Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thank God for Pope Benedict XVI

Segements of the press exploded with vitriol against Pope Benedict XVI this week. Why? Because he took the knife to one of their sacred cows--sexual license--in his Christmas greeting. Here are some quotes from an article posted on LifeSiteNews.com:
During his exchange of Christmas greetings with the Roman Curia this morning, Pope Benedict XVI noted that the Church "cannot and should not limit herself to transmitting just the message of salvation to her faithful." It must also he said "protect the human being against self-destruction" - a destruction which comes from a warped understanding of marriage and human sexuality.

"It is necessary to have something like an ecology of the human being, understood in the proper manner," said the Pope. "It is not a surpassed metaphysics when Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected."

Unless we "listen to the language of creation" he said, we end up with "destruction of the work of God." The Pope suggested that the gender ideology which seeks to redefine the sexes to allow for homosexuality, transgenderism and such things are examples of mankind separating himself "from creation and the Creator." With such attempts to decide for himself, mankind "lives against the truth and the Spirit of the Creator."

Appealing to concern for the environment to heighten awareness of the gravity of the matter, Pope Benedict said, "Yes, the tropical rainforests deserve our protection, but man, as a creature is no less deserving" of protection. Rather than a limit of our freedom, the Pope emphasized that it was a condition of that freedom.
Note to American bishops--speaking the truth to power like Pope Benedict is doing here is part of your job description. Please take heed.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Book Review -- The Whiskey Rebels

Not long ago--certainly within the living memory of anyone approaching the age of 40--nearly every novel, movie, and television adventure show featured a white male hero. When people outside that mold appeared at all, they were invariably either victims to be rescued, sidekicks, or villains. But within the past 20 years, that paradigm has been completely turned on its head. In The Whiskey Rebels we see what happens when the postmodern cult of the anti-White male reaches its absurd climax and history must be tortured to accommodate it.

The Whiskey Rebels is a decently written novel. It is a page-turner in the worst sense of that term. That is, the author's prose is sufficiently punchy to keep you turning pages to see what happens next. Unfortunately, what usually happens next is "not much." The plot is disjointed and full of unsurprising surprise twists. The dialog is what you'd expect from a "made for HBO" type historical adventure. There are scenes that make the reader groan out loud thanks to bizarre and totally unnecessary sexual imagery.

My real problem with this book, however, was the characters who were little more than pawns acting out a morality play in the 21st century mode. The "hero" is Captain Saunders, a wrongfully disgraced Revolutionary War officer. About two-thirds of the book is written from his perspective and he sees himself as an exceptionally dashing and clever fellow. The reader soon discovers, however, that he is a scoundrel and a drunken boob who, unbeknownst to him, is being manipulated by the other characters in the book.

The other third of the book is told through the eyes of Joan Maycott, a brilliantly self-educated woman who moved to the frontier with her husband. Though cheated and brutalized by the local aristocrat and his thugs, the Maycotts and the other hearty frontier folk find success in developing a new way to make whiskey. But the imposition of the federal tax on whiskey exacerbates tensions on the frontier and Maycott is left a widow seeking revenge on the federal reprobates and speculators who ruined her life. She and her Whiskey Boys infiltrate Philadelphia and launch a complex financial scheme to utterly destroy the creature they feel most responsible for their plight.

The other major protagonists in the book are as follows: Kyler Lavien--a kind of Jewish ninja in the employ of Alexander Hamilton who has neatly compartmentalized his idyllic family life from his day job as a spy/assassin; Leonidas--Saunder's slave who is presented as ten times the man his master is; Dalton and Richmond--two whiskey boys who the author "outs" inelegantly and then puts forth the ludicrous idea that everyone on the frontier was perfectly fine with their arrangement; and Skye, an older Scottsman and one of the whiskey boys whose main purpose in the novel is to be a rejected suitor for the widow Maycott.

The villains are all, without exception, rich white males.

So the old trope has now been completely inverted. Once you realize this, the course of events is easily predicted.

Let me just say that I find tales like this to be just as tedious and uncreative as the ones of yore in which only rich, white men could be the heroes.

A couple of the Founding Fathers pass through the pages of The Whiskey Rebels. Alexander Hamilton is presented enigmatically--of course, he is shown sneaking off to visit his mistress. George Washington appears in one scene, though the author seemed fixated upon Washington's false teeth more than anything else.

So in short, this book was a disappointment. Not exactly a yawner, but simply annoying in that the author seems to be nothing more than a politically correct trend-follower. Personally, I'm tired of those.

For those of you interested in the true history of the Pennsylvania frontier, which is infinitely more interesting than this book, I recommend going to some of the primary sources which are easily available these days. Try the Early Colonial Bookshop for a good list.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Abortion not linked with depression?

A news article is floating around today claiming that there is no link between abortion and depression:
A team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reviewed 21 studies involving more than 150,000 women and found the high-quality studies showed no significant differences in long-term mental health between women who choose to abort a pregnancy and others.

"The best research does not support the existence of a 'post-abortion syndrome' similar to post-traumatic stress disorder," Dr. Robert Blum, who led the study published in the journal Contraception, said in a statement.
Worse, the academics behind this article simply declare that evidence to the contrary is "low quality" and "politically motivated."

How about a little transference with your baloney sandwich?

But hey, maybe these clowns are on to something. There may be less evidence of depression among post-abort women because many of these poor totured souls opt to commit suicide instead.

Suicides after pregnancy in Finland, 1987-94: register linkage study

Here's the money quote from this article:
The mean annual suicide rate was 11.3 per 100 000. The suicide rate associated with birth was significantly lower (5.9) and the rates associated with miscarriage (18.1) and induced abortion (34.7) were significantly higher than in the population.
I reckon this is one of those "low quality" studies Dr. Blum was referring to above.

Wouldn't it be nice if the medical and mental health communities got back into the business of actually helping people and not making immoral, counter-intuitive or just obviously wrong political statements?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No freedom of choice for Catholics -- Why FOCA is evil

FOCA, the so-called "Freedom of Choice Act" is anything but.

This wicked bill will immediately declare all reasonable restraints on abortion (the killing of a baby in the womb) null and void. Gone will be any common sense limits passed by voters in the individual states on partial-birth abortion, parental notification for abortions performed on children under the age of 18, and most ominously of all, the ability of pro-life physicians and medical personnel to opt out of performing abortions for reasons of conscience.

This bill is anti-Democratic, anti-American, and supremely evil. Catholic bishops in the US are already threatening to close hospitals rather than comply with this act. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Chicago made the following statement regarding FOCA:

"There are grave consequences. If Catholic hospitals were required by federal law to perform abortions, we'd have to close our hospitals."

Nearly 100 Catholic bishops across America are echoing these words.

We should all keep in mind that nearly 1/3 of our nation's hospitals are Catholic-run. Can you imagine the crisis that closing even a fraction of these hospitals would cause?

FOCA must be defeated. Urge president-elect Obama to denounce the bill in no uncertain terms.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Book Review: The Man Who Was Thursday

To this point in my life, I've now read three works by Chesterton. I enjoyed his epic poem Ballad of the White Horse a great deal. His bio of Saint Thomas Aquinas left me somewhat befuddled. After I finished it, I felt I knew no more about the great saint than when I started. However, I had read something — a lot of something, in fact — just don't ask me to tell you what.

The Man Who Was Thursday is a completely different work from the abovementioned pair. It is subtitled "A Nightmare" and that's exactly how it reads. It starts out like a quirky spy/detective novel, but as the plot progresses, it becomes obvious that this is no typical pot-boiler. It is well to keep in mind when reading this book that Chesterton was a master of paradox. In an interview recorded in a biography by Maisie Ward, Chesterton once summarized the book by saying: "In an ordinary detective tale the investigator discovers that some amiable-looking fellow who subscribes to all the charities, and is fond of animals, has murdered his grandmother, or is a trigamist. I thought it would be fun to make the tearing away of menacing masks reveal benevolence."

To summarize the plot is to give away much of what makes this book an enjoyable read, so I will refrain. And to my mind, the plot is almost coincidental to what makes this book interesting. It is a mere plastic tree (if an oddly shaped one) upon which Chesterton hangs a myriad of literary ornaments. The book is simply littered with gems which sparkle even out of context. Here are a few of my favorites:
"We deny the snobbish English assumption that the uneducated are the dangerous criminals....We say that the most dangerous criminal is the educated criminal. We say that the most dangerous criminal is the entirely lawless modern philosopher. Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are essentially moral people."

"The modern world has retained all those parts of police work which are really oppressive and ignominious....It has given up its more dignified work, the punishment of powerful traitors the in the State and powerful heresiarchs in the Church. The moderns say we must not punish heretics. My only doubt is whether we have a right to punish anybody else.”

"The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all."
The Man Who Was Thursday can be read and appreciated on two different levels--as an entertaining bit of absurdity that, in some sections, prefigures a Monty Python routine, or as an allegory with significant theological depth. I enjoyed it a great deal on both levels.

To conclude, let me simply say that this is the kind of book that I will need to re-read at some future point, perhaps a couple times, to make sure I didn't miss anything. Fortunately, Chesterton's prose is so merry and brisk that the re-read will be a pleasure rather than a trial.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sunday, November 09, 2008

My visit to Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago

I like to visit local churches when I'm on business travel. Two weeks ago, I was in Chicago and decided to drop in on Holy Name Cathedral on a Saturday afternoon. Knowing what I do about recent Catholic history in Chicago, I was expecting to see yet another example of "wreckovation". Sadly, I wasn't far off.

The exterior of the Cathedral is still quite lovely. Here are two photos:
And from another angle:
Once inside, though, the ambiance was something not quite Catholic. By way of comparison, here's a photo of the inside of the Cathedral circa 1958 before the "modernizaton" took place.
And here's what the interior looks like today (apologies for the blur):
The ceilings, columns, and floor remain quite beautiful, but notice the apse in particular which has been almost completely desacralized. Also notice the disappearance of religious statues.

When I entered, the organist was playing some horrible 12-tone piece that seemed better suited for a slasher movie than for a Catholic cathedral. With that noise echoing throughout the vast space, it was impossible to pray. So instead, I went and visited the bookstore in the basement. To my surprise, the selection of books and religious items on sale was excellent and I walked out with a Byzantine/Russian style icon of Our Lady Hodegetria.

By the time I left the bookstore, the "music" had ceased so I decided to say a rosary. At that point, I went looking for the tabernacle. Of course, there was no sign of it in the apse, and for a moment, I felt a little like Mary Magdalene on Easter morning when she said, "They have taken my Lord away and I don't know where they have put him." I found what I assumed was the tabernacle in one of the two side "chapels" flanking the apse. Calling them chapels is a stretch, however, as there are no altars in either of them. As works of religious art, both are horrifying:
I assume this piece was done in honor of the Blessed Virgin, although to me it looked more like a haphazard display of heavy bronze cobwebs.

The tabernacle was worse:
In this one, we see our Lord emerging from a Sputnik-like object which has apparently exploded in a taffy factory.

It was a bit difficult to pray with these disturbing images in front of me, and the cynical part of me speculated that this was the whole point of having them there. But I persevered. At least the huge, stylized crucifix hanging over the altar wasn't completely awful. The rose windows were also quite beautiful, but I suspect these were left untouched from the original construction.
The rear of the cathedral was dominated by the organ, which had a foreboding appearance--almost like the warp core of the starship Enterprise:
On a positive note, I was able to attend Confession at the cathedral, and there was a steady stream of penitents there when I went. As I left, I noticed that there is currently a capital campaign underway for the building, and refurbishment is in process on the exterior of the building. I can only hope this means that some major dewreckovation may be in the works on the interior as well in the not-too-distant future. It would be a shame to leave such a beautiful edifice so barren of religious adornment.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!


--Rudyard Kipling

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

I'm happy to say I voted for McCain/Palin today. I pray that enough of my fellow Americans will do likewise so that we may continue building a Culture of Life here in the United States. An Obama victory would turn back the clock 35 years on Life and untold millions of innocent unborn babies' lives would be in jeopardy around the world.

If you value life and the family, you must get out and vote today. Vote to defeat Obama like lives depend on it.

Because they do.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bishop: No Catholic can Vote for Barack Obama in Good Conscience

Here's an ad from a very courageous Bishop, his excellency, Rene Gracida.



The text of the ad is as follows:
This is Bishop Rene H. Gracida, reminding all Catholics that they must vote in this election with an informed conscience. A Catholic cannot be said to have voted in this election with a good conscience if they have voted for a pro-abortion candidate. Barack Hussein Obama is a pro-abortion candidate.
The ad is also available on YouTube in Spanish.

Please forward this ad to every Catholic you know. It took a lot of courage for Bishop Gracida to say this so forcefully. Please remember him in your prayers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Alveda King, Niece of Martin Luther King Jr., endorses McCain-Palin

The following is taken from an article in today's Philadelphia Bulletin:
"I am very excited about the McCain-Palin ticket, simply because they support the values that mean the most to me," Ms. King said. "It is a plus to me that Sarah Palin is a woman because I've been elected to office as a wife and mother. I've been appointed to office as a woman and at the time I was a mother and became a grandmother." 



Ms. King said her experience taught her she could both be a good mother and still serve the public. This is something she has in common with Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, McCain's running mate.

However, the most important reason she is backing the McCain-Palin ticket is its commitment to the pro-life cause.
Click here to see the video mentioned in this article:

A Matter of Faith, Race and Politics

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brief review of Holmes: The Age of Justinian & Theodora (1905)

Having never discovered this particular history before in my research, I was looking forward to reading it after discovering it in the library. Now I know why hardly anyone cites it. The author, William Gordon Holmes, does not uphold even the pretense of scholarly objectivity. Never before have I run across an historian who displays such open contempt for his subject matter. The Byzantines were a deeply religious Christian people and Holmes openly and continuously decries the religious beliefs of late Roman Christians in language that is little short of vitriolic. And beyond this, he carries the attacks to modern Christians as well, claiming in one footnote that Christian beliefs spring either from ignorance or insanity.

In one particular 60-page tangent, Holmes offers his own version of the history of Christianity. Having little to do with his original subject, Holmes uses this digression to pontificate upon the "death" of Christianity in his time. In a footnote, he celebrates the lack of religious vocations and says that, "those who are engaged in impressing a belief in obsolete mythologies on the community should realize that they are doing an evil service to their generation." Ominously, Holmes predicts that the "Romish and Orthodox churches" will retain their power over the ignorant masses for a while longer "until at last they have to face suppression by force."

Perhaps worse, Holmes is a social Darwinist of the kind that flourished pre-WWII but is hardly to be found today (at least openly). In one place, he calls the modern Spanish people "unintelligent." He insinuates that Hawaiians are a lower race. And in another place, he envisions a future where "famous stallions should stand to cover brood mares in the human as well as the equine world."

Sadly, there is a good bit of useful data here in between Holmes's pompous paeans to atheism and eugenics. He gives a very useful, if occasionally inaccurate, tour of Justinianic Constantinople and his footnoting is generally very helpful when dealing with matters outside of religion. But unfortunately, this book is so completely saturated with the author's bloviating bigotry to make it a supremely obnoxious read for anyone but a hard-core anti-Christian atheist.

Ignore the polls

For those of you down in the dumps about Obama's poll numbers as compared to McCain's, take heed. It is my belief that the polls are being manipulated by the media in concert with the Democrats. The strategy is to make Obama seem like an irresistible force and to depress the conservative turn out in an attempt to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Here's an article from the NRO campaign spot that bolsters this theory. The money quote is as follows:
"Believe me, there is someone in the Obama campaign who is deathly afraid of the 'McCain pulls even or goes ahead' poll." (And in Gallup, it was within 2 percent.) "That Obama strategist knows how much depends on the whole Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel approach —.work with the media to demoralize conservatives, and keep the perception of a juggernaut going. But a day or two of a few bad polls, and that strategy backfires. The conservatives know they've still got a shot at this."
Thus, the message for conservatives is to ignore the polls. If this theory is correct, no pollster will show McCain ahead for the duration of the election. In such a climate, the best thing to do is to assume McCain is 1% behind, and work like heck to get him elected. Volunteer. Call. Walk precincts. Vote!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Review of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice

If you like short stories about disgusting sexual attractions, suicide, and self-absorbed German narcissism, you'll love Death in Venice. Me, I don't much cotton to such themes in what I read, so I had trouble wading through this morass of early 20th century European bourgeoisie decadence. But as this book was the choice of our book club, I had to persevere.

Of the eight short stories contained in this book, I found only the three middle ones, Mario and the Magician (1929), Disorder and Early Sorrow (1925), and A Man and His Dog (1918) to be of any worth. The others--Death in Venice (1911), Tonio Kröger (1903), The Blood of the Walsungs (1905), Tristan (1902), and Felix Krull (1911)--range from simply tedious and uninsightful to gross and perverse. Interestingly, it is Mann's earlier stories that fall into that category. I suppose these stories were meant to have shock value in their day. But in an era when the most disgusting pornography is only a mouse-click away, they seem painfully trite and pedestrian today.

Mann's later stories are better, possibly because as he matured, Mann became a more skillful observer of the beauty and joy of everyday life. But if tinged with sentimentality, these stories don't really inspire. Of all the stories, Mario and the Magician is the only standout. It was the singular tale which kept me riveted with larger than life characters and underlying themes which got beyond the mundane or the merely sexual.

As a whole, this is exactly the type of work that made me dislike studying modern literature as a student. The prose is dense and despite Mann's impressive descriptive ability, the stories do little to uplift the human spirit. Instead, the reader is left encumbered with a myriad of very negative ideas and disturbing notions of humanity.

Of course, as I am reading Mann in an English translation, it is not impossible that his genius as a writer was more easily discerned in the original German. In English, it was fairly invisible to me. I say this as someone who loved writers like Dumas, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy in English translation.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dems 4 McCain Flyer

Here's a downloadable flyer that should stir up some trouble. Use it to:

1.) Give to Democrat family members and friends.

2.) Give Democrat colleagues at work.

3.) Post around your college campus or on community bulletin boards.

4.) Place in in any public place where literature may be distributed.

5.) Hand out in front of post offices, train stations, or any other high-traffic area where it's legal to do so.

6.) Keep on you to give to any folks you meet with whom the election comes up as a subject of conversation.

It's a simple, no frills flyer that gets the point across. It's in color, but it looks just fine printed out on a standard laser printer or copy machine.

Click on the lo-res version of it below to download a PDF for easy printing (148K):

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The publishing industry and liberal hypocrisy

For those of you who may not know, the publishing industry is almost completely run by liberals. Any debate on this should be ended by an August survey from Publishing Trends which showed a whopping 86% of respondents plan to vote for Barack Obama in November.

Yes, 86%.

Here's the real stunner, though. A survey in Publishers Weekly released in July of 2008, found the following:
The salary divide between men and women actually increased in 2007—men received an average salary increase of 4.5% last year, compared to 4.2% for women. Men earned an average salary of $103,822 last year, compared to $64,742 for women, and while one reason for the higher overall salary for men is that more men are in the higher paying management and sales side of the business, the discrepancy is in all segments, including editorial, where men out-earned women $67,000 to $48,000.
Yes, you read that right. In an industry where 86% of the folks self-identify as Obama-voting liberals, there isn't pay parity. In fact, it's not even close.

Now don't get me wrong. I fully understand the underlying reasons why women are generally paid less than men and why the whole issue of pay parity is a red herring. But it really irks me that the same leftists who moan and complain endlessly about such things can't even manage it in industries that they dominate.

But perhaps we shouldn't be surprised when the Obama campaign itself can't even manage pay parity between men and women--in stark contrast to the McCain campaign.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Letter to my State Senator and Assemblymen

Here's the letter I wrote to my local reps regarding this bill. Please feel free to use bits and pieces of it, or the whole thing, as you see fit.

---------------------------------------

Esteemed Representatives,

It has come to my attention the New Jersey Assembly will be considering a bill (ASSEMBLY Bill No. 3123) which sets new and unprecedented restrictions on the right of home education within the state of New Jersey.

There's an old saying (which admittedly uses improper grammar) which says: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The current laws in New Jersey which cover homeschooling work and are considered among the most liberal (in a good way) in the nation. This horrid bill would put New Jersey into the educational dark-ages. As you no doubt are aware, homeschoolers routinely score among the highest percentiles on national and state standardized tests and on average, perform well above their peers in public education. This trend has even been recognized by many universities who now actively recruit home educated children.

Given the successes I have observed among the homeschooling community, I would ask that you oppose this ill-advised and coercive bill and ask that it be withdrawn immediately before it messes up a good thing. Homeschoolers need more support from the state, not more restrictions and regulation.

Please be advised that I consider a vote in favor of this bill to be utterly disqualifying in terms of my future support, both in terms of my vote and who I contribute to in the next election.

Sincerely,

Etc.

Fighting for Homeschooling in NJ

Two NJ legislators, Democrat Sheila Y. Oliver District 34 (Essex and Passaic) and Democrat L. Harvey Smith District 31 (Hudson) have declared war on homeschoolers in New Jersey. Their bill which will make NJ the most homeschool-hostile state in the union, may be read here:

ASSEMBLY, No. 3123, STATE OF NEW JERSEY (Introduced September 22, 2008)

Ms. Oliver and Mr. Smith need to hear from all NJ homeschoolers right now. Here are their phone numbers. Also, click their names to take you to their pages at the NJ Legislature page. You can get their office addresses and send emails from there. I recommend doing all three:

Sheila Y. Oliver - (973-395-1166)
L. Harvey Smith - (201-536-7851)

The legislators sponsoring the anti-homeschooling bill are about to find out how networked homeschoolers are. Let's make them rue the day they ever tried to pull this nonsense.

NJ about to go Nanny State on Homeschoolers?

You knew it was only a matter of time. The liberal homeschooling laws in New Jersey are now under fire from two "concerned legislators" in Trenton.

Read it and get angry.

http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2008/Bills/A3500/3123_I1.HTM

This needs to be hammered and hard if NJ homeschoolers are going to maintain their right to educate their children as they see fit without interference from the state.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Book Review: The Walls of Cartagena

I recently signed up for the Amazon.com "Vine" program which provides free advance copies of books to regular reviewers in an attempt to generate buzz for these new titles immediately upon release. They send you a regular newsletter via email with books (and other items) on it that you can request for review. From my perspective, about 90% of the stuff on there is junk--or at least supremely uninteresting. However, this book, The Walls of Cartagena, caught my eye.

Calepino is a 13-year-old Black boy in Cartagena. Life is hard in this slave-trading city, but Calepino has a talent for languages and works with Father Pedro and Sacabuche as an interpreter in the fetid holds of the arriving slave ships. In the course of his duties, Calepino becomes attached to two new arrivals from Africa--Mara and her young son Tomi. But when Mara and Tomi are sold to a cruel master, Calepino decides he must take action to save them.

The Walls of Cartagena is an entertaining little book meant for younger readers, age 10-12. The story is uncomplicated, the characters are generally sympathetic. There are numerous charming illustrations throughout. I appreciated the generally positive portrayal of the Catholic priest, Father Pedro, who is in reality Saint Peter Claver. The author obviously put a great deal of research into the story and this comes through in the numerous little details of life in 17th century New Spain which adorn the story. The writing is elegant and flows well. A good reader could easily devour this little story in one or two sittings.

My main criticisms of the book center around the author's incomplete and sometimes inaccurate overall historical perspective. While the author correctly examines the horrors of the slave trade, she also engages in a bit of historical hyperbole with regard to the Black Legend of the Spanish Inquisition. One character, Dr. Lopez, is presented as being persecuted by the Inquisition because he is a Jew. The author does not explain that Jews were never targeted by the Inquisition, but only those who feigned a conversion to Catholicism to maintain wealth or status within Spain or her colonies. Indeed, the Inquisitional courts of the 17th century were often considerably more lenient than comparable secular courts in other European kingdoms of the time.

The author also seems to follow the conventional wisdom with regard to the modern fable that the Catholic Church suppressed intellectual curiosity and exploration. There's a mildly tedious aside where Dr. Lopez introduces Calepino to the "forbidden" works of Galileo, who, the author tells us, "was under house arrest in Italy for asserting that the sun, rather than the earth, was the center of the universe." Anyone familiar with the history of this incident knows that this was not the reason Galileo was confined. Indeed, Copernicus had made this exact same claim decades before Galileo and suffered no such punishments. Galileo's contentions with the Church were much more personal than scientific.

Finally, I disliked how the author made the heroic rescues in the story only possible by the blatant telling of untruths by the major characters, including St. Peter Claver. This struck me as little more than a plot device as such actions were dramatically out of character for most 17th century Jesuits, who were often paragons of courage when it came to telling the truth to power. Many would have put their own heads on the chopping block before resorting to such dishonest expedients.

Setting aside these flaws, I found The Walls of Cartagena to be an enjoyable read and one which I would definitely read with my own kids as an intro to life during the Renaissance. I would, however, read it along side books which told "the rest of the story" such as The Outlaws of Ravenhurst or Angels in Iron.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Every Catholic needs to see this before election day

This short video puts everything into perspective nicely.



It's long past time for those who call themselves Catholic to start voting like it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Book Review -- Father Elijah

I was first introduced to Michael O'Brien's writing when doing research for my reviews of the Harry Potter series. Mr. O'Brien is an ardent Potter-basher and at first, I considered him a bit strident. Yet after I finished reading the series and J. K. Rowling made her ridiculous "Dumbledore is homosexual" statements, Mr. O'Brien's opinions suddenly seemed right on the money. Here was a man who was able to cut through the moral haze of Pottermania and discover the slime within well in advance of the rest of us.

I had previously heard of Father Elijah but only recently made the connection between the book and its author. Once I did, it became imperative that I read it and I'm very glad I did so. Father Elijah is a fascinating and engrossing tale. Interestingly, it's subtitled "An Apocalypse"--as opposed to the Apocalypse. I suppose this is because this is a work of speculative fiction that offers a scenario of how the Apocalypse could happen and might be happening right under our noses.

The main character, Father Elijah himself, is a monk who entered the monastery after converting from Judaism. His past life was a succession of tragedies--he is a survivor of the Holocaust and was formerly a prominent figure in Israel. He has lived peacefully in a monastery near Mount Carmel in Israel for many years but now he has been called upon for a much more dangerous mission--to confront the one suspected by the Vatican of being the anti-Christ and convert him.

The plot continues from there through numerous twists and turns. There are moments of calm reflection on the mysteries of the Catholic faith interspersed with scenes of genuine spiritual warfare that are often frighteningly real. The characters are well-drawn and true to life. A couple of them seem like parodies of certain individuals or types within the Catholic Church. The better you know the Church, the more likely you are to chuckle at these characters. Overall, the writing is superb and flows well. It's easy to rip through 80 page chunks in one sitting.

O'Brien is insightful and clearly privy to the undermining effects of modernism which have been gnawing at the Church's foundations for at least the past 100 years. In Father Elijah he creates a mirror-world where certain clerics within the greater Church as well as within the Vatican itself, have embraced the spirit of the world and who view the spirit of God with contempt. There is one scene in particular where the sickly and aging Pope confronts a headstrong Cardinal on this very point and the outcome is striking. One is forced to wonder how many of our prelates in the Church today would act in the same way toward the Pope?

One thing that struck me about Father Elijah is that it clearly is set in an age before the internet. It was originally published in 1996 when the "old media" still ruled the roost. Among the chief culprits undermining the work of the Vatican and good priests like Father Elijah are those who run the so-called Catholic media--newspapers, magazines, etc. These are exposed as merely agents of the world who are trying to co-opt the Church for their own diabolical purposes. And indeed, in the bad old days of the 1980s and 1990s, the Catholic media often acted in just this way, though with a few notable exceptions.

But in the 12 years since Father Elijah was first published, there has been a sea-change brought about primarily by the advent of the internet. Now, obfuscatory, dishonest, and outright dissenting articles published in places like the National "Catholic" Reporter can be exposed and criticized in a public forum before millions of serious readers. A good priest who is faithful to the Pope can have a blog that gets read by hundreds of thousands every day, while the true numerical and popular weakness of dissenters in the Church is made plain for all to see. Bishops, priests, and powerful lay people who publicly dissent from Church teaching and act as wolves in the sheepfold are known beyond their own localities--indeed, the whole world knows them now.

Of course, this takes nothing away from Father Elijah. It is an excellent read, highly recommended to anyone who is a Catholic and who wants to have a better understanding of the nature of evil and how evil has occasionally donned the guise of goodness and penetrated even the Church itself.

By way of closing, this book reminded me a great deal of another fascinating work of fiction called Dream of Fire. The plot is similar, though Dream of Fire is set in a fantasy world and is considerably more brutal, at least in a physical sense.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Obama took $100K from Failed Fannie and Freddie

Well, well, well. It looks like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, though eye-ball deep in bad paper, have been mighty generous with the Democrats, including neophyte Barack Obama. According to Capital Eye, the junior senator from Illinois has taken over $100,000 in campaign contributions from Fannie & Freddie and ranks third on the overall list of pigs who feed at this particular larder.

What's most impressive about Senator Obama's feat is that he's a newcomer to the field. Old porkers like Chris Dodd, who leads Obama's total by a mere 30K, took decades to amass these contributions. Even Hillary Clinton has only managed to compile $75,000, as compared to the Obamessiah.

Considering that the taxpayers are now expected to foot the bill for Fannie & Freddie's failure, I think it's only fair that Senator Obama return his $100,000. That would be the kind of change we could believe in.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Abp. Niederauer of San Fran chastizes Pelosi -- well, sort of

Nancy Pelosi recently made outrageously false statements about Catholic teaching and abortion (Pelosi lies about Catholicism and abortion). In response, at least three good bishops that I am aware of stood up to rebuke her in no uncertain terms—Cardinal Egan of New York, Archbishop Wuerl of Washington, DC, and Archbishop Chaput of Denver.

Conspicuous by his silence was Archbishop Niederauer of Pelosi's home diocese of San Francisco. Well, better late than never. Archbishop Niederauer finally released a statement on the matter today. In just under 2,000 ponderous, rambling words, the Archbishop manages to say very little by way of a direct rebuttal of Pelosi's words. Nor does he highlight the grave sin it is to spread un-Catholic teachings in the guise of Catholicism. Nor does he make it clear that individuals who are public advocates of abortion should not approach the sacraments.

Instead, the archbishop closes with the following words:
I regret the necessity of addressing these issues in so public a forum, but the widespread consternation among Catholics made it unavoidable. Speaker Pelosi has often said how highly she values her Catholic faith, and how much it is a source of joy for her. Accordingly, as her pastor, I am writing to invite her into a conversation with me about these matters. It is my obligation to teach forthrightly and to shepherd caringly, and that is my intent. Let us pray together that the Holy Spirit will guide us all toward a more profound understanding and appreciation for human life, and toward a resolution of these differences in truth and charity and peace.
Yes, a conversation. I'll be interested to see how Nancy Pelosi responds to this request.

One can only hope that the Archbishop is made of sterner stuff behind closed doors than he is in public.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

It's official--the left is in total meltdown freak-attack mode

Right now, Sarah Palin and her family are going through a media meatgrinder the likes of which hasn't been seen since Clarence Thomas dared to escape from the Democrat plantation in 1991. The Left doesn't like it when a constituency they consider "their property" gets uppity.

Sarah Palin is a stiff right-cross to the jaw of the left--hence the absolutely hysterical rush for "dirt" on this mother of five from Alaska. Indeed, Obama's surrogates at MoveOn.org are offering $5,000 for dirt on Palin's husband. And the elite media has been all too willing to pile on--going after her kids without the least bit of shame.

But these filthy tactics have always been a hallmark of Obama campaigns, despite his pious mumblings to the contrary. His surrogates in the Chicago media managed to get George Ryan's sealed divorce records unsealed in 2004, causing Ryan to drop out of the race. When Ryan was replaced by Alan Keyes, surprise! the media revealed that Keyes's teenaged daughter Maya was a homosexual.

At last, it seems that some on the left have had enough of this garbage. On Democratic Underground, the poster B2G wrote:
I've been here a long time. Not a prolific poster, but a prolific reader. And from what I've read today, I don't belong here anymore.

Women being bashed for their right to choose having a family and a career with the support of their spouse.

Women being called sluts, bimbos and brood mares.

Women having their appearance dissected and witchhunts for compromising photos.

Innocent young girls being slandered with rumors & innuendos.

Enough. I want to win. But I don't want to win this way. And if you do, then I don't want any part of it.
Is it possible there is some shame in lib-land? Maybe. Time will tell.

In the mean time, it behooves all good and honorable Americans to denounce this garbage in no uncertain terms. The best way to do so is to volunteer to help elect Johh McCain and Sarah Palin and make sure that Obama goes down to an epic defeat this November.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The NOBAMA shirt

And here's a shirt using my NOBAMA logo...

McCain/Palin shirts

Here are some McCain/Palin shirts I made up last night:



The text under McCain/Palin says: "America First - Pro-Life"

Enjoy!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Are we psyched about McCain's VP pick?

Oh yeah!

Here's a CafePress store I just set up to help promote the ticket. Click here to get some McCain/Palin swag to help promote the most pro-life Republican ticket in history:


You can also get some of my NOBAMA stuff on there as well, to help defeat them most pro-abortion Democrat ticket in history.

McCain/Palin in 2008

Love him or hate him, John McCain has run an outstanding campaign for president. His winning streak continued today when he picked Sarah Palin to be his VP nominee. Based on the little I know about Governor Palin, she seems like an outstanding selection. She's a former athlete, mayor, and the governor of Alaska for the past two years. She's also the mother of five kids, the youngest of whom, four-month old Trig, is a Downs baby. Considering that it is estimated that 90% of Downs babies are killed in utero by their mothers, Palin's decision to carry Trig to term is a flesh-and-blood testimony to her pro-life credentials.

Thank God! Apparently the life issue isn't above Sarah Palin's pay grade. Contrast that with the attitude of Mr. Obama on the value of children:


The contrast is indeed shocking.

God bless Senator McCain and Governor Palin! On to victory!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Please sign this petition -- 4,000 signatures needed

The University of San Diego recently awarded the Monsignor John R. Portman Chair of Roman Catholic Theology to one Rosemary Radford Ruether, Ph.D. The trouble is, the good Dr. Reuther holds the following positions:

-> Supports the heresy of Catholic priestesses.

-> Supports the heresy of "marriage" between members of the same sex.

-> Is a board member of Catholics for Free Choice, the odious pro-abortion group, which promotes the lie that Catholics may view abortion as anything other than an abomination.

Fortunately, the University decided to pull the chair out from under Dr. Ruether, thanks be to God!

But not surprisingly, the usual suspects who hold that "the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic", are taking up for Ruether. A group of sadly misguided pseudo-Catholics from The Women’s Ordination Conference, the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, and Call to Action San Diego, has submitted a petition to have the chair reinstated to Dr. Ruether. They collected 2,000 signatures in support of their effort.

Over at the Ora et Labora blog, they've upped the ante--they're trying to collect 4,000 signatures in support of the University's decision by the start of class on September 4.

I just put my signature on there.

Go ye and do likewise!

Support the University of San Diego’s Stance Against Rosemary Radford Ruether

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Book Review: Hero of Byzantium

This book has been dancing around in my peripheral vision for a couple years now. Amazon.com knows my reading habits frightfully well based on my past purchases and they've been prodding me about this book in their "you might also like" way for some time. Well, I finally put the book on my wish list and, voilà! received it as a gift from my adorable wife.

I must admit, though, for a book that seemed tailor made for me, it left me a bit cold. First off, let me say that the author should be commended for his attempt. Belisarius is a fascinating historical figure who lived during a fraught and intriguing period in history and I applaud anyone who tries to tackle the subject. Also, given all that we know about Belisarius, attempting to fit his entire eventful life into one 176 page book is a daunting task.

The author should also be congratulated for working aspects of Christianity into his tale--and not in the sneering, patronizing way the Faith of the 6th century is often treated by modern writers.

Sadly, though, this book is a good example of what happens when an author with a great idea goes the self-publishing route. First off, the interior layout of the book is clumsily done. There are no paragraph indents throughout the entire book and the text is littered with really basic typos. The dialogue is stilted and has an artificial feeling to it--like watching one of those dubbed Italian gladiator movies from the 1950s. No real insight is provided into why the characters, other than Belisarius, do what they do. The descriptions of the many battles are cursory and the peeks into the private life of Belisarius and Antonina were awkwardly handled.

The history is also shaky. Of course, the author should be given some leeway considering that this is a novel and not a proper biography. But for heaven's sake, there are three errors in the book's first sentence!
"In the year 529 C.E., the Persian Emperor Khosrow the first, having recently ascended to his father's throne, sent a great army to the west to conquer the walled city of Dhara in northern Syria."
1. Khosrow was not the King of Persia in AD 529.
2. It was not he, but his father Khavad who sent an army to conquer Daras.
3. Daras was located in Roman Mesopotamia, not Syria.

The errors go on from there, but admittedly, they are fairly inconspicuous and don't hamper the story too much. More annoying was that the author continuously uses the anachronistic C.E. (Common Era) for dating, even when he is directly emulating the writing of Procopius. Although A.D. would have been anachronistic as well, it would at least have been more in keeping with the Christian theme of the work than the post-Christian "C.E." More amusing than annoying are the uncaptioned photographs of miscellaneous Greco-Roman ruins in the middle of the book. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what these have to do with Belisarius.

I think the author's biggest problem with regard to the history is that he only did surface research before setting out to write this book. The sources he cites at the end are scanty and of the works of Procopius, the most indispensable historian of all for the period, he only cites the scandal-mongering libel known as the Secret History. How an author can write a tale about Belisarius and not consult the extensive public histories of Procopius is beyond me. It's also clear that the author never dipped into either Agathias or the Chronicle of John Malalas--two other near contemporaries of Belisarius that contain a wealth of information on the great general and the 6th century Roman Empire.

So Hero of Byzantium gets only two stars from me, I'm sad to say. It was a noble attempt but riddled with too many problems to be a satisfying read.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Stand with Georgia


I post this graphic as a show of support for the heroic people of Georgia who are suffering under Russian agression right now.

May almighty God protect them.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pro-Georgia Rally in Philadelphia

Here are some photos I took of a pro-Georgia rally on Independence Mall in Philadelphia.


I was really heartened to see these folks out there. I pray that God will defend and protect the Georgian people and all those who live on the doorstep of the barbarian nation known as Russia.


Ironically (or not), the usual "Peace in Iraq -- US get out" people were out there the day before--with nary a word about the Russian aggression against Georgia. How anyone can take those people seriously is beyond me.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

How's that for turn-around?

Yesterday, I sent my observation about Random House's cowardice to the Catholic League. In typical form, they cranked out a press release about it today--

RANDOM HOUSE KILLS “ANTI-MUSLIM” BOOK; PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED THE DA VINCI CODE

Gotta love Bill Donohue! The Catholic League is really on the ball with this stuff.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Profiles in Cowardice -- Random House

Check this out. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, publishing giant Random House has pulled the plug on novel it had under contract (The Jewel of Medina by journalist Sherry Jones) because the company received "from credible and unrelated sources, cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."

It is to laugh.

Keep in mind, Random House is the parent company of Anchor Books, the publisher of--you guessed it--The Da Vinci Code.

So what have we learned today, children? Simple--big publishing will spinelessly change its business practices if threatened with actual physical harm. There's a word for people who surrender their supposed priciples under threat--cowards.

Professor in Minnesota needs an exorcist

As some of you know, a pathetic individual posing as a university professor, Paul Zachary Myers, had nothing better to do with his time that to engage in a public act of profound bigotry against Catholics and their dearly held beliefs. As a matter of principle, I will not link to this individual's blog. It does no good to express your outrage on his message board--to call him invincibly ignorant is an insult to the simply ignorant. I'm convinced this man is possessed--literally.

What did Myers do, exactly? Well, he encouraged people to steal consecrated Hosts from Catholic Churches and send them to him. Why? So he could desecrate them. He wrote (as taken from The Catholic Herald): "Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers?...I'll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare....I won't be tempted to hold it hostage, but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart."

Of course, someone was able to supply Myers with a consecrated Host, apparently stolen from the London Oratory, and he "thought of a simple, quick thing to do: I pierced it with a rusty nail. And then I simply threw it in the trash, followed by the classic, decorative items of trash cans everywhere, old coffee grounds and a banana peel."

Thus confirming my suspicion that the man is indeed possessed. Satan thought he could get rid of Christ in exactly the same way.

Yet, Satan always overplays his hand. Out of this act of desecration, the priests at the London Oratory "are urging worshipers to be vigilant at Mass and to receive Communion on the tongue. Communion plates have started being used at certain Masses again."

Furthermore, on several discussion threads, including this one on Free Republic, many non-Catholics are expressing their contempt for Myers's action and their support of Catholics to believe as they please without harassment from bigots.

And lastly, Myers's hypocrisy for attacking Catholicism exclusively led his critics to point out that he was too afraid to attack Islam in the same way. To prove that he was an equal opportunity bigot, Myers ripped pages out of the Koran and threw them in the trash as well. Talk about overplaying your hand. Catholics will only hand you your head in a figurative sense for messing with their Faith. Muslims tend to be much more literal about these things.

Of course, the university where this bigot molds young minds has taken no action against him to date. According to the Catholic League website, the university recognizes that Myers's actions violate the code of conduct, but apparently, in this case, that's ok.

Catholics are encouraged to write a letter to University of Minnesota Chancellor Jacqueline Johnson (jrjohnso@morris.umn.edu) to demand Myers be fired. They won't do it, but they need to know how many of us are out there and that we're very angry about this.

And finally, it's clear to me that Myers needs one thing above all else: prayer. Please pray for the salvation of his soul. I will be.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

And another in the same vein


There's just something about really juvenile humor that instantly takes even the biggest egos down a few pegs.

And now from the juvenile humor department...

A Connecticut Bigot in King Arthur's Court

I have always loved Mark Twain since reading Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer as a kid. At one point I had even memorized "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" as a seventh-grader in Catholic school. Twain has always held a sentimental place close to my heart, so when our book club chose to read and discuss A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, I was all for it.

I had heard vaguely of Twain's atheist mindset and his antagonism toward religion in general. But until I read Connecticut Yankee, I had no idea how much irrational and unfounded antipathy Twain had for the Catholic Church in particular. The pervasive theme in Connecticut Yankee is that our modern enlightened world is far superior to that which went before and that the "bad old days" of slavery and oppression were almost completely the fault of the Catholic Church. This anti-Catholic sentiment can hardly be denied as Twain himself urged reviewers not to mention it when the book first came out. "Please don't let on that there are any slurs at the Church," he told a sympathetic reviewer in the Boston Herald. "I want to catch the reader unawares, and modify his views if I can." This quote may be found at a wonderful website devoted to Twain at the University of Virginia's site. Also at that site are some of the anti-Catholic illustrations that accompanied the original publication of the work.

So Twain engaged in what we know today as the "last acceptable prejudice." By way of a simple comparison, let us imagine that, instead of Catholics, Twain had chosen Jews, Mormons, or Evangelicals as the villains of Connecticut Yankee. Would it still occupy the exalted position it does as an American classic? Or would it be relegated to those dusty shelves where reside other scurrilous works or racist manifestos to be studied as a historical curiosity of a meaner age?

For me, the most annoying aspect of Connecticut Yankee was Twain's almost total ignorance of history--or, perhaps more accurately, his decision to turn history on its head to better fit his polemical aims of blaming all the ills of society on the Catholic Church. This is a classic example of what happens, I suppose, when a journalist with a wide breadth of knowledge but no depth attempts to novelize about a historical subject. To address some of Twain's errors:

1.) Slavery in antiquity was in no way the fault of the Church. That pernicious institution long predated Christianity and was endemic to classical pagan societies. Indeed, the Church has a long history of making the lot of slaves more tolerable and being among the premier abolitionist institutions in the world.

2.) The idea that the Church suppresses intellectual freedom is a fable made up during the Protestant rebellion, though it is heartily embraced by Twain. Far more erudite scholars than I have examined this fallacy, so rather than address this topic in detail here, I would point the reader to Tom Woods's excellent book, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.

3.) Twain writes glowingly and naively of democracy, putting in Hank Morgan's mouth the notion that "Where every man in a state has a vote, brutal laws are impossible." One wonders what Twain would have made of our modern America, where not only every man, but every woman has a vote, and yet the ghastly practice of abortion is not only legal, but enshrined as a human right. Democracy of itself does not ensure enlightened government. Without the temper of religion, democracy is as likely to produce brutal and repulsive laws as the worst monarchy. De Tocqueville understood this. It's a wonder that Twain did not.

There are many more, but this review is already more prolix that I had intended.

As always, Twain's writing sparkles in Connecticut Yankee and his lampooning of the style of Mallory is very funny. His characters, however, viewed 120 years later, are crudely drawn. Hank Morgan is an Alger-esque self-made man whose compendious knowledge of all subjects is just a little too convenient. The legendary Arthurians are all soulless pawns that Twain moves around to further his polemic. No insight is offered into their characters at all. They are all cruel and completely self-serving--as they must be in Twain's mind because they belong to the aristocracy. The story ends on a bizarrely depressing note for a tale that was predominantly a humorous satire for the first seven-eighths of its length.

In short, this is not a book I will be reading to my kids as a bedtime story. For me, it is to be considered a shameful period piece, written at a time when it was acceptable and even laudatory to be a Know-Nothing and make up slanders about the Catholic Church. That it is a cleverly-written slander is only another mark against it. Amusing slanders are pleasing to read but have the potential to do real harm both to the target and the reader.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The perfect presidential pair

Two men.

One slogan.

Equally qualified for office.

Barry and Bob.

Perfect together.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On Human Life

A fantastic feature appeared in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin last week on the war between the Culture of Life and the Culture of Death in the world today. I have only skimmed a few of the articles, but they have been excellent and they contain information that EVERYONE needs to read, especially Catholics.

See here: Of Human Life

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Our tyrannical courts

How dysfunctional is our system of government at the present moment? Here's how dysfunctional.

Five years ago, the Supreme Court handed down a verdict in the Lawrence v. Texas case declaring that Americans have a God-given right to practice sodomy and that laws limiting the act were unconstitutional. Amazingly, by a vote of 6-3, the SCOTUS magically discovered this "right" after 227 years of American history when laws banning this disgusting practice could be found on the books of nearly every state at one point or another. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson himself, as governor of Virginia, signed a law that mandated castration as the punishment for someone convicted of sodomy.

Today, by a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court affirmed that citizens have the God-given right to keep and bear arms as explicitly stated in Second Amendment. (Click here for the full text PDF of the decision).

Yes, that's right. Had one vote gone the wrong way, the SCOTUS would have overturned an amendment to the U.S. Constitution and taken away a fundamental individual right that has existed since the founding of the nation.

We are in big trouble in this country.

$4.05/gallon gas because you voted for a Democrat

This graphic is brilliant and needs to be spread around everywhere...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Our Black-Robed Popes

The Supreme Court of the United States, in one of their patented 5-4 decisions, declared that it is unconstitutional to enforce the death penalty in case of child rape. (Warning, file is a PDF).

Yes, you heard that right. If some fiend rapes a child, he may not receive capital punishment anywhere in the United States.

Now, I agree with the Pope that capital punishment, in this day and age, is largely unnecessary. However, given the hideous facts of some of these child rape cases, I'd be hard pressed to argue that the death penalty wasn't warranted. I also understand that my opinion on this matter may not reflect that of the majority of others in this country and that folks in other states have an absolute right to decide how to govern themselves with regard to issues like this.

But in another case of usurpation of the right to self-government, the five unelected judges of the Supreme Court have taken it upon themselves to decide for the entire nation when the death penalty may or may not be applied.

The reasons for this ruling as provided by the five liberal dictators on the court are completely specious and yet another example of unelected judges not only making law from the bench, but pontificating on morality as well. As Justice Alito wrote in dissent:
The Court provides two reasons for this sweeping conclusion:

First, the Court claims to have identified “a national consensus” that the death penalty is never acceptable for the rape of a child;

Second, the Court concludes, based on its “independent judgment,” that imposing the death penalty for child rape is inconsistent with ‘the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.’”
Did you get that? The Supreme Court (or at least the five liberal tyrants on the Supreme Court) have decided that they are the arbiters of our 'evolving standards of decency.' Don't forget, it was the Supreme Court that ruled that 'evolving standards of decency' now included God-given rights to abort our children, buy, sell, and produce pornography, and engage in sodomy.

Am I the only one who feels just a bit uncomfortable with individuals like Justices Stevens, Bryer, Ginsberg, Souter, and Kennedy defining our national morality?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Our tolerant friends on the left


Can you figure out how this scratch mysteriously appeared on my car in the visitor parking lot at Bryn Mawr College?

(Cue Jeopardy music)....

Extra credit if you can figure out why.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Do as I say, not as I do

Here's an amusing story about the patron saint of environmental movement, Al Gore.

Energy Guzzled by Al Gore’s Home in Past Year Could Power 232 U.S. Homes for a Month

Remember, when the left moans about America's "profligate" energy consumption, they're talking about the rest of us not them. Most of our enlightned leaders have no intention of ever walking the walk.

I'm reminded of General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. As leader of the worker's paradise of the Soviet Union, where the vast majority of the proletariat lived in a state of scarcity and want, Brezhnev nonetheless managed to accumulate a collection of antique cars.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Book Review: Red Hugh—Prince of Donegal

Ireland is oppressed by the forces of Elizabeth, the English queen. A few strongholds in the far northwest remain free of English domination, but Elizabeth has her eyes on these as well. In order to subdue Donegal, the English kidnap prince Hugh O'Donnell, heir to his ailing father's castle and lands, and lock him in prison in Dublin.

Red Hugh: Prince of Donegal tells the tale of Hugh's imprisonment, attempts to escape, and his heroic fight against the English. It is engagingly written and is a quick and satisfying read. The characters are very well drawn--from the brave and long-suffering Hugh, to the indomitable Queen Ineen Duive, Hugh's mother; from the brawny and charming MacSweeney to the cruel English captain Leeds.

Originally published in 1957, this new edition of Red Hugh is produced with modern audience in mind. It includes a useful map of northern Ireland which allows the reader to follow the action with ease. The book is well suited for kids aged 10 and up, though I admit to enjoying it myself at over thrice that age. The primary lessons taught are bravery, loyalty to family and country, and perseverance even in seemingly hopeless situations.

Friday, June 13, 2008

President Bush to convert to Catholicism???

Somehow I doubt it, but an article in the London Telegraph today is hinting at it.

Keep in mind, however, that for The Telegraph, anything having to do with the Catholic Church or (gasp!) the Pope is considered evil, bad, wicked, pernicious, etc. So in my opinion, this is nothing more than an opportunity to bash President Bush.

That said, if Mr. Bush were to convert, I'd welcome it! He's proven to be a fairly lousy politician, but I always thought he was effective when it came to testifying about his faith in Christ.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Obama on US energy independence -- No we can't!

Here's the latest in a series of graphics I'm working on to educate people about Barack Obama.


Please feel free to steal this if you think it's useful.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Defend the Family in California

California, the state that wants to mandate homosexual education for children and outlaw homeschooling is at it again. This time, the black-robed dictators on the California Supreme Court have issued a mandate saying that the state must recognize "marriages" between two men or two women. This is in direct contradiction of a voter initiative banning such phony marriages which passed 60%/40% some years ago.

The voters in California aren't taking this lying down, however. And as this issue has the potential to affect ALL of us via the Full Faith and Credit clause of the US Constitution (phony marriages in CA will have to be recognized in other states), we need to support the good, upstanding Californians who are fighting this battle. Here are two websites to check out:

Recall California State Supreme Court Justice Ron George

Protect Marriage.com

We can either work now to defeat this assault on our traditional values, or else wait and be forced to fight the battle in our own backyards in a few years.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The America-Hating Left Sinks to a New Low

Just when you thought the anti-war, anti-American left couldn't sink any lower, they plummet to Marianas Trench level. Below is a photo I snapped today of three absolute tools displaying their ignorance on Independence Mall in Philadelphia:


These morons have no idea how much harm they do their cause with stunts like this. A woman colleague of mine who is generally a liberal commented after seeing this display that these cretins ought to meet the business end of a blunt object.

For the record, I have no problem with legitimate expressions of dissent from President Bush's Iraq policy. Heaven knows, I've voiced it on occasion myself. But this approaches John Kerry-like status in terms of slandering our military.

Here's another picture of the same three morons:

Subway snubs homeschoolers

The Subway restaurant chain is running a story contest for kids with the grand prize being $5,000 in athletic equipment. Their official rules state:
Contest is open only to legal US residents, over the age of 18 with children in either elementary, private or parochial schools that serve grades PreK-6. Home schools not eligible.
In response to a storm of protest from homeschoolers, Subway issued the following non-apology apology, couched in some of the most ridiculous post-modern marketing-speak I've ever seen:
We at SUBWAY restaurants place a high value on education, regardless of the setting, and have initiated a number of programs and promotions aimed at educating our youth in the areas of health and fitness.

We sincerely apologize to anyone who feels excluded by our current essay contest. Our intention was to provide an opportunity for traditional schools, many of which we know have trouble affording athletic equipment, to win equipment. Our intent was certainly not to exclude homeschooled children from the opportunity to win prizes and benefit from better access to fitness equipment.

To address the inadvertent limitation of our current contest and provide an opportunity for even more kids to improve their fitness, we will soon create an additional contest in which homeschooled students will be encouraged to participate. When the kids win, everyone wins!
Did you get that? No? Well, I happen to be an expert at deciphering post-modern marketing-ese. Here's the translation.
We at Subway are sincerely sorry you annoying cretins found out about our contest. We didn't intend to exclude you — honest — even though our promotional copy specifically said "no home schools will be accepted". The reason we didn't include you is because there's a good chance you'll win — given all the time you spend studying and not attending diversity/sex ed/global warming alarmism classes — and we just can't have that. Oh, and by the way, you're still excluded from this contest, but we swear on our mother's grave that we'll include you in future contests. Trust us!
Well, the only good thing about this is that I don't have to boycott something I like. As I come from the land of cheesesteaks and hoagies, I have always found Subway sandwiches to be utterly tasteless and vile.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Obama on Abortion

Here's the first in a sequence of graphics I'm working on to help shine the light on Barack Obama's empty rhetoric of "Change" and "Hope." In reality, his idea of change is the same snake-oil the hard left has been selling since the New Deal almost 80 years ago.

On the topic of abortion, Obama may be the most anti-life candidate ever to win a major party's nomination. Recall that he considers babies to be "punishments." He should get ZERO pro-life votes.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Strange fortunes

Several years ago, when I still thought Fantasy/Sci-Fi conventions were good places to sell books, we came up with a promotion to give away fortune cookies stuffed with "alternate" fortunes.

This met with mixed results. About 50% of the recipients laughed; about 40% said "huh?"; and the remaining 10% got mad (including one miscreant who crumpled up the fortune and threw it at us).

Anyway, here they are. See what you think:
Eeewww. You got the fortune cookie that fell on the floor.

You will join a political party headed by Patrick Stewart.

Something awful will happen to you on November 31.

Your clone will become Emperor of Greenland.

People will say you remind them of Lucius Cornelius Sulla.

Never trust anyone named Marvin Backstabber.

Your next saving throw versus petrification will fail.

Your phone number will be in Al Sharpton's rolodex.

Never take a class in javelin catching.

You have a strange fascination with stinging arthropods.

This fortune was meant for someone else.

A Ugandan social servant will send you a big check.

A broken watch is right twice a day—unless it's digital.

sdrawkcab siht gnidaer er'uoY

Your favorite elements are tungsten and boron.

You will not need a brain transplant for at least three months.

Never buy a car made in Portugal.

Your true love is currently married to a 40 ton coelenterate on the planet Gortox.

You will get a thank you card from the IRS.

You know how to play Domjod.

Ill fortune will stalk you like a three-legged platypus.

The next fortune is true. This one is false.

You will buy 36 million lottery tickets and still lose.

You will be the ship's lawyer on Star Trek: Generation X

You secretly root for the daleks.

Never let anyone convince you that you can breathe liquid oxygen.

A law degree will come in handy.

You will start a website called "www.chewbacca-obsession.com"

You will accompany Spock and Bones on an away mission.

You've called the writers of Sesame Street, "a nest of vipers."

Your true love's alignment is chaotic evil.

A mental disorder will be named in your honor.

You will have an exhibit at the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum.

You will be made fun of on a Simpson's episode.

You will write a letter to your senator demanding that dihydrogen monoxide be removed from the water supply.

Nothing of note will happen to you next Thursday.

Yours will be the first Yeti-related death caught on film.

At least three people will mistakenly call you "Ralph" before the end of the day.

You will become wealthy after responding to a spam email message.

You will become famous playing the part of "Grimace" in the off-Broadway production of Golden Arches.

Beware of clairvoyant confections.

An anime series will be based on your life called "Happy Danger Power Student"

You will become famous making organic meat products out of roadkill.

Barbara Walters will interview you from prison.

You will be Scott Bakula's running mate in 2024.

When the first person sets foot on Mars, you'll be watching re-runs of Ally McBeal.

You'll realize your comic book collection is worth millions exactly one day after your mother throws them all out.

You will receive a nasty paper cut from this fortune.

You will join a religious cult that thinks Dennis Miller is the messiah.

You will be mangled in a horrible weedwacking incident.

You will claim the world record for longest duodenum.

You will be fired from the Windows 2017 project for lack of ignorance.

Your entire future can be summarized in one word: reticulated.

You will utter the word "spirochete" in your State of the Union address.

You will die performing a stunt as Adobe's "Acrobat" mascot.

You will have exactly 8,314 bad hair days, including today.

You will lose proprietary data after accidentally ejecting your hard drive.

Your head will grow another head, and so on.

You will be Wendy Jo Sperber's running mate in 2028.

Your friends will start calling you Tom Bombadil after you read them this fortune.

Mr. Tumnus will eat all your Turkish delight.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Cultural relativism, modesty, and John Paul II

In a wide ranging conversation last week, the topics of modesty, cultural relativism, and JP II's Theology of the Body were raised. On one side, the position was taken that modesty could mean different things to different cultural traditions, and the example of a bare-breasted woman from Papua New Guinea acting as lector at a Mass for John Paul II was put forward as something that could be acceptably modest there, but not in the West. Further, it was posited (I think) that the reason it wasn't acceptable in the West was due to a cultural defect on the part of Western civilization that overly sexualizes the body.

While certainly agreeing with the later point--that the dominant "post-Christian" Western culture hyper-sexualizes the body, I took the position that cultural relativism was not a proper position to occupy and that Christianity has and should influence the cultures it comes into contact with in terms of correct behavior and mode of life. This includes how men and women display their bodies in public which should be modest and not tending toward attire (or lack thereof) that would arouse sexual desire in the opposite sex. This view was criticized as stemming more from American Puritanism than from Catholic teaching.

Of course, this is part of a wider, long-standing debate that goes back at least to the time of Fr. Matteo Ricci in China and before concerning which parts of a non-Christian culture are compatible with Christianity and could be retained, and which are not and should be discarded.

The Jesuits and other missionaries in the New World had much the same issue when preaching among the Hurons, Algonquins, and Iroquois. In general, the missionaries in New France made it clear to those who would be Christians that they would not baptize them until they believed and understood the tenets of the Catholic faith and conformed their lives to Catholic moral teaching. For many of them, this was tremendous change as Eastern Woodland life allowed for pre-marital relations and easy divorce, encouraged the blood-feud, sanctioned the murder of slaves at the whims of their masters, and celebrated the grotesque torture and cannibalism of enemy captives.

Indeed, going back to early Christian times, the Church has always been a culture unto itself and deeply countercultural to those it encounters in this world. The ancient martyrologies are replete with stories of early Christians who rejected their own culture to embrace Christ. To me, it seems somewhat condescending and paternalistic that we must make the modern road to Christianity more "culturally sensitive" for people from Papua-New Guinea than it was for the Greeks, Romans, Franks, Slavs, or Hurons. Indeed, this modern method of inculturation may often do more harm than good, blurring the distinctions between Christianity and those non-Christian practices that should be abandoned or at least deeply transformed. Claudio Salvucci's forthcoming book, The Roman Rite in the Algonquian and Iroquoian Missions is instructive on this.

But returning to the subject of modesty, here's the relevant section from the Catechism:
2521 Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.
Based on this, it seems not unreasonable to expect a woman from any culture to cover her breasts before approaching the lectern at Mass.

More on this later.