Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning.

How's that residential real estate market holding up?


A record 7.58 percent of U.S. homeowners with mortgages were at least 30 days late on payments in August, says Equifax, up from 7.32 percent in July. Delinquencies are not only rising from month to month, but rising at a faster pace. More than 41 percent of subprime mortgages are delinquent. (That's quite an increase from 2007, when I took heart from the fact that only 10 percent of subprime mortgages were in default. But, well, at least the glass is still more than half full, right?)

• About 1.2 million loans out there are in limbo: The borrower is in serious default yet the bank has not started the foreclosure process. Another 1.5 million are in early stages of the foreclosure process but the bank hasn't yet taken possession of the home. Counting these and loans that are highly likely to end up in default, one analyst estimates three million to four million foreclosed homes will come on the market over the next few years. And don't believe the freshwater economists when they tell you there's no such thing as a free lunch: Some 217,000 Americans have not made a mortgage payment in one full calendar year, but their lenders have yet to begin the foreclosure process.

• Option ARM recasts (not resets, as Calculated Risk explains) are as much of a time bomb as ever, with nearly all borrowers in this class making only minimum payments and negatively amortizing their mortgages.

• Something called the National Consumer Law Center criticizes state mortgage-mediation schemes as well as the Obama Administration's Home Affordable Modification Program, which at last count had managed to prevent 235,247 homes from coming onto the market. However, data from the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency indicate that even when these programs succeed, about half of all the renegotiated loans end up back in default soon afterward.


Credit card companies, the next bailout frontier? Of course, that presumes we'll still have a leaky bucket for bailing by then.

According to Hollywood, Paul Shanley's real sin was that he didn't make "Chinatown" or "The Pianist."

How else am I to understand the ferocious defense of noted rapist Roman "Everyone wants to f--- young girls" Polanski?

I'm pleased to note the French public--and a growing number of public figures--are less solicitous of rapists than Les People are.

Ad multos annos!

To Jay Anderson and Steve Stirling, both of whom are aging like fine French vintages in oak casks.

Relic in Detroit.

The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is hosting a relic of Saint Damien de Veuster (the Leper Priest of Molokai) on October 13-14.

The Archdiocese of Detroit will be the first in the United States to display a relic of the Rev. Damien de Veuster, the unofficial patron saint of HIV and AIDS patients.
Pope Benedict XVI will name Damien a saint on Oct. 11 at the Vatican.
The relic, a heel of the soon-to-be saint, will be displayed at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit on Oct. 13-14, said archdiocese spokesman Joe Kohn.

In Catholicism, a relic is anything associated with a saint, including a body part or something used or touched by the saint. Damien's heel was selected because it was kept out of his tomb when his body was transferred from Hawaii to Belgium in 1936, according to the Most Rev. Clarence Silva, bishop of Honolulu.

The relic will stop in Detroit and San Francisco on its way back to Hawaii, where Damien served in a settlement for patients with Hansen's disease on the Molokai peninsula of Kalaupapa. He is already considered the unofficial patron saint of sufferers of Hansen's disease, or leprosy.

The Detroit stop is a favor to Archbishop Allen Vigneron, who while serving as the bishop of Oakland, Calif., worked closely with Silva, who at the time was Oakland's vicar general.
The public is invited to attend the Detroit veneration at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13.

Try to avoid the comments box at the story--it's guaranteed to be a cavalcade of monumental ignorance and tired fundamentalist thundering at the paganized Roman Whore (a quick refutation here). In other words, a gassy reprise of the same blather that accompanied the visit of the relics of St. Therese to Royal Oak a few years back.

I know that won't stop some of you, but hey--I warned you.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And now a turn for the better.

Continuing thanks, folks. Grandma Jo's a tough one. Against all expectations, she rallied some today, squeezed my Dad's hand and again showed some level of responsiveness and awareness.

Oh, and one of those stories that sends a chill: two weeks ago, Grandma Jo was visiting her sister. Her sister, hearing some activity in the kitchen, came in and found Grandma there.

"What's wrong?"

Grandma said, very calmly, that she'd had a dream. "I can't sleep. Bob said he's ready for me."

"Bob" is my late grandfather.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My grandma has taken a turn for the worse.

She is no longer responsive and is not expected to make it through the night.

Your continued prayers and good thoughts are welcome.

"I've got goosebumps!"

That was the quote from the Home Depot employee helping me out yesterday after I told him about the victorious Detroit Lions.

Let's repeat that--the victorious Detroit Lions. For the first time in nearly two full calendar years.

For the past eight years, I have been like Pacino in Godfather III--"Just when I thought I was out, THEY PULL ME BACK IN!"

Who am I kidding? I listened to the last quarter and a half on the radio.

Today, they rewarded me.

It's too early for hope, but not too early to enjoy the moment.


Grandma Jo remains alert and Mom think she is getting a little stronger each time she visits. She's able to lift her head off of the pillow a little bit now. We'll have the results of the CT scan back today.

Hopefully I'll be able to get up to see her later this week.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Prayer request.

My Grandma Jo suffered a heart attack and a stroke. All things considered, she's doing as well as can be hoped (she is alert and responsive), and her stroke is the clot kind, not the bleeding on the brain variety.

The next 24-48 hours will be crucial to determine how much she has lost to the stroke.

Also, say a prayer of thanks for her "nosy" neighbors, who noticed she hadn't parked her car in the pole barn and went in through the window to find her when she didn't answer the door.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Great story about mercy and redemption.

From the world of high school football. From the opening paragraph:

Thamail Morgan took the kickoff and headed up the field.
He was at the 20 ... 30 ... 40

He had been avoiding, dodging or just simply running through tacklers on the way. Football always had come easily for Morgan. This game was no different. By the time he hit midfield, only open space was ahead of him. The two-time Arkansas all-state selection was headed for a touchdown.

40 ... 30 ... 20

He glanced at the clock and saw the final seconds ticking away. He realized his team, Cave City, was on the way to a victory over Yellville-Summit, comfortably ahead, 34-16. He also realized two other things: This wasn't an ordinary game. And he wasn't the same Thamail Morgan.

When he reached the 2, he stopped. He took a few steps back and took a knee at the 5-yard line.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A message in a bottle for my beloved Rachel.

Rachel, my daughter, my sparkly, feisty little angel, you are too young and disinterested to read this blog. But one day, probably in your early adulthood--barring the complete collapse of the electrical grid and the disintegration of American civilization into warlord-ruled oases of order scattered across a desolate, howling wilderness in the meantime--I'm pretty certain you will.

[As an aside, if you ever wonder where your weird sense of humor comes from, wonder no longer. Yes, it's your Mom's fault.]

On the day you come across this post, I want you to know that I have always loved you more than words can describe. As proof, I'd like to point you to last evening, which was your night to choose a story for me to read to all of you at bedtime.

You chose this, your newest acquisition:

For the record, while I read, your brother lazed about his bunk bed, Maddie fled the room to read her Beezus and Ramona book, and your mother found an Unspecified Something Else to Do, Safely Out Of Earshot.

Not me. I read, without a hint of irony or neural convulsions, the story of Sunny Daze, Toola-Roola and Skysong forming a girl-horse band. Knowing your love of repetition, I am absolutely certain I will read it again. And again. And again. And again. And again...

And I will do so without hesitation, each time without the slightest hint of unwillingness, irony, derision, or an indication that precious brain cells are stampeding about my cranium in a panic, looking for the fire exit.

Because I love you and it makes you happy.

All I ask is that you simply remember this when you ponder your aging Dad's peculiar--nay, unique--intellectual obsessions. You have my permission to remind me that yours was cheaper.

You know, I was always sympathetic to Honduras removing the guy.

Now I *know* it was the right decision: Zelaya is bughouse nuts, and leavens his tinfoil hattery with a little Jew-baiting:

It's been 89 days since Manuel Zelaya was booted from power. He's sleeping on chairs, and he claims his throat is sore from toxic gases and "Israeli mercenaries'' are torturing him with high-frequency radiation.

We are being threatened with death,'' he said in an interview with The Miami Herald, adding that mercenaries were likely to storm the embassy where he has been holed up since Monday and assassinate him.

"I prefer to march on my feet than to live on my knees before a military dictatorship,'' Zelaya said in a series of back-to-back interviews.

Zelaya was deposed at gunpoint on June 28 and slipped back into his country on Monday, just two days before he was scheduled to speak before the United Nations. He sought refuge at the Brazilian Embassy, where Zelaya said he is being subjected to toxic gases and radiation that alter his physical and mental state.

His Brazilian hosts are none too pleased with his shtick:

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told CNN en EspaƱol that his government asked Zelaya to tone down his rhetoric while he remains an embassy guest.

"The word `death' should not even be mentioned,'' he said.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I'm saying Season 2, Week 4--at the latest.

That will be the first sign we see that Jim "The Schwartz" Schwartz, Head Lamb Prepared For The Slau--er, Coach, of the Detroit Lions, is developing "Lions Coach Look."

The Lions have had many coaches during the disastrous ownership tenure of William Clay Ford, but all of them since Don McCafferty died in the offseason of 1974 share one thing in common: they all acquire Lions Coach Look.

It doesn't matter what talent level or resume they bring with them, from good (Steve Mariucci, Bobby Ross) to passable (Wayne Fontes, the late Monte Clark, God rest his soul) to out of his depth (Rick Forzano, Darryl Rogers) to epic-godawful-FAILFAILFAIL-a-deceased-parakeet-is-better-with-Xs-and-Os-not-to-mention-a-cannier-judge-of-talent (Rod Marinelli). They all get The Look.

It's kinda like the 1000 yard stare meets Who activated the Infinite Improbability Drive?

Imagine the look on the face of a coach who is trying to calmly process the fact that a touchdown was negated by a zeppelin landing at the 50 yard line and disgorging a couple dozen midgets dressed like the Village People who then proceed to play air guitar to Space Truckin'.

That's what Lions Coach Look is like. It's watching the same stupid mistakes over and over, coupled with fresh-hell ways of losing. It's watching the game plan come apart in new and varied ways. It's the dawning realization that the job of coaching this hopeless few (regardless of the names on the backs of the jerseys0, this band of strangers, is a Sisyphean, not Herculean, task.

So, I'm saying next season, barring dramatic improvement. But I'll move it up to this season if they can't beat the Rams.

On the other hand, the Wolverines are roaring toward respectability at a gratifying clip, so I have that going for me.

A diversion into wisdom.

The late, great Fr. Ronald Knox on the recitation of the Creed:

Since we are practically all believers, what is the sense of holding up business to remind ourselves about the things we believe?

Well, I think the most important answer is this -- you have to come to Mass to worship God, and that means worshipping God with your whole being, not just with bits of it. Worship doesn't mean merely letting your feelings go out to God, telling him how good he is and getting all worked up about your sins; doesn't mean merely letting your will go out to God, resolving that you are going to live for him and resigning yourself to all the uncomfortable things he may ask you to suffer for him.

It also means letting your intellect go out to God, telling him that he exists, that he is utterly above your comprehension, and that he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ so as to make it possible for you to comprehend him a little. That is why I have taken my text from that passage we all know, but don't always reflect on, in St. John.

The reason why I was born, our Lord tells Pilate, was--what? So as to save the world? So as to heal the sick and give sight to the blind? So as to comfort people who were unhappy? No, so as to tell the truth, so as to bear witness to the truth. That is man's first need; he is a reasonable animal, and he must know what he is and where he stands before he can sit down and be satisfied. And that is man's first duty; to think, and to think right. As part of your worship of him, God demands that you should let your intellect travel on the right lines in thinking about him. Very likely it is not much of an intellect, and shews strong signs of throwing up the sponge when it gets to recurring decimals. But it's the best intellect you've got, and it is all meant to be put at God's disposal.

--Ronald Knox, The Mass in Slow Motion, Sheed & Ward 1948, pp. 46-47.

If only. If only...

"How Twilight Should Have Ended":

Haven't read the books or seen the (first) film, but I'm already sick to undeath of it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Getting ready for Elizabeth.

For those of you not grokking the name, Elizabeth is depicted in the rotating graphic to the right.

No, we're not ready. She'll arrive no later than October 7 (the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary and the 438th anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto/Curzolaris). Doc's big on keeping the birth size below 9 pounds.

After this weekend, however, we'll be more ready, getting clothes out of storage and whatnot.

More updates: Brennen and Molly are doing well, probably better than can be expected. The assigned prosecutor is energetic and unafraid of trial, two virtues which can't be overestimated. Legal help on the civil side of the ball is also being arranged, Dale says with a chuckle which suggests it's coming from a mouth with fangs.

The five kittens are thriving, and are starting to open their eyes. They're still blind as bats, though. The good news is they are desperately cute (much less rat-like) and Gladys has no problems with us gently handling them. Homes have also been arranged for all of them, which is a relief.

We also have two superb pumpkins harvested and ready for either (1) pies (my vote) or (2) jack-o-lanterns (perhaps the majority position). I suspect I'm going to win, given the early harvest. The good news for the majority is that we have four more likely suspects which may be good candidates for All Hallows Eve. How do you fry up the flowers again, Danby?

The tomato plants are winding down, but have rendered noble and prolific service. I'm also about to harvest the sunflower seeds (second try, and hopefully much more successful).

I also have photos from my trip to Ground Zero. I haven't forgotten, and will get them up soon.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Prayer request.

I would like to blog about our pumpkin and tomato growing successes, the birth of our cat's litter of five or the overdue book reviews, but I'm requesting your prayers instead.

My eleven year old nephew was attacked by a group of teenagers last Sunday. In addition to outnumbering him by up to 12 to 1, they thought it would be hilarious to film it on their camera phones--"Youtube!" they said. Oh, and my nephew's little sister was a witness, too.

There are many words that have come to mind over the past few days--reiver, reprisal, let them hate so long as they fear.... Those words are not models of Christianity, no. But they are certainly in the human (and definitely the Celtic) DNA.

Turns out that filming it was a bad idea, as this constitutes something called "evidence" and tends to make a lie out of your statements to the police that your victim was the attacker.

As does a history of similar violence for one of the assailants.

My nephew is out of the hospital, but returned to school yesterday, which can't have been easy, given that he's facing the thugs there. But he's keeping his head high.

Prayers for my family would be appreciated.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Justice delayed.

The incomparable Detroit News reporter Charlie LeDuff has a disturbing report out about a Nazi death camp guard who has managed to evade deportation thanks to the lax enforcement efforts of the authorities.

Moreover, "Nazi death camp guard" is not a colorful adjective--Johann Leprich was an actual Nazi, the worst of the worst, a member of the SS Death's Head unit, tasked with operating the extermination camps. Leprich was at Mauthausen, which practiced "extermination through labor."

Rather like Eddie Murphy's Buckwheat assassin, Leprich wasn't shy about telling folks, either:

The feds did not pursue Leprich -- choosing to believe his wife and neighbors who said he had fled to Windsor. But if Leprich did indeed go to Canada, he did not go for long. His neighbors said they saw him taking walks under the cover of darkness over the years. He renewed his driver's license in person. His Social Security check was sent to his Clinton Township home. He even told his neighbors he was a Nazi.

"I knew he was in the SS and worked at a camp," said Ike Sonntag, who lives directly across Capper Drive. "But why go after him now? To me it's a big fat waste of money because I think the guy's going to die."

LeDuff helpfully illustrates why Leprich should be sent out of the country via the next available catapult:

Sam Offen cannot forget about it. He is a survivor of Mauthausen, a young Jew who was interned there from June 1944 through May 5, 1945, when American forces liberated him. Though Offen does not remember Leprich, he does remember men like him who stood sentry on the perimeter of the camp and the quarry where Offen was forced to work at slave labor. Offen lives just 30 miles from Leprich.

"There were 180 steps in the quarry," remembered Offen, now 88. "Run down. Pick up a big stone, put it on your shoulder. All day long. Run down. Run up. Run down and up with that heavy stone on your shoulders. The Nazis were so cruel they did not even have to use bullets to kill us. All they did was push us down to our death, from the top of the quarry to the floor of the quarry.

"I know Leprich's neighbors probably claim he is such a nice person. But how can they claim these people are not murderers?" Offen asked. "If we survivors never get justice, then how can we say anything will change?"

Read the whole thing, which includes the sketch of the investigative efforts of the impossibly named Nazi hunter Steve Rambam.

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs...

Kaleb Eulls is a remarkable young man.

Eulls and his three younger sisters were among 22 passengers on a school bus bound for Yazoo County High School in western Mississippi until a 14-year old female student boarded the bus armed with a .380 semi-automatic handgun threatening to shoot and ordering the bus driver to pull over.

Eulls had fallen asleep at the back of the bus listening to his mp3 player and did not realize what was happening until one of his sisters woke him up.

"My sister that was in front of me woke up and told me that the girl had a gun," Eulls said. "She was pointing it back and forth at other people and the little kids that were sitting at the back. I just thought real quick and tried to grab her attention before she pointed the gun at anybody else. I wanted her to point it at me so she wouldn't point it at anybody else."

Eulls then opened up the emergency door located in the back and began evacuating as many students as he could from the rear of the bus while trying to reason with the armed female.

"I just tried to talk to her and calm her down," said the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Eulls. "She was just getting louder and louder. I guess for a quick second she looked out the window and when she did that I just sprung at her. I just knocked her down and got the gun away from her. When I got the gun I ran out the back door and disarmed it."

Astonishing for both the courage and the level-headedness. Bravo to Mr. Eulls and his parents.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Let's see what the President has to say.

It's hard to see him changing the playing field at this late date--for which he can put a lot of the blame on himself, naturally. But it is good to see him actually commit to something concrete instead of speaking in vagaries about aspects of the multiple plans which are in various stages of development.

I want to see everyone have medical coverage. Oh, and I'm not alone on that one.

And I'm definitely curious to see if he'll actually commit to the application of the Hyde Amendment to his proposal--instead of merely describing the Amendment as a tradition analogous to Black Friday shopping sprees. Oh, and I'm not alone on that one, either.


The Wolverines are violating NCAA rules on voluntary workout limits!

Or...maybe not.

The Free Press report prompted a rare intervention in the sports world from a political pundit, The New Republic's Jonathan Chait. What Chait does to the Free Press sports editors is amusing, if fit for a slasher pic.

The key concept behind his allegations of rule-breaking is "involuntary." Players can work out as long as they want. It only breaks the rules if the players are being forced to work out beyond the allotted time. Rosenberg filled his article with quotes from Michigan players describing how hard they work. It's meaningless. It's as if he set out to expose an epidemic of rape, and came back with an article mainly describing the conjugal relations of happily married couples.

Now, the concept of "voluntary" is pretty hard to pin down. The Free Press would have done college athletes a great service by exploring whether it's actually possible for players to make voluntary decisions. After all, college coaches have enormous power over their players, and the players usually see the coach's desire as a command. When I played high school football twenty years ago, I did not consider offseason workouts to be voluntary. Neither did the players who, having missed such sessions, "decided" to stay after practice and run wind sprints until they puked.

A few years ago, USA Today did a good piece on offseason workouts in college, questioning whether such activities could truly be voluntary. The article quoted one Georgia football player scoffing at the notion. ("It's mandatory to us," he confessed.) But that sort of comprehensive approach didn't advance Rosenberg's goal.

Rosenberg made only a farcical effort to compare Michigan's program to that run elsewhere. He solicited a few on-the-record quotes from former Michigan State players, who told him with a straight face that no, sir, we only condition for an hour or two a day. Maybe this claim is worth verifying.

Now, I'm no Bob Woodward. But I did manage to dig up an obscure source confirming that Michigan State football players work just as hard as the Wolverines. My secret source is a publication called the Detroit News. It printed an article on July 29, 2008, reporting:

MSU says it has a strong weight coach, too
Dave Dye
The Detroit News

Much has been made about the intense workouts at Michigan under Mike Barwis, the new strength and conditioning coach.

The Michigan State Spartans would like everyone to know they're working pretty hard, too.

"I don't think they're working harder than us anyway," MSU running back Javon Ringer said. "I'm pretty sure they're working tremendously hard, but the things we go through with our weight-training coach -- coach (Ken) Mannie -- are unbelievable."

Big Ten players know each other pretty well - especially players from the same state, who often share hometowns. I think they probably have a good sense of how often they work out.

Read the whole thing, and the links at Mgoblog. Sure, I'm only slightly more objective toward Wolverines football than I am toward Maddie, Dale, Rachel and Louis. But that still makes me more objective than the Free Press story.

A rough stretch.

  Forgive the vagueness and ambiguity, but I am going through a tough patch at the moment. July was full-stop awful, and August, while bette...