jueves, 30 de enero de 2014

Yuval Levin explores the origins of the left/right divide by examining the views of Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine

by Elizabeth Corey

The differences between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine shed light on contemporary politics, argues Yuval Levin in his new book. But they also shed light on something deeper: two fundamentally contrasting orientations toward the world.

Yuval Levin, widely acclaimed as one of his generation’s most important conservative thinkers, has written a book that richly deserves the attention it is receiving. Levin writes with admirable clarity—and absolutely no jargon or pretense—about the foundations of our current political situation. The book’s aim is to lay bare the philosophies of two luminaries who set the stage for the contemporary American political scene that we enjoy—or lament—today.

Despite its full title (The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left), the book is not a genealogy of the American right and left. There is little mention, save in the conclusion, of contemporary politics or of any intellectual or political movements that emerged as a result of the debate between Burke and Paine.

Yet the book does push its reader to reflect on the contrast between the dispositions that define conservatives and progressives. Despite outward appearances, most contemporary political debates reflect not just differences in policy preferences but fundamentally contrasting orientations toward the world. Do we incessantly focus on the ills and injustices around us, formulating plans to fix and improve things? Or are we grateful for what we have, even attached to the familiarity of the people and things that surround us? Of course, we all exhibit both tendencies, depending on the circumstances. But the balance of a person’s disposition usually goes more in one direction than the other. This is what defines us temperamentally, and politically too. I shall have more to say about this below.

Levin is a refreshingly nonpartisan writer. Even as he candidly admits his own conservative bent and his inclination toward Burke, he is more than fair in his treatment of both thinkers. Burke and Paine are not mere ciphers for their political positions; each held his views for concrete, personal, often passionately argued reasons that illuminate the philosophical debate for which they are famous. Thus, Levin begins with a chapter about the particular circumstances in which each man lived and wrote.

The book’s argument is built on a number of dichotomies: most obviously between Burke and Paine, but also between conservatism and progressivism, between abstract reason and “prescription,” between individual and community. Levin is aware that these dichotomies should not be pressed too far. True, Paine embraced abstraction and hoped for great and radical reform in politics, whereas Burke opposed him on the grounds that Paine had fundamentally misunderstood the human condition. But Burke did not shy away from reform, nor did he oppose equality, understood (as he thought) properly. Much of this book is thus a careful explication of the differences between these thinkers on such issues. Each chapter can be read and pondered on its own, at great profit to the reader.


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There are lots of Bachs, but only one Sebastian — and John Eliot Gardiner is his prophet.

Is Bach The Voice Of God In Music?

by Daniel Johnson

Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven

It is hard to believe that Sir John Eliot Gardiner is only just 70. He has been performing Bach for as long as I can remember — longer, actually, because he founded the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra (later renamed the English Baroque Soloists) already as a budding conductor in the 1960s, before the rediscovery of period instruments and performances. He later extended the pursuit of authenticity from baroque to classical and romantic music by founding the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique. As a teenager in the 1970s I heard Gardiner conduct with tremendous energy at the Proms — dashingly attired, I recall, in a white dinner jacket of which my grandmother did not approve. He was still just as energetic last month, when he conducted the Easter and Ascension Oratorios with the same force in an unforgettable late-night Prom. Forty years on, his Bach-playing has matured into something miraculous: at once spontaneous, virtuosic and as authentic as humanly possible, at least in the present state of our knowledge.

Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician

Surprisingly, given an academic distinction which ranges far beyond music, Gardiner has waited until now to write a book — but it was worth waiting for, being the summa of a lifetime's theory and practice in the interpretation of Bach. Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven (Allen Lane, £30) is not a biography — that job has already been done for our time by Christoph Wolff in Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician — but a more personal "portrait." There is a difference, after all, between the Bach of a musicologist and the Bach of a musician. Gardiner explains that his aim is "to give the reader a real sense of what the act of music-making would have been like for Bach." In this book, Gardiner devotes a lifetime's artistic experience to submerge us in Bach's magical sound world.


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A los cristianos del siglo XXI “no se les impedirá el culto, sino algo no menos importante: se les impone el pecado, ya que actuar contra la propia conciencia significa siempre pecar“.

Extensión de la ofensiva 
contra la conciencia de los cristianos

Uno de los argumentos para desacreditar los esfuerzos de quienes se oponen a la obra de reingeniería social a la que estamos sometidos es aquello tan manido del “tú vive como quieras, pero no pretendas imponer tu moral a los demás”. Con este argumento se defiende la legalidad del asesinato de los no nacidos o la destrucción del matrimonio y de la familia natural.

La realidad, no obstante, es la contraria. Es lo que explica Achille Benedettini en un interesante artículo en La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana. Aquí no se trata de que queramos imponer nada a nadie, sino de que cada vez nos dejan menos vivir de acuerdo a nuestras convicciones y conciencia.

Los médicos que objetan a la práctica del aborto entran a formar parte de listas negras. Y no digamos ya de un médico que se niega a recetar contraceptivos. Lo mismo ocurre con enfermeras, sanitarios y farmacéuticos.

Pero la ofensiva desatada por el homosexualismo ha ampliado la extensión del campo de batalla, una extensión que no cesa y que deja cada vez menos espacio para que un cristiano viva como tal (evidentemente, siempre nos queda el martirio). Primero fue en Nuevo México, donde Elaine Huguenin fue condenada a pagar miles de dólares por haber rechazado ejercer de fotógrafa en una boda entre dos personas del mismo sexo. En frase muy significativa de un juez, se ha llegado a sostener que el dejar de lado los propios valores religiosos es el precio de la ciudadanía. Luego le llegó el turno a Jack Phillips, de Colorado, que se enfrenta a la posibilidad de un año de cárcel por rechazar preparar el pastel nupcial de una “boda” gay.


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miércoles, 29 de enero de 2014

Farida Belghoul, proche d'Alain Soral, a lancé un boycott contre la théorie du genre à l'école, que certains parents, issus des communautés turque, maghrébine et gitane, ont suivi.

Théorie du genre : des élèves absents
 du fait d'une étrange rumeur

Plus d'un tiers d'absentéisme constaté dans une école strasbourgeoise de zone d'éducation prioritaire, et un mouvement qui gagne de nombreuses académies. Farida Belghoul, proche d'Alain Soral, a lancé un boycott contre la théorie du genre à l'école, que certains parents, issus des communautés turque, maghrébine et gitane, ont suivi.

«Est-ce que des associations gay et lesbiennes vont venir à l'école parler de sexualité? Allez-vous montrer des films porno? Est-il vrai que des juifs vont venir à l'école pour savoir si nos enfants sont des garçons ou des filles? C'est quoi la théorie de genre?»

Le 23 janvier, un raz-de-marée de questions émanant de mamans de la communauté turque a déferlé sur le directeur d'une école de Strasbourg située en zone prioritaire. «Elles sont venues me montrer les SMS les alertant à la fois sur la théorie du genre et l'éducation à la sexualité, et les appelant à boycotter l'école. C'est l'aspect sexuel, très tabou dans cette communauté, qui les a le plus touché», explique le directeur. La rumeur se répand comme une traînée de poudre dans le quartier. Le lendemain, l'école élémentaire où sont inscrits 240 élèves dénombre 86 absents, turcs, gitans et maghrébins. «Nous nous sommes employés, via les mamans présentes au conseil d'école et issues de ces communautés à désamorcer cette situation explosive, en expliquant qu'il s'agissait de désinformation et de manipulation. Elles ont fait du porte-à-porte. Mais une fois que la rumeur est partie…», lâche le directeur qui, en 12 ans à la tête de l'école, n'a jamais été confronté à une telle fronde, y compris sur les questions de port du voile. «Cette suspicion des parents n'est pas dirigée contre nous, les personnels de l'école, mais contre l'institution scolaire».

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Nobody is sleepwalking in Beijing. It seems as though Washington is

Japan and China: 
Not yet 1914, but time to pay attention

Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War

Max Hastings's new book, Catastrophe 1914

The growing tensions between Japan and China are coinciding menacingly with the 100th anniversary of the First World War. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe evoked this parallel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week when he said the two countries must avoid the fate of Britain and Germany. A Chinese government source helpfully responded by stressing that China's senior leadership had formally decided not to have a war with Japan (well, that's a relief...). But another senior Chinese business leader at Davos said that China could put an end to the impasse by suddenly seizing the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands by force before Japan or the United States had time to respond. This same bravado and visceral anti-Japanese sentiment was on display with recent senior visitors from Beijing to Washington just before Davos.

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

If there are parallels to be drawn to 1914, they had better be the right ones. The prevailing narrative in Barack Obama's administration seems to be drawn from Christopher Clark's book The Sleepwalkers, which portrays the Great War as a tragic escalation by all sides with equal complicity and moral failing. The administration has formally accepted Chinese President Xi Jinping's proposal for a "new model of great-power relations," despite high-level démarches from some allies that it not do so. Why? Because Xi has described this formula as the best way to avoid the tragic wars between rising powers in the past. This may be a perfectly reasonable approach by Washington, if not for the great uncertainty surrounding China's strategic aims. For example, what does Xi have in mind? A peaceful handover of the reins of global leadership from Washington to Beijing? It is unclear that Washington has thought through the implications of this "new model" for global order. And what the rest of Asia sees, even if this is not what the administration intended, is a deliberate shift in Obama's second term toward a bipolar condominium with China. Those living in Beijing's neighborhood want China to emerge as one of many, hopefully democratic, powers in Asia with the United States as the security partner of first resort.

Origins of war by Donald Kagan


La Giunta del sindaco Ignazio Marino mostra chiaramente il suo volto ideologico con un’iniziativa che calpesta prepotentemente i diritti all’educazione della famiglia e che ha come prime vittime gli incolpevoli alunni indottrinati, in una fase decisiva della loro crescita, al pensiero unico omosessualista

Il comune di Roma porta l’ideologia 
del gender tra i banchi di scuola

di Lupo Glori

A Roma l’ideologia gender si insegnerà a scuola. Il Comune di Roma, attraverso l’assessorato alla Scuola, Infanzia, Giovani e Pari Opportunità in collaborazione con l’Università La Sapienza e la casa editrice ISBN, ha, infatti, lanciato la campagna “Lecosecambiano@Roma”, per «sensibilizzare la popolazione scolastica capitolina delle Scuole secondarie di II grado al rispetto e alla valorizzazione delle differenze, contribuendo cosi a contrastare il bullismo omofobico».

L’iniziativa, firmata dall’assessore Alessandra Cattoi, si propone di educare i giovani alla cultura di genere e al rispetto dei diversi orientamenti sessuali e si articolerà su più livelli: sono previsti infatti, la compilazione di un questionario, un ciclo di incontri formativi con personaggi dello spettacolo e rappresentanti delle associazioni LGBT nelle vesti di «testimonals contro l’omofobia», un concorso a premi e, infine, un evento finale il 17 maggio nel giorno della giornata internazionale contro l’omofobia promossa dall’Unione Europea nel quale avverrà la premiazione del concorso e saranno presentati i risultati della ricerca.

Nella circolare inviata dall’Assessorato a tutte le scuole romane viene sottolineato il ruolo decisivo che spetta all’istruzione per contrastare l’omofobia e la transfobia fin dai banchi di scuola così come indicato dagli organismi internazionali, e in particolare, dall’Unione Europea. Tra gli obiettivi prefissati leggiamo:

«rilevare percezioni ed esperienze degli studenti per elaborare adeguati programmi anti-discriminazione; sensibilizzare i ragazzi sul valore delle differenze e sul rispetto delle scelte individuali; promuovere una visione positiva attraverso concrete testimonianze; dare informazione sui servizi presenti a Roma per le persone LGBT; contribuire alla lotta contro “l’omofobia interiorizzata e sociale”, promuovendo un nuovo approccio alla molteplicità degli orientamenti sessuali e delle identità di genere».


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La March for Life è un evento aconfessionale ma, nonostante le molte delegazioni luterane, ebraiche e musulmane, materialmente è un evento cattolico.

La marcia di Washington vince la tempesta

di Roberto Dal Bosco

Sul numero dei partecipanti non vi è ancora una cifra precisa ‒ c’è chi parla di 200.000, chi di 300.000 marcianti, chi di quasi mezzo milione. Quali che siano i numeri della March for Life di Washington dello scorso 22 gennaio, il dato è sbalorditivo: la East Coast è stata infatti colpita, proprio alla vigilia della marcia, da una epocale tempesta di neve che ha bloccato i trasporti mettendo in ginocchio varie città.

Le strade per Washington erano quindi coperte da una fitta coltre bianca. A scoraggiare il viaggio verso la Capitale, oltre all’impossibilità di prevedere l’arrivo, anche il timore di eventuali cause giudiziarie, in agguato in America ogniqualvolta vada storto qualcosa: «questo Paese è un paese di avvocati» dice Mr. Ousmani, un cavaliere di Malta di origine siro-irachena, «se scivoli sulla neve, se hai un incidente con l’autobus, qualcuno ti può denunciare ed in un minuto sei out of business».

«A New York sono stati cancellati molti autobus, per esempio quello dei bambini» dice Suor Shirley delle “Sisters of Life”, una comunità religiosa fondata nel 1991 dal cardinale O’Connor per proteggere la vita dei nascituri. Il pullman di Sister Shirley ha avuto però appena un terzo di defezioni. L’inizio della messa delle sei di mattina per i marcianti newyorchesi ha incredibilmente conciso con la fine della nevicata. Il gruppo poi è arrivato sano e salvo, e in orario, alla marcia, pronto ad esibire le sciarpe verdi, perché ogni diocesi americana alla marcia si fa riconoscere con colori diversi.

New York in particolare quest’anno ha fatto parlare di sé: poche ore prima della marcia, il governatore Andrew Cuomo ha definito i prolife degli «estremisti che non sono i benvenuti a New York». Gli ha risposto sul “New York Post” Edward Menchmann, direttore dell’ufficio delle pubbliche relazioni dell’Arcidiocesi: «chiediamoci: chi sono i veri estremisti? Sono quei pubblici officiali ed attivisti a cui non basta che New York sia la capitale dell’aborto americano, un posto con 110 mila aborti l’anno». Edward era ovviamente in uno dei bus giunti a destinazione.

Impressionante, magico il colpo d’occhio sulla spianata di Washington, dove sul manto candido della neve le migliaia e migliaia di attivisti si sono ritrovati per il quarantunesimo anniversario dell’inizio dell’autogenocidio americano avviato dalla sentenza della Corte Suprema Roe v. Wade, tragedia giuridica che ha sinora causato 56 milioni di morti, un danno incalcolabile non solo per l’anima della nazione, ma anche per la sua economia: sempre più gente riconosce infatti che, mancando alla conta lavoratori e consumatori, la crisi finanziaria profonda del Paese ne è logica conseguenza. «Questa è la marcia più breve a cui ho partecipato» mi dice Mike, un programmatore con moglie e figlia che viene ogni anno da Buffalo portando anche genitori e fratelli. «Di solito ci si ferma davanti alla Corte Suprema fino a sera a sentire storie di donne che piangono per il loro aborto; si creano file chilometriche davanti agli uffici dei senatori, dove i prolifers vanno a fare pressione. Certo il freddo e la neve quest’anno hanno danneggiato tutti gli eventi accessori della marcia, ma non il suo cuore: di fatto, io e la mia famiglia siamo qui».


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Remi Brague little book, On the God of the Christians, offers a startling and fresh presentation on the identity, being, and actions of God

On the God of the Christians: (and on one or two others)

Remi Brague begins his lovely little book by stating: “What is truly interesting is that the images and concepts that have been made of God (which concepts are themselves, at bottom, but images) differ among men and among the associations that bring men together, whether it be philosophical schools or religions.” The garden variety religious pluralist does not take the differences of these images and concepts of God seriously as expressions of differing judgments about the divine. As a result, clarity about the differing judgments about the divine and the distinctiveness of the religious ways of life following upon them elude us.

Into the breach steps Brague, who wields his pen like a scalpel in service of clarity in understanding the difference our ideas about God make for the ways we live our lives. Because Brague is so good at making distinctions, he is able to show marvelously well the coherence of Christianity while at the same time engaging some of the thorniest and most persistent modern objections against it. He does so explicitly, as when he directly counters Nietzsche’s complaint against a God who bargains with man by offering love in return for faith, and also implicitly, for example, in his running dialectic with modernity on the true character of human freedom.


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A Ukrainian priest and historian discusses the crisis in Ukraine.

The Reverend Doctor Athanasius D. McVay specializes in the 20th-century history of Vatican diplomacy and of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. He co-edited a publication of Vatican archival documents on the 1932-1933 Holodomor famine in Ukraine, and has recently completed a major monograph on Blessed Nykyta Budka, Canada’s first Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishop. Novelist and European correspondent Dorothy Cummings McLean spoke to him last week for CWR about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Dorothy Cummings McLean, CWR: Father McVay, can you explain to us what triggered the demonstrations?

Father Athanasius D. McVay: The immediate cause was President Yanukovych’s about-face regarding talks with the leaders of the European Union. The remote cause is the corrupt un-democratic regime which is heavily influenced by Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.

CWR: What has the Church’s role been in the demonstrations?

Father McVay: The Church is Christ’s Body so it is made up of all the faithful. The role of the priesthood in the Church is to minister to all the faithful, to teach and sanctify. People demonstrating at Independence Square (the Maidan) asked their clergy for ministry, prayer, liturgy, and the sacrament of confession. They preach Christ’s Gospel of peace and justice. The presence of the Greek Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant clergy helped the protests remain peaceful.

CWR: I could hardly believe my eyes when I read that the regime’s Culture Minister had threatened to “ban” the Catholic Church in the Ukraine. Were you surprised by this?

Father McVay: A letter was sent by an assistant to the minister threatening to “re-assess” the status of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church if it continued to celebrate the holy services on the Maidan. The minister later denied any knowledge of the letter. This is part of a long intimidation by the current regime against the Greek Catholic Church because the Church speaks out for freedom and justice and against corruption.

For example, the government has been making difficulties for the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv for several years now. Recently it charged one of the professors for a traffic violation in a city in which he was not even present. It is also demanding that the rector of the university be a Ukrainian citizen. The current rector is an ethnic Ukrainian from Poland. The former rector, founder, and current president of the university, Bishop Borys Gudziak, is an ethnic Ukrainian from the United States.


CWR: What can the Western, i.e. the Roman Rite, Church do to help the Church in the Ukraine right now?

Father McVay: Roman Rite Catholics can help by learning more about their Sister Church the UGCC and by expressing prayerful and moral solidarity. They should also examine the dire consequences for the Catholic Churches and all citizens if the regime continues along the dictatorial path it has chosen. Church leaders can make the faithful aware, especially through the press and Internet, of what is going on and what is at stake. A magnificent example of solidarity has come from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who expressed unreserved support for the Ukrainian people and the UGCC hierarchy on his blog. George Weigel has also been very helpful by explaining what is at stake in this conflict.


We are fighting to preserve and recover the Catholic faith in our schools precisely because it has been replaced by “Catholic identity.”

The Catholic faith cannot operate as a regime of power and still give proper praise, reverence, and worship to God. The Catholic faith cannot operate as a regime of power and bring souls to Christ. Whenever the Church has used violence in the past the results have been disastrous. What the faith needs to flourish is not status, recognition, or power, but rather the free space in which to be and to let the grace of God work through it to save souls.

In the 1960s and ’70s, the name Marshall McLuhan became a household word for the bourgeoisie of the western world, and something of a mantra for its intelligentsia. McLuhan’s ground-breaking and often prophetic insights into the transformative effects of mass media and technology upon human consciousness gave him a rare status among professional academics—not only was he a professor of English in the every-day world, but a rock star in the realm of pop culture. While my own research in literature and postmodern culture has brought me into contact with McLuhan’s work many times in the last 15 years, it was not until several years ago that I learned that McLuhan, in addition to being a counter-culture icon, was also a devout Catholic.

Recently, while web-surfing for information about McLuhan’s faith, I came across a brief video snippet from his 1977 talk show appearance with TV Ontario’s Mike McManus.

In this interview, McLuhan was offering some ideas on why separatism and sectarian violence were inevitable in a globalizing world. In response to McManus’ observation that global tribalism had not resulted in a more “friendly” world, McLuhan agreed, noting that, “when people get close together, they get more and more savagely impatient with each other.”

“The Global Village,”
McLuhan observed, “is a place of very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.”

He added that these “abrasive situations” and incidents of “savage” impatience emerge because people feel a need to define and assert their identity in a world that increasingly and systematically forces them to trade their individuality for membership in a global tribe. “All forms of violence,” McLuhan asserted, “are a quest for identity.”
I have spent a great deal of time over the last few weeks pondering this provocative remark and considering its implications for the work of preserving Catholic culture on the campuses of Catholic universities. It was never my intention, when I began teaching at a Jesuit university, to take up arms in the great ecclesiological culture war, although I have been drawn into it as a combatant of sorts. It has been very disquieting at times because despite the satisfaction one inevitably gains from standing for one’s principles—and for one’s Church in an increasingly irreligious age—the end-game and the real stakes involved are never entirely clear.


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martes, 28 de enero de 2014

Les idéologues du gender parlent souvent de stéréotypes et disent vouloir les déconstruire. Que revêt cette notion ?

Le stéréotype, une notion des idéologues du genre

Les idéologues du gender parlent souvent de stéréotypes et disent vouloir les déconstruire. Que revêt cette notion ? En quoi est-elle importante dans le projet de ces idéologues ?

En fait, les féministes de la culture du gender ont transformé en stéréotypes, dans le but stratégique de tenter de les déconstruire, les réalités de l’homme et de la femme:

– la féminité et la masculinité : êtres, rôles, gestes, remarques, attitudes, dons, apparences, habits, métiers…. féminins et masculins

– la maternité et la paternité

– la famille fondée sur le mariage entre un homme et une femme, constituée d’un père, d’une mère et de leurs enfants

– l’homme, le père et l’autorité paternelle

– le corps sexué féminin ou masculin 

– la rationalité masculine et l’empathie féminine 


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Les Français attirés par le djihad sont de plus en plus nombreux.

Ados candidats au djihad:
 "Ils subissent un lavage de cerveau"

Les adolescents originaires de Toulouse qui voulaient se rendre en Syrie pour aller faire la guerre ont été rapatriés depuis la Turquie. Les Français attirés par le djihad sont de plus en plus nombreux. Les explications du sociologue Farhad Khosrokhavar.

Deux adolescents toulousains qui ont quitté l'école pour aller faire la guerre en Syrie: l'un vient de rentrer en France et devait être rapidement suivi par l'autre. Avant eux, deux autres Toulousains qui avaient gagné la Syrie en 2013 y ont été tués à quatre mois d'intervalle, selon leurs parents. Les explications de Farhad Khosrokhavar, sociologue, spécialiste de l'islam radical. Plusieurs dizaines de Français seraient, comme eux, partis combattre en Syrie, un sujet d'inquiétude pour les autorités.

Le cas des deux jeunes Toulousains reflète la hausse du nombre des apprentis djihadistes en France...


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Radicals in the White House

This week’s Glazov Gang was hosted by Ann-Marie Murrell, the National Director of and joined by Dwight Schultz, a Hollywood Actor, and John Duffy, a Film Producer from the Bronx.

The Gang gathered to discuss Stop Giving Obama Radicals the Benefit of the Doubt

The discussion occurred in Part I and focused on the destructive forces Obama has brought into his administration.

The episode also analyzed Michelle Obama Sees Jane Fonda as a Role Model, How Obama Brought the Muslim Brotherhood into the Government, The Mullahs Say They Didn’t Agree to Anything, Why Obama Won’t Call Saeed Abedini’s Wife, and much, much more. Watch both parts of the two-part episode below:

The Glazov Gang

Part I:

Part II:



“Even a strong tradition of political liberty is no safeguard if the danger is precisely that new institutions and policies will gradually undermine and destroy that spirit.”

Obama’s Road to Serfdom

Barack Obama has his pen and his phone and as this report notes, the President of the United States is poised to bypass Congress and “use his control of federal agencies to impose his progressive agenda on the economy and society throughout 2014.”

This is more evidence that Barack Obama has not read Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, the 1944 book endorsed by John Maynard Keynes “in deeply moved agreement” both philosophical and moral. Hayek’s book nevertheless remains enlightening about president Obama and his administration in several ways.

Last year in a piece on ObamacareWashington Post columnist Michael Gerson cited Hayek on the challenge of technocratic planning: limited information. The knowledge, Hayek wrote, “never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess.”

According to Hayek, a Nobel laureate in economics, the dispute is not about “whether planning is to be done or not.” Rather, the key question is whether the planning is to be conducted “centrally, by one authority” or “divided among many individuals.” Obamacare purports to plan health care for an entire nation. By any standard, that has not worked out well.

The federal website was dysfunctional but Obamacare bosses opted to roll it out anyway. Federal officials remained uncertain how many people had “enrolled” and whether enrollees had in fact secured a policy. Among other technical and economic problems, the federal website remains insecure and state exchanges have troubles of their own.

“So maybe the problem is not Obama or Sebelius,” Gerson wrote, “but rather a government program that requires superhuman technocratic mastery.” That validates Hayek on the information problem. Another section of his “grand book,” as Keynes called it, may be even more relevant.

That would be Hayek’s chapter on “Why the Worst Get on Top” in societies trending toward central control. In those, the dominating element is “the general demand for a quick and determined government action.” Therefore it is “the man or party strong enough to ‘get things done’ who exercises the greatest appeal.” But for such a man and his party, the problems range far beyond the lack of information.


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The jihadist movement has splintered into many conflicting extremist groups.

The jihadist movement: 
definition and evaluation

The jihadi movement is often portrayed in the press as a monolithic entity, with the entire movement frequently referred to as "al Qaeda" or "al Qaeda-linked militants." In reality the jihadist movement is far more complex. This is why we have titled this series "Gauging the Jihadist Movement" and not simply "Gauging al Qaeda."

As previously discussed, there are a number of jihadist actors and groups, and many of them hold to different religious doctrines and operational tenets. For example, some groups tend to be more nationalistic in nature, such as the Afghan Taliban, while others are more transnational, such as the al Qaeda core. And there is a range of groups with beliefs that fall between these two extremes. Even al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the jihadist franchise group most closely aligned with the al Qaeda core, has conducted terrorist attacks against local and regional targets in addition to transnational targets.

But target selection and the types of attacks employed are not the only differences. Some groups believe in the practice of takfir, or declaring another Muslim to be an unbeliever, while other groups refute takfir as un-Islamic. Some jihadist groups actively attack Shiite and Sufi Muslims while other groups will cooperate with Shiite, Sufi or even secular militant groups fighting for the same cause. There are also differences between groups regarding how Sharia should be administered in areas conquered by jihadist groups. 

We refer to these regional groups that have sworn loyalty to al Qaeda as "franchise groups" because, while they do use the widely recognized transnational brand name, they are very much locally owned and operated. But even among the declared al Qaeda franchise groups, there can be differences in operational doctrine.


Ian Barbour’s life demonstrated the harmony between physics and faith.

Faith and science: 
a dialogue, not a debate

When physicist Professor Ian Barbour passed away last month, his obituaries, quite rightly, focused on the influence of his Christian faith on his life and work. But many did so in a way with which Professor Barbour would have likely taken issue.

They saw Barbour's devout Christian faith as an intriguing contrast to his scientific expertise, whereas he himself saw the two as wholly and inextricably intertwined. To call the intersection of Ian Barbour's religious and scientific interests the “faith/science debate” is to ignore the fact that he did not consider it a debate at all, but a dialogue.

Born in 1923 to missionary parents in China, Ian Barbour earned his doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago before working as a teaching assistant to Enrico Fermi, one of the developers of the atomic bomb.

But the nuclear age posed ethical challenges to Barbour, a conscientious objector in World War II, which his work in the research lab could not answer. A degree in divinity at Yale led to positions teaching physics and religion at Carleton College and several books, including Issues in Science and Religion in 1966.

The news of his death brought praise of his work from scientists and religious scholars alike; Dr Robert Russell of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences has described him as “the pioneer scholar” of the field of science and religion, while evolutionary biologist Francisco J. Ayala claimed he “probably did more for the creation of the field than anyone else.”

Barbour's career was a witness to the idea that scientific endeavour requires moral seriousness, and that progress in the empirical sciences must not be treated as an end in itself but instead as a means of meeting our ethical obligations to our fellow human beings and to the natural world.

“The Gospel message,” he said on receiving the Templeton Prize in 1999, “can empower us to seek environmental preservation, human dignity, and social justice in the deployment of the exciting scientific advances of the new Millennium.”

Barbour's conception of religion as something which aids and guides scientific enquiry, rather than stymieing it, is one far more historically mainstream than his sceptical obituary-writers might think. After all, the presupposition that the natural world is governed by observable laws intelligible to human reason is one that the scientific method has always shared with orthodox Christianity.

In fact, as historians of science such as Fr. Stanley L. Jaki have argued, the belief in an intelligible and divinely ordered world spurred the development of the scientific method, providing a far sounder basis for empirical inquiry than competing metaphysical systems.


Science also needs ethics

During his pontificate, Pope John Paul II spoke often of the need for the pursuit of knowledge to be joined to conscience. “Promoting the ethical dimension of scientific and technical progress,” he said in a 1994 address, “means helping it to become genuinely human, in order to build a society which is on a human scale.”

The Pope, like Professor Barbour, knew better than many that the scientific and technological advances of the twentieth century confronted humanity with profound ethical quandaries which could not be resolved through a mere hollow appeal to progress.

Then, as now, the ethics of warfare, the dignity and value of the human person, and humanity's place in the natural world were not questions with empirically deducible answers -- and the twenty-first century has shown no let-up in its demands on our consciences or moral reasoning.

In fact, what is often presented as belief in science by self-described sceptics and rationalists is in fact belief in scientism, a blindly presumptuous and self-defeating philosophy reminiscent of the perfect but narrow circles of Chesterton's madman.

It's notable that New Atheist definitions of scientific progress tend towards the simplistic and ethically flimsy: Sam Harris, for instance, is happy to assert that scientific knowledge enables us to make moral decisions, while not feeling the need to define the term “morality” beyond a shallow utilitarianism that breaks down in ethically complex situations.

Richard Dawkins, meanwhile, is so keen to prove (in The God Delusion )that scientific advancement goes hand-in-hand with moral improvement that he is forced to treat the twentieth century (with its “local and contemporary setbacks”) as a roadbump on the unstoppable path of moral evolution.

The argument that what is progressive is more or less the same as what is possible is hard to maintain in the early twenty-first century, if indeed it ever was. The issues of drone warfare and destructive embryo experimentation, to use two examples, suggest that scientific and technological advances do not in themselves reveal to us principles about the dignity of the human person, human rights or the pursuit of justice, but instead must be closely guided by them at every step.


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Science provides only one approach to the human condition -- and not always the most pertinent one.

Does science have answers 
to absolutely everything?

When Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker published an essay last summer, ”Science Is Not Your Enemy: An impassioned plea to neglected novelists, embattled professors, and tenure-less historians,” in The New Republic he can hardly have expected the result. His call to conversion to his dismissive materialist analysis garnered not merely an impassioned response but a widespread and intelligent demolition of the scientism he represents.

Scientism? It used to be an insult, implying that science answers all meaningful questions. But, as philosopher of science Alex Rosenberg, author of Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions, explains, a hard core of thinkers today believes that to be fact:

My conception of scientism is almost the same as that of those who use it as a term of abuse. They use the term to name the exaggerated and unwarranted confidence that science and its methods can answer all meaningful questions. I agree with that definition except for the "exaggerated" and "unwarranted" part.

Moreover, he says in the same 2012 interview, at Talking Philosophy that “scientism dictates a thoroughly Darwinian understanding of humans and of our evolution—biological and cultural,” one “that will strike many people as immoral as well as impious.”

He blames the pushback he (and Pinker) have encountered on the fact that the human race hasn’t evolved in such a way as to see that his views are correct (he and Pinker are presumably exceptions). Others, however, blame the pushback on contrary evidence. Following hard upon recent affirmations of the existence of free will and of doubts about materialist neuroscience and materialist psychiatry, this development is not entirely a surprise to trend-watchers. Rather, it is a confirmation.

First, New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier replied in “Crimes Against Humanities”, calling Pinker’s viewpoint a “reductionist racket.” He pointed out that

Reason is larger than science. Reason is not scientific; science is rational. Moreover, science is not all that is rational. Philosophy and literature and history and critical scholarship also espouse skepticism, open debate, formal precision (though not of the mathematical kind), and—at the higher reaches of humanistic labor—even empirical tests.


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While Putin scores some personal triumphs, the country’s economy is chronically ill and is unlikely to get the treatment it needs

Russia’s Narrowing Economic Horizon

2014 dawned as a year of triumph for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Forbesmagazine named him the most powerful person in the world, 
and he did indeed have some considerable successes in 2013.

  • First, he emerged victorious from the tussle with the EU over Ukraine. 
  • Second, he managed to propose a sensible way forward for dealing with the situation in Syria, so for the first time in decades leading foreign politicians were actually listening to the Kremlin. 
  • Third, next month will see Sochi hosting the Winter Olympics, which means that for more than two weeks the attention of the world will be focused on Russia. 

Many people consider Russia’s selection as host country for the Olympics a personal Putin coup and by the end of February his popularity ratings will almost certainly have improved.

But in fact Putin is facing a very testing time: the Russian economy is in such a bad state that the difficulties of the 2008-2009 crisis and the 2011-2012 protests will pale into insignificance by comparison.


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Legalizing commercial surrogacy will result in the widespread suppression and erosion of norms surrounding women’s rights

by Marion D. Boteju

Men and women struggling with infertility know real heartache. However, as citizens of a country founded on the struggle for rights and freedom, Americans have a civic and moral duty to confront laws that marginalize the already marginalized and threaten to create a second-class citizenry.

Cuando yo crezca, voy a tener bebes por dinero. Igual que mi mama.
When I grow up, I want to have babies for money. Just like my mom.

The women most at risk of hearing these words are women of color, immigrant women, and women in developing countries: in other words, the most marginalized and vulnerable. These are sisters, mothers, and daughters who are the supply-side target consumers in the multi-billion dollar “wombs for rent” industry of commercial surrogacy.

Earlier this summer, the District of Columbia’s City Council held hearings on the Collaborative Reproduction Act that will be reintroduced in 2014. Supporters presented the bill as a “solution” for couples struggling with infertility. In effect, this bill would legalize commercial surrogacy—women renting out their wombs to incubate the in vitro fertilized fetuses of other couples—in our nation’s capital.

This is not the American dream, at least not for the women I know.

Fertility treatments have a long and lucrative history in the global marketplace. In 2009, the IVF industry was worth nearly $4 billion in the U.S. alone. In comparison, surrogacy is a relatively new and burgeoning industry. The first paid surrogacy agreement on record wasn’t drafted until 1980.

Men and women struggling with infertility know real heartache and hope. However, as citizens of a country founded on the struggle for rights and freedom, Americans have a civic and moral duty to confront laws that marginalize the already marginalized and threaten to create a second-class citizenry.

The “Collaborative Reproduction Act” is riddled with vague provisions and loopholes that make practices like commercial surrogacy a near-certainty. It allows for “intangible expenses” such as “forbearance” and “inconvenience.” The law will consider all ancillary expenses “reasonable” if negotiated by independent attorneys. Furthermore, it will leave a door open for complications for surrogate children by allowing “any party to a gestational carrier agreement” to file a petition for parentage. The provision sets the stage for disputes between two sets of parents who want the child. Moral and legal chaos awaits us in the new reign of commercialized reproduction.

Unseen evils of the surrogacy regimen already abound in areas where the practice is regulated and legalized. Looking to the East, women in India are typically paid an estimated $6,000 - $8,000 per pregnancy. “Unsuccessful” pregnancy results in a dock in pay. Meanwhile, the reported charge to couples seeking a child from a surrogate can range from $25,000 - $45,000. This leaves a pretty hefty profit margin for those who facilitate the arrangements. Women who fall victim to this predatory market are, in effect, selling their body parts and subjecting themselves to the inherent risks of pregnancy to provide for their children and families.

This particular assault on the dignity of women takes a twisted turn as the reproductive industry incentivizes profitable pregnancy and short-term “motherhood.” Legalizing commercial surrogacy will result in the widespread suppression and erosion of norms surrounding women’s rights, with particular consequence for vulnerable female populations. The trade-off for a woman choosing to place a price tag on her womb is her right to dignified and safe employment, education, and sustainable economic mobility for her family—markers of true progress for women, and consequently, for children as well.

It is reported that the current cost to rent a womb in the United States ranges from $80,000 - $165,000. Commercial surrogacy laws differ from state to state, with the involvement of state courts ranging widely, but as the market for commercialized motherhood in our backyard grows, cities and states are weighing in. A thorough listing of state positions can be found on the website for the Center for Bioethics and Culture. In 2014, at least two major U.S. cities will consider laws on surrogacy: New York City and the District of Columbia.


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The Church in Germany: Let us pray for an authentic renewal, so that the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in Germany in 2017 will not commemorate this event by its repetition.

The Real Scandal in Germany

One might think we were living back in the days of the Renaissance. Tremendously high expenses for “luxurious” buildings by the Bishop of Limburg have brought him into the headlines as the “Protz-Bischof” (“the showy Bishop”). Scandal has rocked the diocese and Rome decided therefore in October 2013 that bishop Tebartz-van Elst was to take some time out, while a committee investigated the matter. He has retired to the Bavarian monastery of Metten, while awaiting a final decision.


On Sunday, the German news magazine Focus reported online that the committee set up by the bishops’ conference to investigate the matter had reached the following conclusion: Tebartz-van Elst had not wasted any money on the diocesan center, nor had he side-stepped anybody. 

This news was leaked, however, and cannot be given the weight of an official statement. Since then the speaker of the bishops’ conference, Matthias Kopp, has explained that the commission has not yet finished its work and that its findings will first go to the bishops in February and then to Rome before being presented to the public. 

But an interview with archbishop Georg Gänswein, prefect of the papal household, a week earlier, points in the same direction; for Gänswein declared he thought Tebartz-van Elst would be exonerated.

What will happen with the diocese?


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Una película para pensar: ¿Qué esconde el odio antiteo de algunos filósofos?

Josh es un joven estudiante cristiano (lleva sobre el pecho una cruz bien visible) que se apunta a las clases de filosofía que imparte el profesor Radisson. Se trata de un ateo intolerante, y despótico como maestro, que utiliza su posición de superioridad para exigir a sus alumnos que suscriban una afirmación muy especial si quieren aprobar la asignatura: Dios ha muerto.

Los compañeros de Josh se muestran dispuestos -crean en Dios o no- con tal de pasar de curso. Pero el protagonista deGod´s not dead [Dios no ha muerto] -pues así se llama, significativamente, la película- se niega a firmar: "Soy cristiano", proclama con convicción ante Radisson.

La soberbia del filósofo ateo se ve así confrontada con la firmeza del discípulo que -piensa él- debería ver, oír y callar y no rebelarse. Radisson, viéndose incapaz de doblegar la fe del muchacho,le plantea un desafío: debatir públicamente con él sobre Dios ante el resto de la clase. Si pierde... no pasará la asignatura. 

Josh acepta, y se plantea entonces un auténtico duelo de inteligencias, que se revelará como -también- un duelo de corazones y de heridas. Porque, al final, tras la negación de Dios lo que hay casi siempre es un odio a Dios por algo que, a nuestros ojos humanos, no debería haber sucedido.

Cine cristiano de calidad: ola imparable

God´s not dead se estrena el 21 de marzo en Estados Unidos y viene a unirse a una cada vez más amplia lista de obras de cine cristiano de calidad: de La Pasión de Mel Gibson (ya un clásico) a la inminente Hijo de Dios, de A prueba de fuego [Fireproof] a La fuerza del honor [Corageous], deOctober Baby a Bella, de la también inminente Gimme Shelter [Dame refugio] a Cristiada [For greater glory]. De inspiración católica unas o evangélica otras, todas se traducen en guiones que resulten básicamente aceptables para cristianos de cualquier confesión, de forma que el éxito de taquilla refuerce el potencial de un género que cada vez seduce a más productores: cuando no por los principios, sí por la probada rentabilidad de la religión cuando es adecuadamente tratada por el Séptimo Arte.

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