Saturday, October 30, 2004
Came down with it sometime last Saturday, misdiagnosed it as an asthma attack, and spent the rest of the week hacking like Doc Holliday. (Another fun fact--next to my basso rumble, Barry White sounds like a tenor.) Thursday, I tried to schedule an appointment with my new HMO doctor (my old HMO doctor--a fine physician--decided he'd rather practice in Canada instead), but was advised that the earliest I could be seen was November 3rd.
I agreed to take it, then decided the mortician might get first dibs at the rate I was going. My wife then suggested a visit to our old pre-HMO doctor. Sure, we'd have to pay the visit out of pocket, but it beat death (or sounding like it). Bingo--I could get in that day.
Did I mention I'm switching health plans ASAP?
Later, my boss semi-jokingly told me to stand out in the hall and talk to him, and one of my co-workers lysoled (!) my human habitrail residence. Word of My Condition had spread throughout the office. Out of geniune sympathy, but still...
Ring around the rosie/
Pocket full of posies/
We all fall down.
I got to the doc's at mid-afternoon--"bronchitis. Or walking pneumonia, if you don't respond to medication."
So far, so good. I've been given several torpedo-sized pills, and a bottle of cough syrup laced with Everclear, from the way I sleep after taking it. They are beginning to do damage to whatever ails me, which is a good sign. Anyway, that explains the lack of posting and response to comments. Perhaps more later. I get rather tired of wiping phlegm off the monitor. In addition, I have to find a way to clean the house, salvage my increasingly-disastrous fantasy football team's season, pick up a storage case from Sears, go shopping for the week, and work in a viewing of Michigan vs. Michigan State today.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
That's what The Boy just typed on the computer when I wasn't watching him like the proverbial hawk. He also managed to summon up a window I've never seen--something called "Advanced Power Management."
This. Means. Something.
The good news is that he didn't follow it up with "They're heeeeere....."
Did I mention that I almost never get any work done at home?
P.S. Is it just me, or does every family with only one son invariably refer to him as "The Boy"?
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Or so the USCCB continues to pretend, avoiding the inconvenient fact that American Catholicism is hardening into warring camps.
Exhibit A, Campaign Season in Metropolitan Detroit:
The tense, passionate fight for the Catholic vote arrived Sunday morning on the sidewalks around National Shrine of the Little Flower church in Royal Oak.
If you are in the Detroit area, make sure to visit the National Shrine--it is a magnificent church.
About 50 Catholics from peace groups and the liberal Catholics for the Common Good passed out flyers and carried signs reading "War is a Life Issue, too" and "Health Care is a Life Issue."
CftCG (sounds rather like Catholics for a Free Choice, eh?) is the rather slow brain child of several progressive Detroit priests and religious bent on pumping an overdose of ether into the consciences of the Faithful on life issues. It includes amongst its ranks the illustrious Frs. Anthony Kosnik and John Nowlan, two of the Detroit Four who wrote a 2002 homage to the abortion stylings of then-candidate Jennifer Granholm in the Detroit Free Press. Fr. Kosnik is also justly renowned for his book Human Sexuality, which, among other fascinating insights, professes befuddlement with the reason why the biblical prohibition of bestiality was instituted. Me, I would have simply figured that a God who demands unchanging standards of personal moral behavior and human dignity created in His image and likeness would naturally have a problem with those creations boffing cattle. But then again, I'm not a Certified Post-Conciliar American Catholic Theologian™.
Despite my problems with the CftCG, I find myself in agreement with the placards, but somewhat befuddled (!) with all the fuss over health care. I mean, didn't Bushitler just sign the largest expansion of health care benefits (Medicare prescription coverage) since the Great Society in the past year?
And you bet war is a life issue--Caesar has a duty to protect me and mine from slaughter at the hands of people resistant to interfaith dialogue.
Art Cairo emerged from mass and rebuffed a handout, which asks Catholics to consider the range of positions besides the church's teaching against abortion when choosing a candidate.
"Are you pro-life? If you don't have life, you can't have clean air or health care," said Cairo, 51, an auto company employee, said to those handing out flyers. "I think you're off base and don't belong here. I'll pray for you."
All hail the sensus fidei! Mr. Cairo nails it in one.
Asked later whom he supported for president, Cairo said he'll vote for President George W. Bush and that he considered it the only way a Catholic should vote.
I'm actually going to disagree with this one somewhat. I think a faithful Catholic could quite reasonably come to the conclusion not to vote for either candidate on Catholic principles (as opposed to the Detroit News editorial which came to the same conclusion based on the Gospel according to Ayn Rand), though that calculus would be influenced by such factors as the closeness of the election, a better viable alternative and so forth. Strictly speaking, there is no candidate running who squares really well with Catholic teaching. And if the Schwarzenegger wing of the party becomes ascendant, the Republicans are toxic, too.
But Ellen Cook, 60, of Birmingham, held up a sign proclaiming "Environment is a Life issue" and said she was dismayed by conservative Catholic groups stressing the primacy of abortion.
"As a concerned citizen of the planet, I value all life at all levels," said Cook. "There's more than one way to look at it."
Would it kill people to use the definite article? Also, I certainly hope "Penmanship is a life issue" got its own sign.
"I value life at all levels." Uh...huh. Translation: "Abortion is so not an issue! Shut up shut up shut up! I can't hear you na-na-na-na...."
Some human life can be snuffed and experimented on at will, and Ms. Cook is A-OK with that, even if she wouldn't do it herself.
But don't screw with mourning doves.
[Restating of the obvious regarding the divided Catholic vote snipped.]
In Michigan, the Kerry campaign mailed letters to about 130,000 Catholic households.
Haven't gotten it. Which is good, given that I like to calm down when I get home.
That, and the stuff is so hard to flush.
A group of Catholic nuns, among them Sister Maureen Sinnott, Sister Gerry Sellman and Sister Beth Rindler, who were leafleting at Shrine on Sunday, also are staffing phone banks -- to say that they oppose abortion, but feel Kerry's positions support Catholic values.
At last! It wouldn't be a good Catholic story without the appearance of a conscience-deadening leftist nun pumping sarin into the moral atmosphere. See above for the translation for "they oppose abortion, but..."
"They've heard that some Catholic bishops say it's a sin to vote for Kerry," said Sinnott, a psychologist. "I tell them that my understanding ... and my own personal prayer has led me to believe that my only moral choice is to vote for Kerry."
Ah, Sr. Sinnott is not just a nun, but a Psychologist! So us goobers must take her more seriously, I suppose. Well, gollll-ee, Sergeant Carter! Hyuck!
Apparently, Sr. is having something of a difficulty grasping the importance of life issues. Since she is not alone among American religious, I offer the following thought experiment for the vowed (ex-embryos, all):
Candidate A is in favor of relaxing certain emissions requirements for industry, but is essentially pro-life.
Candidate B is cool with Kyoto, but supports an open season--no bag limits--on nuns in pantsuits. And he'll even pay for your gun and ammunition.
Who should we vote for? Remember, Candidate B isn't mandating the hunting of nuns--he just believes that the choice should be available to all citizens, regardless of economic circumstances.
Aw, doesn't matter. Anything for a group hug with the Senator!
The Bush campaign has devoted a staff person to Catholic outreach and assembled parish contacts since spring, said Michigan campaign spokesman John Truscott. "It is unprecedented. There's more outreach than we've ever seen before" by the conservative religious groups, said Truscott.
The campaign's polarizing impact is on view in weekly parish bulletins.
Conservative Catholic groups have targeted the archdiocese's 300-plus parishes with their voter guides that favor Bush by claiming that Catholics cannot vote for any candidate who is pro-choice on abortion. Meanwhile, Catholic groups concerned with issues such as health care, jobs and social-justice issues are sending parishes messages favoring Kerry.
Since July, the Archdiocese of Detroit, has three times asked parishes to stop printing material from those groups, and instead asked parishes to use excerpts from the "Faithful Citizenship" guide, which includes the church's position on abortion, as well as information on 50-plus issues outlined by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Ah, "Faithful Citizenship." A somewhat helpful document, but one that is the product of a committee that winces a lot and screams "Don't Sue Us!" A document that unfortunately puts a large number of issues on an equal moral plane, e.g., the 10 question list on pages 3 and 4.
Also notice the leadership of the Archdiocese on this one--it's hard to say where the directive is coming from, and with what authority (this article was the first time I heard of it). I am coming to the firm belief that Detroit's chancery would be better off issuing its edicts in Esperanto. Sure, nobody would understand, but that would-at worst-maintain the status quo.
But some parishes have ignored the directives. The Shrine of the Little Flower, for example, has run items by a conservative Catholic group, Catholics in the Public Square, suggesting voters are sinning if they back candidates who support abortion rights or expanded fetal stem-cell research, both backed by Kerry. "Citizens vote in favor of these evils if they vote in favor of candidates who propose to advance them," said the Oct. 10 Shrine Herald bulletin.
On the other side, the Oct. 10 bulletin for Sacred Heart of the Hills Parish in Auburn Hills contained an article entitled "Voting Our Faith" by a Kansas Benedictine nun that asks voters to consider "Were the reasons given for the Iraq War lies?"
Is it any wonder that Catholicism's influence on the body politic is about that of the Mennonites?
Rev. John West, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic parish in Farmington, said he has stuck to running the approved excerpts from the bishops' "Faithful Citizenship" document.
"In the middle of a political campaign, we have to stay on message, and stay in the center," said West.
What message would that be? Seriously, I have no idea what FC is trying to say, except that a lot of issues can be important. Right in the center, all right: with all the dead squirrels and possums.
Remember what I said about Esperanto?
A handful of U.S. bishops have said Catholic politicians who favor abortion rights, and the Catholics who vote for them, are committing grave sins and have argued they should not receive the Catholic sacrament of Communion.
Spokespeople for Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida and other bishops have said Catholics must give primary weight to a candidate's abortion position in voting, but that Catholic teaching does allow anti-abortion Catholics to support a pro-choice candidate if voters believe the candidate's other positions outweigh the serious evil of abortion.
That's news to me about the "primary weight." Was it said in January? A very vague recollection begins to form. The most that can be said is that the AoD has been lying awfully low on that issue.
At the very least, something could have been done to explain the concept of "proportionate reasons" in the consideration of voting for a p-c candidate. Too late now. At least it's nice to see a reporter take a flier at the concept, if not in so many words.
On one hand, liberal Catholics say thousands of lives are lost because of poverty, inadequate health care and the war in Iraq, also positions on which Pope John Paul II and U.S. bishops have taken clear stands. Conservative Catholics say there is no other issue facing Americans that can outweigh thousands of human lives they regard as lost to abortion every day.
Actually, liberal Catholics, too, would have to agree with the "thousands of human lives" argument. Odd that they never quite get around to saying that. And yes, there are very just points that can be made about poverty, health care and Iraq.
I just wish my progressive brethren would stop pretending (1) that poverty and health care problems began on 1/20/01, (2) the Administration has not increased funding to address those two problems, and (3) whatever the problems with the Iraq war (and they are many), we are currently in a "you broke it, you buy it" position, and (4) at various times, the challenger has sounded indistinguishable from the incumbent on all three.
Nationally, conservative Catholics groups are distributing the "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics" contending observant Catholics only can vote for candidates who are against abortion rights, fetal stem-cell research, same-sex marriage, euthanasia and cloning. In Michigan, 250,000 guides were passed out by Catholics in the Public Square, a group cofounded by Marlene Elwell, a longtime abortion-rights opponent from Farmington Hills who also runs Citizens for the Protection of Marriage, the group behind Proposal 2, which would amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
I could tell you stories about the the AoD has treated CitPS. But I won't. Suffice it to say, you can thank them for the Catholic contribution in getting Prop 2 on the ballot. Though a tip of the cap is owed to the AoD for its unalloyed support of the campaign with both time and resources.
California lawyer Karl Keating, who is behind the "Serious Catholics" guide, said the bishops' "Faithful Citizenship" document is "valuable, but less useful in the voting booth than our document would be."
Does Karl Keating still practice law? Just wondering.
You'd think the paper might have mentioned Catholic Answers.
Michael Hovey, the Detroit archdiocese's director of Catholic Social Teaching, is getting calls from confused Catholics about the "Serious Catholics" guide. He's critical of Keating, saying "This guy sits around on the beach...and writes this stuff."
Warning! Hissy apparatchik defending his turf!
This is meant to be no disrespect to Mr. Keating, but he seems remarkably un-tanned in all of the photos of seen of him. And what, pray tell, does that have to do with the content of the heavily-footnoted, magisterial document-citing, Serious Catholics Guide? A substantive response would have been nice.
As I said in another forum today, well-poisoning is not an argument.
Plus, just why are the faithful confused, Mr. Hovey?
"The bishops conference has a perfectly good, authoritative guide," said Hovey, noting the bishops exhort voters to consider all issues.
Which, as noted above, is the problem.
Hovey has given dozens of seminars at parishes to explain the range of Catholic issues. When he spoke at St. Priscilla in Livonia last week, two people who came from outside the parish accused him of not giving enough weight to the church's position against abortion, while others passed out the "Serious Catholics" guides after the meeting.
So Mr. Hovey had a tough day at St. Priscilla's. But what was his response?
Hovey told St. Priscilla parishioners that he makes the sign of the cross when he enters the voting booth.
"Jesus isn't running for president," said Hovey. "We're not going to elect the perfect candidate."
No, but it would be nice if you could point out the moral difficulty of voting for one who does a marvelous job of contradicting Him at a basic level.
Monday, October 25, 2004
"At long last, the transformation of the News' editorial board into a fundamentally unserious echo chamber of white-glove libertarianism is complete.
With the editorial refusing to endorse any candidate in the 2004 Presidential election, the News imagines that it, too, can return to September 10, 2001. Not coincidentally, so does Senator Kerry.
In addition to being a classic example of making the perfect the enemy of the good, it is clear that the real beef with the President is on economic issues, citing the the deficit, growth of government, and purported threat to civil liberties. Remarkably, precisely the same complaints could have been deployed for a 'pox on both houses' editorial against Reagan and Mondale in 1984. But twenty years ago, the News offered a full-throated hurrah for the far more spendthrift Reagan, whom the News expansively (and correctly, in my view) eulogized a few months ago.
What is the difference? Is it simply the fact that the Soviets were more of a threat than Al Qaeda to the investment portfolio of the editorial board? At least the Soviets didn't slaughter 3000 of my fellow citizens in two American metropolitan areas. Apparently, the editorial board would rather forget that unpleasantness, given the glossing over of 9/11 and use of the supremely inept phrase "passing threats."
Make no mistake: the News' sniffing disdain for both candidates is a de facto endorsement of the challenger. The challenger has revealed himself to be a disingenous equivocator willing to pander to the worst elements of his party. If he is elected, those debts will be called in with a vengeance. Let me put it in terms that the News' board cares about: remember those Bush tax cuts? They will become mere memory with a Kerry victory. The challenger's appointments to the judiciary and executive branches are certain to prove uncongenial to the News' all-controlling "governing philosophy."
I could also mention--unlike the News--the vast gulf between the candidates on crucial social issues such as abortion and marriage, appointments to the judiciary and so forth. But September's genuflections to the zeitgeist have taught me to give up on the News being a voice of traditional values on cultural issues. Better, apparently, to pretend such issues do not exist. Makes sense when the bottom line is the bottom line. It also makes sense when you are showing signs of developing a profound allergy to the devoutly religious. Like the President.
I will close with this: the editorial board forgot about Al Qaeda's slaughter at the school in Beslan, Ossetia, in September. The board further forgot about the discovery of school floor plans in a computer in Iraq for several American schools, including Birch Run.
My wife and three pre-school aged children regularly attend activities at the local elementary school, along with other parents and young children. No amount of black ink in the budgetary ledger or profitable investments is worth their lives. There's a war on. I want the enemy fought away from our shores, and not wait to "respond" after the fact.
It is clear that the News' editorial board feels otherwise, choosing instead to fantasize about a candidate entirely a creature of its inventive imagination--a candidate that exists nowhere in the body politic. In a tight race between such diametrically-opposed candidates, it is unconscionable. I will not reward this Hamletesque posturing with my money. Kindly cancel my subscription.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Bill Simmons' victory lap today puts it best, quoting another Tigers fan:
"Everyone outside of Yankee brats is celebrating quietly with you guys. It's like you killed Michael Myers, Jason, Freddie Krueger and Hannibal Lecter in one night."
Local sports radio here in Detroit was positively jubilant, with morning host Sean Baligian loading his broadcast with ALCS sound clips and chortling over every sports update repeating the score. Phone calls to the station--unanimous joy.
It's starting to remind me of that celebration scene at the end of Return of the Jedi: Special Edition, panning from planet to planet as the liberated citizenry revel in the fall of the Emperor.
Is it just me, or does anyone else wonder whether the picture of Brian Cashman is going to be on a milk carton tomorrow?
Go to the Jim Rome website, and look for the interview with Schilling yesterday. An instant classic. A-Rod is ripped from one end of the stadium to another.
Derek Jeter is the best shortstop of all time, the Bill Russell of the position (think about that one). He's the only position player who fought the whole time, and the only one I feel a glimmer of sympathy for. OK, maybe Posada, too.
Hey, isn't there another series scheduled?
I was trying to figure out why the constant references, like that of Mo Dowd, to the junior Senator from Massachusetts' tenure as an altar boy was so grating. It's done as a supposed bona fide, and my initial reaction was "Wow--an altar boy?!?! An actual real, live altar boy? You somehow survived the gruelling training regimen? Whew--I'm chuffed!
Why aren't you Pope?"
That's no disrespect intended to those who served at the altar--it's an admirable service and a fruitful source of vocations. But, even so: is it one of the first things you list as a defense of your faith?
Didn't think so.
Sure, part of my visceral reaction to it is the ludicrousness of it, the equation "Altar Boy = Unimpeachably Catholic. So stop picking on him."
But then I started realizing another source of my ire: I've heard it before, also wielded as a bona fide.
By hard-core, Catholic-bashing fundies. If you have a moment, wade through the testimony Messer Gendron. Make sure to strap yourself into a crash-couch first, though. The leaps of illogic and dazzling inconsistency are guaranteed to put a strain on your mind that can be measured in "Gs". I also enjoy immensely the naively clueless verse-slinging, and you will, too.
But, at the end of the day, I find myself with a certain grudging admiration for the fundamentalist former altar boy that I cannot find in me for the Senator.
Bear with me.
At its core, there's a forthright candor to the Gendron heedlessness--he sure as Hell doesn't agree with the teachings of Catholicism, and is unambiguous about that fact. Ditto JFK II. But here's the catch:
Gendron proudly trumpets that he's not Catholic. The Senator asserts loyal son status like a snapping banner.
Well, that was fun, wasn't it?
The 2004 New York Yankees now join the dubious pantheon alongside the 1942 Detroit Red Wings and 1975 Pittsburgh Penguins as blowers of 3-0 leads.
The thing is, I suspect the Yankees will have a harder time living it down. Nobody is flinging "1942" or "1975" at Wings or Penguins fans.
Yankees fans will hear "2004" with time clock regularity for, oh, the rest of this century, at a bare minimum.
Guess letting Pettitte go wasn't such a good idea, was it?
Oh, and I know exactly why Francona put in Martinez last night--it was part of the exorcism of last year. Seventh game, Yankee Stadium, Pedro holding a lead, fans showing that Yankee love: and this time, Martinez leaves the game with a lead. Francona was giving him his pride back, and it worked. The velocity on his fastball jumped about 3 mph from the beginning of the inning to the end. I was yelling "Francona, you idiot!" (I have it on good authority that all of New England has done this at some point during 2004) at the time, but I got it as Pedro pitched himself out of minor trouble and walked off the mound, a little taller. And with a lot more question as to who his "daddy" really is.
And another thing, BoSox fans: for a reasonable fee, I will happily call the play of the slumping hero of your choice "puke" right before his scheduled at-bat. As my wife can verify, I did this once during game six, and once during game seven. Right before the decisive Bellhorn and Damon at-bats. Apparently, it's pretty obvious: as I was trying to get my eldest back to sleep last night, Damon hit his second homer. I went to the living room to see the replay, then went back to make sure Maddie was all set. I explained that there had been a home run. Maddie looked up and said: "Oh. He puked?"
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Due to start shortly, by all accounts. Here's Bill Simmons' sleep-deprived take:
You could make a case that this Yankee team has more pressure tonight than any baseball team in recent memory -- not only will they be the guys who finally lost to the Red Sox, they will be the guys who choked away a 3-0 lead. Meanwhile, this Red Sox team is still playing with the house's money. It's an interesting role reversal, although the end result is that I'm still peeing blood either way.
For the tactically minded, Tom Candiotti takes a look at the redlined pitching staffs for both heavyweights. Please note that Mariano Rivera is fully-rested.
St. Blog's Eminent Bostonians also weigh in:
Mark Sullivan has several items, including a photo of the Babe in BoSox kit, and The Sock Seen 'Round The World. Dom Bettinelli is getting the fever, complete with a photo of A-Rod's Mother of All Karate Chops. Tom Fitzpatrick is a little more reserved, though.
And for the perspective of Yankee fans, I offer the opportunity to curl up with a nice, hot steaming cup of Bupkis.
Hey--it's my blog. Get your "equal time" elsewhere. Here's Dave Barry's succinct verdict on the Ringed Franchise. As they say in New England, Mr. Barry is wicked smaaht.
My late father in law was a rabid Tigers fan and an equally rabid Yankee hater. His favorite line about the Bronx Bombers: "I want them to finish dead last every year for the next decade. Then they can go on a losing streak." Mazeroski forever!
This blog heartily endorses that sentiment.
That said, I wouldn't bet the farm against the Yanks at home tonight. There is just something about that ball club.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
[Two bad words below.]
I've been seeing the contortion act of my pro-Kerry co-religionists growing ever more pained over at Amy's blog of late. What's striking about it is that it is an entirely negative phenomenon--in other words, virtually no effort is made to pose a positive case for Kerry. Instead, all you hear are stern lectures about how little Bush II and the Republicans have actually done on bedrock life issues. There is an undeniable kernel of merit to some of the lecture--Reagan actually did little, apart from legitimizing rhetoric (which shouldn't be underestimated), on life issues, and his judicial appointments were a decidedly mixed bag. Likewise Bush I, for whom I can't avoid the distinct impression that he was willingly hoodwinked as to the appointment of at least one of his justices. Even the rhetoric was missing from GHWB. But while he could clearly be stronger, I doubt that the same criticism could be applied to Bush II. He has yet to appoint a justice, so the jury remains out on that. However, the PBA ban, solid lower court appointments, de-funding under the Mexico City policy, and promotion of a culture of life through the (not flawless) faith-based initiative--that ain't exactly peanuts. That's head and shoulders above his two Republican predecessors. But it could be better. Exhibit A: The stem cell decision was a gruesome compromise, and impossible to square with a consistent ethic of life.
So, indeed, some fair points. But what about your guy?
[Cue cricket symphony.]
Telling. Because there's nothing positive that can be made of it. To buy the bullshit that he's "personally opposed," you would have to have a peg to hang it on--some example of personal opposition (remember, "oppose" is a verb) to the practice. All you have is the word of the first NARAL endorsed candidate in history. That's not opposition--at most, it's a Boston Brahmanic aversion to it, rather like an aversion to fast food hamburgers.
The approach is pretty simple, once you get past the windy "Redneck Republican" (itself a tellingly aristocratic sniff) complaints: it's the old "depressing your opponent's turnout" card. Point out things which make certain segments of your opponent's base uncomfortable, and thereby less likely to vote for her or him. The trick is that you have to avoid any discussion of your own candidate's position, which always has even worse flaws. Entirely "negative," in all senses of the term, but easy in that you don't have to make the case for your guy.
Think of it as the "Mary Cheney Card" for the abortion issue.
If nothing else, it's become abundantly clear abortion is a non-factor for a lot of Catholics with respect to their vote, somewhere down on the checklist below "Shorter Lines at the DMV" and above (maybe) "Navy Bean Price Supports."
After all, if Kerry's record and position on abortion fail to dissuade you from voting for him, it's hard to imagine a pro-abort you *couldn't* vote for. What, does the guy have to perform D&Xs during campaign stops before it becomes a problem? Does it boil down to Kerry's unrepentant (and largely unrebuked by the hierarchy) pro-abortion stance as a salve for the ol' conscience? Lord, I hope not, but you have to wonder. At a minimum, just finally admit that you really don't give a rat's ass about the issue, and the debate will become a lot more clear.
Not to mention honest.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Two pieces for your attention:
1. A New Hampshire high school senior had his yearbook picture taken holding a gun. He's a trap and skeet shooting enthusiast, and the picture shows him in competition gear, including his shotgun.
Naturally, the administration was appalled, found it inappropriate and prohibited him from using it as his senior picture.
Perhaps just as naturally, a lawsuit is in the works.
2. In New York, vigiliant authorities arrested a teen with a firearm in his trunk.
Well, OK, it's a replica Civil War musket.
As it turns out, er, um, it's not actually capable of firing them.
That's because, as the hapless teen's enraged mother tersely noted, it's what's known as--and I hate to use technical bafflegab--a "fake gun."
Because, as the authorities acknowledge, the lad's a Civil War re-enactor, who after re-doing Chancellorsville (ouch) a week ago, tossed his gear into his trunk and forgot it was there.
Did I mention that the re-enactor unit heavily recruited at the high school?
But, for all that, Joshua Phelps was cuffed, led out of the school and charged with misdemeanor possession of a firearm. Why do I smell a lawsuit?
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
So goes the provocative thesis of Glenn Stout's impeccably-researched essay, A "Curse" Born of Hate. An instant classic, and one for the Snopes files.
The notion of the "Curse" rests on several pillars, most of them false. In brief, the story claims that Boston owner Harry Frazee, a failed theatrical producer, sold Ruth to line his own pocket, bail out his theatrical productions, and eventually bankroll his successful production of the musical "No, No Nanette," earning him a fortune. Furthermore, the Yankees provided Frazee with a second mortgage on Fenway Park worth $350,000, turning the $100,000 cash sale into a larger transaction of nearly a half million dollars. Over the next few years the cash-strapped Frazee gleefully sold the guts of his club to the Yankees, receiving little of value in return, making the Yankees a dynasty and forever dooming the Red Sox to also-ran status. After finally selling the club in 1923 and making millions on "Nanette," the inept Frazee squandered his fortune on more failed productions and died in 1928 with an estate worth less than $50,000.
Virtually none of this is factually accurate. As I have written in detail in "Red Sox Century," "Yankees Century," and in several articles subsequently here and on ESPN.com, the only "facts" that withstand scrutiny are that, indeed, Frazee was a theatrical producer, he did sell Babe Ruth and he did make several million dollars on "No, No, Nanette." The rest resides between utter fiction and imagination.
So, the facts about the principals are wrong, the timing is wrong and even the phrase itself only dates back to Dan Shaughnessy's 1990 book, itself based upon the first articulation of a curse by a New York sportswriter.
Two nights later, when the Mets won the  World Series, [NY Times sportswriter George] Vecsey better articulated that premise. "All the ghosts and demons and curses of the past 68 years continued to haunt the Boston Red Sox last night," he wrote. He then evoked Babe Ruth and 1918, writing, "Yet the owner sold him to the lowly New York Yankees to finance one of his Broadway shows, and for 68 years it has never been the same." Now Vecsey added his own headline, "Babe Ruth Curse Strikes Again."
There, for the first time, he articulated the "Curse" that blamed Boston's failures on the sale of Ruth by Harry Frazee. Today Vecsey admits that, "I kind of thought I invented it [the Curse] but it never meant anything to me." He does not recall precisely where he got the notion. "It was just a device," he says. "I had no sense of creating something. We're all magpies in this business. You're always picking something out of somebody else's nest whether you know it or not. It's in your brain, but you easily could have gotten it from [sportswriters such as] Dick Young or Fred Lieb. Call it collective wisdom, whatever you want." However it happened, Vecsey inadvertently gave a villain to a franchise that needed one -- Harry Frazee.
Until that moment, no one ascribed Boston's failure to win a World Series since 1918 to anything resembling a curse connected to Babe Ruth and Harry Frazee. After each previous painful loss no one evoked the names of Ruth and Frazee. To be fair, local sportswriters occasionally floated the notion of a Red Sox-related curse, from Peter Gammons' 1981 reference to "the Fenway Park curse of the Yankees" and Dan Shaughnessy's 1986 mid-season mention of a "dueling curse" involving both California Boston, but the concept had no protagonist and little traction. Only Boston Globe editorialist Marty Nolan previously intimated the Ruth sale caused the Red Sox serial failure. In 1983 he mentioned the "Curse of gonfalis interupptus," and in an October 6, 1986 story on Fenway Park, Nolan made the first (and erroneous) claim that Frazee sold Ruth to finance "No, No, Nanette," adding, "Pinstripe paranoia has been a Boston curse ever since." Now, Nolan can't recall where he came up with the "Nanette" connection but admits he may actually have been responsible for that bit of misinformation. Yet at the same time these and other writers also referred to Boston "jinxes" and various other vexations, the term "choking" among the most popular. Calling it a "Curse" was just another way to phrase frustration.
Vecsey's Ruth and Frazee-based curse took a while to gain a foothold, for over the next two years no one blamed Harry Frazee for anything. Although Boston Globe sportswriter and columnist Dan Shaughnessy later wrote the notion of the "Curse" had been kicking around for "seven decades," Vecsey was the first to put the words on the page -- Shaughnessy himself did not mention it in his 1987 book, "One Strike Away," and a database search of the Globe from November 1986 until the summer of 1990 reveals that the words "Frazee" and "Curse" appeared together only once, as an aside in a story by Peter Canellos.
As detailed in Shaughnessy's "The Curse of the Bambino," the impetus for his book came from Red Sox fan and Dorchester native Arthur Davidson. He mimicked Vecsey's headline in a conversation with his niece, Meg Blackstone, mentioning a "Curse of the Bambino."
Blackstone, a publishing editor, smelled a book in the title. In August of 1988 she asked Shaughnessy to write it. He agreed.
There's also a fascinating recounting of the strong stench of Jew hatred which permeated baseball ownership at the time, and the role of the rabidly anti-Semitic Henry Ford and his deservedly-dead Dearborn Independent newspaper in helping to drive Harry Frazee (a truly decent man, from the account) from the game.
Monday, October 11, 2004
- The NFL, still not getting it. Good for Jake Plummer. I hope the NFL realizes what a black eye it's going to get with this fine, and modifies the policy quickly.
- MLB [Bob Dole voice]: Come on--this is the series everyone wanted. You know it. I know it. The American people know it.
- MLB, II: I don't hate the Atlanta Braves, but I certainly don't wish them well--especially against the 'Stros. Atlanta is the worst sports town in North America, hands down.
- NFL II, Pod People: Who are you, and what have you done with my hapless football team? I'll tell you the difference. E.g., watch the defense, and notice the following, Lions fans: these guys close to the ball very, very quickly. It's called team speed, and the Lions now have it, on both sides of the ball. No more watching Todd Lyght flail helplessly as yet another mid-grade NFL receiver is made to look like Randy Moss by a leadfoot squad. That, and Shaun Rogers is a lead pipe cinch for All Pro--the best defensive tackle in the league this year, to date.
- Meeechigan. Finally, Lloyd unchains the offense. Not that I expect to see Air Carr, or Fun 'n' Gun North, but a little more trust in the gunslinger is all I ask. And apparently, I shall receive. Sometimes I think Lloyd has flashbacks and is determined to crush Woody and the Buckeyes with three yards and a cloud of dust, running Harlan Huckleby behind Dierdorf and Brandstatter on three straight downs. Either that, or he's afraid that if his QB regularly puts up 300 yards a game, he's going to have to do his press conferences sounding like Snoop: "Yo, don't hate the playah--hate the game." "Word is bond: Chad Henne is the shiznit." Don't entirely discount the latter as a possibility.
Consider this the apology for the tone. Sort of.
Frankly, waving the "Patient Suffering From X" is a 21st Century equivalent of waving the bloody shirt. It is usually done, as was the case below, with a "You'd cut off his pain meds, too" tone that poisons the well quite nicely, thanks. Hey, I can do it too: I know a patient suffering from an advanced case of Parkinson's who lives in Italy. He drools on himself, shakes uncontrollably, and slurs his speech. Here's the catch: He's passionately--passionately--opposed to embryonic stem cell research.
Does that even the playing field? Are we equal now--each of us with passionate suffering advocates on opposite sides of the equation? If that's what it takes, so be it.
Moving on--consider this fact: embryonic stem cell research supporters present the case for their caused as the panacea for all human infirmities. Consider Ron Reagan, Jr.'s speech at the Democratic National Convention:
And another thing, these embryonic stem cells, they could continue to replicate indefinitely and, theoretically, can be induced to recreate virtually any tissue in your body. How’d you like to have your own personal biological repair kit standing by at the hospital? Sound like magic? Welcome to the future of medicine.
Leaving aside the oddity of a former ballet dancer with no medical background purporting to accurately describe the advantages of advanced medical research in its initial stages (somewhat like the Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles purporting to describe the technical advantages of the latest generation of snowblowers), not only do all of us know a Patient X--each of us is Patient X. Have a family history of dementia, heart disease, various cancers--like mine? You can now weigh in on ESCR with full credibility--even if you obviously happen to be a heartless theocrat one step removed from burning Galileo at the stake.
If I might, I'd like to offer an alternative approach--let the kids live, and harvest the cord blood instead, which is a truly rich source of stem cells. With upwards of 200,000 embryos in "storage," just think of the possibilities--and the families desperate for children who can now have them--two problems solved at once.
A final aside, a chilling thought for the morning: what if ESCR does achieve breakthroughs? You might want to hope that Christian Scientists and Jehovah's Witnesses continue to win court cases regarding forced medical treatment. Think about it. Though I have real doubts as to how long a conscience exemption would last against the demands of "public health."
Friday, October 08, 2004
I concur with Mark Shea--Babylon 5 is the finest science-fiction television show ever. Period. End of story. Sure, some seasons were better than others, but overall, it blew everything bearing the Trek trademark away.
One of the interesting aspects of the show is a consistent willingness to explore moral issues, quandaries and decisions. Perhaps the most consistently haunting episode for our day and age is the one entitled "Deathwalker."
Quick, as non-geeky-as-possible synopsis: "Deathwalker" is the nickname borne by the chief bioweapons scientist for a particularly nasty race of would-be conquerors who were barely defeated by the Good Guys, led by the lads of Terra. The nickname was given to her by her few surviving victims, who watched as she experimented on millions of beings on a large number of planets, many of which were left utterly destroyed. DW is believed to be dead, but turns up at the B5 space station, where she is in the midst of offering a Faustian bargain to the government of Earth: during the course of her hideous experiments, she stumbled upon the recipe for immortality--a serum that stops aging and restores youth.
Ah, but there's a catch (see Faust): the only way the serum can be obtained is through destroying the living--it cannot be synthesized in the lab. DW taunts Our Hero with the observation that that's not a bug, it's a feature:
"You and the rest of your kind take blind confidence in the belief that we are monsters--that you could never do what we did. The key ingredient in the serum cannot be synthesized; it must be taken from living beings. For one to live forever, another one must die. You will fall upon one another like wolves. It will make what we did pale by comparison. The billions who live forever will be a testimony to my work, and the billions who were murdered to buy that immortality will be the continuance of my work. Not like us? You will become us. That's my monument, Commander."
Indeed, the powers that be on Earth prove tempted, but that temptation...well, see the episode for yourself for the resolution.
Anyway, the episode happened came to mind because of a recent political ad just hitting the airwaves. Just sixty years ago we thought Mengele was a monster. How much further do we have to go before we begin to see our striking resemblance to the Nazi Doctor in the mirror?
The funniest story I've read in a long time:
It didn't take a nuclear physicist to realize changes were needed after a $40,000 ceramic mural was unveiled outside the city's new library and everyone could see the misspelled names of Einstein, Shakespeare, Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo and seven other historical figures.
Wait--it gets better:
Our library director is very frustrated that she has this lovely new library and it has all these misspellings in front," said city councilwoman Lorraine Dietrich, one of three council members who voted Monday to authorize paying another $6,000, plus expenses, to fly the artist up from Miami to fix the errors.
Let's see if I have this straight: Library commissions artist to do mural, paying her forty large. Artist proves incapable of spelling "cat" if you spot her the C and A. Artist gets another six K plus expenses to fix her own error.
If your mechanic installed a muffler where the new alternator was supposed to go, then got hissy and demanded another eleven percent to fix his own incompetence, you'd brain the chump with a tire iron first.
"I'm not going to pay a lot for this muffler."
But, since it's someone else's money, what the hey?
Here's a photograph of the handiwork.
[Link via Christopher Johnson.]
I am a little more anxious this morning:
Schools in six states in particular are being watched closely based on information uncovered by the U.S. military in Baghdad this summer, law enforcement and education officials told ABC News.
A man described as an Iraqi insurgent involved in anti-coalition activities had downloaded school floor plans and safety and security information about elementary and high schools in the six states, according to officials.
School officials in Fort Myers, Fla.; Salem, Ore.; Gray, Ga.; Birch Run, Mich.; two towns in New Jersey; and two towns in California have been told to increase security in light of the discovery.
And here's one for the Doyoyoy File:
Law enforcement officials said they had no easy explanation why an insurgent in Baghdad would be gathering such specific information about American schools, some of them in small towns.
Translated: "Law enforcement officials said they had no easy, reassuring, go-ahead-and-hit-that-snooze-bar-again explanation why...."
Birch Run is a little town--the "Welcome To" signs unabashedly call it a "Village"--about fifteen minutes south of Saginaw. Statewide, it is known for precisely one thing: a huge outlet mall just off I-75. God willing, it will stay that way.
If you get the sense there is no safe place, congratulations!
You have been paying attention.
So, why do I get the feeling that we'll hear more about Vietnam the next few weeks than this story?
Thursday, October 07, 2004
DR. GEORGE TILLER runs an abortion facility in Wichita, Kansas. He sent the Kerry campaign a contribution of $1,000, recorded March 17, 2004.
A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks (counted from the end of the last menstrual period). Tiller performs abortions on request through 26 weeks, or near the end of the sixth month. He uses various methods, but often favors killing the fetus by injecting digoxin into his or her chest to stop the heart, followed by induction of labor and/or manual removal of the dead baby.
Tiller's clinic website (www.drtiller.com/mainpg.html) explains, "We are able to perform elective abortions to the time in the pregnancy when the fetus is viable. Viability is not a set point in time."
* * *
What about abortions after 26 weeks? In a 1995 speech, Tiller spoke of performing abortions as late as 36 weeks.
Nope. Sometimes, the dogma makes perfect sense.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
The Price family was present for this historic occasion at 9:30am, Sunday, October 4.
Some basic observations first.
1. St. Josaphat's is a magnificent church--nothing short of awe-inspiring. The website photos fail to do it a lick of justice. Despite a small congregation (at least until October 4), the place is lovingly maintained. As one of the priests pointed out afterwards, none of the three clustered parishes has had a lick of "renovation" done (the tone of his voice was disapproving upon hitting the quoted term). They are all too poor for it.
Only the rich can afford the Cult of Fugly. Put another way: Dick Vosko doesn't work pro bono (praise God). Which means that if you want to find architectural gems of the Catholic heritage, go to your local metropolis' downtown. St. Albertus and Sweetest Heart of Mary were also recommended to me by a nice gentleman who goes on regular Detroit church tours during the holidays.
For those worried about such things: St. Josaphat's is in a fairly decent area, right next to the Harper Hospital/Wayne State complex along I-75. There's a police station very near by, making security a non-issue. Parking is good, too.
2. What kind of job did the archdiocese do? Somewhat mixed, if more to the good. On the plus side of the ledger: the durable (I spilled plenty of water on mine, running the eldest back to the toilet multiple times) missals explaining the Mass were very well done, and quite helpful. There were plenty for all the attendees, and they helpfully explained the differences in the 1962 Mass (many people were toting missals from 1961 and earlier). The people were friendly, too--even grateful. It's the largest crowd the parish has seen in a while, by all accounts. To the negative: the initial, trumpeted announcement said the Mass was scheduled for 10am, however "tentative." It was moved back to 9:30am, with much, much less fanfare. I suspect many were screwed up by this decision. Bad, bad move (however inadvertent), and one likely to engender suspicion among the very people the Indult is attempting to reconcile. Another bad signal: no bishops attended. Not a sausage, to use the British vernacular. I was hardly expecting Tom Gumbleton (wouldn't that have been entertaining!), but not a single one? Nothing says grudging quite like that silent thunderbolt. After all, the Bishop of Covington (Kentucky) is personally celebrating the first Indult Mass for his diocese. The civil war downtown continues, and score one for the forces of progress, I suppose.
3. Who was there? Speaking of the unreconciled: they weren't. Granted, I didn't talk to a large cross section of attendees, but everyone I did speak with hailed from an archdiocesan parish. Assumption Grotto was well-represented. I think Metro Detroit's sizable separated traditionalist community is playing "wait and see" with the goings on at St. Josaphat.
Also, it could have been me, but there seemed to be flickers of surprise when I mentioned my registered parish, an unspoken "Really?" I don't know quite what to make of that. We don't attend Detroit's answer to St. Joan of Arc (Minneapolis).
4. Numbers? Not SRO, but still large: I'd put it in the neighborhood of 500+. I'm convinced it would have been SRO if any of the things I mentioned above had occurred properly: better advertising, especially of the changed time, and the attendance of, oh, say--the Cardinal.
And, to pre-empt any nostalgia claims: the average age was about 40, skewing toward the younger demographic. I haven't seen that many young Catholic families in one place...ever. Infant car seats were a trip hazard. There was a ten minute wait in line to get into the parish hall after Mass, where tables threatened to sink under the weight of missals, old and reprinted (mine is the 1960 Maryknoll, my wife's the 1959 St. Joseph's Daily version).
Now, to the substance: what do I think of the Tridentine Mass?
Phew. Well, I'm still digesting it, to be honest. It appeared to be (remember: I was raised Methodist) a sung High Mass, and there was more "participation" than I was led to believe was the case. Initial gut observation: I can understand why people find it off-putting, to be candid. It's hard to tell what's going on, and what is happening when. It is alien (more on that later), strange and mystifying. Okaaaay--what's he doing now? I found myself flipping through the missal and still getting lost quickly, which was a bit frustrating. I received the best advice after the fact: just go and put the missal down for the first few weeks. Things will start to percolate in time.
The National Blogging Service has just issued a Qualifier Warning, meaning an impending qualifier has just been spotted heading toward the post you are now reading. If you dislike posts which shift gears, the NBS advises you to please take cover immediately.
I also understand why people love it and connect with the Latin liturgy in a way that is difficult to put into words. For the first time in a long time, I found myself not reacting against the music or other idiosyncrasies that pop up. I also saw--clearly--the sacrificial focus of the Mass in a way I hadn't before. It reminded me that only Christ could do what He did on our behalf. When I wasn't wrestling my restive toddlers (they loved the church, but were less big on the decorum), I found time to reflect and pray, in a way I hadn't before. I was left with the definite sense of Divine Mystery: there's Something going on here, Something just beyond the range of the senses, much like the Apostles must have felt more than once in the presence of Jesus. And now, for the really weird part--even in its alien-ness, it seemed oddly familiar, in a way I am at a loss to explain.
Which brings me to my continuing disquiet: Why is it alien? By all rights, it should not be--but it is. In too many places, reform became revolt, and the past was cast aside entirely. That was my past, too, thank you very much--why did it get tossed into the fire? I'm not particularly happy about it, truth be told.
However, I am thankful for St. Josaphat's window into that past--and I will be back.