State of the Union

The Coming Church-State Wars

Appearing the other night on the Catholic network EWTN, I was asked by Raymond Arroyo what should be done about Muslim students at Catholic University demanding that the school provide them with prayer rooms, from which crucifixes and all other Catholic symbols that they found offensive had been removed.

After a nanosecond I replied, “Kick ’em out!”

Let them go to George Washington, the university on the other side of town.

Indeed, had Muslim students shown so little loyalty to a school that welcomed them, and of whose Catholicism they were aware when they entered, expulsion would have been justified.

Looking further into the matter, that was a rush to judgment.

For it seems that not a single Muslim student at CUA had gone to the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights to file a complaint. Read More…

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Daily Round-up: Buchanan on the population explosion, Occupy’s Hollow Core, Realistic Foreign Policy

Patrick J. Buchanan says that the conquest of the West has begun, but it will be done by way of demographic changes throughout the globe. Western mortality rates are greatly outpacing birth rates, expelling the dying breaths of Western culture by mid-century. Meanwhile, in other regions of the world, populations are exploding:

What is the future of Europe? What is the future of Western man? Houari Boumedienne, Algerian revolutionary and president of his country, predicted it at the United Nations in 1975.

“One day, millions of men will leave the Southern Hemisphere of this planet to burst into the Northern one. But not as friends. Because they will come in to conquer, and they will conquer by populating it with their children. Victory will come to us from the wombs of our women.”

Rod Dreher agrees with David Mills that the rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street is hollow and devoid of philosophical grounding. The movement remains burrowed into the urban fabric of many American cities, but lacks momentum or substance. Political intellectuals long for the articulate arguments of left-wing intellectualism, as compared to the more watered-down talking points of a left no longer worth engaging in discourse.

Lewis McCrary reports on developments at leading realist foreign policy journal The National Interest, where veteran DC journalist Robert Merry took the editorial reigns in September.

Steven Pinker explores the decline of violence in the modern world, in The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Steve Sailer offers an engaging review.

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Do you know any Episcopalians?

On the day when all the headlines are about the UN’s official world headcount hitting 7 billion, it’s worth noting that a former cornerstone of American protestantism also hit another ominous milestone. The Episcopal Church — by some counts, the religious home of more American presidents than any other denomination — reported last week that its membership has declined below the 2 million mark. For some perspective, note that the Mormon Church claims at least three times this number of adherents in the U.S., with independent surveys showing closer to 5 million Americans who self-identify as Mormon.

By most accounts, the Episcopal Church set itself on a steep downward glide when it embraced more liberal theology:

At their peak, Episcopalians in the United States numbered 3.6 million members, which was in 1966. Along with other mainline Protestant denominations, the church declined from the 1960s to the present.

Many exited the denomination following the 2003 consecration of openly gay bishop the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson and later the decision in 2009 by The Episcopal Church’s highest legislative body to open the ordination process to all baptized members, which many saw as giving the green light to practicing homosexuals.

Some 100,000 conservative members left and formed their own body, called the Anglican Church in North America, that year (2009). Read More…

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Is Herman Cain “Black” Enough?

The attacks on Herman Cain that I’ve encountered in recent weeks have gone from dumb to outrageous. I’m not speaking of any substantive complaint, for example, that his 9/9/9 flat tax plan may be simplistic or that Cain took two opposing positions on abortion in the same interview. A longtime businessman, he is admittedly a political novice, who has been stumbling as he advances into the limelight. And even his smiley countenance and charming demeanor cannot make up in the long run for uninterrupted gaffes and evidence of knowing exceedingly little about international relations. I say this as a fan but as someone who sees Herman’s frailties.

What are maddening however are the assaults on Cain that have come from black celebrities. Harry Belafonte and Morgan Freeman, who are leftwing activists, have questioned whether this Republican candidate is really black. In contrast to the half-black Obama, who grew up in a white family in Hawaii, Cain, who looks like an African black and grew up in a poor family in segregated Georgia, is somehow making false racial claims. Despite the fact that he went to a black college, Morehouse, and preaches in a black Baptist church, Cain is dissembling when he describes himself as black.

In a sense his critics are correct. Cain is not black, if one defines that classification ideologically and associates it, like Freeman, Belafonte, and the Congressional Black Caucus, with the politically correct Left. Similarly Michele Bachmann is not a woman; indeed like Sarah Palin, the media are free to insult her gender identity because she’s not for abortion and gay rights, attitudes that determine who is or is not a woman. From a recent TV special I learned that it’s only by insulting a woman with the appropriate leftist social positions, like Nancy Pelosi, that one is liable to the charge of “sexism.” One is apparently free to go after women, blacks, or any other group that we’re supposed to reach out to politically if they fail to think like Freeman or former House Speaker Pelosi. The double standard is that blatant. Read More…

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The Conquest of the West

On Oct. 31, the U.N. Population Fund marks the arrival of the 7 billionth person on Earth and raises the population estimate for the planet at mid-century to 9.3 billion people.

There is a possibility, says the United Nations, that, by century’s end, world population may reach 15 billion. What does this mean for Western civilization?

It may not matter, except to identify who inherits the estate. For while world population is exploding, Western peoples are dying. Not a single European nation, except Muslim Albania, has a birth rate that will enable it to replace its present population.

By mid-century, Western man will be down to 12 percent of world population. By century’s end, he will be a tiny fraction, roughly equal to the white population of Rhodesia when Robert Mugabe came to power.

The demographic winter of the West has set in. Read More…

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Daily Round-up: Ike’s memorial, R.E.M., Larison Vs. Paul Ryan Round II

Lewis McCrary comments on the planned Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial, and suggests that though Washington D.C. has inclined towards increasingly elaborate tour-bus-friendly mega-memorials, there are more modest and meaningful ways to celebrate the figures who shaped our nation.

Rock group R.E.M. hung up their hats this past summer, but that moment came far too late, A.G. Gancarski argues. Nevertheless, before their decline, they changed the face of Southern Rock.

Daniel Larison has another bone to pick with Paul Ryan: Ryan talks a good game, he says, but isn’t living up to his own words about opposing crony capitalism.

I suppose this would be a bad time to point out that the TARP that Ryan supported is a classic example of “a system based on political influence” that rewards failed companies and successful companies without regard to merit or outcome.

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How to Remember Ike

Fighting over new additions to the capital’s collection of memorials is to be expected these days, with the recently opened $120 million MLK memorial criticized for what seemed to some a totalitarian style; no less than Maya Angelou said it was unable to convey to the humility that defined the man. But that granite has already been chiseled, and so attention has moved on to a subject some might have assumed far less likely to cause controversy: Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The memorial, in various planning stages for over a decade, will be located in a quarter of official Washington typically untrodden by tourists — that is, unless they visit the uninspiring home of the Department of Education, a gray edifice that the Bush administration once attempted to decorate with small red schoolhouses promoting the No Child Left Behind Act. The other side of the planned plaza faces the rear entrance of the long-decaying National Air and Space Museum, but it’s unclear why visitors would exit here when the museum’s front door opens on to all the other institutions of the Smithsonian family and the neoclassical National Gallery of Art.

The banal site meant the Eisenhower Memorial Commission needed to create something that would become a destination. So they selected an architect for the memorial whose work could not be ignored — either by fans or detractors. Frank Gehry, known for postmodern designs that reject both the simple functionalism of modernism and the order and ornament of traditional forms, has become the “starchitect” of choice for cities looking to confirm their avant-garde credentials.

In January, Gehry revealed his plans for the site, the most popular of which was described by Washington Post architecture critic Philip Kennicott, as

a giant colonnade running parallel to Independence Avenue, near the front face of the Lyndon B. Johnson Department of Education Building. Hanging from the free-standing columns, each clad with limestone, will be a stainless steel mesh, woven like fabric to depict an image pertinent to Eisenhower’s life and career. Two smaller “tapestries” will be hung closer to Independence Avenue. The plaza will be planted with sycamore trees.

The outcry was immediate, with the National Civic Art Society, which advocates for classical architecture, organizing a counter-competition and presenting a series of proposals at a Capitol Hill press conference this August. The results are impressive, and clearly more aesthetically pleasing than the Gehry approach, which one critic described as a “monumental mistake.” Many in the classical camp expressed a desire to memorialize Ike as citizen-soldier, an approach resisted by Gehry, who has continually insisted that Eisenhower should be presented first as a “barefoot boy from Abilene.”

Both approaches have problems: some of the classical designs may too easily border on uncritical celebration of American warpower, while Gehry’s plan is an attempt to reconstruct Ike as a hero for egalitarian values. The Post‘s Kennicott celebrated the latter approach by pointing to its reinforcement of American exceptionalism:

[T]he emphasis on Eisenhower’s personality and character is essential to the radical approach that Gehry and Wilson have taken. Rather than fall back on the established traditions of triumphalist and celebratory memorialization, or side-step controversy through abstraction (as in Maya Lin’s design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial), Gehry and Wilson are making a statement about their conception of Eisenhower, leadership and American values. Just under the surface of this memorial to modesty, focusing on the adolescent boy rather than the man, is an argument about what makes America exceptional. Gehry’s design underscores social mobility and opportunity, the quiet use of power and the ultimate humility of a man who was once the leader of the free world.

The head of the Eisenhower commission, Brig. Gen. Carl Reddel (ret.), may have come closer to understanding the future visitor’s encounter with the memorial, emphasizing that the site will dictate part of the experience. Reddel noted earlier this month that memorial’s proximity to the former Social Security Administration building and health and education departments creates the perfect “thematic context” for a tribute to Eisenhower, who knew that “freedom didn’t mean anything unless you were healthy, educated, and had a sense of well-being,” and thus was proud to sign legislation creating the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

But the placement of the Eisenhower memorial among the very physical manifestations of federal bureaucracy points to a century-long trend, one that has created an official quarter of Washington dominated by tourists and government workers. The monuments here are destinations, not part of an urban fabric that caters to the well-being of the city’s inhabitants. To be sure, the Washington Monument, planned in the 1840s, has always been a monument of massive scale. But other memorials, particularly those erected in the city’s squares and circles following the Civil War, were designed to be a part of the urban fabric, comparatively small but daily reminders of the past that you might pass every day.

At some point, Washington stopped erecting traditional statue-and-pedestal monuments in favor of the destination memorial: large complexes more easily reached by tour bus than on a stroll through a city square. And these large projects are expensive, with the Eisenhower memorial projected to cost $100 million. (These significant amounts are often raised privately, but the cost of maintaining the memorials is then passed on to the National Park Service.) What if 10 or 20 major American cities, including Washington, instead spent $5 to $10 million each on comparatively modest monuments to the 34th president? Integrated into the life of each city, and more likely to be encountered daily by average citizens, such modest and diverse tributes might do more to celebrate the humility of this great leader than a destination on the wind-swept plazas of official Washington. It might also remind Americans that the strength of their country comes from a variety of places, not just the Disney-like parks of the nation’s capital.

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Daily Round-up: al-Awlaki’s trial, Larison vs. Paul Ryan, GOP clowns

Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi says that the decision to kill Yemeni-American imam Anwar al-Awlaki, rather than capture him alive, was motivated by a desire to avoid the complications of a trial.

[T]he question of a military tribunal or a civilian court would be debated in Congress and the media. The evidence against al-Awlaki included considerable classified information that might reveal intelligence community sources and methods; if this material were excluded, the remaining evidence might not be sufficient to convince a jury or tribunal that he was guilty of anything other than exercising his First Amendment rights.

Daniel Larison parses Paul Ryan’s comments on social mobility in the U.S. Ryan, Larison says, gets it wrong. Not only are there more barriers in the U.S., but several countries in Europe might even have it better.

Nowhere in the speech does he consider the possibility that increasing economic and social stratification is the thing that is corroding society rather than “divisive” rhetoric. Ryan does say that we should “lower the hurdles to upward mobility,” which is something, but there is nothing behind it.

Herman Cain’s awkward campaign video is rushing through the arteries of the internet, quickly becoming a web meme that’s amassed over 380,000 views on YouTube since Tuesday. It was parodied last night by both Stephen Colbert and Conan O’Brien.

Of course all that media attention is something of a sideshow, which is exactly how some feel about the current GOP race. Rod Dreher discusses the Confederacy of GOP Dunces.

Paul Beston reviews Jeff Pearlman’s Walter Peyton biography, Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton. Beston says that while Peyton was a magnificent athlete, he was like the rest of us — human — and for depicting him that way, Peyton’s fans and friends have expressed hostility toward Pearlman.

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More Money for Nothing

I did a cover article for The American Conservative back in 2005 called “Money for Nothing”.  I detailed how more than $20 billion of mostly Iraqi government funds earmarked for reconstruction had disappeared.  In one case a Blackhawk helicopter load of $100 bills was handed over to a contact in the Kurdish region without so much as a receipt changing hands.  The tale was horrific, particularly as Congress and the White House seemed uninterested in it, but it now seems that I underestimated the scale of the theft that was carried out by American contractors and officials as well as by corrupt Iraqis.  It is also interesting to note how supporting America’s increasingly expensive overseas empire sometimes feeds abuses back here at home.

It is being reported over at antiwar that “Between 2003 and 2008, over $40 billion in cash was secretly shipped in trucks from the New York Federal Reserve compound in East Rutherford, New Jersey to Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, where it was then flown by military aircraft to Baghdad International Airport. In just the first two years, the shipments of hundred dollar bills weighed a total of 363 tons.”  The money made its way to the US authorities in Baghdad and then wound up with a Saudi-born naturalized Lebanese-American citizen hired as a civilian contractor for the US military. Only his first name is known: Basel. Basel was the last to see the money before it was deposited in the Iraqi Central Bank and then more-or-less disappeared.

But the interesting part is that the money apparently did not come out of existing accounts at the Fed.  It seems that it was just printed up to support the military presence and reconstruction effort, another example of how the non-transparent and unaccountable Fed might well be supporting the interests of the Washington status quo while doing terrible damage to the overall economy.  Occupy Wall Street would probably benefit from expanding its aim to occupy the Fed.

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Local Economies of Care

Amid this week’s debate over the meaning of a Vatican department’s call for regulation of the global economy, we should note that there are some Catholics who don’t endorse the status quo or a new global Leviathan — these neo-distributists both find fault with current market arrangements and seek local solutions. This position happens to be on display in a new edition of Commonweal, where TAC contributor John Schwenkler and his Mount St. Mary’s University colleague David Cloutier argue for an “Economy of Care,” and suggest that developing new arrangements might begin with the most basic and important commodity: food.

Unfortunately, the article is currently accessible only to subscribers, but an excerpt gives you a sense of Schwenkler and Cloutier’s argument: Read More…

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