Friday, April 30, 2010

Does Obama Have A Jewish Problem?

I bumped into two articles today that raised the issue of Obama and his possible Jewish problem. In the first from Newsmax, there is the interesting datum that of the 78% of Jewish voters who helped catapult Obama into the White House, only 42% of those voters would today vote for him again.

Would that were really so. However, I tend to think those Jewish voters are much like the 54% of Catholic voters whose political identity trumps their faith when it comes down to making a choice between the sacred and the profane. The profane seems to win every time. .

Speaking of which, the second article I bumped into is from Commentary magazine where editor John Podhoretz scrutinizes Obama's testiness with Netanyahu and attributes it to real dislike of the Jewish state (and perhaps all things Jewish?).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gianna Beretta Molla

The story of Gianna Beretta Molla, canonized a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 2004, was puzzling to me when I read it several years ago. I wasn't a Catholic at the time and the whole process of sainthood was mystifying to begin with, but even more so in the case of Gianna, a 20th Century female, a mother and a doctor. Gianna Molla died in 1962 after refusing an abortion knowing that carrying her fourth pregnancy to term would likely save her child’s life, but would result in her own death. And I had thought saints were men who all lived in the Middle Ages.

The reason I mention her now is because a Catholic women's health care center has recently opened here in New York City, and it is named after Gianna Molla. Gianna- The Health Care Center for Women, the first authentically Catholic women's health center in this area, is dedicated to following Catholic teachings in all aspects of providing health care to women of any faith. You can read more about the center here.

One does not become a saint overnight in the Catholic Church. The process by which sainthood is conferred is lengthy and many-layered, initiated by a bishop who seeks the beatification of some individual who first and foremost must have exhibited the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity as well as the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. At later steps of the process, the individual to be granted sainthood must have at least two miracles attributed to them. Gianna Molla, for all intents and purposes a regular person, met all these requirements. Surely an amazing story. Read more about her here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Catholic Malta

Speaking of anniversaries and individuals named Paul, the occasion for the Pope's recent visit to Malta was to commemorate the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul's shipwreck along the coast of the island. This became somewhat belatedly clear to me upon reading the text of an address Pope Benedict gave after his return from Malta.

Re-reading the account of St. Paul's Maltese shipwreck in the Acts of the Apostles (ch.27, 28), I was reminded that this was the occasion when a snake took hold of Paul's hand and the island natives assumed that the snake's attraction to Paul marked him as an evil demon who must be killed. A bit of turnabout occurred when Paul merely shook off the snake and showed no sign of suffering its venom. The island natives then decided that Paul must be a god. Fickle folk.

Malta is a tiny island nation that remains staunchly Roman Catholic and staunchly pro-life even in the face of bullying from the United Nations and the international community (which now, regrettably, includes us in the person of Barack Obama). The Pope noted this in his address.
From that shipwreck, or better, from Paul's subsequent sojourn in Malta, was born a fervent and solid Christian community, which after 2,000 years is still faithful to the Gospel and makes an effort to combine it with the complex questions of the contemporary age. This, naturally, is not always easy, nor is it taken for granted, but the Maltese know how to find in the Christian vision the answer to the new challenges. A sign of this, for example, is the fact of having kept firm their profound respect for unborn life and for the sacredness of marriage, choosing not to introduce abortion and divorce in the country's juridical system.
In light of the Pope's praise and support for Catholic Malta, one wonders what nefarious deeds our current ambassador to Malta, Doug Kmiec, must have to engage in as the Catholic and supposedly pro-life ambassador who must do Obama's bidding. Kmiec you will recall is the self-proclaimed Roman Catholic pro-life law professor who advocated that Catholics could in good conscience vote for pro-abortion Barack Obama. Like other Catholics in the public eye who have sold their souls in exchange for political power and the chance to obsequiously worship at Obama's anti-Catholic feet, Kmiec was rewarded with an ambassadorship to, of course, a deeply Catholic country.

There are likely few coincidences in the places that the Pope chooses to visit, and, with friends like Barack Obama and Ambassador Kmiec, I would imagine that the Maltese more than welcomed the presence of Pope Benedict.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

On the 18th of April in seventy-five . . . . .

Today is the 235th anniversary of Paul Revere's ride. It is worth re-reading Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's story poem which commemorates a fateful moment in American history, one that set in motion the upheaval of war leading to a unique experiment in government, the American constitutional republic. Longfellow paints that moment as a clatter of horses' hooves arising out of a gloomy silence, and he portrays the daring person in that moment as eagerly poised, to the point of impatience, to get on with the business of making history.

We certainly need the clatter and spark of those hurrying hoofbeats now to "kindle the land , into flame with its heat." Hopefully, we are and will continue to replicate the colonial patriots' "cry of defiance, but not of fear" in the face of those who prefer a secular, utilitarian state run by a heavy-handed and long-armed government as opposed to a country governed by the rule of law and grounded in moral, Christian law.

Paul Revere's Ride
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
>From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Inside Higher Ed's Obam-Education

I like to read Inside Higher Ed (IHE) though at this point I have no idea why. I suppose it's because I spent so much time in higher education, languishing in a doctoral program in linguistics, teaching as an adjunct at various colleges and then actually holding a full-time job in a real university. (The university was real, but the job, director of an academic skills center, was a dismal sort of joke.) Not surprisingly, IHE is left-leaning in nature, but their articles are very often informative and usually tolerable.

However, ever since Obama's presidential campaign, IHE has given readers an unrelenting slog of tedious pieces about Obama's support for community colleges and his plans for higher education. Today's article, one more in the onslaught, I found to be more readable, maybe because Obama's agenda is now out in the open. The writer tries hard to present Obama's heavy boot as pressing down on college leaders in an enlightened and lofty way, but it's pretty clear that Obama cares as much about quality and excellence in education as he does about quality and excellence in health care, that is, not at all.

Obama wants government-regulated education just as he wants government-regulated health care, a government-mandated-European-style military and government-regulated banks and business. He wants to run everything, and some in higher education are recognizing that. As the president of the American Council on Education said at this week's Higher Learning Commission meeting,
"To the extent that federal policy makers are now willing to bail out banks and other financial institutions, and to take major equity positions in our auto makers, because those companies are too big to fail, then I believe it’s wise for us to assume they will have little reservation about regulating higher education now that they know it is too important to fail."
Yes, too important to fail because, like health care, it's another part of the fiber of American life that Obama knows he must control in order to fully accomplish his version of transformative change in our culture. The writer goes ahead though and promotes the fiction that Obama merely longs for the elixir of education to unlock the doors to opportunity for all. As the writer tells us, Obama is going to be demanding accountability from institutions of higher learning. Is he ever! It's not hard to imagine what those demands will be--more diversity requirements, less religion, more departments of African-American studies, fewer courses on Western Civilization, more trumped-up and padded majors leading to jobs in Obama's new world of medical care, fewer entrance and exit requirements, and more and more and more four-year degrees that will reveal very little learning or intellectual development of any kind took place in Obama's education factories.

The article cites "pressure to measure student learning" as an idea being touted by Obama's advisers. In my experience "pressure to measure student learning" combined with an enjoinder to show progress and not lower quality means that standardized testing procedures are tossed out and students are evaluated according to different learning styles. Teachers are trained to use methods and projects that will appeal to a diverse learning community with careful attention given to the visual learner and the experiential learner. The old methods are eschewed as cumbersome and limiting and teachers are encouraged (well, Obama will just pass a law) to dispense with memorization, listening to lectures, reading entire books and writing in grammatical English. The quality and direction of government-regulated Obam-education looks murky indeed.

The worst part of the article is the author's thinly-disguised and peevish Bush-bashing. He interprets for us readers that college leaders see the Obama administration as valuing higher education more than Bush who didn't "like" higher education, and the writer notes that Obama is expecting "more" from higher education than did the Bush administration. What a crock.

Would that we could pass this all off lightly, but unfortunately, as with health care, the long arms of Obama and his comrades continue to boldly move their steamroller over us. Therefore, all hands on deck! Man your battlestations! And do so winsomely!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Manhattan Declaration

I received an e-mail from the Manhattan Declaration a while ago--well, not just me of course, but me and all those who signed their petition-- in which they write about their new website and the fortuitousness of their formation precisely at a time when such an organization is sorely needed, referring to the unwelcome passage of Obama's punitive healthcare package. They write,
We are reminded by this legislation that we must redouble our efforts. We must equip ourselves to defend winsomely the truth in the public square.
Defend "winsomely"? I had to look that one up. To me 'winsome' always brought to mind a pretty, innocent lass or a longing, kind of lonely look. Lo and behold, the Manhattan Declaration founders are reminding us to defend the truth cheerfully,without rancor, to be happy soldiers while battling the lies and moral depravity of the progressives and liberals who have slipped into power with the help of society's useful idiots.

Oops. Now that hardly sounds cheerful, but I'm feeling a blow to the ego by discovering that I never knew what the word 'winsome' meant in the first place, and, I'm also a bit piqued at being reminded that I need to be cheery not only when discussing the spring weather but also when confronted with the worldview of liberal friends, family and neighbors. Alas. It may be too late for the latter in some cases.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Easter

From the Church of Our Saviour here in NYC, Father Rutler writes this week that "The joy of Easter is more than happiness, since happiness is a feeling while joy is a fact. Happiness comes from impressions, while joy comes from comprehension."

He also comments on the large numbers of people who attended Easter services this year at Our Saviour.
"This Holy Week our parish attracted the largest throngs I can remember, people often standing outside on Park Avenue unable to get in. In part, I think it was a response to the unprofessional and even hysterical calumnies of some journalists against St. Peter's successor, Benedict XVI. Mostly it was a response to Christ among us. The Pope said on Easter: "Joy cannot be commanded. It can only be given. The risen Lord gives us joy: true life. We are already held forever in the love of the One to whom all power in heaven and on earth has been given.” "

Sunday, April 4, 2010