BlaiseP's blog

Quondam Paupere: the life and death of Father Francis Van Der Lugt SJ

On Monday, 7 April 2014, a man of God, a Dutch priest, Father Francis Van Der Lugt SJ, was dragged from his house, beaten and murdered. 


Citing Mitchell Prothero of McClatchy:  to Father Francis Van Der Lugt, 75, a Dutch Jesuit priest, came to Syria in 1966 and eventually founded a home for children and adults with mental disabilities outside Homs, where he lived before the three-year-old civil war started. After fighting began, he relocated to the rebel-held neighborhood of Bustan al Diwan in Homs Old City, where he worked with refugees and civilians during the more than two-year-old siege by regime forces.


In a statement, a spokesman for the Jesuit order spoke of Van Der Lugt’s dedication to sharing the suffering of the ordinary citizens he’d lived alongside for more than 40 years.

He “died as a man of peace, who with great courage in an extremely dangerous and difficult situation wanted to remain faithful to the Syrian people to whom he had dedicated so many years of his life and spiritual service,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. “Where people die, their faithful shepherds also die with them. In this time of great sorrow, we express our participation in prayer, but also great pride and gratitude for having had a brother so close to the most suffering in the testimony of the love of Jesus to the end.”



Courageous Endeavors: Live at Eau Claire Jazz Fest 4 April 2014

City Jazz Fests are many pigs in a capacious poke. Eau Claire is one of the longest running jazz festivals in the nation, 47 years now.  Newport's been running a festival for 60 years but they stalled for a few years - anyway, this year's Eau Claire's jazz fest had eight venues and the odds of hearing good groups are rather better here. I'd never heard of Courageous Endeavors


Pizza Plus was packed, a long narrow venue. The stage backed up to the windows, people milling about.  I'd already heard three groups, somewhat better than average.  Troppo Big Band, twenty-two local musicians of all ages were packing out, with a forest of music stands and a mountain of kit in tow, having just slayed the audience with their rendition of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.  But I was betting on the Courageous Endeavors, the next band up.  I just liked the name. 



Uncool: Greg Gutfeld versus the Hipster Elites

Gregory John Gutfeld would tell us Social Consciousness is a dumping ground for reflexive, attention-seeking acts of meaningless symbolism.   His own bizarre, reprehensible and unintentionally hilarious diatribe is proof the man needs a lesson in cool.  Hat tip to HankP for bringing it to our attention on the Open Thread.


The Political Marble: BlaiseP reads the Ukraine entrails

HankP says US foreign policy and security policy is still engaged in self-defeating Cold War tactics. As a veteran of an intricate proxy war waged under the larger rubric of the Cold War, I don't share his opinion. But there's lots to agree with in his diary: there are no Good Guys in this squabble, as there were none in mine.

A House is a Grave: Sahel situation analysis.

A man lives in his wife's tent: a house is a grave. -Tuareg proverb


Précis: as the first phase of the Mali conflict winds down, we see a partial recapitulation of other guerrilla wars in the Sahel. Expelled from Algeria, Ansar Dine has emerged as the major player, the hub around which MUJAO, AQIM and other Islamic groups have coalesced and merged into the local populations. As France withdraws troops, Algeria returns to geopolitical prominence in the region, a brute force (and largely counterproductive) bulwark against Islamism. America returns to its bad habits, having seemingly learned nothing from Afghanistan.


Does the USA have strategic interests in the Sahel? If so, how might we best serve those interests? Let Mali's fall from grace show what happens when the veneer of democracy is pasted onto rotten boards. The nations of the Sahel are going from bad to worse: their wretched poverty and malgovernance are of a piece, a vacuum into which jihaad has moved with a vengeance as it has moved into many other such vacuums.


Africa must save itself. Does America have a role to play in that salvation? I cannot say. This much I do know: the USA appears to be repeating previous mistakes. Therefore, I predict, with considerable anger and sadness, the tragedy of Afghanistan will be writ large in the Sahel, across many nations in an area larger than the United States.


Thoughts on Egypt’s Constitutional Referendum

This post is in large measure a summary of yesterday's discussion hosted by Tamara Cofman Wittes, Director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, with Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Saban Center, and Shadi Hamid, Director of Research at Brookings Doha. I am indebted to the Brookings Institution for much of what follows but my own opinions are injected along the way.


What sort of government is created with this constitution? The House of Representatives and a Senate called the Shura Council constitute a bicameral parliament to act as a check on the powers of the president. The president appoints the prime minister as a proxy. Therefore the president has overweening power, as it was in the evil days of Mubarak.


There is a judiciary but it has little power to challenge the president and is deeply conservative. With the advent of shari'a law as the basis for the constitution, Al Azhar University becomes the ulama, with the unprecedented and vaguely defined power to review legislation, as described in Article 4 of the new constitution.


This constitution is stillborn. For all its windy trash about political and partisan plurality, the rule of law, respect to human rights, guarantee of rights and freedoms, peaceful rotation of power, etc. --the Egyptian constitution hasn't even defined the electoral process. It exempts the military from any oversight. It has created a religious state for all intents and purposes.


This constitution won't last more than a few years. The current referendum isn't about constitution: it is a plebiscite on Mohamed Mursi.  America might not have a large role to play in all this but mostly we ought to hold true to democratic ideals and not doing our usual Deals with Devils We Know.


A Few Thoughts on the Aurora Tragedy

"And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.

First Snow: Augusta, Wisconsin





Clouds are a Promise Made: Nayef and the Saudi Succession

The proverb in full is “Clouds are a promise made, rain is a promise kept.” It comes from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a country of many clouds and little rain. King Abdullah has dubbed Nayef bin Abdul Aziz the Crown Prince, over the objections of several members of the Allegiance Council. The House of Saud forestalled the Arab Spring KSA by carpet-bombing that unhappy country with cash and sinecures and a few token reforms. This essay will attempt to make a few guesses about the future of KSA, perhaps the USA's most important partner in that part of the world.


Talk to, not at, the United States: a reply to President Zardari of Pakistan

In your Washington Post editorial of September 30th, you observe “Democracy always favors dialogue over confrontation”, a wise and useful sentiment. Though you observe the terrorists have gained the most from the recent “verbal assaults some in the USA have made against Pakistan”, the present unhappiness of the Pakistani / American relationship requires some measure of frankness and yes, confrontation.

The Sound Bite War

When I talk of sound-bite thinking, I'm not talking about the length of your comments. I'm talking about their simplicity and lack of nuance. You say for example "the key to winning this war on terrorism..." Terrorism is not an enemy, it is a tactic.


De Civitate Dei: The GOP and the Religious Right.

In response to BD's Should the Left get Jesus.   First, a bit of Augustine, from the City of God.


The News from Augusta, Wisconsin

An Amish man and his seven year old son ride north on Stone Street in an open black carriage wagon behind a magnificent black Arabian. I raise my hand in greeting and shout out “A lovely horse, that!” The Amish man grins broadly and shakes the reins slightly.

Renaissance Fair

Part carnival, part dress-up, part arts and crafts, with a generous dose of goofiness and good cheer, I give you some images from the Chippewa Valley Renaissance Faire.

Reverent Visitors: Memorial Day 2011

Ft. Snelling at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Minnesota Rivers was once the frontier.

Today, it lies in the confluence of the airport and I-94, the final resting place of the Greatest Generation.


Headquarters Grand Army Of The Republic General Orders No.11,

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868


The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

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