Author archives: Chris Gacek

A Great Man Honored: Jean Vanier (2015 Templeton Prize)

by Chris Gacek

March 23, 2015

The Templeton Foundation deserves considerable praise for giving its annual award, the Templeton Prize (and here ), to the Canadian philosopher and humanitarian, Jean Vanier (and here). The prize was established in 1972 and is given to a living person who “has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.”

Vanier is a prolific writer, but he is most known for his founding of L’Arche. In Wikipedia, L’Arche is described as follows:

L’Arche is an International Federation dedicated to the creation and growth of homes, programs, and support networks with people who have intellectual disabilities. It was founded in 1964 when Jean Vanier, the son of Canadian Governor General Georges Vanier and Pauline Vanier, welcomed two men with disabilities into his home in the town of Trosly-Breuil, France. Today, it is an international organisation operating 147 communities in 35 countries, and on all five continents.

I first encountered Vanier’s writings twenty years ago when I read his overpowering volume on residents of the L’Arche community entitled, Man and Woman He Made Them. The Amazon description says of the book: “When Vanier speaks of the cry for love within a person who is disabled, he draws the wider parallel of that same search within every man and woman; the fragility and vulnerability of each person at the level of the heart and in the search for relationship.”

The Templeton Foundation hit it out of the park with this award.

Desperate Times for Christians in Syria

by Chris Gacek

February 26, 2015

Accurate news of the depredations being visited upon Christians by the savage ISIS forces operating in Syria and Iraq is not easy to come by. Fortunately, there are policy specialists in Washington who have established deep ties with Syria’s Christians. One of these experts is Katharine (“Katie”) Gorka, President of the Council on Global Security.

Mrs. Gorka has written two significant articles in Breitbart’s national security section on the recent ISIS attacks against these Christians. In the first article she gathered news by directly contacting representatives of the Assyrian community. A summary of the facts is as follows:

Around 4:00 in the morning on Monday, February 23rd, an estimated 1500 ISIS fighters attacked a series of Christian towns in northeast Syria, burning churches, taking as many as 90 hostages, and forcing hundreds to flee from their homes.


Many Christians have fled to the Syrian town of al-Hassaka, but the fear now is that ISIS will overrun the town, kill the men, and kidnap the women and children. After the attacks on Monday, Gorka writes, “According to one source, ISIS has taken 30 Christian young women and plans to distribute them as concubines in the town of Shadadeh.”

In the second article, “ISIS Hammers Christian Towns in Syria for Third Day,” Gorka provides a better sense of the military campaign being waged by ISIS against thirty-five Assyrian towns in northeastern Syria. One source told Gorka “that ISIS is still trying to take control of the region and that they are trying to cross the Khabur River.” Kurdish and Syrian forces have repelled the assaults so far “but it is uncertain how much longer that can last.” ISIS is estimated to have several thousand fighters involved. The Kurds and Christians have fewer, and they are inadequately armed.

Reading between the lines, the American effort has been comically inadequate. For example, DoD put out a press release trumpeting less than a dozen drone strikes in a day. ROLLING THUNDER this is not.

What’s important is the bottom line: the United States is making no commitment or effort to truly help the Christians. Nothing new here. However, the U.S. government appears to be doing something. It is running a disinformation campaign against the American public to make it believe that these Middle Eastern minority populations are not being sacrificed.

(Finally, ISIS is destroying cultural artifacts in Mosul. Read this article describing how it burned down the Mosul Public Library. “Among the many thousands of books it housed, more than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts were burned.”)

Blinded by Liberalism - Our President and His State Department

by Chris Gacek

February 20, 2015

Marie Harf, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department, has taken a great deal of heat this week for saying this and other things regarding our struggle with the Islamic State (ISIS):

We’re killing a lot of them and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians. They’re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs…”

Root cause” explanations constitute part of the fantasy life of liberals. They lead inevitably to an ever greater fantasy: the belief that poverty lies at the base of almost all malignant human behavior.  If the government can spend lots of money on something somewhere, all will be well. 

It’s interesting to recall that Lyndon Johnson, one of the big-time liberal presidents, exhibited a similar myopia when dealing with Vietnam and North Vietnam’s leader, Ho Chi Minh.  President Johnson delivered his first major speech about Vietnam on April 7, 1965 at Johns Hopkins University.  It is referred to as the “Peace without Conquest” Speech.  The title reveals its high-level content in wishful thinking.

In the speech, Johnson proposed a $1 billion development program for the Mekong River region including North Vietnam.  Johnson thought he could be buy off Ho with a TVA-like development program.  How could it fail?  It worked for FDR, right.  Guys like Johnson always had a price.  You just had to find it.  A water project, a military base, electric power.    As, Johnson told his press secretary, Bill Moyers, “old Ho can’t turn me down.”  Wrong.

Well, Ho was a Marxist ideologue, and he rejected the offer the next day.  Johnson must have been perplexed.  LBJ couldn’t understand a sociopathic Marxist ideologue like Ho, and today’s liberals cannot comprehend the fact that Islam is the driving force in our present-day world-wide struggle with a resurgent, modernized ideology that is replacing the failed Arab socialist nationalism of the twentieth century.

The SPLC places Dr. Ben Carson on an “Extremist Watch List”

by Chris Gacek

February 10, 2015

It is becoming more and more clear that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) jumped the shark a long time ago. More confirmatory evidence was supplied recently when William Jacobson of the Legal Insurrection blog noted in a post last Friday that Dr. Ben Carson, the world-famous neurosurgeon, had been placed on the SPLC’s “Extremist List.”

The absurdity of this should speak for itself, but if it does not I direct you to a very positive profile of Dr. Carson by Fred Barnes that appeared in the Weekly Standard’s Jan. 26, 2015 issue. Barnes has been a political reporter in Washington for decades, and his judgments are moderate and reasonable. Fred Barnes is no ideological or political wild man. That said, he had great praise for Dr. Carson, and it seemed that in coming to these conclusions Barnes had surprised himself about Carson’s competence and organizational skills. There is not even a hint political extremism detected on Carson’s part.

The point is that Fred Barnes and the Weekly Standard are conservative but form part of mainstream Washington sensibilities. Consequently, Carson’s listing by the SPLC appears even more eccentric and politically motivated. The SPLC’s profile lists him as being “Anti-LGBT” which can boil down simply to his having Bible-based objections to same-sex marriage. This is the way the U.K. Daily Mail seems to also size up the situation in its article interviewing Dr. Carson about the SPLC listing.

All in all, Barnes thinks Ben Carson is a long shot. That is clearly true, but he also respects the man’s character and decency. It is a great pity that SPLC’s political agenda makes it impossible to for them to see those qualities even when disagreeing with a person’s political views.

The Dreyfus Affair: One Historic Landmark for Jews in France

by Chris Gacek

January 16, 2015

Commentary magazine recently posted a powerful article entitled, “The Existential Necessity of Zionism after Paris.” They noted of the massacre in the Parisian kosher grocery that it “was not the beginning of a new threat to French Jews and the Jews of Europe.” Rather, the editors noted, it marked “the culmination of a decade of crisis. And it will not be the end.”

There have been tensions between Christians and Jews since the days of the early church. Thankfully, during the past century relations between most Christian denominations and Jews have improved greatly. Much of this change has been prompted by the growing Christian appreciation of and affection for Israel.

I am no expert on Franco-Jewish history, but I know that one major event that shook the foundations of French society and reverberates to this day was the Dreyfus Affair, a political scandal that stretched from 1894 to 1906. Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish, French Army captain, was convicted falsely of espionage and sent to solitary confinement on Devil’s Island in French Guiana for over four years. Eventually, Dreyfus was released and completely exonerated.

The Dreyfus Affair was a seismic event infused with anti-Semitism. Its impact on French society was at least one order of magnitude greater than Watergate was on the United States. Consequently, any consideration of the life of Jews in France must include the Dreyfus Affair and the treatment of Jews during World War II by the Vichy regime. Dreyfus is an elephant in the historical corner that colors all that came afterward.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Dreyfus Affair, Robert Harris’s historical novel,

An Officer and a Spy: A novel, makes the history exciting. (There are a number of good histories on the topic as an Amazon search will indicate.)

International religious persecution made itself clearly visible to us in the recent attack on the Parisian kosher store.  Last week, I posted a brief discussion of the Dreyfus Affair and its implications, a century later, for understanding anti-Semitism in France today.  Over the weekend, the John Batchelor Show posted its excellent interview of Robert Harris (An Officer and a Spy) by John Batchelor.  Listening to this 40-minute discussion is the best way get a sense of this event, its scope, and its lasting effects.  If may be found via this link to the iTunes podcast page (1/17/2015). 

Trending Massively: The Counter-Cultural Movement for Modest Fashions

by Chris Gacek

December 2, 2014

Perhaps it is just me, but recently I seem to have run across a good number of stories about religiously-inclined or conservative women promoting “modest fashions” with new businesses and websites. Of course, this has happened before, but there seems to be something different going on this time.

I noticed this recent manifestation when reading an article in the daily newspaper, The Times of Israel, which observed that of the many style websites and Jewish websites “Fabologieis unique in being a lifestyle website that blends chic Jewish living with high fashion.”

The article discusses the company, Fabologie, and its founder, Adi Heyman and describes her as being “as unashamed to flaunt long hemlines and sleeves as she is to post missives linking trends to the weekly Torah portion.” A recent story (and video) on Refinery29.com is entitled “Meet Brooklyn’s Hasidic Hipsters” and discusses two Hasidic clothes designers living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Not surprisingly, some of their best customers are Muslim women.

While looking around the Fabologie site, I found this article, “Seize the Dough,” that addresses baking my favorite bread, challah. Apparently, an international challah-baking event took place in late October to bring Jews together religiously and culturally. The interesting development here is how this appears to be another instance of how the Internet allows communities to develop quickly and host world-wide events at relatively little cost. (See the theory of the Internet and the “long tail.”)

In 2013 down in Louisiana, Sadie Robertson, a teenage grand-daughter of Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the TV show Duck Dynasty, set out to create a line of dresses to be marketed mostly to teenagers wishing to dress conservatively but fashionably. Robertson teamed up with highly-regarded designer Sherri Hill to produce her dress line called “Live Original.”

So, why shouldn’t Christians in the South and orthodox Jews in Brooklyn be able to get together to escape the tyranny of fashion mandates they find morally unacceptable? Given the huge populations of religious women who would value this market, it is surprising this hasn’t happened more quickly. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we hear about collaboration along these lines, fashion shows in NY (Brooklyn, of course), and televised awards shows from Nashville and Tel Aviv. Why not?

Fashion Isn¿t the Most Important Thing to Come Out of Milan

by Chris Gacek

November 19, 2014

If you have some time, watch FRC’s lecture with Jim Tonkowich discussing his new book, The Liberty Threat: The Attack on Religious Freedom in America Today. One particularly interesting aspect of the talk was Tonkowich’s discussion of the rise of religious freedom during the Roman Empire. Of particular importance was the Edict of Milan of 313 A.D. Read George Weigel’s First Things blog on this important document. Referencing the great church historian Robert Louis Wilken (The First Thousand Years), Weigel describes the document’s foundational significance in Western political thought and practice:

[The Edict] involved all religions, not just Christianity; it went beyond mere toleration and embodied a more robust idea of religious freedom, based on the conviction that true faith and true worship cannot be compelled; and it treated the Church as a corporate body with legal rights, including property-owning rights. Thus the not-really-an-Edict of Nicomedia and Elsewhere cemented into the foundations of the West ideas first sketched by the Christian philosopher Lactantius: that coercion and true religious faith don’t mix because “God wishes to be adored by people who are free” (as Joseph Ratzinger would rewrite Lactantius a millennium and a half later, in the 1986 Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation). The rather humane provisions of the mis-named “Edict of Milan” were not infrequently ignored in subsequent Western history; but that doesn’t alter the fact that the “Edict” had a profound and, in many respects, beneficial influence on the future of the West.

(Weigel quotes a passage from Wilken revealing that the Milanese origins of the documents putting the policy into effect arose from meetings between Emperors Constantine and Licinius during a state wedding.)

So, watch the lecture and learn other interesting things that will impress your friends and confound your opponents.

Sketchy Judicial Assignments in Ninth Circuit Marriage Cases

by Chris Gacek

November 14, 2014

The American people are justified in wondering if they are ruled by interlocking ruling bodies that operate in secret, govern with unbridled duplicity, and are immune to correction by the People acting through their representatives or acting directly in referenda. There have been many prominent examples in the last two months. Two involve our imperious judicial oligarchy.

But, first we have the recent reports of repeated statements by Obamacare insider and MIT economist, Jonathan Gruber, calling the American people “stupid” and boasting that Obamacare was foisted on the public through a determined campaign of lying and deviousness. Lies on top of lies on top of lies.

Second, in early October the U.S. Supreme Court appeared to act with stunning cynicism when it dismissed requests for review of marriage-definition cases arising out of several federal appellate courts. The Court had heard an identical case when it reviewed the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 less than two years ago. However, the Prop 8 case was dismissed because the plaintiffs, the proponents of Prop 8, were deemed to lack “standing” to sue. This conclusion was reached because California’s Attorney General took a dive in the litigation and refused to defend a ballot-approved amendment to the California constitution. (Prop 8 was supported by a 52% majority in November 2008.)

The October 2014 cases petitions to the Supreme Court checked all the boxes for standing, but the cases were still turned away allowing lower court rulings that struck down male-female marriage to stay in place. It appeared the that Supreme Court was taking the coward’s way out by allowing lower courts to redefine marriage in America without publicly putting forward a majority opinion explaining how the male-female definition of marriage could violate any constitutional principle. This Court, it appeared, didn’t even have the integrity to write its own Roe v. Wade for marriage. On November 6th the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit supported the traditional marriage definition. Now that there is a split among the circuit courts, the Supreme Court’s stealth imposition strategy won’t work – if that is what they were doing. Now the nation is left with an incoherent stew of constitutional slop consisting of incongruent reasoning and standards. The reputation of the Supreme Court is being badly damaged each day this continues.

Well, if you were to think that the reputation of our black robed masterminds couldn’t get much worse, think again. In October 2014 a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision striking down the male-female marriage regime established be the voters of Nevada and Idaho. (The court reversed an excellent Nevada opinion that had supported traditional marriage.) In mid-October, a private group in Nevada, the Coalition for Protection of Marriage, filed a petition and a supporting affidavit with supporting statistical analysis with the full Ninth Circuit purporting to demonstrate that the panels in cases on homosexual-related issues were not being assigned randomly. In fact, they claimed that two of the court’s most liberal members (Stephen Reinhardt and Marsha S. Berzon) were greatly overrepresented in such cases. Here is how the Coalition for Protection of Marriage summarized its claim of bias in panel selection:

The attached statistical analysis … explains that since January 1, 2010, Judge Berzon has been on the merits panel in five and Judge Reinhardt has been on the merits panel in four of the eleven Ninth Circuit cases involving the federal constitutional rights of gay men and lesbians (“Relevant Cases”), far more than any other judge and far more than can reasonably be accounted for by a neutral assignment process. Indeed, statistical analysis demonstrates that the improbability of such occurring randomly is not just significant but overwhelming. Thus, the odds are 441-to-1 against what we observe with the Relevant Cases—the two most assigned judges receiving under a neutral assignment process five and four assignments respectively (and anything more extreme). (Petition, 3-4.)

If assessed accurately, this assignment pattern was not random. The case assignment was rigged to help assure the politically desired outcome.

It goes without saying that this is an extremely serious accusation that needs investigation not just by some handpicked Ninth Circuit lackey but by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and by the new Senate Judiciary Committee to be chaired by Senator Grassley.

FRC Files Amicus Brief in Fifth Circuit Marriage Appeal

by Chris Gacek

November 3, 2014

Today, the Family Research Council filed an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief in the case of Robicheaux v. Caldwell, an appeal of a marriage definition case arising out of Louisiana. On September 3rd, Judge Martin Feldman of the Eastern District of Louisiana issued a decision upholding the constitutionality of Louisiana’s male-female definition of marriage. Subsequently, the plaintiffs, seven same-sex couples, appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (“Fifth Circuit”) in New Orleans. It was with the Fifth Circuit that FRC filed its amicus brief today. Paul Linton, a constitutional appellate lawyer from Illinois, wrote the brief. Mr. Linton has worked with FRC previously in numerous marriage-definition cases.

The FRC amicus brief focuses on two main arguments. First, the brief demonstrates that Louisiana’s marriage definition does not contravene the fundamental right to marry that is protected by the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. After the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision a number of federal courts have attempted to claim that there is a fundamental right to same-sex marriage. As an institution, same-sex marriage is younger than Google and Facebook. It cannot satisfy the requirement the Court laid down in Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997), that such rights must be firmly rooted in “the Nation’s history, legal traditions, and practices.”

Second, the brief makes clear that Louisiana’s marriage definition does not discriminate on the basis of sex or gender because males and females cannot marry members of the same sex. On the contrary, every male and every female may marry. The requirement, however, is that one’s marriage partner be a member of the opposite sex. There is no “facial” discrimination in Louisiana’s marriage definition that targets either males or females for worse treatment than member of the opposite sex.

Male-female marriage is the bedrock of social life and civilization. It is the institution by which the complementary sexual attractions of males and females are yoked together in an enduring, supportive relationship that has the potential to produce children. Same-sex unions can reproduce neither the relational nor the procreative capacity. As such, the union of one man and one woman for life in marriage is rationally related to these dual purposes.

Does the Sexual Predation of Children Have to be Tolerated and Ignored?

by Chris Gacek

November 3, 2014

Police authorities in Rotherham, U.K.(near Sheffield), allowed at least 1,400 children to be sexually exploited and trafficked by members of the local Pakistani community in a period from 1997 to 2013. The authorities did not properly investigate or stop the crimes for fear of being called racist or Islamophobic. A stunning independent report on the crimes and governmental inaction was released in August 2014.

On October 30th, Helen Pidd, the northern editor of The Guardian (U.K.), noted last week in a powerful article that widespread sexual exploitation is taking place in another major English city:

Sexual exploitation of vulnerable children has become the social norm in some parts of Greater Manchester, fuelled by explicit music videos and quasi-pornographic selfies, an MP has warned.
The systematic grooming of boys and girls remains a “real and ongoing problem”, a year after Greater Manchester police (GMP) was forced to admit it had failed abuse victims in Rochdale, said Ann Coffey, a former social worker who is now the Labour MP for Stockport. “My observations will make painful reading for those who hoped that Rochdale was an isolated case,” she writes in a significant report.

In a related article, Ms. Pidd, quotes the senior Crown prosecutor, Nazir Afzal, for the region as saying:

The Muslim community must accept and address the fact that Asian and Pakistani men are disproportionately involved in “localised, street grooming” of vulnerable girls, one of the UK’s most senior prosecutors has said.

Sheffield-Rotherham are not located in the Greater Manchester area. They are different municipalities with similarly horrifying patterns of criminal sexual behavior. (For more on Rotterham, go to this article from the blog, Legal Insurrection.)

My colleague, Cathy Ruse, pulled a few quotes from the executive summary of the August 2014 Rotherham report:

No one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham over the years. Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1400 children were sexually exploited over the full Inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013.
In just over a third of cases, children affected by sexual exploitation were previously known to services because of child protection and neglect. It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated. There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone.
Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators.
This abuse is not confined to the past but continues to this day.

Please don’t think that this is not also happening in the United States. Sex trafficking experts tell FRC that activities of this type occur all across America too.

If you don’t believe that the American law enforcement institutions may have little interest or sympathy in sex trafficking, I refer you back a few years to the keelhauling of a young US attorney, Rachel Paulose, in Minneapolis back in 2007. Even an article in a left-wing periodical had to note that Paulose had accomplishments that were typically worthy of praise. The Salon article related an interesting point made by Professor Donna Hughes, one of the leading experts on sex trafficking in America:

But Paulose did have her defenders. For example, there’s Donna Hughes, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, who suggested that Paulose was being attacked because of her prosecution of human trafficking cases.
Asked whether she had any direct evidence that Paulose was targeted because of her office’s efforts against trafficking, Hughes responded, “Rachel Paulose was the leading prosecutor of sex trafficking cases in the U.S. She took over an office where there had previously been no trafficking prosecutions and turned it into the leading one. Therefore, our coalition has serious concerns when a problem erupts that results in her leaving office.”

Let’s all hope that in five to ten years we won’t have to witness the release of a Rotterham-type report on massive, widespread sex-trafficking in the Twin Cities.

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