Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent I: Quiet

"I'm heading for a place of quiet, where the sage and sweetgrass grow..."

(Music: "Quiet" by Paul Simon. Video produced by Bob Carlton.)

Rorate Caeli

Drop down dew, ye heavens,
    from above,
    and let the clouds rain
    the Just One.


Be not angry, O Lord,
    and remember no longer
    our iniquity:
Behold the city of thy sanctuary
    is become a desert,
Sion is made a desert.
Jerusalem is desolate,
    the house of our holiness and of thy glory,
    where our fathers praised thee...
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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Attention Shoppers!

What happened yesterday, at a Wal-Mart store in Nassau County, New York, embodies everything this writer despises about the Christmas season as it is celebrated in America.

As we mentioned yesterday, this is where the doors opened at five in the morning, and a stampede of some two thousand shoppers trampled an employee by the name of Jdimytai Damour to death. Whatever those consumers may feel about the tragic events of yesterday, they may rest secure in the knowledge that a man died, so that they could be fortunate enough to purchase "a Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV for $798, a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28, a Samsung 10.2 megapixel digital camera for $69, and DVDs such as 'The Incredible Hulk' for $9."

They say that our economy is in trouble. They say that the "bread and butter" issues are more critical to the Nation's future than trifling matters like the protection of human life from abortion and so on. The pundits have assured us that our moral compass can wait while we restore our capitalist system to its former good health. Perhaps this is all the proof we need, that the Nation's economy is the least of our worries.

Those who believe otherwise, can be the ones to explain it to Jdimytai Damour's family. May he rest in peace.
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Buy Nothing Day is an informal day of protest against consumerism observed by social activists. Typically celebrated the Friday after Thanksgiving in North America and the next day internationally, in 2008 the dates will be November 28 and 29 respectively. It was founded by Vancouver artist Ted Dave and subsequently promoted by the Canadian Adbusters magazine.

The first Buy Nothing Day was organized in Vancouver in September of 1992 "as a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption." In 1997, it was moved to the Friday after American Thanksgiving, which is one of the top 10 busiest shopping days in the United States. Outside of North America, Buy Nothing Day is celebrated on the following Saturday. Despite controversies, Adbusters managed to advertise Buy Nothing Day on CNN, but many other major television networks declined to air their ads. Soon, campaigns started appearing in United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, the Netherlands, and Norway. Participation now includes more than 65 nations.

While critics of the day charge that Buy Nothing Day simply causes participants to buy the next day, Adbusters states that it "isn't just about changing your habits for one day" but "about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste."

(Source: Wikipedia)

To learn more about Buy Nothing Day (if only for next year), click here. So much for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
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More Giving Thanks

Victor Davis Hanson had some "politically-incorrect reasons to be optimistic on Thanksgiving Day." Some of them bear a remarkable resemblance to my own.

The question is not whether America is in decline, but whether it is in decline at a more rapid pace than true of Europe, Russia, or Asia. And one bright spot in the otherwise dark economic news will be the resilience of the United States...

The media violated all the classical cannons of fairness and objectivity in this presidential campaign. Now they are in a dilemma, since most of their long-voiced objections about Bush won’t be operative any more... as they dream of reasons why Gitmo is not that bad, or why keeping the Bush tax cuts for a bit will stimulate the economy, or why wiretapping on suspected terrorists, on reflection, isn’t really that subversive... the media has lost credibility and will have to start over from square one...

I just returned from visiting an ill relative at Fresno Community Hospital in downtown Fresno... I would wager that many did not have health plans in the sense of employer-provided HMOs. But someone was giving them health care, and sophisticated surgery as well... Most who denigrate American medicine know nothing of the alternative...

Once again, I note from mail and the postings that critics on the hard Left continue to lack humor; when they should be ecstatic with the triumph of Obama and the new majority in the Congress, they seem instead curiously consumed by their petty anger and bitterness.

Even though I had the day off, I was in DC today to take care of a few things, and went to the sports bar where I always eat lunch on payday. The place was very empty on a day when the whole town is just as empty. Situated across the street from the Executive Office Building and the White House, it was once the favorite haunt of Clinton appointees. And so it will be again. What there probably won't be, are any "counter-inaugural" demonstrations. Maybe the Republicans are too busy having a life, to go into town and buy up tee-shirts with cheezy pictures of Obama with Martin Luther King (who was a Republican) and President Kennedy (another beneficiary of the Chicago political machine).

Maybe taking the long view of things makes it easier to be thankful. For that, it helps to have a command of history, and a longer memory than people who get their opinions from watching The View.

POSTSCRIPT: I had to buy an auger today to take care of an indoor plumbing malfunction. I could have gone to a "big box" store, but on a day like today, thank God for one of the few mom-and-pop hardware stores left in Arlington County. Things could have been as bad as they were in Nassau County, NY, where a Wal-Mart employee was trampled by a mob of shoppers with more important things on their minds than a sense of proportion. After being given CPR, the unidentified man was later pronounced dead.

Who says the economy is in trouble, when Americans are prepared to trample a man to death, all in the quest to buy more stuff?
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Bullies. I was tormented by them my entire life, until ten years ago. That was when I had it stopped.

For several years prior to that, my supervisor was an ex-Marine, ex-Special Ops, probably an alcoholic, definitely possessing an anger/attitude problem. "Butch" was also one of the most talented illustrators on the East Coast. This was all that was needed by the nimrods who hired him to bring our organization back to respectability, after several years of direction by a budget analyst, of whom conventional wisdom said his only reason for getting the job, was that his boss owed his daddy a favor. (Your tax dollars at work, folks.) This new supervisor, on the other hand, was eminently qualified, at least on paper. He also came in with a "manifest destiny" of sorts, which meant reminding us all of our place, especially the "senior designer," which was me.

So, after most of the nimrods left -- political appointees from the elder Bush years; more about those losers later -- Butch was still here. He loved humiliating me in front of co-workers, clients, other managers, you name it. And he could get away with it too. He called me into his office one day, and described in vivid detail how he would hunt down my family members one by one if he wanted to carry out a vendetta. My performance evaluation one year went something like this: "You're doing the work, David, but a lot of people just don't like you." Once he even grabbed a piece of paper out of my hand and pushed me, in front of witnesses. Around here, that's simple assault. Anyone else would have been terminated that day. I don't know why the EEO officer didn't think I had a case, or why the union local didn't help. I do know the union's attorneys said I had a case against the local for being a bunch of screwballs. I also know, that had it been a case of a white supervisor and a black employee... but never mind that for now.

Did I try to leave? Oh, sure. But it's hard to do when a) you can count all the openings for graphic designers in the Federal government on one hand, b) two other colleagues from your own office are also putting in for it, and c) your supervisor essentially lies in giving you a bad rating for it. So with a pension to consider, not to mention child support, I was stuck.

Then one day, during the Clinton years, we got a new Director of Communications (our parent office). She went about re-organizing the entire staff into marketing teams. This put me out of his reach. Still, he told me in a staff meeting that he could still order me around, and the Big Director nodded in assent. That's when I hatched my devious plan.

One day I sent out a memo on a job-related matter. Butch was one of those who got a courtesy copy. He yelled at me for getting him involved by doing that, and used a reference implying an unnatural relationship with my mother. I knew the Director, who was political, would go out of her way not to appear racist. Her deputy had no such baggage. So when I wrote up the incident, I sent it to the deputy, leaving her out of it. This memo forced a meeting with me, Butch, and several other managers. After denying the entire incident, he proceeded to berate me in front of the others. By this time, they had found his antics to be too distasteful. He wasn't aware of that yet. I was. After showing himself for the lout that he was, he stormed out of the meeting, after which every manager in the room apologized to me profusely. This included his own boss, who sat there dumbfounded while I tore him a new one, for allowing the whole thing to occur in the first place.

The union had sent a representative, who suggested I might need counseling. That was the extent of her usefulness, for which modern medicine still has no cure.

What happened to Butch? He was "kicked upstairs" into a useless "special assistant" position, only to leave quietly about a year later. The details were fuzzy, but I was told there was some impropriety involved, and they gave him a choice. Butch now runs his own very successful art gallery. I am very happy for his success. I am even happier for mine, especially in the knowledge that, along with this incident, at least fifteen years of incompetent and dysfunctional management of our office -- the failings of one paper-hanging pinhead after another -- came to an end.

The big showdown occurred ten years ago this week. I have known little fear of anything or anyone since then. Although a perennial threat since childhood, bullies no longer bother me, even the ones I meet in bars. What's more, nobody at the workplace with a title ever gives me any grief either. I get respect, dammit. Butch made this possible, and I will never forget his legacy, or the great gift he left to me. Should we ever meet again, I just want to tell him one last time... to kiss my @$$.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

“Nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven...”

Everybody in DC knows that the worst night to have to leave town is tonight. But wherever you are, you've probably decided to stay close to home and hearth. That means providing the culinary experience of a lifetime tomorrow, doesn't it? Well, get your notepad out for the shopping list, because mwbh is here to help. First, we'll start with a recipie for cranberry sauce with port wine. None of this "cooking sherry" either. If you can't sneak in a good snort while hiding out in the kitchen, what's the point?

But wait, there's more. Here we have a pumpkin pie that's sure to be as audacious as the guy who shows you how to make it. How do we know that Peter Skuse is audacious? Because he says: "I'll show you how to easily cook a delicious traditional 3-course Thanksgiving dinner in less than 90 minutes. Even if you've never been in a kitchen before in your life!" Well, it's too late to save us from ourselves this Thanksgiving, but we'll get the DVD while it's available for a special low price, and see about Christmas!

Just go to thanksgivingdinnerin90mins.com for the gateway to domestic tranquility.

Bon appetit.
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Noonan Revisited

In this segment from MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Wall Street Journal columnist and recently-unfocused pundit Peggy Noonan explains her theory, of why the mainstream media is attempting to make Sarah Palin the face of the Republican party.

There is, of course, the possibility that Palin is newsworthy. But, hey, how can something so straighforward get you a spot on a major network, I ask you?
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Monday, November 24, 2008

My Byzantine Moment

One of the areas of my former marriage which survived the devastation, was my association with the Greek Catholic Church, through the mother of my son. The granddaughter of Slovak immigrants, it was the church in which her mother grew up. While ritual affiliation in the Church is actually passed through the father, she chose her mother's for her own. When we married, it was in such a church.

I have belonged to -- oh, maybe seven or eight Roman Rite parishes in the 28 years I've lived in the DC area. But the little Ruthenian church just outside the Beltway has carried me on its roster for virtually all that time. Even after his mother left, I would take Paul to the School of Religion on the weekends that I had him. I used to be in the Parish Talent Show every year. I used to work Bingo on Tuesday evenings, or at the annual Parish Festival.

When Paul became old enough to be an acolyte (and they use that term for the boys, so get over it), his mother said he wasn't interested. I had already learned to ignore her by that time. I admonished him to do it for one year for me, and if he wanted to quit after that, he would have no quarrel with me. He served for six years, and was one of the best before he retired.

I used to be welcome to serve as well, but stopped after Paul got to a certain age. There was another reason, too.

It is a small parish, and while not as "ethnic" as it used to be, is pretty much like a small town. The people who worship there are truly the salt of the earth, don't get me wrong. But at some point, you're either in, or you're out. Sooner or later, as I became more active, I would find out where I stood. No one ever said, you're not welcome here. It would only take one or two self-appointed Poobahs to get that message across in their own special way.

After a while, you long to tell a few people where to they can put their indignation. Until science finds a cure, some people are beyond fixing. Especially when they wear their papal honors on their sleeve (but that's another story...).

To this day, I am still haunted by the spiritual tradition of the East; so much so, that I considered becoming an Orthodox Christian in the mid-1990s. And until I became the Master of Ceremonies at the Roman parish where I work now, I was a "Christmas and Easter" Byzantine Catholic. That's been for over a year now. And so, when I came across this clip at New Liturgical Movement, showing St Elias Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Brampton, Ontario, I was brought home again.

Were I ever to acquire a farm or an estate and build a private chapel there (and I would, you know), it would be a mix of East and West. This is why.
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

All I really gotta do is live and die...

In the Traditional Roman calandar, today is "Dominica Vigesima quarta et ultima post Pentecosten," or "The (24th and) Last Sunday After Pentecost." The gospel tells of Our Lord's warning of the End of the World, as foretold by Daniel. Today's homily at St John the Beloved reminded us of what Catholics know assuming they're not entirely dim as "The Four Last Things" -- Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell -- and how we should live every day of our lives as if it were our last.

"Live every day... as if it were our last." That gives way to a lot of Greeting Card Spirituality, but it really doesn't have to. This is the time of year when we'll be the most tempted to take the wrong things entirely too seriously. And no, don't tell me you obsess over every excruciating detail of the perfect Christmas "for the children." I have very unpleasant memories of that neurosis from a former life. I can assure you that the Thanksgiving Days and the Christmas Days I spent alone, ordering a holiday dinner from Boston Market, setting the good china for a table for one, and seeing a matinee, were preferable to the madness that missed its entire point.

As if by coincidence, I came across this clip from Alabama, singing "I'm In A Hurry (And Don't Know Why)." This was a 1992 hit co-written by Randy Van Warmer and Roger Murrah. Van Warmer was an American songwriter and guitarist, best known for his 1979 recording "Just When I Needed You Most." (The instrumental break of this song is dominated by an autoharp. Only one other major pop star made the most of that instrument -- of all people, John Sebastian of The Lovin' Spoonful.) The song reached number four in the Billboard Hot 100 in September of 1979, and number eight in the UK, where this performance appeared on BBC's "Top of the Pops." He also had songs recorded by a host of Nashville acts, including Alabama, Chet Atkins, Suzy Bogguss, Dilly Parton, Charley Pride, Doug Stone, Conway Twitty and Confederate Railroad.

Sadly, Van Warmer died of leukemia in 2004, shortly before his fiftieth birthday. Here's hoping he was ready.
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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another Bold Fresh... Guy

I'm currently reading the latest book by Fox News Channel journalist and commentator Bill O'Reilly, entitled A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity.

Most of us don't get to where we are in a vacuum. We are shaped by the influences of our youth leading up to the present. I believe it was Vladimir Lenin who once said: "Give me a child until he is five years old, and I will own him for the rest of his life." He was wrong about most things, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Even after nearly thirty years -- just over half my life, nearly all of my adult life -- living and working in the Nation's capital, I am still a small town boy from Ohio at heart, and I always will be. The gift of the Catholic faith from my parents did not merely lay down a set of rules and outward practices; it shaped the way in which I view the world, and my place in it.

So it is with O'Reilly, albeit with a New York state of mind. Early in the book, I identify with how he felt going to college amidst the antiwar protests, the drug culture, and so on. We're about six years apart in age, and in the mid-1970s, I caught the tail end of what he was going through earlier. He's also a wiseguy, by his own admission. Like me, it gets him into trouble, but it also proves to be an asset. Part of any self-awareness is accepting the good, the bad, and the ugly, turning any of them to one's advantage. God made us in spite of our faults, the result of the sin of Adam. He loves us in spite of our faults, and with grace conquering nature, we overcome the limitations of our faults.

So I'm looking forward to reading the rest of his book. He pretty much writes the way he talks, and if you saw him on Letterman this past year, you know he doesn't take any $#!† from anybody, including the audience.

He also won't take a sob story from the auto industry...

Romney says that if the unions don't renegotiate, U.S. auto companies will never be able to compete in the global market no matter how much money they borrow.

So, for our dazed senators and representatives the equation should be: If the unions won't bend, we won't lend.

But the head of the House Financial Services Committee, the brilliant Barney Frank, disagrees with Romney and calls his analysis "union bashing." Frank, who said last July that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were "in good shape going forward," submits that the autoworkers union should be applauded for promoting "income equality."

Swell, Barney, but here's the rub: If the company goes out of business there will be no income at all. Am I getting through here, congressman?

Probably not. Until science finds a cure...

We need to keep an eye on these clowns before they give away the store at our expense, then vote themselves another damn pay raise. We also need to keep an eye on guys like Bill O'Reilly, who appears nightly on the only news channel that could still cover a house fire without showing up at the wrong address.

What a great American. HOO-rah!
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Friday, November 21, 2008

It’s beginning to look a lot like... well, you know. We can now look forward to weeks of perfectly dreadful Christmas specials on television, including perfectly dreadful children's specials. Then again, there is A Charlie Brown Christmas, which aired on CBS from its debut in 1965 through 2000, and on ABC from 2001 until the present. "The story touches on the over-commercialization of Christmas, and serves to remind viewers of the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ, continuing a theme explored by satirists such as Stan Freberg and Tom Lehrer during the 1950s." (Wikipedia)

Also a theme yet untouched by the PC Thought Police -- so far.

For this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy, we show a video clip from that story -- with a twist, namely the soundtrack.

"Hey Ya!" was written and produced by André 3000, part of the hip hop duo OutKast, in 2003. The song received praise from contemporary music critics, and it won "Best Urban/Alternative Performance" at the 46th Grammy Awards.

Lend me some sugar. I am your neighbor.
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Justice for Joe?



Helen Jones-Kelley is the twit bureaucrat who is Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, and who used her position to conduct unwarranted searches of a private citizen's personal records, for partisan political activity. In a move that was way to kind for her, she has been suspended for a month without pay, after numerous failed attempts to weasel her way through official scrutiny, including the state legislature, and the state Inspector General. (Had she been a Federal employee, she would have been fired.)

We're giving Joe the video spotlight one more time. We're doing it 'cuz represents the little guy, he's a fellow Ohioan, and he's being interviewed by Megyn Kelly. What more can you ask for?
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“Where's the Love?” The Rest of the Story

There's one thing you learn in a town like Washington, and that is, if the story is big enough, you never quite hear all of it. Most of the time it really doesn't matter. Sometimes it does. A case in point of the latter is the photo-op for the world leaders at the recent G-20 Summit. For at least one whole news cycle, everybody thought Bush was being ignored, due to his (supposedly) having been a bully for the last eight years. One look at this clip, and you get that impression. The only problem is, that's not what happened! The political blogs are dumping on CNN's Rick Sanchez big time for this. But the truth is, sins of omissions such as these are common in the mainstream media these days.

At least he didn't try to give German Chancellor Merkel another back rub. EWWWW!

(We'll have a second clip up with the real deal, as it becomes available.)
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Big Brother Brings Hope and Change

The most likely candidate for Attorney General has an opinion about regulating the internet.

The court has really struck down every government effort to try to regulate it. We tried with regard to pornography. It is gonna be a difficult thing, but it seems to me that if we can come up with reasonable restrictions, reasonable regulations in how people interact on the Internet, that is something that the Supreme Court and the courts ought to favorably look at. - May 28, 1999 NPR Morning Edition

Sounds perfectly reasonable, right? I mean, we don't want our kids getting to porn sites or terrorist groups, right? Well, the Courts have NOT "favorably look[ed] at" the idea, and there's a reason:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That would be the First Amendment, in case you didn't get enough clues from that quotation. You know the sad part? There are "liberals" who voted for the winner this year, who are going to be perfectly okay with this. At first. I don't see anything "liberal" about that, do you? Developing...

(H/T to Ed of Hot Air.)
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Self-Awareness

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Deadlines

...should be set
by the person who has
    the most control over things,
        the most authority to enforce it, and
            the most to lose if it is missed.


The above was something I read when starting out as a designer nearly thirty years ago.

I am always amazed at the number of people, in the course of my career, who lord their authority over others, in making demands to get a job done, yet cannot keep their own house in order. I cannot tell you how many times a mid-level manager at my agency, has complained to me of a report that is delayed in going to press, when he cannot get his own staff to provide a correct manuscript. I've been in the position of watching a program analyst (what they call a mid-level Government bureaucrat for want of a better term) on the phone calling for substantive alterations to a job, even as it is being prepared to go to the printer. And these are the same idiots to whom that same manager gives promotions.

One day recently, I was going through some old material to throw away, and I found it in a printing company newsletter. In all these years, I have tried to find this maxim on the internet, and no search engine will find it.

Until now.
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Obama, now that you work for me...

Chuck Norris tells the President-Elect how it's going to be:

The election is over. No more promises. No more words. You might work well in a team, but this time, you don't have congressional members to hide behind. You're on your own -- leading the pack -- and the whole country is watching. I, especially, am watching.

A sign at the door of Chuck Norris' house reads: "We Don't Call 911." Obviously that last sentence is not to be taken lightly.

(Let the Chuck Norris facts begin.)
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How Obama Got Elected

John Ziegler has it all figured out, and inasmuch as he completely justifies everything I've written on this topic, he is obviously brilliant. Hell, he'd be brilliant anyway, because he sets out to demonstrate that...

...millions of Americans were shocked that a man of Barack Obama's limited experience, extreme liberal positions and radical political alliances could be elected President of the United States. For many of these Americans, the explanation was rather simple... the news media, completely enamored with Obama, simply refused to do their job.

Ziegler both conducted an admittedly-non-scientific exit poll on Election Day, as well as commissioned a more scientific Zogby poll to reinforce his exit poll. All this for a documentary in progress, on the role of the mainstream media in the 2008 election. That documentary is entitled Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected. You can watch him discuss it on Fox News Channel's Hannity and Colmes (complete with Colmes embarrassing himself for our continued viewing pleasure), as well as visit the website, HowObamaGotElected.com.

Be sure not to miss that quote from George Washington about the importance of "enlightened... public opinion." He just HAS to be turning over in his grave.
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Soul Men: A Tribute Thirty Years After

Thirty years ago tonight, this great act appeared live on NBC's Saturday Night Live. Growing out of the "Bee Band" comedic performances on SNL, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi appeared as their alter egos "Elwood Blues" and "Joliet Jake Blues" respectively. Together they were known as -- what else? -- "The Blues Brothers."

In this performance of Sam and Dave's "Soul Man," they are joined by one of the finest rhythm and blues lineups in recent years: Steve "the Colonel" Cropper, rhythm guitar; Donald "Duck" Dunn, bass guitar; Murphy "Murph" Dunne, keyboards; Willie "Too Big" Hall, drums; Tom "Bones" Malone, trombone; "Blue Lou" Marini, saxophone; Matt "Guitar" Murphy, lead guitar; and Alan "Mr. Fabulous" Rubin, trumpet. (There is one other person in the horn section whom I cannot identify.) These gents also appear with Aykroyd and Belushi in the 1980 film also named "The Blues Brothers." The plot was pretty lame, but the car chase scenes were mildly amusing, and some of the greatest R&B/soul artists of all time made cameo appearances. Not to mention Cab Calloway.

This second clip is my personal favorite cameo, featuring the late James Brown, and (unfortunately) interspersed with other scenes from the movie.

One interesting thing about lead guitarist Matt Murphy, is that he used his bare thumb as a flatpick for lead work, which is quite rare. Only two other guitarists played lead that way to my knowledge; the late jazzman Wes Montgomery, and a guy who backed Ricky Nelson on television whose name escapes me.

I could use a little help here. Where are my music trivia buffs?
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Monday, November 17, 2008

The Warning

If you can watch this entire video clip, you are made of stronger stuff than I am. A man and his wife, who years ago set off explosives, at the same Federal buildings in Washington that were known targets of foreign terrorists on "9-11," and who nonetheless sleep pretty well at night in their Hyde Park mansion, had the audacity to get on television and fawn over the election-night love-fest in Chicago.

David Horowitz is a writer and activist. The son of two life-long members of the Communist Party, Horowitz was once leader of the 1960s "New Left," and an avowed Marxist. He later renounced this philosophy to became an advocate for conservatism. In 2001, following the attacks in New York and Washington, he wrote the following:

In my experience, what drives most radicals are passions of resentment, envy and inner rage. Bill Ayers is a scion of wealth. His father was head of Detroit’s giant utility Commonwealth Edison, in line for a cabinet position in the Nixon Administration before his son ruined it by going on a rampage that to this day he cannot explain to any reasonable person’s satisfaction (which is why he has to conceal so much). It could be said of Bill Ayers that he was consumed by angers so terrible they led him to destroy his father’s career. But in the 10 hours I interviewed him I saw none of it. What I saw was a shallowness beyond conception. All the Weather leaders I interviewed shared a similar vacuity. They were living inside a utopian fantasy, a separate reality, and had no idea of what they had done. Nor any way to measure it. Appreciating the nation to which they were born, recognizing the great gifts of freedom and opportunity their parents and communities had given them, distinguishing between right and wrong – it was all above their mental and moral ceiling.

In the days ahead, this is one of the dangers we face.

It should be said in fairness (as in "the Fairness Doctrine"), that the President-Elect decried the acts of Ayers and his accomplices as "despicable." Then again, while was nine years old when the bombings occurred, he was forty years old as a guest of honor for a political fundraiser in Ayers' home.

Not despicable enough, apparently.

The late psychiatrist Dr M Scott Peck is best known as the author of the self-help book, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth. He is also the author of People of the Lie: The Hope For Healing Human Evil, in which he gives detailed accounts of patients who came to him for help, but who then resisted any form of it. The nature of that resistance brought him to the conclusion, that these people were truly evil in nature. In this book, he outlines in psychological terms, as opposed to the purely spiritual, the nature of the evil person.

Evil people would be distinguished by these traits:

a) Consistent destructive, scapegoating behavior, which may often be quite subtle

b) Excessive, albeit usually covert, intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury

c) Pronounced concern with a public image and self-image of respectability, contributing to a stability of lifestyle but also to pretentiousness and denial of hateful feelings or vengeful motives.

d) intellectual deviousness, with an increased likelihood of a mild schizophrenic-like disturbance of thinking at times of stress. (page 129)
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Since they must deny their own badness, they must perceive others as bad. They project their own evil onto the world. The evil attack others instead of facing their own failures. Spiritual growth requires the acknowledgment of one's own need to grow. If we cannot make that acknowledgment, we have no option except to attempt to eradicate the evidence of our imperfection. Strangely enough, evil people are often destructive because they are attempting to destroy evil. The problem is that they misplace the locus of the evil. Instead of destroying others they should be destroying the sickness within themselves. (page 74)
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Utterly dedicated to preserving their self-image of perfection, they are unceasingly engaged in the effort to maintain the appearance of moral purity. They are acutely sensitive to social norms and what others might think of them. They seem to live lives that are above reproach. The words "image", "appearance" and "outwardly" are crucial to understanding the morality of "the evil". While they lack any motivation to be good, they intensely desire to appear good. Their goodness is all on a level of pretense. It is in effect a lie. Actually the lie is designed not so much to deceive others as to deceive themselves. We lie only when we are attempting to cover up something we know to be illicit. At one and the same time "the evil" are aware of their evil and desperately trying to avoid the awareness. We become evil by attempting to hide from ourselves. The wickedness of "the evil" is not committed directly, but indirectly as a part of this cover-up process. Evil originates not in the absence of guilt but in the effort to escape it. (page 75)

Peck maintains that, while being fully cognizant of the evil within themselves, the subjects choose to avoid the necessary introspection to own up to that evil. They respond by putting themselves in a position of moral superiority, and projecting the responsibility onto others. The result is an extreme form of what he describes in The Road Less Traveled as a "character disorder." Whatever the diagnosis, Peck considers evil to be the result of free will, where a man eschews the path to God, for the path away from God.

In the end, the responsibility does not end with either Ayers, or even with the President-Elect. The latter could be said to be guilty of no more, than being exactly what the majority of the American electorate wanted him to be. As such, the burden extends to anyone and everyone who lent credence and support to his cause, for whatever reason. The choice between "the lesser of two evils" is nonetheless a choice, and those who made their bed must lie well in it.
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Mystic



There is a quest that calls me,
        In nights when I am lone,
The need to ride where the ways divide
        The Known from the Unknown.
I mount what thought is near me
        And soon I reach the place,
The tenuous rim where the Seen grows dim
        And the Sightless hides its face.

I have ridden the wind,
        I have ridden the sea,
        I have ridden the moon and stars.
I have set my feet in the stirrup seat
        Of a comet coursing Mars.
And everywhere
        Thro’ the earth and air
        My thought speeds, lightning-shod,
It comes to a place where checking pace
        It cries, “Beyond lies God!”

It calls me out of the darkness,
        It calls me out of sleep,
“Ride! ride! for you must, to the end of Dust!”
        It bids—and on I sweep
To the wide outposts of Being,
        Where there is Gulf alone—
And thro’ a Vast that was never passed
        I listen for Life’s tone.

I have ridden the wind,
        I have ridden the night,
        I have ridden the ghosts that flee
From the vaults of death like a chilling breath
        Over eternity.
And everywhere
        Is the world laid bare—
        Ether and star and clod—
Until I wind to its brink and find
        But the cry, “Beyond lies God!”

It calls me and ever calls me!
        And vainly I reply,
“Fools only ride where the ways divide
        What Is from the Whence and Why”!
I’m lifted into the saddle
        Of thoughts too strong to tame
And down the deeps and over the steeps
        I find—ever the same.

I have ridden the wind,
        I have ridden the stars,
        I have ridden the force that flies
With far intent thro’ the firmament
        And each to each allies.
And everywhere
        That a thought may dare
        To gallop, mine has trod—
Only to stand at last on the strand
        Where just beyond lies God.

-- Cale Young Rice (1872-1943)

[IMAGE: Luca Rossetti da Orta, The Holy Trinity, fresco, 1738-9, St Gaudenzio Church at Ivrea (Torino)]
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Propositions

Depending on what you believe or how you live your own life, it's open season on you. The law cannot protect you, and the media will deny the whole thing.

Recently, the state of California shocked the rest of the country by passing the so-called "Proposition 8," which would overturn the legalization of same-sex "marriages." (Hey, I put it in quotes. Come and get me already.) Many of us have seen the commercial run by their opponents, depicting two young Mormon missionaries barging into the home of a lesbian couple and tearing up their "marriage" license. (There, I put it in quotes again. Not to worry; I laugh in the face of danger.) They would never depict Jews or Muslims this way, as both have a history of making enough noise when they're disrespected in public. Maybe they're on to something. Then there's the video clip of an old woman carrying a homemade cross in front of protesters, who is attacked while the cameras are rolling and her cross is trampled to the ground.

So now we're picking on little old ladies, huh, guys?

Such shenanigans is not limited to California. Witness a "gay pride" parade in DC, where people who dress in an extreme fashion deliberately terrorize families of tourists on the sidewalks passing by. The police won't act to "serve and protect" little children being scared out of their wits by some public deviant. They have orders not to interfere.

In a sense, this is an unfair picture of them. That's right. Most people who identify themselves as homosexual or gay or lesbian or whatever, lead relatively quiet lives, away from the activist limelight. For many years, Washington was home to a "Bachelors and Spinsters Club," which was said to be a cover for those with such proclivities (or so I'm told). Two of my best friends from college "came out" some years later. One of them is a photographer in Seattle, whom I still consider a good friend. I know guys at the office with male "partners," and to be honest, they're really great guys. I'd meet them for a drink after work, even. Their private life is really none of my business, now, is it? Just like mine is none of theirs.

Relax, we'll get back to that rationale shortly.

Then there's the minority who have to parade their sexual preferences in front of the world. I suppose for most of us, that is the big issue. If you want to live a certain way, that's your business. Do I have to be forced to treat it as normal, when everything I believe in says it isn't? In the face of that conviction, am I really stopping you from living as you wish?

The inevitable response, is that these people have a "right" to be married. Just what do they mean by a "right" anyway? Is it truly an entitlement under the laws of nature, which is how we have always defined rights, or is it simply the ability to "do whatever I want"? There's a difference between freedom and license, but the angry mobs who want same-sex "marriage" don't see it that way. (There, that's three times in quotes. Where's the knock on the door?) Having decided this, they're determined that the rest of us have to live with it. I'm waiting to hear why.

This would elicit the next inevitable response. They want to be able to provide for those whom they care about in the event of old age, with medical coverage and pension plans and such. Most of this would be provided with power-of-attorney and a certain latitude in probate laws of most states. Apparently that's not good enough. Their wishes have to be paraded in front of the rest of us, so that we have to be inundated with their personal business as a sort of cause celebre. Perhaps some sort of "domestic partnership" arrangement would be beneficial to those who grow old alone, and find a companion -- whether platonic or not -- with whom they would be less of a drain on the system in their advancing years. What's wrong with that, you ask? Nothing, perhaps, if we could be sure that society renders the proper distinctions, and leaves it at that. We have learned otherwise.

We hear a lot these days about the benefits of "diversity" and "tolerance," but such mantras are largely a myth. Those who clamor for such variety are often themselves the first to squelch it when it works the other way around. This seems hypocritical at first glance, but it is based on a tendency that is inevitable. Gay and lesbian advocates claim that what they want doesn't hurt or otherwise impose anything on those who disagree, but this overlooks the larger picture (not to mention their own reaction when their demands are not met). A society can only maintain its cohesiveness in the long run, when everybody in it thinks and behaves similarly in certain core areas. People are most likely to be civil to one another in their everyday dealings, when they're on the same page. Civilizations have always worked this way. They have never survived for long when they did not. Far from being restricting, this is in fact liberating, as it leaves us free to otherwise be ourselves, without fear of being inappropriate or outcast.

It's a reason we have manners, for example, a standard mode of behavior when around others. The loss of a common norm for behavior eventually makes everyone uncomfortable. For now, we act as though "tolerance" and "diversity" are not a problem. Even when we're okay with it, we find ourselves having to constantly watch what we say, depending on where we are, then changing that set of rules in our heads when we are somewhere else. We are self-conscious, out of place in our own native setting. It is a wonder we all get along as well as we do.

Still, history has known of those who have followed "a different drummer." In so doing, they accept the risks that go with being different. They want something badly enough to be misunderstood by most of those around them. Most of the time it is harmless, but there are occasions that should give us pause. As Catholics, one of the spiritual works of mercy is to call others who have need of it to conversion, assuming our own lives are in order. Persecuting or otherwise mistreating them does not accomplish this; speaking the Truth in Love does.

Perhaps the future of America may see parts of the country where certain behaviors are tolerated, while other parts of the country become increasingly provincial. One may wonder if this moderate path may sustain the American way of life for a while longer than otherwise. One might have expected California to be the first to embrace the former path. If not even they are ready yet, is there not cause to reconsider the wisdom of certain choices among us? Perhaps diversity isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Now, if you'll excuse me, someone's banging incessantly at the door. I can't imagine who...

(NOTE: AP photo updated 11/17/08 with video clip of a less-than-pleasant evening stroll in San Francisco. Content advisory, obviously. H/T to The Divine Mrs M.)
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Friday, November 14, 2008



Three debates for the price of one.

We here at mwbh are faced with the prospect of adjusting to the Fairness Doctrine, should the worst fears of God-fearing Americans become realized in what's left of this Republic. So, through the courtesy of Southern Conservative, by way of Paul the Regular Guy, this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy features an opportunity to have a little fun with both Presidential candidates equally, in the course of two and a half minutes.

I have to tell you, this splicing-and-dicing concept is pure genius. I only wish they had thought of it during the campaign. It would have saved us all a lot of heartache, not to mention headaches. Scaling the clip for my adoring public was a bit of a challenge, but if you want to pause the clip, simply mouse-over that little square behind (that is, above and/or below) the word "code." If you want to start it over, you can mouse-over the little square behind the letter "i." Otherwise just hit "refresh" if you're desperate.

Most important of all: "You really have to pay attention to words."
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Looking for Mister Smith






By my own estimation, there are well over one thousand "political appointees" who will be descending on Washington in the next few months, comprising the policy-level leadership of the Executive Branch of government. (It has quite an effect on the local real estate market every four years, as you can imagine, but I digress...) Earlier this week, we read of where these people come from, as well as where they won't. In yesterday's New York Times, we find out what awaits them:

A seven-page questionnaire being sent by the office of President-elect Barack Obama to those seeking cabinet and other high-ranking posts may be the most extensive — some say invasive — application ever.

The questionnaire includes 63 requests for personal and professional records, some covering applicants’ spouses and grown children as well, that are forcing job-seekers to rummage from basements to attics, in shoe boxes, diaries and computer archives to document both their achievements and missteps.

Only the smallest details are excluded...

(Registration may be required to view complete article.)

If this all sounds like a piece of cake... well, you're an idiot. That, and you obviously don't know how much trouble some of Clinton's senior appointees had with their background checks. Do you really think it's going to be easier for Obama's people? These questions were rather "invasive" before 9-11. They only got harder after that.

There is no doubt the the first 48 hours of the Transition was a real education for the President-Elect. For all the spin, for all the stump speeches about Hope and Change and Whatnot, he learned in his first high-level intelligence briefings, that the world is not such a Huggy-Bear place after all. We are dealing with people who want this country burned to the ground. Now he knows the full measure of what they are willing to do to make it happen.

Obviously, inviting these guys to hold hands and sing Kumbaya is out of the question.

It already appears that there will be a number of "retreads" from the Clinton administration. To be honest, we could do a lot worse. There are some areas of government that are not so ideologically charged, and Clinton's people did enjoy success in some of these areas. (Some of my readers will find that hard to believe. If I didn't work in Washington, so would I.) The course of this process could prove very illuminating, and could see the next President "hope and change" his way to the ideological center.

THIS JUST IN: Former domestic terrorist William Ayers appeared on ABC's Good Morning America to promote his new book, and to prove once again the gullibility of the American electorate: "I don't buy the idea that guilt by association should be any part of our politics." Ayers confirms he held a coffee in his home for Obama that helped get Obama's political career started, which Obama denied in his third debate with McCain. Ayers also confirms he knew Barack Obama through their work together on the board of the Woods Foundation.

Ayers remains unrepentant about his activities with the Weather Underground in the 1960's and 1970's, including setting off bombs at the United States Capitol and the Pentagon. In fact, he defends what they did again in this interview. Obviously he won't be filling out one of these forms. At least one of his known associates won't have to.

[IMAGE: Two of the 63 requests for personal and professional records from a questionnaire for applicants to the Obama administration. Some requests cover applicants’ spouses and grown children. Image courtesy The New York Times. Used without permission or shame.]
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Greta Meets Jindal

Last night was a big one for Fox News. Hannity and Colmes had a lively discussion. Then Greta Van Susteren interviewed Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who talked about how the Republican Party needs to move forward in order to win in future elections.

Besides being very telegenic, Jindal is a really sharp guy, who can take a licking and keep on ticking. This makes him a promising candidate for high office in 2012. Definitely one to watch.
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The Worst Laid Plans

Yes, this is a parody. But as long as we're racking up a list of bailout proposals, this idea makes about as much sense as the other ones.

It sure looks real, doesn't it? (Content advisory.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

National Service

The idea of universal compulsory national service is not a new one. When registration for the draft was reinstated in 1979 (and thankfully, I was too old by then), I believe it was Senator William Proxmire who proposed alternative civilian service. The idea gets kicked around a lot. But the fascination with legions of eager young followers engaged in great experimental endeavors has some strange appeal to our President-Elect, so we'll hear about it more these days.

Personally, I don't think it will get very far. Certainly the very idea of a national paramilitary police force, besides being completely unnecessary, will unleash the kind of latent paranoia that exists within the Beltway, on the rest of the country. It's bad enough that the area around the White House is like an armed camp, never mind extending it from sea to shining sea. The only way to pay for something like this, is to cut the defense budget by one-fourth as was promised during the campaign. But then it will just go back into creating another bureaucracy. Believe me, once this generation of little brats finds out they'll have to be inconvenienced for three months out of their lives, all this yakkity-yak about Hope and Change will lose its glamour very quickly.

Thankfully, an alternative is waiting in the wings.

If our President-Elect wants to mobilize a volunteer corps of young people for national service, he already has such an organization at his disposal. They have performed large-scale service projects for the Nation in the past. And as President of the United States, he would already be its Honorary President. That's right, it's the Boy Scouts of America. This past summer, to give just one example, we mobilized several hundred older Scouts for "ArrowCorps," which resulted in $5 million of improvements to national forests. That's $5 million that the Federal government does not have to spend. Our next National Jamboree is in 2010, and I expect our Honorary President will be invited. Maybe he can see for himself.

We've already cut out most of the overhead, and he can be sure of broad bipartisan support from former Scouts and Scout volunteers currently serving in Congress.
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McCain: “These things happen.”

McCain did a bob-and-weave on NBC's Tonight Show when it came to the issue of "top advisors" dissing his running mate. Personally, I think it was a cop-out.

Jay Leno: Now, these aides that were criticizing her — and I think everyone agrees there were Republican aides who were criticizing her. I know you wouldn’t go for that. I know you’re an old soul. You don’t let people talk — but why?

Senator John McCain: One — these things happen in campaigns too. I think I have at least a thousand, quote, top advisors. “A top advisor said” — people I’ve never even heard of, much less a, quote, top advisor or a high-ranking Republican official. It’s — these things go on in campaigns, and you just –

...strap on a bigger pair and keep your staff in line and on message, or throw them under the Straight Talk Bus and replace them with team players. Oh, give me a break!

Michelle Malkin is even less impressed: "From the man whose best-sellers include Why Courage Matters and Character Is Destiny comes this underwhelming reaction to the cowardly smearing of Sarah Palin by his own unnamed staffers..." I'm afraid she's right, although it may explain why he was led around by the nose much of the time, and why Palin got restless and wanted to "go rogue," which is another way to accuse someone of being themselves. I can't imagine why he wouldn't be more decisive, unless he didn't think Jay Leno's couch was the proper setting for playing hardball. Whatever. The only reason I voted for this geezer, rather than go third-party again, was because of his choice of Palin. I'm betting I wasn't alone. No, Senator, these things DON'T happen when "straight talk" means exactly that, and you get a grip on the K Street public-relations hacks that comprised your senior campaign staff.

Two good things came out of this; I decided not to stay up late to watch a poor old man humiliate himself, and the GOP will probably be looking elsewhere for leadership in the future.
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Jindal on MSNBC

Concerning this latest MSNBC interview with Louisuana Governor Bobby Jindal, Allahpundit of Hot Air writes: "The more interesting stuff comes halfway through when he talks about supporting Obama and using the states — momentarily the last bastions of GOP rule — as laboratories for experimenting with new conservative policies. Although, with The One and a blue Congress now in charge, I wonder how much decentralized power there’ll be by 2012." Jindal is spot on with the "three bullet points," though. The clips from MSNBC cannot be scaled down for embedding at this site, so click here to watch.
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Sarah Revisited

Today we continue with Part Two of Fox News' Greta Van Susteren with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, recently the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate. These clips show a more intimate view of the Governor and her family, most of it in the kitchen. In this first segment, she talks about her first meeting with running mate Senator John McCain. She also shares how the experience felt for her husband and children.

As a journalist, Greta Van Susteren is a true professional, unlike most of the talking-head wannabes that glut the mainstream media these days. She makes a genuine connection with the interviewee, while still getting to the heart of the story by asking good substantive questions. We get a genuine sense of what went on from an inside view. We also get to see her set of handmade pot holders. I haven't seen one of those in a long time myself.

"The Governor of Alaska is happy that the lower 48 is finally taking notice of Alaska." So begins the third segment of this series of clips. Much of this segment is about the North Star State, the perceptions from the outside, how the state and its inhabitants are often misunderstood. She talks about the role of Alaska, and what it has to offer the rest of the USA.

We learn a lot about how it is just living in Alaska, how people get around in such a vast state. We also see Greta learn from Sarah's husband Todd, "The First Dude," how to ride a snowmobile. From this second part of the interview, one also comes away with the tireless optimism of this woman, how she accepts the situation and moves on. This is a great credit to her, and demonstrates her potential as an excellent populist candidate for 2012 and beyond.

[THIS JUST IN: This had been touted in the press as Palin's first in-depth TV interview since the election. Well, not exactly. She also gave one to Alaska Daily News last Sunday, which can be found by clicking here.]
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sarah’s Interview

Last night, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin spoke out for the first time at any length on national television. Greta Van Susteren of Fox News Channel interviewed the former vice-presidential candidate, who insisted that she never asked for the $150K in clothing that was purchased for her use during the campaign by the RNC. No such criticism was ever leveled at the Obama campaign, which makes this just one more example of how extremely biased the news coverage was during the entire campaign. She also talks about the abortion issue, not only how unyielding she is on the subject, but on the need for people with differing points of view to work together to reduce the "need" for it.

They discuss a number of other issues during last night's interview. She takes on the matter of how the press got hold of rumors, sometimes spread by political bloggers, and reported them as news stories. We also learn something of the way of life in Alaska, what makes people there unique. This can give us some insight of what to look for in the character of our Nation's leadership. (There was a heated discussion recently on Bill O'Reilly's The Radio Factor, where O'Reilly was attempting to distinguish between gossip and a lie. There is some distinction, but I don't think those two could stop interrupting each other long enough to actually look it up.)

The Republican side was held to a much higher standard of conduct than was the Democratic side. It was bad enough to be embarrassing. (You remember we mentioned here that even Dan Rather was embarrassed, and that NEVER happens!) Now that even a major newspaper like The Washington Post has owned up to such bias, it's time for the mainstream media to undergo a serious transformation in its behavior, if it is ever to be taken seriously again. Obama supporters, if any of them have brains in their heads (???), should take time off from raising a Golden Calf for their Messiah, to be equally concerned. The sustained effect of such manipulation by the press, could eventually work against them.

Except for Fox News, of course. They're fair, they're balanced, they rock.

[THIS JUST IN: If you want to know why Palin thinks she and McCain lost the election, click here. This story also begs a challenge posed in today's Wall Street Journal: "McCain Owes Sarah Some Straight Talk." We'll see if she ever gets it, won't we? Stay tuned...]
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Monday, November 10, 2008

This could happen to any of us...

...when the party is over.

The euphoria of any grand, life-altering event, is often followed by a great letdown. When you work in the Nation's capital for the Federal government, you learn to take the whole transition thing in stride. That's a subject for another piece. Meanwhile, if you go to the website of the "Office of the President-Elect," you will find an online application for political appointments in the Obama administration. Trust me, boys and girls, it is a waste of time. You can be sure that some twit barely out of college, who spent the last 12 to 15 months stuffing envelopes at a storefront office in south Chicago for "The One," has a much better chance of getting the coveted position of Junior Confidential Assistant to the Deputy Undersecretary for Administrative Operations, than someone who applies for the same job online, never mind the losers depicted in this video.
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Plug This: Zippy Catholic

(Part of a continuing series on lesser-known participants in the Catholic blogosphere.)

"This is to show the world that I can paint like Titian. Only technical details are missing." - Wolfgang Pauli, caption for a blank square

http://zippycatholic.blogspot.com

So reads the masthead of this week's subject for "Plug This." The subject matter is there to see, if not the originator. This is not about them, but what they have to say.

We never learn the identity of "Zippy." Maybe it's someone who wanted to honor his/her dog or cat. We may never know. But he/she won't be "lesser-known" for very long, since Exalted Grand Poobah of the Catholic Blogosphere Mark Shea has been quoting him/her with regularity of late. We here at mwbh have a special place in our hearts, for people who can snatch victory from the jaws of certain defeat and go "nyahh, nyahh..." without flinching. The recent election of Barack Obama to the American presidency, gave our subject the opportunity to play "gotcha" to all those ostensibly pro-life Catholics who couldn't resist the urge to plant their carcass on the Hope and Change bandwagon...

Now that he has become the President-elect y'all have the difficult job ahead of turning on a dime. As long as it was a matter of Obama vs. McCain you had the wind of proportionate reason in your sails; but now the seas are dead calm, and... there is no longer any justification for remote material cooperation in his wicked policies. Justified remote material cooperation with evil may have... made it possible to choose him over McCain; but now we have the absolute condition of a chosen President. If proportionate reason ever existed for remote material cooperation with his evil policies before the election, they no longer do now. Now your obligation is reversed... to oppose his evil policies with all your heart, mind, and strength; all the more so because of your choice to vote for him.

But not to worry. This is a burden we can all bear together...

Zippy writes with Thomistic clarity and simplicity, given the discernment of a sound premise, and the ability to get its point across. Even so, some people still didn't "get" the above, so Zippy had to explain it more plainly. This is the inevitable consequence of speaking to an audience, whose selfish desires interfere with being honest with themselves. It's sort of like being unable to work on your tax returns because you keep getting migraines whenever you start, only in this case, you wanted them to happen so you could avoid doing your tax returns. This isn't Zippy's problem, but Zippy doesn't mind. Speaking the truth with love is funny that way.

And so it goes with Zippy. Whoever he/she is, and whether it concerns matters of the faith, of politics, or the stuff of life in general, he/she is worth adding to your blogroll.

Just don't expect to find out who he/she is.
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Sunrise Service

In this world I walk alone
With no place to call my home
But there's one who holds my hand
The rugged road through barren lands

The way is dark, the road is steep
But He's become my eyes to see
The strength to climb, my griefs to bear
The Savior lives inside me there

In Your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer, my God to Thee

In these trials of life I find
Another voice inside my mind
He comforts me and bids me live
Inside the love the Father gives

In Your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer, my God to Thee

Take my life and let me be
A living prayer, my God to Thee

(I stole this from CMR. They don't mind. Really. -- DLA)
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Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Catholic Thing

Earlier today, I wrote of the political fallout from the recent election. It would have been opportune to elaborate on the role of various American bishops, in a valiant effort to inculcate Catholic values in the public square. This would have required an essay unto itself. Happily, a gentleman writing for RenewAmerica.us has tied the future of American conservatism, and the Catholic message, very nicely:

History tells us that conservatives only lose when they forget how to be conservatives, or become too afraid to continue being conservatives... America is, at its core, a conservative country with liberal fringes just waiting for a decent excuse to vote conservative. The liberal establishment, media and entertainment industry will have us believe just the opposite. Namely, that America is, at its core, a liberal society with radical conservative fringes just waiting to hijack the nation. Lest we actually begin believing these hucksters, let us recall that liberals in Hollywood and national newsrooms have a particular penchant for fantasy.

This would reinforce my contention that the bulk of American society is provincial in nature, as I said, by virtue of our human inclination as creatures of habit.

Gabriel Garnica is a college professor and attorney who has written for NewMediaJournal.us, The Daley Times-Post, and Michnews. He holds a law degree from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from St John’s University in New York. His piece is worthy of contemplation, as the American bishops prepare for their upcoming annual meeting in Baltimore. The growing tension between the status quo of the bishops conference, and those individual bishops who defended the Gospel of Life this year, will surely be an explosive subject in closed-door sessions.

That's just a hunch on my part. Really.
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The Day(s) After

Abraham Lincoln is remembered as one of our greatest Presidents today, but he was not always popular in his time.

When the southern states broke from the Union in 1861, sparking our Civil War, there were riots in the streets of the northern states in protest of a military draft. Even within his own Republican party, there were opposing factions, who believed Lincoln either moved too slowly or too quickly on the issue of slavery. He was known to spin a good yarn to amuse his audiences, he was otherwise not considered a great orator. The address he gave following the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, while carefully prepared, was thought at the time to be unmemorable in its impact, generating merely polite applause at its end. Generations of American schoolchildren would learn it as one of our Nation's most memorable Presidential addresses.

History often tells a different tale, with the passage of time from its most critical moments. And yet, throughout our history as a Nation, Americans have chosen all manner of men to serve in their Nation's highest office. Some of them have been less than remarkable, if not perfectly dreadful, to such an extent that it is a wonder our Nation survived them. Others proved as examples of the full measure of a man's character. In the end, history has been more than kind to men like Lincoln, in a world where the benefit of hindsight goes a long way.

One thing may be gleaned from this view of history. Men of great character are remembered best of all in the long view of things. This does not always imply their popularity while they are still alive. Many are still alive today, for example, who remember Harry Truman as one our least popular Presidents. Less than thirty years after leaving office under a cloud, he was already revered in books and one-man plays.

For most of this week, I have chosen to view the reactions of others to the recent election, and synthesize their opinions of what happened and why, what should have happened, and where to go from here. It was during that time that I discovered this quotation from an anonymous source:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through this sequence; from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependency back again into bondage."

In contemplating that passage, I am struck by the process of ascendency and decline, measured as though it were the everlasting series of benchmarks of all empires in our history, as though moving in a circle...

From bondage to spiritual faith...

from spiritual faith to great courage...

from courage to liberty...

from liberty to abundance.


It is here that something changes, something that historians would see repeated over the eons. How many civilizations would prevail, were they to know how to detect it?

From abundance to selfishness...

from selfishness to complacency...

from complacency to apathy...

from apathy to dependence...

from dependency back again into bondage.


These great empires appear to have fallen, when they forgot who they were, and what they were about, the very ideals that made them great at the offset. When hearing of the news of Barack Obama's election to the Presidency, one Florida woman may have embodied the seeds of the bad omen already planted. Why was this election so important for her? “Because I never thought this day would ever happen. I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage. You know. If I help [Obama], he’s gonna help me.”

Is this the way the phase known as "dependency" begins?

This could not have been what the majority of Americans wanted in a president. Aside from the more progressive regions on either coast, the great "flyover country" in America's midsection, is largely provincial in nature, the beneficiary of creatures of habit. We did not arise from our slumber, seven years after the events of "9/11," to become a nation of socialists. It is more likely that we decided as a nation, that our choice was preferable to the alternative. If that would appear far-fetched, consider that while Barack Obama presented a carefully crafted message of bullet-points about "hope" and "change," the message of his opponent, John McCain, betrayed the waffling that had been going on within the Republican Party, indeed within the conservative movement, for much of the past year. (Only recently do we learn that such was the case within his own campaign staff, particularly with regard to the role of his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.) It is said that "the drowning man will grasp even the point of a sword." It is in desperate times that Americans want clarity, even to the point of being cosmetic. Promise us something, promise us anything. Let us be a people with promise.

Such was the groundwork laid for the ultimate victory of style over substance.

Most of those who supported the Republican John McCain, are resigned to the prospect, that the Nation did not so much elect the Democrat Barack Obama, as they voted "no confidence" to his Republican predecessor, George W Bush. Whether this is entirely fair is a matter of some conjecture, inasmuch as the executive branch of our Government often has far less control over the Nation's direction than, say, the legislative branch. But in voting the way in which they did, Americans were willing to overlook Obama's inconclusive background, a lack of released published legal opinions (even from a former editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Review), not to mention his known associations with a convicted felon, avowed socialists, and self-confessed domestic terrorists. They turned a blind eye, in the face of numerous investigations of voter fraud, committed by an organization of which Obama was once a leader, one which openly promoted his candidacy. None of this mattered to them. What mattered, was the cry for a savior, someone larger than life who would guarantee the Peggy Josephs of this Nation, that all would be taken care of. "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage," went one political slogan nearly a century ago. Such promises had been found wanting before, but what of it? Anything had to be better than what the Nation had endured for the last eight years. Or was it?

To enable this illusion, there was the mainstream media. The people who present what passes for news, in print and on television, would openly tout their support for Obama, putting their journalistic integrity aside to slant their coverage in his favor. Even former CBS news anchor Dan Rather was forced to admit such a pattern of bias. Most recently, The Washington Post has come out and admitted to the same.

The Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts...

My assistant, Jean Hwang, and I have been examining Post coverage since Nov. 11 last year... The op-ed page ran far more laudatory opinion pieces on Obama, 32, than on Sen. John McCain, 13. There were far more negative pieces (58) about McCain than there were about Obama (32), and Obama got the editorial board's endorsement. The Post has several conservative columnists, but not all were gung-ho about McCain...

One gaping hole in coverage involved Joe Biden, Obama's running mate. When Gov. Sarah Palin was nominated for vice president, reporters were booking the next flight to Alaska. Some readers thought The Post went over Palin with a fine-tooth comb and neglected Biden. They are right; it was a serious omission.

For a time, it seemed that the news machine might redeem themselves. Both CNN and MSNBC were covering stories on voter registration fraud by ACORN, and the relationship between Obama and former terrorist William Ayers. But then, a plumber from Ohio had the unmitigated gall to ask Obama about his tax proposals during a campaign stop, and was told of the need to "spread the wealth around." Not willing to lend proper scrutiny to such a reckless statement that smacked of socialism, the devotees of Hope and Change proceeded to uncover the private details of a private citizen, whose only crime was the exercise of his First Amendment rights, in the face of an ostensibly open and fair election. The talking heads at CNN and MSNBC had the excuse they needed, and the witch hunt against "Joe the Plumber" began in earnest.

The American people, who would surely know that what happened to "Joe" could happen to any one of them, voted for the elusive promise of salvation. They defeated a decorated war hero, who suffered for his country in a POW camp in Vietnam. The rejected a man whose character had to have been built by unimaginable struggle, for the sake of a vision of the future that was as yet ill-defined.

To look upon history, is not to be held captive by the past, nor is it a refusal to move on. If "what is past is prologue," our future depends on what we glean from these pages already turned.

The party of Lincoln needed a true conservative, to continue the "Reagan Revolution" which brought new optimism to the party, and to the Nation. What it got was John McCain, a proponent of the "big tent" philosophy among some Republicans. Call them "the East Coast establishment" or "country club Republicans" or "Rockefeller Republicans." Call them what you will. Their approach didn't work in 2008, and it will not work in 2012 either. If the GOP is to take back the White House (or even the House and/or Senate, for that matter) it must stand for something, and STAY standing for something. It must play to its strengths; fiscal conservatism with a genuine commitment to smaller government, the heartfelt (as opposed to half-hearted) pledge to family values, including the right of the innocent unborn to life, and the resolve to maintain a strong national defense, including the security of our national borders. It is the waffling in all these areas -- over a sustained period of time, never mind the last eight years -- that cost them the election. Their wayward path can only be strengthened by a new breed of Republican leaders; Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Sarah Palin of Alaska, and Michael Steele of Maryland, to name three. It is time for the Republican Party to finally admit, that the neoconservatism of Rudy Guiliani and Mitt Romney, and yes, George W Bush, has run its course, whether the late night talk show hosts care to agree or not.

In the course of formulating this message and its propagation, the mainstream media must also be held accountable. The constant fawning by the likes of Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann and countless others over one candidate, and the adolescent derision of the other, may be the entitlement of their opinion, but it is not journalism. Indeed, with the possible exception of the Fox News Channel (rated by the recent Pew study to have provided the most balanced reporting of this election), most of the voices of the major media outlets, including the "Big Three," and the major cable news channels, have lost the right to be called journalists.

The irregularities in voter registration and fundraising that have marked this campaign may yet be subject to Federal investigation, but conservatives know that such scrutiny may be laid aside amidst the current reckless optimism. To be gracious in defeat is one sign of good character. Learning from past mistakes is another. So long as we are a Nation under God, we are a Nation worth saving. If we have ever taken those blessings for granted, we cannot afford such a luxury again.
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