Friday, February 27, 2009

What are you "giving up" for Lent? Not a Christian you say? Not necessary these days!

By Ray

Giving up" something for the forty day period of Lent in the Christian calendar has been a time honored practice since the earliest days of the church. Up until recently the practice of attending church on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, has been a practice observed only by Catholics where foreheads are marked with the sign of the cross made from the ashes of burnt palms to remind them that their mortal existence is only temporarily on this earth.

Recently some Protestant denominations, thanks to Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ movie in 2004, have began to observe that practice also. Most intriguingly atheists and environmentalists are "giving things up" and having ashes marked on their foreheads, a sign that "Remember, O person, from dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return" in tribute to the Mother Earth, Gaia or whatever force they owe allegiance.

Officials want us to observe a ‘carbon fast’. It’s further evidence that environmentalism is about managing human behaviour rather than nature.
by Frank Furedi

It is reassuring to know that Britain’s energy and climate change minister, Ed Miliband, suffers from a powerful sense of guilt.

Miliband has acknowledged that he is a sinner. Today he joined the Right Reverend James Jones, bishop of Liverpool, and the Right Reverend Dr Richard Chartres, bishop of London, to issue a statement calling for a carbon fast this Lent. Apparently Miliband has seen the error of his ways. He says the ‘carbon sin’ he will miss most is ‘driving short distances into town’. For Miliband and his ecclesiastical partners, a carbon fast during Lent is something like a holy command: Bishop Jones insists ‘there is a moral imperative for those of us who emit more than our fair share of carbon to rein in our consumption’.

The promoters of this Lenten carbon fast – the Christian charity, Tearfund – say the idea for turning Lent into an environmentalist publicity stunt came from another Miliband. It says that when Ed’s brother, David Miliband, was minister for the environment, he met with the bishop of Liverpool and informed him that the Church has ‘a major role to play in changing people’s hearts and minds’. In the spirit of having a conversion on the road to Damascus, the good bishop saw the light; Tearfund says ‘a lightbulb switched on in the bishop of Liverpool’s head, and he thought that during Lent we should call for a carbon fast’.

The campaign for a carbon fast is a morally illiterate attempt to recycle the practice of fasting during Lent as a form of environmentally correct behaviour. The aim is to provide religious authority to the condemnation of everyday behaviour that green moralists find objectionable. So, the tips offered to those embarking on the carbon fast include: don’t drink water from a plastic bottle; forget about having your morning latte (it uses too much water apparently); turn down the lights; eat ‘slow food’ (fast food is too carbon-intensive); and give the dishwasher a break (1). Through rebranding these environmentalist rituals as moral obligations, campaigners hope to invest their cause with meaning.

The carbon fast is a semi-conscious attempt to turn environmentalism into a caricature of a religion. The idea of original sin has been reinvented as a wicked act of ‘carbon emission’. There are a number of ways that the green sinner can gain absolution. Those with lots of money can win redemption by purchasing ‘carbon offsets’; the rest of us will have to go through various rituals: recycling garbage, avoiding disposable nappies, using reusable bags, all of which provide proof of our sacrifice and faith. Those most committed to the faith will go further, of course, and stop eating meat and having babies. Those who refuse to embrace any of the above rituals are stigmatised for their moral depravity and denounced for committing crimes against the planet. The main purpose of the carbon fast, it seems, is to make people feel guilty about the fact that they have a life.

Increasingly, environmentalism is less about managing nature than pursuing a moral crusade to manage, and alter, human behaviour. There was a time when standards of behaviour were judged according to moral codes based on religion or on secular philosophy. Such moral ideals sought to provide guidance for those who wanted to lead a good life. Ideas about right and wrong were closely linked to our sense of humanity; acts were judged according to a robust system of human meaning. In the twenty-first century, however, moral disorientation means we find it increasingly difficult to give meaning to moral concepts. In a desperate search for moral coherence, many politicians and religious leaders have embraced environmentalism as a provisional solution to the problem. Hence the carbon fast: they fast not for religious reasons, but in order to make sacrifices for the environment.

Campaigns against climate change are more and more resembling all-purpose moral crusades. In the name of protecting the environment, crusades have been launched to make people consume less, conserve more energy, have fewer babies, and reduce human ambition. Instead of a moral code being used to judge our behaviour, human action is assessed from the point of view of its impact on the environment. So now, after all these years, we discover that staying married is better than getting divorced. Why? Because marriage is better for the planet, apparently. This novel celebration of family values was put forward by the Australian senator Steve Fielding at a meeting of a senate environment hearing in Canberra. Instead of defending marriage on the basis that it possesses some inherent virtue, Fielding supports it because it is superior to the ‘resource-inefficient lifestyle’ that comes with divorce. Once upon a time, warring parents were advised to stay together ‘for the sake of the children’ – now they are implored to stick it out ‘for the sake of the planet’.

Climate change and the return of gluttony The way in which environmentalism resurrects the idea of sin is clear in the return of gluttony. Many greens believe that fasting should not only be for Lent, but for life; they make intimate links between people’s everyday habits and the future of the planet. Environmentalists, public health campaigners, a posse of vegetarian crusaders against meat consumption, lifestyle gurus and policymakers now claim that the obesity crisis represents a moral peril threatening the planet. So big-time fasting is called for.

Ian Roberts, professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, argued in New Scientist in June 2007 that ‘pandemic obesity is an energy vortex’ and therefore ‘it is time to treat it as the potential environmental catastrophe that it is’ (2). He counsels people to stop thinking of obesity ‘only as a public-health problem’ since ‘many of its causes overlap with those of global warming’. What is interesting about Roberts’ diagnosis is the way his denunciation of greedy individual behaviour is linked to a call to protect the planet from gluttonous individuals. His target is people who literally gorge themselves to destruction, and who through their immoderate behaviour threaten the future of the world. They could do with fasting – and not just during the 40 days of Lent.

Roberts depicts the ‘global obesity epidemic’ as an ‘unlikely driver of climate change’. He says that as people have become more dependent on their cars, and other labour-saving devices, they have cut the energy they expend while ‘increasing the amount of fossil fuel they burn’. He evokes a haunting image of an ever-expanding army of fat people whose voracious appetites are creating dangerous climate change. ‘It’s no coincidence that obesity is most prevalent in the US, where per capita carbon emissions exceed those of any other nation, and it is becoming clear that obese people are having a direct impact on the climate’, contends Roberts. ‘The worse the obesity epidemic gets the greater its impact on global warming [will be]’, he says. Here, through the issue of obesity, Roberts is condemning the American way of life itself. America and its legions of obese citizens are portrayed, not only as a threat to themselves, but as a threat to the global environment and people across the world.

In previous times, religious leaders denounced sinners and accused them of being responsible for misfortunes afflicting the community. In the twenty-first century, some are rediscovering the old sin of gluttony, and rebranding it ‘obesity’. The obese lifestyle is deemed inherently sinful, and is said to pose grave dangers to humanity.

According to Professor Roberts, it all starts when someone ‘decides to drive rather than walk the half mile to the office, just to get there a few minutes earlier’. This seemingly innocuous small gesture contains the potential for truly dreadful outcomes, he says. Now in full flow, Roberts points out that the indolent individual who drives to work might have ‘gained a kilogram of fat, and as the weight continues to pile on he eventually finds it harder to move around and is loath to walk or cycle anywhere’. Slothful fat people waddling around, gasping for air, soon become afflicted with ‘back pain, arthritis and shortness of breath, or worse’, claims this public health professional turned preacher.

By now, Roberts can’t resist really raising the stakes. He warns that obesity ‘increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoarthritis, infertility, gallstones, and several types of cancer’. Even worse, obesity leads to low self-esteem, ‘which leads to comfort eating and perhaps heavier drinking, too’. This descent into existential hell is bad enough for the individual and his community, but worse still are the consequences for the environment: ‘His greater bulk and higher metabolic rate will cause him to feel the heat more in the globally warmed summers, and he will be the first to turn on the energy-intensive air conditioning’.

The message of ‘eat less and help to save yourself and the planet’ is endorsed by fearmongers on both sides of the Atlantic. American public health experts and environmentalists frequently join the panics of obesity and climate change together. According to Jonathan Paz, a health science professor at the University of Wisconsin and president of the International Association for Ecology and Health, obesity is the ‘number one epidemic’ blighting the US. He claims that the leading causes of death are ‘related to either sedentary lifestyle, air pollution or motor vehicle accidents and if we could begin to confront climate change and have greener cities and more walkability and bikeability, we would have increased level of fitness, reduced air pollution, and reduced greenhouse gases’.

In recent years, the obesity-climate change nexus has been promoted by numerous public health officials. Howard Frumkin, director of the US Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, talks about the ‘co-benefits’ of tackling global warming and obesity-related illnesses through encouraging daily exercise, like walking to school or work. Frumkin argues that ‘a simple intervention like walking to school is a climate change intervention, an obesity intervention, a diabetes intervention, a safety intervention’ (3). In the same vein, one researcher boasts that he can demonstrate that ‘adopting previously recommended levels of daily exercise by substituting the distances covered during one hour of walking or cycling for car travel could help alleviate three of the most pressing problems that all countries face: oil dependence, climate change and health care’ (4). That is some claim.

Of course some moral crusaders insist that people do more than just get out of their car. Dr Robert Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health wants people to eat less meat. Apparently, global meat production accounts for 18 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Its consumption is apparently linked to a variety of diseases, such as colon cancer. A paper published in the Lancet says that in order to minimise the health risks posed by the worldwide growth of meat consumption and of climate change, the production of meat should be substantially reduced. It appears that the benefits of cutting out meat would be further enhanced if there were fewer mouths to feed. The paper concludes that the ‘total consumption of animal foods would, of course, be reduced by the further slowing of world population growth’ (5). It seems as if our joined-up scare tactic has found another cause to embrace: the classic fear of population growth. Why stop at reducing weight? Why just fast? Why not reduce the number of people living on the planet in the first place?

At a time when government ministers and leaders of the Church embrace gimmicks such as a ‘carbon fast’, it is important to remind ourselves that moralising about our lifestyles will do little to improve the environment. On the contrary, this stigmatisation of human ambition undermines our confidence to experiment and innovate and to develop the techniques and practices that will put problems right. Instead of adopting the role of make-believe penitents, we should be encouraging society to invest in innovation and research. Instead of bowing to the divine authority of the planet, we ought to uphold the age-long project of humanising the planet. Spiked

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Red Carpet Treatment – or the Lack Thereof

By Terry of Abbey-Roads

We're pleased to introduce a new addition to our stellar collection of guest contributors: Terry Nelson of Abbey-Roads. I've admired Terry's writing for a long time, and I'm very happy he's agreed to do some pieces for us. Enjoy him here, and be sure to check him out at Abbey-Roads.

With that title I’ll bet you think this post will be a critique of Sunday’s Oscars and the Red Carpet style and etiquette of the stars and starinas of the movie industry. But it is not.

Rather, this post is about a Bishop, sporting a baseball cap and shades, being spirited out of Argentina in reverse Odessa File style – a thriller which would play rather well as a comedy, perhaps starring Steve Martin, as the pathetic Bishop Richard Williamson of the SSPX.

Yes, the Argentine government expelled Bishop Williamson from the fabled South American hide-away of Nazi war criminals. Reason? The Bishop failed to notify Argentine immigration of his change in status at the seminary where he had been positioned, a crime of negligence against their immigration laws. In addition, the Government was not very appreciative of Williamson’s denial that the Nazi Holocaust ever existed – such sentiments were a bit too retrospect for a country which became a refuge for former Nazis such as Mengele and Eichmann after WWII.

Today’s expulsion was anything but red carpet treatment, and the dogged Bishop was anything but dignified as he scurried through Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza international airport to board his flight to London – where I doubt a red carpet reception awaited him. The Bishop tussled with a journalist, raising a threatening fist, shouldering the man into a support column, and as the Bishop sped away, his security people restrained the reporter. How Gestapo is that?

Williamson isn’t alone in his thinking, I assure you. Of course not all trads and sedes are holocaust deniers… or are they? I wouldn’t know. However, I do know a couple of men who left the SSPX in Winona, where Williamson once taught, who share the man’s racist views. On the other hand, I know others – Catholics in union with Rome - who insist the Jews brought the holocaust upon themselves (they say the Jews controlled the media and contributed to the decline in traditional morality – no, I’m not quoting Mel Gibson). They also have told me not a few wealthy Jews funded the extermination. Anti-Semitism is real and increases in popularity when the economy tanks, although some will defend themselves by saying they are simply anti-Zionist. There is a difference.

Still, I can’t help but wonder about the conversation if these types all got together:

Sr. Immaculata: “Well your Excellency, you know the Jews brought the holocaust upon themselves and the Rothschild’s paid for it.”

Bishop Williamson: “My dear reverend Schwester Immaculata, that is impossible! Nein! There never was a holocaust! They all moved to Manhattan.” (Canned laughter)

(I know – bad joke – and I can’t remember who the author is. I also ought to clarify; Bishop Williamson is actually a British subject.)

So anyway. I wonder if The Bishop will end up floating around the world, looking for asylum as did the Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis on the ship St. Louis, just before the start of WWII. Wouldn’t that be ironic? That said, I really do not believe it is a crime to deny the holocaust nor to blame the victims for the crime; neither is it a crime, much less a sin, to condemn such lies and the bigots who propagate them in the name Christ and His Church.

“Holocaust-denying bishop scuffles with reporter”

“What’s the true story on South American Nazis?”

“Voyage of the Damned: Jewish refugees aboard the SS St Louis”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Morality of Mortgage Relief

By Ray

With the President expected to talk extensively on economic issues in his speech tonight, I thought the following article of great interest, from both a political and religious point of view.

Tom McFeely
National Catholic Register Daily Blog:

Last week, President Barack Obama announced his $75-billion plan to help mortgage holders at risk of default because of the economic downturn and the global financial crisis.

Will the plan succeed? And is the mortgage relief plan, and the other elements of the federal economic recovery plan, based on sound moral and economic principles?

To get an informed opinion about these matters, the Daily Blog spoke via email with Dr. Samuel Gregg. Dr. Gregg, director of research of the Michigan-based Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, is the author of several books integrating economics and morality, including Morality, Law, and Public Policy and Economic Thinking for the Theologically Minded.

What is your overall assessment of President Obama’s mortgage relief plan? Is it likely to work?

Without question, thousands are suffering as mortgage defaults rise across America. Their plight should not be trivialized. That said, I am deeply skeptical of the mortgage relief plan. I believe that it will be counterproductive and only harm those that it is intended to help.

First, we know that something like 55% of people who have defaulted on their mortgage and received a temporary reprieve typically re-default within six months. In short, this plan is likely to encourage people to stay in painful situations instead of moving on with their lives, rebuilding their credit, and investing their talent, time and energy in more productive activities.

Secondly, the plan will encourage some to stay attached to mortgages that are worth far more than the real value of the actual properties. Frankly, foreclosure or individuals renegotiating their mortgages with their banks would be better, and allow for a faster recovery of the housing market, which is truly in the interests of the common good.

In announcing the plan this week, President Obama said, “I also want to be very clear about what this plan will not do: It will not rescue the unscrupulous or irresponsible by throwing good taxpayer money after bad loans. It will prevent the worst consequences of this crisis from wreaking even greater havoc on the economy. And by bringing down the foreclosure rate, it will help to shore up housing prices for everyone.”

Do you think that this is correct — that President Obama has structured his plan in such a way as to minimize the “moral hazard” of bailing out people who acted irresponsibly in obtaining loans they couldn’t afford, and of lenders who acted irresponsibly in making loans to people who were obviously a bad credit risk?

In a word: no. To “shore up” something usually means that you are engaged in a temporary delaying action. The Administration and Congress can try to make as many distinctions as they like, but they can’t change the facts that millions of people will take this as a signal that the government will protect them from the consequences of irresponsible behavior, such as borrowing too much money or seeking quick profits by “flipping houses.” Even worse, those many more millions who have worked hard, who have not played the house-flipping game, who have made sacrifices every day in order to honor those contracts which they made with banks and mortgage lenders, will wonder why they have bothered to do the right thing.

Based on what we have observed thus far — whether it is with the “bail-out” or the mortgage relief plan — it is difficult to believe that either the Administration or a good number of Senators and members of Congress particularly care about moral hazard. This will cost America dearly in the future.

Many Americans complain that there is a double standard in operation in Washington’s efforts to address the financial crisis that seems to reward the rich and ignore those who are less well off. That’s because huge amounts of taxpayer dollars have been spent to shore up banks and brokerages whose lending practices and speculative trading practices were responsible for creating the crisis, whereas it looks like many individual mortgage holders will receive little help and will default on their mortgages and lose their homes as a consequence. What is an authentically Christian and economically sound approach to addressing this problem of an apparent double standard?

Economic questions fall squarely, for the most part, into the realm of prudential judgment for faithful Catholics. In this area, they can disagree among themselves about specific policy-details. Americans are rightly outraged by some of the Wall Street practices contributing to the crisis. But we should remember that much of the responsibility for this crisis also lies on “Main Street,” where plenty of people neglected to save, over-invested in property, and borrowed excessively in order to live beyond their means.

In economic terms, it appears that none of the various government injections of taxpayer dollars (which presently total almost 7 trillion dollars) into our ailing economy have had any effect. I am skeptical that any further spending is likely to have any positive impact, regardless of whether it is in the banking sector or on individual mortgages. Keynesian policies of “spending one’s way out of recessions” have never worked, and never will. Populists will never accept the hard economic truth that we need to allow the normal processes of market exchange to clear out the bad debts on Wall Street and Main Street, thereby restoring the conditions that allow entrepreneurs to begin creating wealth again.

Of course, we as Catholics have non-negotiable obligations to those suffering in the midst of the crisis, and we should not allow the state to usurp our concrete responsibilities to our neighbor.

At the end of the day, do you think that the economic crisis is going to result in a mentality in the United States that is more or less moral — and one that is more or less economically sound — than the mentality that existed when we landed in this mess?

Much depends upon the guidance we receive from our political leadership.

If the Administration and Congress persist in pursuing New Deal-like policies — and let’s keep in mind that it is now generally accepted that the New Deal was a failure — then I fear we could be headed for a Japan-like decade of stagnation, especially if our banking sector is shielded from root-and-branch reform. In moral-cultural terms, the same policies are likely to facilitate inertia, rising resentment, a diminishment in personal responsibility, and growing attachment to the lie that politics and government are the solutions to all our problems.

By contrast, if we are humble enough to accept that the financial crisis is the result of interventionist policies, politically-driven lending, and old-fashioned greed on Wall Street and Main Street, then perhaps we might understand that free markets will only produce stability and prosperity over the long-term if they are grounded in a moral culture of virtue rather than relativism and skepticism.

In short, if we understand that markets need both limited government and a robust moral culture, America has a bright future.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Lack of Logic

By Bobby

The US automakers are being forced into submission by the federal government and the salacious obsession of modern liberals that control the government with the "global warming" malarkey that is being used to eliminate the family car and business truck and to force everyone into a two-seat microcar or hybrid that is what fringe environmentalists demand everyone have. No wonder a few conservative legislators when the 2007 fuel economy standards were passed as part of an "energy" act that is about pushing the "green agenda" through the same Pelosi tactics we saw pass the European Socialist Act of 2009 (as Sean Hannity calls it) with a veto-proof majority called it the "Buy a Toyota Act" by noticing how it forces automakers to make microcars or tiny hybrids since they are the only vehicles that would comply with federal fuel economy standards.

We have seen in the 26 months of the Pelosi Administration the liberals' appetite of wanting automakers to submit to their standards of vehicles that save fuel but nothing else. Would you rather use fifteen two-seat microcars that make 45 MPG each to travel 150 miles to take a youth soccer team (14 cars with players, parents and coaches driving them, only one player can fit into each car, and one adult to drive them, and another with some gear), that would use 60 gallons of fuel for the trip, or two 20 MPG full-size SUV's, that carry seven players and two coaches each, with all the gear loaded, and use just 30 gallons of fuel for the trip?

The current administration, both in Congress and the White House, want us to believe 60 gallons for the same duty that could be done in just 30 is better because they are "saving the earth".

Furthermore, the power of automakers, with the $500k compensation limits on executives and the tilting of labor relations by the administration, has been changed where unions have more control, power, and compensation than management. Union bosses can now be paid in the millions while executives are restricted in compensation. This problem is also coming to banks, and when "card check" is passed, they can force the banks to unionise, and clearly the power goes to the unions since they are not restricted the way management is restricted.

The problem with automakers has been liberal policies that are designed to force us into tiny microcars they demand we have, and they do not care about businesses, industry, or anyone who needs the popular trucks that is the bread and butter of automakers. The feds' mandate to shrink vehicles gave us the SUV and truck trends, and the new CAFE standards is designed to close the loophole that gave us this move, and to give liberals their utopia of us driving microcars. Remember the "That's a Family" reference to just two people? That's all they think a family is.

And what about the unions' control? Just how much worse can it be?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wish I'd Written That

By Drew

A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is built for.

Admiral Grace Hopper

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shea Stadium, R.I.P.

By Mitchell

Not from us this time, but from AP:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shea Stadium, the circular modern stadium that hosted two World Series title winners but was criticized for its lack of charm and amenities, met its end Wednesday. It was 44.


The ballpark was named after William Shea, a lawyer who helped return National League baseball to New York after the Giants and Dodgers migrated to California for the 1958 season. It is survived by the Mets, who are moving to Citi Field, and the Jets, who moved to Giants Stadium after the 1983 NFL season.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Can We Talk?

By Cathy of Alex

Cathy of Alex here! I want to thank the Hadleybloggers for their patience with me. I promised Mitchell, Supreme Editorial Leader of this blog, a story every week and I’ve already failed to live up to my end of the agreement. Really, Mitchell scares me so if Judith could calm him down for me, I’d be most appreciative! Thanks, Judith! I owe you. Now, maybe, I can drive thru downtown Minneapolis again without looking over my shoulder afraid that Mitchell was going to come charging out of the Little Wagon and accost me looking for a story!!!! Not to mention that I want to, personally, be able to go into the Little Wagon again myself without being worried I may see Mitchell in there. It’s the hamburgers doncha know? Trivia Question: At a blognic at that establishment last summer who was the only one of five bloggers in attendance who did NOT order the All-American Burger? Yes-me. I like my mushroom and swiss so sue me and accuse me of being a Red..see if I care..

Speaking of America and Reds..can we talk?

There was time in the not so distant past when to even be suspected of holding certain membership or certain ideals meant you could be hauled before a Congressional Sub-Committee, denied work in Hollywood (maybe a blessing in disguise there), fired, incarcerated, etc.

Now, unless you are a suspected Middle Eastern terrorist interred at Gitmo you probably will not face the same consequences that many Americans did during the Cold War and the early 20th century.

Or will you?

Just because you may not be imprisoned: is freedom to associate, or freedom to speak up, any greater today than it’s ever been?

In some ways, yes. However, I would argue that the doctrine of political correctness serves just fine, in many circumstances, to stifle constructive conversation and put us in a prison of silence.

I’m by no means even talking about defamatory or hateful speech or slander. I’m talking about even raising certain issues in a reasonable manner without having some feared label thrown at you. Some of these labels are: misogynist, anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic, elitist etc. etc.

The minute you even TRY to start a serious dialog or even an expression of concern about, oh say, the Palestinians being perhaps harshly treated by the Israelis. You can sure enough bet someone is going to accuse you of being anti-Semitic. You should just shrug that off and continue but I find that often people just shut down and withdraw. Dialog dies right there. You have the right to remain silent.

I recently got into it via Twitter and my Facebook page with a reader who seemed a tad upset that I dared to suggest that perhaps President Obama would not accept President Ahmadinejad of Iran ’s offer to dialog because Israel was going to object. Of course, Israel will object. It’s not in their interest to see us conversing with a state that is not friendly to them. Likewise, we’d probably object (and we do) if Cuba is talking to China . But, to even mention any of this because certain players are involved immediately gets some on the defensive. I’m by no means slamming Israel . I’m not slamming Iran . I’m just wondering, hey, could some bloodshed and terrorism be averted if we, at least, listen to what the Ahmadinejad has to say? Maybe not. Maybe he’s playing us. What can it hurt to even talk to him? I’m not under any means suggesting we discard our principles during any such dialog. And here’s where I really got into it by daring to hypothesize: If it's true that talking to him will hurt our relations with Israel and, that as we have a nearly constant worry of doing so, it seems reasonable for me to suggest that doesn’t it appear in a way that Israel dictates the terms of our relationships in the Middle East? Are we supposed to do what is in OUR best interests or in the interests of our allies? Are they different interests? Should they be? I’m just trying to have an honest and open debate about those questions and here it comes-the labeling.

When’s the last time you had an unheated discussion about gender roles and sexuality outside of the group of friends and family that you may know already agree with you? I can’t remember either. If you dare to suggest that, perhaps, children who are raised in single parent homes or homes with unmarried parents or homes with two parents of the same gender, may have trouble relating to the unrepresented gender later in life not to mention they may have no concept of what a healthy marriage is (mark me: the divorce rate will come down eventually. Why? No one will be getting married) you are accused of being “unenlightened” a “throwback” “medieval” “homophobic” “out of touch”

For all the talk these days about “dialog” how often do you see that really happening? I think reason has gone straight out the window. Many have no concept of the fact that to claim faith does not mean you do not have reason. I know rhetoric is a lost art in desperate need of reclamation. All this talk of feeling and emotions and being as inoffensive to as many people as possible and pushing abstract concepts in our schools has led us to this point. We are a nation of people with no grasp of facts or reality or how to converse with anyone outside of our own mirror. It’s all about “me” and “my feelings”. If you agree, great. If not, get lost..

To some: “dialog” means we’ll talk, you’ll listen to my side, and you will agree to my terms when we are done. To me: “dialog” means I will politely listen to your side and hope you politely listen to mine and perhaps we can reach some compromise unless you propose something that I cannot in all conscience agree to. Then, we will not agree in total but maybe we can still part on friendly terms and go eat a hamburger together sometime (you are buying-LOL!)

I know in the Roman Catholic Church, and I can’t close this post without bringing it up, there are many who think they can change the teachings of Holy Mother Church if they can just raise their “issues” and we can all talk about it. Then, in a fine display of losing his mind to Satan, the Holy Father is suddenly going to overturn centuries of teachings to accommodate their positions (By the way, there are teachings that not even the Pope has the authority to overturn. In his humility, he knows this). What I continually find amusing is that this group of unhappy “catholics” fails to realize that this is what they are: THEIR issues. Me: I’m just fine and happy with what Holy Church teaches but this group in their selfishness wants me to live in “their” faith when I am just fine living in what is supposed to be OUR Faith.

Monday, February 16, 2009

One Particular President's Day

By Drew

As we have previously mentioned in this space, the holiday known colloquially as "Presidents' Day" (or President's Day, or Presidents Day, depending on the source) is, in fact, legally known as "George Washington's Birthday (Observed)."

There's a good reason for that, as former presidential speechwriter Lee Bockhorn points out:

Naming George Washington as your favorite president is akin to saying that ice cream is your favorite dessert — not only is he (along with Lincoln) an obvious choice, he is also, on first glance, a boring one. Washington lacked the qualities that endear other presidents to us moderns: Jefferson’s dazzling intellect, Lincoln’s literary power and hardscrabble origins, TR’s superhuman energy, FDR’s patrician élan in the face of polio, Reagan’s warmth and wit.

Washington possessed virtues that are undervalued in our time: an extraordinary sense of duty, prudence, humility, and discretion. As the first president, he established the democratic dignity of the office, avoiding the trappings of monarchy while still imbuing the presidency with grandeur. He successfully managed the enormous egos (e.g., Hamilton, Jefferson) in the first cabinet. And if there ever was an “indispensable man” in American history, it was Washington — yet by voluntarily relinquishing power after two terms, he taught us that no man is indispensable in a democracy.

Other presidents might have been better writers, better dinner companions, or better politicians, but no president inspired more awe and devotion in his countrymen than George Washington — and none was a better man.

And as author Jay Winick adds,

Cast in marble as well as in history, austere, unapproachable, dignified, and visionary in his own right, he resisted all the temptations to make himself a king, created our first government, and gave us the time-honored principle of the peaceful transfer of power from one head of state to another. England’s King George once said that if Washington stepped down from the presidency, he would be “the greatest man in the world.” There’s something to that, too.

Not a bad life's work, even if these are qualities we don't seem to value much anymore. So happy birthday, George Washington! (Even if it isn't until next week...)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Anna Nicole Smith - the Opera

By Drew

I suppose this had to happen sooner or later. I might have even expected it from some of our more avant-garde opera houses. But from the Royal Opera in London? Oh well, if La Scalla can make an opera out of An Inconvenient Truth, I suppose anything’s possible. And, sarcasm aside, opera is certainly filled with heroines whose tragic, tawdry lives would have given Anna Nicole a run for her money. I suppose there’s just something jarring about 1) a tabloid fixture being the central character, and 2) her story having happened so recently. We haven’t attained any distance from the actual event, so our perspective can be skewed.

Lest I sound as if I’m talking myself into this idea, the fact that the libretto is by Richard Thomas, co-creator of Jerry Springer: The Opera, can’t be seen as a good thing…

(H/T Big Hollywood)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Orthodox Rabbi: Left Wing of Catholic Church Out to Destroy the Faith

By Ray, an incredibly valuable source of information on what is happening in the Church today, published this interview yesterday. Father John Zuhlsdorf ("Father Z"), Lutheran convert, ordained in Rome by JPII, graduate student working on his PhD, recognized expert on the Latin language and probably the most popular Catholic blogger (What Does the Prayer Really Say), annotated the interview on his blog. Emphasis in black, his comments in red.

Left Wing of the Catholic Church Destroying the Faith Says Orthodox Rabbi

By Hilary White, Rome correspondent
Wednesday February 11, 2009

ROME, February 11, 2009 ( – The dissident, leftist movement in the Catholic Church over the last forty years has severely undermined the teaching of the Catholic Church on the moral teachings on life and family, [fantastic!] a prominent US Orthodox rabbi told Rabbi Yehuda Levin, the head of a group of 800 Orthodox rabbis in the US and Canada, also dismissed the accusations that the Holy See had not sufficiently distanced itself from the comments made by Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) on the Holocaust.

"I support this move" to reconcile the traditionalist faction in the Church, he said, "because I understand the big picture, which is that the Catholic Church has a problem. There is a strong left wing of the Church that is doing immeasurable harm to the faith." [Peter was Jewish. Can Rabbi Levin be Pope after Pope Benedict? Maybe 20 years from now?]

Rabbi Levin said that he understands "perfectly" why the reconciliation is vital to the fight against abortion and the homosexualist movement. [The man-centered view of the left detaches morals from reality.]

"I understand that it is very important to fill the pews of the Catholic Church not with cultural Catholics and left-wingers who are helping to destroy the Catholic Church and corrupt the values of the Catholic Church." This corruption, he said, "has a trickle-down effect to every single religious community in the world." [What an admission!]

"What’s the Pope doing? He’s trying to bring the traditionalists back in because they have a lot of very important things to contribute the commonweal of Catholicism. [YES YES YES!]

"Now, if in the process, he inadvertently includes someone who is prominent in the traditionalist movement who happens to say very strange things about the Holocaust, is that a reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater and start to condemn Pope Benedict? Absolutely not."

During a visit to Rome at the end of January, Rabbi Levin told that he believes the media furore over the lifting of the excommunications of the four bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X is a red herring. He called "ridiculous" the accusations that in doing so Pope Benedict VXI or the Catholic Church are anti-Semitic and described as "very strong" the statements distancing the Holy See and the Pope from Williamson’s comments.

Rabbi Levin was in Rome holding meetings with high level Vatican officials to propose what he called a "new stream of thinking" for the Church’s inter-religious dialogue, one based on commonly held moral teachings, particularly on the right to life and the sanctity of natural marriage.

"The most important issue," he said, is the work the Church is doing "to save babies from abortion, and save children’s minds, and young people’s minds, helping them to know right and wrong on the life and family issues."

"That’s where ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue has to go."

Although numbers are difficult to determine, it is estimated that the Society of St. Pius X has over a million followers worldwide. The traditionalist movement in the Catholic Church is noted for doctrinal orthodoxy and enthusiasm not only for old-fashioned devotional practices, but for the Church’s moral teachings and opposition to post-modern secularist sexual mores. [And this is why progressivists will fight their reintegration in the mainstream Church.] Liberals in the Church, particularly in Europe, have bitterly opposed all overtures to the SSPX and other traditionalists, particularly the Pope’s recent permission to revive the traditional Latin Mass. [The TLM is the monster under their bed.]

The Vatican announced in early January that, as part of ongoing efforts to reconcile the breakaway group, the 1988 decree of excommunication against the Society had been rescinded. Later that month, a Swedish television station aired an interview, recorded in November 2008, in which Bishop Richard Williamson, one of the four leaders of the Society, said that he did not believe that six million Jews were killed in the Nazi death camps during World War II.

At that time, the media erupted with protests and accusations that the Catholic Church, and especially Pope Benedict XVI, are anti-Semitic.

Rabbi Levin particularly defended Pope Benedict, saying he is the genius behind the moves of the late Pope John Paul II to reconcile the Church with the Jewish community. [HO HO! The libs aren’t going to like that suggestion! They will attack the Rabbi especially on this point, suggesting that it was all JP II and had nothing to do with Card. Ratzinger… who is German, btw.]

"Anyone who understands and follows Vatican history knows that in the last three decades, one of the moral and intellectual underpinnings of the papacy of Pope John Paul II, was Cardinal Ratzinger.

"And therefore, a lot of the things that Pope John Paul did vis-à-vis the Holocaust, he {Benedict] might have done himself, whether it was visiting Auschwitz or visiting and speaking in the synagogues or asking forgiveness. A lot of this had direct input from Cardinal Ratzinger. Whoever doesn’t understand this doesn’t realise that this man, Pope Benedict XVI, has a decades-long track record of anti-Nazism and sympathy for the Jews."

Comments from Father Z's blog

This Just In

By Steve

Favre Retires From NFL…Again…And "This Time I Mean It," He Thinks

(NEW YORK, February 12) -- New York Jets quarterback Brett Farve announced yesterday that he was retiring after 18 seasons in the NFL. The announcement came less than a year after Farve’s previous retirement announcement while with the Green Bay Packers, which in turn came after having spent the past several offseasons contemplating retirement, only to wind up returning to the team each year.

Farve dispelled any notion that he might attempt another comeback within the next few months, telling reporters that his decision was absolutely final. "And this time I mean it."

In other news, numerous politicians assured their constituents that they were from the government and they were here to help, Dirk Bladder of South Beachport promised debt collector Eknath Kapool that the check was in the mail, Springfield resident Homer Simpson vowed he would never eat chili again, and Barry Stutz of Newport told his girlfriend Heather McIntosh that, of course, he would respect her in the morning.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kelloggs and Phelps

By Bobby

It is a requirement that if you own interest in companies being discussed, you must disclose them when they are being discussed. In light of the November 2008 incident published in a British tabloid involving the use of drug paraphernalia by Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps, which took place near my home, and around the time he visited a football game of my alma mater, Kellogg's terminated its deal with Mr. Phelps. As a shareholder of Kellogg's, I have released a statement about the termination of its contract termination with Mr. Phelps:

Obviously, Mr. Phelps' conduct while in South Carolina during his visit in the area around the Arkansas football game November 7-8, 2008, as a guest of a few friends in school was highly inappropriate. His actions with the use of illegal drugs that are not permitted under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is also improper and should have resulted in an instant two-year suspension under regulations of Fédération internationale de Natation Amateur (FINA). It is proper for Kellogg's to terminate his deal and I recommend all boxes carrying a picture of Mr. Phelps be immediately recalled.

I applaud the management, Board of Directors, and other staff at Kellogg's for doing this. It should be a statement that a drug abuser such as Mr. Phelps should be canned when the firm recently signed a 50-year old Batesville, Arkansas automobile dealer who has been the epitome of fitness be used to promote the products of a fine company of which I am a shareholder.

This type of drug behaviour with illegal drugs is inappropriate and a bad role model. This conduct will not be tolerated by me, and I applaud Kellogg's for taking this stand.

Monday, February 9, 2009

This Isn't Fake . . . Amplifiers Failed!

By Bobby

In light of faked performances everywere at major events (see the recent article I posted on what happened at the Inauguration and Super Bowl XLIII), it seemed interesting what happened during Saturday night's Budweiser (InBev-Belgium) Shootout* during the National Anthem (Fox).

* Because of trademark issues over the Bud name, I refer to it as Budweiser of Belgian brewer InBev.

During the National Anthem, the singer (most likely local; there is a talent contest hosted by Daytona International Speedway for some events) had the amplification (the wireless microphone) fail on her a few times early. She was singing, but most of the 80,000 fans did not hear it because it was not on the loudspeakers.

Somehow, the fans, especially near the front, knew something was wrong. They knew she was singing (the fans closest to the track and others could hear it), and the paying crowd decided to take the problem to their own hands, and turn the singer into a leader, with everyone singing alongside her. For the next few times the problem took place with her microphone failed, you could easily hear the crowd singing. For once, at a major event, you could clearly see the National Anthem wasn't a pre-recorded lip synchronisation. It was real, and the fans appreciated the real situation by following along.

The drivers even commented on the behaviour after that and were applauding the fans' attitude. Well done, fans. To know the anthem was being sung live, and not a fake was a good thing. The fans knowing what to do in singing was even better. I would love to see that at a major event where someone leads the fans to sing. The continued fakery of everything as we have seen in too many events has to go. What happened Saturday on Fox with the Shootout showed us what can happen with real singing and intelligent spectators who knew their anthem and showed reverence for it, not one of the numerous Star "Mangled" Banners we have seen or any of the intentionally faked music that is a sad trend.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Bible Publisher involved in Daschle Tax Scandal

By Bobby

In reading my notes this week about Tom Daschle's withdrawal of his nomination as Health and Human Services Secretary, I learned the firm involved in the scandal that brought him down was Intermedia, a huge private equity firm involved in liberal politics.

Intermedia in 2006 purchased Bible publisher Thomas Nelson from people such as myself, and the new tone of Nelson under Leo Hindery, Jr, and his Intermedia firm was well-known. I questioned (see the Notable Quotable 2007) their decision to publish a book by the mother of the infamous Spears sisters from entertainment.

Not only does this firm turn away from its Bible publishing in favour of the modern "new spirituality" trends, now we have learned Intermedia, its parent, has been involved in the tax cheat scandal.

Read more on Daschle here and here.

Happy Birthday, Ronaldus Magnus

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Devilishly Good

By Mitchell

One doesn’t normally think of opera as adversarial sport, but there it is: oftentimes, the audience is pitted against the director, and there can be only one winner. Either the audience leaves happy with a production that is pleasing, lyrical and traditional (and, say some, hopelessly “old fashioned”), or the production team emerges triumphant with a “visionary” staging that is “relevant,” “bold” and “provocative.” (This kind of production often fails to, shall we say, move large numbers of the audience – except to the exits- to which the director will respond that such patrons “fail to understand,” and must be “educated” to appreciate such artistic vision.)

And so it was with some trepidation that we approached last week’s Minnesota Opera performance of Gounod’s Faust. The production was being directed by choreographer Doug Verone, who had last worked with the Opera on their Elephant Man of a few seasons ago, and would feature members of his dance troupe. Their goal, according to artistic director Dale Johnson, was to make the music breathe, so to speak, through the dancers’ movements. Well, one can hardly be blamed for being apprehensive, especially on the heels of the Mark Morris-produced Orfeo ed Euridice (to which I alluded in the comments section here).

So just what kind of night would it be? Who was going to come out on top?

Happily, one can report that both audience and creator were the big winners, in this lively, crowd-pleasing and lyrical performance. Verone did indeed have the Midas touch, as his choreography lent a sublime, evocative accent to the enduring story of the aged philosopher Dr. Faust and his bargain with the devil – youth, romance and riches, all for the amazingly low price of one soul. Who could pass up a bargain like that?

Kyle Ketelsen, who was so good as the devilish Don Giovanni of a few seasons ago, was wonderful in the scene-stealing role of Méphistophélès, and Judith Howarth, who shone in a previous production of La Traviata, was likewise luminescent as Marguerite, the innocent girl looking for love but getting more than she bargained for. Paul Groves, in the title role, took some time to warm up, and his tenor voice occasionally reached the balcony with some difficulty; nonetheless, he well portrayed the agony of a man at the end of life, who can’t shake the nagging suspicion that this bargain isn’t all it’s supposed to be cracked up to be. Jean-Yves Ossonce, leading the orchestra in the pit, provided a fine handling of Gounod’s lush music, and the combination of Andromache Chalfant’s sets and Jane Cox’s lighting created an appropriate atmosphere.

This production succeeded on many levels – one of Verone’s expressed desires was to bring some life to an opera that can, truth be told, be somewhat static and stagy. He also wanted to bring out the whimsy and liveliness inherent in Gounod’s story. He accomplished both through the effective use of a troupe of eight dancers – four to play the handmaids to Marguerite, and four to play Méphistophélès’ henchmen. They did indeed compliment the music, providing an accent, rather than a distraction, to the melodies flowing from the pit. It was as if the music itself was using the dancers as paintbrushes, their movements casting large swatches of color across the stage. No special effects-laden movie could have done any better. As well, the Walpurgisnacht ballet sequence from Act V, which is often omitted, is presented here in all its glorious, decadent intensity.

Legend has it that demons evolved from dogs, and Méphistophélès’ apprentice demons did indeed resemble a dog pack in the way they hovered around old Scratch, constantly moving and circling, their gestures at once both grotesque and fluid. (At one point they even make a noise in unison that sounded very much like a howl.), and James Schuette’s costumes should be praised for the subtle accents of black fur, underscoring the dog-like origins. They might resemble puppies eager to please, but they are demons, after all, and their underlying menace was never very far below the surface. The Devil, of course, never likes to get his hands dirty, not when he can rely on someone else to do the messy stuff.

And that leads me to a couple of observations on the story itself. Literature and real life both testify to the Devil’s immense ability to charm, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Méphistophélès’ constant flattery of Faust – unctuous without being totally subservient. You are the master, Méphistophélès reminds him, and I am here but to serve you. All the while, of course, he schemes to manipulate Faust into ever-more untenable situations.

Johnson also mentioned in the pre-performance talk that Verone was fascinated as to why Faust, at the opera’s beginning, chooses to renounce his faith in God and turn instead to the Devil for consolation. It is a dramatic, fateful and ultimately fatal decision, and one that causes us all to wonder. Why look to the Devil for what we must know is only temporary (and shallow) comfort, rather than the eternal truth of God? Is it that we have always demanded quick fixes to our needs? Do we have so little belief in our own worth that we think our souls are of such minimal value? Or, as Burgess Meredith so smoothly suggested in a classic Twilight Zone episode, do we consider ourselves to be too grown up and sophisticated to believe in something so outdated as the Devil?

At the opera’s climax Marguerite, kneeling on the gallows facing death for killing her illegitimate (with Faust) child, puts her life entirely at the disposal of Jesus’ mercy. (Anges purs, anges radieux), to which a chorus of angels respond that her faith has saved her (Sauvee! Christ est ressuscité). There is no white-washing by anyone involved in the production, no attempt to minimize the intense religious message in this scene (indeed, there is a bevy of religious symbolism to be seen throughout the performance).

And so while Marguerite is saved, Faust is whisked by Méphistophélès to eternal damnation. A happy ending? Well, in typical opera fashion, death is the ever-present spectre as the final curtain falls. But in this case it is the redemptive power of Jesus which carries the day and so, as a reminder that as we die with Christ so too shall we be raised with Him, this ending can’t help but be a hopeful one.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

An Inconvenient Opera

By Drew


s a follow-up to Bobby's post last year about the forthcoming opera based on Algore's An Inconvenient Truth, William Friedkin, the film director of The Exorcist and The French Connection (remind me, how does that qualify him to direct an opera?) has bowed out of the production. Reports vary as to the reasons for Friedkin's departure but the opera's composer, Giorgio Battistelli, criticizes Friedkin for his use of special effects. Perhaps they were going to create too much of a carbon footprint?

Battistelli was quoted as saying, “Opera isn’t Hollywood.” And for that we can all be grateful. But if opera isn't Hollywood, then what is it doing turning this fairy tale into an opera in the first place?

More Musical Fakery at the Inauguration and SB XLIII

By Bobby

Over the years, I've read commentaries by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler, Jr., of Louisville, KY. about morality, theology, and even music. A commentary made a few years ago on music came back to me today in light of a few incidents. (Note that the South Carolina Baptist Convention's Joe Mack participates with the Diocese of Charleston's leaders at the March for Life.)

In light of more incidents of “faking it” at the Inauguration of the one they have compared to a Händel piece (I do not like the use of his piece in reference to the President, but that's just the classical singer I am), a report came through from Super Bowl XLIII that here we go again with another faked performance. The comeback of former RTL Idols US (note I am using the franchise name) contestant Jennifer Hudson doing the National Anthem, similar to the National Anthem by Whitney Houston on Super Bowl XXV in the very same city, was faked. The singer could have simply lip-synched as her vocals were playing in the background at Raymond James Stadium.

Let me see where I've seen faked vocals or music I've clearly seen in a seven-month span – Peking (Opening Ceremonies faked by the government for propaganda), the RNC (Lampa incident), Inauguration (orchestral instruments), and now XLIII (National Anthem).

There is no way I can see my voice teacher recording her vocals and having it played at any event. Why do these artists think they can record their vocals earlier in the day and fake it on the big stage? I cannot imagine Renée Fleming, José Carreras, Анна Нетребко, Brittnee Siemon, Cynthia Hanna, Jami Rhodes, Mark Husey, Jaeyoon Kim, Raphael Ruda, or Jacob Will ever prerecording their vocals on a Friday night and then lip-synching it on Saturday night.

But the story of the faked vocals reminds me of the hilarity of what Ingrid Schlueter wrote in the Slice of Laodicea, of what she called “Of Musical Crimes in Church”. She criticised the use of excessively loud music in church the teen bands play for services as to cover up their tone deafness and their inability to sing, let along learn proper music. The music in these churches is so loud, its volume violates any typical Saturday night short track's muffler rule -- even if you are in the parking lot of the church, it is loud enough to violate such rules.

She then showed the aburdity of the faked music that is popular in too many churches and in other events by referring to an example in a Wisconsin church. The singer was to perform karaoke during the service (something I strongly oppose, considering I have paid a college student who played at a recital for me a fresh-baked pumpkin pie), something that some in churches today believe is better than live organs, pianos, or orchestras in church because they feel (note that – reminds me much of liberalism's march to domination through feelings) it sounds better than live music, when there is no work done since it can be faked. Such attitudes are similar to why youth dancers have replaced choral singers in many music situations at church. Those sitting next to the writer could sense the church pews shaking as this faked performance was blundered.

Fortunately, with live music choral performances such as Händel's Messiah, we learn which parts are for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. I learn that my parts (tenor) are my parts. I would not sing “Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion,” which my voice teacher (a soprano) sings. And there is no way I would sing the solo in “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion” (alto).

Common sense seem to be lost there. But I've seen too many faked performances recently, and in light of reading the Schlueter commentary this week, I must admit it is both funny and sad that churches believe faked performances are very convenient and better than the real deal.

I have attended many a performance of the South Carolina Philharmonic, and have been to symphonic events at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville. My classical vocal experience is growing. Sadly, our society has decided that fake performances are better than the real. What ever happened to hard work when faking a performance is much easier to do, especially with amplification, digital audio trickery, and the excessive change of church music from live organists to karaoke?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Michael Dubruiel, R.I.P.

By Mitchell

Michael Dubruiel, husband of the extraordinary Catholic blogger Amy Welborn and a blogger and speaker in his own right, died suddenly today.

I did not know him, nor I suppose could it be said that I knew Amy except through her blog, and several emails we had exchanged a few years ago. That probably does not make us friends, per se, but she was always very kind and generous in our correspondence, and several times she linked to pieces I had written when we were covering local Catholic issues.

She has always seemed to me to be a good person, with a nice family and a loving husband. The brief note on her website describes her family as devastated, which I am sure is an understatement. Though they may seem modest, prayers are anything but; and so we offer them for the repose of his soul, and the consolation of his loved ones.

A President for Change; Change Is Not Always For the Better

By Ray

Anyhow, flashing forward nearly 30 years, we now have a new president, a president who is promising us change, peace, prosperity and all the bells and whistles that come with them. But hold on. Let's deal with that "change" issue.

As his appointments get announced, the Chicago neighborhood organizer with virtually no national political experience, doesn't seem to know anybody. So who is getting appointed? Why veterans of the Clinton administration and defeated South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle whose wife made him a millionaire by being a Washington lobbyist, that's who.

Some of his new hires haven't been paying their taxes. No problem there. They have been "close personal friends" of his for a month or so, so he trusts them.

Remember, he's only been in office ten days and these kinds of issues are already popping up.

One of his first decisions made after his inauguration on January 20, was the dropping of the Mexico City Policy that prohibited organizations that received Federal funds from spending it on financing abortions, anyplace in the world. I guess that was change, back to the policy that Bill Clinton had made.

But there's an angle to this decision that does not seem to be recognized by other Washington observers: Racism and eugenics.

This removal of restrictions on foreign aid for abortion services is not going to be sent to Europeans. It will be going to Hispanic, Asian and African countries with huge poverty issues.

Their governments will gladly receive and dispense the new source of abortion funding to eliminate some of their perceived poverty problems -- their babies.

This is eugenics, through and through, coming from the man who likes to think of himself as African-American. How can he justify killing African babies?

Most people don’t know what "eugenics" is. "Its advocates regard it as a philosophy for the improvement of human hereditary traits through the promotion of higher reproduction of certain people and traits, and the reduction of reproduction of certain people and traits." [Wikipedia]

But when he is regularly being labeled as a sponsor of funding for the reducing of minority populations around the world through the use of abortion to make the world safe for “white people” like him, he will get the message.

Shouldn’t we be counter-attacking?

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned our new president's name. Well I'm going to start using it, but it will always be in a sentence with the words "abortion" or its synonyms. What will you think of that, President "Abortion Provider" Obama, whose father was Kenyan, when hundreds of thousands of Kenyan babies won't be seeing the light of day?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Greetings, Our Word World!

By Ray

Greetings, Our Word World! Mitchell, assiduously pounding away at his keyboard finishing up the Great American Novel, has promised me an invitation to the big bash his publisher will be throwing when the book comes hot off the press. And a dozen signed first editions for my retirement endowment. In return, I will have to, now and then, pop in and enchant you folks with some of my bits of infinite wisdom. I do have a lot stored up. Some of it's a bit rusty, though.

I don't know a lot about NASCAR races or classical music but I've watched my share of the former and do enjoy listening to the latter far more than what is classified as popular music. But I've been a pretty quiet reader of Our Word, not commenting much as of recent.

Much of my time is usually spent generating and editing news items relating to the Catholic Church originating from Minnesota and vicinity for posting on my blog, Stella Borealis ("Star of the North"). It's tough getting juicy gossip out of priests used to observing, under threat of papal excommunication, the "seal of the confessional."

But I do have opinions. Just ask my family: boy, do I have opinions. And much of them are political in nature, being a lapsed DFLer from way back. I used to be fairly active and well known in my Senate District, but times changed in the early 80s and I became a political eunuch, leaving the DFL, but not wanting to become a Republican, either.

Two incidents drove me from the DFL. At one endorsing convention for the State House and Senate, candidates are asked to introduce themselves and then undergo interrogation from the hundreds of delegates (mostly employees of governments, social service agencies, members of labor unions, volunteers for political candidates, etc.) before the voting. One man stridently asked the candidates, "What is your opinion on abortion and how radical are you?"

You see I was a timid, frightened pro-lifer in those days and wouldn't dare mention that to my political friends as I enjoyed their company and feared losing it. But that question struck home for me that the DFL party was no place for me any more. It was about the same time that I was reverting back to the Church after having been away, mostly out of laziness, for over 20 years.

The second incident was at a monthly meeting of the Executive Committee of my Senate District, of which I was some kind of member. It was announced that the Hennepin County Executive Committee had rejected the slate of delegates that we had elected to a county endorsing convention. It wasn't representative. You see we had "too many women delegates." It seems that quotas had been established. Qualifications were no longer important. That straw broke the camel's back. [To be continued...]

[Editor's note: Thanks, Ray! Welcome aboard, and thanks again for agreeing to be a guest contributor. You can look forward to Ray's opinions each week at Our Word; in the meantime be sure to check out Stella Borealis for the latest Catholic news in the upper Midwest.]

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