Core: noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the Latin cor, meaning heart.

The View from the Core by E. L. Core
America's Small Town Webzine

 Volume 1.11 Front Page April 22, 2002 


The View’s Featured Webpages
(links to offsite pages)

Columns, essays, and news articles (new at top)

PAT Answers: It’s time to stop taking the likes of Paul Ehrlich seriously. (Pete Du Pont) new
“So how did the leading environmentalists get it so wrong in the 1970s? Perhaps the most important reason was a profound misunderstanding of the way the world works. The root of the misconception was Paul Ehrlich and John Holden’s famous equation: I = PAT. The negative Impact of humans on the environment, they said, is the product of Population times Affluence times Technology. A bigger population was a bad thing because people consume resources and need houses and roads and so forth. More affluence was bad too as it allowed greater capita consumption of resources, and that must be multiplied by the negative impact of the technology necessary to produce the resources consumed.... What was missing in this view was the greatest resource of all — the human mind and its ability to develop efficient technologies that would improve the quality of life. Missing was the understanding that more electricity for more operating rooms to do more heart surgery was a good thing. More fertilizer meant less acreage had to be tilled, thus saving — and actually expanding — the forests. More production of goods meant more jobs, more opportunity and more national income to devote to environmental improvement. In short, I = PAT posited not even a zero-sum society (your gain is my loss), but a negative-sum society (your gain is always the world’s loss). It was a cost-benefit analysis in which there was only cost, never benefit. And it was dead wrong.”

Religious Freedom in Jeopardy? (Susanna Cornett) new
“The protection religious groups have now is because of our Constitution — the protection of religious freedom — and because it is generally felt even among non-believers that religion on the whole benefits society, if for no other reason than that it is an expression of our freedom of speech and pursuit of happiness. What if, as society changes, the religious practices become more and more out of step with it? I think the response to what we see in Afghanistan is illustrative. When the media speak about the oppression of women in Afghanistan, using burkas as a symbol of it, they donít separate belief from practice. The problem, as I see it, is not that women wear burkas, but that the ones who donít believe it necessary are forced to do so. Our society, however, canít quite conceive of women choosing to live within the restrictions imposed by some of the stricter Muslim teachings, so we assume that any woman who is living that way is doing so through force or ignorance. Perhaps that is true in some cases, but not all. And if we insist that their religious freedoms must stay within certain boundaries, then how can we preserve the full range of our own? Iím not advocating, in the Muslim instance, that all manifestations of Islam should be allowed. Murder of the innocent is always wrong, and we have a responsibility to stop it. And Iím also not saying that the teachings of Islam are correct; I donít believe thatís true. But how we as a society respond to their religious choices, and how those of us who are religious respond to evil when we find it in our midst, will shape the tomorrow for religious freedom in the United States. Losing tax-exempt status wouldnít end religious freedom in this country, but it would move us further down that road, and itís not a road with easy return. Just as our right to privacy is in jeopardy from laws passed ostensibly to give us greater homeland security, so our religious freedoms could suffer from laws passed to prevent ecclesiastical abuse. I think we stand at a crossroad; how we call the Catholic Church hierarchy to account for lies, abuse and years of protecting self at the cost of the innocence of dozens of young men and women will help determine on which path we set our feet.”

The Hard Way: It’s easier to fight than to pray. So let’s pray. (Peggy Noonan) new
“So what are we to do? I was daydreaming about all this as I walked in my neighborhood on Pierrepont Street yesterday, and I found myself staring at a message someone had drawn onto newly poured concrete: ‘Smile. Today is what you have.’ It struck me, naturally, as sentimental street art. And then I thought no, it’s both spiritual — ‘This is the day the Lord made / let us rejoice and be glad in it,’ wrote the Psalmist — and fatalistic.... It is easier to fight than to pray. In fact it’s much easier to fight than to pray. It’s one of the reasons we do more of the former than the latter. And fighting is hard. But it’s not the hardest thing of all the things we could do. The hardest thing is this: I have been reading about Karol Wojtyla during World War II, long before he became Pope John Paul II. Mr. Wojtyla was in his late teens when the war started, and after the Nazis invaded Poland he worked manual labor, on the freezing overnight shift at a factory, outdoors, breaking and carrying rocks.... He helped friends in the Resistance, but he did not join them. Why? Because, as he told a friend, the only resistance that would work was asking God’s help. ‘The only thing that will be effective is prayer.’ .... Prayer is the hardest thing. And no one congratulates you for doing it because no one knows you’re doing it, and if things turn out well they likely won’t thank God in any case. But I have a feeling that the hardest thing is what we all better be doing now, and that it’s not only the best answer but the only one.”

On Jew-hatred in Europe (Oriana Fallaci) new
“I find it shameful that in part through the fault of the left — or rather, primarily through the fault of the left (think of the left that inaugurates its congresses applauding the representative of the PLO leader in Italy of the Palestinians who want the destruction of Israel) — Jews in Italian cities are once again afraid. And in French cities and Dutch cities and Danish cities and German cities, it is the same. I find it shameful that Jews tremble at the passage of the scoundrels dressed like suicide bombers just as they trembled during Krystallnacht, the night in which Hitler gave free rein to the Hunt of the Jews. I find it shameful that in obedience to the stupid, vile, dishonest, and for them extremely advantageous fashion of Political Correctness the usual opportunists — or better the usual parasites — exploit the word Peace. That in the name of the word Peace, by now more debauched than the words Love and Humanity, they absolve one side alone of its hate and bestiality. That in the name of a pacifism (read conformism) delegated to the singing crickets and buffoons who used to lick Pol Potís feet they incite people who are confused or ingenuous or intimidated. Trick them, corrupt them, carry them back a half century to the time of the yellow star on the coat. These charlatans who care about the Palestinans as much as I care about the charlatans. That is not at all.”

Return of the Guy (Charlotte Allen) new
“In the furnaces of September 11, there was suddenly forged a new social trend: the return of the guy. (Remember that it was four guys who rushed the terrorists who commandeered United Airlines Flight 93, wrenching it to the ground near Pittsburgh.) This trend was continued in the war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. No one, even NOW, was heard to gripe that there were no women reported among the U.S. Special Forces troops fighting hand to hand with militant supporters of Osama bin Laden during the days after the Taliban fled Kabul. ‘For the first time in a long time, American heroes are not movie actors or sports figures or celebrity scandal-survivors,’ political commentator Andrew Sullivan wrote in the Sunday Times of London. ‘They are cops and firemen and special forces soldiers.’ Their sex is male, and they do the kind of work that calls on specifically male attributes and virtues: physical strength, tough fatherly leadership (think of Rudolph Giuliani), brotherly bonding into fighting units, courage, and blunt compassion. Welcome back, guys.”

The Big Lie and the Big Lawsuit (Lawrence Henry) new
“The world has changed, and it’s a meaner place. Little children who once would have gathered around a pipe smoker to say, ‘That smells good’ and ‘Daddy, why don’t you smoke a pipe?’ now point fingers and say ‘That stinks!’ and ‘You’re gonna die!’ Carrie Nation and her saloon-busting hatchet are totems of historical ridicule today. But Carrie Nation’s heirs in the anti-smoking movement have tapped into all the same wretched excesses of American culture — bluenosery, totalitarianism, and vandalism. There is a difference, of course. Today’s Carrie Nations have used thirty years of anti-tobacco jihadery to practice the sinister modern techniques of the Big Lie and the Big Lawsuit. Along the way, they’ve corrupted science, destroyed objective journalism, and made the truth nothing more than a commodity. They’ve demonized tens of millions of people and turned tens of millions more into preening, self-righteous jerks. And of course they’re not done. Having practiced and perfected their techniques, they’re now casting around for new targets. Food looms as the most likely. But there are others, lots of others. I would say that George Orwell himself would be challenged to describe it all. But of course he wouldn’t.”

Their way of life isn’t ours (Paul Mulshine) new
“The problem, if my readings and discussions with American Muslim political activists are any indication, is that their goals and ours seem to be mutually exclusive. In our phone conversation, Obeidallah made a point of insisting that Muslims in America want to live Islam as what he termed ‘a way of life.’ I asked him what he meant by that. ‘Living Islam as a way of life means the leader is actually an Islamist,’ he said. ‘It means you must govern by the rules of the Koran and the rules of the Prophet Mohammed.’ He is not alone in that view. When I interviewed another leader of New Jersey’s Muslim community, Yasir El-Menshawy, the president of the New Jersey Council of Mosques and Islamic Organizations, he also insisted that the Muslim idea of a religious state is superior to the American idea of a secular state. ‘Muslims tend to want to have a more complete implementation of Islam running the affairs of the state,’ El-Menshawy told me. When I insisted that the American system of religious freedom is clearly a better one, he responded, ‘I don’t agree the U.S. system is clearly a better system.’”

I do have a few things to say now (Jon Carroll) new
“Listen to me. It doesn’t matter who’s right. Let me say that again: Right now, it doesn’t matter who’s right. Stop with the screeds. It doesn’t matter who’s right. Peace making requires more courage than war making. Peace making require more intelligence than war making. Peace making requires patience, time, serenity and an open mind. I know about the numerous failures of peace making in the Mideast. But if we are to be humans, hope is always an obligation. We must always start again. We have just lived through a century of mass deaths, deaths in unimaginable numbers. Six million Jews killed by Nazis, at least 8.5 million people killed by Stalin, 800,000 Armenians murdered by Turks; 100,000 Kurds murdered by Saddam Hussein. One million Cambodians killed by the Khmer Rouge; 800,000 Tutsis of Rwanda murdered by Hutus in 100 days. Do you know whether the Tutsis or the Hutus had a better claim to their disputed lands? Are you interested in the validity of the political claims made by the Armenians? The last two times we entered a world war, only a few people believed that it would happen. Generals on both sides of World War I thought it would last six months. At the beginning of World War II, the British called it ‘the phony war.’”

Over the past months, some Catholic priests have weighed in on the current scandals:

The priceless gift of the priesthood (Fr. William Leahy) new
“To be a priest requires living a life marked by faith, integrity, and service, and it offers the possibility for doing so much good and for helping make God more present in our world. One day this winter I visited the parents of a recent graduate of Boston College whose son, like 20 other alumni of our university, was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center. In grief and pride they told stories about their son, and showed me photographs, awards, and diplomas that chronicled his young life. They were speaking to me, I knew, as the president of the institution their son had loved but also as a priest. They asked if I would like to go upstairs and see their son’s bedroom, which they had kept exactly as he had left it. Perhaps they would have asked the same of the president of Harvard University or Stanford University. Perhaps not. But as a priest I was glad to be there to offer whatever comfort I could. Such moments have been part of my life as a priest, and as a result I feel truly blessed by God. I do not deny that there have been times of suffering and sorrow in my life. Like so many others, I feel betrayed and saddened by the shameful incidents of sexual misconduct committed by some priests, so devastating and harmful, especially to children and their families. But I trust that God and his people will sustain me and my fellow priests, now and in the future, and that my vocation, with all of its gifts, will never cease to be the wonderfully fulfilling experience that it is for me today.”

A Plan for the New Millenium (Fr. Robert J. Carr) new
“The Roman Catholic Church has secularized itself and turned itself into a corporation. This is the center of the confusion.... We are supposed to be a community of faith. Ultimately, the issue, therefore, is whether we are a community of faith or a corporation. It is time to make the choice. The difference between a corporation and community of faith is all about how we define our association as members of the Roman Catholic Church. We were founded for one reason: ‘God so loved the world that in the fullness of time, he sent his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him may not die, but have eternal life.’ We maintain that Jesus is resurrected. Many outside Christianity do not understand what that means in the long run, yet to put it simply: Believing in the resurrection of the dead means to live in a mindset that is so radical that once someone begins to comprehend this truth, they live their lives in radical ways not possible prior to that moment. Indeed, it is such a key aspect of our faith, that St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Jesus did not resurrect from the dead, we are wasting our time. I guess that is the best, yet quite poor, way of explaining what the depth of this fully inexpressible truth says to us.”

Holiness Is the Key (Fr. Roger Landry) new
“The only adequate response to this terrible scandal, the only fully Catholic response to this scandal ó as St. Francis of Assisi recognized in the 1200s, and as countless other saints have recognized in every century ó is holiness! Every crisis that the Church faces, every crisis that the world faces, is a crisis of saints. Holiness is crucial, because it is the real face of the Church. There are always people ó a priest meets them regularly, you probably know several of them ó who use excuses for why they don’t practice the faith, why they slowly commit spiritual suicide. It can be because a nun was mean to them when they were 9. Or because they don’t understand the teaching of the Church on a particular issue ó as if any of these reasons would truly justify their lack of practice of the faith, as if any of them would be able to convince their consciences not to do what they know they should. There will doubtless be many people these days ó and you will probably meet them ó who will say, ‘Why should I practice the faith, why should I go to Church, since the Church can’t be true if God’s so-called chosen ones can do the types of things we’ve been reading about?’ This scandal is a huge hanger on which some will try to hang their justification for not practicing the faith. That’s why holiness is so important. They need to find in all of us a reason for faith, a reason for hope, a reason for responding with love to the love of the Lord. The beatitudes which we have in today’s Gospel are a recipe for holiness. We all need to live them more.”

March 10, 2002, Homily (Msgr. Thomas Kane) new
“What do we say? Immorality has no defense, does it? Abuse of minors has no defense. For our religious leaders, it may be absolutely inexcusable. And our hearts go out indeed to the victims of child abuse at the hands of churchmen. I cannot explain the Boston situation satisfactorily, and I cannot excuse Palm Beach. But as your pastor I should like to share some personal reflections with which you may identify and, hopefully, that will ameliorate some of the anguish that we feel Ė indeed embarrassment, as Catholics, that we all feel in view of the recent events.... I can honestly tell you that, after all these years, my idealism about the priesthood is exactly the same as it was when I served mass as a kid. It has not deteriorated. It has not been jeopardized. It has not diminished. And I think I can speak from the experience of knowing maybe 3,000 priests, and therefore knowing more of abuses than the average person would. And nonetheless to say unhesitatingly to you, the priesthood in its ideals, in its ministry, in its practice, is no less good, holy and outreaching as you ever thought it was. I say that to you as one who’s seen much of the sordid side of the life, sometimes, of my brothers, but also to reassure you that you are not to be disillusioned by the stories of the New York Times or Time magazine or the Washington Post or Boston Globe. You are not to be disillusioned. The priesthood is everything I thought it was as a kid, and from that vantage point of many years later, I would like to assure you that we are in this thing with you, we suffer with you, we know that embarrassment that you face, when maybe members of our faith nod knowingly to you, when those who are critical, when those who would smirk, when those who are cynical Ė I’d like to just say to you: We know we have our problems, but we have a priesthood that is as dedicated and holy and generous as ever it was.”

What the Titanic teaches (Stephen Cox)
“Investigation revealed that the Titanic had been following normal navigational practices and that she was equipped with more than normal safety features — including 200 more lifeboat spaces than government regulations required. In fact, more than 400 of the Titanic’s lifeboat spaces were never used. A very large ship, like a very large plane, is hard to evacuate completely; even if the Titanic had provided lifeboat spaces equal to the number of passengers, there would not have been enough time to use them all. No plans or regulations can guarantee that any vessel — or any human enterprise — is completely safe. Every action, even the apparently obvious action of turning a ship to evade an iceberg, carries with it an incalculable risk. And our moral decisions are just as risky as our practical decisions. The Titanic continues to fascinate the world because it raised this essential fact to the highest pitch of dramatic intensity. The Titanic sank [Apr. 14-15, 1912] in two hours and forty minutes — the length of a classic play. During that time, everyone involved in the disaster had to ask the most basic questions about what life is worth and what means may be used to save it. People had time to think, observe, reflect; but they finally had to decide, irrevocably, what they ought to do. Their decisions were as various as the individuals themselves.”

It’s a war, not a grudge match (George Jonas)
“In his Rose Garden speech on April 4 announcing Mr. Powell’s mission, the President struck a lyrical note: ‘America itself counts former adversaries as trusted friends — Germany and Japan and now Russia,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘Conflict is not inevitable. Distrust need not be permanent. Peace is possible when we break free of old patterns and habits of hatred.’ What Mr. Bush failed to mention was that Germany was flattened and de-Nazified before it became America’s trusted friend; imperial Japan was nuked, and Soviet Russia had imploded. The friendship of these nations was preceded by a complete collapse and fundamental restructuring of their respective societies. One wishes the Mideast conflict were just a grudge match between two old men. Unfortunately, it isn’t. It’s a war between the Jewish state and those who have been trying to reject it for the past 54 years. Despite Mr. Bush’s uplifting speech, Mr. Powell probably lacks the illusions of Neville Chamberlain. He isn’t going to Ramallah as Chamberlain went to Munich in 1938, with the lofty hope for ‘peace in our time.’ Mr. Powell is hoping only for a licence from the Arab world to wage his own war in peace. He wants to finish a job in Iraq he left unfinished a decade ago.”

Evil’s triumph over conscience (Norman Doidge)
“Spooked, America is unwilling to let Israel end Arafat’s reign of terror. Washington has retreated into approaching him with a kind of primitive behaviour-therapy that says, ‘If he renounces terror’ or ‘If he controls terror,’ then we will talk to him. It is as though all that matters is to get him to say the right words, never mind his intentions; as if no distinction need be drawn between his strategic goal — the destruction of Israel — and a tactical willingness to say he opposes terror (when a lie serves his strategy). Arafat has discovered, as Shakespeare understood, that the more brazen and relentless one’s acts of brutality, the more likely it is that one will be allowed a second chance, and find even powerful men of conscience coming to one’s door offering to forget, to forgive and to give forgiveness a bad name.”

How white liberals destroyed black families (Anthony Covington)
“It would be nice to put the blame for inequality of incomes between African, Euro- and Asian Americans squarely where it belongs. Not on ‘white racism’, ‘the legacy of slavery’ and other dead or dying nebulae, but on poor old Dad — wherever he is. Even he is not the real villain. Rather, the most blame falls on American Democratic politicians between 1949-1999, including Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Their allies in the American left-wing devised the welfare state, an institution that wrecked the African-American family better than slavery or racism ever did. ‘Hold on’, I hear you say, ‘that sounds upside down?’ However, consider this; it is not colour, religion or your education in the USA that makes you more likely to end up in poverty, unemployed, on drugs and in crime. It is not having a father. Fatherless families of whatever colour in the USA make up 70 per cent of criminals, drifters, unemployed and failures. Parenting and not race is the major factor — undeniably so. Study after study confirms it.”

The death of socialism (Roger Kimball)
“It is one of the great ironies of modern history that socialism, which promises a more humane, caring, and equitable society, has consistently delivered a more oppressive and mismanaged one. Socialism’s motto — Muravchik optimistically offers it to us as socialismís ‘epitaph’ — turns out to be: ‘If you build it, they will leave.’ If, one must add, they are allowed to leave. As Muravchik reminds us in this excellent survey of socialist personalities and socialist experiments, encouraging dissent is never high on a socialist’s agenda. The socialist pretends to have glimpsed paradise on earth. Those who decline the invitation to embrace the vision are not just ungrateful: they are traitors to the cause of human perfection. Dissent is therefore not mere disagreement but treachery. Treachery is properly met not with arguments but (as circumstances permit) the guillotine, the concentration camp, the purge.”

Understanding history (Balint Vazsonyi)
“At last, reparations for slavery have taken center-stage. It has been like waiting for the other shoe to drop, ever since the United States decided to compensate persons of Japanese ancestry for their treatment following Pearl Harbor. Once we accepted the proposition whereby the attitudes of the present, though no less transitory than those of the past, should nonetheless be applied to the past, we mortgaged the future. We can no more relive the past than foretell the future. The appropriate expression of disagreement with the ways of the past is to change those ways in the present, for what we believe will be a better future. Attempts at ‘rectifying’ the past are bound to fail because, owing to obvious limitations, they have to be selective. Unavoidably, what we see as old injustices will result in new injustices.”

The Mau-Mauing at Harvard (John McWhorter)
“The campus race game has largely prevented any sustained investigation into what — if anything — Afro-American studies programs actually accomplish academically. The assumption in the mainstream press during the West-Summers contretemps was that the intellectual quality of Harvard’s Afro-American studies was unassailable. Unfortunately, that’s far from true. Survey the department’s undergraduate curriculum, and you find that most of the courses express the pernicious belief that victimhood defines what it means to be African-American — that to be black in America has always been a story of betrayal, disappointment, passivity, and tragedy, and that when things seem to be improving, it’s only an illusion.”

Hunt the Boeing! (Urban Legends Reference Pages)
“The notion that the Pentagon was not damaged by terrorists who hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 (a Boeing 757) and crashed it into the military office complex, but that the whole affair was staged by the U.S. government, has been promulgated by French author Thierry Meyssan in his book, The Frightening Fraud. Meyssan offers no real explanation for what did cause the extensive damage to the Pentagon, asserting only that Flight 77 did not exist, no plane crashed into the Pengaton, and that ‘the American government is lying.’ Unfortunately, the appeal of conspiracy theories has resulted in widespread dissemination of Meyssan’s ‘theory’ in France and the USA, particularly in web sites that mirror his work. As Le Nouvel Observateur noted: ‘This theory suits everyone — there are no Islamic extremists and everyone is happy. It eliminates reality.’ The text cited in the example above comes from a Hunt the Boeing! And test your perceptions! web site, one of the English-language mirrors of Meyssan’s claims, where readers are invited to ponder a series of questions about why photographs of the damaged Pentagon seemingly show no evidence of a crashed airplane. The answers to the questions are....”

Are Michael Bellesiles’s Critics Afraid to Say What They Really Think? (Jerome Sternstein)
“Has the time come to ask if Michael Bellesiles’s Arming America is an example of scholarly deceit? Some defenders of Bellesiles’s work have insisted in various forums that Bellesiles’s critics have yet to bring forth any evidence to suggest scholarly fraud. Recently, in making his case, one apologist pointed to the ‘searching examinations’ of Bellesiles’s book in the January 2002 issue of the William and Mary Quarterly (WMQ), which, ‘although severely critical, eschews charges of fraud or misrepresentation.’ To be sure, ‘charges of fraud’ do not appear in the Quarterly’s forum on Bellesiles. But what is truly remarkable about that forum is what does appear there: scathing appraisals of his book’s misuse of sources and evidence which some might regard as consistent with academic fraud, such as repeatedly misquoting, distorting, falsifying, or perhaps even deliberately inventing evidence to support one’s thesis.”

The slavery reparations hustle (Jeff Jacoby)
“Don’t bother telling the plaintiffs who sued last month to collect reparations for slavery from three US corporations that they don’t have a legal leg to stand on. They already know it. After all, you don’t need a law degree to recognize that FleetBoston, CSX, and Aetna bear no legal culpability today because of lawful activities their corporate ancestors may have engaged in two centuries ago. Even unlawful activities were long ago mooted by statutes of limitations. And in any case, none of the companies being sued and none of their living shareholders has ever owned or trafficked in slaves, just as none of the plaintiffs and none of the 36 million black Americans whose interests they claim to represent has ever been held in bondage. These specious lawsuits will never win. But then, they were never expected to. The plaintiffs and their lawyers make no secret of the fact that their goal is not to win a legal verdict but to pressure the companies into making lucrative out-of-court settlements. If they balk, the lawyers’ PR machine will generate ugly publicity about the companies’ ‘insensitivity’ to African-Americans. Set up pickets outside their corporate headquarters. Threaten a national boycott. Maybe arrange a public denunciation by Al Sharpton or the Congressional Black Caucus. It isn’t hard to mau-mau corporate America if you know how to play the race card.”

Big earners hit hard by income tax (Houston Chronicle)
“Another way the rich are different: They pay the lion’s share of the nation’s income tax bill. The wealthiest 5 percent pay more than half the taxes, while people in the bottom half pay 4 percent. The annual federal tax deadline for most of America is next Monday. Two-income households are increasing, putting more families in the top slice of taxpayers. Millions of small businesses and partnerships are up there, too, paying personal instead of corporate income taxes. Many other people were boosted by the 1990s stock market boom. President Bush’s big tax cut will prevent the wealthy from paying an even greater share in coming years. But key provisions, such as the doubling of the child tax credit, will cut or eliminate income taxes for many middle-income people, while the rich won’t qualify.”

Congress Sets Record for Pork Spending (FOXNews)
“A war and a recession did not stop Congress from doling out the pork for special hometown projects, a government watchdog is reporting Tuesday. Citizens Against Government Waste is releasing its annual ‘Pig Book,’ a listing of what it calls the most egregious examples of special interest spending. The results are grim, but not surprising, group officials said. ‘Taxpayers will be disappointed,’ said Thomas Schatz, president of CAGW. ‘Here they are, sitting around doing their taxes — a good time to be thinking what they’re getting for their money, and in this case it’s a pretty bad deal.’ According to the group, members of Congress seem to be the only ones not tightening their belts since the economy took a downturn and the country started fighting a war against terrorism. Pork — that is, excessive spending for members’ pet projects, which usually grease the skids for special interest and hometown support — increased 9 percent in fiscal year 2002 to $20 billion. The number of pork projects increased 32 percent to a total of 8,341.”

Occasionally, some links are moved from this section into the Featured Webpages Archive.

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Classic articles that are, or should be, famous (new at top)

An Explosion of Green
(Bill McKibben)
The Atlantic
(April 1995)

“In the early nineteenth century the cleric Timothy Dwight reported that the 240-mile journey from Boston to New York City passed through no more than twenty miles of forest. Surveying the changes wrought by farmers and loggers in New Hampshire, he wrote, ‘The forests are not only cut down, but there appears little reason to hope that they will ever grow again.’ Less than two centuries later, despite great increases in the state’s population, 90 percent of New Hampshire is covered by forest. Vermont was 35 percent woods in 1850 and is 80 percent today, and even Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have seen woodlands rebound to the point where they cover nearly three fifths of southern New England. This process, which began as farmers abandoned the cold and rocky pastures of the East for the fertile fields of the Midwest, has not yet run its course.... This unintentional and mostly unnoticed renewal of the rural and mountainous East — not the spotted owl, not the salvation of Alaska’s pristine ranges — represents the great environmental story of the United States, and in some ways of the whole world. Here, where ‘suburb’ and ‘megalopolis’ were added to the world’s vocabulary, an explosion of green is under way, one that could offer hope to much of the rest of the planet.”

The Doomslayer
(Ed Regis)
Wired
(February 1997)

“The world is getting progressively poorer, and it’s all because of population, or more precisely, overpopulation. There’s a finite store of resources on our pale blue dot, spaceship Earth, our small and fragile tiny planet, and we’re fast approaching its ultimate carrying capacity. The limits to growth are finally upon us, and we’re living on borrowed time. The laws of population growth are inexorable. Unless we act decisively, the final result is written in stone: mass poverty, famine, starvation, and death. Time is short, and we have to act now. That’s the standard and canonical litany.... There’s just one problem with The Litany, just one slight little wee imperfection: every item in that dim and dreary recitation, each and every last claim, is false.... Thus saith The Doomslayer, one Julian L. Simon, a neither shy nor retiring nor particularly mild-mannered professor of business administration at a middling eastern-seaboard state university. Simon paints a somewhat different picture of the human condition circa 1997. ‘Our species is better off in just about every measurable material way,’ he says. ‘Just about every important long-run measure of human material welfare shows improvement over the decades and centuries, in the United States and the rest of the world. Raw materials — all of them — have become less scarce rather than more. The air in the US and in other rich countries is irrefutably safer to breathe. Water cleanliness has improved. The environment is increasingly healthy, with every prospect that this trend will continue.’”

A brilliant parody:

Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity
(Alan Sokal)
Social Text (Spring/Summer 1996)

“There are many natural scientists, and especially physicists, who continue to reject the notion that the disciplines concerned with social and cultural criticism can have anything to contribute, except perhaps peripherally, to their research. Still less are they receptive to the idea that the very foundations of their worldview must be revised or rebuilt in the light of such criticism. Rather, they cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in ‘eternal’ physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the ‘objective’ procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.”

... and, in explanation, ...

A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies
(Alan Sokal)
Lingua Franca (May/June 1996)

“For some years I’ve been troubled by an apparent decline in the standards of rigor in certain precincts of the academic humanities. But I’m a mere physicist: If I find myself unable to make heads or tails of jouissance and differance, perhaps that just reflects my own inadequacy. So, to test the prevailing intellectual standards, I decided to try a modest (though admittedly uncontrolled) experiment: Would a leading North American journal of cultural studies — whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross — publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions? The answer, unfortunately, is yes.... What’s going on here? Could the editors really not have realized that my article was written as a parody?”

Networks Need a Reality Check: A firsthand account of liberal bias at CBS News.
(Bernard Goldberg)
Wall Street Journal (February 13, 1996)

“There are lots of reasons fewer people are watching network news, and one of them, I’m more convinced than ever, is that our viewers simply don’t trust us. And for good reason. The old argument that the networks and other ‘media elites’ have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it’s hardly worth discussing anymore. No, we don’t sit around in dark corners and plan strategies on how we’re going to slant the news. We don’t have to. It comes naturally to most reporters.”

There is No Time, There Will Be Time
(Peggy Noonan)
Forbes ASAP (November 18, 1998)

“When you consider who is gifted and crazed with rage... when you think of the terrorist places and the terrorist countries... who do they hate most? The Great Satan, the United States. What is its most important place? Some would say Washington. I would say the great city of the United States is the great city of the world, the dense 10-mile-long island called Manhattan, where the economic and media power of the nation resides, the city that is the psychological center of our modernity, our hedonism, our creativity, our hard-shouldered hipness, our unthinking arrogance.”

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Catholic Encyclopedia
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Series and multi-part articles of news or opinion

A chronicle of high-level USA government actions in September 2001, at two websites:

Ten Days in September (WP)
“This series is based on interviews with President Bush, Vice President Cheney and many other key officials inside the administration and out. The interviews were supplemented by notes of National Security Council meetings made available to The Washington Post, along with notes taken by several participants.”

Response to Terror (Austin American Stateman)
“This is an eight-part series by The Washington Post describing the response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the highest levels of government.”

Coverage of September 11 and the aftermath:

Fighting Terrorism: America Retaliates (BG)
“Archive stories from the Boston Globe: Tuesday Sept. 11 – Sunday Sept. 16”

Attack on America (Guardian Unlimited)
Special Report with continuing coverage

A two-part article “An American Catholic” by Diane Alden @ NewsMax:

new An American Catholic at Easter
“Many in the Church grasped Vatican II (1962) as an opportunity to turn the church into a trendy adjunct of the ’60s counterculture revolution. At that time serious sin went out the window. Thus, after a few short years, trendy clerics and theologians and administrators distanced themselves from notions of what traditional Catholics call ‘mortal sin.’ At least in the minds of the liberal theologians and politicizers of Catholic doctrine, there was almost no accountability for one’s actions, as everything seemed to have a psychological rather than a spiritual aspect. No sin, no consequences. Everything, all our actions, were not of our doing. Indeed, at that time much of Catholicism was dumped in favor of the social gospel. The hard stuff the Founder demands was out or ignored. Selective interpretation of Christ’s words erred in favor of His forgiving and loving side. Meanwhile, many Catholics and hierarchy, along with progressive theologians, forgot the more difficult and uncompromising demands He made on humanity. They wanted to ignore His recognition of evil, punishment, justice and sin as well as the eventual sorting out of evil from good. In the ’60s and ’70s, the American Catholic Church tended toward the idea that Christ was all about ‘love’ and nothing about casting into the darkness those who do not obey God’s laws. It was okay to sin as long as you ‘loved’ everyone and meant well. The road to hell was no longer paved with good intentions, because no one was sure hell really existed. God help anyone who made value judgments on moral issues or called certain behaviors sinful or evil. Total tolerance of all kinds of things became more important than not sinning, even though many of these attitudes and behaviors were in defiance of what the Catholic Church officially taught. In the ’60s especially, the Catholic Church began to accept as priests and nuns many men and women who were not so much the followers of Christ as they were the likely intellectual descendants and proponents of Hegel, Marx, Freud, Jung, Maslow, Rogers and Antonio Gramsci. It is because of that fact that the Catholic hierarchy in the U.S. could justify sending pedophile priests to the shrink as they attempted to find out ‘why’ those men did foul deeds to young boys.”

new Catholics in Name Only
“In any event, intellectuals inside and outside the Church felt permission to make use of their radicalism. Most American institutions were not spared the Hegelian and Marxist orientation. Radicalism became acceptable; meanwhile, authority and discernment went to hell in a handbasket. In order to accomplish utopian collectivist ends, Western civilization and its authority in general were attacked at all levels. In America the excuse may have been the Vietnam War, civil rights, helping the poor with the disastrous ‘War on Poverty,’ or modernizing the Catholic Church. However, what occurred was the destruction of positive and constructive avenues enhancing individual freedom, increasing prosperity and faith, and the healthy observation of the laws of God and man. Self-discipline and self-control and faith were deep-sixed, replaced by the acceptance of our victim status as we waited for fulfillment from government programs, materialism, psychology and pop culture. The all-out assault on authority of the Church and Western civilization in this era, along with the loss of self-discipline and self-control, led to the subsequent increase in the power of the state. After the ’60s, when authority in America and in Europe caved to the new intellectual barbarians, the proponents of the philosophy of collectivism and Marxism filled the gap. The Catholic Church in America and Europe did not escape that destiny. Religion, environmentalism, feminism, the civil rights movement, Vatican II were all overwhelmed as the barbarians crossed the Tiber and no one was there to stop them. What could have been positive trends in religion and society, trends which created more freedom and good living, instead became a cacophony of dissipation and dissolution and collectivism. We gave up Mozart, Cole Porter, Aaron Copeland, and Rodgers and Hammerstein for moral chaos, societal dissonance, Britney Spears, Snoop Doggy Dogg, human rights for animals and trees, and sex with anything that moves, whether it be animal, vegetable or mineral. Ever on the defensive, the American Catholic Church just gave in and called absolutely every goofy unworkable collectivist and leftist idea the social gospel in action. Meanwhile, many trends destructive to the family and civilization were now called diversity or inclusivity. No one seems to notice how diversity and inclusivity are always carried to their most outrageous extremes. Dung-covered depictions of the Virgin Mary are acceptable, but a religious masterpiece like the Ten Commandments is not welcome anywhere. In-your-face sexuality replaced modesty and ended the sensible idea to keep private things private. From the ’60s onward, rather than seeking the stars, Americans and the West chose to wander in an intellectual and philosophical garbage-filled desert. That particular wandering in the landfill wilderness has just about destroyed Western civilization, not to mention the American Catholic Church.”

A three-part part series by Phil Brennan @ NewsMax on the corruption of Catholic seminaries in the USA:

Anti-Catholic “Experts” Fuel Church’s Scandals
“Veteran investigative reporter Michael S. Rose has written a frightening account of the corruption of the Roman Catholic seminary system in the United States.... According to the Wanderer, a nationally distributed lay Catholic newspaper, Wicker was rejecting more candidates for the priesthood than he was approving. But that’s just the beginning. An article by reporter Gregory Flannery, an ex-seminarian himself, revealed: ‘Men who wish to become Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati are first assessed by the Worshipful Master of Mt. Washington Masonic Lodge 642.’ In the May 8, 1991 issue of Mt. Washington Press, a weekly newspaper, Flannery reported that Wicker was a fallen-away Catholic and noted that participation in Masonic sects is condemned by the Catholic Church. Wicker also admitted to being a member of another sect condemned by the church, the Rosicrucians. When area Catholics complained about the idea of a Masonic master passing on candidates for the priesthood, Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk defended him.... NewsMax.com asked Rose if this nonsense was still going on. ‘Although many seminaries are “getting better,” the nonsense is still prolific,’ he said. ‘Orthodox candidates are still being turned away in droves, heterosexual seminarians are still being sent to psychological counseling and booted from school, while liberal-minded and pro-gay seminarians are given deferential treatment, put in charge of others, advanced and ordained.’”

Homosexual Culture Undercuts Priesthood
“Heterosexual students at a number of seminaries were persecuted by the gay subculture. Reporting homosexual behavior by classmates could get them expelled, as could resisting homosexual advances. Rose cites scores of cases of heterosexuals driven out of seminaries because they refused to accept the gay culture. In Cozzen’s book, The Changing Face of the Priesthood, he wrote that there has been ‘a heterosexual exodus from the priesthood’ due, Rose notes, in part to the unrestrained gay subcultures in some seminaries, the resulting ‘overwhelming gay clergy culture will have an effect on how the laity views the priesthood and it will have an effect on incoming vocations. Potential candidates for the priesthood who are heterosexual will be intimidated from joining an institution where the ethos is primarily that of a gay culture.’ Anyone wondering how the church could have got itself in the mess it is now experiencing need look no further than the pages of Rose’s extraordinary book. What we are seeing today are the results of a gay priesthood being loosed upon parishes all across the nation, where they have abused impressionable young men they treated as ‘fresh meat’ to satisfy their unnatural sexual urgings.”

False Teaching Sabotages Aspiring Priests
“Michael S. Rose examines the destructive effect of what he terms heterodoxy on seminarians struggling to absorb and adhere to the ancient doctrines of the church, handed down from the Apostles for 2,000 years. ‘Many faculty members are adverse to teaching what the Church teaches, and some even find it onerous to hide their disdain for Catholicism,’ Rose wrote. ‘The seminarian who arrives on campus expecting to find faculty and staff who love the Catholic faith and teach what the Church teaches can be sadly disappointed.’ Among the students’ obstacles to learning the authentic tenets of their faith, Rose reveals, are being forced to read textbooks written by ‘noted dissenters from Catholic teachings’ such as theologians Richard McBrien, Edward Schillebeeckx, Hans Kung and Charles Curran, who ‘parrot the dogmas of Catholic dissent.’ .... Many of the ideas being taught in seminaries today, Rose wrote, ‘go way beyond the scope of even these “mainstream” errors of Modernist doctrine. Aggressive feminist theories often put forth by religious sisters devoted to liberation theology and various incarnations of Jungian psychology make it clear that some faculty members who are entrusted with the formation of future priests do not support the Catholic priesthood as the Church defines it. In fact they do not support the Church, her hierarchy, her Eucharist, or her liturgy.’ Tragically, throughout the U.S. today, men taught these heretical doctrines are spreading error, distorting the liturgy, sowing doctrinal confusion and changing the faith of countless Catholics.”

A three-part essay “How Contemporary American Poets are Denaturing the Poem” by Joan Houlihan @ Web Del Sol:

On the Prosing of Poetry
“Before writing was invented, poetry was used to mark special occasions and strong emotions and to burn the necessary stories — the myths and truths of a culture — into the memories of the people. Mnemonic devices such as sound, rhythm, and heightened, pictorial language, economy of expression (‘epigrammatic’ speech that encodes many meanings in as few words as possible) and assonance, consonance, alliteration, parallelism, were the branding irons used for the task. As well, these devices were incantatory, stirring primal responses to their sound and rhythm, and creating an atmosphere for the sacred and magical. Although spoken, poetry was not common; it was instead, a singular kind of speech, reserved for relaying important or sacred events, ensuring that such events would be remembered almost in a physical way, in the body’s deep response to sound, rhythm and imagery. Speaking poetically served a purpose. Speaking prosaically also served a purpose — to negotiate everyday reality, to speak of those things which were common to all and not worthy of long remembrance — to speak of the world in transit. Our ability to write did not erase the distinction. It took contemporary American poets, writing in deliberately flat prose about insignificant personal events and feelings; and editors, publishers and critics dubbing such anecdotes and everyday journal entries ‘poems,’ to erase the distinction. We have reached the point we are being asked to believe that a text block, chopped randomly into flat, declarative lines, is a poem. We are told to kneel and stare at this specimen of dead lines laid out in its little coffin on the page, and declare it alive. What do we say?”

I=N=C=O=H= E=R=E=N=T
“The need for coherence appears to be basic, perhaps even neurological. Science has proved the human brain strives to find a pattern, an order, a meaning in chaos. What isn’t coherent, we strive to make so. It satisfies us. Thus, before settling for separate, unconnected pieces, beautiful as they may be, we will look hard for connections. While shapes and colors can become untethered from their representation, or meaning, a poem can only become fully untethered from meaning if it is without words. This is because the smallest irreducible piece — the word — retains meaning, in and out of context. A totally meaningless poem would logically consist of a blank page. In spite of this difficulty, some poets do manage to make extremely close approaches to the state of meaninglessness while still using words.... In order to save us from the Western capitalist construction called a poem, the Language Poets had to destroy it. But two other possible reasons for writing Language Poetry come to mind: [1] The poet cannot succesfully create a coherent poem and so makes a virtue of his failure. [2] The poet cannot successfully create a coherent poem and so uses poem-as-pretext for expounding critical theories — something he or she can do, and that, happy coincidence, ensures an academic career.”

The Argument for Silence: Defining the Poet Peter Principle
“The tension between ‘career’ and ‘vocation’ in poetry is nowhere more obvious than in academia where poets take a sabbatical in order to write poetry, but never take a sabbatical from writing poetry. I believe that a certain variety of established poet, perhaps those with a substantial number of books, would benefit greatly from a poetry sabbatical. There is evidence of a need for poetic silence all around us. We see it every time we read a denatured poem by a renowned poet, usually in a renowned publication; evidence that the enabling editors of such publications have failed in their duty to enforce last call. For example, poets James Tate, Philip Levine and Mary Oliver have each produced more than 16 books of poetry. Whatever has driven this production, it is clear from the trajectory of all three poets that something must stop it. In all three cases, a windiness, a wordiness, a kind of poetic logorrhea can be found in their latest work in contrast to the fire and compression in their early work. Flatlined, barely pulsing, their latest work is being kept alive by extraordinary means: the artificial resuscitation of continuous publication.”

A two-part article on Economists & Ecologists by Arnold Kling @ Tech Central Station:

Common Sense and Sensibility
“Economists are not well thought of these days by environmentalists. Or so it seems from accounts such as a recent Scientific American excerpt of Edward O. Wilson’s book, The Future of Life. He characterizes economists as narrow, myopic environmental ignoramuses.... It’s true that economists have trouble with the views of many environmentalists. But this just reflects our frustration with the ecologists’ use of the most naive and inappropriate economic models and assumptions in their forecasts and policy prescriptions. That’s why Bjorn Lomborg’s new book The Skeptical Environmentalist is such a distinctive, rare, and important work. In addition to sharing the ecologist’s concerns about aquifers, sustainability, and global warming, Lomborg accepts the economist’s paradigm. By combining economics with ecology, he comes up with a rational, balanced analysis. Unfortunately, environmentalists’ denial of the validity of economic analysis runs through much of their criticism of Lomborg’s work.... Environmentalists tend to assume a constant relationship between inputs and outputs. If you are going to produce X tons of grain, then the acreage of land required will be X/y, where y is the average yield of an acre of land. Economists call this the ‘fixed-coefficients’ model, because the relationship between acreage and grain is governed by the coefficient y. Simply put, this is not a realistic model. In practice there are always a variety of production techniques that use different combinations of inputs to produce the same output. The fixed-coefficients model applies, if at all, only in the very short run. In the long run, there is substitution and technical change. Substitution means that producers will vary the inputs used in production, depending on changes in the cost of various inputs. For example, if land becomes more expensive, producers will substitute capital, labor, fertilizer, or other resources in order to utilize the most efficient combination. The other long-run factor is technical change. As we accumulate knowledge, we come up with ways to produce more output with fewer resources.”

Lomborg’s Lessons
“Economists use interest rates to discount future benefits and costs. Because of discounting, environmental costs that are out in the future are given less weight than today’s economic goods, including today’s environment. Ecologists suspect that economists are being short-sighted, when in fact we are being rational. The interest rate represents the price at which the economy can trade off future output for present output. What discounting says is that tomorrow’s output is ‘cheap’ in today’s terms. Undertaking a large expense today to avoid the same expense tomorrow is inefficient. Ecologists worry that we are consuming too much now, while depriving future generations of resources and leaving them with large unpaid environmental bills. Economists, on the other hand, argue that by investing in science and research we are providing a legacy of wealth to future generations. The assets that they inherit in the form of capital and know-how will be much greater than any environmental liabilities. In The Skeptical Environmentalist, Bjorn Lomborg makes a strong case against the Kyoto Protocol, which attempts to restrict carbon dioxide emissions in order to forestall global warming. Even as one who accepts the thesis of global warming, Lomborg suggests that the Kyoto Protocol is a bad idea. Lomborg estimates a finite (albeit large) cost to global warming. Also, because this cost will be borne in the future, he applies a discount rate. If the present value of the cost of global warming is finite, then it becomes possible to estimate the benefits of policies to forestall global warming. Next, it follows that we can compare benefits to costs. It is on the basis of these cost-benefit comparisons that Lomborg is able to show that the Kyoto Protocol approach is unwise.”

A two-part article @ Salon, by Andrew O’Hehir, on J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings:

The book of the century
“It’s unwise to read The Lord of the Rings as allegory in any strict sense, but this commonplace personal odyssey, one shared by millions in the modern age, is strikingly echoed in its plot. Frodo, the child-size hero, must leave his beloved Shire and travel into Sauron’s domain of Mordor, with its slag heaps, its permanent pall of smoke, its slave-driven industries. When he returns after much danger and difficulty, he discovers that the malicious wizard Saruman — as Shippey points out, a techno-Utopian who began with good intentions — has industrialized the Shire itself, cutting down its trees, replacing its hobbit-holes with brick slums and factories and poisoning its rivers. In this regard, then, The Lord of the Rings belongs to the literature of the Industrial Revolution, a lament for the destruction of England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ that belongs somewhere on the same shelf with Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence and William Blake. But Tolkien saw something wilder and stranger in the Sarehole of his childhood, and in himself: a fading but still tangible connection to the distant, mythic past. If his Shire hobbits are the West Midlands rural bourgeoisie of 1895 or so, they have been catapulted backward into a world where they themselves are the anachronisms, a realm of elves, dwarves (Tolkien insisted on this nonstandard but ancient plural, although he would have preferred ‘dwarrows’), wizards, dragons, goblins and black sorcerers.”

A curiously very great book
“It is not merely the scale of mythic invention or the grand storytelling that distinguishes it but also its tragic vision, the profound melancholy mentioned by Lewis. Few if any heroic quests have ever had such a sense of human frailty and weakness; although Frodo brings the Ring all the way to the Cracks of Doom where Sauron forged it, in the end he is overcome by temptation and claims it for his own. He is redeemed only by chance, or by divine grace, which in Tolkien’s world comes to the same thing. He has shown mercy to the treacherous and miserable Gollum, who becomes the accidental agent of Frodo’s and the world’s salvation. But Frodo, the book’s ostensible hero, fails in his quest and is left, like the knight who guards the Holy Grail, with a grievous wound that can never heal (an Arthurian parallel Shippey has not noticed). Even the victory wrought by the Ring’s destruction is a sad affair, in many respects closer to defeat. Much of the magic and mystery drains out of Middle-earth after Sauron’s fall, leaving behind an ordinary, only slightly prehistoric realm dominated by human beings. Tolkien’s most beloved characters — Gandalf, the High-Elves Elrond and Galadriel and the hobbits Bilbo and Frodo, both of them indelibly marked by the Ring — depart over the western seas to a paradisiacal nowhere that none of us on this shore will ever see. Tolkien liked to present himself to friends and readers as a contented fireside hobbit, fond of tobacco, simple food and late mornings in bed, and there can be no doubt, reading his letters, that he was immensely gratified by the outpouring of love and enthusiasm his work engendered. (And immensely irritated by some of it; when a woman wanted to name her Siamese cats after his characters, he replied that they were “the fauna of Mordor.”) But in reality he was a strange and complicated man who wrote a strange and sad book, whose complex of meanings we will likely never determine.”

A “classic” two-part article, by Bernard Lewis, with a recent related essay, in The Atlantic:

The Roots of Muslim Rage (Part One)
“Like every other civilization known to human history, the Muslim world in its heyday saw itself as the center of truth and enlightenment, surrounded by infidel barbarians whom it would in due course enlighten and civilize. But between the different groups of barbarians there was a crucial difference. The barbarians to the east and the south were polytheists and idolaters, offering no serious threat and no competition at all to Islam. In the north and west, in contrast, Muslims from an early date recognized a genuine rival — a competing world religion, a distinctive civilization inspired by that religion, and an empire that, though much smaller than theirs, was no less ambitious in its claims and aspirations. This was the entity known to itself and others as Christendom, a term that was long almost identical with Europe. The struggle between these rival systems has now lasted for some fourteen centuries. It began with the advent of Islam, in the seventh century, and has continued virtually to the present day. It has consisted of a long series of attacks and counterattacks, jihads and crusades, conquests and reconquests.... For the past three hundred years, since the failure of the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 and the rise of the European colonial empires in Asia and Africa, Islam has been on the defensive, and the Christian and post-Christian civilization of Europe and her daughters has brought the whole world, including Islam, within its orbit.”

The Roots of Muslim Rage (Part Two)
“The accusations are familiar. We of the West are accused of sexism, racism, and imperialism, institutionalized in patriarchy and slavery, tyranny and exploitation. To these charges, and to others as heinous, we have no option but to plead guilty — not as Americans, nor yet as Westerners, but simply as human beings, as members of the human race. In none of these sins are we the only sinners, and in some of them we are very far from being the worst. The treatment of women in the Western world, and more generally in Christendom, has always been unequal and often oppressive, but even at its worst it was rather better than the rule of polygamy and concubinage that has otherwise been the almost universal lot of womankind on this planet.... Slavery is today universally denounced as an offense against humanity, but within living memory it has been practiced and even defended as a necessary institution, established and regulated by divine law. The peculiarity of the peculiar institution, as Americans once called it, lay not in its existence but in its abolition. Westerners were the first to break the consensus of acceptance and to outlaw slavery, first at home, then in the other territories they controlled, and finally wherever in the world they were able to exercise power or influence — in a word, by means of imperialism.”

What Went Wrong?
“Muslim modernizers — by reform or revolution — concentrated their efforts in three main areas: military, economic, and political. The results achieved were, to say the least, disappointing. The quest for victory by updated armies brought a series of humiliating defeats. The quest for prosperity through development brought in some countries impoverished and corrupt economies in recurring need of external aid, in others an unhealthy dependence on a single resource — oil. And even this was discovered, extracted, and put to use by Western ingenuity and industry, and is doomed, sooner or later, to be exhausted, or, more probably, superseded, as the international community grows weary of a fuel that pollutes the land, the sea, and the air wherever it is used or transported, and that puts the world economy at the mercy of a clique of capricious autocrats. Worst of all are the political results: the long quest for freedom has left a string of shabby tyrannies, ranging from traditional autocracies to dictatorships that are modern only in their apparatus of repression and indoctrination.... It was bad enough for Muslims to feel poor and weak after centuries of being rich and strong, to lose the position of leadership that they had come to regard as their right, and to be reduced to the role of followers of the West. But the twentieth century, particularly the second half, brought further humiliation — the awareness that they were no longer even the first among followers but were falling back in a lengthening line of eager and more successful Westernizers, notably in East Asia. The rise of Japan had been an encouragement but also a reproach. The later rise of other Asian economic powers brought only reproach. The proud heirs of ancient civilizations had gotten used to hiring Western firms to carry out tasks of which their own contractors and technicians were apparently incapable. Now Middle Eastern rulers and businessmen found themselves inviting contractors and technicians from Korea — only recently emerged from Japanese colonial rule — to perform these tasks. Following is bad enough; limping in the rear is far worse. By all the standards that matter in the modern world — economic development and job creation, literacy, educational and scientific achievement, political freedom and respect for human rights — what was once a mighty civilization has indeed fallen low.”

A three-part article on some current thinking on the Koran in The Atlantic:

What is the Koran? (Part 1)
“Some of the parchment pages in the Yemeni hoard seemed to date back to the seventh and eighth centuries A.D., or Islam’s first two centuries — they were fragments, in other words, of perhaps the oldest Korans in existence. What’s more, some of these fragments revealed small but intriguing aberrations from the standard Koranic text. Such aberrations, though not surprising to textual historians, are troublingly at odds with the orthodox Muslim belief that the Koran as it has reached us today is quite simply the perfect, timeless, and unchanging Word of God.”

What is the Koran? (Part 2)
“Deviating from the orthodox interpretation of the Koran, says the Algerian Mohammed Arkoun, a professor emeritus of Islamic thought at the University of Paris, is ‘a very sensitive business’ with major implications. ‘Millions and millions of people refer to the Koran daily to explain their actions and to justify their aspirations,’ Arkoun says. ‘This scale of reference is much larger than it has ever been before.’”

What is the Koran? (Part 3)
“Gerd-R. Puin speaks with disdain about the traditional willingness, on the part of Muslim and Western scholars, to accept the conventional understanding of the Koran. ‘The Koran claims for itself that it is “mubeen,” or “clear,” he says. ‘But if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn’t make sense. Many Muslims — and Orientalists — will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Koranic text is just incomprehensible. This is what has caused the traditional anxiety regarding translation. If the Koran is not comprehensible — if it can’t even be understood in Arabic — then it’s not translatable. People fear that. And since the Koran claims repeatedly to be clear but obviously is not — as even speakers of Arabic will tell you — there is a contradiction. Something else must be going on.’”

A three-part series “Driving a Wedge” in the Boston Globe:

Why bin Laden plot relied on Saudi hijackers
“Senior US officials and Saudi Interior Ministry officials involved with the investigation into the involvement of Saudi nationals in the attacks say they now believe bin Laden’s Al Qaeda actively sought out young Saudi volunteers from this region for their ‘jihad.’ The investigation is beginning to reveal a picture of how bin Laden, a native of the Saudi southwest, exploited the young hijackers by playing off the region's deep tribal affiliations, itseconomic dis-enfranchisement, anditsown burning brand of Wahhabi fundamentalism which the kingdom's religious hierarchy fosters in the schools.”

Saudi schools fuel anti-US anger
“US diplomats and Saudi specialists say Saudi schools are the foundation of the broader society in which the House of Saud has for decades tolerated extremists within the religious hierarchy to set a tone — in schools as well as on national television and radio airways — of open bigotry toward non-Muslims, contempt even for those non-Sunni Muslims from other branches of the faith such as the Shiite, and of virulent anti-Americanism. This, US and Saudi observers here say, has been part of an unofficial deal: The kingdom gave the religious establishment control of the schools as long as it didn’t question the legitimacy of the monarchy’s power. The United States went along with this tacit agreement as long as the oil kept flowing, its troops stayed in the country, and the House of Saud remained on the throne.”

Doubts are cast on the viability of Saudi monarchy for long term
“The House of Saud — the 30,000-member ruling family headed by 3,000 princes — has long been so riddled with corruption that even Crown Prince Abdullah has said the culture of royal excess has to come to an end. It has ruled over the kingdom with documented human rights abuses and, as one Western diplomat put it, a form of ‘gender apartheid’ for women. Democracy has never been part of the equation. These palace indulgences have been tolerated by Washington for far too long, critics say, because of a US policy dependent on Saudi Arabia'’s vast oil reserves, Riyadh’s purchase of an estimated $4 billion a year worth of US weapons, and its pivotal role as host to 5,000 American troops. Since Franklin Delano Roosevelt agreed a half century ago to defend the kingdom in exchange for ready access to oil, the balance between US interests and US ideals in Saudi Arabia has always tipped in favor of Washington’s economic and strategic interests.”

A three-part series on Environmentalism by Diane Alden @ NewsMax:

The Green Matrix (Part One)
“The people who rule the green matrix seek to centrally plan our lives. They have adopted the same philosophy as those who drove the peasants off the land in Russia. They are of the same mind as the Red Guard in China. They are willing to sacrifice science, the truth and freedom, as well as the well-being of humans and the environment, in order to promote their utopian vision for the world — a vision that considers man a cancer on the land. Strangely, the term ‘green matrix’ comes up in many of their studies, claims and policy papers. But this isn’t a movie. It is the new totalitarian vision.”

The Green Matrix (Part Two): They Blinded Us With Science
“The more serious problem, however, is that over the years agencies have been co-opted by those with a much larger agenda in mind. It is not just about listing one species and shutting down one or two forests for public use, i.e., ‘managing federal lands.’ As the greens say, ‘Think globally and act locally.’ That mantra is at the core and heart of U.S. environmental policy. It is fair to say that in the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service ‘science’ got dumped years ago. It was a process that began in the ’70s but received official imprimatur under Bill Clinton in 1993. At that time, philosophy replaced ‘science.’ Conservation biology became the ‘science,’ and ‘ecosystem management’ and ‘precautionary principle’ the tools. The end game was to reconnect ‘ecosystems’ from the Yukon to Mexico.”

The Green Matrix (Part 3): Weird Science – Think Globally
“Modern environmentalism has become the best single tool to fulfill the fondest wishes of the international control freaks and central planners. It is the new ideological agenda replacing communism and capitalism. It is, in fact, a lethal mix of both. Alan Caruba of the National Anxiety Center calls it ‘fascilism.’ In implementing the various environmental wish lists, we don’t get cleaner air and water. But we do get a new religion and a new economic system. In addition, the old time religion is being replaced by a green Zen Buddhism on one hand, and tyranny and repression on the other. If you follow the logic of ‘ecosystem’ management, that is where we're headed as we wend our way through the holistic approach for the ‘collective good.’”

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This View’s Column

“The Curse of an Open Mind”

Where is Lewis Carroll When You Need Him?

The column is also available on This View’s Column page, without the links on the left- and right-hand of the page.

A Brief Discourse on Nonsense Writing

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought....

Lewis Carroll is, of course, the nom de plume of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, nineteenth-century author of the famous “Alice” books: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (And What Alice Found There).

Dodgson was a master of nonsense writing, explained at the BBC’s h2g2, the “Earth Edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”:

Nonsense can best be defined as an extreme form of parody, rather than as a separate genre in its own right. It can be distinguished from its near-neighbour, gibberish, in that while the latter aims for a complete breakdown in meaning, nonsense tends to remain more or less within the established boundaries regarding literary form and structure. However, nonsense delights in satirising the ridiculous by making it still more ridiculous, to the point of irretrievability.

Two Stories of a Hopeful Head Football Coach

We have need of a Lewis Carroll these days. Let me begin to explain why by telling a little story:

A college on the East Coast was looking for a new head football coach. The school is “denominational”: it is affiliated with a Protestant Church; the faculty and studentry is largely Christian; consequently, most of the trustees, alumni, and benefactors are Christians. An assistant football coach at a midwestern university was interviewed for the position. He is, as they say, openly homosexual, has a steady boyfriend, and is an activist for homosexual “marriage”.

He got no further than the initial interview. Apparently, the college’s athletic director “vacillated” whether to call him back for a second interview, for the applicant was later quoted as follows: "After deliberation, he decided not to, with the explanation that he did not believe that my homosexual activism would mesh well with that college.” Agreeing that the applicant would not be a very good fit at their school, the college’s assistant athletic director of human resources was quoted as saying, “We’re a Christian community with a Christian alumni. Anything that would stand out that much is something that has to be looked at.... It was one of many variables that was considered.” And a student, a leader of the college’s most active evangelistic organization, was quoted thus: “Wow, it would be really hard for him here. He would be poorly received by the student body in general.”

Of course, that story is not true. You can be assured it is not true, because you have never heard of it.

Had a homosexual football coach been denied a position at a college because of his homosexual activism — even were that supposedly only “one of many variables that was considered” — anybody living in the USA would be unlikely to get by without hearing about it. Often. Over and over again. And repeatedly, too. The college’s actions, and especially the comments from faculty and staff, would have evoked shrill and angry cries of discrimination — “homophobia”, don’t you know — and would be used as one more alleged example of why even more anti-discrimination legislation is necessary.

After all, this is the twenty-first century.

Almost the exact opposite story, however, is quite true:

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, was looking for a new head football coach. The school is liberal and diverse, and has an “active gay community”. Ron Brown, assistant coach for the Nebraska Corn Huskers, applied for the position. After an initial interview, he was not called back for another: he is, you see, a fervent Christian who makes no bones about his faith, often reads the Bible in public, and thinks that homosexuals are living sinful lives and need to be brought to Jesus Christ.

The “quotations” used for the first story are actually modified quotations about the Brown-Stanford event, from an article in the Daily Nebraskan, Apr. 11. In reality, Stanford’s athletic director is supposed to have “vacillated” whether to bring Brown back for another interview, and Brown was quoted as saying, “After deliberation, he decided not to... with the explanation that he did not believe that my Christian convictions would mesh well with that university.” Alan Glenn, identified as Stanford’s assistant athletic director of human resources, is quoted as follows: “We’re a very diverse community with a diverse alumni. Anything that would stand out that much is something that has to be looked at.... It was one of many variables that was considered.” (Ellipsis in original.) And Courtney Wooten, a sophomore sociology and studio art major and social director of Stanford’s Queer Straight Social and Political Alliance, is quoted, “Wow, it would be really hard for him here. He would be poorly received by the student body in general.”

Something tells me that you are not surprised by any of this. You’re not surprised that a prestigious university on the west coast is liberal, is “diverse”, and has an “active gay community”. You’re not surprised that a job applicant was turned down, at least in part, because he is a professing Christian who, consequently, does not support the homosexual “lifestyle”. And you’re not surprised that nobody in mainstream media has cried “discrimination” or “Christophobia”, and that nobody has called for more anti-discrimination laws.

After all, this is the twenty-first century.

Mark Simon to Stanford’s Defense

.... And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came! ....

I myself have been able to tell you this story, so far. But I warn you: we are now approaching a quite different venue, where the extraordinary skills of the likes of Lewis Carroll may be required.

A week after The Daily Nebraskan published its story on Ron Brown and Stanford University — a very well-written and balanced article, by the way — the San Francisco Chronicle ran a column by Mark Simon. Maybe you will be surprised. Maybe not. But Mark Simon defended Stanford’s decision; his column was entitled “Stanford right to pass on Christian coach: Gridiron and religion should be separate”. It begins thus:

There may be no atheists in foxholes, but it is entirely possible there are nonbelievers on the campus of Stanford University, which prides itself on being strictly broad-minded. In fact, it’s quite likely there’s an atheist or two on the football team and quite probably a few homosexuals. All of which might be good enough reason not to hire a football coach who wants to use his cap and whistle to further his own Christian goals, which include “winning” homosexuals to Christ. Or maybe not. Frankly, it’s a little confusing, which, it could be said, is the curse of an open mind. (emphasis added)

Actually, so far, I agree with Simon. Certainly, there are arguments pro and con in this situation. Exceedingly rare is the situation in which there aren’t arguments pro and con: whether all of them — or any of them — make sense is another matter.

By the time he makes his way to the end of his column, though, Simon has left the indisputable far behind and launched into the incomprehensible:

Stanford is diverse and liberal in the philosophical sense, rather than the political. Diversity means diversity of thought. An essential element of a Stanford education, it would seem, is exposure to a broad range of thinking, lifestyles and beliefs — a purposeful challenge to the way of thinking you brought there with you. “One thing I’ve tried not to do,” Brown said in an interview with a Nebraska media outlet, “is separate my coaching from who I am. Some people have a problem with that. They want to separate my coaching from my faith in Christ. I can’t do that. That would be a huge hypocrisy. You have to be who you are.” No one is suggesting Brown should be anything less than who he is. But it would seem Stanford is perfectly justified in rejecting Brown for who he is, since that’s the criteria he proposes.

If you don’t have to read that passage several times, to make yourself believe that somebody actually wrote it, you’re quicker than I am. Or, maybe, more familiar with nonsense writing than most people are.

Here, in my considered opinion, is another way of saying what Simon wrote — more direct, less obtuse:

Stanford entertains and encourages different ways of thinking. In fact, the University thinks that exposure to different ways of thinking, and challenges to one’s own way of thinking, is essential to education. Ron Brown is a practicing Christian, who believes that homosexual activity is immoral, and he challenges atheists and homosexuals with his Christian convictions. That would be a pretty darned different way of thinking, believing, and living at good old Stanford U. Therefore, he just wouldn’t do at that place, and they were right to show him the door.

Yes. Where is Lewis Carroll when you need him.

.... One two! One two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

(Jabberwocky)

Come to think of it, another way of saying what Simon wrote — even more direct, even less obtuse — might make more sense:

Stanford University encourages diversity of thought, belief, and lifestyles as essential to education. Ron Brown’s way of thinking, believing, and living would really increase the diversity of thought, belief, and lifestyles at Stanford. Therefore, it cannot be allowed.

Whoa.... I’m... starting to... get dizzy....

What’s Really Going On Here

Let’s get honest. Ron Brown was rejected because he is a believing Christian who doesn’t leave his faith behind when he walks out the church door.

Contrary to claims of “diversity”, and the necessity of having one’s thinking challenged as essential to education, Brown was rejected precisely because his thinking constitutes “diversity” from what has become acceptable at Stanford, and precisely because his “diversity” would provide a “challenge” to the thinking of the campus milieu.

Oops. Maybe I have been conjuring the wrong author. Perhaps, instead of Lewis Carroll to help us to understand the situation, we would be better served by George Orwell, nom de plume of Eric Blair, author of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm.

The only kind of thinking that liberal American universities these days want to have challenged are Judeo-Christian moral values — especially those concerning sexual morality, and the condemnation of homosexual activity, in particular — and the values that have made Western civilization — especially individual freedom, individual responsibility, and the dignity of the person.

Oh. The Curse of an Open Mind, it seems, might just be to have your brains fall out.

© ELC 2002

The column is also available on This View’s Column page, without the links on the left- and right-hand of the page.

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 Volume 1.11 Front Page April 22, 2002 





The View from the Core, and all original material, © E. L. Core 2002. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”