March 31, 2010

I'd Never Heard....

...of "Spy Wednesday" until reading about it today not once, but twice.

Parody is Therapy blog...

...updated regarding how quaint it is that the MSM has just discovered hate, and how a recent study shows the money spent on corporate diversity training isn't too effective.

March 30, 2010

Travel writer Tom Swick....

Those first few hours are always the most vivid, as everything stands out in its immense originality: buildings, people, cars, mannequins. In a few days these props will pass in a near-familiar blur, but now—right now—the world crackles with high-definition details.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You
the Constant Variety of Posts

That NYT article on the Pope made me lose my faith, faith that the NYT  could do a reasonable article at all. --Curt Jester tweet

Don't fear the e-reader...I've used some version for 10 years now. I never abandoned print books. I did not dry up and fly away. Metal parts have not (so far as I am aware) significantly replaced important body parts. Indeed, I have found it liberating to get on a plain, train, or other conveyance with the calm assurance of carrying five-thousand books with me, lest I should get bored or need to consult the 1919 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica or the Catholic Encyclopedia at the spur of the moment. Being able to find any word in any book with a simple search--lovely--better processor speed would make this lovelier. So, it's a brave new world that has such creatures in it, and it is with us to stay. You do not have to become one with the collective, but "turn off your mind, relax and float downstream. . . it is not dying, it is not dying."--Steven of Momentary Taste

I really do feel detached from any expectations of what my spiritual life is supposed to look like. I’d like to be a spiritual success story, where my past really is my past, upon which I have never looked back. Iron and Wine sings: “No Christian wants to pick at the scab but they all want the scar.” Well, I have no problem picking the scab. Or maybe I don’t want it to heal because I’m afraid of having nothing to do without it. --Betty Duffy

I’m always reading Winesburg, Ohio — even when I’m not. When I chit-chat books with literature buffs, I can scarcely contain my excitement when the town of Winesburg swings gracefully into view, its buildings and streets and people. Its lonesome mournfulness. Maybe I love the book for strictly personal reasons. After all, Anderson crafted this lovely little gem just for me. Every word, every sentence, every story reads like an envelope stuffed with a personal letter kindly penned by Anderson to say something about a pastoral world, going, going, gone. ”Hands,” the first vignette, reads with great simplicity and throat-tightening poignancy. Even its memory moves me to emotion. What a gorgeous book!--Blogger at "Interpolations" via Steven Riddle

We've passed a health care plan written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn't understand it, passed by a Congress that hasn't read it but exempts themselves from it, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes, and the whole thing to be financed by a country that's going broke. What could possibly go wrong? --forwarded email

"The apostles had never seen someone tread water before, so when they saw Jesus doing it, they thought that he was walking on water and assumed it was a miracle." - Darwin Catholic, parodying the current fashion of watering down Christ's miracles

I can't be the only one who, as a child, thought it would be great to win a donkey. --Tom of Disputations on one of Monty Hall's less appreciated door prizes

W. Jackson Bate, Samuel Johnson. It was this modern exemplar of the biographer's art, not Boswell's Life, that introduced me to the man who became and remained my hero. Not only did Dr. Johnson's clear-eyed, cant-free view of human nature help me to see the world as it is, but I found his lifelong struggle against his own inborn defects of temperament to be powerfully inspiring. I still do, and probably always will. - Terry Teachout on ten self-influential books meme

Overall, the great joy of this book for me was all the one-liners I got to write down in my journal. "The goal of the discipline is not victory but submission" for example. It really was a sort of spiritual reading, a little homily on almost every page--but I never felt like I was receiving a homily. - Betty Duffy reviewing "House of Brede"

I expressed some of the opinions derived from [James] Joyce to a professor who commented to me, "Ah then, but we haven't seen the end of it all yet, have we?" I pondered those words for a long time and realized what he was saying to me--it fired the motion toward Catholicism…We must remember the sermon on hell [in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man] and the other things popular at the time that tend to do one of two things--create Saints, like Therese, and agnostics like Joyce.  Had I been exposed to that Church and some of what was considered de rigeur at the time, I suspect I would have felt the same.  - Steven Riddle

Monitoring Global Warming So You Don't Have To

                                   Actual Kentucky surface station

Was amused by this comment:
"You really have to go to and look at the pictures of what they charitably designate as ‘Odd and irregular observing Sites’ to believe it. Personal favorite: the one in Hopkinsville, KY, where the monitor is mounted on a brick chimney, over an asphalt driveway, directly above a Weber grill."

Diaristic Weekend Thoughts

Oh how delicious that Poet Oatmeal stout was Thursday, on the heels of the more acidic Magic Hat ale. The first pint was preparatory, the second remarkable, the third satisfying. I sudden-see the wisdom in my grandparents beer before bedtime. Beer "makes me feel mellow" in the words of poet/singer Tom T. Hall and was especially nice post-bingo. The trick is: how not to get a beer belly. Thursday's ales took the wind out of Friday's drinking sails, even when the latter was under the auspices of the Friday Night Opry.

On Saturday my brother & his children visited from Cincy. We made tracks for a kids-friendly movie titled How to Train Your Dragon after a visit to the local pet shop where the kids met Norbert, the ageless turtle. How to Train Your Dragon was a 3-D Viking movie, which pretty much says it all. Very cool. Big forearms and big Scottish brogues and the extra "D" in 3D really makes a difference even in little things like the waves lapping against the boat. The atmospherics were splendid even if the message and plot were predictable, especially given Hollywood's equation that fear = hate = war. Eliminate all fear and there'd be no war, or at least it'd be a one-sided war and would thus be over quickly I suppose. When Lisa Kudrow saw the graves of victims of the Holocaust in a recent documentary-style network show, she said that "this is what fear does." But seems to me that is what hate does. But surely they are linked since perfect love casts out all fear. Still, I attribute Hollywood's fear of fear, fairly or unfairly, to their paranoia that someday, somewhere, someone in the U.S. will hate Muslims due to terrorism.

Sunday went to Palm Sunday Mass ("the marathon," brother calls it; his wife"the play"). Then after lunch we hit COSI. I decided to go too and it was pleasant to see the kids so enjoying themselves. Aaron twice got lost and cried briefly and that was touching. In a few years, the teen years, he'll probably want to get lost!

Spent the eve reclining under the watchful gaze of the novel Shadow Country. I reveled in the physicality of the book, it's fine smell and the smallish print which made me feel like I was getting more for my money. None of this 212-pages-with-big-print-making-it-effectively-145-pages stuff. Bill Simmons, Dan Simmons and Peter Matthiessen: you can tell they write for the "love of the game."

I also inhaled a large portion of The Big Short by the author whose name I'm always forgetting (Michael Lewis). Even after all this time I'm still fascinated by how we got there from here, meaning the cusp of the world's greatest fiscal crisis. It's a fascinating read if only yet another reminder, *sigh*, of how dumb the "best and brightest" are. The old saw is that it takes the government to really screw something up, but that applies to businesses and industries too, especially lately (Enron, et al.). The cause of the crisis looks like a race between greed, ignorance, malfeasance, good intentions (i.e. lending to the poor), etc.... Of course they're not all mutually exclusive.

March 29, 2010

Fr. Cantalamessa's Book

Read deeply over the weekend from something deep: Cantalamessa's pleasingly oxymoronically titled book The Sober Intoxication of the Spirit. Much to take in, much to ponder in it. A different way of seeing things and I'll be unable to explain the uniqueness of his vision or do it justice in a small post, but the book was worth it to me just in providing a way to reconcile the Scripture passage "the Spirit blows where it wills" and the sacraments, the latter which promise no doubt about where the Spirit blows.  A couple excerpts:
God has established two distinct channels to sanctify the Church or, one could say, two different directions from which the Spirit blows. There is the Spirit who comes from above, so to speak, and who is transmitted through the pope, the bishops and the priests...especially through the sacraments...The Spirit also blows from the opposite direction, "from below," that is, from the foundation or cells of the body, which is the Church. This is truly the wind that Jesus said "blows where it chooses" (John 3:8).

* * *
After the Second Vatican Council everyone acknowledged that in the past there had been a certain diminishment of the sanctifying organism of the Church, especially with regard to the charisms. Everythign was flowing only through the so-called vertical channels constituted by the hierarchy and entrusted to it...It was inevitable that this would cause some kind of inertia among the laity. At the root of this doctrinal impoverishment was a certain conception of the Church that was formed in the modern age and is called, by analogy, the "deist" conception of the Church...It negates, on a practical level, Providence and the actual, ongoing governance of God over the world...In practice this deist conception severely diminished the space in which the charisms are found. With the Second Vatican Council this somewhat static and mechanical image of the Church was changed. The Church came to recognize that it could not do without the immense richness of the grace that is spread through the capillaries of the body of the Church - in all of its members - and that manifests itself in the gifts, the charisms, of each person...The dual movement of the Spirit is reestablished.

* * *

These signs - the laying on of hands, brotherly love and prayer - all point to simplicity...Tertullian writes of baptism: "There is nothing which leaves the minds of men so amazed as the simplicity of the divine actions which they see performed and the magnificence of the effects that follow...Simplicity and power are the prerogatives of God." This is the opposite of what the world does. In the world, the bigger the objectives are, the more complicated are the means. When people wanted to get to the moon, the necessary apparatus was gigantic.

* * *

In its very origin the baptism in the Spirit has an ecumenical value, which is necessary to preserve at all costs. It is a promise and an instrument of unity among Christians, helping us to avoid an excessive "catholicizing" of this shared experience.
Fr. Cantalamessa also dicusses the synergy between grace and free will and how as infants we had no free will with regard to Baptism, so the seeds of faith, hope, love are just that - seeds that will be brought forth only with an active adult faith. (Although Fr. Cantalamessa mercifully mentions that not even our faith is completely independent, for God aids us in that.) Are we rich or poor? Rich in gifts, via our Baptism, but poor in our unsealing of them.

Ten Books Meme

Steven Riddle posted a meme concerning the "Ten Books That Most Influenced You". What books most influenced me? Sometimes just titles: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh had that sort of The-Man-Who-Knew-Too-Little cache for me as a collector of paradoxes and oxymorons. Then too the sweet tang of auld lang syne in Reveries of a Bachelor. I read Mysteries only, but both have titles that linger in my imagination and become larger.

Fujikama's anthology A Child's Book of Poems also immediately comes to mind, a tall folio full of color and imagination and delight. To open the book is to open a different world with poems full of extraordinary words such as Tennyson's 'azure' instead of blue, words that made me hungry for pyrotechnic at perhaps the cost of missing God in the whisper.

The Bible of course, with its endless mystery and great sea of wisdom, unwarranted consolations, dare-we-believe-it promises, well-deserved rebukes and preternatural knowledge of the human condition.

Thoreau's Walden was an influence for its scandalous claim that God loves all of his creation, including trees and lakes, fish and fowl, chipmonks and adders.

The Secret of the Rosary was a book so redolent of Catholic piety that it was practically my "bible" back in early adolescence.

Dinesen's Out of Africa because I've always been attracted to the elegiac, to the romanticism of past eras.

John Paul II's Crossing the Threshold of Hope simply for the humble act of the vicar of Christ answering the questions of a seeker, and answering them with such felicity.

Thoughts on the Crisis du Jour

Faith, ultimately, simply cannot rest on the actions of the Church. It never could, not in the days of Corinth in the first century AD when Paul was chewing them out for their great sins. Not during the Sack of Constantinople. Not during the Middle Ages when Popes were great sinners. Not during these times. That the Church is composed of sinners is as old as Judas's and Peter's betrayals. Faith cannot rest on the foundation of looking at the sins of the Body of Christ. If it does, then it's clearly not faith, because faith is something that is not verifiable by evidence.

And for Catholics all of this ought to be easier to take, because we believe in Hell & Purgatory. For child-abusers there is a reckoning - God is the judge. "Let vengeance be mine," says the Lord. Do we believe that? For those of us who thirst for others to pay for their mistakes we can look to the Scripture and recall Christ's words about how "every penny will be paid," as far as the debt goes. Personally, more sinning then sinned against, I shudder at that Scripture. But for those tempted to leave the Church because of scandal then they should take heart in it.

What bothers me about the media is the selective outrage.  There are a million children in the womb dying each year. Why is that not an issue? Perhaps because we all have been children, remember being children, and know the vulnerability and credulousness that comes with that.  But even though we've been babies in the womb we can't remember it so there is no empathy.  Trusting your own life experiences to judge the morality of something is an unreliable moral guide.  If anyone survived being aborted and remembered it and told his story to the Oprah, don't you think abortion would be outlawed? It's because no one can relate to having experienced being in the womb that people sanction it.

March 26, 2010

Premature Reunion-ation

Our high school class is having its 30th reunion on the anniversary of our 29th year out of high school because, quote, "you know our class was not known to follow the rules."

I fall right into that spirit of rebellion since it's part of my own rebellion to rebel against rebellion. I like the idea of reunions on the scheduled year and I like Ascension Thursday on a Thursday.

I think I know the mindset that went into this decision. Some of my classmates have recently bonded at informal get-togethers and they're hungry for the full monty, so to speak. Why wait? What's in a number? But doesn't that sentiment cheapen round numbers, when reached?

That is certainly the spirit of the age. Why call Lent a "season of grace" when God can come to us in any season? Why call the sacraments the conduit of grace when grace can come to us anytime?

But I'm haunted by the fact that God loves humility, including the humility of seeking Him in His time and way rather than my own.

Bingo Redux

Twas the night before Bingo and all through the car,
not a cellphone not stirring, all the way to the bar...

...but then Dave C. called and asked me to volunteer for him and I had a hard time saying "No". I had a hard time saying "yes" too. But when my wife called to say she'd be babysitting it seemed a sign to help out for a couple hours.

So I arrived on a cold Thursday eve with the rain bleating like Irish sheep. I dodged the dagger'd drops like a broken-field runner, without benefit of coat or pads until I reached the familiar smell of cigarette smoke just outside the warm interior confines. (Why don't we ever see cigar smokers out congregating outside a door?)

I was immediately drafted into service at the lottery ticket window, side-by-side with a guy counting out instant winners like a card shark. By comparison my fingers were slow as sloe gin, which I immediately blamed on iPoditis.

A look of gloom crossed my visage when I argued with my co-worker concerning whether we were truly short of crew. It was fake; I had the ineluctable thrill of knowing I wouldn't be there forever (or all night, whichever came first) but I didn't let on. It feels, in hindsight, vaguely dishonest to withhold that sort of info, the sort that he's going to find out eventually anyway when I was scarce. I told Carmen and Matthew and figured that was good enough.

I enjoyed the subterfuge of how I'd plan my escape, like something out of The Shawshank Redemption. The hour closed in on eight and the NCAAs were already on when I dropped trou (i.e. the money apron) and split into the night, feeling guilty only over my giddy reaction.


Steven Riddle has an interesting post about books that influenced him including this (for Ham of Bone):
Ulysses--Life as mystery, life as engagement, life as joyous, life as encounter, life as it is meant to be lived aware not only of yourself but of the mysterious conjunction of events that make up a day. Reality captured in all of its myriad shades. Ulysses is an education in how to view life--rollicking, comic, harsh, and sad--but ultimately--"Yes because he never did a thing like that before as ask to get his breakfast in bed with a couple of eggs since the City Arms hotel when he used to be pretending to be laid up with a sick voice doing his highness to make himself interesting. . .then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

And that is what Joyce leaves us to take away.

Clever, he

Krauthammer makes an interesting point with regard to Obama's strategy:
Obama set out to be a consequential president, one on the order of Ronald Reagan. With the VAT, Obama’s triumph will be complete. He will have succeeded in reversing Reaganism. Liberals have long complained that Reagan’s strategy was to starve the (governmental) beast in order to shrink it: First, cut taxes; then, ultimately, you have to reduce government spending.

Obama’s strategy is exactly the opposite: Expand the beast, and then feed it. Spend first — which then forces taxation.

March 25, 2010

The Day Democrats Stopped Protesting the War
(i.e. Inauguration Day)

As Gomer Pyle used to say, sur-prise, sur-prise.

My take on political hypocrisy is that it's generally more common on the liberal side of the aisle not because of any inherent conservative goodness but simply because the lame stream media is much more tolerant of liberal hypocrisy.

This all reminds me of how the problem of homelessness, a great "scandal" during the Reagan years, was magically dropped as a media fixation the day Clinton was elected. To use a film analogy, with politics it's always Groundhog Day.

March 24, 2010

The New Health Care Plan...

...for Ham of Bone is to simply wait 'till somebody gets sick and then get some insurance. I see the Corner has linked to someone who has picked up on that too:
Over at EconLog, George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan has a very good blog post, in which he argues that individual health insurance will soon be a better deal than employer-provided health insurance.

"In the individual market, you can now wait until you're really sick to buy insurance: 'Heads I win, tails I break even.' Firms won't have that gimme - and it seems more valuable than premiums' tax deductibility. Admittedly, Obamacare imposes a small penalty on individuals who don't buy insurance, and a moderate penalty on firms that don't provide it. But it still seems like it will be in the financial self-interest of many firms and their workers to get rid of insurance, and split the (cash savings minus penalties)."
Meanwhile, Charles Krauthammer predicts that we're going to end up with a national sales tax:
“I think ultimately Obama understands that he has just added an unbelievably large entitlement on to a country drowning in debt. He is not stupid. I think he is anticipated this, and I think he is, from the beginning, had a plan and the plan is he is going to use the Deficit Reduction Commission, which will report only after November, and I'm absolutely sure it will recommend something new in American history, a national sales tax which is called a VAT in Europe.”

A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma

Fine Kathleen Parker column on Bart Stupak's cave-in, in which she suggests Stupak was ultimately overwhelmed "by raw power" though adding that he will "keep political science students - and psychologists - happily lost in research for years."

Be it Stupak or Kucinich or Nelson or Landrieu, there does seem to be an amazing ability of Obama and Pelosi "to get people to talk," to make offers other politicians cannot refuse. It's alarming how spines fold before the good cop/bad cop routine of Obama & Pelosi. Needless to say I liked Obama more before he became competent at passing bad legislation.

Parker wrote:
The ticktock of what transpired during the final 72 hours before the vote will keep political science students -- and psychologists -- happily lost in research for years....

After the Sunday vote, a group of Democrats, including Stupak, gathered in a pub to celebrate. In a biblical moment, New York Rep. Anthony Weiner was spotted planting a big kiss on Stupak's cheek.

To a Catholic man well versed in the Gospel, this is not a comforting gesture.
Human weakness shouldn't be a surprise to me, I suppose. That is the default position, a result of original sin. Perhaps rather I should save my surprise for the saints, such as the Cure de Ars, whose remarkable life attests that with God all things are possible.

March 23, 2010

Spanning the Globe to Bring You
the Constant Variety of Posts

This [health care] legislation is a superconducting super collider of culture-war conflagrations. It will throw off new and unforeseen cultural spectacles for years to come (if it is not repealed). The grinding debate over the Stupak amendment was just a foretaste. The government has surged over the breakwater and is now going to flood the nooks and crannies of American life. Americans will now fight over what tax dollars should cover and not cover. Debates over "subsidizing" this "lifestyle" or that "personal choice" will erupt. And when conservatives complain, liberals will blame them for perpetuating the culture war. - Jonah Goldberg of NRO

       -Jeff Miller of "Curt Jester"

I used to think there was an “on/off” switch between me and God. If I committed a serious sin, I was cut off. Going to Confession would flip the switch back on. I went back and forth between monastic periods of deprivation, and periods of semi-debauchery. If God loved me one day, he hated me the next. There was no relationship between me and God. I was just a graceless creature attempting to live by what I thought were arbitrary standards. After a short time of such extremism, I gave up, exhausted. If there had been a relationship, not only would I have shared God’s standards, but having fallen short, I might have gotten up and asked for his help and forgiveness. There’s no reason not to do so now, even with Lent nearly over—to hop up again like a dog who can’t be trained not to jump up on her Master (“Down Girl!”). But she’s up again, with muddy feet—never despairing of God’s mercy. - Betty Duffy

I keep getting it into my head, at times like this, that what I really want is a fast food burger with fries. And yet, if I get one, it never tastes like what I have in my head. Someday, I'll find the Plato's Cave Burger & Malt stop, where the ideal burger in the mind of God is found. But until then, it is wiser to stock the ice chest with decent food before leaving and only stop for coffee. - Darwin Catholic

Intelligence: seeing through the ordinary details to a deeper, more intimate, knowledge of reality. - Frederick of "Deep Furrows"

St. Faustina once had a vision in which the Lord told her she was due one day in Purgatory. She was horrified and ashamed and offered to go immediately. The Lord asked her if she'd rather live a longer life and spread His message of mercy and accept whatever earthly suffering came for the sake of souls. She accepted. It dawned on me after reading this section of her diary that if a pious little Polish farm girl who was worthy of visions still was going to Purgatory for one day then I, and the rest of us of are in a whole lot of trouble. - Dymphna's Road

The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground..we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. - Thomas Jefferson

The biggest corrupting force isn't money, it's consensus--what respectable people believe. - Mickey Kaus via Terrence Berres

To this day, Country [music] is a bright ray of optimism in that soundtrack of my life--even if the light only comes from my PC monitor when I'm listening to Internet radio. Yet it's also the anti-soundtrack. I love Paisley's songs precisely because they're about the unfamiliar. - - Filipino Enbrethiliel at Shredded Cheddar

Maybe I should be embarrassed to admit how much I am enjoying Peter Kreeft’s Prayer for Beginners, which is very short and elementary, but I’ve been reading it slowly, chewing on one chapter at a time. Is my prayer life so rusty that this little book grabbed my attention? This line got me: “Reading a book about doing something can be an obstacle to doing it because it gives the impression of doing what you are only thinking about doing.” Guilty. In my head I know this, and most of what Kreeft writes is familiar, but my prayer life is easily derailed by telling myself things like “I’m doing lectio divina…” - Emily at "Back Bay View"

Their Drunken Confidence

One of the most puzzling things to me, surely inevitable given my conservative mindset, is how recklessly confident the Democrats are with respect to their health care reform bill. They seem to have no fear of breaking the system outright and maybe the country with it. Perhaps they presume health care is already broken and they can't make it any worse. (Think again.)

This sort of cocksure confidence, which George Bush seems to have exhibited with respect to post-war planning in Iraq, is something deeply exotic to me. It's as if the Democrats in Congress have spent the last year drunk with "liquid courage," because only under the influence of something could I suspend belief enough to think this is going to work out well.

Ross Douthat has a column on that general theme:

We’ll find out if the bill makes premiums skyrocket. We’ll find out if it creates doctor shortages. We’ll find out if the array of new taxes destroys more jobs than the new spending creates. We’ll find out if the fiscally essential firewall between the new, heavily subsidized exchanges and the old, less-subsidized employer-based system holds up. And in the (only slightly) longer run, we’ll find out if tacking an entitlement to comprehensive health insurance atop a groaning system speeds America’s rendezvous with a bankrupt, Californian future.

Above all, we’ll find out if liberalism’s renewed confidence in its ability to design sweeping legislation is justified or not...

This newfound confidence has been palpable throughout the health care debate. Yes, liberals have wrung their hands over the compromises required to pass the bill. But nothing has dislodged their fundamental assumption — an assumption straight out of the golden age of ’60’s liberalism — that a bill this costly, this complicated and this risky can be made to work, so long as the right people are in charge of implementing it.
My gut reaction to all of this is one of detachment: "Oh, so this is how nations fall." Expensive wars, expensive entitlement programs, bad leadership and institutional weakness. Government can't do things as well as the private sector, and the private sector sucks. So what's that tell you?

Update: I'm not a fan of David Brooks lately, but this makes sense:
The [health care bill] is an undertaking exponentially more complex than the Iraq war..This country is in the position of a free-spending family careening toward bankruptcy that at the last moment announced that it was giving a gigantic new gift to charity. You admire the act of generosity, but you wish they had sold a few of the Mercedes to pay for it.

March 22, 2010

Princes, Put Not Your Trust In (Edition 522)

This post is likely unfair. Attempting to assign motives to people you know, let alone those you don't know, isn't smart. But this is a blog.

Bottom line is I'm still hyp-mo-tized by Bart Stupak's falling for the executive order sleight of hand. It just doesn't make sense. It's like he was running a marathon and then quit a hundred yards from the finish. Perhaps he really desired to vote for the bill and was playing an elaborate game of chicken with the leadership. Perhaps he intended to swerve away at the last moment from the get-go.

It just seems as if all the trouble he caused Pelosi - the months of work and vote-buying and whip counting - meant that he had already burned that bridge. I thought, wrongly, that he was already persona non grata in the party and had nothing more to lose.

Appearances are deceptive, Lord knows, but he seemed to have that monkish calm found in the outliers, in places far from the hustle/bustle of the D.C. beltway. Like, say, Northern Michigan. The sort of calm that comes from the courage of your convictions.

Still there were signs had I paid attention. One is that he's a politician, and moreover a leader among politicians. By definition, you tend to respect and like power. And if you respect and like power it's going to be really hard to adhere to principle.

But for one brief shining moment it looked like there was a leader on the Democrat side of the aisle who was more pro-life than any in the Republican party. For one brief moment I felt like Romeo or Juliet, aghast at finding love among the members of the enemy party.
His name is Stupak, and a Democrat;
The only son of your great enemy.

My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me,
That I must love a loathed enemy.


Oh Bart, Oh Bart, wherefore art thou Bart?
Deny thy father of lies and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn by love of the unborn,
And I'll no longer be a Republican.

More Pics from the Bookstore Tour Earlier This Month

A car in the parking lot

Books inside

Hall of Shame

Ohio representatives voting for the pro-abortion health care bill (via Ohio Right-to-Life):
Persons wishing to express their disappointment at their vote can contact these Representatives at the following numbers:

John Bocceri (202) 225-3876 or (330) 489-4414
Steve Driehaus (202) 225-2216 or (513) 684-2723
Marcia Fudge (202) 225-7032 or (216) 522-4900
Marcy Kaptur (202) 225-4146 or (800) 964-4699
Dennis Kucinich (202) 225-5871 or (216) 228-8850
Mary Jo Kilroy (202) 225-2015 or (614) 294-2196
Tim Ryan (202) 225-5261 or (330) 740-0193
Betty Sutton (202) 225-3401 or (330) 865-8450
Charles Wilson (202) 225-5705 or (740) 633-5705

Freedom and Safety - Oxymoronic?

Note: At the time of this posting there are 214 google hits for "et tu Stupak?"
Like many, I got caught up yesterday in the "health care reform" vortex where all the words in quotes above are of questionable legitimacy. The only surprising disappointment - given that the vote was something of a fait accompli - was how Bart Stupak apparently folded "like an accordion" in the words of one blogger, despite Fr. Groeschel's initial enthusiasm for the executive order on Sunday Night Live. For one brief, shining moment I thought "pro-life Democrat" was not an oxymoron.

Alan Jacobs writes:
"I don't see how anyone can be as certain about the effects of this bill as partisans on both sides are. (Not the pols, that's their job.) Vastly ambitious endeavors (going to war, reinventing h. c.) always have significantly contrasting indicators of likely effects. Getting fair & honest assessments of the bill's likely results has been almost impossible; getting them for the actual results . . . yeeesh."
We can say that we don't know what impact the bill will ultimately have but past experience of government programs is that they run way over cost, especially in the realm of health care. My brother-in-law opines:
"Most experts agree one effective way to reduce the overall costs of medical care, some of the burden needs to be shifted onto the person seeking medical treatment -- there's no incentive to reduce costs if it costs nothing to visit the doctor. This bill actually goes the other way, which puzzles me greatly."
Heard one pundit say that the health care situation was ruined by employers paying for it. By shielding the true cost of health care, we were/are not able to make prudent decisions with respect to medical care. Just as we now expect to get our news on the Internet for free, instead of paying for it the form of a newspaper or magazine, we now expect health care to be nearly free. And that's a case where only a grossly inefficient middle-man, the government, can make it "look" free via large taxation and care shortages.

I think part of the reason the debate has been so fierce and polarized is that Americans treasure two things that are, to a certain extent, oppositional: freedom and safety. We can, perhaps, have greater safety in the health care system (except for unborn babies and as long as it doesn't bankrupt us/create doctor deficits), but at the price of some level of socialism. We can see in much of popular Protestant Christianity this hunger for both/and: we want our free will (in which we commit ourselves to Christ when we can make the decision ourselves, not via infant Baptism) and safety ("once saved, always saved"), even though admittedly most evangelicals are firmly in the camp for greater freedom and against socialized medicine.

March 19, 2010

"St. Joseph's got your back."

Given the name "solemnity", I always think you have to be solemn but that's not really the case at all.

You Knew....

...I'd have to read The Search for God and Guinness by Stephen Mansfeld. That's pretty much in the no-brainer category. And so far I'm enjoying it very much even though the author writes with a pro-Protestant spin (example: "The robust Reformation theology, which taught enjoying God's creation and doing all that is not sinful to the glory of God, filtered into the centuries following the reformer's work..." (Has he heard of Aquinas?) Of Luther he writes how his goal "was to reform the Roman Catholic Church, not break from it. Yet when the church authorities stood firm and tried to destroy the fledgling Protestant movement, they only succeeded in fanning the flames of the revolt.")

With that caveat, the first couple chapters are a rich history of beer with as fine an explanation of the beginnings of beer as I've ever seen. He quotes this fine little monk ditty from the Middle Ages:
To drink like a Capuchin is to drink poorly;
To drink like a Benedictine is to drink deeply;
To drink like a Dominican is pot after pot;
But to drink like a Franciscan is to drink the cellar dry.
One of the attractive things about the Medieval era was that there wasn't this huge Gnostic/late-Protestant influence that suggests the natural and supernatural are opposed to each other. God takes delight in our delight, even if that delight seems to be of a purely natural source. God is in the natural too.

If the weather is nice and people are in an effusively good mood, I don't think: "their bonhomie is merely the artificial result of the weather." God made the sun, made good weather and He can work through our science.

That last can be a sticking point. As a child I was imbued with the cult of the natural, but what if the natural is unnatural? And what if the line between the two is fuzzy? Is it natural to drink beer? Beer at one time in our past wasn't natural, say before 3000 BC. It was discovered and enjoyed thereafter. Does something unnatural become natural given enough time?

It's easy to see the supernatural as only those things obviously from the hand of God rather than something that we had a hand in developing, even if that is a nonsensical statement since God made matter and made us.

One brewer told the author that he did not think of himself as as brewing beer, but "rather as creating the conditions in which brewing takes place. He told me he felt closer to God brewing beer than he did in church, because when he is brewing he feels like he is participating in the secret ways of the Creator."

That brewer is close to God because he recognizes that God is even in what looks to the casual observer as a purely mechanical, natural process.

Often I look back and think that my finding out about exercise via Cooper's seminal book Aerobics and by James Fixx's The Complete Book of Running were flukes, were lucky breaks that gave me support through the difficult teen years. But what if those were from God? What if God gave me those books and expected me to make use of them?

March 18, 2010

Consequential Rage

Looks like this unpopular health care bill will pass, which helps to show the folly of anger. Voter anger at George Bush was such that we voted for Obama and a Democratic congress. That sort of blind fury was evident in one of my co-workers, an otherwise analytical & calm guy who said back around '08 that he would vote for anybody with a "D" next to their name as "punishment for George Bush." Smart, not. And certainly it can't be a surprise that a party whose House speaker wrote a book about power would, in fact, prefer to exercise power over prudence.

Yesterday's Imbibition

The day spun spark as a lichtenstein, with glad sun high and dry and I found myself late to the gate with Hambone already in the driveway just past 4:30. He followed me into the house as we warily observed the reception of Buddy the Wonder Dog, aka Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hide, but fortunately it was Jeckyll's day. Or maybe it's just that Buddy is much more tolerant of human males than females, perhaps echoing the bigoted sentiments of 'enry 'iggins in My Fair Lady who sang, "Why can't a woman be more like a man?"

The luck of the Irish reigned when we arrived at the pub and found two open seats along the bar, close enough to the band but not too close. We ordered a couple Guinnesses, aka Guinni, and found ourselves not long afterward gifted with green beads with a small harp at the apex. A Guinness representative 'twas the gifter, who then proceeded to up the ante by buying our second Guinni which was very much appreciated. Green beer being the flavor of the day, it seemed we were the only Guinness drinkers and were thus rewarded for our loyalty.

Hambone waxed mystically about how Manhattan had gotten into his blood, how much he appreciates the 45 minute or so walk to and from his place of business there, how just walking around and soaking up the incredible architecture and people is high entertainment. He travels there often and notes the "regulars" on the plane, the same faces doing the Columbus-New York commute. He tells of "only in New York" moments like how a foot of snow buries the city and yet a woman wearing next to nothing enters a cab. No concession to the elements there.

'Bone has finished David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, a feat akin to scaling Mount Everest in slippers. I jest, for the book is dense and does have a momentum, just not enough to get me past page 400 or so. He's still working on Joyce's Ulysses and Proust is on the radar. He mentioned how Philip K. Dick talked about C.S. Lewis more than once in one of his books.

As the night aged it grew more youthful in terms of clientele, and girls wore green-sheening tops and skirts short as doilies. The house band, the Hooligans, were a disappointment both in song selection (no "dead set"!) and in sound (only one speaker). On the bright side our vocal cords were spared by not yelling "Lunch!" when Mrs. Finnegan calls for it in Finnegan's Wake...

March 17, 2010

Before we imbibe...

Steven Riddle puts it well, emphasis mine:
Having now visited Ireland--a country with which I have no ties whatsoever--genealogically I may be one of 10 caucasian people in the United States who has no Irish ancestry whatsoever--I think somewhat differently of this day. Having seen the post office pillars that stand as silent memorials to those who lost their lives in the most recent series of troubles, having read the Easter Proclamation, having seen the Famine memorial has brought home to me a very different view of Ireland--one both more somber and more lovely. And St. Patrick's day gives me cause and pause to pray for the continued peace of that nation, for its continued adherence to the beliefs for which it was so long punished, and for the continued livelihood and prosperity of the people who brought so much to the world of the arts and to American life and culture. Without Ireland there is no Joyce, Yeats, Flannery O'Connor. . . the list goes on.

March 16, 2010

Live from Columbus, It's Tuesday Afternoon!

The clock struck two when Nancy and I entered the Redwood conference room, which to the naked eye looked almost the same as all the non-Redwood conference rooms. Why not hire a set designer and have each conference room become a mini-theme park, something like Epcot Center? Imagine a Germany Room where you go in and there's a polka playing and beer and pretzels in the corner! Tell me that wouldn't raise our engagement scores. Make conference rooms memorable and maybe we'd remember where they were.

The meeting began with the disembodied voices from Pennsylvania announcing themselves. Roy H-, with that Broadway name and voice to match, went first. Then Brian, then K. They all sound articulate and interesting if a bit somber (with the exception of the thesbian Roy). A major goal of mine is to try to get a laugh out of them and I think Ben said something that got them all chuckling.

When the moderator asked if there were any strengths the survey missed, I said "I think five strengths is pretty good" to modest applause. (We all had five strengths.) Ben pretty boldly read aloud the contents of the book claiming that his strength, achievement, includes an aversion to meetings.

The meeting was a bit grating given its superfluity but then it's all part of this cult of engagement. I don't think we're too far away from being judged on our engagement level, at least on a team level. ("Engagement meetings will continue until engagement improves!" will be the slogan.) My personal engagement is suffering from these sorts of meetings. I assume that these sorts of things are necessary because those up on high think they're effective even though that requires a willing suspension of disbelief.

Even more ominous is the return of "Interaction Day" after a nine-year absence. I picture it coming from Steve, who perhaps waxed nostalgic about the IA days of the past and said, "we should have another!" - a haze of nostalgia not dissimilar to all those folks celebrating Woodstock even though it was just a rainy concert with a lot of bad acid trips. A committee of seven has been set up to make sure Interaction Day is excruciating enough. (Gosh, do I sound like Florence King here or what? Way too curmudgeonly, I know.)

And now there are also quarterly meetings on our development. I think I should put as my development goal to attend more meetings, because that's one I'm going to meet whether I want to or not...

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I was on a plane last week, flying from Florida to Indiana. I’d spent the weekend with my girlfriends at a friend’s parents’ condo in a gated community with pristine landscaping, hot tubs, swimming pools, palm trees and evergreens, all of which have their own charm. But I didn’t realize how much I craved a more spontaneous landscape until our plane descended on the Midwest, and I could see the rivers had not been excavated and redirected where man wanted them to go. Acres of deciduous trees broke up the squares of farmland, where from the sky, I could trace the hairpins made in the dirt by tractor wheels. Why the fly-over state? Thank God, this is the State I fly-to. - Betty Duffy

Loving those most in need, those who's wounds are open and bleeding isn't easy. But now, when I look in the mirror of my own soul I see wounds open and bleeding too. There is no they and us, it is us - you and me. Jesus unites us and died for us. He came for the sick. I am sick. He came to heal all. Thank God. Every day a mom in our home reminds me that her difficulty, her anger, her loneliness, her fear is also mine… Let us try to love like Jesus today. - Christopher Bell of "Good Counsel Homes"

It is funny that many today (and I speak specifically of those seeking 'community') want natural foods, but seek an unnatural community. For true community is based on the family and then the extended family, created by the intermarriage of local families who share faith and geographic and ethnic culture who remain in the community to make it grow. If I want a Catholic community in Bethune, SC of like-minded folks, it will happen if my children stay in (or return to) Bethune with their families and bring their talents to bear in this community-and their children do the same. - Jim of Bethune Catholic

According as you form a closer friendship with spiritual men, you will enjoy more happiness in the Lord. - St. Ignatius of Loyola

There have been times in my life when I thought good looks might open the doors to fame, privilege, and possibly even Heaven. I’m not the best-looking bird in the blogosphere, but I’m also pretty certain I’m not a dog, and in my younger years I thought this meant something. Almost every organization offered a leadership conference when I was growing up. I went to them all, being good looking as I was, I had responsibilities...I still, years later, struggle with new reincarnations of the same old problem. Me: I’m SPECIAL! God: Everybody’s special...I love beautiful people. I’m attracted to beautiful people. I think beautiful people should go to Church. But as a friend once told me, “Anyone who’s thin enough and has a good dermatologist can be beautiful.” And though it should have been obvious to me years ago, it still sometimes surprises me: Christianity is not about divine privilege, but rather, Divine Sacrifice. It's for the soul who’s willing to make itself small, to be nameless, faceless, a servant, a victim. “You duped me, Lord.” Such is the price of eternal life. I think I want it. - Betty Duffy

I read Apologia Pro Vita Sua as a young(er) man, having picked it up in a theological bookstore under the impression that this fellow was the fellow from Philadelphia whose canonization had made a bit of buzz some years before. A happy fault on my part, though I suspect each fellow would claim the other was the greater. - Tom of Disputations

[Powers] spends a lot of time outdoors, walking in the woods, befriending his neighbors, generally observing the world around him. His description of his life, and his dislike of contemporary American consumer culture however felt increasingly like a criticism of my own lifestyle. It was hard not to be resentful. Why do I feel that way when reading these books about people making radical changes in their lives? Then I came to the chapter titled “Humility”. In it, Powers describes how his ego got bigger as he reduced his carbon footprint and became “more enlightened”. He finally realized the trap:”the fiction of the ego is replaced by an even heavier fiction; that of being a Jedi, a spiritual warrior, an enlightened being–and therefore better than those miserable people who are not.” People can build egos while conquering them. It was this chapter that made me realize why I felt so resentful. Yet, he recognized that he was falling into the trap and this saved the book for me. Powers was able to reach even someone as cynical as me. It’s a thought-provoking book for sure, one I hope many will read and find themselves wondering about their own motives on a daily basis. -blogger at "Bookdwarf" reviewing "Twelve by Twelve"

We are signs, whether we like it or not...What we can choose, individually and communally, is what we are a sign of. Am I a sign of God's love for the world? Of His power to transform lives, and even to bring us into His own eternal life? Or am I a sign of His indifference, irrelevance, or even hatred? Am I a sign that God is just another god, Whose followers do as the pagans do?... We are to strive to become perfect, not out of fear of damnation, but because anything less than perfection is a false sign of our Lord and Savior. Or, as Jesus said of the man born blind, so that the works of God might be made visible through us. - Tom of Disputations

Sister Ruth Burrows says the holy thoughts and set prayers can hide our real thoughts, and God wants the real thoughts, He wants us as we are, even or especially if we're 'at sixes and sevens.'" - Dylan of "dark speech upon the harp"

Current Read...

I've mentioned I'm reading Fr. Hampsch's Healing Your Family Tree, which is not without controversy.


Meanwhile, if you can judge a book by its title this one looks awesome.

March 15, 2010

Ignorance or Fraud?

...Or maybe both since "sin [such as greed] makes you stupid." On 60 Minutes, Michael Lewis says ignorance:
Asked how many people he thinks were in the world who understood what was going on, Lewis told Kroft, "Between 10 and 20 investors at most and this is from the universe of tens of thousands of people who could have conceivably made that bet."

"Wall Street is able to delude itself because it's paid to delude itself. I mean one of the lessons of this story is that people see what they're incentivized to see. If you pay someone not to see the truth, they will not see the truth. And, Wall Street organized itself so people were paid to see something other than the truth. And that's one of the central messages of this story. You have to be very careful how you incentivize people, 'cause they will respond to the incentives," Lewis explained... "They insured tens of billions of dollars of subprime mortgage loans without even knowing they were doing it," Lewis said.


Lewis thinks the fiasco had more to do with Wall Street stupidity than corruption.

He said Wall Street didn't understand these things "well enough."
Another Wall Street scribe says that fraud was the cause:
Michael had it wrong in more than one profound way. The markets weren't just "mispricing risk," those in-the-know were manipulating prices--covering up malfeasance and losses. Meanwhile, some members of the fourth estate used their pernicious pens as pawns in the cover-up.

All of the legacy investment banks enabled predatory lending, yet they now perpetrate what Elizabeth Warren calls the "myth of the immoral debtor." Wall Street banks were the key architects of the financial meltdown. The Fed provided cheap money, but irresponsible financiers exploited it. Banks massively over-borrowed, their agents extracted billions in bonuses, and now they blame hard-working taxpayers.


Michael told 60 Minutes (March 14) the financial crisis is a story of mass delusion, but he's only deluding himself. It takes courage to tell the real story. This is actually a story of Wall Street's massive, wide-spread, multi-year fraud, including accounting fraud.

I appeared on 60 Minutes (February 14) and said Wall Street's dealings with mortgage lenders, securitizations, derivatives, and investors were a massive Ponzi scheme, the biggest crime ever against the American economy. Wall Street and Washington hope you are gullible enough to believe otherwise.
It's entirely plausible that executives at the banks knew little about what they were getting into. But if the argument is framed as to why there weren't more people shorting the sub-prime market, Tavakoli provides an explanation given that if massive accounting fraud is taking place then shorting is risky since you couldn't know how long the fraud would last.

Various & Sundry

Listening to the monastic choir of the Abbey of St. Benedict, a free CD received in the mail. Not my usual fare, but fatigue makes me receptive to the gentleness though I don't know the Latin words. It reminds me of what our stern, no-nonsense grade school German nun used to tell us - that she could get something out of any hymn. For me, there were good hymns and bad hymns which depended mostly on melody. Depth wasn't my forte, but now I see the wisdom of her claim since it's the words that draw me close to God.


It was long a dream to build a tiny sitting place off the second floor bathroom, if only because it's the sort of license the eccentrics and would-be poets would allow themselves. Part of it is my craving for sunlight and thinking how cool it would be to start spring and summer mornings out on the 2nd story "verandah". The cost would surely be exorbitant, but as I said it's always been a dream to underbuy on house (which we have) and then make spectacularly imprudent improvements. I always wanted to own a house, for example, with a stairway that leads to nowhere or a secret library behind a wall. Call it a silent protest against utilitarianism.

But I never made of the changes because it would cost too much, a mindset that's surely legacy of the English occupation of Ireland. Twas the British influence that "tamed" Ireland and accustomed her to show deference to the pound and sterling. This legacy of being "good with money" was passed from my grandmother to all her children with remarkable efficiency, such that most could be featured as models for frugality in Money magazine.

So though it's true I couldn't well bring off the feat of having a second story deck I found a way around it - bring the outdoors in. Port the God-given natural light indoors via Solatube at a much more reasonable price. I long to luxuriate under the golden beams of the solarium/book room.

March 14, 2010

Daughter-in-law on TV

She's in a commercial (2nd from left in picture) for Ohio State with three other girls spelling out "O-H-I-O".

March 13, 2010

Nuggets of God-light beckon, linger
liquid karats of saint-speak
soak, Oh soak!
into my 'dermis.

* * *

Rhythmitized by the blues
hypnotized by the rues.

* * *

That ever-itch of Scripture
fecundly deposited in a fat Bible
God's love is not stingy.

March 12, 2010

Lyrics of How Many Kings by Downhere

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we’ve projected
A child in a manger?

Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliness hero, wrapped in his mother's shawl
Just a child
Is this who we’ve waited for?

'Cause how many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn savior
All that we have whether costly or meek
Because we believe
Gold for his honor and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he’ll suffer
Do you believe, is this who we’ve waited for?
It’s who we’ve waited for

How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me

All for me
All for you
All for me
All for you
From Betty Duffy:
My daughter brought me this picture the other day and asked which person I wanted to be.

Being that they’re all the same, I was tempted to point to the biggest one, up on top. I couldn’t bring myself to choose one of the little ones on bottom. “I don’t know,” I said. “You choose.”

Quotes Happened Across & Random Thoughts

I was online searching a psychological biography of St. Ignatius, trying to find the context of his quote: "'Do not form a friendship with anyone, unless you know him thoroughly." Instead I found: "It is said in Scripture that 'obedience is better than sacrifice' [1 Sam 15:22]. For according to St. Gregory, 'In victims the flesh of another is slain, but in obedience our own will is sacrificed.'"

Which I thought: wow. That really dovetails with today's readings, for example the gospel from Mark: "And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

The Word Among Us meditation comments:
As we begin to see the external practices of our faith for what they are meant to be—manifestations of our love for God and his grace at work in us—everything we do appears in a different light. We are not just going to Mass; we are offering ourselves in love to God and in service to others. We are not simply giving money to the poor or praying for the needy; we are loving Christ. We are not merely fasting; we are denying ourselves so that our love will be purified. It’s the fulfillment of the spirit of the Law that frees us to love in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then the homilist at today's Mass said it's not a competition between love of God and love of neighbor; he said that others are proxies for Jesus, such that when we do something for somebody it's not like we're doing it for Jesus, it is.

It seems a partial palliative to suffering to know that even if we were innocent, which we are not, we still would be only approximating what God already did for us, which was to suffer despite innocence.

Yesterday's moment of Lichtenstein (as I call moments of light) was a powerful way of looking at the Eucharist, in looking at it from the point of view of willingness to serve rather than sit back and be served. It's easy to go from one extreme to the other - from doing everything Pelegian-style to doing nothing and expecting God to provide.

So sad about the Internet Monk blogger, who is dying of cancer. His wife says his mood and disposition is great which seems miraculous. "All will be well," comes to mind given his journey. May God give him and his family many graces.

March Madness

Nor stands it safe with us / To let his madness range.
Like the tense last moments in an NCAA tourney game - though with none of the excellence except with respect to parliamentary procedures - we wait to see if the "health" care "bill" passes. Michael Barone writes:
Mrs. Pelosi may have some votes in reserve—members who would have voted yes if she needed them in November and would do so again. But we can be pretty sure she doesn't have more than 10, or she wouldn't have allowed the Stupak amendment to come forward at the last minute the first time. She also might get one or two votes from members who voted no and later announced they were retiring. But that's not enough—and there are other complications.
What's fascinating is the question of how many House members in unsafe seats will be willing to fall on their sword and potentially end their careers. Courage is intrinsically interesting, isn't it? Regardless of the merits or demerits of the proposed legislation, the roll call will eventually tell the story in naked black and white script. (Although I hear that Pelosi is trying to convolute it so that the members would be voting on some sort of procedural thing and thus be able to "defend" their vote to their constituencies.)

Be nice if we'd get Medicare right first. Having had first-hand experience of it via aging relatives, if that program is any sort of preview of coming attractions it doesn't lend confidence. To put it mildly.

Beer Haiku Daily!

March 11, 2010

I Be Hyp-mo-tized... the simple and somewhat familiar explanation of God, the Devil, Christ and the Eucharist. It's so elegant and beautiful that it bears repetition.

The following was presented by a friend who got it from the sister who began the Children of Mary. (What I especially like about that community is the way it was founded - Mother Margaret Mary was a hermit for 12 years, laying the contemplative foundation, when the bishop approached her and asked her to form a community. Obediently she complied.)

And so the familiar story goes: the devil and his angels rebelled, according to some patristic sources, because they refused to serve those beneath them, namely human beings. And so the devil and his minions sought to gain us by using power and force, while God comes the opposite way, through gentleness and weakness.

God gives us the same choice He gave the angels, asking that we worship and serve that which seems below us, a piece of bread. And like Jesus in the flesh, that Bread is ignored, treated disrespectfully, thoughtlessly, and sometimes even blasphemously. Let us not make the mistake some of the angels made.

This Post is SOOO Anti-Lenten...

...that I'll try to atone for it with a post after it.

I can't decide whether to put another bookcase down the center of the spare bedroom/bookroom. Right now everything in red are bookcases. I guess the shelves would have to be double-sided. Way too expensive. But maybe longterm that might be something...

March 09, 2010

"If They Cared" Argument Taken to Extreme

Parody blog updated accordingly asking why it is no death penalty protesters aren't into lethal drug control.

Can't be a Good Sign...

...when the inspiration for your tabernacle is a Hollywood film. From a Wikipedia article lauding a local Catholic church building:
"Notably, the church tabernacle is an eight-foot tall smooth granite column designed after the Monolith of 2001: A Space Odyssey."

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

We humans are saved and sanctified in clusters, like grapes.- Blessed Pope John XXIII

The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern. - Lord Acton

I sat down in front of my little Pieta statue and looked at it, not really praying. But it hit me for the first time in a long time, that Christ suffered so that we don't have to. For the past I don't know how many years, I have thought, "Christ suffered so I have to suffer too." It was my excuse for everthing: "Well this is supposed to suck because it's exile, and Christ suffered so the least I can do is embrace the misery of not ever being able to do what I want...Wahh!" But the reality is not that I'm unhappy with life, but that I'm divided. I'm divided by concepts I have created. In unifying my hopes to what God has given me, there really is no suffering. - Betty Duffy

We can do nothing better than place ourselves and all that we have in God's sight: "Behold me!" Let us put away the fear that prevents us. Let us abandon the sloth, the pretense of independence, and the pride. "Look at the good! Look at the shortcomings! The ugly, the unjust, the evil, the wicked, everything -- look at it, O God!" Sometimes it is impossible to alter something or other. But let him see it at any rate. Sometimes one cannot honestly repent. But let him see that we cannot yet repent. none of the shortcomings and evil in our lives are fatal so long as they confront his gaze. The very act of placing ourselves in his sight is the beginning of renewal. Everything is possible so long as we begin with God. But everything is in danger once we refuse to place ourselves and our lives in his sight. - Msgr. Guardini via Dylan of "darkspeech"

I need to become a bit more Martha (In both the Biblical and the Stewart sense)...I also think that my "Mary-ism" is not the really the Biblical kind. It's a bit more self-oriented rather than Christ-oriented, and so is not really the "better part." - Betty Duffy

If you've ever wanted to find out what this Thomism stuff is all about, Ralph McInerny's 13 episode series on Thomism is available for free download as a podcast, only during March 2010, from EWTN. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page.) Since McInerny just passed away on January 29th of this year, this is a nice memorial. He's the sort of personality that attracts love and hate, though; so if you don't like his show, don't give up on Thomism. - Maureen of Suburban Banshee

If all spiritual paths lead to the same place, then why not create a religion based on your culture, to use Smith’s telling phrase, that allows you to sleep in on Sunday mornings? --Christopher Johnson via Terrence Berres of "The Provincial Emails"

Naaman the Aramean comes across as a believable human being in 2 Kings 5. This should not reassure the rest of us human beings, since his instinct is to prefer a lifetime of leprosy to an hour of humility. - Tom of Disputations

A quick story: two friends describe their spiritual masters. One boasts, "My master has supernatural powers and can even walk on water." The second replies, "My master forgives all who have harmed him." The first: "Your master is more powerful than mine." - Fr Peter Feldmeier via Dylan of "darkspeech"

March 08, 2010

Based on the Poem Tinkers to Evers to Chance

These are the commonest political words:

"Waste, Fraud and Abuse."

When there's nothing to cut, you can always cut these:

Waste, Fraud and Abuse.

From the street pol to dogcatcher to the POTUS himself

If you want to be popular bring these off the shelf

Though ev'ry new program for the national health

brings more "Waste, Fraud and Abuse."

Like This Picture....

David Brooks and the Right

David Brooks wrote a suprising column recently in which he suggested that the tea partiers are like the '60s radical left. The most egregious "point" was his saying that because the right is buying Saul Alinksy's book, that means the right wants to use Alinksy's methods. It surprises me that Brooks would make such a dumb connection; I think his dislike of the tea partiers must be clouding his reason. I wonder if he'd agree with William F. Buckley's comment about preferring to be ruled by the first hundred folks in the Boston telephone book than by the Harvard faculty.

Jonah Goldberg opines:
For starters I think he's just wrong about Alinksy. The main reason Alinsky is hot right now with many conservatives is that, thanks to Beck and Horowitz, many are convinced that Obama is an Alinskyite and so many believe that you can't understand Obama without understanding Alinsky.

Second, his Amazon citation is at best selective. I went and checked the "customers also bought" feature for Rules for Radicals and found that customers also bought (in addition to the books David listed): The Constitution of the United States, American Progressivism: A Reader (RJ Pestritto's excellent and purely academic book), A Conflict of Visions by Tom Sowell, The Real Thomas Jefferson, The Road To Serfdom and Common Sense, The Rights of Man and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine.

My Favorite Beer List (in no particular order)

Guinness is on there too, it just got cut off at bottom...

March 07, 2010

A Series of Amiable Jottings.

Feel a bit discombobulated due to recent discombobulations of the work schedule. Had a long meeting and I was planning on getting a lot of reading done via the iPod but it's not as easy to divide one's attention as I thought. But I survived.

Honestly I can't imagine not working now. Maybe that's sad but I enjoy the structure and time-occupation aspect of it too much, aided and abetted by ample accrued vacation time. How I've changed! Perhaps it's partially due to my lack of curiosity as far as travel goes. I don't feel the desperate need to have time off in order to either "find myself" or read the great books or travel to exotic places. I don't want (obviously given my vows to God and wife) to meet young women. I don't want to spend the day in the gym as I did back in the day. Retirement seems more appealing if you're college-aged and enjoy long drinking parties, playing basketball, traveling? I'm sure the Taj Mahal is nice but I have a sneaking suspicion that if I got there I'd say, "That's a darn fine building...but..."

Hit Eucharistic Adoration at lunch Thursday though was bereft of my liturgy of the hours since I forgot my iPod, which also meant the after-work workout was sans music. (Get out the violins!) I am darn dependent on that damn thing. Or, I am damn dependent on that darn thing. My boss is arguably worse - he has three of them in case he loses/breaks one. (It's one of my sins to always be comparing - "be contributory, not comparative" a wise men said.) Dee-tach-ment, where art thou?

At Stations of the Cross Friday certain Scriptural passages seemed to especially jump out at me. The grave Douay-Rheims edition seemed to help; there is sometimes a gentleness in the Douay despite/because of its formality: "And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony, he prayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground."

You feel like you're there. In times past the Bible version made no difference to me but now it makes perhaps too much difference. I'm at times distracted by the words rather than the meaning, but that usually happens when the words are "wrong". In a good Bible version, as in good writing, the author/translator disappears.

Was taken aback when after Mass Kim said, "The Illiad? I haven't read that since high school." It took me a second to process that she was talking about the blog and about something I'd quoted in Spanning the Proverbial Globe. It's always startling when I find someone in "real life" is reading this. It makes me want to go back and read my own blog and say, "what am I writing here?" and view it from the perspective of that individual, in this case my former bingo-worker Kim. I still cringe when I think how I printed off all my bingo posts for the leader of Bingo and how she (the bingo leader) was underwhelmed with it. Humbling, my shamelessness, and I'd never do that now. I don't think.

Modern science is marvelous but it can't overcome the distance between what we were designed for (movement) and what we're doing now (lack thereof, including me). This is today's PSA.

BD recently deftly used a bit of reverse psychology, for the quickest way into STG is saying you won't be. But seriously, blogging is not an Olympic sport and one of the cool things about it, in my estimation, is being able to appear in a proverbial bathrobe once in awhile. Your fans will forgive you; save your finery for church and special occasions, I say. And so, to back what I say I'll don my bathrobe:

When Did...

When did I become
so bourgeois?

When did I start longing
for iPod speakers
or a room midship'd by skylight?

Comfort, you false god!
You siren of the middle-aged,
You affliction of the connected,
You sable against the skin of
the middle-class!


What If...

What if there
was "lake effect sun"
and it spilled all over the yard and driveway
and you had to shovel it
by the sweat of your browsie brow, brow?


Ouch...maybe the following hits too close to home....about a amateur painter in a Louise Erdrich novel:
Painting china plates was how it started. Now, each Wednesday and Friday at noon, the painting teacher comes from university and the two seclude themselves for hours, engrossed in an intense exploration of form and color.

...Placide bites back on her words, as if to tell me that I have once again shown my true philistine stripe, my low valuation of her talent. She thinks of very little other than the unfolding of this fascinating side of herself, this vibrational urge, as she calls it.

It's a weekend full of spring, full of the sun. 'Twas two days ago, for the first time, I smelled the scent of it in the briney air. Already we can see the days lengthening in sturdy fashion. An excerpt of a Rimbaud letter for the occasion:
These are the months of love; I'm seventeen, the time of hope and chimeras, as they say, and so, a child blessed by the hand of the Muse (how trivial that must seem), I've set out to express my good thoughts, my hopes, my feelings, the provinces of poets - I call all of this Spring.

A reminder from the book of Wisdom:
"But thou has mercy upon all, because thou canst do all things, and overlookest the sins of men for the sake of repentance. For thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which thou hast made: for thou didst not appoint, or make any thing hating it. And how could any thing endure, if thou wouldst not? or be preserved if not called by thee. But thou sparest all: because they are thine, O Lord, who lovest souls.

O how good and sweet is thy spirit, O Lord, in all things! And therefore thou chastisest them that err, by little and little: and admonishest them, and speakest to them, concerning the things wherein they offend: that leaving their wickedness, they may believe in thee, O Lord."

March 06, 2010

The 2010 Bookstore Tour

...began today at a shop called Acorn on 5th avenue in Columbus (technically Grandview).

The exterior looked boring and uninviting but inside there were the pleasing eccentricities that mark all good bookshops. A sign warned, "Absolutely No Tap-Dancing" which the proprietor said was to keep the exuberance of the customers in check.

The books were jammed in narrow rows and there were little cubbyholes of bookdom that reminded me of the tiny rooms in Dublin pubic houses. Rich reservoirs of print pervaded the shop, and I thought about buying Winchester's The Professor and the Madman, a book everybody's already read based on its sales but the price tag convinced me otherwise.

Without further ado, the photo gallery:

March 05, 2010

The Humor of His Eminence

Who knew Cardinal Arinze was such a card? On Al Kresta's show today he was a breath of fresh air. He of vivid personality said that there is a safety in Mother Church that is like "gold in a miser's pocket." A lot of jokes. Very light-hearted and yet evangelistic. He was said to be papabile, and I think would make a fine one although he's so jocular I doubt he'd get it. A character.

Little Jimmy

It's not a Friday night without a little Opry and Little Jimmy Dickens and his familiar jokes: "...Doc says, 'You've got a suppository in your ear.' / 'Now I know where my hearing aid is!'" Admittedly it's starting to wear a bit thin the third consecutive Friday having heard it. But it's live and there's something special in that, something special knowing that on a stage in Nashville, TN there's the aging yet paradoxically ageless entertainer.

It's not dissimilar to the feeling you get when you hear your favorite song on the radio rather than on a CD - it's more special to hear it on the radio because you feel its perishability. Once the song's over it can't be replayed. It feels "live" even though it's not, and you listen all the more attentively for its precious brevity.

This & That

I see Bill O'Reilly in his talking points memo made mention of the similarities between Bush and Obama as well. He compared the surge in Iraq as the huge gamble of Bush's presidency to Obama's in health care. I think Iraq in general was the big gamble; the success of the surge certainly didn't help Bush's popularity in any discernible way.

The sheer doggedness of the president and Democrat congress on the issue of health care is remarkable. I've learned to become skeptical of reports of the demise of the the health care bill - we're a long way from the days when there was so much arm-twisting for the Senate to even take up the bill. Three Senators were supposedly going to cut off debate.

I tend to give Democrats absolutely no credit for any stalwartness when it comes to curtailing abortion, so it's been edifying and educational to see Rep. Stupak and his twelve apostles be so strong on the issue of federal funding. Whether they can withstand the tremendous pressure that will be brought to bear on them remains to be seen but so far it's been refreshing to see principles having some connection to the public square. The years of abuse of pro-life Democrats by the party appears to have sown the seeds for the current crisis.

March 03, 2010

Sorry Charlie

Charlie Rangel Takes Vacation from Ways & Means

Your Tiger Woods Update

...had oatmeal for breakfast and cut his lawn yesterday. Stay tuned for more important info on the Tiger front.

Sign of Too Much Politics...

Lately when I hear "reconciliation" I think of legislation maneuverings instead of the sacrament.

To Tune of Foreigner's Juke Box Hero

...dedicated to all the keyboard warriors out there
Sittin' in the cube, with his head hung low
Couldn't get the right answer, and the data ran slow
Heard the roar of the crowd, he could picture the scene
Put his ear to the wall, then like a distant scream
That fine keyboard, just blew him away
Saw numbers in his eyes, and the very next day...

Wrote a nice little macro, then hit the door
Didn't know if it'd work, but he knew for sure
That one keyboard, felt good in his hands, didn't take long, to understand
Just one keyboard, slung way down low
Was a one way ticket, only one way to go
So he started programmin', ain't never gonna stop
Gotta keep on programmin', someday gonna make it to the top

And be a spreadsheet hero, got cells in his eyes, he's a spreadsheet hero
It took one macro, spreadsheet hero, cells in his eyes
Spreadsheet hero, (cells in his eyes) He'll come alive tonight.


Heard a Fr.Calloway, author of No Turning Back: Witness to Mercy, on Al Kresta's show. He told of his remarkable story of being as pagan as you can get and ended up converting. A fine reminder of the gift we've been given, and his excitement was contagious. He said the honeymoon period lasted 2 or 3 years during which all was sweetness and light and then it was like God took the lollipop out of his mouth and said, "Do you love me or the lollipop?" And the priest said if he said the lollipop that would make him a sucker.

It struck me as I sat down to pray: "What if He needs my love?" It struck me with a kind of force since so often I think of God as sufficient unto Himself and completely powerful and not in need. But He does thirst for our love, according to Mother Teresa and many other saints. What does it mean that he thirsts except that he needs something (that is, chooses to need something) from lowly us?

Am using the Olive Tree Bible Reader where there is a nice application that allows you to see both the Bible and the Matthew Henry commentary on the same screen. Of Is 55: "In Christ there is enough for all, and enough for each....Come to Christ, for he is the Fountain opened, he is the Rock smitten....Christ outdoes our expectations. We come to him, and we find wine and milk. The gifts offered to us are such as no price can be set upon. The things offered are already paid for; for Christ purchased them at the full price of his own blood. Our wants are beyond number, and we have nothing to supply them."