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RealClearPolitics - Articles - Dennis Prager





Last Build Date: Tue, 07 Apr 2009 00:30:28 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2009
 



America Has a Naive President

Tue, 07 Apr 2009 00:30:28 -0600

There is nothing moral, let alone realistic, about this goal.

Here is an analogy. Imagine that the mayor of a large American city announced that it was his goal to have all the citizens of his city disarm -- what could be more beautiful than a city with no weapons? This would, of course, ultimately include the police, but with properly signed agreements, vigorously enforced, and violators of the agreement punished, it would remain an ideal to pursue.

One has to assume that most people would regard this idea as, at the very least, useless. There would be no way to ensure that bad people would disarm; and if the police disarmed, only bad people would have weapons.

The analogy is virtually precise -- but only if you acknowledge that America is the world's policeman. To idealists of the left, however, the notion of America as the world's policeman is both arrogant and misguided. A strengthened "world community" -- as embodied by the United Nations - should be the world's policeman.

To the rest of us, however, the idea of the United Nations as the world's policeman is absurd and frightening. The United Nations has proven itself a moral wasteland that gives genocidal tyrannies honored positions on human rights commissions. The weaker the U.N. and the stronger America, the greater the chances of preventing or stopping mass atrocities.

On the assumption that the left and the right both seek a world without genocide and tyranny, it is, then, the answer to this question that divides them: Are genocide and tyranny more or less likely if America is the strongest country on earth, i.e., the country with the greatest and most weapons, nuclear and otherwise?

Moreover even if you answer in the negative and think that the world would experience less evil with a nuclear disarmed America, the goal of worldwide nuclear disarmament is foolish because it is unattainable. And unattainable goals are a waste of precious time and resources.

For one thing, it is inconceivable that every nation would agree to it. Why would India give up its nuclear weapons? There aren't a dozen Hindus who believe that Pakistan would give up every one of its nuclear weapons. And the same presumably holds true for Muslims in Pakistan with regard to India disarming.

And what about Israel? Would that country destroy all its nuclear weapons? Of course not. And it would be foolish to do so. Israel is surrounded by countries that wish not merely to vanquish it, but to destroy it. It regards nuclear weapons as life assurance. And it regards the United Nations (with good reason) as its enemy, not its protector.

As for states like Iran and North Korea, they have already violated agreements regarding nuclear weapons. What would prompt them to do otherwise in a world where America got weaker? United Nations sanctions? And why would Russia and China even agree to them?

Finally, there would be no way to prevent rogue scientists from selling materials and know-how to terrorists.

The result of this left-wing fantasy of worldwide nuclear disarmament would simply be that those who illegally acquired or made but one nuclear weapon would be able to blackmail any nation.

What any president of the United States should aspire to is: 1). to keep America the strongest country in the world militarily (as well as economically, but that is not the question on the table); 2) to destroy those individuals and organizations that seek nuclear weapons so as to kill as many innocent people as possible; and 3) remain the world's policeman. These aims cannot be achieved if America aims to disarm.

President Obama said "I am not naïve" in his talk. That, unfortunately, is as accurate as his statement before the joint session of Congress that "I do not believe in bigger government."




New Broadway Play About Hero Who Is ... Religious!

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600

Just as studies of goodness are deemed less interesting than studies of evil, portrayals of goodness are deemed less interesting than portrayals of evil. Again, the ratio is probably at least a 100-to-1.

Yet, true stories of goodness, well told, are the greatest stories. While stories of evil have the benefit of sensationalism and appeal to voyeurism, stories of goodness uplift, inspire, make us cry, give us hope, provide real models to emulate, and ultimately may even make us a little better.

One problem, however, is that it is much easier to depict evil in a riveting manner than to so depict goodness. Stephen Spielberg achieved the latter in Schindler's List, but that was the exception that proves the rule. Now, however, another exception has come along. Playwright Dan Gordon and director Michael Parva have made goodness riveting in the new Broadway play, "Irena's Vow."

The Irena of the title is Irene Gut Opdyke, who, at the time of the play's World War II's setting, was a pretty 19-year-old blond Polish Roman Catholic to whom fate (she would say God) gave the opportunity to save 12 Jews in, of all places, the home of the highest-ranking German officer in a Polish city. Ultimately discovered by the Nazi officer, she was offered the choice of becoming the elderly Nazi's mistress or the Jews all being sent to death camps.

As it happens, I interviewed Opdyke on my radio show 20 years ago and again 12 years later, and she revealed to me how conflicted she was about what she consented to do not only because she became what fellow Poles derided as a "Nazi whore" but because as a deeply religious Catholic she was sure she was committing a grave sin by regularly sleeping with a man to whom she was not married and worse, indeed a married man, which likely rendered her sin of adultery a mortal sin.

What she did therefore, was not only heroic because she had to overcome daily fear of being caught and put to death, but because she also had to overcome a daily fear of committing a mortal sin before God.

Aside from my lifelong interest in altruism and especially in understanding the motivations of rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, I had an unwitting role in the making of "Irena's Vow." According to the playwright, Gordon, the play came about because he heard Opdyke on my radio show 20 years ago. He immediately contacted her, they became friends, and the rest is history.

We never know all the good (or bad) we have done. So Gordon's attribution of the genesis of his play to me is very gratifying. If there was a dry eye on opening night this past Sunday when I attended, it surely wasn't near my seat.

It is rare to see a play on Broadway that is preoccupied with goodness. It is even more rare to see Broadway play extol the goodness of a religious person. When was the last Broadway show about a Christian hero? In this upside-down age that is hypersensitive to any criticism, no matter how fair, of any aspect of Islam but which regularly depicts many American Christians as buffoons and quasi-fascists, one can only hope that this play has a long run. Likewise, in an age when art increasingly celebrates the ugly and the bad, one can only hope that a million young people see a play that celebrates the goodness that God-based morality can produce.




Why Doesn't Communism Have as Bad a Name as Nazism?

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600

There are Mao Restaurants in major cities in the Western world. Can one imagine Hitler Restaurants? Che Guevara T-shirts are ubiquitous, yet there are no Heinrich Himmler T-shirts. This question is of vital significance. First, without moral clarity, humanity has little chance of avoiding a dark future. Second, the reasons for this moral imbalance tell us a great deal about ourselves today. Here, then, are seven reasons. 1. Communists murdered their own people; the Nazis murdered others. Under Mao about 70 million people died - nearly all in peacetime! - virtually all of them Chinese. Likewise, the approximately 30 million people that Stalin had killed were nearly all Russians, and those who were not Russian, Ukrainians for example, were members of other Soviet nationalities. The Nazis, on the other hand, killed very few fellow Germans. Their victims were Jews, Slavs and members of other "non-Aryan" and "inferior" groups. "World opinion" - that vapid amoral concept - deems the murder of members of one's group far less noteworthy than the murder of outsiders. That is one reason why blacks killing millions of fellow blacks in the Congo right now elicits no attention from "world opinion." But if an Israeli soldier is charged with having killed a Gaza woman and two children, it makes the front page of world newspapers. 2. Communism is based on lovely sounding theories; Nazism is based on heinous sounding theories. Intellectuals, among whom are the people who write history, are seduced by words -- so much so that deeds are deemed considerably less significant. Communism's words are far more intellectually and morally appealing than the moronic and vile racism of Nazism. The monstrous evils of communists have not been focused on nearly as much as the monstrous deeds of the Nazis. The former have been regularly dismissed as perversions of a beautiful doctrine (though Christians who committed evil in the name of Christianity are never regarded by these same people as having perverted a beautiful doctrine), whereas Nazi atrocities have been perceived (correctly) as the logical and inevitable results of Nazi ideology. This seduction by words while ignoring deeds has been a major factor in the ongoing appeal of the left to intellectuals. How else explain the appeal of a Che Guevara or Fidel Castro to so many left-wing intellectuals, other than that they care more about beautiful words than about vile deeds? 3. Germans have thoroughly exposed the evils of Nazism, have taken responsibility for them, and attempted to atone for them. Russians have not done anything similar regarding Lenin's or Stalin's horrors. Indeed, an ex-KGB man runs Russia, Lenin is still widely revered, and, in the words of University of London Russian historian Donald Rayfield, "people still deny by assertion or implication, Stalin's holocaust." Nor has China in any way exposed the greatest mass murderer and enslaver of them all, Mao Zedong. Mao remains revered in China. Until Russia and China acknowledge the evil their states have done under communism, communism's evils will remain less acknowledged by the world than the evils of the German state under Hitler. 4. Communism won, Nazism lost. And the winners write history. 5. Nothing matches the Holocaust. The rounding up of virtually every Jewish man, woman, child, and baby on the European continent and sending them to die is unprecedented and unparalleled. The communists killed far more people than the Nazis did but never matched the Holocaust in the systemization of murder. The uniqueness of the Holocaust and the enormous attention paid to it since then has helped ensure that Nazism has a worse name than communism. 6. There is, simply put, widespread ignorance of communist atrocities compared to those of the Nazis. Whereas, both right and left loathe Na[...]



Brilliance is Overrated

Tue, 17 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600

This preoccupation with brains and intellectual attainment extends into adulthood. Most Americans upon hearing that someone has attended Harvard University assumes that this person is not only smarter than most other people but is actually a more impressive person. That is why, for example, people assume that a Nobel laureate in physics has something particularly intelligent to say about social policy. In fact, there is no reason at all to assume that a Nobel physicist has more insight into health care issues or capital punishment than a high school physics teacher, let alone more insight than a moral theologian. But people, especially the highly educated, do think so. That's why one frequently sees ads advocating some political position signed by Nobel laureates. Intellectuals, e.g., those with graduate degrees, have among the worst, if not the worst, records on the great moral issues of the past century. Intellectuals such as the widely adulated French intellectual Jean Paul Sartre were far more likely than hardhats to admire butchers of humanity like Stalin and Mao. But this has had no impact on most people's adulation of the intellect and intellectuals. So, too, the current economic decline was brought about in large measure by people in the financial sector widely regarded as "brilliant." Of course, it turns out that many of them were either dummies, amoral, incompetent, or all three. The adulation of the intellect is one reason President George W. Bush was so reviled by the intellectual class. He didn't speak like an intellectual (even though he graduated from Yale) and for that reason was widely dismissed as a dummy (though he is, in fact, very bright). On the other hand, Barack Obama speaks like the college professor he was and thereby seduces the adulators of the intellect the moment he opens his mouth. Yet, it is he, not George W. Bush, who nearly always travels with teleprompters to deliver even the briefest remarks. And compared to George W. Bush on many important issues, his talks are superficial -- as reading, as opposed to hearing, them easily reveals. Take, for example, one of the most complex and compelling moral issues of our time -- embryonic stem cell research. This is an excellent area for comparison since both presidents delivered major addresses on the exact same subject. Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post has compared the two speeches. He has particular credibility on this score because he is a scientist (he has a medical degree from Harvard Medical School), a moralist, and has special interest in stem cell's possibilities because he is a paraplegic from a diving accident. And, as he points out, "I am not religious. I do not believe that personhood is conferred upon conception." Krauthammer's verdict? "Bush's nationally televised stem cell speech was the most morally serious address on medical ethics ever given by an American president. It was so scrupulous in presenting the best case for both his view and the contrary view that until the last few minutes, the listener had no idea where Bush would come out." "Obama's address was morally unserious in the extreme. It was populated, as his didactic discourses always are, with a forest of straw men." "Unlike Bush, who painstakingly explained the balance of ethical and scientific goods he was trying to achieve, Obama did not even pretend to make the case why some practices are morally permissible and others not." In a similar manner, I devoted two columns to analyzing Barack Obama's widely hailed speech in Berlin when he was a candidate for president. I found it to be both vacuous and, to use Krauthammer's words, "morally unserious in the extreme." But Obama sounds intelligent. As indeed he is. The reason we have too few solutions to the problems that confront people -- in their personal lives as we[...]



Some Silver Linings in Our Dark Economy

Tue, 10 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600

As regards the second definition of optimism (please see an extended discussion of this in my book "Happiness Is a Serious Problem"), count me in. It is imperative to find, or even manufacture, bright spots in a dark situation. So here are some silver linings in our dark economic circumstances: -- Most people are complaining less. They are more grateful for whatever they have than they were before. For example, just about everyone who still has a job is grateful for having it; nearly all of us now realize how fragile employment is. Therefore, there is an increase in the most important human quality -- gratitude. It is the root of both goodness and happiness. Grateful people are better people and they are happier people. They make the world better while the ungrateful make it worse. So the increase in gratitude may make our society better. -- The adulation of extremely wealthy Wall Street "wizards" has ended. Most of those people produced nothing of worth and believed in economic nonsense. A large number of people making millions of dollars a year were proficient at only one thing -- making millions of dollars a year. -- Given how many of these people were highly educated Ivy League graduates, more and more Americans may come to realize that Harvard and Yale turn out at least as many fools (perhaps more given their high incidence of arrogance) than San Diego State University or Long Island University. For years I have been urging listeners to my radio show to send their children to less expensive colleges with reputations for quality (of which this country has many) rather than mortgage their homes or raid their retirement funds to pay for high-priced colleges that offer equal or inferior instruction but more "prestige." I was right. American parents have wasted vast sums of money purchasing cachet rather than a superior education. -- The flirtation of capitalists and moderate liberals with left-wing politics may diminish. Why entrepreneurs who made millions would support the Democratic Party and other parts of the left when the left's policies make it so much more difficult for others to attain financial success has always eluded rational explanation. Now that the society cannot afford liberal-left social policies -- indeed they are on their way to bankrupting cities, states, and perhaps one day America -- erstwhile financial sector and moderate liberal supporters of the Democratic Party are beginning to question leftist ideas. Some examples: Jim Cramer, Obama admirer and host of CNBC's Mad Money: "President Obama's budget may be one of the great wealth destroyers of all time." Warren Buffett, billionaire Obama supporter: "You can't expect people to unite behind you if you're trying to jam a bunch of things down their throat." Clive Crook, Financial Times: "Barack Obama's first budget showed him to be more of a left-leaning liberal than I and many others . had previously supposed." -- Big oil producing nations -- most of which are governed by bad people -- have been hit hard. The primitives who run Saudi Arabia, for example, have strutted on the world's stage as if they have anything more to offer than a necessary commodity that by sheer good luck happens to lie under their soil. The decline in influence of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela is a good thing for humanity. -- For the foreseeable future -- i.e., until another generation grows up that has not experienced this major economic downturn -- most Americans will return to some basic economic principals like not buying things they cannot afford, and not incurring too much debt. That, too, is a good thing. If Americans become more grateful; stop venerating millionaire geniuses who produce nothing; spend a lot less on college; finally recognize that the left is a wealth-destruction machine (the left everywhere is[...]



Is There Really Only One Human Race?

Tue, 03 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600

But in its latter meaning -- that there is one human race, one humanity, to which we all belong, I am increasingly of the opinion that this is not so. A lifetime of study of good and evil has led me to a wholly unexpected conclusion: There may not be one human race; there may well be a genuine divide among humans. It seems that there is a certain percentage of humanity that can engage in acts of surpassing cruelty that the rest of us could not engage in. These people really do seem to be members of a different race. Biologically speaking, they are of course human beings, Homo sapiens. But in a fundamental way they are members of another species as well -- an offshoot of human being that may still be part of some part of the animal kingdom to which the rest of us do not belong. I know this sounds silly. For years I myself rejected the idea. But if there really is a sliver of human beings that can engage in acts that the rest cannot, what other explanation is there? Well, two are offered: conditions and conditioning. Conditions: Some argue that such evil is a matter of external conditions -- that under the right conditions just about everyone would inflict horrific cruelty on their fellow human being. That is the conclusion that Professor Stanley Milgram drew from his world famous obedience test at Yale University. Conditioning: The other argument against the notion of two species of human beings is that with the right conditioning anyone can be led to do anything to anyone. I believe both arguments have merit but do not address the point I am making. Regarding Milgram: The purpose of Milgram's experiment with Yale students -- participants were ordered to deliver increasingly painful "electric shocks" to a subject (an actor) they did not see -- was to show that people ordered to be cruel will do so because of the ease with which people obey authority. I have no doubt that there are such people. But this does not address my two-species theory. Milgram's students thought the "study" was academically sound, they exhibited no joy in what they did -- indeed, most exhibited serious ambivalence -- and they never saw their subject suffering (they heard him crying out). The evil I am addressing has little or nothing to do with orders from authority. It is inflicted voluntarily, face to face with the victims and brings the evildoer pleasure. Regarding conditioning: It is possible that a person raised to be a sadist from early childhood can be conditioned into being a sadist. But the evidence appears to suggest that those who deliberately inflict appalling pain on others enjoy doing so for reasons that cannot be traced to upbringing. They may have had a very normal upbringing, while many who had terrible childhoods exhibit no such sadistic tendencies. In other words, it appears that there exist among human beings some people who can best be described as monsters -- and whose monstrousness cannot be explained. This theory brings me no intellectual or emotional satisfaction. I have always wanted to believe that all human beings have at least one freedom -- moral freedom. Yet this belief is contradicted by the theory of two human species. The man who put this notion into my mind is Rabbi Leon Radzik, a Holocaust survivor whose entire family was murdered by the Nazis. What he saw as a boy in the Nazi camps few human beings have ever imagined, let alone witnessed. He once described to me a Nazi guard who, upon seeing a starving Jewish boy sucking on a candy wrapper thrown to the ground, murdered the boy by slowly shoving a shovel into the boy's throat -- in anger over a Jewish boy having the temerity to suck on German candy wrapper. I asked Radzik if he had any explanation. "They were monsters in [...]



From California to the Boy Scouts: Left Destroys More than It Builds

Tue, 24 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600

It takes some doing. And the left has done it. California's Democratic legislature has been more or less able to do whatever it wants with California. The Wall Street Journal has described the result: "The Golden State -- which a decade ago was the booming technology capital of the world -- has been done in by two decades of chronic overspending, overregulating and a hyperprogressive tax code ..." One might argue that's this is a politically biased assessment. So here are some facts, not assessments: -- California's state expenditures grew from $104 billion in 2003 to $145 billion in 2008. -- California has the worst credit rating in the nation. -- California has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the nation, 9.3 percent -- higher even than the car manufacturing state of Michigan. -- California has the second highest home foreclosure rate. -- California's tax-paying middle class is leaving the state. California's net loss last year in state-to-state migration exceeded every other state's. New York, another left-run state, was second. -- Since 2000, California's job growth rate -- which in the late 1970s was many times higher than the national average -- has lagged behind the national average by almost 20 percent. -- California has lost 25 percent of its industrial work force since 2001. Joel Kotkin, one of the leading observers of urban America, the presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University, recently wrote an essay on California, "Sundown for California." He begins with these words: "Twenty-five years ago, along with another young journalist, I co-authored a book called "California, Inc." about our adopted home state. The book described 'California's rise to economic, political, and cultural ascendancy.' ... But today our Golden State appears headed, if not for imminent disaster, then toward an unanticipated, maddening, and largely unnecessary mediocrity." That is what left-wing policies have done to California. In Kotkin's words, "the state legislature decided to spend its money on public employees and impose ever more regulatory burdens on business." Last week, Intel, the world's largest maker of computer chips, announced that it would invest $7 billion to expand its facilities. Where? In Arizona, Oregon, and New Mexico. But not in California, the state in which Intel is headquartered. The left is bringing the greatest state to its knees. What generations created, the left destroys. There are few productive and noble institutions in America that the left has not hurt or attempted to hurt. But while the left destroys a great deal, it constructs almost nothing (outside of government agencies, laws, and lawsuits). Take the Boy Scouts. For generations, the Boy Scouts, founded and preserved by Americans of all political as well as ethnic backgrounds, has helped millions of American boys become good, productive men. The left throughout America -- its politicians, its media, its stars, its academics -- have ganged up to deprive the Boy Scouts of oxygen. Everywhere possible, the Boy Scouts are vilified and deprived of places to meet. But while the left works to destroy the Boy Scouts -- unless the Boy Scouts adopt the left's views on openly gay scouts and scout leaders -- the left has created nothing comparable to the Boy Scouts. The left tries to destroy one of the greatest institutions ever made for boys, but it has built nothing for boys. There is no ACLU version of the Boy Scouts; there is only the ACLU versus the Boy Scouts. The same holds true for the greatest character-building institution in American life: Judeo-Christian religions. Once again, the left knows how to destroy. Eve[...]



The Madoff Bill

Tue, 17 Feb 2009 00:20:00 -0600

It is, as Robert Rector, identified by the Times of London as "one of the architects of Clinton's 1996 reform bill," "a welfare spendathon that would amount to the largest one-year increase in government handouts in American history."

It is the reason the Obama-supporting Newsweek headlined on its cover page, "We are all socialists now."

It is why, in the words of The Times of London, "Republicans are not alone in fearing that Obama's hastily concocted package is the first step towards the creation of a quasi-socialist welfare state."

President Obama and the Democrats have put America into nearly $1 trillion dollars more debt by using the cover of America's current economic crisis to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on welfare programs, green projects, and on schools.

In a nutshell, the stimulus plan is not a stimulus plan. It is the largest spending program in U.S. history. In the words of the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman editorial that supports the bill, "The essence of the bill is to spend money ..."

Almost everything about it is dishonest.

Its name is dishonest. It is a spending bill, not a stimulus bill.

Its announced aim is dishonest. It purports to stimulate the economy. But its real aim is to push America toward becoming a Western European socialist welfare state.

The way it was enacted -- the speed, the lack of transparency -- was dishonest. As the Wall Street Journal wrote, "Democrats rushed the bill to the floor before Members could even read it, much less have time to broadcast the details so the public could offer its verdict."

Even the spending is dishonest. The bulk of the spending will take place over years, not now, which is the whole point of a stimulus.

For these reasons, the bill could be renamed the Madoff Bill. Not because there are any parallels between characters of its authors and the character of Bernard Madoff. There aren't. But there are parallels between the methods. Madoff took people's money, promised to give them benefits, while in fact squandering their money -- to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. So, too, the president and the Democrats are taking Americans' money, squandering most of it -- to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, while promising to give them a benefit, a stimulus, when in fact they are spending the money. As Harvard economist Robert Barro told the Atlantic, "It's wasting a tremendous amount of money ... I don't think it will expand the economy. ... I think it's garbage."

Even its defenders, now that the bill is passed, do not defend it as a stimulus bill. Typical was New York Times columnist Frank Rich, who devoted his essay to the stimulus plan but only attacked Republicans. He did not devote one of his 1,500 words to defending the bill as a stimulus package.

Even Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., described the bill with words having nothing to do with stimulus: "By investing in new jobs, in science and innovation, in energy, in education ... we are investing in the American people, which is the best guarantee of the success of our nation."

No one should be surprised. Americans voted for a man who said time and time again that he wanted to "transform" America. He and his party are trying to do precisely that.




When a Priest Denies the Holocaust

Tue, 10 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600

One of those four was Richard Williamson, who announced in an interview aired on Swedish television in November 2008 and on January 21, 2009 that "two hundred (thousand) to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps. None of them in a gas chamber."

In the interview, Williamson also referred to the Holocaust as "the, quote unquote, Holocaust ..." He has long been a Holocaust denier. As far back as 1989, for example, he risked criminal prosecution in Canada, where he praised books written by Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel.

While empirically true, it is misleading to simply say, as many news reports have, that Pope Benedict repealed the excommunication of a Holocaust denier. It is highly unlikely that the pope, a German who has visited Auschwitz and spoken forcefully about the Shoah (the pope used the Hebrew term for the Holocaust), knew about Williamson's Holocaust denial. The pope, in his fervent desire to end schisms within the church, decided, wisely or not, to reach out to one prominent schismatic group, the extreme right-wing Lefebvre organization known as the Society of St. Pius X.

But it was obviously a mistake in the case of the Lefebvre priests. Williamson is a truly bad man who disgraces the church. When one watches him spew his venom in the Swedish television interview while wearing a large cross, the cross is rendered ugly -- just as the Muslim crescent is rendered ugly by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he spews his Holocaust-denying venom.

What is perplexing is not that the pope and/or his top officials made a serious mistake by readmitting Williamson into the church. People make mistakes. What is perplexing is that the moment Williamson's big lie and Jew-hatred became known, the revocation of his excommunication was not halted or reversed. Rather, the Vatican demanded that he must "unequivocally and publicly distance himself from his positions on the Shoah."

On the assumption that there not only theological but also moral criteria to being reinstated in the Catholic Church, an excommunicated priest who denies the Holocaust should automatically remain excommunicated. Would a priest who denied that Jesus was crucified have his excommunication rescinded? Both Christians and non-Christians believe that Jesus was crucified despite the fact that we have so much more proof of the Holocaust than we do of Jesus' crucifixion. Yet, here is a priest denying the Holocaust of Jesus' people, as if those nearly 6 million European Jews all died of old age.

One would love to ask these Holocaust deniers one question: Poland had three 3 million Jews in 1939 and almost none in 1945. Where did those 3 million Jews go?

A man who denies the Holocaust is either a liar on a magnitude difficult for most mortals to comprehend, or a manifestly sick human being for whom the difference between truth and lie is not discernible, or profoundly anti-Semitic.

Such a person shouldn't be asked to "distance himself from his positions on the Shoah." He should be shunned by the man Catholics believe to be the Vicar of Christ on Earth and by his church. If Williamson is ever to be a Catholic in good standing, he needs to repent from evil, not adopt another "position" on the Holocaust. There are no "positions" on whether the Holocaust took place any more than there are "positions" on whether slavery took place or whether there was a French Revolution.

And if he does repent, we will know. That repentance will take the form of doing work for the victims of the Holocaust that he once said never occurred.

In the meantime, there should be no place for an Ahmadinejad in the Catholic Church.




From Africa with Love

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600

We had all heard that in Kenya, the native country of Barack Obama's father, the president's Inauguration Day was a national holiday. But that, apparently, was so elsewhere in Africa as well.

This in and of itself raises a fascinating question: why? Why, for example, did the remote African island of Mayotte, a French governed part of the Comoro Islands, make Barack Obama's Inauguration Day a national holiday? If, let us say, the child of an Italian or Jewish or Arab father had been elected president of the United States, would Italians, Israelis, or Arabs have reacted similarly? Would Italy or Israel or Egypt have declared America's Inauguration Day a national holiday?

Certitude is unavailable here, but the odds are against any nation, let alone a continent of nations, reacting as Africans have to Barack Obama's election. My hypothesis is that this goes far deeper than ethnic or national pride. It goes to the depths of the psyche of the great majority of Africans/blacks in the world. Centuries of African slavery and the white racism that enabled it have taken their toll on the psyche of most black people both inside and outside of Africa.

The election of a man of black African heritage as president of a predominantly white nation, and one that also happens to be the most powerful nation in the world, is taken by blacks the world over to mean that their centuries of suffering under the racist yoke of implied inferiority are coming to an end.

This is especially felt in Africa itself because Africa is largely benighted. Though many African countries have now been independent for nearly half a century, Africa remains particularly poor, particularly corrupt, and particularly violent. Africans, of course, know this, and while Barack Obama's election will probably do nothing to end African poverty, corruption, or violence, it does seem to mark the end of the era of belief in black inferiority.

That may explain the odd statement made to me by Africans: They have told their sons that they can grow up to be like Barack Obama. I say "odd" because in Africa, of course a black child can grow up to be the president of his (or her) country. This statement can therefore only mean, "Look, my son, we Africans, we blacks, can now do anything."

In its remarkably positive impact on blacks around the world, the Obama election has indeed been a blessing. It is also good for America's image -- it marks the end of the routinely (and unfairly) made charge that America is a racist society.

But these blessings notwithstanding, there is one other fascinating question to be pondered: What, if any, will the relationship be between President Obama's policies and these two benefits? In other words, will blacks around the world continue to celebrate the ascendancy of a black man to the presidency of the United States of America even if he largely governs as mainstream white presidents did? And will America's image continue to benefit from the election of a black man even if his foreign policy decisions are quite similar to his white predecessors'? Or is "the world" more interested in America moving left in its foreign policy than in the color of its president?

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, it is fun being an American in Africa. Even when I admit -- which admittedly I only do when directly asked -- that I voted for the other guy, I get a big smile. Just for being an American at this moment in time.

We shall see if it matters in the long run. I'm not sure it will.




Obama's Inaugural Address Short on Inspiration

Thu, 22 Jan 2009 00:00:00 -0600

As a politically moderate friend of mine said to me, the speech was joyless. And when it wasn't joyless, it was often either incoherent or disjointed or factually wrong. That is not to say nothing good was said. There were some fine thoughts, delivered in Barack Obama's effective manner. So let's honor the good: "In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned." We may differ on how greatness is earned but this point cannot be stated too often. "For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh." It is a joy to hear, finally, a man of the left include the Vietnam War in the list of the good wars America has fought. "...to all other peoples and governments...know that America is...ready to lead once more." You have to wonder how the Democratic Left reacts to a call to America to lead -- isn't that American exceptionalism? "...for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you." Hurrah! Given that the "T-word" was not mentioned in the Democratic presidential debates, it was nice to hear it in the inaugural address. Now to some platitudes: "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear ..." It is time to retire this Democratic Party platitude. No one invokes fear as much as the left does. Beyond Islamic terror, it's hard to identify a right-wing fear. But the left's list has been almost endless: racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, heterosexual AIDS, secondhand smoke, global warming, just to name a few. "On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics." No matter how many times I read this line, I had little idea what Mr. Obama was referring to. And onto some problematic lines: "We will restore science to its rightful place." I assume this is liberal code for pushing, among other things, embryonic stem cell research. But that is not the problem with this statement. There are two other problems. First, science's "rightful place" is a notch beneath moral values, but one suspects that those who agreed with Mr. Obama's statement did not hear it that way. Second, if science is so important to Mr. Obama how does he so cavalierly announce that global warming is a major threat to humanity's future in the light of current global cooling and the number of scientists who dissent from the man-made-carbon-dioxide-global-warming hysteria? Is the global warming steamroller really driven by science? Or by politics? "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works..." If in Obama's America, we will no longer ask, "Is government too big?" we will be in big trouble. "(The market's) power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that ... a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous." Precisely because too many Democrats (and Republicans) were disturbed by the fact that the prosperous were buying homes more easily than the poor, the government cajoled banks into giving loans to too many people who should not have had been given them. Now the poor and just about everyone else are suffering. "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." It is only a "false choice" among those who deem the Patriot Act a rejection of our ideals. Most Americans bel[...]



The Difference Between Israel and Hamas

Tue, 13 Jan 2009 00:20:00 -0600

The opposite is the case with the large majority of Palestinians. It would be quite difficult to find many Palestinians who do not celebrate the deaths of Israeli Jews or non-Israeli Jews. This is not only reflected in Palestinian polls that show majority support for terrorism -- and terrorism means killing innocent Jews -- it is also reflected in Palestinian media, Palestinian schools, and Palestinian mosques that routinely glorify murderers of Jews, and refer to all Jews as "monkeys" and the like. Take for example, Palestinian reaction to the 2001 Palestinian terror bombing of a Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria in which 15 Jews, five of whom were two sets of parents and their children, were murdered and an additional 130 people were injured, some permanently maimed. As reported by the Associated Press, a month later, "Palestinian university students opened an exhibition that included a grisly re-enactment" of that mass murder. The students built a replica of the Sbarro pizzeria, with fake blood, splattered pizza, a plastic hand dangling from the ceiling, and a fake severed leg wearing jeans and a bloody black sneaker. "The exhibit also includes a large rock in front of a mannequin wearing the black hat, black jacket and black trousers typically worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews. A recording from inside the rock calls out: 'O believer, there is a Jewish man behind me. Come and kill him,'" paraphrasing a verse in the Koran. It became a popular tourist attraction for Palestinians, to which Palestinian parents took their little children. Here's the question: Can anyone even imagine Jews, in Israel or anywhere else on earth -- no matter how right-wing they are politically or religiously -- doing something analogous to celebrate the death of Palestinian civilians? I have spoken to Jewish groups on both U.S. coasts since the Israeli invasion of Gaza, and when the subject of Palestinian civilian deaths is mentioned, all I hear is regret and sadness. This moral chasm that separates Israel from its enemies, and separates the Jews from their enemies, merely confirms what Hamas repeatedly says about itself: "We love death more than the Jews love life." This motto is so true that Hamas not only doesn't weep for dead Israelis, it doesn't weep for dead Palestinians. It uses living Palestinians as human shields and uses dead Palestinians as propaganda. The moral disequilibrium is such that Jews weep for dead Palestinian far more than Hamas does. The second point to be raised is about perspective. If during World War II, Western news media had reported German and Japanese civilian casualties in the same detail and with the same sympathy they report Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza, it is doubtful that the Nazis and the Japanese militarists would have lost that war. Certainly, at the very least, the anti-Nazi, anti-Fascist war effort would have been severely compromised. The analogy is entirely apt. Hamas is on the same moral level as the two World War II enemies. Do those who condemn Israel for its attacks on Hamas fighters that have tragically resulted in hundreds of civilian Palestinian deaths also condemn the Allied bombings of German and Japanese military targets that resulted in far more civilian deaths? I suspect not since most critics of Israel still regard World War II as a moral war. The overriding issue, therefore, is whether fighting Hamas is moral. If it is, then the unintended death of Palestinian civilians is a tragedy, not an evil (except on the part of Hamas, because it situates its fighters and its missiles among civilians, including schools). Third, if Hamas had the same ability to bomb Israel as Isra[...]



A Question for My Friend Alan Dershowitz

Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:00:00 -0600

This past week, Dershowitz wrote two eloquent columns defending Israel's attack on Hamas in Gaza. One was titled "Israel, Hamas, and Moral Idiocy," published in the Christian Science Monitor and the other, "Israel's Policy Is Perfectly 'Proportionate,'" was published in the Wall Street Journal. In his Monitor column, Dershowitz describes "three types of international response to the Israeli military actions against the Hamas rockets" -- "Iran, Hamas, and other knee-jerk Israeli-bashers," "the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and others who, at least when it comes to Israel, see a moral and legal equivalence between terrorists who target civilians and a democracy that responds by targeting the terrorists," and "the United States and a few other nations that place the blame squarely on Hamas." It is relevant to the question I will pose that he omits any mention of the world's left, even when mentioning the European Union. Who exactly in the European Union is condemning Israel? Its conservatives? Who in America is condemning Israel? Conservatives? Who in Australia or Canada? Conservatives? Of course not. As regards Israel (and America and much else), the Western world's moral idiots, to use the term in the title of the Dershowitz column, are virtually all on the left, including and especially many of his colleagues in academia. So, I have a question for my friend Dershowitz. (I say 'friend' because we've known each other for years and debated and dialogued together.) Given that Israel's security is so important to you, given that you believe that the ability to morally distinguish between Israel and its enemies is tantamount to the ability to distinguish between good and evil, and given that those who condemn Israel for its "disproportionate" response to Hamas terror-rockets are almost all on the left in America and Europe, why do you continue to identify yourself as a man of the left? Everyone who thinks sometimes differs with one's ideological compatriots. But when one's ideological compatriots are morally wrong on the greatest moral issue of the moment and perhaps the very clearest as well, don't you at least suffer from cognitive dissonance? It seems that to avoid this cognitive dissonance, Dershowitz engages in some intellectual denial. Just as he avoids any mention of the left in his column on the world's moral idiots at the present moment, he does criticize the right for having its anti-Israel moral fools. In his book "The Case against Israel's Enemies," he has a chapter on the far left and a chapter on the far right, as if there is any equivalence of impact. And as if the existence of anti-Israel voices on that insignificant "far right" somehow balances the staggering number of anti-Israel voices on the huge left, whether far or not so far. Dershowitz himself repeatedly acknowledges how inverted moral thinking reigns on American campuses. To cite just two examples: In 2005 Dershowitz wrote, "It's no coincidence that so many of the professors leading the campaign against Harvard President Lawrence Summers for his recent comments about women in science also were in the vanguard of the campaign to divest from Israel and boycott Israeli academics." And in 2007: "The only people who tremble on campuses are students at Columbia and Berkeley who are worried that they'll be graded down for being pro-Israel." Now which part of the American political spectrum dominates the universities, the left or the right? The former, of course. But Dershowitz won't put two and two together, at least publicly, and conclude that there is something fundamentally and morally flawed[...]



Minorities Should Express Shame, Not Only Pride

Tue, 16 Dec 2008 00:00:00 -0600

For a generation, America has been awash in the celebration of minorities and minorities' celebration of themselves. Just recall "Black is Beautiful" or "I am a woman, I am invincible." At the same time, the majority group in America -- white Christians -- has been allowed to celebrate very little. Rather, they have constantly been reminded of what they should be ashamed of -- their racism, sexism, homophobia, patriarchy, and xenophobia -- real and alleged. But what about minority shame? Why does one almost never hear expressions of group shame from members of any American group other than white Christians (specifically, white Christian male heterosexuals)? Are the only evildoers in America white male heterosexual Christians? Is there something inherently wrong about members of minorities expressing anything but group pride? Are there no minority sins worthy of shame? The latter is in fact the argument advanced by many intellectuals concerning black racism, for example. For a generation, college students have been taught that it is impossible for blacks to be racist because only the racial group in power, i.e. whites, can express racism. Of course, that is nonsense. A black can be a racist just as a white can be one. A minority race might not have the power to implement racist national policies but that hardly means that no minority group, or any individual, can be a racist. All this came to mind recently when, by coincidence, I read two things about the minority group of which I am a member -- Jews. I just completed reading Anthony Beevor's "The Fall of Berlin 1945," in which the author writes that in the midst of the massive rape of German women (millions of girls and women of all ages) by Red Army troops, Jewish officers in the Red Army were known to be the one group that protected German girls and women. In Beevor's words, "... Red Army officers who were Jewish went out of their way to protect German women and girls." I fully admit to a sense of Jewish pride when I read that. The next day I read a news report that because of the objections of one kindergartner's mother, a public school in North Carolina had banned the singing of "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer" because the song contained the word "Christmas." I blame the school officials first and foremost for this craven and foolish decision. But when the news report noted that the woman was Jewish, my heart sank. Just as I had read the Beevor report and felt a surge of Jewish pride, I read the North Carolina story and felt a surge of Jewish shame. It was a surge of Jewish shame that years ago led to one of the largest demonstrations of Israeli Jews in Israel's history. They were demonstrating against the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps in Lebanon. The killings were committed by Lebanese Christian militias, but they took place while Israel occupied that area of Lebanon. It would seem, then, that group shame is a good thing. There are at least three reasons: 1. It is maturing. Only children think only well of themselves. A group that only expresses pride is essentially a group of children. 2. If one expresses group pride, one is morally obligated to express group shame. Obviously, this does not apply to any person who does not identify with, let alone take pride in being a member of, a group. 3. If only the majority group is expected to express shame, then only the majority group is expected to be governed by rules of morality. It is, ironically, the highest moral compliment to America's white Christians tha[...]



A Response to Marc Shaiman's Musical Against Prop 8

Tue, 09 Dec 2008 00:25:00 -0600

Its message begins with a religious man and woman reacting to the cheerful gay group (celebrating the Barack Obama victory) by singing these words: "Look! Nobody's watching It's time to spread some hate And put it in the constitution Now, how? Proposition Hate! Great!" Shaiman puts hateful words in the mouths of the religious proponents of the man-woman definition of marriage: "It's time to spread some hate and put it in the constitution." But no one put hate in the constitution. The only words Proposition 8 added to the California Constitution were: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." What is hateful about that? It may be wrong, but why is it hateful? All the hate publicly expressed in the Prop. 8 battle has come from activists like Shaiman. For the record, most gays have not joined these radical activists. It is radical gays and radical straights who have led the movement to smear the Mormon Church and to compile blacklists of those who gave money to the Proposition 8 campaign. As one of many examples of their vindictiveness, Shaiman himself is directly responsible for forcing Scott Eckern, the Mormon artistic director of the California Musical Theater, to resign because he made a personal contribution to Prop 8. As for ignorance, the first distortion follows immediately, explaining the way religious people will succeed in putting their hatred into the Constitution. "People, listen to our plea They'll teach kids about sodomy!" And then the gay group responds: "That wasn't right, that's a lie!" And the church group counters: "But it worked, so we don't care!" No one ever mentioned sodomy being taught in schools. But it is in no way a "lie" to argue that when marriage discussions arise in school classes, children will be taught about princes marrying princes and princesses marrying princesses. It has already begun. To cite one of many examples, in Massachusetts, whose Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage, second graders at the Joseph Estabrook Elementary School in Lexington "used the children's book, 'King & King' as part of a lesson about different types of weddings Lexington Superintendent of Schools Paul Ash said Estabrook ... has no legal obligation to notify parents about the book ... 'Lexington is committed to teaching children about the world they live in, and in Massachusetts same-sex marriage is legal'" (Boston Globe, April 20, 2006). Likewise, shortly after the California Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, overturned an earlier California proposition defining marriage as man-woman, students in a Northern California elementary school were taken to their female teacher's wedding to her female partner. The next distortion Shaiman puts into the mouth of a religious man comes when Jesus Christ shows up between the two groups, and the religious man says to Jesus: "Jesus, doesn't the Bible say these people are an abomination?" And Jesus responds, "Yeah." It is quite audacious, to put it mildly, to have Jesus tell a falsehood in a musical seen by millions. Yet, no one seems to care about Mr. Shaiman's distorted depiction of Jesus and of the Bible. The fact is that nowhere in the Bible are homosexuals called "an abomination." And no one, beyond one sick fringe family that has no standing in any religious community, refers to gays as "abominations." On the contrary, religious opponents of same-sex marr[...]