Restoring the Sacred

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Victims of Duplicitous Demagogues, Part 2

Last Saturday I started posting my favorite letters to the editor of the Wall Street Journal for the week. I want to continue doing that on Saturdays, but since we took a look at the impending demise of the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program yesterday, I decided not to wait until Saturday to post this excellent letter on the topic. Here it is.

School Reform Talk Is Good, Now Let's See the Walk

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tells us that "School Reform Means Doing What's Best for Kids" (op-ed, April 22). His cry for "doing what's best for kids" rings a bit hollow when he failed to do what is best for the 1,700 low-income kids in Washington, D.C. who were counting on him. Those kids were given a lifeline -- a voucher to escape schools that continually failed them, schools in a district to which neither Mr. Duncan nor his boss would send their own children. When crunch time arrived, politics trumped educational freedom, at least when it came to poor, inner-city kids in the District of Columbia.

Mr. Duncan speaks eloquently about how the public education establishment must change. He correctly says "we need a culture of accountability in America's education system if we want to be the best in the world." But what greater accountability can there be than that which comes from customers exercising free choices? True accountability in education will only come about when all parents are empowered to choose what they deem is best for their own children, not just those, like President Obama, Mr. Duncan, and most readers of the Wall Street Journal, who have financial means. So my question is, "When will the Obamas, Duncans, et. al. stand up for low-income parents so that they, too, can make choices that are best for their kids?"

Like too many public officials, he puts his trust in a top-down approach that relies on bureaucrats to drive improvement by granting and withholding money. But he turns his back on the most important and best judges of all -- the customers. I say yes, to include those without power and money.

Let parents, not bureaucrats, decide which schools are doing the best job. Let parents determine which schools have earned the right to educate their children. That singular step will demonstrate respect for those the system has failed to serve for too long while unleashing the greatest and most powerful education reform movement in the history of our nation.

Steve Schuck 
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Feel better about all the excessive federal spending now? Remember, the money to the right of the blue line is money we have to borrow, probably from China. There's a comforting thought.

Victims of Duplicitous Demagogues

Since the making of this video, unfortunately, President Obama signed the $410 billion Omnibus Spending Bill dealing the death blow to the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program, although his spokesman says he will work to reverse the provision in the Bill that terminates the program. I'm not holding my breath.

There are 209 public schools in the District of Columbia. A total of 78,057 students attend (or are registered in) those 209 schools. Sixty-six thousand and eighty-two (66,082) of those 78,057 students are black. It is undisputed that the public schools in the District of Columbia are, to put it mildly, inferior. If you think that sounds like fertile ground for an experiment in a school choice program, you would agree with the Republican congress of 2004 that enacted the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program, and approved its funding for five years. Here are some interesting facts about this groundbreaking program:

1. It provided scholarships of up to $7,500 for about 2,000 students each year to attend the private school of their choice.
2. At the start of the 2007-08 school year, there were 1,903 K-12 students using about $12 million in scholarship funds in 54 District of Columbia private schools.
3. The average income of the families participating in the program was $22,736 – just barely above the federal poverty level for a family of four.
4. After three years, the students in the program scored 3.7 months higher on reading than students who remained in the D.C. public schools.
5. Students who came into the program when it first started had a 19-month advantage in reading after three years in private schools.

Such a program, according to the current Democratic congress, has to be scrapped. The Delegate for the District of Columbia, Eleanor Holmes Norton, when explaining why this highly successful program had to be shut down proclaimed: “We have to protect the children, who are the truly innocent victims here, but I can tell you that the Democratic congress is not about to extend this program.” One gets used to disingenuous statements from Washington politicians, but this one has to make the most egregious list for this year. She is blaming the Republicans for creating a program that has been giving poor black kids a chance at a better education, because now the Democrats have to close it down to please their major constituents. She’s right about the victims; she’s wrong about the perpetrators. She went so far as to label the program, “controversial.”

Let's see, “controversy” is defined as a dispute between sides holding opposing views. We know that on one side of this “controversy” we have the students and their parents who want the program continued because it is showing great results. Who could possibly be on the other side of this “controversy” and thereby against affording the opportunity to young students to better themselves? It has to be someone or some group who holds sway over the Democratic majority in Congress and is looking out for themselves.

The National Education Association (NEA) is one of two national teachers unions. The other is the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The following statistics for the NEA are from the Education Policy Center.

1. The NEA has 2.7 million dues paying members.
2. From September 2004 to August 2005, it received $341 million dollars, $295 million of which came from membership dues.
3. In the same year, the union spent $25 million on “political activities and lobbying.”
4. In the same year, the union spent $65.5 million on “contributions, gifts and grants.”
5. In the same year, the union spent $56.8 million on union administration.
6. Since 1990, the NEA has given between 88 and 99 percent of its political contributions to the Democrats.

Why are these statistics important? Because they show what those poor, mostly black, students (and their parents) are up against when they try to better themselves by going to better schools.

Here are a few additional interesting facts:

1. According to statistics provided by the District of Columbia Public Schools, the average cost per year to educate a student is $8,322.
2. According to the Washington Post, that average cost is closer to $25,000 per student when all costs are taken into account.
3. The average cost per student for the approximately 2,000 students receiving an Opportunity Scholarship is $7,500.

So, if all 78,057 students in the District of Columbia public schools were allowed to enroll in the Opportunity Scholarship Program, and chose to do so, it would save the D. C. tax payers more than $64 million per year – and that’s using the dubious lowball figure of $8,322 per student provided by District of Columbia Public Schools. The budget submitted for school year 2010 by the District of Columbia Public Schools totals $782,530,186. I know what Mark Twain said about statistics, and wouldn’t argue with him, but it is undeniable that the public schools in the District of Columbia (with the help of the Democrats in Congress) are not only depriving the students of a decent chance at an education, they are also spending a lot of taxpayer money doing that.

This post cannot end without laying the blame for the demise of this outstanding program where it belongs: at the feet of Richard Durbin, the Democrat Senator from Illinois, who submitted the language in the spending bill that effectively ends the program next year. You might remember him as the guy who likened our military troops at Guantanamo to “Nazis, Soviets in their gulag, and Pol Pot.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Woman of Principle - Mary Ann Glendon

You're looking at a very special lady, one who put principle before personal aggrandizement. Her letter to Father Jenkins, president of Notre Dame University, is self explanatory. It was posted on First Things. See also my post, dated April 3, 2009, entitled: Notre Dame, rhymes with...

Declining Notre Dame: A Letter from Mary Ann Glendon
By Mary Ann Glendon
Monday, April 27, 2009, 9:32 AM

April 27, 2009

The Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.


University of Notre Dame

Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

• “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”

• “We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about.”

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

Yours Very Truly,

Mary Ann Glendon

Mary Ann Glendon is Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. A member of the editorial and advisory board of First Things , she served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican from 2007 to 2009.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The "Torture" debate.

I intended to do something today on the demise of the D.C. Voucher program, but after reading a post entitled "Revisiting Torture" on "The Old Jarhead" I decided to post a comment on that blog. I hope it speaks for itself. Here's the comment:

I have demurred from entering the so-called debate on so-called torture for a number of reasons. The so-called debate is taking place on two fronts: moral and legal. The best legal minds in government, in my opinion, have clearly won the day on the legal front when they prepared the top-secret legal memoranda recently made public by a feckless and reckless administration. To debate the issue on moral grounds seems to me to be engaging a little in moral relativism, and one should never engage, even “a little,” in moral relativism, but here goes. We must never forget (or let anyone else forget) that we are the good guys; they are the bad guys. Our interrogation techniques, especially the so-called enhanced kind, are used for only one reason: to save innocent lives. Their “interrogation techniques” (which would probably include, in the eyes of Janet Napolitano, beheading) are also used for only one reason: to destroy innocent lives. So, on moral grounds there is no debate: We’re right; they’re wrong. What’s debatable about that? The good guys might not always win in the movies, but in real life they do – eventually. One might call that simplistic, but I think Ronald Reagan and Harry Truman’s mother had it exactly right. Reagan: “Here’s my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose.” Harry’s Mom: “Harry, you know right from wrong. You do right and you do the best you can, and that’s all there is to it.”

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sundays are for Beauty - Pie Jesu

“…Beauty is truth, truth beauty,- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
John Keats

Henceforth, Sundays on this blog will be reserved for beauty – nothing political, and nothing satirical. What better way to start than with Hayley Westenra? I’d never heard of her until a few days ago when I was looking for something by Bryn Terfel (see my post of March 12, 2009). I found a video of that great Welsh bass-baritone singing Ave Maria with Jose Carreras and Hayley Westenra; it was beautiful. Hayley, it turns out, was already famous to a good part of the world even if she was a new discovery for me. She was born in New Zealand, in 1987, and has already been named (in 2008) the “classical performer of the year” at the Variety Club’s annual awards in London. She was only 15 years old at the time of this video, in which she is singing the Andrew Lloyd Webber version of Pie Jesu.

Latin lyrics English translation

Pie Jesu, Pie Jesu, 

Pie Jesu, Pie Jesu,
Qui tollis peccata mundi; 

Dona eis requiem, 

Dona eis requiem. 

Angus Dei, Angus Dei, 

Angus Dei, Angus Dei, 

Qui tollis peccata mundi; 

Dona eis requiem, 

Dona eis requiem. 

Sempiternam, sempiternam requiem. 

Lord, have mercy, 
Lord, have mercy,
Lord, have mercy, 
Lord, have mercy
You who take away the sins of the world;
Grant them peace, 

Grant them peace. 

Lamb of God, Lamb of God, 

Lamb of God, Lamb of God, 

You who take away the sins of the world; 

Grant them peace, 

Grant them peace. 

Peace everlasting, everlasting.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

WSJ Letters, 04/25/2009

Saturday seems a good day to review the letters to the editor of the Wall Street Journal. There are two today that struck me as being representative of the truly outstanding thinking and writing that often go into these letters. Here are the two I especially liked today (the emphasis is mine).

Dorothy Rabinowitz's eloquent "Obama Blames America" (op-ed, April 22) points up a recurring presidential theme: forsaking the national rule book, our Constitution.
On rectitude of presidential performances abroad, opinions abound. Does he apologize too much? Opinions are one matter but duties are another. President Barack Obama swore the oath to faithfully "execute the Office of the President of the United States."
Our president represents the collective gravitas of this union of sovereign states. He speaks and acts as the figurehead for our common capacity to preserve, protect and defend what we hold dear. To denigrate our military posture, our moral composition, our decisions, or our history is to do what no officer would ever do: defame his chain of command. The message this conveys to fellow participants in the global theater is not elevation, but duplicity and confusion. In a word, weakness.
The Constitution is simple gravity holding this republic together. Without it we fly apart, and the courage so long ago that declared us free and independent states, to do what acts and things all free and independent states do, slips into the murk of history.
Karen Taylor 
Reno, Nev.
Anti-Shakespearian elitists such as Justice John Paul Stevens have been singing the same tune now for more than a century, but the lyrics keep changing ("Justice Stevens Renders an Opinion on Who Wrote Shakespeare's Plays," page one, April 18). Their motley crew of candidates-du-jour to the Shakespearian throne includes Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Derby, the Earl of Rutland, the Earl of Southampton, the Earl of Essex -- and now, the Earl of Oxford.
We autodidacts wish that the media wouldn't give print space to Oxfordian elitists who can't shed their contumely and prejudice against those of us who, like Shakespeare, were primarily self-educated and masters of intellectual material. We are an illustrious bunch, us: Thomas Edison, George Bernard Shaw, Steven Spielberg, Gottfried Leibniz, Benjamin Franklin, Socrates, Abraham Lincoln, etc. (Remember Mark Twain's immortal line: "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.")
We find knowledge not to be an ivory sport or dusty rationalism. We took a kernel of learning, as Shakespeare did, and grew it exponentially along pathways of volition and a hardscrabble life. We sought not artificial curricula or artifice. We understand Shakespeare viscerally and came to him naturally. We love him for the making of himself and for what he made.
This doesn't mean we dismissed contention that Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare. Instead, we probed and delved with the solitary power of independent minds and found the elitists' positions wanting and evasive.
David Elmore 
Roswell, Ga.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Jeanne Kirkpatrick 1926-2006 R.I.P.

Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who served as the first female U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations, delivered the following address (emphasis added) at the Republican National Convention in Dallas, in 1984. It is as relevant and pertinent today as it was then.

Thank you very much for that warm welcome.
Thank you for inviting me.
This is the first Republican Convention I have ever attended.
I am grateful that you should invite me, a lifelong Democrat. On the other hand, I realize that you are inviting many lifelong Democrats to join this common cause.
I want to begin tonight by quoting the speech of the president whom I very greatly admire, Harry Truman, who once said to the Congress:
"The United States has become great because we, as a people, have been able to work together for great objectives even while differing about details."
He continued:
"The elements of our strength are many. They include our democratic government, our economic system, our great natural resources. But, the basic source of our strength is spiritual. We believe in the dignity of man."
That's the way Democratic presidents and presidential candidates used to talk about America.
These were the men who developed NATO, who developed the Marshall Plan, who devised the Alliance for Progress.
They were not afraid to be resolute nor ashamed to speak of America as a great nation. They didn't doubt that we must be strong enough to protect ourselves and to help others.
They didn't imagine that America should depend for its very survival on the promises of its adversaries.
They happily assumed the responsibilities of freedom.
I am not alone in noticing that the San Francisco Democrats took a very different approach.

Foreign Affairs
A recent article in The New York Times noted that "the foreign policy line that emerged from the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco is a distinct shift from the policies of such [Democratic] presidents as Harry S Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson."
I agree.
I shall speak tonight of foreign affairs even though the other party's convention barely touched the subject.
When the San Francisco Democrats treat foreign affairs as an afterthought, as they did, they behaved less like a dove or a hawk than like an ostrich - convinced it would shut out the world by hiding its head in the sand.
Today, foreign policy is central to the security, to the freedom, to the prosperity, even to the survival of the United States.
And our strength, for which we make many sacrifices, is essential to the independence and freedom of our allies and our friends.
Ask yourself:
What would become of Europe if the United States withdrew?
What would become of Africa if Europe fell under Soviet domination?
What would become of Europe if the Middle East came under Soviet control?
What would become of Israel, if surrounded by Soviet client states?
What would become of Asia if the Philippines or Japan fell under Soviet domination?
What would become of Mexico if Central America became a Soviet satellite?
What then could the United States do?
These are questions the San Francisco Democrats have not answered. These are questions they haven't even asked.

Carter Administration
The United States cannot remain an open, democratic society if we are left alone - a garrison state in a hostile world.
We need independent nations with whom to trade, to consult and cooperate.
We need friends and allies with whom to share the pleasures and the protection of our civilization.
We cannot, therefore, be indifferent to the subversion of others' independence or to the development of new weapons by our adversaries or of new vulnerabilities by our friends.
The last Democratic administration did not seem to notice much, or care much or do much about these matters.
And at home and abroad, our country slid into real deep trouble.
North and South, East and West, our relations deteriorated.
The Carter administration's motives were good, but their policies were inadequate, uninformed and mistaken.
They made things worse, not better.
Those who had least, suffered most.
Poor countries grew poorer.
Rich countries grew poorer, too.
The United States grew weaker.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union grew stronger.
The Carter administration's unilateral "restraint" in developing and deploying weapon systems was accompanied by an unprecedented Soviet buildup, military and political.
The Soviets, working on the margins and through the loopholes of SALT I, developed missiles of stunning speed and accuracy and targeted the cities of our friends in Europe.
They produced weapons capable of wiping out our land-based missiles.
And then, feeling strong, the Soviet leaders moved with boldness and skill to exploit their new advantages.
Facilities were completed in Cuba during those years that permit Soviet nuclear submarines to roam our coasts, that permit planes to fly reconnaissance missions over the eastern United States, and that permit Soviet electronic surveillance to monitor our telephone calls and our telegrams.
Those were the years the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in Iran, while in Nicaragua and Sandanista developed a one-party dictatorship based on the Cuban model.
From the fall of Saigon in 1975 'til January 1981, Soviet influence expanded dramatically into Laos, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Yemen, Libya, Syria, Aden, Congo, Madagascar, Seychelles, Nicaragua, and Grenada.
Soviet block forces and advisers sought to guarantee what they called the "irreversibility" of their newfound influence and to stimulate insurgencies in a dozen other places.
During this period, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, murdered its president and began a ghastly war against the Afghan people.
The American people were shocked by these events.
We were greatly surprised to learn of our diminished economic and military strength.
We were demoralized by the treatment of our hostages in Iran.
And we were outraged by harsh attacks on the United States in the United Nations.
As a result, we lost confidence in ourselves and in our government.
Jimmy Carter looked for an explanation for all these problems and thought he found it in the American people.
But the people knew better.
It wasn't malaise we suffered from; it was Jimmy Carter - and Walter Mondale.

Election of Ronald Reagan
And so, in 1980, the American people elected a very different president.
The election of Ronald Reagan marked an end to the dismal period of retreat and decline.
His inauguration, blessed by the simultaneous release of our hostages, signaled an end to the most humiliating episode in our national history.
The inauguration of President Reagan signaled a reaffirmation of historic American ideals.
Ronald Reagan brought to the presidency confidence in the American experience.
Confidence in the legitimacy and success of American institutions.
Confidence in the decency of the American people.
And confidence in the relevance of our experience to the rest of the world.
That confidence has proved contagious.
Our nation's subsequent recovery in domestic and foreign affairs, the restoration of military and economic strength has silenced the talk of inevitable American decline and reminded the world of the advantages of freedom.
President Reagan faced a stunning challenge and he met it.
In the 3 1/2 years since his inauguration, the United States has grown stronger, safer, more confident, and we are at peace.
The Reagan administration has restored the American economy.
It is restoring our military strength.
It has liberated the people of Grenada from terror and tyranny.
With NATO, it has installed missiles to defend the cities of Europe.
The Reagan administration has prevented the expulsion of Israel from the United Nations.
It has developed flexible new forms of international cooperation with which to deal with new threats to world order.
The Reagan administration has given more economic assistance to developing countries than any other administration or any other government, and has encouraged the economic freedom needed to promote self-sustaining economic growth.
The Reagan administration has helped to sustain democracy and encourage its development elsewhere.
And at each step of the way, the same people who were responsible for America's decline have insisted that the president's policies would fail.
They said we could never deploy missiles to protect Europe's cities.
But today Europe's cities enjoy that protection.
They said it would never be possible to hold an election in El Salvador because the people were too frightened and the country too disorganized.
But the people of El Salvador proved them wrong, and today President Napoleon Duarte has impressed the democratic world with his skillful, principled leadership.
They said we could not use America's strength to help others - Sudan, Chad, Central America, the Gulf states, the Caribbean nations - without being drawn into war.
But we have helped others resist Soviet, Libyan, Cuban subversion, and we are at peace.

Blame America First
They said that saving Grenada from terror and totalitarianism was the wrong thing to do - they didn't blame Cuba or the communists for threatening American students and murdering Grenadians - they blamed the United States instead.
But then, somehow, they always blame America first.
When our Marines, sent to Lebanon on a multinational peacekeeping mission with the consent of the United States Congress, were murdered in their sleep, the "blame America first crowd" didn't blame the terrorists who murdered the Marines, they blamed the United States.
But then, they always blame America first.
When the Soviet Union walked out of arms control negotiations, and refused even to discuss the issues, the San Francisco Democrats didn't blame Soviet intransigence. They blamed the United States.
But then, they always blame America first.

When Marxist dictators shoot their way to power in Central America, the San Francisco Democrats don't blame the guerrillas and their Soviet allies, they blame United States policies of 100 years ago.
But then, they always blame America first.
The American people know better.
They know that Ronald Reagan and the United States didn't cause Marxist dictatorship in Nicaragua, or the repression in Poland, or the brutal new offensives in Afghanistan, or the destruction of the Korean airliner, or the new attacks on religious and ethnic groups in the Soviet Union, or the jamming of western broadcasts, or the denial of Jewish emigration, or the brutal imprisonment of Anatoly Shcharansky and Ida Nudel, or the obscene treatment of Andrei Sakharov and Yelena Bonner, or the re-Stalinization of the Soviet Union.
The American people know that it's dangerous to blame ourselves for terrible problems that we did not cause.
They understand just as the distinguished French writer, Jean Francois Revel, understands the dangers of endless self- criticism and self-denigration.
He wrote: "Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself."
With the election of Ronald Reagan, the American people declared to the world that we have the necessary energy and conviction to defend ourselves, and that we have as well a deep commitment to peace.
And now, the American people, proud of our country, proud of our freedom, proud of ourselves, will reject the San Francisco Democrats and send Ronald Reagan back to the White House.
Thank you very much.
(Sources: This is the Associated Press text of United Nations Representative Jeane J. Kirkpatrick's speech as delivered Aug. 20 to the Republican National Convention, in Dallas.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Compare and Contrast.

Arrogant? Dismissive? Derisive? America? The same America who saved the country in which this speech was delivered not once but twice in the past century? This attitude brings to mind the sobriquet bestowed on the Democrats, after their 1984 National Convention in San Francisco, by the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick, R.I.P. She called them the "Blame America First" crowd. Some things simply do not change. Ambassador Kirkpatrick's full speech, which was delivered at the Republican Convention in Dallas that year, is a must read, and very timely indeed.

Ronald Reagan realized the greatness of America and celebrated it constantly. He never felt the need to apologize for the falsely perceived failings attributed to America by some politicians in France and Germany (the site of another Obama apology). Ronald Reagan loved America, and he was both a great leader and a true statesman.

Neville Chamberlain was, according to his harshest critic in 1938, Winston Churchill, a good man who thought he was doing the best thing for his country when he made the infamous pact with Hitler, which turned out not to be worth the paper it was written on. He was, though, the paradigm for appeasers to come, and one might think that others would learn from his mistakes (especially since they caused almost the total destruction of his country before the tide was turned).

Winston Spencer Churchill, the Man of the Century, was the man most responsible for turning the tide and preserving freedom not only for England but for a major part of the world. Churchill and Reagan were in the eyes of right thinking people the greatest leaders and statesmen of their times. Both believed fervently in peace: Peace through Strength.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bach on the "Firing Line"

Willima F. Buckley, Jr. hosted "Firing Line" from 1966-1999, making it the longest-running public affairs show in TV history with a single host. Buckley hosted 1,504 "Firing Line" programs, and won an EMMY for the show in 1969. It was one of the most erudite shows ever to appear on television, and the theme picked by Buckley to introduce the program was J. S. Bach's Brandenberg Concerto #2 in F Major, Third Movement. It's interesting to note that The Teaching Company ( uses the same theme to introduce the majority of its "Great Courses" on compact disks.

Johann Sebastian Bach 1685-1750, lived his entire life in Germany, and is considered the quintessential composer of Baroque Music. The Brandenberg Concerti are six in number and are generally considered the finest musical compositions of the Baroque Era. Bach first presented all six of the concertos in 1721, but they most likely were composed over a number of years. The middle photo (right under WFB), as you have by now surmised, is J. S. Bach himself.

Wynton Marsalis, whose rendition of the "Firing Line" theme you should now be enjoying, is currently the Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. He is recognized as one of the world's top classical trumpeters, and is also considered the most outstanding jazz musician and trumpeter of his generation. He's amazing!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

GO NAVY! Thanks Cmdr Castellano & SEAL TEAM

U. S. Navy Commander Frank X. Castellano, USNA 1990, is the Captain of the USS Bainbridge. He put his career on the line when he gave the Navy Seal Team the order to shoot - and they shot pretty well. The Captain of the Maersk Alabama, who was being held by three pirates in a life boat, was rescued when three Navy Seals each fired one shot simultaneously, from the deck of the Bainbridge, and sent those three pirates to another place. The Rules of Engagement (ROE) apparently had to be somewhat loosely interpreted by a courageous Navy ship commander or that Merchant Captain would now be just another hostage somewhere along the coast of Somalia, the Maersk Corporation would be arranging to pay the pirates $2,000,000, and the U. S. Navy would be an embarrassment on the world stage. The top photo is Commander Castellano, a hero not heretofore mentioned in the MSM. The other photos are self-explanatory. The score card is displayed in a store window in Annapolis. (Make sure to click on the shooting poster to enlarge it so you can read the caption.)

Just heard a timely quote from Lt/Col Ralph Peters: "We don't need a Hamlet in the White House. We need a Henry V."

Friday, April 17, 2009

Criminals In Our Midst

To paraphrase a recent Newsweek cover: "We're All Criminals Now." According to a leaked report to law enforcement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), entitled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalism and Recruitment," most of my friends and I are subversives who need to be watched carefully. Personally, I could not be prouder of making this new list, and my new goal is to become a Top 10 should the DHS succeed in convincing the FBI that those of us who think as we do deserve such a distinction. What is it exactly that qualifies us as subversive in the eyes of Janet Napolitano and her boss? Well, here are some direct quotes from the report (which defenders of this nonsense will claim are taken out of context).

"The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks. "

" (U) Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."
Note: A copy of the full DHS report is available at several sites accessible through Google.
I hereby plead GUILTY to being a veteran (Semper Fi), an advocate of small (very small) government, a strong opponent of the mass murder of innocent babies, one who believes that our borders must be made secure, and one who believes that every adult in America should own (and know how to use) a gun. Sorry, but I am not hate-oriented nor do I hate any particular religious, racial, or ethnic groups. I do have preferences, though, and there was a time in this country when that was not a criminal offense.

This whole DHS report appears to me to be the first step on the part of this administration toward enacting legislation much like the Sedition Act of 1798, which was passed as part of the Alien and Sedition Acts. Here is an explanation (emphasis mine) of the Sedition Act from Folwell's "Laws of the U. S."

(The) Sedition Act, passed on July 14 declared that any treasonable activity, including the publication of "any false, scandalous and malicious writing," was a high misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment. By virtue of this legislation twenty-five men, most of them editors of Republican newspapers, were arrested and their newspapers forced to shut down.

One of the men arrested was Benjamin Franklin's grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, editor of the Philadelphia Democrat-Republican Aurora. Charged with libeling President Adams, Bache's arrest erupted in a public outcry against all of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Many Americans questioned the constitutionality of these laws. Indeed, public opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts was so great that they were in part responsible for the election of Thomas Jefferson, a Republican, to the presidency in 1800. Once in office, Jefferson pardoned all those convicted under the Sedition Act, while Congress restored all fines paid with interest.
My friends and I await without trepidation the arrival of the DHS storm troopers on our doorsteps, and are warmed by the thought of spending some time on a Caribbean island, since the facility at Guantanamo will soon be vacant, and that venue, once the current inhabitants are loosed on the world, might well be the safest place on the planet.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shame on Georgetown, too.

The IHS monogram in the above photo is an abbreviation or shortening of Jesus' name in Greek to the first three letters. Thus ΙΗΣΟΥΣ, ιησυς (iēsus, "Jesus"), is shortened to ΙΗΣ (iota-eta-sigma), sometimes transliterated into Latin or English characters as IHS or ΙΗC. The auditorium in the photo is located at Georgetown University, the site of a speech by Barack Obama on Tuesday of this week.

The following piece about the current controversy is from

Georgetown Covers IHS for Obama
According to CNSnews as of Wednesday afternoon, the “IHS” monogram was still covered.

Georgetown officials stated that they were just honoring Obama’s request to cover all Georgetown University signs and symbols when he spoke.
According to Georgetown staff, Obama wanted a backdrop that contained only “flags, pipe and drape.”

"Georgetown is a Jesuit university, so such a request would mean that religious symbols like the “IHS” monogram and the cross that accompanies it would have to be covered.

Catholics for centuries have used “IHS” as an abbreviation for Jesus’ name. The IHS monogram appears in numerous Catholic buildings throughout Europe and the Americas. It is believed to be a contraction derived from the Greek “Iesous Christos,” which means Jesus Christ.

Barack Obama claims to be a Christian man, so the covering of a symbol of Jesus has some religious conservatives seeing red, like Right Voices. Some see the covering of IHS as evidence that Obama is disrespectful of Christian faith.
One might ask why such a request had to be honored by the Jesuits of Georgetown; I certainly would. John Paul II must turn in his grave when he sees the Catholic universities of Georgetown and Notre Dame (see my post of April 3) behaving as they have in the past few weeks. Why could not the Jesuits simply have told Mr. Obama that certain things are not negotiable, and if he wanted to speak at a Catholic University he would have to accept the presence of Catholic symbols in the room? Why did they not have the courage to do that? Could it possibly be that they (and he) did not want to inflame practitioners of a certain other religion that need not be named?

By the way, here is a photo of Laura Bush delivering a speech in December 2006 at the same Georgetown forum, announcing the partnership of the U.S - Afghan Women's Council with Georgetown University. Apparently Mrs. Bush made no such request to cover all Georgetown University signs and symbols. Enough said.

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ships of Wood and Men of Iron - What's happened?

Ships of Wood and Men of Iron is the title of a book by Gerald Kennedy. It tells of a Norwegian-Canadian exploration in the High Arctic. It recounts how, over 100 years ago, Captain Otto Sverdrup and 15 crewmen put out to sea aboard the schooner "Fram" from the Norwegian city today known as Oslo. They returned to Norway four years later with a record of geographic and scientific discovery that is still unparalleled in the records of Arctic exploration. The title of that book (which is a tribute to the hardships and adventures those merchant mariners endured and experienced) has become a motto for the Merchant Marine Service, but is it still valid? Consider this story from the Associated Press today.

"MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — Defiant Somali pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at another U.S. cargo ship on Tuesday but failed to hijack it, officials said, just days after Navy SEALs rescued an American hostage after an earlier unsuccessful hijacking.

"The brazen midday attack on the MV Liberty Sun in international waters off the African coast is further evidence that Somali pirates are back to business as usual.

"The Liberty Sun's American crew was not injured but the vessel sustained unspecified damage in the attack, owner Liberty Maritime Corp. said in a statement Tuesday night.

" 'We are under attack by pirates, we are being hit by rockets. Also bullets,' crewman Thomas Urbik, 26, wrote his mother in an e-mail Tuesday. 'We are barricaded in the engine room and so far no one is hurt. (A) rocket penetrated the bulkhead but the hole is small. Small fire, too, but put out.'

"It was not immediately clear what happened next, but Urbik's sent a follow-up e-mail "that said he was safe and they had a naval escort taking them in," his mother, Katy Urbik said..."
Someone who has read Ships of Wood and Men of Iron and other exciting accounts of our Merchant Marines in action can be forgiven if he is shocked that our Merchant Mariners have been reduced to barricading themselves "in the engine room" and calling their mothers when attacked by pirates. Once again, one of our merchant ships was rescued by a U. S. Navy Destroyer, but why should Men of Iron be reduced to the equivalent of calling 911 when trouble strikes? It's past time to arm our merchant ships or provide them with heavily armed security details when transiting areas where they are subject to attack.

NOTE: "One in 26 mariners serving aboard merchant ships in World WW II died in the line of duty, suffering a greater percentage of war-related deaths than all other U.S. services. Casualties were kept secret during the War to keep information about their success from the enemy and to attract and keep mariners at sea." Many of these "Men of Iron" survived the sinking by enemy fire of one and sometimes two ships on which they served only to lose their lives when their second or third ship was sunk.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Move Over, Billy Mays.

There's a new pitchman on the scene to challenge the inestimable (until now) Billy Mays. His name is Barack Obama and his day job is Chief Executive Officer of the most powerful country in the world. He also serves as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the same country. Here are actual quotes from a speech he gave yesterday at the White House.

“…if you are having problems with your mortgage, and even if you're not and you just want to save some money, you can go to -- -- and the way the web site is designed, you can plug in your information and immediately find out whether or not you are potentially eligible for one of these -- one of these mortgage refinancings.”

“Again, the web site is -- is that right? -- so get on the web site, find out what's available.”

“So take advantage of and that will allow you to figure out exactly how to proceed on this in a way that's making you money, saving you money, as opposed to costing you money.”
It is said that a good salesman knows his product and sells himself. Billy Mays's challenger certainly does the latter very well.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

We need another Cicero.

"The national budget must be balanced. The public debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the authorities must be moderated and controlled. Payments to foreign governments must be reduced, if the nation doesn't want to go bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance."
Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC)

Our president apparently has never read Cicero or, if he did, he didn't believe him. If he didn't believe him he obviously has no idea what happened to the Roman Empire.

Something else from Cicero:
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"

Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman Consul in 63 BC, is generally acknowledged as the most gifted orator in the history of Rome, but he also knew what he was talking about.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Vasily Sergeyevich Kalinnikov 1866 -1901

Vasily Kalinnikov is, unfortunately, the least known and least heralded of Russian composers. His Symphony #1, which you should listen to while reading this short biography (available on the internet), is one of the most beautiful symphonies ever written. Interestingly, Sergey Rachmaninov, also a personal favorite of this blogger, proved to be a great friend of Kalinnikov, and in fact saved him and his wife from penury.

Vasily Sergeyevich Kalinnikov was born in 1866 at Voina, in the Oryol District, where Turgenev, Henry James's "beautiful genius", had been born in 1818. The son of a police official, he was allowed, through the ecclesiastical connections of the family, to study at the seminary in Oryol, where he took charge of the choir at the age of fourteen. In 1884 he went to Moscow as a scholarship student at the Philharmonic Society School, taking lessons on the bassoon and in composition with Alexander Il'yinsky and the self-taught Pavel Blaramberg, a statistician by profession. The poverty of his family which had made it impossible for him to study at the Conservatory forced him to earn a living playing the bassoon, timpani or violin in theatre orchestras and further weakened his health, already affected by childhood privations. He was able to profit, however, from the friendship and teaching of S. N. Kruglikov.

In 1892 Kalinnikov's fortunes seemed about to take a turn for the better, with his appointment, on the recommendation of Tchaikovsky, as conductor at the Malïy Theatre in Moscow and the following year by a similar appointment at the Moscow Italian Theatre, but a few months later his deteriorating health compelled him to resign in order to seek in the relative warmth of the South Crimea a cure for the tuberculosis from which he suffered. He was to remain in Yalta for the rest of his short life, completing there his two symphonies, and, among other instrumental works, incidental music for the play Tsar Boris by Alexey Tolstoy, staged at the Malïy Theatre in 1899.

Towards the end of his life Kalinnikov received some financial relief through the good offices of Sergey Rachmaninov, who had visited him in Yalta and been appalled at the conditions in which he found him living. The latter’s intervention with the publisher Jurgensen brought an immediate sum of 120 roubles for three songs and an offer to publish the score, parts and piano-duet transcription of the Second Symphony, which had its first performance in Kiev in 1898, a year after the first performance of the First Symphony, which was also heard in Moscow, Vienna and Berlin. Rachmaninov also arranged payment for a piano arrangement of the earlier symphony, but Kalinnikov did not live to benefit from his new agreement with Jurgensen. He died early in January 1901, before his 35th birthday. His death induced Jurgensen to offer Kalinnikov's widow an unexpectedly high sum for the rest of her husband's manuscripts, with the remark that he paid because the composer's death had multiplied the value of his works by ten, a sad reflection on commercial reality.
Thanks to a series of fortuitous events, I was exposed to Kalinnikov earlier this year when his First Symphony was added to a program by the Jacksonville Symphony. The headliner of that program was Igor Stravinsky's Firebird. During the pre concert talk by Maestro Mechetti, we learned why he had included the Kalinnikov piece in the program. It seems about one year ago, as Mechetti was driving home from a trip, he heard the piece on a classical radio station. He was puzzled because he thought he detected a little of Tchaikovsky and maybe a little of Prokofiev, but was sure it was neither one. As soon as he reached his home, he called the station, and learned, for the first time, of Vasily Sergeyevich Kalinnikov. It was his First Symphony, and Mechetti found and purchased a copy of the score, because he said he "fell in love with the piece." A year later he had it ready for a place on the program. That night, my wife and I were fortunate to be there, and we fell in love with it too.

Note: The above is just a 10 minute snippet of the First Symphony. Amazon sells a CD of both of Kalinnikov's symphonies (he wrote only two) for $7.99.

We Should Have Known

We should have known the real Barack Obama when we became aware of his association with the America hating Reverend, Jeremiah Wright.

We should have known when Michelle Obama made her statement about being proud of her country for the first time in her life.

We should have known, when he published two autobiographies before the age of 47, that he was showing very strong narcissistic tendencies.

We should have known when he duplicitously told an effete group of supporters in San Francisco that the people in rural Pennsylvania cling to guns and religion.

We should have known when he told “Joe the Plumber” that he wanted to “spread the wealth around” better.

We should have known when we learned he had the most liberal voting record in the U. S. Senate during his short stay there.

We should have known when we learned he had never managed anything in his life before deciding he wanted to manage the United States of America.

We should have known when the record showed that as a U. S. senator he never displayed any sign of the bi-partisanship he said was so necessary in Washington.

We should have known when we learned he had launched his political career in the home of an avowed America hater and admitted domestic terrorist.

We should have known when he offered his version of his association with: Reverend Wright, William Ayers, and the now convicted political fixer Tony Rezko, that it smacked of prevarication.

We should have known when he issued his subtle but vituperative attacks on the vice presidential candidate of the other party that those attacks were impelled by ideology.

We should have known when he bragged about his time as a “community organizer” that such a person is not one who brings factions together but rather incites grievances, perceived or real, on the part of one of the factions.

We should have known when he dissembled while trying to answer a simple question about why he was no longer wearing an American flag in his lapel.

Actually, some of us did know all this, but others either did not know it, chose to ignore it as irrelevant, or fell victim to what Shelby Steele has called “White Guilt,” so they could feel good about themselves. Alas, for whatever reason, a sufficient number of registered voters chose Barack Obama and he is now our president.

So now we should not be shocked when he:

*Almost immediately after being elected, names Rahm Emanuel, one of the lowest of the low political partisans in Washington, as his chief of staff.

*Issues an order closing the facility at Guantanamo Bay where, as well documented, some of the most vicious terrorists who want nothing more than to kill Americans have been securely and humanely housed under Geneva Convention rules (even though they are not entitled to them), because he promised to do so during the campaign in order to placate his left wing radical base.

*Rescinds the Mexico City Policy that prohibits U.S. money from funding international family-planning clinics that promote abortion or provide counseling or referrals about abortion services.

*Welcomes to his administration numerous former lobbyists after stating unequivocally during his campaign: “I don’t take a dime of their money (lobbyists), and when I am president they won’t find a job in my White House.”

*Personally attacks, from the white house, a radio talk show host who has the temerity to criticize his socialist leaning agenda.

*Pushes spending plans in the trillions of dollars, spending money we do not have, that will put our children and grandchildren in financial shackles for their entire lives, and pressures members of both parties to pass them without having time to read the details.

*Summons a member of his own party, who voted against one of those plans, to the White House and admonishes him: “Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother.”

*Continues to campaign almost full time and degrades the office by appearing on late night TV while the majority of the little people are losing sleep over the disintegration of their retirement and education accounts.

*Within the first 100 days in office, “reaches out,” by way of a video, to our “friends” in the “Islamic Republic of Iran” displaying, for the entire muslim world, the weakness they misperceived prior to September 11, 2001.

*Travels to foreign countries and publicly criticizes America for the “arrogance” of his predecessor.

*Signs an executive order lifting the ban on federal funding for stem cell research while disingenuously implying that his predecessor was on the wrong side of a scientific debate.

*Makes initial movement toward a repeal of the 1993 law banning gays from serving openly in the military.

*Regularly creates “straw men” to attack, when he is not openly disparaging his predecessor, in order to make himself look better.

None of these things should shock or surprise us, because we should have known.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Notre Dame, rhymes with...

SHAME on the University of Notre Dame, and, more precisely, shame on its president, the Reverend John I. Jenkins, who has invited the most pro abortion politician in the land to deliver the commencement address to the 2009 graduates of this catholic university. Barack Obama will not only address the 2009 graduates, he will also receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the university. This is all too much for literally thousands of supporters of Notre Dame, and much has been written about what real catholics think about this turn of events. A petition drive has been mounted, but it appears unlikely that anything will sway the man who made the decision to "choose" prestige over principle. The fact that the man chosen for this honor was a sponsor, when still a member of the U.S. Senate, of the Freedom of Choice Act (please google it) should be enough to disqualify him for any honor bequeathed by any catholic organization, let alone its flagship university in the United States. It has always been my contention that the best men seldom rise to the top, and the Reverend John I. Jenkins is a perfect example. In a country, contrary to popular belief, brimming with learned and holy members of the catholic clergy, how in the world did we end up with Jenkins as the president of the University of Our Lady? When I first saw the following videos, I thought they were something Barack Obama should be asked to watch and comment on, but since the now infamous decision by the Reverend Jenkins I think he, Jenkins, should be asked to watch them, and then explain why a man completely at odds with the catholic position on the destruction of the unborn should be honored by Notre Dame.