Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bearing the Brunt

From time to time critics of the war will make the claim that the soldiers fighting and dying in Iraq are from the lower echelons of the social order and are people who had no good alternatives to military service. In other words, we are given to understand, they're not really volunteers. Often the implication is that the casualties are largely members of minority groups who disproportionately shoulder the burden for the white man's wars.

This study of American fatalities in Iraq strongly suggests that those assumptions are uninformed nonsense.

This is the breakdown of fatalities by ethnicity:

American Indian or Alaska Native: 25

Asian: 37

Black or African American: 231

Hispanic or Latino: 248

Multiple races, pending or unknown: 29

Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 23

White: 1,654

This is a rough breakdown of where soldiers killed between March of 2003 and March of 2005 came from in the U.S.:

26.2% were from cities and large towns in the U.S.

40.5% were from suburbs in the U.S.

33.3% were from rural areas in the U.S.

The picture that emerges from this data shows that, contrary to the picture of the average KIA as a poor, non-white, urban male, the casualties of this war are overwhelmingly white suburbanites.

Neuhaus to be on Meet the Press

This notice comes from Richard Neuhaus, author of The Naked Public Square and editor of First Things:

Wednesday morning I'm involved in taping with Tim Russert a special edition of NBC's "Meet the Press" that will be shown Easter Sunday morning. I gather he's bringing together a motley crew of "religious leaders." I will do my best to see that Christianity-as in Christ crucified and risen-gets a hearing.

It sounds like sandwiching Meet the Press in between church services and other family activities on Easter morning might be spiritually profitable. Neuhaus is a first-rate intellect and a prolific commentator on matters resting at the intersection of religion and contemporary culture. It'll be worth hearing what he has to say.

The Knockout Punch

Jesus Wed to Mary Magdalene! Jesus Walks on Ice! New Gospel of Judas Discovered! Judas and Jesus in Cahoots! Prayer Doesn't Work! Now, after this rapid succession of blows to the staggering body of orthodox Christian faith comes this devastating upper cut. It may well be the punch that delivers the knockout to many a believer's faith. Here's the story from Catholic World News:

Newark, Apr. 8 (CWNews.com) - Archeological researchers in Ridgewood, New Jersey, have discovered an ancient Christian document that offers a radically new account of the founding of the Catholic Church.

The newly discovered document, which scholars have named "The Gospel of Skip and Muffy," was found in an abandoned row house in New Brunswick, New Jersey, which had formerly housed a Rutgers sorority.

Theologians and anthropologists agree that "The Gospel of Skip and Muffy" is likely to cause intense debate among Christians, forcing a complete re-examination of all Catholic teachings.

There is no possible debate, however, about the authenticity of the document. "It was typed on an IBM Selectric II," reported Dr. Ernest Litewaite, an associate professor of Contemporary Archeology at Kutztown State. "Using a Courier 72 10-pitch element." The document is believed to be a copy of an earlier statement, crafted by students at an East Coast private college sometime around 1970.

"The Gospel of Skip and Muffy" is an extended dialogue between two young theologians who take a startling new approach to the faith. The document suggests that young Christians of the 1970s generation did not accept Church teachings on some controversial moral issues.

B.F.D. Zeitgeist, a Professor of Serious Christianity at Dupont University, said that the Gospel of Skip and Muffy will force Christians to re-examine the nature of Church authority. He pointed to one key passage in the manuscript:

"The Church is-- I mean-- it's just a bunch of, like, rules and stuff," said Muffy.

"Yeah," Skip replied. "I mean, really. Hey, don't let that thing go out."

Ultraconservative Catholic officials may not accept the validity of the new Gospel. Spokespersons for the Newark archdiocese did not immediately return a reporter's phone call. But Msgr. Pius Gr�mbling, a pastor in Hoboken, replied to queries by saying: "OK, that's right. We do not accept the validity of this document."

But Professor Zeitgeist doubts that Church officials will be able to stop parishioners from raising questions about the new document. He cites "astonishing new insights" such as the one contained in this passage:

"Have you ever thought," said Skip, "that the solar system is just like an atom in this really gigantic alternate universe, and the planets are just, like, electrons spinning around, and the sun is, like, the nucleus?"

"Wow," said Muffy. "Heavy. And then we'd be, like, just tiny little, like, specks that you can't even see."

"Riiight," said Skip, exhaling slowly. "Far out, huh?"

"This document will force Christians to re-examine all of their basic moral principles," said Professor Zeitgeist, "starting with the outmoded and inhumane taboo that prevents teachers from having love affairs with their students."

"Or with reporters," the professor added, smiling. "Would you care for a daiquiri?"

Professor Litewaite said that he had found the manuscript of the Gospel of Skip and Muffy several months ago. "The significance of the discovery was immediately obvious," he said. "But my publicist suggested that I should wait until Holy Week to make it public."

This discovery has pushed us here at Viewpoint to the brink of a crisis of faith. Wait till Newsweek gets hold of the story. Or Dan Brown. Or Ingmar Bergman. Christianity may be finished for good.

European Quagmire

Jamie Glazov of Front Page Mag interviews Claire Berlinski about her new book titled The Menace in Europe. Berlinski has many interesting things to say in the interview about the cultural, social, and spiritual difficulties Europe finds itself in today. Inter alia, she says the following:

Berlinski: Europe does not seem to be able to offer its Muslim immigrants an attractive alternative, an attractive future. Muslims have done very poorly, socio-economically speaking, in Europe. This is an ongoing source of humiliation. When a viral ideology is at large, humiliation and poverty-poverty, at least, compared with the ambient society; even the poorest Muslims in Europe are still better off than Muslims in, say, Sudan-constitute a growth medium for its propagation. In the United States, Moslems have for the most part been successfully integrated into American political culture; they have been very economically successful, like most immigrants in the US. This is not so in Europe. Europe's Moslems remain for the most part uneducated and poor. Crime rates in Moslem neighborhoods are high. Unemployment in those neighborhoods vastly exceeds national averages-Moslems comprise 50 percent of France's unemployed, for example.

This marginalization extends to the political sphere. The percentage of Moslems in France exceeds that of African-Americans in the United States, but not one single Moslem sits in France's 577-seat Chamber of Deputies.

FP: So why has Europe been such a failure in coping with the threat of Islamic radicalism?

Berlinski: Well, for one thing, they generally refuse to acknowledge it. The problem is seen, but it isn't recognized, its gravity has not been suitably assessed. This passivity or indifference to the threat of Islamic radicalism has complex roots, and I discuss them at greater length in my book, but essentially I believe the answer is this: Europeans have in recent memory suffered two great losses, that of their religious faith and that of its replacements-ideologies involving the idea of human perfectibility absent supernatural guidance.

The failure of European experiments in Utopianism-which not only failed to provide the promised paradise but indeed gave rise to the most criminal regimes ever inflicted on the human race-has left Europeans paralyzed by shame and self-doubt. They have retreated into a kind of cocoon of technological and physical comfort; they bathe themselves in vapid clich�s about "tolerance." It would be almost unimaginable, for example, for a European politician to say of Islamic radicalism, "this is an unspeakably evil belief system and we must fight it to our last breath." Unfortunately, not much short of that kind of resolve is of much use when you're in a battle against what is, indeed, an unspeakably evil belief system....

Some Europeans are serious, rational and sober critics of American foreign policy, but a large number and even a majority, it seems to me, are responding to something that has nothing to do with America. We have to explain the completely disproportionate animus. Where, for example, was all this political energy when Europeans were confronted with the disintegration of Yugoslavia? Nowhere to be seen. Europe was indifferent. The members of the European Community squabbled. Genocide in Europe-once again-was halted only by American intervention. And a decade later, no one even talks about it.

Saddam Hussein's regime was rooted in the aftereffects of European fascism and anti-Semitism, but his annihilation of the Kurds and Marsh Arabs left Europeans indifferent. The American invasion of Iraq and removal of Saddam, however, outraged them. Genocide in Sudan? No one in Europe cares. But the majority of Europeans earnestly believe that the United States is the second-greatest threat to world peace....

Right now economic initiative throughout Europe is crippled by excessive taxation, rigid labor laws, labyrinthine bureaucratic regulation. The European Union issues some 80,00 pages of regulations a year. It requires far more paperwork to start a small business in most European countries than it does to become inscribed on the welfare registers. Venture capitalists steer clear of Europe, preferring to invest in the United States.

Scientific initiative and scholarship is stifled in Europe too -between 1900 and 1920, France produced 20 percent of the world's Nobel Prize winners and the United States produced three percent. Between 1980 and 2000, France produced only three percent of the prize winners; the United States, 58 percent. The world's great universities are no longer in Paris and Heidelberg and Bologna. They're in the United States. Europe's most talented scientists and researchers have moved en masse to the America, where funding is more generous, facilities are superior and the culture more meritocratic.

I have a friend in Paris who was working as a contractor for Total. They fired him after two years because French labor law prohibits employing contractors for more than two years; this to ensure that no corporation can evade paying a laborer his enormous due in social security. They declined to hire him as a permanent employee because it would then have been nearly impossible, under French labor law, ever to fire him. No one could be found with equivalent knowledge and competence to replace him at his salary, so they had to hire two inexperienced new contractors to do his job. So my friend is on the dole, where, by law, he is paid a percentage of the salary of both new contractors-130 percent of his former salary! Needless to say, he is not looking for a new job.

And to think that in the last election we were told more than once that we should be more like the Europeans and more sensitive to their opinions of us. We have to wonder why.