When it comes to such complex topics as theology and mixology, misconceptions breed like mayflies. Few laymen could explain how a Church founded by an itinerant carpenter ended up allied with aristocrats, so they assume it’s faintly scandalous. If we don”t understand the history and social teachings of our Church, we know even less about the drinks we”re mixing. We”re confused at once about high theology, high society, and highballs.
Where there’s a vacuum of fact, legends rush in. For instance, Catholics somehow get the idea that the Church believes in absolute, global equality”except that it took us almost 2,000 years to realize this. Or we imagine that any drink served in a short glass is a proper highball. Few of us realize the true price exacted by our ignorance, until we”re flummoxed in an argument with a Stalinist, or a dinner guest gags on our “innovative” cocktail of Galliano and grapefruit juice.
Now, if you”ve read my book on the saints (The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Good Living), you”ll see that I’ve nothing against the recreational use of legends. While I prefer medieval folktales involving martyrs” tongues that go on preaching long after they”re beheaded (St. Livinus, feast day Nov. 12), in a pinch an urban legend will do. In fact, they can make one’s day. What could be more delightful than to learn (by email, of course) that:
“¢ Public restrooms across the country are infested by venomous “two-striped telamonia spiders” lurking beneath the seats.
“¢ A teenage girl in California went swimming and got impregnated by octopus eggs.
“¢ Toilets flush counterclockwise in Australia.
“¢ Drinking Visine can cause diarrhea.
“¢ Jesus married Mary Magdalene and fathered a race of French petty kings, but Opus Dei is killing nuns to cover it up.
To all of which I say, “Would that it were true . . .”
I would especially like to believe the theories of David Icke, a former British soccer player who “discovered” the fact that the world has been dominated, for the past 10,000 years, by a race of alien lizard-men who can take on human form. According to Icke, keeping up a human appearance is hard work, and if you stare at George Bush, or Queen Elizabeth, long enough, eventually you can get a glimpse of lizard. Or if you want a shortcut, Icke suggests, there’s a surefire way of seeing the lizard-men: Just drop a little LSD. That’s right, this wonder drug can pierce the veil of reptilian illusion . . . which is precisely why it’s illegal! In case you were wondering. Icke’s theory, of course, casts Church history in a fascinating, innovative light. (For instance, he argues that Jesus had a long, darting tongue.)
Some people seem to spend much of their time disseminating such stories (you probably know a few, and have learned how to block their emails). Others (as puzzlingly) devote themselves to debunking these stories. The entertaining Web site, Snopes.com, is a virtual Wikipedia of misinformation, arranged conveniently by categories. The next time an ex-fiance sends you a warning about the lizard-men, before you invest in reptile repellent I suggest you check with Snopes.
If contemporary Americans are a little too credulous about the rumors they pass along, they”re entirely too promiscuous about the drinks they mix and serve. There are entire categories of cocktails whose names alone induce the gag reflex, such as “Sex on the Beach,” “Dirty Girl Scout,” and others I’d rather not name. (One rhymes with “teeming gourd spasm.”) If you live near a university, you probably pass by shops where the once-delightful daiquiri has been jazzed up into a nearly toxic Slushy, and is served to coeds from enormous, whirring machines that dispense drinks with names like the “Horizontal Freshman.” Call me a prude, but I do not approve.
In fact, a proper highball is made in only one way: with equal parts rye whiskey and ginger ale, in a tall glass full of ice. Acceptable variations include substituting scotch for rye or club soda for ginger ale. This is enough for me, and should suffice for anybody. Sorry, but I feel we have to be strict about this. Good people, don”t you realize that our country is at war?
Likewise, I’d like to narrow the range of debate over Church teaching on equality and hierarchy to exclude the most egregious sorts of nonsense. For starters, the theory once popular on the far Right in France, which asserted that the Church existed precisely in order to suppress the destructive, anti-social egalitarianism found . . . in the Gospels. At one point, many leading Catholic intellectuals (including a young Jacques Maritain) subscribed to this notion, which was propounded by the extreme royalist Charles Maurras. The movement he led, the Action FranÃ§aise, was at one point the largest pro-Catholic political force in France”which goes to show how desperate the Church’s situation has been in that country since along about 1789. In 1927, the movement and its leader were condemned by Pope Pius XI.
Embracing the opposite error are the partisans of Liberation Theology, a baptized Marxist theory which once dominated Church circles in Latin America and Western Europe. (For some reason, I can”t think why, it never caught on in Eastern Europe, and took rather a nose-dive after 1989.) This theory, still popular in watered-down form in certain circles on the Catholic left, asserts that Jesus” saving mission largely consisted in the attempt to transform society and abolish economic and social inequalities”establishing a Kingdom of Christ that was, indeed, “of this world.”
We find a more balanced view in the writings of Pope Leo XIII. In paragraph 22 of his most famous encyclical,
Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo teaches that the prosperous are indeed obliged by charity (not justice) to share with the needy. “True, no one is commanded to distribute to others that which is required for his own needs and those of his household; nor even to give away what is reasonably required to keep up becomingly his condition in life, “for no one ought to live other than becomingly.” But, when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over.” In other words, prosperous people, social classes, or countries are not obliged to abolish inequality. Wealthy Catholics need not give away so much that they become middle- or working-class, and prosperous nations need not transfer their “surplus” GNP to the developing world. Indeed, secular economists such as Milton Friedman have demonstrated the perverse effects of careless foreign aid”which frequently devastates local business, and retards the economic development of countries.
But this is no argument for complacency in the face of grinding poverty. Pope Leo goes on to write “But the laws and judgments of men must yield place to the laws and judgments of Christ the true God, who in many ways urges on His followers the practice of almsgiving””It is more blessed to give than to receive” and who will count a kindness done or refused to the poor as done or refused to Himself””As long as you did it to one of My least brethren you did it to Me.”” This tells us that in the Divine Economy, there are few more prudent investments than money wisely given to help the poor, especially when it helps them attain self-sufficiency and dignity. (One of my favorite charities can be found at Gardenharvest it collects money to buy oxen, cows, goats, sheep, and chickens for needy farmers around the world. Come on, pony up, and give the gift of a goat!) Think of it as stockpiling “cups of cold water” (Matthew 10:42) in the divine refrigerator.
As the old saying goes, give a man a drink, and he drinks for a day. Teach him to make a drink, and he drinks for the rest of his life.
John Zmirak is author of The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Wine, Whiskey, and Song.
When a lame-duck draft dodger pardoned a major crook and fugitive— along with his very own drug dealing half brother— American public opinion was righteously outraged. It was par for the course for Bill Clinton, but at least he didn’t saddle the country with anything worse than having to put up with a ghastly person like Mark Rich walking freely around in polite society. His buddy Tony Blair has done better. Even lamer than Clinton was when he handed out the pardons, old Tone has burdened this country with a nice “high representative” who will decide when and if the British Lion will roar. How’s that for a long goodbye?
Mind you, it’s not as bad as it sounds. What they actually decided down Brussels way was to help Europe speak with one voice, creating a more powerful EU foreign policy. This way Uncle Sam can speak to somebody who speaks for Europe, and give orders to one person instead of many. Uncle Sam, after all, has been confused of late, and as he’s getting on in years, we Europeans have to help him out. Hence internal distractions are out, one voice, that of Brussels, is in. Bravo, Tony. You kept your most lethal thrust for last. Now it’s up to Gordon the Illegitimate to figure it out. And I thought Greek politics was a joke.
And speaking of jokes, they sure are eyeless in Gaza nowadays. The struggle between Hamas and Fatah is not a fight between good and bad guys, but a fight to the death between bad guys only. The struggle is over money, moolah and guns which Mr. Elliott Abrams, a convicted perjurer, has been funnelling to Fatah ever since Hamas won a legit election 15 months ago. Abrams is head of the Middle East desk at the State Department and an ardent Zionist. Last time he snuck arms to people it was for a good cause, the Contras in Nicaragua. His plan for Gaza was to empower Fatah in order to refuse the handover of real power to the electoral winner. In cahoots with Israel, his plan has been a resounding success. The fact that Gaza will now become an international base for global jihad is immaterial. What Abrams’s father-in-law, old Poddy, (Norman Podhoretz) says goes.
Following Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip, there was a window of opportunity to turn that miserable place into a Middle East Macao, or even Hong Kong. That was James Wolfensohn’s plan, the ex World Bank honcho. He acquired greenhouses Israeli settlers had abandoned and offered them to the Palestinians. For a brief moment it worked. Flowers, fruit and vegetables for export were being produced until Israel sealed the border and everything went to waste. Issues of security were the excuse. Some were legit, most of them were not. End of story. And in came Abrams with guns and money.
What I find incredible is that there are still people around who wonder why the Middle East is up in flames. Andrew Alexander explained it very well last Friday. 90 years ago Britain initiated a policy of providing a Jewish homeland in Palestine — on predominantly Arab lands. Then Israel was created on land that supposedly belonged half to the Arabs and half to the Jews. But not for the first time, the Jews took a bigger slice. After beating back the Arabs in four wars, Israel now controls the West Bank, the Holy Sites and the Gaza Strip. We Greeks lost Constantinople in 1453, and as late as 1922 were still trying to get our lands back. (We failed miserably but got Onassis and many other good Greeks to move to the mainland). So I ask you, dear readers: Why are people surprised and bored by the fact that only ninety years on Arabs are still smarting over the seizure of their lands? I know I am stating my facts rather plainly, but plain facts are real facts, not propagandistic bull.
But on to less depressing subjects. Like Princess Di and those making millions from her life and death. I recently reviewed Tina Brown’s opus on Diana for the Standard. I gave Tina an A for research and regurgitation of unfounded gossip most likely invented by so called royal correspondents, and a D for originality. One thing is for sure. She deserves the millions she will make because rehashing a life covered ad nauseam by the tabloids would have scared even Hercules away. Now I read a review of the book in The New Yorker which is the kind I would give to something written by my children. The reviewer, one John Lanchester, obviously doesn’t know a lot about the subject. Just what he read in Tina’s book. He still thinks there’s a chance Diana’s life and death will push the Windsors off the throne. Everything is possible, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
If you want a great read instead of such crap, try Blood Rock, the latest thriller-historical novel by James Jackson. I will not spoil it for you. Just try it, because although it takes place five hundred years ago, it is relevant as hell today.
—The Spectator. (Photo found at www.backingblair.co.uk.)
I recently completed a visit to Massachusetts with two definable goals: to escort an aged friend to his 65th reunion from Harvard, and to deliver the commencement address at a high school graduation. Although I was born in New York (and consider myself a native New Yorker, of sorts), and have lived in the Los Angeles area since I was six, every trip I take to New England is, in a sense, a homecoming. My maternal grandfather, although a New York literatus for much of his working life, nevertheless taught at Harvard and died in Haverhill; although my cousins on that side were also born in New York, they live in Amherst and Greenwich, Connecticut. Dad was the third generation in the Bay State; he and all of his French-Canadian family lie in Notre Dame cemetery in Fall River, where too, presumably, shall I some day.
More important than my own ties with the region, however, are those shared by all Americans. Although Jamestown was settled earlier, it is the Puritan settlers of New England who have left the greater mark on the American soul and psyche. Rather than Jamestown, most Americans think of Plymouth Rock as our place of origin. However false chronologically this impression may be, it is nevertheless true psychologically. From the Pilgrims and Puritans comes our innate Calvinism—the Puritan work ethic, suspicion of the arts, and the need for moral crusades. Since these latter are no longer possible to pit against what was formerly considered immoral, they are aimed today at such evils as smoking, foie gras, the drowning of excess kittens—and, of course, against the active opposition to said former immoralities. Needless to say, our celebration of Thanksgiving has become a national glorification of this heritage.
It was in New England that the American Revolution began, as any trekker along Boston’s Freedom Trail knows; here too started much of our national culture: From New England Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and James Russell Lowell launched American literature. The uniquely strange nature of New England’s topography and folklore gave us H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King; perhaps only less frighteningly, the presence of half of the Ivy League Colleges and the boarding schools known collectively as “St. Grottlesex” (after St. Paul’s, Groton, and Middlesex, but including several others) have laid a heavy mark upon higher education.
In the past, these latter institutions gave tone as well as education to the wealthier segment of the descendants of the original settlers. Of course, like their Southern and Mid-Atlantic confreres, these folk are today commonly called WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants). Although this term may be considered derogatory by some, it was coined by one of the people it describes (although as a member of a religion, Catholic, and of an ethnicity, French, that are constantly ridiculed, I hope not to be insensitive in this area). At any rate, it is descriptive, and by no means without some glory attached thereto—after all, as Richard Brookhiser observes in his Way of the WASP, they did create most of our national institutions and way of life.
Among this latter is religious multiplicity, and, indeed, after the decay of explicitly doctrinal Calvinism in 18th century New England, the area gained the sort of notoriety as a breeding ground of weird sects that would later grace Southern California. Unitarianism, Shakerism, Universalism, Mormonism, Spiritualism, and Christian Science were a few of the faiths that the endlessly creative Yankee mind spawned. The New Light cult of Shadrach Ireland was positively Lovecraftian. Even today, in certain out of the way nooks and crannies, where inbreeding over centuries has created a series of Tobacco Roads North, bizarre religiosity of a sort generally associated with the Appalachians may be found.
But layered over that entire heritage is the sort of Brahmin gentility still to be found in such places as Boston’s Somerset and Union Clubs, Symphony Hall, Locke-Ober Restaurant, and, of course, Harvard University. Certainly, the latter institution is much more diverse than it was; but my visit was with the Class of 1942, the last, so one of its instructors boasted, to receive a “Real” (that is, Classics-based) Harvard education. Of the 1700 who matriculated in 1938, only 400 remain; of these about a quarter turned up. But they are still a fairly lively bunch—in a restrained, genteel way. Some of the survivors are not WASPs, to be sure (I sang a medley of Yiddish tunes with one particularly jovial couple, and my host was an habituÃ© of Cambridge’s famed St. Paul’s Church while an undergrad). But quite a few of them were, and evinced a great interest in cultural and political topics, in that mildly non-specific way so typical of the liberal variety of WASPery.
“I”m very concerned about the way this country is going,” confided one of these to me. “Bush has lowered the level of civility in this country a thousand per cent!” he opined. “What about Clinton?” I responded. “Er…well…a man’s private affairs…”, he drifted off. Entering into the spirit of the thing, I added with a mock sneer, “Well, of course, Bush IS a Yalie.” “Yes, yes exactly!” brightened my aged interlocutor, smiling broadly.
With the class I made an outing to the Essex-Peabody museum in Salem. During our tour they asked many searching and intelligent questions, and in return offered observations based upon their own artistic pursuits. On the one hand, one could not really detect much passion in most of them; but one could envy their mental acuity.
One morning I took a visit to the Back Bay offices of HDB/Cram and Ferguson, a venerable architectural firm in the Back Bay. Its founder, Ralph Adams Cram, was a late 19th/early 20th century genius who, from his headquarters in Boston, designed churches, schools, public buildings, and homes throughout the United States, including such renowned structures as West Point’s Cadet Chapel, USC’s Doheny Library, Princeton University, and New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, to name a very few. Although using a number of styles, Cram was devoted to Gothic. Moreover, he was a fervent Anglo-Catholic and Medievalist, writing a large number of religious and political books, all seeking to apply the insights of his beloved Middle Ages to the present. Cram was also a talented writer of horror fiction (one of his tales makes its appearance in my anthology, Classic Horror Tales).
Alas, Cram’s reputation went into obscurity after World War II. Although the building Cram designed are beloved by those who actually use them, the post-War architectural industry was not interested in beautiful design. This blow was doubled when Christian churchmen followed suit in the 1960s. Cram’s memory perhaps received an even more crushing blow in the two volume biography of him by Douglass Shand-Tucci, who alleged that Cram and most of his circle were closet homosexuals who demonstrated their affectional preferences through their work. While Shand-Tucci’s avocation as a gay activist may color his opinions, his enormous tomes do include a lot of interesting information. But, as one reviewer noted, due to S-T’s writing style, reading his work “is like being smothered with a feather boa.”
His main thesis has been roundly challenged by Ethan Anthony, author of the recently published The Architecture of Ralph Adams Cram and His Office. Referring to S-T’s allegations of Cram’s gaiety, Anthony dismissively writes “I have found no evidence to support his theories.” Of course, Anthony has a dog in this particular fight: not only is he the current head of Cram’s old firm, he has steered it back into the church trade. This is not merely of interest either to fans of architecture or of Cram; it registers a movement away from the ethos of the “60s, at least in those of us too young to have really affected that decade. A perusal of their Web site will show the new parishes they are currently building.
If Cram and Ferguson gave me hope for the future, dinner at The Wayside Inn in Sudbury took me comfortably back to the colonial past. Yankee Pot Roast and Indian Pudding were washed down with the Inn’s signature “Coo-Woo,” touted as the country’s first cocktail. But above all, it is the aura of the place that brings me back repeatedly. Immortalized by Longfellow as being “as ancient is this hostelry as any in the land may be,” in his Tales of a Wayside Inn (wherein he introduced such favorites as “Paul Revere’s Ride”), it is little changed from his day. To be in the bar on Wednesday nights when the Sudbury Fife and Drum Corps practice is to step back two and a half centuries, back to “the good old colony days, when we lived under the King,” as the folk song puts it. To be sure, though, Coo-Woos are not the only spirits haunting the place. Allegedly, 18th century innkeeper’s daughter Jerusha Howe makes herself known to those who rent her old lodgings in room 9.
Most New England cities and towns boast Commons—green spots in their centers that in the time of settlement were common land, just as in England before the enclosures. And like those favored parcels in the Old Country, New England’s commons were maintained, originally, for the freeholders of the town to graze their animals—indeed, Ralph Waldo Emerson was the last to graze his cattle on Boston Common.
In keeping with English custom as well, each town had a congregation of the Established Church near the common. But in colonial times, this church would be neither Catholic nor Anglican, but (save in free-thinking Rhode Island) Congregational—which was what the Puritans and Pilgrims came to call themselves. Often, the church doubled as the town hall. In the early 19th century, however, two things disrupted this cozy arrangement. One was disestablishment: Vermont in 1807, Connecticut in 1818, New Hampshire in 1819, Maine in 1820, and Massachusetts in 1833 all broke their ties to the Congregational Church. Apart from launching the career of P.T. Barnum (one of the leading disestablishmentarianists in Connecticut), this development led to the building of separate buildings for town and parish—an action whose results can still be seen today in the similar architecture of meeting house and town hall in many of the smaller towns.
At the same time, Congregationalism itself was splitting between Trinitarians and Unitarians. Typically, a vote would be held on the Trinity at a parish meeting, thus determining eternal truth by majority rule in good democratic fashion. Where the Trinity won, the Unitarians would withdraw and erect their own building; where they lost, it was their adherents who left. So it was and is in many places in the region: a Unitarian and a Congregational church staring at each other across the Common. This too I saw in many of the towns I drove through on this trip, although there were also Federated Churches. Out migration and a declining WASP birthrate has forced many congregations to unite across denominational lines. Unitarianism, at any rate, has had an influence out of all proportion to its members, given that many of our ruling elites would subscribe to its notion that conduct is more important than creed.
One other important institution that is to be found in most New England towns is the Town Meeting. Not met with in the cities (Boston gave up its Town Meeting in 1830), it is often cited as an early example of direct democracy. Little changed since their colonial origins, in 1775 most of them dropped from the warrants ordering the sheriff to summon voters the language that had so long adorned them: “You are hereby required in his Majesty’s Name forthwith to warn all the freeholders and other Inhabitants of said town to meet at the meeting house.” Even without His Majesty’s name, however, they continue to convene under the watchful eye of the Moderator of the Town Meeting, now as in the past an important post. Under his guidance, all electors in the town vote on various measures, and elect the Board of Selectmen. These are numbered, the First Selectman acting as quasi-mayor.
If the tradition of direct democracy remains strong in New England, so too does that of the citizen soldier. Not only do several of the National Guard formations trace their lineage back to colonial militia units; several of the States maintain military establishments completely separate from Federal control—some dating back to before the Revolution. Connecticut has its various companies of Governor’s Horse Guards and Foot Guards; Rhode Island has its Newport Artillery. But most prestigious of all are Massachusetts” National Lancers and the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company. Not only does this latter claim to be “the third oldest chartered military organization in the World, and the oldest in the Western Hemisphere,” it is socially very prominent, which counts for a lot in Boston. I myself have seen the unit’s officers, after the “June Day Parade” (an event which commences with their marching from their Faneuil Hall armory to the Granary Burying Ground to lay a wreath on the grave of the first commander, thence to St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral for a memorial service, and finally to Boston Common to elect their officers for the coming year) descend upon Locke-Ober’s bar to spend the rest of the day in revelry.
In all these units, however, the names of members deriving from early settler families are equaled or surpassed in number by names of obvious Polish, Italian, French, or Irish descent. This points up the other great fact about New England: despite its role in forging our national identity, and its continuing identity as a repository of WASP heritage, its people are mostly the descendants of foreign Catholics. In the 19th century, waves of Irish, Polish, Italian, French, Portuguese, and other foreign immigrants swept over New England, to provide cheap labor for her mines, mills, and factories. Wherever they landed in the larger centers of the region, they built beautiful churches, as grand as anything to be seen in Europe. These edifices, amazing as they are, were built with the pittances contributed at great sacrifice by near penniless immigrants.
The Irish, coming first, were swiftly recruited for the Democratic Party, the Republican being at time the stronghold of the WASPs. But soon after many of the Italians and French, especially in Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts, joined the GOP in reaction to the perceived bossiness of their English-speaking co-religionists. From 1900 to 1960, the Catholics were a powerful, if divided, force in New England. The apogee of this power was seen with the election of John F. Kennedy.
But already, there were cracks in the faÃ§ade. The vestigial Jansenism among some of the Irish found a strangely sympathetic echo in what remained of New England’s Calvinism; although this intriguing combo has resulted in the mythic “Catholic guilt” so often trumpeted by “recovering” Catholics, it has done little to restrain the antics of such as the Kennedy clan and many of Boston’s clergy. Be that as it may, the dominance in the local Church and State of the Irish would tend to alienate many of the ethnic Catholics; my own family were involved tangentially in the Sentinelle affair of the 1920’s. This dispute, analogous to that which created the Polish National Catholic Church, was happily assuaged to a degree by Little Rose Ferron, the noted stigmatic whose cause for canonization has been introduced. But the larger result, despite the presence of national parishes on the scene, was to transform the Church into a force for assimilation. Ironically, the hold of the Faith on many of the ethnics was weakened as succeeding generations duly lost their language and culture.
After Vatican II, as elsewhere, allegiance to the Church slipped as the uniquely Catholic ethos was ever more dissipated. Even staunchly Irish Catholic Boston found itself in conflict with the Archdiocese as the “Southies” erupted in anger over the busing issue in the mid “70s. Continued hierarchical connections with such pro-abortion pols as Senator Teddy Kennedy, Congressman Tip O”Neill, and the notorious Congressman Robert Drinan, S.J., further eroded clerical moral authority. While long-time observers of the Archdiocese of Boston were uncomfortably aware of moral decay among local clergy under the reigns of William Cardinal O”Connell (1907-44) and Richard Cardinal Cushing (1944-70)—a decay those prelates have been posthumously accused of fostering —most Catholics were shocked at the revelations of clerical pedophilia that erupted in 2002.
Regardless of who was shocked, the financial damage to the Archdiocese has been enormous, resulting in sale of the Cardinal’s residence and the Archdiocesan headquarters, as well as the closing of many parishes. Of the latter, perhaps the most scandalous is the case of Holy Trinity, New England’s historic German parish. Once pastored by the celebrated Fr. F.X. Wieser, S.J. (noted for his writings on Catholic folk customs and as chaplain to the Von Trapp family), Holy Trinity was not merely the site of the first American Christmas Tree and long-time host to the Archdiocese’s Tridentine Mass community; it was also financially self-sufficient. This latter fact, however, was concealed until an independent audit revealed that the administrator had been using its funds to cover the expenses of his other parish. The closing has been appealed to Rome, but unless the Holy See intervenes, 2007 will see the loss of yet another irreplaceable piece of New England’s Catholic heritage.
Sad as my visit there was, still worse was my trip to the Jesuit church of the Immaculate Conception in the South End. Devastated by its owners in the 1980s (the High Altar was saved only through the Boston Historical Society’s intervention), the interior has—save for that altar—been entirely denuded of permanent fixtures of a religious nature. Worse still, a photograph on the wall shows its former beauty. But even this half-life comes to an end in July, when the Jesuits will close it down. This was not the only ecclesiastical tragedy I witnessed. Holy Cross Cathedral is locked outside of Mass times, and there is no French Mass at the similarly-locked Our Lady of Victory, originally designed as the “French Cathedral” for New England (although I did gain entrance via the rectory, and it retains its beauty).
Despite all of this, however, the Redemptorist Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (the “Mission Church”), and St. Clement’s Eucharistic Shrine (under the aegis of the Oblates of Mary the Virgin, a fairly conservative order that still gets vocations) were open, more or less un-uglified, and boasting a few laypeople each at prayer. Truly inspiring places, to be sure.
Just prior to boarding the plane, I stopped by the family plot. After praying for the repose of the souls of my family, I could not help but reflect that since we acquired that space in 1890, New England, the country, and the world had certainly changed around us, for ill, and a bit for good. Looking at all the French inscriptions on the stones at Notre Dame Cemetery, it struck me that, no matter where life has taken or takes me, New England will retain her hold on my soul, as she does on the nation. An oddly comforting—and frightening—thought.
Charles A. Coulombe is an author currently stranded in Los Angeles.
It is crunch time in the bunker at the White House. Can Dick Cheney and his sidekick, G.W. Bush, allow their most loyal teammate, “Scooter” Libby, to head off to a federal penitentiary simply because he was acting at their direction to discredit Ambassador Joe Wilson, no matter what—even if it meant outing a CIA agent who was tasked with combating weapons of mass destruction. Does anybody believe that “Scooter” was acting on his own? Nobody seems to be asking the most avoided question in this affair—indeed, the most avoided question in the larger issue of the U.S. invasion of Iraq—and that simple question is “Why?”
Judge Reggie Walton and the federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, and most importantly, the jury, all came to the same conclusion: “Scooter” is guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice in a grand jury investigation involving national security. The evidence against “Scooter” was overwhelming and irrefutable. Why would this intelligent man lie and obstruct justice? That’s the mystery, isn’t it? There must be a reason. If Libby were innocent, would he not have taken the stand to explain and demonstrate his innocence? Of course he would. Evidently, he had something to hide. It must have been something important, to commit perjury and risk this ordeal. Of course, he never thought he would get caught. Still, by all accounts Libby is a very cautious man. Yet, he deliberately makes up an audacious story about NBC News Washington Bureau Chief, Tim Russert, which story Russert had no choice but to testify was a complete fiction. Did “Scooter” really expect Russert to remain silent or to commit perjury for him, like “Scooter” had remained silent and committed perjury for Cheney and Bush?
The only logical conclusion is that there was and remains an ongoing coverup, a massive coverup in the White House at the highest levels. Libby was part of that inner circle twice over. First, as the Vice President’s chief of staff and, second, as counselor to the President. My guess is that Cheney, the most powerful V.P in U.S. history, made Libby the point man for smearing Ambassador Wilson, because Wilson had touched a nerve and exposed a fraud. Naturally, the administration’s master hatchet man, Karl Rove, was working overtime on the same project. They were all working on it. They were all in on it. They had to be to save themselves. They had to keep the lid on the details of their mendacious campaign to drive America into a war for no legitimate reason. Just as important, they had to keep under deep cover the neocon agenda which inspired and dictated the Iraq invasion.
So what is the solution now? Logically, Cheney and Bush should resign forthwith. That is the only honest course of action. The conviction of Libby convicts them. Surely, Patrick Fitzgerald and his team realize that. But wisely, Fitzgerald has not gone after Cheney and Bush. That is not his job. That is the job of Congress. For purely strategic reasons, however, the cynical leadership of the Democrats in Congress has taken impeachment off the table. The reason is simple. To impeach the President and the Vice President on the grounds of lying the country into a war, and covering it up, would be to indict the Democrats on Capitol Hill for authorizing the war and for promoting it from the start. Everybody gets exposed, including perhaps, the holy of holies, the hidden neocon agenda itself. In a genuine, unexpurgated investigation into the reasons for the war, dishonest politicians like Hillary Clinton, the Democratic establishment’s choice for America’s next President, could be blown out of the water. She was one of the war’s biggest cheerleaders, remember, until the whole project went sour with the public and south in the polls.
I realize that with Cheney and Bush out the door, that puts Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, into the Oval Office. But that’s just one of the rules of the game—it’s called the Constitution—which must be followed. Maybe Pelosi would appoint her friend, Congressman John Murtha, as Secretary of Defense. That would be a start and a plus. Murtha is a straight talker. And perhaps in the interim Nancy would knock Hillary out of the box as the Democrat’s next disaster in the making for an already overloaded Uncle Sam. In any case, it appears most unlikely that President Pelosi could do more damage than what the co-consulship of Cheney & Bush has already. Nearly impossible, in fact. The “neocon” foreign policy legacy of Cheney & Bush is a disaster with a capital D, thanks to their own malfeasance—due in no small part to the establishment Democrats who enabled the disaster.
Patrick Foy is author of The Unauthorized World Situation Report.
In most of the country, even in liberal Oregon, a majority of voters believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. They have said so by amending state constitutions, by legislation and by referenda. In this respect Massachusetts is not part of the nation.
To place a definition of marriage proposition on the ballot in Massachusetts so voters can express their views the issue must pass in two separate sessions of the Commonwealth’s legislature with at least 50 votes. After the November 2006 Democratic landslide, pro-family forces lost support. With Massachusetts’s Governor Mitt Romney just out of office in late January 2007, a traditional-marriage proposition received 62 votes. When the subsequent vote was taken just rece ntly it was five votes short. The reason the vote came up short is because of intense arm twisting by the Commonwealth’s current Governor, Deval Patrick.
The homosexual lobby issued a statement saying that as neighbors became acquainted with “married” male or female couples, they found that they were just like heterosexual couples. So the fear of homosexual couples had disappeared. The fear is still there but it is not fear of homosexual or lesbian couples. It never has been. The fear is of the homosexual lobby.
It does not merely twist arms. It instills fear in the hearts of legislators. Yes, the 2006 elections weakened the pro-family forces, yet there are many pro-family Democrats in Massachusetts. They are cultural conservatives, if economic liberals.
Homosexuals picture themselves as on the defensive. They claim they are discriminated against. In fact, they are on the offensive. Their lobby has evolved into one of the more powerful lobbies in the country. They are dangerous, not because what they believe is wrong, but because they put fear in the hearts of legislators of both parties. And they deliver.
They claim they are merely part of the civil-rights movement. What an insult to the civil-rights movement. When we speak of not discriminating against those whom God has created, that is absolutely correct. But it is incorrect to equate God-created civil rights with man-created “rights,” which should have no legitimate standing.
Let me make this clear. I believe that all of us are sons and daughters of our Creator. Thus, no human being should be treated nastily. Every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. But that fact does not obligate anyone to agree to a complete agenda, anymore than it should obligate me to buy into entire the liberal agenda, the conservative agenda, the Republican agenda or the Democratic agenda. That is the problem. We are told that unless we buy the whole agenda of the homosexuals we are guilty of rank discrimination. Why?
Am I discriminating against Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., because I don”t accept his entire agenda? I doubt that Kennedy would buy into that proposition. I certainly don”t contend that folks who disagree with our loosely formulated conservative agenda are discriminating against me personally. They advocate that if you don”t buy into every point of their agenda you personally discriminate against them.
They have also constructed a powerful lobby that is largely invisible. It has been documented in The Homosexual Network, by Father Enrique Rueda, Devin Adair, 1982, and in a suppressed network television documentary.
If you cross their network, they will see to it that you pay. By that I mean if you are in the congress or in a state legislature, you either vote their way or you risk becoming a target. What is wrong with that, you may ask? It is in the grand American tradition. True, but most lobbies do not demand 100 per cent agreement. One vote against that lobby, and you will be targeted for defeat.
Even the labor unions, which told everyone that they were tough and that they would not tolerate a dissent, actually have tolerated occasional dissent. They once were tough, but as politics has deprived them of the support of key legislators they have looked for votes wherever they can obtain them.
Returning to the central topic, the voters in Massachusetts will not get the chance to vote on the proposition that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. Some states have so-called civil unions. That is to say they accord all the privileges of marriage but not the title of marriage, which is what homosexuals really want. Massachusetts has homosexual marriage because the legislature won”t offer voters the ability to vote on the matter
If voters could vote, the pro-family movement is confident that traditional marriage would win. Voters everywhere in this country affirm that marriage is between one man and one woman. However, in only half the states do voters have the right to petition to place an issue on the ballot. In most states it is the legislature which places issues on the ballot. If a matter has enough public support, the legislature will act, as it has in most states where the public has demonstrated support.
It is only in Massachusetts that the system works against those who have a real issue. The legislators there have figured a way not to do something which other state’s voters take for granted. And even in those states in which the legislature rules, there is a reasonable threshold which must be met. In Massachusetts homosexual marriage lives on, but it is the only state in which that is the case although in some states litigation continues. At present if homosexuals want the formal title of marriage they had better live in Massachusetts. In the remainder of the nation, that idea is not flying because the voters have decreed otherwise.
A Free Congress Commentary. Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
A little more than eight months ago, on September 12, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI delivered his now-infamous Regensburg Address. The reaction in the Muslim world was swift and severe, including protests, violence, and the murder of a nun”all over the Holy Father’s citation of a late-14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus. In a dialogue on Christianity and Islam, the emperor had rhetorically asked an educated Persian to “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
Lost in the uproar was the reason for Pope Benedict’s citation of the emperor, which was expressed in the further quotation that the Holy Father offered from the dialogue. The emperor put his remark into context by explaining that “God is not pleased by blood”and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats . . . To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death . . . “
Many sympathetic commentators, who didn’t bother to read the speech, concluded that the main point of Benedict’s address was to denounce the use of violence in the service of religion. That is certainly a good secondary lesson to take from his remarks, but the full text makes it very clear that Benedict, like the emperor, was using the example of violence simply to introduce his broader point: that “not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature.” And this draws into focus a nearly insurmountable problem for any dialogue between Christianity and Islam because, as Benedict continued, in Islam, Allah’s “will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.” (By “categories,” he means philosophical categories of Western thought.)
For a dialogue to take place, three conditions are necessary:
First, both sides must be interested in pursuing the truth, which requires acknowledging that there is such a thing as truth and that it can be known (or at least approached) through reason.
Second, both sides must represent their own positions truthfully (which also requires that those positions be expressed rationally), and without any intent to deceive. And
Third, each side must be able to take the other’s claims at face value, as truly representing the other’s position.
On each of these points, the Islamic conception of Allah presents a stumbling block. The work of the noted Muslim theologian and scholar Ibn Hazm is often presented as proof of what Northwestern University Professor Dario Fernandez-Morera has called “The Andalusian Myth””namely, that the high point of civilization on the Iberian peninsula occurred during the centuries of Muslim occupation. As Benedict points out, however, “Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that [Allah] is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us.” Allah is, in the end, pure will, not bound by reason”in other words, capriciousness is essential to his very nature. “Were it [Allah’s] will,” Benedict continues, “we would even have to practise idolatry.”
Most of us have not had anything approaching the theological training of Benedict XVI, so we may be tempted to dismiss his concerns as something that could only be of interest to a theologian. After all, how likely is it that the average believer”Muslim or Christian”could even fully grasp the differences between the Christian conception of the Godhead and the Muslim conception of Allah, let alone allow his behavior to be affected by such differences?
Perhaps we can begin to understand the importance that these differences hold for even the average believer by approaching this from a slightly different angle.
In De Potentia, St. Thomas Aquinas contrasts the Muslim view of physical causality with the Christian one, pointing out that Muslims believe that Allah interposes himself at every point in the chain of causality, while Christians believe that natural objects can act under their own power. Contemporary writers, such as Fr. Stanley Jaki, have argued that this Muslim misconception of natural causality is the primary reason science developed in Christian Europe but remained stunted in Muslim societies (the claims of current public-school textbooks and PBS propaganda specials notwithstanding).
Few people, however, have explored the moral implications of the Muslim understanding of physical causality. To take Aquinas’s example, if I were to take this lighter and apply the flame to this sheet of paper, everyone in this room would assume that, everything being normal, the paper would ignite”and it does. It took no special act of God to cause the paper to burn; in fact, all other things being equal, it would have required His intervention to prevent a fire, just as He intervened when Nebuchanezzer threw the three youths into the furnace. According to the Muslim view, however, when I strike the lighter, Allah has to decide whether the flint will spark, and whether the spark will ignite the fuel. When I apply the flame to the paper, Allah must decide whether the paper will ignite. If it does catch fire, it is because Allah willed that each in this series of natural acts would occur; if it does not, it is because Allah willed that the paper would not burn.
So we conclude that Muslims have a non-Western, non-Christian notion of physical causality. So what? Well, what if this weren”t a lighter, but an airplane? And what if this weren”t a sheet of paper, but one of the towers of the World Trade Center? Then, if the plane, being applied to the tower, were to cause it to burst into flames and crumble to the ground, it would not happen because the hollow steel structure of the tower created a chimney that caused an implosion, or because changes in environmental regulations prevented the use of asbestos above the 76th floor, but only because Allah willed that the tower would burst into flames and crumble to the ground. The complete capriciousness of Allah with respect to the physical world leads to a moral fatalism. If Allah did not want the towers to fall, he would not have made them fall. To Muslims who understand this—both in the United States and worldwide—the fact that the towers fell was a clear signal that Allah approved of the actions of the September 11 hijackers.
This moral fatalism helps to explain why many American Muslims”even some of those who seemed genuinely horrified by what had occurred”were unable or unwilling to condemn the September 11 attacks directly. If Allah approved the actions of the hijackers by causing the towers to fall, then to condemn the September 11 attacks is essentially an act of impiety. It is one of the many ironies of Islam that the Muslim insistence on the radical freedom of the will can lead to a moral fatalism which those who wish to wage jihad against the United States can use in order to silence dissent among their fellow Muslims.
Just as Christians believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God, Muslims see themselves as a reflection of Allah. And as we wish to conform our will to God’s Will, they attempt to conform their wills to Allah. But here, the similarities end. If Allah’s will, unlike God’s, is not bound up with rationality, then the discerning of that will takes a very different shape. In attempting to understand God’s Will, Christians can turn to the world around us, to natural law, to history, to tradition. We see the rationality”the consistent reasonableness”of God’s Will in the world that He created. But in Islam, the appearance of order is only that”an appearance. To the extent that the created world seems rational, it is only because Allah wishes it to appear so. His will could change at any moment, however”and the new order, or lack thereof, that he would create would be just as “right” as this one.
Which brings us back to Regensburg. Pope Benedict’s address was only 16 paragraphs long; and contrary to the impression given by the media, only the first four paragraphs directly concerned Islam. The other 12 are a philosophical and historical meditation on, in the Holy Father’s words, “the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God.” Turning to Saint John the Evangelist, Pope Benedict declares that John “spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God” when he declared that “In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God.” In other words, the final word on the biblical concept of God is a Greek word, and one of paramount importance in Greek philosophy. In English translations of this passage, we normally render logos as word: “In the beginning was the Word.” But logos, Pope Benedict reminds us, also means reason. “In the beginning was Reason””not the modern, narrow, scientific conception of reason, which places reason at odds with faith, but the classical and medieval conception of reason, which accepts faith as the “evidence of things not seen.”
Much has been made in recent years of the global demographic shift in the Church, to the east and to the south; and Pope Benedict himself, as Cardinal Ratzinger, has written eloquently about what this will likely mean for the future of the Church. But at Regensburg, his comments called to mind the words of Hilaire Belloc, who declared that “The Faith is Europe and Europe is the Faith.” “[W]ith the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage,” Benedict declared, the convergence between biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry “created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.” The influence flows the other way, too: Benedict spoke of “the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry,” and stated without hesitation that “The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance.” He referred to the Septuagint”“the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria””as “an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity.”
Most of the rest of the address is dedicated to showing that, in Benedict’s words, “the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself.” In other words, Greek philosophy is intrinsic to Christianity. It is not something grafted on, something that can be tossed aside lightly as we spread the Gospel among nations who, unlike us, are not direct heirs of the Greeks. To do so is to attempt to cleave the very logos itself”to sunder reason and the Word.
That cleft, however, is fundamental to Islamic theology, so much so that to refer to it as theology“reasoning about God”is a misuse of the term. It is a commonplace to refer to Muslims, Jews, and Christians as “Peoples of the Book,” but strictly speaking, that phrase really applies only to Muslims, because, for them, all that can be known about Allah is what he has chosen to reveal directly”and then only until that revelation is contradicted by further revelation, as occurs within the Koran itself. By sundering reason and the Word, Islam creates a very modern (and false) opposition between faith and reason. It is no surprise, then, that Jewish political philosopher Leo Strauss arrives at his understanding of the radical opposition between faith and reason through his study of Arab interpreters of Plato and Aristotle. Nor, sadly, is it any surprise that a Catholic follower of Strauss would recently write that “if as the Pope says ‘we must not lose sight of God if we do not want human dignity to disappear,’ one must be open to the possibility that in His Providence it may be Islam which is destined to restore that sight to a Europe ‘hollowed out’ by secularism.”
G.K. Chesterton predicted the rise of such men a century ago in his satirical novel, The Flying Inn. Intellectually stunted by a modern, narrow conception of reason, they have lost sight of the logos as anything but Word, and their version of Christianity, if can even be called that, becomes an abstraction that is closer to Islam than to the historic Christian Faith. The loss of the classical and medieval conception of reason undermines both Europe and the Faith; the destruction of Europe undermines both the Faith and reason; and the undermining of the Faith makes the revival of both reason and Europe a near impossibility.
What we’re left with, instead, is the capricious exercise of power in the modern world, which only a capricious god such as Allah seems able to restrain. But that restraint would come at a price: the human freedom that a Christian Europe made possible.
Cardinal Ratzinger, in his 1996 book Salt of the Earth, warned of that very possibility. The Koran, he wrote,
is a total religious law, which regulates the whole of political and social life and insists that the whole order of life be Islamic. Sharia shapes society from beginning to end. In this sense, it can exploit such freedoms as our constitutions give, but it cannot be its final goal to say: Yes, now we too are a body with rights, now we are present [in society] just like the Catholics and the Protestants. In such a situation, [Islam] would not achieve a status consistent with its inner nature; it would be in alienation from itself.
Where Islam is in power, it must dominate, to the exclusion of any other faith. The God of Christianity loves man, so much so that He sent His only Son to die for us; and He wants us to love Him in return, freely and unreservedly. Allah, in his capriciousness, demands total submission to his will, and so sharia is not a law of love, but of fear. For Christians, the fear of God is only the beginning of wisdom; it is charity”love”which is the bond of perfection.
At Regensburg, in a passage criticizing Christian thinkers who took the voluntarism of Blessed John Duns Scotus too far, Pope Benedict summed up the problem posed by the Muslim conception of Allah quite nicely: “God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf.”
Is there, then, any hope for a true dialogue between Christianity and Islam? Yes, and it lies in the fact that, in one sense (and perhaps in this sense alone), all men are created equal: God, in His love and mercy, has written His Law on their hearts. Muslims, like all men, no matter what they believe dogmatically, do not live each day as if Allah is capricious, as if the world could be remade at any moment and what was wrong will become right, and what is right will become wrong. Their recognition of this law may be veiled, as St. Paul, in Second Corinthians, declared of the children of Israel: “12 Having therefore such hope, we use much confidence: 13 And not as Moses put a veil upon his face, that the children of Israel might not steadfastly look on the face of that which is made void. 14 But their senses were made dull. For, until this present day, the selfsame veil, in the reading of the old testament, remaineth not taken away (because in Christ it is made void). 15 But even until this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. 16 But when they shall be converted to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.”
Pope Benedict understands that this inescapable fact of human nature gives us hope. At Regensburg, he invited not only Muslims but all of us to take the first step in revealing the law of God written on our hearts by awakening ourselves to the harmony of faith and reason”not the modern, narrow, abstract reason of the post-Christian West which has so much in common with the rejection of reason in Islam, but the reason of classical Greece and Rome and medieval Christendom. “It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason,” Pope Benedict declared, “that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures.”
What he did not say, but which he clearly knows, is that, if our Muslim interlocutors do embrace this reason and reject their own voluntaristic conception of Allah, the dialogue not only can start but will be well under way: because, to return to the early paragraphs of Benedict’s speech, that reason is the Logos, and the Logos is with God, and the Logos is God. Entered into with the intention of seeking the truth, this dialogue ends only in conversion to Christ, the eternal Logos, the unity of Reason and Word.
“And the Logos was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
Scott P. Richert is Executive Editor of Chronicles Magazine.
Well, what can one say except they don’t throw parties like this one any more. The dress code was devilishly or angelically black tie. (Think horns and wings and other heavenly things). I, of course, went as an angel, but my wings snapped off just as I entered the beautiful mansion of Prince Pavlos of Greece. His wife, Princess Marie Chantal, had put a lot of time and effort in making his fortieth birthday a memorable one. Adjectives somehow become denuded of their meaning when one has seen perfection, as in the perfect party. European royals such as Prince Felipe of Spain and his sister Princess Christina, Prince Haakon of Norway and his wife, our own Prince Andrew and Lord and Lady Linley, the beautiful Gabriella Windsor and her brother Freddie, Prince Michael of Greece and princess Marina, their daughter Olga, and, of course, all the younger Greek royals, Nikolaos, Achilleas, Filippos, Theodora, and the birthday boy’s parents, King Constantine and Queen Anna-Maria of Greece. There were only about 200 of us for dinner, served in the garden masquerading as Heaven, with clouds of dry ice and ice sculptures of angels giving one an added incentive to try and live a good life in order to make it upstairs when the grim one calls.
MC, as friends of princess Pavlos call her, is a hell of a lady. She has had four children, runs a perfect house—make that houses—and also has a business of her own which is very successful. Her father, Robert Miller, is a billionaire but one wouldn’t know it by meeting him. Like all sailors (and he holds the trans-Atlantic record) he is simple and direct and has a sense of humour. He was the first to notice my wings had snapped, pointed up to the sky and asked me whether I was surprised. I was not, but what were stilt-walkers and erotic dancers doing in Heaven?
I sat at King Constantine’s table with two fellow Pugs members, Tim Hoare and Nick Scott. Arkie Busson, also a member, as is the birthday boy, all sat nearby. Pugs membership invites proximity. (More about the club later). The piece de resistance was MC’s surprise for her husband, a professionally made film tribute, one in which I had been honoured to take part. Alas, everyone was outshone by Nick Scott’s appearance—with beret, granny glasses and heavily accented German—as Herr Professor Wilhelm von Gimlet, the world’s greatest authority on graphology. On and on he went but I am unable to repeat some of the gems because I was laughing so hard at his accent and appearance. (“Und you should see off ze Luftwaffeplatz, ze omega, means ze comma is like leffink at Gott in himmel.”)
My very own piece de resistance came when I danced with Naomi Campbell, a beautiful, carnal, dangerous temptress, smouldering in her skin and luring me to pretend I’m Fred Astaire, however arthritic a Fred. This was taking place downstairs, where an impromptu nightclub had been set up on top of the swimming pool. Red coloured smoke, or my imagination, made me think of a Woody Allen type of Hell. Inspired by Naomi, I write:
“The Glutton, gross in paunch and thigh,
Eludes the reaper grim,
Swollen of nose, and red of eye,
The Drunkard laughs at him.
The fund manager, the hack,
carelessly quaff champagne,
The pop-star lives for ever,
on pills, bimbos and cocaine.
Frustrated by this doleful news,
Death starts to feel unlucky,
he slings the Devil’s tripod fork ,
but only wings old Taki.”
Yes, yes, I know, but I do still have a hangover. Biggest effort and best costumes of the night, that’s an easy one. Tatiana Blatnik, Alexandra Schoenburg, Debonnaire Bismarck, Chantal Miller and Rolf Sachs. Best people to take one home in the late hours while tired and emotional, Leopold Bismarck and Tim Hoare. Happy birthday, Pavlos, and I can’t wait for your fiftieth.
And now down to serious matters. While some members were dancing the night away last week, Pugs club was being overwhelmed by more correspondence than the somewhat elderly secretaries can possibly cope with. More and more royals want in. Things are now at a point which is frankly ridiculous. The aforementioned Prince Pavlos openly announced that outside his beautiful wife’s incredible attention to detail and love which made for a remarkable forty, his election to Pugs stood alone as his most treasured gift.
This is when news came in that Count Bismarck, scourge of the candidates list and as ruthless as the Iron Chancellor, had, by way of marking the occasion of the birthday, given way to the election of Bopsi, the Maharaja of Jodhpur. He is the 8th member of the world’s most exclusive club, which caused a spot of bother. As the news was leaked, angry and disappointed candidates behaved disgracefully outside Pavlos’s beautiful premises. In the meantime, scenes of joy were reported from the state of Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. Elephants, camels, carpet baggers, swords men, aged retainers of the ancient state, men dressed as monkeys, and monkeys dressed as men, polo fellows, painted ladies, fox terrier dogs, danced late into the night to the strains of Ravi Shankar and the Eton boating song. Also Colonel Bogie, the tune made famous in the masterpiece Bridge over the River Ganges.
The Maharajah, needless to say, is over the moon. “What am I expected to do?” telegraphed his highness. “Absolutely nothing,” went the reply. It is, after all, our club’s motto.
Hillary Clinton has finally joined forces with Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia! Hillary wants to do it over…take another vote about invading Iraq. Can you believe it? Yes, indeed. After almost 5 years and after all the gross, unnecessary damage has been done to America and to Iraq. Thank you Hillary, and all those Democratic Senators who enabled Wolfowitz’s War. You are beautiful. Hillary and the Democratic leadership in Congress in October 2002 knew what they were doing then; and they know what they are doing now. They were playing politics then—surprise! surprise!—and they are playing politics now—surprise! surprise!
If Hillary is so smart and such a leader, why didn’t she join Senator Byrd back then when it counted, and vote against handing Cheney & Bush a blank check to wage war in the Middle East? It was Senator Robert Byrd, alone in the Senate, who rose to nobility in trying to hold back the mindless and dishonest rush to war based on preposterous lies and fear-mongering. True, Senator Robert Graham of Florida, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, voted not to authorize, but Graham did not go to the mat like Byrd did. Byrd defied everybody and filibustered to stop the war vote. His filibuster attempt was overruled, and Byrd could do no more. You might think that Graham’s view as head of the Intelligence Committee would raise a red flag as to the legitimacy of the intelligence upon which the war was launched, at least among the press. Right?! No, you would be dead wrong. It was politics first and foremost for our suborned leaders in the White House and on Capitol Hill. The orchestrators of this war were calling the tune, and triangulating Hillary danced to it like so many others. But now she is busy remaking herself over as the peace candidate. What a phony!
You see, it all makes sense; today, it is a different story. Iraq as a viable nation-state has been destroyed, wrecked. The various religious and ethnic factions there are tearing the country apart and killing each other—as well as the Americans caught in the crossfire. This was all well foreseen by the experts, but not by Bush or Hillary, of course. As life-long politicians, all they saw was the immediate political pay-off in terms of votes and campaign contributions in 2002 and 2004. But now, in 2007, with Iraq in ruins, the private agenda of the war in Iraq has been achieved. At the same time, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps are in extremis. The orchestrators cannot fault Hillary now for leading a charge to the exits. After all, the deed has been done. The Washington crowd is fixated upon the next project: Iran. There, Hillary is on board, naturally, as are all the usual suspects in both parties. Meaning, most all the establishment leaders, just like in October 2002. You figure it out.
Patrick Foy is author of The Unauthorized World Situation Report.
The mass amnesty proposed by the Bush administration—the most discredited government to preside over this country since the late days of Richard Nixon—flies in the face of what most Americans want. The Center for Immigration Studies has shown that most Americans, regardless of race, creed, or political party, want to reduce the number of immigrants into the U.S., raise the skill and educational levels of those who are admitted, and secure this country’s borders.
The Bush bill accomplishes none of these popular goals, and instead offers a virtually free pass to legal status for 12 million illegal immigrants, along with half-hearted measures to secure a few hundred miles of our massively porous southern frontier. Criminal gangs have already used this border to smuggle dozens of Middle Easterners into the U.S.; indeed, as little old ladies get strip-searched in airports across the U.S., the entire cadre of Al-Qaeda could wade across the Rio Grande, unmolested.
With the approval, no doubt, of that bullying coward Rudolph Giuliani, who as mayor of New York forbade his police to turn in illegal immigrants to the feds—making the entire city a sanctuary for the likes of Mohammed Atta. This is why Rudolph “I heroically stood at a microphone on 9/11” tends to be opposed by the people who actually were affected by the Sept. 11 attacks—such as NYC firemen, and the families of 9/11 victims—even as he wins plaudits from gullible Republicans who watched the attacks on TV. As a native New Yorker who had close friends affected by the attacks—one narrowly escaped death, while another watched from the street as bodies fell from buildings a few hundred feet away—I cannot understand how Giuliani has become such an icon of “security” and “toughness” on Terror…except for the simple fact that Giuliani was visible on TV throughout that fateful day, even as Dick Cheney stared at oil maps of Iraq in an undisclosed location, and President Bush cowered in a bunker somewhere reading the rest of My Pet Goat.
In response to the massive grass-roots opposition to this amnesty swindle, the cashiered political hack Trent Lott is telling the New York Times: “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.” I’m not sure how Lott plans to deal with the “problem” of voters expressing their opinion. Perhaps it will involve water-boarding.
The elites who dominate both the Republican party and the conservative movement will not let go of this amnesty bill, but will keep on twisting arms and pulling strings until they get it through the Senate. To them, cheap labor and bribes from business lobbies are vastly more important than the safety of our country or economic opportunity for native born Americans. These elites will have worse luck in the House, where the Republican congressmen who survived the 2006 bloodletting caused by Bush’s disastrous meddling in Iraq live in fear of their outraged constituents.
We need to keep that outrage good and hot, until this dishonest, double-dealing bill that’s longer than the Bible is buried with a stake through its heart. Its provisions represent a betrayal of government’s first and most sacred duty: to secure a nation’s borders against invasion. The bill also feeds into the abusive system of affirmative action which subjects millions of Americans to systematic discrimination.
Here’s one aspect of the amnesty which no one is talking about: The moment each of these illegals receives his walking papers, he will be eligible for affirmative action preferences over every white male in America. Including veterans of the Iraq war.
Instead of guarding the U.S. borders, our men are patrolling the frontier between Iraq and Syria, attempting to tamp down a civil war between two equally murderous sects of Islam. Meanwhile, bloodthirsty neocons like Joseph Lieberman are demanding that the U.S. launch a Pearl Harbor-style pre-emptive attack on a sovereign state, Iran, which poses no threat to us whatsoever. The pilots who (God willing) return from bombing Iranian cities into powder will find that lawbreakers who snuck into their homeland and used forged documents to work have more rights than Caucasian veterans.
The fault for this disgraceful administration and its policies lies not with the Left but with the Right. It wasn’t Michael Moore or Ward Churchill that handed the Republican nomination in 1999 to a dry-drunk incompetent frat boy who’d weaseled out of combat in Vietnam. It was lazy Republican primary voters, and the hacks who lead them. The same people who just might hand the nomination over to a pro-abortion, anti-gun, pro-gay marriage, cross-dressing open-borders adulterer. Unless, of course, the D.A. from “Law & Order” enters the race.
In that case, all bets are off. The Democrats will panic at the prospect of loyal NBC, USA, and TNT voters lining up behind a familiar face and trustworthy voice. The Democratic field will fade away, as party leaders see that they have no choice but to nominate Kiefer Sutherland.
John Zmirak is author of The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Wine, Whiskey and Song.
When Alberto Gonzales—Barney Rubble of the sitting administration and an unseemly bagman—crashed the sickbed of John Ashcroft to present Bush’s wiretap plan as a fait accompli, Attorney General Ashcroft, as now we know, declined to dance. The New York Times produced its most useful and intelligible piece of journalism this year by creating a one-page digest of the testimony of James Comey, former Deputy Attorney General and the eyewitness to that act of justice which now has praise for the oft-maligned Ashcroft coming from unlikely quarters. The drama peaks here:
Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card entered the room, with Mr. Gonzales carrying an envelope. “And then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there, to seek his approval for a matter,” Mr. Comey related. “And Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me,” Mr. Comey went on: He raised his head from the pillow, reiterated his objections to the program, then lay back down, pointing to Mr. Comey as the attorney general during his illness.
For those of us treated, in 1997, to a political youth’s official tour of Republican Washington, the John Ashcroft who riveted the assembled with a classic account of conservative principle always seemed out of place in the rogue’s gallery of crude First Administration caricatures plastered on lampposts and transformer boxes by agitprop guerillas. You remember: huge portraits of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, and Ashcroft, their faces lined with a ghastly riot of exaggerated wrinkles, a savage cross between the California Raisins and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They blanketed Los Angeles, and in the waning days of ’04 they showed up across D.C., too.
So Ross Douthat shares in my surprise at the praise rolling in by the likes of Andrew Sullivan, for whom Ashcroft now appears as “an honorable man”—albeit only “in comparison with his successor.” Just as well for Deng Xiaoping and Nikita Khrushchev. Accolades like these leave a man wondering who needs detractors. But the denigration that Ashcroft received, back when he was busy juggling the competing priorities of upholding the rule of law and not dying of pancreatitis, harped as fetishistically as Douthat observes upon Ashcroft’s muscular piety:
Ashcroft was a man of right-wing but fairly unremarkable political views who had a long and reasonably distinguished record as a public servant when he was nominated by George W. Bush to be attorney general. From that point on he was persistently smeared, mocked and ridiculed by liberals and the press, primarily, so far as I can tell, because he belonged to a Protestant sect that prohibited dancing and may have ordered a statue’s bared breasts draped during his press conferences.
The central conceit of the left’s attack on Bushism, preached by Sullivan with all the voluptuousness of the more recently converted, portrayed bumbling corruption and shadow absolutism as the evil little homunculi of a fundamentalist, evangelicalist, ‘Christianist’ takeover of the Federal government. The case that this story has all the imagination and none of the excitement of Rumplestiltskin has badly been damaged by revelations that a very steady influx of Justice Department flunkies was piped in from Pat Robertson’s law school under both Bush administrations, and that some of these flunkies rose to the level of Senior Counsel to the Attorney General and DOJ White House Liason. Dahlia Lithwick described, in The Washington Post, how the conflation of the Kingdom of Heaven with the Halls of Justice “meshed perfectly” with Ashcroft’s “worldview”—this crazy fellow for whom “pride” was a bad word and—one almost suppresses a shudder—the phrase stamped on all documents bearing his signature read “no higher calling than public service.”
Ashcroft’s vexed inquisitors can take that calling to the bank. Bizarrely enough it actually transpires that a man who thinks dancing is wrong and nudie sculptures distracting can also believe that, national emergency or no, the rule of law is the rule of law, and Attorneys General are not to be strongarmed, sweet talked, or Sodium Pentothaled into deputizing White House operators to overrule their own sober judgment. It would then appear that Alberto Gonzales, openly jeered from day one by uncouth rubes from red states as an empty suit and an affirmative action hire, was on top of all these un-PC things a soldier not for Jesus but for Dubya, a gofer prepared to tunnel through any mountain to do his bidding. Good God! Just when you thought it was safe to equate comprehensive doctrines with apple-pie falangism….
Of course, the litmus test for virtuous governance remains neither partisan fealty nor brand-name smarts but political virtue. Since the study in public schools of democratic Greece and republican Rome has been reduced to running an inane gauntlet of dioramas and blacktop Olympic games, merciful only in its brevity, this lesson is lost on bureaucratic virtuosi and the superstitious secular alike. Every hoary adage about the power of power to do powerful things to people remains easy enough to learn, if a little harder to put into practice. But those peddling that soft bigotry of low expectations which so fashionably casts all pious public servants as pliant and idiotic Bush-worshippers have now, just perhaps, given John Ashcroft’s remarkable performance, gotten religion.