Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!


(Yes, I'm shamelessly stealing this from Julie! Deal!)

Have a blessed, merry Christmas.

May you all experience the fullness of joy and consolation that our Lord has to give!

God bless you!

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Sacred Meme-ing, part deux

Leave it to Julie D. to meme me close to Christmas Eve. And leave me to answer so late!

Here it goes:
1. Favorite devotion or prayer to Jesus?
Lectio Devina

2. Favorite Marian devotion or prayer?
Hail Mary.

3. Do you wear a scapular or medal?
No.

4. Do you have holy water in your home?
No.

5. Do you 'offer up' your sufferings?
When I'm done griping about them...sometimes!

6. Do you observe First Fridays and First Saturdays?
No.

7. Do you go to Eucharistic Adoration?
A few times a year.

8. Are you a Saturday evening Mass person or Sunday morning Mass person?
10:00 or 11:30AM Sunday is prime-time!

9. Do you say prayers at mealtime?
What she says: "Yep. 'Bless us O Lord and these Thy gifts...'"

10. Favorite Saint(s)?
St. Francis, St. Patrick, Saint Don Bosco, St. Theresa of Avila, to name a few in no particular order.

11. Can you recite the Apostles Creed by heart?
Oh, yeah! That Catholic School education wasn't for nothing, doncha know!

12. Do you usually say short prayers (aspirations) during the course of the day?
Serenity Prayer, Jesus prayer, the word "Love.".

13. Bonus Question: When you pass by a automobile accident or other serious mishap, do you say a quick prayer for the folks involved?
Always, a sign of the cross. If I can help out in any way, I do. If not, a sign of the cross and a quick prayer.
Now who are my next victims? Hmmm....

Carmel, the SheepCat, Ron Rolling, and Barb!

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Waning Advent

Last night of waiting:
Christmas Eve stands at the door,
Light in the darkness!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Extreme Exhaustion

Gasp for air,
arms cry out
from a walk with
my fine young fool
in my arms.

Crimped shoulders,
eyes sag from
a long day begun
far too early
to often

Mind a blank,
neary a thought
worth the words
to encase them
incommunicado

Huddle up
rest my weary head
Seek the sleep
I've longed for since morning
So rise refreshed again.

Until then,
Expect me when
you see me!

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mary, our Exemplar?

Some days, it's better just to let the gifted Teachers in our midst speak.

Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D. explains Marian devotion so much better than I ever could:
Is Marian devotion important in Christian life? This has been a bone of contention between Catholics and Protestants for nearly 500 years.

Let’s look at the evidence in just the first chapter of Luke.


First, the Angel Gabriel honors her with the greeting “Hail, full of grace” (Lk 1:29). Then Elizabeth prophesies “blessed are you among women.” Next the prophet John leaps for joy in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. Then, in her response to Elizabeth, Mary prophesies “all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48).


But it is Elizabeth’s final words to Mary that hold the key to understanding why she is she is to honored, namely, her faith.


One of the battle-cries of the Protestant Reformation was “Faith Alone!” One key conviction that united the many disparate strands of the Reformation was that it is impossible to earn God’s favor by our good works, but rather we receive his love as a pure gift, a grace, through faith.


Now consider Mary. Did she criss-cross the Mediterranean planting Churches like Paul? Did she give eloquent sermons like Stephen (Acts 7). Did she govern the Church like Peter? No. Her claim to fame is that she simply said yes to God. She believed He could do as he said and would do as He said.


But true faith is not just intellectual conviction that God exists or that He can do thus and such. Faith involves entrusting oneself, abandoning oneself to God, willing to submit to his will. That’s why Paul talks about “the obedience of faith” (Ro 16:26). She surrendered her plan for her life, and yielded to God’s plan. And she did this not once, but again and again, even when he left her to begin his public ministry. And when that ministry led to the horror of Calvary, her faith stood its ground at the foot of the cross.


So Catholics honor Mary for being the perfect example of the greatest Protestant virtue. Ironic isn’t it?
True. He also points out that any Christian who honors Mary honors Christ. Mary's life testifies to the glory of God. We can never honor her alone, even when we adore her. She testifies herself that "The Lord has done great things for me." Our praise of her is praise through her to him!

We often wonder what we need to do, be or accomplish. Mary reminds all of us that we need to do our Father's will. We serve God when we say "yes" to his plan for our lives, even when that means saying "no" to our own agenda.

That's never easy. That's why it's often a cross for us to bear.

We won't regret doing it, however. Far from it. When we say yes to God, we become blessed. We receive the true beatitude of a life of Faith in him. That life bears us up into union with him for eternity. We could not ask for any greater blessing.

Mary's life affirmed God's will for her. Let's follow her example and become the disciples our Savior has called us to be!

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Special Olympians

Only the concrete-hearted could attend and not feel touched.

The Special Olympics have that effect on everyone: athletes, coaches, referees, spectators.

The heart demonstrated by the performers, the unity of spirit among everyone, the devotion of staff and families to the olympians: it's all there.

Fr. De Souza describes this special movement for Catholic Education Resource Center:
The national Special Olympics are underway in Brandon, Manitoba and it’s a safe bet that the athletes’ village at Brandon U. might just be the happiest place in Canada this week. The joy of the Special Olympics is infectious; everyone who volunteers knows that it is a privilege to be part of such a great celebration of exuberant life.

The Special Olympics have never been bigger, expanding all over the world. But the future of the “special” children it was founded to serve may not be so bright.

Ten days ago, President George W. Bush held a gala dinner at the White House to honour the founder of the Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, on her 85th birthday. In 1953, Eunice married Sargent Shriver, future founder of the Peace Corps and Democratic candidate for Vice President. Eunice and Sargent actually lived out the image carefully crafted for her more famous brothers — the happy clan devoted to faith, family and honourable public service.

Mrs. Shriver will forever be the sister of JFK, RFK and Teddy, and latterly the mother-in-law of Arnold, gubernator of California, but it was her older sister who most influenced the course of her life. Suffering from mild mental disability or mental illness, a 23-year-old Rosemary underwent a lobotomy that reduced her to an institutionalized state for her entire life (she died last year at age 86). Mrs. Shriver, horrified at the condition in which the mentally disabled lived, founded the Special Olympics to give such children what all children want — the opportunity to play, to strive, to compete and to be recognized. The first Special Olympics in 1968 took place in an empty Soldier Field in Chicago; today it has captured the hearts of millions worldwide.

I'm one of those captured hearts, as you can tell.

My younger brother has participated in the Special Olympics many times. His volleyball teams won the state Special Olympics one year. His track team won the County title. Every time I've gone, I've experienced the gospel in action. Everyone tends their neighbors. Everyone looks out for the athletes. Not every athlete wins, but every person that participates wins.

Our society risks embracing the creeping utilitarianism that Machiavellies everyone and everything. Down Syndrome babies survive their gestation less and less. People with disabilities again become seen as obstacles to other people's enjoyment of life. The perverse rationalization that they're "better off dead" may serve the chestless ones with rubber consciences.

But never anyone that's truly encountered the Special Olympians.

When we face Christ the Judge at the Parousia or our particular judgement, he may well ask us how we treated the "handicapped" in our midst. How will we answer?

I don't know much, but I know this: if you've served the special olympians, you've served him.

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Spine-flexing Shepherds Sighted!

People of goodwill throughout the world rightly shun Holecaust deniers. Their poisonous attacks on the truth of the Shoah eviscerate us all. This fact has not stopped the Mullahcracy in Iran from antagonizing the world; their ludicrous conference on the Holecaust has highlighted these nefarious peddlers of delusion.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will have none of it. Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore and Episcopal moderator for Catholic-Jewish relations, issued this statement after the Mullahs ran their sick sideshow:
We Must Remember the Shoah

On December 11-12 a conference, "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision," took place in Iran. The conference was sponsored by the government of Iran whose President, Mahmoud Ahamadinejad, had previously denied that the Shoah (Holocaust) had ever happened. Speakers at the conference sought to diminish the scope of the Holocaust, the heinous crime against humanity by the Nazis who attempted to exterminate the Jewish people brought about the deaths of millions of other innocent people.

On December 12, the Holy See issued a statement that echoed the words of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI: "The past century witnessed the attempt to exterminate the Jewish people with the consequent killing of millions of Jews of all ages and social categories simply for the fact that they belonged to that people. The Shoah (the Holocaust) was an enormous tragedy, before which one cannot remain indifferent . . . The memory of those terrible facts must remain a warning for consciences with the aim of eliminating conflicts, respecting the legitimate rights of all peoples and calling for peace in truth and justice.”

The Catholic bishops of the United States stand in solidarity with the Universal Church in condemning “revisionist history” that seeks to minimize the horror of the Holocaust. Here in the United States, we have a wide range of resources to use in fostering Holocaust education not only in Catholic schools but in private and public schools as well. In our own resource for such programs, Catholic Teaching on the Shoah (2001), the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs stated two major reasons why grappling with the history and significance of the Shoah should be part of the central curriculum of Catholic education. First, the Holocaust was not a random act of mass murder but “a war against the Jews as the People of God, the First Witness to God’s Revelation and the eternal bearers of that witness through all the centuries.” Second, future generations need to be ever vigilant so that “the spoiled seeds of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism (will) never again be allowed to take root in the human heart” (see We Remember, 5).

Let us take this occasion to renew our commitment both to remember the great irruption of evil into human history that was the Shoah and to use that memory to fight the evils that led to it.
The Nazis committed genocide against Jews. They deliberately targeted the Jewish people for extermination because of who they were. Their attempt at mass-murder was an attempted Deicide as much as it was a genocide. Hitler's Third Reich had no room for any power greater than Der Fuhrer. The Jewish people, as the "First Witness to God's Revelation," were a living contradiction to the Nazi ideal.

Islamofascists such as the Mullahcracy in Tehran want the world to forget that inconvenient fact. The reigning Thug denies the Shoah to delegitimize Israel as a nation. By doing so, he only denies himself and his people the respect of the just throughout the world.

Fools and Reasonable folk alike may stand shoulder to shoulder to condemn any that would distort the truth of the twentieth century's greatest horror. I'm honored that Cardinal Keeler, in speaking for the US Bishops, has joined us in making that stand.

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Night Noises

Rumble of a train,
low groan of distant engines,
freeway beyond tracks

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

On Time Magazine's Lame Tribute

Ok. Ok. Ok! I give up!

I tried to duck the trend. I tried to stay away from the blog-storm everyone's racing toward.

But I can't. The story just demands more, more, more!

I mean, just look at it!

For those that missed it, Julie D. has the cover:


First, Michelle Malkin exorciated it over at Hot Air.

Next, Jeremy Lott slow roasts it over an open flame in today's Opinion Journal:
there is something uniquely demented about this year's choice. It claims to celebrate You, the reader, the YouTuber, the amateur, the activist. Editor Stengel goes so far as to compare You to Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine. So then what does Time choose to highlight as examples of greatness in action?

Leila is a 20-year-old single Muslim woman who lives in Maryland and posts diary videos on YouTube: "She says um and ah a lot. She has been known to drink and blog. Sometimes she doesn't speak at all, just runs words across the screen while melancholy singer-songwriter stuff plays in the background."

Megan Gill is a 22-year-old senior at the University of Portland who just broke up with her boyfriend and changed her status from "dating" to "single" on her Facebook page. She has 708 registered "friends" who check back for regular updates on her site, such as "Megan is so over first semester," "Megan is bummed about the election results," "Megan is tired of letting people down."

Warren Murray and Leanne White are copyeditors at the Guardian who produce their own video podcast, "Crash Test Kitchen." It differs from most cooking shows in that they often screw up the recipes and fight on the air.

Kamini is a black French rapper who grew up in a tiny town in the countryside. He may one day be able to quit his job as part-time nurse with great rhymes like, "I wanted to revolt, except that there, there's nothing to burn./ There's just one bus for the high school, same for the community center,/ Not worth going and burning a neighbor's car,/ Cuz they don't have them, they've all got mopeds." (People who watched the music video on the French version of YouTube were wild about it. Honest.)


So, I've caved. I'm covering it. There.

Michelle Malkin has already profiled how Time managed to miss conservative bloggers. Particularly conservative bloggers that trumped MSM at their own game. Mr. Lott exposes the scathing derision that Time's editors apparently feel toward their person of the year.

So what' s my take?

I'm ready to pee over the keyboard, I'm laughing so hard! Time still doesn't get it. The Internet has allowed we the people to aquire our own information about the world direct from AP, Reuters, International media and beyond--all without their Reasonable spin and editorial selection. They can't full comprehend still just how finished they've become. Unless MSM completely revamps itself into an internet-based media institution of incredible proportions, they're an extinct enterprise within my lifetime.

Bloggers have broken stories, shattered Media circus shows, watchedogged the watchdogs--and each other. And we've passionately run off cliffs together in absurd group-think. We've also united with each other to help out those in need. Think Katrina relief--and information sourcing.
Now, look what the more serious flickrs and you-tubers have accomplished--and continue to! Man of the year? You. Have. No. Idea.

Nor will they. Let them soak the carpet with condescension. We people of the year don't need 'em.

They'll find that out soon enough!

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Healing a "Stressed" Armed Forces

The President considers a permanent increase of the US Army and Marines. He admonishes the US that the global war against jihadists warrant it. The Joint Chiefs of Staff favor such an increase. Will the public?

WP summarizes:

President Bush said today that he plans to expand the size of the U.S. military to meet the challenges of a long-term global war against terrorists, a response to warnings that sustained deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the armed forces to near the breaking point.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Bush said he has instructed newly sworn-in Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to report back to him with a plan to increase ground forces. The president gave no estimates about how many troops may be added but indicated that he agreed with suggestions in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill that the current military is stretched too thin to cope with the demands placed on it.

"I'm inclined to believe that we do need to increase our troops -- the Army, the Marines," Bush said in the Oval Office session. "And I talked about this to Secretary Gates and he is going to spend some time talking to the folks in the building, come back with a recommendation to me about how to proceed forward on this idea."

The president's decision comes at a time when he is rethinking his strategy in Iraq and considering, among other options, a short-term surge in troop levels to try to secure violence-torn Baghdad. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are resisting the idea during internal debates in part out of the conviction that it will further strain already-pressed forces.

A substantial military expansion will take years and would not be meaningful in the near term in Iraq. But it would begin to address the growing alarm among commanders about the state of the armed forces. Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, warned Congress last week that the active-duty Army "will break" under the strain of today's war-zone rotations. Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell, a retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday that "the active Army is about broken."

The Army has already temporarily increased its size from 482,000 active-duty soldiers in 2001 to 507,000 today and soon to 512,000. But the Army wants to make that 30,000-soldier increase permanent and then grow an additional 7,000 soldiers or more per year. The Army estimates that every 10,000 additional soldiers will cost about $1.2 billion a year.

The incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee spoke out forcefully today for increasing the size of the Army and Marines, noting that their leaders describe the services as "stretched and strained." "We're going to have to pay attention to this," Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) told reporters. Saying the two services are "bleeding," he added, "I think we have to apply the tourniquet and strengthen the forces. I think that will be a major part of our work."

If the leadership of the US military asks for more soldiers, we the people had better listen. The Iraq war may well be a mess. It's not the only front in which the Jihadists will confront the West. If we want to safeguard our shores and protect our interests--while adhering to the mandates of Just War Doctrine--then we must have an armed forces capable of doing the job.

We can't exercise the unconscionable option of nuking any state that we suspect harbors or enables terrorists. If our armed forces lacks the manpower to adequately protect us, then our leaders may face the choice to defend our society at the cost of all of our souls.

I'm not willing to pay that price. The US must do whatever it can to ensure our military has the assets to accomplish any mission. We would do well to support the request of our armed services for more personnel.

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Wishful Thinking II

The WP's Reasonable E.J. Dionne Jr. salivates over the new "Real America." According to him, Moderates and liberals now represent the mainstream of American thinking thanks to the 2006 election. Take a closer look:

In 1984 three exit polls pegged Ronald Reagan's share of the ballots cast by Americans under 30 at between 57 and 60 percent. Reagan-style conservatism seemed fresh, optimistic and innovative. In 2006 voters under 30 gave 60 percent of their votes to Democratic House candidates, according to the shared media exit poll. Conservatism now looks old, tired and ineffectual.

When the right seemed headed to dominance in the early 1990s, the hot political media trend was talk radio and the star was Rush Limbaugh, a smart entrepreneur who spawned imitators around the country and all across the AM dial.

Now the chic medium is televised political comedy and the cool commentators are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Their brilliant ridicule of the Bush administration and conservative bloviators satisfies a political craving at least as great as the one Limbaugh once fed. Stewart and Colbert speak especially to young Americans who rely on their sensible take on the madness that surrounds us. The young helped drive their popularity, and the Droll Duo in turn shaped a new, anti-conservative skepticism.

It wasn't all that long ago that Democrats and liberals were said to be out of touch with "the real America," which was defined as encompassing the states that voted for President Bush in 2004, including the entire South. Democrats seemed to accept this definition of reality, and they struggled -- often looking ridiculous in the process -- to become fluent in NASCAR talk and to discuss religion with the inflections of a white Southern evangelicalism foreign to so many of them.

Now the conventional wisdom sees Republicans in danger of becoming merely a Southern regional party. Isn't it amazing how quickly the supposedly "real America" was transformed into a besieged conservative enclave out of touch with the rest of the country? Now religious moderates and liberals are speaking in their own tongues, and the free-thinking, down-to-earth citizens in the Rocky Mountain states are, in large numbers, fed up with right-wing ideology.

Oh, yes. The election of Blue Dog Democrats obviously indicates that Liberalism is the new chic inside the Beltway. And master satirist Stephen Colbert clearly skewers only conservative sacred cows. Right.

Americans cast out Republicans from control of Congress because Republicans in Congress had acted remarkably like their Democratic predecessors. They rolled in Pork. They covered their rears. They did not take care of the people's business. In other words, they did not fulfill their mandate from conservative voters.

If Mr. Dionne wants to see the political trump card in US politics, he doesn't have far too look. He just has to look beyond party affiliation. Independents are the trump card every year. This year, independents lost confidence in a Republican-controlled Congress that appeared more about self-preservation and power-grabbing than about effective governance. He ought to consider that as the Democratic Leadership-to-be prepares to assume business-as-usual.

If he doesn't, he risks shaking his head as yet another "Real America" emerges--one not so amenable to his Reasonable tastes.

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Java Dreams

Hot and bitter sip,
day's first flagon of coffee:
Morning's first delight.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tantalizing Predictions

Wind Chimes in the night,
promise a clear tomorrow,
a sailor's morning!

A Fool Becomes a "Useful Idiot"

I've exposed the follies of Reasonable agenda-peddlers and well-intentioned seekers. I've satired the self-contradicting dance of those that claim faithfulness to God while peddling Reasonable agitprop--and more.

But what do I do about a Fool so zealous he becomes an unwitting pawn in Reasonable elites' hands?

David Paszkiewicz, A NJ High School Social Studies teacher, proselytized his students in his class. Matthew LaClair, a student of his, recorded Mr. Paszkiewicz's comments.

The NY Times covers the story:
Before David Paszkiewicz got to teach his accelerated 11th-grade history class about the United States Constitution this fall, he was accused of violating it.


Matthew LaClair taped his history teacher talking about God in class.


David Paszkiewicz, a teacher.

Shortly after school began in September, the teacher told his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, and that only Christians had a place in heaven, according to audio recordings made by a student whose family is now considering a lawsuit claiming Mr. Paszkiewicz broke the church-state boundary.

“If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong,” Mr. Paszkiewicz was recorded saying of Jesus. “He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell.”

The student, Matthew LaClair, said that he felt uncomfortable with Mr. Paszkiewicz’s statements in the first week, and taped eight classes starting Sept. 13 out of fear that officials would not believe the teacher had made the comments.

Since Matthew’s complaint, administrators have said they have taken “corrective action” against Mr. Paszkiewicz, 38, who has taught in the district for 14 years and is also a youth pastor at Kearny Baptist Church. However, they declined to say what the action was, saying it was a personnel matter.

“I think he’s an excellent teacher,” said the school principal, Al Somma. “As far as I know, there have never been any problems in the past.”

Staci Snider, the president of the local teacher’s union, said Mr. Paszkiewicz (pronounced pass-KEV-ich) had been assigned a lawyer from the union, the New Jersey Education Association. Two calls to Mr. Paszkiewicz at school and one to his home were not returned.

This is no case of a teacher exercising the right to religious expression. Mr. Paszkiewicz did more than expound on his own faith as his own perspective. He presented his understanding of his faith as the standard by which God operates in our reality. That standard includes channeling the judgement of Christ for any Mr. Paszkiewicz decided deserved it.

Since when is a Social Studies teacher employed to play prophet?

Some Fools will want to see this case as a typical one in which Reasonable mouth-foamers slam a believer for exercising his right to believe in public. I wonder if those same Fools, particularly if they're Catholic, would respond the same way when they hear him the doctrine of Purgatory.

The public school classroom is no place for an agent of the state to arbitrate the truth claims of their students' religions. Caesar has no right to rule on the veracity of one religion over another, particularly in terms that undermine the dignity of those subject to Caesar's authority. Parents and their families have the right to determine the religious upbringing of their children. They are the first teachers of the faith. A zealous evangelical youth minister does not have the right to deny their authority on public time.

Any Fool that works for the public schools understands Jesus' prescription for civil society: Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. We all signed a contract. We understand that we may offer our perspective as our view, not present it as subject matter when it's not. Theology is not history, even if theological arguments and developments come under historical study. When my students have asked me theological questions, I respond, "That's a great question to ask your families or your religious teachers." If they want my view, I'll offer my perspective--as my perspective, informed by my faith. I refuse to lay it down as the reality they must accept, as though it were a mere maxim of natural science. That's not my role as a public school teacher. Nor should it be.

Master LeClair may have breached his teachers' and classmates trust. He may have violated other students' confidentiality; I'm sure he didn't have their parents' permission to record their children. His parents may be committed secularists. It may all be true. It's still irrelevent.

Mr. Paszkiewicz's ill-conceived preaching in the classroom has made him the secularists' latest bogey-man. He's helped those opposed to religious viewpoints in the public square. He's made himself into their useful idiots.

Sad.

Even well-meaning breaches of subsidiarity harm us all. Mr. Paszkiewicz's decision to abrogate his teaching office for the aims of his ministry won't just disrupt his life. It shatters the balance of associations that our society desperately needs. People will be less inclined to respect that balance as a result of this.

And that's a loss for us all.

Memed Again!

And I'm so late for this one!

Obi's Sister tagged me with a solid Christmas meme, so here's my confession:

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Why don't you make me choose between Cabernet Sauvignon and Guiness? Egg nog by a nose.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Oh, they're wrapped, baby! They're wrapped!

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Nah! The Fine Young Fool hates kisses. The Blushing Bride and I don't need no stinking mistletoe. :)

5. When do you put your decorations up? We put them all up this year the week after Thanksgiving. We bought our tree Sunday before yesterday, and decorated it the next day in one night!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? The Italian Christmas Eve spectacular: the seven fish extravaganza!

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child: Christmas day at Holland Avenue (AKA Camelot), probably '79. Granny and Poppy were still with us; they'd stayed over that holiday. It was the Christmas that they got us a Pechinco machine. I found out later that it was Japan's answer to the One-Armed Bandit. Nevertheless, my brother and I didn't have to part with a penny. All free to us!

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Mom and Dad never overplayed the Santa scenario. I don't exactly remember how I learned; they probably told me when I was old enough.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? The Blushing Bride's family opens all of them on Christmas Eve--old family tradition of theirs. We're still working out the opening of ours.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Blushing Bride chooses the theme: White, green, gold. We put on the lights. Then we decorate with the decorations that most correspond to the theme. She gets decorations after Christmas each year for a steal; they almost always look great on the tree the following year. Balls, Bells, santas, gift-boxes: anything's fair game.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? I'm Mr. White Christmas, man!

12. Can you ice skate? In my youth.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Received or given? Received? The Lord of the Rings extended edition Trilogy and Chessmaster 10th edition.

Given? Fine Young Fool's wooden train table. He spent a month in the living room playing on it every day!

14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you? Celebrating Jesus Christ's birth; sharing that celebration with my family.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Anything sweet will do--especially Chocolate Chip.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? We had gone to Bear Mountain to see the BM Inn decorated. Unfortunately, it's been closed for renovation the last two years. Last year and this, we went to the NY Botanical Gardens to see the Train Show. FyF love's the train; we love seeing his eyes light up over them. Other traditions? a work in progress...

17. What tops your tree? This year, it's a star--with Mary's face at the center.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? Both!

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? O Night Divine!

20. Candy canes: Not even close!

21. Favorite Christmas movie? "It's a Wonderful Life"

22. What do you leave for Santa? Chocolate Chip cookies and Milk. What else is there?

I'm so late with this thing, I'm taking the easy way out.

If you've just finished reading this--tag! You're it! If you've been memed before, just pass it along to new bait--again!

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Blogversary! (a day late)

Yeah, I missed it.

Laid up with the mother of all migraines. All I have is the splinter from yesterday--and it kept me home today.

Anyways, happy blogversary to me!

And thank you for sharing this experience!

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Prelude to Winter

Mass of solid gray
Above the naked branches:
Winter's gloom arrives

Friday, December 15, 2006

Priorities

Now, I gotta go!

Why?

What's today?

That's right! It's the season finale!

Later!

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An American is...

...Who?

The question jumps on me. It pulls at my lounge pants. I brush it away. It comes back, more persistent than ever. "Who? Who? Who?"

I tell it to go play with it's toys. "No! I want to know!"

Sigh. Who would've thought a stray thought could badger me like the Fine young Fool.

I actually blame Peggy Noonan for this one. Why? She meditates on Barak Obama:

The world is difficult now, unlike those days when America enjoyed "the near unanimity forged by the Cold War, and the Soviet threat." Near unanimity? This is rewriting the past in a way that suggests a deep innocence of history, or a slippery approach to the facts.

Sen. Obama spent his short lifetime breathing in the common liberal/leftist wisdom, which he exhales at length. This is not something new--it's something old in a new package. And it is something that wins you what he has, a series of 100% ratings from left-liberal interest groups.

He is, clearly, a warm-blooded political animal, an eager connector, a man of intelligence and a writer whose observations suggest the possibility of an independence of spirit. Also a certain unknowability. Which may account for some of his popularity.

But again, what does he believe? From reading his book, I would say he believes in his destiny. He believes in his charisma. He has the confidence of the anointed. He has faith in the magic of the man who meets his moment.

He also believes in the power of good nature, the need for compromise, and the possibility of comprehensive, multitiered, sensible solutions achieved through good-faith negotiations.

But mostly it seems to be about him, his sense of destiny, and his appreciation of his own particular gifts. Which leaves me thinking Oh dear, we have been here before. It's not as if we haven't already had a few of the destiny boys. It's not as if we don't have a few more in the wings.

But her catch is this:
our political history has been marked the past 10 years by lurches, reactions and swerves, and I wonder if historians will see the era that started in the mid-'90s as The Long Freakout. First the Clinton era left more than half the country appalled--deeply appalled, and ashamed--by its series of political, financial and personal scandals. I doubt the Democratic Party will ever fully understand the damage done in those days. In reaction the Republican Party lurched in its presidential decision toward a relatively untested (five years in the governor's office, before that very little) man whom party professionals chose, essentially, because "He can win" and the base endorsed because he seemed the opposite of Bill Clinton. The 2000 election was a national trauma, and I'm not sure Republicans fully understand what it did to half the Democrats in the country to think the election was stolen, or finagled, or arranged by unseen powers. Then 9/11. Now we have had six years of high drama and deep division, and again a new savior seems to beckon, one who is so clearly Not Bush.

We'll see what Sen. Obama has, what he is, what he becomes. But right now he seems part of a pattern of lurches and swerves--the man from nowhere, of whom little is known, who will bring us out of the mess. His sudden rise and wild popularity seem more symptom than solution. And I wonder if historians will call this chapter in their future histories of the modern era not "A Decision Is Made" but "The Freakout Continues."

We "lurch" because we've lost our vision of who we are. Are we the America we inherited from Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln? Are we the America of FDR and JFK? Are we the America of Eisenhower and Reagan? Are we an American amalgam of them all? Are we something new?

From what I see, we're factions that celebrate each of these parts as though they are--or ought to be--the whole. Or we're among the masses that simply soak in American Idol. Or we're the hard-working, family-living majority that simply try their best for their own.

Meanwhile, moments arrive that offer us the opportunity to more clearly identify our national identity. The Anchoress has found one of those moments:

Intentional snark aside, Hunter gives the film a very good review, even as he plays to those perpetual adolescents in his audience who would sneer at the cross-stitched-proverbs feel of this film, which is the real-life story of one Chris Gardner, played by Will Smith.

Writes Hunter:

The movie is about that moment in a man’s life when even that fragile grip on the American dream is sundered. It all goes away. […]

That’s what makes it all the more painful to watch: The proud man who’d dreamed for so much, humiliated not merely by his failure but by the fear and pain it inflicts on his son (played beautifully by Smith’s own son, Jaden), which he can see graven in the young face every day, knowing that to a young mind the lack of security is killing to heart and mind. There’s no doubt that Chris is filled with rage at the unfairness of it all, that he yearns to blame all his problems on the various larger contexts that all go unstated in the movie.

That may be what he wants to do, but here’s what he does: He shuts up and goes to work.

Wow. Those lines could have been written about George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” another film in which a man’s dreams are subjugated by circumstances and by his own maturity, which dictates that he put aside what he would love to do - repress himself, in modern parlance - for what he “must” or “should” do.

People tend to think of “It’s a Wonderful Life” in warm, fuzzy terms - it has that eternal “good guy” James Stewart in it, after all - but really, Frank Capra’s Christmas classic is a study of a fully realized character, and George Bailey is no Dudley Do-Right. Recall his antsy disdain for Bedford Falls as he sits at the dinner table with his father, or the way he furiously kicks open Mary’s front gate when he reluctantly visits her, or the way he grabs her and shakes her saying, “you listen to me, I don’t want any of this…”

Recall that while he might have “saved” Clarence’s life, he didn’t like the pudgy angel very much, and he wasn’t above brawling or harassing a teacher unfairly, or traumatizing the family he loved.

George Bailey was no saint - he was simply a man in full, and that means that to some extent he hated his life as much as he loved it, but he did not fail it. That is part of the the Psalm of the Common Man - what all of us face in one measure or another. In “The Pursuit of Happyness” we see a contemporary George Bailey in Chris Gardner.

He’s no paragon of moral perfection (who could sit through something that suffocating?). Instead, we are aware always that he’s right on the edge of breaking down, that he has a mean temper, that he suppresses his “real” self in order to become a “business” self that all the white folks will like, employing that most loathed of all old-fashioned virtues, repression. In fact, he’s about as far from letting it all hang out as can be: His ethos is, let nothing hang out, and beat them at their own game. And he does that, whether the game is Rubik’s Cube or pushing money market funds.

Hunter’s review recognises that the virtues most commonly disdained by the movers and shakers of pop culture, values considered “conservative” by the sophisticates or “too white” by audiences of color, have worth and meaning. And he ends his review with a challenge to all of those readers who would purse their lips into a “all too cool, all too knowing” sneer. Anticipating them he writes:

You could say: It’s all a bunch of bull. After all, Chris Gardner was clearly an extremely gifted man with a need to succeed deep and pure. Maybe that’s true, and maybe in your case, it’s hopeless, because you lack those gifts. But there’s really only one way to tell, right? Get busy.

Good for Hunter. Good for Chris Gardner. Good for Will Smith for daring to make a picture espousing those values. Good for the nation, too, if people can manage to embrace the movie instead of letting it get buried in the usual blanket of partisan bickering, boycotting and bellicosity (if bellicosity is a word!).
Chris Gardner as George Bailey? As in, the George Bailey--the consumate incarnation of the twentieth-century American? The everyman that postpones his big dreams for the simple needs and duties of his life?

How long has it been since Americans embraced this icon?

Some of us never let him go. Others can't wait to bury him. Yet, here he is again.

An American is... and the question goes on. Unanswered.

But the asking escalates. And I'm not the only one that senses the urgency of the question.

Right?

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Java Junkie's Delight!

Coffee aroma,
satisfying gurgle sounds:
Heaven in a sip!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Night Noise

Ringing in the ears,
low hum of the computer
break through the silence

Chanukah Comes Saturday!

Christians' elder brothers in the faith celebrate "The Festival of Lights " this Saturday.

Adam Graham podcasts his thoughts.

The story, for those not in the know:

Long ago in the land of Judea there was a Syrian king, Antiochus. The king ordered the Jewish people to reject their G-d, their religion, their customs and their beliefs and to worship the Greek gods. There were some who did as they were told, but many refused. One who refused was Judah Maccabee

JJudah and his four brothers formed an army and chose as their name the word "Maccabee", which means hammer. After three years of fighting, the Maccabees were finally successful in driving the Syrians out of Israel and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees wanted to clean the building and to remove the hated Greek symbols and statues. On the 25th day of the month of Kislev, the job was finished and the temple was rededicated

 When Judah and his followers finished cleaning the temple, they wanted to light the eternal light, known as the N'er Tamid, which is present in every Jewish house of worship. Once lit, the oil lamp should never be extinguished

 Only a tiny jug of oil was found with only enough for a single day. The oil lamp was filled and lit. Then a miracle occurred as the tiny amount of oil stayed lit not for one day, but for eight days

 Jews celebrate Chanukah to mark the victory over the Syrians and the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple. The Festival of the Lights, Chanukah, lasts for eight days to commemorate the miracle of the oil. The word Chanukah means "rededication"

The Wikipedia account of the holiday.

What does that have to do with the Foolishness of Christianity?

Simple: Chanukah reminds every person that takes God seriously--every Fool--that God provides.

God demands spectacular things from us. He provides us the way to meet those demands, too!

Judas Maccabee and his brothers accomplished the impossible. They defeated the Selucids that had dominated Judea for generations. They overcame an army that outmanned them. They won freedom for their people.

Then they chose to honor God through the rededication of his Temple. God provided them with the miraculous means to do so. After working through them to ensure their freedom.

Chanukah reminds all of us to celebrate the God in whom we should all place our utmost trust. He will never demand anything from any of us that he won't empower us to accomplish. We can always count on him, even as the darkness of this world presses in.

And so, to all whom I owe my own Faith; let me say it loud and proud:

Happy Chanukah!

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A Heartbreaking Legacy

Outgoing Secretary General Kofi Annan may have destroyed the last credibility the UN possessed. Sin certainly doesn't lack a sense of irony.

Sound harsh? The WSJ doesn't think so:

When Mr. Annan was named Secretary General 10 years ago, he did so as the U.S.-backed candidate of reform. Jesse Helms, then-chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Mr. Annan that "if you choose to be an agent of real and deep-seated change, you will find many supporters--and even allies--here in the U.S. Congress."

Senator Helms's expectations were not met. Seven years later--thanks to U.S. military action that Mr. Annan did everything in his power to prevent--we learned that he had presided over the greatest bribery scheme in history, known as Oil for Food. We learned that Benon Sevan, Mr. Annan's trusted confidant in charge of administering the program, had himself been a beneficiary of Iraqi kickbacks to the tune of $160,000. We learned that Mr. Annan's chief of staff, Iqbal Riza, had ordered potentially incriminating documents to be destroyed. We learned that Mr. Annan and his deputy, Louise Frechette, were both aware of the kickback scheme but failed to report it to the Security Council, as their fiduciary duties required. However, we haven't yet learned whether the senior Annan illegally helped his son Kojo obtain a discounted Mercedes, an issue on which the Secretary General has stonewalled reporters.

Earlier this year, Mr. Annan was also forced to place eight senior U.N. procurement officials on leave pending investigations on bribery and other charges. Vladimir Kuznetsov, the head of the U.N. budget-oversight committee, was indicted this year on money-laundering charges. Alexander Yakovlev, another procurement official, pled guilty to skimming nearly $1 million off U.N. contracts. The U.N.'s own office of Internal Oversight found that U.N. peacekeeping operations had mismanaged some $300 million in expenditures.

Mr. Annan's response to all this has been a model of blame-shifting, obfuscation and patently insincere mea culpas, apparently justified by his view that a Secretary General has more important things to do than administer his own organization. But allow the Secretary General the conceit that his real job is acting as the world's most important diplomat. How has he performed in that task?

Mr. Annan came to office after a stint as head of U.N. peacekeeping operations. The period corresponded with the massacre in Srebenica of 7,000 Bosnians and the genocide of 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda, both of which were facilitated by the nonfeasance of peacekeepers on the ground. It was later revealed that Mr. Annan's office explicitly forbade peacekeepers from raiding Hutu arms caches in Rwanda just four months before the genocide.

The world's worst man-made humanitarian catastrophes have since taken place in Zimbabwe, North Korea, Congo and Darfur. Mr. Annan has been mostly silent about the first two, perhaps on the time-honored U.N. principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states other than the U.S. In the Congo, U.N. peacekeepers haven't stopped the bloodshed, but they have made themselves notorious as sexual predators.

Gross incompetence. Corruption. Hypocrisy. Indulgence of member state's undermining of the UN's raison d'etre. Mr. Annan's tenure has brought the UN into utter disrepute.

When the pre-eminent human rights violators of the world held seats on the human rights commission, how could the UN claim any kind of moral credibility?

When the US and Israel continually endure public condemnation of their policies, while other member states' internal affairs pass without content, how can the UN claim any kind of neutrality?

When Genocides occur again and again, and all Peacekeepers do is become pimping ganstas, how has the UN ensured security and peace?

The nations of the world deserve a forum in which they may discuss their interests. They deserve an affiliation that allows them all to cooperate in keeping international peace. They deserve the mutual commitment of their brother nations to keep common accords.

They won't find any of these necessities at the United Nations.

They can thank Mr. Annan for that.

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Dangerous Liasons

Reasonable devotees of the One Thing that Matters don't want anyone to know. The Libertine sympathies of individual absolutists blind them to the truth. Only Fools would worry it.

But real people hurt.

Yes.

We're talking about sex.

And not the way they want.

What happens when good people abuse the gift of their own sexuality?

They suffer. Confusion, depression, and even self-mutilation: they often can't understand why. And what will university health centers do?

Nothing. Unless they acquire the natural consequences of their abuse. In that case, these departments will provide the necessary alleviation: the abortion referral or regiment of penicillin. Whatever works, baby!

Daniel Crittenden of the OJ describes the sad details:

Unfortunately, the young women described in "Unprotected" have fallen victim to one of the few personal troubles that our caring professions refuse to treat or even acknowledge: They have been made miserable by their "sexual choices." And on that subject, few modern doctors dare express a word of judgment.

Thus the danger of sexually transmitted diseases is too often overlooked in the lifestyle choices of the young women at the unnamed college where the author works. But the dangers go far beyond the biological. A girl named Heather, for instance, has succumbed to an intense bout of depression. The doctor presses her to think of possible causes. She can't think of anything. Then she says: "Well, I can think of one thing: since Thanksgiving, I've had a 'friend with benefits.' And actually I'm kind of confused about that."

Heather continues: "I want to spend more time with him, and do stuff like go shopping or see a movie. That would make it a friendship for me. But he says no, because if we do those things, then in his opinion we'd have a relationship--and that's more than he wants. And I'm confused, because it seems like I don't get the 'friend' part, but he still gets the 'benefits.'" It finally dawns on her: "I'm really unhappy about that. It's hard to be with him and then go home and be alone."

Heather is not an unrepresentative case. The author meets patients who cannot sleep, who mutilate themselves, who exhibit every symptom of psychic distress. Often they don't even know why they feel the way they do. As these girls see it, they are acting like sensible, responsible adults: They practice "safe sex" and limit their partners to a mere two or three per year.

They are following the best advice that modern psychology can offer. They are enjoying their sexual freedom, experimenting, discovering themselves. They can't understand what might be wrong. And yet something is wrong. As the author observes, surveys have found that "sexually active teenage girls were more than three times as likely to be depressed, and nearly three times as likely to have had a suicide attempt, than girls who were not sexually active."

As long as our society perpetuates the self-eviscerating confusion of the sexual revolution, the dissolution of our young people will continue. We know it in our bones. I knew it when I partied hard on the dark side. I didn't want to admit it. I fought like hell to avoid facing it. But I knew. We all did.

And we have the scars to prove it.

Thank God many of us have lived and learned. Yes, the university of Belmont Avenue offers the most comprehensive life curriculum around. It's a shame that we, society, still mandate those courses for every new generation.

We do so at our peril.

The gift of our sexuality allows us to share communion with the one we love--the one we literally give our lives to. The sexual act is our surrender to our beloved. It's our total giving of the best of our very lives to those we've vowed to share them with. It's our declaration that we'll share even our precious capacity to procreate new life with the one we love!

We waste only our very selves when we waste this personal gift.

The sooner our society accepts this, the sooner we embrace a sanity our fore bearers knew. But we won't do that until we start acting Foolish.

Like actually believing that we should have sex only with our spouse. Like actually celebrating that act in marriage as a sacred trust. Like actually acknowledging that its a participation in the very love Christ has for his communion--the Church. As in, all of us!

Let the Reasonable scoff. Real people hurt. Libertine slogans won't alleviate their suffering.

Truth and Love will.

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Brother's Disappointment

Adria's absence,
slight tears glisten in his eyes;
Christmas party blues

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lao Tzu in Lebanon?

The Lebanese Prime Minister plays the Taoist sage to Hezbollah's mouth-foaming. Nasrallah bellows; Siniora smiles. The masses chant "Death to America"; the government watches in silence.

The Lebanese watch it all. And do they like what they see?

David Ignatius explores:
The Lebanese not so long ago liked to refer to their gaudy capital as "the Paris of the Orient." But on Sunday afternoon, with more than a half-million pro-Hezbollah demonstrators chanting "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!" in the heart of downtown, the Lebanese capital seemed more like a vision of Tehran.

The very incongruity of this scene, in the most Westernized city in the Arab world, makes me wonder if Hezbollah is overplaying its hand in its campaign to oust the pro-American government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. America isn't very popular here, after its ally Israel bombed the country's infrastructure last summer in reprisal for Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers. But for all their anger at America and Israel, the Lebanese aren't likely to defect to the Iranian camp.

Watching the demonstrations with seeming serenity is Siniora himself, the man the Hezbollah protesters are targeting. When I visited him Monday, he had been holed up in his office for 10 days, surrounded by Lebanese soldiers and acres of barbed wire. During our discussion he was the picture of calm and confidence. That's been his tactic as the protests have mounted: The louder Hezbollah's leader, Hasan Nasrallah, has called for his head, the quieter has been Siniora's response.

Siniora hasn't yet found a way out of the impasse, and the crisis is giving the country a serious case of the jitters. But he did seem to strike a chord with many Lebanese when he said last Friday, after an especially feverish speech by Nasrallah: "You are not our lord. . . . Who made you a judge over us to decide who is a traitor or a nationalist?" He said Nasrallah's supporters were attempting a coup d'etat.

The Lebanese prime minister continued his measured tone in his conversation with me Monday. "I think Nasrallah has become very much tense," he said. "He is between a rock and a hard place. Everybody knows the influence being exercised on Hezbollah by Iran and Syria." He said at another point of Nasrallah, "He has lost the battle."

Iran's proxy overplays its hand. As Mr. Ignatius sees it, Siniora can play Hezbollah's excess into a Sunni street riot--in Lebanon and Syria, Iran's co-conspirator. The Lebanese, meanwhile, remember who started the summer war against Israel. The Sunni, Druzi, and most Christians want a government that represents Lebanon, not Damascus and Tehran.

Mr. Siniora's government will stand. Hezbollah can breast-beat in Beruit all they want. They'll get their photo-op and the pandering of a fretting EU. That's it. In the end, the Lebanese will not allow their Cedar revolution to become hijacked by their enemy within.

Let's hope so!

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Armistice in Seattle

The Christmas War on the West Coast ends for the moment.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has returned the Christmas Trees they had removed. Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky, who had pressured Airport officials to display a Menorah in addition to the Christmas Trees, rescinded his proposed lawsuit.

The Seattle Times has the details:

The holiday trees that went away in the middle of the night are back.

Monday night, Port of Seattle staff began putting up the trees they earlier had removed from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The trees had come down Friday night after a local rabbi requested that a Hanukkah menorah also be displayed, and Port officials had said the threat of a lawsuit left them without enough time to consider all the issues.

A nationwide furor erupted over the weekend as news of the trees' removal spread, with a flood of calls to Port officials and harshly worded e-mails to Jewish organizations.

On Monday, Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky said he would not file a lawsuit and the Port, in response, said it would put the trees back up.

"This has been an unfortunate situation for all of us in Seattle," Port of Seattle Commission President Pat Davis said in a statement. "The rabbi never asked us to remove the trees; it was the Port's decision based on what we knew at the time. We very much appreciate the rabbi's willingness to work with us as we move forward."

A menorah will not be displayed this year.

Port spokesman Bob Parker said, "we look forward to sitting down after the first of the year with not only Rabbi Bogomilsky but others as well, and finding ways to make sure there's an appropriate winter holiday representation for all faiths. We want to find out a way to celebrate the winter holidays that is sensitive to all faiths."

Bogomilsky, who works with Chabad-Lubavitch, an Orthodox Jewish outreach organization, said, "Like people from all cultures and religions, we're thrilled the trees are going back up."

But he said he was disappointed that Port officials chose not to put up the menorah as well, pointing out that there are still several days until Hanukkah begins at sundown Friday. "I still hope that they'll consider putting the menorah up this year. But ultimately it's their decision."

The rabbi, who says he never wanted the trees removed, also said he hopes the Port will apologize for mischaracterizations that led people to believe he was against having the trees displayed.

"At the end of the day it's not about trees, but adding light to the holiday, not diminishing any light."
Unfortunately, our society tilts more and more toward diminishing light in this season. Lawsuits for Menorahs? Removal of Christmas Trees out of fear of future lawsuits?

How does this enlighten our lives in this joyful season?

We would all benefit from some Foolishness this season. Christmastime is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate, in joy, the best experience of all our lives. Let's not waste it fighting over the symbols in which we all find inspiration. Put up the Menorah. Keep the trees.

Is it really that difficult?

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Partner for Peace

Yep.

Hamas truly represents the Palestinians well. Why, they're so committed to a new Palestinian order that they'll shoot at children during a protest:
Hamas gunmen opened fire on demonstrators from the rival Fatah movement in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, wounding four people in the first factional violence following the fatal shooting of three children of a Fatah loyalist, officials said.

The demonstration was organized to protest the deaths of the children, whose car was riddled with bullets as they were driven to school Monday morning. Fatah officials have accused Hamas of being behind the shooting. The children's father is an intelligence officer who is considered an enemy of Hamas.

Saleh Hammad, a local Fatah leader, said the demonstration was peaceful, though he acknowledged that some children had provoked the Hamas militiamen by throwing rocks at them.

"Even if one or a few children lost their temper and stoned the members of the unit, this is not a reason to be fired at," he said.

Hospital officials confirmed that four people were wounded, one moderately and the others lightly. The demonstration quickly dispersed, and there were no further signs of fighting.
Hamas refused to form a unity government with Fatah. The price was too high: recognition of Israel. Now, they're bringing their nascent society to the brink of civil war.

This is the partner that Israel should work with on a lasting peace? Perhaps Hamas should clean their own house, first. In fact, how about it actually govern with some sense of responsibility?

No, that would be expecting too much. Obviously, Israel's to blame for not negotiating with this gang of thugs. What's a little genocidal international policy among neighbors, anyways?

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O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree...encore!

Cascade of pin-point lights
Bathe the darkened living room
In that special calm

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fortunate Correspondence

Some people just get all the email. Sigh!

Check out Kalanna of Mere Catholic's latest:
From my inbox...

Dear [insert friend's name here],

It is with much sadness that I am forwarding this appeal to you. Recently, alarming scientific studies have discovered that a shocking 90% of giraffa camelopardalis have been found to be unable to read at even a basic grade 1 English (British) level.

As seen in the attached press release photo, many giraffe have been given sub-standard reading materials, such as Egyptian hieroglyphics, Olmec script, and Rongorongo. We cannot allow this travesty to continue. Every living creature has a basic human right to good quality, properly spelled reading material.

One moment of your time could end the literary extinction of these beloved even-toed ungulate mammals. Your consideration can bring quality literature to them, including (but not limited to) Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom, and Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.


Heh!

So...who wants to take odds on how itchy her throat is?

And how many dead Giraffes are on her head now?

O the humanity!

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Papal Foolishness

The Church has the right to proclaim the truth in the public square.

Lay people have the right and responsibility to organize civil affairs without undue interference from the Church.

Pope Benedict XVI preached this Foolishness to, of all people, Italian lawyers.

CNA has more:
The Holy Father underlined the need "to create a concept of secularity that, on the one hand, grants God and His moral law, Christ and His Church, their just place in human life at both an individual and a social level, and on the other hand affirms and respects the 'legitimate autonomy of earthly affairs'."

The Church, the Pope reiterated, cannot intervene in politics, because that would "constitute undue interference."

However, he said, "'healthy secularity' means that the State does not consider religion merely as an individual sentiment that can be confined to the private sphere." Rather, it must be "recognized as a ... public presence. This means that all religious confessions (so long as they do not contrast the moral order and are not dangerous to public order) are guaranteed free exercise of their acts of worship."

Hostility against "any form of political or cultural relevance of religion," and in particular against "any kind of religious symbol in public institutions" is a degenerated form of secularity, said the Holy Father, as is "refusing the Christian community, and those who legitimately represent it, the right to pronounce on the moral problems that today appeal to the conscience of all human beings, particularly of legislators.

"This," he added, "does not constitute undue interference of the Church in legislative activity, which is the exclusive competence of the State, but the affirmation and the defense of those great values that give meaning to people's lives and safeguard their dignity. These values, even before being Christian, are human, and therefore cannot leave the Church silent and indifferent, when she has the duty firmly to proclaim the truth about man and his destiny."

Of course, the Reasonable elites of European society and beyond will gag at the thought. Why would that old Fool possibly imagine they, the enlightened people, would ever take such a Foolish idea seriously? Honestly!

I would not be surprised if some "humanist" group or some-such group starts hurling brickbats soon. All that will do is convince the everyman in all societies that the Pope has a point. It's amazing how catching Foolishness can be!

God bless you, your Holiness, for daring to proclaim Christ's Foolishness before a Reasonable world. And may God continue to strengthen you as you march on!

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What a Shock!

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government will host a conference for Holocaust deniers.

NPR covers the story:

Sparked by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's frequent challenges to the widely held history of the Holocaust, the conference includes former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke, as well as ultra-Orthodox Jews who oppose the Zionist movement that created modern Israel.

Iranian leaders say the "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision" conference, organized by Iran's Foreign Ministry, displays the country's commitment to intellectual freedom, in contrast to some European nations that have jailed Holocaust deniers.

From Syria to Australia, Morocco to Malaysia, most participants share a single passion: a desire to prove that the Holocaust never happened.

One participant from France said that there is no proof of the mass killings. Another, from Australia, was asked what he thought about the Holocaust. He said simply, "It's a lie."

Why in the world would Ahmadinejad continue to provoke both Israel and the West? NPR alludes to part of the reason:

For Iran, the conference seems to have a political goal: to raise questions about the Holocaust in order to challenge the historical reasons for establishing the state of Israel in 1947.

Indeed. The Mullahcracy wants to assume leadership of the region. The Mullahs also want to restore the shine of the revolution, long tarnished due to stifled freedom and a failing economy. Every move Iran has made since Ahmadinejad's ascendancy appears calculated toward those two ends.

He not only questions the foundation of Israel's right to exist. He attempts to paint Europe as hypocritical when it comes to academic freedom. It's another way to de-legitimized the EU as an influence in the Middle East.

What will the West do now that Iran deliberately provokes them again?

If the past is anything to go by--nothing.

Infuriating.

The UNSC should vote to impose sanctions on Iran immediately. If China or Russia veto it, the other members should publicly lambaste them as enablers of a holecaust-denying, terrorist-supporting regime that seeks nuclear armament. The West has tolerated Tehran's bully tactics for far too long. When the Mullahs grow up, they can assume a seat at the table. Until then, it's time they're held accountable for their ridiculous provocations.

But I don't expect any of this to occur. It's clearly too Foolish for the deep-thinking internationalists at the UN to seriously consider. No, better just issue another strong warning, followed by another consideration to consider sanctions. That'll show them!

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An Advent Moment

Christmas tree awaits
His laughing, decorating:
Joy of the season!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Graceful Exit...

...for Cynthia McKinney

Yeah! That'll happen!

She delivered one last parting shot to the administration. What a shock.

The Independent Conservative has the goods:

In her parting shot and final effort to waste taxpayer dollars and government time on complete nonsense.

Rep. Cynthia McKinney Introduces Bush Impeachment Bill

WASHINGTON — In what was likely her final legislative act in Congress, outgoing Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney announced a bill Friday to impeach President Bush.

The legislation has no chance of passing and serves as a symbolic parting shot not only at Bush but also at Democratic leaders. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has made clear that she will not entertain proposals to sanction Bush and has warned the liberal wing of her party against making political hay of impeachment.

McKinney, a Democrat who drew national headlines in March when she struck a Capitol police officer, has long insisted that Bush was never legitimately elected. In introducing her legislation in the final hours of the current Congress, she said Bush had violated his oath of office to defend the Constitution and the nation’s laws.

She has hosted numerous panels on Sept. 11 conspiracy theories and suggested that Bush had prior knowledge of the terrorist attacks but kept quiet about it to allow friends to profit from the aftermath. She introduced legislation to establish a permanent collection of rapper Tupac Shakur’s recordings at the National Archives and calling for a federal investigation into his killing.
Some just won't go gently into that good night. But, of course, why should any Reasonable pol not mouth-foam at the travesty of it all. Of course the President should be impeached! How dare he presume the people voted for him! No one in their right mind would support him. Only Fools would dare put him in office. And they shouldn't even have a vote.

Never mind that Fools far from unanimously support the President. His more Foolable attempts to embrace Machiavelle have not endeared him to them, after all.

But far be it for someone as Reasonable as Ms. McKinney to observe that. No, better to pointlessly pander to her writhing, mouth-foaming supporters. Who apparently couldn't muster up enough votes for her.

Here's your hat, Congresswoman. What's your hurry?

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The Price Some Pay for Dairy

Gotta love the violation of subsidiarity that so often occurs in the US "free market."

Just ask Hein Hettinga. He'll tell you what happens when you save customers $.20 a gallon on milk. The Dairy industry plays Gangsta' with the help of Congress--all on our tab!

The WP has the sad details:

In the summer of 2003, shoppers in Southern California began getting a break on the price of milk.

A maverick dairyman named Hein Hettinga started bottling his own milk and selling it for as much as 20 cents a gallon less than the competition, exercising his right to work outside the rigid system that has controlled U.S. milk production for almost 70 years. Soon the effects were rippling through the state, helping to hold down retail prices at supermarkets and warehouse stores.


That was when a coalition of giant milk companies and dairies, along with their congressional allies, decided to crush Hettinga's initiative. For three years, the milk lobby spent millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions and made deals with lawmakers, including incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

Last March, Congress passed a law reshaping the Western milk market and essentially ending Hettinga's experiment -- all without a single congressional hearing.

"They wanted to make sure there would be no more Heins," said Mary Keough Ledman, a dairy economist who observed the battle.

Hettinga, who ran a big business and was no political innocent, fought back with his own lobbyists and alliances with lawmakers. But he found he was no match for the dairy lobby.

"I had an awakening," the 64-year-old Dutch-born dairyman said. "It's not totally free enterprise in the United States."

Most U.S. dairy farmers work within a government system set up in the 1930s to give thousands of small dairies a guaranteed market for their milk and to even out prices for consumers. Farmers who participate in regional pools operated by the federal government or the states deliver raw milk to cooperatives or food processors. They get a guaranteed price, whether the milk ends up in a gallon jug, cheese, butter or ice cream. In Arizona and other federally regulated regions, the Agriculture Department uses a formula to set the price processors pay for raw milk, issuing "milk marketing orders."

Developed for a bygone era of small dairies and decentralized milk plants, the system lives on when 3,000-cow dairies are not uncommon and huge cooperatives and food companies dominate the business.

Business groups, fiscal conservatives and some dairy organizations have called for Congress to overhaul the complex system of protections and subsidies, which they say is costly to taxpayers and consumers. A recent USDA study acknowledged that "dairy programs raise the retail price" of milk. The watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste estimates that the programs cost U.S. consumers at least $1.5 billion a year.

Ridiculous! Deplorable! But oh, so Reasonable!

Can't have small operators bucking the Big Boys of dairy production, after all. What would that do to the Nanny State protocols that establish that racket? Gasp! The next thing you know, people might expect producers to actually compete--and offer fairer prices! Heaven forbid!

No, the Reasonable have spoken. The Government must set up the correct, regional prices so that all consumers within that region get hosed equally! Because only when the State governs the pocket-book can the truly enlightened lead Society. Everyone can live their absolute Individualism, as long as the chosen few control the purse-strings.

This story illustrates why Catholic Social Teaching includes subsidiarity and relative use (stewardship) of property. People make the best decisions on the use of their property when they're closest to the situation in which their property is involved. Consumers have better choices when competitors reduce prices to woo them. Unfortunately, in this case and far too many others, New Deal policy hang-ups allow big industries like Dairy to operate government-sponsered and sheltered cartels!

Longer this goes on, the more we all pay!

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First Meal of the Day!

Pancakes await me,
Fresh, hot, covered in syrup:
Breakfast beckons us!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Migrain! crescendo

Flat discomfort wanes,
ringing ears still singing strong:
Pestilence's gifts!

Clairity on "Forgiveness"

Mercy.

God's first movement toward us.
Our prime obligation to each other.

The most excruciating and humiliating act of our lives.

Clairity meditates on this fundamental witnessing of Christ:

A few sentences I read from Fr. Giussani recently have stayed with me for days. It's from the book The Fraternity of Communion and Liberation.

[F]orgiveness is the acceptance of differences: forgiveness is the first, fundamental characteristic of the relationship between God and us--it is called mercy--and therefore it is the first condition for the relationship between one person and another, between a man and a woman, between people. The first condition is not attraction, but forgiveness.
That last statement about attraction not being the first condition is intriguing. Attraction is that elated experience of the other, an insight toward unity, an intuition of our "I" with the hope to be completed with a relationship with another (not only husband and wife). But in our condition, call it original sin or skepticism or alienation, this vision almost immediately breaks down.

Giussani explained it earlier in a way that we all can recognize ourselves:
[W]e are human beings, we are petty, we are tiresome, we are possessive, in the name of efficiency we become less efficient, there may be only five of us and we split up into three different opinions which we will defend to the death; this is human, and we must never forget to confess these things, because they are real sins.
This is where divorce comes from, and the breach of friendships and family ties. This fracturing is becoming more, not less common. Perhaps at one time we cohered more because of economic necessity. Now we imagine we are autonomous. We can avoid each other to escape difference, even within the same house or neighborhood or church or workplace.
The root of our unwillingness to forgive others? Our unwillingness to accept God's mercy. We're determined to "get it right" on our own. We recognize our wrongness. We deny it in so many ways:
  • We refuse to see it.
  • We minimize it.
  • We excuse it.
  • We hide from it through the myriad idolatries of our day: consumerism, addiction, and idealogue-ism
  • We pursue our own image of what is "right".
None of them work. None of them our merciful. None allow us to accept God's acceptance and love of us. Warts and all.

That's what mercy is.

To accept that, we must surrender. We must surrender our Ego to Reality. We must let go of our illusions of ourselves and the world and accept God and his creation as they are.

That's too high a price for many of us, judging from how many of us act. That's too bad. The Eternal cost of such a conclusion far outweighs the seemingly impossible consequence of surrender.

Yet, I understand.

I've experienced my own determination to "get it right" on my own. My family struggles with forgiving each other at this moment--for grievances imagined and otherwise. Life in a mother-daughter brings that suffocation of conflicting world-views into a claustrophobic collision. It's difficult to be merciful.

Difficult. But not impossible. For with God, nothing is impossible.

I need to more authentically pray. Any of us that struggle to forgive need to more authentically pray. Why? The more room we give our Merciful God within our will, the more his compassionate mercy transforms us, and through us, our relations.

Pray for each other. That way, we'll all begin to invite Mercy into our lives. And we all desperately need it!

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Migraine! redux

From my forehead, out
Crushing expansion, until
my cranium cries!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Passion Moments

Beam on my shoulders,
Crushing wood of my own cross
Grinds me to the ground!

Steve Bogner on Hope

Read it.

Why?

He understands. He expresses his understanding beautifully.

His restraint underscores his message: Hope carries us all.

Hope emerging from God bears us through.

Take a look:

Advent is the season of hope. We count down the weeks and the days until Christmas. We read scriptures that announce the arrival of the Messiah, the one who will be God Among Us. It’s all focused on how the ages have looked forward to – have hoped for – the coming of Christ, the Incarnation.

And what do we really have at all, if not hope?

Looking around, I can see all the human-ness of drudgery, expectations, duty, routine, weariness, brokenness, healing, triumph and persistence. We go through these things every day, and we keep coming back for more - even when it’s painful, when we are fairly sure we will be disappointed, again. There are times when we feel like giving up, when we just don’t want to try any more, but most people, most of the time, keep on going. And I blame that on hope.

Now go read the rest.

Hope.
Our assurance he comes through for us,
while the world laughs and laughs.

Hope,
Our last restraint
from the screaming nihilism all around.

Hope,
our foretaste of eternity
in the midst of Love and ruin.

Hope.
God's whispered encouragement
through the witness of his saints among us.

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