Monday, January 31, 2011

The More-Or-Less Best of 2010

Maybe some of you are still writing "2010" on your checks by accident, which is a sign that the new year is still new. (Personally, I do enough transacting online that it's not much of a problem anymore.) So, we here at man with black hat would like to extend a special welcome to everybody who found us via Facebook and/or Twitter in the past year. Our readership here continued to rise steadily during 2010 -- and for good reason.

What follows is a proposed “Top 25” list of writings from the previous year. I wish I could make it a "Top 50" list, but hey, let's not get carried away, right? Whether they are "the best of the best" is not so much certain, as they are collectively among the most representative of the “Raison D'Etre” of mwbh (see top of blue sidebar at right), and among those which gained significant reader response.

If nothing else, this should tide you over until we can rustle up some fresh meat.

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Fri Jan 22
Blogs For Life: Twitcast and Transcript

Our first coverage of the annual prolife bloggers' seminar in Washington DC, originally sent out via Twitter, and reproduced here in transcript form.

Mon Feb 01
They Don’t Make Nun Names (Like That No More)

This writer stumbled upon this on YouTube recently, and it brought back memories, both of first hearing it, and of that which inspired it. If you grew up Catholic fifty years ago, you'll understand. If not ... well, you might.

Tue Mar 16
“The drowning man ...”

A bold prediction was made about the Scandals in the Church, which all of you blissfully ignored. Ten years from now, you'll all say: "For an arrogant son of a b@#$%, he was right on the mark that time." We're giving you one last chance.

Thu Apr 8
“Da mihi animas, cetera tolle!”

“Give me souls, take away everything else!” The obligatory "Year of the Priest" homily, given by that renowned homilist and teller-of-tall-tales, Father Franklyn McAfee.

Thu Apr 15
Guitar Workshop: Gettin' Rhythm

One of our best beginner guitar lessons of the year, at the hands of Mother Maybelle Carter herself, with a little extra for those on the fast track.

Mon May 10
Spring Cleaning Revisited

If you're concerned about the prospect of rising food prices in the coming years, look out your front door. The solution may be right in front of you. Really.

Sat May 15
Another One Rides the Bus

An incident on Metrobus, and a cautionary tale of the eventual end of civilization as we know it. And this time, we have a picture of the offender, for the whole world to see.

Wed Jun 23
Is Catholic TV Getting “Real”?

"We hear enough about a 'crisis in the Church.' It's time to start talking tough, boys and girls. Time for the long pants, time to bring out the big guns, time to take off the gloves, time to hunker down, time to call, raise, or fold." Sure, whatever.

Mon Jul 26
Scouts March on Washington: Parade

Very few groups get to have a parade down the main streets of the Nation's capital, and the Boy Scouts of America haven't done it since 1937. This one was for the centennial, and yours truly was there to help the guys make history.

Tue Aug 31
“Cujus regni non erit finis.”

There is a notion among some of the like-minded in America, that conservatism" in politics and orthodoxy in Catholicism fit hand in glove. And yet, "His Kingdom is not of this world. Isn't it time to stop thinking on the terms of the world?"

Mon Sep 27
Cautionary Tales: The Inevitable?

We hear if often enough, that the world is changing faster every day. Nine areas of our lives could change for better or worse, but they will regardless.

Mon Sep 13
Tom O’Rourke: A Remembrance

A remembrance of an old buddy from high school, and a reminder of how far yours truly has traveled: "Tom was the best guitar player in the class. I first learned the blues from Tom; not just how to play it, but how to feel it ..."

Fri Sep 17
Look Down That Lonesome Road

A further tribute to the late great Tom O'Rourke, published before a road trip to Ohio that was just thirty-seven hours there and back.

Tue Oct 05
“Vas you effer in Zinzinnati?”: The 2010 Remix

For the first time, "Sal" wishes she could have stayed in Cincinnati a bit longer. Things are looking up.

Wed Oct 06

They say the rebellion of youth, no matter how turbulent, passes by the twenty-fifth birthday. Who would have believed it?

Sat Oct 30
The Paradigms of Papists

Dedicated to the late Joseph Sobran, an exploration of the preconceptions of American Catholics along partisan political lines, and where such thinking falls short of proclaiming the Faith in the public square. One of the most important works ever published at mwbh. Naturally, very few of you read it. Once again, one more chance ...

Fri Oct 15
Things I Hate About The Bars In DC

Because sooner or later, there had to be an observation about the nightlife in DC, and how it's not always all it's cracked up to be, especially once you're old enough to know better.

Fri Nov 05
FAMW: Greetings at Heathrow Airport

An ordinary day, in an ordinary place. One person, then another, then all break into song, with the obligatory dance number. Suddenly, the world is a better-than-ordinary place. One of our favorite Friday Afternoon Moments of Whimsy.

Tue Nov 09
Anatomy of a Hate Crime

A family reunion on Facebook turns into an exercise in political correctness -- or INcorrectness, if you will. We break down the process step by step. Don't let this happen to you.

Mon Nov 15
The (So-Called) Kicanas Conundrum

The annual American bishops' meeting in Baltimore provided at least one big surprise this year. Was it because of the work of a few stalwart Catholic lay activists, or because the high churchmen had a spell of high anxiety? You decide.

Sun Nov 28
Dolan Reconsidered

People were outraged by Archbishop Thomas Dolan's explanation of the Church with regard to interfaith relations. A bit of perspective in the Catholic blogosphere was in order, and a guest commenter so brilliantly provided it.

Sun Nov 21
Paruparong Bukid

The exploration of a Filipino folk song, as a tribute to one of the truly special people, in the otherwise uneventful life of yours truly.

Wed Dec 08
Salve Regina: Variations on a Theme

A favorite Marian hymn is explored, and its interpretation by a new generation is considered.

Tue Dec 15
Thirty Years After

A look back at thirty years of Government service on the part of yours truly, and of life in the city where it happens.

Fri Dec 31
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot ...”

A final look at the year, and two events in particular which shaped it; a reunion at my university, and a celebration of Scouting where the boys were the main attraction.

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Same time next year, huh guys?

Party like it’s 1994!

Watch these guys babble over figuring out what the internet is. To be fair, this was in 1994, when there wasn't much to the idea, but you would think they could have asked somebody first. Here they get schooled from a guy offstage. Gizmodo was having some fun with this blast from the past. We thought we'd have some too, especially since what we really wanted to show you today isn't ready yet. You know how it is when you get home late from the office and all ...

But hey, it's the future, right? We've been sending out "tweets" on the latest prolife news, showing daily webcasts produced in Europe by that sharp-dressed gal with braided hair to die for, and amusing you for hours on end with our rapier wit. Some of this wasn't even possible in 2004, never mind 1994. So, unless the solar flares kill us all at the end of next year (and we trust in God to know what is best for us upon submitting to His will), this century may not be so bad after all.

Friday, January 28, 2011

“He’s got it, yeah baby, he’s got it.”

Today is the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas on the reformed Roman calendar. Under the traditional calendar it is March 7, but was transferred under the 1970 calendar reforms, from the date of his death (the usual location), to the date of the transfer of his relics to Toulouse (not unusual as a substitute, and probably to prevent it from ever occurring in Lent). His great work, the Summa Theologica, is featured among the favorite book's on my son Paul's MySpace page.

There is a trio of history teachers -- Bambi, Vicki, and Angelica -- known collectively as “historyteachers” and who produce videos telling about, uh, history. Vicki is the cool one. Angelica is the smart one. Bambi is blonde. Current projects underway include Catherine the Great, Guernica, and Queen Isabella.

Yeah, they got a Facebook page and a YouTube account. Cute, huh?

(H/T to Tim Ferguson.)

FAMW: “The Mob” Makes Madagascar

If you overexpose a trend long enough, the first thing to go is quality control, the next thing is the air of spontaneity. In our continual search for the latest flash mob dance video, we are starting to notice this. But while both are found wanting in this interpretation of Rihanna's "Only Girl (In The World)," this number released earlier today from Madagascar has a lot of heart.

Sometimes that's all it takes, and so it does, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Flattop Floggers Revisited

Remember this stellar performance as shown at Creative Minority Report? Since then, I learned the identity of the guitar player. Glen Hansard of Dublin, Ireland, who is one half of the duo known as The Swell Season, which also includes Czechlands-native Markéta Irglová. Together they won an Oscar in 2008 for Best Original Song for “Falling Slowly”, from the film "Once", in which both of them co-starred, and which was perhaps the most co-dependent cinematic love story since "Jeremy" in 1973.

This next clip is from a 2007 performance at Amoeba Records in San Francisco, where he seems a little more sure of himself. What can you expect, since he doesn't have to compete with a guy who can't sing his way out of a paper bag like Bono?

It's times like this that I consider how I may have gone into the wrong line of work, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Media Malpractice and the March for Life

This one comes to us all the way from Byzantine, Texas, wherever that is. We touched on this subject earlier, but this video really lays it out.

At last year's March for Life, the mainstream media sunk to a new low. In its lead photo on the story, CNN showed five pro-abortion picketers, and ignored the more than 200,000 pro-life marchers. An empty suit going by the name of Rick Sanchez wondered out loud which crowd was bigger. (Hey, everybody, let's head over to Ricky's place and give him a head count!) Meanwhile, on the print side, Newsweek claimed that most participants were in their sixties when, in fact, most were under 25.

The complete video can be found at

The End of Siege?

Today, the color coded "threat level" system being used by the Department of Homeland Security begins a ninety-day phase-out program.

Walk down Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House on any given day. Indeed, a one-block area around the White House has become a sort of walk-through fortress, prohibiting vehicular traffic, and with Secret Service Uniformed Division officers -- the White House Police, they are often called -- occasionally directing passersby, without reason, to walk on the other side of the street from the White House. (You don't argue with them; they often do not know the reason themselves.) Part of the discipline of the profession is to be able to maintain a consistent state of heightened awareness. This is more effective when the threat is imminent, or at least plausible. It is less effective when such awareness is maintained over a sustained period of time without incident.

It is the price of being the world's watchdog, that one is in need of knowing of any threat, to any nation, at any time or place. It will now be maintained without appearing to scare the bejeezus out of the general public.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Theresa Andersson

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

This song was last week's subject. With a new generation of artists who, for the most part, were born after those whose work was "discovered" in the 1960s folk boom passed on, folk music is being taken to new directions. This example stays true to its roots, as it extends new branches. Theresa Andersson performed this song live at Le Petit Theatre, as one reviewer put it: “... playing a violin both pizzicato and arco at the same time, and controlling her sample/capture/mix/replay circuitry with her feet like Bach playing a pedal organ.”

The DVD of this performance is available at

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Counting Heads

The annual March For Life has drawn a crowd of roughly two hundred thousand each year for the last several years. How does The Washington Post report that estimate?

Thousands of bundled-up abortion opponents rallied Monday on the Mall ...

Thousands? Also in the article, they report on the crowd at a related event that occurs the morning of the March.

For the first time, a morning Mass at Verizon Center was expanded to the D.C. Armory, where a parallel event was held. More than 27,000 young people attended the events ...

Twenty-seven thousand. That number approaches "tens of thousands."

So, nearly tens of thousands of people traveled from around the country, to attend an event that was subordinate to the main event, which only "thousands" attended.

You with me so far?

It is obvious that the mainstream media pathetically underrates the crowd at the largest annual public assembly in the Nation's capital, with the exception of the Fourth of July. Many have reported on this. What is less obvious, and is worthy of note, is that they are getting very bad at concealing it. And we wonder how a man with no executive experience, and almost no congressional experience, could possibly be elected President. Why does this happen, America?

Because ... you'll believe anything.

Shriver Revisited

Sargent Shriver's funeral was last Saturday at his home parish, Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac, Maryland. Speaking of mercy, the congregation was not spared any if they had to listen to Bono sing "Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace." They managed to provide the clip over at Creative Minority Report; I'll have that dirge buzzing in my head for the rest of the day as it is. The least they could have done was use me on guitar. That other guy was little more than window dressing.

In his defense (which he'll need after having to listen to that drivel), Bono did better justice to the memory of the deceased, in what he wrote for The New York Times. Meanwhile, my friend "Rooster Cogburn" passed this along over the weekend.

Tom Storck says that for several years in America we had a run of liberal bishops. Now we seem to be getting a run of conservative bishops. He hopes one day before long we get some Catholic bishops. Like Dorothy Day, Sarge was a Catholic, who took seriously the Church's social teaching.

I'm not sure that teaching requires the government's involvement, so much as our own. Mr Shriver had to have known that. I am not as sure as any of his friends did, or his children, or anyone he ever worked with while in public office ...

Also provided were obits from The Los Angeles Times, and The Atlantic.

And so it goes.

Monday, January 24, 2011

“ProLifeCon” Twitcast and Transcript

Time once again for our report on the premier gathering of the Nation's Pro-Life online activists, just like the sign says. (Click here for last year's transcript).

What follows is the transcript of Twitter messages for this year's ProLifeCon, being held in conjunction with the annual March For Life here in Washington, DC. These messages may be followed in real time at, or you can wait for the transcript to appear here later in the day. As to the latter, corrections have been made to compensate for misspelling and other errors in delivery.

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Transcript of Twitcast

Welcome to the annual "ProLifeCon" in Washington DC. Our "twitcast" will begin at 8:30 local time. It will run until 11:30 or so. We'll ...
08:29 am

... provide highlights of the day's events. You may also catch the live webcast at
08:26 am

Jill Stanek welcomes everyone to the event.
08:31 am

Psalm 144:1: "Thank the LORD who has trained me to do battle ..." and who has trained us with wisdom and fortitude.
08:32 am

NARAL attempted to launch a "Blog For Choice" day on Twitter. Prolifers took over the conversation. NARAL changed the hashtag by mid-morn.
08:34 am

Abby Johnson, author of "Unplanned," an account of a PP worker who converted to Christ and the prolife cause, on account of what she saw.
08:35 am

Abby's blog was voted number one prolife blog. She worked for Planned Parenthood for 8 years. "God works in mysterious ways."
08:36 am

Do young people think that God is boring, or is it we who are boring? We are constantly ...
08:38 am

... connected [through the new media]. But it is here in the prolife movement that we can avail ourselves of that.
08:38 am

Pro-abortion groups have been very good at studying prolifers and the prolife movement for years. Many of us fail to "know our opposition."
08:39 am

NARAL and PP produce lots of information that can be used to prolifers' advantage. Check the consent forms, the fine print no one reads.
08:40 am

Many who visit clinics for terminating pregnancies do not know this information until they get to the clinic, where they are then coerced.
08:41 am

"Unplanned" is a book that uses Planned Parenthood's own words against them. They know abortion is dangerous, and don't like to stress that.
08:42 am

"Prolifers dominate the social media world. Put the truth about PP out there so it can go viral, so it can go public."
08:43 am

"Planned Parenthood is at their worst when they are REactive, so we have to be PROactive.
08:44 am

"Unplanned" is on Amazon's top 500 list. People want to know the truth. (Not too shabby.)
08:46 am

The abortion industry is willing to lose money on "family planning" to gain on walk-in traffic for abortion services.
08:47 am

54 percent of women's contraceptives fail. Contrary to their PR, PP does NOT want abortion to be "rare."
08:49 am

Lila Rose heads "Live Action," an activist group for young people, and has infiltrated clinics posing as a girl using their services.
08:51 am

Lila Rose is spreading the truth about the abortion industry as exploitative and racist.
08:52 am

One-third of PP's funding is from federal and state tax dollars.
08:54 am

We should develop our messages around Facebook, YouTube, other forms of social media. Lila has taken hidden cameras into clinics ...
08:56 am

... exposing medical misinformation on medical risks, coercion towards abortion, targeting blacks especially. "We got it all on tape."
08:57 am

PP is afraid of this. Social media bypasses the mainstream media, with its pro-abortion bias, and reaches the people directly.
08:59 am

There is a need to be aware and informed about such news sources as, to be familiar at how to reach our audience.
09:00 am

Q & A: The suit against Lila Rose by PP was eventually dropped, as they feared the appearance of a coverup would reflect poorly on them.
09:05 am

Panel: Taking the Pro-Life Message to Urban Audiences Online: Dean Nelson (Care Net) & Ryan Scott Bomberger (The Radiance Foundation)
09:09 am

The prolife movement is mainly seen as a "right-wing-republican" movement. there are those who work with crisis pregnancies among blacks.
09:12 am

Urban audiences trust African-American messengers more, so the need for leaders and outreach from within that community is crucial.
09:12 am

"While most African-Americans are prolife, there is the perception that the numbers for their abortions are smaller than they really are.
09:14 am

Ryan Scott Bomberger has founded the Radiance Foundation, advocating adoption over abortion. A video was presented about their work.
09:15 am

PP's lie is that "unintended" means "unwanted," therefore "unloved."
09:17 am

Ryan Scott was born as the result of a rape. His being adopted gave him the chance. Obama ...
09:18 am

... should have been the "poster boy" for the same situation. Blacks have long been targeted for racial eugenics.
09:19 am

(Other messages related to this event can be found through this hashtag: #prolifecon.)
09:21 am

(The live webcast of ProLifeCon continues at:
09:23 am

Michael J New, PhD is the next speaker. He has researched the misinformation about abortion statistics in the mainstream media.
09:27 am

The media is quick to report that abortions are up in a given year, but not so quick when the numbers are down.
09:30 am

ObamaCare must be repealed, as it will provide for abortion services.
09:33 am

Congressman James Lankford (R-OK) was one of 12 House members who got on the floor to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v Wade.
09:37 am

Lankford is giving us a quick update on new developments in the House, a shift in opinion, and many new outspoken prolife faces.
09:39 am

There is an issue among pro-abortion advocates about control. "You can't tell me what to do," et cetera.
09:39 am

The group that favors abortion for the sake of convenience. "We like disposable this and that." Then there is the trend toward recycling.
09:41 am

"If a water bottle should be preserved (for recycling), what about a child?"
09:41 am

"We should reduce the number of abortions." But if it's just human tissue, why, unless you know it's inherently wrong.
09:42 am

Proverbs 24:11-12.
09:42 am

"Why would we have federally-funded abortions in light of the rising national debt?"
09:44 am

We are slowly moving beyond "partial-birth" abortions, and have had one publicized case of "full-term" abortions.
09:46 am

(Mid-morning break. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.) #prolifecon
09:51 am

The proceedings at ProLifeCon continue, with Terrence McKeegan (C-FAM).
10:12 am

C-FAM is the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Terrence is talking about the significance audience potential with Facebook.
10:15 am

Set up your Facebook link from your website so that people can select "like" and you'll be included on their news feed.
10:16 am

Prolife activists and organizations should make blogging a priority, the more writers the better, for more fresh content.
10:18 am
10:18 am

FCProLife (Fort Collins ProLife) is an example presented of a Twitter account devoted to prolife issues.
10:21 am

C-FAM tracks social media traffic from the UN and related organizations.
10:26 am

The more "traditional" media (email, etc) still drives most new media.
10:27 am

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council (hosting the event) speaking from Los Angeles via Skype.
10:28 am

Social conservatives are making inroads among fiscal conservatives. Who knew?
10:38 am

Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life, is the next speaker.
10:39 am

National prolife youth rally is on the Capitol lawn from 2 to 5 this afternoon. Meet at the Lower Senate Park.
10:42 am

Talking about Saul Alinsky and the use and abuse of power, how this applies to the current setting.
10:43 am

One video on YouTube has had the power to start an organization. Such is the power of social media.
10:44 am

Girls looking for help with "crisis pregnancies" will go to the internet, find a video of an ultrasound, and a life can be saved.
10:46 am

Students for Life goes to Facebook to target student prolife leaders on college campuses to mobilize them.
10:47 am
10:48 am provides news on prolife events, info on the truth about abortion, and numerous Twitter feeds.
10:51 am

Jeanne Monahan of FRC will be discussing the recent "Philadelphia massacre," where babies just born were killed as if thru partial-birth.
10:55 am

Notes were provided at the conference with quotes from the grand jury report on the incident.
10:56 am

The clinic was in a poor neighborhood. white patients were treated more safely than non-whites.
10:57 am

The doctor showed up in the evening. Non-medical personnel were treating patients during the day.
10:58 am

The women gave birth to live babies, which had their spines crushed, or stabbed in the head with scissors.
10:59 am

Unsanitary equipment spread STDs. Complications were not met with calling for an ambulance. The doors would often be blocked to stop calls.
11:00 am

Much of the information provided here about Gosnell's clinic is very graphic, and horrible to contemplate.
11:01 am

Fetal remains (feet, etc) dating to 1980 found in jars in the freezer during police raid. Pro-aborts reply: "This is not about abortion."
11:03 am

"Planned Parenthood is shooting themselves in the foot, with the way women are being treated. This is the word we need to get out."
11:07 am

Philadelphia is not an isolated incident. This has been going on in other cities for years.
11:08 am

Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) is the next speaker, Assistant Majority Whip in the House. House Energy and (Health?) Committee.
11:11 am

Many Democrats in the Senate come from states where the majority of voters are prolife.
11:17 am

Is abortion an unjust law? Yes, but we are a nation under the law, and the law can be changed.
11:25 am

David Bereit of "40 Days for Life." Has mobilized over 400K people in several hundred USA cities.
11:26 am

40DFL focuses on ending abortion thru prayer vigils for 40 days in front of clinics twice a year.
11:27 am

Bereit is providing a primer on the use of forms of social media to send out messaging. To that end, he's talking very fast.
11:29 am

"Technologies ae many, principles are few. Technologies always change, principles never do."
11:30 am

The first of three steps is to ATTRACT. We must bring other people in, for the next step ...
11:32 am

We must CONNECT, build relationships around a common effort so that we can ...
11:33 am

DIRECT, move towards a common action, which in turn continues to .... ATTRACT.
11:33 am

ATTRACT: If it's worthwhile enough, people will be drawn to it. They want to get on a train moving somewhere.
11:35 am

CONNECT: Communicate effectively. Does it reach them? Make the adjustment, make it interactive.
11:37 am

DIRECT: Give people things to do, even if just a few. Start small, help them see the big picture.
11:38 am

EXAMPLE: Abby Johnson's book "Unplanned." She was converted thru a 40DLF prayer vigil. Book promoted around this.
11:39 am

We're wrapping it up here. Our twitcast is at an end. Visit later today for a transcript. #prolifecon
11:41 am

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It was a very active news day today, and the actual anniversary of Roe v Wade was last Saturday. So it was even less surprising that the major news network took little if any notice of the largest annual public rally in the Nation's capital (if you don't count the Fourth of July). Closer to home, we would like to thank the numerous new followers we now have as a result of today's twitcast. It was enough to put the followers' count above two hundred, and we welcome them all to this page. There is more where the above came from, on prolife issues, among other topics.

So, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Nazis in the House? Again???

We're gonna keep hammering on the issue of civility until you clowns get it right.

Occasionally, Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's The Daily Show could almost pass for a purveyor of serious news analysis. A certain congressman, within a week of an impassioned call for civility, compared Republicans to Nazis. Apparently that means anyone who looks or (in certain people's opinions) acts a little stiff or closed-minded, or simply puts a little too much starch in their button-down collars. That is why the term gets knocked around a lot by the same intelligensia which, if they really knew what National Socialism stood for in the 1930s and 1940s, would probably experience a conversion on such things as abortion, socialized medicine -- hell, socialized damn-near-anything!

Oh, and maybe even saying mean things about Jews.

Stewart himself probably doesn't know that, but he knows a cliché when he hears one. That is why we're indulging him again. Can we help it if the guy makes sense once in a while? (CONTENT ADVISIORY: Language.)

As a bonus, here is a sample of correspondence from Congressman Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee, known by Iowahawk as "America's most dynamic metaphorist."

Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr (1915 - 2011)

I only met Sargent Shriver once, in the late 1980s, and it was only on the telephone. He was a close friend and associate of the man who hired me to come to Washington in 1980, but that man had retired several years earlier, and the distinguished gentleman couldn't find his friend's telephone number. So I gave it to him, and that was that.

Tonight I attended his wake, at the parish church in Georgetown where I was once a sacristan. I slipped into a back pew, and I prayed the rosary for him. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. The place was filled to capacity, with one person after another, proclaiming one encomium after another, and everybody applauding each other. Unfortunately, and knowing this crowd as I do, it is doubtful that he will be remembered for this:

Shriver and his wife were signatories to a full-page July 1992 New York Times advertisement protesting the Democratic Party’s embrace of abortion politics.

Titled “The New American Compact,” the ad denounced abortion as a drastic reversal of American progress towards liberty and justice for all. It declared the pro-abortion Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade to be “the most momentous act of exclusion in our history” which deprived every unborn human being of the “most fundamental” human right to life.

The ad also called for support for policies that help both mother and child, saying “We can choose to extend once again the mantle of protection to all members of the human family, including the unborn.”

If such choices are made, the signatories predicted, “America will experience a new birth of freedom, bringing with it a renewed spirit of community, compassion, and caring."

Columnist Father Raymond J deSouza, writing in Canada’s National Post, said of him: “Shriver was the most outstanding statesman in a tradition that has almost entirely disappeared -- the principled Catholic man of the left.”

No, I cannot imagine we will see the likes of him or his devoted wife again, not for a long time. And the most unique part of his legacy will go unnoticed, even by those who claimed to know him so well.

I only met him on the phone, and I don't know much. But I know that.

Go ahead. Make my choice.

This weekend, as the anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision is remembered, people will talk about their right to a "choice." Jill Stanek wants us to ask them what they mean when they say "choice." We hear people talk about that word as if we should all know what it means, and we do. But if the right to terminate the life of someone not yet born by way of legalized abortion is so sacrosanct, why can't people just say the word?

Imagine how it would be if some of us were as completely unashamed of the word as we claim to be ...

"Yeah, I love abortion. I'm all for it. I had three abortions, and I don't regret any of them. I want free abortions for everybody, and I want someone else to pay for them, so that I don't have to. In fact, I wish my mother had aborted me, I love abortion that much."

... but we won't hear anything remotely like that, because when it comes down to it, everyone involved in abortion, whether it's the counselor who persuades the young girl that she really (and ironically) doesn't have any other "choice," the doctor who provides it and profits from it, the leaders of Planned Parenthood who get one-third of their budget from our taxes for it, or the "personally-opposed-but-ardent-Catholic-anyway" politician who supports it, or the weak-kneed prelate who cannot bring himself to deny Communion to such public figures who desecrate the Body of Christ by their actions -- deep down, in their heart of hearts, they all know they're wrong. Dead wrong.

The most atrocious instances of man's inhumanity to man in the last century, were actions which began with a similar form of denial. What horror there is, to gaze into the reflection in the mirror, and witness the depths of the abyss that awaits those who propagate evil.

Or even stand by and watch without a care.

FAMW: Weird Science in Yellowknife

Come with us to Yellowknife, the largest city and capital of the Northwest Territories of Canada, with a population of just under twenty thousand. In what little daylight there is in the winter, the temperature is as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit). You can throw boiling water into the air, and watch as it turns instantly into fog.

A pretty awesome thing to consider, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

“No rest for the weary.”

... or so they say.

I've been putting in a lot of hours in the past week on an animation project. It's a lot of fun, really, but it takes me away from my schedule here. This week should have seen the “The More-Or-Less Best of 2010” by now, but since it didn't, we'll link you to last year's picks here and here.

Sometimes you just have to improvise.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: O Mary Don’t You Weep

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

In April 2006, Bruce Springsteen culminated his return to the musical mainstream by recording We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. Inspired by the work of folksinger-and-activist Pete Seeger, fifteen songs were recorded in three one-day sessions. It is, for the most part, completely unrehearsed -- you can hear Springsteen in the background yelling out chord changes -- and the result led to a live concert in Dublin in November of that same year.

Pete Seeger was said to have criticized the project upon release, for not being political enough. Obviously there is a part of the term "public domain" which he doesn't quite get.

This video is from one of the original sessions.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

From the “Help Desk”

I had a strange occurrence today. I should set the stage for it first.

The morale where I work, particularly in my part of the agency, is the worst it has been in about fifteen years. (I've been there for thirty.) I have now served under six presidents, and this is the most incompetent administration I have ever seen. I can't pin it on any one person -- believe it or not -- but we're halfway through this term, and these idiots can't keep a leadership in place long enough to figure out what it wants to do. The worst effect is on the career ranks of middle-management, some of whom prefer to hide under their desks until the unpleasantness goes away. Sometimes, a transformation of this scale causes the riff-raff to consider early retirement. Not this time. We've lost some really good people in the last year, people who just couldn't take it any more. You know who that leaves, right?

I don't have that luxury. I've got ten more years before I can retire. And even though they spend over twenty thousand dollars of YOUR money, and I spent several thousand of mine, expanding my skill set over a five-year period, these geniuses still can't figure out what to do with it. And they want ME to explain what went wrong.

They don't always like what I tell them.

It's been really annoying, but for one shining moment, it simply got weird. Before I left the office today, I got a message on my work e-mail system, from some innocuous administrative technical support address. The subject heading was "Requested update." It read as follows:


History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.

Bertie C. Forbes

For the life of me, I cannot explain this, as I certainly never requested an "update" like this one. But I'll take what I can get.

The Return of Gloria

The daily webcast of Gloria.TV News returned early last week, after a Christmastide hiatus.

Naturally, we welcome their return. It has to be said, though, that lately they've been getting a little silly, especially toward the end of each episode. It is a challenge to come up with fresh ideas day after day, and we look forward to our continued collaboration with them. That said, lately they've been getting a little silly ...

The Sound Premise

People want to know how I win nearly all of my arguments. I have been blessed with such distinction in e-mail discussions for over fifteen years, and some have wondered about my secret. It is very simple: Your position must begin with a sound premise, something verifiable, something that can be proved. If someone begins an argument with "Well, I'm sorry, but I just feel like ..." well, then, "sorry" is only the beginning, and will prove to be their ultimate downfall.

Marilyn Horowitz explains how a Socratic method would apply to the writing of a script. The author of "How to Write a Screenplay in 10 Weeks" and creator of The Horowitz System™, she is an award-winning university teacher, a producer, a screenwriter, a script consultant and a successful writing coach. Her students include published novelists, screenwriters and award-winning filmmakers. Her website is:

(H/T to Stephen Heiner for locating the above illustration.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Joan Rivers: A Voice For Our Times

If you think the former governor of Alaska is to blame for the shootings in Arizona, you should know the caliber of those who share your view of the world. The originator of this clip has this to say: "Joan Rivers says Sarah Palin is 'stupid' and a 'threat.' To what, we have no idea, nor do we know why anyone would care what Joan Rivers thinks. But here goes anyway."


“Bloom where you’re planted.”

The video clip shown here was from a Fox News Channel broadcast, one which has been appropriated by one of those survivalist groups. They anticipate rioting in the streets over severe food shortages in the next few years. They also anticipated rioting in the streets when the year 1999 came to an end. I remember that night. We had an entire floor of public affairs specialists in a rented space near the White House, waiting for the entire computer infrastructure to come to a screeching halt. Aside from providing fat contracts for the few people who still knew how to program in COBOL, nothing happened.

Still, it never hurts to be able to take care of yourself. And panic is a thing we learned about in the Boy Scouts -- it's the first thing most people do when they're lost. And even without the riots, food prices are going up steadily so far this year, and it's not going to stop.

But this doesn't have to hurt you any more than it has to. Even having come from a long line of farmers, this writer does not have a green thumb. Indeed, I'd call it "the thumb of death," as everything I've tried to grow is either watered too much, or not enough. Nevertheless, with the help of "Sal," Chez Alexandre had its first garden in a space of 1.5 by 7 (or about ten square feet), along the outside of my deck in the back yard. Sal insisted on having two rose bushes, as she loves roses. Other than that, we grew various herbs such as chives, mint, and basil. We had root crops such as wild onions, and citronella to keep the bugs away. We also had two cherry tomato plants, which ended up flourishing like kudzu, and producing more tomatoes than we could handle. I think this year we might plant lettuce and/or beans, maybe even carrots, just to be more practical. But without Sal, it never would have happened, what with my perennial curse in this area.

We'll also be seeking out advice from others, to be shown here, as to what you can do to grow your own garden. Even high-rise apartment dwellers can get one of those long planters and keep something near the window, or out on the deck. And if you have an outdoor grill that no longer works, I hear they convert to planters very handily.

This can be done. Watch the second clip with a killer sound track. And stay tuned ...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Piqua Rocks!

Tonight we celebrate Piqua, Ohio, a city with a population of just over twenty thousand, located about a half-hour's drive north of Dayton.

The name of the town is most likely derived from a Shawnee Indian expression: “Othath-He-Waugh-Pe-Qua” which means “He has risen from the ashes!” It claims among its favorite sons such notables as Bill Lear, founder of the Lear Jet Company and inventor of the 8-track cartridge (which we'll try not to hold against them), as well as the jazz and pop vocal quartet known as The Mills Brothers.

Piqua was once famous for its annual "Underwear Festival." That would seem odd, except that the city was once the home of the Atlas Underwear Company, a major producer of underwear for the late 19th and most of the 20th century. (FAMILY FOOTNOTE: My paternal grandmother and her sister both worked in that factory about a hundred years ago.) Small wonder that it is the fictional home of George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the two main characters in The Adventures of Captain Underpants.

Fortunately, they can do better than that, as we are about to see.

I'm here to report to my loyal readers -- and you both know who you are -- that my Close and Personal Friend Father Martin Fox needs our help. Piqua Catholic School needs $50,000 for a new gymnasium floor, and they have entered the Pepsi Refresh Challenge to win the big kahuna. We've just gotta help these kids, who had to have worked so hard to put on a show like this. Watch the video, and then click here.

“Watch your step! Can we fix it with gum?” Good one.


The term "epiphany" is from the Greek noun "epiphaneia," which means "manifestation," and the verb "epiphainesthai," which means "to appear." Our mother the Church traditionally associates the period after Christmastide, and before the great penance of Lent, to the gospel accounts of Christ making Himself known to man. It is unfortunate that the official liturgical reforms eliminated a distinct season devoted to the Manifestation. In a recent work quoting from the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, New Theological Movement elaborates.

There are three events which are central to this manifestation. The first is that of the appearance of the wise men (traditionally numbered at three, although this is not definitive), which the West remembers on the sixth of January. It is here that Christ is made known to the Gentiles. The second is the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan, which is celebrated as the Epiphany (Theophany) in the Eastern churches, thus being announced by the Father as "my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The third is remembered on the traditional Roman calendar today, that of the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, where Christ performed his first public miracle.

In this video, we see the Ethiopian Church celebrate this miracle with a major feast of its own.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Haiti Plus One Year: “Gimme Shelter”

It was one year ago this week, that Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake, one which displaced most of the population. As this is written, progress toward recovery has been extremely slow, with millions still living in makeshift tents. This despite an unprecedented international response. Critics blame a corrupt and inept government infrastructure, resulting in a lack of effective logistics -- basically, getting the aid from the helpers to those being helped -- and the pre-existing state of poverty among the majority of Haitians.

Most immediate solutions, such as tents, do not translate well into the long-term, especially in a country where, in addition to earthquakes, there are also heavy rains and tropical storms. Meanwhile, the much-needed long-term solutions are ever more encumbered by the aforementioned logistical challenges. Faulty building methods, among other things, have also contributed to the scale of the disaster. (Chile, with an earthquake of greater magnitude later that year, suffered far less casualties and/or damage.)

Into the scenario, we are introduced to Shelter2Home, the brainchild of Donald Stevens, a Maryland native who now makes his home in Winchester, Virginia. His company was inspired by his experience in Sri Lanka, with various relief organizations' transitional housing programs. Something needed to be set up quickly, within a few hours, by a minimum group of people, which would not only provide immediate temporary shelter, but would eventually serve as the nucleus for permanent housing.

The result was a systematic approach to providing standardized housing to those displaced by natural or other disasters. His system is the only emergency shelter system that can be converted to a permanent home, and/or upgraded over time. Through a comprehensive training program established in Haiti by Stevens' company, the Haitian people can learn to help themselves in rebuilding their homes and their lives. More information can be found in the accompanying video clip, or by contacting the company in Winchester.

We look forward to the continued success of this company, and to innovators like Donald Stevens, who leave the world better than they found it, and help others to do the same.

Friday, January 14, 2011

FAMW: “What’s Your Sign (Lately)?”

For this, our regular Friday afternoon feature, why not start out the year with a story about ... well, the year?

ABC has this report: “Your zodiac sign was determined by Babylonians based on what constellation the sun was in on the day you were born. But astronomers at the Minnesota Planetarium society point out, things have changed over thousands of years. The Earth has shifted on its axis, and shifted us up one sign on the zodiac wheel.”

But there's more, in the form of another zodiac sign. Be sure to watch the whole thing before you draw any conclusions in your daily horoscope. It's only fair warning for thie week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

(This video courtesy of Multiple sources. The real story.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Razing Arizona

In the wake of the recent pep rally for the President bearing little resemblance to a memorial service for those who were killed in the Arizona shootings, there are several laws being proposed to protect public officials. The Daily Caller lists the five most ridiculous:

1. Encase the entire House and Senate floor with Plexiglass so the tourists can’t throw things at members of Congress.

2. Impose a federal ban on carrying a firearm within 1,000 feet of any “high-profile” public official.

3. Make it illegal to draw pictures of elected officials within crosshairs or say things that might be considered ‘threatening’ to lawmakers.

4. Use the Federal Communication Commission’s power to finally get that dastardly Rush Limbaugh off the air (or at least get him to stop being so mean).

5. Since the alleged Tucson gunman liked to smoke pot, the federal government should impose tougher drug laws.

Now, just so we're clear, this author is a Federal employee, working in a Federal building, and those of us who work in them should know they are safe from guys like William Ayers who planted a bomb at the Capitol, and went on to host a fund-raiser for the man who is now President, or any sort of harm. Then again, if we imposed term limits, members of Congress wouldn't be around long enough to piss off anyone any more than they absolutely had to.

Did we mention the free tee-shirts? Discuss.

THIS JUST IN: "Together We Thrive" is a leftover slogan from a recent Presidential campaign. Wanna guess which one?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What Wikileaks Hath Wrought

You say your kids can't stay off the computer, and you wish they'd develop their artistic skills half as much as their ranking in the World of Warcraft? Well, weep no more, dear reader. Using “My Coloring Book” from Kea Software, some enterprising person who appears not to be giving his name for fear of being labeled a national security risk has developed ...

The Julian Assange Coloring Book

... that is sure to keep your younguns amazed and amused for hours on end, not to mention sneaking an occasional peak at your copy of Le Monde or Der Spiegel. Check out these exciting results from Alicia of Western Australia. The possibilities are endless! Be sure to check out the other variations on a theme. As long as the power stays on, or the generator's gassed up, there won't be any cabin fever in YOUR house.

Someone was going to think of this sooner or later, and a Tip of the Black Hat goes out to the guy who did it sooner.

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Thought of You

Time once again for our regular midday Wednesday feature.

This week we present an animation by Ryan Woodward, with the song "The World Spins Madly On" by The Weepies. More information on the making of this film can be found at

Death in a Small Town (2011 Remix)

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

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 ...

If we ever do a “Top Twenty List Of All Time” here at mwbh, it will surely include this story from July of 2006, probably the most visited in our eight-and-a-half-year history. Hardly a day goes by in which someone has not visited this particular story. I cannot explain it. But why fight the feeling. Read on, dear reader.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Saving Social Security

I expect to retire from Federal service no later than the end of the year 2020, at which time I will have just turned 66, and am eligible for Social Security benefits. Or I'll hold out and work part-time until the end of 2024, at which time I will have just turned 70. Then I would draw from Social Security (among other things), and stick to free-lance writing no more than fifteen hours a week.

But will Social Security still be there?

We've mentioned the work of the Cato Institute here more than once. Their own Dan Mitchell explains how the system is being rescued in other countries, and how it can be saved here. But will it be saved for people in my age group?

I can still remember when Ronald Reagan had a syndicated radio program in the 1970s, where he talked about privatizing Social Security. At the time, I thought he was crazy, but I didn't know why. Now I'm beginning to think he wasn't, and I do know why.

Unless one of you aging trust-fund socialist-hippie bozos has a better idea. Let's hear it.

Coming Attractions

Here's what's coming to mwbh in the next week:

A review at the top ten posts for 2010 (or twenty, if we're in the mood).

The look ahead to what our readers can expect in the coming year.

The encounter one year ago, between yours truly, and the woman who interrupted the House proceedings last week.

A rundown of the new weekly schedule of regular features.

And finally,

One more vain attempt at New Year's resolutions.

Civility Yada Yada Yada ...

In light of the recent tragic shootings in Arizona, security has been stepped up at and around the United States Capitol. We'll probably notice more police cars parked in strategic locations, both near the White House, and certain other government buildings in and around the District. People want to blame someone else's rhetoric before their own, and are calling to outlaw the use of symbols like crosshairs (like, oh, this one here).

The liberal establishment is also calling for more civil discourse in the public square, even as it continues among many of them. Saul Alinsky would certainly be proud of these poseurs. Let us watch as one of them, currently the deputy press secretary at the White House, gives Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly a lesson in civility, in this clip (which we never tire of showing) from October 2008.

That's our leadership, keeping it classy!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Plowing Through Monday

Today was the traditional start of the agricultural year in England, and so was known as “Plough Monday” or the day after “Plough Sunday” which was the Sunday following Epiphany. This was when everyone would end the Christmas revelry and get back to work. John Brand, in his 1777 book Observations on Popular Antiquities, gives an account of the formalities:

The FOOL PLOUGH goes about: a pageant consisting of a number of sword dancers dragging a plough, with music; one, sometimes two, in very strange attire; the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woman, and the Fool, almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back. The office of one of these characters, in which he is very assiduous, is to go about rattling a box amongst the spectators of the dance, in which he receives their little donations.

Well, maybe not directly back to work. Personally, though, I'd rather be molly dancing.

What is that, you ask?

Molly dancing traditionally only appeared during the depths of winter and is regarded by many people as the East Anglian form of Morris. It is characterized by blackened faces, heavy boots (usually hobnailed) and the presence of a "Lord" and a "Lady", two of the men specially attired respectively as a gentleman and his consort, who lead the dances. Blackening faces was a form of disguise, since the dancers could not afford to be recognised. Some of those people from whom they had demanded money with menaces would have been their employers. Molly dancing is by nature robust and, some would say, aggressive. These qualities are emphasised by the sound of the hobnailed boots worn by the dancers, which were the normal form of footwear for farm workers in the East of England right up until the second half of the twentieth century. (Information courtesy alexandersanders.)

Sunday, January 09, 2011

We the People

This morning, in the Outlook section of The Washington Post, we are treated to a most blatant example of adolescent rebellion, by a so-called constitutional law professor, one David Cole of Georgetown University. This is in response to the reading of the United States Constitution by members of the House of Representatives this past week, as the new session was convened. It is presented as "circulating in secret among incoming GOP lawmakers," as opposed to what they actually read. This sort of tantrum out of academia is quite juvenile, even by the standards of the Post:

We, the Real Americans, in order to form a more God-Fearing Union, establish Justice as we see it, Defeat Health-Care Reform, and Preserve and Protect our Property, our Guns and our Right Not to Pay Taxes, do ordain and establish this Conservative Constitution ...

Now, if someone teaches constitutional law, we might assume that such is dependent on the existence of that which is its raison d'etre, in this case, the Constitution. To ridicule the veneration of said document, could be interpreted as a mockery of one's own profession, unless one is engaged therein for other motives. We must conclude that this professor only succeeds in ridiculing himself.

Not to be outdone, the same issue of the Post includes another article, purporting to refute "five myths about the Civil War" -- the first three of which are not myths at all. But that's a subject for another day.

+    +    +

Observers have noted that certain parts of the Constitution were not read, such as the description of the census counting slaves as only three-fifths of a person -- you gotta wonder how they arrived at that portion -- for the purpose of determining representation. Of course, this was abrogated later by the Fourteenth Amendment, which was read. Then there was the Amendment prohibiting "intoxicating liquors," which was also later repealed. It might have been better to read them all anyway, if only to show that the Constitution, rather than being a "living document" subject to manipulation from the bench, can be amended by due process involving the people of the United States through their representatives.

Someone else estimated that the cost to the taxpayer of the time spent reading the Constitution on the floor of the House was $1.1 million dollars. One might consider the greater cost of ignoring it altogether.

Finally, we note the voice from the gallery disrupting the reading, as heard in the above video clip. Not only has she been identified, but this week, readers of mwbh get to meet her, as yours truly did just one year ago. Stay tuned ...