Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Engaging In Dialogue?

.- On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune invited the Catholic scholars Professor Douglas W. Kmiec and George Weigel to express their opposing views about the controversial invitation of President Barack Obama to give the commencement address at the Catholic University of Notre Dame.
Full article here.

Was this what Notre Dame meant by "engaging in dialogue"? While not the parties originally intended, there is certainly a lot of it now.
Weigel writes, “But, to repeat, a commencement is not a debate, nor is a commencement address the beginning of some sort of ongoing dialogue, as Notre Dame officials have tried to suggest. A commencement address and the degree that typically accompanies it confer an honor. That honor is, or should be, a statement of the university's convictions.”
Interesting reading.

On Being A Catholic Expert

There has been a lively increase in recent times in people who purport to know what the Catholic Church is all about, what they should believe, and how they should go about conducting their business.

So many experts to choose from -- except they're not. Not Catholic, that is. That would sorta disqualify them from having an expert opinion on the matter, or so you would think.

We have people weighing in from all quarters on what Catholics should do about:
  1. Who should receive honors (Notre Dame scandal)
  2. Who should receive communion (pro-abort politicians)
  3. Who is in or out of the club (SSPX / Holocaust deniers)
  4. What Catholics sexual/moral teaching should be (condoms)
  5. Who should run the parish and Dioceses (Connecticut anti-Catholic legislation)
  6. Who can be a priest (Wymen priests)
... and a whole bunch more.

Although in a free society everyone is entitled to their own opinion, outsiders shouldn't make the mistake of thinking they are experts on the internals of things Catholic. A number of our own members are poorly enough catechized as it is; we really don't need self-appointed experts muddying the waters with their ignorant bombast. Even the few outsiders who have taken the time to educate themselves need to take a back seat when it comes to being Catholic.

So many secular pundits are trying to divide the Catholic world into right/left politics. Meanwhile, social radicals and schismatics who wear the label Catholic have taken up the call to "modernize" the Church into its politically correct analog, then complain when they find out they have thrown themselves out of the club.

Pretty soon only the adults will be left to carry on the conversation. We have our own way of doing things, our own beliefs. Outsiders (and those who have placed themselves outside of the Church) can like it or not -- but it's not a voting matter. The only ones who can say what it means to be authentically Catholic and live authentic Catholic lives are -- surprise -- the Catholics.

Repeat After Me

Sigh. It's almost too much to comment on. Radical pro-abort and Episcopal "priest" Dr. Katherine Ragsdale just got elected Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge -- unanimously. Details here, here, and here (I won't link to the original).

This is the woman who authored a sermon in which she says that "abortion is a blessing and our work is not done" and repeats her mantra three times like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz -- if I just click my heels together three times and repeat my wish, it'll make it all come true.

Earth to Ragsdale:
Just because you're crazy, doesn't make it true.
Just because you're crazy, doesn't make it true.
Just because you're crazy, doesn't make it true.
What's left of the Episcopal church is in shambles. This is what happens when you pervert your faith to follow the siren call of the day. Society has successfully evangelized the Episcopals, instead of the other way around. Once the most Catholic-like of the Protestant denominations, it is now almost indistinguishable from Unitarianism (which isn't even Christian).

To Catch A Kid

Those of you with children had better hang onto your hats for this one. Two passersby caught an 18 month old toddler who plummeted 30 feet out an open window in Lawrence, Massachusetts on Sunday.
Eighteen-month-old Caliah Clark survived a 30-foot plummet Sunday night and probably owes her life to the two men who ran to the spot below the window and caught her, one by the legs, another above the waist, and brought her, unhurt, back to her father in the apartment upstairs.

"People who have children know that it's impossible to keep your eye on them all the time," Lemire said, "and all it takes is a second."
Ain't it the truth though? My own two toddlers, Nib and Nub, are experts at getting into trouble in less than 10 seconds when you have your back turned. My heart beats fast just thinking about this story; adrenaline pumping; super-Dad reflexes on maximum.

Me, I'd be buying those guys steak dinners every Sunday for the rest of their lives.

It's a Girl

Congratulations to my brother and his wife over at Outpost 2, who just welcomed girl #3 into the world!

This little(?) paddleboat measured 21 inches long, 14.5 in circumference, and weighed in at 9 lbs 9 oz!

They make 'em big over yonder, as this baby was born at exactly 41 weeks. They skipped the Newborn size diapers and are going right for the Size 1 diapers. I'm convinced that all their kids came out at 3 month old sizes!

I brought Paddleboats #1 and #2 some mylar baloons with Disney Princesses on them to celebrate. Why? Because I'm the best uncle ever! Ha! Who says kids can't be bribed?

Catholic Carnival #218

Catholic Carnival #218 is up! Jay over at Living Catholicism has organized this week's roundup of posts from the Catholic blogosphere.
Naturally, we have a few submissions around the Notre Dame disaster, but this last Carnival before Holy Week offers quite a bit more that will cause you to laugh, cry and mostly think. This is one of those Carnivals that keep you interested to the end!
Our contribution this week features a pair of posts that illustrate that even though evil forces are trying to destroy the Church with novel tactics, more and more Catholics are returning home by the droves just by asking.

What is the Catholic Carnival?
Blog Carnivals have been around for several years now - almost as long as blogs. In simple terms, they are a collection of blog posts from various bloggers and often from different points of view on a specific topic.

Each week the Catholic Carnival includes a varying number of Catholic posts from throughout the blogosphere. Any Catholic blogger can submit a post and the only real rule is that it cannot contradict Catholic doctrine. So far that rule has been enough to keep it as a high-quality location to find interesting Catholic thought on a weekly basis. Each Tuesday the Carnival is posted at a specific blog. You can find out where it's at either at Living Catholocism's Catholic Carnival section or at the Catholic Carnival page of Blog Carnival (which lists many, many blog Carnivals).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ford Is Smarter Than Those Other Guys

Here's a very simple reason that Ford is smarter than either GM or Chrysler: if you take a man's money, you do his dance.

Today Obama forced GM head , Rick Wagoner, to step down. Of course it was couched as a request -- but not really. The understanding was that GM would only get additional monies from the Fed if the CEO stepped down -- and GM needs it. The march towards government controlled monopoly of the economy took another fateful step with this move.
The ouster of the iconic automaker's CEO is one of the most dramatic signs yet of how strong a role the government is now playing in the private sector.
GM is asking for another $16.6 billion, while Chrysler wants an additional $5 billion. So far Ford has not asked for handouts from Washington.
And if Ford is wise, they'll keep federal dollars out of their budget. Alone out of the Big 3, Ford has been able to drive their own deal to keep afloat.
The United Auto Workers Union says its members working for Ford Motor Co. have approved contract changes that include freezing wages and cutting other benefits in a move to aimed at helping the automaker remain competitive.
While not out of the woods financially, Ford is making a good faith effort to right its listing ship on its own terms. Ford gives us a powerful example of industry's ability to dig itself out of its own mess; government "assistance" is neither mandatory nor inevitable -- a lesson we would all do well to heed.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Parcel of Parsley

Blynken and I went to Cox Farms on this rainy, overcast day to buy some parsley plants.

Fresh, earthy, tasty.

That's how we know Spring has arrived. More good things to come.

10 Reasons You Should Fear the Chinese

As an American, the Chinese scare me.

This was going to be a well-reasoned post with lots of supporting detail, but because of time limitations I'll opt instead for a top 10 list:
  1. They own most of our debt
  2. They are pushing for a new global currency (lose your money, lose your power)
  3. They are the largest manufacturing sector in the world
  4. They have the largest population in the world
  5. They already have nukes and they are in the process of strengthening their military
  6. They have a brutal, aggressive, and repressive regime that brooks no interference (Tiananmen Square, anyone?)
  7. They have an active and state sponsored computer hacking team
  8. They make most of the computer equipment
  9. They hate us and have published a 50 year plan to destroy us (economically first by using our own money)
  10. They hate religion and the Catholic Church
And THAT, among other things, is why Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is the wrong guy for this job.

What Your Imagination Shouldn't Do

Another nugget from the master of street corner theology. These little digestible chunks will help us on our way to sanity.
Thus the first test of any statement concerning spiritual reality is not can imagination form a mental picture of it, but does it stand up to the examination of the intellect, do the terms of it contradict each other, is it conceivable or inconceivable?

Imagination can say nothing about it either way. It cannot reject it. It cannot accept it either. It must leave it alone, and that is precisely one of the things that imagination hates to do. -- Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity

Clinton Double-Bungles Guadalupe Visit

CNA reports:

.- During her recent visit to Mexico, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an unexpected stop at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and left a bouquet of white flowers “on behalf of the American people,” after asking who painted the famous image.

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted by Mary on the tilma, or cloak, of St. Juan Diego in 1531. The image has numerous unexplainable phenomena, such as the appearance on Mary’s eyes of those present in the room when the tilma was opened and the image’s lack of decay.

This is just embarrassing; (leaving aside the whole juxtaposition of visiting the pregnant Virgin of Guadalupe with receiving the Margaret Sanger award for supporting abortion -- which is risible in its own right), Hillary Clinton is the U.S. Secretary of State. She's our top diplomat. She's supposed to know something about the countries and cultures she visits. The State Department Web site describes her duties thus:

The Secretary of State, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, is the President's chief foreign affairs adviser. The Secretary carries out the President's foreign policies through the State Department and the Foreign Service of the United States.
Prior to this gaffe we had the gifting of a red "Reset" button with Russia that actually read "Overcharged". It's only been three months, people!

It's one thing to roll your eyes at this administration's foreign policy blunders with the understanding that they're new to this (being the junior Senator from Illinois doesn't require extensive foreign travel or contacts), but being the former First Lady of the United States means that this ain't your first roller coaster ride. One could expect better.

Even then you could say, Oh come on -- she's not Catholic and can't be expected to know every little miracle reported in the Church, if it weren't for this little detail:

Clinton then told Msgr. Monroy that she had previously visited the old Basilica in 1979, when the new one was still under construction.

Friday, March 27, 2009

When Rubber Sole Is Right For You

No, I'm not talking about the Beatles album, Rubber Soul, I mean shoes.

As a white-collar working stiff, I'm required to dress professionally, which of course means the usual team player gear -- shirt, tie, slacks, occasional suit, and appropriate shoes. A lot of women have a whole closet full of them (the lovely Mrs. Nod is not among them), but most men only have a few pair: black, brown, or burgundy. So picking the right shoe the first time can be tricky.

In general, there are two types of men's dress shoe: the Bostonian and the Rockport. The Bostonian is a traditional formal style with leather soles, the Rockport is "dress shoe lite" -- looks like a dress shoe but has a black rubber sole. The advantage of the Rockport is simple -- they are way more comfortable.

Hey, I've had "bad feet" since childhood, but it didn't stop me from playing sports; they just hurt afterward. My brother recently abandoned a nearly new pair of Bostonians for reasons I can't remember; since they were in my size I took them. While traipsing around work, I managed to kick myself on the inner ankle with the hard heel of the Bostonians. Ow! Now I remember the other reason I wear rubber soled shoes!

How the heck did I manage to kick myself? Not really sure, to tell the truth. How close do most people's feet get when they are walking? Inquiring minds want to know -- ok they don't really, but let's just pretend. One source claims:
The normal foot-progression angle is +10 degrees, with a range from -3 to +20 degrees.
Me, I tend to walk with my feet fairly close together and on the outside edge, which is probably why I have terrible balance. My own observation is that the taller a person gets, the more angled out their feet seem to get. I've seen really tall people that walk practically duck-footed.

Looks funny, but at least they don't kick themselves. In the meantime, I'm reverting to my rubber soles.

Abortionist Tiller Slips The Noose

Late-term abortionist and cozy Sebelius crony, George Tiller, has slipped his way out of legal charges today, only to be charged with another set.

WICHITA | A jury today acquitted one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers of violating Kansas law requiring an independent second opinion for the procedure.

But moments after the verdict was announced, the state’s medical board made public a complaint against Wichita physician George Tiller on similar allegations.

Though he was acquitted, Tiller now faces a complaint before the State Board of Healing Arts, which could revoke, suspend or limit his medical license, or fine him.

The trial focused on a Kansas law requiring a second independant medical opinion for late-term abortions. Too bad it wasn't about the real issue -- crimes against humanity.

Notre Dame Scandal Claims First Victim

It looks as though the controversy over honoring President Obama at Notre Dame has claimed its first victim in the person of Senator Robert Casey Jr., D-PA. The Senator was scheduled to be the commencement speaker at St. Vincent College, a Catholic college in Latrobe, PA. Sen. Casey has since quietly canceled his engagement.

Neither Casey's office, nor the president of the college, H. James Towey, are providing any public reason for the cancellation. The college president is cited "as having “no reason” that Sen. Casey is unable to give the address" and that the "college has “no comment” on the situation". Senator Casey's office did not return calls for comment from Philadelphia based newspaper, The Bulletin.
“Given the strong comments from Bishop Martino and the high profile controversy over Notre Dame’s decision to honor President Obama, it is probably a blessing to St. Vincent College that Sen. Casey is not available to speak,” said Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society."
Casey, Jr. has been under intense scrutiny from Bishop Martino of Scranton, PA who published a letter formally warning Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) that his vote against the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy (prohibiting use of U.S. aid dollars to fund abortions abroad) and support for "family planning", i.e., artificial contraception, has placed him in danger of "persist[ing] formally in cooperating with evil [abortion]".

Bob Casey's father, former Senator Bob Casey, Sr. (D-PA) was a liberal Democrat on most issues except for abortion which he opposed. As a result of his vocal criticism of his own party on the issue Casey, Sr. was ostracized by his party during the presidential election of Bill Clinton. A few years later, Bob Casey, Sr. fell ill and died. His son, Bob Casey, Jr., later defeated incumbent pro-life Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) to assume his father's seat on a supposedly pro-life platform. To date, Casey, Jr.'s record on abortion has been mixed, prompting some to claim that his pro-life credentials consisted largely of his father's reputation.

This is one of those "open secrets" in the political life of Bob Casey, Jr. He appears to be too afraid of a public blood-letting to show his face at a Catholic college now that the Notre Dame controversy is in full swing. This probably saves the reputation of St. Vincent College as well, not having to undergo censure for the same public mistakes as the Fighting Irish.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Pope's Going To The Holy Land

The title says it all ... read about it at Zenit.

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI will visit the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem's Square of Mosques, the Grotto of the Nativity and Nazareth during his trip to the Holy Land this spring.

Today the Vatican press office published the Pope's itinerary for his 12th international trip, which will take place May 8-15.

Political realities aside, does anybody find it weird that the birthplace of Christianity is a place where the Pope can only visit for a short time? Sigh.

Clarion Call: Catholics Come Home

A few weeks ago I mused on my own belief in this Catholic Myth: the Church doesn't advertise.

The basic preconception I had was: if you're Catholic you go to a Catholic Church, no question -- that's just how it is. I was surprised then when Washington Apb. Wuerl hit the airwaves with the Maybe It's God campaign.

So now I was a little better prepared to read the CNS report of the Phoenix media blitz which recalled upwards of 92,000 Catholics to the pews.
An estimated 92,000 inactive Catholics in the Phoenix Diocese have come back to the church in the last year thanks in large part to a groundbreaking television advertising campaign called Catholics Come Home.

The promotional spots featured people and locations from around the Phoenix Diocese to promote the church during prime-time television. The cornerstone of the campaign, the Catholics Come Home Web site, addresses often misunderstood aspects of the faith.
This is obviously good news to have so many new and fallen away Catholics returning home where they can experience the sacraments and the love of the Church for them and their eternal welfare. It's always exciting when people encounter God directly -- I could tell stories -- or through the ordinary ministers of grace in the Church. Many, many people are simply waiting for an invitation, an apology, or an offer to reconcile themselves. There will always be those who reject everything and choose to live in their bitterness, as evidenced by such pejoratives as recovering Catholic, but in the final analysis methinks the lady doth protest too much.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about. The part that caught my eye was the use of the term "groundbreaking" to describe the Phoenix campaign. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines groundbreaking as: markedly innovative. Hey, that means that nobody has done this before, right? As in, this is new and different.

Ok, so a little double-jointed pat on the back for recognizing that this is out of the norm. The Church traditionally hasn't advertised using the media. This is new ground here people: I mean even the Pope has a YouTube channel these days!

But even this new media blitz for the Church isn't quite the same as marketing; it's evangelistic, teaching; it's care for souls, restoration and reconciliation -- not "come to our Church because we've got bingo and great music". The closest we get to the hard sell is usually the annual Bishop's Lenten Appeal.
"Wherever they've been, they can come back home. It's a message that resonates," Hanning said. "I never thought I'd have thousands of Catholics calling and e-mailing me and saying, 'I'm proud to be Catholic and I want to help others.'"

Examination Of Intellect

The first difficulty in the way of the intellect's functioning well is that it hates to function at all, at any rate beyond the point where functioning begins to require effort.

The result is that when any matter arises which is properly the job of the intellect, then either nothing gets done at all, or else the imagination leaps in and does it instead. -- Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Myths of Brazilian Abortion Case

I have specifically avoided any mention of the Brazilian abortion case involving a 9 year old and her incestuous father, partly because it's too horrible to even talk about and partly because the American media in particular has misrepresented the facts of the case with regularity, making the Catholic Church out to be a punitive, uncaring bureaucracy.

However, after reading Joshua Treviño's article over at First Things, I am astonished at his depth of knowledge, clarity, and charity regarding the matter; Treviño is an Orthodox Christian writing from Sacramento, California. Treviño draws from Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope Pius XII’s 1951 Allocution to Large Families, Scripture, and good old-fashioned journalistic integrity to make his case. I can do no better than to refer you to his article.

I recommend reading it in full.

This reporting generally advances three related ideas: that the Church imposed excommunications in retaliation for the abortions, that the Church imposes a lesser sanction upon a pedophiliac rapist than upon a well-meaning abortionist, and that the Church believes the little girl’s life is worth less than those of her unborn children. All three are false.


What, then, explains the failures of English-language, and specifically American, journalism in this awful affair? Partly it is a professional laziness, or more charitably, an inexactitude encouraged by understaffed newsrooms and deadline-driven reporting. Partly it is the foreignness of it all, with everyone directly involved speaking Brazilian Portuguese, and a consequent reliance upon translations and paraphrases transmitted from bureau to bureau.

Unfortunately, the foreignness doesn’t end there but also includes the stark unfamiliarity of faith and its demands. And so what we get is paraphrase that swiftly becomes inaccuracy, and inaccuracy that evolves into a series of fantastical lies: A self-imposed penalty becomes a mean-spirited rebuke; an Archbishop pleading for the life of the unborn becomes a malicious clerical martinet; and a depraved rapist of children becomes a Catholic in good standing. At the end of it all, the only truths in the media reports are those of two unborn children dead, one nine-year-old child horrendously violated, and the morass of anger and incomprehension resulting thereof.

[read more]

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Feast of the Annunciation: 25 March

March 25 is the Feast of the Annunciation.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jn 1:14

[All kneel.]

Sebelius Reaping Consequences

Ah, consequences. They eventually catch up with us, yes?

[Washington Times] Already admonished against receiving Communion because of stands she has taken on abortion as governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius now faces even closer scrutiny from the church since she was nominated to serve as secretary of health and human services earlier this month.

Earlier this month, Archbishop Raymond F. Burke - formerly the archbishop of St. Louis but now prefect for the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's highest court - declared that Mrs. Sebelius should not approach the altar for Communion in the United States.

"After pastoral admonition, she obstinately persists in serious sin," he told CatholicAction.org, a conservative Web site.

Archbishop Naumann, meanwhile, has been in contact with Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of the Washington Diocese to inform him of the Kansas City prelate's discussions with Mrs. Sebelius.

A spokesman for Archbishop Wuerl said church officials in Washington would act in accordance with the admonition from Kansas City.
All we're saying is that if you're not really with us, drop the pretense and the association.

Piling On

Fellow blogger, Thoughts of a Regular Guy by , recently commented on the "Politics of Personal Destruction" in which he writes: "Liberalism is a philosophy of hate. And they sure do hate Sarah Palin.

Having put together my own thoughts on the problems of the prevailing philosophy recently, I would add one word to his: "Modern Liberalism is a philosophy of hate."

Being curious, I wondered if any real attempt had been undertaken to support or disprove the view. Thus, this piece from Michelle Malkin in January 2008 entitled The statistical proof of liberal intolerance.

When I was on the book tour for Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild, critics predictably countered by playing the moral equivalence card. Show them how intolerant, racist, sexist, hateful, conspiratorial-minded, and violent the Left can be, and they sputter “B-b-b-b-b-ut the Right is just as bad.”

Spend anytime in the blogosphere and it’s clear that the two sides of the political galaxy are not created equal. One side burns effigies of American soldiers and craps on the American flag. The other does not. One side wraps itself in assassination chic. The other does not. One side indulges in vicious Sambo photoshops, rank religious bigotry, death wishes, gloating over the illnesses of public figures, and fill-in-the-blank derangement syndrome. The other does not.

Now comes fascinating statistical evidence that the Left is indeed more hateful than the Right. Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks writes in the WSJ today about annual surveys that shed light on just how unhinged liberals really are:

[read more]

Cease The Seizing Already

Don't most totalitarian governments begin with a power grab? Why does the prevailing philosophy believe that the current economic crisis can be solved if only they had more power?

[Washington Post]Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner today told Congress the administration will seek unprecedented power to seize non-bank financial companies whose collapse could jeopardize the economy, a move Geithner said would have allowed the government to bail out insurance giant American International Group at a far lower cost to taxpayers.

The government at present has the authority to seize only banks.

Allowing the Treasury Department to take over a broader range of companies, such as large insurers, investment firms and hedge funds, would mark a significant shift from the existing model of financial regulation, which relies on independent agencies that are shielded from the political process.
Every despot may start out with good intentions, but we know where that leads don't we? Our country succeeds as much as it does precisely because we have separation of powers. That separation extends not just to the three branches of the Federal government and the States, but also extends to the separation between the public and private sectors.

Using such flimsy justifications as "could jeopardize the economy" has frightening overtones; it is a scary pretext that can be extended to mean anything. Important as the economy is, doing "anything" to protect it is distinctly un-American.

We have collectively made made some poor choices financially, and we are reaping those consequences now -- some pretty harsh. But I'd rather take my lumps today and wake up to try again tomorrow, than have the government swoop in to "fix" things and wake up to a Brave New World of their making.

Morally Bankrupt Try To Bankrupt Church

The powers of this world have a new strategy: bankrupt the buzzards. Haters of all stripes with an axe to grind are trying to bankrupt the Church with an endless parade of lawsuits: property tax shenanigans in San Francisco, open window sex abuse suits in California and New York, church/state meddling in Connecticut, and so on.
[Newsday] Catholic dioceses across the United States have been hit with hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits stemming from child sex abuse cases in the past decade. Now, as lawmakers in Albany consider legislation that would create a one-year open window for victims to sue regardless of how long ago the alleged abuse occurred, church officials warn it could bankrupt the Catholic Church in New York.
It doesn't even matter if the suits have merit or not, the sheer numbers alone could create a situation where the cost of defending itself could bankrupt most dioceses.
[Newsday] Tamberg said one case dated to 1929, demonstrating what he called the unfairness in the process. "How do you defend a case that is a dozen years before Pearl Harbor? You can't," he said.
Financially, it may be an effective strategy. Spiritually, it can only serve to strengthen the Church -- blood of the martyrs and all. Even if the Church lost her property, lost her bank account, lost her public influence, power, and prestige -- even then she would go on. She has not and can not lose her mandate: Go and make disciples of all nations.

The Church has been underground in many places: 1st century Rome, China, Poland, and others -- but in the land of the (still) free and home of the brave she needs the Faithful to fight for her. The Church suffers, sometimes from her own sins, sometimes from the sins of others, but she endures. Mystically composed of sinful men joined to a sinless God, she goes on because she is Christ's own bride, and "on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it"(Matt 16:18).

Update: Read part 2 -- Catholics flock Home just by asking.

Catholic Carnival #217

Catholic Carnival #217 is live, featuring a round up of posts from the Catholic blogosphere. This week's Carnival is themed around the Feast of the Annunciation. Thanks to Evann over at Home School Goodies for hosting.

Our entry examines what the Pope, Archbishop Cardinal George Pell, and the USCCB are all saying from three different corners of the world: the relationship between Liberalism, Intolerance, and Despotism.


What is the Catholic Carnival?
Blog Carnivals have been around for several years now - almost as long as blogs. In simple terms, they are a collection of blog posts from various bloggers and often from different points of view on a specific topic.

Each week the Catholic Carnival includes a varying number of Catholic posts from throughout the blogosphere. Any Catholic blogger can submit a post and the only real rule is that it cannot contradict Catholic doctrine. So far that rule has been enough to keep it as a high-quality location to find interesting Catholic thought on a weekly basis. Each Tuesday the Carnival is posted at a specific blog. You can find out where it's at either at Living Catholocism's Catholic Carnival section or at the Catholic Carnival page of Blog Carnival (which lists many, many blog Carnivals).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pope's Third Enclyclical Likely "Caritas in Veritate"

Coming soon to an encyclical near you ...
VERONA, Italy, FEB. 1, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a statement written by Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and president of the Cardinal Van Thuân International Observatory, ahead of the publication of Benedict XVI's third encyclical, to be titled "Caritas in Veritate." The encyclical will likely be published in April.

The statement was published this week on the observatory's Web site.

* * *

What does it mean to say the social doctrine of the Church is timely?

We all await the heralded third encyclical of Benedict XVI, which will evoke the publication of "Populorum Progressio" by Paul VI 20 years ago, and will be entitled "Caritas in Veritate."

[Read more]

The Guys' Take On The News

The news is national or international -- but I live right here, and so do you. That is to say, we are real people, not just headlines.

I talked with "the guys" tonight about the news and they had personal perspectives on it.

Regarding the current flap over Notre Dame giving an honorary degree to President Obama and inviting him to speak at commencement, one guy is a huge Irish fan and his brother is an alum. He said he's not watching any more games, and his brother said the University isn't getting another dime from him until they rescind this invitation and honorary degree.

Another guy is a Navy engineer who said it is very possible the latest sub bump accident with a ship in the Strait of Hormuz could be a result of simply getting too close to each other and getting "sucked together". He said his group did some testing and modeling on it after the last accident. Physics, man.

Botnet Attacks DSL Modems and Routers

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that someone not out to get you. ;-)

[slashdot] "The people who bring you the DroneBL DNS Blacklist services, while investigating an ongoing DDoS incident, have discovered a botnet composed of exploited DSL modems and routers. OpenWRT/DD-WRT devices all appear to be vulnerable. What makes this worm impressive is the sophisticated nature of the bot, and the potential damage it can do not only to an unknowing end user, but to small businesses using non-commercial Internet connections, and to the unknowing public taking advantage of free Wi-Fi services. The botnet is believed to have infected 100,000 hosts." A followup to the article notes that the bot's IRC control channel now claims that it has been shut down, though the ongoing DDoS attack on DroneBL suggests otherwise.

This could be your Verizon or Comcast DSL modem (probably not); use a good strong (non-default) password and DON'T administer it from the Internet. Just saying.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Me And The Homebrews: Part 1

What better time could there be than Lent to begin your own homebrew project? Like good little monks we leaven our prayer and fasting with some practical work.
Monks had an additional reason to prefer beer in that it provided a degree of nutrition during the Lenten (and other) fasts. Because the Trappist order had abjured meat, they had perhaps a yet more pressing reason to find beer attractive, and the brewing of beer was carried on at abbeys, along with baking, cheese-making, and the growing of vegetables.
The first step in our homebrew project (after a little research) was acquiring the proper materials.
The good folks at Northern Brewer have starter kits for all budgets. Our includes:
  • (1) Five gallon carboy, (1) Six gallon carboy (glass)
  • 2 x Fermometer
  • Carboy dryer
  • Test jar
  • Five gallon keg system
  • Five pound CO2 cylinder
  • Funnel
  • Blowoff hose
  • (2) Fermentation lock and bung
  • Siphon tubing
  • AutoSiphon
  • Bottle filler
  • Bottle brush
  • Carboy brush
  • Beer thief
  • Thermometer
  • Hydrometer
  • 8 oz One-Step Sanitizer
  • Complete instructions
We also purchased an 8 gallon brew kettle and wort chiller:
Our tastes tend toward the rarefied, so we immediately chose the Belgian Dubbel (also from Northern Brewer) as our first foray into home beer brewing. Ambitious, yes; it remains to be seen if our efforts will pay off.

Belgian Dubbel Extract Kit

O.G: 1065 / Ready: 2 months

This is an authentic Abbey style ale like those that arose long ago in Trappist monasteries throughout Belgium. Dark brown in color, high in gravity and alcohol, this kit exhibits medicinal, plum, and raisin flavors when fermented at warm temperatures.

Kit Inventory

Specialty Grains

  • 0.25 lbs. Dingemans Caramunich
  • 0.25 lbs. Dingemans Special B


  • 6.3 lbs. Gold Malt Syrup
  • 1 lbs. Golden Light Dry Malt Extract
  • 1 lbs. Dark Belgian Candi Sugar

Boil Additions

  • 1 oz. Spalt (60 min)
  • 1 oz. Saaz (1 min)

If you choose dry yeast

  • Not recommended.

If you choose liquid yeast

  • Wyeast #1214 Belgian Ale Yeast. Optimum temperature: 68-78° F.

All kits also contain a muslin mesh bag for steeping the grains (if required).

Just Bunk

Well, it took 5 years but I finally gave in -- to bunkbeds that is. You'd think with 5 nodlings and only 3 kids bedrooms that would have been a no-brainer. But I had my reasons -- still do, after a fashion.

The first objection was that a bunkbed would take up too much space. What? You backwards fellow! Bunkbeds save space, that's why you get them. Ah, but I was talking vertical space -- our house only has 7 and a half foot ceilings; some genius thought that they could save money when they designed our model by only making the ceilings 7.5 instead of the standard 8 feet.

Maybe they thought it would make the house cozy; the only thing it made it was impossible to buy standard drapes and closet doors. So we had to search far and wide for a low enough bunk bed that wouldn't result in daily concussions. Objection 1: solved.

Next I objected that the first thing kids do with a bunk bed is jump off of it. Turns out I was wrong: the first thing they do is climb up to the top of it -- all of them. I put it together myself, and the manufacturer says it is rated to 250 lbs., but did that mean resting weight or jumping-up-and-down weight? We don't own a scale, so I'm frantically estimating each nodling's weight as they scramble up and down.

The third objection was that the toddlers would climb up the ladder when our back was turned and fall off and hurt themselves. The Big Kids were off at Scouting activities this afternoon while I was home with the Littles (the toddlers). They immediately proved me right as they took one look at this new island of furniture and thought: must climb. They didn't actually get hurt since I was right there watching and removed them, but it's just a function of time -- kids are so lightning fast when you don't want them to do something.

My only solace is that I've fallen off the bunk when I was a kid and nothing got broken. I even had the top bunk fall down on me and escaped unharmed. Sigh. I keep telling myself that everything is going to be ok, that kids won't act just like kids, and that the girls will keep their door closed at all times to keep the Littles out -- but my mind keeps telling me that's just bunk.

U2: No Line On The Horizon

U2 has a new album out and you know what that means: incredible sound with a wealth of keening lyrics that we have no idea about.

Their latest effort, No Line On The Horizon, has a thoughtful, self-searching sound undergirded by the Edge's riffing guitars which borders on the melancholy. In other words, it's vintage U2.

Bono's lyrics are that odd blend of politics, religion, and world weariness that allow it to be both relevant and transcendant at the same time. The band has managed to keep themselves relevant for the better part of three decades, experimenting musically while keeping true to their rock roots.

The abstract lyrics are the perfect enigma: is Bono the faithful Christian soul who is struggling to reconcile his faith with the mystery of evil in the world, or is he the post-modern man who is lost among the cares of the world but can't escape the touchstone of his religious upbringing? Personally, I have always posited that U2's music represents Bono's public fight with God.

In No Line On The Horizon, Bono returns to themes he has explored again and again: the search for love and meaning, the mystery of evil, birth and re-birth, and social justice. The songs are peppered throughout with religious phrases and imagery. The track Magnificent proclaims
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise... /
Only love, only love can leave such a mark /
But only love, only love can heal such a scar /
Justified till we die, you and I will magnify /
The Magnificent
Is it true the perfect love drives out all fear? he asks on I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight. Yet we're never quite sure what it is that Bono so desperately seeks. In Moment of Surrender he writes he is "begging to get back / To my heart / To the rhythm of my soul / To the rhythm of my unconsciousness / To the rhythm that yearns / To be released from control".

Yet it is exactly this tension between the worldliness and Godliness that makes his lyrics so attractive. The raw emotive power of the music draws the listener in, while the words are ambiguous enough to allow them to be reinterpreted in any number of ways. In Biblical study this is called isogesis -- reading meaning into a text -- rather than reading meaning out of a text, or exegesis.

So is there an open question on whether U2's music is Christian in its essence? This topic has been hotly debated by devotees on all sides. WorldMag.com writes about an interview with Bono in 2005:
Is Bono, the lead singer and songwriter for the rock group U2, a Christian? He says he is and writes about Christianity in his lyrics. Yet many people question whether Bono is "really" a Christian, due to his notoriously bad language, liberal politics, and rock star antics (though he has been faithfully married for 23 years). But in a new book of interviews, Bono in Conversation by Michka Assayas, Bono, though using some salty language, makes an explicit confession of faith.

"And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that. . . . Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff."

"That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge," says Bono. "It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity."
The album booklet ends with an invitation to a laundry list of U2's favorite causes: Amnesty International; Burma Freedom Campaign; Greenpeace; the One AIDS Campaign; and the Irish NGO, Concern.

Love or hate the politics, the music still rocks.

Sub Bump II - The Sequel

The AP reports that the U.S. nuclear submarine, USS Hartford, and the amphibious ship, USS New Orleans, collided with each other before dawn Friday in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's busiest oil shipping lanes. (h/t Subvet at Blowing San #1

The New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank, resulting in an oil spill of approximately 25,000 gallons (95,000 liters) of diesel fuel, Christensen said. There was no damage to the sub's nuclear propulsion system.

Still, the unusual collision between members of the same navy sparked a sudden rise in oil prices -- which had been declining on the day -- even though the strait remained open.

Wow. This is totally embarassing for the world's most powerful nation to be involved in a traffic accident of its own making. Also unhelpful is that these actions directly contributed to jacking up oil prices unnecessarily -- with us in a recession and all.

This incident is just one of the latest in a series of high-powered accidents in the world least hospitable places: Russian satellites, French and English nuclear submarines, green asteroids.
It seems the world's least hospitable places are getting increasingly crowded. Come on, guys -- two hands on the wheel.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Originally a children's poem called Dutch Lullaby, the story of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod written in 1889 by Chicago writer Eugene Field is a favorite with children and adults alike.

Its lyric verses tell a fanciful tale of three fishermen who sail the skies in a little wooden shoe among the stars. Like all good children's bedtime stories, the adventures come to a close with the heroes safely tucked in bed and on the verge of peaceful slumber.

Due to its enduring popularity, in 1938 Walt Disney made a short 8 minute cartoon featuring pajama wearing children as the heroes of the poem and set to music as one of its Silly Symphonies.

Sculptor Mabel Landrum Torrey made a marble statue of the three fishermen of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod that sits in Denver's Washington Park.

Here is the text of Eugene Field's classic, Wynken, Blynken, and Nod:

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea---
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish---
Never afeard are we";
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam---
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
'T was all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought 't was a dream they 'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea---
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one's trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Nod of Approval

Everybody needs encouragement from time to time. This one's my version of the Attaboy.

If I see something that I like or that deserves recognition, I may just give it the Nod of Approval.  Woot!

Can you tell I'm having fun with my drawing apps?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Selective Hearing

Much ado is being made in the Press of Pope Benedict XVI's comments on the crisis of AIDS in Africa, where he is currently visiting.

Pope Benedict XVI emphasized "how the best response to AIDS is to promote a spiritual and human renewal of people’s understanding of sexuality and to be willing to live true sacrificial friendships with those who suffer from AIDS."

A transcript of the conversation between the Pope and reporters follows:

Benedict XVI: “I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanization of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness - even through personal sacrifice - to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.

“Therefore, I would say that our double effort is to renew the human person internally, to give spiritual and human strength to a way of behaving that is just towards our own body and the other person’s body; and this capacity of suffering with those who suffer, to remain present in trying situations.

“I believe that this is the first response [to AIDS] and that this is what the Church does, and thus, she offers a great and important contribution. And we are grateful to those that do this.”

Reporters: "I'm sorry, did you say 'condom'?"

Kid-Sized Eschatology

Eschatology, the study of Last Things, is hard enough to understand; it's a little harder when you get it from a five-year old.

I walk the kids to the bus stop each morning. I use that time to talk to them about things from the mundane to the sublime.

Today Nod-girl turns to me (apropos of nothing) and asks: "On the Last Day will all the people come back?"

I assured her that on the Last Day there would be the resurrection of the dead and then the Judgement and all the people would "come back".

Blynken pipes up, "Just the good people, right?"

"No," I explain, "of both the good and the bad. You see, the soul is immortal and cannot be killed." I went on to explain how the body and soul are one thing that goes together, that death is a temporary separation, and you get your body back on the Last Day at the Judgement. With the sheep on His right ...

"Right", interrupts Nod-girl, "and then we'll hear boats".

Three Is A Magic Number

Schoolhouse Rock ... well, rocks. Originally conceived to teach school kids math, civics, and grammar it unconsciously picked up on the prevailing morality of the day.

Take Three Is A Magic Number and look at some of the lyrics: they're so Catholic.

Three is a magic number,
Yes it is, it's a magic number.
Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number.

The past and the present and the future.
Faith and Hope and Charity,
The heart and the brain and the body
Give you three as a magic number.

A man and a woman had a little baby,
Yes, they did.
They had three in the family,
And that's a magic number.

St. Joseph's Day - March 19

It's party time! Today is the Solemnity of the feast of St. Joseph. Do you know what that means boys and girls? No fast and abstinence -- it's an oasis in the desert of Lent. So, have a cookie!
(h/t Fisheaters for the picture!)

St. Joseph's Day -- Because March 19 always falls during Lent, St. Joseph's Day feasts often have no meat, even though—because the feast day is classed as a solemnityabstinence from meat is not required according to Canon law, even if it falls on a Friday. If the feast day falls on a Sunday (other than Palm Sunday), it is observed on the next later available date instead: this is the following day, Monday, March 20.

From 2008 onwards, if St Joseph's Day falls during Holy Week, it is moved to the next earlier available date, usually the Saturday before Holy Week. This change was announced by the Congregation for Divine Worship in Notitiae March-April, 2006 (475-476, page 96). The idea was to avoid the "traffic jam" that would occur under the old rules if both St Joseph's Day and the Annunciation had to be moved to the first available date after Easter Week.

Songs of Childhood

Nod-girl loves her parents.

I know this, because she is at that age where she makes up random songs and sings them to us. It's the original scat.
Oh, I love my parents /
I love to hug and kiss them /
Because they're so good to me /
And I'm their child
I find it rather endearing because I'll look back on this time and miss it. She's so open, so unsophisticated. She's just enjoying being a child who is loved and loves her parents.

It's like a breath of fresh air. Ahhh!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Liberalism, Intolerance, and Despotism

Some days I have the attention span of a gnat, just like the majority of the American political landscape; other times I can dredge up stuff from my personal "wayback" machine with astounding clarity. In this case we're only talking about four months.

Three is a magic number which tends to trip my internal filter mechanism and I say: I've seen this before. The latest instance of this happened when I noticed voices in the Church speaking on the same theme from three different corners of the world: the relationship between liberalism, intolerance, and despotism.

The first instance happened when Pope Benedict XVI was commenting in a letter sent to Italian philosopher and senator Marcello Pera on his latest book Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians: Liberalism, Europe, and Ethics.
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2008 (Zenit.org).- At the heart of liberalism is the Christian image of God, and rediscovering that is the key to overcoming the current crisis of ethics in Europe and the world, says Benedict XVI.

"With irreproachable logic, you show how liberalism loses its base and destroys itself if it abandons this foundation," he added.

"This has generated what is known as the phenomenon of anti-clericalism, and anti-clericalism has generated another: what in the book I call 'secular equation,' namely, 'liberal equals non-Christian.', [Pera said.]"

The second instance came from the Australian Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell in an address at a conference in Oxford on "Varieties of Intolerance: Religious and Secular."
LONDON, MARCH 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Modern liberalism has strong totalitarian tendencies, according to the archbishop of Sydney.

"Some secularists seem to like one way streets," he added. "Their intolerance of Christianity seeks to drive it not only from the public square, but even from the provision of education, health care and welfare services to the wider community. Tolerance has come to mean different things for different groups."

The cardinal noted how particularly in the United States, members of Church organizations are facing more and more legal obstacles when it comes to following their consciences.
Following close on the heels of that, "USCCB President Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, warns that President Obama is moving towards despotism in removing conscience protections from medical providers who choose not to provide abortion services" (H/T: Thoughts of a Regular Guy by :
On Friday afternoon, February 27, the Obama Administration placed on a federal website the news that it intends to remove a conscience protection rule for the Department of Health and Human Services. That rule is one part of the range of legal protections for health care workers—for doctors, nurses and others—who have objections in conscience to being involved in abortion and other killing procedures that are against how they live their faith in God.

As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we are deeply concerned that such an action on the government’s part would be the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism.
Anybody noticing a trend here?

It may have been obvious from the start or not, but societies tend to follow broad movements; once started, thoughts and attitudes roll on under their own momentum (or constant agitation from a vocal minority) until something radical shifts its course.

Intellectual, political, and religious beliefs have practical consequences in real life. That is why totalitarian regimes shoot the dissidents even for their own private thoughts. Thoughts lead to action.

The fight to legitimize gay "marriage" is not simply a case of civil rights or "live and let live" -- it is about reshaping the entire culture; it would require sweeping changes in law, finance, education, politics, and even impinge on freedom of religion.

The rescission of conscience clauses in public law is a transparent attempt not only to silence the practice of religion in the public sphere but also to compel doctors and health care workers to be complicit in the crime: It is not enough for you to let us kill -- you must pull the trigger, wield the knife.

So it's a fight and make no mistake. And yet to return to the words of our Holy Father: At the heart of liberalism is the Christian image of God, and rediscovering that is the key to overcoming the current crisis.

By ourselves, we are nothing -- but we are not alone. Christ crucified was as alone and abandoned as a man can be: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? (Mark 15:33-34,37-39 RSV) Now Christ is resurrected, and we will never need be alone again. So although it may seem that now "there was darkness over the whole land", yet we will persevere.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor 1:22-25)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lá Fhéile Pádraig (St. Patrick's Day)

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Dear old Pádraig is Ireland's most famous import, being originally from the Brittish Isle.

The Irish themselves are their most famous export, largely due to the great potato famine.

What they exported along with the people were scores of Irish priests and religious. I don't know of a diocese in the U.S. that doesn't have an Irish priest -- sometimes directly from the Emerald Isle. The Irish have traditionally had great evangelistic fervor; I myself was taught by Irish nuns (technically "sisters", nuns are cloistered). Our lives would be poorer without them.

I love this statue of St. Patrick. It is labeled: Statue of St. Patrick at Hill of Tara, Ireland. Since "tara" means "hill", this is a little like saying La Brea Tar Pits since "La Brea" means "the tar pits".

My boss wore orange today instead of green, and for a minute I thought we had a Catholic / Protestant fight on our hands -- turns out she just forgot. Whew. Hoist a pint to celebrate!

Catholic Carnival #216

Dia daoibh! A Catholic Mom Climbing The Pillars is hosting this week's Catholic Carnival -- a round up of Catholic posts from the blogosphere. She does a wonderful job with her Irish theme on this feast of St. Patrick weaving in pictures, prayers, and poetry -- as well as a bit o' the Irish.

Our lastest post has left her shaking her head -- but nodding just a little. We had the same experience when writing it.


What is the Catholic Carnival?
Blog Carnivals have been around for several years now - almost as long as blogs. In simple terms, they are a collection of blog posts from various bloggers and often from different points of view on a specific topic.

Each week the Catholic Carnival includes a varying number of Catholic posts from throughout the blogosphere. Any Catholic blogger can submit a post and the only real rule is that it cannot contradict Catholic doctrine. So far that rule has been enough to keep it as a high-quality location to find interesting Catholic thought on a weekly basis. Each Tuesday the Carnival is posted at a specific blog. You can find out where it's at either at Living Catholocism's Catholic Carnival section or at the Catholic Carnival page of Blog Carnival (which lists many, many blog Carnivals).

New Priestly Year

On the Vatican YouTube channel, the Pope announced a new Priestly Year 2009-2010.

It is the priests duty to move towards moral perfection. Benedict XVI affirmed this in his address to the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Clergy.The Pope announced a special Priestly Year from June 19th, 2009 to June 19th, 2010 in honour of the 150th anniversary of the death of the Curé dArs, who was an example of service to the people of God.

Benedict XVI noted that priests must be present, identifiable and recognizable through their judgment of faith, personal virtue, as well as their clerical attire, in the manner of culture and charity that have always been at the centre of the Church's mission.

Furthermore, the promotion of the laity's role in many new ecclesial situations must not take place to the detriment of the priest's central role within the local ecclesial community.
Cool. The Chinese calendar is named after animals, while the Catholic calendar is named after saints and heroes. I'll stick with the saints, thanks.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Sticky Dickey-Wicker

CNS reports:
On Wednesday, only two days after he lifted President Bush’s executive order banning federal funding of stem cell research that requires the destruction of human embryos, President Barack Obama signed a law that explicitly bans federal funding of any "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death."

The provision was buried in the 465-page omnibus appropriations bill that Obama signed Wednesday. Known as the Dickey-Wicker amendment, it has been included in the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services every fiscal year since 1996.
How ironic. This is definitely a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing. In this case, it's hard to feel bad about it -- although I'm sure the President is a little embarrassed if anybody other than CNS and Fox News has reported on it. Now unless they rush to reverse themselves, it will be in effect until the end of the fiscal year, September 30.

It's little flubs like this that just make my point for me: omnibus bills are bad. It's bad governance. An Omnibus bill can be defined as a legislative bill which provides for a number of miscellaneous enactments or appropriations. In plain terms, this means "a kitchen sink bill". This is how legislative pork gets passed -- buried in attachments, riders, and amendments to a larger spending bill that "must" get passed.

Ominbus bills are collections of economic flotsam -- stuff that almost nobody wants and can't get passed on its own merits. My Senator, Jim Webb (D-VA), had the nerve to write this to me:
I was pleased to work with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to put this plan into place within a set of targeted parameters for economic renewal.
His cohort, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), fed me the same shovel-ready load of rubbish.
Moving forward, I will continue to work for Virginians to ensure that the funds in the stimulus package are directly targeted to job creation and "shovel ready" initiatives.
Really? This porkulus is "targeted"? Maybe it's targeted in the same way that a Gatling gun is targeted: if we just spray bullets (or money) in a wide enough swath, we just might hit something.

Phooey. Omnibus anathema sit.

Pierogi Birthday To You

Happy Birthday to Polska-Polska, where children are all made out of potatoes and milk!

Beer Madness 2009 Is On

Beer Madness 2009 is on and already at the semi-final stage.  The contest has been sponsored by The Washington Post since 2007 and always draws a lively crowd.

The 2007 winner was a lager (Brooklyn Lager), and the 2008 winner was an ale, Backdraft Brown (although they classified it as a "dark beer") -- two very different beers.

Already Raven Lager has a strong showing as well as Brooklyn Brown Ale. I would love to see Ommegang Hennepin (Ale) win, but specialty beers don't win overall contests -- session beers do. That's why I'm afraid that Budweiser's American Ale has also made it to the semifinals.  I've tried the American Ale -- and it's OK, nothing special.

Also in contention is Troegs Hopback Ale, Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout (Ale), Left Hand Juju Ginger (Ale), and Tommyknocker Ornery Amber (Lager).

So the match up is 3-1 ales against lagers. Lagers are good for thirst quenching, ales are good for flavorful drinking. A lot depends upon the judges' palettes.  Me, I'm an Ale Guy. I went to the interactive brackets shown above and it seems that my tastes are in line with the majority of the respondents (which has no bearing on the actual contest).  

So far I picked the "winner" every time. Ha! Victory in the it-doesn't matter category!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


We were talking about the rarified and highly contentious world of academia and publishing; the footnotes of many books reveal constant sniping of adherents of one school of thought against another in some niche subject.  

These professors can be petty and backbiting about some esoteric point that the rest of us have no idea what they are talking about. That's when I was informed about the conventional wisdom on the subject:
"The fights are so bitter, because the stakes are so small."

Pound For Pound

Nothing says lovin' like ... a dozen pounds of fresh ribeye steak.

We just had a big birthday dinner with the whole family (and permanent honorary family members) and the steak and scallops were piping hot, the wine was flowing, and the banana cream pie and chocolate cake were as decadent as only they can be. (Hey, Sunday isn't part of the Lenten fast, don't you know?)

We went to Costco to get the goods for the party this weekend and the place was packed! While I was standing in the overflow crowd waiting for them to open a new checkout line, one guy looks at me and says:
"Where did all these people come from? Don't they know there's a recession on?"
I have heard anecdotal evidence that warehouse stores were experiencing a surge in patronage, perhaps because people are trying to stock up on non-perishable staples like rice and beans , or perhaps due to the overall bulk cost savings.  Me, I'm in it for the comfort food.

It's not what you'd call a scientific survey, but local experience seems to support the theory.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Dresses Are Coming

Blynken's First Communion is fast approaching, which of course means: dresses.

My counters are awash in catalogs of white dresses, dresses with lace, dresses with bows and beads, satin gloves, veils, and tiaras.

Myself, I can't get excited about about spending a lot of money buying a one-time outfit, (seriously, you men, do you have an outfit that you bought to only wear once?) but the girls in the house are all a-flutter.

Then again, I shore do like it when them girls dress up purty. Maybe I'll just wait and be surprised.


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