disputations:

    A common objection to praying the Rosary is that it is frustrating. The mind begins to wander as soon as the mystery is spoken; you find yourself at the end of the decade without having formed one single thought related to Christianity, much less to the Finding of the Boy Jesus in the Temple; and you think you blew it. You tried an act of devotion, and you failed miserably. You can’t do it, it’s not for you, and if that isn’t bad enough, the local Rosarianut is sure to ask you how it went and beaddevil you into trying it again.

    Now, I am not one to argue (as some do) that the Rosary is the best of all possible devotions, always and for everyone. If the Rosary isn’t for you, it’s not for you. But I wonder whether the restlessness some feel when they pray the Rosary might indicate that something really is wrong with them — not regarding the Rosary, but regarding their restlessness. . . .

  • Jimmy Aken Counts to 34!
  • Dr. Blosser writes a letter to his bishop about a piece of catechitical pamphlet distributed at his parish promoting God as “mother.”
  • A hearty ‘Right on!’ to “Orthodox Jewish thirty-something” Sarah, who is postponing her viewing of Revenge of the Sith for religious reasons. Jews are presently counting the omer (the days from the second night of Passover to the day before Shavu’ot), and it’s her custom “not to see movies until Lag BaOmer.” . . . Being somewhat of a Star Wars fanatic myself, I can appreciate the sacrifice.
  • In case you didn’t know, The Mighty Barrister is back! =)
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