NOTABLES: Persons of interest

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00Tuesday, October 27, 2009 4:37 PM

Asked what his views were on giving up his title as bishop, Bishop Broadhurst said: “Who cares. Soon I’ll be in a wooden box in front of the altar. What matters is the bigger picture. God matters, the truth matters. We as individuals don’t matter. We think we matter but we don’t.”

Bishop Broadhurst: The kind of Anglican for whom Benedict XVI's opening is primarily intended.

Anglican bishop refutes
former Canterbury prelate's
criticism of Benedict XVI

by Richard Kerbaj

Oct. 24, 2009

A senior Church of England bishop has attacked the former Archbishop of Canterbury as a “moaner” for complaining about the timing of the Pope’s offer to Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England to join Rome.

The Bishop of Fulham, the Right Rev John Broadhurst, told The Times that the Church of England, including the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, had been aware for years of the Vatican’s plans to admit disaffected Anglicans.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury knew that this was happening, but didn’t know when,” Bishop Broadhurst said.

Asked about complaints by Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, about the Pope not consulting widely enough and seeking Dr Williams’s advice before announcing the plan, he said: “Well, he’s just moaning. Rowan is big enough and old enough to speak for himself.”

Bishop Broadhurst, chairman of the Forward in Faith traditionalist group and a campaigner against women priests, said Rome’s offer must be viewed as a positive step in the name of religious unity.

“I think that a major chance for realignment is sitting around, and I think that’s what God wants,” he said.

Yesterday Bishop Broadhurst appeared poised to lead a mass exodus of clergy to the Catholic Church.

He told The Times that the Pope’s willingness to reach out to the traditionalists was a lifeline to an institution that had been “struggling for its existence for the last ten years”.

His views are in line with those of several other traditionalist clergymen — the former Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, and the Bishop of Chichester, the Right Rev John Hind — who welcomed Rome’s offer.

Last week the Holy See announced its intention to set up personal ordinariates, or extra-geographical Catholic dioceses, to bring into the fold former Anglicans who accept the Petrine ministry of Rome and oppose women bishops.

Bishop Broadhurst met his group’s Australian and American leaders yesterday to discuss Rome’s offer. “We have to decide what we do,” he told The Times yesterday after Mass at St Augustine’s Church in Kilburn, northwest London.

“I want my organisation to collectively come to a decision. And I will make my decision in consultation with them. I will be encouraging them to very seriously consider the implications of what the Holy Father has offered.”

Anglican bishops who cross over would probably have to relinquish their title.

Asked what his views were on giving up his title as bishop, Bishop Broadhurst said: “Who cares. Soon I’ll be in a wooden box in front of the altar. What matters is the bigger picture. God matters, the truth matters. We as individuals don’t matter. We think we matter but we don’t.”

Everyone seems to be beating up on Archbishop Williams For a failure of leadership in the Anglican Communion. He did choose to straddle the fence, after all, instead of deciding unequivocally one way or the other whether the Church of England would officially adopt the liberal trend to ordain women and homosexuals as priests and bishops.

Pope’s coup may rid
Archbishop of Canterbury
of turbulent priests

by Ruth Gledhill

Oct. 26, 2009

Rowan Williams must be starting to wonder if he has any friends left. He is like the academic boy at school who no one wants to play with because he doesn’t understand the rules of fisticuffs.

In Rome, he has been regarded with great respect. His theology and learning mean he is considered a Catholic, albeit a liberal one. He has now learnt that respect counts for nothing when souls are at stake.

The cardinals in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith could not stand by when Anglican bishops came pleading for clemency after the General Synod vote in July to proceed with the consecration of women bishops without legal provisions for the opponents.

Now, as if reversing at a stroke the iconoclasm of the Reformation, the Pope has with one decree smashed 40 years of ponderous ecumenism that was going nowhere.

Dr Williams’s predecessor, Lord Carey of Clifton, is urging him to protest at the “appalling” injustice done him by Rome’s failure to consult before the tanks were parked on his lawn. [Gledhill is obviously enamored of the unfair and misleading metaphor she used for her commentary soon after the Vatican decision was made known.] But perhaps Dr Williams should instead offer up a prayer of thanks for his salvation.

The Church of England, and the Anglican Communion, has been in danger of crumbling away along the faultline between Reformed and Catholic. Liberal bishops are exasperated by Dr Williams’s failure to advocate the causes of women bishops and gay priests with enthusiasm. Evangelical leaders are frustrated, the latest disappointment being the cancellation of a long-scheduled meeting with Dr Williams at Lambeth Palace.

Anglo-Catholics, long sidelined, suddenly find themselves sought after by Rome [They sought out Rome!] and courted once more by an Anglican Communion desperate not to lose them.

Dismayed by the lack of leadership, some critics of Dr Williams had been calling for his resignation. With one gesture, breathtaking in its brilliance, the Pope might just have rid him of this turbulence.

[I don't know whether to be glad Gledhill has found a way to say something positive of Benedict XVI, for a change, or remain cynical because she is only using it as a way to twist the dagger in Williams's back.]

00Wednesday, October 28, 2009 12:51 PM
German court fines Bishop Williamson
12,000 euros for denying Holocauct


A German court has fined British bishop Richard Williamson €12,000 ($17,800) for denying the Holocaust in an interview he gave to Swedish television last year that caused outrage around the world.

The Regensburg district court said Williamson, a member of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), an ultra-traditionalist Catholic splinter group, was being fined for incitement and that he had two weeks to appeal against the ruling.

Williamson's German lawyer, Matthias Lossmann, told the Tagesspiegel newspaper that Williamson had been ordered to pay €12,000. The report said Williamson looks set to fight the ruling. "There are certain things that must be contested," it quoted Lossmann as saying.

The court has jurisdiction because Willamson gave the interview in Germany, where denying the Holocaust is a crime. Speaking on the sidelines of a consecration ceremony in the town of Zaitzkofen, the bishop had claimed that historical evidence indicated there were no gas chambers during the Nazi period, and that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews had been murdered, not the figure of 6 million generally accepted by historians.

Meanwhile, the Vatican began talks on Monday with the SSPX with the aim of re-integrating it fully into the Church. Vatican officials and SSPX leaders discussed "doctrinal differences still outstanding" between the group and Rome, a Vatican statement said.

The traditionalists reject many of the reforms of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, which modernized the Catholic Church. The SSPX has several hundred thousand members and insists that it represents the true faith.

Last January German Pope Benedict XI tried to start bringing SSPX back into the fold by lifting the excommunications of four of its bishops, including Williamson. That decision coincided with reports about Williamson's comments on the Holocaust and prompted international criticism of the Pope.
00Thursday, October 29, 2009 1:45 AM
From 'The Australian' to God's ears, I pray!
I couldn't think of a more appropriate Benedict XVI loyalist
to head the Congregation of Bishops!

All roads lead to Vatican
for Cardinal Pell

by James Madden

October 28, 2009

CATHOLIC circles in Rome and Australia are abuzz with speculation that Pope Benedict XVI will shortly appoint Australia's Cardinal George Pell to a prestigious job in the top echelons of the Roman Curia.

Cardinal Pell's experience as Archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne, and his service on a range of Vatican organisations, is seen as an ideal background to take on a senior Vatican job.

Cardinal Pell, who was ordained in 1966, served as a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when Cardinal Ratzinger was in charge.

He is also a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and president of the Vox Clara Committee, which advises the Vatican on English translations of liturgical texts used at Mass.

One possible senior job becoming vacant in Rome is the powerful position of Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, which helps advise the Pope on the appointment of new bishops across the world.

Its Prefect, Cardinal Battista Re, who has held the job since 2000, reached the retirement age of 75 this year.

Priests in Australia believe the frontrunners for the role of Archbishop of Sydney in the event of his promotion to Rome, would be Canberra's Archbishop Mark Coleridge, 61, or Cardinal Pell's auxiliary bishop, Anthony Fisher, a Dominican priest who at 49 is the youngest bishop in the country.

Both are highly qualified scholars. Bishop Fisher, who was in charge of overseeing World Youth Day, has a doctorate in bioethics from Oxford and Archbishop Coleridge holds a doctorate in scripture from Rome.

Cardinal Pell, 68, has a doctorate in history from Oxford.

Inside the Roman Curia, Prefects of Congregations - the Pope's "kitchen cabinet" of about nine - are drawn from different parts of the world church. Some of Pope Benedict's present group are from Italy, India, Brazil, Poland, Argentina, Slovenia and the US. The last Australian to hold a senior Vatican office was Cardinal Edward Cassidy, who is now retired in NSW.

00Friday, October 30, 2009 6:24 PM
From the blog of the Archbishop of New York, this dismaying news! I posted this first in the ISSUES thread where it belongs primarily, but I am also posting it here to help insure it is read.


October 29, 2009

The following article was submitted in a slightly shorter form to the New York Times as an op-ed article. The Times declined to publish it. I thought you might be interested in reading it.

By Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York

October is the month we relish the highpoint of our national pastime, especially when one of our own New York teams is in the World Series!

Sadly, America has another national pastime, this one not pleasant at all: anti-Catholicism.

It is not hyperbole to call prejudice against the Catholic Church a national pastime. Scholars such as Arthur Schlesinger Sr. referred to it as “the deepest bias in the history of the American people,” while John Higham described it as “the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history.”

“The anti-semitism of the left,” is how Paul Viereck reads it, and Professor Philip Jenkins sub-titles his book on the topic “the last acceptable prejudice.”

If you want recent evidence of this unfairness against the Catholic Church, look no further than a few of these following examples of occurrences over the last couple weeks:

•On October 14, in the pages of the New York Times, reporter Paul Vitello exposed the sad extent of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community. According to the article, there were forty cases of such abuse in this tiny community last year alone.

Yet the Times did not demand what it has called for incessantly when addressing the same kind of abuse by a tiny minority of priests: release of names of abusers, rollback of statute of limitations, external investigations, release of all records, and total transparency.

Instead, an attorney is quoted urging law enforcement officials to recognize “religious sensitivities,” and no criticism was offered of the DA’s office for allowing Orthodox rabbis to settle these cases “internally.”

Given the Catholic Church’s own recent horrible experience, I am hardly in any position to criticize our Orthodox Jewish neighbors, and have no wish to do so . . . but I can criticize this kind of “selective outrage.”

Of course, this selective outrage probably should not surprise us at all, as we have seen many other examples of the phenomenon in recent years when it comes to the issue of sexual abuse.

To cite but two: In 2004, Professor Carol Shakeshaft documented the wide-spread problem of sexual abuse of minors in our nation’s public schools (the study can be found here).

In 2007, the Associated Press issued a series of investigative reports that also showed the numerous examples of sexual abuse by educators against public school students.

Both the Shakeshaft study and the AP reports were essentially ignored, as papers such as the New York Times only seem to have priests in their crosshairs.

•On October 16, Laurie Goodstein of the Times offered a front page, above-the-fold story on the sad episode of a Franciscan priest who had fathered a child.

Even taking into account that the relationship with the mother was consensual and between two adults, and that the Franciscans have attempted to deal justly with the errant priest’s responsibilities to his son, this action is still sinful, scandalous, and indefensible.

However, one still has to wonder why a quarter-century old story of a sin by a priest is now suddenly more pressing and newsworthy than the war in Afghanistan, health care, and starvation–genocide in Sudan. No other cleric from religions other than Catholic ever seems to merit such attention.

•Five days later, October 21, the Times gave its major headline to the decision by the Vatican to welcome Anglicans who had requested union with Rome. Fair enough. Unfair, though, was the article’s observation that the Holy See lured and bid for the Anglicans.

Of course, the reality is simply that for years thousands of Anglicans have been asking Rome to be accepted into the Catholic Church with a special sensitivity for their own tradition. As Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s chief ecumenist, observed, “We are not fishing in the Anglican pond.”

Not enough for the Times; for them, this was another case of the conniving Vatican luring and bidding unsuspecting, good people, greedily capitalizing on the current internal tensions in Anglicanism.

•Finally, the most combustible example of all came Sunday with an intemperate and scurrilous piece by Maureen Dowd on the opinion pages of the Times.

In a diatribe that rightly never would have passed muster with the editors had it so criticized an Islamic, Jewish, or African-American religious issue, she digs deep into the nativist handbook to use every anti-Catholic caricature possible, from the Inquisition to the Holocaust, condoms, obsession with sex, pedophile priests, and oppression of women, all the while slashing Pope Benedict XVI for his shoes, his forced conscription -- along with every other German teenage boy -- into the German army, his outreach to former Catholics, and his recent welcome to Anglicans.

True enough, the matter that triggered her spasm -- the current visitation of women religious by Vatican representatives -- is well-worth discussing, and hardly exempt from legitimate questioning. But her prejudice, while maybe appropriate for the Know-Nothing newspaper of the 1850’s, the Menace, has no place in a major publication today.

I do not mean to suggest that anti-Catholicism is confined to the pages of the New York Times. Unfortunately, abundant examples can be found in many different venues.

I will not even begin to try and list the many cases of anti-Catholicism in the so-called entertainment media, as they are so prevalent they sometimes seem almost routine and obligatory.

Elsewhere, last week, Representative Patrick Kennedy made some incredibly inaccurate and uncalled-for remarks concerning the Catholic bishops, as mentioned in this blog on Monday.

Also, the New York State Legislature has levied a special payroll tax to help the Metropolitan Transportation Authority fund its deficit. This legislation calls for the public schools to be reimbursed the cost of the tax; Catholic schools, and other private schools, will not receive the reimbursement, costing each of the schools thousands – in some cases tens of thousands – of dollars, money that the parents and schools can hardly afford. (Nor can the archdiocese, which already underwrites the schools by $30 million annually.)

Is it not an issue of basic fairness for ALL school-children and their parents to be treated equally?

The Catholic Church is not above criticism. We Catholics do a fair amount of it ourselves. We welcome and expect it. All we ask is that such critique be fair, rational, and accurate, what we would expect for anybody. The suspicion and bias against the Church is a national pastime that should be “rained out” for good.

I guess my own background in American history should caution me not to hold my breath.

Then again, yesterday was the Feast of Saint Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes.

It is beyond outrage that the New York Times should refuse to publish any submission by the Archbishop of New York, no less.But at this point, does one really expect any basic fairness and decency in the mainstream media any more?

In defiance of all fundamental standards of journalism, the Times and its ilk have stopped publishing objective news stories in favor of anyhing-goes tendentious, editorializing and typically one-sided vanity pieces by their journalists.

They should at least accommodate legitimate replies to the obvious errors of commission and omission in these reports that need to be refuted, or at least, balanced with the target side's perspective.

If the Times will not even do that for the Archbishop of New York, how much less will it accommodate any Tom, Dick and Harriet who would need to present his/her side of any story that ignores or distorts it?

Perhaps Archbishop Dolan, and all persons of good will who still uphold elementary decency and fairness, can take some comfort from the fact that the so-called mainstream media (at least the major newspapers and TV network news) are fast losing their credibility with the American public and are well on their way to becoming the fringe media, rather than MSM.

Meanwhile, there's Fox News and the Catholic blogosphere. More than ever, let us invoke the Holy Spirit on those who have so lost every trace of ethical consciousness in their blind commitment to the intolerant ideology of secularism at all costs.

C]More examples:

Catholic League president cites
more anti-Catholic media bias

by Bill Donohue

Oct. 29, 2009

Last Friday on the Washington Post blog, “On Faith,” English atheist Richard Dawkins said the Catholic Church was “surely up there among the leaders” as “the greatest force for evil in the world.”

He labeled the Eucharist a “cannibal feast,” adding that “possession of testicles is an essential qualification to perform the rite.” He also blamed the Church for sending missionaries “out to tell deliberate lies to AIDS-weakened Africans” regarding condoms.

The Church’s outreach to Anglicans, he said, makes it “a common pimp,” noting that those who convert “will be joining an institution where buggering altar boys pervades the culture.”

On Saturday, a Los Angeles Times editorial said that “Church leaders, including Popes, have changed their thinking over the years about everything from usury to the culpability of Jews for the Crucifixion….”

It concluded, “You don’t have to be Catholic (or Anglican) to realize that society as a whole would be better off if the Church’s views of women and gays underwent a similar evolution.”

On Sunday, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recalled that when she was in grade school, “Nuns were second-class citizens then and – 40 years after feminism utterly changed America — they still are.”

She called Pope Benedict XVI the “uber-conservative Pope,” a.k.a. “God’s Rottweiler,” who was once “a conscripted member of the Hitler Youth.” She also accused the Church of enabling “rampant pedophilia.”

On Monday, James Carroll in the Boston Globe called the outreach to Anglicans “a cruel assault,” “an insult to loyal Catholic liberals” and “a slap at women and homosexuals.” He characterized the outreach as a “preemptive exploitation of Anglican distress.”

These deranged comments — all voiced in America’s premier newspapers —demonstrate that anti-Catholicism is the most virulent expression of bigotry in the U.S.

It also shows why these newspapers, quite unlike the Catholic Church, are dying. As for the writers, they need to go to church. Either that or check into an asylum.

00Friday, November 13, 2009 3:16 PM
Since I really don't have the time to keep abreast of what others besides the Pope and the Vatican are saying and doing, this item about Archbishop Williams comes secondhand through Damian Thompson's commentary.

Archbishop Rowan Williams admits
future of Anglicanism is 'chaotic'

Nov. 12, 2009

The Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted that the future of Anglicanism is “chaotic and uncertain”. One can’t help asking: And whose fault would that be, Your Grace?

Of course, many of the problems of the Anglican Communion are insoluble, by Dr Rowan Williams or anyone else. But his attempts to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds – firmly backing women bishops while pleading with opponents to stay; privately expressing support for gay unions while disciplining churches that bless them – don’t help at all.

Dr Williams was preaching at All Saints, Margaret Street; the sermon, which you can find here,
is gentle and reflective. It was also intended, I think, as an appeal to members of an Anglo-Catholic parish to stay in the Church of England. Hence the following:

We need to tell the stories of the Saints to remind ourselves what is possible and within any Christian family. We need to tell the stories of those who have made God credible to us.

And within our Anglican family we need to go on telling a few stories about those who have shown us that it is possible to lead lives of Catholic holiness even in the Communion of the See of Canterbury!

“Even” in communion with Canterbury, eh? That’s presumably a deliberately wry aside, but it won’t do much to quell the nagging doubt in the C of E that the Archbishop himself has quietly given up on Anglicanism, to the extent that he has more faith in Roman Catholicism as a historic institution, even if he can’t sign up to some of its conservative tenets.

And then this:

God knows what the future holds for any of us for any of our ecclesiastical institutions, but we can at least begin with what we can be sure of; that God has graced us with the lives of Saints; that God has been credible in this fellowship with these people.

This church with its very particular place in the history of the Church of England is one small but significant facet of that great mystery and that great gift. And at times when the future seems more than usually chaotic and uncertain, it doesn’t hurt simply to give thanks.

There’s no doubt that Dr Williams is referring to the chaotic and uncertain future of the Anglican Communion. But it doesn’t hurt to give thanks, he adds. Is that supposed to be reassuring?

As it happens, I don’t think St Margaret’s is the sort of Anglo-Catholic parish where many worshippers will leave, but there are other churches where the decision is on a knife-edge. This talk of a “chaotic and uncertain future” will act as a further incentive to convert to a Church whose leader would never, under any circumstances, send out such a hesitant and downbeat message.

By the way, you should also read this sermon
that +Rowan delivered at St Mary’s, Bourne Street, a ritualist Anglo-Catholic parish where many worshippers will be tempted by the Pope’s offer. It contains this passage:

I dare say that there have been moments in the history of St Mary’s Bourne Street when people have remarked on the individuality of the people who worship here, and that’s a wonderful thing. If people in this congregation have been allowed to become more richly and quirkily themselves by experiencing the extraordinary, ordinariness of grace then that is something to be glad of.

To my mind, describing people as “richly and quirkily themselves” is pretty close to calling them loveable nutters. You could blame +Rowan’s tin ear, or his never-to-be-underestimated gift for patronising the faithful.

Either way, if I was a regular at St Mary’s I’d be checking the fine print in the Apostolic Constitution.

00Friday, November 13, 2009 4:14 PM
Thanks to The Anchoress at First Things for directing me to this most unusual - indeed, exceptional - blog entry by a group of Hillary Cinton fans who have had the manly spunk to admit a mistake in judging someone they disliked primarily for ideological reasons - and I pray that things may develop in such a way that people like me who see through Barack Obama's phoniness, barefaced lies and opportunistic expediency, will one day, and soon, be able to make a similar turnabout because the big BO will have decided to do what is good for the nation and the world first, tather than what he thinks is good for him and his political fortunes!

At the time I copied the post, there were already 764 comments mostly as passionate as the entry itself...

Thank you,
former President George W. Bush

We know absolutely no one in Bush family circles and have never met former President George W. Bush or his wife Laura.

If you have been reading us for any length of time, you know that we used to make fun of “Dubya” nearly every day…parroting the same comedic bits we heard in our Democrat circles, where Bush is still, to this day, lampooned as a chimp, a bumbling idiot, and a poor, clumsy public speaker.

Oh, how we RAILED against Bush in 2000…and how we RAILED against the surge in support Bush received post-9/11 when he went to Ground Zero and stood there with his bullhorn in the ruins on that hideous day.

We were convinced that ANYONE who was president would have done what Bush did, and would have set that right tone of leadership in the wake of that disaster. President Gore, President Perot, President Nader, you name it. ANYONE, we assumed, would have filled that role perfectly.

Well, we told you before how much the current president, Dr. Utopia, made us realize just how wrong we were about Bush.

We shudder to think what Dr. Utopia would have done post-9/11. He would have not gone there with a bullhorn and struck that right tone. More likely than not, he would have been his usual fey, apologetic self and waxed professorially about how evil America is and how justified Muslims are for attacking us, with a sidebar on how good the attacks were because they would humble us.

Honestly, we don’t think President Gore would have been much better that day. The world needed George W. Bush, his bullhorn, and his indominable spirit that day…and we will forever be grateful to this man for that.

As we will always be grateful for what George and Laura Bush did this week, with no media attention, when they very quietly went to Ft. Hood and met personally with the families of the victims of this terrorist attack.


The Bushes went and met privately with these families for HOURS, hugging them, holding them, comforting them.

If there are any of you out there with any connection at all to the Bushes, we implore you to give them our thanks… you tell them that a bunch of gay Hillary guys in Boystown, Chicago were wrong about the Bushes… and are deeply, deeply sorry for any jokes we told about them in the past, any bad thoughts we had about these good, good people.

You may be as surprised by this as we are ourselves, but from this day forward George W. and Laura Bush are now on the same list for us as the Clintons, Geraldine Ferraro, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and the other political figures we keep in our hearts and never allow anyone to badmouth.

Criticize their policies academically and intelligently and discuss the Bush presidency in historical and political terms… but you mess with the Bushes personally and, from this day forward, you’ll answer to us.

We hope someday to be able to thank George W. and Laura in person for all they’ve done, and continue to do. They didn’t have to head to Ft. Hood. That was not their responsibility.

The Obamas should have done that. [In fairness, they eventually did, at the official funeral ceremony.]

Thank goodness George W. is still on his watch, with wonderful Laura at his side.

We are blessed as a nation to have these two out there…just as we are blessed to have the Clintons on the job, traveling the world doing the good they do.

And we are blessed to have Dick Cheney, wherever he is, keeping tabs on all that’s going on and speaking out when the current administration does anything too reckless and dangerous.

Cheney’s someone else we villainized and maligned in the past who we were also wrong about. There has never been a Vice President, including Gore, Biden, or Mondale, who was more supportive of gay rights than “Darth Cheney”. There has never been a Vice President more spot-on right about the dangers facing this country from Islamic terrorism.

We live in strange, strange times indeed.

We are now officially committed fans of George W. and Laura Bush. We are fans of Dick Cheney. Our gratitude for them makes us newly protective of them, and the continued role they play in this country.

After the primary battle of 2008, we never thought we’d go back to Texas for anything, but sometime in 2010 we want to find some event in Dallas the Bushes will be at so at least one of us can go up to them, tell them we are deeply sorry for ever thinking ill of them, and thank them from the bottom of our hearts for their service to America.

We’re sure they will just stare at us and wonder why these gay Chicagoans are crying, but we don’t think we can get through a meeting with them without being emotional.

What they did at Ft. Hood for those families humbles us. Every day, the Bushes are most likely doing something just like it behind the scenes.

We hope if any of you encounter them you will let them know this is deeply appreciated beyond partisan lines.

We will never look at the Bushes, the Bush presidencies, or their legacies the same again… and someday when his presidential library is built, we will be so proud to visit there and tell anyone will listen about November 10th, 2009, the day we finally appreciated former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura.

Thank you for your service, Mr. President. We’re sorry we didn’t appreciate you while you were in office, but we thank Heaven we’ve wised up and can see the good you are out there doing, under the radar, today.


NOTE: Because some of you wanted to re-read it again and have emailed us to ask for it, here’s what we said to President Bush on January 20th, at the beginning of The Golden Age of Hope and Change and Unicorns.

It’s actually really interesting to read the comments from way back then, to see either how mad at us people were that we dared to say anything nice about Bush or how pleased others out there were that Hillary Dems weren’t being evil to the man as he left office.
00Tuesday, November 17, 2009 10:44 PM
This is truly a rare story! I didn't come across it till just now.

From Hinduism to Catholicism:
After a series of dreams about Mary,
a Hindu couple join the Church

by Katie Bahr

Arlington, Virginia

The Krishnans on the day they received the sacraments of baptism, communion, confirmation and matrimony; at right, with the image of Mary and the candles Uma saw in her dreams.

It was three years ago when Uma Krishnan says she first dreamed of the Virgin Mary. It was January 2006 and she was living in Singapore with her husband, Kumar, and her son, Karthi. In her dream she saw a “very humble lady” surrounded by candles.

She and Kumar were devout Hindus and they knew the lady in Uma’s dreams was not a Hindu god. They knew little of Christianity, but they thought this lady might be the Blessed Mother. Still, because they came from a long tradition of Hinduism in India, they didn’t give the dream much thought.

Later that year Kumar got a job that took him to San Diego. A few months later, he found a new job in McLean. Uma and Karthi joined him that December.

This past April, Uma began to have more dreams of Mary.

One night she dreamed she was walking into a church she’d never seen before. Once inside, she turned right and found a little room where there were red candles and a statue of Mary.

The second night, she was in the same room, but this time she saw a big cross made of palm leaves.

Another night, she dreamed she was in a boat. On her right was a black woman with dark hair and on her left, a lady wearing a blue scarf and holding a Bible. The woman in blue showed Uma some verses to read to make her worries disappear. In her dream, Uma read the Bible verses and both women disappeared.

Uma and Kumar talked about the dreams and, by the fourth night, they decided to visit a church to see what was happening.

Kumar typed “St. Mary Church Fairfax” into Google and entered the address from the first result into his GPS device. The address was for St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax.

When they got to the church, Uma was shocked. On the outside, it looked just like the church she had dreamed about the first night. When they went inside and turned right, there was a small chapel with red votive candles, a statue of Mary and a cross. It was just like her dreams. Uma started to cry.

“The moment was so touching,” Kumar said. “We were not even Christians and we were not even worshipping when we got such a thing. We were Hindus and we didn’t exactly know how to pray, but we just sat there and said, ‘Thank you. Thank you for all these visions and thank you for bringing us here. We don’t know what to do, you tell us, you guide us, show us what has to be done.’”

After the first visit to the church, a few days passed and Uma and Kumar didn’t return. Instead, they went to their Hindu temple.

Uma had another dream. She saw the statue of Mary on the outside wall of the church. Mary’s arms were out and there was a bright light coming from behind. In Uma’s mind, the statue seemed to be saying, “Come back to me.”

When Uma told Kumar, they decided to go to St. Mary of Sorrows that day. It was a Wednesday, and this time, they went into the main meeting room, where the Charismatic Prayer Group gathered. They shared their story and prayed with them.

After that, Uma and Kumar began to attend Mass and the Charismatic Prayer Group every week.

Uma’s dreams continued, but the couple also started experiencing strange “spiritual disturbances.” Uma would have nightmares, and during the day, alone at home, she would hear strange laughing, heavy breathing or footsteps. Sometimes she would feel a pressure on her neck and would have trouble breathing.

The disturbances were so bad that Uma was afraid to be alone. Kumar would drop her off at St. Mary of Sorrows when he went to work in the morning and she would stay at the church all day.

Frightened, Uma and Kumar talked to Father Stefan Starzynski, St. Mary of Sorrows parochial vicar.

Starzynski told them the disturbances might be coming because they were moving away from Hinduism. He told them not to worry and that they’d be okay if they just went toward the one, true God.

“Even as Hindus they were coming to the prayer groups and the healing Masses and praying the rosary every day, so I think something was trying to stop them from entering the Faith fully,” Father Starzynski said.

Kumar and Uma decided to get rid of all of their Hindu belongings and devote themselves entirely to Catholicism.

Because of their circumstances, the parish had a team of four parishioners teach the couple a condensed version of the traditional yearlong Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program. Uma and Kumar went to the program every Saturday to learn about the sacraments and to discuss the Bible.

“It sounded like Mary was calling them to us and I felt like we had a responsibility to them,” said Father Starzynski. “They told me they wanted to become Catholic and they were so excited and eager that I thought this was an opportunity to be flexible.”

By the end of August, the group decided the family was ready to become Catholic. Sept. 12, Uma, Kumar and Karthi were baptized and the couple received the sacraments of confirmation, Communion and marriage.

In the days leading up to the ceremonies, Uma and Kumar feel they received lots of help from Mary.

Though they had a very limited budget and hardly any time to plan, Uma and Kumar wanted to have a nice wedding ceremony. They only had $400 to spend on a wedding dress for Uma, but their son found a perfect dress for $399.

Then, after deciding wedding photographers would be too expensive, a photographer from the parish offered his services for free.

Before the baptism and wedding day, Uma had another dream. This time Mary was standing outside the historic St. Mary of Sorrows Church, with a big smile on her face. She was holding two wedding rings and three rosaries — red, orange and yellow.

The couple decided to use those colors in Uma’s bouquet and on the wedding cake, all donated by fellow churchgoers.

On the actual day, the whole parish was invited to see Uma and Kumar receive the sacraments. A reception was held in the hall of the historic church, decorated with red, orange and yellow flowers.

“Even though we hadn’t planned things, God had planned for us,” Kumar said. “He planned everything so perfectly and he took care of everything, right down to the photographs. It was like he has predicted this marriage for us. We are so glad and so thankful and so lucky to be here.”

Father Starzynski said Uma and Kumar’s conversion story shows that God works in mysterious ways. He felt honored that he could be there to help the family.

“I think it speaks to how beautifully God can work and does work,” he said. “It makes you think, are we flexible enough to understand the ways God may work that are outside the box that we have constructed?”

Since they received the sacraments, Kumar and Uma say the disturbances and nightmares have stopped. Uma feels stronger and is able to stay home by herself with no fear.

“We feel like the Holy Spirit in her has just given her this total protection,” Kumar said.

The couple says they are constantly impressed with the parish community.

“I feel like I’ve been wandering all over the place and that I’ve come home,” Kumar said. “I never heard of such good people, such good Catholic people.”

And through it all, Uma’s dreams of Mary continue.

“Whether it’s good or bad, we want to share them with everybody so everybody knows about it,” Kumar said. “Some may take it badly, but we want to share it. We are very fortunate. I feel lucky, I feel honored and I feel blessed.”

00Saturday, November 21, 2009 8:52 PM

The Spectator has a fairly comprehensive article this week about the Empty Suit in the Oval Office on
but I am only using the British magazine's cover to illustrate the latest and best Obama-as-he-is article I have found lately - as it reflects many of the developments - or more properly, non-developments - in the life and times of the Messiah of Hype. Whom I have to keep track of, more or less, in NOTABLES, as he happens to be, empty suit or not, 'the most powerful man in the world'.

But I have to wait for the periodic wrap-up putdown like Mark Steyn's because otherwise, in the November 2009 version of the no-longer-monolithic 'lamestream media', there is enough daily fodder now to feed an 800-pound gorilla one could field a complete new forum everyday with the material.

The Superbower talks big
and carries a small twig

Whenever Obama’s not talking about himself,
it’s like he’s wandered off-message.

By Mark Steyn

Nov. 21, 2009

My radio pal Hugh Hewitt said to me on the air the other day that Barack Obama “doesn’t know how to be president.” It was a low but effective crack and I didn’t pay it much heed.

But, after musing on it over the last week or so, it seems to me frighteningly literally true. I don’t just mean social lapses like his latest cringe-making bow, this time to Their Imperial Majesties, the Emperor and Empress of Japan — though that in itself is deeply weird: After the world superbower’s previous nose-to-toe prostration before the Saudi King, one assumed there’d be someone in the White House to point out tactfully that the citizen-executives of the American republic don’t bow to foreign monarchs.

Along with his choreographic gaucherie goes his peculiar belief that all of human history is just a bit of colorful backstory in the Barack Obama biopic — or as he put it in his video address on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall:

“Few would have foreseen on that day that a united Germany would be led by a woman from Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent.”

Tear down that wall . . . so they can get a better look at me!!!

Is there no one in the White House grown-up enough to say, “Er, Mr. President, that’s really the kind of line you get someone else to say about you”? And maybe somebody could have pointed out that Nov. 9, 1989, isn’t about him but about millions of nobodies whose names are unknown, who lead dreary lives doing unglamorous jobs and going home to drab accommodations, but who at a critical moment in history decided they were no longer going to live in a prison state.

They’re no big deal; they’re never going to land a photoshoot for Vanity Fair. But it’s their day, not yours. It’s not the narcissism, so much as the crassly parochial nature of it.

Is it the only template in the White House speechwriters’ computer?

“Few would have foreseen at the Elamite sack of Ur/Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow/the assassination of the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand/the passage of the Dubrovnik Airport Parking Lot Expansion Bill that one day I would be standing before you talking about how few would have foreseen that one day I would be standing before you.”

Some years ago, when Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian and ensuing episodes of her sitcom grew somewhat overly preoccupied with the subject, Elton John remarked: “Okay, we know you’re gay. Now try being funny.”

I wonder if Sir Elton might be prevailed upon to try a similar pitch at the next all-star White House gala: Okay, we know you’re black. Now try being president.

But a few days later Obama dropped in on U.S. troops at Osan Air Base in South Korea for the latest episode of The Barack Obama Show (With Full Supporting Chorus). “You guys make a pretty good photo op,” he told them.

Hmm. Do I detect a belated rationale for the Afghan campaign?

Probably not. The above are mostly offences against good taste, but they are, cumulatively, revealing. And they help explain why, whenever the President’s not talking about himself, he sounds like he’s wandered vaguely off-message.

The other day, for example, he told Fox News that “if we keep on adding to the debt . . . people could lose confidence in the U.S. economy in a way that could actually lead to a double-dip recession.”

That’s a great line — but not from a guy who plans to “keep on adding to the debt” as a conscious strategy.

This is the president who made “trillion” the new default unit of federal budgeting, and whose irresponsibility is prompting key players around the world to consider seriously whether it’s time to ditch the dollar’s role as global reserve currency.

But Obama’s much vaunted “bipartisanship,” to which so many “moderate” conservatives were partial a year ago, seems to have dwindled down to an impressive ability to take one side of an issue in his rhetoric and another in his actions.

Which brings us to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11. He’d been brought before a military commission, and last December indicated he was ready to plead guilty, and itching for the express lane to the 72 virgins.

But that wasn’t good enough for Obama, who in essence declined to accept KSM’s confession and decided to put him on trial in a New York courthouse.

Why? To show “the world” — i.e., European op-ed pages and faculty lounges — that America would fight terror in a way “consistent with our values,” and apparently that means turning KSM into O. J. and loosing his dream team on the civilian justice system.

But, having buttered up Le Monde and the BBC and many of his own lefties by announcing that Mohammed would get a fair trial, Obama then assured NBC that he’d be convicted and was gonna fry.

So it’s like a fair trial consistent with “our values” except for the one about presumption of innocence? If the head of state declaring you guilty and demanding the death penalty doesn’t taint the jury pool, it’s hard to see what would.

The KSM circus is not, technically, a “show trial”: He could well be acquitted. But, even if he is, he’s unlikely to be strolling out a free man like Frank Sinatra beating the rap in Robin and the Seven Hoods and standing on the courthouse steps to sing “My Kind of Town (Manhattan Is)” — although I wouldn’t entirely rule it out.

In a world in which the self-confessed perpetrator of the bloodiest act of war on the American mainland in two centuries is entitled to a civilian trial, all things are possible. The other day, the attorney general, Eric Holder, promised us that it would be “the trial of the century” — and he said it like it’s a good thing. Why would you do that?

So how’s it playing with its intended audience? Alas, the world moves on. Not being George W. Bush may be enough to impress the 2009 Nobush Peace Prize committee in Oslo, but it’s old news everywhere else. America’s enemies have figured out that the Superbower is their best opportunity since the Seventies; and for America’s friends, the short version of the hopeychangey era to date is last week’s cover story at the London Spectator showing an empty suit in the Oval Office over the headline “The Worst Kind of Ally.”

Hang on, wasn’t that title retired with Bush? Well, no. Apparently, he routinely called up prime ministers hither and yon and kept them in the picture and up to speed.

Obama doesn’t have time for any of that: When he stiffed Poland on missile defense, he got Hillary to phone it in. The Poles, bless ’em, declined to take her call. In Delhi, meanwhile, they’re horrified by Obama’s performance in China.

America’s enemies smell weakness, and our allies feel only the vacuum of U.S. leadership. About himself, the president speaks loudly. For America, he carries a small twig.

Mark Steyn is a conservative writer, so his article may not be all that surprising, but UK's The Spectator is not, and the German Der Spiegelmost certainly isn't either.

Nonetheless, signs of Obamania crumbling even among his once most enthusiastic rah-rah boys overseas are piling up even as his personal popularity and job approval numbers have gone below 50% in the United States itself.

Thank God the saying "You can fool some of the people all the time, or all the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time" appears to still attest to common sense in this world!

Obama's nice guy act gets him
nowhere on the world stage

By Gabor Steingart


When he entered office, US President Barack Obama promised to inject US foreign policy with a new tone of respect and diplomacy. His recent trip to Asia, however, showed that it's not working. A shift to Bush-style bluntness may be coming.

There were only a few hours left before Air Force One was scheduled to depart for the flight home. US President Barack Obama trip through Asia had already seen him travel 24,000 kilometers, sit through a dozen state banquets, climb the Great Wall of China and shake hands with Korean children. It was high time to take stock of the trip.

Barack Obama looked tired on Thursday, as he stood in the Blue House in Seoul, the official residence of the South Korean president. He also seemed irritable and even slightly forlorn.

The CNN cameras had already been set up. But then Obama decided not to play along, and not to answer the question he had already been asked several times on his trip: what did he plan to take home with him? Instead, he simply said "thank you, guys," and disappeared.

David Axelrod, senior advisor to the president, fielded the journalists' questions in the hallway of the Blue House instead, telling them that the public's expectations had been "too high."

The mood in Obama's foreign policy team is tense following an extended Asia trip that produced no palpable results. The "first Pacific president," as Obama called himself, came as a friend and returned as a stranger. The Asians smiled but made no concessions.

Upon taking office, Obama said that he wanted to listen to the world, promising respect instead of arrogance. But Obama's currency isn't as strong as he had believed. Everyone wants respect, but hardly anyone is willing to pay for it. Interests, not emotions, dominate the world of realpolitik.

[Not that the Bush administration failed to respect other nations. It listened, but made its decision on what it believed to be, first and foremost, in the interests of the United States, which is the constitutional duty of elected US officials, after all. And mutatis mutandis, of every elected national leader anywhere.]

The Asia trip revealed the limits of Washington's new foreign policy: Although Obama did not lose face in China and Japan, he did appear to have lost some of his initial stature.

In Tokyo, the new center-left government even pulled out of its participation in a mission which saw the Japanese navy refueling US warships in the Indian Ocean as part of the Afghanistan campaign.

In Beijing, Obama failed to achieve any important concessions whatsoever. There will be no binding commitments from China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A revaluation of the Chinese currency, which is kept artificially weak, has been postponed.

Sanctions against Iran? Not a chance. Nuclear disarmament? Not an issue for the Chinese.

The White House did not even stand up for itself when it came to the question of human rights in China. The president, who had said only a few days earlier that freedom of expression is a universal right, was coerced into attending a joint press conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao, at which questions were forbidden.

Former US President George W. Bush had always managed to avoid such press conferences.

A look back in time reveals the differences. When former President Bill Clinton went to China in June 1998, Beijing wanted to impress the Americans. A press conference in the Great Hall of the People, broadcast on television as a 70-minute live discussion, became a sensation the world over.

Clinton mentioned the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, when the government used tanks against protestors. But then President Jiang Zemin defended the tough approach taken by the Chinese Communists. At the end of the exchange, the Chinese president praised the debate and said: "I believe this is democracy!"

Obama visited a new China, an economic power that is now making its own demands. America should clean up its government finances, and the weak dollar is unacceptable, the head of the Chinese banking authority said, just as Obama's plane was about to land.

Obama's new foreign policy has also been relatively unsuccessful elsewhere, with even friends like Israel leaving him high and dry.

For the government of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, peace is only conceivable under its terms. Netanyahu has rejected Obama's call for a complete moratorium on the construction of settlements. As a result, Obama has nothing to offer the Palestinians and the Syrians.

"We thought we had some leverage," says Martin Indyk, a former ambassador to Israel under the Clinton administration and now an advisor to Obama. "But that proved to be an illusion."

Even the president seems to have lost his faith in a genial foreign policy. The approach that was being used in Afghanistan this spring, with its strong emphasis on civilian reconstruction, is already being changed.

"We're searching for an exit strategy," [And Obama kept saying during the campaign that unlike Iraq, Afghanistan was 'the necessary war'!] said a staff member with the National Security Council on the sidelines of the Asia trip.

An end to diplomacy is also taking shape in Washington's policy toward Tehran. It is now up to Iran, Obama said, to convince the world that its nuclear power is peaceful. While in Asia, Obama mentioned "consequences" unless it followed his advice.

This puts the president, in his tenth month in office, where Bush began -- with threats. "Time is running out," Obama said in Korea. It was the same phrase Bush used against former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, shortly before he sent in the bombers.

There are many indications that the man in charge at the White House will take a tougher stance in the future. Obama's advisors fear a comparison with former Democratic President Jimmy Carter, even more than with Bush.

Prominent Republicans have already tried to liken Obama to the humanitarian from Georgia, who lost in his bid to win a second term, because voters felt that he was too soft.

"Carter tried weakness and the world got tougher and tougher because the predators, the aggressors, the anti-Americans, the dictators, when they sense weakness, they all start pushing ahead," Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker in the House of Representatives, recently said. And then he added: "This does look a lot like Jimmy Carter."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

What I am still waiting for the MSM to acknowledge is two things that are very obvious to anyone who has been following Obama's statements in the past ten months.

One is his facility for habitual lying in many ways - from half-truths to distortions to historical revisionism to outright false statements. His public statements are a constantly changing kaleidoscope of what is politically expedient - and almost always, lies in some form - at a given moment and for a particular audience.

The second is his apparent ignorance of many basic things - in far worse ways than George W. Bush, who at least always mocked himself as a C student - such as the language spoken by Austrians.

But even worse is his apparent ignoring of fundamental law, for someone who touts his Harvard law degree. Like pre-judging a case he himself said he did not have the facts about [denouncing a Cambridge police officer for doing his duty in the case of a black Harvard law professor who was an friend of Obama].

And lately, saying to the world he has no doubt the 9/11 conspirators will be found guilty and executed after he and his attorney-general made the ill-conceived decision to have them tried in a civilian court in New York for sheer grandstanding purposes, and absolutely not one practical reason that can be given in defense of the decision.

So Mr. Almighty and All-Knowing Harvard law graduate Obama, what ever happened to the judicial principle that every man is presumed innocent until proven guilty? Your flunky, the attorney-general, made the same pre-judgment to the US Senate, in an attempt to justify the civilian trial.

Remember Obama's sanctimonious reason for the civilian trial is "to show the world American justice at its best". Then he and his AG start out by violating the most basic foundation of that justice!

It turns out the Times of London ran a similr story one day earlier, but reins in its headline - residual Ombamania? - and appreciably soft-pedals its criticisms even though its commentary more comprehensive than Spiegel's because it also covers Obama's domestic ineptitudes:

Barack Obama dream fades
as China visit fails to bring change

Even his allies feel let down by the President’s
lack of progress both in Asia and at home

by Tony Allen-Mills in New York

Nov. 22, 2009

Gazing serenely from the Great Wall of China last week, President Barack Obama appeared to be making the most of one of the supreme perks of White House occupancy — a private guided tour of Asia’s most spectacular tourist destination.

White House aides exulted that perfectly choreographed pictures of this moment would make front pages around the world. Yet an experience Obama declared to be “magical” turned sour as he returned home to a spreading domestic revolt that is fanning Democratic unease.

It was not just that the US media have suddenly turned a lot more sceptical about aPpresident with grand ambitions to reshape politics at home and abroad — even one previously friendly newspaper noted dismissively: “Obama goes to China, brings home a T-shirt.”

Nor was the steady decline in the president’s approval ratings — which fell below 50% for the first time in a Gallup poll last week — the main cause of White House angst. Obama remains more popular than either Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton a year after their elections, and both presidents eventually cruised to second terms.

The real problem may be Obama’s friends — or rather, those among his formerly most enthusiastic supporters who are now having second thoughts.

The doubters are suddenly stretching across a broad section of the Democratic party’s natural constituency. They include black congressional leaders upset by the sluggish economy; women and Hispanics appalled by concessions made to Republicans on healthcare; anti-war liberals depressed by the debate over troops for Afghanistan; and growing numbers of blue-collar workers who are continuing to lose their jobs and homes.

Obama’s Asian adventure perceptibly increased the murmurings of dissent when he returned to Washington last week, having failed to wring any public concessions from China on any major issue.

For most Americans, the most talked-about moment of the trip was not the Great Wall visit but his low bow to Emperor Akihito of Japan, which the president’s right-wing critics assailed as “a spineless blunder” and excessively deferential.

While some commentators acknowledged that behind-the-scenes progress may have been made on issues such as North Korea, financial stability and human rights, even the pro-Obama New York Times noted in an editorial yesterday that “the trip wasn’t all that we had hoped it would be”.

Nor have the president’s domestic policies proved everything Congressman John Conyers wanted. The prominent liberal black Democrat startled colleagues last week by launching a direct assault on Obama’s handling of healthcare reforms, which were facing an important Senate vote last night.

Asked on Thursday if Obama had provided sufficient leadership on so divisive an issue, Conyers responded tartly: “Of course not ... bowing down to every nutty right-wing proposal about healthcare ... is doing a disservice to the Barack Obama that I first met.”

Tension over healthcare and what many Democratic legislators now view as neglect of economic issues reached an unexpected breaking point when members of the Congressional Black Caucus — previously regarded as unshakeable Obama loyalists — staged a startling rebellion over what they regarded as a lack of economic support for the AfricanAmerican community.

A vote on proposed financial reforms had to be shelved at the last minute as black caucus members threatened to oppose it as a protest against broader economic policy. The revolt came as new reports showed that one in seven Americans were struggling to pay for food; that mortgage delinquencies are continuing to rise with almost 2m homeowners more than three months overdue on their payments; and that unemployment rose to 10.2% in October.

While many Democrats remain unswervingly loyal to Obama — and would rather blame President George W Bush for most of America’s ills — there has been no escaping a damaging sense of disappointment in liberal circles that a historic presidency is failing to deliver on its promises.

Others are disturbed that the president’s promises to clean up Washington’s “politics as usual” have dissolved in a familiar murk of cronyism and political patronage.

Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association, noted last week that the age-old tradition of presidents handing out ambassadorships as rewards for campaign donors had continued undiminished under Obama, who has so far rewarded more than 40 of his key fundraisers with plum diplomatic jobs.

“There is a bit of disappointment, largely because expectations were raised by the ‘change’ theme of Obama’s campaign,” said Johnson.

Perhaps most depressing of all for a small number of influential Washingtonians was the little-noticed resignation of Gregory Craig, Obama’s former White House counsel, who is widely believed in legal circles to have been made a scapegoat for the administration’s difficulties in resolving the future of Guantanamo Bay.

Craig was a key campaign aide to Obama and played the role of Senator John McCain in rehearsals for television debates. Charged with implementing the president’s instruction to close the terrorist prison at Guantanamo, he fell foul of Obama aides who had failed to predict the wave of public hostility to the prospect of Al-Qaeda inmates being shipped to American soil.

Elizabeth Drew, a presidential biographer and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, described the effective dumping of Craig as “the shabbiest episode of Obama’s presidency”.

Drew blamed the “small Chicago crowd” that surrounds the president for undermining Craig’s position with a series of anonymous leaks — notably suggesting that the lawyer was “too close to human rights groups”.

This kind of White House infighting is par for the course in most presidencies — but Obama was not supposed to be the kind of man who jettisons old friends at the first hint of trouble.

All this provides the Republicans with an unexpected propaganda bonanza. “We don’t need to slam Obama — his own folks are doing it for us,” one gleeful conservative declared.

The Republicans’ own divisions — magnified now that Sarah Palin, the defeated vice-presidential candidate, is crossing middle America with a new conservative manifesto under her arm — are nonetheless going largely unexamined as the Democrats implode.

Last week Republican governors meeting in Texas talked openly of winning all the states due for midterm elections next year.

The news is not all bad for Obama — America remains enchanted with his family [??????], and many Democrat insiders are convinced that the party’s internal squabbling will melt away at the first hint of real economic recovery.

“Do Democrats have to worry about turnout and voter intensity? You bet,” said Peter Hart, a leading pollster. “But it’s nothing that lowering unemployment by two points can’t solve.”


Israel — Obama wanted: A freeze on settlement building as a precondition for the resumption of Palestinian peace talks.

He got: An Israeli brush-off. Construction of a new Jewish housing complex began last week.

Iran — Obama wanted: A deal to ship low-enriched uranium to Russia to curb Iran’s ability to make nuclear weapons.

He got: Another brush-off. Tehran reneged last week.

China — Obama wanted: Concessions on climate, currency rates, trade and human rights.

He got: A bland statement with no firm commitments and no mention of internet censorship or Tibet.

00Tuesday, November 24, 2009 2:58 PM
'Avvenire' interim editor
confirmed as Boffo's successor

Translated from

Nov. 24, 2009

Marco Tarquinio, who has been interim editor of Avvenire for 84 days, has been appointed the new editor of the daily newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference (CEI).

This was announced today by the newspaper's administrative council under the presidency of the Bishop of Albano, Mons. Marcello Semeraro.

Born in 1958 in Umbria, Tarquinio studied in the universities of Assisi and Perugia and has been a professional journalist since 1988, starting with La Voce, the Umbrian Catholic weekly. He is married, with two children.

He subsequently joined the secular press, working for various pbulications, and rising to become political editor and editorial writer for Il Tempo. In 1994, he was asked by Dino Boffo to join Avvenire, where he edited Roman news and became deputy editor in 2007.

When Boffo resigned last summer after a major media 'scandal', Tarquinio was named interim editor on September 3.

In announcing Tarquinio's permanent appointment, Mons. Semeraro released this statement:

Entrusting the editorship to Marco Tarquinio, the publishers, after deep reflection, wished to show appreciation, in the first place, for the great professional experience that the newspaper has aqcuired in recent years, becoming a primary reference for the Catholic world in Italy and an authoritative voice for the society and culture of our nation.

Marco Tarquinio has confirmed with intelligence and passion the editorial line of Avvenire as a daily newspaper which offers original reporting of the news before interpreting the facts, inspired by the primacy of truth and unaffected by the homologizing motivations that often distort information in our country.

Thus, at a distance of 40 years, it has confirmed the intuition of Paul VI who proposed and was a tenacious supporter of a national daily newspaper that is, in principle, "by Catholics but not only for Catholics".

In my name and that of the administrative council of Avvenire, I extend to Marco aTarquinio our best wishes for his new resposiblity. We are certain that with his professional experience, the refinement of his analyses, and his direct and incisive style, he will contribute to a new momentum for Avvenire.

00Friday, December 4, 2009 3:32 AM
Stranger things you cannot imagine. Wait for the surprise ending!

Obama aunt anguished by separation -
but she is most thankful to one man


BOSTON, Dec. 2 (AP) - President Barack Obama's aunt buried her face in her hands and sobbed as she described her anguish over no longer having contact with him and his family after the revelation she had been living illegally for years in the United States in public housing.

Zeituni Onyango (zay-TUH'-nee awn-YAHN'-goh) told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that she is troubled that her immigration woes have made her a political liability to her nephew.

Onyango, the half sister of Obama's late father, said she has exiled herself from the family after attending Obama's inauguration because she didn't want to become fodder for his foes. Obama and his family have not reached out to her either, she said.

"Before, we were family. But right now, there is a lot of politics, and me, I am not interested in any politics at all," said Onyango, whose appeal for asylum from her native Kenya is before an immigration judge in Boston.

The Obamas are her only family in the United States, she said.

"It is very sad when such a thing happens. There are people, outsiders, you know, they come in between, they divide a family," she said last week. "It's not easy."

Onyango, 57, is protective of Obama and said she never asked him to intervene in her case and didn't tell him about her immigration difficulties.

"I carry my own cross," she said. "He has nothing to do with my problem."

The White House said Obama has had no involvement in his aunt's case and believes it should run its ordinary course.

Onyango helped care for the president's half brothers and sister while living with Barack Obama Sr. in Kenya. She moved to the United States in 2000 and applied for asylum in 2002, but her request was rejected and she was ordered deported in 2004.

However, she did not leave the country and continued to live in public housing in Boston. She had been a health care volunteer but not since her status became public. She refused to discuss how she affords to live now or who is paying for her attorney.

Onyango said she previously had no trouble visiting Obama when he was a state senator in Illinois or after he became a U.S. senator, though she declined to discuss details of how often she had contact with Obama and his family.

Her tiny apartment in a modest subsidized public housing complex for seniors and the disabled is adorned with photographs of her with Obama at the Illinois Statehouse, the president's official portrait, his family, the inauguration, her children and African wildlife.

She is disabled and learning to walk again after being paralyzed for more than three months because of an autoimmune disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Her status as an illegal alien was revealed in October 2008, days before Obama was elected. Obama said he did not know his aunt was living in the U.S. illegally and said he believes the law should be followed.

A judge agreed to suspend Onyango's deportation order in December and reopened her asylum case. A hearing will be held in February, when Onyango can present her reasons for seeking asylum. The judge will then decide if she will be deported.

Her attorney, Margaret Wong, said Onyango first applied for asylum because of violence in Kenya, an East African nation fractured by cycles of electoral violence every five years. People who seek asylum must show that they face persecution in their homeland on the basis of religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group.

Immigration experts say Onyango's relationship to the president could strengthen her claim that she would be subjected to danger at home.

Onyango declined to discuss the details of her case, citing the pending appeal.

She became angry when discussing Obama's half brother who wrote a semi-autobiographical novel about the abusive Kenyan father he shares with the president. She called Mark Ndesandjo, who lives in China, an opportunist eager to capitalize on his famous brother.

Ndesandjo, who wrote "Nairobi to Shenzhen," did not grow up with Obama. He has said he wrote the book in part to raise awareness of domestic violence. But Onyango said she was Ndesandjo's baby sitter while living with his father and never witnessed any abuse.

"He was only strict and argumentative, motivating one to do the best," she said, acknowledging that in those days in Kenya, "It was politically correct to slap children to discipline them just as it was done elsewhere in the world."

She said Ndesandjo's claims against a man who died 27 years ago are unfair. The senior Obama had problems with alcohol and was difficult to live with sometimes because of his frustration over years of political persecution, but he wasn't a child abuser or wife beater, Onyango said.

She also denounced persistent allegations that Obama is not a natural-born American citizen, saying that she is angered by the "outrageous, absurd, calculated conspiratory claim" that he was born outside the United States and is ineligible to be president. She recalled receiving a letter and photos from Obama's father announcing his son's birth in Hawaii.

Onyango reserved special words of kindness for former President George W. Bush for a directive he put in place days before the election requiring federal agents get high-level approval to arrest fugitive immigrants, which directly affected Onyango. The directive made clear that U.S. officials worried about possible election implications of arresting Onyango.

She said she wants to thank Bush in person for the order, which gave her a measure of peace but was lifted weeks later.

"I loved President Bush," Onyango said while moving toward a framed photo of Bush and his wife standing with Barack and Michelle Obama at the White House on inauguration day. "He is my No. 1 man in my life because he helped me when I really needed that help."

00Friday, December 4, 2009 10:48 AM
U.S. interns swap hard work
for incredible experiences at Vatican

by Gustavo Solis

Heather West and Tom Carpenter, interns at the Vatican's Internet office. West posts videos of the general audiences while Carpenter has been developing a Java application to track Internet projects. Right, the webpage of the Lateran Basilica de veloped by the Villanova interns was added Nov. 1 to the Vatican site. Before then, it was the one glaring omission of the four papal basilicas.

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 1 (CNS) -- In a truly win-win arrangement, a group of U.S. university students get amazing access to the Vatican and the Vatican gets an enthusiastic, computer-savvy volunteer workforce.

Since 2004, students from Villanova University in Pennsylvania have worked alongside cardinals and priests as part of the university's Vatican Internship Program.

The students have contributed to groundbreaking projects such as the launch of the Vatican's YouTube channel and the virtual tour of the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

They have helped usher the Vatican into the digital age by using new technology to spread its message -- something one Vatican official said older Vatican employees have a hard time doing.

"It is fair to say that most of us in the office are what you would call 'digital immigrants' who have come late to the digital age," said Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. "It is a great help to have a few 'digital natives.' It is a great help for us to have that younger life around the place -- people who are very much at home with thinking about new technologies."

After the normal visiting hours, the interns had exclusive access to the Sistine Chapel while helping create a virtual tour of the chapel for the Vatican Web site. They assisted Villanova professors in photographing the Sistine, mainly by moving the signs and velvet ropes that got in the way of the pictures.

"Before coming to Rome I was told that the crowd and noise takes away from the experience of seeing the chapel," said Greg Doerfler, an intern at the Vatican's Internet Office. "That was not the case for us. We were able to do some things that visitors never get to do like go into the Room of Tears," a small chamber alongside the chapel where a newly elected pope first dons his new white cassock.

The interns spent more than eight hours in the chapel over three nights of shooting. During their down time, the interns listened to impromptu lectures on the chapel's frescos given by Villanova professor Frank Klassner, who provided technical assistance in the development of the virtual tours. But they also used their breaks in the chapel to finish some of their homework.

While working for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, intern Cristin Parise was invited to attend the Pope's weekly general audience.

"The papal audiences were incredible," Parise said. "I got to sit with a handful of journalists and was almost face to face with the Pope. The first time I went I was texting all of my friends and family during the audience."

Now, more than two months into her internship, she has grown accustomed to working in the Vatican. "At first it was a little strange, people in the office are from all over the world," she said, adding that "working with priests and cardinals is not really a big deal anymore."

In the Vatican's Internet Office, intern Heather West has worked on the virtual tour of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Many of her photographs are posted on the Vatican Web site as part of the virtual tour, which was launched on the site Nov. 9.

"It's very exciting to see the pictures I took up on the Vatican Web site," West said. "They will allow more people to see the beauty of St. John's."

She's such a fan of the basilica, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, that she was not reluctant to admit that she prefers St. John Lateran to St. Peter's.

Many of the interns faced the challenge of working through language and culture barriers. Doerfler and Tom Carpenter, another intern at the Vatican's Internet Office, are programming software that will organize a timeline of the office's numerous projects and hopefully will increase productivity.

The two American interns are supervised by an Argentine monsignor who mainly speaks Italian and Spanish. In fact only a handful of the office's employees are English speakers. The two interns can use only the present tense in Italian and have a limited vocabulary. To say the least, some things get lost in translation.

"I don't know when he (the monsignor) is joking or when he is serious," Carpenter said. "It's been tough dealing with the language barrier, but it has helped me communicate better with people and it's forced me to work on my Italian."

"Carpenter and Doerfler are very smart," said Davide Coluccini, systems engineer and project manager for the Vatican's Internet Office. "They continue working even when there is a problem. When they are stuck, they find other parts of the project to move on to."

He sees the Vatican internship as an "I give, you give" type of experience -- the Vatican gives the interns access to state-of-the-art technology, while the interns complete projects for the Internet Office.

00Friday, December 4, 2009 8:11 PM
God's mysterious ways:
A French cop-killer executed by guillotine
is a candidate for beatification

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI greeted the sister of Jacques Fesch this week at the conclusion of his Wednesday General Audience.

Fesch was a young man in Paris who killed a police officer and was condemned to death in 1957. While in prison, his conversion was so dramatic that in 1993, then-Archbishop of Paris Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger opened his cause for beatification.

According to L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, who was chaplain at the prison where Fesch was incarcerated, was also present at the brief meeting.

“This is a unique testimony,” he said. “A young man from a rich family became a murderer and was condemned to death. He was 27. In prison he experienced a radical, intense conversion, reaching great heights of spirituality,” the cardinal said.

Fesch’s sister Monique remarked, “I got along great with my brother. I was eight years older and I was his godmother at his baptism. As I visited him in prison I was able to see his extraordinary conversion up close.”

Together with her brother’s biographer, Ruggiero Francavilla, Monique showed the Pope some letters written by Fesch during his time in prison.

Jacques Fesch killed a policeman on February 25, 1954 in Paris after a frustrated robbery attempt. After his imprisonment he began a three year-long period in which he experienced a conversion leading him to write a series of profound spiritual letters. He was condemned to the guillotine on April 6, 1957 and on October 1 of that year he was executed.

His wife Pierette and his daughter devoted themselves to preserving his memory, and later with the help of a Carmelite sister, they published his letters as part of a book entitled, “In Five Hours I Will See Jesus.”

Upon opening his cause of beatification, Cardinal Lustiger said, “I hope one day he is venerated as a model of holiness.”

More details on the Fesch story can be read in this 2006 article about "Saints misbehavin'":

A humbling and at the same time, exalting, reminder that it's never too late to turn one's life around, and it should teach me to be less sententious and sweepingly judgmental about character.

00Wednesday, December 9, 2009 8:36 PM
Remembering Fulton Sheen
By George J. Marlin

December 9, 2009

Today is the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who was revered by millions of Americans because of his great gifts in preaching and writing about the truths of the Catholic faith – and about the great heresies of the twentieth century.

Fulton John Sheen was born over his father’s hardware store in El Paso, Illinois, on May 8, 1895. An outstanding student, Sheen attended St. Victor’s College in Bourbonnais, Illinois, and later, realizing he had a religious vocation, entered Saint Paul Seminary in Minnesota.

Ordained a priest on September 25, 1919, he was not assigned a parish, but was sent to The Catholic University of America for graduate studies. Upon earning his Master of Arts degree, he traveled to Europe for additional education.

After earning a doctorate of philosophy from the University of Louvain and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Angelicum in Rome, Sheen was offered teaching positions at Oxford and at Columbia University. Sheen sent a letter to his bishop asking, “Which offer should I accept?” The answer was, “Come home.”

In the summer of 1926, Father Sheen was summoned to the bishop’s office, who informed him, “Three years ago I promised you to Bishop Shahan of The Catholic University as a member of the faculty.”

Sheen asked, “Why did you not let me go there when I returned from Europe?” “Because of the success you had on the other side, I just wanted to see if you would be obedient. So run along now, you have my blessing.”

Sheen was to teach for twenty-five years. During this period, his reputation as a preacher and Catholic apologetist grew, and invitations to speak and preach throughout the nation poured in.

In 1930 the American bishops invited him to represent the Church on NBC’s nationally broadcast show “The Catholic Hour,” and he appeared on that show until 1951, when he switched from radio to television.

Many believed Sheen had the ability to become the greatest Catholic philosopher of the twentieth century. His duties at The Catholic University, however, became minimal; he eventually taught only one graduate course a year.

The chairman of the philosophy department, Father Ignatius Smith, explained, “I was often criticized for not giving him more work, but I felt he was doing more good on the outside.”

Sheen accomplished much on the outside. He produced at least one book a year, wrote two weekly newspaper columns, became national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, and edited two magazines.

Also, he was instrumental in numerous conversions, including Clare Booth Luce, Henry Ford II, Communists Louis Budenz and Elizabeth Bentley, and violinist Fritz Kreisler.

Sheen had the rare ability to take complex philosophical and theological concepts and translate them into language the person on the street could understand. Witness this from 1933:

Never before in the history of the world was there so much knowledge; and never before so little coming to the knowledge of the Truth. Never before so much straining for life; never before so many unhappy lives. Never before so much science; never before was it used so for the destruction of human life.

Or this from 1944:

In religious matters, the modern world believes in indifference. Very simply, this means it has no great loves and no great hates; no causes worth living for and no causes worth dying for.

It counts its virtues by the vices from which it abstains, asks that religion be easy and pleasant, sneers the term “mystic” at those who are spiritually inclined, dislikes enthusiasm and loves benevolence, makes elegance the test of virtue and hygiene the test of morality, believes that one may be too religious but never too refined.

It holds that no one ever loses his soul, except for some great and foul crime such as murder. Briefly, the indifference of the world includes no true fear of God, no fervent zeal for His honor, no deep hatred of sin, and no great concern for eternal salvation.

His insights went beyond strictly religious questions. The books – e.g., Liberty, Equality and Fraternity (1928), Freedom Under God (1940), Whence Come Wars (1940), For God and Country (1941), A Declaration of Dependence (1941), God and War (1942), and Communion and the Conscience of the West (1948) – educated Americans on the evils of Nazism, fascism, and communism.

In 1951, now Bishop Sheen appeared at Manhattan’s Adelphi Theatre and said to America, “Thank you for allowing me into your home.” It was the beginning of his award-winning television show, “Life Is Worth Living.” He was the first (and possibly only) religious leader with a show sponsored by a major corporation.

“Life Is Worth Living” was up against “The Milton Berle Show.” Every week America asked, “Shall we watch Uncle Miltie or Uncle Fultie?” Sheen’s ratings skyrocketed, and Mr. Television was knocked off the top of the ratings chart.

The show continued until 1957 and had an estimated audience of 30 million. The bishop, who covered various subjects from psychology to Irish humor to Stalin, received 8-10,000 letters a day. In 1964 Sheen appeared on a weekly show entitled “Quo Vadis America,” and in 1966, “The Bishop Sheen Show.”

On October 2, 1979, seven days after celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of his priesthood, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, Pope John Paul II embraced Archbishop Sheen and told him, “You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus. You are a loyal son of the Church.”

On December 9, 1979, Archbishop Fulton Sheen died in the Lord. He was buried beneath the main altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where he had preached for many years.

In a nation that still harbored anti-Catholic sentiments, Sheen gave Catholicism a public face that made the Church and its teachings acceptable to millions of Americans.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen, God love you – and pray for us.

As someone who grew up reading Bishop Sheen through his Life of Christ and the 'Life is Worth Living' series, I can remember the sentence that struck me most because it was so obvious and yet I had never heard it expressed by anyone before then - in effect, that Jesus is the only human being worthy to have history described as 'before Christ' and 'after Christ'....

OK, I looked up the two great quotations I loved from the first chapter of his Life of Christ (which I keep on the shelf in front of me with Cardinal Ratzinger/Benedict XVI's books). The chapter is entitled "The only person ever pre-announced'

He struck history with such impact that He split it in two, dividing it into two periods: one before his coming, the other after it... Even those who deny God must date their attacks upon Him, A.D. so and so, or so many years after his coming.


He does not fit, as the other world teachers do, into the established category of a good man. Good men do not lie. But if Christ was not all that He said He was, namely, the Son of the living God, the Word of God in the flesh, then he was not 'just a good man'; then He was a knave, a liar, a charlatan, and the greatest deceiver who ever lived.

If He was not what He said He was, the Christ, the Son of God, He was the anti-Christ!. If he was only a man, then He was not even a 'good' man...

If you have not yet read Sheen's Life of Christ, you must get it! It is a true-and-proper biography that is unlike any biography ever written, and as sheer story-telling, it is as good as it gets to do justice to 'the greatest story ever told'.

Consider how he opens his chapter on Judas: "One day a babe was born at Kerioth. His parents, looking forward to the promise of a great manhood, named him 'Praise'.... Many years later, the Babe of Bethlehem met the babe of Kerioth - our Divine Lord called Judas to be an Apostle."

Sheen brings alive the cultural, geographical and political reality in Jesus's day, providing much general and specific information about each event described, as well as citing the appropriate Gospel passages - all with Sheen's acute, flowing and beautifully expressed commentary on everything that needs to be commented or explained.

And since we are all familiar with Jesus's life, one can pick it up and read any of its 448 pages at random that will tell you more about the faith than a run-of-the-mill preacher can in his whole career.

The book was re-issued as a paperback in 1990, but there may be a later edition.

Left, Bishop Sheen used the blackboard as a teaching aid on his TV series' center, the 1999 paperback of Life of Christ; and right, Sheen with Paul VI in 1969.

Here is the link to the main Sheen site online:

00Tuesday, January 26, 2010 9:47 PM

Two things: I regret I have not had the time these days to post items on threads other than BENEDICT and the CHURCH&VATICAN. It's a matter of priorities with the limited time I have.

The second is that the cascade of bad things done by Obama and his party, as well as the bad things happening to them, has turned into a Noah's flood in the past few months, that it was not easy to pick out one story at a time that could encapsulate it all...

No worldwide celebrity or American President ever fell so fast so soon other than Tiger Woods whose golden image turned to clay virtually overnight - but then he had 15 years of rock-solid and apparently well-deserved universal recognition before it all came crashing down last Thanksgiving.

Today, I came across one such Obama story that will serve for now as a marker more than anything - the more gratifying because it comes from a European publication.

The World Bids Farewell to Obama

January 21, 2010

US President Barack Obama suffered a painful defeat in Massachusetts on Tuesday. With mid-term elections looming, it means that Obama will have to fundamentally re-think his political course. German commentators say it is the end of hope.

US President Barack Obama has had a number of difficult weeks during his first year in the White House. Right after he took office, he had to wade through a week full of partisan bickering over his economic stimulus package combined with a tax scandal surrounding Tom Daschle, the man Obama had hoped would lead his health care reform team.

Then there was the last week of 2009, when a failed terror attack on a flight inbound for Detroit exposed major flaws in US efforts to identify and stop potential terrorists.

This week, though -- a week when Obama should have been celebrating the first anniversary of his inauguration -- may have been the president's worst yet.

Scott Brown, an almost unknown Republican member of the Massachusetts Senate, defeated the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley for the US Senate seat vacated by the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

The defeat in a heavily Democratic state not only highlights Obama's massive loss of popular support during his first year in office, but it also could spell doom for his signature effort to reform the US health care system.

There were immediate calls for a suspension of health care votes in the Senate until Brown is sworn in. The loss of the Massachusetts seat means that the Democrats no longer control the 60 Senate seats necessary to avoid a filibuster.

Obama's reform package, which aims to provide health insurance to most of the over 40 million Americans currently lacking coverage, may ultimately fail as a result. [NB: In its most recent incarnation, its provisions are said to still leave 25 million out of the loop!]

More than that, though, the vote shows just how quickly the political pendulum has swung back to the right following Obama's election. The seat Brown won had been in Democratic hands for all but six years since 1926. Now, its new occupant is a man who not only opposes the health care bill, but also favors waterboarding as a method of interrogation for terrorism suspects and rejects carbon cap-and-trade as a means of limiting carbon emissions.

The omen could be a dark one for the Obama administration heading into a mid-term election year. German commentators take a closer look.

Center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung writes on Thursday:

"Obama made a serious misjudgement. Right at the beginning of his first year in office, he saved the banks, rescued the automobile industry from collapse and passed a huge economic stimulus package. He had hoped that these enormous deeds [enormously expensive, but not necessarily enormous as deeds!] would give him the space to address those issues which are dearest to him: health care reform, climate change and investment in education."

"Those issues, however, are clearly not priorities for people in the US at the moment. Scott Brown campaigned on two promises, both of which apparently struck a nerve with the electorate. He wants to block health care reform and he wants to find ways to reduce the enormous budget deficit. It is here where the roots of dissatisfaction with Obama are to be found. His reform agenda, in its current form, is highly suspect to Americans. And they have the impression that, if he continues piling up debt, he will be gambling away the country's future." [Boy, is that ever an understatement - both of the consequences alreaday of Obama's supremely egotistic and ideological choices, and of the mood of teh American people! Having been Obama's rah-rah boys in the recent past, SDZ obviously cannot affor to be brutally frank about their no-longer-fair-iared boy!]

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"For Obama, the election in Massachusetts means that he will have to re-evaluate his political style. He could now focus his concentration on his political base and push through his policy agenda. After all, he still has a majority in Congress -- he could back away from his strategy of bipartisanship ... which would mean giving up much of what he spent his first year in office creating."

"More likely, however, is that Obama will interpret the Massachusetts loss as a signal that he should move further toward the middle and make more concessions to the conservatives -- even if this alienates his base even further, a base which had high expectations from the 'yes we can' candidate."

"For everyone else in the world, this means that they will have to bid farewell to a candidate for whom the hopes were so high. They will have to say goodbye to the charisma they fell in love with. Obama will be staying home after all." [Serves y'all right for not wanting to see through the faux eloquence and 'rock-star' glitz, while ignoring his radical ideology and utter inexperience in anything but community organizing - the openly socialist grassroots action that did little more than create monsteers like ACORN!]

The left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung writes:

"In addition to health care reform, Obama's reputation has primarily been harmed by the high unemployment rate and the increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan. It will become even more difficult in the future for the president to push projects through successfully. Not just because Republicans now have a means of preventing it, but also because the Democratic camp is deeply divided. Some would like to see the party shift toward the center -- wherever that may be -- whereas others want the party to position itself to the left. Such a battle is hardly a good sign for the mid-term elections in November. Massachusetts could prove to be an omen."

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"Of course the president rejects the interpretation that the Massachusetts election was a referendum on his first year in the White House. But he cannot ignore the fact that his health care reform package is not popular, the situation of the country's finances is seen as threatening and many voters blame the high unemployment rate on the party in power -- on the Democrats, led by Obama. [Once again, treading on eggshells in painting a much more benign picture of the situation than it is!]

"The result is a second year in office full of very different challenges than the first. To save what there is to be saved, Obama will have to be prepared to fashion a bipartisan compromise on health care -- a compromise with a Republican Party which has tasted blood and can now dream once again about a return to power." [You have to an impossible idealist to believe that Obama will ever let Republicans in the door. He'll have a thousand Salahis party-crash the White House before he gives them the courtesy of an invitation to even discuss anything! He didn't do so at all during his first year in office, thinking he was omnipotent with his majorities in Congress. Compromise with them? He would much rather make a pact with the devil - if he hasn't already done so.]

A new poll today shows that Obama has been the most polarizing President in his first year in office that the US ever had since modern polling began - 65% is the gap between his average job approval rating among Democrats (83% of Democrats) and Republicans (18%), compared to the widest polarity registered by the next two in line, Bill Clinton, with 52%, and George W. Bush with 45%. And you thought W was unpopular! Consider even that the polarity rating was taken at a time when Democrats refused to accept that he won the elections! Clinton's polarity was due to the disastrous attempt to pass Hilarycare. Health care reform as the Democrats conceive it was unpopular then, and it is even more unpopular now.

00Tuesday, March 2, 2010 5:23 PM
The flood of unflattering Obama articles even from his former adulatory devotees in Europe has been unrelenting - like the man's own I-centrism, insincerity and incompetence - and I haven't had time to decide which new one would best encapsulate the mood of the moment... But meanwhile, something about George Weigel:

Interview with George Weigel
by The Editors

Feb 27, 2010

How did you get involved in the magazine? Where and when did you meet Fr. Neuhaus? [Founder of First Things - he died last year].
I first met Father Neuhaus in May 1978, in New York, when I was arranging a conference on international human rights in Seattle, where I then lived and worked. We quickly became fast friends and coconspirators.

The magazine was planned in conversations between us on the deck of Father Neuhaus’s cottage in the Ottawa Valley in the summer of 1989, in the aftermath of the Rockford Raid; our deliberations were aided by a liberal use of bourbon and cigars. As I recall, we thought the top circulation would be 20,000, and we worried that we’d not have enough authors to fill a quality monthly (the predecessor journal, This World, was a quarterly).

Turns out we were wrong on both counts: The circulation quickly exceeded 20,000, and an entire generation of writers we hadn’t known about came out of the woodwork. It was a great example of “If you build it, they will come.”

What were you doing before the magazine got started?
Working in the think tank world at the interstices of moral argument and public policy, writing books, and generally making a nuisance of myself to the then-regnant Catholic Establishment.

What role did you play in the founding of the magazine? And after it got started?
See above for founding. I’ve been on the board since the git-go and have contributed regularly.

How would you describe or characterize the early years?
Richard had an ability to energize and inspire other people in the way that’s the essence of a true leader. And America was clearly waiting for something like First Things. So it was all exhilaration, all the way.

What contributed to the magazine’s early success? Was there one thing in particular that helped it succeed?
Obviously, RJN’s personal stature and scintillating prose gave the whole enterprise an enormous jump-start. Just as obviously, it filled a need, particularly among Catholics and evangelicals, for a serious journal of religion and public life. If you take that, in the case of the Catholics, as an implicit criticism of America and Commonweal, you won’t be mistaken.

Looking back over the years, the magazine, in its own particular way, influenced the course of certain debates in American society. Which of the magazine’s contributions to public discourse are you most proud of?
(1) Creating a new awareness that the First Amendment was at the service of free exercise, meaning that religiously informed moral argument must have a place in our public life.
(2) Strengthening the intellectual architecture of the pro-life movement but insisting that the cause of life was the natural successor to the civil rights movement.
(3) Providing a forum for the authentic interpretation of the pontificate of John Paul II (a regular reader, by the way).
(4) Giving a platform to the new ecumenism embodied in “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.”
(5) Raising the flag about the judicial usurpation of politics.

00Tuesday, March 2, 2010 5:39 PM
I do have an Obama story to share, after all, from a British newspaper, about an aspect of his recent first physical/medical check-up as President that was hardly mentioned in the US press, which all dutifully reported "Doctors say Obama is in excellent health". They did mention the smoking, which has been public knowledge, but not about the alcohol.

Doctors tell Obama:
Drink less alcohol, try harder
to kick smoking habit

March 2, 2010

Barack Obama should not only try harder to kick his smoking habit, his team of doctors warned, but they also recommended 'moderation of alcohol intake'.

It would seem the pressure of the U.S. presidency - and all those White House receptions - are taking their toll after the 48-year-old's first medical checkup since winning the race to the White House.

The chief executive, who has endured an exhausting first year in the White House and year-long battles with congressional Republicans, should also eat better to lower his cholesterol, but was otherwise declared in excellent health and fit for duty.

The White House physician, Navy Capt Jeffrey Kuhlman, said Obama should stick with 'moderation in alcohol intake' and ‘smoking cessation efforts’, the use of nicotine gum, and come back in August 2011 after he turns 50.

Obama's cholesterol levels have crept up to borderline high and he should alter his diet accordingly, according to a report the White House released after the 90-minute examination at the National Naval Medical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland.

While at the facility, he visited 12 military service members receiving treatment and rehabilitation for injuries suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The president is the picture of health, eats modest portions and exercises regularly. He is an avid basketball player and golfer.
The slightly elevated cholesterol levels, occasional smoking and tendinitis in his left knee were the only negatives noted.

Obama said at a June news conference that he still had an occasional cigarette. It was his first public acknowledgment that he hadn't kicked the habit. He chews nicotine gum to avoid regular smoking, and his doctor said that should continue.

On a previous occasion he said quitting smoking didn't create 'huge withdrawal symptoms', partly because he smoked only seven or eight cigarettes a day at the most.

The then senator first announced his decision to quit in 2007, in order to please his wife Michelle, while on the David Letterman Show.

Kuhlman also said the president should modify his diet to bring his LDL, or bad cholesterol, below 130.

At the time of his last exam, Obama's total cholesterol was 173, while his LDL was 96 and HDL, or good cholesterol, was 68.
This time, total cholesterol was up to 209, with HDL down slightly at 62. LDL was up to 138. Borderline high cholesterol starts at 200, with LDL considered in the same category at 130.

In the U.S., the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that for healthy men, drinking more than four drinks on any day or 14 per week is considered 'at-risk' or 'heavy' drinking.

Last year Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The law allows the Food and Drug Administration to reduce nicotine in tobacco products, ban sweet flavourings and block labels such 'low tar' and 'light.'

Tobacco companies are now also required to cover their cartons with large graphic warnings.

00Monday, March 8, 2010 3:36 PM
Wartime Pope has a huge fan:
A Jewish knight


Published: March 7, 2010

About time he got some hometown recognition!

Right photo shows Gary and Meredith Krupp flanking Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo after a 2008 symposium on Pius XII.

LONG BEACH, N.Y. — At home here on Long Island, he is Gary L. Krupp, medical equipment dealer, now retired after a career of ups and downs. He shares one car and a small house in a no-frills neighborhood with his wife, Meredith, and wryly describes himself as “an average schlemiel, just a Jewish kid from Queens.”

At the Vatican, he is known as Commendatore Gary Krupp, Knight Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great. For short, the Swiss Guard and cardinals address him as “Your Excellency.”

It is a compelling tale in itself: how Mr. Krupp became only the seventh Jewish papal knight in history, dubbed by Pope John Paul II in 2000 for persuading American manufacturers to donate $12 million worth of high-tech medical equipment to an Italian hospital.

But the more curious and complicated story is the transformation Mr. Krupp has undergone since. With no previous training or special interest in history, he has emerged as the Vatican’s most outspoken Jewish ally in a heated debate at the crux of tensions between Roman Catholic and Jewish leaders and historians: whether Pope Pius XII, the pontiff during World War II, did as much as he could have to save Jews from the Holocaust.

Mr. Krupp, 62, has raised enough money through the Pave the Way Foundation, a nonprofit organization he founded in 2002, to travel the globe, hire researchers to scour historic documents, sponsor a three-day symposium in Rome and publish four editions of a glossy, illustrated volume of evidence supporting his view that Pius XII spared no effort to save the lives of persecuted Jews.

He has pressed his case in a recent op-ed article for The New York Post, and in interviews with conservative Catholic television programs and Web sites, which have cited him as an expert on Pius.

And in a special audience at the papal summer residence in September 2008, Pope Benedict XVI thanked Mr. Krupp for bringing attention to “what Pius XII achieved for the Jews.”

Historians and religious leaders around the world have taken increasing notice of Mr. Krupp’s work — some with alarm, some with pleasure — because his advocacy has coincided with efforts within the Vatican to promote the canonization of Pius.

Pope Benedict nudged that process forward in December by affirming Pius’s “heroic virtues” and pronouncing him “venerable,” a step on the path toward sainthood.

The controversy over Pius’s wartime conduct had stalled his elevation for so many years that Pope Benedict’s action shocked scholars on both sides of the debate. And while agreeing on little else, some in both camps credit Mr. Krupp for breaking the logjam.

“I wrote 10 books about Pius XII, but in all these years I never knew how to shake things up for the cause like this wonderful man, Mr. Krupp,” said Sister Margherita Marchione, a professor emerita at Fairleigh Dickinson University who is considered the foremost defender of Pius outside the Vatican.

Deborah Dwork, a professor of Holocaust history at Clark University, put it another way: “Pope Benedict would not have had the chutzpah to go forward with the veneration process if not for this P.R. work Gary Krupp does.” [C'mon! While we are all thankful for Krupp and that there are open-minded Jews like him, Benedict XVI's actions with respect to Pius XII are not dictated from the outside - except for the courtesy he did the Jews by ordering his own investigation of the Pius XII records by reputable historical scholars before proclaiming his heroic virtues. And Ma'am, that is not chutzpah. It's Christian fairness. ]

In a dispute decades long, the Church has maintained that Pius XII supported efforts throughout the war to hide Jews or help them escape, but worked behind the scenes to avoid retaliation from Nazi and Italian Fascist authorities.

Holocaust scholars, who consider Pius, with his worldwide network of diplomats and clergy, to be among the first world leaders to have grasped the scope of the Jewish persecution, have asked why he did not condemn it publicly.

But most consider that and other questions unanswerable until the Vatican opens the complete archives of Pius’s papacy. Although a selection of those papers has been published, the Vatican has kept most off limits to outside researchers.

How Mr. Krupp happened onto this muddy battlefield is hard to explain, even for Mr. Krupp, a husky man who sometimes seems almost possessed, bounding up and down the stairs of his split-level house to retrieve copies of documents or books to make his points.

“Believe me, I never dreamed I would be defending a man who, when I was growing up, we believed was a Nazi sympathizer,” he said.

He says he takes his faith seriously, though he was never very active in his synagogue, or a member of Jewish organizations. His rabbi, Barry Dov Schwartz of Temple B’Nai Sholom in Rockville Centre, called him “a bit of a stubborn guy, whom I happen to be very fond of,” but declined to comment on Mr. Krupp’s efforts on behalf of popes.

By Mr. Krupp’s account, that work evolved “organically.” A friend, a Long Island priest, got him involved with the Italian hospital in need of equipment.

Being knighted thrust Mr. Krupp into the ranks of some of the world’s richest and most prominent people, living and dead — Bob Hope and Rupert Murdoch included — who received the knighthood of St. Gregory the Great for serving the church in some way.

Unlike the vast majority of them, however, Mr. Krupp said he saw his elevation as an opportunity to become a conduit between the Catholic Church and the world.

In 2005, he brokered an agreement with the Vatican Library to lend a rare set of manuscripts by the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides to the Israel Museum. And gradually he decided he liked promoting inter-religious understanding more than he liked selling medical equipment.

His Pave the Way Foundation became a full-time occupation in 2005, around the time a friend at the Vatican suggested that he might help clear up misunderstandings between Catholics and Jews about Pius. Mr. Krupp began collecting and underwriting research.

“Did you know Pius XII saved more than 860,000 Jews from the death camps? I mean, I never knew that before. It’s character assassination — a shanda — that so many Jews say he was an anti-Semite,” said Mr. Krupp, using a Yiddish word for disgrace.

The assessment of Mr. Krupp’s work among many scholars and leaders of long-established Jewish organizations has been equally harsh.

Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, associate director of interfaith affairs at the Anti-Defamation League, called Mr. Krupp’s mission “a campaign of misinformation.”

Professor Dwork said Mr. Krupp’s research was “amateurish, worse than amateurish — risible.” More disturbing, she said, it seems to have emboldened some in the Vatican to push harder for Pius XII’s canonization.

He may be well-meaning, but his lack of experience in international affairs and historical research makes Mr. Krupp highly vulnerable to being manipulated by factions inside the Vatican, she said.

Several historians said the 860,000 figure that Mr. Krupp cited appeared frequently in biographies of Pius XII, but had never been documented.

The Rev. John T. Pawlikowski, a Catholic priest who is a founding member of the board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and a professor of social ethics at the University of Chicago, said the Vatican was “discrediting itself by associating itself with this kind of questionable scholarship.”

Mr. Krupp has heard it all. In 2008, several historians called to ask him to cancel his three-day conference in Rome, which ultimately drew many Vatican-friendly scholars but few with independent credentials.

One caller, Paul O’Shea, who has written extensively about Pius XII, tried to warn Mr. Krupp that proponents of canonization might be trying to use him. He urged Mr. Krupp to wait for the Vatican to open its files, and for scholars to complete their work, before reaching conclusions.

Mr. Krupp thanked him for his advice and ignored it.

“Listen to me: Pius XII was the greatest hero of World War II,” Mr. Krupp said recently. “He saved more Jews than Roosevelt, Churchill and all the rest of them combined. We should not let him be an issue between Catholics and Jews.”

He added: “And I predict this: Historians are never going to solve this whole problem. There will always be questions.” [Of course. Whenever the opposition becomes too entrenched, it never leaves its bunker which is their shield against facts.None are so blind than teh willfully blind.]

In the debate over Gary Krupp, too, there will always be questions. Why is he doing this? How has he marshaled deep-pocketed support for his foundation, which has an annual budget of about $500,000 and pays him and his wife a combined $140,000 a year? (Its board includes New York entrepreneurs and Wall Street managers, most of them Jewish.)

And what is it like to start your day in a house where your ceiling needs painting, and end your day, jet-lagged, in a house with ceilings by Michelangelo?

Meredith Krupp contemplated that question recently and answered with a koan-like reference to the white feather that appears mysteriously in the opening and closing frames of the movie “Forrest Gump.”

“It’s just like that feather,” she said. “It just goes and goes where it goes.”

00Saturday, April 17, 2010 2:13 PM
German court fines Bishop Williamson
for Holocaust comments

BERLIN, April 16 (AP) - A German court convicted ultraconservative British Bishop Richard Williamson on Friday of denying the Holocaust in a television interview.

A court in the Bavarian city of Regensburg found Williamson guilty of incitement for saying in a 2008 interview with Swedish television that he did not believe Jews were killed in gas chambers during World War II.

The court ordered Williamson to pay a fine of euro10,000 ($13,544).

The Roman Catholic bishop was barred by his order from attending Friday's proceedings or making statements to the media.

His lawyer, Matthias Lossmann, told The Associated Press after the court ruling that Williamson has yet to decide whether he would appeal.

Denying the Holocaust is a criminal offense in Germany.

The court ordered a fine of euro12,000 for Williamson last year, without a trial. But the bishop appealed, forcing his case to be tried publicly.

Lossmann said that Williamson had explicitly asked the Swedish television crew conducting the interview not to broadcast it in Germany.

In issuing her ruling, Judge Karin Frahm said the bishop could not have expected that the clip would show up on YouTube and be seen directly in Germany, and that led her to reduce the fine, court spokesman Bernhard Schneider told the AP.

The journalists who conducted the interview ignored a court order to attend the trial, Lossmann said, leaving the judge to rely on written statements as testimony.

"That does not do a case like this justice," Lossmann said.

The interview was conducted near Regensburg and was granted shortly before Williamson's excommunication was lifted by Pope Benedict XVI, along with that of three other bishops from the anti-modernization movement of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors said in a statement it welcomed the ruling as "a symbol of modern German determination to prohibit the dissemination of Holocaust denial on its soil."

The U.S.-based group's vice president, Elan Steinberg, called Williamson's remarks vile and craven and called upon his order and the Vatican to cut all ties with him.

The lifting of Williamson's excommunication sparked outrage among Jewish groups and in Israel. The Vatican's handling of the affair prompted criticism from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Six million Jews were killed during the Nazi Holocaust, many of them murdered in gas chambers.

Williamson now lives in Britain.

00Thursday, April 22, 2010 1:02 PM
Jeffrey Lena: California lawyer
for the Vatican and the Pope
in U.S. courts

By Jason Horowitz

April 19, 2010

This is a bad time for Jeffrey Lena to have quit caffeine.

In Kentucky, the 51-year-old attorney is defending Pope Benedict XVI from a deposition motion in a case involving child abuse by clergy.

In a suit pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Lena is arguing that the Vatican cannot be tried for transferring a predatory priest from Ireland to Oregon.

In Mississippi, he is defending the Vatican against accusations that it participated in a money-laundering scheme.

In New York, Lena is defending the Holy See in a commercial-licensing dispute about the use of images belonging to the Vatican Museums.

Wherever it is in the United States that the Vatican stands accused, Lena is there to protect it.

"I am counsel for the Holy See," Lena said.

As an international clerical sex abuse scandal has rocked the Roman Catholic Church and raised questions about the meaning of sin and crime, penance and punishment, church and state, Lena, a sole practitioner who works out of a small office in Northern California where his wife has kept the books, has taken the lead in defending the Vatican in the courts of law and public opinion. That means that the mild-mannered and reclusive comparative law specialist is swamped. And he looks it.

Puffy bags hung under Lena's brown eyes on Wednesday morning as he ordered an herbal pomegranate tea at a Washington coffee shop. With waves of salt-and-pepper hair, a workman's build, unclipped fingernails and an outfit of plaid flannel shirt, bluejeans and black shoes, Lena doesn't look the part of advocate for the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, prince of the apostles and Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth.

The genesis of Lena's employment with the Vatican is an enduring Church mystery upon which he refuses to shed any light.

"I've never wished to be in the public eye," says Lena, who once spent three hours hiding out in an empty Austin courtroom to avoid photographers. "And this is like suddenly crossing a divide from a private to public figure, and I wish to retain my privacy."

Some of Lena's former opponents say he is in way over his head and does not possess the legal heft to command such complex and historic cases.

Victims' groups say Lena's deft navigation of legal loopholes is anathema to an institution built on the revelation of truth. But Vatican supporters say he is effective, and that his immunity defense has broader applications for international law beyond the current scandal.

What is clear is that through his newly voluble response to media inquiries about the Vatican's actions, the down-to-earth lawyer has emerged as the Pope's de facto spokesman [only for the legal matters presented against the Pope in the United States].

Lena lives with his wife and son in a Berkeley Hills home that had no television until this past Christmas. His family has owned the property since the 1960s. His grandfather, Lino Lena, emigrated from Italy; his father, Leland, a public-school teacher, participated in the invasion of the Philippines as a Coast Guardsman.

Raised Catholic, Lena and his two younger siblings accompanied his parents to Sunday Mass and hunted for Easter eggs. Lena was a shy, "cerebral" and "athletic" young man, according to his brother Justin, now living in South Dakota. He lettered in tennis and took Latin lessons.

As the Lenas raised their family in Berkeley in the 1960s, John XXIII, affectionately known as the "Good Pope," issued a 1962 policy focused on the high church crime of solicitation of indecent acts during confession and the "foulest crime," concerning clerics who have acted obscenely toward other men, children or "brute animals."

A central concern in the Catholic Church has long been to protect priests from the whims of powerful bishops who could punish them for expressing opposing viewpoints. The policy emphasized secrecy within the Church, but also from civil authorities for whom the severe Church punishment of defrocking a priest is a veritable slap on the wrist. ['Also from civil authorities' is false!]

Questions about the relative powers of canon and civil law couldn't have been farther from Lena's mind as he grew up in Northern California. He got good grades in high school, but he says he cared more about sports. After graduation, he worked in construction and helped his cousin build a house in the Oakland Hills.

He became more intellectually curious at the University of California at Santa Cruz, from which he graduated in 1982, and earned his MA in history from the University of California at Berkeley in 1986, specializing in the roles different religious traditions played in shaping American history. According to the university's alumni association, the lone activity listed under his name at Berkeley was "reading/study."

In 1988 he married Adele D'Alessando, of Milan, and became a candidate for a PhD in history; he completed the course work and oral exams but never delivered his thesis. Instead, he started teaching history at Berkeley and the University of Maryland.

In 1993, Lena enrolled in Hastings College of the Law, where he became friends with Ugo Mattei, a renowned Italian legal scholar whom Lena calls a "master" of comparative law.

With Mattei's help, Lena transferred to Berkeley's law school and studied at the University of Milan. After completing his law degree, Lena returned to Italy in 1996 as a visiting professor in the country's universities.

According to Luisa Antoniolli, a comparative law professor at the University of Trento in Italy who was friendly with Lena, he was always busy, lagging behind on work and popular with faculty and students. (She says that one anonymous evaluation at the end of his course read, "You are very beautiful but you should change your glasses.")

Antoniolli says that the last time she saw Lena he had already taken on some of the Vatican cases, a development that surprised her. "The Vatican doesn't sound like the exact place where Jeff would really feel at home," she says. "Not at all."

Somewhere along the line in Italy, Lena established a life-altering relationship with the Holy See. Lena says he became counsel to the Vatican through "academic and professional associations in Italy" and declined repeated requests to explain the connection.

Mattei, who has since fallen out with Lena, claims to be the link.

"I involved him with the Vatican for some cases in the U.S. unrelated to the current issues," said Mattei in an e-mail message. He added, "We worked intensively together for the Vatican for a couple, maybe three years, but all of that was with the former Pope and Secretary of State."

But Mattei, who has called the Italian communist Il Manifesto his favorite newspaper, is an odd person to have connected Lena to the Vatican.

"Mattei is a pretty left-wing guy," says Antonio Gidi, who co-wrote a book on comparative law with Mattei. Gidi points out that Mattei had also co-written "Plunder" with Laura Nader, the sister of Ralph Nader. "He is as far away from the Pope as you can get."

A source with better understanding of the situation, but who is not authorized to speak publicly on the issue, says that Mattei put Lena in touch with Franzo Grande Stevens, a top Italian lawyer who represented the late Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli, and that he chose Lena to defend the Vatican Bank.

Lena says there was never a religious "litmus test" for him to join the Vatican's defense in 2000.

"He got hired in those cases because they needed somebody," says Mark Chopko, who was general counsel for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops between 1987 and 2007, and who now works for a private firm in Washington. "Commercial litigation is very labor-intensive; the people in charge of the institutions in Rome needed a commercial litigator."

Lena views his defense of the Vatican under an over-arching principle that a state should have jurisdiction over a foreign sovereign only when harmful conduct is actually attributable to the foreign government. If a state reaches out to take jurisdiction over another country, the delicate balance of international power can be undermined.

"Just because a sovereign is small," Lena says, "it does not mean that its rights in this regard should be trampled upon."

"Often an immunity argument seems unfair in the specific case," says Paul Clement, who served as U.S. solicitor general between 2005 and 2008 and who is assisting Lena on the U.S. Supreme Court aspects of the Oregon case. "But it is for a broader policy goal."

Not everyone is impressed with Lena's ideas.

Lee Boyd, a lawyer with the California law firm of Howarth and Smith who worked for the plaintiffs in the Vatican Bank case, says she was astonished that the Holy See used Lena as its counsel.

"He's not your typical aggressive, showy trial lawyer; he tends to be passive in the courtroom," she says. "He's not a big-time lawyer. He seems like a small-town lawyer and doesn't seem to get the larger issues. I don't know if he would make it in the high-stakes world that I operate in with the big firms. He's not in that league, not in that caliber at all. I've always been curious why Jeff Lena has the Vatican and not a big firm like the other sovereigns hire. It's a mystery to me."

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that some property claims could not be excluded under the political question doctrine, but the Vatican Bank ultimately prevailed in avoiding jurisdiction on the grounds of Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act.

("She may be upset because I defeated her," Lena says of Boyd. "Notwithstanding the fact that I am unassuming in manner and do not engage in grandstanding.")

While the Vatican Bank case in California unfolded, a sex abuse scandal swept over the American Church. The public scrutiny and widespread depiction of the Church hierarchy as protecting criminal priests led to American bishops arguing for and ultimately persuading the Vatican to accept new norms that established zero tolerance for abusive priests in the United States.

In 2002, the abuse victims' lawyer Jeff Anderson brought John V. Doe v. the Holy See in Portland, Ore. After many years of litigation, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Vatican did not have blanket immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act because of an exception for harm suffered at the hand of a foreign entity in the United States.

"The Vatican controls the operation of the priests," Anderson says.

The appellate court ruled that it would be possible to proceed on the theory that the priest is a direct employee of the Holy See [unless the individual priest is employed in an office in the Roman Curia, there is no way he can be considered an employee of the Holy See!]. though many lawyers believe such an argument is difficult to prove.

Lena then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to have the departments of State and Justice weigh in on the case. On March 12, Anderson argued in Washington before Solicitor General Elena Kagan, rumored to be a top candidate for the upcoming vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. Anderson says that, as he walked out, Lena was waiting outside. They shook hands and then the Vatican's counsel went in to argue the Holy See's side.

"He's always been kind of an enigma," says Anderson, who called Lena a formidable, civil adversary. "In going after the bishops, I always got these white-glove firms, a gazillion lawyers, the people who represent corporate America. Here, Jeff's in the lead role."

By 2003, Pope Benedict XVI, who was still known as Joseph Ratzinger and was prefect of the Holy See's watchdog congregation, had taken a more aggressive and hands-on approach to the disciplining of alleged abusers.

But the cases kept coming. In 2005, abuse victims filed a putative class action lawsuit in Kentucky, which does not have the burden of proving that priests are employees of the Vatican. In that case, the plaintiffs are trying to show that negligent bishops, in their capacity as Vatican officials, caused injury on U.S. soil by failing to report predatory priests to civilian authorities.

Lena was able to slow the case down by arguing that documents served to the Vatican were in sloppy Latin and needed to be retranslated. Ultimately, though, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Vatican does not have total immunity and the case could continue under the theory that, assuming a tort was committed, bishops could be legally considered officials of the Vatican. That legal determination could eventually expose top Vatican prelates to accountability in U.S. courts.

The plaintiff's attorney, Bill McMurry, is also seeking to depose Benedict.

Last month, Lena filed documents with the U.S. District Court in Louisville claiming that the Pope is immune from the jurisdiction of United States courts because he is the head of a sovereign state; Lena also is claiming that American bishops are not employees of the Vatican. Lena also will dispute that the 1962 church policy required clerics to keep sex abuse cases secret from civil authorities.

McMurry says he thought Lena was an able lawyer, though when he first discovered that the relative legal novice would be lead counsel for the Holy See, "I thought it was a hoax."

("Ask him if he thinks it's a hoax anymore," Lena says.)

Lena is now a familiar face to the top Vatican power brokers. In 2006, Lena oversaw the deposition of William J. Levada, who succeeded Ratzinger as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as part of a bankruptcy proceeding against the archdiocese of Portland, Ore.

In the deposition, Lena set the ground rules so that Cardinal Levada answered questions regarding his activities when he was archbishop of Portland, but not questions touching on his work as a Vatican official.

Since then, the clerical abuse that Benedict has lamented as "filth," and the resulting lawsuits that many prefects in Rome once considered endemic to a uniquely "litigious" American culture, is now at the doors of St. Peter's.

According to several Church insiders, Lena has expressed frustration that Vatican officials in Rome have failed to get the Church's point across clearly, that too many cardinals were chiming in off-message and that the Church had to speak out more because the lawyers on the other side were speaking out.

"In my conversations with Jeff, it appears that he has become very instrumental as a spokesperson for the Vatican in terms of public relations, they are now leaning on Jeff for advice and counsel," McMurry says. "I do know that recently he was a bit frustrated that these documents were making their way into the press, that Jeff was really torn that he needed to stay home and write a brief when he really needed to be at the Vatican taking care of damage control."

"For me it's not damage control, it's providing counsel," Lena says. "The frustration does not come from statements of individuals who are, of course, free to speak their piece. The frustration comes from the media's over-attribution -- mis-attribution, in fact -- of individuals' views directly to the Holy See."

The Vatican seems to be getting Lena's message. Last week, the Holy See posted online a new guideline to its bishops around the world that, to some who have worked with him, sounded a lot like Lena pushing the Church into the future: "Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed." [Why can't the MSM read? The guidelines were a simplification for the layman of internal guidelines issued to all bishops by the CDF in 2003. The only new thing was that the guidelines were simplified for the layman and therfore made public. The MSM largely left it unreported, bu t worse failed in their duty, They should have looked at the guidelines to see how they were applied - if applied - to cases that turned up since the guidelines were issued in 2003. That would have been the professional way of utilizing the 'new' information!]

00Thursday, May 6, 2010 5:05 AM
Cardinal Pell, critic of the English hierarchy,
and no fan of the Tablet

May 5th, 2010

Cardinal Pell and the Holy Father, at WYD Sydney, July 2008.

“… I have long been disappointed by The Tablet’s persistent subversions of some Catholic teaching and mystified by the inability of the English bishops to nudge it towards a more productive line of witness …”

Now, you may think it rather bad form of me to resurrect a letter written to the Bitter Pill by Cardinal George Pell back in 2002, but I’m sure Ma Pepinster and the gang have been re-reading it this week.

For, according to authoritative sources in Rome, the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney (a Benedict loyalist), is to succeed Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re (not a Benedict loyalist) as Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

That will give him a significant degree of authority over the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops. He will be able to “nudge” them – for example, to observe the conservative liturgical reforms for which he is partly responsible, such as the new English translation of the Missal.

And he will also have a huge say in who becomes a bishop in England Wales, a Church whose maladministration in recent decades has concerned him greatly. He knows this country well, and from an interesting perspective: while he was studying for his doctorate in church history at Oxford he served as chaplain to Eton. One of his best friends is Fr Alexander Sherbrooke, the OE parish priest of St Patrick’s, Soho, and one of the finest evangelists in London.

Cardinal Pell knows – knows for an absolute fact – that many English bishops are (a) not up to the job intellectually, and (b) passively obstructive towards Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum Coetibus. Future bishops will not enjoy the luxury of ignoring papal directives.

Indeed, I suspect it won’t be long before certain current bishops have their collars felt. (Sorry to use such crude language, but he is an Aussie, and the way the E&W hierarchy ignores Vatican directives is little short of criminal.)

He’s a fascinating man. I’ll return to the subject in a day or so, spelling out just why the Tabletistas will be so outraged by this news, but let me leave you with a taster of Pell’s plain-spoken approach. In 2007, he tightened up the rules allowing family members to speak at funerals, offering the following typically candid explanation (my emphasis):

“On not a few occasions, inappropriate remarks glossing over the deceased’s proclivities (drinking prowess, romantic conquests etc) or about the Church (attacking its moral teachings) have been made at funeral Masses.”

Cardinal among Mormons

May 5, 2010

Left, Cardinal Goerge at Brigham Young U last February; right, teh cardinal at home in Chicago.

The three years of service that Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has given the Church as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have been a great blessing.

A recent speech the cardinal gave at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, suggests that that service will continue long after Cardinal George hands the gavel to his successor as USCCB president in November.

Scholar-bishops have been rare in the history of the Church in the U.S; Cardinal George is an exception, a true intellectual with the gifted teacher’s capacity for making serious material accessible to people who’ve earned fewer degrees than he has. That gift was on full display at BYU this past Feb. 23.

After noting that Mormons and Catholics had lived “mostly apart from one another” for 180 years, and telling a nifty story about his 2007 experience guest-conducting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (while getting in a plug for his beloved Chicago Cubs), Cardinal George got down to the business at hand, which was to explore why distance and suspicion have been replaced by mutual recognition and co-belligerency, as Catholic and Mormons have discovered in each other common moral principles and a shared commitment to reforming our culture. The first point of tangency in this new relationship has to do with religious freedom.

As I’ve noted before, there is an attempt in some quarters today to hollow out religious freedom by reducing it to a variant on lifestyle choice—an essentially private matter. Cardinal George is not buying that and he told his Mormon audience why:

“Religious freedom cannot be reduced to freedom of worship or even freedom of private conscience. Religious freedom means that religious groups as well as religious individuals have a right to exercise their influence in the public square…

"Any attempt to reduce that fuller sense of religious freedom, which has been part of our history in this country for more than two centuries, to a private reality of worship and individual conscience as long as you don’t make anybody else unhappy, is not in our tradition.

"It was the tradition of the Soviet Union, where Lenin permitted freedom of worship (it was in the constitution of the Soviet Union) but not freedom of religion.”

The cardinal then moved on to the defense of the family:

“…[It’s] not individuals and their rights that are the basis of society, although they might be the basis of a political order, but it is the family that is the basic unit of society: mothers and fathers who have duties and obligations to their children, and children who learn how to be human in the school of love which is the family, which tells us that we’re not the center of the world individually but are rather always someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s brother or sister or cousin or uncle. The family relationships are prior to individual self-consciousness. That is the basis of Catholic social teaching…”

"Marriage, which is the basis of the family, is not something the state can redefine: marriage is an institution of civil society that a just state must acknowledge and protect.

"States that insist on redefining marriage will therefore get pushback from religious institutions that understand that the state is attempting to encroach on territory that is in principle beyond its reach.

"The state will not like this. It will attempt to compel compliance with its redefinitions, and “if this first wave is successfully resisted, there will be a second series of government punishments for our persistence. We will lose state or local government contracts, tax exemptions, anything else that could be characterized as a ‘subsidy’ for our ‘discrimination.’”

And that is why, Cardinal George concluded, “inter-religious coalitions formed to defend the rights of conscience for individuals or for religious institutions should become a vital bulwark against the tide of forces at work in our government and society to reduce religion to a purely private reality. At stake is whether or not the religious voice will maintain its right to be heard in the public square.”

Let the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing “Amen!”

00Saturday, May 22, 2010 4:42 PM
Well, blow me down! Did we know this previously about the Dalai Lama???

Dalai Lama says Marxism has 'moral ethics'
while capitalism is only about making profits

NW YORK, May 21 (AFP) - TIBETAN spiritual leader the Dalai Lama says he's a Marxist, yet credits capitalism for bringing new freedoms to China, the communist country that exiled him.

"Still I am a Marxist," the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader said in New York, where he arrived today with an entourage of robed monks and a heavy security detail to give a series of paid public lectures.

"(Marxism has) moral ethics, whereas capitalism is only how to make profits," the Dalai Lama, 74, said.

However, he credited China's embrace of market economics for breaking communism's grip over the world's most populous country and forcing the ruling Communist Party to "represent all sorts of classes".

"(Capitalism) brought a lot of positive to China. Millions of people's living standards improved," he said.

The Dalai Lama, giving a series of lectures at the Radio City Music Hall in central Manhattan until Sunday, struck a strikingly optimistic note in general, saying that he believed the world is becoming a kinder, more unified place.

Anti-war movements, huge international aid efforts after Haiti's earthquake this year, and the election of Barack Obama as the first black president in a once deeply racist US are "clear signs of human beings being more mature", he said.

The Dalai Lama said he felt a "sense of the oneness of human beings," jokingly adding: "If those thoughts are wrong, please let me know!"

Although China, which forced him to escape for his life in 1959, is loosening up, he had harsh words for a Communist leadership that he said still seeks to rule by fear.

As Chinese become richer, "they want more freedoms, they want an independent judiciary, they want to have a free sort of press", he said.

The Chinese Government, he said, seeks harmony, "but harmony must come out of the heart, not out of fear. So far, methods to bring harmony mostly rely on use of force."

Asked why tickets to his lectures are selling for as much as hundreds of dollars, the Dalai Lama said none of the money went to him personally.

"You should ask the organiser. I have no connection."

He said he was "always asking the organiser: tickets must be cheap. For myself, I've never accepted a single dollar like that."

Some of the money goes to charities, such as hunger relief, he said.

"Unfortunately," he added, bursting into his trademark laughter, sometimes the "organisations are a little richer."

00Thursday, July 29, 2010 3:32 PM

In praise of Father Schall -
and say a prayer for him

by George Weigel

July 28, 2010

One does wonder sometimes about God’s ways with his most devoted servants.

Several years back, Father James Schall, S.J., one of the greatest of American Jesuits and the living embodiment of Catholic liberal learning at Georgetown, was struck by an illness that cost him an eye.

This summer, Father Schall is recovering from some nasty surgery, which involved removing a cancerous jawbone and its attendant teeth and replacing the jaw with bone taken from Schall’s leg.

Father Schall has taken this with his customary faith, good humor, and sang-froid; his convalescence, and his enormous grace amidst suffering, prompt me to pay him long overdue tribute.

He is a deeply learned man, yet he wears his learning lightly. He looks the part of the old-school Jesuit he is: if someone told me that, like the late Cardinal Avery Dulles, Schall uses duct-tape to fix his battered shoes, or that he cut chunks out of old Clorox bottles to make the tab collars for his faded clerical shirts, I wouldn’t be surprised.

He is a marvelous teacher and a great spiritual director; and he is both because he is a man at peace with the absurdities of the world, which he knows to be part of a divine plan he doesn’t presume to grasp fully.

Yet he is no ambiguist: he would rather thrust his hand into the fire than put a thought not congruent with the truths of Catholic faith on paper. I imagine he would happily die a martyr; the thought of the axeman’s face, confronted with Father Schall’s smiling, one-eyed visage, is worth a meditation.

He is the author of many books: some, exercises in political philosophy of the highest caliber; others of a more popular sort. His scholarly work is finely balanced between Jerusalem and Athens, embracing both revelation and reason. And while he has written on just about everything, from Plato to American sports, he brings to whatever engages his attention that sense of wonder with which all true thinking starts.

The man is also very, very funny. Indeed, he once concocted the greatest book subtitle since Gutenberg. Another Sort of Learning is a guide for university students adrift in the vacuities and disarray of so much of contemporary higher education.

An insight into Father Schall’s qualities as mentor to those lost in the groves of academe (or to those wondering, years later, what happened to them there) may be gleaned from what follows the invitation to “another sort of learning” on the book’s cover: “Selected Contrary Essays on How Finally to Acquire an Education While Still at College or Anywhere Else: Containing Some Belated Advice about How to Employ Your Leisure Time When Ultimate Questions Remain Perplexing in Spite of Your Highest Earned Academic Degree, Together with Sundry Books Lists Nowhere Else in Captivity to Be Found.”

Were I ever to find anything I had written on a James Schall book list, I would face the final assize confident that I could give a satisfactory answer to the question of what I had done to all those trees.

How did Catholicism get great priests and teachers like Father Schall? That’s perhaps the most urgent question facing Catholic higher education today, as the generation of giants that emerged from the Catholic intellectual renaissance of the mid-20th century passes from the scene.

My hunch is that the giants we have known — and, in the case of Father Schall, hope to know for years to come — combined a distinctively Catholic rootedness in the intellectual tradition of the West with a sense of adventure in engaging a modernity of which they were neither overawed nor afraid.

A solid son of the American Midwest (Pocahontas, Iowa, in his case), James Schall could think clearly in the turbulence of the late 20th and early 21st century because he was solidly grounded in the enduring truths, and because he was a man of faith who knew that God’s purposes would, finally, win out in history.

May God grant him a swift recovery and many more years of showing us the way.

AMEN! in the past five-plus years, Fr. Schall has been Benedict XVI's most eminent and erudite admirer and the most regular and readable commentator in depth of the Holy Father's Magisterium, not limiting himself to major discourses, but gleaning gems even from the most apparently 'casual' statements reported in the OR.

With Cardinal Dulles and a handful of other Jesuits writing today, he redeems the order's good name and fidelity to its founder, Ignatius of Loyola, in 'thinking with the Church', rather than setting themelves up as the counter-Magisterium, like their colleagues at America magazine do.

God bless Fr. Schall AD MULTOS ANNOS!

Ignatius Insight editor Carl Olson adds this:

Fr. Schall: Humble Ironman
by Carl Olson

Father Schall has been writing regular essays (one or two a month) for Ignatius Insight since 2004. What is impressive is that he has been doing the same thing for several other websites and periodicals. Even more impressive is how good those essays are on a consistent basis: well-written, insightful, thoughtful.

I've read many of his books, including Redeeming the Time (Sheed & Ward), published in 1968, when Father Schall was a lecturer at the Instituto Sociale of the Gregorian University in Rome. It features the same incisive thinking and writing, wide-ranging knowledge of numerous subjects, and the personal touch that is warm, sometimes humorous, and occasionally sarcastic.

My favorite Schall book, as I've mentioned on this blog more than once, continues to be Another Sort of Learning (Ignatius Press, 1988), in part because it was the first Schall book I ever read, in part because it is, I think, a nearly perfect compilation of essays on things that interest me: books, ideas, theology, philosophy, politics, and, yes, sports.

(Over the years, as we've exchanged brief e-mails about his Insight essays, we inevitably share observations about college football and basketball.) It is, as Peter Kreeft described it, a "delightfully odd book about books."

Father Schall is now in his mid-80s (just a year or so older than Pope Benedict, if I'm not mistaken), and as Weigel states, has suffered lately from cancer and surgery.

Please say a prayer for him. He is one of the giants of our age, whose massive learning and prolific output is matched by a holy heart and a humble approach that is an example for clergy, laity, academics, non-academics, authors and readers alike.
00Thursday, October 7, 2010 6:30 PM
Like 25 years too late???

Forgive me but this is the first time I have ever been excited about a Nobel Prize in perhaps decades, because the Prize in Literature goes to a man that I have felt deserved it every year the Literature Prize is awarded since the 1980s, after Gabriel Garcia Marquez won it in 1982. When the first Nobel Prize for the year was announced two days ago, I immediately thought, "Will this finally be Vargas Llosa's year?", not really expecting the Nobel committee to do the right thing!

I have read every book - novel, play, essays, reportage, commentary - he has published since I 'discovered' him through the seminal LA CONVERSACION EN LA CATEDRAL in 1970 (I had picked it at random while browsing the foreign-anguage bookshop in Rockefeller Center on a trip to New York) and immediately thought how amazing that Latin America had another great writer and a riveting, highly original storyteller alongside Garcia Marquez. I scoured the Spanish bookshelves in New York afterwards to get hold of anything and everything he had ever written, soon considered him my favorite contemporary all-around writer, and have watched out ever since for every new book, while singing his praises to everyone who will listen to me!...

Among his large body of work, he has written two of the funniest, LOL&ROFTL-AT-EVERY-PAGE comic novels ever written, TIA JULIA Y EL ESCRIBIDOR, in which he weaves a popular 'radionovela' soap opera with the lives of his protagonists, and PANTALEON Y LAS VISITADORAS, a hilarious satire on how the Peruvian armed forces serviced their troops in the boondocks with prostitutes, presented as a series of letters by a minor officer in charge of this 'service' in a jungle outpost. Both novels, as all his other works, are snapshots and synthesis at the same time of contemporary society, whether it is in his own Peru or elsewhere. I can think of only one contemporary novel (that I have read, that is, because I have not been too happy with much of contemporary English literature) that comes close to the two novels for truly clever humor-cum-social-commentary - John Barth's THE SOTWEED FACTOR...

Mario Vargas Llosa:
Nobel Goes for Well-Known Name

By Radhika Jones

Thursday, Oct. 07, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian novelist, poet, essayist and journalist, was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy announced today.

The academy honored him "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat." He is the first Latin American writer to win the prize since Octavio Paz in 1990. [I hope the citation mentions the literary merits of his work - which are truly outstanding in terms of language, form, style and technical mastery, and his versatility in many genres. It is for their literary value that he deserves the Prize, not because he is also a great social chronicler. Best of all, he is a truly entertaining and engrossing writer, which one can say of few 'literary' giants in our day.]

The Nobel tends to be given as a lifetime achievement award — it goes to a writer, not to a particular work — and Vargas Llosa, 74, earned it with decades of critically acclaimed writing across literary genres.

Born in the small southern Peruvian town of Arequipa in 1936, he was brought up in Bolivia by his maternal grandparents after his parents divorced. He returned to Lima for military school, then studied law, and afterward he lived abroad for nearly two decades, spending time in Spain, France and England.

It was during that time that he began writing novels. His 1963 novel, The Time of the Hero, which drew on his military school experiences and exposed the corruption he encountered there, catapulted him onto the literary scene.

Among his other well-known novels are The Green House, Conversation in the Cathedral and the epic saga The War at the End of the World, a fable of Latin American revolution set in the Brazilian town of Canudos, which the influential American literary critic Harold Bloom cites in his list of the essential works of the Western canon.

[Indeed, LA GUERRA DEL FIN DEL MUNDO is one of a kind (it is populated by dozens of characters, major and minor, who are all unforgettable) - the best of Vargas Llosa's historical fiction, which includes the later LA FIESTA DEL CHIVO on the Trujillo reign of terror in the Dominican Republic told dramatically through the story of one family]. The many ways in which he describes how torture is carried out, entirely through indirect means, is masterful and far more chilling than if he had described the tortures directly.

Interviewed by The Paris Review in 1990, Vargas Llosa ascribed his "obsessive desire to write" to his time at military school. "It was an extremely traumatic experience which in many ways marked the end of my childhood," he said, "the rediscovery of my country as a violent society, filled with bitterness, made up of social, cultural, and racial factions in complete opposition and caught up in sometimes ferocious battle. I suppose the experience had an influence on me; one thing I’m sure of is that it gave rise to the great need in me to create, to invent."

Like many other prominent Latin American writers, Vargas Llosa coupled his urge to invent with an urge to record and comment. He has had a prolific career as a journalist, essayist and critic; among his notable critical works is a study of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

And like many writers in the Latin American tradition, he has been politically active, moving over the decades from the left (he supported Fidel Castro) to a more conservative position. His autobiographical A Fish in the Water chronicles his unsuccessful run for president of Peru in 1990.

In his fiction, Vargas Llosa is a storyteller in the 19th-century mode, one who seeks to "abolish the distance between the story and the reader."

He told The Paris Review: "I think it’s very important that the intellectual element, whose presence is inevitable in a novel, dissolves into the action, into the stories that must seduce the reader not by their ideas but by their color, by the emotions they inspire, by their element of surprise, and by all the suspense and mystery they’re capable of generating."

Vargas Llosa has a high international profile; he is widely read in translation, has served as president of the PEN international association of writers, and in 1995 was awarded the Cervantes Prize, the highest literary honor in the Spanish-speaking world.

In winning the Nobel, he joins an elite group of Latin American writers: Paz, Garcia Marquez and Pablo Neruda. He has taught and lectured around the world; this fall he is in residence at Princeton University, where he was notified of his win.

"I am very grateful to have received this privilege," Vargas Llosa told CNN en Espanol Thursday morning. "The truth is I did not expect it. It was a surprise ... but a pleasant surprise."

It was a pleasant surprise for many armchair Nobel enthusiasts as well, after two years of dark-horse candidates. There is no publicized short list for the prize and nominations are kept secret for 50 years, so literary critics and journalists worldwide are reduced to an annual October ritual of frenzied speculation.

The night before the announcement, British betting house Ladbrokes had the American novelist Cormac McCarthy on top, with odds of 3/1, followed by Japan's Haruki Murakami (5/1) and Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong'o (11/2); Vargas Llosa was at 25/1.

Earlier this week, handicapping half a dozen Latin American authors' chances for victory, the blog The Millions counted Vargas Llosa's name recognition as a possible strike against him. Now, of course, he's as recognized as a writer can be.

00Sunday, October 31, 2010 8:01 PM

I have resisted posting anything here about Obama since the steady collapse of his support among Americans (even among the groups whose support won him the election in 2008), after he and his party committed all sort of legislative anuevers to pass his healthcare bill which eventually won by one vote in the House of Representatives [having falsely promised some anti-abortion Democrats that the bill would not use federal money to fund abortions]... But for the record, let me post this objective account written for a London newspaper by an American political analyst who summarizes everything that has gone wrong. Objective, because it relies completely on the actions that have led to the situation today in the US, and completely avoids any personal judgment on Obama....

Why the US has turned against Obama
Obama's Democrats are about to take a hiding in the mid-term elections
as Americans appear to reject big government growing ever bigger

By Michael Barone

24 Oct 2010

Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the 'Washington Examiner', a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and co-author of 'The Almanac of American Politics'.

Why have American voters gone so sour on Barack Obama's Democratic party? It's a question that must puzzle many in Britain who – Conservative as well as Labour and Lib Dem – welcomed Obama's election two years ago and saw him leading America and the world into broad, sunlit uplands. But now it appears that Obama's party is about to take what George W Bush called a "thumping" in the mid-term elections on November 2.

It looks to be quite a fall. Obama won the popular vote in 2008 by a 53 to 46 per cent margin. That's not quite a landslide, but he won a higher percentage of the vote than any Democratic candidate in history except for Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. More than John Kennedy, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, Grover Cleveland; more even than Bill Clinton.

And Democrats won the popular vote for the House of Representatives – a key index of public support – by a 54 to 43 per cent margin. That was their best showing since 1986.

Polls now suggest that those percentages could turn upside down. Republicans lead on the generic ballot question – which party's candidates will you support for the House of Representatives – by an average of 49 to 42 per cent. In no previous election cycle since the Gallup organisation started asking the question in 1942 have Republicans led by more than 4 per cent.

Now in Gallup's "low turnout" likely voter model they lead by 17. Republicans seem very likely to win more – perhaps many more – than the 39 seats they need for a majority in the House and might, if they get lucky, win the 10 seats they need for a majority in the Senate.

After the 2008 elections, Democratic strategist James Carville predicted that Democrats would dominate US elections for 40 years; Republican strategist Karl Rove had predicted something similar for his party after George W Bush's narrower win in 2004.

And Tony Blair's New Labour dominated British politics for nine or 10 years after its first landslide victory in 1997. But the Obama Democrats' dominance turned out to last not 40 years but 40 weeks – until Republicans overtook Democrats in the polls in August 2009. What gives?

In the 1930s, John Maynard Keynes famously said that practical men of business, who acknowledged no intellectual influences, were actually the slaves of some defunct economist. Today I would say that the Obama Democrats, who acknowledge no intellectual superiors, have been the slaves of defunct political scientists and historians.

To be specific, the defunct Progressive political scientists and New Deal historians. The Progressives argued that history inevitably and rightly moves Left, from no government to big government. The New Deal historians taught that in times of economic distress, voters will be particularly supportive of, or at least unusually amenable to, a vast expansion of government.

Obama and Democratic congressional leaders, coming to power in the wake of financial crisis and in the midst of a deep recession, acted on this theory. Oddly, Obama deferred almost entirely to the congressional leaders on the details of the legislation. Don't you worry about the small stuff, he seemed to feel; history is on your side.

They passed a $787 billion stimulus package which, not accidentally, increased the baseline budgets of many agencies – a permanent expansion of government. A third of the money went to state and local governments, to spare public employee union members the ravages of the recession that were afflicting everyone else. (Unions, which mostly represent public employees, gave Democrats $400 million in the 2008 campaign cycle.)

They passed a health care bill that was the most unpopular major legislation passed by Congress since the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. That law, which allowed settlers to decide whether to allow slavery in these new territories, resulted in the disappearance of one major political party, the demotion to minority status of the other and led to civil war. The effects of Obamacare will not be so dire, though some longtime Democratic officeholders may think so on November 3.

The Obama Democrats gave the theories of the Progressive political scientists and the New Deal historians as much of a fair test as a theory ever gets in our messy, real world. They clearly flunked.

One reason is that the history cited in their support is not, in my view, so unambiguously on their side. Yes, voters did give Franklin Roosevelt's Democratic party big majorities in 1934 and 1936 after their New Deal policies seemed to stop the deflationary downward spiral and the economy started growing again.

But FDR's expansion of government did not pull unemployment down below 10 per cent in the 1930s. If you look at polls towards the end of that decade, you see that most Americans felt government was spending too much, that uncertainty about levels of taxation and regulation was stopping entrepreneurs from creating jobs and that the unions had too much power.

It is at least arguable that Roosevelt's Democrats were heading for defeat in 1940. Such a defeat was avoided because by November 1940, the Second World War had broken out. Hitler and Stalin were allies, and with their confederates in Italy and Japan were in command of or threatening most of Europe and Asia, with Britain and its empire standing alone against them.

In these dire circumstances, voters understandably picked the unflappable Roosevelt over his opponent, a utility executive with no experience of public office.

In other words, in times of economic distress voters do not necessarily support big government policies. Britons should know this better than Americans. British voters resoundingly rejected Labour in the elections of 1931 and 1935.

Voters in Canada and Australia also rejected big government parties in that decade. Only after victory in the war, which enormously enhanced the prestige of the state, did Britons vote for Labour.

We are making history, the Obama Democrats proclaimed as they passed their health care bill, over the objections of a majority of the US electorate, expressed through polls and the unlikely medium of the voters of Massachusetts (who chose Republican Scott Brown for what had been Edward Kennedy's Senate seat in January this year).

What the Democrats had in mind was the New Deal historians' version of history. But that was not a fully accurate picture of the 1930s, and America today is a nation even less eager to have government "spread the wealth around", as Barack Obama told Joe the Plumber in Toledo, Ohio, in October 2008.

For economic redistribution is not a contemporary idea. It is an old, fusty idea, first advocated by elite, academic theorists a century or more ago. They saw around them a society in which small numbers of people had built giant firms and aggregated great wealth; in which masses of people, many of them immigrants from unfamiliar places, lived in packed tenements in burgeoning cities and dim factory towns; in which the ordinary person never accumulated significant property, indeed may not even have a bank account.

Spread-the-wealth policies, these theorists imagined, would make these people better off and would also prevent revolution. For they did not know, as we do, that violent revolution Paris or Petrograd style would not come to Britain or America.

We no longer live in such a country. Ordinary Americans, over a lifetime, accumulate significant wealth in housing and financial instruments. That process has taken a hit from the recession, but most Americans haven't abandoned its pursuit.

They believe big government policies are stifling the economic growth that makes wealth accumulation possible, and that the $400 tax rebate in the stimulus package doesn't make up the difference.

The exact dimensions of the Democrats' rout are not yet clear. Nor is it clear whether Republicans will advance serious policies to roll back their expansion of government, and whether voters will support them if they do. Britain may give us some clues on that. But we do know that Americans who embraced "hope and change" two years ago are now rejecting the change they were given.

IMHO, the radical agenda so singlemindedly pursued by Obama and the Democrats effectively unmasked Obama for the phony that he is - a phoniness I felt in the gut from the moment I first became aware of him when he addressed the Democratic national convention in 2004. I found his rhetoric as well as his delivery contrived and annoying, and could never understand why he was universally acclaimed since then to be 'eloquent' and a 'great communicator'. [who, it turns out, uses a teleprompter even for meetings in the Oval Office with small groups, and who has said the most disastrous things in public whenever he does not have the 'security net' of a teleprompter, ironically now given its own acronym, TOTUS - Teleprompter of the United States].

For me, he was always 'eloquent' of phoniness, not of anything else - and he has always communicated illusion and delusion, not truth. (In fact, I am so turned off by his phony eloquence that I always rush to press the MUTE button on my remote whenever there is a TV clip that shows him speaking. The few seconds that I get to hear of him are bad enough. Then I get to read or hear about what it was he said, and I light a candle that the MUTE option exists!]

Since he became President, he has not hesitated to lie again and again - whether in half-truths or in outright lies - to advance himself and his cause. And in the closing days of the current campaign, he has sounded increasingly and stridently very much the rabble-rousing demagogic 'community organizer' hypothesized by his radical guru Saul Alinsky, rather than a President of the United States.

Thank God, the American people have finally seen him for what he is!

On the other hand, they can only blame themselves for having bought so completely into the media adulation that sold Obama as literally the second coming of Christ. An adulation inspired by media's ideologically driven and therefore irrational contempt for anything 'conservative', political or social, a contempt which simply blinds their reason.

Because they so completely bought into Obama's narcissistic image of himself, they therefore failed to scrutinize his record - which was really very thin on achievement but abundant with evidence of his radical upbringing and personal convictions. But none of this ever came to light in the full two years that he campaigned to be President.

About the only good thing I can say about him at this point is that he was able to prove that Americans were ready to elect a black President. I only wish it could have been a worthy black President. I always thought someone like Condoleeza Rice would have been the ideal first black - and woman - President.

Those who may be interested in a book that does scrutinize Obama's cultural and political background may check out this interview with the sociologist who wrote it:

00Wednesday, November 17, 2010 1:28 AM
New York archbishop likes being
on the front lines 'with the folks'

Left photo: New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, right, shortly after his election as the new president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops was announced; and right photo, with Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., who was elected vice president.

NEW YORK, Nov. 16 (CNS) -- Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York is a man familiar with the inner workings of the Catholic Church but once described himself as "a sort of fish-fry and bingo guy" who preferred being "in the field ... on the front lines ... with the folks."

The gregarious prelate was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 16, the second day of the bishops' fall general meeting in Baltimore. He will begin serving his three-year term at the close of the meeting Nov. 18, succeeding Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George.

Since being installed as head of the New York Archdiocese in April 2009, Archbishop Dolan has announced a strategic plan to close underperforming archdiocesan elementary schools and change the traditional parish governance model, addressed the growing controversy over plans to build an Islamic community center and mosque a few blocks from ground zero, and urged Catholics to make Mass the center of each Sunday.

At a February 2009 news conference in New York after the announcement of his appointment to the city, the archbishop said, "The vitality of this great archdiocese is in its parishes."

"The priests are on the front lines," he said. "I am their servant. You can count on me to help them."

"I look forward to being with the priests," he added. "That's not a chore; that's a choice."

Archbishop Dolan, 60, has been serving as chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency. With his election as president, he will have to step down as chairman and will appoint his successor. He is co-chair and moderator of Jewish affairs for the USCCB.

Before his appointment to New York, he was archbishop of Milwaukee for seven years.

Mons. Dolan hugs his mother, Shirley, shortly after his consecraiton as Archbishop of New York at St. Patrick's Church in 2009.

Although the New York archdiocesan strategic plan is designed to reduce a growing deficit by closing underperforming schools, Archbishop Dolan has repeatedly pledged that there will be a seat in a Catholic school for any child who wants it. He called the new archdiocesan plan "the beginning of a recovery of confidence in the school system."

The plan will channel funds from the sale or rental of shuttered properties to an education fund.

As controversy grew over plans to build an Islamic community center and mosque a few blocks from ground zero in New York, the archbishop worked with Jewish and Muslim religious leaders to identify clerics and laypeople to invite to interreligious discussions to work out conflicts as they occur.

"I'm afraid we have maybe not been as energetic with fostering relations with our Islamic brothers and sisters," he said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, adding "our coming together is not to say we can settle the mosque site issue,"' but "the wider issue of church, Jewish, Islamic tensions."

Earlier this year, Archbishop Dolan issued his first pastoral since being named to head the New York Archdiocese. In it, he urged Catholics to make Mass the center of their Sunday, saying the observance of the Lord's day is essential for the church, "the vibrancy of our faith" and the "clarity of our Catholic identity."

In March, as allegations of clergy sexual abuse in Europe, particularly Germany, made news, he told New York Catholics that the "tidal wave of headlines" about the abuse and new stories about an old case in Wisconsin have "knocked us to our knees once again."

"Anytime this horror, vicious sin and nauseating crime is reported, as it needs to be, victims and their families are wounded again, the vast majority of faithful priests bow their heads in shame anew, and sincere Catholics experience another dose of shock, sorrow and even anger," he said at the end of Palm Sunday Mass March 28.

He also defended Pope Benedict XVI against claims by some, including the media, that he had not done enough to address the abuse situation.

"What deepens the sadness now is the unrelenting insinuations against the Holy Father himself, as certain sources seem frenzied to implicate the man who, perhaps more than anyone else, has been the leader in purification, reform and renewal that the church so needs," he said.

Timothy Dolan was born Feb. 6, 1950, in St. Louis. He studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 1976.

Three phases: Dolan after First Communion, 1956; Dolan at his first Mass as priest, 1976; and as Archbishop of New York, 2009.

After his ordination, he served in parish ministry, then earned a doctorate in American church history from The Catholic University of America, Washington.

He returned to St. Louis and served in parish ministry from 1983 to 1987, when he was appointed to a five-year term as a secretary at the papal nunciature in Washington. He again returned to St. Louis in 1992 as vice rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

In 1994, he was named rector of the North American College, serving in Rome until 2001, when he was named auxiliary bishop of St. Louis by Pope John Paul II.

Pope John Paul named him archbishop of Milwaukee in 2002, and he served there until Pope Benedict appointed him to New York.

A lengthy profile entitled 'Archbishop of Charm' is in a Sept. 2009 issue of the ultra-liberal New York Magazine:

00Monday, January 10, 2011 10:34 AM
The Guardian of London, which Catholics generally ought to be wary of, must be commended for this piece of enterprise reporting which takes the Anglophone reader, for a change, beyond the generalities used to describe the Asia Bibi case to some specifics , and does its best about trying to present a culture that is very alien to the Western mindset...

Salmaan Taseer, Aasia Bibi and
Pakistan's struggle with extremism

In the home village of the Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy,
little sympathy for the politician who was assassinated for supporting her

by Declan Walsh

8 January 2011

ITANWALI, Pakistan - Aasia Bibi isn't at home. Children play at the blue gate of her modest home in Itanwali, a sleepy Punjabi village. Bibi, the woman at the heart of Pakistan's blasphemy furore – which triggered the murder of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer last week – is in jail, desperately praying that she won't be executed. Her neighbours are hoping she will be.

"Why hasn't she been killed yet?" said Maafia Bibi , a 20-year-old woman standing at the gate of the house next door. Her eyes glitter behind a scarf that covered her face. "You journalists keep coming here asking questions but the issue is resolved. Why has she not been hanged?"

Maafia was one of a group of about four women who accused Bibi, also known as Aasia Noreen, who is Christian, of insulting the prophet Muhammad during a row in a field 18 months ago. But she will not specify what Bibi actually said, because to repeat the words would itself be blasphemy. And so Bibi was sentenced to hang on mere hearsay – a Kafkaesque twist that seems to bother few in Itanwali, a village 30 miles outside Lahore.

A few streets away Maulvi Muhammad Saalim is preparing for Friday prayers. The 31-year-old mullah, a curly-bearded man with darting, kohl-rimmed eyes and woolly waistcoat, played a central role in marshalling the blasphemy charge. When a court sentenced Bibi to death last November – the first woman in Pakistan's history – he "wept with joy", he says. "We had been worried the court would award a lesser sentence. So the entire village celebrated."

The young cleric excuses himself: it is time for Friday prayers. Padding across the marble floor in his socks, he plugs in a crackly speaker, and issues a droning call that rings out across the village. A madrasa student shoos a stray goat out of the mosque courtyard. Villagers wrapped in wool blankets shuffle in.

Judging by the sermon it is not Christianity that was preoccupying Saalim this Friday. For 30 minutes he rails against the evils of drinking, gambling, kite flying, pigeon-racing, cards and, oddly enough, insurance. "All of these are the work of the devil," he says, before launching into a fresh recitation.

Saalim was born in 1979, just as General Zia ul-Haq, the dictator many blame for Pakistan's radicalising wave, was hitting his stride. Saalim reflects the influences of his generation. He hails from Bahawalnagar, close to Zia's home. He studied for eight years in Pakistan's "madrasa belt", close to the city of Multan. Now he is imparting his learning to another 150 students in his own madrasa, which follows the strict Deobandi tradition. "It is the way of God," he says.

Optimism is difficult in Pakistan, a country prone to misfortune that judders from one crisis to another. After the events of recent days, however, it seems that what matters is not whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. What matters is who poured the water.

A row over a glass of water is at the root of the case against the 46-year-old Christian mother of five. And it is indirectly the reason why a rogue policeman killed Taseer outside a trendy Islamabad café last Tuesday, plunging the country into a fresh torment.

The argument started on a hot summer's day in June 2009 as Aasia Bibi picked falsa berries – a purple fruit used to make squash – with her Muslim neighbours. She brought them water to drink; they refused to touch her glass because she was a Christian. A vicious row ensued, although what was exactly said remains a matter of contention.

Bibi's accusers say she flung vile insults at Islam and the prophet Muhammad. "She got very annoyed," recalls Maafia. "But it was normal. We could not drink from that glass. She is Christian, we are Muslim, and there is a vast difference between the two. We are a superior religion."

Bibi's supporters say she used no religious slander, and was resisting pressure to convert to Islam. "She said those women used to badger her to convert to Islam. And one day she just got fed up with it," says Shehrbano Taseer, 21-year-old daughter of the slain governor, who has visited Bibi in jail.

After Bibi's conviction last November, the case seized the attention of Taseer, the outspoken governor of Punjab. Outraging conservatives, he visited Bibi in jail along with his wife, Aamna, and his daughter. He posed for photos, offered warm support, and promised a presidential pardon. He spoke on high authority – President Asif Ali Zardari told Taseer he was "completely behind him", a reliable source said.

The bold intercession had been prompted by Taseer's daughter. During a family holiday at the Punjab government's winter residence in Murree, a hill resort above Islamabad, Shehrbano had alerted her father to Bibi's plight through her Twitter feed. "He took the phone, read the tweets, and sat and thought about it for several hours. Then he said we should do something," she recalls.

He was playing with fire. Religious leaders were outraged at Taseer's description of the blasphemy statute as a "black law". Protesters torched the governor's effigy outside his sweeping residence in central Lahore. A radical cleric in Peshawar's oldest mosque offered a 500,000 rupee (£3,800) reward to anyone who killed Bibi. Then last Tuesday Taseer's guard, 26-year-old Mumtaz Qadri, turned his weapon on his boss and pumped him with bullets.

The killing has rocked Pakistan more than any event since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007. And the unseemly public reaction has laid bare an ugly seam of Pakistani society, suggesting a country in the grip of a rash Islamic fervour.

Last Wednesday 500 clerics from the mainstream Barelvi sect, who had previously criticised the Taliban, forbade their followers from offering condolences to Taseer's family. Another religious group has planned a rally in Karachi tomorrow to protest against law reform. Posters for the rally singled out Sherry Rehman, a brave ruling party MP who shared Taseer's outspoken views, for criticism. One preacher in the city has already dubbed her Wajib ul Qatil by one preacher – "deserving of death". Fears that she could follow Taseer hardly seem overstated.

For all that, there is less religion behind the blasphemy furore than meets the eye. Critics say the law is, often as not, used as a tool of coercion against vulnerable minorities, or to settle petty disputes, or both. Typically, disputes culminate in one man claiming that his enemy burned pages from the Qur'an – even though it is a mystery why anyone would choose to do so in a religion-obsessed country such as Pakistan. Many victims of the blasphemy law, in fact, are Muslim.

When Christians are targeted, the motivation is often an ancient subcontinental prejudice . Christians have traditionally worked as cleaners and sweepers; many Muslims still consider them "unclean".

"This whole business about religion is just a decoy, a smokescreen," said Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch. "It's often a case of simple caste prejudice."

In Itanwali, a rich agricultural village surrounded by swaying fields of sugar cane, wheat and vegetables, nourished by a British-era canal, villagers have traditionally voted for the Pakistan People's Party, of which governor Taseer was a staunch member. But there is little sympathy in the wake of his death.

"We feel sad," says village elder Chaudhry Muhammad Tufail, after Friday prayers. He betrays a faint smile; the crowd gathered behind in the mosque courtyard snigger. With 18 acres of land and a job as lumbardar – the man who controls land deeds and access to water – Tufail is one the most powerful men in Itanwali. He played a key role in driving the blasphemy charges against Aasia Bibi.

Her supporters say the two had had a bitter prior dispute. "There was an argument over water, and she said that his buffalo were eating the fodder for her goats," says Shehzad Kamran, a Christian preacher who has visited her in jail.

Tufail denies there had been any problem. "The law has taken its course," he says firmly.

The problem is exacerbated by militancy. At Itanwali's brick kiln, labourers toil under a towering chimney spewing black smoke. Several say that Lashkar e-Taiba – the militant group that carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks – and Sipah e-Sahaba, a vicious sectarian militant outfit, were active in the area. Christian aid workers, speaking anonymously, say that attacks on Christians – including the Gojra attack that killed eight people in 2009 – have been orchestrated by such groups.

In death Taseer has been deified as the fountainhead of liberal Pakistan. The reality was more complex. Sharp, brash and undiplomatic, Taseer was a political bruiser who devoted much of his energies as governor to frustrating his old political enemies, the Sharif family, in Lahore. Although an instinctive liberal, he had also taken a job under the military ruler, Pervez Musharraf. And in person he could be profane and brusque as well as charming.

But he was unafraid to take a principled stand against the froth-mouthed mullahs and their violent supporters – a rare quality in Pakistani politics. "He was a larger than life figure, with all the faults and qualities of any human being," said writer Ahmed Rashid. "But during his last stint in politics he took up human-rights issues in a way he had never done before. I think he matured a lot."

Discrimination is nothing new to Pakistan's Christian minority; vicious attacks in small Punjabi towns have heightened the sense of isolation. But since the death of Taseer – their most prominent defender –they feel more imperilled than ever.

At a Lahore safe house, a family described how the blasphemy law had ruined their lives. Yusuf Masih and his wife Suria have been on bail since last July, when a local mullah had them charged with blasphemy. Their crime was to have put scrap plastic sheeting on the roof of their outdoor toilet, to keep out the rain. Unknown to them, the sheet contained a religious verse. "We had no idea," says Masih, a stubble-chinned cook who cannot read or write.

As they await trail they live on the run, flitting between the homes of relatives and a safehouse provided by a Christian charity. They desperately hope they will be acquitted. But like almost all blasphemy victims, there is no question of returning home. When they ventured back two weeks ago to collect a few belongings, they found the place ransacked. "They took everything," says Masih.

Aasia Bibi is unlikely to face the hangman's noose. [Let us pray Walsh is right!] No blasphemy convict has ever been hanged in Pakistan. In fact many blasphemy prosecutions are overturned by the appeal courts, which are to some degree immune to the pressures of the mob that afflict local benches. Usually the judges simply find that there's no evidence to support the case. But that doesn't mean there's no danger.

Up to 40 people have been killed by vigilantes, including policemen, according to human-rights workers. Not only the accused are at risk. In 1997 a High Court judge, Arif Iqbal Bhatti, was assassinated after acquitting three people in a high-profile case. Then last week Taseer became the first politician to pay the price.

Among liberals, outrage at the manner of his death has been matched only by despondency at the public reaction. The megaphone stridency of Pakistan's right wing has met a pathetic political response. Terrified of being on the "wrong" side of the blasphemy debate, opposition parties bleated words of soft condemnation after Taseer's death on Tuesday. His own colleagues were hardly better.

On 30 December the government announced it would not repeal the blasphemy law; days later interior minister Rehman Malik announced that he would personally shoot anyone found guilty of blasphemy.

Liberals were disgusted at the sight of lawyers showering Taseer's killer with rose petals as he was bundled out of court. "They stink of hatred," tweeted commentator Nadeem Farooq Paracha. But the voices of protest seem to be in the minority, as right-wing mullahs and the media cast a long and dark shadow. It is hard to know what qualifies as hate speech in Pakistan any more.

Bibi's chances of freedom are remote. Legal experts say her appeal may not come to court for years. "These cases often go on for a decade," says Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch. At any rate, she might be safer in jail.

At the Itanwali mosque, Maulvi Saalim predicts that Bibi would be killed if she were freed. "A passionate Muslim would reach her and kill her," he says.

Would he do the job himself? "There are good Muslims everywhere," he responds with a shrug. "Anything can happen."

00Sunday, January 23, 2011 10:31 PM
Here is an interesting analysis of the Berlusconi scandal by someone who is not from the Western media...

Italy sees macho self in Berlusconi -
besides, right now, they have
no alternative to his leadership

by Rashmee Roshan Lall
Jan 23, 2011

ROME - It says a great deal about Italy that even in this, the 150th year of the country's unification, Italians remain profoundly divided about whether Silvio Berlusconi stays or goes.

Berlusconi's image may be pock-marked by repeated eruptive bouts of scandal about his sex life and alleged proclivity for underdressed young women. He is politically weak, with just a tiny parliamentary majority and limited ability to implement any kind of legislative programme.

In December, rubbish piled up in and around Naples, a situation seen by many as a metaphor for the country's wasted state; parliament was adjourned for most of November and a cabinet meeting famously failed to set up a nuclear energy agency or appoint new members of the stock exchange watchdog, the Consob.

The parlous state of affairs led Emma Marcegaglia, president of Confindustria, the employers' association, to declare: "The country is paralysed, and the government is absent."

And yet Italians appear to see no reason to rise up as a man and seek the departure of a leader who must acutely embarrass a country with 3,000 years of history.

The Pope has weighed in – cautiously. On Friday, in his first apparent comment on the sex scandal engulfing the prime minister of this fervently Catholic country, Benedict XVI said public officials must offer a strong moral example and "society and public institutions must rediscover their soul, their moral and spiritual roots" .

It is being seen as a reference to a spreading stain across Italy's reputation. Caligula, the Roman emperor , may have been extravagant and sexually perverse but as one Italian opposition politician remarked, "compared with Berlusconi, Caligula was a prude". [An exaggeration by someone who has obviously not read enough history!]

Even so, Italian public opinion is still holding up. Fifty per cent of those interviewed in a recent Ipsos poll thought the scandal would not affect Berlusconi and could even boost his support in the event of an early election . Only a slight majority — 54 % — did not share the prime minister's view that he was being unfairly persecuted.

Much of the world might be entitled to ask: Is Italy immune to all sense of shame? No, but there are two reasons that Berlusconi continues in office and stands a good chance of re-election if polls are held earlier than the scheduled 2013.

The first is the state of Italian politics. The second is Italy's image of itself.

Politically, Berlusconi is boosted enormously by the TINA factor — there is no alternative (or there appears to be none) and the opposition seems disunited and directionless.

But more importantly, Berlusconi — even though his image is pitted by porn scandals — has in 17 years of public life always been viewed by supporters as a lovable rogue. The truth is most Italian men believe that Berlusconi has been doing what they would, given the chance.

At every turn, Berlusconi has shamelessly played to the gallery, stoking Italians' famous sense of inherent machismo. He has said it is "better to love women than to be gay".

He has mocked the suggestion he employed a ring of prostitutes and showgirls for orgies citing physical limitations: "I'd be better than Superman if I'd had orgies with 24 girls."

And in a quote with which many Italian men would fundamentally agree, he has denied consorting with prostitutes because "I have never paid a woman...I have never understood what satisfaction there is if the pleasure of conquest is absent."

Some would say that Berlusconi retains such a large bedrock of support because he illustrates and amplifies Italy's idea of itself as a unique culture even in this homogenized and politically correct 21st century.

As Mark Twain put it, the creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo. In Italy, men still treat women with gallantry and value machismo. A paternalistic society, men are still expected to be masculine and women to look good.

Repeated surveys have shown that a typical Italian woman dedicates five hours a day to the house, while men just one. A scant 5% of senior managerial positions are held by women. The appointment , three years ago, of Emma Marcegaglia to the helm of Confindustria, was something of a rarity in a country with one of the lowest rates of female employment in the European Union.

But the real point about Berlusconi and his love life is that it may all be a bit of a sham. The prime minister may have led an unregulated life — and thrown lots of bacchanalian "bunga bunga" parties — but he is 74.

A 389-page prosecutors' report of wire-tapped conversations between Berlusconi's babes appear to show him as a "cash machine for which you need no PIN" , an "old fool" and what one Italian newspaper headlined as the "tragedy of a ridiculous man."

This too, funnily enough, illustrates the real state of Italy's libido. Despite everything , Italy has the lowest birthrate in Europe and faces the economic implications of an ageing population. But like its prime minister, it seems desperate to maintain an image of la dolce vita, eternal youth and boundless virility.

It is, of course, very easy to chastise and see nothing good in rogues like Berlusconi, whio seems to enjoy being a rogue, but here is an editorial by Giuliano Ferrara who cuts Berlusconi some slack...

The Cavaliere does not owe anyone an act of contrition.
Not even the Pope, who has not asked it of him, as
claimed by the bards of a fake moralistic crusade.
But he should seek to explain himself to the public
simply and avoid further occasions of censure


January 23, 2011

Berlusconi does not owe himself, his friends or enemies – and not even Cardiinal Bertone or the Pope – an act of contrition. As Bossi said with his common sense, this is a man who has already been so barbarously besieged and hounded – in unprecedented ways that have nothing to do with the free functioning of the organs of legal order or of checks and balances in a modern civilian government.

Nor is there any right on the part of pseudo-libertine secularists - who have not only preached the legitimate separation of Church and State but even a grotesque scission between the rational ethos of a Christian culture and the criteria for public and private life in our time – to now demand a moralizing crusade by the Vatican, or behave as though they were the spiritual directors of the Prime Minister by order of the Italian bishops!

The Pope, who is a great intellectual and a a natural father by temperament - he is severe but understanding – explained Thursday quite eloquently that public institutions should rediscpver their soul, i.e., an ethos.

The Church is not asking to wipe out the new dimension of subjectivity which is so strongly present in the modern mentality and rooted in the Christian idea, borne out by the theological thinking of Vatican II, of freedom of conscience.

There has been progress, the Pope noted, in better protection for the individual private sphere which in the past was considered subordinate to a harsher institutional morality.

This is the literal sense of his words, which was read hastily and exploitatively as a banal censure of the human and public behavior of the Prime Minister.

The Pope's words have been read almost as though they were his direct response to the partisan demands directed at the Church by the preachers of 'decency' - the same who have always been his adversaries, opposed to him and his fight against the ethical relativism and moral indifference to the great questions of life and existence, exhibited by the ruling classes.

But the Pope also added that if modern society does not recognize an objective base for a personal and communitarian ethos - a base which, for the Pope, is God's love for man, and for the theologian-philosopher Ratzinger consists in the intelligent use of human reason - then modern man can only drift to insincerity and sorrow.

We miserable Berlusconians, liberals as well as rebels, who are of the Ratzinger persuasion, infamously and resoundingly lost in a mad electoral contest the battle to keep together the element of human freedom and the responsibility that goes with it, in the new political world that emerged from the crisis of the Republic in the 1990s.

Love, sex, matrimony, family and life – categories to be considered without pharisaical hypocrisy, but with a true sentiment of good humor and moral joy – were for us standards to fly as a sign of our attidude even in politics, but were essentially rejected at the polls and considered as an anachronistic crusade.

Rejected by those hypocrites who now presume to give the Prime Minister a lesson through judicial doggedness and inquisitorial siege, and to sue him for his weaknesses before every possible tribunal, including the moral tribunal of the Holy See (which has become the object of surreal calls for 'intervention' from whining holier-than-thou Catholics and hyper-secularists with Don Juan tendencies themselves).

In the name of this position – simplistic and open to criticism, but seriously argued and lived for years by its advocates without arrogance – we think that Berlusconi should explain himself in a secular confession of his human weaknesses, relating his personal character – which is famously kind and positive, happy and benevolent – to his own way of being Christian, which is simple even in its disorder; and to do so in direct words, different from the soap-opera scenario of endless lawsuits and lawyers to which circumstances and his lifestyle have constrained him.

In short, Berlusconi would do well to find the right words to express not just his anger against those who are besieging him and their often fanatic and intractable motivations, but also the condition of very human disquiet and suffering that he now lives, his awareness that he has passed certain limits in the wake of a failed marriage, his difficult battle against the temptations inherent in having his colossal wealth, and having to be encumbered with the wide-open public scrutiny of someone who is really very private by nature and by rearing.

In history, many statesmen, caught in personal episodes of crookery and/or surly and unpretty behavior, have been able to create around them an atmosphere of sincerity that invites understanding when they make apologies to the community in which they live.

I am not calling for a confessional act, as such, from the Prime Minister, but for some manifestation of personal modesty, of civic consciousness, of an intelligent acknowledgment of reality.

There are those calls to police stations that should not be made; excesses of ostentation and trituals of pleasure that could be avoided; his network of casual easygoing relationships that he should not pursue in his own homes, and that should not affect his personal life, his friends and his work.

There is no contradiction between rejecting uncivil legal procedures and a statement of truth and personal responsibility for those parts of his life that have been publicly disclosed in the indecent voyeuristic mush fed by the legal system and the media.

On the contrary, there is consistency. The better Berlusconi is someone who, despite the disproportion and asymmetry of his relationship to himself and to others, is able to recognize, with subtle self-irony and beyond the humility which he does not lack, even those vaguely crazy traits of his own character.

00Tuesday, February 1, 2011 3:25 PM

4 Nobel Prize laureates given
'Science for Peace' awards

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 31, 2011 ( On Saturday, Jan. 29, the World Federation of Scientists honored four Nobel Prize laureates who have distinguished themselves for promoting science in the service of peace.

The ceremony to confer the "Science for Peace" awards took place at the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, located in the Vatican Gardens.

With this award, the federation seeks to promote the Erice Statement, initiated in 1982 to affirm the commitment of science and technology to serve the cause of peace rather than war. Three years after its inception, 10,000 scientists worldwide had signed the document - among them, 130 Nobel Prize recipients.

Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and of Social Sciences, opened the ceremony, which was presided over by Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists.

Werner Arber, recently named president of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences, was one of the laureates who received the award. Arber, a molecular biologist, received the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1978 together with Hamilton Smith and Daniel Nathans for the discovery of restriction endonucleases. The development of recombinant DNA technology is based on their work.

The peace award was also given to Yuan Tseh Lee, Nobel Prize recipient in 1986 for his contribution to the understanding of chemical elementary processes.

Gerard 't Hooft, 1999 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics for his studies on the quantum structure of electroweak interactions, was also recognized on Saturday for his work to promote peace through science.

The fourth honoree was Samuel Ting, who in 1976 received the Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering the subatomic J/ψ particle.

After the award ceremony, a symposium was held on the importance of science in the culture of the third millennium. It focused on the fact that, 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world has not yet discontinued the arms race.

On this issue, the president of the World Federation of Scientists said that the "enemy number one of peace in the world is the technical-scientific secrecy: While secret laboratories exist, the arms race will be inevitable."

Zichichi noted that at the federation's first meeting in Geneva, the then executives Ronald Reagan of the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union proposed the opening of all the laboratories, accepting the invitation of the scientists who, meeting in Erice, Italy, signed the manifesto.

However, he lamented that after three decades, scientific secrecy continues to be a threat exactly as it was at the time of the Cold War.

At present, explained Zichichi, the most hardened enemies of science, peace and humanity are the nefarious ideologies that incite hatred and dominance.

00Wednesday, February 23, 2011 11:34 AM

Asia Bibi from prison:
God will hear my prayers

Asia Bibi, in photos released by her family. Center photo: Her three daughters (left to right, aged 12, 18, and 10), hold up a photo of their mother in Pakistani army uniform.

Madrid, Spain, Feb 23, 2011 (CNA).- Speaking from the Sheikhupura Prison near Lahore, Pakistan, Asia Bibi, the first Christian woman condemned to death under the country’s Blasphemy Law, is reiterating her innocence and says she trusts “God will hear my prayers and will help me get out of here and get back home to my family.”

In an interview published Feb. 20 by the Spanish daily, El Pais, Bibi recalls the beginning of her calvary and maintains that she is innocent of charges of committing blasphemy.

“One day I complained to a tax collector because he was allowing his animals to run free and they were damaging my house. He insulted me, and from then on he began a campaign against me,” Asia says.

A few days later, during her job as a farm worker, she offered a drink of water to her co-workers. “They told me they could not drink from the same jug as a Christian, and we began to argue, but I never blasphemed,” she insists, noting that five days later she was accused of blasphemy and taken to prison.

She is currently the only prisoner condemned to death among the 2,400 prisoners in the country. Ninety-five percent of those in prison are men.

Asia will mark two years in prison this coming June. She occupies a nine square-foot cell and spends her days reading the Bible. She cooks her own food out of fear she could be poisoned by Muslim radicals.

She agrees with her lawyers that the legal process is affected by pressure from Islamic fundamentalists.

“I did not commit blasphemy,” she says. “I would never speak against the Prophet. And I believe that God sees all and in the end things will be made right.” She thinks her case may be related to some of the difficulties experienced with other people in her town who discriminated against her family because they are Christians.

Asia says she suffers greatly because of the rumors of death threats against her family and that she terribly misses her twelve year-old daughter Isham. “She is my joy, she is a very good girl with a bright smile. It hurts me so bad not to see her grow up.”

Muslim extremists have offered more than $5,000 in reward money to anyone who assassinates Asia. Her husband is unable to work and her children cannot attend school, as radical Muslims have declared them to be targets.

“I have to confront this trial with patience and courage,” she tells El Pais.

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law groups together a number of norms based on Sharia Law to punish any statement or action considered offensive to Allah, Muhammad or the Quran. Anyone can file an accusation of blasphemy without the need of witnesses or evidence.

The accused are subject to immediate trial and, if found guilty, are sentenced to life in prison or death. The law is often used to persecute the Christian minority, which is subjected to exploitation and discrimination in schools and in running for positions of public service.

00Friday, March 11, 2011 9:18 PM
I'm posting this for the record, as the news came the day the Holy Father's book came out, and I have no time to look into it farther...

Dalai Lama to give up
role as political leader

By Mark Magnier

NEW DELHI, March 10 — The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, said Thursday that he will pass the reins of political power to the elected prime minister of the self-proclaimed Tibetan government in exile.

The announcement formalizes an approach the Tibetan leader has been edging toward for years, hoping to prevent a political vacuum after his death and ensure an effective response to Chinese crackdowns and Beijing's increasingly effective use of diplomatic pressure.

But the Dalai Lama, 75, made a point of saying he wasn't retiring, and his global status and reputation ensure that he will continue to play a major role in Tibetan affairs.

The Dalai Lama's decision will be presented Monday to the parliament in exile, which convenes in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala.

"As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power," the Dalai Lama said in a statement Thursday. "Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect."

Lobsang Tenzin, 71, also known as Samdhong Rinpoche, steps down this month after serving for the past decade as prime minister in exile. His replacement will be elected March 20 from among three candidates: Lobsang Sangey, 42, a Harvard Law fellow; Tenzin Namgyal Tethong, 63, a Tibetan studies fellow at Stanford University; and Tashi Wangdi, 63, a civil servant with the government-in-exile, with Sangey expected to win.

The Dalai Lama's announcement comes as the Chinese government tightens its grip on the restive Tibetan plateau, which saw a major uprising in March 2008. Recent pro-democracy demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa have further unnerved the Communist Party in Beijing, analysts said.

China responded skeptically to the announcement. "He has often talked about retirement in the past few years," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters Thursday in Beijing. "I think these are his tricks to deceive the international community."

At issue is whether future Tibetan leaders are chosen by China or Dharamsala, said Rukmani Gupta, a research fellow at New Delhi's Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

Recent attempts by Beijing to influence the succession by controlling the Karmapa Lama and the Panchen Lama, among Tibetan Buddhism's most senior positions, were unsuccessful.

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