Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What do you think?

This is probably the most interesting non-John Allen thing I've ever read on the Reporter's website (and it's not by a NCR regular, predictably enough). It is an essay, for lack of a better description by a self-described progressive Catholic and Dominican made in response to Allen's also-interesting proposal for a Catholic "mega-trends") book. Critical of "restorationism" and certain tendencies he sees within the orthodox camp, it is a far, far more bracing and rigorous critique of what progressivism hath wrought in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. I can easily picture sitting down and talking with this guy.

My only caveat is that the ever-sensible Rich Leonardi is nowhere near as taken with it, giving a rating of zero to my four. Which leads me to wonder if I am missing something here.

What say you?

...anybody up for leftovers?

A great Christmas at the Prices (hint for new parents: skip naps on Christmas Eve). Maddie received Holly Hobbie dolls (old and new--the new is entirely un-Bratzishke), a Cabbage Patch baby and the Lady and the Tramp DVD.

Dale has a new Shake and Go racer set, a remote control amphibious vehicle (we expect to see the cat again in a week), and the Toy Story DVD. His father also insisted on a cowboy pistol and rifle set. One that makes noise.

Rachel has a new Sleeping Beauty doll, Sleeping Beauty Golden Book and Sleeping Beauty DVD (a trend developed in the last two months).

Mom and Dad brought lots of supplemental toys, too. Courtesy of me, Heather has on DVD a complete series of The Greatest American Hero, Divine Intimacy (a very interesting TAN reprint) and a Catholic woman's day planner. Hey, she asked for (1) and (3), and expressed interest in (2). Talk to her.

I have some new clothes, Steyn's America Alone, Truth and Tolerance (by some German guy), DVDs of Serenity, Reno911 Season 3 (for a little new boot goofin'), The Warriors Director's Cut (can you diiiiiig it?) I also asked for The Sky People, but to quote the Beloved, the Macomb Mall B. Dalton's "sucks." Some changes will also be announced later this week.

All told, no complaints, though. Will get to that e-mail--promise. Speaking of which: Hey, Richard--see the History Channel's Engineering An Empire installment last night? And a quick answer to your question--probably the time of Heraclius, but no later than Constans II. I'll explain more in my response.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas to You and Yours!

I get to go shopping today. Sure as God made little green apples I'm not going out tomorrow. In any event, I'm not anticipating this task, and my ever-practical Heather suggests that toting the 12 gauge along to "clear the way" would be inadvisable. "Even with 'birdshot and salt shells.'"

Who knows? She may be right.

So, in order to fan the embers of the Christmas season, I offer the following notes:

1. A reminder: according to North American Air Defense Command, Santa is going to be taking off in about 17 hours. [H/t to Dreadnought for this find.]

The history of this project can be found here.

2. Another little reminder, this one about the reason for the season, as the tagline goes, courtesy of Madeleine:

Monday, December 18, 2006

Oh, and another thing...

(1) A priest celebrating the Tridentine Mass denies "full, active and conscious participation," but

(2) Watching women twirl about in spandex as part of a display of liturgical dance/movement is "full, active and conscious participation."

Fr. Richard McBrien again devastates his opponents.

And again emerges covered with straw.

Really, there's nothing here to fisk. Fr. McBrien creates a sockpuppet opponent, accuses it of bad motives, feeds it ridiculous lines, "refutes" it and declares victory.

It's almost cute in a way--offer a peculiar premise ("It's all ecclesiology these days!"), don't even hint the other side has a coherent argument to the contrary, paint your opponents' objective in the worst possible terms (describe the worst of the old Mass), and finish by repeating the peculiar premise. Viola! If his column isn't titled Ipse Dixit, it should be.

The sad thing is that there are too many people who will nod uncritically at this nonsense and repeat it around the chancery watercooler for weeks, not realizing that the author has become the Emperor Norton of Catholicism, thundering nonsensically from on high.

Yep, sure it's our failure to embrace the Church as "People of God" that has us hacked off at Fr. in a Barney suit or any of a thousand liturgical outrages that happen every month. It's our clericalism showing (pot, kettle, black), and it can't possibly be anything more than that.

Listen, chump/
Don't you see/
It's your e-ccle-si-ol-o-gy...
Not since I started wearing tighty-whiteys.

True story:

My sister in law Maria composed a list of gift suggestions for my nephew, Brennen to give to my beloved Mom. Brennen is into those Japanese marketing combat shows--Yug-i-oh, Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, Bi-mo-nau, etc. The handwriting, alas, is a little ambiguous in spots, leading to my Mom visiting the nearest Wal-Mart and asking if they "have any dragon balls?"

In related news, Prince Albert has been released from imprisonment.

[Mom's folk were Hays from old Caledonia. The Scottish blood runs dilute in our veins, but true--the capacity for vendetta and vengeance is still strong. Maria's a little...concerned about this week's visit.]
There are several people I owe e-mails.

You know who you are.

I'll start to respond today. Thanks for your patience.
Christmas shopping. In stores.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends and neighbors!

Interestingly enough, the festival is not recorded in Hebrew Bibles (which is no big deal, of course). For the curious, though, the holiday's origin is located in Catholic and Orthodox Old Testaments. The most detailed account is in 1 Maccabees 4 (an unjustly neglected book even by those who venerate it as inspired). Starting at verse 36:

Then Judas and his brothers said, "Now that our enemies have been crushed, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it."
So the whole army assembled, and went up to Mount Zion.
They found the sanctuary desolate, the altar desecrated, the gates burnt, weeds growing in the courts as in a forest or on some mountain, and the priests' chambers demolished.
Then they tore their clothes and made great lamentation; they sprinkled their heads with ashes
and fell with their faces to the ground. And when the signal was given with trumpets, they cried out to Heaven.
Judas appointed men to attack those in the citadel, while he purified the sanctuary.
He chose blameless priests, devoted to the law;
these purified the sanctuary and carried away the stones of the Abomination to an unclean place.
They deliberated what ought to be done with the altar of holocausts that had been desecrated.
The happy thought came to them to tear it down, lest it be a lasting shame to them that the Gentiles had defiled it; so they tore down the altar.
They stored the stones in a suitable place on the temple hill, until a prophet should come and decide what to do with them.
Then they took uncut stones, according to the law, and built a new altar like the former one.
They also repaired the sanctuary and the interior of the temple and purified the courts.
They made new sacred vessels and brought the lampstand, the altar of incense, and the table into the temple.
Then they burned incense on the altar and lighted the lamps on the lampstand, and these illuminated the temple.
They also put loaves on the table and hung up curtains. Thus they finished all the work they had undertaken.
Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, that is, the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight,
they arose and offered sacrifice according to the law on the new altar of holocausts that they had made.
On the anniversary of the day on which the Gentiles had defiled it, on that very day it was reconsecrated with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals.
All the people prostrated themselves and adored and praised Heaven, who had given them success.
For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully offered holocausts and sacrifices of deliverance and praise.
They ornamented the facade of the temple with gold crowns and shields; they repaired the gates and the priests' chambers and furnished them with doors.
There was great joy among the people now that the disgrace of the Gentiles was removed.
Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days, from the twenty-fifth day of the month Chislev.

Enjoy those eight crazy nights!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bovines in Love.

An oddly touching story about a lonely steer and his new girlfriend.

[Title changed after a pertinent biological error was noted in the comment box. I could say "with God all things are possible," but....]
Moral insanity on parade.

How about we worry about the man and his family instead of the damned political impact?

For the love of God.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Affirm and go hottubbing, for yours is the reign of God.

Some things just bring out my inner Savonarola.

Yesterday in our parish bible study, we went over Acts 19, which covers the tumult resulting from the growth of the Church in Ephesus. Ephesus was the home of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis. A remarkable engineering feat, the Temple was even in ancient times a magnet for pilgrims, and as Acts makes clear, the economic life of Ephesus depended upon the temple and the industries connected to it. Starting with idol-making silversmiths.

One of the many interesting scenes in the chapter involves the burning of a pile of valuable magical texts by recently converted Christians as a sign of continuing conversion.

As a sign of my own deepening conversion, I hereby state that I will burn any copies of the Catholic Update which come into my possession. The trigger? This slice of USCCB-certified Grade A headcheese served up by Fr. Ken Overberg, a professor at Xavier University (Cincinnati).

If there was ever an essay which illustrated in such stark terms the problem with the Americanization of the Gospel, this is it. As Niebuhr put it way back in 1937, the cotton candy gospel being offered up by the liberal Protestants of the time boiled down to this:

A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.

You can find all four in spades in Fr. Overberg's meditation. Except "kingdom" references, of course. And the use of "men."

Adopting the biases of the secular academy, Fr. Overberg is big on "inclusive" language. Thus the replacement of "Kingdom" with "Reign." Furthermore, and despite the daunting witness of revelation, Fr. Overberg has an aversion to refering to God as "Father" or "he" in his own writing (as opposed to quotes). Stale and awkward (note the tortured gymnastics he has to go through to paraphrase John 3:16), but sadly unsurprising. As are the equally stale form-critical judgments offered up with the usual uncritical certitude, but I'll leave aside the Bultmania for now.

To be blunt, the overarching dreadfulness of the essay is mind-blowing. Milk-jug absent from the commentary are such traditional concepts as repentence and preparation for the Advent of the Lord, which, of course, are the focal points of the season for those not allergic to the Church as it existed in 1962. To give you a brief flavor of the problem: there are three dutiful references to "God's Reign" in the essay, but zero to "repentance/repent." As in zilch.

(1) A God without wrath/Kingdom without Judgment.

The distant and neuter God loves you. Period. There's nothing that makes God angry. Jesus came as a symbol of divine love--no atonement there.
What's remarkable about this is that Fr. Overberg has. no. clue. how this obliterates social justice advocacy. If God truly loves unconditionally, then not even screwing the poor and building a nuclear death ray to fry puppies and redwoods from one of the Lagrange Points is going to hack Himherit off. Godself is all about acceptance--and nothin' but.

(2) Men without Sin.

Care to guess the number of references to sin in the essay, personal or otherwise? Actually, there's one--which naturally denigrates the concept of atonement. More about that in section (3). Sin apparently went out with Vatican II, along with Latin, habits, incense, moral seriousness and reading comprehension. There is no call to genuine introspection, no suggestion that there is anything in the conscience which bears examining. Oh, sure, he lobs off the "what then shall we do?" line, but he's already provided the answer two paragraphs earlier, where one can find a call to discipleship which amounts to "share, be nice and no hitting."

God is apparently some kind of neuter Ron Burgundy--R. Burgundy--whose sole remaining task in history is to look upon Himherit's beings and say "You stay classy, Creation."

Add to this the discovery that cost-free, Jacuzzi-jet spirituality is the reason for the season. Bold defiance of those numberless advocates of nuclear war and starving the poor gets you accolades as a 21st Century Bonhoeffer.

(3) Christ Without a Cross.

Fr. Overberg hates atonement. Hates it.

God's not about atonement. Not even in the Gospel of John:

John’s Gospel does not see Jesus’ life and death as atonement or ransom. There is instead emphasis on friendship, intimacy, mutuality, service, faithful love—revealing God’s desire and gift for the full flourishing of humanity, or in other words, salvation.


Here's the part where I am compelled to ask--"Don't you have to be fatuous somewhere else?"

Yeah, sure--if you ignore all of the "lamb of God" references, Jewish sacrificial allusions and every other signal of the atoning mission of Christ which bubbles up from the text. Of course --pay no attention to the creative theologian behind the curtain! Or: "Don't believe your lying eyes--I have tenure!"

And the drama of salvation is reduced to some felt-needs security blanket--being the best you you can possibly be! Just perfect for a comfortable people not interested in taking up a cross and following Christ. It's Joel Osteen in a cassock. Which is just about the last thing the Church in America needs right now.

[Thanks to Rich for the link.]

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I have a theory about American foreign policy.

Namely, that those tasked to handle it rarely have any grasp of religion. Specifically, religion as motivator of the actions taken by others.

Exhibit A.

Instead, the brahmins prefer to substitute economic interests, ethnicity, or even class whenever they hear a religious tag. It's easier, and more reassuring, to think that way. The idea that someone is motivated by messianic impulses--and reports visions related to such impulses--is too fantastic to consider.

Oh, nononononononononono--Mr. Ahmadinejad is actually motivated by Persian nationalism and related grievances. He doesn't actually believe in any of that Twelfth Imam stuff. That's why we should try to talk to him, like the Baker Commission says.

Come on--get real. Motivated by religion? Nobody I know is.
"I love this car!"

--so spake Madeleine, upon discovering the versatile armrest in our "new" car, a 2000 Buick Regal LS with mileage best described in terms of circumnavigation.

It looks pretty much like this, black exterior, tan interior. The main exterior difference is that it lacks the "blackout" finish on the grill, and has, hearkening back to my Camaro-owning high school days, a spoiler. Now all I need is the Kraco cassette deck, Eagle tires, the company of at least two equally-dateless friends and the flashback can begin.

What do I think? To use the lingo of the young people, it's 'ight. We can almost afford it, and I needed a set of wheels. It'll do.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!

Giorgio Vasari, Allegory of the Immaculate Conception (1541)

Now get to Mass.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Memed! By the trophy wife, no less!

Heather was tagged with the Birthday Meme, so she became a carrier.

The Rules:

1) Go to Wikipedia.
2) In the search box, type your birth month and day but not the year.
3) List three events that happened on your birthday.
4) List two important birthdays and one death.
5) One holiday or observance (if any).

Three Events

1831 - James Clark Ross discovers the North Magnetic Pole.
1925 - Lou Gehrig plays the first game in his record streak of 2,130 consecutive games.
1962 - Adolf Eichmann hanged in Israel.

Two Birthdays and a Death
1780 - Carl von Clausewitz, Prussian general (d. 1831)
1937 - Morgan Freeman, American actor


1571 - Bl. John Story, English Catholic Martyr


Samoan Independence Day (1962)
Memorial of St. Justin Martyr (OK, two observances)


Rich, Melanie B., and Pansy and Peony.
Recent random thoughts.

You know, Mater and the Ghostlight is almost as much fun the 83rd time you've seen it as the 78th.

Please, please, dear Lord don't let them come up with a hemorrhoid treatment.
I'd like to take this moment to welcome Rod Dreher to our ranks.

He, too, has acquired a righteous and holy hatred for the hellish marketing empire that is Bratz.

[Which must be immediately distinguished from the unalloyed goodness that are brats.]

Hey, Torquemada, whaddaya say?/
How's everything at the auto de fe?

People interested in my previous considered opinions on the subject are directed here and here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


According to the mechanics, the engine canna take no more, Captain.

Looks like we are going to take a trip to Beater City and dredge up a suitable lemon.

The Buick is dead. Long live the....Mongo not sure.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Blue Monday.

Let's see:

1. Yesterday Heather and I went to the emergency room. Her main problem is that she married a klutz.

I dropped our Christmas tree box on her. It slipped from my hand as I was lowering it from our attic and smacked her in the head. No concussion, thank God, but she is on antivert for the dizzy spells. Good wishes and such appreciated.

2. The Buick may be done. It overheated on me this morning and shows every sign of wanting to get the mercy bullet. Good thing we have scads of cash to get a replacement.

Oh, wait...

3. If it takes a conference championship to make the BCS, then make it explicit. (And a 13 game schedule if you're a 1-loss team). And as far as that "strength of schedule" crap goes--Michigan hasn't played a I-AA team in...forever. [Coughcoughcough.] Watching the media Florgasm build in favor of the Gators develop over the weekend was dismaying but predictable.

And notice that Sweatervest abstained, helping to ensure that he got the matchup he wanted. Which means his second national championship by a minimum of two touchdowns on January 8.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Here's the Turkish TV feed.

Posted at YouTube. The prayer occurs starting at 6:58. Interestingly, Pope Benedict keeps praying long after the Mufti has finished his devotions.

And, say what you will about Turkish Islam, it certainly has great architectural taste. The Sultanahmet ("Blue") Mosque is truly a beautiful place.
Kasatka also apologized on Letterman and checked into rehab.

Killer whale rejoins Sea World show after attacking trainer.

The problem is that he was facing Mecca. Moreso because it comes from the man who recognized--and curbed--the excesses of the Assisi gatherings.

I'm not hopping on board the sede bandwagon. It's simply a little disheartening.

(1) It's going to encourage ecumaniacs--"Why can't I sacrifice a chicken with the Unitarians? The Pope prayed facing Mecca...." And a credible rebuttal is....?

(2) The only reciprocal gesture that will be received is a pat to the head, possibly with a "Good dhimmi!" thrown in.

[Update: OK, a little better--the Holy Father is holding his pectoral cross as he prays--and the event was carried live on Turkish TV. That changes my perspective some.

Clarification: No, I am NOT accusing PBXVI of dhimmitude. I just think that it is an ambiguous-to-dubious gesture that will avail us nothing.]
Well, well, well...

A certain dogged propagandist for a south Texas professional basketball franchise has been at great pains to assert that the team's starting point guard is only "half French." Nevermind that the team's own website lists him as hailing from the Fifth Republic. In the face of such inconvenient facts, the apologist persevered in a Ziegleresque display of tenacity.

Alas, the campaign has taken a torpedo amidships with yesterday's announcement that Mr. Parker will be marrying the fetching Eva Longoria in an elaborate wedding ceremony.


No doubt as part of a sinister Gaullist plot to spirit our women away from our shores.

I eagerly await your reply, Victor.

Victor Morton, attempting to explain away the Frenchness of Monseiur Parker.

Free advice: Do NOT anger Kathy Shaidle.

Break out the asbestos jumpsuit for this one. As per usual, the flamethrowing is deserved.
Prayer request for Lily Siekierski.

Matt posted an update here. Things are gradually improving, but she is going in for scheduled abdominal surgery at noon today to determine/resolve the source of the blockage.

Prayers/whatever you can manage continue to be welcome, as Matt indicates.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fitting photos for the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle.

His All-Holiness, Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

[Plenty of pics here.]

His homily is worth your time, too. Ditto this website of the EP, which includes Byzantine music.

And the picture of the day:

[Pics by the Patriarchate. H/t to Amy for the above links.]

"The sea, the sea...."

There are times when I not only understand the lament of Legolas, I actually feel it.

A still from the Copper Harbor website.

The Mighty Mac in winter.

Gift ideas for the sports masochist in your life.

At least if they are still fans of a certain team.
I love The Curt Jester. I really do.

It is a great blog you should read every day. This, though--not so much. It's a failed attempt to make light (been there, done that and will probably do it again tomorrow), and I'm not going to open a six-pack on Jeff over it.

The most serious problem with it is that provoked what is, hands down, the most ignorant (I'm using it in the most neutral possible sense) historical commentary of 2006, by a Mr. Shaw:

Having misspent many LIRR commuting hours reading various books, some on the Crusades, I want to coment on the Byzantines' actions throughout the Crusades.

Fact is the Byzantine emperors 'used' the Crusaders to fight Turks, and 'stabbed the western yokels' in their collective backs whenever it suited them.

That's...inaccurate. When Alexius I asked the west for help, he was expecting mercenary forces from the Western royals, not mass armies headed by ambitious lesser nobles. He made do with what he got, and yes, he did "use" them: he agreed to help them get through Anatolia, but they had to swear an oath to turn over any former Byzantine territories to the Empire along the way.

To their credit, the Westerners did this--until they got to Antioch. There, one of the Crusade's leaders, Bohemund, reneged on his promise and took the city as his own. Another of the Crusade's leaders, Raymond of Poitiers, protested vehemently, but was overruled. In other words, the "yokels" were no strangers to backstabbing.

The sack of Constantinople that should be lamented took place in 1453, when the Turk did exponentially more evil and horribly defiled the city, its churches and its inhabitants. Now the city is 99% pagan, and the Hagia Sofia is a filthy mosque.

No lament over the 1204 rape of the city? None? At least the Turks had a religious motivation. The Fourth Crusade was a money-grub from the start (with a Byzantine pretender along as window dressing). Too bad Mr. Shaw wasn't around to set Pope Innocent straight, who described the unholy crusade in these terms:

How, indeed, is the Greek church to be brought back into ecclesiastical union and to a devotion for the Apostolic See when she has been beset with so many afflictions and persecutions that she sees in the Latins only an example of perdition and the works of darkness, so that she now, and with reason, detests the Latins more than dogs? As for those who were supposed to be seeking the ends of Jesus Christ, not their own ends, whose swords, which they were supposed to use against the pagans, are now dripping with Christian blood ­ they have spared neither age nor sex. They have committed incest, adultery, and fornication before the eyes of men. They have exposed both matrons and virgins, even those dedicated to God, to the sordid lusts of boys. Not satisfied with breaking open the imperial treasury and plundering the goods of princes and lesser men, they also laid their hands on the treasures of the churches and, what is more serious, on their very possessions. They have even ripped silver plates from the altars and have hacked them to pieces among themselves. They violated the holy places and have carried off crosses and relics.

Too bad also that he wasn't able to advise Pope John Paul II back in 2004, who still saw fit, even 800 years later, to offer an apology for the atrocity.

Oh, and by the way--Hagia Sophia is a museum these days, not a mosque. Has been for decades. And it was never "filthy"--except when it was desecrated by invaders and stained with the blood of the Christian residents of Constantinople.

Of note: the Crusaders took the place with much fewer men and much more quickly than did the Sultan, probably because Venicians and other western crusaders comprised over half of the 1453 defensive forces.

Ah, yes: The Westerners were Manly Men, Muscular and Strong! And hairy, too! Unlike the unworthy Byzantines, who no doubt spent their time fussing over their hair and reading the medieval version of Men's Health.

So, don't lament the Crusaders one-time sack and immediate ransom of the effete and corrupt Byzantines while ignoring the fact that the murderous Turk apostacized and destroyed the once-great Christian city.

Don't lament it--the Byzantines were effete and corrupt. They deserved it. They had ferns at their pubs.

No further comment necessary--some s--t just fisks itself.

If you have time to misspend reading, try Liutprand's narrative of his embassy to the Byzantines. It's a good overview of corruption and effeminacy. Where did you think the adjective 'byzantine' came from?

Yes: "corrupt," "effeminate," and "effete." Leaving aside that (1) it's warmed over Lecky served with a side order of rancid Gibbon, and (2) it boils down to "the b***h had it coming," is it really an appropriate and accurate summation of the greatest Christian civilization of the Middle Ages?

[Answers other than "No" are null and void.]

This is the same society that birthed the builders of Hagia Sophia, Hosias Loukas and the Walls of Theodosius. The nation of the fresco painters of Monreale and Santa Maria Assunta. The scribe-preservers of Greek antiquity. The priests and monks who introduced Christian civilization to the Slavic peoples of the East. The martyrs who preserved Christian iconography in the face of persecution. The empire of the generals and soldiers who successfully withstood the Arab military avalanche. The same empire which in its steep decline managed to do the same against the Turkish onslaught--with minimal and always grossly-insufficient help from the West.

Byzantium deserves much better than a Catholic version of the Black Legend.
[Abort, retry, fail?....]

I really have no clue how to title a post for this article.

Rue Britannia/
Britannia rue the day/
When Britons sleepily became PC slaves....

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

If this was a mob attack, I hope the assailants get tacked to a wall.

Authorities are investigating an alleged anti-Muslim hate crime attack in Detroit.

Of course, someone should go to jail regardless of motivation--the man appears to have been pretty badly beaten up.
"Michigan's Band of Brothers."

A great story about the 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, on duty in Fallujah.

The 1-24th is based here in the Wolverine State.

Moderate Muslims--they exist, all right.

They just aren't very popular with less-moderate Muslims.

Consider the case of Jamal Miftah. Miftah is a resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma. A banker born in Pakistan, he fled his native land in 2003 with his wife and four children after the border areas where he lived became a war zone.

Frustrated by quotes by al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri enjoining terrorism in a front page article in the Tulsa World, Miftah wrote an essay in October 2006 for the same newspaper (available here) which condemned violence in the name of Islam.

Reaction from his mosque? Excommunication. And no return until he repudiates the article and apologizes to the entire Muslim community.

The reason? According to an interview, it is because "you can't write bad things about Muslims in front of non-Muslims." He has also been labelled "a traitor," "an agent," and even "anti-Muslim."

If I may be so brazen as to offer some advice to the leadership of the Tulsa mosque--actions speak louder than words, and yours say volumes. None of them good.

Now ask yourself a few questions: (1) have you seen one word in major media about Jamal Miftah? (2) Have you heard anything about him prior to today? (3) Compare the non-coverage of this story to the media lather over the Imams' street theatre at the Minneapolis airport last week. Not even the Tulsa World itself has touched it.

Not so by the way--thank you very much, Mr. Miftah. We need many, many more like you.
The Dictatorship of Euphemism.

Robert Araujo heard the oral arguments in the Supreme Court on the partial-birth abortion ban.

Short summary: if you don't name it, you don't have to claim it:

It was ear and eye opening to listen to how highly intelligent people relied on euphemism (e.g., “fetal demise”) to escape coping with the reality of what is at the core of the case and, therefore, at the heart of abortion itself—human life. I hasten to add that some of the participants would periodically indicate or otherwise suggest that two human lives are involved in every abortion case that is litigated; however, others could not or would not make this concession.

Very early on in the oral argument the listener hears a discussion about dismemberment, but what is being dismembered is not mentioned. The object/subject of this procedure is left to the imagination of the listener to identify. But, with patient listening, the identity of the object/subject becomes clear; however, with the increase in this clarity, the efforts by some to fortify the conclusion that it is not human, or at least outside the scope of Constitutional protection, intensify. Some of the presentations are concrete when they focus on “the health of the woman (mother?)”; however, they become more abstract when the “other entity” is mentioned.

Read it all. The power of definition is critical, and this is Exhibit A.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"World's oldest cold case" solved.

King Tut not murdered, according to CT scans.

Good to see the Arizona native was not a victim of foul play after all.
I hate Illinois Nazis.

Nativity film barred from "holiday" festival.

The fear of a heckler's veto rears its ugly head. Wouldn't want to be called intolerant by some hypersensitive nimrod.

Chicago: it's a silly place.
Apparently Cartoon Network discovered a sizeable demographic that thought "Squidbillies" was too cerebral.

So they came up with Assy McGee.

You know, the lowest common denominator just isn't what it used to be.

No, you can't move into our survival bunker--build your own.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Pray for the Holy Father.

Or if you aren't the praying kind, at least pull for him. He's walking into a maelstrom.

I was rooting for Notre Dame.

Not just because it helps Michigan, either. I, like the Irish faithful, am also metaphysically certain that USC is Evil.

Gah. I really thought Quinn would pull something out of his hat when they closed to 28-17, too. He still deserves to win the Heisman, too--nobody does more with less than Brady Quinn. But he won't, of course.

Speaking of which:

Which one of you wags signed me up for a trial subscription to Sports Illustrated? You know--just in time to get Troy F. Smith on the cover? I will find you--rest assured.

Friday, November 24, 2006


What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

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[H/T to Don at Mixolydian Mode.]

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

You can call this confab anything you want...

except "scientific."

BTW, I love the NYT's benign-spin titling of what is more or less a free-fire vent against religious belief.

Yeah, it's a "free for all" in exactly the same way what happened to Rodney King was a "free for all."

This quote pretty well sums it up:

“With a few notable exceptions,” he [anthropologist Melvin J. Konner] said, “the viewpoints have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?”

Monday, November 20, 2006

And now for something completely positive.

A great article about a great Jesuit priest, Fr. Greg Boyle, laboring magnificently in some pretty grim fields--amongst the Los Angeles gangs.


P.S. More recent articles here and here.
Actress renowned for cleavage and starring in Michael Bay's biggest bomb is upset about something.

Click here if you're interested.

All part of our intermittent CelebWatch feature.

For those religion junkies who actually paid attention to The Episcopal Church's General Convention this year, that was the watchword of Christian Anglicans: they wanted clarity about the direction of TEC. They certainly received that in bushels, culminating in the election of Katherine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop of that particular communion. Starting with her invocation of "Mother Jesus" [God help me, it reminds me of Clerks], and continuing with her denial of Christ as universal savior, she has been a cornucopia of leftist platitudes, confused pseudo-Christian theology and overall gaffes that only someone with a heart of granite could fail to enjoy.

As an example of the last, consider her pelted-with-cottonballs interview with the NY Times wherein we Catholics receive plenty of clarity concerning the new PB's ecumenical bent:

How many members of the Episcopal Church are there in this country?

About 2.2 million. It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.

Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?

No. It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.

You’re actually Catholic by birth; your parents joined the Episcopal Church when you were 9. What led them to convert?

It was before Vatican II had any influence in local parishes, and I think my parents were looking for a place where wrestling with questions was encouraged rather than discouraged.

Have you met Pope Benedict?

I have not. I think it would be really interesting.

Hoo, boy. All the Catlick stereotypes wrapped up and served with PC panache by one who worships at the Altar of Tolerance--Or Else™. Yep, we're unthinking breeders waiting for our latest orders via the Pope Signal.

And as to that wrestling with questions thing, I wonder how long someone still questioning women's ordination would last at one of the Rt. Rev. Schori's parishes.

Anyway--have you seen pictures of my bad stewardship of earth's resources lately?

[Thanks to Amy and Chris Johnson for the link. Chris also shows us the ideal response--asking the Rt. Rev. to help us benighted papists the only way we know how--in crayon.]
Well, well, well.

The pro multis controversy is resolved, tout suite.

Good. Too bad it was mistranslated in the first place, but better late than never.

What's that thin wail I'm hearing?...
Life goes on.

Ah, well.

I'm developing a hypothesis about the problem. You see, last year I went up to my friend's condo to watch the game. This year, he came down to Casa Pequeña to watch it.

Clearly, the problem is that my friend is bad luck. His presence even causes my kids to gouge each others' eyes.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Rest in Peace, Bo.


That's because it's the separation of church and state, not temple and state.

Or some similar quarter-assed argument.

According to board member Michael Queen, when Mr. Sklar was asked by the principal “to organize an effort to help the school develop a ‘Wall of Great Teachers’ to include other religious figures,” he declined. Mr. Queen believes that both the ACLU and Americans United were being “very selective” about what they considered a violation of the Establishment Clause. He notes that both groups had no objections to a two-foot statue and a portrait of Buddha that remain displayed in two classrooms in the school. (The settlement does not affect these two religious items.) “If they wanted to make it religion-free, why didn’t they go through the entire school?” Mr. Queen asks. It would seem that some religious symbols are bigger violations of the Establishment Clause than others.

I'm not particularly concerned that litigious bedwetters like the ACLU and Americans Utd. hate my religion. I just wish they'd be honest enought to admit they hate only my religion.
Some friendly advice for Michigan fans planning to travel to Columbus for the Big One.


And as to the shotgun, I heartily recommend a pump-action Mossberg. As a Michigan State Police trooper once put it: "Everybody recognizes the sound of a shotgun racking."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize."

Eric Scheske has compiled an extensive list of Steven Wright lines. Enjoy!

If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?
Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.
Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire.
When I’m not in my right mind, my left mind gets pretty crowded.
Boycott shampoo! Demand the REAL poo!
Who is General Failure and why is he reading my hard disk?
What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
I used to have an open mind but my brains kept falling out.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Goldangit, isn't this fun?"

Gene Wojciechowski discovers the legendary voice of Michigan football, Bob Ufer. RTWT--Wojciechowski gets it perfectly.

I grew up with Bob's voice and General Patton horn-honking (for real--it was from one of Patton's jeeps) on Saturday afternoons when travelling around with my Dad. There was nothing quite like him even then, and there will never be another. God broke the mold.

"The Wolverines line up, two tight ends and a balanced line, Woolfolk in the backfield and Wangler over center..."

His most legendary call was the game winning last second touchdown against Indiana at the Big House in 1981. Gimpy-kneed Johnny Wangler tossed a floater to Anthony Carter on a short crossing route that the fleet Carter turned into an eye-popping run into the end zone. Ufer completes about the first five seconds of the call before it becomes an incoherent scream of pure joy punctuated by manic honks from the horn. The most magical moment in a most magical season (Michigan won its first Rose Bowl under Bo Schembechler that year). Hear it for yourself here.

He will always be missed.
People who agree with me are the smartest people I know.

Keep that in mind when you consider this otherwise fine post by Courage Man on L'Affaire Elton.

Seriously, though, CM raises a good point--goofy comments like EJ's add more particles to the cultural smog. Small and inconsequential of themselves, but at some point you have to start worrying about the cumulative effect.

And as to the vexing question of what Adam would say, I think he'd suggest that they stand and deliver--your money or your life.

Monday, November 13, 2006

He's better than you/It's the way that he moves...

The former Reginald Dwight says religion should be outlawed. All of it, what what.

I used to get upset when celebrities would say stupid things like this. Then I realized:

Who gives a crap what entertainers think?

The only ones who take this stuff seriously are the mind-gelded fans who would commit seppuku if the airhead in question asked them to. How am I supposed to act?

"Wow--this is disturbing. Much to mull over. Hmmm.

I wonder what Adam Ant has to say about this?"
When Libertarians Attack!

Remember, it's all about the principles (I refuse to link directly), man. Whatever you think of Santorum as a politician, cheapshotting his eight-year-old daughter is grounds for a beating.

Oh, and it keeps getting better and better in the combox--one of the a**holes brings up the Senator's deceased baby boy, Gabriel. Whatever else you can say about the Reason [sic] crowd, they would be a daunting challenge for the priests in Aztec sacrificial ceremonies.

Just another example of why liberts continue to ring up those microscopic electoral totals. Who the hell wants to be associated with that?

Oh, and for connoisseurs of irony, enjoy the spectacle of "libertarians" beating up on those who refuse to send their children to government schools.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Prayer Request.

Matthew and Heather Siekierski are good friends of ours. Matt blogs over at the Loudest Cricket and too occasionally at the Catholic Cricket. They are now the parents of four children.

The youngest is Lily Clare. Lily was born today at a little under 28 weeks old via an emergency c-section. She is one pound, seven ounces. Heather is doing all right, and Lily is slowly being weaned off the respirator.

It's going to be a rough road for all concerned, so prayers and good wishes in bushels would be appreciated.

Read Heather's sentiments here.

UPDATE 11/12/06: Picture now available.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Now, Kathy, go easy on the guy.

Yes, his essay is a fatuous pile of multi-culti brain droppings which disintegrates upon contact with history and reason. For a brief rebuttal, google "devshirme" and "Caliph Yazid" for examples of "belief in the mutual coexistence of all peoples." Or, if you don't give a crap about mistreatment of Christians, take a look at the Muslim invasions of India. Indeed, I'm still trying to get my eyes to roll fully back into place. During a couple of passages, I imagine I looked like Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

Be that as it may, some leniency is warranted. He is a student at Loyola University of Chicago. The Jesuit institution is still wrestling with the requirements of Catholicism, so it is understandable that its grip on Islamic issues would be shakier still.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Man rules.

Received this via e-mail. All are deliberately labeled #1. Ladies, you are hereby warned:

1. Men are NOT mind readers.

1. Learn to work the toilet seat.
You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down.
We need it up, you need it down.
You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

1. Sunday sports. It's like the full moon
or the changing of the tides.
Let it be.

1. Shopping is NOT a sport.
And no, we are never going to think of it that way.

1. Crying is blackmail.

1. Ask for what you want.
Let us be clear on this one:
Subtle hints do not work!
Strong hints do not work!
Obvious hints do not work!
Just say it!

1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1. A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 days.

1. If you won't dress like the Victoria 's Secret girls, don't expect us to act like soap opera guys.

1. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of them makes you sad or angry, then we meant the other one

1. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

1. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.

1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

1. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," We will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle, besides we know you will bring it up again later.

1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine... Really.

1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball, the shotgun formation, or golf.

1. You have enough clothes.

1. You have too many shoes.

1. I am in shape. "Round" IS a shape!

1. Thank you for reading this.

Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight....
Thoughts on the Republican wipeout.

For those more inclined to grieve this morning (I'm not one of them):

First thought--Bush is faced with the "Republicans lose in 1864" scenario that Lincoln faced. Lincoln's plan was to try to win the war in the time he had before he left office in March 1865. Bush has two years to do the same thing. He'd better come up with something resembling a strategy to do so. It would have been nice if he'd had one in 2003, but...

Second--defending the brand name at all costs was the response of Catholic bishops nationwide when faced with rapist priests. Bad Idea™. The Republicans did the same with respect to their corruption-tainted politicos (Delay, Ney, et. al) and bloated budgets. The electoral kick to the clockweights was well-deserved, indeed.

Third--Sure, the war loomed large in last night's vote(1). But the Democrats shouldn't fool themselves into thinking that the majority of that sentiment was for skedaddling. Exh. A, Lieberman, Joseph. Especially in those Republican districts the Democrats took last night--the sentiment there is "win." Lest we forget, two decades worth of withdrawals only emboldened our enemy to massacre us on our own soil. Lather, rinse and repeat is not what most of the voters had in mind.

Fourth--Democrats took seats in strongly Republican territory. They ran--as they had to--as fairly conservative Dems. Meaning that those newly-minted Representatives can't start acting like tantrum prone Kos-acks. Not unless they are looking forward to updating their resumes in two years. Nor will they likely be ecstatic about the prospects of reams of subpoenas churning forth. After all, that was an electoral strategy tested by the Republicans to great success during the Clinton Administration. [sarcasm off.]

Fifth--a pro-life Democrat won a high-profile race (Pennsylvania Senate). Frankly, Bob Casey Jr. has a lot of growing to do in office (his suit strikes me as awfully roomy, so to speak). And he has the difficult legacy of trying to live up to the mantle of his father, a veritable giant. Give him time--he's going to be tested quickly, and Juniors all too often don't measure up well compared to Seniors. If nothing else, the victory will make it much easier for pro-life Democrats to run--nothing succeeds like success.

Sixth--put not your trust in princes.

(1) Though you sure couldn't tell that from the ad campaigns for the Michigan Senate seat. Near as I can figure, the biggest international problem facing our country is Canadian trash being dumped at Michigan landfills. Still, I can't deny that Debbie Stabenow has a convincing mandate to put an end to that menace.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Finally, a break for a serious topic.

Namely, Cylons.

John Gibson muses about the humanity of Cylons from a Catholic perspective, and further wonders about whether a valid marriage could be contracted with one. Don't forget to congratulate him on the birth of his son, too.

[For those of you unaware of what we are talking about, I have but pity. You are missing out on the best thing on TV, friends.]

1. Could a human and cylon marry in the Catholic Church?

Answer: Assuming no other impediments, yes.

Why? From a Catholic perspective, Cylons are human. Period. Feel free to dispute it, but it seems to be to be an inescapable conclusion.

2. If a human and cylon married, and the human was widowed, would the human still be married to the cylon once he/she downloaded? Or would they have to remarry?

ANSWER: They would still be married. The analogy would seem to be waking from a coma. The spiritual essence would be the same.

3. Does each cylon have a soul?

Yes. A unique one, each with different experiences and mindsets resulting from those experiences.

4. Does the soul get downloaded to the new body when the cylon is killed?

Yes, assuming the Resurrection Ship is in range. The soul retains all of the experiences accrued up to the point of death.


Finally, a BSG fun fact: adama is the Hebrew word for "earth."
I think she gets it.

Maddie drew this, out of the blue, last week. Unprompted.

The woman kneeling is Mary Magdalen. Madeleine is French for Magdalen, for those keeping track at home. The black spots symbolize the darkness on Good Friday.

I'm the one in charge of religious formation, so I'm feeling a bit of pride in this.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Understanding Detroit.

The archdiocese, to be more precise. Inasmuch as it can be understood or explained, that is.

A bit of a furor is developing about the confusing leadership of the archdiocese on our Governor's race.

Five things to keep in mind.

(1) There is a history of official disdain for the good folks at Catholics in the Public Square. I have a very reliable report of an official attempt to stop CPS' advocacy in favor Michigan's marriage amendment proposal back in 2004. It was quickly repented of by the respected and decent person in question, but it was stunning that it was even tried. The good news is that the archdiocese and Michigan Catholic Conference did put in a yeoman's effort to support the amendment, however belatedly. Still, this episode is a prime example of number (2) immediately following.

(2) Detroit is a badly-divided archdiocese. From the pews to the chancery on Washington Boulevard, there is a fierce tussle between the late Cardinal Dearden's dogged progressives on one side and the more conservative Boomer and X-er generations on the other. It isn't pretty, and it results in the phenomenon that prounouncements from HQ are often confused or completely lacking. Put another way, Detroit is often quite literally of two minds on every important issue and those heads try to butt each other whenever they get the chance.

(3) Adam Cardinal Maida draws a very bright line between issue advocacy (generally good) and candidate advocacy (verboten). In the former, the AoD can be a very active player indeed, shooting down an attempt to legalize euthanasia in Michigan in 1998 and using an obscure Michigan constitutional provision to get a partial birth abortion ban past Governor Granholm's itchy veto pen. That the Merry Medeas at NARAL immediately drew a line in the dust and successfully sued to block the PBA law, shrilling "Abortion now, abortion tomorrow and abortion forever!" cannot be laid at the feet of the AoD. In short, the Cardinal has a record of backing words with action.

(4) One word: Triage. That is the best way to sum up the approach to governance here. Water the good ground and neglect the thornbushes. You can see this in the Catholic culture building efforts sponsored by the Archdiocese. Exhs. A and B: the womens' and mens' conferences. This year's conference for women featured--and please sit down--Alice von Hildebrand. [Heather is scouring the wires for her books.] The conference for the lads had Deacon Alex Jones (if you get the chance to hear him, drop everything and do so), and featured an exposition with the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance used by Pope John Paul II during his visit in 1987. With singing in Latin. How Fr. John Riccardo managed to process with the monstrance for 30 full minutes remains a mystery. Pro-life themes in all their glory--along with lengthy lines for the confessionals--abounded.

Both conferences combined had approximately 4500 paying attendees.

Sure, the occasional fragrant [not a typo] dissenter speaks to 20-30 at a parish function (though the Cardinal reached out and barred Anthony Padovano from appearing on Church property, and in 2004 swung his Metropolitan crozier northward and kicked CTA off diocesan grounds in Saginaw). And yes, the oft-gestured-at Bishop Gumbleton still has his podium at the Reporter. But note that the retired bishop complained that Cardinal Maida had spent a decade pointedly ignoring him (Gumbleton was positively wistful describing his shouting matches with Cardinal Szoka).

And I have to point out that the pro-life movement definitely gets spiritual support from headquarters. Upon invitation from CPS, Bishop Boyea celebrated a Respect Life Mass in Warren three weeks ago (and did so despite suffering from a grim cold and the fact he had four Masses total that day). He also led the worshippers in a Rosary and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Prayer counts.

(5) Let's be blunt: Dick DeVos is not the most palatable candidate from a Catholic perspective, either. He has a certain bottom-line corporate mentality that makes it hard to get behind him. It is difficult to get the impression that life issues are all that high on his list of priorities. If Granholm were capable of showing any sign of independence from the Emily's List wing of pro-abortionism, she'd win the race in a walk.

Could the AoD do more? Sure. But it is doing more than critics may be aware.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Whatever you think of the Kerry Commentgate, this is a pretty funny retort:

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

On The Latest Pratfall of Sen. Thurston Howell III.

I find myself agreeing with LaShawn Barber on this one.

Remember that the junior Senator from the People's Republic of Massachusetts is also responsible for such theological novelties as "Pope Pius XXIII" and "the Vatican II." Despite, you know, being an altar boy, carrying a rosary, getting a smudge on Ash Wednesday....

Malapropism, thy name is Kerry.

My only reservations are these:

(1) Release the speech already. The longer he waits, the more it appears he had a Freudian slip.

(2) Here's how he should be apologizing: "I am horrified that my clumsy misstatement makes it look like I was denigrating our troops. I was attempting to make a joke about the President and it came out horribly, horribly wrong. I apologize to all of our men and women in uniform for the hurt this has caused." Getting huffy and shrieking about the "Republican hate machine" isn't cutting it. Especially since even Democrats are treating him like he has Ebola.

(3) It would be nice if MSM gave the same solicitude the next time a conservative tripped over his tongue. I know: while I'm at it, wish for the winning MegaMillions numbers, too.
The people in the neighborhood.

Halloween was a huge hit this year with Belle (Maddie), Cinderella (Rachel) and Lightning McQueen (Dale), what with all the kids being being able to walk the route and tote their own pumpkin pails.

What was especially pleasant was how neighborly everyone was. The party store/deli up the street passed out candy (our enthused offspring briefly thought the candy rack was fair game) and everyone who offered candy was delighted to do so and oohed and aahed over the costumes.

One place stands out in particular. A family moved into the neighborhood early this year, and with the help of friends, they set up an tarp-enclosed haunted maze in their front yard. This was a serious production number--about ten friends and family were involved in the set up. The kids were interested (they saw the strobe light flashing inside, but were otherwise dubious. The bearded proprietor (who said they did this sort of thing for money at a farm up north) offered to let the kids go through on a "scare free" tour. Sounded good. He marched in and barked "little kids--no scares" and then had his son usher us through. Dry ice, strobe lighting and a maze that would have done the Minotaur proud (I actually ran into a hiding denizen who gave a little wave and pointed the proper direction. We exited with little anxiety and went around to the back of the house. A masked figure approached with a "machete" but retreated with an apologetic wave and lowered "weapon" when I said "little kids--no scares." The kids were also treated to a friendly wave from the masked something tending to a steaming flourescent green bowl in the garage. We departed with many thanks--and the kids received extra candy for "braving" the maze.

Another fellow set up a large furry spider on a radio controlled car which appeared from under his SUV. Dale and Maddie were a little weirded out by this, but Rachel thought it was hilarious.

She's not right, when it comes down to it.

By this time I was carrying her (wrapped in my jacket) and her candy pail, and we staggered home with our loot.

The last candy dispenser? The suburb's Finest. Yep, the police were driving around distributing sweets to the kids. A nice touch, and a good way to end the evening.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

We interrupt our usual gusher of good cheer to bring you this rant.

As you know, in addition to being a national sugar high, tonight is also sacred to the nation's growing number of cognitively-impaired parents. Yes, once again it's National Tart Up Your Daughter Day! [Scroll down a bit--you'll know it when you see it.] Where parents can once again abdicate their responsibilities to a culture all too happy to commodify children and negligently send their flesh and blood off looking for all the world like a farm team for Flavor of Love.

This year, I direct my Socratic examination of the degenerating state of the Slutoween holiday wardrobe at a new audience. Not at like-minded parents praying daily for the Chapter 7 liquidation of MGA Entertainment. Nor at the corporate sellouts who market this--the people whom Chris Buckley immortalized as the employers of the American Nuremburg Defense: "I haff a mortgage."

Instead, this is for the parents who actually participate in NTUYDD.

Yes, delinquent asshats, I'm talking to you.

Come on over here and sit down. Ignore the Mossberg. Strictly ceremonial. Ditto the Louisville Slugger--a man has to have his enthusiasms, don't you know?

And no, those aren't "brass knuckles" on my right hand. Don't be silly. It's one of those magnet things that help with blood circulation. Works like a charm.

Are you sitting comfortably? Good.

What the hell is wrong with you?

No, really: what in the hell is the matter with you?

This is not "cute." This is not "funny."

This is warped.

This is wrong.

And you, more than anyone else, are responsible for it.

Because you won't get off your dead ass and be a parent--instead of a friend--to your children.

Because you think buying your kids what they want = "love."

Yeah, I know--I'm a hectoring moralist. One of those "social conservatives" the news is always warning people about. Probably even a "theocrat" (but my nuclear program is woefully behind schedule, worse luck).

Well, you see, I'm a judgmental jerk for a reason--I can't wall my family off from the world. There are only so many levees I can build against moral decay. We're all breathing the same polluted air--and I don't need you burning styrofoam next door. It affects us all, folks.

Let me put it more simply, right down to earth, in a language that everybody here can easily understand:

Cause. Effect.

Worried yet? You'd better start.
Happy Halloween from our house to yours!

Maddie says "no puking pumpkins this year."

Spoilsport. Eh--nobody said a thing about them last year, to my great disappointment.

As a consolation, I'm going to roast the seeds instead.

Good luck with the sugar rushes, fellow parents and candy donors.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Life around the Manor.

Busy weekend. Even with the Parental Bonus Hour called "Daylight Savings." Which isn't much of a bonus given that the kids' internal clocks just go off an our "earlier."

1. We have a hyperactive nephew, N, who is basically a good kid. But his favorite activity seems to be pummelling or viewing the same. I wandered into a conversation between my wife and mother in law yesterday about N the Viking:

M-i-L: "N is going to be the Grim Reaper."

Me: "Sounds about right. Say, what's he going to be for Halloween?"

Heather and M-i-L: [The Look™, followed by stifled laughter.]

Me: "Oh, riiight. Like you weren't thinking the same thing."

2. Rachel has glommed on to my voice (I can read music and carry a tune without causing the dog to howl), insisting that I sing at least one song before she goes to sleep at night. Her favorites are "Waltzing Matilda" and "Men of Harlech" [Zulu version]. Alas, she requires the annotated versions of each song: "What's 'billabong'?" "What's 'rebounding'?" Kinda throws the rhythm off.

3. I can't recommend enough changing the words to the kids' favorite shows. A surefire way to start an argument (and distract them from the unblinking eye).

Noggin is a pretty solid network for the younguns--between 6am and 6pm, the network has no commercials, and no agendae, either. The programming can be soporific, but it's about the safest thing out there (short of loading the DVDs). None of these virtues apply to the programming that runs between 6pm and 6am on the same network, renamed to the faux-cool "The N."

Noggin has its flaws, though--did I mention "soporific"? So much so that Heather and I often yearn for what we call the "Egyptian Brain Treatment." This is a reference to a favorite part of the mummification process where bladed device is shoved up the corpse's nose into the brain cavity and swirled around long enough to liquify the cranial contents, which are drained out and used as part of the embalming process.

Anyway, back to the word change: for some reason, all of the kids enjoy "Wonder Pets," an animated show featuring a duck, a turtle and a guinea pig who go out and rescue other animals in (very slight) peril. Cute to a saccharine fault, it wears thin for adults after two minutes. But the kids love it.

So fun with the theme music is a sanity-preserving necessity.

"Come on, son--wouldn't this be better with tougher animals? Say, a badger, an ankylosaurus and an eagle? It'd be called "Thunder Pets!"

[In a basso profundo:]

Thunder Pets/
Thunder Pets/
They're on their way/
To punish the wicked/
And save the day...

Heather is especially fond of "Blunder Pets"--imagine the slapstick possibilities. Ditto "Dunder Pets."

After fifteen minutes of watching, my personal favorite is "Chunder Pets."

Sad to say, all our suggestions ever receive are howls of outrage.

Which, of course, is the point.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Dave tagged me a while back with this musical quizzer. My belated replies:

Best title ever for a piece of music - Another Floyd offering: Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict. Syd Barrett, RIP.

Most underrated guitarist - Alex Lifeson of Rush. Everybody talks about Neil's drumming, but Alex wields the axe with the best of them.

Music that moves me to tears - Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet by Palestrina.

Most unusual lead instrument in a piece of music - The flute in "Aqualung" by Jethro Tull. For an explication of all things Tull, go here.

Coolest name ever for a Rock 'N Roll band - The Dead Milkmen. Yes, I owned their albums. Yes, one by Black Flag, too. RIP, Dave Blood.

Worst genre of music ever - Adult contemporary. Had to listen to it at 5am during my salad days working at the grocery store while in college. So much so that I am open to the argument that Michael Bolton is the Beast of Revelation.

Best guitar jam - "Big Bad Moon" by Joe Satriani. The man does everything but play the guitar with his teeth in this one. Ignore Satch's rare attempt at singing and instead marvel at the pyrotechnics.

Music that's ever scared your kid - Still working on that. I'll do what Dave did and say what creeped me out--Night on Bald Mountain. You can start picturing the cultists with ease on this one.

National Anthem that most gets the blood pumping - The Star Spangled Banner, of course! Try it with a couple of beers first.

Consider yourself tagged. Starting with Heather.
Sawing your own branch.

O Christians, do not give Caesar a precedent to render unto you.

1. There were complaints about a room being set aside at lunch time for Muslim students during Ramadan. This action deserves applause, not whining.

2. After a long and wholly unnecessary fight, the wife of a Wiccan soldier killed in combat gets symbol on his headstone. About time.

Though neither a Wiccan nor a Muslim, I can't shrug this stuff off. If it's not obvious by now, let me hasten to reassure you that my motivation is not closet indifferentism bubbling to the surface--"Behold the Modernist!"

Rather, it seems pretty obvious to me that if we do not stand against Caesar's refusal to accommodate (as opposed to promote) religious belief, we are implicitly asking him to do the same to us. In a world becoming increasingly secular, I don't think he needs the encouragement.

[First link via Rich Leonardi.]

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Weekend at Bashir's.

James Carroll, novelist and op-ed columnist at the Boston Globe is the examplar of a common type of Catholic who emerged in the turbulence following the Second Vatican Council. Believing that the millenium was upon them, they cast aside every Catholic distinctive with a speed that a Deja Vu pole dancer would consider unseemly.

However, since the millenium failed to arrive on schedule, and as the Anni Horribli of John Paul II and now Benedict XVI stretched into decades, they resemble nothing so much as a support group for the perpetually embittered and carping, lifting their heads from bowls of chaff only long enough to repeat the same gripy canards, over and over and over and over again. Unfortunately for the rest of us, this is good enough for the only audience that still pays attention (and salaries) to them--the opinion shapers in the MSM.

Carroll is in the running for the title of Most Tiresome of these skipping records. Given his fangs-bared hatred for the Church, he's best described as the Noam Chomsky of Catholicism.

As a consistently Catholic-hating Catholic, Carroll hasn't offered up a thought about the Church that hadn't already been pre-chewed by the leftism to which he owes his unquestioning allegiance. But you have to admit, it's a helluva gig, and it plays to a certain audience just like Mozart.

The sad fact is that Carroll, while a novelist of some ability, is an embarrassing failure as a historian and pundit about his nominal religious affiliation.

His recent Pollock-by-numbers column about the Regensburg address offers damning evidence.

ROME HAS SPOKEN. Once, that meant the question was settled. Now that means the question has been inflamed. In this case, the question is whether to accept Osama bin Laden's invitation to the clash of civilizations. Sure, why not?

Of course, he has a clash whether he wants it or not. His response is to pretend that his tired blend of multi-culti tolerance (read: contempt for the West) and shrill denial isn't unconditional surrender.

Ask the French how that's working out for them. Feel free to wait a generation--there should be a lot more of them over here to ask by then...

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the fifth anniversary of 9/11 by citing, on the next day, a 14th-century slur that Mohammed brought ``things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Behold--the novelist at work! Because that misquote creates a neat alternate history of Carroll's own imagining. Here's the entire relevant quote of the brilliant Manuel II, along with the essential context provided by the Holy Father (and omitted by the carping Catholic Chomsky):

In the seventh conversation, edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".

IOW, the Emperor condemned only that which new in--i.e., original to-- Islam, not Muhammad's thought in toto.

As the the Pope made clear, he disagreed with that statement. I agree with him on that, too. There are, in fact, "new" things from Muhammad that are laudable--the explicit condemnation of female infanticide, for starters.

But Carroll twists the quote into a blanket condemnation. Holding true to form, he dishonestly loads the dice against his erstwhile co-religionists, making it an effective smear for his audience, most of whom are too narrow-minded to bother to pick up the actual address. The fix is in, which was probably the idea. Given his inclinations and history, it is silly to give Carroll the benefit of the doubt.

The patently false characterization of Mohammed's teaching, displaying an ignorance of the Koran, of the magnificence of Islamic devotion, and of history was offered almost as an aside in the pope's otherwise esoteric lecture about reason and faith. After Muslim uproar, the pope, while not really apologizing, insisted he had meant no harm.

From the context of this hit piece, "esoteric" = "dismiss after speed-reading." When you're a Card-Carrying critic of the "institutional church," you can automatically dispense with technicalities like contextual reading. It's from the big, bad Beast by the Tiber--he's read it all before. It's his job to filter it out to the Globe audience via the Gospel According to NPR.

In fact, if you think of Carroll as a Unitarian Gantry, you have him nailed.

As to the rest--Oh dear. The novelist properly rebuked for his amateur-night history of the Catholic Church's relationship to Judaism now styles himself as an expert on Islam.

The woodshed is ready and waiting.

And, for the record, please do show us precisely what is false about it, O Columnist? Sura 9:5 seems...free of nuance. Any possible flaws in Islam? No? Good dhimmi! Your jizya will be extracted with minimal head-swatting.

So long as it's paid on time, of course.

President Bush famously used the word ``crusade," then backed away from it. But playing by bin Laden's script, Bush launched a catastrophic war that has become a crusade in all but name.

Bush Derangement Syndrome in full-flower. If Carroll was assigned to write a column on continental drift, he'd manage to work in a reference to Chimpy W. McHitlerburton.

Now Benedict has supplied a religious underpinning for that crusade.

You mean the same fellow who unequivocally condemned the plans to attack Iraq?


[The Card also excuses carriers from any need to display intellectual rigor or consistency. Membership has its benefits.]

Claiming to defend rationality and nonviolence in religion, the pope has made irrationality and violence more likely, not less. Bush and Benedict are in sync, and bin Laden is grinning.

"Grinning," eh? Most likely. Flesh-free skulls do that. Score one for the fictionist, I suppose.

But just how did the Pope make irrationality and violence more likely?
Even abstracting from the offending citation, the pope's lecture reveals a deeper and insulting problem. Benedict properly affirms the rationality of faith, and the corollary that faith should be spread by reasoned argument and not by violent coercion. But he does so as a way of positing Christian superiority to other faiths.

And Carroll, as a good Unitarian in Catholic drag, simply will not have that. Carroll is convinced that if Jesus were still alive today, he'd sound an awful lot like, well, Jim Carroll.

That was the point of the passing comparison with Islam -- which, supposedly, is irrational and therefore intrinsically violent, unlike Christianity which is rational and intrinsically eschews coercion.

But this ignores history: Christianity, beginning with Constantine and continuing through the Crusades up until the Enlightenment, routinely ``spread by the sword the faith" it preached; Islam sponsored rare religious amity among Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the very period from which the insulting quote comes.

Hilarious. Grimly so, but still hilarious. The one doing the ignoring of history is our white-washing columnist. He is painfully, stupidly, gothically wrong about an alleged Kumbaya moment in fifteenth century Islam. When Manuel II wrote, the tattered remnants of Byzantium were struggling against the surging Ottoman tide, a tide that would swamp Christendom's queen city of Constantinople in 1453 and butcher Manuel's heroic son Constantine in the process.

One of the handiest tools in the Ottoman kit was the Janissary, a fierce and devoted Muslim soldier loyal only to the Turkish sultan. The Janissaries would be the first soldiers to break through the Byzantine defenses on that bleak morning of May 29, 1453, and they would ensure the fall of the City of Constantine.

Where did the Janissaries come from? I'll solve, Pat: "Devshirme." Turkish for "gathering," it was the process by which Christian families under Ottoman rule had their sons taken from them. With Koranic justification, of course: Sura 8, verse 41. To be fair, the verse refers only to a taking of goods, but sadly, the Sultan Orhan, who initiated the practice, didn't have Carroll there to set him straight.

The practice of devshirme saw Ottoman troops march into Christian villages and remove the best and brightest of the sons from their families under penalty of death. Those sons were cut off from their families and raised in isolated schools that inculcated Islam, loyalty to the Sultan and trained them in the arts of war. Said warfare being directed at the Sultan's enemies, of course. First and foremost, the beleaguered Christians of Byzantium and the Balkans. That's some "sponsorship of amity" all right.

Carroll is a fierce critic (and rightfully so) of the taking of the six year old Jewish boy Edgardo Mortara from his family by papal troops in 1858. The devshirme was Edgardo Mortara times 200,000, across three centuries. Not that he cares, of course. The willfully ignorant will not be denied.

Yeah--I don't know about you, but I can just feel the tolerance Manuel II was so impudent to criticize.

[Those of you looking for some cheer can consider the fact that devshirme had one immortal case of blowback in the form of the Albanian hero George Castriota, better known to history as Skanderbeg. With apologies to the Scots, Skanderbeg's exploits make Wallace look very much junior varsity.]

But let's pretend for a moment that medieval Islam was All Andalusian Cordoba, All the Time. There's only one tiny little flaw all those tolerant, oh-so-multicultural I'm OK, You're OK Muslims share:

They're all very, very dead.

Waving them as totems is Weekend at Bernie's for the Boston set--hence, Weekend at Bashir's.

Spin that tale of supposed medieval tolerance to Abdul Rahman, Lina Joy, Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, all of whom have seen the business end of the "no compulsion in religion" religion.

Those episodes have happened in the last two years. Unlike, say, the Crusades.

The descendants of the Muslim medievals seem remarkably resistant to their sires' alleged ideals. You'd think it would behoove Carroll to wonder why.

You'd think, but you'd be wrong. He's too busy doing his Sinead O'Connor impersonation and "fighting the real enemy."

More significant, though, for any discussion of reason and faith is the fact that Christian theology's breakthrough embrace of the rational method, typified by St. Thomas Aquinas's appropriation of Aristotle, and summarized by Benedict as ``this inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry," was made possible by such Islamic scholars as Averroes, whose translations of Aristotle rescued that precious tradition for the Latin West.

Alas for Islam that Averroes--and Avicenna--were condemned as heretics, and that Islam, unlike Catholicism, was unable to assimilate Aristotelian thought.

Inconvenient facts--always screwing up a good whitewashing.

Benedict makes no mention of this Islamic provenance of European and Christian culture.

See above. At most, they were caretakers, not "providers."

Indeed, he cannot, because his main purpose in this lecture is to emphasize the exclusively Christian character of that culture. The ``convergence" of Greek philosophy and Biblical faith, ``with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can be rightly called Europe." Europe remains Christian. That is why the pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger, opposed the admission of Muslim Turkey to the European Union.

Benedict seems to have forgotten that the European rejection of violent coercion in religion
came about not through religion but through the secular impulses of the Enlightenment.

Did it, now? Well, you can certainly find evidence of tolerance in Christianity, too--I Nicaea's call to leave Jews alone, Emperor Leo III building a mosque in Constantinople in the 720s, the Navarese nobles refusing to let the Inquisition near their Muslim peasants, the accommodations following the wars between Catholics and Protestants. To name but a few. Arguing that it sprang from the Enlightenment like Athena from the brow of Zeus seems...simplistic. Then again, consider the source.

The separation of church and state, in defense of the primacy of individual conscience, was the sine qua non of that rejection of religious coercion -- an idea that the Catholic Church fought into the 20th century. Even now, Benedict campaigns against basic tenets of Enlightenment politics, condemning pluralism, for example, and what he calls the ``dictatorship of relativism."

Again, entirely too simplistic, or otherwise good Catholic men like John Courtney Murray and the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wouldn't have had a leg to stand on in their decrees on the subject of religious freedom.

But of course Carroll hates the "dictatorship of relativism" line--he has no rebuttal. The Enlightenment was hardly some unalloyed good--the same process also brought us the guillotine, the exaltation of the state and the guillotine's muscular grandchildren, Zyklon B and the Gulag. In light of this, Benedict might just have grounds for a wee bit of skepticism toward Carroll's idol.

The pope's refusal to reckon with historical facts that contradict Catholic moral primacy has been particularly disturbing in relation to the church's past with Jews.

Ah, the other Carroll hobbyhorse--the Church's relationship to Judaism. Jews of the past, that is. Please note that his solicitude for Jews ends in 1948, with the founding of Israel. Judaism is just a stick to beat the Church with, and his concern for Jews is quickly discarded where it conflicts with his leftist precommitments.

Last year, he said Nazi anti-Semitism was ``born of neo-paganism," as if Christian anti-Judaism was not central.

It's much more accurate to say Christian anti-semitism was necessary to the Holocaust, but hardly sufficient. Christian pogroms and expulsions of Jews stain our history, but the genocidal intent of the Nazis was something horribly new. Don't let that get in the way of a good slur, though.

This year, at Auschwitz, he blamed the Holocaust on a ``ring of criminals," exonerating the German nation. By exterminating Jews, the Nazis were ``ultimately" attacking the church.

Non-hacks would note that his very presence at Auschwitz belies any blanket exoneration. As to the rest, I call "fraud." Here's the relevant quote:

The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth. Thus the words of the Psalm: "We are being killed, accounted as sheep for the slaughter" were fulfilled in a terrifying way.

Deep down, those vicious criminals, by wiping out this people, wanted to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that are eternally valid. If this people, by its very existence, was a witness to the God who spoke to humanity and took us to himself, then that God finally had to die and power had to belong to man alone -- to those men, who thought that by force they had made themselves masters of the world.

By destroying Israel, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful.

Nope. Not what Carroll wants it to say. But why let that stop him?

He decried God's silence, not his predecessor's.

Maybe because Pius XII wasn't "silent"? A good argument can be made that he could have done more, but the silence argument is a worn canard.

A pattern begins to show itself.

In Carroll's writing, absolutely. Metronomic, even.

Forget church offenses against Jews. Denigrate Islam. Caricature modernity and dismiss it.

It is true that forgetfulness, denigration and caricature are all on display here, but only in a deeply ironic way.

In all of this, Benedict is defending a hierarchy of truth. Faith is superior to reason. Christian faith is superior to other faiths (especially Islam). Roman Catholicism is superior to other Christian faiths. And the pope is supreme among Catholics. He does not mean to insult when he defends this schema, yet seems ignorant of how inevitably insulting it is. Nor does the pope understand that, today, such narcissism of power comes attached to a fuse.

If someone wants to unpack the crowning paragraph of Carroll's shell-shocked bile, knock yourself out. But we should take heed on the "narcissism" line--he certainly knows of what he speaks.

[Thanks to Jay for the link.]

[Update: Tweaked 10/27--filled a couple of potholes that were bugging me.]

The GOP Garbage Squad.

Nine awful human beings whose views are unworthy of the slightest respect. Especially after caterwauling about spending money on Ukraine, no...