Sunday, September 28, 2008

Francis as Touchstone

St Francis of Assisi, by Jusepe de Ribera (1643)

I love Carmelite spirituality and Ignatian spirituality, but there are times when I feel like their rejection of the world is a bit too heavy for me. Whenever I feel like I'm in a trough, or like I've gone adrift spiritually and lost my way a bit, I go first to Scripture, and secondly to Il Poverello, St Francis, the person who's lived the most Christ-like life since Christ, and who had a positive view of creation.

By the way, just as an aside... Regarding the charge that Francis and his band would help themselves to a treat of pig's feet off of a live animal when they felt a bit peckish.... and you know who you are ;-D ... the legend is attributed to Juniper, and Francis allegedly rebuked him for it, but I don't put much stock it it anyway. There have been arguments going back and forth about whether or not Francis was a vegetarian. He probably was not, but evidence seems to indicate that chronic malnutrition was a factor in his death. An ascetic who was in the habit of giving away everything he had, he in fact barely ate anything at all. Furthermore, as a man who knew the Scriptures, Francis would have been very much aware of the strictures against eating the limbs of a live animal, as laid out in the Noachide Laws, and used by St. James the Just at the Council of Jerusalem to declare what laws Gentile Christians were beholden to.

Francis was a true reformer in a bold and unique sense. He was determined to "rebuild the Church" in conformity with Jesus and the Gospels, but not in confrontation with the hierarchy.

I can't help but to note that in the Reformation, many of the proto-Protestant and Protestant reformers came out of the academy as theologians or professors, such as William Tyndale, John Wycliff, Jean Calvin, Philip Melancthon, Theodore Beza, and Heinrich Bullinger. Some had been ordained Catholic priests, such as Jan Hus, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Knox.

Among the Catholic reformers of the Counter-Reformation, came priests like Ignatius Loyola, Peter Canisius, John of the Cross, Francis de Sales, and Vincent de Paul.

Francis was never ordained a priest. It was only with some reluctance that he ever became a deacon.

He was the son of a wealthy businessman, and a popular bon vivant filled with vainglory and dreams of military adventure. Once he was converted, he wasn't interested in titles, property, power, or administering an institution. Francis's only "program" was to live apostolically, serve the poor, and spread the Word as an itinerant preacher in imitation of Christ.

The humility of Francis is something that I can't get over. Attractive in his personality, surrounded by friends and full of talents his whole life, he still realized that he had been a wastrel and that everything good that came out of him and his followers was a gift from God. I find this encouraging to someone like me with far fewer talents who struggles and often fails to live out his Christian vocation faithfully. As Francis said with characteristic simplicity...

I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.

Encouraging for the rest of us.

Paupertas, Humilitas, Simplicitas

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Contemporary Saints in the City of Angels

The artwork of J. Michael Walker

Listen to the following interview and see a slideshow of images and an interactive map on NPR's All Things Considered.

Jevona came to Los Angeles to become a star. But when she went to have her head shots done, the photographer asked her to undress for him.

It's a common tale in the City of Angels. When the beautiful homeless woman shared her story with artist J. Michael Walker, however, he saw it through a rather different lens than most — one reflecting Roman Catholic saints.

There are exactly 103 roads named after Catholic saints in Los Angeles. Walker has taken it upon himself to map the city according to these saints; he's spent eight years researching them, exploring their namesake streets and painting new portraits of them using the faces of people he met.

People like Jevona — whom he encountered in downtown Los Angeles, in a neighborhood called Skid Row.

"She seemed totally out of place with the trodden-down, beaten-down place in the middle of Skid Row," he recalls. "I asked her if I could take her photograph and she looked up and said, 'I've been waiting for someone to take a good photograph of me.' "

As she told of being taken advantage of by man after man, he was struck by how her tale paralleled the story of Ynez, one of the virgin martyrs, killed for standing up for herself. Jevona thereby became the new face of Santa Ynez.

"By seeing these historical or legendary characters with the faces of people you could pass on the street any day, it helps us see it as something that's relevant to our lives," Walker explains from an exhibit of his paintings and narratives at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. "The themes that animate history are themes that resonate in our lives all the time."

At the beginning of his project, Walker started making portraits of homeless people living on San Julian Street, also in Skid Row. He was struck by the confluence of story and circumstance; San Julian is the patron saint of wanderers.

"Here it is the street that's named for him is where the wanderers gather and where the clinics that serve the wanderers are located," he says.

Each of his portraits, like the saints and stories that inspired them, are totally distinct. His "Santa Monica" incorporates the faces of mothers with sons in prison. "San Ysidro" resembles one of the many gardeners who tend the grounds on that plush Bel Air street.

One black-and-white portrait stands out among the collection — a little girl with butterfly wings. The sun cries fat tears above her. "Good luck in heaven" is written in loopy script below. Her left hand rests on her heart; her right hand holds what looks like a valentine.

Stephanie Raygoza, 9, is an unofficial saint. She died in 2000 after she was hit by a stray bullet while playing on her scooter outside her house. Walker was commissioned to create her portrait for her funeral, and thus she became "Saint Stephanie."

Saints are part of everyday life for so many Angelenos, Walker says. They're in our streets, on our walls, in our memories, receiving our hopes and dreams and prayers with open arms.

The exhibit reinforces these connections. One of the museum guards loved the image of San Miguel so much he asked permission to have it tattooed on his chest before he leaves for Iraq in October.

"If you can find the sacred in the world around you, rather than in something that's distant and apart from you," Walker says, "then maybe you can be better integrated to the world you live in."

J. Michael Walker's website

All the Saints of the City of the Angels Blog (Seeking the Soul of L.A. on its Streets)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos Finally Gets a Clue

As some of you may have noticed in the past, I'm not the biggest fan of Colombia's Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos. From his position on the Ecclesia Dei commisison, he's consistently been the hierarchy's biggest booster of the revival of the Tridentine Mass, of Pope Benedict's misguided Summorum Pontificum, and of reconciliation between the Church and the Lefebvrites. It sounds like even Darío is starting to figure out that the overture to this group and their sympathizers, which in large part lay behind the motivation for the Motu Proprio, was a blunder and only made them feel more emboldened. No surprise there. Millions of Catholics could have told him what he is begining to discover. As always, I try to reconsider when appropriate, and give credit where credit is due.

From Cindy Wooden's article in the Boston Pilot: Cardinal: Some not satisfied even after pope’s Tridentine Mass decree
Rather than being grateful, some people have reacted to Pope Benedict XVI's wider permission for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass with further demands, said Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos.

The cardinal, president of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei," spoke Sept. 16 at a conference marking the first anniversary of "Summorum Pontificum," the document by which Pope Benedict expanded access to the Tridentine rite, the Mass rite used before the Second Vatican Council.

Cardinal Castrillon, whose commission works with communities using the old rite, said his office continues to receive letters requesting the Tridentine rite be used not just at one Mass a week but at every Mass, and that such Masses be available not just at one church in a town but at every church.

He said he even got a letter demanding that Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major be dedicated exclusively to the celebration of the Tridentine-rite Mass.

Such people, he said, are "insatiable, incredible."

"They do not know the harm they are doing," Cardinal Castrillon said, adding that when the Vatican does not accept their demands immediately "they go directly to the Internet" and post their complaints.
You don't say! The rest of us had scarcely noticed...
The process of reconciliation broke down in late June when Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the Society of St. Pius X and one of the four bishops ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre, failed to meet four conditions posed by Cardinal Castrillon for moving the process forward.

"The Eucharist should never become a point of contrast and a point of separation," Cardinal Castrillon said at the Sept. 16 conference. "What is more important: the mystery of God who becomes bread or the language by which we celebrate the mystery?"

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Oh, for 6% in an F.D.I.C. Insured Account

Nice work by the captains of industry. Nice going by the masters of the universe. Nobody even undertood how their complicated instruments that are now known as "toxic assets" worked.

I know, hang on, hang on... Be in it for the long haul. It'll come back. I'm sure. What else can you do at this point?

But how many people from Main Street really wanted to be on Wall Street to begin with? There will always be those types, of course, like the ones who call Jim Cramer. Most of them really had no choice, though, but to take on the risk of carrying securities. I'm thinking that most of them, if they could have had even a decent single-digit rate of return, would have preferred their savings to be in a bank. One like the...

Dawes, Tomes, Mousley, Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank

Here, as shown the link above, is Mr. Cramer losing it over a month ago...

Friday, September 12, 2008

"It's Sunday night, nearly Monday morning again..."

This one goes out to anyone who's been stuck in one place for too long

Glengarrif, Count Cork, Ireland. September 29, 1990

I've been living in the same house since 1962. You may say that I'm in a bit of a rut. You may say I'm not much of a risk-taker. On the other hand, there have been tremendous changes in this house, and in this town, and in my life.

A number of years ago, I spent a good amount of time in Ireland, a place where tradition has always been very important. When you're in an Irish town, you can feel the presence of the countless generations that were there before. If you walk through an Irish town at night and smell the peat fires burning, the scent provides an evocative imprint that will stick in your consciousness forever. Granted, this was in the days before Ireland's celebrated "Celtic Tiger" economy, in which prosperity has newly flourished, and old traditions are rapidly falling by the wayside. At the time when I was there, the economy was still struggling, unemployment was very high, and loads of young people were emigrating to seek better opportunities.

The first week I was in Ireland, the weather was sunny and spectacular. Not at all like the rainy, misty stereotype you're led to expect. Nevertheless, when the rain did come, and it did come, I was struck by the shift in appearance, and more importantly, the shift in mood.

Sunshine helps us. It's good for people. We have overcast days here, but there is something about the overcast in Ireland and Britain that hangs heavy like a shroud. It can get to be a gun-metal gray, a battleship gray. If you're one who cares about the weather, it can feel enormously oppressive. In small towns where there is very little to do but to frequent the local pub, it can bring on a skull-numbing depression (despite the warmth and friendliness of the people). I felt that way, and I didn't even live there.

I have to say, however, that when it comes to small town blues, sunshine isn't necessarily a panacea. Bob Marley and the Wailers sang of the "Concrete Jungle" in sunny Kingston, Jamaica. I'll never forget, for example, the teenager standing next to me in a pharmacy in Utrera, in the sun-splashed Andalucia region of Spain, nodding off on smack, hoping that the pharmacist would take pity on him and give him some kind of a handout.

People all over the world get small-town blues, so this post is an ode to them - to everyone who has been stuck in one town for too long, going nowhere and looking at the same old faces day after day, from the top of Finland to the bottom of New Zealand, from Guam to Estonia, from Patagonia to the Aleutians...

Here is a youtube video of Same Oul' Town, by the Saw Doctors. The images in the video are bizarre, and have nothing at all to do with the song as far as I can see (WARNING - may not be safe for work.. some nudity). That's why I put in some of my own photos.

The Saw Doctors - Same Oul' Town

Somewhere in West Cork

Same oul' faces
Same oul' streets
Same oul' people is all you meet
Too long waiting
Standing round
I'm sick and tired of the
Same oul' town

Same oul' drizzle
Same oul' rain
Same oul' walking
Back home again
Same oul' heartache
Lost and found
Same old story
Same oul' town

Cashel, County Tipperary

And I go out for a walk
To see if there's news
The rain on the path
Leaking into me shoes
And I do talk to meself
Cos I'm my only best friend
It's Sunday night
Nearly Monday morning again

Same oul' Monday
Closed all day
The farmers and their wisps of hay
Same oul' hanging around the square
Same oul' spoofers
Same oul' stares
"Hey! You're welcome back."
"Yeah bang the door."

This Christmas-time and the time before

Don't like asking
"You know, you're fairly wide...
You'd never give us
The price of a pint."

The Albaicín, Granada, Spain

And I go out for a walk.....
To see if there's news
The rain on the path
Leaking into me shoes
And I do talk to meself
Cos I'm my only best friend
It's Sunday night
Nearly Monday morning again

You know you'd often wonder
As the years go past
Why I ever bothered
Going to Mass
Was it the fear of God
Or to find a wife
Or just buying shares
In the afterlife

St. Anne's Shandon Church, Cork City

The bell still tolls
I heard it there
For the final journey
Up to the square
Shop doors close
And the blinds come down
Same oul' story
Same oul' town

And I do howl at the moon
I go barking at dogs
Take off all me clothes
And lie out in the bog
And I do talk to meself
Cos I'm my only best friend
It's Sunday night
Nearly Monday morning again

It's just the same oul' story
Same oul' town

It's just the same oul' story
Same oul' town.

Here's Morrissey, from the other side of the Irish Sea. This video is pretty much on the money.

Morrissey - Every Day is Like Sunday

Trudging slowly over wet sand
Back to the bench where your clothes were stolen
This is the coastal town
That they forgot to close down
Armageddon - come Armageddon!
Come, Armageddon! come!

Everyday is like Sunday
Everyday is silent and grey

Hide on the promenade
Etch a postcard :
How I dearly wish I was not here
In the seaside town
...that they forgot to bomb
Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

Everyday is like Sunday
Everyday is silent and grey

Trudging back over pebbles and sand
And a strange dust lands on your hands
(and on your face...)
(on your face ...)
(on your face ...)
(on your face ...)

Everyday is like Sunday
Win yourself a cheap tray
Share some greased tea with me
Everyday is silent and grey

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Questions that Remain on this 9/11 Anniversary. Meanwhile...

...Glenn Beck and Chuck Norris are tired of getting "screwed" by people with McJobs

OK, I admit I'm not carrying the cup very well today. Here comes another unattractive rant.

I don't usually spend a lot of time reading the Daily Kos, but there was a post today that I thought was pretty good for this week's Cheers and Jeers: Thursday. It was a list of unanswered questions on this, the 7th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Here are a few of them.

When he was warned in the August 6, 2001 PDB, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike In US", why did the president do nothing except tell the guy who delivered it to him, "All right, you've covered your ass, now"?

Why did Rudy Giuliani put the anti-terrorism command center in the World Trade Center against the advice of experts who knew better?

Why were members of the bin Laden family allowed to fly out of the country when all planes were grounded?

Father Mychal Judge: Saint...or Supersaint?

Was it really necessary for the president to tell us to go shopping?

Why did Rudy Giuliani say he "was at the site as often, if not more, than most of the workers," when he only visited the site for 29 hours over a span of 41 visits? -

When the president called for greater security at airports, why was there such a lopsided focus on passengers and very little on cargo until recently?

Why is there still a giant hole in the ground in Lower Manhattan?

When Ann Coulter---one of the most respected figures in the Republican party---said, "These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much," why wasn't she banished into obscurity?

When Jerry Falwell---one of the most respected figures in the Republican party---got on TV and said, "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen'," why wasn't he defrocked and sent to work in soup kitchens for the rest of his life?

When Glenn Beck---one of the most respected figures in the Republican party---said, "When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I'm just like, 'Oh shut up!' I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining," why wasn't he banished into obscurity?

Speaking of CNN talk show host Glenn Beck...

There is a certain term that Liam commonly uses to describe Mitt Romney, which fits quite accurately.

The same term would apply to Glenn Beck, and even more so.

Last night I was on the treadmill, and I happened to catch a few minutes of Beck talking with the grotesquely face-lifted tough guy, lately of the Mike Huckabee campaign, Chuck Norris. Norris has been running around recently hawking his new war-mongering book Black Belt Patriotism: How to Reawaken America. I'd seen him a few minutes earlier on Larry King's show on the other CNN channel, baring his bleached teeth, or bad caps, or whatever the heck they are, at Arianna Huffington.

During their conversation, out came this exchange:

BECK: Here`s the thing. First of all, what do you think of Sarah Palin?

NORRIS: I like her. I like her a lot.

BECK: When I watched her give her speech and she said fellow citizens, it was the first time that I have ever seen anybody give a political speech where I thought, she is like me. She is not part of that mess.I think she is -- she gives me the hope that there is somebody out there that connects with the American people and sees how stupid the people in Washington are being right now.

NORRIS: I hope when they get into Washington that they will be able to get the control back to the people. The whole thing is, Glenn, in 2005, over 6,000 taxpayers who make over $250,000 a year pay no taxes. I think I heard it from you. You know how many pages there in the IRS tax code? 66,498 pages in all, now who knows what`s in that tax code? The IRS doesn`t but I bet you these high-falutin` tax accountants do. And they are the ones that are finding all these loopholes in this tax code.

BECK: Let me flip it on its head. About 48 percent of this country really doesn`t -- get more back from the country from the IRS than they pay in. A lot of Americans under Obama, about 50 percent will not pay any income tax.Chuck, I challenge you to spend the day and just one day and look at all the people that you encounter and realize that half of the people that you encountered today, including the people who haven`t given you the right sandwich when you`re driving out of the drive thru, you are paying their tax bill. There is two Americans. There is the Americans that are willing to work hard and believe that some day I`m going to be able to change things and I`m going to be able to have a slice of the American pie. And then there`s other Americans that just don`t give a flying crap. I`m tired of carrying around the people who screw up my order at the drive thru every single time.

NORRIS: That`s one of the biggest complaints, Jean and I, my wife, is them screwing us. The thing is too that that`s why I`m such in favor of the fair tax, Glenn. The thing is we got $13 trillion in offshore accounts that people are hiding their money. The thing is if we can bring that back into our economy, the three million manufacturing jobs that are outsourced overseas, if we could bring all that back. And that`s why I supported Huckabee so strongly because he was a strong supporter of the fair tax.

BECK: The tax system in our country is all upside down. It`s ridiculous.

NORRIS: Totally upside down and we have got to do something to correct that. That`s why I said we need a voter`s revolution here.

BECK: Yes, we do. We do. We are going to get one, one of these days. Hopefully it will happen at the ballot box and if it continues to go the way it has, unfortunately, I think it is going to go in a different direction.

I sure hope your hunch is right Glenn.

I have to admit that even though I was amused by Beck and Norris temporarily talking merrily at cross-purposes with each other, with Beck hurling abuse at fast-food restaurant workers and Norris focusing the outrage more on where it rightly belongs, I wish I could have had hit Beck with a roundhouse kick even if Norris wasn't about to.

So, Glenn is tired of carrying those fast-food workers with those McJobs tailor-made and designed for both low wages and high turnover? Yeah, those bloodsucking freeloaders! They've been living high off the hog for too long (sorry, pig reference...). Poor baby. They've messed up his #1 supersize meal too many times. I haven't taken the time to check his dubious numbers, but how about a little outrage, Beck, at CEOs who fail miserably and still get paid huge parachute severance packages, or who collect multi-million dollar bonuses for laying off thousands of people and shipping jobs overseas?

How does a clown like this get a gig on television?

Liberal media my ... eye. At least with the wingnuts on FOX, you know what you're getting. On supposedly liberal CNN you get this guy and that xenophobic, racist kook, Lou Dobbs. You're giving populism a great name, Lou. As for MSNBC, they've canned Matthews and Olbermann from their anchor jobs. Liberal media. What a joke.

As for Norris, I feel like watching him take a beating from Bruce Lee.

Monday, September 08, 2008

"The Republic of Redneckia"

Why secession isn't an option. Joe Bageant explains it all for you...

As the McCain/Palin ticket supposedly surges in the polls despite the state of the economy today, symbolized starkly by the Fannie Mae/Freddy Mac Bailout, which was characterized and admitted as "Socialism for the Rich" by at least one CEO, it leaves a lot of left-wing pundits mystified as to how this could possibly be so.

Thomas Frank tried to explain why so many people in blue-collar America work against their own economic self-interest by voting for people who continually tuck it to them year after year in his book What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, but he really didn't know and couldn't get to the heart of the matter.

Joe Bageant did a much better job in his book Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War. For historical perspective, Bageant relied somewhat on Virginia Senator Jim Webb's Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America.

On his blog, Bageant explains the matter with an essay called Why Rednecks May Rule the World.

It's OK for Bageant to say "redneck" because he's... a proud progressive redneck.

Extended excerpts... I left very little out.
During this US election cycle we are hearing a lot from the pundits and candidates about "heartland voters," and "white working class voters."

What they are talking about are rednecks. But in their political correctness, media types cannot bring themselves to utter the word "redneck." So I'll say it for them: redneck-redneck-redneck-redneck.

The fact is that we American rednecks embrace the term in a sort of proud defiance. To us, the term redneck indicates a culture we were born in and enjoy. So I find it very interesting that politically correct people have taken it upon themselves to protect us from what has come to be one of our own warm and light hearted terms for one another...

Contrary to the stereotype, we are not all tobacco chawing, guffawing Southerners, but are scattered from coast to coast. Over 50% of us live in the "cultural south", which is to say places with white Southern Scots-Irish values -- redneck values.

They include western Pennsylvania, central Missouri and southern Illinois, upstate Michigan and Minnesota, eastern Connecticut, northern New Hampshire ...

So when you look at what pundits call the red state heartland, you are looking at the Republic of Redneckia.

As to having our delicate beer-sodden feelings protected from the term redneck; well, I appreciate the effort, though I highly suspect that the best way to hide snobbishness is to pose as protector of any class of folks you cannot bear. Thus we are being protected by the very people who look down on us -- educated urban progressives...

We come in one size: extra large. We are sometimes insolent and often quick to fight. We love competitive spectacle such as NASCAR and paintball, and believe gun ownership is the eleventh commandment.

We fry things nobody ever considered friable -- things like cupcakes, banana sandwiches and batter dipped artificial cheese ... even pickles.

And most of all we are defiant and suspicious of authority, and people who are "uppity" (sophisticated) and "slick" (people who use words with more than three syllables). Two should be enough for anybody.

And that is one of the reasons that, mystifying as it is to the outside world, John McCain's choice of the moose-shooting Alaskan woman with the pregnant unmarried teen daughter appeals to many redneck and working class Americans.

We all understand that there is a political class which dominates in America, and that Sarah Palin for damned sure is not one of them. And the more she is attacked by liberal Democratic elements (translation: elite highly-educated big city people) the more America's working mooks will come to her defence. Her daughter had a baby out of wedlock? Big deal. What family has not? She is a Christian fundamentalist who believes God spat on his beefy paws and made the world in seven days? So do at least 150 million other Americans. She snowmobiles and fishes and she is a looker to boot. She's a redneck...

The term redneck indicates a lifestyle and culture that can be found in every state in our union. The essentials of redneck culture were brought to America by what we call the Scots Irish, after first being shipped to the Ulster Plantation, where our, uh, remarkable cultural legacy can still be seen every 12 July in Ireland.

Ultimately, the Scots Irish have had more of an effect on the American ethos than any other immigrant group. Here are a few you will recognize:

Belief that no law is above God's law, not even the US Constitution.

Hyper patriotism. A fighting defence of native land, home and heart, even when it is not actually threatened: ie, Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Haiti and dozens more with righteous operations titles such as Enduring Freedom, Restore Hope, and Just Cause.

A love of guns and tremendous respect for the warrior ideal. Along with this comes a strong sense of fealty and loyalty. Fealty to wartime leaders, whether it be FDR or George Bush.

Self effacement, humility. We are usually the butt of our own jokes, in an effort not to appear aloof among one another.

Belief that most things outside our own community and nation are inferior and threatening, that the world is jealous of the American lifestyle.

Personal pride in equality. No man, however rich or powerful, is better than me.

Perseverance and belief in hard work. If a man or a family is poor, it is because they did not work hard enough. God rewards those who work hard enough. So does the American system.

The only free country in the world is the United States, and the only reason we ever go to war is to protect that freedom.

All this has become so deeply instilled as to now be reflexive. It represents many of the worst traits in American culture and a few of the best. And that has every thinking person here in the US, except perhaps John McCain and Sarah Palin, worried.

Very worried.
Are the folks at Politico correct? Did Obama make what will turn out to be the biggest gaffe of the 2008 campaign with his offhand "bitter" voter remarks?
"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them…And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Shirts for Brakwa

Earlier this year our parish was richly blessed in having a wonderful visiting priest in the person of Fr. Paul Ennin of the SMA Fathers (Society of African Missions). Fr. Paul is from a small cocoa-farming rainforest town in Ghana called Brakwa, which is about 120 km from the capital city of Accra.

Twice a year, our town soccer league distributes colorful, high quality team T-shirts to the kids who play. After hearing from Fr. Paul how soccer-crazy the kids are in Ghana, Anne had an idea... Instead of just letting those shirts sit unused in our kid's drawers for years, or letting them be used to wash and wax cars, Anne decided to launch a drive to collect as many of the used shirts from our town's kids and parents as she could, and to send them to the children in Brakwa.

It was sort of a complicated process getting them there, but after they arrived, Fr. Paul wrote the following from Rome (not knowing a thing about our politics, btw, one way or another):

Greetings from a warm Rome. I am fine and back from home. I believe you are all looking forward to the Democratic convention. You can imagine the popularity of Obama in Ghana. In fact, some politicians are now nicknamed Obama and new babies are being given his name too.

Well, this is to say a big thank you for the T-shirts. My brother brought them and oh my, the children are so grateful / I am sending you some of the pictures we took of them. My parents too send their love to you and especially to the kids. It has been very thoughtful of them. Tell them they are always in my prayers.

Thanks for everything and I shall continue to keep you and your family and all the kids who are doing this wonderful job in my daily eucharist celebrations. May you be blessed always!

It was a little thing to do, but at least it will make some of these beautiful kids happy. Here are some of the photos...

Hoooo boy....

This season went on the rocks before it barely got started.

Most commentators say this wasn't a dirty hit by Bernard Pollard. I disagree. There's no real excuse for a defender, already down himself, to dive at a QB's legs.

No defensive player who has an unrestricted path to the quarterback may hit him flagrantly in the area of the knee(s) or below when approaching in any direction.

Friday, September 05, 2008


I know we're supposed to leave the children alone, but...

... this kid was dying a thousand deaths up there

A kid? Well, actually, Bristol Palin's boyfriend Levi Johnston is 18. Plenty of 18-year olds are fighting in Iraq. His brother-in-law to be is 19, and he'll be going. As for going, I suspect it went something like this:

"Oh, you're going to the convention in St. Paul, Levi... You're GOING."

In her supposedly maverick Washington-outsider speech, written by a Washington-insider, Sarah Palin said...

"What's the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom? Lipstick."

Okay. If that's the way you want to play it. The words are yours. The Dem candidates played hands-off with you and your family difficulties and you repaid them with more nastiness in your speech than your limited experience entitles you to.

When those of us in the lower 48 first heard about Sarah Palin, there was a lot we had to learn about her. I, for one, was very impressed (and I remain impressed) by her decision to keep and deliver her baby with Downs Syndrome, especially when so many of them are destroyed these days as a result of the Alpha-Feta test.

I was sickened and disgusted when the Daily Kos and a slew of other guerilla-left blogs started speculating on the basis of very scant evidence whether Trig was actually Sarah's baby, or was in fact her daughter Bristol's. A multitude of fools started weighing in on tummy bulges, breast shape, amniotic fluid leaks and the hazards of air travel, and 40+ pregnancies based upon a handful of photographs, hardly knowing what the heck they were talking about.

In order to get out in front of these rumors, the McCain campaign announced the fact of Bristol's 5-month pregnancy.

Don't get me wrong. Even if the Trig story was true, I wouldn't have had a huge problem with it. Looking back at the history of my own family in generations past and my wife's family as well, there was lots of this stuff going on - people growing up thinking their mothers were their aunts, etc... As for teen pregnancies before marriage, this is the way a lot of America lives today; in fact it can be argued that it's a distinguishing characteristic of Red State America in particular. I have to note with some irony, however, that the Republican party seems to have changed quite a bit in this regard since Dan Quayle and the whole Murphy Brown controversy in 1988.

Just the same, there was something about the way Levi was frog-marched down to the convention ("welcome to the family, son"), cleaned up, and presented as something that he is not, that was disconcerting and got under my skin. If Sarah Palin wants to use Johnston and her own family members as props, and if she's been an advocate and booster of abstinence-only education, I'm not sure these situations should be entirely off the table for discussion.

As dribs and drabs come out about Sarah Palin's actual record in Alaska, and the lack of vetting that was done by the McCain campaign, I'm wondering if the bloom will soon be coming off the rose for her. There is something phony about the whole Palin packaging that seems to me like a ball of string just waiting to be unraveled.

As for the young couple, who knows? Theirs could be a true and wonderful love story... I encourage young men to step up, grow up, and face their responsibilities as much as anyone else would, but if these tidbits allegedly posted on his Myspace page are legit, I think there is some cause to believe he's being shotgunned, perhaps just a little bit...

"I'm a f - - -in' redneck" who likes to snowboard and ride dirt bikes.

"But I live to play hockey. I like to go camping and hang out with the boys, do some fishing, shoot some s- - - and just f - - -in' chillin' I guess."

"Ya f - - - with me I'll kick [your] ass," he added.

Under 'Status', he puts "in a relationship" and under 'Children', he writes "I don't want kids". Whoops.

Well, that about sums the Republican Convention up. USA, USA, USA... Drill, baby drill... Jesus, guns, and babies...

The party owned and run by the Business Roundtable and hedge fund managers is relying upon their self-described "redneck" foot soldiers to get this election won for them. Once again.