Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I can't believe I took this quiz

What can I say? The Pintster tempted me, and I did blog.
You scored as Agnostic, Agnostics consider the possibility that they may be wrong about God's existence, no matter which side of the fence they stand on. Always willing to objectively evaluate the most ridiculous proof, nevertheless, these guys are skeptics of the Nth degree.





Militant Atheist


Scientific Atheist


Apathetic Atheist


Spiritual Atheist


Angry Atheist


What kind of atheist are you?
created with

I can respect an honest agnostic, since he's not buying any dogma at all, for or against. Got no great wish to be one, though. I signed on with Rome, and I'll stick with it.

The best and the worst of times

I had a chance to talk with Pastor Doug last night at the end-of-the-year barbecue for the high school choir. His daughter and mine are both juniors, and in the choir, so we cross paths at these a good deal, but only in passing. Getting an actual conversation with him reminded me that I hadn't yet linked his latest post.

Doug's church is going through times that are both tough and exciting. Isn't that the way it always seems? The upheavals, good and bad, all seem to hit together? In their case, they're about to start building their own building (they're currently in a renovated supermarket building downtown), at the same time that their assistant pastor is fighting a very uphill battle with colon cancer. Last report is that he's discontinued treatment and is waiting to see if the Lord wants him on earth badly enough to heal him. There are occasional updates here. Nobody ever said the Christian life was a boring one.

As the old Chinese curse goes, "May you live in interesting times." Doug's latest post illustrates the duality of those times:
These times are designed by God to produce hardy saints of us all. The truth is, our predecessors, that "great cloud of witnesses" spoken of by the writer of Hebrews, faced their own "Best and Worst of Times." The history of the church is the redemption story of glory, power, healing, salvation, miracles, restoration AND martyrdom, suffering, loss, rejection, disappointment, and failure. Always, the two seemingly contradictory tracks were running parallel to one another. Even the glorious book of Acts, that theme section of the Scriptures for Charismatics, reads like a roller coaster ride of paradoxes and life and death drama.

Redemption is the story of God in the midst of sin, death, suffering, sickness etc... Some day, everything will be swallowed up in the life, beauty, and presence of redemption Himself. Until that great day arrives, this train must run on both tracks, and we must ride it!

Woops! Almost forgot

Catholic Carnival 121 is up at Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering.

Let me get this straight

The ACLU is suing an American company for having cooperated with the American government? Because they can't actually sue the government agency? Because they can't prove that the government agency actually did what they're accusing the company of helping with? But if they did, then the company violated federal law in cooperating with the federal government?

Uh-huh. Gotcha.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bread and Circuses

I can't really put my finger on why this is so utterly nauseating, but it is. Maybe it's because life and death shouldn't be a spectator sport. Maybe because there are no consolation prizes – you don't even get a case of Turtle Wax, you just die. Or maybe it's just because it illustrates the utter whoredom of the entertainment industry. But for whatever reason, I lose my appetite at the idea that they're actually going to air it.

KFAT founder goes to that sound booth in the sky

Courtesy of Ken we learn about the passing of a radio legend:
ROYAL OAKS — Laura Ellen Hopper, the longtime program director and co-founder of KPIG 107.5 FM, died Monday from complications of lung cancer. She was 57.

"Laura Ellen was the heart, soul and glue of KPIG," said "Sleepy John" Sandidge, a longtime KPIG on-air personality and friend. "Losing her is like losing an old-growth redwood tree."

In 1975, Hopper originally helped found KFAT in Gilroy, a free-form country station notorious for its rejection of conservative radio conventions. After KFAT went off the air, she re-emerged with local attorney Leo Kesselman in 1988 to found KPIG in Watsonville, finally making a success of the station's renegade format in the 1990s.

Under Hopper's direction, KPIG married KFAT's pugnacious country/rock programming with a more savvy business plan. Eventually, the station became instrumental in establishing a new radio format, Americana, which emphasized artists who were often ignored by mainstream country radio, such as John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker and Peter Rowan. In the 1990s, KPIG's prominence in the Americana genre gave it the power to provide career-making exposure to such performers as Robert Earl Keen, Todd Snider and Iris DeMent.

I have to confess I never actually heard KFAT myself, but my dad used to make recordings whenever he was in California to visit his sister. If you're interested in hearing what the station sounded like in 1982, there's some RealMedia here.

Let us now observe a moment of dead air.

Post-Memorial Day post

From The Johnny Law Chronicles comes a sobering reminder not to forget the men who beat great odds and did epic deeds before our lifetime.

Johnny responded to a call over the weekend by folks who hadn't seen their neighbor for a few days.
We searched the house and found him in the bedroom. It was an elderly man who had obviously been dead for several days. The extreme heat had sped up the decay process and the body was badly discolored. He had been laying in bed with one of those large box fans blowing on him. I checked the central AC and saw it was blowing hot air. The thermostat had maxed out at over 100 degrees. It was an old house that was in need of repair and the AC looked pretty run down as well. Apparently, it broke and he tried to compensate with the fan but it just wasn’t enough.

After the scene was declared “safe” by the ME and detectives, I started looking around for contact info for family. While I was looking, I came across a box containing a bunch of military items. There were medals, citations, and army pictures. Turns out this person was on the beach during the Normandy Invasion. I was in the house of a bona fide war hero. I wish I remembered the unit that he was in but it escapes me.

Neighbors didn’t know the person very well and the only family member we could find was a son who lived in Chicago. It made me very depressed that a veteran of the D-day invasion died alone in a sweltering rundown house. That’s no way for anyone to go, especially a WWII veteran. I can’t help but wonder about all the stories this guy could have told.

Lesson for today:

These folks are national treasures. Not just WWII vets, all war vets. Treat with them with respect. Honor them. Thank them.

To that man who died alone, even though I never got a chance to tell you, thank you for your service. You deserved better.

We don't know him, but God does, and He also knows what this forgotten hero did that day when so many others were snuffed out. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Memorial Day

See that earnest-looking kid on the right? Calvin Samuel Martin III, his name was. You wouldn't know it to look at him, but he was a first-class smart-ass, with an easy charm that made people like him as soon as they met him. That was my dad, in his high-school yearbook, before he went to war.

Unfortunately, I don't know a whole lot about his experiences in the war, because he never talked about it afterward. And I mean never. Even in the 80s, when it became stylish to dredge up buried memories of Vietnam, he had nothing more to say than just that he was proud that he'd gone.

Not that he had much choice. It was 1966, and he had just flunked out of UW, and the government offered him a full scholarship to the University of Pleiku, without a lot of room to decline. This was before Kent State, before Jane Fonda straddled an enemy gun like she was posing for a girlie magazine, before it became really fashionable to cry "peace, peace" where there was no peace. My mom says that he had some misgivings about the war itself. But it didn't matter; he went.

I don't know anything about what-all happened there, either, except little snippets. My mom says he got to be pretty friendly with the Montagnards, and got his heart broken by what happened to them. (I had to look them up; I'd never heard of them.) He ran supply convoys, "delivering socks," as he told his younger brother later. I don't think he ever shot anybody, but he certainly got shot at enough.

Whatever he saw over there, it damaged him pretty badly. He came back with a self-destructive streak that he watered liberally with ethanol. My mom says that he was like a completely different person. I wouldn't know; I was born on the army base just as he was getting out.

The problems he came back with exacted a price on both him and his family, and he eventually left. I spent a lot of my childhood without him, except as an occasional visitor. I started getting close to him again when I was in my teens, but by then it was kind of awkward. I didn't know it when I was little, but the war had taken my daddy away.

When I was 26, it took him away for good. Now, my dad wasn't what you would call an abstemious man. He drank like a fish, he chain-smoked for twenty years (then just up and quit), he ate anything he wanted, and he was entirely too fond of the fairer sex. (And I do mean "entirely"; if I didn't know he'd had a vasectomy I'd be on the lookout for people who looked a lot like me.) But just as he had settled into a career he loved (working in the Orient designing mass transit systems), and a marriage that looked like it was going to last, he started having some health problems. He came back to the States for some tests, and three months later he was dead of a brain tumor.

For all his vices, the one really virtuous thing he had done in his life had exposed him to Agent Orange. My dad died from the war, just as surely as if he had been shot by a sniper.

Even with him gone, the war still casts a shadow. He was cremated, and buried in his home town of Goldendale. He has two headstones: one in the veterans' section, and another in a family plot. The family couldn't agree on whether to be proud or ashamed that he'd gone to war.

Well, I paid as much of a price as any of them, and I'm proud. Proud as hell. Yes, I know it's fashionable to regard Vietnam as a huge blunder forty years later. Yes, I know the aging hippies are getting their kicks pretending that Iraq is Vietnam and their sign-waving actually matters a rat's ass. I know these things. But I also know what happened to the Montagnards after we left, and I know that the army today is all that stands between us and this. And I know what my dad would say about the people who insist the only way to "support the troops" is to cut them off at the knees.

I loved my dad. I miss him. He only lived to see one grandchild, but I think he'd have made a helluva grandpa. And on Memorial Day, I think I'll crack a beer, barbecue some dead cow, and be grateful to him and every other fresh-faced kid who stopped a bullet or breathed poison so I could do it.

Thanks, Dad.

Hawg hearse

When it comes time, this is how I want to go.
A Long Island funeral home chain invested $100,000 in a three-wheeled Harley and carriage-style hearse for bikers who want to go out in style.

So far, reaction has been "favorable and positive," Michael Moloney of Moloney Family Funeral Homes said Thursday during a Manhattan demonstration.

"People see it and go, 'Wow, this can be really cool and different for my dad, for my uncle,'" Moloney said.

The black hearse is a replica of a 19th-century horse-drawn carriage and features sconces in each corner, a large window on either side and burgundy and gold curtains. It can fit caskets up to 39 inches wide and carry more than 900 pounds of coffin and dead weight. The black and chrome motorcycle is a 2006 Road King Classic.

For $795, a driver will take the dearly departed from the funeral home to the house of worship, then on to the cemetery _ compared to $475 to $575 for a lift in a traditional hearse, they said.

Dying wouldn't seem so bad if this was your last ride.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

There's reformers, and then there's reformers

My Lovely and Brilliant Wife compares Francis of Assisi with Martin Luther, and shows who the real reformer was.

If there's justice here, it's bloody hard to find

The more I see of the Spokane Diocese's bankruptcy settlement with the alleged victims of pervo-priests, the more convinced I am that the whole thing is a set-up. The documents relating to the bankruptcy are here, all in evil PDF format.

Now, I'm not a lawyer, and I hope I can get one to look at this post (Dave or KG, perhaps?) and tell me if I'm completely off base in my analysis. Meanwhile, there are a number of things in this settlement that raise my amateur hackles.

First, the process for determining who is and is not an actual abuse victim seems to me to be awfully vague:
Proof of Abuse. Within 30 days after written request therefor from the TCR [Tort Claimant Reviewer], each holder of a Tort Claim to be determined by the TCR shall complete under oath the Questionnaire, shall produce all records and documents requested by the TCR, shall consent to and cooperate in any examinations requested by the TCR and performed by health care professionals selected by the TCR, and shall consent to and cooperate in a written and/or oral examination under oath by the TCR. The TCR also may, but shall not be required to, obtain evidence from the Debtor, the Reorganized Debtor or any other party, and shall have all of the rights and powers of the Debtor to take discovery under Part VII of the Bankruptcy Rules. The TCR’s determination shall be made expeditiously. The extent to which the Federal Rules of Evidence will be applied by the TCR in assessing the credibility and competency of evidence shall be within the sole discretion of the TCR. The Federal Rules of Evidence, to the extent determined by the TCR to be applicable, shall be liberally construed to promote justice.

So essentially, the viability of a claim is at the sole discretion of the TCR. Not just whether it meets the standard of proof, but whether the standard of proof even applies, is up to her. She doesn't even have to allow the diocese to defend itself, or to require the claimant to show any evidence whatsoever. According to the next paragraph, the claimant may request reconsideration, but the diocese may not. It's like beating up a man with his hands tied behind his back. (What do you want to bet that "liberally construed to support justice" doesn't mean justice for the accused?)

The TCR that the settlement names is Katrina "Kate" Pflaumer, a former U. S. Attorney appointed by Bill Clinton. (There's an interesting article on her here.) I'd like to assume that she's not going to be overtly biased. But it's a lot of trust to place in one individual, however honest she may be. All the power is in her hands, and she's not bound by any rules.

How about the payouts? There's a complicated method for determining who gets how much, taking into account the kind of abuse, the age of the victim, and so on. But the rock-bottom minimum amount, for a single incident of self-exposure to a teenager, carries a $15,000 payment. Hello? Conceivably, you could get that by being at the next urinal, if he stops and shakes himself off too long. But let's assume that the exposure was deliberate (which is to say, assume that the TCR decides it was, since the Church doesn't get to say otherwise). Now, I know that sexual abuse is a subjective thing, and that it's hard to quantify, but I tell you what, if I could get fifteen grand for having seen a priest's old fellow when I was 17, I'd be a happy man. And the payments only go up from there.

How galling! As a child, I was taught some things that a boy doesn't need to know. (I don't think details are really necessary.) Nobody's showing up at my door with a wad of cash. But then, I was unlucky; no priests were involved. There's nobody I can sue that would do me any good. Meanwhile, I've never really suffered much from it. It's simply something that happened in my childhood. But dang, I could be rolling in rhino if I'd just known whom to be vulnerable to!

The real kickers are in the non-monetary section, though. Let's take a look at some of the provisions:
26.1 For a period of not less than 9 years after the Effective Date, the Debtor will post on the Diocesan web site the names of ALL known Spokane diocesan clergy, religious clergy not incardinated in the Spokane diocese who nevertheless were functioning as clergy in and for the Spokane diocese, and order clergy or religious who are admitted, proven or credibly accused perpetrators. [Emphasis mine.]

Nowhere do I find a definition of "credibly accused." So if the accusation isn't totally ludicrous (say, if the accused wasn't already dead at the time), then he will be presumed guilty and put on display as such for the next nine years. What that means in practical terms is that his career is over, as no parish will ever be able to have him in active ministry again. That's a hell of a thing to do to a guy who has spent his life serving the Church, such that he has no other marketable skills and (obviously) no family. But hey, at least it makes alleged victims feel better.

Oh, and that's another thing.
26.8 Debtor, and its representatives, will not refer either verbally or in print to the Claims of Tort Claimants as “alleged” Claims.

They're not alleged anymore, they're proven. By virtue of the claimants having said so.

Here's the one that really frosts my apricots:
26.5 Bishop Skylstad will publicly support a complete elimination of all criminal statutes of limitation for child sexual abuse.

Say what, now? Can that even be legal? Forcing him to support a specific political platform against his will? Why not just stick in a requirement that he vote only for Democrats from now on?

Not to mention the glaring conflict of interest there. Nobody else is required to support legislation that would have made incriminating himself easier. I know Bp. Skylstad isn't facing criminal prosecution, but what if he did down the road? Seems to me there's a definite Fifth Amendment problem here. Even if not, you couldn't require an environmentalist to support strip mining, or an NRA member to support gun control. The First Amendment should cover that; it's political speech.

And then there's the blatant conflict of interest in the media's coverage, and the harassment by the SNAPperheads. Think this will satisfy them? Don't bet on it. Now they effectively have a conviction against any priest in the diocese. It's like handing a wino a blank check.

This whole thing stinks worse than a waterfront brothel the morning after payday.

These people are animals

G. K. Chesterton said that original sin is the only Christian doctrine which could be empirically demonstrated. If I ever doubted him, the al-Qaeda documents on The Smoking Gun would convince me in a sickening way. The background:
MAY 24--In a recent raid on an al-Qaeda safe house in Iraq, U.S. military officials recovered an assortment of crude drawings depicting torture methods like "blowtorch to the skin" and "eye removal." Along with the images, which you'll find on the following pages, soldiers seized various torture implements, like meat cleavers, whips, and wire cutters....The images, which were just declassified by the Department of Defense, also include a picture of a ramshackle Baghdad safe house described as an "al-Qaeda torture chamber." It was there, during an April 24 raid, that soldiers found a man suspended from the ceiling by a chain. According to the military, he had been abducted from his job and was being beaten daily by his captors. In a raid earlier this week, Coalition Forces freed five Iraqis who were found in a padlocked room in Karmah. The group, which included a boy, were reportedly beaten with chains, cables, and hoses.

There are photos of the torture tools and of the injuries on the victims that I didn't look at. Oddly enough, this hasn't shown up on any media sites yet. In fact, the only result on a Google News search for it (as of now, anyway) is an article at Newsbusters questioning whether the media will cover it as heavily as Abu Ghraig. Any bets?

Now, you won't hear me defending practices like waterboarding, or the stuff that went on at Abu Ghraig. It's disgraceful that our agents are using any form of torture. It's disgraceful, because we're Americans, and Americans simply don't do things like that. I hope the next administration will put a stop to that; I don't know that I hold out any hope for this one.

But this is a while 'nother dimension. Our techniques, as bad as they may get, aren't in the same league with what these al-Qaeda creatures are using as their standard operating procedure. Because of that, I don't have any qualms about finishing out this occupation. These aren't men; these are animals. Vermin. And for the life of me I can't see why they should be allowed to continue breathing any longer than it takes us to find them. If that makes me a warmonger, so be it. It also makes me a man with a conscience.

A/T to Protein Wisdom.

The Sunnyside gang law - a cop's perspective

Blogger-with-a-badge The Enforcer was kind enough to fill me in on the implications of the Sunnyside gang membership law:
I read over your blog entry and as I see it from what is written, the powers that be are running an emergency stopgap measure up the flagpole to see if it flies, getting public opinion on their side and gathering arrest stats BEFORE a credible challenge to the law is made.

That being said, There IS a way to prosecute gang members under federal RICO statutes. If it can be proven that they aren't paying taxes (i.e. the Al Capone law), then it can be enforced and if it is done right this can be linked up to it as a tool that provides probable cause. A cop needs probable cause to delve further and gang ink, signs, trademark clothes and mode of dress all give a cop probable cause to believe that there is criminal activity connected to said individual. As for profiling, the way I learned is that small p profiling is a viable tool for police and the public (this includes all the above named gang activities). Capital P Profiling, i.e. racial profiling, is unnacceptable (that would be assuming a person is a gang member because he/she is a minority in a ritzy town).

I hope this helped.

Thanks, Enforcer! It helps a lot.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


This explains a lot about the aggressive coverage the Spokesman-Review has been giving the bankruptcy settlement in the Spokane Diocese.
Spokane real estate developer Centennial Properties Inc. agreed to pay $2.05 million for the headquarters of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane.

The ornate, white three-story building at 1023 W. Riverside sits across the street from the Masonic Temple and near Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral in downtown Spokane. It houses the offices of Catholic Bishop William Skylstad and his staff.

Centennial Properties is an affiliate of Cowles Co., which also publishes The Spokesman-Review.

Through attorney Michael Currin, the development company said it had no immediate plans for the Catholic Pastoral Center, also known as the Chancery.

The diocese was forced to sell the building as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. The money will be used to repay creditors in the bankruptcy – people who were victims of child sex abuse by priests and have filed claims totaling tens of millions of dollars.

But of course, the Spokesman-Review would never abuse its position for the sake of a real estate deal. Uh-uh. Wouldn't happen.

The Cowles family makes me ashamed to be a newspaperman once again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Advice for state troopers

If you pull over a porn star, and agree to tear up her ticket in exchange for, shall we say, Lewinskyesque favors, it's probably smart not to videotape it.

The trooper's name is James Randy Moss. Is that perfect, or what?

A law enforcement nightmare

Sunnyside enacts ban on gang membership:
The Sunnyside City Council unanimously passed a law Monday making it illegal to be in a gang, as state legislators and council members from Toppenish and Yakima looked on.

Opinions on the law from the standing-room-only crowd varied widely, with many saying criminalizing gangs does not address the root causes of crime. Several council members said they recognized the legitimacy of those concerns, but they all maintained support for the new law...

Others, however, took the view espoused last week by the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union: That the law opens up the possibility of racial profiling. The law, which makes gang membership a gross misdemeanor with sentences up to one year and a $5,000 fine on first offense, was patterned largely on a California state law.

"All it's going to do is empower police to see me driving in my car and say, 'He looks like a gang member,' " said Mike Cortez of Sunnyside.

Nancy Palomino of Sunnyside concurred.

"If you're not driving the right car, if you're not dressed in the right way, you will be profiled," she said.

That argument, Councilman Bill Gant said after public comment had ended, is based on emotion.

"As council people, I think we need to take a lot longer look at the factual part than the emotional part of this," he said.

Sunnyside police will be able to use the ordinance, which includes style of dress and physical markings as signs of gang affiliation, to arrest gang members without catching the innocent in that net, Gant said.

"I think you'd be ridiculous to think they don't know the difference," he said. "They do."

Lord knows Sunnyside needs to do something; all of those Yakima valley towns are getting dangerous. (For those of you who aren't lucky enough to live in the Northwest, here's some basics.) Small towns and a huge, spread-out county make it impossible for law enforcement to keep up with the influx of (mostly illegal) immigration and seasonal growth. Then, too, the Yakima area has been a major drug clearinghouse for years. (There's a reason SR 97 is called the Heroin Highway.)

There's a language/cultural barrier as well. Without bilingual cops, it's impossible to penetrate the Hispanic communities, which is near about three-quarters of the population. The second- and third-generation folks don't have that problem, but the immigrants think of anybody in a uniform as untrustworthy, and they clam right up. Given the reputation of police in Mexico, it's hard to blame them. (Besides, how do they know they won't be ratted out to La Migra?)

So Sunnyside is between a rock and a hard place. But I think the ACLU (as much as it hurts to say so) is going to be right on this one. The criteria are just too darn vague. It can easily boil down to being a surly-looking young Mexican, which is still not a crime. Yes, the Sunnyside cops probably know most of the scumdogs in town, but proving gang membership in court is going to be an interesting little exercise in semantics. How do you define a gang? Do they keep membership rolls? Is there a secret handshake? Or can you distinguish - in court - between a gang and a bunch of guys who keep getting in trouble and happen to dress similarly? How? Where's the line? It may come down to the classic definition of pornography: I know it when I see it.

It looks like Sunnyside has shot itself in the foot with this one, and all they're going to do is help some ACLU lawyers buy Jaguars for their wives.

The real cause of global warming

It's not SUVs, it's not cow flattus, it's not even Al Gore's bloviating. It's all due to uncontrolled prayer:
Three hundred years ago, Swiss alpine peasants implored the then Bishop of Geneva Francis de Sales to travel to their villages in order to pray over the glaciers that were invading their pasture land.

Back then, Europe in general, and the Swiss in particular had a real environmental problem -a bitterly cold and unstable climate. These mountain glaciers were expanding at unprecedented speeds- sometimes 20 feet a year. Pasture lands, farms, and entire villages were engulfed or destroyed within a generation. To make matters even worse, during the summer melt, millions of gallons of ice cold water would pour from the tops of these glaciers killing everything in sight.

Francis de Sale's prayers worked. By 1800, most of the glaciers stopped expanding, and today they are gone. Archaeologists found many Roman artifacts, that lead one to believe that 1900 years ago, most of the Swiss Alps were glacier free. There are some mountain passes open that have been closed for a thousand years.

Carbon offest that!

Bombing in Ankara

Just showed up on the wire. This is all I know so far.

Please, God, let it not be done by Kurds. We have enough troubles in Iraq without having to choose between defending them from the Turks, and selling them out. Sad history gives me an idea of which it's likely to be.

Update: Rats.
Erdoğan said the explosion took place at a time when the security forces stepped up measures for possible attacks in summer months. Five were killed in the blast, including a Pakistani, Erdoğan said. More than 60 people, including four Pakistanis, were injured. Erdoğan declined to put the blame on any terrorist organization for the blast, saying the investigation must continue. But reports indicated that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) was involved.

This is really going to complicate things in Iraq, as if it wasn't knotty enough already.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Mike Barrett is taking a hiatus to work on another book and, more importantly, spend time with his family (heaven forbid!). Meanwhile, if you haven't read The Danger Habit, now is a good time.

Rest up, Mike, and we'll see you back later in the year!

Drafting doctors to be priests of Moloch

Coming soon to a blue state near you.
Canada, which reputedly provides the most open legal access to abortion in the western world, doesn't provide access enough, said an abortion rights group last week.

Many women can't get abortions at all, or are subjected to long delays. The group's solution: Require doctors by law to perform abortions whether they like it or not.

Think this won't happen here? That's what I used to say. I was mistaken then. I don't think I am now.

Once again, we see that "choice" means doing as you're damn well told.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A great idea

In these times when cohabitation is more common than marriage, it's got to be hard for a priest to deal with those couples in his parish who are in those situations. Back in a time I'd rather not remember to clearly, my ex and I lived together, and most people assumed we were married. We attended three different churches as a couple, and in each case, I don't think anybody knew we were cohabiting except the pastor. (Communion wasn't an issue, as I was still nominally a Quaker and didn't participate in the ritual anyway.) We were told (discreetly) we couldn't become members of one church until we married, but we were still welcome at services.

It's got to be more frustrating in a Catholic parish, because there are issues surrounding communion, as well as very specific rules about divorce and remarriage. The Church having been in some disarray since the 60s, it's been kind of slow to adapt to this trend. I think other parishes could stand to address the problem as proactively as Fr. Jim Tucker's:
Twice a year, we encourage couples who are in merely civil unions or long-term cohabitation to take advantage of a program I started up a few years ago. We take these couples, most of whom have children and are together for several years, and who for whatever reason didn't seek the sacrament of matrimony when they got together. They hear it advertised at Mass, so almost all of them are regular Mass-goers, but obviously unable to receive Holy Communion or to fill leadership roles in the parish. Two married couples and I give them marriage talks, meet with them, put together their paperwork, and make sure there are no obstacles to solemnizing their marriages. Then, together with the people with whom they've taken the classes, they make their vows in the parish Mass, surrounded by fellow parishioners who've been praying for them while they've prepared. The parish pays for the music, pays for the decorations, and doesn't charge a dime. And they return to the Sacraments that night at the same time they receive the convalidation of their marriages.

The week afterward, we always get a deluge of phone calls of people who were moved by the beautiful and festive celebration and want to have their own unions blessed in the same way, as well. The event is palpably sacred, the newlyweds end up becoming some of our most active parishioners, and the communal nature of the Sacrament is made patently obvious. There's no fretting over trivial details. There's no obscene expenditure of money. There's no worrying over guest lists, as all are welcome.

(For Protestant readers, "convalidation" is the process whereby a marriage that may have had questionable validity (e.g., when there hasn't been an annulment before remarrying) is declared officially to have been validly contracted. My Lovely and Brilliant Wife and I had it done, as our wedding had taken place before we had official confirmation of my annulment, and also because the priest who married us isn't in union with Rome. He's validly ordained with apostolic succession, but not authorized to do Catholic weddings in our parish. In other words, convalidation simply acknowledges that there are no technicalities to interfere with a marriage's validity.)

There are a lot of couples living without benefit of clergy these days, and a number of those are Catholics who feel like they're on the outside looking in. If Fr. Tucker's idea catches on, maybe the Church can turn this decline of marriage around.

I'll always be an Assistant Pig-Keeper at heart

Lloyd Chudley Alexander, one of the best children's fantasy writers ever, now travels in elephants. He had cancer, the article says, and passed two weeks after his wife Janine, of 61 years. His Prydain books introduced me to the glorious world of the Mabinogion, as well as being a lovely mythological epic in their own right.

I'm a little touched by this also, because he (along with Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising books) introduced me to the Welsh language, with which I'm still very much in love. The Prydain books were chock-full of Welsh place and people names, and to look at them, they might as well have been magic in ink. When I was about 13 I ordered a self-instruction book from the library and spent days at a time trying to learn it. A couple of years later, after we moved to Seattle, I found an evening class and a Welsh choir, and that made my teenage years bearable. I still love a good gymanfa when I can get to it. I always wanted to write to him and thank him for bringing this wonderful language into my life, but I never got around to it. I hope he knows now how grateful I am.

Duw a'i bendithio.

Friday, May 18, 2007

We count the cost, so they won't

Being a parent (if you're worth a damn at it) means not just putting the kids first, but doing it in such a way that they never know how much it costs to parent. When it's their turn, they'll learn to do the same automatically. Brian says it better than I've ever seen before:

I didn't know that I grew up poor until well after the fact, having been blessed with very resourceful parents. For most of my childhood, my father was a pastor serving in small churches in rural communities in Oregon and Idaho, and I don't ever remember a time when he wasn't doing other odd jobs to supplement the family income – grocery clerk, electrician, day laborer. My mother often worked outside the home as well, and in addition, she was a wonderful homemaker. She sewed clothes for us, gardened and canned the fruits of her labor, and was an extraordinary bargain hunter. My parents' deep faith and dedication to their congregations made them respected in the community, and people often expressed their appreciation with material and financial help in times of need. The combination of faith and resourcefulness meant that we always had our needs met, and often enough, would manage to squeeze out just a little bit for fun. And sometimes, what seemed like enough to get a little ahead turned out to be just what we needed to get by...

The signs of our own humble upbringing were there, but my parents went to great lengths, even sacrificial ones, to downplay them. Every year when school started in the fall, my parents bough us new clothes and school supplies. Christmas and birthdays, while never the extravaganzas of excess we expect today, always included enough presents, both from my parents and maternal grandparents, to ensure a happy day. We had wonderful family vacations, we went to the fair, we even occasionally went to see a movie. What I didn't see were the sacrifices my parents made – doing without luxuries that they might have wanted, even making their own necessities stretch further, to give us kids what we needed (and sometimes what we wanted, as well). As a child, I didn't recognize the significance of the multicolored thread I noticed on the inside of my father's suit jacket. But I understand now. Instead of buying a new suit to wear to church, he had had my mother mend his old one numerous times, the money that might have gone to a suit instead going to God only knows what – trumpet lessons? Cub Scout dues? Groceries? Just what I had because he went without, my father never revealed, and I'll never know.

I was reminded of all of this when I was called upon in an earlier writing assignment to submit a photograph and write about what it made me think of. The picture is from a year ago. In it I am standing in my grandparents' house in Southern California, holding my son who was at the time fifteen months old. On the wall behind us hang several pictures of my ancestors. In that picture, I could see myself making a connection with them as I held my own son. Seeing them recalled to me my own father and reminded me of what he had done; seeing my son reminded me that I now understand why he did it. As a parent, I would willingly, gladly make the same kind of sacrifices for my child.

My mom, like Brian, was a rural preacher's kid. Ministers in farm country eat well, but anything that takes cash had better not be needed right away, because you're at the mercy of the collection plate. My mom tells stories about farmers who saved the double-yolked eggs for the preacher's family. On at least one occasion, my grandfather couldn't afford a new pair of pants, so Gran painted his underwear with shoe polish to hide the holes.

My mom made some different sacrifices. She'd left school to get married, and when my dad left us, she had to take a job as a school secretary to pay the bills. Our allowance was calculated yearly, and paid when the tax refund came. The Salvation Army store in The Dalles was our first and biggest stop on shopping trips, and most of the games we had were missing pieces. But our house wasn't trashy, and we never went without food, and there were little luxuries here and there. An awful lot of our making it had to do with the fact that my mom was well-liked. Most people in Goldendale had known both her and my dad back in high school. The rancher next door to my grandmother sold us freezersful meat at cost. People in our church brought us veggies from their gardens. And the mechanic down the street was sweet on her (in an innocent sort of way) and made sure our car ran.

(One thing I'm especially proud of: after she remarried, she went back to college. Today she's got a PhD in education, which is a special kind of revenge. Did I mention that she was a school secretary? in the 70s? in a small town? and a single mother to boot? Yep, you got it. Today, the pin-headed principals who used to try to chase her around the desk all have to address her as "Doctor." Hah!)

I'm just as proud of my wife. She fled a bad home situation in a Geo Metro with three kids and whatever belongings they could pack around them. She drove that tin can from San Antonio to California, and then lived homeless for about half a year. The state put them up in a different motel every night until she was able to get a job and a place to live. Even after that, it wasn't unheard of for her to divide a meal up into three portions and pretend she wasn't hungry, if it was toward the end of the month.

Me? I've single-parented with three jobs, a mountain of debt, and no vehicle. My daughter didn't know how precarious our existence was; all she knew was that we had to walk home at night. I've been to the food bank a couple of times, but she didn't go with me.

We tend to think of being "taken for granted" as a bad thing, but with kids, it may be the best compliment you can get. Our kids don't have any idea, really, what-all we've had to do to raise them. If they don't, then we've done our jobs. They'll find out when it's their turn what it takes to be a parent.

Child gets a really, really Happy Meal at the drive-through

Chicken McNuggets are just the thing for the munchies.

Dad takes boy to Disney World to kill him

No, not really. That's just what the boy's mom told him.
"I was injured on the job once, and as part of the settlement I came into a modest sum of money, which I used to buy my son's Christmas gifts one year, as well as purchase a (non-refundable) trip to Disney World. When I told my son of this, he was ecstatic, and I'm told he let everyone he knew know we were going.

"On the day I went to pick him up for our trip, he suddenly didn't want to go, and with him being about 10 years old, I thought maybe he felt he was too old for such a trip, and so cancelled the trip (again non-refundable).

"After Christmas, and before the new year, I called and asked my son if he was enjoying the new toys I bought him, and to my shock and amazement, found out his mother had sold them because, 'We don't have room.' Of course he didn't receive the pennies on a dollar she got for them. I was very upset by this, but knew there was little I could do about it, so again, I let the subject drop.

"Early after the new year his mother was remarried (and divorced within the year), and in the spring they took my son to Disney World. Upon his return my son was enthusiastically retelling the trip when I asked him why he didn't go with me.

"To this day I can still hear the words, 'Because mom said you were going to take me there to kill me.'

But of course, there's no such thing as parental alienation, is there?

A/T to Parental Alienation and other such things for both this and the one below.

The other side of the Baldwin story

I came to Alec Baldwin's defense because I thought his daughter was being manipulated into treating him the way her mother wanted her to. I still stand by that; it's the daughter that needs to be protected, not Mom or Dad. There's an excellent article on Huffpo (how often do I link to that?) saying precisely that that he should read. Having raised a daughter by myself for years, I could have benefitted from it, too.

What do you do...

... if a journalist catches you breaking the law? Why, you threaten them, of course!

Seems a student journalist at UCLA caught a Planned Parenthood worker offering to cover up for her rapist, thinking she was underage. (And not for the first time, either.)

"But... but... journalists are supposed to be on our side! I feel so betrayed! How dare you fool us like that!"

Here's the video, with subtitles (I'll watch the sound one when I get home):

What really burns my butt about this isn't abortion. Abortion is a despicable evil, but there are lots of evils in the world. What pisses me off is the way that Planned Parenthood (1) sells abortion as the preferred option, (2) makes a ton of money while pretending to be a charity, and (3) is immune to the same laws everybody else has to follow.

Health care workers are required by law to report sexual assaults, and rape of a minor certainly qualifies. But for PP to report a child rape would be to run the risk of her having less sex in the future. If they cover up instead, and encourage her to keep going at it, then they'll be able to do her next abortion, and the one after that, and so on, at several hundred dollars a pop. Hey, if you're in the wool business, you don't turn the sheep loose.

Better watch the video while you can. With $63 million in annual profits, Planned Parenthood can afford better lawyers (and maybe judges) than a college student.

H/T to the inimitable Dawn Eden.

No more swilling for a while

The other day, Pintster Ken let slip that the Tree Hugging Sister is doing her part to combat zero population growth. Congratulations, THS!

(And there's no passenger air service in this town, so I'll be harder to threaten than Ken.)

Update: Ack! Looks like I done stepped in it. I'm sorry, THS! (And if you want to fly in and beat me with a tire iron anyway, you know where to find me.) Meanwhile, mum's the word, right?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

One more on Falwell

Ann Coulter talks about the collective amnesia of the media:
Beginning in early 1998, the news was bristling with stories about a children's cartoon PBS was importing from Britain that featured a gay cartoon character, Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubbie with a male voice and a red handbag.

People magazine gleefully reported that Teletubbies was "aimed at Telebabies as young as 1 year. But teenage club kids love the products' kitsch value, and gay men have made the purse-toting Tinky Winky a camp icon."

In the Nexis archives for 1998 alone, there are dozens and dozens of mentions of Tinky Winky being gay – in periodicals such as Newsweek, the Toronto Star, the Washington Post (twice!), the New York Times and Time magazine (also twice).

In its Jan. 8, 1999, issue, USA Today accused the Washington Post of "outing" Tinky Winky, with a "recent Washington Post In/Out list putting T.W. opposite Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche, essentially 'outing' the kids' show character."

Michael Musto of the Village Voice boasted that Tinky Winky was "out and proud," noting that it was "a great message to kids – not only that it's OK to be gay, but the importance of being well accessorized."

All this appeared before Falwell made his first mention of Tinky Winky.

After one year of the mainstream media laughing at having put one over on stupid bourgeois Americans by promoting a gay cartoon character in a TV show for children, when Falwell criticized the cartoon in February 1999, that same mainstream media howled with derision that Falwell thought a cartoon character could be gay.

Teletubbies producers immediately denounced the suggestion that Tinky Winky was gay – though they admitted that he was once briefly engaged to Liza Minnelli. That's what you get, reverend, for believing what you read in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time magazine and Newsweek. Of course, Falwell also thought the show "Queer as Folk" was gay, so obviously the man had no credibility.

Preach it, Ann!

Incidentally, occasional commenter Chalice Chick came by and left some links to some venom-free remembrances of Falwell on the left. I especially like this one from Socinian. Gracious people like that balance out the Amandas and Koses.

Would you let me walk down your street...

... naked if I want to? Well, maybe if the street were in Brattleboro, Vermont. But if I tried that here, I'd probably get cited for creating a public eyesore.


Mom goes on strike against ungrateful kids.
Gina had been fed up with the kids' attitudes for quite awhile before breaking out the picket sign.

They didn't help with chores and complained when they did. And they never thanked Gina for all she did while still working as a waitress...

The final straw, Gina remembers, is Kym making the comment "You don't do anything anyway."

"Oh yeah?" Gina thought. "I'll show you me not doing anything." She made a "Mother on Strike" sign, slipped a "I'm for Mom" sign around the family dog's neck and met the school bus to lay down the new ground rules.

Shawn, Tracee and Kym were on their own.

If they wanted food, they had to cook it.

If they wanted clean clothes, Gina pointed them to the washer machine.

And -- perhaps worst of all for a teenager -- they had to ride the dreaded bus to school. Gina's days of taxi driver were over.

They lasted 18 days. That was 20 years ago, and the kids have their own kids now, and it sounds like they learned their lesson. I wish this story had been out for Mother's Day.

In fairness, I have to mention that although I do have trouble getting our kids to do household chores, they're all excellent about taking care of their little siblings. That makes up for a lot; those two are a handful. I think they'll all do pretty well when it's their turn.

A dish best served cold

I don't know if she was justified or not, but this is deliciously evil:
A Puyallup woman charged with burglary for placing a fake ad on Craigslist that invited people to take away everything in a relative's Tacoma home told detectives she did so to get back at her aunt, according to court documents.

Nichole Marie Blackwell, 28, was charged last week with one count each of second-degree burglary, first-degree malicious mischief and first-degree criminal impersonation in the incident...

"Blackwell said that she had disliked the victim for years and was upset because the victim had evicted her mother from the house in question without letting her mother get her possessions," the affidavit states.

The ad was titled "everything free," and said, "Nothing is off limits."

People took the ad at face value and carried off nearly everything, including the kitchen sink and the front picture window.

Note to self: Do not cheese this woman off. Ever.

Ain't it the truth

Via Nightfly:
Pornstar Jenna Jameson endorces Hillary.

Money quote (You can’t make this up):

The Clinton administration was the best years for the adult industry and I wish that Clinton would run again.

The Hildabeast's actual statement here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

And the left just keeps on getting classier.

Dancing on Falwell's grave. How sweet.

Movie meme

Update Thursday morning: The answers are in hidden text at the end of the post.

I didn't see this meme when Rob tagged me on it several weeks ago. This is so up my alley you wouldn't believe it. My family doesn't like watching movies with me (especially old ones) because I can't stop spouting trivia long enough for them to watch it. If there were such a thing as reincarnation, I'd want to come back as Robert Osborne.

Here's how it works: Pick out your ten favorite movies, then look them up at IMDb. In the overview at the top of each movie's page, there are "Plot Keywords," usually five of them. (Plus more, if you click the link.) Take the first five, and post them. Then the rest of us get to play movie buff and see if we can guess them.

It wasn't part of the original meme, but I couldn't resist adding a little commentary on mine. Up to you if you do or not.

1. American Abroad / Fan / Fez / Train Station / Cafe Owner
(No comment necessary on this one; it's on everybody's list.)

2. Tense / Key West Florida / Claustrophobic / War Veteran / Escape
(This one should be easy, too.)

3. Terminal Illness
(This is the only key word it had, honest. It's a pretty obscure one, but one of the most romantic films I've ever seen. Netted a Best Writing Oscar, too.)

4. Cartography / Wales / Priest / Small Community / Hill
("Priest" was a little wide of the mark, but the rest make it a little obvious, I think. The most recent film on the list.)

5. Irish Republican Army / Irish American / Catholic Priest / Homecoming / Courtship
(Gee, I wonder what this one could be. I'll bet it shows up on a lot of folks' lists, too.)

6. Eavesdropping / Masquerade / Newspaper Editor / Poetry / Library
(Three of the greatest talents in Hollywood, and the height of their greatness. Hilarious and insightful at the same time. What's not to love?)

7. Single Parent / Community / Gentle / Starting Over / Male Female Relationship
(My Lovely and Brilliant Wife and I both identified with this one more than we probably had cause to.)

8. Broadway Musical / Anvil / Love / Marching Band / Music
(Darn few musicals make the transition to screen without becoming wooden in the process. This one was the exception.)

9. Caper / Bus Stop / Car Chase / Criminal Gang / Road
(The star of this one got a chance to show what he was capable of, and it paid off in spades. Good supporting cast, too.)

10. Good Versus Evil / Horse / Prince / Revolt / Swashbuckler
(No matter how many times this one gets remade, they've all been a waste of celluloid. Stick to this one.)

Let the guessing commence! I think I'll tag Patrick, Brian, Ricki, Nightfly, Ken, and Paul.

Oh, yes, and the family: Ms. Kitty, Shannon, Covarr and my Lovely, Brilliant and Knocked-Up Wife. Some of you will probably stump me, especially the kids. But I'll bet they get all of mine first try. With eyes a-rollin'.

Update:Just in case anbody wants to know, here are the answers. Highlight if you're interested.
1. Casablanca
2. Key Largo
3. One Way Passage
4. The Englishman who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain
5. The Quiet Man
6. The Philadelphia Story
7. Murphy's Romance
8. The Music Man
9. High Sierra
10. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, with Errol Flynn)

Great snakes!

It looks like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, probably the two greatest film directors alive today, are planning to tag-team a trilogy of Tintin films.
Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are teaming to direct and produce three back-to-back features based on Georges Remi's beloved Belgian comic-strip hero Tintin for DreamWorks. Pics will be produced in full digital 3-D using performance capture technology.
The two filmmakers will each direct at least one of the movies; studio wouldn't say which director would helm the third. Kathleen Kennedy joins Spielberg and Jackson as a producer on the three films, which might be released through DreamWorks Animation.

Tintin has long been a passion project for Spielberg; he and Kennedy have held various film rights to the comedic adventure book series off and on for more than 25 years. With the rights in place, Spielberg, Jackson and DreamWorks began quietly developing the project. Jackson has also long been a fan of the comic books.

Jackson's New Zealand-based WETA Digital, the f/x house behind "The Lord of the Rings" franchise, produced a 20-minute test reel bringing to life the characters created by Remi, who wrote under the pen name of Herge.

"Herge's characters have been reborn as living beings, expressing emotion and a soul which goes far beyond anything we've seen to date with computer animated characters," Spielberg said.

"We want Tintin's adventures to have the reality of a live-action film, and yet Peter and I felt that shooting them in a traditional live-action format would simply not honor the distinctive look of the characters and world that Herge created," Spielberg continued.

The article also mentions that next Tuesday would be Herge's hundredth birthday, which I hadn't realized.

I loved the Tintin books when I was a kid, farfetched plotlines and silly ethnic stereotypes inluded. There was an innocence about them that I dearly hope the great directors will keep intact.

A/T to Tim Challies.

Larry Flynt is a gentleman

How often do you get to use a sentence like that? But even the Duke of Degeneracy can find kind words for Jerry Falwell.

Not so most of the left. The only liberal I've seen who could post about Falwell without foaming at the mouth is my Reverend Auntie, who can find it in her heart not to hope he's roasting in hell (which she doesn't believe in, anyway). She's a kind sort of person, though, who can see good in anybody. Confederate Yankee had a pretty good roundup of what the rest of the leftosphere has to say.

I also notice that in my ten years of watching the AP wire come in, Falwell is the first well-known person for whom they haven't done an obituary. I can't believe that's a coincidence. They did a series of them for Saddam Hussein and Idi Amin, but Falwell apparently is below the salt for them.

(Woops! Gotta amend that last part a little bit. There's a PDF graphic with a timeline listing every stupid or reviled thing he said, that's being sent out under the name "obit." No actual story, just a list of ways in which he offended people.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Strange bedfellows? Not really.

Amanda Marcotte and Fred Phelps show us what they have in common.

Jerry Falwell goes home

The loudest mouth in Christendom is silenced. I used to cringe when he talked to reporters, but that's all beside the point now. However much he may have gotten under folks' skins, it says a lot that he was willing to hold himself to ridicule for what he believed was right. I'm in a minority, I guess, but I think he was a good man who didn't know when to stop talking. And I'm not convinced he said half the things that are imputed to him. He loved the Lord more than anything, and that's where the rubber meets the road. Whatever else people say about me when I die, I hope they can say that.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

Welcome barbarians!

March right in; the gates are open.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Only a homophobic godbag...

...would see any problem with forcing a 12-year-old girl to watch an R-rated movie with gay sex scenes.

As Mark Shea says, tolerance is not enough. You. Will. Approve. And your children must, too. They're not your children anyway; they belong to the state. We'll show them what we want to show them. Shut up and go back to your pew. Bigot.

A vote for Romney is a vote for Satan

So says Bill Keller, televangelist, prayer expert, and – apparently – drooling imbecile.
"Romney is an unashamed and proud member of the Mormon cult founded by a murdering polygamist pedophile named Joseph Smith nearly 200 years ago. The teachings of the Mormon cult are doctrinally and theologically in complete opposition to the Absolute Truth of God's Word. There is no common ground. If Mormonism is true, then the Christian faith is a complete lie. There has never been any question from the moment Smith's cult began that it was a work of Satan and those who follow their false teachings will die and spend eternity in hell..."

He says if Romney wins the White House, millions of people will be attracted to Mormonism.

"Those who follow the false teachings of this cult, believe in the false jesus (sic) of the Mormon cult and reject faith in the one true Jesus of the Bible, will die and spend eternity in hell," he charges. "Romney getting elected president will ultimately lead millions of souls to the eternal flames of hell!"

Whew! I'm so glad he warned me. I might have voted for this guy had not Bill Keller shown me the light. And then I probably would have converted to his religion, because doesn't everybody join the church the president belongs to?

Y'see, it doesn't matter what his political principles are, or what he'll do in office. Never mind Iraq, or abortion, or the economy, or any of the actual "issues." Those are all a smokescreen. The most important quality in a president is that he have his ducks in a row on the Trinity and the afterlife. Just like Hillary and Barack, good Protestants both.

Boys willl be... loathesome

When I was in school, a bunch of guys I knew got the keys to Goldendale High School, opened the big double doors in the middle of the night, drove a Fiat inside, and took pictures in front of the library. The administration never knew about it until the pictures surfaced in the yearbook. (One of the guys was the principal's son, which explains how they got the keys.)

My dad, when he was a teenager, went out with some of his buddies to a disliked teacher's house late at night, picked up her Volkswagen, and lifted it onto her porch. To his dying day, Dad denied that he'd been in on that, but my aunt confirms that he was.

Still, I don't think either of those is in the same league with stuffing a rotting calf carcass into the ventilation system of your school. There's funny, and there's smart-assed, and then there's just plain revolting. Even teenage boys should know the difference.

Rudy is a weasel! Rudy is a weasel!

I knew Giuliani wasn't going to be the pro-life option for Republicans next year, even before I read this. (Yes, it's satire, but it's also right on the button. Have I mentioned lately that Dawn Eden rocks my world?)

Now he's doing the usual pro-abort politician's weaselly tapdance around the question of reconcilinng his ownership by the abortion industry with the religion that presumably helped him get elected. Here's the money graf:
The former mayor said last week that his differences with the Catholic Church over his support for abortion are between him, God and his spiritual adviser, not Pope Benedict XVI. He sought to avoid a head-on confrontation with the pontiff over the issue that has bedeviled Giuliani's campaign. "I don't get into debates with the pope," Giuliani told reporters. "Issues like that for me are between me and my confessor. ... I'm a Catholic and that's the way I resolve those issues, personally and privately," he said. "That's what religion is all about -- it's something that's between you and your conscience and God and then whoever your spiritual advisers are."

No, Mr. Mayor, if you're a Catholic, then you resolve those issues in conformity with Catholic teaching. If you were a Quaker, I'd expect you to be opposed to war, or at the least not working to make war more prevalent. I might not vote for you because of that position, but I'd respect you. If you were a Mormon, I would expect to see you take a stand against, say, polygamy. If you were Jewish, I wouldn't expect to see you speaking at an American Nazi Party rally.

There's no secret that being Catholic (in good standing) requires being pro-life. If Rudy had the stones a president ought to, he should say "I am not opposed to abortion, and I will allow my political principles to take precedence over my faith. I will accept excommunication as the price of that stand." I still wouldn't vote for him, as I vote pro-life, but I could respect him for choosing a master.

But to say "Well, I'm a Catholic, and I'm in favor of abortion, and there's really no conflict there, no matter what the Church says," is a descent into weaseldom. There is a conflict, a deadly one, and all his equivocating can't wish it away.

Grow a pair, Mr. Mayor. Decide where your principles come from, whether it's the Catholic Church or from Planned Parenthood. Pick a side and declare for it. Because if you don't, the voters are liable to do it for you.

Where the bones are

A writer goes in search of the final resting places of the Twelve Apostles. A cool reminder that Church history didn't end at the final chapter of Acts and pick up centuries later.
As a Peace Corps volunteer, Tom Bissell was hiking through a village in Kyrgyzstan one day, and an old Russian woman offered to take him to see the tomb of St. Matthew.

"I remember thinking: 'The tomb of Matthew? I thought he was buried in Jerusalem or Italy or somewhere like that,'" Bissell recalled in an interview with Catholic News Service. But Kyrgyzstan, he soon learned, also had a claim on the apostle's final resting place.

The woman led Bissell to the ruins of a monastery next to Lake Issyk Kul, where according to local legend the saint's relics were transported by Armenian monks in the fifth century. It was a small marker in the remote reaches of Central Asia.

"That planted the seed," Bissell said. He began to wonder about the rest of the apostles, and discovered that many of them ended up in pretty strange places.

Bissell, a highly regarded travel and nonfiction writer, is at the American Academy in Rome this year working on a book on the tombs of the Twelve Apostles.

Pretty strange places, indeed. Here's a list of where they're believed to have gone after Pentecost. India, Persia, Armenia... The Church spread far beyond just the missions of Paul that are recounted in Acts. And some of those places still have active Churches that trace their history back to their apostolic missionaries. Fascinating.

(A belated tip of the Akubra to Dappled Things.)

Our Lady of Sorrows

That title for Mary kind of sounds pretentious until you consider the source of it. If Jesus suffered for our sins, she suffered through His suffering. Sure, we all love Jesus, but nobody was closer to Him than she was, and nobody (but Him) suffered as much as she did when He was crucified. This passage from Mark Shea's new book Behold Your Mother explains it in wonderful, awful clarity:
For, of course, there are two kinds of agony: the agony we feel for ourselves and the agony we feel for another. Jesus felt all the terror of mortal flesh when He contemplated the fate that was snaking toward Him as the little trail of torches wended its way across the Kidron Valley and up the slope of the Mount of Olives on Holy Thursday evening. He sweated blood and begged to be spared. Three times He pleaded with His Father to let the cup pass from Him. But it could not pass. In that hour, His disciples slept and He was completely alone.

Except for one kindred spirit. We do not know where Mary was at this time. The Gospels are silent. But we know ordinary human experience. We know the anguish of a mother who begs God that her baby be spared the ravages of cancer and that she suffer in her child's place. We know of parents who drown in the attempt to save their children. We know of parents who push their children out of the way of oncoming cars and are killed or crippled to save them. We know the agonies of parents bereft of their sons and daughters by drunk drivers, or school violence, or the thousand idiot havocs the world wreaks on our lives. We know how powerfully their hearts cry out like David's and say, "Would that I had died instead of you!" And because of this we know that Mary could not have contemplated the terrible agonies Jesus was about to face without wishing with all her heart that she could take the blows rather than Him. Jesus' cup was to endure hanging upon the Cross. Mary's cup was to endure not hanging upon the Cross.

I can't even imagine.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Goodbye, Kate. And thanks.

Today would have been Katharine Hepburn's hundredth birthday. I still find it hard to believe she's not here for it.

Years ago, I had made the editor at The Greatest Newspaper in the Northwest™ promise me that I could do the weekly rotating column when Kate died. That happened on a Sunday, and I only heard about it Monday morning, the day it was to run, so I had to put this out fast. If ever a column wrote itself, this one did. Just because I don't think I can do better today, here it is:

Katharina: "They call me Katharina that do talk of me. "
Petrucchio: "You lie, in faith; for you are call'd plain Kate,
"And bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the curst;
"But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom..."
(The Taming of the Shrew, Act II, Scene I)

When I heard this morning that Katharine Hepburn had died, I found myself once again wondering if Shakespeare had written his play with her in mind. It's irrelevant that Shakespeare was dust in his grave centuries before the great actress was born. Women like Kate Hepburn are above such chronological technicalities.

She was everything Shakespeare's Katharina was: fiery, quick-witted, with a spirit underneath that could be gentled but never tamed.

She had style. No, more than that, she embodied style.

Almost the last of the generation that created the movie industry, Kate Hepburn is still regarded as one of the greatest actresses in history. She was personally responsible for remaking the image of women in film, simply by being herself. When she first appeared in Hollywood in 1932, women were little more than decorations for the male lead or prizes to be won by dashing heroes. The only roles written for actresses were either for chaste, demure Snow-White types or sex kittens like Jean Harlow (and later, Marilyn Monroe). Kate would have none of that. Here was a woman who would not be tied to a railroad track and scream for a man to rescue her. The daughter of a prominent suffragette, she exuded a strength that left men in awe, infatuated with her even while they revered her. Now, as she makes her final exit, women are as likely to be the hero as men, and nobody would dream of telling them to take a back seat and not upstage the leading man.

"Plain Kate?" Never that. There was nothing plain about her. When she walked into a room, it immediately centered itself around her. When she spoke, it was with a confidence and assurance that made it impossible to argue with her. By the standards of the time, she was no great beauty. She was skinny in a time when women were supposed to be curvy, with chiseled features and a face some thought masculine. Yet when she was on screen, nobody could look anywhere else. Even Spencer Tracy, her co-star and longtime lover, sometimes complained that he was background scenery beside her.

She dressed to suit herself, almost always wearing slacks in preference to a dress (unheard-of in her early days!) and with her hair in a topknot. She didn't try to make her looks the center of her career. This, I think, is why she's remembered as an actress and not merely a movie star.

"Bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the Curst" spent her younger years in one affair after another, usually with powerful figures like Howard Hughes and director John Ford. (In fact, when Ford made "The Quiet Man" in 1950, he made no secret that the redheaded shrew played by Maureen O'Hara was a portrait of Kate. ) She was married in 1928 to an obscure playwright named Ogden Ludlow, who quietly tolerated her affairs and loved her in the background. She divorced him six years later, but the pair stayed on friendly terms and spent much of the 70s together until he died in 1979. But the great love of her life was Spencer Tracy.

He was everything she was not. He was a rough-hewn Irish Catholic from Milwaukee; she was a patrician New Englander with little use for religion. He was a self-destructive alcoholic; she a near-teetotaller. They met on the set of "Woman of the Year," where she played a strong career woman who finds her new husband even stronger than she. This proved to be the pattern for both their life and their film careers.

The two made eight films together, and their names became synonymous with romantic comedy. But the twenty-year love affair between them exceeded even the standards of Hollywood. It was kept quiet to avoid hurting Tracy's wife, Louise, and his children. When he died in 1967, Kate followed the funeral procession but turned away before arriving at the church, out of respect for Louise. Even the Hollywood news media kept their secret until she went public with it after his death. Who can imagine that happening today?

Tracy died on the set of their final film, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." His final monologue was about love and commitment, and both her eyes and his are shining as he delivers it on screen. Although nobody outside of Hollywood knew it at the time, he was thanking her for love beyond that given to most men in their lives. In a way, he was expressing the love we all felt for Kate, or a woman like her; she was the spine that made him stand up straight.

So good-bye, "the prettiest Kate in all Christendom." There was never an actress like her before, and though she's the pattern today's actresses often don't even know they're following, there will never be another like her. It's hard even to write this around the lump in my throat. She was an icon, the yardstick beside which actresses are measured. She made movies what they were and are, and moved our culture in step with her.

Good-bye, Kate. And thanks. For everything.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Prayer requests

I've run across three today that need mentioning:

Emily's 11-year-old pseudo-nephew (the relationship is complicated) is being tested for leukemia.

This little guy is already fighting leukemia, at five months old. So far, he's winning, but it's never certain. (Link from Lisa.)

Heather Price went to the hospital suddenly today with chest pains. Her husband Dale is with her and updating periodically.

Ready, set... pray!

Update: Looks like Heather's home. Everything's fine, with both her and the baby.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Lord giveth...

... and giveth, and just keepeth on giving!

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Commentary on Commentary

Yesterday I designated Steve Camp's post about Frank Beckwith as "the Bad." I gotta stand by that, really; he didn't even consider Dr. Beckwith's reasons, but merely went into a list of the evils of Romanism.

However, I did hit him with a list of questions about Calvinist attitudes toward salvation, which seemed problematical in regard to Dr. Beckwith. Steve didn't take offense at my questions (although they could very easily have been taken badly), but instead gave clear, friendly answers that made good sense. However much I may disagree with his posts (and when they concern Catholic Christianity, I invariably do), Steve's a gent.

We got us a Carnival!

The Catholic Carnival (this'd be number 118) is up over at The Catholic Spitfire Grill. Lots of good stuff there.

Romney Round-Up

I haven't made much secret of being a Romney supporter for 2008, but the spate of stories in the news are making him look better, if only because the MSM is trying to undercut him where they can.

Ann Romney donated to Planned Parenthood. She gave them $150 thirteen years ago, when her husband was still pro-choice. Wooptie-frimpin'-doo. Last year (before he was even considering a presidential run) he gave Massachusetts Right to Life fifteen grand.

There's a new movie coming out about the Mountain Meadows massacre that may taint Romney with guilt by association. Oy! Nobody connects John Kerry with the Spanish Inquisition, or John McCain with the burning of Servetus. To the best of my knowledge, Mitt Romney was nowhere near Mountain Meadows in 1857.

Al Sharpton spews bigotry. In other news, water is wet and the sun rises in the east.
Sharpton told CNN's Paula Zahn on Wednesday evening he was responding to Hitchens' claim that Mormons are an example of how religion promotes racism because the church had excluded blacks.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not grant the priesthood to males of all races until 1978.
Sharpton said if Mormons did not in the past see blacks as equal, they're not "real worshippers of God because I do not believe God distinguishes between people. That is not bigotry. That's responding to their beliefs."
It was Hitchens who "attacked the Mormons," not him, Sharpton said. "I'm the one that belongs to a race that couldn't join the Mormons and I'm the one that's the bigot," he said, calling on Romney to explain his views on his church's position on blacks.

Okay, let's take this a step at a time. First, God distinguishes between people all the time, although I doubt he uses ethnic criteria nearly as much as Sharpton. (We are talking about the same God that chose one particular race for several millennia, aren't we?) It wasn't all that long ago, though, that Protestant churches were de facto segregated, and in some places, de jure as well. Sharpton was ordained in the Church of God in Christ, and now serves at Bethany Baptist Church in New York. I don't know what the affiliation of BBC is, but if it's Baptist, it probably either started out segregated or sprang from a church that was. The COGIC is historically a mostly-black denomination. Neither one currently has official rules regarding the color of its members, but rules aren't always official, either. Sometimes it's just attitude. I can't find any pictures of Bethany Baptist, but I'll bet you wouldn't find a whole lot of white faecs in the crowd. Exclusive, no. But not integrated, either.

But the Mormon Church's rule was official, says Sharpton. No, not necessarily. It's a matter of much debate whether the ban on blacks in the priesthood was ever part of an actual revelation from God, or just sort of a concensus among leaders that were in step with the racial attitudes of the 19th century. In general, in fact, the Mormon Church was way ahead of the Protestant establishment that Sharpton espouses.

Sharpton shows a lot more ignorance when he says ""I'm the one that belongs to a race that couldn't join the Mormons..." No, Al, you're not. There has never been a race that couldn't join the Mormon Church. There was a race that couldn't be ordained as priests in the LDS Church. Huge difference there. By your logic, the Catholic Church should consist only of unmarried men. (Yes, I know priesthood isn't quite the same thing for Mormons. But it's not an automatic benefit of membership, either.) Outside of priesthood, blacks could do anything that whites of comparable ability and sex could do. Even in the Temple at Kirtland, they were specifically welcomed. Sharpton couldn't attend a Temple ceremony even today, but then, neither could I. (And somehow I doubt that a guy who was "ordained" at the age of ten takes ordination all that seriously anyway.)

When the ban on black ordination was lifted, Mitt Romney was 30 years old. How many under-30-year-olds are in a position to make sweeping changes in even a local church, let alone one that counts its members in the millions? And although switching churches based on those policies might be feasible for someone like Sharpton, Mormons are more like Catholics in that regard. They stick with the Church they believe Christ founded, whether they like everything about it or not. It's "The Church."

So is it bigotry? Well, that's kind of a fluid term, but a safe rule of thumb is to reverse it. If Romney had said, "I won't support Al Sharpton for office, because his church is anti-white and Tawana Brawley is the proof," there would be such a firestorm unleashed that Jesse Jackson would go blind from all the photo flashes. I won't pick on him for saying that Mormons don't believe in God; that was just sloppy phrasing. (Although I do think he was subtly trying to remind Catholics and Evangelicals of the theological divide.)

But he was attempting to tar Romney with a racist brush for policies he had no control over, which are no longer in place. There are only two possibilities: either Sharpton is so pig-ignorant that he shouldn't be allowed in front of a live microphone without a muzzle, or he was deliberately lying. Given Sharpton's history, I tend to lean toward the latter.

Yes, Al Sharpton is a bigot. So what's new?

And finally, Romney is making a good showing in the polls. Aaaahhh. That's what this is all about. The MSM is scared loose-boweled that a Republican who is pro-life, faithfully married to one woman, proven capable of handling a budget, and telegenic on top of it might have a chance. When the media are forced to beat up on a candidate for his virtues beause they can't find enough vices, then that says a lot about the man.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

No sneers, just prayers...

... for Tammy Faye. The poor woman's been mocked enough in her life. I hope if this is the end of it, God will take her with the dignity she didn't have on earth.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Prayers needed

For Dave and everyone in the path.

A/T to Ken and the other Pintsters.

Going where you're sent - on either side of the Tiber

I guess I should have more to say about the Frank Beckwith reversion than just a pile of links below. Actually, it's kind of fortuitous, as it ties in with a post I wanted to make anyway.

Back when I first reviewed his book, Michael Barrett said to me in an e-mail: "This may sound strange but I view that as joining the Mother Ship. I think we all report up through the Catholic church [as it was originally intended] whether we realize it or not." (Bracketed text added by Mike for clarification.) And recently, I've been having a conversation in the comboxes with Pastor Paul about Mary and the Church. (And I really, really need to pick back up on the conversation about the Sacraments as well. Bad Joel!)

All this is really something I enjoy a lot. Having been raised in a strongly Evangelical family (by a preacher's daughter), I love talking with pastors, as they usually have a theological understanding a long way beyond mine. I can learn a lot. One of the parts of my job at The Greatest Newspaper in the Northwest™ that I loved best was when I got to edit a monthly Christian magazine and get columns from local pastors. I got to know some brothers in Christ that strengthen my faith even after the magazine folded. Honestly, I'm a whole lot more comfortable around Protestant ministers than around priests. (You could count on your fingers the priests I've met in my life, which may have something to do with it. But mainly, I think I have more in common with Protestant pastors, theology aside. We speak the same language.)

One thing I don't want to do, though, is proselytize at them. With laymen, I might, although I'm not all that great a salesman. Mostly, with Protestant friends, I settle for explaining why I believe something that the Catholic Church teaches, not why they should. But I especially don't want to do that to pastor friends, and here's why:

I agree with Mike's analogy of the Mother Ship. The Protestant Reformation was a drastic thing, and I wish it hadn't happened, but frankly, as a Catholic, I don't think I have any right to bellyache or bloviate about it. If our leadership had removed its collective ecclesiastical head from its butt, Luther would never have had anything to nail to the door at Wittenburg. His original complaint was about simony and corruption; the theological schism came later, when the hierarchy wouldn't listen to him.

Be that as it may, the Reformation did happen, and the Lord brought good things out of it in the long run. Had there been no schism, would there have been a Bunyan, or a C. S. Lewis, or an Isaac Watt? Without the competition for converts, would the missions in the New World have been pursued so assiduously? The Protestant departure forced the Church to clean house then, and still keeps us on our toes today.

Alas, there are theological and ecclesiological issues that divide Catholic from Protestant, and I don't really think that we're going to see those resolved until the Lord comes back. Although we all pray for Christian unity, there's always an unspoken caveat that says "provided we're all united in my denomination." The Mother Ship is still there, but she's orbited by hundreds, maybe thousands, of smaller vessels, and always will be.

And those vessels need captains, and officers, and crew, just as much as the Mother Ship. Mike pastors a church that serves a specific need in the Body of Christ; he ministers to people whose church history has hitherto been, well... spotty, maybe. He's reaching out to people who perhaps don't feel the welcome in the Body that we want to extend to them. And people who would never approach a priest in a collar will talk to Mike in a T-shirt or a wetsuit without stammering.

Paul shepherds a small church in Montana. He's just getting started as an ordained pastor, after a career in youth work, and he's also being the voice of Jesus to kids who may not hear the Gospel anywhere else, at least not anywhere that they'd trust. Paul and Mike are filling a need, a desperate need, and they're making some serious sacrifices to do it. The Lord is using them.

Suppose I were a truly great apologist, so great that my scintillating arguments could usher these men into the Catholic Church. (Yes, and suppose I had X-ray vision and a Batmobile, while we're at it. I don't flatter myself that much.) Well, probably God would have some use for them there; He uses anybody who is willing to be used. But what kind of Christian would I be if I convinced them to leave the roles that God has placed them in? The people at Coast Vineyard Church and Lolo Community Church (have I got those names right, guys?) are Christians in need of leaders, and it's not right for us on the Mother Ship to try to get them to abandon those posts. I don't care for sheep-stealing, where one church tries to swell its numbers by luring away members from another. How much more distasteful is shepherd-stealing?

This is my problem with the Coming Home Network, and ministries like that. I don't want to run them down; ministers who do switch feet often pay a heavier price than laypeople, and desperately need support. But it seems to me that a lot of energy is spent targeting Protestant pastors, as though there were a bounty on each person led to Rome, and triple score for clergy. (Update: Patrick points out that Coming Home Network is a support group rather than an outreach ministry. I agree that support seems to be the focus, but looking at their site I also see some of what looks like dangling bait... "Psst! Hey, pastor! Check this out!" Maybe that's just general apologetics and I'm reading too much into it, I don't know.)

It looks as though the Lord has called Francis Beckwith back to the Mother Ship. I know He called me there. He may well be calling any number of Protestants across the Tiber, maybe even ones I know. If so, maybe He'll use me. But unless and until the Lord makes that call, it's our place as Catholics to share as much as we can with our non-Catholic brothers, not to maneuver them onto our side. There are few things I love more than talking about the things we believe that other Christians misunderstand, explaining why what we believe isn't as silly or as weird as it looks. And in the course of it, I learn things I wouldn't know otherwise, both about my own faith and the one I left. Heck, I've learned more about Protestant theology since I became Catholic than I ever knew before. I still think that where there's a discrepancy the Catholic Church is right, but I don't have to convince anybody else of that.

So Mike, and Paul, and Doug, and Tim and David, and Jeff, and Timotheos, and all the other pastors I know, thank you for what you do for the Lord, and for His Body. If you end up being called to the Catholic Church, the red carpet will be out for you. If I never share a pew with you, at least we'll share heaven. Meanwhile, God's got our respective jobs planned out for us, and I think you guys are doing Him proud.