Welcome to the Reading Room

Here are some news stories and articles which might be of interest to you. I've posted the opening section, and if you want to read more, you can click on "Read the whole article" to go to the original item. You'll find a variety of things here -- current news, political analysis, opinion pieces, articles about religion -- things I've happened to read and want to share with you. It's your Reading Room, so take your time. Browse. You're certain to find something you'll want to read.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What's in a Word?

by Peter Hannaford

"Dawa" may be an unfamiliar word to you. It is to most Americans, but we had better learn to understand it for it is almost certainly the motivation behind the drive to build the "Ground Zero" mosque in Manhattan.

It is an Arabic word. As Andrew McCarthy, the former U.S. prosecutor who put the "blind sheik" and his allies in prison for their part in the 1983 World Trade Center garage bombing, puts it this way: "Dawa, whether done from the rubble of the World Trade Center or elsewhere, is the missionary work by which Islam is spread...The purpose of dawa, like the purpose of jihad, is to implement, spread and defend sharia."

The leader of the movement to build the 13-story mosque and "community center" 600 feet from the hole in the ground where the twin towers stood, is Feisal Abdul Rauf, imam of one of New York City's 100 or so other mosques. The site where he wants to build it is owned by Sharif el-Gamal, who, until a few years ago, was waiting tables in New York restaurants. He now owns several expensive properties. The sources of his wealth are unclear as are the sources of the $100 million that must be raised to build the structure.

Imam Rauf, now on a U.S. State Department-sponsored "good will" tour of Muslim countries, is widely considered to be an example of "moderate" Islam; however, among his more memorable quotations are these:

…United States policies were an accessory to the crime (9/11) that occurred.

…the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims. You may remember that the US-led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children.

While Rauf does not endorse violence, he professes to understand its roots; that it is the reaction of oppressed people to authoritarian regimes supported by the U.S. He has declined to describe Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Rauf has been heading the Cordoba Initiative which professes to create "an atmosphere of interfaith tolerance and respect." That should appeal to many Americans, but they should note also that the name of the proposed mosque-community center is Cordoba House, is derived from the Cordoba, Spain mosque built on the ruins of a Catholic church after the Muslim conquest of Spain in the 8th Century. The Christians reconquered Spain in 1492 and Islam lost "al Andalus."

This is one of the "humiliations" that ardent Muslims want to avenge. Thus, the name "Cordoba House" stands for "conquest" and the siting of it is an example of dawa in action: Islamist triumphalism... Read the whole article.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Greatly Ghastly Rand

by Jason Lee Steorts

‘From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged,” Whittaker Chambers wrote here 53 years ago, “a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: ‘To a gas chamber — go!’” What he did not write is that Ayn Rand throws in a gas chamber.

It’s about two-thirds through, in a chapter called “The Moratorium on Brains,” than which I reread no farther. (Our president seems to have inspired — which is not quite the word — half the country to read Miss Rand, and I wanted to remind myself what she was teaching them.) A train is carrying 300 passengers through the Rocky Mountains to San Francisco. America is falling altogether to pieces, its citizens starving to death, because the prime movers — Rand’s term for the productive men and women on whom economic creation and therefore life-or-death depend — have called a strike. They are hanging out in a mountain valley that their leader, Mr. John Galt, has cleverly hidden from the world by means of refractor-ray shield.

The world scarcely has diesel locomotives. When the one attached to that train breaks down, the only replacements are coal-burning, which is a problem, because the train is about to pass through an eight-mile tunnel that is not properly ventilated for locomotives of this type. It happens that an important looter — Rand’s term for the half-wits running and ruining the country — is on the train and has strong feelings about getting to San Francisco. His name is Kip Chalmers. “It’s not my problem to figure out how you get the train through the tunnel, that’s for you to figure out!” Kip Chalmers screams at a station agent. “But if you don’t get me an engine and don’t start that train, you can kiss good-bye to your jobs, your work permits and this whole goddamn railroad!”

This is persuasive. “The station agent had never heard of Kip Chalmers and did not know the nature of his position. But he knew that this was the day when unknown men in undefined positions held unlimited power — the power of life or death.” And so the station officials, knowing that the loss of their jobs means the loss of their lives, call in a coal engine, procure a drunken engineer, and condemn every passenger on the train to death by asphyxiation.

But that isn’t why I stopped reading. I stopped because Rand thinks they deserve it.

It is said that catastrophes are a matter of pure chance, and there were those who would have said that the passengers of the Comet [that’s the train] were not guilty [note that word] or responsible for the thing that happened to them.

The man in Bedroom A, Car No. 1, was a professor of sociology who taught that individual ability is of no consequence. . . .

. . . The woman in Bedroom D, Car No. 10, was a mother who had put her two children to sleep in the berth above her, carefully tucking them in, protecting them from drafts and jolts; a mother whose husband held a government job enforcing directives, which she defended by saying, “I don’t care, it’s only the rich that they hurt. After all, I must think of my children.” . . .

. . . These passengers were awake; there was not a man aboard the train who did not share one or more of their ideas.

Now there are two important defenses of Rand. The first is that it is the looters, not the prime movers, who make the gas chamber possible and send the train into it. The second is that Rand’s philosophy is incompatible with totalitarianism, and no one who believed it would ever send anyone to a gas chamber. Both are true. Neither has anything to do with what troubles me about this gas chamber, and about Ayn Rand. And to explain that, I must say something about Rand at her best, which I believe is to be found in the second half of The Fountainhead, a book I did successfully reread...Read the whole article.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Separation of Islamophilia from State

by George Neumayr

By modern secularist standards, Barack Obama's boosterism for Islam violates the "separation between Church and state." Had George W. Bush held a rosary and modest fish dinner at the White House to mark the beginning of Lent, the ACLU left would have freaked out. But these same secularists didn't mind Barack's "Iftar dinner" last Friday night.

That is, until he wimped out on his endorsement of the Ground Zero mosque. Now his dinner looks to them more like the production of Ishtar, as finger-to-the-wind Dems cravenly scramble for cover. The search is on for a "compromise." Perhaps the self-styled Solomonic Obama can convince the mosque planners to transfer their property rights to NASA. Administrator Charles Bolden could then turn the land into a satellite office for contractors who pursue the space agency's "perhaps foremost" mission (as explained to him by Obama): "to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science…and math and engineering."

The moment one thinks this presidency has hit the bottom of grim parody it finds a new one. It is hard to keep track of them at this point, but any list of the White House's greatest Islamophilic hits would have to include: wanting a civilian jury trial for the 9/11 planners, refusing to identify radical Islam as a terrorist motive, endorsing the concept of jihad, fretting over the loss of "diversity" after the Fort Hood shooting, and vacationing through the fallout of an aborted Christmas day bombing over Detroit.

The White House's ideologically willful self-delusion about radical Islam is staggering. Here, for example, is its self-reporting at whitehouse.gov about the Ramadan dinner: "Last night, President Obama continued the White House tradition of hosting an Iftar -- the meal that breaks the day of fasting --celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room." Continued a tradition? Exactly which White House tradition is that?

The answer: Obama was referring not to a White House "tradition" but to one distant event that he carefully left vague: Thomas Jefferson's war negotiations with Tunisian envoy Sidi Soliman Mellimelli.

Jefferson, desperate to end the Barbary war with Islamic pirates, invited Mellimelli to Washington for negotiations. According to Gaye Wilson, the visit put Jefferson and his staff on the spot: James Madison, then the Secretary of State, had to field Mellimelli's request for "concubines." Jefferson told shocked colleagues to calm down; after all, peace with the Barbary pirates required passing "unnoticed the irregular conduct of their ministers." Mellimelli, in his own way, was grateful. After hearing some gossip about the wan mood of the childless Madisons, he "flung his 'magical' cloak around Dolley Madison and murmured an incantation that promised she would bear a male child. His conjuring, however, did not work."

The war negotiations happened to coincide with Ramadan. Consequently, a scheduled dinner at the White House had to be moved back from "half after three" to "precisely at sunset" in order for Mellimelli to show up...  Read the whole article.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What if the Constitution is unconstitutional?

by Diogenes

Thank goodness Judge Walker has enlightened us. All those years we thought that marriage was a union of a man and a woman, but now we know that was "an irrational classification." Not just irrational but harmful. Not just harmful but unconstitutional.

But there's a problem with Judge Walker's logic. If it is unconstitutional to disallow same-sex marriage, why was the old, unenlightened, restrictive, pre-Walker, irrational definition of marriage upheld by the very men who wrote the Constitution? Most of these men were members of legislatures; they could have revised the laws of their own states to make the legal definition of marriage match the principles that they were setting forth. Yet they didn't. Why not? Were they being irrational?

And if the authors of the Constitution were irrational men, what other nasty surprises might we have in store for us? What other emanations might emerge from the penumbrae of the document, leading us to discover a meaning apparently quite different from the Founders' own understanding? The men who gathered for the Constitutional Convention would have recoiled in horror at the idea that abortion, sodomy, or even contraception could be tolerated in society. Yet we now know, thanks to the infallible logic of contemporary jurisprudence, that these are fundamental rights, guaranteed by the document which these same men wrote. If they were so irrational-- if they were capable of crafting and enacting a document so totally at odds with their own beliefs and practices-- it's impossible to say what other time bombs might be hidden in the Constitution. It's safer to assume that they produced a document full of contradictions: a document at war with itself.

Judge Walker didn't go far enough. It's not just the definition of marriage that needs to be re-examined. There's bigger game in this legal forest. The real challenge for Judge Walker and his peers on the judicial bench is to determine whether or not the Constitution is unconstitutional. 

This is the whole article.  Read the original here.

Sacrilege at Ground Zero

Even Mayor Bloomberg acknowledges that the rules are different when it comes to sacred places.

by Charles Krauthammer

A place is made sacred by a widespread belief that it was visited by the miraculous or the transcendent (Lourdes, the Temple Mount), by the presence there once of great nobility and sacrifice (Gettysburg), or by the blood of martyrs and the indescribable suffering of the innocent (Auschwitz).

When we speak of Ground Zero as hallowed ground, what we mean is that it belongs to those who suffered and died there — and that such ownership obliges us, the living, to preserve the dignity and memory of the place, never allowing it to be forgotten, trivialized, or misappropriated.

That’s why Disney’s early ’90s proposal to build an American history theme park near Manassas Battlefield was defeated by a broad coalition fearing vulgarization of the Civil War (and wiser than me; at the time I obtusely saw little harm in the venture). It’s why the commercial viewing tower built right on the border of Gettysburg was taken down by the Park Service. It’s why, while no one objects to Japanese cultural centers, the idea of putting one up at Pearl Harbor would be offensive.

And why Pope John Paul II ordered the Carmelite nuns to leave the convent they had established at Auschwitz. He was in no way devaluing their heartfelt mission to pray for the souls of the dead. He was teaching them a lesson in respect: This is not your place, it belongs to others. However pure your voice, better to let silence reign.

Even New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who denounced opponents of the proposed 15-story mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero as tramplers on religious freedom, asked the mosque organizers “to show some special sensitivity to the situation.” Yet, as Rich Lowry pointedly noted, the government has no business telling churches how to conduct their business, shape their message, or show “special sensitivity” to anyone about anything. Bloomberg was thereby inadvertently conceding the claim of those he excoriates for opposing the mosque, namely, that Ground Zero is indeed unlike any other place and, therefore, unique criteria govern what can be done there.

Bloomberg’s implication is clear: If the proposed mosque were controlled by “insensitive” Islamist radicals either excusing or celebrating 9/11, he would not support its construction.

But then, why not? By the mayor’s own expansive view of religious freedom, by what right do we dictate the message of any mosque? Moreover, as a practical matter, there’s no guarantee this couldn’t happen in the future. Religious institutions in this country are autonomous. Who is to say that the mosque won’t one day hire an Anwar al-Awlaki — spiritual mentor to the Fort Hood shooter and the Christmas Day bomber, and one-time imam at the Virginia mosque attended by two of the 9/11 terrorists?

An Awlaki preaching in Virginia is a security problem. An Awlaki preaching at Ground Zero is a sacrilege.

Location matters...  Read the whole article.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Obsolescence of Barack Obama

The magic of 2008 can't be recreated, and good riddance to it.

by Fouad Ajami

Not long ago Barack Obama, for those who were spellbound by him, had the stylishness of JFK and the historic mission of FDR riding to the nation's rescue. Now it is to Lyndon B. Johnson's unhappy presidency that Democratic strategist Robert Shrum compares the stewardship of Mr. Obama. Johnson, wrote Mr. Shrum in the Week magazine last month, never "sustained an emotional link with the American people" and chose to escalate a war that "forced his abdication as president."

A broken link with the public, and a war in Afghanistan he neither embraces and sells to his party nor abandons—this is a time of puzzlement for President Obama. His fall from political grace has been as swift as his rise a handful of years ago. He had been hot political property in 2006 and, of course, in 2008. But now he will campaign for his party's 2010 candidates from afar, holding fund raisers but not hitting the campaign trail in most of the contested races. Those mass rallies of Obama frenzy are surely of the past.

The vaunted Obama economic stimulus, at $862 billion, has failed. The "progressives" want to double down, and were they to have their way, would have pushed for a bigger stimulus still. But the American people are in open rebellion against an economic strategy of public debt, higher taxes and unending deficits. We're not all Keynesians, it turns out. The panic that propelled Mr. Obama to the presidency has waned. There is deep concern, to be sure. But the Obama strategy has lost the consent of the governed.

Mr. Obama could protest that his swift and sudden fall from grace is no fault of his. He had been a blank slate, and the devotees had projected onto him their hopes and dreams. His victory had not been the triumph of policies he had enunciated in great detail. He had never run anything in his entire life. He had a scant public record, but oddly this worked to his advantage. If he was going to begin the world anew, it was better that he knew little about the machinery of government... Read the whole article.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Applauding Immaturity at Hunter College High School

A graduation speaker blames the messenger.


by Thomas Sowell

A graduating senior at Hunter College High School in New York gave a speech that brought a standing ovation from his teachers and got his picture in the New York Times. I hope it doesn’t go to his head, because what he said was so illogical that it was an indictment of the mush that is being taught at even our elite educational institutions.

Young Justin Hudson, described as “black and Hispanic,” opened by saying how much he appreciated reaching his graduation day at this very select public high school. Then he said, “I don’t deserve any of this. And neither do you.” The reason? He and his classmates were there because of “luck and circumstances.”

Since Hunter College High School selects its applicants from the whole city on the basis of their test scores, “luck” seems a strange way to characterize why some students are admitted and many others are not. If you can’t tell the difference between luck and performance, what has your education given you, except the rhetoric to conceal your confusion from others and perhaps from yourself?

Young Mr. Hudson’s concern, apparently, is about what he referred to as the “demographics” of the school — 41 percent white and 47 percent Asian, with blacks, Hispanics, and others obviously far behind. “I refuse to accept” that “the distribution of intelligence in this city” varies by neighborhood, he said.

Native intelligence may indeed not vary by neighborhood, but actual performance — whether in schools, on the job, or elsewhere — involves far more than native intelligence. Wasted intelligence does nothing for an individual or society... Read the whole article.

AtonementOnline

About Me

My photo
Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.