Sunday, December 19, 2004
All three of the kids, in varying degrees and symptoms, came down with a bad case of either "growling in the grass" or the trots.
Dee-lightful! Rachel had the mildest (thank God) symptoms of all of us--just a couple of hideously full--or overfull--diapers. I should edit that--"Mildest symptoms next to her apparently-Ebola-immune mother" would be more accurate. Heather's imperviousness to the diseases of the world continues to be a source of irritating wonder. Better her than me, though.
After all, even the littluns' dad got ill--and with remarkable projection and velocity--last Monday night. Apparently, it is Basic Epidemiology™ that being barfed on three times by a sick person greatly increases your chances of contracting their malady.
Of course, I became ill just before a morning flight to South Florida for business.
I had almost nothing to eat for three days, which, given my size, is probably a good thing. Fasting, penance and all that. That, and I don't enjoy hurling.
I flew in to Miami, and drove Alligator Alley over to Ft. Myers (flying directly into Fort Myers from Detroit is expensive enough to force the immediate default of your average Third World kleptocracy) for the necessary transactions and inquiries. Anyone who ever complains about Metro Detroit traffic has never left Michigan. Miami traffic at 2:30pm is something to be strenuously avoided, as I discovered. But once I cleared that, I found the section of I-75 that cuts through the northern Everglades/Cypress region to be hauntingly beautiful. And a little chilling, too. All that fencing is there for a reason--there are gators, indeed, in them there 'Glades. Just waiting for that extra-special, not-particularly-agile, clueless tourist from Up North...
Business was transacted, and I drove back Wednesday. Then, The Fun Began.
You see, I had to change my hotel reservation, and was advised that it was "the Days Inn close to Miami International Airport." [BTW, a salute to Miami IA--the loudspeakers played honest-to-God Christmas carols--Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and Little Town of Bethlehem were two of the memorable ones.] I was given an address and phone number for the new hotel, and I drove quickly to Miami, watching an overcast sunset over the same Everglades. Then I discovered what "close to the airport" meant, as I headed increasingly into the downtown area.
A-ha! A Days Inn logo!
Ooookay--where the hell is the exit? Well, surely any exit will do. Right?
At least there were no gators. Several blocks of twisting around lights, finding seemingly parallel streets, and navigating further around a city I'd never been to in my life brought me to the front desk. Ah, yes--here's my reservation confirmation number.
"Sorry, sir, we don't even have a number close to that. That's odd."
Yes, it sure is...Um, isn't this the Days Inn closest to the airport? Off 11th Street?
"Oh, no--This is 12th Street. The other Days Inn, that's back off the expressway. Just go back on the 826 and head west. You can see it right from the expressway."
Five hours on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight.
Well, after wending my way around some badly advertised construction, even-more-badly-planned on-ramps and exits, I worked my way back to the 826 and started looking. No luck.
You see, while the expression "You can see it right from the expressway" was fully accurate and utterly true, the same also applies to Ursa Major. It doesn't mean that it's easy to see, much less that I have any ability to get there.
I took an exit, and tried the phone number.
Have you ever seen a steering wheel turned into a balloon animal? It's pretty cool, if hard to explain to the rental car company.
I tried a local, who advised me in an earnest and friendly, if not fully-reassuring way, to "take road to end, then right."
Well, why not? It was better than "seeing it from the expressway." Better yet: it worked. I pulled in, checked in, and crashed.
So I'm a little slow in getting re-started around here. Your patience, please.
Monday, December 13, 2004
Let's see--since Thursday, we went on an all day Christmas shopping blitz, followed it up with more shopping, rode out my son's convincing impression of Linda Blair in her signature role and had our youngest daughter baptized into the Catholic faith.
Good pictures are here, taken by the godfather. Yes, Rachel is adorable. The redhead is Heather, and no, I am not worthy. I'd call it an advanced case of Ric Ocasek Syndrome, but I can't sing. Chalk it up to the mysteries of Providence.
You'll also see Madeleine (in the blue sweater and denim skirt) and Dale (in a sweater vest). Our parents and other family members are also there.
You'll see very little of the lad in his snazzy new sweater vest and corduroy pants, as he barfed right before the baptism began. Right as daddy was holding him. He missed me, but obliterated the vest and pants. Fortunately, his aunt Elaine was equipped with a substitute outfit for her youngest son, and it fit nicely. You can see it in most of the pictures of him. Poor kid, though he seems to be past whatever it was that ailed him.
So, as you can see, I have been very busy and with work upcoming, I don't look to surface before Wednesday night at the earliest. Those of you in correspondence with me should not take silence as indifference--I'm just swamped.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
The famed British philosopher is now a theist, though he correctly describes his belief system as deism.
The reason is one which St. Paul readily understood:
Over the years, Flew proclaimed the lack of evidence for God while teaching at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities in Britain, in visits to numerous U.S. and Canadian campuses and in books, articles, lectures and debates.
There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife.
Yet biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved," Flew says in the new video, "Has Science Discovered God?"
The video draws from a New York discussion last May organized by author Roy Abraham Varghese's Institute for Metascientific Research in Garland, Texas. Participants were Flew; Varghese; Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder, an Orthodox Jew; and Roman Catholic philosopher John Haldane of Scotland's University of St. Andrews.
The first hint of Flew's turn was a letter to the August-September issue of Britain's Philosophy Now magazine. "It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism," he wrote.
The letter commended arguments in Schroeder's "The Hidden Face of God" and "The Wonder of the World" by Varghese, an Eastern Rite Catholic layman.
A fascinating story, and one that will be worth watching.
I owe Mark Mossa (he's not yet been ordained, btw) a retraction and an apology for one of the comments in the fisking below--the one insinuating his youth ministry and classroom work were failures. As he points out, I don't know him, apart from a selection of his writing. That was a cheap shot, and I withdraw it and apologize.
I won't be deleting it because I don't care for the "memory hole" approach to written mistakes. Apologize for it, but don't pretend you didn't write it.
If you're into happy endings, Mr. Mossa and I are engaged in a civil discussion offline, and it will remain offline.
He now has a blog, which you may be interested in.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
From our burgeoning Impending Gory Death of Western Civilization files, a Canadian hockey mom took a unique approach to taunting opposing fans at a pee-wee hockey tournament:
The incident reportedly happened during a confrontation that erupted mostly between parents of players on two opposing minor pee-wee teams: the York Toros and Mississauga Terriers. The teams played Monday night in Mississauga, west of Toronto.
In a letter to the league, a parent who witnessed the alleged incident called it "unfortunate" and "disturbing."
"She lifted her top well above her breasts. (Wearing a bra) she shook (her breasts) side to side," the woman wrote.
Ms. Maternal Expressions is nonplussed by the attention:
When reached by phone, the woman said she didn't want to discuss the matter.
"That's none of your business," she said.
Oy. I'd say it was pretty well everybody's business on November 29. I wonder how Junior feels about it?
William Luse, any thoughts?
Friday, December 03, 2004
[IMPORTANT UPDATE: I'm something of an Asshole at times. No surprise to regular readers, but for those who Google in, there you go. This post was one of those times. READ THIS FIRST. Mark Mossa, S.J., is a better man than I. As of 2008, he's also an ordained Jesuit priest and the Church is all the better for it.]
America's favorite rogue religious order for men is still in the casuistry business, I'm happy to report.
As can be seen in this largely hissy review by Mark Mossa, S.J., of George Weigel's Letters to a Young Catholic.
Reading George Weigel’s Letters to a Young Catholic is a bit like watching Kevin Costner attempt a British accent in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” You can see that he’s trying, and for stretches he gets it, but despite his best efforts he can’t avoid returning to his normal way of speaking. So, too, of George Weigel’s attempt at a “youthful” accent.
If true, this is a legitimate point of criticism. There's nothing more likely to turn off an inquiring reader than a patronizing tone. Think George W. Bush greeting the attendees at an Urban League conference with "Yo--wassup? W is in da hizzouse!"
However, as we will shortly see, there is a very good chance that Fr. Mossa is reading into Weigel things that might not be there.
You have to give him credit for trying to speak a positive message about the Catholic Church to young people, for it is something they desperately need. Still, every time you think he’s got it, he reverts to his high intellectual and ideological self. This makes his sincere attempts to connect with young people seem artificial. (In the book, for example, G. K. Chesterton becomes simply GKC, as if he were a rap artist.)
The first example: Or maybe Weigel calls him "GKC" because that's what others called him, Fr. "Marky Mark."
(Might as well continue the artificial "rap" references.
Hmm. Come to think of it, the Jebbies these days are definitely a "funky bunch," so maybe the reference isn't so forced after all.)
By the way: the musical form is called "hip-hop" these days, Father.
You don't want to leave Gen Y scratching their heads about dated references, now, do you?
The result is a work that will be inaccessible to most young Catholics. Given that in the first chapter he is already talking about Nietzsche, Sartre and what he calls “debonair nihilism,” and his use of presumptuous openers like, “Sometime, when you’re in Florence...” the book might be more accurately titled, “Letters to a Young, Middle- to Upper-Class College-Educated Catholic.”
OK, now I'm confused: what's Weigel's besetting sin here, again? Talking down to the reader, or sending the conversation whizzing way over his head? I know which one I find more grating, and it's the former.
Put another way: is it really better to assume your reader is a booger-eating moron?
To use a simple analogy--sometimes part of the fun of a Monty Python (they're a British comedy troupe from the '70s) sketch is not being fully up to speed on the references--"Purley, squire? Say no more!"--but still being invited in to laugh anyway. I'll take that over the "you're too damn dumb and uncultured, televidiot, so I'll speak to you accordingly" approach every day of the week.
Then there's the matter of Fr. Mossa's current posting: a professor of philosophy at Loyola University of New Orleans. That would mean that Fr. himself is dealing with, well, "college students," right? Plus, according to the website, a year at LUNO will set you back almost $32,000. Can you say "middle to upper class Catholic"?
I knew you could.
Weigel is just not speaking to the majority of young Catholics who have peopled my classroom and youth ministry programs in the last 15 years.
Only a tiny percentage of which I've ever seen darken the door of a church afterwards, worse luck.
Despite these limitations, the work shines in places. The author’s evocation of the Catholic “sacramental imagination” as an optic through which we see the world is compelling. His chapter “Mary and Discipleship” is one of his best, showing the value that reflection on Mary’s life can have for overcoming youthful fear of commitment. His contemplation of Chartres Cathedral and our need for beauty is Weigel at his most lyrical, though he teeters on the brink of proclaiming all things past beautiful and all things present ugly, a hazard throughout this historically minded travelogue.
Ah, the nice stuff. Furthermore, I join with Father in rejecting a world view that "proclaims all things past beautiful and all things present ugly."
The second half needs an essential qualifier: "virtually."
Two of the central chapters represent, successively, the low and high points of this work. The first, “Why and How We Pray,” is vintage Weigel, a sustained attack on contemporary liturgy and worship (“The Catholic Church has failed its Lord times beyond numbering”). Worship God only because God is to be worshiped, he suggests; our experience of worship doesn’t matter.
The choir says "Amen, Brother Weigel! Preach it!" In fact, I'd go beyond the quoted sentence and replace "failed" with "insulted." The problem is that "our experience of worship" has become the focus of the Mass, as seen in the constant effort to celebrate the inherent Pelagian wonderfulness of the folks whose butts warm the kneeler-free pews.
Well, of course, not so much "our experience of worship" as "our betters' experience of worship," influenced as it is by the near universal Pre-Conciliar Traumatic Stress Disorder of American liturgical experts.
Lord knows nobody gave a rat's ass about my devoutly Catholic aunt's "experience of worship" when the new pastoral administrator (an OSJ nun) took over the parish and injected herself, front and center, into the liturgy. This "experience of worship" has ensured that my aunt hasn't darkened the door of a Catholic church in over a year and counting. Likewise, my "experience of worship" is irrelevant to the consciousness-raising that must--must!--occur when the parish ensemble leader offers up his/her gender-neutered version of the Gloria at 90 decibels, or the priest sings about God as "She", or....skip it.
I'm getting tired of talking about it.
Forgetting his audience, he trashes “the Phil Donahue-style priest,” a reference that will leave readers under 30 scratching their heads.
Is that an example of talking down or over their heads? It's so confusing.
More disturbing is the way he begins that same chapter, offering, presumably, a role model in Father Jay Scott Newman.
Why do I picture Fr. Mazza reacting the exact same way my cat does to a feline interloper on the lawn?
He quotes, at length, the inaugural sermon of this new pastor, introducing himself as “a priest of the New Covenant in the presbyteral order.” As Weigel excerpts it, this new pastor presents his fundamental duties as being “to teach, to sanctify and to govern” and goes on to explain how “presbyteral ordination configures the man ordained to the Person of Christ the Head and Bridegroom of the Church in such a way that he is able to stand in the Person of Christ and act in his name for the welfare of the whole Church.” It’s hard to imagine that Weigel thinks such self-importance in a priest is a good thing, especially given the way such attitudes contributed to the church’s sexual abuse scandal.
Sounds like Fr. Newman has the makings of one hell of a fine priest, a man who takes his vocation seriously--as a God-given challenge and charge. As opposed to an endlessly diffident and deferential nebbish expected to affirm the Almighty Flock in all particulars, all in the name of "pastoral sensitivity."
Which, naturally, is the problem for "the pastorally sensitive" who refuse their parishes nothing in the way of bad behavior. OK, you can give the occasional racism, consumerism and social justice speeches. Just as long as Fr. Nebbish doesn't suggest anyone is actually guilty, beyond the vaguest, most expansive sense that makes everyone (and therefore no one) culpable for these sin--er, structural inequities.
Reality check: the abusers don't exactly have a record of gabbing about acting in persona Christi. Instead, they were rule-breaking iconoclasts like Fr. Shanley ("if he wasn't a damned pervert, he'd be my hero"), or guitar-playing "rock stars" who charmed the gullible as they "allegedly" hide a history of serial child rape. Not exactly men who thundered neo-Tridentine catchphrases.
It could be worse, Fr. Mossa. Fr. Newman could have said ordination configured him to act in the office of priest, prophet and king, just like one of those pre-conciliar theology manuals.
The next chapter, “How Vocations Can Change History,” the best chapter in the book, and a relief after the previous one, could easily stand alone. Introducing the vocational journeys of the Polish martyr Jerzy Popieluszko and the Polish pope Karol Wojtyla, Weigel paints a picture of two humble and heroic priests. With his reflection comes sound vocational advice, absent the backsliding into ideological agendas that mars the other chapters. Popieluszko’s murder by the Communist government in 1984, Weigel says, teaches the important lesson that “faith has consequences,” as does Wojtyla’s courageous underground training for priesthood during Nazi occupation.
Weigel encourages young people to think in terms of vocation (“something you are”), not career, for “people determined to live the truth of who they are—people determined to live vocationally—are the most dynamic force in history.” In this chapter, Weigel maintains his accent from beginning to end, and speaks to young people most powerfully. I will recommend this chapter to my students, as well as his handy summary of Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body, which is presented earlier in the book.
There's nothing to pound on here. Good stuff, really. Though perhaps an acknowledgment of his own ideological blinders would have been nice. He sits firmly entrenched in the progressive camp--perhaps even on the far left of the Jesuits, too--for example, see this summary of an article by Fr. Mossa which, inter alia, argues that the war in Afghanistan was likely unjust.
Then again, yanking the log out of one's own eye can be awfully difficult, in all fairness. Lord knows I don't fire up the chainsaw enough myself.
Obviously, there are things to recommend in Letters to a Young Catholic. But ultimately, one senses that the Catholic world Weigel presents in these pages, filled with certainties about what is good and what is bad and largely lacking in complexity, is as hermetically sealed as the idyllic Catholic boyhood with which he begins. Though he says, “for Catholics, suffering is a vocation,” there is no evidence that he has ever suffered, especially from doubt. And while clearly not his intention, his “Matrix”-like conclusion, “Welcome to the real world,” signals the end of the reader’s vacation in George Weigel’s world and the return to a less black-and-white Catholic reality.
Obviously, there are things to recommend in Mossa's review of Letters to a Young Catholic. But ultimately, one senses that the Catholic world Mossa--and by extension America--presents in these pages, filled with uncertainty about what is good and what is bad and lacking in objective standards, is as hermetically sealed as the lurid Catholic childhoods of the magazine's readership, festooned as they were with wrinkled and scary Slavic nuns wielding hardwood rulers. Though Mossa mocks Weigel by accusing him of blind certitude, there is no evidence that Mossa and Catholics like him have ever offered certainties about anything in Catholic life, aside from their own enlightened bona fides and fitness to lead the Church in America. And while clearly not his intention, his conclusion signals an invitation to vacation in the fantasy world of AmChurch, where nothing is ever black or white, and moral decisions are based on principles so hopelessly nuanced, relative, and unmoored to authority that everyone does what is right in his own eyes.
I recommend cancelling the reservation.
[Update 12/6/04: additional info about Fr.'s current posting, grammatical errors eliminated, and a sentence added to the experience of worship section.
Also, hat-tip to Bill Cork for the link.]
I like Geoffrey Norman's occasional sports writing for National Review Online. He strikes me as a perceptive guy with a good feel for team sports.
But he's all wet here, with his comments on the state of the Fightin' Irish football program.
Thesis: Golly, but Notre Dame would win more if it just weren't so darn pure.
Cue sound of ten pounds of projectile vomit filling a five pound bag.
Wipe face with cool, damp washcloth.]
Actually, no--all-wrongy. Twaddle, in fact.
Disclaimer: I'm about the polar opposite of an Irish fan. One of my favorite questions (heard multiple times) asked since I became Catholic is "So, you have to root for Notre Dame now, right?"
[Load up the Krusty the Clown groan: "Oyyyy."]
Notre Dame's problem since the Holtz era can be summed up in three words: No Lou Holtz.
The fact is, the game hasn't changed much since 1988. There were plenty of standardless rogue programs graduating (or not graduating) kinesiology majors back then, too. Barry Switzer's Oklahoma and Jimmy Johnson's Miami ("Catholics v. Convicts," anyone?) racked up the titles during that era, but ND was still able to compete with them under Holtz and remain an elite program.
The painful reality is that ND has gone into a spiral, and is suffering because it hasn't had a marquee charismatic coach since Holtz left. Davie was positively awful, and it will take time to repair the damage he inflicted on the program. Time Willingham was not given, though I will concede that Willingham might not have been the guy.
Or is someone actually going to try to suggest that *Nebraska* needs to lower its standards to confront its sudden decline since Osborne was elected to Congress? Is this what the Washington Huskies have to do, paragons of mediocrity (or worse) since the retirement of Don James?
It's the coaching, stupid. When/if ND gets a name coach, these halo-burnishing purity discussions will get mothballed, tout suite.
And not a moment too soon. It's ruining everyone else's digestion, Domers.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
I haven't had any liturgy-related stuff in a while. Here's the reparation:
1. The Pontificator (a blog by an Anglican priest) offers up 10 ways to improve the Western Rite Liturgy. Thumbs up to all 10. (Hat tip: Aristotle at Recovering Choir Director.)
Not so BTW, scroll around the site and you'll see that the always-worthwhile Pontificator (to be blogrolled) offers advice straight from The Amityville Horror to faithful Anglicans still in the ECUSA:
[BTW, the stories about the house in Amityville have been conclusively debunked as a hoax.]
2. The "renovation" of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit gets a review in Sacred Architecture. It is not favorable, in the main, and nails the problems perfectly.
Though a veteran modernist architect, Gunnar Birkerts claims a distaste for anything dogmatic. By giving "each building its own theoretical base" he seeks to free himself from "the imposition of a set structure on any design" and believes that "the theory can be deduced" from the resulting forms he creates. Readers of Sacred Architecture will be familiar with the contradiction in terms which is constantly utilized by modernist architects; i.e., the dogmatic belief that an architect should never follow anything dogmatic. The idea of creating rules without organic reference to the known Good, True and Beautiful is a bit like a Cartesian mind game attempting to create its own past, present and future.
* * *
"You know, one of the first things that he [Birkerts] wanted to do was to change the nature of a gothic cathedral, which by its very nature is very dark down below with large stained glass windows above. Now, that reflected the Church of the Middle Ages where people were insignificant and were always looking up to the godly. We're in a more unified Church where people have a much stronger role today than in the past. They're involved in every single part of church life and so we wanted some light to come in to that cathedral ... "
Here we have the medieval Church pitted against the modern Church in order to justify the new lighting scheme. And despite Tocco's claims, Birkerts did not change the nature of the Gothic cathedral even with the added lighting and other novel insertions. In fact, it is remarkable how the Gothic church that exists still overpowers the intruding elements simply by beauty of form, scale, and proportion. The new elements look more like a Star Trek set inserted into the crossing of a venerable Gothic church.
* * *
But beyond the actual building, the language surrounding this project serves as a self-condemnation for modern-ist interventions in general. Fr. Pelc, in an article in Faith and Form in 1987, stated that "Catholic Christians, in the main, now know that they can never be comfortable celebrating one type of ecclesiology in a building that silently screams another."
In other words, traditional architecture cannot be reconciled to the new liturgy. Is traditional architecture obsolete then? Msgr. Tocco believes that we still have room for it:"I would have said yes ten years ago, but I'm not sure that in the climate of the church today that's necessarily true. We have a lot of areas where we're not only looking forward, we're looking backward as well ... it is much easier to do liturgy in a church that is designed with the new directives for art and architecture, where people can gather around the altar, where sight lines are better, where there are not so many barriers, where you don't have a thousand things pulling them away from the altar, where the sound system is good, where the word and music are integral to the building itself."
And the last paragraph is probably the most heartening news about the renovation--the sign that the modernist assault is losing steam and confidence in itself, with this half a loaf approach signalling a retreat from the high-water mark of the Rog Mahal in L.A (all hail the Yellow Armadillo!).
It still rankles. Though Blessed Sacrament had its flaws, it was not the "pathetic," dark, dingy hellhole the archdiocesan pointmen claim it was. I gaped like a tourist during the Rite of Enrollment there in 1999. It would have "cleaned up" just fine without adding marble versions of the Enterprise's command chair and transporter platform.
But... I'll take it. The admission of Fr. Tocco is remarkable: ten years ago, they could have done so much more. Now--they can't. And there's nothing in that statement to indicate the pendulum is going to swing back any time soon.
It could have been much, much worse. And given that the changes (unlike the gothic structure itself) will age about as well as olive shag carpet, in 25 years it can be truly renovated with comparatively little effort.
3. On a related note, Michael Rose (of Ugly as Sin fame) has a new website on church architecture called Dellachiesa. Go there often--a veritable clearing house of things architectural and liturgical. (Hat tip to Mark Sullivan.)
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
No. Exhibits 99882 and 99883 to the contrary:
1. Oakland Dominicans are housing seven admitted sex offenders at their seminary. But don't worry: their diligent overseers are quite aware of the gravity of the situation:
[Dominican Fr. Roberto] Corral says the neighbors have nothing to worry about, that he keeps an eye on the sex offenders. But, he also admits they are allowed to walk the neighborhood unescorted, even to check out a car and go for rides alone.
* * *
Father Roberto Corral: "My experience, most of these guys are delightful men, again, we're all imperfect and they simply happen to have done something that was very foolish at one point in their lives."
"Very foolish," eh?
Licking a Detroit lamppost in January is "very foolish."
Drinking Everclear through a bong is "very foolish."
Learning moral theology from West Coast Dominicans appears to be "very foolish."
Child rape is not "very foolish," padre. It's evil.
The inability of prelates, priests and religious to understand this--to the point of obstinate refusal--is why the Scandal will not, contra Bp. Gregory, be "history." It will be a long, slow bleed for the next generation or so. Evidently, this blinkered mindset will only be remedied by the hallowed six brass handles of reform.
P.S.: The residents are helping to shape The Priests Of Tomorrow.
The other important issue is those seven sex offenders make up a third of the priests at the seminary, and they have a vote on which young men will become priests.
O, brave new world...
2. The newly-elected head of the USCCB, dogged by his own handling of an abusive priest, displays a similar approach:
A month after Tim Corrigan's death [a 39 year old father of three who committed suicide shortly after revealing he had been abused by a priest under then-Fr. Skylstad's supervision], Skylstad returned to Assumption to answer for the damage his old housemate had caused.
At a special nighttime meeting — part of a series of visits to parishes harmed by abusive priests — Skylstad apologized on behalf of the church, then touted a new clergy-abuse policy from the bishops' conference. His own diocese, he said, went further, banning priests from taking children on vacations or to their rooms.
But parishioners weren't in the mood for policy, according to a videotape of the meeting.
"I've been a parishioner at Assumption all my life, and I have to say, from the depths of my heart, that it truly sickens me, this thing that took place here," Bob Moore told the bishop. "Did you do everything in your power, when you found out about this wrong, to try and correct it and to protect the kids who were so harmed by the actions of this man?"
Skylstad nodded, thanked Moore, and returned to policy. "So much of the ministry of the church deals with young people, and we have to make sure that ministry takes place in a safe environment, as safe as we can make it," Skylstad said. "It's just got to be."
In the back of the church, a woman whispered: "Where's the answer?"
Actually, you have your answer, madam.
Unfortunately. Does anyone really think this is going to go away so easily?
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Much furor over this piece by Michael Ledeen in NRO, which argues that British soldier Henry Tandey would have made the world a much better place by shooting a wounded and effectively disarmed Hitler in a trench. The furor can be located over at Mark's.
Count me among the skeptics doubting that a merciless Tandey would necessarily have made the world a better place.
Most of us can imagine a better world. Far fewer take the time to consider our present world as a better alternative.
Yes, it could be worse. Building upon a comment by Patrick Sweeney, here are my thoughts:
"Mercy has unforeseen consequences that God alone sees."
Indeed--which is the point Ledeen is missing with his capping-the-wounded-Hitler rumination.We cannot know--and indeed, will not know this side of eternity--the consequences of Tandey shooting Hitler. It seems inevitable that the consequences would still be cascading through history, and not, contra Ledeen, necessarily for the better.
As desperately hard as that may be to believe.
British author and actor Stephen Fry wrote a book about the subject of a Hitlerless world called Making History. Eccentric, often obscene, and even more often irritatingly discursive (rather like the likeable Fry himself), the premise is this: two men--a student and a university physics professor stumble across time travel and decide to go back in time to prevent Hitler from being born.
Not being monsters, they don't want to kill anyone, so instead they hit upon the idea of lacing the well water in Hitler's parents' village with a contraceptive ten months before Hitler was due to be born, thus preventing the birth of said paperhanging SOB. When they get back to the present, they find a world locked in a cold war between America and...a Nazi Germany that dominates Eurasia.
You see, the men stopped Hitler, all right, but instead got a far craftier, more strategically-adept and even more charismatic substitute for the Austrian corporal named Rudolf Glober. Glober lulled the world to sleep with conciliatory rhetoric, developed the atomic bomb, destroyed Russia, occupied Britain and conducted a more thorough Final Solution. Oh, and America is a darker and more authoritarian place, too. Needless to say, the men desperately want to change history back...
Yes, it could be worse. And I remain mindful of a comment increasingly used by one of my favorite sci-fi writers, S.M. Stirling: "It is amazing how often mercy has practical uses."
Err on the side of practicality. Because the alternative could be far, far worse than you can ever imagine, for both yourself and others.
This here blog turned two years old. According to the archives, October 16, 2002 was the adventus dyspepsium. Per today's count, there have been 94,000+ visits and nearly 114,000 page views since May 2003. Many thanks!
Like they always say:
"Time flies when you are emitting greenhouse gases."
Monday, November 22, 2004
Or so goes the swelling chorus about the truly shameful melee at the Pistons-Pacers game last Friday. The Volokh Conspiracy offers typical insights. While he makes fair points, it would, however, have been nice had the commentator noted a cardinal rule for athletes saddled with unruly fans:
NEVER, EVER GO INTO THE STANDS. EVER. FOR ANY REASON. EVEN IF YOU'RE HIT WITH ARENA BUDWEISER THAT RIVALS CHANEL NO. 5 IN PRICE.
THIS MEANS YOU, RON.
But more about that later.
Accounts of the brawl literally imitate the Hanson brothers' offensive into the stands in Slap Shot. Media reports indicate that Pacer forward Ron Artest greeted the first fellow five rows up with "Are you the one who threw it? Did you do it?" in between a rain of blows. The fellow, approximately 5'8" and wearing glasses that made him look like Mr. Whipple without the advanced MPB, said "no" and video footage confirms that the only thing he was guilty of was being the first guy Mr. Artest got his hands on.
I smell a quick settlement.
I have considerably less sympathy for the dumbass in the Pistons jersey who confronted Artest on the court. The only regret is that the Pacer forward was unable to land a telling blow on the idiot, who was interviewed later and had no credible explanation for why he went down to the floor.
Kiss those season tickets goodbye, buttercup. And rightly so. Actually, the Oakland County Prosecutor and Auburn Hills police are probably very interested in addressing your behavior, from all accounts. As of Sunday, 90% of the rotten fans had been identified, including the first beer thrower. Here's hoping the day's news brings word of "fan" arrests.
Moving on to the centerpiece of this post....Speaking as a transplanted Detroiter who works in the City, I humbly offer the following suggestion to those inclined to pen blanket descriptions of "Detroit fans":
(1) Take a deep breath;
(2) Stick a thumb in your mouth;
(3) Make sure your lips form a good seal around the thumb; and
(4) Blow it out your tailpipe.
We've been carrying the burden of the riot following the 1984 World Series, immortalized by the photograph of Kenneth "Bubba" Helms holding up a pennant in front of a burning vehicle (Helms tragically committed suicide in 2001). Since then, Detroit teams have won three NBA and three NHL championships, the region has hosted several games in the 1994 World Cup, an NCAA basketball tournament regional in 2000 and this year the Ryder Cup. Total number of violent incidents since 1984 as a result of major sporting events?
That's "zero," "zip," or "zilch" to the Yiddish-impaired.
Anybody besides me remember that someone got killed in the rioting--as in police-using-tear-gas rioting--following the Red Sox triumph over the Yankees this year? Has it been turned into some metanarrative about What Is Wrong With Boston?, or ruminations about The Condition of Beantown's Soul? If so, I missed it.
Anyone recall the two drunks attacking the Royals' first base coach on the field at a White Sox game in 2002? [If you said "yes," you're lying.] I can't recall hand-wringing essays screaming J'accuse! at the Windy City.
How about the riots following the second Colorado Avalanche championship in 2001? Which were rather like the riots following the first Avs title in 1996, alas. Should I bring up the Larimer Square unrest following both Bronco Super Bowl wins? Denver: Stain on the Nation? Can't recall that column.
In none of the cases should such essays have been written, of course. Because unruly fans are, and always have been, a feature of all the major team sports. They come with the territory, unfortunately.
But somehow, if doofuses (or is that doofi?) toss beer and get into scrums with athletes at a Detroit game, well, that's different. It's "Detroit, Punk City."
Get a grip. The fans deserve to be punished, but the players escalated the situation into a brawl--a brawl that says more about Mr. Artest than it does about metropolitan Detroit. I'll let Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz have the final word:
Human nature being what it is, people now will quibble about the specifics of the penalties, scream that Wallace started it and the fans got out of hand.
Here is what we can't forget. They went into the stands. What Artest and his teammates did was patently unforgivable. We may understand their reaction on a very human level; who wouldn't confront some clod who douses them with a beer? But dealing with abuse is an unfortunate part of the job.
At some level, the Pacers have themselves to blame, because they're the ones who continued to keep Artest rather than trade him. They knew he was a time bomb. They knew his peculiar brand of madness might undermine his team. But they knew he could play, and they stayed the course, no matter how many times he ran afoul of the rules.
This is not a time for Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird to be looking at Stern. This is a time for them to be looking in the mirror.
As for Artest himself, the time has come for him to use this opportunity not to promote his music, but to get himself well. The press pass does not entitle us to reach conclusions about another man's physical or mental health, but the body of evidence has grown to the point where it's apparent his problems go beyond simple immaturity and eccentricity.
A normal person does not do the things he's been doing for years.
Of course Stern took Artest's history into account with this verdict. How could he not?
The last thing Artest needs now is for people to turn him into some kind of martyr, telling him he was done wrong by the powers-that-be. What he needs now is for people to tell him he does, in fact, need some kind of help.
He's not just a talented basketball player, but he is, by all accounts, a good-hearted person. These days do not have to be wasted. These days could, in fact, prove to be his salvation.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
You find yourself bolting down your prize breakfast java like it was half-skunked Meister Brau or Milwaukee's Best.
Two toddlers with ear infections.
Just imagine the possiblities those five terrifying little words entail. That may explain why my co-workers have taken to greeting me with screams of "The dead live! The dead freaking live! Kill it! Kill it!"
Michigan's firearm deer season opened on Monday.
And I was not in my all-new, reinforced, plywood and plexiglass deer blind at 6 a.m., cradling the Winchester Model 94 .30-30 that proved so successful last year.
Then again, numbers may be a little down this year.
But still, deer camp.
Would that I were at thee...
It's looking good for the day after Thanksgiving, though. Here's hoping.
Monday, November 15, 2004
The wholesale whitewashing of a thoroughly-repellent murderer is not my idea of must-see-TV. MSM's willingness to engage in hagiography-for-Hitler is one of the more disgusting trends of our age.
As Mark Sullivan timely reminds us, his victims are those we need to mourn.
Victims like five year old Gal Eisenman, who died with her grandmother at the hands of one of Arafraud's bombers in 2002.
A little girl who looked remarkably like my eldest daughter.
Nope. No tears for that bastard in this space. He faces the perfect justice of almighty God, which is as it should be.
Oswald Sobrino addresses an argument you hear occasionally from the Correct Catholic circles: Jesus' presence in scripture and and His presence in the Eucharist are the same thing.
It's also often combined with the hypothesis that Jesus is equally present in the gathered community at Mass.
Oooookay. Not that there isn't truth in both comparisons, of course. But Jesus said things about the Eucharist that He didn't say about His presence in scripture or in gatherings of His faithful.
An instant refutation comes from application of the hypothesis to a hot-button issue still confronting the Church, post-Kerry--denial of communion to pro-abortion politicians. Confront the proponent with a real world application:
"OK, sounds good. Actually, it's great! Your argument neatly solves the problem of denial of communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians. After all, if Christ is equally present in the Word (and the gathered community), then we deny the politician nothing by refusing him the Eucharist. He is still able to "receive" Jesus equally well in the proclaimed scriptures and the presence of the eucharistic community. Simply catechize him or her with this understanding and this thorny issue will be history. No more theatrical fretting about confrontations at the (almost certainly nonexistent) communion rail--Senator/Congressman/Representative Kissling will still be getting Jesus. Right?"
The certain refusal of the proponent to be persuaded by the logical conclusion of his own theological freewheeling will be the finest refutation you could ask for.
The Eucharist is different. Even those who try to deny it know this, in their heart of hearts.
"If you have nothing to say, don't say it."
Friday, November 05, 2004
Thursday, November 04, 2004
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."
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