100 Days, 100 Mistakes

April 29, 2009

The New York Post presents a good synopsis of The One™’s first 100 days in office. Some highlights:

1. “Obama criticized pork barrel spending in the form of ‘earmarks,’ urging changes in the way that Congress adopts the spending proposals. Then he signed a spending bill that contains nearly 9,000 of them, some that members of his own staff shoved in last year when they were still members of Congress. ‘Let there be no doubt, this piece of legislation must mark an end to the old way of doing business, and the beginning of a new era of responsibility and accountability,’ Obama said.” — McClatchy, 3/11

4. Asks his Cabinet to cut costs in their departments by $100 million — a whopping .0027%!

11. The picture of Obama and Hugo Chavez shaking hands.

15. “For months, the Obama administration and members of Congress have known that insurance giant AIG was getting ready to pay huge bonuses while living off government bailouts. It wasn’t until the money was flowing and news was trickling out to the public that official Washington rose up in anger and vowed to yank the money back.” — Associated Press, 3/18

18. “The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today.” — Department of Homeland Security intelligence report

27. By releasing the torture memos, Obama opened American citizens up to international tribunals. A UN lawyer said the US is obliged to prosecute lawyers who drafted the memos or else violate the Geneva Conventions.

28. In their first meeting, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave Obama a carved ornamental penholder from the timbers of the anti-slavery ship HMS Gannet. Obama gave him 25 DVDs that don’t work in Europe.

49. Obama bows to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at a G-20 meeting in London.

50. “It wasn’t a bow. He grasped his hand with two hands, and he’s taller than King Abdullah.” — An Obama aide

53. Three candidates for ambassador to the Vatican — including Caroline Kennedy — were turned down by the Holy See because they supported abortion, according to reports.

80. Forced banks that didn’t want TARP money to take it, then added on stipulations about pay and government control after the fact. Secretly forced Bank of America to buy Merrill Lynch, then allowed the bank to be criticized for overpaying.

98. “Education Secretary Arne Duncan has decided not to admit any new students to the D.C. voucher program, which allows low-income children to attend private schools … For all the talk about putting children first, it’s clear that the special interests that have long opposed vouchers are getting their way.” — Washington Post, 4/11

Full piece here.

The Post doesn’t even mention the Air Force One photo op fiasco over lower Manhattan, the gift of the (mistranslated) Reset button to the Russian ambassador, or the “How do you say ‘wheeling and dealing’ in Austrian?” gaffe.

Imagine the media outcry if George W. Bush had made even one of these gaffes. We would be hearing about it for years. But since it’s Obama’s doing, the countless blunders are flushed down the memory hole, and replaced by heavy-handed Stalinist-era propaganda like this, accompanied by hagiographic iconography that would make Leni Riefenstahl blush.

In reality, the consequences of Obama’s myriad blunders have not yet come home to roost. Three months and 10 days in office and he and Geitner have still not come up with a viable plan to resolve the banking crisis. Obama correctly observes that our economic troubles were caused by excessive spending and borrowing under the previous Administration, yet somehow imagines that the solution to our sluggish economy is far greater spending and borrowing. This is magical thinking. The costs of Obama’s profligacy will be borne for generations.

Of even greater concern are his foreign policy and national security blunders. For starters, his decision to release select CIA intelligence memos on enhanced interrogation techniques — against the advice of five CIA Directors (and redacted to paint us in the worst possible light) — can only undermine our ability to protect ourselves from another terrorist attack. This feckless move will only embolden our enemies and demoralize the members of our intelligence agencies whose vigilance has kept us safe over the past eight years. Not to mention his dithering while belligerent rogue states develop nuclear capability.

100 days, 100 mistakes and counting.

But his poll numbers remain high, so it’s been a great start.


Notre Dame: Reluctant Witness

April 27, 2009

Last Thursday, former White House speechwriter William McGurn gave an inspirational talk at his alma mater Notre Dame at a dinner hosted by Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture and the Notre Dame Fund for the Protection of Human Life.

Read Bill’s speech in its entirety here.

[T]onight our hearts carry a great sadness. But we do not come here this evening to rally against a speaker. We come to affirm the sacredness of life. And we come with a great hope: That a university founded under the patronage of Our Lady might be as consistent in the defense of her principles as the President of the United States has been for advancing his. In a nation wounded by Roe … in a society that sets mothers against the children they carry in their wombs … we come here tonight because however much our hearts ache, they tell us this: Our church, our country, and our culture long for the life witness of Notre Dame.

What does it mean to be a witness? To be a witness, an institution must order itself so that all who look upon it see a consonance between its most profound truths and its most public actions. For a Catholic university in the 21st century, this requires that those placed in her most critical leadership positions – on the faculty, in the administration, on the board of trustees – share that mission. We must concede there is no guarantee that the young men and women who come here to learn will assent to her witness – but we must never forget that the university will have failed them if they leave here without at least understanding it. That is what it means to be a witness.

This witness is the only real reason for a University of Notre Dame. We believe that there are self-evident truths about the dignity of each human life, and that this dignity derives from our having been fashioned in our Creator’s likeness. In this new century, these beliefs make us the counterculture. One does not need to be a Catholic to appreciate that abortion involves the brutal taking of innocent human life. To argue that this is a Catholic truth, or even a religious truth, is to overlook what science and sonograms tell us – and to insult the Protestants, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and, yes, even some atheists, who appreciate that a civilization which sanctions abortion as a human right is in some essential way writing its death warrant.

Over the years, the whole idea of truth – much less our ability to know it – has been rendered doubtful by the slow advance of a soft agnosticism that has itself become orthodoxy at so many universities. Not so at Notre Dame. All across this wondrous campus, we pass imagery that sings to us about the hope born of a Jewish woman in a Bethlehem stable. Yet we kid ourselves if we believe these images are self-sustaining. Without a witness that keeps these signposts alive, our crosses, statues, and stainedglass windows will ultimately fade into historical curiosities like the “Christo et ecclesiae” that survives to this day on buildings around Harvard Yard and the seal that still validates every Harvard degree. . .

For years this university has trumpeted her lay governance. So what does it say about the Notre Dame brand of leadership, that in the midst of a national debate over a decision that speaks to our Catholic identity, a debate in which thousands of people across the country are standing up to declare themselves “yea” or “nay,” our trustees and fellows – the men and women who bear ultimate responsibility for this decision – remain as silent as Trappist monks? At a time when we are told to “engage” and hold “dialogue,” their timidity thunders across this campus. And what will history say of our billions in endowment if the richest Catholic university America has ever known cannot find it within herself to mount a public and spirited defense of the most defenseless among us?

It is no coincidence that the Greek word for witness is martyrion, from which our English word “martyr” is derived.

Whittaker Chambers, who titled his great autobiography “Witness”, knew from bitter experience what it meant to be a witness:

I was a witness. I do not mean a witness for the Government or against Alger Hiss and the others. Nor do I mean the short, squat, solitary figure, trudging through the impersonal halls of public buildings to testify before Congressional committees, grand juries, loyalty boards, courts of law. A man is not primarily a witness against something. That is only incidental to the fact that he is a witness for something. A witness, in the sense that I am using the word, is a man whose life and faith are so completely one that when the challenge comes to step out and testify for his faith, he does so, disregarding all risks, accepting all consequences. . .

But a man may also be an involuntary witness. I do not know any way to explain why God’s grace touches a man who seems unworthy of it. But neither do I know any other way to explain how a man like myself — tarnished by life, unprepossessing, not brave — could prevail so far against the powers of the world arrayed almost solidly against him, to destroy him and defeat his truth In this sense, I am an involuntary witness to God’s grace and to the fortifying power of faith.
Author’s Forward to Witness, 1952

As McGurn fully understands, the “mainstream” voices of secular materialism and the Culture of Death do not welcome authentic Catholic witness:

In his writings, Pope John Paul II noted the awful contradiction of our times, when more and more legal codes speak of human rights while making the freedom to deprive the innocent of their lives one of those rights. Several times he uses the word “sinister” to characterize the enshrinement of abortion as a legal right. And he states that all pleas for other important human rights are “false and illusory” if we do not defend with “maximum determination” the fundamental right to life upon which all other rights rest. . .

This is not a popular witness. In our country, those who take it must expect ridicule and derision and a deliberate distortion of our views. In our culture, so many of our most powerful and influential institutions are hostile to any hint that abortion might be an unsettled question. And in our public life, one of the most pernicious effects of the imposition of abortion via the Supreme Court is that it has deprived a free people of a fair and open debate. Notre Dame remains one of the few institutions capable of providing a witness for life in the fullness of its beauty and intellectual integrity – and America is waiting to hear her voice.

Someday, we pray that hers will be the voice of one crying in the wilderness.


Fashionably Fastidious

April 27, 2009

Noemie Emery has an excellent piece in The Weekly Standard on the Democrats’ demand for a “truth commission” to investigate the Bush Administration’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques that kept the U.S. safe since 9/11:

Some Democrats, from the White House on down, are pushing the idea of a “truth commission,” à la South Africa, to deal with the “harsh measures” used by the Bush administration in interrogating al Qaeda detainees. Good. Let’s have lots of truthtelling. Please bring it on.

Let’s tell the truth about Bush’s conduct of the war on terror, which is that it’s been a success. His ultimate legacy hasn’t been written — Iraq is improved, but not out of danger — but the one thing that can be said without reservation is that the country was kept safe. He delivered on the main charge of his office in time of emergency, in a crisis without guidelines or precedent. Attacks took place in Spain, and in London, in Indonesia and India, but not on American soil, which was the obvious target of choice. Bush couldn’t say this before he left office, for obvious reasons, and after he left, attention switched to the new president. This little fact dropped down the memory hole, but with all this discussion, it will rise to the surface. Let the hearings begin!

Also dropped down the memory hole — along with the names of all the Democrats who thought Saddam was a menace who cried out for removal — is what the ambience was like in late 2001 and 2002, when fears of anthrax and suitcase bombs ran rampant, and people on all sides tried to seem tough. Let’s tell the truth about all the liberals who went on record supporting real torture, not to mention the Democrats in Congress, when it was cool to want to seem tough on our enemies, who couldn’t be too warlike. Then war and tough measures stopped being cool, and “world opinion” became more important. Nothing like statements under oath to revive ancient memories! And rewind the tapes.

Let’s get at the truth too about the word “torture,” which to different people, means different things. Some think “torture” means standing on the 98th floor of a burning skyscraper and realizing you have a choice between jumping and being incinerated. Some think torture is being crushed when a building implodes around you. Some think torture is not thinking you might drown for several minutes, but looking at burning buildings on television and knowing that people you love are inside them. They remember that being crushed, incinerated, or killed in a jump from the 98th story happened to almost 3,000 blameless Americans (as well as a number of foreigners), and that 125 Pentagon employees were killed at their desks, while many survivors suffered terrible burns. They think the choice between stopping this from happening again by slapping around or scaring the hell out of a cluster of brigands, or leaving the brigands alone and letting it happen again, is a no-brainer.

Not much polling has been done to date about attitudes on waterboarding and torture held by the general public (as opposed to MoveOn.org and the Washington press corps), but it would surely be done in the event of hearings and trials. Not many people think being slapped hard is the same thing as having to jump from a building. Democrats might find the truth about this to be inconvenient indeed.

Full article here.

Yes, by all means bring on the hearings. I look forward to House Speaker Pelosi and other Congressional Democrats who were fully briefed on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation tactics after 9/11. Was Madam Speaker shocked, SHOCKED to discover there was “torture” going on? Did she threaten to cut off the CIA’s funding for their involvement in what everyone on the Left now insists were “war crimes”?

Selective moral fastidiousness and political grandstanding come at a price. Unfortunately, the price will not be paid by preening poseurs in Congress, but by the brave and vigilant public servants who kept us safe for the last 8 years, and who now face a witchhunt that can only benefit the terrorists, excuse me, the “man-made disaster producers” they kept us safe from.


Obama at Georgetown

April 17, 2009

The White House asked Georgetown University to cover up a Christian symbol for an Obama speech at this ostensibly Catholic university.

From CNSNews:

Georgetown University says it covered over the monogram “IHS”–symbolizing the name of Jesus Christ—because it was inscribed on a pediment on the stage where President Obama spoke at the university on Tuesday and the White House had asked Georgetown to cover up all signs and symbols there. . .

“In coordinating the logistical arrangements for yesterday’s event, Georgetown honored the White House staff’s request to cover all of the Georgetown University signage and symbols behind Gaston Hall stage,” Julie Green Bataille, associate vice president for communications at Georgetown, told CNSNews.com.

“The White House wanted a simple backdrop of flags and pipe and drape for the speech, consistent with what they’ve done for other policy speeches,” she added. “Frankly, the pipe and drape wasn’t high enough by itself to fully cover the IHS and cross above the GU seal and it seemed most respectful to have them covered so as not to be seen out of context.”

Full story here.

Another possible explanation is the refraction of the Light would reveal the marks of the beast: horns, scaly red skin, pitchfork, and bifurcated tail. Admittedly, this is not a major concern for most of us, but one that would likely disturb the anti-Christ. (Just kidding, folks. The real anti-Christ will not be an Irkel-ish buffoon who’d stutter through a lunch order at McDonald’s without his teleprompter.)

On a serious note, no one should be surprised by this Administration’s serial insults to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. But Georgetown’s eagerness to comply with their request is a disgrace and a disservice to the Catholic faith they purport to profess, but fail to preach.


Obama’s “Surprise” Iraq Visit

April 14, 2009

I recently blogged about a controversial YouTube video showing two very different reactions that Presidents Bush and Obama received from our troops.

So last week, Obama staged a “surprise” visit to the troops serving in Iraq, where he was “cheered wildly by U.S. troops”, according to this AP piece. When I heard the news, I planned to post a mea culpa update, but got busy with Holy Week, tax time and work commitments.

However, I watched the Obama footage again recently and sensed a bit of false note. The mainstream media frequently use tight camera shots to hide paltry attendance at leftist events, and underrepresent much larger numbers attending conservative and pro-life gatherings. I’ve seen them use this tactic too many times to believe it’s just a coincidence. Why would they use the same technique to downplay a pro-Obama appearance involving thousands of U.S. troops?

I didn’t have to wait long for an answer to my question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It turns out the operative word about Obama’s “surprise” visit is staged. According to the MacRanger Radio Show blog:

[A]bout that “surprise visit”.

It wasn’t. The visit was communicated a full 24 hours in advance and a small contingent of soldiers – not screaming hoards – were rustled into a meeting place at Camp Victory.

Got this email from a sergeant that was there.

“We were pre-screened, asked by officials “Who voted for Obama?”, and then those who raised their hands were shuffled to the front of the receiving line. They even handed out digital cameras and asked them to hold them up.

Take a look at the picture at AP and notice all the cameras are the same models? Coincidence? I think not (emphasis mine).

You can check out MacRanger’s piece here.

Hat tip and photo credit to Jim Treacher at Hot Air, who rightly compares the media’s appreciation for staged military photo ops now vs. their disdain over same under George W. Bush.


Dolphins Block Somali Pirates

April 14, 2009

Matt Drudge links to this stranger-than-fiction piece.

Thousands of dolphins blocked the suspected Somali pirate ships when they were trying to attack Chinese merchant ships passing the Gulf of Aden, the China Radio International reported on Monday.

The Chinese merchant ships escorted by a China’s fleet sailed on the Gulf of Aden when they met some suspected pirate ships. Thousands of dolphins suddenly leaped out of water between pirates and merchants when the pirate ships headed for the China’s.

The suspected pirates ships stopped and then turned away. The pirates could only lament their littleness befor the vast number of dolphins. The spectacular scene continued for a while.

Sadly, no mention that Obama himself gave the order to the dolphins to defend the Chinese ships.

Rahm Emanuel must be slipping.


How To Fight Global Warming

April 12, 2009

Just when you thought global warming hysteria couldn’t get any more preposterous:

WASHINGTON (AP) – The president’s new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth’s air.

John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays.

Full story here.

Meanwhile, in a related story, the Obamas fly in a gourmet chef 860 miles to make pizzas for a “casual lunch.”

So what can we do to fight global warming? The President’s new advisers have the answer:

Hanson brothers

 

 

 

 

 

  “Call the pizza man!”


Tell it to the Marines

April 7, 2009

Check out this YouTube video posted by The Real Revo:

Two different U.S. Presidents meet with Marines; two very different reactions.

Enraged Obama supporters claim the two events are not comparable. President Bush’s appearance before the troops in Anbar Province was an informal visit, while President Obama’s address to the Marines at Camp Lejune was a formal event where the Marines were subject to different rules of behavior. Here is The Real Revo’s response:

In fairness, [Obama’s supporters] are correct. The events were different in many ways and the Marines present were subject to different behavioral expectations. There is, however, more to this video than that. . . The different degrees of formality aside, this video is quite revealing.

In the video, the Marines exhibit obvious love and respect for President Bush. His visit was not an event that followed closely on the heels of 9/11. This video was taken after the worst days of the war and after the surge created major progress in the region. The president is visiting the troops in Anbar Province, the home of the infamous Falluja and Ar Ramadi killing grounds. This visit took place after the province had been pacified. In other words, the Marines showed their love of Mr. Bush even after the darkest days of the war.

The Lejune video, on the other hand, shows Obama entering with all the pomp and circumstance of a royal visit to the peasants. Hail to the Chief plays in the background; something that President Bush didn’t allow during his military visits. Obama knows that keeping the Marines locked at the position of attention means that no comparison can ever be made to the loving reception President Bush regularly received from the troops. Obama knows how the Marines feel and will always treat them exactly like the rabble he sees.

This is the real truth of the video and why it is so popular. It warms the heart of Bush supporters to see President Bush receive the love, gratitude and respect of these warriors. It angers Obama supporters because they also see the love President Bush receives and they know their man will never see anything similar from the troops. . .

The Marines loved President Bush in a way they will never love President Obama.

Semper Fi!


Don’t Lift the Cuban Embargo

April 6, 2009

The AP reports that the Obama Administration is planning to lift family travel and financial restrictions on Cuba, a preliminary step to lifting the Cuban embargo.

Marc A. Thiesssen, Hoover Institute fellow and former aide to Sen. Jesse Helms, writes in today’s Washington Post that such a move is especially ill-advised at this time:

. . . [A]s the competition to succeed Fidel and Raúl heats up, the coin of the realm will be who can bring about an end to the embargo. Cuba is one of the world’s most repressive nations — even within the regime, officials are afraid to speak to each other. With his news conference, Alarcón signaled the party cadres: I can sit down and have a “respectful dialogue” with the representatives of Jesse Helms. And if I can talk to the strongest supporters of the embargo, I’m the best person to negotiate an end to it.

The dumbest thing we could do today would be to enact legislation unilaterally lifting the embargo. Set aside questions about the embargo’s efficacy. Like it or not, it is our only leverage, aside from our military, to affect the transition in Cuba. Why would we fritter away that leverage just as time prepares to do what the embargo could not — bring about the end of the Castro regime? Fidel was never going to negotiate a loosening of repression in Cuba in exchange for a lifting of the travel ban and other trade restrictions. But those who succeed him will, and the Castro brothers will soon be gone. The question is: When that happens, what power will the United States have to encourage a democratic transition on the island? Instead of strengthening Raúl by lifting the embargo now, we should keep our powder dry and use it to strengthen democracy and influence his successor. The embargo has been in place for 47 years — at this point, it would be foolish not to wait a little longer.

Full article here.

Thiessen shares an interesting anecdote about longtime Cuban National Assembly “leader” Ricardo Alarcón’s disdain for acting “President” Raúl Castro. I put the words “leader” and “President” in quotes deliberately. The mainstream media reflexively uses the terms “leader” and “President” in reference to Castro and other dictators, despite the absence of free elections. The term “leader” implies that he has “followers,” i.e., people who voluntarily choose to follow him. Castro’s “followers” are people who don’t want to get shot.

Thiessen is absolutely correct; it makes no sense to lift the embargo now when the possibility of lifting the embargo is our biggest bargaining chip to force Cuba to accept real reforms.

Thiessen’s piece does not address the merits vel non of lifting the Cuban embargo outright. Since the Obama Administration seems to be preparing to do this, it makes sense to consider the ramifications.

Embargo opponents make three distinct claims: (1) First, they assert that the embargo has failed to achieve its purpose of effecting regime change in Cuba. (2) They claim that Cuban “leaders” are not personally injured by the embargo; only the Cuban people suffer from the embargo. (3) Finally, they contend that lifting the embargo will enable Cuban citizens to see the benefits of freedom and democracy and demand changes in their government.

None of these claims are supported by the facts.

(1) With respect to the embargo’s purpose, the media would have us believe that the embargo was imposed at the behest of those rabid anti-Communist Cubans in Miami as a means to overthrow Castro. This overlooks the simple fact that overthrowing Castro’s government was never the purpose of the embargo. (During the Cuban Missile crisis, President Kennedy agreed to abandon efforts to destabilize the Communist regime in exchange for Khrushchev agreeing to remove Soviet missiles from Cuba.)

Rather, the United States imposed the embargo because Castro nationalized (i.e., confiscated/stole) hundreds of millions in assets belonging to American citizens and companies doing business in Cuba. It seems to me the Castro brothers should first return the properties they stole from us before we agree to let bygones be bygones.

(2) Whether Castro and other Cuban leaders personally “suffer” from the embargo depends on what we mean by “suffer.” If we means that Castro continues to eat while others starve, then clearly he will not go hungry as long as there’s enough food for one person. The real way the embargo makes the Communist government “suffer” is by inhibiting its ability to export revolution to other parts of the hemisphere.

When the Soviet Union subsidized Cuba with billions in foreign aid, Castro was able to do much mischief in Angola, Nicaragua, El Salvador and elsewhere in our hemisphere. The collapse of the Soviet Union forced Castro to divert his meagre resources to ensure his own survival. In terms of curbing Castro’s ability to foment revolution throughout the hemisphere, the Cuban embargo has been a resounding success.

If the embargo has no effect on Castro and only hurts the Cuban people as embargo opponents claim, the question remains why would Castro want the embargo ended? Is he doing it “for the children”? Does anyone seriously believe that Castro wants the embargo lifted because he wants to help his suffering people? Such reasoning assumes that a dictator like Castro wants to help the people he’s enslaved for 50 years, while their relatives in the United States want them to continue to suffer. Occam’s Razor suggests otherwise.

The truth is the Cuban embargo is a RED herring (pun intended). Castro continually blames Cuba’s basket case economy on the U.S. embargo. Instead of accepting Castro’s preposterous claims at face value, we should ask if Castro has a motive to lie about the cause of Cuba’s economic problems. Clearly he does. Because if the embargo is not to blame, then the blame falls squarely on Castro and his destructive economic policies.

(3) Embargo opponents suggest that ending the embargo would remove the scapegoat for Castro’s failed policies, while giving ordinary Cubans a whiff of freedom. Presumably, the Cuban people would finally realize that Castro is to blame for their ills and overthrow his dictatorship. If that is the case, then why would Castro support and his enemies oppose a policy that can only hurt Castro. Castro may be a lot of things, but he isn’t dumb when it comes to self-preservation.

The notion that Castro would no longer have a scapegoat if the embargo is ended overlooks the simple fact that Communist dictators always find new scapegoats; anyone who disagrees with Castro’s interpretation ends up in jail or gets shot. If the embargo ended today, the Cuban economy will continue to tank. The only difference is, instead of blaming the U.S. for maintaining embargo, Castro would blame greedy U.S. capitalist businesses for exploiting his people. This was his scapegoat before we imposed the embargo.

When the US traded with Cuba, Castro accused American companies like United Fruit of “exploiting” them. Now he blames Cuba’s current economic woes on the U.S.’s refusal to trade with Cuba. In other words, he will say that we are exploiting them by not exploiting them.

The truth is Castro was lying both times. Prior to the 1959 revolution, Cuba enjoyed the second highest standard of living in the hemisphere. Today, Cuba has the lowest standard of living after Haiti. As a result or as a consequence of his failed policies, Castro has a history of never paying his debts. He will borrow money from anyone willing to extend loans, which he never repays. Despite this, a number of American companies are eager for the embargo to end so they can do business with Cuba. One wonders why.

What does Castro have to offer in exchange for American goods and services, except cheap (i.e., slave) labor? While I’m all for free trade, I do not believe free trade includes the right to enjoy the fruits of slave labor. Morality aside, don’t these firms chomping at the bit to do business with Castro realize that, whatever profits they gain from a revitalized 21st century slave trade, their properties and inventories will eventually be confiscated, as Castro did to other American businesses in the 60’s?

If American firms choose to do business with Castro under such terms, that’s their prerogative, so long as they don’t expect the U.S. taxpayers to bail them out when things go predictably wrong. But that’s the entire point. These firms are willing to do business with a deadbeat dictator, but only as long as the U.S. taxpayer guarantees their investment.

It’s the perfect racket where (almost) everybody wins. Castro gets all sorts of free stuff he doesn’t have to pay for; the American firms reap the profits (at least in the short run) of cheap labor supplied by Cuban slaves. Even the poor Cubans are marginally better off working 8 hour days in a modern factory, instead of toiling up to 12 hour per day harvesting the sugar cane crop for foreign export.

Everyone wins except us.


A Teachable Moment

April 4, 2009

During her recent trip to Mexico, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently visited the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and asked who painted it? The rector of the basilica Msgr. Diego Monroy immediately replied: God!

The image of Our Lady first appeared on the tilma or cloak made of coarse fabric belonging to a 16th century Indian peasant, St. Juan Diego. The Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego in 1531 and instructed him to have the local bishop build a church on the spot where she appeared.

Needless to say, Bishop Zumárraga and the Church authorities didn’t believe the illiterate peasant Juan Diego’s preposterous claims that he met the Virgin Mary and that she wanted a church built on the spot where she appeared. They asked Juan to bring them a sign. Juan Diego returned to the place where he encountered Our Lady, who showed him a spot with white roses impossibly growing in full bloom in the middle of winter. St. Juan Diego carefully gathered up the roses in his tilma to show the Bishop. When he opened the tilma, the skeptical Bishop and Spanish clerics and soldiers dropped to their knees in astonishment and reverence, not upon seeing the roses, but the miraculous image on the tilma. They had their sign.

According to one report, 16 million were converted and baptized over the next four years. Our Lady of Guadalupe completed the work that Cortez and the Church began, and the conversions continue to this day.

According to recent studies, the tilma itself and the luminescent image are both inexplicable by natural means. Made of coarse ayate fibers, these garments typically deteriorate after 20 years, yet St. Juan Diegos tilma is none the worse for wear 480 years later, despite several attempts to destroy it, including a bombing which destroyed much of the church, but left the tilma unscathed.

The image on the tilma is also inexplicable. Richard Kuhn, a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, and other scientists have confirmed that the image contains no natural, animal or mineral colorings. Synthetic colors did not exist in 1531. In any event, there are no traces of paint or evidence that the fabric was treated in any way. The image itself is iridescent, changing colors slightly according to the viewing angle, an effect that not even contemporary artists can achieve. The image was not created by human hands.

Most remarkable are the images of Our Lady’s eyes:

Digital technology is giving new leads in understanding a phenomenon that continues to puzzle science: the mysterious eyes of the image of Virgin of Guadalupe.

The image, imprinted on the tilma of a 16th-century peasant, led millions of indigenous Indians in Mexico to convert to the Catholic faith. Last week in Rome, results of research into the famed image were discussed by engineer José Aste Tonsmann of the Mexican Center of Guadalupan Studies during a conference at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum.

For over 20 years, this graduate of environmental systems engineering of Cornell University has studied the image of the Virgin left on the rough maguey fiber fabric of Juan Diego´s tilma. What intrigued Tonsmann the most were the eyes of the Virgin.

Though the dimensions are microscopic, the iris and the pupils of the image´s eyes have imprinted on them a highly detailed picture of at least 13 people, Tonsmann said. The same people are present in both the left and right eyes, in different proportions, as would happen when human eyes reflect the objects before them.

Tonsmann says he believes the reflection transmitted by the eyes of the Virgin of Guadalupe is the scene on Dec. 9, 1531, during which Juan Diego showed his tilma, with the image, to Bishop Juan de Zumárraga and others present in the room.

Dr. Tonsmann, who has a PhD from Cornell University, used computers and high resolution photography to study the face on the tilma in close detail. After filtering and processing the digitized images of the eyes to eliminate “noise” and enhance them, here is the magnified image of the family:
Our Lady of Guadalupe's Eyes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note what appears to be the figure of a woman carrying a baby on her back in a manner typical of the 16th Century.

When Dr. Tonsmann first published his findings, Protestant skeptics likened the images on the tilma to people claiming to see Jesus or Mary in peanuts, moldy bread and such. They apparently do not realize that the Catholic Church carefull investigates miraculous claims and debunks most of them. The Church does so precisely in order to debunk fraudulent claims and other occurences that can be explained by natural means.

A skeptical mind will never be convinced by signs any more than the Pharisees who asked Jesus for signs immediately after he fed 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes. It is certainly easier to lump all inexplicable phenomena into the same category and dismiss them with the broad brush of contempt and ridicule. But the incredible luminescent painting on Juan Diego’s tilma cannot be replicated with the broad brush and primitive pigments available in 1531 or today.

We are not limited to choosing between blind acceptance of every claim, no matter how farfetched on the one hand, and dogmatic rejection of every claim, no matter how persuasive on the other.

Sherlock Holmes said “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The credulous and the skeptical both theorize before they examine the data. Thus, as Holmes warned, they twist facts to fit their preconceived notions, instead of their notions to fit the facts.

When I hear accounts of bleeding or crying statues, my initial reaction is one of skepticism because they are easily faked, but one should be mindful of the Great Detective’s admonition. People are often credulous and believe all sorts of silly things. One of the silly things some people believe is that all claims of miracles can be explained away.

For me, the truly astonishing part of this story is that Almighty God in the 16th century apparently used this artifact, which should not exist 480 years later, as a sign not only for skeptical 16th Century clerics, but for unbelieving 21st Century scientists as well.


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