I see Andrew Sullivan is taking—yet another—vacation. I, for one, am all for it—anything to give us a break from crap like this. I mean, who cares if the latest casualty in Iraq was gay, or not?
I sure the hell don’t. Sully does, of course:
“It was Len Downie who kept the sexual orientation of a fallen American military hero quiet, despite many in the WaPo newsroom who opposed the well-meant if still homophobic decision. Why homophobic? Because it perpetuates the notion that there is something shameful about being gay. There is no privacy concern here because a dead person cannot have his privacy invaded any more than he can be ‘libeled.’”
But of course a dead person can indeed be libeled: take the late William F. Buckley, Jr.‘s obituary of Murray N. Rothbard, for one classic example. Be that as it may, however, not mentioning something about a person doesn’t mean that it’s shameful—it means that it’s none of anyone’s proper business. Period. Of course, this kind of what we used to call discretion is completely out of style in today’s Oprah-esque Chatty-Kathy world. Yes, the guy liked boys, and what of it? It’s about as relevant as his eye color, or the fact that he used to shop at Trader Joe’s for his favorite brand of Gorgonzola.
On to more serious matters: the economic meltdown proceeds apace, this morning, with news that the Fed is getting powers it already had to stanch the bleeding in the financial sector. I love how this Reuters piece, now being headlined by Drudge, frames the crisis:
“Treasury acknowledged in draft proposals that the current regulatory system is full of ‘regulatory gaps as well as redundancies.’ It sets out an ambitious schedule for modifying and simplifying it—one that has little chance of being enacted in President George W. Bush’s remaining 10 months. Among changes, Treasury wants to merge the Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. markets watchdog, with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that is charged with overseeing the activities of the nation’s futures market.
“It also recommends getting rid of a Depression-era charter for thrifts that was intended to make it easier to obtain mortgage loans, saying it is no longer necessary. That would mean closing the Office of Thrift Supervision and transferring its duties to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency that oversees national banks.”
This amounts to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic—the sort of gesture that one expects of government when faced with a crisis. When in doubt, play around with organizational charts.
Interestingly, the supposedly “leftist” presidential candidate had the sharpest commentary on the subject. While John McCain mumbled something about how the economy isn’t his forte, and left it to his campaign spokesmen to say something vaguely reassuring, Barack Obama hit the nail on the head, so to speak, with this:
“Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has pointedly noted that he saw ‘no call for increased capital reserve requirements and liquidity requirements on investment banks’ similar to those of commercial banks, despite the fact the Fed is now lending to investment banks.”
The big investment bankes, who profit from Fed policies, and are the first to get bailed out, are the real villains in this drama, and yet no Republican (and certainly not Hillary, whose campaign contributions from this crowd ensure her silence) is going to say this out loud. The real roots of the problem are the inflationary policies of Greenspan-Bernanke, who put the peddle to the metal during the days of “prosperity”—in short, Ron Paul was (and is) right. But a Republican administration would rather nationalize the banking sector than admit that.
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March of the Obamacons—The New York Sun notes that the “surge” is working … that is, the surge of support for Obama among antiwar Republicans. Lincoln Chafee, Douglas Kmiec, Susan Eisenhower, and, perhaps, Senator Chuck Hagel. As the Sun notes: “Asked yesterday on CNN whether he would endorse his party’s presumptive nominee, Mr. Hagel said he would base his support on the candidates’ positions on withdrawing from Iraq.” While neocon hacks of the Rush Limbaugh variety are calling out the thinning ranks of the GOP troops to switch parties for a day and support Hillary, antiwar Republicans are switching and supporting Obama all without prompting from anyone, and the numbers are impressive in Pennsylvania, where the upcoming Democratic primary is going to be decisive. As the Sun reports:
“Of the 140,000 Pennsylvania Republicans and independents who switched registration in the last year to Democrat, the majority are Obama voters, the director of the Franklin and Marshall College poll, G. Terry Madonna, said. Registration for the state’s closed April 22 primary ended March 24. ‘If 2 million people vote in Pennsylvania, which would be a huge number, I think Obama gets 85,000 to 90,000 switchers,’ Mr. Madonna said. ‘That’s 3 or 4 or 5%, which is a big deal.’”
The Ron Paul Republicans are making a difference, albeit, at this point, a purely negative one. Here’s a nice touch from the Sun piece:
“Another Pennsylvania Republican who supports Mr. Obama is retired Major General Walter Stewart, a township supervisor in Burks County who says he has given money both to an anti-Bush Texas Republican, Rep. Ron Paul, and Mr. Hagel, who he said was his first choice for president this election season.
“General Stewart said he was supporting Mr. Obama because he could not endorse a candidate who voted to authorize the war in Iraq, which he compared to King George’s decision to send the British army and Hessian mercenaries into New York Harbor in the Revolutionary War. In 2004, General Stewart said, he supported Mr. Kerry, the Democratic nominee, over Mr. Bush. ‘I think there is a general feeling in the military that this war in Iraq has been a catastrophe,’ he said.”
Gen. Stewart, meet Andy Bacevich ….
Remember the AIPAC spy trial? You’re forgiven if you don’t. Two top honchos over at the powerful pro-Israel lobby were indicted, waaaaay back in 2004 (!) for spying for A Certain Country—caught red-handed turning over highly classified US secrets to officials of what prosecutors called “country A” (hah!). AIPAC’s offices were raided—twice. This piece in the Washingtonian gives a good overview of the case, as well as revealing that one of the raids was conducted surreptitiously. At any rate, the pre-trial process has dragged on since 2004, with the defense daring the government to reveal classified information that they say exonerates their clients. And the judge has gone along with it, with his latest ruling delaying the trial—which had been scheduled to begin April 21—yet again.
With the chief prosecutor in the case leaving the Justice Department, and the US government not exactly eager to reveal, in a public courtroom, the extent to which they’ve been snookered by the Israelis time and again, I can’t help but think that this is one spy nest that won’t be exposed to the light of day. Is it me, or did the prospect of having Condi Rice, Stephen Hadley, and a whole brace of government officials testify—under subpoena—as to the extent of Israeli influence in the top tiers of US policymaking councils scotch this case once and for all?
Late entry —I see where the big money donors aren’t rushing to contribute to the McCain campaign, but there’s no need for head-scratching on this one. They’ve got all their money tied up in Hillary, for one—and, for two, they know a loser when they see one ….
After the 1964 election, a book appeared damning Conservatism’s debut as a “brute assault on the entire intellectual world” and charging, “Republicans as a party have been alienating intellectuals deliberately, as a matter of taste and strategy.” This withering critique of the politics of Senator Goldwater and his spokesman Ronald Reagan came not from Bill Moyers but a recently graduated pair of Republican Harvard roommates, stalwarts of The Ripon Society, who, like some of the liberal democrats who applauded their book, have been flung though a sort of political time warp to land on the anti-intellectual end of the neoconservative spectrum.
Bruce Chapman is now The Discovery Institute’s President, and George Gilder its preeminent Senior Fellow, together leading the Seattle group in a metaphysical assault on everything that smacks of “materialism.” Though founded with a Reaganite focus on cutting-edge technology policy and the electronic revolution, Discovery has morphed away from futurism and libertarian economics. What began as a spinoff of Herman Kahn’s Hudson Institute became the bane of scientific modernity, waging culture war on everything from Darwin to Einstein to stem-cell biotech and quantum indeterminacy, now even dark matter.
After becoming director of the Census Bureau in 1981, Chapman became Edwin Meese’s protÃ©gÃ©, and soon his zeal in defending “traditional morality” led The New York Times to declare “a converging of the intellectual Left with the religious Right … under the Reagan banner.” He also admired conservative legal guru Phillip Johnson, whose Darwin On Trial aspired to deconstruct evolution by applying legal standards of evidence to biology, the better to subordinate science to religion and protect Social Conservative norms from “moral relativism.” The fact that O.J. Simpson has been “proven” innocent in a court of law reminds us why legal scholars shouldn”t leave their jurisdiction. William Jennings Bryan did win the Scopes Trial after all.
How two Rockefeller Republicans evolved, or devolved, into recapitulating Bryan’s Populist denunciation of Darwin is a puzzlement. Democrat Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, asserts the Discovery Institute’s original “vibe was forward-looking, futuristic, and intellectually contrarian.” From contemplating a Republican alternative to The Whole Earth Catalog to thinking the unthinkable slightly to the right of Cardinal Ratzinger is quite an intellectual odyssey.
Along the way, writes Mooney, Chapman and Gilder have “become everything they once criticized; their transformation highlights how … the anti-intellectual disposition they so aptly diagnosed in 1966 still persists among modern conservatives, helping to fuel a full-ï¬edged crisis today over the politicization of science and expertise.” This has crystallized in their promotion of ’ Intelligent Design,’ the body of pseudo-science Wired calls “Creationism 2.0.”
Though this odd construct exerts a powerful appeal for those educated in traditions of religious orthodoxy and Biblical literalism, whether Old Testament or New, it tends to repel minds trained to question ideological authority. It appeals to unreconstructed pietism in its aspiration to return metaphysics to precedence over science and win back a century’s loss of cultural turf to the Left, an erosion it blames on the rise of materialism. It focuses on the perverse Marxist use of the word, while playing down what it meant to Hume and Hegel. This is a strategic choice, for a defunct Evil Empire is easier to wrestle with than The Enlightenment as the Founders saw it.
This ambitious project is hardly Gilder and Chapman’s alone. They long ago realized that Culture War Ã la outrance takes more than the editorial enthusiasm of small magazines. Though Gilder is a frequent Forbes contributor, and former part-owner of The American Spectator, The Discovery Institute has forged alliances with like-minded souls at Heritage, AEI, The Bradley Foundation, and elsewhere in creating an ecumenical team that, though it produces none of its own, seeks to publicly discredit a broad spectrum of scientific research it finds metaphysically unattractive”and even to subject it to legislative and regulatory constraint.
A project that began with rearing academic objections to evolution in Commentary, First Things, and National Review has grown down-market into raising a village of religiously devout and politically reliable scientific idiots. Their enterprise has transformed Talk Radio and the No Spin Zone into engines of faith-based mis-and-disinformation that leave scientists of both parties gobsmacked by the sheer infantilism of it all. Pre-eminent among the tour guides to this alternative scientific universe is another Discovery Institute Senior Fellow, a writer of considerable gifts and Anglo-Catholic education named Tom Bethell. The original tagline to Bethell’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Science leaves no doubt as to his goal:
“Liberals have hijacked science for long enough. Now it’s our turn.”
Just as Discovery has redacted its statement of a “wedge strategy” for the religious re-enchantment of world of science and public policy, Bethell’s astute publisher has wisely removed this astounding blurb from the paperback edition.
Little wonder John Derbyshire took Bethell’s book to task on National Review Online. Here Derbyshire focused on its misrepresentation of evolutionary biology, being that Bethell is the literary lion of The Discovery Institute, but what of the rest of his science?
On global warming, Bethell invokes the standard canon of uncertainties, but not how science has acted to reduce them. Bethell’s preference for his own cohort’s climate polemics over the peer reviewed science literature is evident in the book’s deadpan claim that satellites show no warming trend— the overthrow of that unsound view by authentically skeptical scientists was front page news months before his book went to press. What gives?
In 2004, Reason science correspondent Ron Bailey asked Irving Kristol whether or not he believed in God, and Kristol famously responded, “I don’t believe in God, I have faith in God.” Bailey continues,
Well, faith, as it says in Hebrews 11:1, ‘is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ But at the  AEI lecture, journalist Ben Wattenberg asked him the same thing. Kristol responded that ‘that is a stupid question,’ and crisply restated his belief that religion is essential for maintaining social discipline. A much younger (and perhaps less circumspect) Kristol asserted in a 1949 essay that in order to prevent the social disarray that would occur if ordinary people lost their religious faith, ‘it would indeed become the duty of the wise publicly to defend and support religion.’”
Bethel seems driven by the same imperative, for The Politically Incorrect Guide is as rich in the urban myths of faith-based policy as it is scientifically impoverished. Bethell deceives himself and his readers on everything from relativity to AIDS to molecular biology, deploying tabloid science and patently political op-eds in preference to peer-reviewed papers available from the internet or any university library. Disrespect for science is one thing, disdain from scholarship quite another. More aberrant than’ incorrect’ the Guide is less popularization than a catalog derangÃ© of Bad Science assembled as an alternative catechism for Dittoheads who last cracked a science text in junior high.
Bethell is one of many comically anxious to lay the ideological horrors of the 20th century at science’s door, but the historical reality is anything but funny. When he wasn”t setting the stage for famine, Stalin’s pal Commissar Lysenko passed the time damning the Bourgeois Biology of the Darwinian Class Enemies, while Hitler’s guru Johannes Stark earned the right to oversee the implosion of Annalen der Physik by staging a monster rally denouncing the Decadent Relativism of the Einsteinists.
Tom Bethell writes,
“A criticism of intelligent design is that the claim, “God can do anything, therefore this critter was designed by God” gets us nowhere. I agree that it doesn’t. But a very similar objection can be raised against Darwinism.” … [Darwinism’s] “partisans are at liberty to say of any organism whatever that it arose by mutation and natural selection”without having to produce any supporting evidence. In the end, it amounts to nothing more than the belief that supernaturalism must be avoided at all cost.”
Having winded his hobby horse , he hops back into the saddle to deliver the inevitable conclusion, “Darwinism is simply a deduction from a philosophy”the philosophy of materialism…” .
Yet if science has anything to teach about the material world, it is that laws at once impose limits on simple phenomena and give rise to complex ones. All critters great and small are, being made of matter, naturally subject to the laws of physics. Saying otherwise injects the supernatural into the discussion, which is exactly what Bethell did in the NRO exchange in which he accused John Derbyshire of being reluctant to do so. Gilder has likewise averred “the Darwinist materialist paradigm … is about to face the same revolution that Newtonian physics faced 100 years ago.”
This is 19th-century Vitalism warmed over. From the 21st-century perspective of the multi-billion-dollar enterprise of molecular biotechnology, Bethell and Gilder are less in denial than up the river without a paddle. Science is not a high-school debating tournament. The sophomoric invocation of statistical arguments about “insurmountable complexity” falls flat in the face of algorithmic sophistication, let alone the insights of quantum computation. Synthetic biology blithely ignores ID’s arguments as it goes about the business of building living organisms from scratch.
Its practitioners can only scratch their heads at a stem-cell debate as doomed to historical obscurity as wars fought over guano to assure the Victorian guncotton supply. But, in a display of metaphysical solipsism bordering on the miraculous, Bethel simply insists things he finds inconceivable simply cannot be. Robots were already roving Mars when he wrote in 2005:
“When it sinks in that genetic and stem-cell engineering is beyond our ken, the anticipated downloading of our minds will also be postponed—indefinitely. (By the way, don’t they know we haven’t even been able to get robots to move around the room without bumping into the furniture yet?)”
Really? Two years later, a cybertruck demonstrated downloaded horse sense enough to successfully negotiate the Mojave Desert, and the Ventner Institute uploaded a completely synthetic genome into an eviscerated bacterial corpse, in effect kick-starting Life Itself. I hold no brief for machine consciousness, but in the light of what science gets up to nowadays, objections to the trend in artificial intelligence that fall much outside the realm of Moore’s Law seem increasingly, for lack of a better word, metaphysical. If the Politically Incorrect Guide‘s author has never succeeded in adding a page to the scientific literature he so epically misconstrues, it may be because he evidently reads so little of it.
Some years ago, physicist John Baez devised The Crackpot Index“a simple method for rating potentially revolutionary contributions to science.” Bethell’s ID manifesto generates an exceptionally high score, as does his earlier polemic dismissal of Einstein’s work.
Baez assembled 17 criteria to aid science editors in separating claims of radical advances from the crackpot screeds major journals receive almost monthly, assigning points to the gambits cranks reflexively indulge. Since we all make mistakes, statements” widely agreed to be untrue” get just 1 demerit, but grandiosely “claiming that when your theory is finally appreciated, present-day science will be seen for the sham it truly is” will earn 40. Under the Baez system , a science journal editor is justified in returning without comment any screed that racksup more than 100 points , both to spare the author’s feelings, and the time of the experts who shoulder the burden of peer review.
If you think Baez’s idea facetious, you have never opened a Young Earth creationist journal, or seen the vanity press offerings that flow over the book review transom of flagship science journals like Nature. Forget Darwin and Einstein”not even Newton’s Law of Gravity is safe these days.
So be forewarned, here come some excerpts from Tom’s deadpan reply to Derbyshire in NRO, punctuated with Baez’s criteria for Crackpotdom as they apply. Commencing:
“I wonder why Mr. Derbyshire drags in so many red herrings. [A 5-point starting credit.]
“Let’s posit a libertarian triumph so that public schools have been abolished.”[1 point for every statement that is widely agreed on to be false]
“Now does JD look kindly upon the teaching of intelligent design? Of course not.”[2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous.]
“His real desire is to de-legitimize any discussion of the subject by identifying ID as creationism. He positively longs for a return to the good old days when creationist Bible thumpers could so easily be ridiculed.[“20 points for defending yourself by bringing up (real or imagined) ridicule accorded to your past theories.]
“He doesn’t seem very eager to get into a discussion of science, either. He objects to “pseudoscience” (but is big-hearted enough to be amused by it). He appeals to judicial authority; and to the “consensus” of scientists. Science is not properly based on authority, however.” [40 points for claiming that the “scientific establishment” is engaged in a “conspiracy” to prevent your work from gaining its well-deserved fame, or suchlike.]
“Intelligent design is not creationism, and repeating that claim over and over will not make it so. [20 points for talking about how great your theory is, but never actually explaining it.”]
“Structures or signals of specified complexity permit an inference to design without any necessary recourse to the supernatural. There’s an institute in Mountain View, California, where scientists are involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.[30 points for claiming that your theories were developed by an extraterrestrial civilization.]
“No such signals have yet been detected, but they are not giving up any time soon. [40 points for claiming that when your theory is finally appreciated, present-day science will be seen for the sham it truly is.]
As Tom’s already past 100 points, let’s cut to the chase:
“If an organism exists, it is “fit,” and therefore Darwinism accounts for it. But as Derbyshire may also have heard, a theory that explains everything, without any possibility of encountering a falsifying instance, is not really a scientific theory at all.” [10 points for arguing that a current well-established theory is “only a theory,” as if this were somehow a point against it. Plus 50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions.]
“A criticism of intelligent design is that the claim, “God can do anything, therefore this critter was designed by God” gets us nowhere. I agree that it doesn’t. But a very similar objection can be raised against Darwinism. [10 points for arguing that while a current well-established theory predicts phenomena correctly, it doesn’t explain “why” they occur, or fails to provide a “mechanism.”]
Trespassing 10 of Baez’s crackpot criteria in 1000 words or less is a considerable achievement! And what of its impact on readers, including Derbyshire?
If the sin of scandal consists in conduct harmful to faith, the fellowship of Christian apologetics may have cause to fear Bethell more than he fears Darwin. Mild mannered mathematician John Derbyshire entered the fray over The Politically Incorrect Guide To Science declaring:
“I am not a philosophical materialist, and I don’t know what grounds Tom has for supposing that I am. I have made this plain numerous times, on NRO and elsewhere. I even count myself a religious person, and have said that numerous times, too.”
He departed the controversy the following year declaring himself a convinced atheist.
Epistemology is about why we think we know things, and in studying Intelligent Design people of faith risk a perilous epiphany: it is about being prepared to believe that what science already knows can never be discovered. Tautology rarely rises to the level of the sin of despair in human intelligence, but this Big Idea is clearly exceptional. Though consigned to a brief footnote in the history of science, The Discovery Institute may go down in the annals of theology for articulating the Third Millennium’s first insult to the honor of God.
Russell Seitz blogs at Adamant”>Adamant.
Over at The Atlantic, Ross Douthat objects to Andrew Bacevich’s conservative case for Obama. Douthat believes Bacevich has not given enough consideration to the possibility that McCain will appoint judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade. Douthat is here trotting out the familiar line of argument that kept many dissident conservatives on Bush’s side in 2004. In fact, it’s the line of argument that has kept dissident conservatives on the Republicans” side in general since 1988. Bush I, Dole, Bush II, and McCain may all be lousy for the Right, but, hey, you want your judges, don’t you?
Bacevich no longer drinks that particular flavor of Kool-Aid: “only a naÃ¯f would believe that today’s Republican Party has any real interest in overturning Roe v. Wade,” he writes, “or that doing so now would contribute in any meaningful way to the restoration of “family values.”” Douthat challenges him on both points.
Bacevich has the better of the argument, at least as regards abortion. The GOP has had opportunities to overturn Roe before”at any point when Republicans controlled the House, Senate, and White House, Congress could have restricted the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over abortion using the powers invested in the legislative branch by Article III of the Constitution, overturning Roe at a stroke. Perhaps they were right not to do so: the powers of Article III, Section 2 have rarely been used in such a manner, and the precedent could easily have boomeranged against conservatives once the Democrats took Congress. Nevertheless, if the GOP were as adamantly pro-life as pro-lifers are encouraged to believe it is, the Republican Congress could have voided Roe any time between 2003 and 2007.
President Bush’s burning desire to appoint Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, even though her views on Roe are a mystery (perhaps not least to herself), also signifies the weakness of the Republican Party’s commitment to ending Roe. In a rare act of resistance, the conservative movement rose up against Bush in late 2005 and forced him to withdraw her nomination and place Samuel Alito on the bench instead. Could we expect the conservative movement to compel McCain to appoint a similarly antiabortion justice”assuming that Alito is as antiabortion as most people think? There are two problems with that scenario: First, McCain is made of sterner stuff than Bush and has shown a much greater willingness to defy the movement. Bush has wrecked conservatism by leading it astray on immigration, foreign policy, and the growth of government, but he has never been as quick to anger movement regulars as McCain has been. Second, and more importantly, McCain would take office with a Democratic Senate, which will make appointing strict-constructionist justices difficult if not impossible.
Douthat reminds us that Roe might have been overturned in the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, had it not been for Justice Kennedy’s change of heart on the issue. But that change of heart speaks volumes: Kennedy was, after all, a Reagan appointee, nominated after Reagan’s first two choices, Robert Bork and Douglas Ginsburg, were rejected by a Democratic Senate. The rosiest scenario under McCain”in which he appoints an apparently conservative justice who can be confirmed by a Democratic Senate”would most probably produce a repeat of the Kennedy debacle. With a Democratic Senate, the Republicans are a long way from overturning Roe, even assuming they really want to do so.
Douthat predicts that “to vote for Barack Obama in 2008 is to give up on overturning Roe for at least a decade, probably for two, and possibly for all time.” This is histrionic. As the first comment posted in response to Douthat’s blog pointed out, the four presumably anti-Roe justices on the court are all young enough that one can expect them to be around in a decade’s time. Scalia is the oldest of the four at 72; liberal Justice John Paul Stevens is still on the court at 87. If Republicans can purge themselves of the taint of the Iraq War and clean up the party by 2012 or 2016, an opportunity to create an anti-Roe majority may arise again. Let McCain fall, and let a revived GOP, restored to some semblance of the principles of Robert A. Taft, retake the Senate and White House in the future. The alternative, electing McCain, perpetuates all the errors of the Bush administration”the errors that cost the GOP the Senate in the first place. McCain can be counted upon to be worse than Bush in every arena, from taxes to foreign policy to immigration. And while Bush at least tried to court conservatives, employing the now-shamed Tim Goeglein to cultivate cordial relations even with paleos, McCain’s personal history suggests he may be openly contemptuous of the Right.
The idea that voting for Obama would mean “giv[ing] up on overturning Roe for … all time,” is absurd, though a better case against dissident conservatives voting for Obama can be constructed by suggesting what Obama might do to promote abortion, including ending the “Mexico City” policy; expanding the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances law, which is aimed at curbing pro-life protesters” first amendment rights; increasing funding for embryonic stem-cell research; and subsidizing abortions with taxpayer dollars. All of this and worse may be forthcoming from a unitary Democratic government. The Republicans are unreliable on abortion. The Democrats, by contrast, are very reliable indeed, and if anyone mistakes Bill Clinton for having been an abortion moderate, that misapprehension is only made possible because he had to deal with a Republican Congress for most of his eight years in office. It was Clinton and the Democratic Congress that gave us FACE in the first place in 1994, and Clinton also suspended the Mexico City policy.
Douthat halfway concede ones point to Bacevich, acknowledging that “overturning Roe wouldn”t magically restore us to some Ozzie-and-Harriet wonderland,” though he says, “returning control over abortion law to the hands of the voting public remains a necessary goal for any pro-life, socially-conservative politics that takes itself seriously as a change agent in American life.” Bacevich is not denying any of that, of course, and Douthat simply avoids the tough question implied in Bacevich’s article: what exactly can we expect from overturning Roe, and is whatever hoped-for good is to be achieved enough to justify voting for a candidate”McCain”who will perpetuate one unjust and disastrous war and probably start a few more? Here at Taki’s Magazine, John Zmirak has outlined some of the limits of what will and won”t be achieved by overturning Roe. Some states might ban abortion, others certainly would not, with the result that
“We might well be able to reduce the rates of abortion among the very poorest American women, who couldn”t afford a regional airfare”which would be a very good thing. But little more than that. Come the advent of the next Democratic president, we could expect the use of federal funds and other forms of pressure to squeeze the “unenlightened” states to get in line with those that reflect elite opinion. And the whole thing would start to erode. Of course we would fight, and we might well hold out. We might well be able to keep abortion a regional “privilege””even as the influx of left-leaning immigrants continued to undermine our majorities in states across the country.”
My own projection differs from John’s in a few specifics. For one thing, I think groups like Planned Parenthood will make sure that even the poorest women can get abortions on demand. The spectacle of scores of minority women being ferried across state lines in Planned Parenthood buses on the way to abort their children would have some educational value, no doubt”progressives would get to see exactly whose parenthoods are being planned, and whose childhoods are being annihilated. But Planned Parenthood has always been determined to see its task through, and I suspect few progressives would find courage to object. States or a hypothetical Republican Congress could try to ban interstate travel for purposes of abortion, but that would lead the whole issue back into the Supreme Court. And one can be sure that liberals will colonize the courts with renewed vigor in an attempt to reinstate a universal right to abortion. The abortion wars will continue.
Jeffrey Rosen’s 2006 Atlantic essay “The Day After Roe” sketches the probable outcomes of reversing Roe state by state”which states are likely to ban abortion, which won”t, and how the fight will affect Congress and the White House. Rosen’s article has dated badly”he wrote it to raise the prospect that overturning Roe could cost Republicans control of Congress and the White House. It didn”t take overturning Roe to do that, of course, the Iraq War accomplished that all by itself. Still, Rosen raises some important issues, such as the predictable effect that a handful of botched illegal abortions will have on public opinion. “In the late 1960s, as Bill Stuntz of Harvard Law School notes,” Rosen writes, “national opinion shifted after sensationalistic articles appeared in Newsweek and The Saturday Evening Post exaggerating, by at least a factor of ten, the number of deaths from botched illegal abortions. A year or two after Roe, a similarly galvanizing television image might mobilize women in swing states to take to the streets on behalf of the right to choose.” Professor Stuntz dramatizes the issue for Rosen: “If a young woman who is raped gets pregnant and goes to a downscale abortion provider and dies from the infection, that becomes a huge story.”
Rosen provides figures on how many states would be likely to ban abortion in the first place. “Even without Roe v. Wade, “ he writes, “according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, a woman’s right to choose would be secure in about twenty-three states,” due to laws or state court decisions that are already on the books. “And in seven more (Hawaii, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Wyoming), the political climate is sympathetic to choice, and citizens are likely to demand strong new laws protecting abortion.” Even in those states that might ban abortion, meanwhile, the strongest prohibitions would fail, leaving abortion legal either in early stages of pregnancy or under specific circumstances. The 2006 repeal by referendum of South Dakota’s comprehensive abortion ban bears out Rosen’s point.
None of this means that the pro-life cause is hopeless. Very far from it: as University of Alabama political science professor Michael New has shown, restrictions on abortion that fall short of comprehensive bans still cut the abortion rate. Overturning Roe will give teeth to these restrictions and allow for more, and at least a few states probably will ban late term abortions outright. Not only will there be fewer abortions”how many fewer is anyone’s guess”but a Supreme Court decision that was wrong from the beginning on constitutional grounds will have been voided, and that too is good in itself. But the blight of abortion will not disappear from the United States, and in all too many places the practice will continue in precisely the same fashion and at the same rate as it already does. This is a painful political reality; to reduce the abortion rate in the U.S. dramatically will take a long time and will require much more than the reversal of Roe. Even if the Republicans at some point have both the will and the opportunity to follow through on their commitment to end Roe, victory in the abortion wars will be a long way off. In the meantime, we should at least stay out of wars in the Middle East and elsewhere”though the question remains whether Obama really would be less belligerent than his rival, and whether President Obama wouldn”t boost the abortion rate, even if President McCain would be unlikely to reduce it.
I”ve looked on with curiosity at the so-called “Gravelanche,” the reaction among libertarians to Mike Gravel‘s quest for the Libertarian Party’s nomination. That old Mike would attempt such a thing is not particularly surprising”the man who depicted his delinquent credit-card bills as a social protest probably has visions of LP largesse and federal matching funds dancing in his head.
What is interesting is what the reaction reveals about the delusions libertarians have of themselves as a principled “third way” in American politics.
True, some have remarked, quite sensibly, that a man who claims, “[T]he Democratic Party today is no longer the party of FDR; it is a party that continues to sustain war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism,” is profoundly ignorant of the history of, among other things, FDR, the military-industrial complex, and American imperialism and probably doesn”t really get the whole libertarian thing at all.
Others sought to be more “pragmatic” and succeeded in proving themselves to be generally out of it.
First there’s the libertarian hawk “New Skeptic,” who dismisses the Gravel idea because 1) the military industrial complex and imperialism are “fake concepts,” 2) it’s no good to criticize the war, and 3) Gravel’s just another “kook”: “Libertarians have a serious image problem, and people like Gravel and Ron Paul have not helped.”
Oh yes, New Skeptic, the Iraq war is so wildly popular that it would be political suicide to oppose it! As for the half million soldiers, administrators, and civil contractors employed abroad”merely an illusion! More over, NS seems quite concerned with the Ron Paul newsletters and oblivious to the fact that this “scandal” had no effect whatsoever on the primaries and gained little to no traction outside the PC Beltway. It’s only the dwindling New Republic subscribers and their DC friends who worry that Paul might be a man “filled with hate.”
Equally baffling are the comments of David Weigel, the Gravelanche chronicler: “I think the Ron Paul experience”millions of dollars for about 5 percent of the primary vote”has brought opinion of this kind of campaign back down to terra firma.”
No one at this site has shied away from criticizing the Paul organization”major breakthroughs in online fundraising and networking were squandered by a campaign run in a incoherent, unreliable, and often amateurish fashion. Nevertheless, the torpid and dull efforts of LP candidates of yore generated about as much interest as a basket-weaving convention”anyone remember Badnarik and Browne? In comparison, Ron Paul’s 2008 run was nothing short of miraculous. That libertarians would dismiss the Paul campaign as a failure is beyond belief.
I wonder if it’s dawning on the Reason-oids, free-market hawks, and the other Betway libertarians who rejected Paul because he wasn”t PC enough that the congressman from Texas was successful as a “libertarian” candidate specifically because he had nothing to do with Reason magazine and LP politics?
Let’s imagine in Paul’s stead the ultimate Reason composite candidate: something on the order of a black jacket-wearing metrosexual with contemptibly bad hair who stresses the benefits of open-border immigration and defends the rights of transvestite prostitutes. Add to this a limp, lefty pacifism so vague and inconsequential that it doesn”t much bother neocon friends at AFF happy hours. Oh yes, I”m sure such a candidate would get much higher than 10% in an Iowa caucus.
Despite Paul’s limitations as a candidate, I actually believe that his “movement,” generally conceived, might yet have a second act; however, it’s becoming clear that such a patriotic organization will not involve the effete gadflies, or the free-market warmongers, of the libertarian blogosphere.
Many others commit the offense, but Ryan Sager, the industrious libertarian pundit, commits it more often than most. That is, he assumes without warrant that freedom and equality are not only consistent with but in fact demand government recognition of same-sex marriage. Sager writes, in his recent review of Grover Norquist’s book Leave Me Alone:
[T]oday’s Religious Right is hell-bent, above all else, on writing discrimination against gays into the Constitution”overriding states that have begun to move toward accommodating gay relationships with either civil unions or full-fledged marriage. They are . . . the ones who need to learn to leave others alone.
In other words, according to Sager, those who resist government-endorsed, same-sex marriage favor “discrimination” and can’t simply “leave others alone.” Neither conclusion withstands scrutiny”provided that government-endorsed marriage is seen for what it is rather than what Sager or anyone else might assume it to be.
The right to government-endorsed marriage is no more or less than the right, upon application, to have a government bureaucracy refer to one’s relationship with another as a “marriage.” To be sure, government-endorsed marriage happens to trigger a variety of rights and duties under state and federal law. Some of these rights and duties are significant (for example, that “married” individuals have a duty to support each other); others fairly trivial (for example, that “married” couples are treated under the Internal Revenue Code as one shareholder for S corporation purposes). But none necessarily follows from the government’s decision to call a relationship a “marriage.” On the contrary, one could imagine a world where being “married” in the eyes of the government has no legal consequences whatsoever. Certainly, advocates of government endorsed, same-sex marriage are not seeking simply to have the rights and duties that happen to apply to traditional marriages apply also to same-sex marriages. Otherwise, they would (sensibly) pick and choose which rights and duties they would like to have triggered and which ones they would rather avoid.
Nor does government-endorsed marriage necessarily have any effect on individual liberty. Whether or not a government bureaucracy describes an individual as “married,” he can still hold a job, procreate, take walks in the park, drink soda pop or live in the same household with other individuals. He may even choose to hold himself out to the world as “married.” Whether the world will accept his claim is of course another matter. Historically, the state only began “recognizing” marriages because it found it convenient to do so. As “social facts,” the marriages themselves already existed and will continue to exist whether the government decides to call them “marriages” or not.
If the right to government-endorsed marriage is nothing more than the right to obtain a piece of paper from the government describing oneself as “married,” does it offend liberty or equality if the government withholds this right from anyone? Yes”but it is important to see why. Any adult for any reason may wish to cause the government to refer to any one or more of his relationships as a “marriage.” If the government denies him, then the government by definition is discriminating against him. Thus, if the government recognizes only traditional marriages, it is discriminating against those who want the government to recognize same-sex marriages. If the government recognizes same-sex marriages, it is discriminating against those who want the government to recognize polyamorous marriages, or bestial marriages, or autogamous marriages, or any other types of marriages.
One may say, as many do, that very few people actually want, say, autogamous marriage (i.e., marriage to oneself). True enough. But it is equally true that relatively few people want same-sex marriage. (The movement for government endorsed same-sex marriage is driven less by those who want it for themselves than by those who want it for others.) From the perspective of freedom and equality, government-endorsed same-sex marriage is not an improvement over government-endorsed traditional marriage. To say otherwise is to say that some people should be denied the same rights that are enjoyed by others.
In the final analysis, government-recognized marriage in any form is inconsistent with equal liberty. All sides of marriage debate agree that a right to government recognition of marriage is worthless unless the government denies that same recognition to others. Even advocates of same-sex marriage do not want the government to start recognizing, say, autogamous marriages, for they feel government recognized autogamous marriage would make a mockery of both same-sex and traditional marriage. The right to government endorsed marriage is thus inherently a right to have the government discriminate against others. Such a right by definition cannot enjoyed by everyone. Government-endorsed marriage requires discrimination.
In reality of course, not even the most passionate same-sex marriage advocate actually cares about anything so trivial as whether the government calls same sex relationships “marriages” or not. Government endorsed marriage is instead a means to an end. That is, impassioning both sides of the debate is the mutual conviction that, by endorsing certain relationships and not others as “marriages,” the government has the power to change people’s minds. Thought control, in its literal sense, is what the debate over government-endorsed marriage is about. The principled libertarian or egalitarian position is that the government should not call any relationship a “marriage” to begin with. In the meantime, surely the movement that initiates an effort to change other people’s minds through (soft) government coercion is the greater threat to liberty than the counter-movement that merely puts up resistance.
As for Sager, he calls himself a libertarian. But let us be clear about what he means by this: In Sager’s mind, certain thoughts are so polluted by bigotry that the government should actively be seeking to squelch them. Correct or not, Sager’s position does not become a champion of freedom.
The Lenten lunch at Lviv’s Holy Spirit Seminary was sacrificially bland”and Ukrainian cuisine ain”t exactly Cajun to begin with”but I wouldn”t have traded it for a feast. For it served up a unique and surprising encounter with the living past.
“Do you see the priest at the end of the table?” asked the rector, Fr. Sviotoslav Shevchuk. Clearly the priest he nodded toward was the oldest man in the seminary’s airy new refectory, where over 200 seminarians ate silently as one of them read a prayer book. But the elderly priest was hale, perfectly postured, and ate just as fast and heartily as everyone else. “Father Mikola is 97 years old.”
He certainly aged well, I thought. Clearly the ascetic life has its benefits.
“He also spent forty years in Siberia.”
An ascetic life, indeed. I definitely had to meet this man before leaving Lviv.
As I soon would learn, Fr. Mikola Prystay is one of the oldest living clergymen”certainly in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church”to have survived the worst period of Christian persecution since Diocletian. And in comparison to the Reds, Diocletian was a frolic in the Forum.
Hate can keep a person alive in times of persecution, but it risks damaging the soul, ironically causing self-ruination even after the shackles drop. But there is no hate in the kindly and inquisitive eyes of Father Mikola, who refuses to complain about the crosses he was forced to carry by the communists”perhaps because many of his fellow priests were crucified upon their own crosses, some literally, dying as martyrs for the Faith.
I interviewed Father Mikola, the seminary’s librarian, via my interpreter and cameraman Petro Didula, who works at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) and edits a prominent Catholic journal in Ukraine.
At first we conversed in German, but only briefly: Father Mikola’s German remains fluent, but mine, gone rusty, is schrecklich. Several times I asked him what life was like when the Nazis and Soviets competed for the gold in their satanic version of the Olympics. I especially wanted to know what he remembered of those atrocities committed by the Soviets in Lviv in 1941.
But he would indulge no bitterness by resuscitating dead monsters, and gently sidestepped those questions. Speaking in a creaky but confident voice, he even put a hopeful gloss on one particularly bad situation.
Father Mikola was prefect of Lviv’s Greek Catholic seminary before World War II through the Soviet “liberation,” after which its doors were locked for the next four decades. Shortly after the war, he and fellow priests were packed into cattle cars bound for Siberia. The trip took two weeks. None of them had any idea where they were when the doors finally opened somewhere in the arctic wasteland. They were filed into a big empty building with one room: their new home. There was no running water, of course.
“But I was lucky,” he told me. “Quite lucky! There was only one axe in camp. And my name was at the top of the list to use that axe so I could chop a block of ice to boil for water.” He washed for the first time in over two weeks. The littlest blessings can assume the greatest proportions in the worst of times.
As I have discovered in my time here, Father Mikola’s hopeful attitude predominates in the native Greek Catholic Church in general, and the Ukrainian Catholic University in particular, the only Catholic institution of higher learning in the former USSR.
There surely is cause for bitterness, but that would be a sin against hope.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholics were crushed extra hard under the communist boot. They were doubly oppressed: All Ukrainians were persecuted on account of their ethnic patriotism; the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, on account of their religion, too, for they are in communion with Rome. (Unlike Hitler and the Nazis, Stalin and the communists made no effort to hide their particular hatred for the Catholic Church.) All but one of their bishops perished in the gulag. Only Josyf Cardinal Slipyj survived.
His prison writings managed to circulate to the West, alerting Pope Pius XII that the leader of the Greek Catholics was still alive. After continued diplomatic pressure, President Kennedy and Pope John XXIII finally convinced Nikita Krushchev to release Cardinal Slipyj (pronounced “Slee-pay”) in 1963 as a goodwill gesture, or, as Krushchev called it, “a gift.” It’s doubtful that the shoe slammer would have been so gracious had he known that the old cardinal would not gather dust and fade away. Until his death in Rome in 1984, aged 91, he enthusiastically laid the groundwork for the restoration of his Church after communism inevitably perished.
When the Soviets lifted the ban on Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church in 1989, all outsiders”the KGB, CIA, even the Vatican”were surprised that decades of oppression had not dampened the ardor of the faithful nor significantly diminished their numbers. Immediately they began the task of visibly restoring the Church after its long existence underground as a “Church of the Catacombs.”
First, churches and monasteries had to be reclaimed. Some had been abandoned or destroyed. Others had been converted to secular uses, such as the medieval country monastery I visited: turned into a psychiatric hospital for women, the chapel’s famous frescoes whitewashed to add insult to injury. Churches also were reclaimed from the Orthodox, which caused some disputes that were deliberately exaggerated for political ends by the Russian Orthodox Church: that less than friendly bear to the north, led by a KGB informant, fed by the state, and pawing into territory far below her political borders.
(The Patriarch of Moscow, Alexiy II, refuses to apologize for the so-called “Council of Lviv,” convened by Stalin in 1946 to abolish the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The Russian Orthodox Church helped in the proceedings and shared in the spoils. The party line was that the Greek Catholic faithful had “agreed” to “return” to the Russian Orthodox Church. Not that it mattered that they never were Russian Orthodox. And they didn”t exactly agree, either: Her bishops had no seats at Uncle Joe’s show council, having been murdered or sent to Siberia. For the record, the Greek Catholics re-entered into communion with Rome at the Union of Brest in 1596″thus closing their section of the Great Schism of 1054″as members of the Kievan Church, not the Moscuvite Church. This is an important point to make, and it does sound tedious. Church history is terribly convoluted due to the errors, misunderstandings, and, occasionally, outright wickedness of her flock. Disunity doesn”t come from Christ.)
Second, seminaries were re-founded and soon swarmed with eager young men. Many, however, were merely caught up in the enthusiasm; and lacking true vocations, eventually left. Holy Spirit Seminary, for example, had about 700 seminarians in the early 1990s. Today, the Rite’s largest seminary has about 250 young men from Ukraine and abroad.
Once the Church was up and running again, it was time to found an institution of higher learning for laymen. At the Ukrainian Catholic University, a broken culture is being pieced together with the glue of a humane Christian education.
“We are bringing something wholly new to the academic environment of [post-communist] Ukraine,” said Volodomyr Turchynovskyy, chairman of UCU’s philosophy department.
A tall, bespectacled man in his mid-30s with a serious demeanor, Professor Turchynovskyy has worked at UCU since its founding in 2003. (Previously he taught at UCU’s predecessor, the Lviv Theological Academy, whose focus was purely religious.) Like the other faculty and administrators I interviewed over the course of two months, his enthusiasm is infectious but tempered with a realistic perspective. Like America’s pioneers, they see a land full of opportunity, yet recognize that they must overcome their own hostile Indians and tough terrain before achieving manifest destiny.
“The Soviets wreaked havoc on the humanities,” he continued in flawless English. “There were no professors of theology, for example, but there were professors of atheism! We”re very young, and one of my desires is to found a school of philosophy here with a Christian flavor … one that promotes Ukraine’s unique place in Europe, especially European Christian culture.”
Ukraine means “the borderland” between East and West. From a historical perspective, it is at the crossroads of the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic) Christian traditions, each of which has its own strong suit. If these traditions are divorced from one another, however, each runs the risk of turning its strong suit into a liability. The Eastern devotion to faith runs the risk of sliding into mysticism; the Western proclivity for reason, into reducing religion to an arid rationality (Scholasticism gone awry, for example). Pope Benedict XVI constantly stresses that “the Church must breathe with both lungs””her Eastern and Western traditions”to attain a harmonious balance between faith and reason.
This harmony is present to a unique degree in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which bridges East and West: identifying with Orthodoxy while constantly re-affirming her communion with Rome. And in early February the pontiff applauded UCU for its role in ecumenism, that striving for reconciliation among Christians with the goal of reunifying Christendom. He also donated 100,000 euros from Peter’s Pence toward the construction of UCU’s new, additional campus, opposite the Ukrainian Military Academy and just up the street from the hulking Soviet war memorial. (“Where’s the neighborhood going?!”)
All of the administrators and professors with whom I spoke gave variations on Professor Turchynovskyy’s main theme: the need for an education which introduces students to the best of the various schools of thought (philosophy, theology, history, literature) necessary to lead a balanced life.
And all of these schools of thought must be leavened with the Christian perspective assiduously rooted out from the educational system during the communist dictatorship.
That attempt to destroy Christianity from the common life of the people helps explain the awful spectacle I recounted in the previous piece. It must be viewed within the context of what one professor, Myroslav Marynovych, calls the “weak civic culture” caused by communism. He speaks from experience. A gently gregarious 60-year old with a bushy mustache, he founded the Ukrainian branch of Human Rights Watch in the late 1970s. But the KGB were watching him, too, and he quickly wound up in the gulag from 1977-87. There he rediscovered Christ, and now he views the world from a Christ-centered focus. “The distance between social and political problems and religion is very short,” he said of Ukraine.
Through their educational efforts, the people at UCU are striving to correct such problems, not only by instructing minds but ennobling hearts.
There is a strong emphasis on the corporal works of mercy, such as Sister Lukia’s ministry to the mentally handicapped; and the student pro-life group’s community initiatives, such as praying
abortuaries with medical staff and prospective “patients.” UCU also has various institutes which address societal problems, particularly those related to religion in public and family life. The latter is especially important because Ukraine is experiencing a demographic crisis.
Two notes about the students. First, the young women.
The rawest sewage of Western “culture” is pumped into Ukraine like Russian gas, but without threats of being cut off. Some of the imported sewage is, in turn, further contaminated. If seeing an American rap “music” video makes you want to shoot the TV, watching Ukrainian rap “music” videos makes you want to shoot yourself.
And the hyper-sexualized character of this cultural infusion is embraced by so many young women that Lviv can seem like one giant red-light district. Their dress tends to run from the tacky to the outright skanky: fish-net stockings, hot pants, mini-skirts, shiny patent-leather go-go boots with spiked heals. The female students at UCU thankfully dress modestly. I distinctly remember one bright young woman, the daughter of a country Greek Catholic priest, who was dressed in a simple traditional Ukrainian dress. Her long blond hair was braided, and her face was so beautiful that make-up would have made a mockery of it.
Second, the young men. Although the ones I spoke with tended to be earnest scholars, men are in the minority at UCU, which has about 500 full-time students, a thousand counting the part-timers from the large state universities who come to UCU for its unique course offerings. (For example, UCU is the only university in Ukraine”outside of the seminaries”to offer a program in theology.) Why? Because it’s a challenge to “sell” a humane education in a country still in the grip of the technology-obsessed, strictly functional system of education promoted in the Soviet era. And practically speaking, Ukraine lacks the huge educational and non-profit sector present in America that makes it easier for American liberal arts graduates to get jobs. If it’s hard for a philosophy major to get a job back in the USA, it’s nearly impossible for one here to get a good job. And in Ukraine, men are expected to be the bread winners.
As a practical response to this practical problem, UCU just founded a business school to cater to those who did not receive humane educations. Why at UCU? Because there is a dire need in Ukraine for a business school with an ethical foundation. Ethical businessmen who understand not only the innate value of ethics, but their long-term commercial efficacy, can help counteract what everybody here acknowledges as reality, but the more prescient recognize as a problem for both Ukrainians and those seeking to do business in Ukraine: the “culture of corruption,” another byproduct of communism’s perversion of morals.
Want to gain entrance to a state university, which is technically free? You pay money under the table. Want to get a good grade? Many professors accept bribes. (Initially, UCU’s emphasis on its policy of academic honesty struck me as odd. But in Ukraine it’s an aberration in an objectively aberrant milieu.) Want to obtain building permits? Most officials expect bribes, and there’s always one more who wants a cut. As a rule of thumb, the rule of law is the exception to the rule of corruption.
One administrator told me it would be easy to accept the status quo, but that it would be a sin to continue weaving this cultural fabric of lies and deception. The loom, after all, was constructed by the communists, master weavers of lies. Hatchet time is long overdue.
The week before I left Ukraine marked the beginning of the Orthodox Lent. On the evening of Monday, March 10, a Lenten ceremony of forgiveness took place in the university’s main chapel, where the Divine Liturgy is celebrated daily. The chapel overflowed into the hallway with students, professors, nuns, even custodians and security guards.
Accompanied by a choir that sang in the most engagingly lyrical manner, the penitents continually prostrated themselves in atonement for their sins. (“God be merciful unto me, a sinner,” they chanted with each of the many, many prostrations. The chapel might have been mistaken for a mosque.) And then the top professors and administrators filed to the altar, knelt facing the congregation, and begged them pardon for their sins. Finally, the priest welcomed all the penitents to ask one another for forgiveness. And throughout the long service, the choir”composed of students, faculty, and staff I”ve come to know”so beautifully sang God’s praises that I felt that the reality of heaven became a reality on earth, if only for a little while.
Penitence, forgiveness, atonement: the Godly trinity for the sanctification of the soul of an individual, as well as a nation.
Ukraine has known much darkness. And the long, sinister night of the twentieth century continues to cast shadows deep and wide. At this unique university, however, God’s light shines brightly, showing how wonderful that culture is where minds and hearts are formed in Christ.
I arrived not knowing what to expect, and left the Ukrainian Catholic University realizing why so many people love this place so well. Count me in.
Matthew Rarey, an independent journalist, and can be reached at [email protected]
Okay, so it isn’t morning—however, if you’re a Taki-con, like me—defined as someone who parties ‘til dawn, and then goes to morning confession—there is no morning. In any case, there’s plenty of news and views flying about like detritus in a strong wind:
By Their Enemies Shall Ye Know Them—that probably isn’t a Biblical injunction, but it ought to be—and speaking of enemies: The Lobby is busily setting up Obama for a bout of “he’s-the-black-David Duke.” The Wright-Farrakhan brouhaha was just the first wave: the second is coming in the form of a campaign to demonize Obama advisor on military affairs Merrill “Tony” McPeak, formerly chief of staff of the Air Force, as—what else?—an “anti-Semite.”
McPeak’s rendition of Mein Kampf and the Protocols supposedly was revealed in an interview in which he said what everyone knows: that a substantially powerful Israel lobby, in alliance with a bunch of whackjob dispensationalist “born again” Christians, puts Israeli interests over American interests every time:
“Let’s say that one of your abiding concerns is the security of Israel as opposed to a purely American self-interest, then it would make sense to build a dozen or so bases in Iraq. Let’s say you are a born-again Christian and you think that Armageddon and the rapture are about to happen any minute and what you want to do is retrace steps you think are laid out in Revelations, then it makes sense. So there are a number of scenarios here that could lead you in this direction. This is radical….The secret of the neoconservative movement is that it’s not conservative, it’s radical. Guys like me, who are conservatives, are upset about these neocons calling themselves conservative when they’re so radical.”
What does Robert Goldberg, of the American Spectator, conclude from this? “Guys like McPeak are upset because they think Jews have too much influence.” These Johnnie-one-notes are getting increasingly tiresome with their constant theme of Jew-baiting: clearly McPeak is saying that the “born again”-pro-Israel alliance—an alliance made up, in its overhwhelming majority, of Christians—is a major problem in formulating a rational, pro-American foreign policy. Which is, as Goldberg points out, exactly what professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen said in their pathbreaking book on the Lobby and its pernicious effect on the policymaking process. Oh, but they’re “anti-Semites,” too! How could I have possibly forgotten?! By the Lobby’s standards, of course—equating anyone who opposes their narrow and dubious agenda with Senor Duke—the overwhelming majority of Americans are goose-stepping neo-Nazis.
I’m Sorry, But Not That Sorry—Our quote of the day comes from Glenn Greenwald, my favorite left-liberal pundit, on the subject of Iraq war mea culpas from the so-called liberal “hawks”:
“Some claim—like the job interviewee who cites “excess diligence” when asked to name their worst fault—that they were simply too starry-eyed in their Goodness and purity … But virtually every line of rationale is purely utilitarian in its reasoning. The most unadorned admissions of error amount to little more than a concession that they simply assessed the costs and benefits inaccurately. And even with that extremely narrow concession, none of them—either in Slate or elsewhere—even reference in passing the fact that the war they cheered on ended the lives of hundreds of thousands (at least) of innocent Iraqi citizens and caused the internal and external displacement of millions more.”
In Japan, leaders who are disgraced by the utter and abolute failure of their policies do everyone the favor of committing suicide. Oh well, I guess there’s no chance of that—otherwise people LIke Michael O’Hanlon and Richard Perle wouldn’t be able to talk to reporters about their latest puerile prognostications.
One more reason to root for Barack Obama—Christopher Hitchens, Trotskyiste-turned-chickenhawk, hates his guts. That’s good enough for me …
Speaking of evil, more evidence that the lesser evil is still not good—According to Spencer Ackerman, formerly of The New Republic, Obama’s foreign policy is going to be all about “dignity promotion.” Uh huh—sounds like a hard sell. Much harder than promoting “democracy.” It’s hard to tell, but I think that means buying the buggers off, rather than bombing them. Less evil, but equally futile.
Speaking of good—Looks like Bob Barr is running for President on the Libertarian ticket—and you heard about it on Antiwar.com Radio! Look out, McCain—Bob is gonna bomb bomb bomb your presidential prospects, such as they are….
Oh, and it looks like the Ron Paul Republicans are taking over the Missouri GOP. Of course, after the party implodes at the polls this November, taking it over might not be that hard.
So now it seems that the critical Pennsylvania Democratic primary hinges on, of all things, the Catholic vote. As the AP reports: Understanding Pennsylvania’s rich Catholic tradition and responding to it is an article of faith for Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama as the April 22 primary looms in the still unsettled and intense Democratic presidential race…. Pennsylvania has an estimated 3.8 million Catholics, or just over 30 percent of the state’s population, and the percentage among Democrats is estimated to be slightly higher…. “We found Catholic voters aren’t really a lot different in terms of many of their concerns than the average voter,” [Obama campaign operative former Indiana Rep. Tim] Roemer said.
To this, my inner Church Lady responds, “Well isn’t that special?” What a rich tradition it is, that yields citizens who think and vote… just about like everybody else. As the Borg might say, “You have been assimilated.” Submission accomplished.
Of course it’s appalling that millions of church-goers who claim to believe that abortion is murder are sitting around dithering over which pro-abortion Democrat, Reverend Ike or Margaret Sanger, will offer them more bleeding chunks of pork hacked off from their fellow taxpayers. I’d like to point out to the good Catholics of Pennsylvania that direct involvement in procuring an abortion results in automatic excommunication. What’s the proper punishment for indirect involvement”such as voting for candidates who support scooping out the brains of nearly newborn babies? Let’s leave that one to a higher authority, like the “fearsome judgment seat of Christ.”
But the question has become a lot less simple with this election, as I suggested in a previous column. This year is quite an ugly one for pro-life voters addicted to the two-party system, who narcissistically fret about “wasting their vote.” To this I respond that most votes are wasted, since your odds of changing the course of a national election by voting are much lower than of your being shot by a sniper on your way to the polls. Get over yourselves. Write in a decent candidate, or spend Election Day someplace wholesome, like a bar.
The worst candidate is undoubtedly Hillary Clinton, who pretends to oppose neocon interventionism when it suits her, but shows her true colors in her votes and in the things she doesn’t say (for instance, she won’t rule out attacking Iran). It’s telling that Ann Coulter”who knows a thing or two about sadism”reacted to McCain’s rise in the polls by promising to support Hillary Clinton, reasoning, “She’s better on the war. She’s better on torture, too.” Vote for Hillary, and you don’t just get Bill; you also get more pro-abortion votes on the Court, and more aggressive wars. Given her attempt to recruit Latinos to counterbalance the black vote, you can count on higher immigration totals, too. Hillary is the candidate of the unholy trinity: Warmongering, baby-killing, treason.
Among white voters, Obama is the “He sets such a good example” candidate. Honkies who want Obama secretly hope that electing a black president will make it safer for them to go to bank machines at night, encourage inner-city chastity, and subtly influence urban youths to turn down the subwoofers on their Humvees. This reminds me of the sports magazines which a few years back imagined that Tiger Woods would lead millions of young black men to turn to… er, golf. (Why not fox-hunting? Let’s dream big, people!) From a policy perspective, he’s probably the least damaging candidate. While his court appointments will be awful, they’ll be no worse than Hillary’s, and he’s much less likely (as Justin Raimondo points out) to try invading big, messy Islamic countries and bombing them into the Space Age. On immigration, he’s the most likely of the three to adopt more moderate policies. Sen. Obama cannot be unaware of the harsh impact immigration is having on black communities such as Los Angeles—or of the 40 year wage freeze on working class Americans (disproportionately black) which has come since the 1965 immigration act open the floodgates to unskilled labor.
McCain is the Erich Ludendorff of the race”the mentally unsound nationalist who helped us lose the last war, and promises to lose the next one on a vastly bigger scale. And I, for one, believe him. Although he claims to be “proudly pro-life,” you can almost hear him winking as he says it. Given his sabotage of Republican attempts to break Senate filibusters on judicial appointments, his obstructionism on pro-family issues, and his VP flirtations with Joe “Partial Birth” Lieberman, there is no reason to take this claim seriously. However, even if we grant that McCain would indeed appoint pro-life justices to the court, as I pointed out earlier this month, it’s unlikely that this would save a single unborn life. Overturning Roe v. Wade, while a very good thing, will merely serve to centralize the abortion industry in New York and California airports. (I’m surprised that Travelocity isn’t funding McCain.) Such an outcome is not enough to justify voting for a candidate who promises to wage aggressive wars. Of course, McCain is also the candidate of amnesty for illegal aliens, who’ll obstruct completion of a border fence, and do everything he can to make sure that if there’s a single low-skill job in America for which a citizen is qualified, there will be a recent immigrant who’ll do the job for less.
So that’s the 2008 run-down, good people of Pennsylvania, of America. Get out there and hold your noses, “put in your earplugs, put on your eyeshades…. You know where to put the cork.”
1,193,480—that’s the number of Iraqis murdered by the neocons to date.
From Just Foreign Policy:
”[A] study, published in prestigious medical journal The Lancet, estimated that over 600,000 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the invasion as of July 2006. Iraqis have continued to be killed since then. The graphic above provides a rough daily update of this number based on a rate of increase derived from the Iraq Body Count. (See the complete explanation.)
“The estimate that over a million Iraqis have died received independent confirmation from a prestigious British polling agency in September 2007. Opinion Research Business estimated that 1.2 million Iraqis have been killed violently since the US invasion.
“This devastating human toll demands greater recognition. It eclipses the Rwandan genocide and our leaders are directly responsible. Little wonder they do not publicly cite it.”
The second part of this essay can be found here.
With memories still slick from the worst blood-letting in history, followed by the less dramatic horrors of the Soviet “peace,” the modern-day evil I witnessed wasn”t the worst thing ever to have happened in the city of Lviv, western Ukraine. But it surely was the offspring of the grossly satanic events of the preceding century.
The spectacle took place a brisk five-minute walk from the NKVD prison where the Soviets wreaked a frenzied slaughter before the German advance in “41, murdering so many “dissidents” that the building became a charnel house with a mass grave in the courtyard. Victims included prominent Greek Catholic priests, martyred for the Faith and beatified by Pope John Paul II: for example, Blessed Fr. Zynovii Kovalyk, crucified against a wall; or Blessed Fr. Severian Baranyk, a cross carved into his chest.
Following the Ribbentrop-Molotov Treaty, the Soviets devoured this part of western Ukraine (then eastern Poland). Love they did not engender, and so the Germans were welcomed as liberators. The Nazis among them, however, would prove equally evil. The old NKVD prison, slated to become a museum, is a pistol shot from the muddy park where a memorial marks the site of a synagogue blown up by the Nazis. The Jews comprised a third of Lviv’s pre-war population. The Nazis murdered all of those whom their righteous gentile neighbors could not manage to hide. One beneficiary of Christian love, the young Simon Wiesenthal, was rescued by a Ukrainian policeman.
In this neighborhood marred by old evils, a stodgy woman fumbling up the street precipitated a new nightmare.
Heavily bundled on a mild Sunday afternoon, she leaned against poles and storefronts for support. A clear liquid leaked from her cloth bag. As she approached the wide entrances to the open-air market, which offered no means of support, it didn”t take Nostradamus to predict that, whatever happened, it would be bad. And this is a country where extremes are often the norm.
Releasing her grip from the last pole before the entrance, she took a few faltering steps and collapsed among the bustling crowd on the busiest market day of the week. Despite a few pedestrians who glanced at the human pile, the crowd parted around her as disinterestedly as a river around a rock. As I watched this spectacle, holding a piece of pizza for which I no longer had an appetite, I felt sick. Wouldn”t anybody help? Call the police? What could I do, practically ignorant of the language?
A little black and white dog sauntered over and licked her face. After a minute, but probably less, she sat up. Then a man approached her familiarly, bent over, and took her by the arm. Thank God somebody was helping this sick woman.
Then he began shaking her with reproaches, picked up the leaky bag, whipped it around his body, and bashed her in the head. This was her man, it seemed: a tall bony bastard and no model of sobriety himself. He continued admonishing her in a loud but controlled manner, and then swung the bag again, this time smacking her in the face. What was going on? People walked by, pretending not to notice, except for the crone wearing a babushka who watched in silent concern about three yards away.
The brute finally gave her a farewell blow, leaving her slumped over with her red-knitted hat in her hands. He quickly returned to retrieve her bag after dumping its contents, a broken vodka bottle, on to the sidewalk.
Finally she half walked, half crawled to a ledge in front of a food stand and sat down. I turned and began walking away, feeling ill at the sight of a human reduced to less than an animal; the measured brutality of that man; and the indifference of the crowd. Then I stopped. “What would Jesus do?” I asked myself. (Yes, it sounds trite and reminds me of those cheesy “WWJD?” wristbands popular among Evangelical teenyboppers, but it is a basic question that Christians often forgot.) I didn”t precisely know, but He certainly wouldn”t walk away. So I bought her a piece of pizza.
“Please,” I said in Ukrainian, offering her the food. She stared up from a confused, miserable countenance: bloated face, lips blistered with sores, several broken teeth. She accepted the pizza placed in jaundiced hands and muttered a few words which I didn”t understand. I left her, but glanced back several times. She kept looking at me, still holding the pizza. The crowd carried on.
In spite of this street theater from Hell, the day’s events portended blessings which would blossom throughout the following weeks. In fact, this day (Sunday, February 24) marked the halfway point in my tour-of-duty volunteering at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Lviv. At the invitation of the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation, headquartered in my native Chicago, I came impelled by the desire to learn and report about a unique and powerful apostolate on the Catholic Church’s Eastern Front. UCU is the only Catholic institution of higher learning in the former Soviet Union, fighting for the Faith in a culture corrupted by communism and prone to the more insidious depredations of Western secularism.
The first month began hopefully but haltingly, like the transmissions of the buses (called mashrutkas) that race about Lviv. It was beset with the introductory surprises and difficulties encountered by any foreigner in a new but, in this case, rather familiar European culture. Except for the communist legacy and an alphabet that supposedly was a blessing from Sts. Cyril and Methodius, but seems more like a curse to ward off Westerners, it reminded me of ethnic enclaves in Chicago had the Mayors Daley governed them with a steel grip in a one-party state. (Bad analogy, perhaps.) But the half-way mark was auspicious.
First, the weather was the foretaste of spring that happens in late February before winter makes her last stand. The warmth and sunshine of the third Sunday in Lent made even the Soviet-era prison of high-rises in which I reside”the epitome of what Russell Kirk called the “architecture of servitude and boredom””seem a tad less conducive to suicide and alcohol abuse. “Without God, anything is possible,” said Alexandr Solzenhitsyn. With God, however, such dispiriting architecture certainly would not be possible.
A five-mile walk from this purgatory on the city’s outskirts took me through a Mordor of crumbling factories and commercial outlets; past the rambling forested bluffs of Striskiy Park, opposite the Ukrainian Military Academy and hulking Soviet war memorial, despised by patriotic Ukrainians, some of whom fought the Soviets occupation into the 1950s; down straight Austro-Hungarian streets constructed in the nineteenth century when the city, then called Lemberg, was the capital of Galicia; and finally into the charming medieval heart of Lviv, erected by the Poles who called it Lwow (pronounced “La-voov,” there being no letter “V” in Polish).
The further I walked from the present, the better. A city’s soul is evident in its architecture, and the pre-communist era evinces a confident civilization deeply rooted in faith and the love of spiritual values. Churches, churches everywhere. Statues of saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary are omnipresent: some new, some desecrated or intact from communist days, a few of the pedestals standing bare. The earth-bound, unloving, and easily disposable environment of the totalitarian twentieth century looks like a filthy child as compared to the venerability and faith and hope eminent in Christian Europe.
The morning walk ended at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption. The devotion of the worshipers and the wooden kneelers”abjured by some for the marble floor, perhaps because the kneelers are positioned at a sloping angle that makes kneeling straight difficult”emphasize the sacrificial nature of the Mass to an almost masochistic degree. But thankfully the sacrifice wasn”t too painful this day: Sometimes the holy water freezes in the unheated church.
The Cathedral of the Assumption is the only Roman Catholic church to have remained open in Lviv during the entire Soviet occupation. A priest remained in residence at all times, concerned that if the church were ever left empty, the commies would have had the pretext to lock the door and put up a sign reading “Closed for renovations.” And, of course, the communists could have cared less about renovating a church.
The Greek Catholic Church, however, was completely banned in Ukraine.
Native to this land, the Greek Catholic Church is the largest Eastern Rite in communion with Rome, acknowledging papal authority while retaining the Byzantine liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. In 1946, Stalin convened a sham ecclesiastical council that merged it with the Russian Orthodox Church, which assumed control of all its assets. Conveniently, no Greek Catholic prelates were present at the so-called “Council of Lviv” to give their assent, having already been executed or exiled to Siberia. Forced to function as an underground Church until 1989, today the Greek Catholic faithful are enjoying a renaissance. The Ukrainian Catholic University is their flagship institution of learning. But more about this later.
From the outside, the Roman Catholic cathedral has an Italianate appearance, with bright yellow stucco walls. Inside, it’s an ethereal montage of centuries of art and architectural styles, from gothic bordering on the gloomy to the merry lightness of the baroque paintings which adorn the ceilings. The effigies of recumbent knights on the walls of their tombs are especially moving, if that’s the right word. It is also the seat of the oldest active cardinal in the Catholic Church, Marian Jaworski, who won from Pope John Paul II his mitre, though perhaps at the expense of his right hand. The story behind the black glove covering Cardinal Jaworski’s prosthetic hand”indirectly the fault of his fellow young priest, Karol Wojtyla”is worth Googling.
The cathedral is the spiritual home of Lviv’s remaining Poles, most of whom the Soviets evicted into present-day Poland after World War II. The Roman Catholic religious orders, predominately Polish, followed the exodus. These included the Franciscans. Their most famous member from old Lwow was St. Maximilian Kolbe, who offered up his life for a fellow prisoner at Auschwitz.
Indeed, the city holds a prominent place in Polish sacred history. Following a miraculous victory over the militantly Protestant Swedes, King Jan Kazimierz crowned Our Lady of Czestochowa as Queen and Protector of Poland in this cathedral in 1656. A tapestry commemorating the event hangs in the Polish chapel in Washington, D.C.’s Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I often prayed in that chapel. Being able to pray at the site of the actual coronation, however, has been one of life’s unexpected joys.
But the Poles are mainly history. Though it’s said that some continue to hold keys to homes that the Reds chopped up into apartments in the style of Doctor Zhivago, their world is gone but in memory. In turn, the Soviets restocked the city with additional Ukrainians from the country roundabout, as well as Russian imports. The Reds also imported the scourge of vodka into a beer culture.
Walking into the refreshing late morning air, buoyed with the blessings of the Faith, the day promised more goodness: namely, the twin delights of art and human beauty. In the evening I would meet a pretty young woman from UCU to enjoy Verdi’s Il Trovatore at the opera house, one of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s finest and the centerpiece of Lviv’s main square. Like the rest of the city, the 1901 building escaped World War II unscathed, at least architecturally. And good seats cost four dollars.
Spring and high culture were in the air, and Nataliya was on her way. Sunday indeed seemed propitious of many more good tidings for the remainder of my stay. And propitious the ensuing weeks have largely proved, but for the black mark that would blight that very afternoon.
Arriving at our opera rendezvous a bit early and very hungry, I walked two blocks to the open-air market to buy a slice of Ukrainian-style pizza, which is more like a hot open-faced pastry. (Another market is two blocks in another direction, but it specializes in folk art; small artifacts left behind by the fleeing Poles; and Soviet and Nazi kitsch. The irony of a period ashtray depicting Hitler made it an irresistible purchase. That anti-smoking zealot would be so proud of his successors” recent successes. Or maybe he is lighting up in Hell nowadays?) And then the stodgy woman fumbled up the street.
It is no revelation that communism assaulted the civic spirit, so this most shocking of spectacles was, in a way, unsurprising. It was hard to be a comrade when one’s neighbor or spouse could be a KGB informant, so one tended to look out for number one. Indeed, there’s a spirit here of public diffidence”in contrast with the private warmth and conviviality”that makes the Manhattan subway seem like a Des Moines church bake sale. Wishing strangers on the street a good day sometimes elicits a strange look, like telling somebody that their grandmother sews smelly socks. Irene Danysh, a Ukrainian-American who works at UCU, summed up the problem with an apt anecdote. Her first Ukrainian landlady, after taking it upon herself to tell Irene that she did not search her bags when she was out, told her: “I myself trust no one.”
The wicked pre-opera feature and the audience non-response were stark reminders that Ukraine’s resurgent Christianity confronts post-communist hangovers.
Religion is literally in the public square: a life-sized crÃ¨che in front of Town Hall; brimming churches on Sunday (according to a survey, some 60% of Lviv residents are weekly church-goers and 90% say they believe in God); several statues of Mary down from the opera house that always seem to have worshipers gazing up in silent prayer. But it needs to be taken to heart as well. And the secularism which Pope Benedict XVI recently called a greater threat than communism … well, that makes the work of the Church here all the more dire.
If the preceding analysis seems serious, it is. And two days after the sick, plastered woman was publicly assaulted with nary a glance, I had tears welling up in my eyes again: not of impotent frustration and anger but pure bliss. For I was in the presence of Divine Love, manifested in human kindness.
Sister Lukia Murashko was making her rounds to her ministry’s workshops for Lviv’s mentally handicapped. These people used to remain locked up at home, shunned by society; or worse, incarcerated in Soviet mental asylums with personnel who must have made Nurse Ratched look like Mother Teresa.
A Basilian nun, Sister Lukia resembles Maid Marion as played by Olivia d”Havilland in The Adventures of Robin Hood. And her little ministry, run from an office in UCU’s basement, is one of several corporal counterparts to the intellectually spiritual work occurring in the classrooms upstairs. This university and her people are doing the Lord’s work in a culture perhaps more needy of redemption than most, and understandably so. And doing it very well, indeed, as the next installment will relate.
Matthew Rarey is an independent journalist, and can be reached at [email protected]