Saturday, April 11, 2009

Today's Tune: Johnny Cash & The Carter Family - Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)

(Click on title to play video)

Pirates Test the ‘Rule of Law’

To be civilized, we must be strong.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
April 10, 2009, 4:00 a.m.

When Somali Muslim pirates raided the Alabama on Wednesday, the U.S.-flagged cargo ship was cruising the Indian Ocean en route to Mombassa. The 21 Americans in the crew were trying to deliver tons of food and other agricultural materials for the World Food Program, to be distributed among destitute Muslims in that Kenyan port city, and beyond.

“Hearts and minds” — that has been the theme music of the anti-anti-terrorism chorus for eight years. George W. Bush freed 50 million Muslims from tyranny and gave them a chance to make better lives even as the rigors of doing so devoured his presidency — all the while launching, for Africa, the most generously funded program for AIDS prevention and treatment in history. For his trouble, he was branded an unfeeling, unilateralist cowboy by Democrats and the international Left, the erstwhile champions of nation-building and universal health care.

His successor has been only too quick to cement the slander. When not bowing to the Saudi monarch (admittedly, only slightly more nauseating than Bush’s “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” jaunt with His Oil Highness), Pres. Barack Obama bleated across Europe that America has been “arrogant.” By his lights, our actions since 9/11 (which include writing constitutions for Iraq and Afghanistan that enshrined sharia, the Muslim legal code, as governing law) have suggested we are “at war with Islam.”

For Barack Obama, hearts and minds are about Barack Obama — things to be fondly turned to him at the expense of a country that does more for human rights, and more for Muslims, than any nation has ever done. Indeed, Obama’s signature (and thankfully failed) legislative proposal during his short warm-up act in the Senate was the “Global Poverty” bill, a trillion-dollar redistribution from the American taxpayer to the “international community.” Back then, Senator Obama chided his countrymen for not doing their part while the lavish American foreign-aid spigot — far and away the world’s most munificent — poured out the perennial $21 billion, not counting additional billions in emergency military expeditions to aid victims of earthquake, tsunami, and war.

But as the hearts-and-minds game goes on, the “international community” on the receiving end stands unimpressed as ever. Turns out it’s a jungle out there. What impresses, as all America’s enemies from the Barbary pirates through Osama bin Laden have always known, is the strong horse against the weak horse. What makes possible global trade, which turns into American wealth, which turns into unparalleled American largesse, is American might — American might and an American commitment to use that might as necessary to ensure a civilized global order.

“Civilized” is a much-misunderstood word, thanks to the “rule of law” crowd that is making our planet an increasingly dangerous place. Civilization is not an evolution of mankind but the imposition of human good on human evil. It is not a historical inevitability. It is a battle that has to be fought every day, because evil doesn’t recede willingly before the wheels of progress.

There is nothing less civilized than rewarding evil and thus guaranteeing more of it. High-minded as it is commonly made to sound, it is not civilized to appease evil, to treat it with “dignity and respect,” to rationalize its root causes, to equivocate about whether evil really is evil, and, when all else fails, to ignore it — to purge the very mention of its name — in the vain hope that it will just go away. Evil doesn’t do nuance. It finds you, it tests you, and you either fight it or you’re part of the problem.

The men who founded our country and crafted our Constitution understood this. They understood that the “rule of law” was not a faux-civilized counterweight to the exhibition of might. Might, instead, is the firm underpinning of law and of our civilization. The Constitution explicitly recognized that the United States would have enemies; it provided Congress with the power to raise military forces that would fight them; it made the chief executive the commander-in-chief, concentrating in the presidency all the power the nation could muster to preserve itself by repelling evil. It did not regard evil as having a point of view, much less a right to counsel.

That’s not our position anymore. The scourge of piracy was virtually wiped out in 19th century because its practitioners were regarded as barbarians — enemies of the human race (hostis humani generis, as Bret Stephens recently reminded us in a brilliant Wall Street Journal essay). They derived no comfort from the rule of law, for it was not a mark of civilization to give them comfort. The same is true of unlawful enemy combatants, terrorists who scoffed at the customs of civilized warfare. To regard them as mere criminals, to assume the duty of trying to understand why they would brutalize innocents, to arm them with rights against civilized society, was not civilized.

We don’t see it that way anymore. Evil is now just another negotiation. Pirates and terrorists are better known for their human rights than for their inhuman wrongs. On Thursday, America’s commander-in-chief didn’t want to talk about the pirates — “Guys, we’re talking about housing right now,” he chided a reporter who dared to raise the topic as the Somalis held the American ship’s captain hostage. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, was dispatched to assure the public that the world would come together to deal with this “criminal activity” — a relief if you were wondering whether the naval destroyer on the scene was equipped with Miranda-warning cards.

This is the self-destructive straitjacket for which transnational progressives are fitting us. Indeed, the Law of the Sea Treaty — a compact Obama would commit us to — has hopelessly complicated the rules of engagement under which the pirates have thrived, just as Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions (a treaty Ronald Reagan was prudent enough to reject) has become an offensive weapon for jihadists everywhere. Having harnessed ourselves, we are once again the weak horse.

Except for one thing: The Americans on the Alabama, like the Americans on Flight 93, didn’t wait for the international community to send the pirates a strong letter. They saw evil, they took it on, and as a result they took their ship and their lives back. The president may not think the United States is a particularly exceptional country, but you can bet Islamic radicals on land and sea noticed that dealing with a U.S. crew is an exceptional experience. There remains something in the American character that won’t slide so easily into the straitjacket.

— National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (Encounter Books, 2008).

It's Your Country Too, Mr. President

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, April 10, 2009; A17

In his major foreign policy address in Prague committing the United States to a world without nuclear weapons, President Obama took note of North Korea's missile launch just hours earlier and then grandiloquently proclaimed:

"Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons. Now is the time for a strong international response."

A more fatuous presidential call to arms is hard to conceive. What "strong international response" did Obama muster to North Korea's brazen defiance of a Chapter 7 -- "binding," as it were -- U.N. resolution prohibiting such a launch?

The obligatory emergency Security Council session produced nothing. No sanctions. No resolution. Not even a statement. China and Russia professed to find no violation whatsoever. They would not even permit a U.N. statement that dared express "concern," let alone condemnation.

Having thus bravely rallied the international community and summoned the United Nations -- a fiction and a farce, respectively -- what was Obama's further response? The very next day, his defense secretary announced drastic cuts in missile defense, including halting further deployment of Alaska-based interceptors designed precisely to shoot down North Korean ICBMs. Such is the "realism" Obama promised to restore to U.S. foreign policy.

He certainly has a vision. Rather than relying on America's unique technological edge in missile defenses to provide a measure of nuclear safety, Obama will instead boldly deploy the force of example. How? By committing his country to disarmament gestures -- such as, he promised his cheering acolytes in Prague, ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Really, now. How does U.S. ratification of that treaty -- which America has, in any case, voluntarily abided by for 17 years -- cause North Korea to cease and desist, and cause Iran to turn nukes into plowshares?

Obama's other great enthusiasm is renewing disarmament talks with Russia. Good grief. Of all the useless sideshows. Cut each of our arsenals in half and both countries could still, in Churchill's immortal phrase, "make the rubble bounce."

There's little harm in engaging in talks about redundant nukes because there is nothing of consequence at stake. But Obama seems not even to understand that these talks are a gift to the Russians for whom a return to anachronistic Reagan-era START talks is a return to the glory of U.S.-Soviet summitry.

I'm not against gift-giving in international relations. But it would be nice to see some reciprocity. Obama was in a giving mood throughout Europe. While Gordon Brown was trying to make his American DVDs work and the queen was rocking to her new iPod, the rest of Europe was enjoying a more fulsome Obama gift.

Our president came bearing a basketful of mea culpas. With varying degrees of directness or obliqueness, Obama indicted his own people for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness, for genocide, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantanamo and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world.

And what did he get for this obsessive denigration of his own country? He wanted more NATO combat troops in Afghanistan to match the surge of 17,000 Americans. He was rudely rebuffed.

He wanted more stimulus spending from Europe. He got nothing.
From Russia, he got no help on Iran. From China, he got the blocking of any action on North Korea.

And what did he get for Guantanamo? France, pop. 64 million, will take one prisoner. One! (Sadly, he'll have to leave his bridge partner behind.) The Austrians said they would take none. As Interior Minister Maria Fekter explained with impeccable Germanic logic, if they're not dangerous, why not just keep them in America?

When Austria is mocking you, you're having a bad week. Yet who can blame Frau Fekter, considering the disdain Obama showed his own country while on foreign soil, acting the philosopher-king who hovers above the fray mediating between his renegade homeland and an otherwise warm and welcoming world?

After all, it was Obama, not some envious anti-American leader, who noted with satisfaction that a new financial order is being created today by 20 countries, rather than by "just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy." And then added: "But that's not the world we live in, and it shouldn't be the world that we live in."

It is passing strange for a world leader to celebrate his own country's decline. A few more such overseas tours, and Obama will have a lot more decline to celebrate.

Civilization walking the plank

Pirate problem joins North Korean missile, Iranian nukes as 'distractions' for Obama.

Mark Steyn
Syndicated columnist
Orange County Register
Friday, April 10, 2009

The Reuters headline put it this way: "Pirates Pose Annoying Distraction For Obama."

So many distractions, aren't there? Only a week ago, the North Korean missile test was an "annoying distraction" from Barack Obama's call for a world without nuclear weapons and his pledge that America would lead the way in disarming. And only a couple of days earlier the president insisted Iraq was a "distraction" – from what, I forget: The cooing press coverage of Michelle's wardrobe? No doubt when the Iranians nuke Israel, that, too, will be an unwelcome distraction from the administration's plans for federally subsidized day care, just as Pearl Harbor was an annoying distraction from the New Deal, and the First World War was an annoying distraction from the Archduke Franz Ferdinand's dinner plans

If the incompetent management driving The New York Times from junk status to oblivion wished to decelerate their terminal decline, they might usefully amend their motto to "All The News That's Fit To Distract." Tom Blumer of Newsbusters notes that in the past 30 days there have been some 2,500 stories featuring Obama and "distractions," as opposed to about 800 "distractions" for Bush in his entire second term. The sub-headline of the Reuters story suggests the unprecedented pace at which the mountain of distractions is piling up: "First North Korea, Iran – now Somali pirates."

Er, OK. So the North Korean test is a "distraction," the Iranian nuclear program is a "distraction," and the seizure of a U.S.-flagged vessel in international waters is a "distraction." Maybe it would be easier just to have the official State Department maps reprinted with the Rest of the World relabeled "Distractions." Oh, to be sure, you could still have occasional oases of presidential photo-opportunities – Buckingham Palace, that square in Prague – but with the land beyond the edge of the Queen's gardens ominously marked "Here be distractions…"

As it happens, Somali piracy is not a distraction but a glimpse of the world the day after tomorrow. In my book "America Alone," I quote Robert D. Kaplan referring to the lawless fringes of the map as "Indian Territory." It's a droll jest but a misleading one, since the very phrase presumes that the badlands one day will be brought within the bounds of the ordered world. In fact, a lot of today's badlands were relatively ordered not so long ago, and many of them are getting badder and badder by the day. Half a century back, Somaliland was a couple of sleepy colonies, British and Italian, poor but functioning. Then it became a state, and then a failed state, and now the husk of a nation is a convenient squat from which to make mischief. According to Chatham House in London, Somali pirates made about $30 million in ransom and booty last year. Thirty mil goes a long way in Somalia, making piracy a very attractive proposition.

It's also a low-risk one. Once upon a time we killed and captured pirates. Today, it's all more complicated. Attorney General Eric Holder has declined to say whether the kidnappers of the American captain will be "brought to justice" by the U.S. "I'm not sure exactly what would happen next," declares the chief law-enforcement official of the world's superpower. But some things we can say for certain. Obviously, if the United States Navy hanged some eye-patched, peg-legged blackguard from the yardarm or made him walk the plank, pious senators would rise to denounce an America that no longer lived up to its highest ideals, and the network talking-heads would argue that Plankgate was recruiting more and more young men to the pirates' cause, and judges would rule that pirates were entitled to the protections of the U.S. Constitution and that their peg legs had to be replaced by high-tech prosthetic limbs at taxpayer expense.

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, which over the centuries did more than anyone to rid the civilized world of the menace of piracy, now declines even to risk capturing their Somali successors, having been advised by Her Majesty's Government that, under the European Human Rights Act, any pirate taken into custody would be entitled to claim refugee status in the United Kingdom and live on welfare for the rest of his life. I doubt "Pirates of the Caribbean" would have cleaned up at the box office if the big finale had shown Geoffrey Rush and his crew of scurvy sea dogs settling down in council flats in Manchester and going down to the pub for a couple of jiggers of rum washed down to cries of "Aaaaargh, shiver me benefits check, lad." From "Avast, me hearties!" to a vast welfare scam is not progress.

In a world of legalisms, resistance is futile. The Royal Navy sailors kidnapped by Iran two years ago and humiliated by the mullahs on TV were operating under rules of engagement that call for "de-escalation" in the event of a confrontation. Which is to say their rules of engagement are rules of nonengagement. Likewise, merchant vessels equipped with cannon in the 18th century now sail unarmed. They contract with expensive private security firms, but those security teams do not carry guns: When the MV Biscaglia was seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden last year, the Indian and Bangladeshi crew were taken hostage but the three unarmed guards from "Anti-Piracy Maritime Security Solutions" in London "escaped by jumping into the water." Some solution. When you make a lucrative activity low-risk, you get more of it.

As my colleague Andrew McCarthy wrote, "Civilization is not an evolution of mankind but the imposition of human good on human evil. It is not a historical inevitability. It is a battle that has to be fought every day, because evil doesn't recede willingly before the wheels of progress." Very true. Somalia, Iran and North Korea are all less "civilized" than they were a couple of generations ago. And yet in one sense they have made undeniable progress: They have globalized their pathologies. Somali pirates seize vessels the size of aircraft carriers flying the ensigns of the great powers. Iranian proxies run Gaza and much of Lebanon. North Korea's impoverished prison state provides nuclear technology to Damascus and Tehran. Unlovely as it is, Pyongyang nevertheless has friends on the Security Council. Powerful states protect one-man psycho states. One-man psycho states provide delivery systems to apocalyptic ideological states. Apocalyptic ideological states fund nonstate actors around the world. And in Somalia and elsewhere nonstate actors are constrained only by their ever increasing capabilities.

When all the world's a "distraction," maybe you're not the main event after all. Most wealthy nations lack the means to defend themselves. Those few that do, lack the will. Meanwhile, basket-case jurisdictions send out ever bolder freelance marauders to prey on the civilized world with impunity. Don't be surprised if "the civilized world" shrivels and retreats in the face of state-of-the-art reprimitivization. From piracy to nukes to the limp response of the hyperpower, this is not a "distraction" but a portent of the future.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Death on a Friday Afternoon

By Richard John Neuhaus
April 10, 2009

Exploration into God is exploration into darkness, into the heart of darkness. Yes, to be sure, God is light. He is the light by which all light is light. In the words of the Psalm, “In your light we see light.” Yet great mystics of the Christian tradition speak of the darkness in which the light is known, a darkness inextricably connected to the cross. At the heart of darkness the hope of the world is dying on a cross, and the longest stride of soul is to see in this a strange glory. In John’s Gospel, the cross is the bridge from the first Passover on the way out of Egypt to the new Passover into glory. In his first chapter he writes, “We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” The cross is not the eclipse of that glory but its shining forth, its epiphany. In John’s account, the death of Jesus is placed on the afternoon of the fourteenth day of the month of Nisan, precisely the time when the Passover lambs were offered up in the temple in Jerusalem.

Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti)
"Crucifixion (Crocifissione)", 1565-67, canvas, Scuola di San Rocco, Venice

Lest anyone miss the point, John draws the parallel unmistakably. The legs of Jesus are not broken, the soldier pierces his side and John writes, “For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘Not a bone of him shall be broken.’ And again another scripture says, ‘They shall look on him whom they have pierced.’” In the book of Exodus, God commands that no bone of the paschal lamb is to be broken. Then there is this magnificent passage from the prophet Zechariah: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”

Here on Calvary’s hill, all is fulfilled. It is the glory of Jesus’ cry, “it is finished.” The cross is the moment of passover from the old covenant to the new. Weeping at the cross, Mary is both the mother of sorrows and the mother of hope. The resurrection glory is discerned in the way that Christ dies. Now the reason for the whole drama becomes clear in the Son’s unqualified obedience to the Father, even to death, and the Father’s promise to glorify the Son. John says nothing about the risen Christ appearing to his mother. The other disciples discovered the resurrection glory at the dawn of the third day. Mary had already discovered the glory in the cross. There she took “the longest stride of soul.”

“In the Cross of Christ I Glory,” declared the nineteenth-century hymn writer John Bowring. It seems a strange, even bizarre, glory. “We have beheld his glory,” St. John wrote, meaning that he was there, with Mary, beholding the final and perfect sacrifice. In the churches of Asia Minor that were founded by John, Easter was celebrated not on Sunday, as with the other churches, but on 14 Nisan, the anniversary of Christ’s death. This was his “hour” of glory. The resurrection ratified and reinforced what was already displayed on the cross. When John, therefore, places Mary at the cross, he is placing her at the very center of salvation. She was there, with him, beholding a glory different from, even the opposite of, everything ordinarily meant by glory. It was God’s glory, which is love.

This is the light in which we are to understand those exultant passages in 1 John. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.” (Mary and I, we saw it!) John continues: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” “So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

In the cross we see that of which humanity is capable: self-transcendence in surrender to the Other. All the evidence to the contrary, we are capable of love. The sign of shame and death becomes the sign of cosmic possibility. Here is the axis mundi, the moment upon which all reality turns. A third century paschal homily captures the full reach of the truth:

This tree of heavenly dimensions rose up from earth to heaven, the foundation of all things, support of the universe, holder of the whole world, cosmic bond keeping unstable human nature united and securing it with the invisible nails of the Spirit so that, firmly gripped to the divinity, it can no longer break away. With its top branches touching the sky and its roots firmly set in the earth, it holds in its infinite embrace the many and intermediate spirits of the air.

It is the cross that binds John to Mary, and binds all disciples to one another in a mutual gift of self. Christ is the gift, and Christ enables us to give the gift, which is finally the gift of Christ. That is what St. Paul is getting at when he declares, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” In his third-century commentary on the fourth gospel, Origen reflects on our scene of Mary and John at the cross:

Whoever is to become a perfect disciple like John must become such, to be chosen, as it were, like the John who is Jesus. There is no other son of Mary besides Jesus and yet Jesus said to his mother, “Behold your son.” He did not say, “Behold, this too is your son.” What does this mean except that he is saying, “This is Jesus whom you brought forth.” In fact, the one who is perfect no longer lives but Christ lives in him. Since Christ lives in John, when he speaks of him to Mary he says, “Behold your son”—meaning, behold Christ.

“The John who is Jesus.” What a curious expression that is. Yet Jesus might say the same to Mary about all his disciples. They are all her sons and daughters for he, her son, lives in them. Mary, then, did not lose tier son on the cross; she gains sons and daughters beyond number, in all of whom the glory of Christ abides. But this one disciple, this John, was given an extraordinary privilege. We read, “From that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” We are invited to believe that Mary spent her last years with John. Perhaps, to use an old-fashioned expression, she kept house for him. We do not know. But we are invited to reflect that John, when he wrote about the Word become flesh, lived under the same roof with the one through whom it happened.

In their life together, in their eating and talking together, Mary knew each day that she had not lost her son. In the Spirit-seared gathering with the disciples at Pentecost, perhaps she heard again the voice from the cross, “Behold, your sons. Behold, your daughters. In them, I am with you.” Then, as though for the first time, she really understood what Jesus meant on that long ago day when she had tried to see him and he responded to those who announced that she was there, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” There was no denying that that had hurt. Jesus added, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.” But of course, By doing the will of God she first became his mother, and thus did she become the Mother of the Church, the mother of all who do the will of God. Of course her last word had to be and will always be, “Do whatever he tells you.” Wherever or however Mary appears, her message can finally be none other than that: “Do whatever he tells you.” Her motherhood increases through all who obey her son.

Of strangest strangeness is the glory. It is the wild glory of abandonment. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” She was watching him and he was watching her and they both knew the words of the psalm: “Yet thou art he who took me from the womb; thou didst keep me safe upon my mother’s breasts. Upon thee was I cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me thou hast been my God. Be not far from me, for trouble is near and there is none to help.”

From our birth, from our mother, we are cast upon God. What was true for us was true for Jesus. There is no danger of accenting too much his humanity. Christians are always getting themselves into a muddle about what it means to say that Jesus is both divine and human, God and man. Some appear to think he was fifty percent one and fifty percent the other, or end tip with two persons, one divine and one human. Theologians speak in technical terms about the “communication of attributes” between the Divine and human in the one person. But for the moment I suggest we set aside the conceptual fretting and vain search for precision about what surpasses understanding. Rather, we fix our attention on this mother and this son. We cannot delve too deeply into the human, for it is the fullness of the human that is here redeemed. How is it that from our birth, from our mother, we are cast upon God?

Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti) "Crucifixion", 1568

We are cast upon God when we wonder. In wonder is wisdom born. The most elementary and at the same time the most profound of questions is, “Why is there anything at all and not nothing?” Why am I? We must never be embarrassed about asking something so basic, so apparently naive. In our supposed sophistication we may suppress the question, we may become practiced at forgetting it, but we never really get beyond it. The fact that I find myself in a boundless world of innumerable existent beings is astonishing beyond measure. It cannot be explained by any cause derived from the world itself. The expression “I find myself” reflects a measure of self-consciousness, but how did I come to be before I was conscious of my being. Was I “I” then?

At some point, in what appears to be by chance, what I would later call “I” came to be in a fertilized egg inside my mother. It has always struck me as puzzling that some people say that an embryo or a fetus does not look like a human being. That is exactly what a human being looks like when it is two weeks or two months old. It is what you looked like and what I looked like. It is what Jesus looked like inside his mother. Of course he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and we have no medical data on that. But what he would later call “I” developed in the womb, just as you and I did. As with us, a new being came into being. Reflecting upon itself, it could not interpret itself merely as a product of chance. It could not do that because, from the time it began thinking about such things, it had the capacity to view the world as a whole. Finding ourselves in a world of innumerable existent beings like ourselves, we cannot say that we are the product of chance without saying that everything is the product of chance, which is really not to say much of anything. The word “chance” has no meaning unless there are other things that are by necessity.

“Upon thee was I cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me thou hast been my God.” Jesus could have imagined, as we can imagine, that an infinite number of other beings could have taken “our place” in the universe. Why it should have been me, or you or Jesus, we do not know. But so it was. We can add, in the certainty of retrospect, so it was to be. The expression “so it was to be” is uncomfortably, or maybe comfortably, close to “so it had to be.” Our recoil from the hint of determinism is mixed with our attraction to the possibility of purpose.

Long before I came to self-consciousness and called myself “I,” my mother called me “you.” Jesus first heard “you” from Mary. Long before he could understand, I expect she whispered to him what the archangel Gabriel had told her, but she put it in the second person singular: “You will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give you the throne of your father David, and you will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of your kingdom there will be no end.” Mary did not know what it all meant, and the baby only smiled at the sound of the voice of the woman for whom he was the infinitely treasured “you.”

Of course the child does not come into the world asking questions such as, Why is there something rather than nothing? Or, Why am I rather than someone else where I am? Balthasar writes: “And yet the child is aware, in the first opening of its mind’s eyes. Its ‘I’ awakens in the experience of a ‘Thou’: in its mother’s smile through which it learns that it is contained, affirmed, and loved in a relationship which is incomprehensibly encompassing, already actual, sheltering and nourishing.” As Martin Buber classically explained, the I-you relationship between persons carries within it the hint of the I-Thou relationship to the mysterious, to the Divine, to the strange glory. Every child who is blessed with a loving mother first discerns in the mother’s smile the presence of a Thou by which the child is encompassed and by which his or her being is secured. “Everything is all right,” says the mother to the child crying in the night, and in that “Everything is all right” the child intuits a grand metaphysical statement about the nature of reality. In trusting the mother’s assurance, the child trusts that the universe is home, that he or she belongs here.

Jesus encountered the Thou in Mary’s smile. But here it is different. Mary, pondering in her heart all that happened and whispering to him the words of the archangel, encountered in her baby, however little she understood it, the Thou by which her existence, the world and the stars beyond number are secured. She looked not up but down into the face of her Creator. She is Thou to him and he is both “you” and Thou to her; he is both her baby and the Son of the Most High. As time went by, and as happens with children, she would become “you” to him. As doesn’t happen with other children, he Would become ever more Thou to her. It would break Mary’s heart to lose the one whom she first called “You,” as she was led to surrender ever more to the Thou who is the glory of God whom she once held in her arms and who holds all things in being. The mother would come to understand that, from the beginning, she was held by the One whom she held.

Such was the curious bond between Jesus and Mary, in the cradle and on the cross. As a baby he first awoke to the Absolute—to “God”—in the loving presence of a mother who was for him the reassuring field of reality. She was the secure field of all being in which he received unqualified permission to be. The alternative to her was not to be, and that alternative was unimagined and unimaginable because she was. Only later, and with difficulty, does the child learn to distinguish between the love of God and the primordial love of the parent. For most of us the distinction is never absolute, and perhaps is not meant to be.

“Truly, I say to You, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus would later say. That turning is conversion, and it is in part a turning back. It is a retrieval of that first awakening to a world when all was miracle and all was play, when all was well in the security of a mother’s love. (In the deep background, hauntingly, is the return from east of Eden, and the angel has, at least for a time, dropped his fiery sword.) Yet conversion is not regression. For adults, too much has intervened to ever permit return to the home of the mother’s breast. Early on, children learn that the mother is not the entirety of the world and that their will and the will of the world are not always at one. Especially in puberty, they discover with alarm the tugs and pulls, both within and outside of themselves, that force them to make a decision about their own identity. Who “I” am is no longer an uncomplicated given but a matter of deciding, and deciding again and again.

For adults to turn and become children, to live again in a world of miracle and play, requires a larger horizon than that provided by the mother. The mother as Thou was but to prepare the way for an encounter with a greater Thou who is able to comprehend the contradictions of one’s ever more complex existence. To be a child again, one must be the child of another parent. As an adult, one can only surrender in the way that a child surrenders, if one surrenders to a love that comprehends all. In short, such a surrender means becoming a child of God.

And after three days of looking for the twelve-year-old boy, they found him in the temple. His mother said, “Son, why have you treated us so?” And Jesus said, “How is it that You sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” No, Mary and Joseph did not know. “They did not understand the saying which he spoke to them.” Something very fundamental had changed between them. They went back to Nazareth, “and his mother kept all these things in her heart.”

Her heart could not keep so much. Her heart would break before she fully understood, with a shudder of fear and wonder, what it was that she had been telling him when she whispered to the baby, “You will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. And of your kingdom there will be no end.” Perhaps, she was at times tempted to think, it was a mistake to tell him. But she finally had no choice except to follow, step by step, the way of the strange glory to which she had said yes. She was the instrument, she was the mediator, of the secret into which he would grow. And now his “hour” had come, and it had come to this, here at Golgotha.

“Come follow me,” Jesus says. The invitation resounds through all the time there is and ever will be, and all who respond in faith—all who exchange their “I” for the “I” of the Christ who lives within them—make their way, one way or another, to the foot of the cross. There they find themselves with John and Mary and a host of bedraggled saints and sinners whose hour has come. And to each of the brothers and sisters in whom he forever lives, to each of us, Jesus says, “Behold, your mother.” And to Mary, “Behold, your children. Behold me.”

- Richard John Neuhaus, who passed away January 8, 2009, was the founding editor of First Things. This is an excerpt from his book, Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

G.K. Chesterton - The Grave of Arthur

Down through the rocks where the dark roots dry,
The last long roots of the Glaston Thorn,
Dead is the King that never was born,
Dead is the King that never shall die,

They found him between the pyramids,
In the subterranean land, men say,
And there was not rending nor rolling away,
Of linen nor lifting of coffin-lids,

But the giant bones like the columns lie,
The far-flung towers of a forgotten city
That is dead with a doom too old to pity
(Dead is the King who does not die).

Coiled on his left from neck to knee,
Huge and hollow the horn is curled,
White as the worm that devours the world,
Carved with the cold white snakes of the sea,

Flat on his right, in the dust grown grey,
Is patterned the vast cross-hilted sword,
Graven with the Coming of Christ the Lord,
Gold with the trumpets of Judgement Day.

Between the first and the last he lies,
And between the false and the true dreams he:
Born without birth of a fabled sea,
Amoured in death till the dead shall rise.

And back and forth as a tolling bell
And forth and backward the Roman rhyme
Rolls in a ring that mocks the time
Tolling in a truth that none can tell.

In the high still hollow where Time is not
Or all times turn and exchange and borrow
In the glass wherein God remembers tomorrow
And truth looks forward to times forgot.

Where God looks back on the days to be
And heaven is yet hoping for yesterday;
The light in which time shall be taken away
And the soul that faces all ways is free,

The rune shall be read though it twist and turn
And the riddle be learnt that is past all learning
Of the Man unborn who is ever returning
And ever delaying, till God return.

And forever and ever till death discover
Why truth speaks double in dreams and day;
And the Myth and the Man that wandered away
Make tryst together as lover to lover,

A dream shall wail through the worm-shaped horn
"Dead is a King that never was born"
And a trumpet of truth from the Cross reply
"Dead is the King who shall not die"

Published in October, 1930

Today's Tune: The Searchers - When You Walk in the Room

(Click on title to play video)

Springsteen keeps things boss in Houston

Posted by Joey Guerra at April 8, 2009 11:59 PM
Houston Chronicle

Bruce Springsteen had an early, simple question for the Wednesday night crowd at Toyota Center.

"Is there anybody out there alive tonight?" he bellowed.

It was likely rhetorical, because from the second Springsteen walked onstage, the mood was pure, well, boss.

Springsteen has an immense power as a performer, an uncanny mix of blue-collar bravado and larger-than-life star power. He was surrounded by almost a dozen of his longtime players (Clarence Clemons, "Little" Steven Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren, a game Patti Scialfa) but was rarely out of focus during his 2.5 hours onstage.

He opened perfectly with a triumphant take on "Badlands" that snapped the venue to attention. It was an immediate, powerful moment that sent waves of electricity through the crowd (who could have likely gone home happy after that one song). He briefly donned a cowboy hat during the alternately fiery and macabre "Outlaw Pete".

Tirelessly cheerful fans was almost as entertaining. Some jumped up and down with glee, some sat and watched intently. Others simply stood, staring in awe. And the end of every song was met with "Bruuuuuce!"

He commanded a modest, low-level stage with a rectangular LED screen that framed the band. It was simple but effective. Along with crafty light work, it gave the performance, despite the size of the venue, an intimate feel.

"Working On A Dream", the title track from Springsteen's current disc, brought the set's only noticeable dip. Most fans took their seats, and some even scurried to the bathroom. They just weren't as interested in New Bruce (though I dug "Radio Nowhere"'s modern groove). But the energy was back up soon enough.

"We're here tonight because we want to rock the house. And we want to build a house," Springsteen said. "We want to have a churchin' session."

He moved and spoke with the fervor of a preacher at a tent revival, tearing through a rollicking "Johnny 99", an amped-up "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and "Working on the Highway".

The Boss raced around the stage grabbing fan signs boasting various song requests, eventually settling on "Cadillac Ranch". "Waiting On a Sunny Day" incited a full-force sing-along, and "The Wrestler" (from the film of the same name) was a stirring, gorgeous standout.

He tore through "Born to Run" before a history of the E Street Band's local love -- the first gig was in 1974 at "a place called Liberty Hall" -- and giving the Houston Food Bank a warm shout-out. It led, appropriately, into the rousing gospel harmonies of "Hard Times Come Again No More". The powerful sound filled the room

"Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" was a frenetic exchange of love between performer and public, and Springsteen snapped "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" into an epic party jam. But he wasn't done. A final double-shot -- the jangly zip of "American Land" and the nostalgic pop swing of "Dancing in the Dark" -- brought things to a triumphant, terrific finish.

Outlaw Pete
No Surrender
Out in the Street
Working on a Dream
Johnny 99
The Ghost of Tom Joad
Working on the Highway
Cadillac Ranch
It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
The Wrestler
Kingdom of Days
Radio Nowhere
Lonesome Day
The Rising
Born to Run
* * *
Hard Times
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Land of Hope and Dreams
American Land
Dancing in the Dark

Obama’s Two-State Delusion

By P. David Hornik
Thursday, April 09, 2009

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - APRIL 7: U.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tours the Blue Mosque on April 7, 2009 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Getty Images)

“In the Middle East,” President Obama told the Turkish parliament on Monday, “we share the goal of a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors. Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.”

He added: “That is a goal shared by Palestinians, Israelis, and people of good will around the world. That is a goal that the parties agreed to in the road map and at Annapolis. And that is a goal that I will actively pursue as president.”

His words give rise to a few responses.

First—less importantly—Obama’s mention of Annapolis was a clear rebuff to Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s statement last Wednesday that Annapolis does not obligate Israel. Less importantly because Lieberman was speaking off the cuff and not necessarily voicing government policy; the new government has meanwhile launched a major review to determine its stance on Annapolis, the road map, and related issues.

Second, and more importantly, in “strongly support[ing] the goal of two states” Obama was openly rebuffing Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a way that he would not—openly—rebuff the leader of any other democratic ally. On a central issue that affects Israel’s security and survival, Netanyahu has refused to commit himself to the “two-state solution” and instead has said he does not want to rule over the Palestinians but also does not want to give them powers—like control of air space and borders, an army, and the right to make alliances with other states—that could mortally threaten Israel.

In Ankara on Monday, Obama was addressing the parliament of a country that is 500 miles wide, and is himself the leader of a country that is 3000 miles wide. To enable the creation of a Palestinian state, Israel would have to shrink from its current width of 50 miles to no more than 10 miles at one of its most crowded points. Obama was saying that the Israeli prime minister’s red lines in that regard don’t count as far as he’s concerned.
Finally, Obama’s assertion that two states are “a goal shared by Palestinians and Israelis” can be challenged on a factual level. Regarding Israelis, various polls get different results depending on wording. In this one last February, for instance, Israelis were asked: “In light of the experience with disengagement, the Second Lebanon War and the war against Hamas in Gaza, do you support or oppose the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria?” The result was 51% opposed and 32% in favor. The right-wing bloc’s overwhelming win in Israel’s latest election also speaks for itself.

As for the Palestinians, just last week a poll by the Norwegian Fafo institute came up with results that directly contradict Obama’s words, finding that only one-third of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians support the two-state solution while the rest favor other “solutions” such as a single Islamic state or a “single state with equal rights for all.”

Meanwhile, as the Passover holiday approaches, the Israeli army and police will be raising their alert level and increasing deployments throughout the country. This is in response to “nine concrete warnings on terror organizations’ plans to carry out attacks and dozens of general warnings of shooting attacks, abductions, suicide bombings and firing of rockets and mortar shells.”

The security forces are especially concerned because of the recent uptick in terror attacks, including the killing of two traffic policemen in the Jordan Valley on March 15, the near-mass casualty attack on a Haifa mall on March 21, the ax murder of a 13-year-old boy in the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin last Thursday, and a thwarted shooting attack on a Border Police base near Beersheba by a 15-year-old Israeli Bedouin girl on Saturday—along with a surge of rocks and firebombs thrown at Israeli cars in the West Bank, a spate of bulldozer attacks in Jerusalem, and ongoing intermittent rocket fire from Gaza.

The still-unsolved killing of the traffic policemen and the mall attack are thought to be the work of organizations possessing terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank and Israel, with Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda variously mentioned as suspects. As for the still-unsolved ax murder and the thwarted shooting attack, they were the work of individuals—in the former case, apparently a West Bank Palestinian man; in the latter, as mentioned, an Israeli Arab teenage girl—who were infused with the murderous hatred that is systematically instilled by Palestinian and Arab media, education, and religion.

The situation is serious enough that Israeli security forces fear that a new intifada may be in the making. Security forces also express concern at the increased involvement of Fatah—the allegedly moderate party of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas—in the terrorist activity and say “foreign forces are cooperating” with the Fatah elements.

In light of all this, Obama’s words in Ankara about “two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security” as an imminent policy goal are clearly surreal and admit of two explanations. One is rhetorical submission to a Muslim world that is perceived, consciously or subconsciously, as too economically, diplomatically, demographically, and militarily powerful to defy.

The other is that Obama—as many have already claimed—wants to steamroll the new Israeli government. Netanyahu is working hard to find delicate formulas and approaches that will satisfy both Obama and Israel’s fundamental needs. It didn’t work with President Clinton.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Tel Aviv. He blogs at He can be reached at

UNC Fulfills Its Destiny After an Unfulfilling Tournament

By John Feinstein
The Washington Post
Tuesday, April 7, 2009; 4:24 PM

When it was all said and done, the college basketball season ended exactly where it began.

When the first polls came out in November, the unanimous choice to win the national championship was North Carolina. In fact, there was a good deal of speculation about whether the Tar Heels could become the first men's team in 33 years to go undefeated.

They didn't. It didn't matter.

No one is unbeatable in college basketball anymore, but the team Roy Williams put on the court the last three weeks was about as close to that as we are likely to see anytime in the near future. North Carolina was talented, deep, well coached, balanced and, most importantly, experienced.

Ultimately, that was what separated this team from everyone else. It had players who could have left early to play in the NBA but didn't. Most of the time when players are still around as juniors and seniors, it's because they aren't ready for the next level. Villanova seniors Dante Cunningham and Dwayne Anderson are a perfect example; they were very good college players who would not have drawn a sniff from the NBA had they left early.

Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green all would have been drafted a year ago. Hansbrough had no interest in leaving school. He liked college and he felt unfulfilled when the Tar Heels lost to Kansas in the Final Four last spring. The other three all put their names into the NBA draft but withdrew them. Lawson probably would have been a first-round pick, but there were enough questions about him that it wasn't a lock. Ellington and Green were second-rounders. So they all ended up coming back.

That put Williams into an enviable yet difficult coaching situation. He knew he had the best team. He also knew that if his team stayed healthy but didn't cut down the nets this season in Detroit, there would be all sorts of question to answer.

Now there are no questions, just well-deserved kudos.

Williams made a smart decision holding Lawson and his aching toe out of the ACC tournament. There's no doubt Lawson could have played, and if he had, North Carolina might very well have won a third straight ACC tournament title. But as Williams noted quietly to people that week, he heard a lot more comments the last two years about NCAA tournament losses to Kansas and Georgetown than about back-to-back conference championships.

The bar is always set high in Chapel Hill, so Williams sat Lawson, gritted his teeth after losing to Florida State in the ACC semifinals and made sure Lawson was healthy before bringing him back in the second round of the NCAA tournament against LSU. That turned out to be the one game in which North Carolina was challenged, and Lawson announced his return with a superb second half, helping his team pull away in the final minutes.

In a sense, the tournament ended that evening. The Tar Heels' last four games -- against Gonzaga, Oklahoma, Villanova and Michigan State -- were over, for all intents and purposes, by halftime. It was arguably the most dominating performance seen in an NCAA tournament since Indiana blew away five straight opponents in 1981. In a second-round game that year against Maryland, the Terrapins' Ernest Graham shook his fist while running downcourt after making a jump shot to give Maryland an 8-0 lead.

Bob Knight never even moved on the bench at that moment. He knew something Graham didn't. The final score was 99-64.

The Tar Heels didn't beat anyone by 35, but they probably could have. This was call-your-score basketball, and the sound you heard Monday night just before 10 p.m. was most of the nation's TV sets clicking off when the score reached 43-20 with almost seven minutes left before halftime.

It's a shame that our last memory of this Michigan State team will be Monday's 89-72 rout, because the Spartans deserve to be remembered for far more than that. This was a team that struggled with injuries and health issues for much of the season before jelling at just the right time in March.

If Williams is now the preeminent coach in the game, Tom Izzo isn't that far behind. He can play slow and he can play fast -- ask Connecticut -- and his teams almost always play their best basketball when it matters most. What the Spartans did for Detroit and for the state of Michigan with their run to the championship game won't soon be forgotten.

The Spartans weren't just good, they were terrific in beating Louisville and Connecticut. And the way they handled the notion of being Detroit's team, the group that was bringing some joy and light to a place in desperate need of it, was close to perfect. There were more than a few lumps in throats on Saturday when Kalin Lucas asked to be introduced as "a sophomore from Detroit, Michigan" (he actually grew up 25 miles away but has a grandmother who lives in Detroit), and the sight of the entire team waving to the fans at Ford Field after the Connecticut game is one that won't be forgotten soon by anyone who was there.

The only problem with Michigan State's run is that it will allow the NCAA to believe that it didn't commit a complete folly with the way it configured the building. Putting the court in the middle of the football field meant that almost no one in the place had a good seat. In fact, there were exactly five people who had a really good view of the court: the two coaches, who sat on stools on the court while the rest of their teams sat on sunken benches, and CBS's Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and their statistician, who sat on raised seats on the opposite side of the court.

That was it. Everyone else was either looking up at the court, looking over someone's head to find the court or sitting somewhere near the Canadian border. In all likelihood, there would have been scores of empty seats if the Spartans hadn't upset Louisville.

The NCAA jumped the shark with this setup. Everyone knows that almost everything it does is designed to keep its banker -- CBS, to the tune of almost $600 million a year -- happy. That's why the starting times are so ridiculous, the timeouts (10 a game) so long, halftime 20 minutes and Nantz and Kellogg on raised chairs.

Okay, fine. You sell your soul, you have to deal with the devil. But putting the court in the middle of the football field isn't just a money grab, it's potentially dangerous. At some point, some year a player is going to go tumbling down the steps in front of a bench in pursuit of a loose ball. And then everyone will shake their heads and talk about how sad it is.

Beyond that, the NCAA owes the fans something. It's bad enough the Final Four will always be in a dome and that people are asked to attend early-round games that end well after midnight -- not to mention a championship game that ends just before midnight. At least give the people who are paying big bucks to get into the event a decent view.

Of course, the NCAA will claim that the whole thing was a huge success, that complaints were minimal and that everyone loved the atmosphere.

That's just not true. Everyone loved what Michigan State did and, even in a town ravaged by the economy, everyone who got to watch the Spartans play and to be any part of the story couldn't help but enjoy it. And if you didn't appreciate the play of North Carolina, you aren't a basketball fan.

But this was the least exciting NCAA tournament in years, played in the worst Final Four atmosphere ever. (This wasn't Detroit's fault, as the people could not have been warmer or more accommodating.) There was one truly memorable game in the 64 played in the tournament (Villanova-Pittsburgh in the East Region final) and only a handful of others that kept you involved until the very end.

But the margins of the final three games were 9 points, 14 points and 17 points. The championship game was all but over after 10 minutes. The NCAA can't control that, but it can control the game experience the people paying to be in the building are allowed to enjoy.

"Happy Days" was never the same after Fonzie jumped the shark. Sadly, chances are the same will be true of the Final Four.


By Ann Coulter
April 8, 2009

The rash of recent shooting incidents has led people who wouldn't know an AK-47 from a paintball gun to issue demands for more restrictions on guns. To be sure, it's hard to find any factor in these shootings that could be responsible -- other than the gun.

So far, this year's public multiple shootings were committed by:

-- Richard Poplawski, 23, product of a broken family, expelled from high school and dishonorably discharged from the Marines, who killed three policemen in Pittsburgh.

-- Former crack addict Jiverly Wong, 41, who told co-workers "America sucks" yet somehow was not offered a job as a speechwriter for Barack Obama. Wong blockaded his victims in a civic center in Binghamton, N.Y., and shot as many people as he could, before killing himself.

-- Robert Stewart, 45, a three-time divorcee and high school dropout with "violent tendencies" -- according to one of his ex-wives -- who shot up the nursing home in Carthage, N.C., where his newly estranged wife worked.

-- Lovelle Mixon, 26, a paroled felon, struggling to get his life back on track by pimping, who shot four cops in Oakland, Calif. -- before eventually being shot himself.

-- Twenty-eight-year-old Michael McLendon, child of divorce, living with his mother and boycotting family funerals because he hated his relatives, who killed 10 of those relatives and their neighbors in Samson, Ala.

It might make more sense to outlaw men than guns. Or divorce. Or crack. Or to prohibit felons from having guns. Except we already outlaw crack and felons owning guns and yet still, somehow, Wong got crack and Mixon got a gun.

After being pulled over for a routine traffic violation, Lovelle Mixon did exactly what they teach in driver's ed by immediately shooting four cops. Mixon's supporters held a posthumous rally in his honor, claiming he shot the cops only in "self-defense," which I take it includes the cop Mixon shot while the officer was lying on the ground.

I guess Mixon also raped that 12-year-old girl in "self-defense." Clearly, the pimping industry has lost a good man. I wish I'd known him. I tip my green velvet fedora with the dollar signs all over it to him. Why do the good ones always die young? Pimps, I mean.

Liberals tolerate rallies on behalf of cop-killers, but they prohibit law-abiding citizens working at community centers in Binghamton, N.Y., from being armed to defend themselves from disturbed, crack-addicted America-haters like Jiverly Wong.

It's something in liberals' DNA: They think they can pass a law eliminating guns and nuclear weapons, but teenagers having sex is completely beyond our control.

The demand for more gun control in response to any crime involving a gun is exactly like Obama's response to North Korea's openly belligerent act of launching a long-range missile this week: Obama leapt to action by calling for worldwide nuclear disarmament.

If the SAT test were used to determine how stupid a liberal is, one question would be: "The best defense against lawless rogues who possess _______ is for law-abiding individuals to surrender their own _______________."

Correct answer: Guns. We would also have accepted nuclear weapons.

Obama explained that "the United States has a moral responsibility" to lead disarmament efforts because America is "the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon."

So don't go feeling all morally superior to a country whose business model consists of exporting heroin, nuclear bombs and counterfeit U.S. dollars, and of importing Swedish prostitutes, you yahoo Americans with your little flag lapel pins.

On the other hand, the Japanese haven't acted up much in the last, say, 64 years ...

Fortunately, our sailors didn't wait around for Obama to save them when Somali pirates boarded their ship this week. Stop right now or I'll ask the U.N. to remind the "international community" that "the U.S. is not at war with Somali pirates."

Gun-toting Americans are clearly more self-sufficient than the sissy Europeans. This is great news for everyone except Barney Frank, who's always secretly wondered what it would be like to be taken by a Somali pirate.

Police -- whom I gather liberals intend to continue having guns -- and intrepid U.N. resolution drafters can't be everywhere, all the time.

If a single civilian in that Binghamton community center had been armed, instead of 14 dead, there might have only been one or two -- including the shooter. In the end, the cops didn't stop Wong. His killing spree ended only when he decided to stop, and he killed himself.

"The shooter will eventually run out of ammo" strategy may not be the best one for stopping deranged multiple murderers.

But it's highly unlikely that any community center in the entire state would be safe from a disturbed former crack-addict like Wong because New York's restrictive gun laws require a citizen to prove he has a need for a gun to obtain a concealed carry permit.

Instead of having Planned Parenthood distribute condoms in schools, they ought get the NRA to pass out revolvers. It would save more lives.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Today's Tune: Van Morrison - Sweet Thing (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

Arab League Backs Darfur Genocide

by Robert Spencer

Genocide in Darfur? Relax! At its summit last week in Qatar, the Arab League decisively rejected the International Criminal Court’s indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. “We emphasis our solidarity with Sudan and our dismissal and rejection of the decision handed down by the International Criminal Court,” read the Arab League communiqué.

It is worth exploring with what exactly the Arab League is expressing solidarity. Al-Bashir has overseen the genocidal campaign of the government-backed Janjaweed militias in the Darfur region of western Sudan, in which 400,000 people have been killed and over 2,500,000 left homeless. In 2004, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan said the situation in Darfur was “world’s greatest humanitarian crisis.”

Three years later, a U.N. Human Rights Council mission reported that “gross violations of human rights and grave breaches of humanitarian law continue across the region,” and called upon the Sudanese government to “comply with its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.” A 2008 report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that “the scale of destruction suggests that the damage was a deliberate and integral part of a military strategy.” ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said that al-Bashir had order government forces “not to bring back any wounded or prisoners. He wanted to commit genocide.”

But instead of denouncing the Darfur genocide and calling al-Bashir to account, as one might expect from the adherents of the vaunted Religion of Peace, the Arab League has closed ranks behind him. And not just the Arab League: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem declared: “What is required from all of us is to stand with our brothers in Sudan and its leadership in order to prevent dangers that affect our collective security.” Whose collective security? That of the Islamic world: the 57-government Organization of the Islamic Conference called the ICC’s arrest warrant “unwarranted and unacceptable.” And the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Ali Larijani, said that the warrant was nothing less than a “plot against Islam.” In a jab at Obama, he added: “We consider the warrant as a political insult against Muslims, what we expected from changes in the U.S. administration was that we would not witness such stances.”

Al-Bashir himself would agree. As long ago as 2004 he claimed that “the international concern about the Darfur issue is targeting the status of Islam in Sudan.”

It is disquieting enough that the Arab League and its Muslim allies seem to value Islamic solidarity over bringing a criminal to justice, but the proposition that to oppose genocide in Darfur is to attack Islam should give the Obama administration pause. During his trip to Turkey this week, Obama repeated that the U.S. seeks “broad engagement” with the Islamic world “based upon mutual interests and mutual respect.”

It would be worthwhile for him to ponder the question of what respect means in this context, when to speak out against mass murder is considered an act of disrespect. Al-Bashir has repeatedly criticized the West, saying in 2007 that “Western nations have no ethics or morals and we will export it to them.” Manifesting once again his taste for obliteration of peoples, he added: “These countries have the political, military and economic strength. We are strong with our values and we are waiting on Allah’s promise to obliterate them.”

Instead of focusing on respect, Obama would do a greater service to the victimized Muslims of Darfur by focusing on justice. He has declared in Turkey that “the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam.” But when major Muslim entities consider that defense of basic human rights constitutes a war with Islam, what will Obama say?

So far he has said nothing about this. But the Arab League’s unwillingness to confront al-Bashir and oppose the Darfur genocide can only bode ill, not only for the people of Darfur, but also for the immense bet Obama is waging -- his hope that if he reaches out with respect to the Islamic world, that respect will be returned. The multitudes who continue to be slaughtered in Darfur, whose deaths go unnoticed and unmourned by Muslim leaders in the name of Islamic solidarity, bear witness to the hollowness and naivete of that hope.

Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)", "The Truth About Muhammad," and "Stealth Jihad" (all from Regnery -- a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

Obama at Notre Dame, in Reagan’s Long Shadow

The Great Communicator laid out a renewed American vision at the university.

By Vince Haley
April 08, 2009, 4:00 a.m.

On May 17, four months into his presidency, Barack Obama will travel to South Bend, Ind., to deliver the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame. Twenty-eight years to the day, another popular agent of change, four months into his presidency, did the same. (Text here; video here.)

In a presidency full of extraordinary oratory, Reagan’s “Source of All Strength” speech at Notre Dame stands out as one of his very best, even if it is not among his best-known.

By now, the heralded Obama communications team will have read and unpacked Reagan’s Notre Dame address. The speechwriters undoubtedly understand the height of the bar Reagan set and the imperative to fashion a message of similar scope, vision, and connectedness to the American creed. Clearing that bar will lead to comparisons with Reagan’s ability. Failing to clear it will preserve the distinction of the Great Communicator.

In 1981, America was faced with the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Unemployment was 7.5 percent and rising; inflation ran at 10 percent; and mortgage rates hit16.6 percent. Abroad, the Soviet Union forcibly occupied Afghanistan and was busy expanding its influence in Africa and Central America. At home, Americans had been told by their previous president in what became known as the “malaise speech” that America was suffering a “crisis of confidence” and a “crisis of the spirit” and that there was “growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.” President Carter glumly told the nation that the “erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.”

Reagan promised change.

In his inaugural address, Reagan presented an eloquent vision for economic recovery, renewing the American spirit, and defending America against the enemies of freedom. He famously declared, “We have every right to dream heroic dreams.”

Four months later he would speak at “Our Lady” — Notre Dame — in the most extraordinary of circumstances. In addition to domestic and international crises, two dramatic events had recently occurred that added poignancy and meaning to Reagan’s remarks. The audience hearing him that day knew of these events and was filled with the kind of anticipation that comes from knowing you are a witness to history unfolding: On March 30, 1981, a deranged gunman shot and almost killed President Reagan outside a hotel in Washington, D.C. On May 13, 1981, just four days before Reagan went to Notre Dame, another would-be assassin shot and almost killed Pope John Paul II in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square.

When the news of the papal assassination attempt reached me, I was a freshman at Bishop Ireton Catholic High School in Alexandria, Va. My algebra teacher — the tall, thin, quiet, and painfully shy Mr. Reynolds — started class talking about the attempt on the life of the pope. Moved to tears, Mr. Reynolds tried to find words to express his bewilderment at a world seemingly coming apart. There must have been millions across America who, like Mr. Reynolds, feared that our country, our culture, and our security were teetering on the brink.

For only two years now — since the publication of The Reagan Diaries — have we known what President Reagan’s thoughts were in the immediate aftermath of the attempt on his life. Reagan wrote in his diary on April 11, 1981:

Getting shot hurts. Still my fear was growing because no matter how hard I tried to breathe it seemed I was getting less & less air. I focused on that tiled ceiling and prayed. But I realized I couldn’t ask for God’s help while at the same time I felt hatred for the mixed up young man who had shot me. Isn’t that the meaning of the lost sheep? We are all God’s children & therefore equally beloved by him. I began to pray for his soul and that he would find his way back to the fold.

I opened my eyes once to find Nancy there. I pray I’ll never face a day when she isn’t there. Of all the ways God has blessed me giving her to me is the greatest and beyond anything I can ever hope to deserve.

All the kids arrived and the hours ran together in a blur during which I was operated on. I know it’s going to be a long recovery but there has been such an outpouring of love from all over.

The days of therapy, transfusion, intravenous, etc. have gone by — now it is Sat. April 11 and this morning I left the hospital and am here at the W.H. with Nancy and Patti. The treatment, the warmth, the skill of those at G.W. has been magnificent but it’s great to be here at home.

Whatever happens now, I owe my life to God and will try to serve him in every way I can.

What did Reagan think four weeks later when he heard the news that the pope had been shot?

John Paul II had been shot on the Feast of our Lady of Fatima, a major day of remembrance celebrated by the Catholic Church. This Catholic feast day marks the appearance by Mary to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. The children are understood to have received very specific messages during these apparitions, including praying the Rosary daily for the conversion of Russia.

The pope himself had had all his life a special devotion to Mary (his coat of arms was a simple cross with “M” in the lower right corner) which made the attempt on the pope’s life on this day — and his survival on this day — take on special meaning. (The pope would later credit Mary for “guiding this bullet” and saving his life. He traveled twice on the anniversary of the assassination attempt to the Shrine at Fatima to give thanks. The bullet that almost killed the pope is now in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima at the shrine.)

Did Reagan know and consider these things as he prepared his first address to the students at the Catholic Notre Dame University since being shot himself?

If these things didn’t go through Reagan’s mind then, it surely causes one to pause today with 28 years of hindsight. Knowing today what Ronald Reagan and John Paul II did for expanding freedom and peace in the world during the 1980s, can one be faulted for thinking that the tide of evil in the late 20th century reached its high-water mark on May 13, 1981? On a day that recalled Our Lady of Fatima’s urging prayer for the conversion of Russia, the pope survived an attempt on his life that was almost certainly ordered by the leadership of the former Soviet Union.

It is in this historical context that President Reagan steps to the lectern to thundering applause from the Notre Dame graduates.

What will he say? Will he give them a speech devoted to economic and foreign policy, as President Carter had done four years before?

Reagan starts off by talking about football — which is almost as dear to the heart of any normal Notre Damer as the golden dome with its statue of the Virgin Mary. Specifically, Reagan reminisces about the movie Knute Rockne, All American, which he had played the role of George Gipp, who told Notre Dame’s Coach Rockne from his death bed that he should ask his players to “win one for the Gipper.” But Reagan isn’t here to talk about Hollywood. In a moving transition, Reagan declares, “There will come times in the lives of all of us when we’ll be faced with causes bigger than ourselves, and they won’t be on a playing field.”

Understanding the power of great theatre, Reagan, having engaged the students with his entertaining storytelling, now has their attention as he skillfully moves to deliver the most basic lesson of American identity:

This nation was born when a band of men, the Founding Fathers, a group so unique we’ve never seen their like since, rose to such selfless heights. Lawyers, tradesmen, merchants, farmers — 56 men achieved security and standing in life but valued freedom more. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Sixteen of them gave their lives. Most gave their fortunes. All preserved their sacred honor.

They gave us more than a nation. They brought to all mankind for the first time the concept that man was born free, that each of us has inalienable rights, ours by the grace of God, and that government was created by us for our convenience, having only the powers that we choose to give it. This is the heritage that you’re about to claim as you come out to join the society made up of those who have preceded you by a few years, or some of us by a great many.

From football to the Founding Fathers, Reagan is reliving with the students the American anamnesis. Reagan is at the same time retelling and living out with the graduates a new chapter in America’s story.

He then describes the current economic crisis and what he is going to do about it:

We’re troubled today by economic stagnation, brought on by inflated currency and prohibitive taxes and burdensome regulations. The cost of stagnation in human terms, mostly among those least equipped to survive it, is cruel and inhuman.

Now, after those remarks, don’t decide that you’d better turn your diploma back in so you can stay another year on the campus. I’ve just given you the bad news. The good news is that something is being done about all this because the people of America have said, “Enough already.” You know, we who had preceded you had just gotten so busy that we let things get out of hand. We forgot that we were the keepers of the power, forgot to challenge the notion that the state is the principal vehicle of social change, forgot that millions of social interactions among free individuals and institutions can do more to foster economic and social progress than all the careful schemes of government planners.

Well, at last we’re remembering, remembering that government has certain legitimate functions which it can perform very well, that it can be responsive to the people, that it can be humane and compassionate, but that when it undertakes tasks that are not its proper province, it can do none of them as well or as economically as the private sector.

At many graduations, a commencement speaker will often fail to speak directly to the students. Not so with Reagan at Notre Dame. He speaks to them in direct and earnest language, and in doing so, he speaks to the heart of a nation:

We need you. We need your youth. We need your strength. We need your idealism to help us make right that which is wrong. Now, I know that this period of your life, you have been and are critically looking at the mores and customs of the past and questioning their value. Every generation does that. May I suggest, don’t discard the time-tested values upon which civilization was built simply because they’re old. More important, don’t let today’s doomcriers and cynics persuade you that the best is past, that from here on it’s all downhill.

Reagan is engaged in a determined effort to remind Americans of who they are and why America’s “experiment in man’s relation to man” has been so successful for more than two centuries. Reagan’s speech is making clear that he sees the renewal of America — of its economy, civic spirit, and its courage to be free — in a return to first principles. And he isn’t finished yet.

As if to underscore what would happen once America rededicated itself to its founding ideals and first principles, Reagan says:

The years ahead are great ones for this country, for the cause of freedom and the spread of civilization. The West won’t contain Communism, it will transcend Communism. It won’t bother to denounce it, it will dismiss it as some bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.

Aside from President Reagan, few national figures were speaking about American life like this in 1981. Fewer still talk like this today.Although he does not describe it in these words, Reagan next turns his attention to the spiritual battle between good and evil and appeals to the citizens of the United States to engage in a “great climatic struggle for the human spirit.”

William Faulkner, at a Nobel Prize ceremony some time back, said man would “not only endure: he will prevail” against the modern world because he will return to “the old verities and truths of the heart.” And then Faulkner said of man, “He is immortal because he alone among creatures . . . has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”

One can’t say those words — compassion, sacrifice, and endurance — without thinking of the irony that one who so exemplifies them, Pope John Paul II, a man of peace and goodness, an inspiration to the world, would be struck by a bullet from a man towards whom he could only feel compassion and love. It was Pope John Paul II who warned in last year’s encyclical on mercy and justice against certain economic theories that use the rhetoric of class struggle to justify injustice. He said, “In the name of an alleged justice the neighbor is sometimes destroyed, killed, deprived of liberty or stripped of fundamental human rights.”

For the West, for America, the time has come to dare to show to the world that our civilized ideas, our traditions, our values, are not — like the ideology and war machine of totalitarian societies — just a facade of strength. It is time for the world to know our intellectual and spiritual values are rooted in the source of all strength, a belief in a Supreme Being, and a law higher than our own.

“It is time for the world to know our intellectual and spiritual values are rooted in the source of all strength, a belief in a Supreme Being, and a law higher than our own.” Could an American president issue such a call today for America to dare show the world that the source of all strength is a belief in a Supreme Being and a law higher than our own? And how often does it happen today that, in the name of an alleged justice, one of God’s children is destroyed, killed, deprived of liberty, or stripped of fundamental human rights? Is our government capable today of even condemning such an injustice?

Reagan closes his address with timeless words of hope about the future of America rooted in its truths and traditions:

My hope today is that in the years to come — and come it shall — when it’s your time to explain to another generation the meaning of the past and thereby hold out to them their promise of the future, that you’ll recall the truths and traditions of which we’ve spoken. It is these truths and traditions that define our civilization and make up our national heritage. And now, they’re yours to protect and pass on.

I have one more hope for you: When you do speak to the next generation about these things, that you will always be able to speak of an America that is strong and free, to find in your hearts an unbounded pride in this much-loved country, this once and future land, this bright and hopeful nation whose generous spirit and great ideals the world still honors.

Reagan’s “Source of All Strength” speech at Notre Dame was a moving restatement of the American creed that is enshrined in our Declaration of Independence. Reagan said what he said at Notre Dame because he was serious about the ideas of the American creed and their power to shape events. Indeed, it was Reagan’s disciplined approach throughout his presidency to the ideas of natural rights, consent of the governed, safety, liberty, and limited government that restored America’s civic spirit, delivered a booming economy, and set the Soviet Union on a course for peaceful dissolution.

At the outset of his presidency, President Reagan defined the source of American strength as a belief in a Supreme Being and a law higher than our own. At Notre Dame, a Catholic university, these words of Reagan as well as his pro-life policies matched the core convictions of his hosts. In contrast, President Obama’s pro-choice policies are antithetical to the Catholic Church’s most basic teaching on the sanctity of human life, which makes Obama’s choice to accept an invitation to speak at a Catholic university most peculiar. Aside from the controversy over the president of Notre Dame’s decision to extend an invitation, President Obama should have been quite aware that his acceptance would cause — and has caused — division and confusion within the largest religious community in the United States.

During his first trip to Europe last week, President Obama said there were times when America “has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive” toward Europe. During his first trip to Europe in June 1982, President Reagan rose above such pandering and instead focused on rallying the Europeans and everyone else to the cause of human freedom.

Will these same contrasts be on display at Notre Dame this May 17? President Reagan’s 1981 address at Notre Dame articulated the ideas and priorities that would animate eight years of a successful presidency. President Obama should view his speech next month as an opportunity and challenge to do the same.

— Vince Haley is vice president for research and policy at American Solutions for Winning the Future and associate producer of the new documentary film Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny.