Friday, July 28, 2006

Won't be long before the August recess, when they leave on their own. Then again, they usually come back.

Beneath the Cedars of Lebanon

"Justus ut palma florebit ut cedrus in Libano multiplicabitur." - Psalmus XCI: 13

"The just man shall flourish like the palm tree, like the cedar of Lebanon shall he grow." - Psalm 91(92): 13

The Arab American Institute Foundation took out an ad in the paper today, with a group of actors and other celebs of Arab extraction calling for a cease-fire in Lebanon. (Interesting when you consider that Lebanese generally do not consider themselves to be Arabs. At least not the ones I know.)

In reference to the maxim, "All politics is local," Stephen Schwartz reports for TCS Daily -- okay, so he's Jewish, so what? -- with an analysis of the political landscape from within the embattled nation:

"The country is ruled under a constitutional arrangement based on a census taken in 1932. At that time, Lebanon was 55 percent Christian. In the political share-out based on that count, it was decreed the country would always have a Maronite Christian president, a Sunni Muslim prime minister, and a Shia president of the National Assembly. The parliament was based on a 6 to 5 ratio of Christians to Muslims. Political reforms introduced with Saudi backing, in the Arabian Peninsula city of Ta'if in 1989, promised proportional representation for Lebanese religious groups, which was never put into effect..."

This posting does not necessarily constitute an endorsement; it's just what comes across my desk these days. You got a problem with that?


Thursday, July 27, 2006

When you're out of Bud, tough Schlitz!

Many are familiar with the contentious divorce case between Bud and Bai MacFarlane. Bud, who with his wife was co-founder of an apostolate known as the Mary Foundation, left her for some damn fool reason or another, and now wants custody of their four kids. In a state like Ohio, it looks like he may actually get them. Angelqueen posts a copy of the court's ruling, including the major points of the marital breakdown. It doesn't portray either of them in a favorable light, especially that part about relocating for the Y2K thing. (Ah, that one brings back some memories, don't it?)

From everything I've been able to gather about this case so far, my sympathies tend to be with Bai, although I don't think she has used the best judgment -- not to mention gotten the best lawyer -- otherwise the custody battle would have been a slam-dunk in her favor. (I've got more to say on this, pending further advisement.)

A discussion in the Anglequeen forum follows the text of the ruling. The comment from "baimac" would appear to be Mrs Macfarlane herself. All told, it reinforces my original contention in all this -- when it doesn't make me wanna take a shower after reading it.

Saint John Bosco, look out for the boys, will ya?

"Old Thunder"

"Where'er the Catholic sun does shine,
There's music, laughter and good red wine.
At least, I've always found it so:
Benedicamus Domino!"

Hilaire Belloc would have turned 136 today, having been born on this day in 1870, except he died in 1953, at the age of 83. He was one of the great English Catholic writers of the late nineteenth and/or early twentieth century, and is often placed on a par with his contemporary Gilbert K Chesterton (1874 - 1936).

More about Belloc at Spartacus.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Is someone trying to tell us something?

"DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) -- Irish archaeologists Tuesday heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker while driving the shovel of his backhoe into a bog....

"The book was found open to a page describing, in Latin script, Psalm 83, in which God hears complaints of other nations' attempts to wipe out the name of Israel."

We'll Always Have Paris

Kathy Shaidle of relapsed catholic is once again after my own heart, by doing a piece on the public's endless fascination with Paris Hilton. Actually, I wouldn't be so hard on the girl with respect to her physical attributes. Not that they're all that remarkable, but that's not what bothers me. It's just that the granddaughter of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton, as far as I am able to determine, has no discernible job skills, and nothing important or even mildly amusing to say, thus appearing to offer society nothing but the ability to call attention to herself, all the while spending away her family fortune. (She is quoted as saying that "I'll put all my energy into the guy, and I don't really pay attention to myself." This is far too modest, when you can pay other people to pay attention to you.) There is little remarkable in this, as the Georgetown neighborhood in Washington, DC -- among others in California, I suspect -- is full of such people.

Where is the appeal in this? Do men really covet her? Do women really want to be like her? Is that imaginary night really worth the imaginary next morning? Is that what we call "the near occasion of sin"? (Just checking.)

Kathy pays brief tribute to starlets of the past, who left more to the imagination, and let the story define their attractiveness. She cited Ava Gardner as an example. Personally, I was surprised she didn't mention Lauren Bacall, more affectionately known to my late father-in-law as "that foul-mouthed b****." Oh well.

There is a quality that has pervaded the world of female media celebrities of late, that of the courtesan, or more bluntly, the "skank." Yes, Hollywood starlets of the past may have lived less-than-exemplary lives, but that was not their appeal. Those who follow such exploits don't appreciate even the higher ideals of haute couture, bowing instead to the rudest and crudest segments of humanity. Like The Jerry Springer Show with some semblance of a script. Whether we simply want to make ourselves appear just as glamorous with less effort, or simply herald a remake of Rome before the fall, is unclear to me.

Fortunately, I don't see that so much in some of my favorite actresses -- Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep, to name two. And Winona Ryder, before she got into shoplifting.

But hey, that's just me.

Of the 100 most often misspelled words...

..."misspell" is one of them. (Isn't that right, Nihil?) Dr Language comes to the rescue, with clues on getting them right the first time.

They call him Mickey, 'cuz he's so fine!

Today is the birthday of Sir Michael Philip Jagger, born this day in 1943 in Dartford, Kent, England. A musician, actor, writer, songwriter, record producer, film producer, and businessman (not necessarily in that order), "Mick" is best known as the lead singer and co-founder (with guitarist Brian Jones) of a British rock band known as The Rolling Stones.

From The Free Dictionary: "Jagger then attended the London School of Economics, where he studied History and Literature (and not Economics as widely believed)."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Monday, July 24, 2006

Beating Around It

"Don Jim" links to the issue, and Serge elaborates on it. "It" is the idea that President Bush may be operating a few bricks shy of a load. First, from BuzzFlash:

"Watch the press conference where Bush couldn't stop talking about the pig roast. It didn't matter what anyone asked him, he just kept saying whatever his addled brain was looping on, in this case, the pig. Typical stoned behavior...

"Watch Bush's body language at the table with Blair talking over his shoulder. Bush is sitting, almost slouched back in his chair, like a guy at a barbeque on his second or third 6 pack, chomping on his food with his mouth open, and making minimal effort to intelligently keep up his end of the conversation...

"Watch the body language of the other leaders and the way they react to him. With the exception of Blair, they act very restrained and controlled around Bush, maintaining a public facade of geniality while holding back from actually being engaged with him. What seems to be obsequiousness from Blair may actually be him simply trying to get through the fog around Bush's brain to penetrate with a little reality...

"When he walked up behind the German leader and started giving her an unsolicited shoulder massage... while the rest of the grown-ups were conducting the business they were there for...

"This is not normal behavior. Watch him closely sometime when he's having trouble staying coherent and you can see his eyes come in and out of focus. He does it at the table when Blair is speaking to him..."

Now, I know plenty of trust fund hippies in Takoma Park, Maryland, who were prepared to agree from the offset that Bush was unsuitable for office. For me, he was (and remains) a mild improvement over Kerry on his best days. The turning point for me personally came, with the attempt to appoint Harriet Myers to the Supreme Court. But events at the G8 conference, particularly that attempt to get a little too chummy with the German Chancellor, are leading more heretofore political conservatives to believe (including this one) that old "Dubya" may be losing the capacity to effectively conduct the office of President.

It is understood that people in recovery from addiction (and this President had a drinking problem in the past) are known to struggle with behaviors associated with the addiction for the rest of their lives. I personally know guys in recovery for twenty years or more, who exhibit many of the characteristics of one who started drying out yesterday. Even if recovery from addiction is not an issue, someone who is not an eloquent speaker (and we haven't had one since Reagan) can at least play up their strengths. But this guy not only doesn't, he's surrounded by handlers who can't seem to... well, handle. The entire Katrina fiasco is a case in point. Bush was considered by some to be relatively unschooled in world affairs before entering the race. That he hasn't learned the subtleties of cultural differences, that many who live and work in a town like Washington take for granted, is not a good sign.

One of the hallmarks of our blessed Republic is the knowledge that we have endured Presidents of all caliber, including those whose behavior would make the current one seem like a safe choice for the Oval Office. There is little doubt that our nation will survive this choice. The question is, how much damage to our relations abroad will have to be undone by his successor?


Going Home: I

John tells of a city that he saw coming down
Where no sorrow, pain or death will be known;
And some day we can go there, through His marvellous grace;
I can almost see the lights of home.

I'm preparing to drive home to Cincinnati in a few weeks. My parents haven't been doing well lately, so I figure I should put in an appearance, my first in over a year and a half. (They aren't known to surf the internet, so I can share this account with the knowledge that my arrival will be a surprise, so I'm counting on all of you...) I can still remember when I'd make the trip two or three times a year. Lately I've been spending vacations elsewhere.

There's a feeling you get when the place of your origins appears around a bend in the road. You simply assume things will be the way they were when you left. But it only takes a few things out of place from the last time, and that's when you remember that nothing else stands still any more than you do. I won't be doing a lot of visiting while I'm back; just family and that's about it. I'll make an exception for an old friend of mine who's a pastor on the East Side. I'll be there during the Feast of the Assumption (August 15), and so I'll be attending Mass. These days, that's a different experience back home than it is here.

For one thing, parishes back home tend to be less... well, conservative. The very notion of being Catholic is all tied in with every fashion associated with "the spirit of Vatican II" that has come down the pike. The Mass might well be conducted with a certain reverence, I suppose, but there's a reason I don't attend Mass at the parish where I grew up. I simply don't recognize it anymore. The pastor is the locus of a personality cult, and I tend to be wary of them. I've also mentioned before how they all hold hands across the aisle at the Our Father. Now my mother probably doesn't partake of this charade, but it's probably out of habit that they respect that of her. Would they do as much for a stranger? Last time it was attempted, I just looked at the guy and said: "Do I look like someone who does hands?" He got the message. He may have been one of the brighter ones.

The result is a Church I barely recognize as my own.

You see, I think most people aren't paying much attention. They don't follow every clip in the Catholic press about what the Pope says about this or that, and they are inclined to believe whatever their pastor or his hired lackeys will say. So if the church is decorated with murals of "modern saints" like Thomas Dooley (who was an avowed homosexual) or Cardinal Bernardin (and don't get me started on him) or Martin Luther King (who was not even Catholic, and whose personal life could not be described as one of "heroic virtue") or Gandhi (who was not even Christian), how can you pray with them? What does it mean to break the Bread of Angels with them? How can I be in communion with them when I'm not?

I've been to such parishes over the years during my visits home. Everything seems hunky-dory at the time, until Father Feelgood turns out to have a few bad habits. People are shocked. They go so far as to continue defending him, even after he's found to have betrayed them for years. The recent episode of one Father Fey in the diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, does not surprise me at all. I would expect an army of admirers among the laity to lie their way into the rectory to clear out his things, including the evidence against him. I would expect Bishop Lori to be too much of a pompous ass to keep a handle on any of this. (Yes, you can tell him I said that, and I'm not afraid to tell him what I know.) After all, in order to do so, he'd have to admit to being capable of making a mistake. Like that's ever gonna happen!

The church in Cincinnati is such a mess that the people there don't even notice. They won't notice for years. It will get worse before it gets better. I warn my priest-friend of the prospect every time I visit with him.

Fortunately, he is one of the brighter ones. He's gonna need to be.

Oh, I can almost see the lights of that city,
I can see them gathered all around the great white throne;
Through faith in my Saviour and His wonderful love,
I can almost see the lights of home.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

My Magdalena Moment

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. Father "Don Jim" Tucker provides a summary, while our Benedictine friend Dom Stephanos synthesizes the real "Gospel of Mary Magdalene" for the benefit of anyone confused by the present hoopla.

Oh, and about that hoopla.

You see, according to various smarty-pants pseudo-intellectuals, the early Christians managed to take enough time out from being hunted down and fed to the lions by the Romans, to engage in a knock-down, drag-out power struggle for control of the Church, between Simon Peter -- who was merely given the keys to the kingdom by Christ Himself, a rather trifling detail if we are to be so easily duped by this school of thought -- and Mary Magdalene. Yes, the resurrected Christ did appear to the Magdalena before anyone else, and it was she who bore witness to his triumph to the Twelve. When you consider that Mosaic law did not hold the testimony of a woman to be reliable (a convention that exists among Orthodox Jews to the present day), such inclusion in the Gospel accounts is a far cry from her being "suppressed," or some such nonsense.

Tradition varies as to her fate after the Ascension. She may have gone to Ephesus with John and Mother Mary to live out her life. Others say she went to Gaul in southern France to spread the Gospel there. Still others maintain that she accompanied Joseph of Arimethea by ship up the coast of western Europe to the British Isles. No one with any sense, however, could rightfully claim that she married Jesus and gave birth to the ancestors of the Merovingian rulers in medieval France.

Any questions?

Friday, July 21, 2006

If someone is a head of state, doesn't he get diplomatic immunity in a case like this? Just remember, kids, if Bill Clinton had done it, some feminista like Maureen Dowd would have called it "endearing."

Chris Floyd provides blow-by-blow analysis. Discuss.

Who Wears The Pants?

There is a place in the Catholic blogosphere that is not for the faint of heart, where Sacred Tradition is defended to the last -- as well it should be. After all, Tevye was right about that fiddler on the roof.

But earlier this summer,
There arose such a clatter,
I had to put down my latest issue of The Latin Mass
To see what was the matter.

On, Athanasius! On, True Restoration!
All aboard the train at the Donegal station!
To the Rad Trad brothers, to Rorate Caeli,

Anyway, I eventually learned the source of this tumult.

It's about the pants.

Some women like to wear them. This is a reported to be a problem, as it draws undue attention to their hips, and gives rise to all manner of evil designs on the part of the average male. Now in my experience, much depends on the male, the pants, and/or the hips in question. Yet there is a certain amount of truth to the prospect of provocative dress by young girls as an issue for young boys. Many of these girls simply expect the fellas to "get over it," as if gender never becomes an issue in life or living, but for mere biological incidentals. And yet, while in high school, my son had to admit that he found the wearing of skimpy tops with spaghetti straps by some of the girls to be a bit of a distraction, not to mention their occasional bending over to reveal the slightest trace of... a thong???

I'm afraid some people don't outgrow this problem. When I go zydeco dancing, there is one particular woman who has a rather slim and athletic build, except for an unusually generous... well, endowment. She appears to be rather proud of it, as she routinely wears a form-fitting top with a low neckline. (Did I mention an undergarment that permits her to leave little to the imagination?) If what nature has provided her does not spill out of the garment, it is likely to be all too apparent to (that is to say, "in the face of") a potential dance partner. This is why I never dance with her. It's out of respect, if not for her womanhood, but for my dignity as a man, if only to be able to maintain it.

Fortunately popes and prelates in the past century have raised concern. I believe it was the late Cardinal Siri, who sat down and determined the standards of modesty for female dress; you know, skirt length, shoulder and arm and neckline coverage, and so on. (It was a dirty job, but somebody had to do it.) The late Padre Pio wouldn't let a woman near his confessional without wearing a dress or skirt that was a minimum of eight inches below the knee. They say he could tell from his side of the grill. To non-Catholics, that's gotta sound really creepy. But at least you knew where someone drew the line, if not how.

One prelate who has addressed the issue of late is Bishop Richard Williamson of the kinda-sorta-depending-on-who-you-ask-schismatic SSPX. Francis of Filipino Flavour provides the text of that address.

There's another line drawn somewhere along the way. Someone had to determine that trousers were inherently male clothing, while skirts or dresses were inherently female. No one appears to be taking credit for this decision. Meanwhile, a trip around the planet would show that some parts of Asia, women wear pantaloons that are quite modest, in terms of both form and coverage. And in some other parts of the world, men wear what appear to be dresses every time they wear robes in the Arab world, or a religious habit in the Christian world, or even don cassocks to serve Mass. And what's up with wearing a lace surplice? Back in my neighborhood, even the altar boys would beat the crap out of a kid who wore lace. To this day, I can't bring myself to do it. Maybe that's why I didn't get called to serve for a long time. Hmmm...

At a parish where I was once a lay reader, they said I had to wear a tie. Since I had a preference for dress shirts with banded collars on occasion, and noticed that no such standards were set for women (which was painfully obvious more than once), I told the pastor's lap dog that I would stay my present course until the real issue was corrected. After citing Cardinal Siri, and making note of his lack of attention to men wearing neckties, the lackey withdrew. Now, the parish where I'm presently registered, they're much smarter than that. They have specific standards for women as lay readers, including skirts or dresses below the knee, no slacks, nothing sleeveless, and no extravagant jewelry. For that, I'll agree to wear a tie (although I manage to draw the line at certain choices in my collection).

Whenever I go home to Ohio, I have at least one suit packed, or at least a jacket and tie, for when I go to a wedding, or to Mass. I remember as a boy in the late sixties, when I wanted to wear a dress shirt to church with a color other than white, and the Old Man wouldn't have it. Fast forward to the present, when the cousins all get together in the summer, and my boy's the only one not allowed to wear shorts to Mass. Guess who's telling me it's not that big a deal. Beats the hell outa me. But a guy's gotta have standards, and a man has to pass that on to his son, along with the other important stuff like what fork to use, and why an outdoor grill is superior to anything indoors when it comes to a fresh slab of red meat.

You get the idea.

It happens that Sal and I attend church together regularly. She is quite the fashionable lady, and I've managed to convince her to err on the prudent side for those occasions. Obviously I have to measure up as well. Lately I've tried to convince her that, as a Filipina of half-Spanish ancestry -- a mestiza, if you will -- she would look especially stunning in a black mantilla of medium length.

Life would be simpler if there were a working standard that fit all times and all places, but there really isn't. Human nature doesn't change according to time or place, but what elicits a certain response does. I suppose it's like pornography; you know it when you see it.

On the other hand, maybe even that's not enough. Discuss.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Plug This! The Discalced Yooper

The upper peninsula of the state of Michigan is characterized by a certain independence, one that occasionally gives rise to talk of succession from the bulk of Michigan, or from the Union altogether. Residents of the "U.P." refer to themselves as "Yoopers," and their location brings them closer to Wisconsin than to the rest of the state that lies "below the bridge."

Conversely, there are those in Wisconsin who identify with the Upper Peninsula. One of them inhabits the Catholic blogosphere...

M Z Forrest lives (reluctantly, I gather) in Manitowic, Wisconsin. He is married and has a newborn; other children, perhaps, but it's hard to tell at this distance. His weblog purports to be "contemplative on politics, economics, and religion." Forrest's musings on events of the day are current, but in the sense of "after the fact," or pertaining to the broad view.

And it is a view undertaken through a Catholic lens -- not to be confused with the all-things-to-all-people mentality that permeates the official statements of certain bishops' conferences. It is, rather, a matter of playing smart with one's material wealth, knowing that all things come from God, for the betterment of man in this "valley of tears" awaiting the Next Life. This can be applied not only to providing for one's family, but to playing the stock market. After all, even Christ Himself shed light on the resourcefulness of the steward in his parables. To wit, these issues are taken on with the same combination of thorough research and Chestertonian common sense that is applied toward matters of faith.

This is one Yooper that deserves a closer look, and will get one, by the discriminating Catholic blog watcher.

[UPDATE: A more thorough review of this Yooper's archives will show that Mr Forrest, with the recent arrival, is now the proud father of three children.]

In honor of "World Jump Day"...

...mwbh presents Michelle Malkin on a trampoline.

Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte

Doris Day, the actress and singer, has spent much of her professional life trying to convince the world that she is really not the girl next door. Some of us were prepared to believe her a long time ago.

Others are wasting little time.

Charlotte Church is the young girl from Wales who achieved international acclaim in her tender years for possessing "the voice of an angel." In a pre-recorded pilot for a new television program bearing her name, her image is taking a decidedly different turn: "During the show, the hostess Charlotte Church, dressed as drug-using nun, smashed open a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary revealing a hidden can of cider, and spoke about worshipping 'St Fortified Wine.' Along the same vein of comic blasphemy, the pop diva pretended to hallucinate while consuming communion wafers branded with Ecstasy smiley faces, and denigrated Pope Benedict XVI as a 'Nazi,' even though she had performed for the late Holy Father, John Paul II, when she was a 12 year-old girl."

Ignatius Press, which holds the English-language rights to most of the writings of the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, wasted even less time, in announcing that it is discontinuing sales and distribution of all products featuring "the pop diva" in question.

Not a moment too soon. A search of the video archive YouTube features a black-and-white musical piece of CC, behaving according to one commenter as a "lindsay lohan wanna' be." A segment of ITV's Entertainment Now gives the lowdown, culminating in her belting out the phrase: "I need professional hel-l-l-l-l-l-p!"

Who can argue with reasoning like that?

The Long Hot Summer

Those who live in and around the Nation's capital know that crime is up just a bit. Paul is complaining that the summer tourist crowds are not flocking in record numbers to Georgetown as they normally would, and around our neighborhood in southern Arlington, the serenity of young couples walking their children and pets, is shattered by the occasional reports of break-ins and burglaries. Mathias Caro of Icarus Fallen makes a note of it, in light of a recent article in the Washington Post:

"I'm glad mayor Anthony Williams is black. Anyone else suggesting curfews and more videos survaillance for a largely black population would be targeted a racist..."

As I recall, Williams was labeled an "Oreo" early in his term of office, because he was light-skinned. Wearing a bow-tie without being a member of the Nation of Islam probably didn't help either. That, and not padding the city payroll with friends and relatives like a certain predecessor of his. (Of course, if it keeps them off the streets and out of the pool halls...) Personally, I think Williams is the best mayor the city has had in recent years. He has a clue, but not a prison record. That alone sets him apart from some of the others.

It wouldn't be so bad if the survaillance cameras had green lights that went on so people would know they're being watched. But we know that's not going to happen. And as long as I keep getting notices in the mail that a camera caught me speeding once a year in the same city block, I don't have much sympathy for a city that complains that they can't impose a commuter tax. As if federal subsidies aren't enough, they'll squeeze it out of me some other way.

Caro is right, though. What worked in New York City can certainly do the trick here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Why Government Doesn't Work

From the days of the ancient Greeks, people have complained about the lack of responsiveness of a centralized government. So long as they are not immune from the foibles of the human condition, the complaints are likely to continue.

Last week this writer commented on people's expectations of the Federal government. Having worked for it for nearly half my life now, I've gained a few insights as to how people set themselves up for disappointment. We elect leaders and expect them to "clean up the bureaucracy." The thing is, once they are in town, they ARE the bureaucracy. It starts when they have to rely upon those career officials already here just to know where to find anything, or what form to fill out. Of course, those career officials may or may not have the same objectives as their political counterparts. They might have once been political appointees themselves before they made the switch to "career status." They'll be here when the current crop of politicals leave.

But often they don't leave. I found it rather funny, for example, to listen to the early appointees of the Reagan administration talk about how "government is the problem," then proceed to stay in town long after Ronnie and Nancy went back to the ranch, whereupon they would go to work for any number of think-tanks or "consulting firms" that feed off the Federal trough. Now, I voted for Reagan twice, and I'm not sorry about it, but it doesn't mean I was under any illusions that his underlings shared whatever altruism there was to his vision.

And once you become beholden to people, it is in your interest to promote them. In one agency with which I am familiar, I have known of people who rise to responsible positions, who couldn't organize a sock drawer. But they're quite capable of getting others to do it for them. Maybe that's where the real money is.

(By the way, I've gone the third-party route for president since 2000, and plan on doing the same in 2008. According to columnist and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, this may be a good time for the rest of you to do the same.)

There's greed on both sides of the aisle, when it comes right down to it. And it extends beyond the Beltway. There are very few people living in West Virginia (to give another example) who would say they trust Washington, but they don't mind receiving a grossly disproportionate slice of the Federal pie. The senator known as "the prince of pork" is who they have to thank, and who they keep sending back. More recently, New Orleans will become the beneficiary of large amounts of Federal aid. It is only in our best interests, as they are the largest sea port aside from either the East or West Coasts. According to columnist Joseph Sobran, that emergency relief has already gone to pay for "Caribbean vacations, a divorce lawyer’s services, pornography and sexual debauches, season’s tickets for football games, champagne, and, according to one radio report, a sex-change operation."

Hurricane Katrina made an entire city of people incapable of caring for themselves. The Federal Emergency Management Agency made an entire city of people incapable of using what care they received. Now, everybody knows we could have fixed the levees beforehand, as experts had been warning us to do, and that would have kept the damage to a minimum. But we didn't have the money for that big slab of pork, did we?

It is said that we get the leadership we deserve. If this is where we wish to be led, what difference does it make who leads us?


While I was out...

...the weather in much of the eastern USA got hotter. In my experience withe temperate climates, it's rare if not unheard of, for the temperature to approach 100 degrees one day after the next. But my townhouse village has a pool, and I finally got passes for the Alexander household for the summer.

Meanwhile, I received a link to the eulogy for Joshua, who passed away a week and a half ago...

...with pictures of the boy as he was growing up. Joshua was only a few weeks away from his fifth birthday. That's about how old Paul was when his mom left. That happened sixteen years ago today. All things considered, life is good.

But I wish it were as good for my parents. They're getting up in years -- Mom is 74, and Dad turns 81 in September -- and each of them has experienced a downturn in their health in the past few months. So I'll probably be going home to Ohio for a few days later in the summer. (Note to siblings: it's supposed to be a surprise, right?) Usually I go home once or twice a year, but I haven't been back home in over a year and a half, which is a record for me. I've considered the prospect that, after a quarter of a century, I can finally say I'm at home on the East Coast. It never felt much like that until recently, probably because I finally bought a place. You think?

They say you can't go home again. I wonder...

joshua walking east.jpg
Photo courtesy of the Schmiedicke Family

Friday, July 14, 2006

Put that in your "chapeau" and spin it around!

Today is Bastille Day. It celebrates the liberation of prisoners from some humongous French prison, setting the stage for a succession of head-chopping and general mayhem that probably figured in the decision of my ancestors to come to America. Merci beaucoups, guys!

[UPDATE: Matthew the Holy Whapper writes on the significance of this day in Catholic history, in a way that even the history texts in Catholic schools before the 1960s managed to gloss over, in a piece entitled "From the London Times, January 25, 1793".]

I didn't realize so many people would take this day off, but the commuter traffic into Washington this morning was rather light, even for a Friday in the summer. Perhaps it's just as well. Robberies seem to be up. With any luck, some of DC's Finest will catch on. I hope they do in Georgetown, as businesses there are suffering after a fatal mugging in the residential area last week. This includes the restaurant where my son works. The Washington City Paper reports that "A guy who gets mugged, fights off his attacker, then gets mistaken for the assailant and arrested. Then, after the cops figure out he's not their man, they let him go and he's mugged again!" When I lived in that neighborhood for three years, my experience with the police was actually pretty good, though it was not uncommon to see their cars go through stop signs as if they (the stop signs) weren't there. But you can bet only the finest of the Finest get assigned to that neighborhood, the biggest source of tax revenue for the city, and the place from which complaints will be heard the loudest. Apparently not loud enough.

But tonight there is dancing to be done, as Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Roadrunners hit the stage at the Surf Club, my favorite roadhouse, across town in Hyattsville. C'est bon, oui? Yeah, you right!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

If parishes didn't have churches...

...I'd want nothing to do with them.

At least that's what I've told people over the years. I know fellow-Catholics for whom the parish is the center of their social lives. In Washington, membership can become a status symbol of sorts, like joining a country club or the local Moose lodge. Because of this, and the transient nature of the area, continuity in parish life is difficult, as every six years the place is completely reinvented in the incoming pastor's own image -- for better or for worse. It starts with re-arranging the furniture in the sanctuary, as if they were deck chairs on the Titanic, along with some spin on "what the Church says," as if that changes every six years too. Next thing you know, old Mrs McGillicuddy is relieved of handling the flower arrangements after umpteen selfless years, in favor of the alleged improvement known as "the environment and art committee."

A similar incident occurred at the parish in Ohio where I grew up. The mother of one of my fellow-altar boys used to handle the cleaning of our cassocks and surplices for many years, until she was unceremoniously relieved by the new pastor, presumedly as part of his initiative to bring the sleepy old place into the forefront of "the spirit of Vatican II." Now everybody holds hands across the aisle during the Lord's Prayer, and looks perfectly ridiculous. Just goes to show how we can all be complete jerks and keep on smiling. Nice, huh?

In more than a quarter century of living in the DC area, I've belonged to eight Roman Rite parishes. It's not that I like moving from one to the other, so much as my address has changed a few times since the marriage tanked, and belonging to one within "spittin' distance" simply becomes more practical (if not simply the way things work). I'm never around long enough to be part of the "in crowd," no matter how often I roll up my sleeves to help with anything. The irony is, in nearly all that time, I've also maintained membership in the local Byzantine Rite parish, where I go every Christmas and Easter. Call it sentimental reasons; after all, my son was raised that way, and I keep hoping he'll agree to tag along once again.

Earlier this week, Professor Philip Blosser over at Musings of a Pertinacious Papist, wrote a post entitled "Parish vs Church?" in which he (pertinaciously) muses:

"The Protestant seems to be saying (though this is an obvious overstatement): 'I love my parish: it's my church I can't stand,' while the Catholic seems to be saying: 'I love my Church: it's my parish I can't stand.'"

Part of this has a lot to do with the nature of the Church herself as universal. In other words, one is a Catholic first, and a member of a parish second. Still, if our Faith is more than a set of rules or "being good," but a way of life and of viewing the world, then a parish church serves us well as the focus of our community life (which explains why, in cities like Chicago, neighborhoods are identified by the name of the local parish). To put it another way, why bother joining the Masons when there's always the Knights of Columbus?

I'd like to hear from readers about their own parishes; what's okay, what's not okay, what life in one means to them, and what they remember of it "back in the day."

Discuss. Preferably here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Got corn?

I've been going over two or three things waiting to be published here, and catching up on correspondence. Also following stories elsewhere in the Catholic blogosphere. I'm hardly the guy who gets "the scoop" first; time has shown that I don't have that kind of time. I wait for the heat to die down, then I get the story behind the story. We all find our niche sooner or later.

But enough about me...

The area has seen a lot of rain, as has much of the eastern USA. That should be good for the crops. One of them -- corn -- could be getting a lot more attention in the years ahead. But an article in today's online news bulletin TCS Daily entitled "Ethanol's Dirty Little Secret" contends: "It turns out that, despite all the claims that ethanol is good for the environment, ethanol may be a net polluter in many ways. Ethanol does reduce carbon monoxide emissions because it is an 'oxygenate,' which means it adds oxygen to the fuel, converting the CO into CO2, carbon dioxide... But on the question of hydrocarbons, ethanol appears to make things worse." The truth is, I'm not so sure that the biggest selling point of ethanol was its environmental qualities, as that it was renewable, and decreased dependency on foreign oil. As one whose mother's side is still into family farming, this is personal, because that part of the Midwest known as the "corn belt" could renew its former prominence, and provide for jobs that can't possibly be outsourced over the border. Automakers are steadily catching on in converting new models to run on "E85," but most retail pumps for the octane are in America's midsection, and the supply infrastructure must be enlarged to meet the anticipated demand.

Between fuel innovation, and the rise of "hybrid" models, this writer is banking on progress for environmental quality in due course.

It would probably help if we took the train more often. But... that's another story.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Someone once told me that my theology was Dominican, but my spirituality was Benedictine. At the time, I wouldn't have guessed that I even had a distinguishable spirituality, much less that anyone could tell what kind it was one way or the other. But I thought about that observation today, as the Church commemorates St Benedict of Nursia, the founder of Western monasticism, and the saint for whom our present Pope is named. I just got back from a funeral awhile ago, or I'd wax eloquently about something, but I'll leave it to Father "Don Jim" Tucker of Dappled Things instead, by bringing the reader's attention to his post of last year on "Benedictine Varia." There's also Miss Kelly.

Anyone who wants to know more can learn of all things Benedictine at

Monday, July 10, 2006

Plug This! The Donegal Express

In the last few months, I've been a regular on the comboxes of a faction within the Catholic blogosphere known as "The League of Evil Traditionalists." Now, a Catholic traditionalist is generally identified as one who favors the sacred liturgy of the Roman Rite as it was conducted prior to Vatican II, but that can vary from a simple preference to my-way-or-the-highway(-to-hell, as it were). This group's members tend to lean toward the more strident position. Anyway, as a liturgical counter-reformist, I agree with them about some things, if not all. (I prefer to follow live Popes over dead ones, all other things being equal. But hey, that's just me.) They are quite adept at serious debate, and provide for excellent sport for intellectual rigor -- unlike some of those yahoos who follow every little old lady in tennis shoes who has an apple fall on her head and thinks she's hearing Jesus in one ear and the Blessed Mother in the other. (More on that curious phenomenon later.)

Among this elite group is one fine gentleman, identified only as "Der Tommissar" (or to this writer as "Tommy Boy"), who gets the nod in this segment for his weblog entitled The Donegal Express:

This weblog broke into the Catholic blogosphere with a vengeance, as a finalist in three categories for the most recent annual Catholic Blog Awards. We won't hold that against him, though. In fact, it made him a vanguard of the trend away from the usual author-lecturer profile -- the "professional Catholic," if you will -- that has dominated the winning entries in years past.

All part of what he has referred to as "the plan." Hmmm...

Most of the Evil Trads are mainly concerned with matters of the Faith, particularly various bones of contention. This fellow covers other areas such as culture and politics, as seen through the eyes of one of similar mind. The entries typically begin with off-the-wall quotations such as "Baptism! You two are just dumber than a bag of hammers. - Ulysses Everett McGill," followed by a rant that is, well, perhaps marginally related to the quotation. But who cares, I'm laughing my @$$ off before it's over. Here's a segment of the aforementioned:

Subject: Inclusive language for the Trinity

Dear Mr Chase:

It is with great interest that I read the news of your Assembly’s decision about additional versions of the invocation of the Trinity.

I’d like to take this time to congratulate the Presbyterian Church (USA) for this bold move. After all, the letter of the law is death, but it is the spirit that brings life. Or something...

As part of your outreach to contemporary people, may I suggest using "Paper, Scissor, Rock" as a valid invocation of the Trinity? After all, Christ does cover us in a new garment when we experience him in our hearts, much like paper. And of course, the Holy Spirit cuts through us to our deepest being...

It's possible to devise an entire theology out of this, and convince the gullible of one's sincerity. Therein lies the trap. Ouch!

Typically, and perhaps to soften the blow for the rhetorically-challenged, the entry is concluded by a favorite picture of a kitty-cat. But that doesn't soften his motto, which is: "The opinions expressed are really your opinions as well. You just refuse to admit it to yourself."

Obviously an arrogant cuss. Sort of like... well, moi!

[UPDATE: Upon reflection, it would only be fitting to end this post with a cat picture of our own, found via Irish Elk. Go, cat, go!]

"A little child shall lead them..."

josh on pole.jpg
Photo courtesy of the Schmiedicke Family

There was a tragedy over the weekend. Joshua Schmiedicke, son of author Regina Doman and her husband Andrew Schmiedicke, died from injuries sustained in an auto accident last Saturday evening. He was four years old. Obviously the parents are devastated, and his five brothers and sisters will be lost without him.

I had an uncle on my mom's side who had a farm. It was shortly before I was born that his little glrl was playing near the barn. My uncle was backing up the tractor and didn't see her. He was never the same after that happened. I thought about him, and the cousin I never knew, throughout the day yesterday, when I wasn't thinking about Joshua.

We ask ourselves why God allows these things, and the answer is... that there is no answer. Not in this life anyway. But when childless couples tell me they would never want to bring a child into this world the way it is today, I remind them that the world has always been this way. I also argue that the way of the world is precisely the reason that the Almighty gives us one more chance, with every child that is born. But as he is laid to rest in the Blue Ridge tomorrow, Heaven will greet a new angel, and a family will have its own patron saint. Maybe that's explanation enough in this life, but hey, that's just me.

Services will be held at St John the Baptist in Front Royal, Virginia. The wake is tonight at 7, the funeral tomorrow morning at 11.

Elsewhere at St Blog's, one "Father Fergus" shared with readers a quotation from the husband of the English Catholic writer, Alice Thomas Ellis, when their own son Joshua passed away: "Joshua, for whom the sun did not stand still, but as you fell headlong, so set for you; as suns return, you too, most sweet beloved, will return and in the name of Jesus, whose name is yours, rise again."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Oh, sure, I'd rather see Superman Returns and look for all this Christian allegory everybody's been going ga-ga over. But, oh no, somebody wants to go see The Devil Wears Prada. So we reached a compromise; we'll also see A Prairie Home Companion tomorrow night, and make it a Meryl Streep weekend. FAB-ulous, dah-lings!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Speaking of having a relapse...'s time to give a tip of the Black Hat to Kathy Shaidle, the Toronto-based writer and columnist, and author of the weblog Relapsed Catholic, which celebrates its sixth birthday today. I didn't even know what a weblog was until stumbling across hers. Kathy doesn't get nearly the amount of attention in the Catholic blogosphere she deserves, and that's a shame too. Not only has she been weblogging since before there was such a thing, but she's as fresh and original as some of the more visible "players" who have come along after her. If not more so.

Now you know who to blame for mwbh. So, as she would say, "you can quit yer bitchin' about 'ad hominem' and that other boring Latin lingo to your smug self. It just gets in the way of me winning the argument!"


Return to Knighthood

Copyright ©2006 Arlington Catholic Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2006 Arlington Catholic Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.

This past Sunday, I rejoined "the knights of the altar" at St Lawrence in Franconia, Virginia, where the Mass is celebrated each Sunday according to the 1962 Missale Romanum -- the "Old Latin Mass" or the "Tridentine Mass," if you will. It was my first time serving at Mass with the old books since I left the service of St Mary's in Washington DC in December 2004. (Long story, another day.) Recently I got a note from an attendee at St Mary's. Because it is in the combox of a post from last April, I thought I'd produce it here:

"Those of us who watched the sad joke played out last Sunday at Old St. Mary's have to wonder if we are seeing the beginning of the end. Our new Archbishop, well known for favoring modern trends, has removed the recently installed pastor who was steeped in the Latin Liturgy and replaced him with a priest (bless his kind soul) who had never said the Latin Mass and who suffered a war injury in Viet Nam and cannot kneel! Those of us who have seen the quality brought by the previous three pastors now know what it is like to have a heavy handed Archbishop let us know what he thinks, and who is boss! Now, is there a message there? You bet! And it didn't take him long to do it either! Well, it will swell the crowds elsewhere no doubt, including the independent priests like Fr. Ringrose in Vienna. And, I suspect we will see the rules of not crossing parish boundaries applied for those wishing to attend S. Lawrence's Latin mass."

First of all, Cardinal McCarrick was still Archbishop of Washington when the decision was made to transfer Msgr Smith, so the newly-appointed Archbishop Weurl cannot be held responsible. Leaving aside that some of the most influential Catholics in the Nation's capital (including two Justices of the US Supreme Court) are known to attend Mass there, any decision that would deplete the numbers at Old St Mary's would be against His Excellency's own interests. To wit, Tom Bethell writes in New Oxford Review:

"I am told that the church was never 'wreckovated' because the parish was so poor. The vandalism and destruction -- tearing out the main altar and so on -- that have been so widespread in the post-Vatican II American Church were simply too expensive to contemplate here. Now the church has been tastefully restored, and the good news is that any archdiocesan official who might be tempted to sell it to capture the value of the land will be unable to do so. The Van Ness family that donated the property stipulated that if it ceases to be a church, the land reverts to the heirs."

Soooo... you see, my young stalwart fellow, His Immenseness is not about to give up a prime piece of real estate just to make a really big point to a really small audience.

He didn't get where he is by being that foolish -- Deo gratias.

Death in a Small Town

Well, I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob'ly die in a small town
Oh, those small communities...

-- John Cougar Mellencamp

Photo courtesy Browntown Community Center Association
Photo courtesy Browntown Community Center Association

On the Fourth, we went to Browntown, a "wide spot in the road" nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Having been in the States for four years now, Sal wanted to see what an "old-fashioned Fourth of July" looked like. Browntown is one of a number of hamlets in the region that have one, in the sense that there's a parade, a festival near the firehouse, and a fireworks show. And while a sudden downpour did break the momentum, it didn't cancel the event. (During the rain, the four cars in the parade went by quickly, but once it died down they all came back.) You could tell who the regulars were, and I overheard expressions even I hadn't gotten wind of before -- like "Looks like it's gonna rain like a cow p**in' on a flat rock."

We were going to stay for the fireworks, but the magic died (at least it did for us) when the band started to play. Now, this town has a monthly bluegrass jam that is known throughout the valley, and to hear music that actually had some history in the region might have been worth the trip. But did they get anything resembling that? Oh, no, they got a quintet of redneck rockers playing Kenny Chesney and the like, with the volume turned up entirely too damned loud following one of those self-indulgent sound checks. The lead guitarist-singer had some good chops, if not enough good sense, or he and "the boys" would have known better. I'd probably go to a roadhouse outside of Front Royal to hear these guys. But a town with a population that could fit into one? What were they thinking???

They probably would insist that their marriage of country-western and rock-and-roll is what makes them innovative, which really is a bunch of hooey. After all, the two genres have had a symbiotic relationship since Carl Perkins first walked into the Sun Records studio in Memphis and shook hands with Sam Phillips. That was over fifty years ago. But to this day, when Rolling Stone interviews some rising young twerp while covering the Nashville beat, that's the standard spin, and it manages to float downstream from there.

Unfortunately, small towns are dying everywhere, and the cause is not always from the outside. It's not the fault of the little general store that the EPA raised the standards for underground gas tanks and they had to take out the pump. Nor is it avoidable that the one-room schoolhouse had to give way to the "consolidated school" near the county seat and become a "community hall." But if people want to have all the features of city life that a satellite dish won't give them, they should move to one.

Maybe someday, an enterprising group of Catholic homeschooling families will buy up the houses in one of these towns. Maybe not all of them, just enough to have an influence. The general store can continue to run as it always has, and the town hall can become a once-a-week "home school co-op" and be like the little red schoolhouse once again. The local diocese would have the imagination to buy a boarded-up church and make it a suitable place for the Lord's Presence. The people would learn what it is to know their neighbor, which makes it easier (if not simply possible) to love their neighbor. But that's a story for another day...

Meanwhile, we took the scenic route home, and watched the fireworks on the National Mall from the exit ramp to Pentagon City. A lot of other people had the same idea, as every route near the Pentagon that isn't blocked off becomes a parking lot -- and a long way from the Blue Ridge.

Got nothing against a big town
Still hayseed enough to say
Look who's in the big town
Gonna die in this small town
And that's prob'ly where they'll bury me.

Photo by Rob Harding
Photo by Rob Harding

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"We hold these truths to be self-evident..."

Dr Ron Paul, a Congressman from Texas, gives us a civics lesson worth noting on this day:

"Everybody seems to agree that government waste is rampant and spending should but cut – but not when it comes to their communities or pet projects. So members of Congress have every incentive to support spending bills and adopt a go-along, get-along attitude. This leads to the famous compromises, but the bill eventually comes due on April 15th."

In making a case for "smaller government," we should be reminded that the size of the Federal government itself, in terms of full-time employees, has steadily dropped in the last forty years. (My own agency is down to roughly half the number of employees it had when I started 25 years ago.) But a job that is not done by a civil servant can also be done by a private contractor, and the same taxes that go to pay one can also pay for the other. If the latter doesn't always save money, at least it saves face. As long as the public wants Washington to do it, our elected leaders will do and/or say whatever the public demands -- or make it look that way.

You want less government? Don't ask for more. Of anything.