RELIGION, NATION, MARRIAGE: THE LOYALTIES OF MEN
PRAY, WORK, STUDY, PROTECT: THE DUTIES OF MEN


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Doc Pence on why we build cities and countries on the shared loves of men


A mother looks 'inward' and loves her child, and a man loves what?

Pence:  Woman was made out of a person, but man was made of the physical stuff of the universe. Man is meant to order the physical world by his assigned portion. In the Acts of the Apostles we learn that God "...has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation."
 A man is called to have a public gaze, to love his country, and bind with other men looking out on the same landscape with that peculiar male perspective called patriotism.

Why did Christ command his Twelve to go baptize all the nations?

Pence:  The Apostles are a hierarchical masculine community -- they are the men of Galilee -- a territorial body of mostly outdoorsmen who are assigned a new set of nets to become "fishers of men." There are twelve of them in the beginning to show that Christ has restored Israel, which had been split apart since the sons of Solomon. The fishermen of Galilee were not pole fishermen getting one fish at a time. They used nets and brought in schools of fish to the boat. Christ recognized that men lived under civil authority in communal groups: 'gens,' tribe, nation. Men were not being asked to surrender their allegiance to their 'polis' or their nation. Like the marriages of man and woman, the political communities of men under law or leader were to be sacralized and brought into the wider community of the human species. The signs of this are the Eucharist centered territorial dioceses of the Church, the Body of Christ. Every diocese has their own men of Galilee. Every nation must be like the Israelites of old.  Christ did not say: "Go, save each of their souls." He said, "Go, baptize the nations!" Our nations as surely as our families are spiritual organisms that  have some appointed role to play in the Divine Drama.

Ireland, in voting to approve homosexual marriage, is an emblem of what?
   
Pence:  Let's wake up and do a little honest reporting. The Catholic hierarchy, priests and male religious orders in Ireland, Germany, Italy, and the United States have been deeply compromised by sexually corrupted seminaries and priestly culture for a half century. Listen to some of the Irish bishops almost in glee over the revolution. Gay marriage in Ireland and the German bishops' organizing coup against the Synod on the Family are fruits of priestly corruption just as the teenage male abuse scandal was. Ireland's bishops and priests are among the most corrupt in the world. The big Irish dominated dioceses of America fell in the same way: to some unholy mixture of a loss of the sacred, a decline in daily prayer, heavy alcoholism and then sexual depravity. It is hard for the secular press to follow the narrative  that the primary institutions of the Catholic Church in these countries have been deeply compromised and corrupted by a decades-old "gay culture" among priests and brothers. This has been complemented by the ideology of feminism in the majority of our North American and European religious communities of sisters. It's hard for the secular media to get at the spiritual roots of this problem. They have been explaining that the solution for the Catholics is to embrace the sexual revolution. Little do they know; our clergy and chanceries and convents were way ahead of them. The desacralized employees of the Catholic Church embraced the sexual revolution before the Catholic laity ever knew what hit us. The Catholic Church has the most extensive network of rich, propertied single-sex institutions in the world. These institutions (especially in the white North) have been hijacked by the careerists of the sexual Left. They need to be cleansed, but they cannot be cleansed if we do not answer the apostles' query to Christ: "Which of us has betrayed you, Lord?" It is the lavender kiss of the modern Judas which betrayed the Apostolic Church, and it is the feminist ideology which has betrayed the Marian.  The Judas priests must be washed from the brotherhood as surely as the feminist implant must be extracted from the sisters. Only then can we sing praise and glory to the Father as His servants and handmaids.  

Monday, May 25, 2015

Map on Monday: INDONESIA

Stratfor - short for Strategic Forecasting, Inc. - is a private global intelligence company that offers geopolitical insight into the interplay of nations. Stratfor has developed an excellent series of short (~2-4 minute) videos which provide the viewer with a specific nation, along with its basic history, geography, culture, and geopolitical allies and adversaries. In the following video, they present the geographic challenges facing Indonesia.



PHYSICAL ECOLOGY OF INDONESIA: POPULOUS NATION, REGIONAL LEADER, STRATEGICALLY LOCATED

by A. Joseph Lynch 

Indonesia is home to over 252 million people, making it the fourth most-populous nation on the planet behind China, India, and the United States. Many people forget that Indonesia is 87% Sunni Muslim, and thus the largest Muslim nation in the world.

Indonesia is an important strategic partner for the United States in the region. Situated between Australia to the south and the South China Sea to the north, Indonesia acts as a regional buffer to Chinese expansion. Indonesia also occupies vital east-west waterways important to commercial shipping. This is particularly true regarding the Strait of Malacca. Located between Indonesia's island of Sumatra and the Asian nations of Malaysia and Singapore, 25% of all the world's goods passes through the Strait of Malacca.

The internal conflicts of Indonesia are based largely on religion. East Timor (pop 1 million) won its independence in 2002 after a bloody twenty year war. Most of Indonesia was settled and unifed by  the Dutch but Timor was settled by Catholic Portuguese. The independence movement vivified a dormant Christian identity and East Timor is now 97% Catholic. The ACEH province on the island of Sumatra in the northwest of Indonesia is considered the birthplace of Islam in the islands. There is a movement there to more faithfully structure life on Islamic law. This was the province most devastated by the tsunami of Dec 26, 2004, which killed 250,000 people. 167.000 were from Indonesia. That event halted fighting between ACEH  and the Indonesian central governemt but the Islamic movement is mounting again. There is agreement on both sides that the natural disaster was in retribution for sin.

Irian Jaya, West Papua is another contested region. It has 875,000 people. They are 3/4 Christian. It  is the western part of the island of New Guinea(the second largest island in the world). It had been part of the Dutch East Indies and was annexed by Indonesia in 1969.  The eastern part of the island  is the country of Papua New Guinea (7 million pop and Christian). It was adminstered by Australia for 70 years, became independent in 1975 and is part of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

The founding father of Indonesia, Sukarno suggested five principles for the unification of the country emerging from  WWII. He tried to unify multiple linguistically and ethnically diverse communities by blending three movements-monotheism, nationalism and socialism. The philosophy of the country is derived from two Javanese words for "five principals"-PANCASILA. Sukarno ranked them 1) nationalism of Indonesia; 2)Internationalism and humanity; 3) Deliberative consensus-democracy; 4)Social welfare; 5)Monotheism-religious duty. This was quickly reordered so Monotheism reigned as the first principle with  the others to follow.

As President Sukarno leaned left there was an attempted coup and then a purge of Communist forces in 1965-66.  From 80,000 to 500,000 were killed. It was the most significant anti Communist setback in Asia since the beginning of the Cold War.  President Suharto (1965-1998) established his New Order more on anticommunist principles than Islamic but the religious culture of the country was a major reason this Asian giant did not fall under the Marxist spell.

Although Indonesia, like Malaysia, is an Islamic nation, Indonesia has bound itself more closely to its east Asian neighbors than to the Mideast. Key to its foreign policy is leadership within ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). ASEAN is based out of Indonesia's capital of Jakarta and includes the nations of Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam. Indonesia comprises the geographic heart of ASEAN and thus plays an important role in regional stability, economic prosperity, and deepening the cultural identity of southeast Asia. China, India and Japan are Asia's big three nations. Among the ten nations of ASEAN are significant  cultural bastions against communism--Christian Philippines, Islamic Indonesia, and Buddhist-Islamic-Christian Singapore.  May ASEAN build up their brother nations in peace and prosperity.

Member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, May 23

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


WHY DID WE INVADE IRAQ?

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 led by President George W. Bush was justified because most of our intelligence and Senate believed that Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction (nuclear and chemical weapons which he had used in the 1980-89 war with Iran). The US had responded to the 2001 bombing of the twin towers in New York City by quickly driving the Taliban out of Afghanistan into the hills of Pakistan. We were aided in this by Shiite forces in Afghanistan and Shiite Iran who were enemies of the radical Sunni Al Qaeda, associated with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The secularist Saddam Hussein had little to do with the September 11th attacks, engineered by fifteen Saudis and four other radical Sunnis.

There was a strong ally of the US interested in bringing down the regime of Saddam Hussein. A defense strategy written for Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel in 1992 argued for the overthrow of Saddam as part of a strategic reconfiguration of Mideast alliances. The policy was meant as a Clean Break from the obsession with the Israeli/Palestine conflict. The writers argued that the greatest existential threat to Israel was going to be a biological or nuclear-armed Iraq or Iran. This change of focus from Palestinians to regional powers with weapons of mass destruction was a huge paradigm shift. A group that adopted that Clean Break mentality for American foreign policy was advocating the overthrow of Saddam Hussein long before the 9-11 attacks, They coalesced around the project for the New American Century.  The US Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act and President Clinton signed it October 31, 1998. The act stated that "regime change" of the government led by Saddam Hussein was the policy of the US Government.  The US had in Saddam Hussein a declared enemy who was a Chief of State  in the Muslim world.  Turning the words of our policy into military action in concert with the newly evolving strategy of our long term ally -- the Israelis -- made sense to a lot of people.


STAY DOMINANT: FROM WOLFOWITZ TO RUBIO 

Before the September 11th attacks, the US was reformulating a strategic doctrine after the fall of the Soviet Union. One such paper authored in 1992 is called the Wolfowitz Doctrine because of its origin from Paul Wolfowitz in the State Department. A five-year defense strategy paper written in 1992 during the George H. W. Bush presidency (Defense Planning Guidance for the 1994–99 fiscal years) had to wait for the Clinton interlude (1992-2000) before a revival of its principles during the George W. Bush years. In the Clinton years (though the document had been severely criticized when leaked) an important part of the doctrine was realized. Fifteen independent states emerged from the Soviet Union, and Germany was reunified as a nation. But the document had favored a continuing expansion of an armed alliance against Russia. In the lost opportunity of a lifetime, the president who did little to fight the Cold War as a youth was not magnanimous in the victory. It is probably not fair to blame a tepid Southern Baptist for not recognizing the significance in Christian history of a chance to mend some of the wounds of the Great Schism.

The basic concept of the Wolfowitz Doctrine (and by default, the Clinton policy) was a recognition of the demise of the bipolar world of USSR vs USA. The USA should maintain military supremacy over a globalized economy and work to suppress any regional actors ("hegemons" as they love to say) from ever assuming the role the USSR had in the Cold War. The most dangerous regional actors to keep suppressed would be China in the East, Russia in Europe, and Iran in the Mideast. That sounds like the speech and first three questions addressed by Senator Marco Rubio at the Council on Foreign Policy.


IN ASIA THREE TRUE LEADERS 

Asia's three biggest economies have simultaneously developed three real leaders. (They are pictured here.)


US-RUSSIA: A BREAKTHROUGH? 

Here is an excellent summary of the folly of US-Russia enmity over Crimea. Apparently, several European nations are advocating a serious reversal. On Russia and Iran, John Kerry has been a formidable force for the kind of realignment we will need to defeat the ISIS Sunni movement. A breakthrough with Russia is essential. Whether this article is wishful thinking or first evidence of a real change, we will see.

MILITARY REFORM 

One wonders where are the military voices in the foreign policy debate. Pope Francis criticizes careerism in the Vatican. It is a Pentagon problem as well.


MIDEAST R&G  ROUND UP

Egypt - Executing the Elected: The Mideast is complicated. One variant of Sunni purists are the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. They forswore violence and won a national election (51% - 48% for Mohammed Morsi as president in June 2012). They did not govern well and specifically threatened Egypt's Coptic Christians and, more importantly, questioned the favored social status of the Egyptian military. The Christians, secularists, multiple opposition groups, and the military all favored the military coup in July 2013 which overthrew the elected government of Mohamed Morsi. Army chief general Abdel Fattah el Sisi became the new President. His speech calling for a religious reexamination in the Mideast was widely praised in the West. The Saudis have supported the military coup. They never liked the Muslim Brotherhood. It favors a much more republican version of Islamic governance vs. their hereditary rule style. Qatar which has more religious freedom than Saudi Arabia was a defender of the Egyptian election and the Muslim Brotherhood. This led to a strain in relations among the Gulf monarchies. Now, President Morsi and many of his political followers have been sentenced to death. President Sisi of Egypt has helped the Gulf monarchies in their assault on the Houthis of Yemen. He has tried to win US favor in foreign policy. The execution of an elected but deposed president should not be too eagerly cheered.

Protecting Christians: To protect the Christians in the Mideast, we should begin by not aiding their greatest enemies: radical Sunnis. Next we should not eliminate the only fighting forces in the Mideast against the Wahhabi Sunnis of Saudi Arabia. This includes the Houthi Shia of Yemen, the Shia of Iran, the Shia of Iraq, and the Alawite Shia and their Christian allies under Assad of Syria. Meanwhile in Kenya, Christian pastors protect their flocks from another threat: cultural imperialism. This comes from a Republican website, but it is an accurate compilation of the aggressive sexual Left policies pressuring the Christian cultures and countries of Africa of Africa.

Religious Devastation in Yemen: Saudi Arabia's bombing of the Shias in Yemen is the worst religious persecution in the Mideast right now. Several Republican candidates who are all about sanctions against Russia for claiming the Crimea are all in for the Saudis destroying the Houthis of a neighboring country,Yemen. One wishes to avoid inflammatory rhetoric but apparently we are all supposed to be quieted and blinded by the new compound word IRAN-HOUTHI. Houthi is a word that no longer appears at any public event without its partner ("Iran") in the American press.

Changes in the House of Saud: Here is short summary by Robin Wright in the 'New Yorker.'

Monday, May 18, 2015

Map on Monday: THE MILITARIES OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA

In our Religion and Geopolitics Review on Saturday, May 2, we linked our readers to a Business Insider report on Japan's new defense agreement with the United States. That report also included an excellent  map (at left; click to enlarge but best map is in article) of the sea claim conflicts in the South China Sea. The map includes important information regarding military installations and geostrategic locations just off the map.

We also linked readers to a story about an upcoming strategic partnership between the Philippines and Vietnam - two historically Catholic nations in region. These two nations seek to ease their own border disputes, aid each other in economic and scientific pursuits in the sea, and begin naval drills together.

The combined naval power of Vietnam and the Philippines boasts 10 frigates, 20 corvettes, and 61 patrol ships. Vietnam also has three Russian submarines on order; and the Philippines plans to acquire its first 2-3 submarines in the next five years. Catching up to both nations is the Malaysian Navy with 2 frigates, 6 corvettes, 2 submarines, and 6 stealth frigates (in production).

The Japanese Navy is more muscular at 4 helicopter carriers (with a 5th under construction), 22 destroyers, 11 frigates, 6 corvettes, and 16 attack submarines.

Of course, all these nations are dwarfed by the Chinese Navy in ascendancy with an aircraft carrier (the Liaoning), 60 attack submarines, 5 ballistic missile submarines, 24 destroyers, 47 frigates, and 19 corvettes.

For more information on the region see also: 
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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, May 16

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch 


BALTIMORE AND PUBLIC LIFE 


We attribute the Baltimore and Ferguson riots to the failure to socialize young black males into a religious patriotic citizenship based on love of God and a mutual duty to protect our communities. That duty is not just for a professional police force. It is the duty of all male citizens, and it binds young men to the police who are our local officer corps. The most poignant writing I have seen on the real problem and solution after the burning in Baltimore is from a young writer at the Federalist. He understands the connection between riots in streets and empty baseball stadiums. His name has roots of Benedict and Dominic -- two monks who understood community pretty well. Ben Domenech on the sadness of Baltimore and the empty Stadium.


EUROPE AND ITS NATIONS 

The Conservative victory in the UK election and the dominance of the Scottish National Party in Scotland portends a Britain leaving the European Union, and Scotland and England parting their ways as well. The left-wing SNP would rather stay in the European Union than the United Kingdom. Pat Buchanan understands better than most the communal loyalties that drive politics. A distinction he tends to ignore  is that the rise of racial ethnic national loyalties against the bloodless EU is not the same as a revival of the nations of Christendom. The pagan ethnic nation is not the Switzerland of Wilhelm Tell, or Ireland of St Patrick, or England of King Arthur and Robin Hood. It is Hitler's project and those of us who take no solace in the soulless EU find less in the pagan anti-immigrant nationalisms. It was always Pope Benedict's argument that there was no Europe without Christianity. He was from Bavaria and was never a German nationalist. He was a European Christian. We must learn from Benedict and Buchanan.      


RELIGION IN AMERICA 

The Pew Study of Religion in America is a great compilation of facts. Anne Henderschott of Franciscan University in Steubenville is the queen of Catholic sociology. Here is her Are we really losing our religion?

Pope Francis has said one cannot evaluate Christian fervor or progress with statistics. When the apostles lost Judas the apostolic hierarchy was diminished by 8%. That's about what Catholics lost in the last seven-year interval. A living organism is not like an inventory count of consumer goods. To be pruned is not to be diminished. The deepest pruning we need -- a true purification of our priesthood and episcopacy -- cannot come soon enough.


                                                                         THREE BOOKS 

A surprising article for Chronicles of Higher Education about a Christian male group who are models for a Christian renewal of Culture. It is about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, the Inklings.

A second book shows how  Enlightenment individualism separates man from physical reality. This is a particularly interesting argument because it is by by Matthew Crawford, author of a perceptive bestseller on philosophy and manual labor: Shopcraft as Soulcraft.

The breakdown of Catholic education in America happened when theology as the queen of the sciences became unmoored from the eucharistic Church, the community of bishops. This revolt was led by theologians from Catholic University of America. The author of a new book about that revolution is interviewed here.


IS PALESTINE A STATE?  A WORLD MAP OF WHICH NATIONS SAY YES

To defend a religion or a people there must be a state. The Vatican in its diplomatic capacity joined a majority of nations who have recognized Palestine as a State. We are reporting, not advocating.


GULF STATES, PRESIDENT OBAMA AND ARMS DEALS 

There is little opposition by Israel to the arming of Gulf states arrayed against the Shia movements they count as their common enemy. In fact, as one author says: This is not diplomacy but an arms sale.


MUST SOCIAL DARWINISM RULE FOREIGN POLICY 

The "realist position" in American foreign policy has led to "three encirclements": Russia by Europeans, Iran by Sunni Arab states, and China by her neighbors. This strategy of dominant powers (e.g., USA) contesting regional powers (Russia, Iran, and China) in their regions of strength has led to the Social Darwinist dilemma of perpetual war. Can Christian realism and an alternative strategic approach of "bandwagoning" with regional powers provide an alternative to this balance-of-power perpetual conflict strategy?

A fresh look at some of these questions comes from Philip Jenkins who wrote one of the ten most important books of the last half century in terms of religion and geopolitics: The Next Christendom:The coming of Global Christianity. For a man with such insights about the global South he has been very disappointing in his approach to Russia and Eastern Orthodoxy. His rushed book about religion and World War I was much less sweeping than promised. But this article refuting much of the Darwinist realist school of perpetual war among the nations is an important contribution to Christian Realism.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Our Lady of Fatima first appeared on May 13th


(originally published November 12, 2014)


                                 



When the Virgin Mary visited the three Portuguese shepherd children, she mentioned the Great War and also Russia.

(A year earlier, the trio had been visited by an angel -- who identified himself as the Guardian of Portugal).

                                                     


Timeline

World War I: Jul 1914 -- Nov 1918

Fatima appearances: May -- Oct 1917

Thus, the several appearances of Immaculate Mary occurred on the continent bearing the cross of war; and they were sandwiched between the two upheavals in Russia:

'February Revolution': Mar 1917 (the emperor abdicated; he was executed in the summer of 1918)

'October Revolution': Nov 1917 (the Bolsheviks take power)


                                                             

Two priests, who have now been canonized, each credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving their life.

Padre Pio was severely ill in 1959, when he was healed by a visiting statue of the Immaculata. And in 1981 when Pope John Paul was shot on May 13 -- the anniversary of the first Fatima apparition -- he credited the Mother of God for his survival.

(As a young priest, JPII -- Karol Wojtyla -- paid a call on Padre Pio).
                                                       




The Great War laid down storms of steel never witnessed before... On a single day during the first year of fighting, there were 27,000 French soldiers killed.

(Two years later, the British army would lose 20,000 soldiers in a day.

To put these figures in perspective, the bloodiest single-day battle in all of American history was Antietam in 1862: less than four thousand Union and Confederate soldiers died near that Maryland creek.)





During the final year of the war, a world-wide influenza epidemic broke out. In the United States, it ended up killing more than 600,000 people.

Also struck down by the disease were two of the three Fatima children: Francisco (age 10) and his sister Jacinta (9).

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Another reason (to add to the other zillion) to love Bach



This morning on the 'Pipedreams' radio show, they played one of Johann Sebastian Bach's flute sonatas -- on the pipe organ along with a harmonica!

(The ten-minute selection begins at the 63:00 mark).



Saturday, May 9, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, May 9

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch

WHO CONSTITUTES THE GREATEST THREAT TO WORLD ORDER?
 THE WAHHABI SUNNI OR THE SHIA 

The religious war in the Mideast between Sunni and Shia pits two very different Muslim movements against each other. Minority religions are much more likely than majority religions  to make alliances and argue for freedom to worship within national states. The Shia movement in the Mideast and around the world is almost everywhere in the minority position. It was the Catholics in  Protestant America not Catholics in Catholic Italy or Spain who argued for religious liberty at Vatican II. America's Federal Constitution allowing freedom of religion was based on a solid agreement that there was a God to whom men owed a religious duty. This universal obligation toward the Creator was paired with liberty to protect the  Protestant tendency to worship in smaller and smaller dogmatic denominations.
      The Wahhabi are a purification worldwide movement within the majority Sunni tradition  that threatens states and other religions around the globe. Their goal is the purification of Islam often through charismatic preachers inciting youth movements against older more stable Muslim establishments. The Wahhabi preachers are funded worldwide by Saudi oil money. In the Mideast they   raise the sword of jihad not only against pagans but Shia Muslims who they consider defilers of the oneness of God.  The Shia have a very different theology of jihad  and form different kinds of alliances around the world.

 The Shia role with Modi of India is instructive.

Within Pakistan the greatest intra-Muslim violence is Salafi Sunni against the Shia.

Pakistan with a significant Shia population (10-20% of 180 million) (Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the Shia "Great Founder" of Pakistan), has not sent troops to help the Saudi battle against the Shia in Yemen.


SEEING YEMEN CLEARLY: WHY ARE WE SUPPRESSING A RELIGION AND TRIBE THAT HELPS US FIGHT AL QAEDA? 

The most authoritative  American writer on Yemen is author Gregory Johnsen. This interview from NPR is the best background we have seen from mainline news organizations. There can be no doubt that by attacking the most serious opposition to AQAP the Saudi bombing helps Al Qaeda.  Mr. Johnsen believes Yemen will not be reconstituted as a single country again. In this three-part series from Chronicles magazine unnamed US military sources question why the US would help attack the Houthis fighting AQAP. As Saudi Arabia invades the western part of Yemen near Aden, the weakening of the Houthi has reduced practical opposition to AQAP. This has allowed Al Qaeda to take the port city of Mukalla complete with a bank robbery and prison break.


NOT A GOOD IDEA: SENEGAL TROOPS WITH SAUDI ARABIA IS A WEDGE FOR WAHHABIS IN WEST AFRICA AS THEY NOW ARE IN EAST AFRICA (SOMALIA) 

The military of Senegal (a population of 14 million more than 95% Sunni) has been made available to help the money-rich, soldier-poor Saudis in their war against the Shia Houthis of fractured Yemen. Like Somalia (a population of 11 million also more than 95% Sunni) in East Africa, this western African country has a youth movement of males seeking a deeper Islamic identity. This is not a country where we want to help introduce  Saudi money and Wahhabi preachers.

THE HOUSE OF SAUD CONSTRICTS 

Caspian Report offers analysis on global events, geopolitics, histories and the cultures of the world through its online video series. This new video from Caspian Report gives an excellent analysis of the recent dynasic changes made by King Salman of Saudi Arabia. Caspian Report explains the Saudi leadership in terms of balance between royal clans - but the changes made by Salman amount to a dynastic coup in favor of his family, the Sudairi clan. Another video from two years ago gives further explanation to the Saudi succession situation while also laying out some of the major players in the royal clans.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Friday BookReview: Sondheim as master teacher


Doc Pence says there are four kinds of men -- teachers, soldiers, priests, and workers:
"A teacher transmits the soul of some culture to the souls of his students. A teacher is a man of authority. His students are drawn by the definitiveness of his personality. That personality can be a very gentle man or a very ebullient one. Students imitate him by adopting the categories by which he explains the world, and the behaviors by which he responds to reality."


This PBS interview with composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim is a delightful example of what teaching is all about.



Here are some excerpts from singer Paul Simon's review of the autobiography of Mr. Sondheim:

"Finishing the Hat — a fascinating compilation of lyrics, commentary and anecdotes, covering the years 1954 to 1981 — is essentially about process, the process of writing songs for theater. Performing acts of literary self-criticism can be a tricky business, akin to being one’s own dentist, but Sondheim’s analysis of his songs and those of others is both stinging and insightful... After reading [this book], I felt as if I had taken a master class in how to write a musical. A class given by the theater’s finest living songwriter.

"Sondheim’s rhymes are inventive, precise and often brilliant. From 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the ­Forum':

Pantaloons and tunics,
Courtesans and eunuchs,
Funerals and chases,
Baritones and basses . . .
Goodness and badness,
Man in his madness,
This time it all turns out all right —
Tragedy tomorrow,
Comedy tonight!

"Sondheim quotes the composer-lyricist Craig Carnelia: 'True rhyming is a necessity in the theater, as a guide for the ear to know what it has just heard.' I have a similar thought regarding attention span and a listener’s need for time to digest a complicated line or visualize an unusual image. I try to leave a space after a difficult line — either silence or a lyrical cliché that gives the ear a chance to 'catch up' with the song before the next thought arrives and the listener is lost...

"Stephen Sondheim shot to fame in 1957 as the lyricist who worked with Leonard Bernstein on the groundbreaking classic 'West Side Story.' His pride in having a Broadway smash was diminished by a regret that 'many of the lyrics in "West Side Story" suffer from a self-conscious effort to be what Lenny deemed "poetic." ' Bernstein’s 'idea of poetic lyric writing was the anti­thesis of mine.'

"I saw 'West Side Story' when I was 16 years old, and I have two vivid memories of the show. One, I didn’t believe for a minute that the dancers were anything like the teenage hoods I knew from the street corner, and secondly, I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the song 'Maria.' It was a perfect love song. Sondheim was less enamored with the lyric he wrote for Bernstein. He describes it as having a kind of 'overall wetness' — 'a wetness, I regret to say, which persists throughout all the romantic lyrics in the show.' Sondheim’s rule, taught to him by his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, is that the book and composer are better served by lyrics that are 'plainer and flatter.' It is the music that is meant to lift words to the level of poetry.
                             
Mr. Hammerstein (R) with Julie Andrews and Richard Rogers

"Sondheim’s regret about 'Maria' reminded me of my own reluctance to add a third verse to 'Bridge Over Troubled Water.' I thought of the song as a simple two-verse hymn, but our producer argued that the song wanted to be bigger and more dramatic. I reluctantly agreed and wrote the 'Sail on silvergirl' verse there in the recording studio. I never felt it truly belonged. Audiences disagreed with both Sondheim and me. 'Maria' is beloved, and 'Sail on silvergirl' is the well-known and highly anticipated third verse of 'Bridge.' Sometimes it’s good to be 'wet.'

"When I think of Stephen Sondheim songs, I think of his melody and lyrics as one. His career as a lyricist for other composers (Bernstein, Jule Styne and Richard Rodgers) is as distinct from his later work as night is to day, or conversely, day to night, since the quintessential Sondheim song is perceived to be somehow darker, lyrically more cerebral and colder than his earlier collaborative work. From 'Sweeney Todd':

There’s a hole in the world
Like a great black pit
And the vermin of the world
Inhabit it,
And its morals aren’t worth
What a pig could spit,
And it goes by the name of London.

"To be fair to Sondheim’s critics, the heart/mind dilemma is a constant for many songwriters, myself included. If a writer composes a lyric with a complex thought or vivid image and fails to say it well, then the lines seem pretentious. If the songwriter goes for the heart and misses, then it’s sentimental. Sondheim is the farthest thing from a sentimental songwriter that I know, but his songs of the heart are shaded with rueful sorrow ('Send In the Clowns') and translucent compassion...

"Some critics have made the case that with the exception of 'Send In the Clowns,' Sondheim has never written a pop hit and is not a notable melody writer. But then why do theater audiences return year after year to myriad Sondheim revivals? I think it’s because he’s the 'total package.' His best works have dazzlingly original premises (he sees a London staging of a potboiler called 'Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street' and brilliantly envisions a Grand Guignol ballad opera). He studiously chooses great book writers, great directors and talented casts. He has wonderful arrangements, writes supremely intelligent lyrics and music that is more melodic than he is given credit for.

                               

"Sondheim says, 'It’s the melody which dictates the lyric’s rhythms and pauses and inflections,' and 'When it comes to thea­ter songs, the composer is in charge.' Yet he is so adept a lyricist that he lends his melodies the grace or angularity necessary to create a classic song. I would argue that Sondheim’s lyrics are deeper, more invisibly intricate and braver in their search for truth than those of any who have preceded him.

"Sondheim celebrated his 80th birthday this year, but there is no reason to believe that his creative juices have diminished. Verdi wrote 'Falstaff' in his 80th year, and there may be a masterpiece incubating in Sondheim’s fertile mind, or for that matter, already sketched on his yellow legal pad."

                                                   





UPDATE: Who could fail to be moved by the performance of Sidney Poitier as a patiently persistent teacher in London's East End?

The musician who mentored Louis Armstrong was King Oliver, who died in 1938. Here is an amazing rendition of one of his greatest songs, Canal Street Blues (take a listen, and ignore the poor-quality video).

Thomas Aquinas benefited immensely by studying under Albert the Great. 


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, May 2


by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


AN EMPTY STADIUM AND BURNING DRUGSTORE IN BALTIMORE: MALE SOCIALIZATION HAD A BAD WEEK 

The arrest of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, on charges of carrying a switchblade in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 12, 2015, is mapped and detailed here. His spinal cord injury either before or en route to jail, which led to his hospitalization and death April 19, will soon be better understood. The burning of cars and stores after his funeral on the night of April 27 was followed by marches and disturbances in cities around America. At Camden Yards ballpark the first-ever major league game in which fans were shut out was won in eerie silence by the Orioles over the White Sox 8-2. The traditional civic gathering of crowds cheering their male warriors is an icon to ponder.  Earlier that day there was a widespread social media call for a "purge" (a night in which all crime is permitted). This was answered in a disturbing way in one high-school neighborhood by the Baltimore police.

National commentary was revealing. Mrs. Clinton placed the police vs black males at the center of the problem. President Obama condemned "thugs" who burn and steal, but said the problems of inequality and injustice between police and certain communities seems only to be addressed when a CVS drugstore burns.The president certainly includes himself as someone who has not made black inner-city males a priority. The devastation of the black community by a combination of Black Power racism, the sexual and drug revolutions, and the de-Christianizing of black male socialization has never been the focus of his presidency. The feminist/homosexual movement has claimed his heart and sustained a series of  incredible social victories. The police/black male interface is the nexus of conflict because that its where the failure of black power and gender ideology as social movements is most glaring.  Socializing teenage males into the public protective agreement of our cities and nation would involve celebrating a common masculine identity based on communal duties. This would cut against the entire gender ideology project. Building brotherhood among black and white men as fellow territorial citizens cuts against the whole color scheme of black power. The war against patriarchy and fraternity has once again left men who should be fathers,sons, and brothers in a standoff.  Rand Paul calling for fathers in the family is one step forward but it will not address the breakdown of a masculine Christian public life. That is the only bond that is capable of socializing young fatherless males into a brotherhood under God. That is the "root problem," as we liberals like to say. Neither the sexual left nor the libertine right has quite figured this out yet. These godless civic actors have risen in a corrupted urban culture of libertine atheism.  Catholic urban culture should have been the prime source of patriarchal fraternity for the inner city. Its collapse will only be reversed with a deep reform of an emasculated clergy and feminist school system by priests and nuns who rededicate their masculine and feminine communities to the sacred work of building the city of God.

THE ARGUMENT AGAINST GAY MARRIAGE IS REDUCED TO STATES RIGHTS. PRESIDENT OBAMA APPOINTED TWO OF THE THREE FEMALE FEMINIST JUDGES WHO WILL HELP DECIDE. 

The frantic rush toward the normalization of homosexual relations in America coincided with the Baltimore male riots when arguments were heard at the Supreme Court on April 28. The arguments by the State of Michigan lawyer were extremely narrow and unconvincing. Justices Roberts and Kennedy were much better than the lawyer in raising the most pointed of all arguments -- the male female character of marriage is definitional to the institution.  Roberts said: 
   
 "You're not seeking to join the institution, you're seeking to change what the institution is. The fundamental core of the institution is the opposite-sex relationship and you want to introduce into it a same-sex relationship."

Kennedy followed:

"The word that keeps coming back to me in this case is millennia, plus time. ... This definition (of marriage) has been with us for millennia. And it's very difficult for the court to say 'Oh well, we know better.'" 

Ironically one of the great tributes to the precedence of marriage as a sacral institution was found in the decision allowing contraception for married couples. The Griswold vs Connecticut decision (unlike the later Baird case locating sexual privacy in the individual, not marriage) produced an eloquent paean to marriage by Justice William Douglas:
"We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights - older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions."
The fact that thrice-married and thrice-divorced Douglas mentions neither children nor the male-female character of marriage does not detract from his more essential understanding that marriage is a sacred institution grounded in nature that can make claims against state power.

Arguing that marriage can be redefined by the people's will, laws of the legislature or decisions by the Supreme Court are all similar to the arguments that Stephen Douglas proposed to protect slavery from the natural law arguments of Lincoln. Pitting the rights of states vs the autonomy of individuals to alter the definition of marriage was no victory for the jurisprudence of a Christian nation.

Both Ruth Ginsburg and Elena Kagan have performed gay marriages. Judges Sotomayer and Kagan are appointees of President Obama. While President Obama has not exactly been a reconciling father figure for black males who need religion, manual labor, and fathers, he has been transformational in mobilizing all branches of government to implement the gender-bending policies of feminists and gay rights. People ask, "How did the social reversal on gay marriage  happen so quickly?" Justice Ruth Ginsburg had one of the most accurate insights. Gay marriage is feminism's Frankenstein. (Those are not quite her words.) The inability to defend sexual distinctions in all-male institutions from Rotary Clubs to VMI to the US military has led to the day where our mixed gender Supreme Court can wonder aloud if heterosexual marriage is not just another form of sexual discrimination. And of course it is. The intellectually simplistic celebration of the individual against all communal status obligations and gender identities has been the gist of Ginsburg's legal career from her days as an ACLU attorney. Justice Roberts got her arguments perfectly when he said,
"I'm not sure it's necessary to get into sexual orientation to resolve this case. I mean, if Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can't. And the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn't that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?" 

We will see if any of the Catholics on the court can defend sexual distinctions in the created order as proficiently as Ginsburg pounds for the autonomy of individuals. The male lawyer (John Bursch) arguing against gay marriage was no match for her well developed position. Justice Scalia was similarly refuted by Judge Elena Kagan when he raised an extremely weak religious liberty argument concerning ministers and priests. Judge Kagan came to the rescue when the religiously impaired lawyer for gay marriage (Mary Bonauto, "a revered gay activist" according to the Washington Post) was befuddled by Scalia's question. Kagan was deft and deadly. Scalia goes to the opera at times with Ginsburg, but he goes skeet shooting with Kagan.

When Ruth Ginsburg was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice under President Clinton, he openly wept at the installation ceremony. Listening to the lawyers and pundits who are opposed to gay marriage but make their arguments with their feminist brain-implants fully wired, I wanted to do the same.


PIVOTING TO THE EAST: JAPAN RESURGENT; CHINA'S GRAND STRATEGY; RUSSIA DIGS IN

Although he won't follow the desired code of apologizing for long-past Japanese war crimes in World War II -- nor should he -- Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, seeks a militarily resurgent Japan. In a rising multipolar world, the United States cannot afford to be the world's sole police force. Moreover, the temporal sword is meant to be shared, not possessed by one or two world powers. With Shinzo's visit to the United States, the announcement of new rules governing military cooperation now gives Japan the ability to aid US forces endangered by a third power. The US and Japan are not the only powers with naval ties, however. China and Russia now plan to coordinate their first joint naval drills -- not in the Pacific, but in the Mediterranean!  Russia is also keeping its eye on any American or Japanese threats to its far east by bolstering its missile defense, building up its far eastern navy, and running some of the largest military drills there since the end of the Cold War.

China continues to look around its periphery like a game of Go. Looking off its eastern seaboard, China faces encirclement by Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam. To understand how China may proceed, we must be familiar with China's great strategic thinker, Zhang Wenmu. Zhang wrote China's Sea Power in 2009 and has since been known as "China's Mahan" (a reference to the American author of The Influence of Sea Power upon History). Zhang sees Taiwan as the key to breaking China's encirclement. Although secondary in Zhang's mind, the South China Sea remains an important area for Chinese naval and economic expansion. Chinese influence in this sea, however, is under threat from a new strategic agreement between two of Asia's most Catholic nations: Philippines and Vietnam.

China has also bolstered its western land borders. China and Pakistan have announced the creation of a "new silk road" running from China's Xinjiang province (with its heavy Muslim population) through Pakistan and terminating in its coastal city of Gwadar -- a strategic warm-water port on the Arabian Sea. What's more, China's investment of $46 billion in Pakistan will greatly exceed the United States' investment of $31 billion since 9/11. In the words of Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif: "Friendship with China is the cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy."