December 2007 Archives
December 3, 2007
The Closing of the American Mind at 20.
For those interested, the Manhattan Institute held a symposium on Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, on the 20th anniversary of that book, a couple months ago. The video is here.
Another polemic against Liberalism
Conservatism has undoubtedly taken it on the nose lately, but it is instructive now and then to recall the calamitous successive failures of Liberalism, and reflect on how being a Liberal seems to mean never having to say you’re sorry. Consider, to take a salient example, the ruinous incompetence of the Liberals who handled American-Iranian relations on the eve of the Iranian Revolution. Some excerpts from Steven F. Hayward’s engaging study The Age of Reagan:
December 4, 2007
Black/White Income Equality: a bleg:
Since 1967, the U.S. Census Bureau has collected excellent comparative statistics on black vs. white income in the U.S.
Unfortunately, I just can't find anything even remotely comparable for the years *before* 1967 - i.e., for the years before the "civil rights movement" and "affirmative action."
Can anybody help me out, here? Do any such statistics exist?
What I'm trying to figure out is this: just exactly how well have said "civil rights movement" and said "affirmative action" worked out for African-Americans, on this (admittedly crude) measure?
December 5, 2007
To face unafraid the plans that we made
I'm sure all of you are already sick of "Winter Wonderland."
Oddly, I'm not. At least not if I can listen to Bing Crosby sing it instead of somebody less talented. I notice this year, as every year now, one particular line of that song: "Later on we'll conspire, as we dream by the fire, to face unafraid the plans that we made walkin' in a winter wonderland."
Isn't that at least a little bit striking? Why do those plans require "facing unafraid"? Well, they're going to get married. (That's the bit about the snowman and Parson Brown.)
Interview on Defending Life with Ignatius Press
|Ignatius Press just published an interview of me conducted by Carl Olson. The interview is about my new book, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007). You can find the interview here.|
December 6, 2007
Passivity and paralysis.
Yet another massacre of innocents in a public place — it’s become all too common in this country. The shock of it, that staggering horror we all felt back in the Nineties, has proven evanescent. There is now a routine to it: the television networks have their “Tragedy in Omaha” graphics ready within a half hour. A few witnesses are interviewed, the horror retold briefly; the police repeat some platitudes, perhaps a distant accomplice or collaborator is questioned and released; a few psychologists or criminal profilers utter their usual tedium — and then it’s back to coverage of the Iowa caucuses.
What are the chances that there will be a real effort of self-reflection following this latest mass murder/suicide in a public place? As David Kopel wrote (subscription only) on the first anniversary of the Columbine massacre (in a Weekly Standard article that made a vivid impression on me at the time): “the real lesson of Columbine is that very few people care enough about the horrible events of April 20, 1999, to try to prevent their recurrence.”
Hunter Baker of Red State on the Romney Speech
You can find it here.
(Full disclosure: Hunter, who is presently Director of Strategic Planning at Houston Baptist University, was my grad assistant at Baylor for two years [2003-05], and will be graduating with his PhD in religion, politics & society on December 15).
December 7, 2007
For No Particular Reason...
...A Marlene Dietrich quote which I found somewhat intriguing and provocative:
To be completely woman you need a master, and in him a compass for your life. You need a man you can look up to and respect. If you dethrone him it's no wonder that you are discontented, and discontented women are not loved for long.
I'll refrain from comment except to note that this sentiment is much closer to the truth of human nature than anything in feminism. That we've forgotten this, or something similar to it, factors into the increasingly strained, or, where not strained, utterly utilitarian (or is to say the latter merely to say the former more theoretically?), relations between the sexes. Neither men nor women understand who they are supposed to be, by nature.
Update: for those so inclined, here is the Wikipedia entry for Dietrich.
A Wild Pitch By Frank Pastore
Apparently, talk show host Frank Pastore has made an argument (and I use the term "argument" loosely) as to why Al Qaeda supports the Emergent Church. Like Ted Olsen of Christianity Today, I am no fan of EC. But that does not excuse horrid reasoning on the part of critics like Pastore, a former major league pitcher, who, it seems, has lost his logical control since his days as an MA student in philosophy at Biola University. Given his pedigree and outstanding teachers (such as J. P. Moreland), Frank can do much better than this.
Update: You can find Pastore's essay, "Why Al Qaeda Supports the Emergent Church," here.
December 10, 2007
City Journal and immigration
“I’m embarrassed it took me so long,” writes Myron Magnet, “to grasp the phoniness of the charge that it’s ‘anti-immigration’ to oppose current U.S. immigration policy and the even worse ‘comprehensive reform’ bill, which thankfully failed.” This confession appears (subscription required) in the current number of The American Spectator, that fine magazine’s 40th anniversary issue.
He goes on to restate, with clarity, simplicity and deftly-marshaled evidential support, the enforcement-by-attrition approach to the immigration crisis in America. We need no “comprehensive” legislative reform. We need steady enforcement of current law, against both illegals and their abettors in business, government, and elsewhere. We need to be disabused of some stale clichés and sophistries, beginning with the one about the net benefit of mass immigration. Our immigration policy must rest unequivocally on American national interest.
Mr. Magnet is the former editor of the highly-respected New York-based City Journal. His arguments will not fall on deaf ears. This is, after all, the journal that was the intellectual muscle behind the astonishing transformation of New York City, which was one of the signal achievements of the last fifteen years in American political science, and which is the most solid pillar of accomplishment supporting the presidential campaign of Rudy Giuliani. For City Journal to throw in with the immigration skeptics is an indication of how far we’ve come from the heady days when Platitude was King.
Cultural Contradictions of Liberalism, Part 123,456,789
Some commenters on the left have tried to spin Romney's "don't hate me because I'm Mormon" speech more or less like this: "oh, how horrid that he should even have to make such a speech! But those Republican primary voters are so bigoted against anybody who departs the least little bit from Christian orthodoxy that he had no choice. We Democrats, of course, would never even dream of rejecting somebody simply because of his religion!"
Meanwhile, back in the real world, The Huffington Post (!) Reports:
Leszek Kolakowski on the Devil, The Enlightenment, and The Reformation
I'll apologize in advance for the length of the quotation, which is drawn from a favourite essay within a favourite book, Kolakowski's Modernity on Endless Trial, an anthology of selected essays written between 1973 and 1986. The essay, entitled, Politics and the Devil, commences with a brief discussion of the Christian doctrine of existence as a positive good, with evil, therefore, being wholly negative or privative in nature. The devil, then, cannot create either ex nihilo or de novo his own world-order, but must instead corrupt, debauch, deflect, or commandeer institutions or tendencies which have already legitimate purposes, moral and otherwise. Kolakowski's essay traces the moves and countermoves in the grand chess-match between God and the devil, wrought in the sphere of human freedom, as this impinges upon political affairs. We pick up his 'general history of their struggle' on the cusp of the transition to modernity:
One major task of the Enlightenment, among others, was to free politics from the fetters of religion. Since religion itself, by assuming so many political responsibilities and so much power, had become more and more contaminated with secular interests, more and more involved in military adventures, in diplomatic intrigues, and in amassing wealth for wealth's sake, the other part of the assignment was to purify Christianity itself and to reduce it to what was its proper business. This part was to be given to the Reform movement within the Church. Again, two sides of the same Roman coin.
The devil, as one should have expected, was operating relentlessly on both sides of the process, and quite successfully. Within in the Enlightenment proper, his idea was to convince people that it was not enough to liberate politics from religious control and to sever the State from the Church but that the progress of humanity consisted in forgetting its religious tradition altogether and, if necessary, doing it by violence. He gave the Enlightenment its anti-Christian shape and worked out, with the help of many fine and virtuous minds, the idea of humanism, which defined itself primarily by godlessness. Thereby it opened the door to the concept of politics as a sheer vying for power, power being a supreme good in itself; this went far beyond the Aristotelian tradition.
This was the easier and not very complicated half of the devil's job. Properly to wreck and to exploit the ideal of Christianity, which would have gotten rid of the secular pollution and returned it to its original purity, was a much harder task, but the devil proved to be up to the challenge.
Not Ready for Civilization, part II
Via Lawrence Auster, a report that Muslim militias in Basra, soon to undergo a complete transition back to local governance, are threatening Christian women who have hitherto declined to wear the veil or burqa.
Actually, the "not ready for civilization" part could apply equally well to America and Britain themselves, inasmuch they embarked upon an unjust war, which they sought to justify by appeal to multifarious fraudulent pretexts, ideological, evidentiary, and material, which war has had as its entirely foreseeable consequence the grievous and irreversible destruction of indigenous Christian communities. They do not "make a desert and call it peace"; no, they do worse: they unleash evil and laud themselves for having done good, and connive at gross injustice and wallow in the pretense of virtue.
December 11, 2007
Pastore Throws Another Wild Pitch, but Brett Kunkle Hits It Out of the Park
|Talk-show host Frank Pastore has done it again. (Read about the first wild pitch here). In his most recent Townhall.com column, Pastore offers a fallacy-riddled and uncharitable assessment of J. P. Moreland's recent ETS paper, which I wrote about on this blog last month.|
December 12, 2007
An Anti-Kant Attack Ad
Via my good friend Colin Miller, the following anti-Kant attack advertisement.
I'll note, for the time being, that Kant gets sublimity precisely backwards; the sublime does not awe us by awakening us to our rational mastery of contingent being, or some such thing, but overawes us, stupefying our faculties and pointing to what lies beyond phenomenal experience. And "rational mastery" is still a part of phenomenal experience. And no, I've no interest in re-reading the Third Critique, either.
So, put me down for the Other Guy, or, better yet, None of the Above. But the Other Guy, at least, is a much more enthralling read.
The Significance of Kosovo in Our Historical Moment
I cannot hope to approach the aptness of Srdja Trifkovic's own title, Kosovo as a Symbol of Anti-Postmodernism, and so I have not tried. Nevertheless, the essay is a masterful summation of the significance this little piece of Balkan territory holds in the not-so-playful scheme of signifiers regnant in the West. Selected excerpts follow.
Blissfully unaware of the cultural tectonic shift that has taken place in “the West,” many Serbian political leaders, analysts and institutions in their contacts with the Western elite class keep invoking four sets of arguments in support of their position that Kosovo ought to remain part of Serbia:
1. Historical: Kosovo was the heartland of the Serbian medieval state;
2. Cultural: in Kosovo there are many priceless monuments of Serbian art and architecture that define Serbia’s contribution to the common European heritage;
3. Spiritual: Kosovo is “Serbia’s Jerusalem”;
4. Civilizational: Kosovo should not fall to the insurgent jihad.
Object Lessons in Immigration as Agent of Political Change
Not that American politicians are likely to take notice - to do so would be to indulge in nativism, or worse - notwithstanding the present saliency of the illegal immigration question. For, you must understand, it is one thing to take cognizance of the deleterious effects of illegal immigration - though even this is fraught with innumerable pitfalls of wrongthought - and quite another to notice that even legal immigration may alter the political and culture landscape in ways undesirable to the natives. Why, nations are arbitary constructs, mere temporary congealments of transient market relations, or invidious attempts to exclude and oppress The Other. What right have the 'natives' -a meaningless term, anyway - to keep something - which is nothing, really - to themselves? The audacity!
Not that American politicians are likely to notice then, that demographic change married to ethnic politicking has resulted in the ouster of John Howard, former Australian Prime Minister and Friend of Bush. After all, the dominant liberal world-picture cultivates habits of blindness, reality, including correlations between ethnicity and culture, or ethnicity and political proclivities, being a blasphemy against the solemn dignity of the Idea.
Baby Got Book
December 13, 2007
Still standing athwart.
We’re coming up on two full years of wrestling with the immigration question in a highly public way. The striking fact is this: catastrophe has been averted. We have, admittedly, made precious few positive steps toward improvement; but fewer still have been the advances of that plutocracy which conspires to subjugate the Republic on this issue. A stubborn, noble resistance endures. I find this remarkable.
The weight of elite opinion — business, government, media, intelligentsia, ecclesiastic — is quite overwhelming. In virtually every field of affairs, the elite wants “comprehensive” reform and will not compromise toward an incremental policy of enforcement by attrition. Its failure bespeaks the lasting vitality of American democracy
December 14, 2007
The Tale of the Ten Cossacks and the Brave Little Waiter
Apparently a bunch of young men were aboard a New York subway and were randomly yelling "Merry Christmas." (This is a conjecture, but as it says it was "late," I think we may infer that they'd imbibed liquid refreshment and were becoming not only boisterous but also belligerent.) Also on the train were a group of young Jewish girls and guys, who began calling back "Happy Hannukah" to them.
What happened next is a bit unclear (to me, anyway), but evidently the Christmas-shouting thugs became angry and began behaving threateningly to at least one of the Jewish girls. Whereupon a bystander, a 5' 7", 140 lb. Muslim Bangladeshi waiter named Hassan Askari, pushed one of the young Cossacks away from the Jewish girl (why didn't her escort do this first?), and got himself a couple of black eyes and a swollen face for his pains.
There's no word here on what happened to the thugs, whether they ended up in custody, whether they will be charged, or exactly how the whole thing ended without more serious injuries. We learn only that one of the young Jewish men pulled the emergency cord and thus alerted the powers that be to trouble on the train, which presumably had something to do with the breakup of the whole thing.
Confoundment to those who take the name of Our Lord and the feast of His birth in vain. And honor where it's due. To Hassan Askari: May he someday come to know Jesus Christ and learn the true meaning of "Merry Christmas."
December 15, 2007
The Formationator: "Profess Chalcedon or take a Beatin'"
December 16, 2007
John Mark Reynolds Weighs in On Moreland Paper Controversy
Director of Biola's Torrey Honors Institute, John Mark Reynolds, offers a wonderful assessment of J. P. Moreland's 2007 ETS paper and its critics, about which I have blogged here, here, and here. Under the title, "Moreland’s Modest Proposal Stirs Up An Immodest Response," Reynolds published his comments on the blog to which he and Moreland contribute, The Scriptorium Daily. You can read Reynolds' thoughtful entry here.
December 17, 2007
...And I Reject Conservative Assaults Upon Logic
If one spends any amount of time, even a few torturous, agonizing, ascetical-works-of-purgation moments reveling in the 'insights' delivered by conservative talk radio, one will encounter a certain meme which, roughly, reduces to the idea that any policy at variance with the policy preferences of the economic wing of the Republican party - the supply-siders, the free-traders, and Wall-Street bagmen - is tantamount to socialism. Nay, may be socialism itself, cloaked as obscurantist populism, and will assuredly set us off on the Broad Way of the Road to Serfdom. For example, some possibly well-intended pol may proffer, as a means of encouraging the nation to lessen its increasingly-ruinous path-dependence upon foreign sources of energy, some tax, or tax-credit, intended to subsidize research in potential alternatives, and the talk-radio personalities and members of the conservative punditocracy will often deride the proposal as utterly illiterate, Big Government on the march, running roughshod over 'consumer preferences', and portending a buckboard ride down the road to serfdom. Such proposals, however, may or may not be wise, depending upon the details, the expected implementation, and the economic rationales and ramifications; nevertheless, where such proposals are of dubious merit, the reasons are particular and empirical, and do not reduce to the assertion that they are truck stops on Hayek's road.
December 18, 2007
LGF Goes to Seed
Via Lawrence Auster and a correspondent, news that Charles Johnson of LGF has, more or less, slipped the tether of reality:
I'm sure you're bored rigid by now over the antics at LGF and its recalibration to the left but I'm concerned with the way LGF is targeting major figures in the anti-jihad movement: Fjordman, the Gates of Vienna blogsite, Bat Ye'or (whose Eurabia theory has been trashed), Diana West, and, I believe, soon to be, Robert Spencer. I've heard that Spencer and Johnson are or used to be friends.
Spencer is crucial to the anti-jihad movement and has been instrumental in making Islam's doctrines widely known on the Internet. In his precise, unemotional and scholarly fashion, he is far more of a responsible symbol than LGF could ever hope to be.
Evidently, this unmooring is the outgrowth of Johnson's reaction to the European counter-jihad conference, and the emphasis placed by participants upon cultural and civilizational heritage and particularity, as opposed to the deracinated fantasies of proceduralist liberalism and the self-indulgent quest for the moderate Muslim, a strange creature which, like the unicorn, inspires much whimsy but is never actually sighted.
Cultural particularity is the stumbling block of this unfortunate age of human history, upon which the West itself, in thralldom to various malign ideologies and delusions, now dashes itself.
Of Slipping Masks
It was inevitable that, with the vaulting of Mike Huckabee into the top tier of GOP presidential contenders, the rhetorical knives would be drawn. Huckabee was never one of the anointed candidates of the GOP establishment, and espouses a version of the now-discredited "Compassionate Conservatism" that has proven so disastrous under Bush; beyond that, there are the facts that several of his announced policy positions alienate key factions within the GOP establishment, that he was rather liberal and imprudent in granting clemency to ne'er-do-wells, and that he demonized - prior to his recent 'conversion' to the cause of immigration reform - advocates of immigration enforcement as hard-hearted bigots acting contrary to the highest ethical dogmas of Christianity.
There is more to the matter, though, than this. There is also the GOP's very own dialect of class warfare.
The irony of Bob Dylan.
Mr. J. H. Kunstler, of the Peak Oil theory fame, reviewed Bob Dylan’s first volume of memoirs some time ago. Dylan fans (of whom I doubt this website has in abundance) will find in it some insight and interest, though I only link to it reluctantly — not least because of Kunstler’s penchant for profanity. If you don’t know or like Dylan, or are repelled by the deliberate if rare use of oaths or vulgarity in critical writing, the essay will probably just fatigue you: so I’ll offer just a couple points for your notice.
A Note on National Review and Religion
Recent developments in the Republican presidential campaign have afforded the establishment right the opportunity to articulate its vision of order within the conservative movement, occasioning the curious spectacle of a movement which has played the people-against-the-elites card for generations suddenly lauding expertise, credentials, and the cultivated minority. There is, of course, a place for such things in any conservatism worthy of the name; the crucial things are that the elites and their substantive traditions be identified correctly, and that corrupt, false, and degraded pretenders to authority be exposed. One does not read Babbit, Weaver, or Kirk and develop a leveling sensibility; neither, though, does one acquire a sense that the characteristic modern forms of authority, being invested in value-neutral technique, are legitimate.
National Review, however, has recently telegraphed that, perhaps, that most venerable of traditional authorities is no longer quite so welcome as it once was.
December 19, 2007
Is It 1984 Yet?
I have been stricken speechless by the following textbook excerpt concerning the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq:
This is directly out of my 6th grade sister's history book. (And she has a test over it tomorrow.) "At the beginning of the twenty-first century, terrorism became a major threat to world peace. In 2003, U.S. military forces invaded Iraq. They were sent to prevent Iraq from using chemical and biological weapons. ... The United States has protected innocent civilians or helped bring peace to a war-torn region."
People, Places and Change: An Introduction to World Studies
Holt, Rinehart and Winston
page 103 (From Ryan Hainlen, posted by Karen DeCoster over at
Whatever one might state in favour of the policy, there were no weapons of mass destruction, and the Ba'athist dictatorship has been replaced by a refugee crisis of quietly-epic proportions and sectarian civil strife, which has itself precipitated all manner of destabilizing regional maneuvers on the parts of Iran, Turkey, the Kurds of several nations, and much else that would be too tedious to mention. Yes, there are ways of parsing the text to derive a less-factually-challenged version of events, but we all know that the kiddies won't read it that way.
December 20, 2007
The Discourse of Empire is Untruth
Srdja Trifkovic has posted another excellent commentary on the most recent American machinations towards the establishment of an independent Kosovo, another jihadist narco-state lying in the soft underbelly of Europe. Concerning the possible Serbian response to an American-supported unilateral declaration of independence - a blockade, suspension of diplomatic relations with the conspiring nations, and a possible forcible partition of the Serbian enclaves, with a retention of sovereign claims over the remainder - Trifkovic writes:
Serbia’s response will have a limited impact on the countries outside the region, but that will not be the end of the story. Russia, China and India, and dozens of Asian and African countries with secessionist problems—including South Africa and the most populous predominantly Muslim country, Indonesia—will deem the move illegal and invalid. The theory that outside powers can award part of a state’s sovereign territory to a violent ethnic or religious minority, only if that minority is able to provoke a violent government response and secure a “humanitarian” intervention from abroad, would put in question the borders of at least two-dozen states.
Just A Note Or Two From Your Resident Skeptic of Capitalism
First, a more methodological point concerning skepticism of contemporary capitalism and the power exercised by its characteristic entities, courtesy of Stratfor's analysis of the Chinese acquisition of a $5 billion stake in Morgan Stanley:
The purchase of $5 billion stake in Morgan Stanley by China's new sovereign fund, the China Investment Corp., was announced Dec. 19. This is the third strategic linkup with an influential U.S. financial major in exchange for an infusion of Chinese cash and mainland business opportunities. The U.S. Congress typically kicks up a fuss each time a Chinese or other foreign company bids for a strategic U.S. asset, but so far not for U.S. banks. Since financial services companies wield significant economic and geopolitical power,(emphasis mine) it probably is only a matter of time before Congress speaks up about such purchases.
The analysis continues by detailing the previous actions of the Chinese Investment Corporation, China's sovereign wealth fund, noting that such funds are availing themselves of the opportunities presented by the subprime mortgage crisis, and the political inability of the U.S. government to bailout each institutions staggering beneath the burden of so much worthless mortgage paper. Furthermore,
...the U.S. banking lobby has a very sophisticated and successful lobbying presence in Washington. It is active in Congress and with regulatory agencies such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., where it works to reduce regulatory burdens for the U.S. finance industry. The lobby's influence is clearly seen in the shaping of the federal government response to rising foreclosures on subprime mortgages.
Ultimately, however, U.S. oil and financial services companies both wield significant economic and geopolitical power.(emphasis mine) So it is only a matter of time, most likely within the next year, before Congress picks up the theme of these huge foreign acquisitions in America's most successful finance players.
There are, of course, entirely legitimate reasons for skepticism concerning these moves on the part of an entity controlled by the Chinese regime. My point is the related one that if indeed there are grounds for concern, rooted in the fact that the Chinese government could be acquiring the means to exercise influence over American corporate institutions, this is worrisome precisely because such institutions already exercise significant political power, and already figure prominently in American geopolitical strategy. As such, there is not merely a threat - albeit one as yet at a great distance, smaller than the compass of a man's hand - to American sovereignty, but a modification of what was already a diminution of actual small-r republican, deliberative self-governance, for what it means to state that such institutions exercise significant political power is simply that they influence policy through the (corrupt) lobbying process, and through administrative and fiduciary (read: Federal Reserve) channels. Which is to say, through means other than the representative ones of a self-governing society. Policies of incalculable import to the ordering of our common good are set less by those who ostensibly represent us acting in our name, than by the interests of concentrated wealth; and wealth, or money, being speech - according to a body of legal precedents - it follows that those possessed of more money speak more liberally, and find their interests more fully secured.
And it's not me saying this; it's an outfit the accuracy of which influential people rely upon for decisionmaking purposes.
The Anglican Implosion, Part 894,897,345
According to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, one need not believe in the Virgin Birth in order to be accounted a Christian.
During the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church, the Deacon intones solemnly, before the recitation of the Creed, the Symbol of Faith, "The doors, the doors! In wisdom let us attend." The significance of this is that is a reminder of a period of Church history in which the substance of the faith was not disclosed to just anyone, as a topic of ordinary conversation, but was disclosed to the catechumens, the initiates, only gradually; as such, one could not have the congregation loudly professing their common faith in such a manner as to lay its sacred mysteries before the unbelieving world. The Creed, therefore, was so integral to the identity of the Church that she was unthinkable without it, and one could not join her unless one professed the Creed without reservation.
This, Rowan Williams effectively considers as a sort of menu, from which one may select and reject according to one's preferences. Must one also pray to Christ? May one not also pray to Buddha, or the earth-mother? Oh, wait...
December 22, 2007
Unto us a Child is born.
The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why.
Merry Christmas to all!
December 28, 2007
Film review: The Kingdom
The Kingdom is a noteworthy film for several reasons. First and foremost, its depiction of Islamic terrorism is about as clearheaded as anything I’ve seen out of Hollywood. The bad guys are Muslims acting as Muslims, and there is hardly even a gesture toward “religion of peace” or “perversion of a great religion” sophistry. To be sure, the film makes no real attempt to examine the ineradicably Islamic character of the Jihad, exhibits little curiosity about the whole sanguinary tradition of holy war: but that is just as well, as most Hollywood curiosity along these lines descends rapidly into sentimentalism, illusion, or bewilderment.
Secondly, it is noteworthy for several masterful action sequences, culminating in a rolling firefight that moves from street to cramped apartment complex, which frankly left this viewer breathless.
Finally, the film is noteworthy for the surprising preeminence achieved by an unlikely character: a Saudi police colonel (played by a newcomer named Ashraf Barhom) who begins as the babysitter for a team of FBI agents investigating a series of attacks on Westerners in Saudi Arabia, and ends their comrade-at-arms. This guy steals the show.
The film is not without flaws. It’s pacing is ineffective at times. The plot is pedestrian. The brief denouement seems exceptionally forced, as if the filmmakers just tacked it on at post-production. Stars Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner manage only mediocre portrayals of their characters. But the finely-rendered action, the firm resistance to PC nonsense on Islam, and the unexpected brilliance of Mr. Barhom, make it, in my judgment, a worthwhile movie.
PRI continues to help innocents in China
As Jupiter could be hidden from all-devouring Time, as the Christ Child could be hidden from Herod--so the child unborn is still hidden from the omniscient oppressor. He...alone is left; and they seek his life to take it away.
G.K. Chesterton, from Eugenics and Other Evils, as quoted in Alvaro da Silva, ed., Brave New Family
For Holy Innocents' Day, a story with a happy ending from the Population Research Institute. (The story is from PRI's Global Family Life News, not available on-line.) PRI has set up a Chinese safe house in the first instance to help women pursued by the population control police of China when they are pregnant with second or otherwise "unlicensed" children. This story makes no mention of the forces of the law, though pregnancy outside of wedlock is, according to other PRI publications, usually illegal in China as well. But in this case, the mother, whom they refer to as "Rachel," was chiefly under intense pressure from her own family to abort her child.
December 29, 2007
Father wavers on dehydrating daughter to death
Here's a disturbing story, one that is still in play and where those of you Christians out there might perhaps still make a difference by prayer.
16-year-old Javona Peters suffered severe brain damage when she had an allergic reaction to the anesthetic during what should have been relatively minor surgery. Though this all happened only two months ago, doctors are saying she is in a "persistent vegetative state." Her mother wants to remove her feeding tube (which the story calls "pulling the plug"--a highly misleading phrase) so that she will dehydrate to death and the mother can get on with suing the hospital. (The story also uses the demeaning phrase "ending what is left of her life.")
Until a few days ago, her father was adamantly opposed to any such thing, saying, admirably, "I don't give life and I cannot take a life." Her parents are estranged, and her father has custody. A court hearing is scheduled for January 7. I gather that this is a custody hearing; the mother hopes to get custody so she can authorize Javona's death by dehydration.
December 30, 2007
Some Sunday Reading
Touchstone Magazine has notified me (and certainly Paul, too) that its Jan/Feb 2006 issue is now available online, and has further offered encouragement to link to it. There's a bunch of good reading in it, including our own Paul Cella's review of Thomas Woods' How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. Annually this number of the magazine puts a special focus on pro-life issues, and I am glad to have been a part of it twice, in this case offering a personal reflection called "A Stone for Shmuel." The title refers to this little fellow, who appeared in the magazine but is absent from the online version:
December 31, 2007
What a Year.... "I Hear the Ancient Footsteps..."
Those words are from Bob Dylan's song, Every Grain of Sand . They are words that seem more real to me than ever, as 2007 comes to a close. In their context, Dylan's biblical lyrics seem to convey the sense of awe that has dominated my consciousness during this year of changes and challenges for me and my lovely wife, Frankie:
"I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me.
I am hanging in the balance of a perfect finished plan
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand." (Update: The original sung here)