Casualty of Capitalism

Exiled into Wilmington, Delaware by virtue of corporate layoffs. (Note: Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this blog are Copyright 2005, Michael Collins, and cannot be used without permission.)

Location: Wilmington, Delaware, United States

Graduate of University of Maryland School of Law; University of Maryland, College Park (Economics/Political Science).

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Brief Hiatus

So the sun sets on another stop in this travelling show otherwise known as my life. This will be my last post from Elkton. In a few days, I'll be up and running again in my new house in Delaware. In the meantime, thanks for reading. The roommate and I will be back shortly. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Church and AIDS: Response to M. Scaperlanda

Michael Scaperlanda of the thought-provoking and highly informative Mirror of Justice blog responded to my critique of a hypothetical he wrote regarding the Church's stance on condom use and how it might revise it in the face of the AIDS epidemic, particularly in places where the disease is widespread, like Africa.

Mr. Scaperlanda replies, in part:

I think in this case, Mike C. has not understood my argument. I attempted to answer a "could" question. "Could" the Church condone or at least not condemn condom use in these limited situations.

I respond to his clarification first by referring him to an earlier post of mine on this same subject. Briefly, I make these points:
  1. The Church is nothing without principle and its leaders are defenders of those principles, which are derived from the teachings of Jesus Christ.
  2. The duty of Church leaders is to teach the faith and encourage people to live their lives within the Church's moral framework.
  3. People have the ability to accept or reject all or some of the teachings of the Church.
  4. On the issue of extra-marital sex, the Church teaches abstinence. On the issue of birth control, here condom use, the Church prohibits it.
  5. Rejection of Church teaching regarding extra-marital sex (which I think is what Mr. Scaperlanda means when he says "the individuals [who] have already made the choice to engage in sex"), has resulted in the contraction of the HIV/AIDS virus by millions of individuals.
  6. People have free will and are responsible for the consequences of their actions.
  7. The Church (and I'll put the caveat here, when properly acting under its own principles) is always ready to compassionately accept sinners regardless of the sins, and to provide the comfort and relief that it can in order to deal with the consequences of the behavior of individuals when they find their actions have left them in a difficult circumstance.

"Could" the Church either1) make exceptions to the rule regarding condom use when the issue is not protection against procreation, but protection against contraction of disease, or 2) simply turn a neutral blind eye towards condom use in order to "help" the situation through omission of action?

My position on the pure form of question one is explained in my first post on this subject, in the context of the late pope's teachings.

It's not the pope's job to give an out to those engaging in acts contrary to Church doctrine in order to lessen the consequences of risky behavior. If the pope started closing the hospitals and recalling the priests, nuns, and aid workers, then I think the critics would have an argument. Until then, I think the pope should continue to advise people on how they should live their lives in Christ, and let the people, through their free will and actions, decide whether they think it is advice worth listening to. The consequences are admittedly grave, but what moral decision doesn't come with potential adversity?

Though the Church "could" theoretically encourage condom use to prevent HIV transmission by those who are already engaging in extra-marital sex, I believe such an approach is a disservice to their spiritual lives, even though it may positively affect their physical lives. More on that in my answer to question two.

Question one becomes most difficult when one factors in an HIV infected spouse who received the virus not from commission of an act contrary to Church teaching, but from inadvertent contact with infected blood through a transfusion or exposure through the environment. Here, prevention of disease transferal would be the foremost impetus to condom use, not prevention of conception. Though I don't think the Church's rule regarding condom use here is any different than in other circumstances involving contraceptive use in the marital relationship, it is a situation that gives one pause. Does the preservation of the health of the partner outweigh the interruption of the natural sexual function? Does it matter that any child resulting from sexual union between these two parties might also contract the virus? Very difficult questions of conscience, but again, the Church stays true to its basic rule and puts the onus on the couple to shoulder this burden as Christ shouldered the Cross.

Question two is less difficult to answer. There is a concept in the law called "willful blindness," which generally is not a defense to unlawful actions. In the Church, the same should be true. And in question two, the Church is the willfully blind party. By turning its back to the use of condoms by persons who are employing them to act in risky, immoral ways, the Church helps no one. Certainly, this lack of action by the Church may reduce the rate of infection. But if the Church preaches that certain acts are sinful, and sinful actions damage or even destroy the soul's relationship with God, how could condoning this behavior be in any way positive when saving souls is the primary mission of the Church given to it by Jesus? There is no doubt in my mind that the Church should continue to stress what is right and wrong, and what behavior is an offense to God and what is not. By failing to do so, the Church loses its credibility as foundation of the faith tradition and the leaders abdicate their roles as teachers of faith. What is Church teaching if not a manifestation of God's laws on Earth. The better roles for the Church are to encourage morality in all facets of human activity, but also never fail to be on the front lines of the healing of the fallen human body and soul. Jesus never failed to encourage proper behavior regardless of circumstance. And He never failed to take pity on the lame or to comfort the sick.

The Church has a role to play, and that role is spiritual. It is also the role of care-giver to the sick and needy. The Church cannot control what people do with their lives, but it can give advice to those who seek it, and aid to those who need it.

UPDATE: This is a special note to Rick Garnett, a colleague of Mr. Scaperlanda's at Mirror of Justice Blog. I encourage you and Coach K. to join my attorney friends over at the ACC Basketblog, where at this multi-partisan project you are certain to find defenders of the coach and his "family" of players. While you are there, please feel free to peruse my "pathetic" regular column on the Maryland Terrapins. (I kid, too. Thanks for linking to my site!)

Blogging Brownout

This Friday, I am settling on a new home in Wilmington, DE. This means two things: 1) this blog will soon have a new dateline, and 2) there will be a brief blogging intermission as I move in and set up new service. Bye-bye dial-up, hello DSL! Benefits include new material on which to write, more photos, and other added bonuses. For instance, the move should allow some of the hair I pulled out while screaming at my slow connection to grow back. (Honestly, who wants reads posts by an ugly blogger?) As I gleefully salivate over ditching dial-up forever and moving back to DSL, I anticipate posting more pictures in the future. I'm certain you can't wait to see all about Delaware's biggest city.

On the minus side, there probably won't be as many exciting pictures of flooding of biblical proportions in my backyard.

In the meantime, it's time we started learning a little more about the First State.

Delaware's Official Website.
Visiting Delaware.
The News Journal.
University of Delaware.
Wilmington Blue Rocks baseball (Single A - Boston Red Sox).
DuPont, Delaware's largest employer.
Delaware Court of Chancery, the country's foremost authority on corporate law.
Punkin Chunkin Championships!

All Work and No Play...

I may have mentioned this before, but if you are ever faced with moving to a new state, starting a new job, purchasing a house, getting married, and taking the bar exam all within the same six months, I implore you to reconsider!

Three months ago Friday, I moved to Elkton from Chicago. Friday itself, following one headache after another, (fingers crossed) we settle on our new home. One month from Friday, (fingers crossed, again) my fiance will be enjoying our first day of marital bliss. Three months from Friday, I will be in the throes of the Delaware bar exam.

On the plus side, Friday's settlement will mark the mid-point of this mission of masochism. On the down side, the mission gets tougher as it approaches its climax. On August 1, I hope to be enjoying the world's largest margarita with my new wife on some beach somewhere...

Who Let the Buffaloes Out?

Easily my favorite story of the day. And the accompanying photo could not make me laugh harder!

PIKESVILLE, Md. -- Police spent about two hours Tuesday morning corralling a herd of buffalo that somehow got loose and wandered around an upscale residential community in suburban Baltimore, disrupting traffic and alarming homeowners.

County police used 13 police cars, members of their tactical unit and a police helicopter to herd about 10 animals onto the tennis court of an apartment complex, police spokesman Shawn Vinson said.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Price of War

My fiance laughs about how much I can't stand Bob Herbert of the New York Times, especially when attempts to write about foreign affairs. As America's most atrocious writer on foreign policy in any newspaper above the college level, Herbert continually embarasses himself, usually exploiting the wounded or the families of the dead for his anti-war cause.

Today Herbert writes about civilian casualties of war. Since the beginning of time, civilians have endured harsh times when they are in a war zone. Many of us in this country, I hope, will never have to know what it is like. Unfortunately, war is an inevitable fact of life in places around the world, especially those areas with historically corrupt, inept or simply violent governments make destruction and death a way of life. When actual war finds its way to those places, the powerless, the civilians, tend to get the short end of the stick.

The U.S. is in the midst of a war in Iraq, as we seek to stabilize the Middle East and bring a better day to people who have the unfortunate fate of living in one of the world's traditionally violent places. What makes the U.S. in 2005 unique in the history of warfare is our utter regard for civilians, rather than disregard, and the pains we take to prevent civilian casualties. In fact, we go so far as to help the civilians rebuild what we have destroyed.

Another unfortunate fact of war is that warfare is designed for killing and it is carried out by human beings, each one of us imperfect. Mistakes are made. Bad intelligence is received. Ruses are successful. And civilians often die as a result. In the short view, with each and every life on this earth valuable, every death is a tragedy. In the long view, every person's life on this planet is brief, and most of us are here living and toiling to make things better for future generations, whether we realize it or not. Every death, tragic as it may be, can also be part of a greater good. Part of progress towards a better day for a greater number of people. That is what we are hoping for in Iraq. That is why people like me who supported the war for its future social positives as much as any other reason continue to support it, even tragedies continue to occur and some lose their lives before they get to see the result.

I'll give Herbert's column today this: it gave me pause to offer some more prayers for those trying to get by in war zones around the world. Thanks, Bob, for inspiring one more prayer.

Per usual, however, Herbert drives me crazy with his dishonesty, ineptitude and predictability. As a column about Iraq, Herbert highlights only tragedy, as is his MO. He explains nothing about the good Americans soldiers and civilians are doing in-country, or the extra risks U.S. soldiers take to ensure to the best of their abilities that only the bad guys die. No balance. Here's the opening paragraph:

In a horrifying incident that occurred in the spring of 2003, an Iraqi woman threw two of her children, an infant and a toddler, out the window of a car that had been hit accidentally in an American rocket attack. The woman and the rest of her family perished in the black smoke and flames of the wreckage. The toddler, whose name was Zahraa, was severely burned. She died two weeks later.

An awful, awful situation. I understand the point that Herbert wants to make in this article, civilian deaths are occurring and nobody wants to talk about it. I also understand that Herbert (thankfully) only gets a few paragraphs per column. But really, is it fair to write a blame piece like this without giving the reasons for the accidental attack? What is the context? Where did it happen? Was it during a time of intensified conflict? Certainly a full explanation would be tough to give when your writing space is so small, but context is important. I'll explain why in a moment.

The vast amount of suffering and death endured by civilians as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has, for the most part, been carefully kept out of the consciousness of the average American. I can't think of anything the Bush administration would like to talk about less. You can't put a positive spin on dead children.

Here we move into the meat of Herbert's misleading column. Take note of this phrase: " a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq..." I'll return to that.

It's true that the deaths of civilians are uncomfortable to talk about. Had we targeted them, like Saddam with his nerve gas, wood-chippers, and mass graves, it would be especially uncomfortable. Thing is, our goal on the whole is to give these people the means to live their lives free from massive violence. It will take time, and lives, but we will get there.

There's been hardly any media interest in the unrelieved agony of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq. It's an ugly subject, and the idea has taken hold that Americans need to be protected from stories or images of the war that might be disturbing. As a nation we can wage war, but we don't want the public to be too upset by it.

I'm sorry to be facetious, but the reason there isn't much attention paid to it, is because the media thinks the only thing that sells papers and TV advertising space are stories about dead American soldiers. The anti-war left, highly represented in the "journalistic" community, wants this war over because they hate George Bush and they hate the U.S. military. Lefties want egg on the U.S.'s face, Bush's in particular. And here is where Herbert loses his argument: the reason the media is not focusing on the "unrelieved agony of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq" is because the Americans are the ones assisting them, while the insurgents are the ones killing them on a daily basis.

This is where Herbert's dishonest phrase (" a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq...") is telling. He knows it is the terrorists and insurgents that are killing innocent Iraqis on purpose. He knows that we are trying to mitigate the damage to civilian lives and infrastructure and putting U.S. lives on the line to do so. But he has to blame the U.S. for the beheadings, suicide bombers, and mass executions. So he uses that weasely phrase.

There is another reason for it. Herbert needs to blame the United States for the death of star of his column:

This stunning lack of interest in the toll the war has taken on civilians is one of the reasons Ms. Ruzicka, who was just 28 when she died, felt compelled to try to personally document as much of the suffering as she could. At times she would go from door to door in the most dangerous areas, taking down information about civilians who had been killed or wounded. She believed fiercely that Americans needed to know about the terrible pain the war was inflicting, and that we had an obligation to do everything possible to mitigate it.

Ms. Ruzicka is Marla Ruzicka, an aid worker. Aid workers are the champions of liberals because they don't carry guns and get to help the people caught in a bad situation. More power to the aid workers, I say. Anybody with the guts that our aid workers, be they secular, religious, Republican or Democrat, deserves praise and hero status.

But our military is unrecognized as one of the world's foremost and highly effective humanitarian organizations. The incredible work in the aftermath of the tsunami a case in point. No other outfit in the world could have done as much as our Armed Forces did during the weeks after the waves destroyed so many lives. Even though they carry guns and look scary, they do great work. Not all aid is supplied in medical kits and bags of grain. Some is provided in dangerous security and law enforcement work. Does not the U.S. training of Iraqi troops and police officers count as aid?

Not for Herbert. Herbert's column is eleven paragraphs long, each dedicated to the proposition that the U.S. military is out there shooting up the place, civilians be damned. In his words:

So the public doesn't even hear about the American bombs that fall mistakenly on the homes of innocent civilians, wiping out entire families. We hear very little about the frequent instances of jittery soldiers opening fire indiscriminately, killing and wounding men, women and children who were never a threat in the first place. We don't hear much about the many children who, for one reason or another, are shot, burned or blown to eternity by our forces in the name of peace and freedom.

That's some powerful imagery. Children, women, children, men, and children (don't forget the children) getting turned to toast by "nitwit" American soldiers who can't control their fear. You would think that after all of this, the star of his article would also have been returned to her Maker by the guns, bombs, or missiles of the U.S.'s keystone cop soldiers. The typically dishonest Herbert, of course, spends only half a sentence speaking about the context, the circumstances of Ms. Ruzicka's death.

Ms. Ruzicka "was herself killed a little over a week ago in the flaming wreckage of a car that was destroyed in a suicide bomb attack in Baghdad." Not by a nervous, trigger happy Marine. Not by a misguided airstrike. Most importantly, not in any way intentionally or otherwise by an American.

(CNN describes the direct targeting of her convoy of civilian vehicles:

The U.S. Embassy is investigating and hasn't been able to determine if the attack was a suicide mission or a bomb that was remotely detonated, the official said.

It's also unknown whether Ruzicka's vehicle was associated with a three-car convoy of a U.S. nongovernmental organization, National Democratic Institute, that was traveling along the same road, the official added. That convoy may have been the target of the attack.)

Ms. Ruzicka was killed by a cowardly suicide terrorists targeting civilians, whether they were aid workers or consultants. Yet Herbert spends eleven full columns slamming the United States' inadvertant and admittedly tragic killing of Iraqi civilians. The terrorists have shown no quarter to civilians and have deliberately targeted them throughout our two years in Iraq. This has never been the policy of the United States (in fact, quite the opposite), yet we are the enemy according to Herbert in today's column.

Towards the end of the column, Herbert starts wrapping things up with this observation:

War is always about sorrow and the deepest suffering. Nitwits try to dress it up in the finery of half-baked rationalizations, but the reality is always wanton bloodshed, rotting flesh and the lifelong trauma of those who are physically or psychically maimed.

Apparently, there is no situation where the use of military force is acceptable for Herbert. War is "always wanton bloodshed"? What side would he have been on during the Revolutionary War? Would he have been content, as a black man, had the Civil War never been fought? How dare we deny Hitler the right to his vision of a Third Reich by force of arms! I can't wait to read his column on how we approach the situation in Sudan.

There is a difference between "wanton bloodshed" and fighting for a cause. Our soldiers are doing their best to rebuild Iraq and give the people back their country. Herbert is content to vilify anyone who would fight for their rights. I hate to see civilians die as much, if not more, than the average person. But I am also not so naive or politically clouded as to believe that our men and women are incapable of fighting bravely and honestly for the future of a people they don't even know. I grew up in the military culture, and I know what kind of outstanding, principled people we have leading, fighting in, and supporting our Armed Forces.

Herbert should stick to writing about domestic social issues and leave the foreign policy punditry to the experts.

Humanizing the New Pope

A very flattering article in today's Washington Post about some of Benedict XVI's first days in office.

He said that during the secret deliberations, a fellow cardinal wrote him a note, reminding him of the sermon he delivered during the funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II, in which he referred to a biblical passage where God tells the apostle Peter to follow him.

"My fellow brother wrote me: 'If the Lord should now tell you, 'Follow me,' then remember what you preached. Do not refuse. Be obedient. ...This touched my heart. The ways of the Lord are not comfortable, but we were not created for comfort, but for greatness, for good."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Looks Like We're On Lower Wacky Drive

Come on, people. It's a salt stain!!! Posted by Hello

I Don't Follow the Logic

This writer seems to be saying that if you are going to morally degrade yourself anyway, you may as well go whole hog and take advantage of all the other ways you can break the law in order to have the safest experience possible.

When the sexual act occurs outside of marriage (especially where there is no intimacy such as in a case where a women exchanges the use of her body for money), the unitive aspect of the coupling is absent. In these situations, the degradation of self - the giving of a body as an object for the pleasure of another - has already taken place. Does it add anything to the degradation to use a condom for protection against a) the disease of HIV/AIDS or b) the procreative aspects of sexual union, since the unitive and procreative are inherently conjoined?


[I]t seems to me that the Church is right to teach abstinence - that the sexual union ought to take place within marriage. Since this is the Truth revealed in our Tradition, what else can it teach? But, given the real world reality of non-marital sex with grave consequences, could the Church, consistent with its theology, support (or at least not condemn) condom use in these situations. Here, given my analysis above, the answer is yes.

An analog to this logic, would be like saying if we're going to have criminals robbing banks with firearms, we should supply them with illegal bullet proof vests in case the inevitable shoot-out with the police occurs, just to lessen the chances of anyone getting hurt. Of course, the best course of action would be to try to preempt the robbery from occuring in the first place by making a law criminalizing bank robberies, then publishing the law so that everyone is on notice that it's a criminal act. Then, to further discourage robberies, when they occur the perpetrators should be vigorously prosecuted. Making it safer for the person to engage in the act that is wrong, particularly through the encouraged use of illegal equipment, is not the way to discourage its happening in the first place.

Likewise, the church should not be expected to encourage the committing of acts it believes are wrong (sex outside of marriage) by lessening the consequences (contraction of HIV/AIDS) of such activities through distribution of devices the church also is morally opposed to (condoms).

Mission Accomplished?

The Madrid train bombing a a while back was used by al Qaeda to induce voters in Spain to reject their prime minister as elections approached, because the prime minister of Spain at the time was a supporter of the war in Iraq and had a couple thousand troops committed to the war. The massacre, indeed, led to the electoral loss of the prime minister, and the new prime minister, Socialist party leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, immediately withdrew Spain's troops from Iraq. Supporters of al Qaeda and opponents of U.S. President George Bush hailed this terrorist act as a great victory for al Qaeda.

But was it?

If Islamists are truly committed to imposing a pure form of their religion on the world, and not just taking pleasure in killing innocent people and blowing stuff up, then the election of Zapatero has to be seen as a disaster.

The Vatican, under the new leadership of Pope Benedict XVI, has condemned a Spanish government bill allowing marriage between homosexuals.

The bill, passed by parliament's Socialist-dominated lower house, also allows gay couples to adopt.


Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero took office a year ago making it clear he intended to remove what he called the church's undeniable advantages and make Spain a secular state.

There are likely to be further tensions with Pope Benedict XVI. Mr Zapatero has made it clear that he intends to streamline divorce law and even to relax the conditions placed on abortion.

Seems to me that, with democracy becoming increasingly popular in the Muslim world by virtue of our successes in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Madrid bombing was an unmitigated failure for the Islamic cause. These legislative actions and intentions by the Spanish aren't exactly in accordance with the tenets of Islam. Good work, morons.

Judicial Supremacy

Back when I was writing this post, I remembered an article written a few years ago by Charles Krauthammer that really brought me to the view outlined by last weeks' David Brooks column. Brooks opines that one of Roe v. Wade's legacies is the bitterness in politics these days, seen at its ugliest these days with the stalled judicial confirmations in the Senate. The reason for much of the bitterness is that the issue of abortion has been stolen from the people by judicial fiat. Those who find abortion a grevious practice have no recourse not because they lost the issue by vote of their representatives, but because some judges deemed the option of abortion a right (and on very shaky grounds at that). By virtue of the situation, the parties have come to believe that their only option now is to defeat or defend the right to abortion through the make-up of the Supreme Court. And appointments to the court have to go through the ringer of politics first: presidential (the president nominates all federal judicial candidates), and senatorial (the senate approves the president's nominees) elections. This set up has made abortion one of the top and most hotly contested issues, in political races throughout the country.

I tried to find the old Krauthammer article, but failed. Krauthammer's point was similar to Brooks': abortion is the issue that poisons politics and much of the anger in legislative and executive offices could have been avoided if only it had been left in the people's capable hands, rather than Roe v. Wade foisting a widely unpopular law on them instead.

Luckily, in the context of the judicial confirmation battles and impending use of the "nuclear option" to end the Democratic filibuster, Krauthammer returned on Friday with another very thoughtful column on the issue. You can read the whole thing here.

A preview:

Provocation is no excuse for derangement. And there has been plenty of provocation: decades of an imperial judiciary unilaterally legislating radical social change on the flimsiest of constitutional pretexts. But while that may explain, it does not justify the flailing, sometimes delirious attacks on the judiciary mounted by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and others in the wake of the Terri Schiavo case.

It's Just Not Worth It

Defying a judge's orders when serving on a jury is not smart. Just ask the woman in this article. She bought a couple newspapers for $0.74 after the judge ordered the jury to refrain from watching or reading the news during the trial. Those newspapers may now cost her several thousand dollars.

Exact figures were not available yesterday, but Robert L. Marsh, the court administrator, was under judge's orders to break down the cost of securing the jury. That alone cost $900. The jurors who were selected for the trial were paid $30 a day. Then there's the cost of the interpreters who attended the trial at a cost of $6 an hour over five days.

Marsh said it appears that Heaster also will be required to pay defense costs, which lawyers estimate at $25,000. Prosecutors say more bills from their office could follow, including lodging expenses incurred by the victim's five relatives who flew from Mexico City to attend the trial.


Bachelor Party Weekend

What happens in Ocean City, stays in Ocean City. You'll have to content yourself with this photo taken this afternoon in Elkton. For all gloomy weather forecast this weekend, it actually turned out quite nice.
Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Noonan On Benedict XVI

Peggy Noonan writes a great one on the new pope.

Is the Pope Responsible for the AIDS Crisis in Africa?


I have read much in the past couple of weeks about how John Paul II's biggest failure, and Benedict XVI's soon-to-be biggest failure ('cause he's an evil Nazi, you know) is complicity in the AIDS crisis in Africa.

Strange how many people think that the Catholic church should stop preaching abstinence and that any other course of action (e.g. not encouraging the use of condoms) is an abandonment of people with, or with a high potential to get, AIDS. On the contrary, I'd be willing to bet that there is no more active institution engaged in the treatment of the disease in third world areas than Catholic charities and hospitals. The Church preaches what is its doctrine. People make their own choices. People also make mistakes and they pay for them. Happens to everyone. In Africa, and throughout the world, the Church is usually there to deal with the aftermath of poor decision-making. At the same time, however, it is there to encourage good decision-making in accordance with the teachings of the faith. No less can be expected of a religious institution.

It's not the pope's job to give an out to those engaging in acts contrary to Church doctrine in order to lessen the consequences of risky behavior. If the pope started closing the hospitals and recalling the priests, nuns, and aid workers, then I think the critics would have an argument. Until then, I think the pope should continue to advise people on how they should live their lives in Christ, and let the people, through their free will and actions, decide whether they think it is advice worth listening to. The consequences are admittedly grave, but what moral decision doesn't come with potential adversity?

Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus physically restrain a person from acting or advise a follower to take an action adverse to his teachings, regardless of the potentially good outcome. In every instance, Jesus advised the people to follow Him, but admonished them to consider the implications of their free actions. Jesus healed and comforted the sick, but He did not intervene to prevent people from making fateful decisions. Much like the Jesus, the pope is our spiritual leader on this earth. He will give us advice, and it is ours to accept or decline. But regardless of the decisions we make, I fully believe the Church is always ready to forgive and ready to treat us with compassion.

Why You Should Hate Duke

Are you a Duke hater, but never really sat down and figured out why? Are you a bandwagon jumper who doesn't know why Duke hatred is a requirement for all college basketball fans? Are you new to college hoops, and need some information to get you started?

This is the web post for you. I was speechless when I came across it. It should be in a museum. It should be exhibit #1 in every college freshman's welcome packet.

It brought a tear to my eye.

I have a new hero, and his name is Jeremy Gold.

What Roe Hath Wrought on Capitol Hill

David Brooks has an interesting theory about how Justice Harry Blackmun's Roe vs. Wade opinion in the 1970's has brought us to the bring of "nuclear" war in the Senate.

Religious conservatives became alienated from their own government, feeling that their democratic rights had been usurped by robed elitists. Liberals lost touch with working-class Americans because they never had to have a conversation about values with those voters; they could just rely on the courts to impose their views. The parties polarized as they each became dominated by absolutist activists.

Unable to lobby for their pro-life or pro-choice views in normal ways, abortion activists focused their attention on judicial nominations. Dozens of groups on the right and left have been created to destroy nominees who might oppose their side of the fight. But abortion is never the explicit subject of these confirmation battles. Instead, the groups try to find some other pretext to destroy their foes.


Majority parties have often contemplated changing the filibuster rules, but they have always turned back because the costs are so high. But, fired by passions over abortion, Republican leaders have subordinated every other consideration to the need to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Democrats, meanwhile, threaten to shut down the Senate.

I know of many senators who love their institution, and long for a compromise that will forestall this nuclear exchange. But they feel trapped. If they turn back now, their abortion activists will destroy them.

Juan Non-Volokh, an anonymous blogger at the Volokh Conspiracy, offers a soft rebuttal to Brooks:

Brooks is making a serious point, but I think it's a mistake to think the war over judges is all about abortion. There are plenty of other sensitive issues that judicial decisions have removed from the democratic process, and plenty of pro-choice Republican Senators who seek to end Democratic obstruction. It is also important to note that overturning Roe, by itself, would not be a pro-life victory. All it would accomplish is returning abortion policy to the states, many of which would never severely restrict, let alone prohibit, the practice.

I think they both make good points. Abortion, obviously, is a factor in every judicial nomination that comes before the Senate. Since I can remember, "litmus test" has been part of the vernacular whenever the issue of judges and potential nominees is brought up. I agree with David Brooks in that whenever an popular issue is stolen from the people by the courts, and the judgment alienates one or the other side, the bitterness is hardened and a feeling of helplessness ensues. A person who feels wronged by an ironclad judicial outcome, particularly before the debate has matured, cannot feel anything but powerless when the only remedy is the pipe dream of a Constitutional amendment? This is especially disempowering in a democracy, a place where a premium is put on debate and compromise, and the government is purported owned by the people.

But on the issue of Harry Blackmun's role in using the nuclear option, Juan Non-Volokh makes a good point. Much of it is pure partisan politics. I think the Senate is here almost as much because of the treatment of Democratic nominees under Clinton, as from abortion itself. You can also add the remaining bitterness from Clinton's impeachment trial. In many ways, the Republicans made their own bed.

The abortion issue has destroyed many babies, familes, and political careers. I think it's high time the court returned this issue to the people to decide. I am an ardent foe of the practice, but also a realist as far as the implications of overturning Roe go. I look forward to the debate in the states. Debate means it's the people's issue again, for one thing. And I think the outcome will be far more satisfying for most if the people get to decide its legality. Personally, I won't be satisfied until legalized infanticide is outlawed, but for our political process, I would consider a mere vote on it a victory for democracy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Benedict XVI

We have a new pope, Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Ratzinger of Germany.

As a conservative Catholic, I admit I am quite pleased with the selection. Ratzinger is known as the voice of orthodox Catholic teaching, and the man most likely to carry on Pope John Paul II's legacy from the perspective of Catholic thought and doctrine. Picked as an early favorite, Ratzinger seemingly coasted to the papacy after only three votes. With liberal Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini reported to be Ratzinger's main competition going in, I was relieved to hear the news that the cardinals had, in fact, chosen Ratzinger as the new pope.

Then I got to thinking, what was it about JPII that made him such an attractive and ultimately successful selection? The answer, in my opinion, is that he was a man at the center of history: a Polish cardinal who had weathered the Nazis and found himself in common cause with the people at the center of his papacy's most evil menace: Soviet Communism. He had the will, the stage presence, and the street cred that made world leaders and everyday people listen. He knew. He was the advocate who could say, I lived it, I know what horrors it's capable of, and I will oppose it, so help me God. And we all listened. No amount of respect was enough for this pope who helped bring down the century's longest-standing and most widespread evil.

That thought is what gives me reservations about Ratzinger's papacy. Yes, he has the goods on orthodoxy. I will not complain there. But how does a German Pope fit into the problem areas of today? What authority and street credibility does Ratzinger bring to the masses around the world who still seek a more personalized leadership, or worse, still yearn for freedom from oppression? What can Ratzinger bring to the table to confront today's most far-reaching evil: the culture of violence and murder preached by radicalized adherents of Islam? How will Ratzinger bring attention to third world poverty and inspire the people most affected by it?

I don't know the answer to these questions. I trust that the choice was the right one for our circumstances. I sincerely hope and pray that Benedict XVI can deliver. Contrary to what you may read in the media, Catholicism is a religion of hope, faith, and goodness. As a Catholic, I am saddened when I see good people fall. I am worried for those who reject religion. I sincerely hope to see everyone I know and even don't know one day when I pass beyond this life. I want what is "good" for all, and that good is a relationship with Jesus Christ. I pray that our new pope can inspire a journey in faith towards this ultimate good in those who need it most.


Hugh Hewitt wonders how, when it comes to articles about the Church, the media keep missing the point.

From the elated:

Professor Bainbridge isn't happy with Andrew Sullivan's hyperbolic reaction. My good professor, name-calling is an instant credibility killer. But I agree with you.

Some facts about Benedict XVI.

RomanCatholicBlog has a nice round up of reaction from all spheres. Keep scrolling.

Basically, all you need to know is at the Pope Blog. It is devoted (pardon the pun) to the Pope, after all.

From the dissidents:

Some people already can't wait to see this pope dead (see point #1). Classy.

Obligatory quote from a college student, devastated that the Church is heading the wrong direction...away from his own learned views:

"His ideology disagrees with mine," said Stephen Carville, 20, a [Catholic University] freshman from Baton Rouge who describes himself as a moderate Catholic. "It may move the church in the wrong direction for the 21st century."

Is this a preview of NARAL's new double-speak attempt at softening abortion's image and making it appear a direct attack on women spear-headed by "conservatives":

But some well-known conservatives in the crowd were thrilled with a choice that they saw as bringing the church back to its core moral values, including its condemnation of homosexuality and birth control for women.

Birth-control for women? The focus on "women" alone can only mean she's talking about abortion. In fact, birth control is flat out prohibited by the Church, male and female.

Here's a round-up of negative reaction, mostly, it seems from Bush-haters.
Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Another Week

A beautiful and relaxing weekend comes to an end. Dang. Posted by Hello

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Catch of the Day

A very special fish. This white perch is my first catch of 2005. Went down to Sarge's bait shop to find out how best to catch something other than catfish in the Big Elk Creek. A couple years ago, I had gone eight months fishing at this site without catching a single fish. Then one day, my older brother suggested using hot dogs as bait once we read that catfish swim in these waters. It was like the opening of flood gates. Since then, catching fish one or two dozen at a sitting hasn't been out of the ordinary. (Unfortunately, the fish aren't really edible due to pollution. One guide I read stated that it's only safe to eat seven catfish from this waterway a year. To me that means NO catfish.)

My last time fishing on this creek last August, I caught 14 catfish with 17 pieces of hotdog. Catfish are fun to catch because they put up a good fight. Not so fun is that they are slimy bottom feeders. After every catch, both the angler and his line are covered with what I call catfish boogers: balls of slime that gunk up the hook, line, and sinker. So I wanted to catch something different this time.

At Sarge's, they suggested I use night-crawlers (aka "worms"). I guess there is some special kind of worm called a "night-crawler", but really, who are we kidding. Aren't they just worms? Night-crawler definitely sounds cooler than "worm." But when it comes down to get the point.

The night-crawlers did the trick. I caught 16 white perch, one yellow perch, and four catfish. The yellow was the first one I have ever caught out here. The fishing is so prolific in the creek, that at one point I had caught 13 fish with just 3 1/2 worms...I mean night crawlers.

While bringing my haul (actually, catching and releasing), I had the privilege to observe a beaver frolicking in the newly sprouted marsh grass, several loons diving for food, and some frisky muskrats in hot pursuit, then gettin' it on right in the edge of the property. It is springtime, after all.Posted by Hello

Spring Time

Elkton, Maryland. April 16, 2005. Posted by Hello

Friday, April 15, 2005

Cherry Blossoms, Pt. V

Tidal Basin. April 9, 2005. Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Retro Ball Park, Pt. II

This is the inside of the Metrodome. What you can't see here is the extremely thin concourses (causing traffic jams just inside the door). You can see the ugly turf. And the puffy roof.

I'm not sure what it says about a stadium where one of the most fun parts of the game is exiting the stadium and getting blown out the door by the pressurized air that keeps the roof aloft. If that doesn't say baseball, I don't know what does. In my opinion, this is the worst remaining stadium in American professional sports. Now that the Vet is rubble, of course.

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis. Twins vs. Yankees, October 2003. Posted by Hello

Retro Is Cool, But Not At The Ball Park

The closing of Busch Stadium in St. Louis at the conclusion of this season and the temporary re-opening of RFK inspired this writer to reminisce about the old multi-purpose stadiums.

I feel no remorse for the banishment of cookie-cutters from the landscape. I endured games at the Vet in Philly, Riverfront in Cincinnati, Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, RFK in DC, and the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. After this season, only RFK and the Metrodome will remain. If I wasn't still living in temporary circumstances, I could scan a few photos and show you just how bad these places are. Below is Busch Stadium. A nice ballpark, all in all. Thankfully, they ditched the Astro-turf during the late 1990's.

Busch Stadium, St. Louis. Cubs vs. Cards, July 2005.
Posted by Hello

The Horror!

I can already feel the uncontrollable shuddering and sweating of withdraw coming on...

Baseball players consume sunflower seeds faster than Humvees gulp gas. And around the national pastime, from Little League to the bigs, munching salty roasted seeds and spitting shells has caught up with peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jack. (And, once, chewing tobacco.)

But here's the bad news for baseball: "Supplies are going to be very short," says John Sandbakken, director of international marketing at the National Sunflower Association in Bismarck, N.D. "The warehouses will be cleaned out and whatever is marketed will be all sold. . . . Potentially, [stores] could run out."

I always played ball with a wad of seeds in my mouth. Every time I took my position at third base. Every time I prepared to step into the batter's box. I resembled Lenny Dykstra, but with seeds rather than chaw. Dykstra once said his bulging cheek helped him see the ball better. I took that to heart, using seeds. Based on my career batting average, I think it had to have been the tobbacco, not the potruding cheek.

I sucked on seeds until the inside of my mouth shriveled and peeled off. Even today, a round of golf isn't complete without some sunflower seeds to spit as I play (don't worry, I don't spit them on the greens). Luckily, I still have a big bag of precious seeds left over from my disastrous return to baseball last year (after a 13 year layoff).

Oh, the humanity! What is spring with some seed spittin'?

Say What?

Relief pitcher Steve Kline of the Orioles is in hot water for criticizing his employer and the city of Baltimore. Recenlty, Kline remarked that he was miserable in Baltimore and wished he was back in St. Louis (where he used to play for the Cardinals). This is his apology:

"It's just stupid things I said. I'm too honest. Sometimes I need to lie a little bit. I love Baltimore, I love the town. I just hope the fans can forgive me for what I said."

So is he saying, "I was too honest when I said I hate Baltimore, so I need to lie a little bit...therefore, (lying) I LOVE Baltimore!?"

This should be candidate #1 for both the non-apology and most idiotic statement of the year.

Cherry Blossoms, Pt. IV

Washington Monument. April 9, 2005. Posted by Hello

Cherry Blossoms, Pt. III

Bureau of Printing & Engraving. April 9, 2005. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Welcome Back!

Today is my sister's last day stationed in the Philippines with the Peace Corps. It will be nice to have her home after two and a half years abroad. Way to go and welcome back! We're proud of you!

Tax Time!

I won't have much to post tonight, because I have to figure out how much more money I have to feed to the government beast in order to keep it satisfied.

In the meantime, in anticipation of DC's first Opening Day in 34 years, here is a graphic showing the complete record of Presidential First Pitches. President George W. Bush will keep the tradition alive tomorrow afternoon. The Nats have a nice winning streak going heading into tomorrow's game. Let's hope the wins keep coming!

A nice little story about Cal Ripken, post retirement. See you at my wedding, Cal!

Metra, the Train of Death, strikes again.

Life imitates improbable law school exam question. How many issues can you spot and explain? (Explanation: law school exam questions usually involve outrageous scenarios concocted in the twisted minds of law professors that couldn't possibly ever happen in real life. Until sometimes they do. Your job: spot the issues, argue both positions. You have three hours.)

This is the ultimate criminal law exam question, with bonus civil procedure issues. Good luck.

A morality tale in the style of the Ant and the Grasshopper. Remember, kids. No matter how talented you are, to be the best you have to work the hardest.

FINAL NOTE: The program I use to upload pictures continues to thwart my efforts. I will keep trying.

Conclave Blogging

An informative and highly interesting blog about the preparations for, and eventually, on-the-spot reporting about the conclave electing the new pope can be found here, courtesy of Fr. John Neuhaus of First Things. Everything you want to know about potential popes, the politics behind the vote, and other topics of interest to Catholics, as we wait for conclave to begin on August 18.

A sample:

There is the old saying that a cardinal going into the conclave as pope will certainly come out a cardinal. Of course that is not always the case. In the modern era there are several instances of a conclave electing the person widely expected to be elected. Today the focus on Ratzinger is such that one informed observer asks me whether I think his nonelection would be construed as a rejection of the man and his work. Definitely not, or so it seems to me. We are still at an early point in the process and there are many possibilities to be explored. Last night on the broadcast I read a poem that John Paul II composed several years ago. He is anticipating this conclave: The colors of the Sistine will then speak the word of the Lord: / Tu es Petrus--once heard by Simon, son of John.

Then John Paul II looks back to his own election:

So it was in August, and again in October,

in the memorable year of the two conclaves,

and so it will be once more, when the time comes, after my death.

Do not forget: Omnia nuda et aperta sunt ante oculos Eius.

You who see all, point to him!

He will point him out . . .

I expect that is the truth of which electors are now keenly aware: "In the eyes of God all stand naked"--awaiting, in the words of John Paul, the action obedient to the "final transparency and light; the clarity of events, the clarity of conscience."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Frustrating, Pt. II

Dial-up will drive me to an early grave. Sorry for the lack of photos today.


Not being privvy to information on a subject that everyone else is talking about frustrates me. Right now, that topic is Tiger Woods' chip shot on the 16th hole in the final round of the Masters. I saw some of the round before leaving the house on Sunday afternoon, but have yet to see video of what is supposed to be a remarkable shot. I tried looking it up here. But all I found was a lame computer reproduction. I can't believe I missed one of the shots of the century. What am I supposed to talk about next to the water cooler now? Oh please, no!

Monday, April 11, 2005

I Hate to Beat a Dead Horse, But...

The New York Times' (and others') campaign to convince the faithful that the Catholic Church should be run like a democracy and modernized per the whims of today's "morality" continues apace.

Today's piece entitled, "Catholics in U.S. Keep Faith, but Live With Contradictions" is one designed to make it appear as if conservative American Catholics are out of touch with their more liberal bretheren. At its core, this article glorifies Cafeteria Catholicism: choosing which tenets of the faith best suits the way one wishes to live his/her life, while ignoring the inconvenient rules to allow maximum enjoyment of life.

Let's sample some quotes, shall we?

Catholic #1 - Latino from a big family (twelve) with the stereotypically rigid Catholic mom, who has two children out of wedlock, and wants the Church to change its anti-birth control stance (because it's obvious this is the reason she has two kids outside of marriage, not her behavior):

She mourns the death of Pope John Paul II but hopes his successor will be "new and different."

Catholic #2 - The credibility witness: married by one pope, an acquaintance of another. She has "new information" that the Vatican obviously is too inflexible to give thought to. And that new information is - the American culture! In fairness, the pope researched this information, but I guess he wasn't as impressed with it as Mrs. Gonya.

"Catholics right now are à la carte" in the practice of their religion, said Diana Gonya, 61, a retired insurance agent in Baltimore whose wedding 36 years ago was officiated by Pope Paul VI.

Mrs. Gonya said that her attitude toward the pope and the church hierarchy was something like people's feelings about their parents. "We respect them for what they believe, but we have new information that takes us in different directions," she said.

"Rome is important, but I don't think the typical American Catholic leans on that alone," Mr. Gonya said. "We have to continue to explore our beliefs in our own culture."

Catholic #3 - the college student, always good for a "fight the power" quote:

"If it wants to stay one of the major religions in this country, it needs to progress with the times and let women priests in," said Katie McDevitt, 20, a sophomore at Boston College, a Jesuit university. Ms. McDevitt says she attends church relatively regularly, and she recently went to a memorial Mass for John Paul. "It needs not to be so sexist and patriarchal. There is a lot of emphasis on the wrong principles."

Catholic #4 - conservative rubarb. Shockingly, the only quote defending the Church's teaching (given a full paragraph in a two page story) sounds the least articulate. And check out the lead in sentence: "Certainly there are traditionalists." Like being a full believer in the doctrine of the Church one subscribes to is bizarre and somehow diminished. The "certainly" is inserted to emphasize that being traditionalist is out of the mainstream! And traditionalists can't put together a coherent sentence. No wonder they only quoted one of these half-wits!

Certainly there are traditionalists. "If it works, why mess with it? It lasted 2,000 years. Why mess with it?" asked Joseph M. Perry, 51, a mechanic from Reading, Mass. Mr. Perry says he does not agree with abortion and thinks priests should remain celibate and male.

There you have it. The New York Times' defense of Catholicism.

Catholic #5 - clueless teenager. First the pope ruined his childhood, then he caused the AIDS epidemic. (Remember, abstinence, the method advocated by the pope, doesn't count as a safe-sex approach, even if it is 100% full-proof.) If only he would let kids do whatever they feel like they want to do! Gosh!

But some younger Catholics say they can no longer live their lives in keeping with doctrine. Adam Williams, 17, goes to Mass at Mount Carmel, the Catholic high school he attends in Baltimore, but rarely goes to church otherwise. The church's prohibitions on "almost everything a kid can do," Adam said, has made him ever more reluctant to identify himself as Catholic.

"At school, they taught us that there are so many people in Africa with AIDS," Adam said, as he took a break from working after school last week at Vaccaro's, a local pastry shop. "But the church won't let them use condoms. I think that's stupid."

[Pause for a brief message from the NY Times: Catholics who believe in the Church and followed JPII are old wackos who see visions. Further, their obedient minds are controlled by their Church. Unable to think for themselves, they cling to old beliefs like they cling to the crucifixes around their necks. The young people, on the other hand, those hip Gen-whatevers with all the good, well-reasoned ideas, know where the Church should go from here:

Here in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, the older generation of Latinos follows a tradition of obedience. Ms. Velazquez's mother, Maria, 48, of Compton, spoke of seeing John Paul in her dreams before he died. Clutching a crucifix dangling around her neck, she said she could think of nothing she would change about the church.

But younger Latinos, like Ms. Velazquez, have begun to resemble other Americans in their attitudes toward Catholic doctrine. Ms. Velazquez said unhesitatingly that many Catholics of her generation have abortions, use birth control and generally lead lives not in keeping with church teachings.

A 2001 study by the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute in Los Angeles found that only 38 percent of second-generation Latino Catholics in the United States relied "a great deal" on religion in daily life, compared with 53 percent of their parents' generation.]

Catholic #1 - again, the young Ms. Velazquez who hopes that the next pope will understand the abortions, use of contraceptives, and general sinning of her culture better (and presumably conform his views to theirs).

Maria Velazquez's only wish for the new pope is that he might be a Latin American. "He would understand our culture better," she said in Spanish.

Catholic #6 - The final word goes to a modern day Thomas Jefferson - the Church's first motto should be We the People...! God's values should be up for the vote of the locals, because universal beliefs are too hard these days.

"I'm afraid the church as a whole is coming to the point where it isn't one size fits all any more," said Jack Scalione, 66, a turnpike inspector, who was watching the papal funeral on television at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in East Boston. "What's good in Europe isn't necessary good in America, and what's good in America isn't necessarily what's good in Latin America. You have to fit to the wishes of the people because the people are the church."

In the interest of fairness, will the New York Times publish an uncritical piece on those who follow the faith with fervor? Will they reserve the weakest quotes for some wacky abortion rights activists who thinks, like, all priests are pedophiles? As I have always said, I have my own issues with the Church hierarchy, but they stem mostly from inaction and abetment in the face of breaches of doctrine. I also do not claim to be a perfect human by any stretch. The difference is, when I do wrong, I don't seek ask the Church to change so that my sinful actions become OK under Church law.

The assault on the Church during the last couple of weeks has been relentless. It is not an assault on the failure of the Church to provide adequate guidance on Church doctrine, but an attack on the doctrine itself. The New York Times is leading the charge. Considering the Times' recent trackrecord of failed endorsements, made up stories, and bias towards the wrong side of history, I think I will continue to look to Rome for guidance, rather than Manhattan.

Cherry Blossoms, Pt. II

The cherry blossoms in full bloom, 4/09/05.

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed, chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. During a man's life only saplings can be grown, in place of old trees — tens of centuries old — that have been destroyed. It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods, — trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ's time — and long before that — God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods, but he cannot save them from fools. - John Muir Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Pope's Will

Lost in the coverage of Pope John Paul II's death last week is the message contained in his will. Most of the reports on the will highlighted either that it contained a 2000 passage in which the pope noted he considered stepping down, or that the will contained the names of only two people: his personal secretary and Rome's head rabbi. Keep this information in mind when you some day play Trivial Pursuit, 2000's Edition.

What went unreported, or was simply ignored, is the pope's 1980 vision for the Church and how he unwaveringly accomplished exactly what he set out to do during his papacy.

The papal will is as much a reflection on life and death as it is an instrument through which to bequeath earthly goods to family and friends. The pope wrote his initial will in 1979 after spending time reflecting in the spirit during Lent. In this first version of the will, he directed what should be done with his personal assets and arranged his funeral. Typical testamentary stuff.

The meat of John Paul II's will is found in the 1980 segment. After a similar time of spiritual reflection, the pope wrote about the troubled status of the Church and its adherents:

The times in which we live are unutterably difficult and disturbed. The path of the Church has also become difficult and tense, a characteristic trial of these times-- both for the Faithful and for Pastors. In some Countries (as, for example, in those about which I read during the spiritual exercises), the Church is undergoing a period of such persecution as to be in no way lesser than that of early centuries, indeed it surpasses them in its degree of cruelty and hatred. "Sanguis martyrum-- semen christianorum" (Eds: Latin for "Blood of the martyrs-- seeds of Christians"). And apart from this-- many people die innocently even in this Country in which we are living.

JPII obviously wrote this passage with an eye towards the persecution of the Church in the countries in Soviet communist hands at the time of its writing. But the passage is no less apt today, as the teachings of the Church come increasingly under attack even in free countries. Pastors have had to deal with a decline in the number of priests available to say Mass, and with scandals galore, both real and imagined, that have divided parishoners and caused deficiencies in attendance and donations. The drumbeat in the days leading to and after the pope's death shows that these trying times remain in full swing. The trying times of John Paul's papcy did not end with the fall of the Berlin Wall. In fact, the outcry for loosening the strictures of the Church came increasingly from modernized Western countries, like the U.S.

A not uncommon view in the press after the pope's passing was that Pope John Paul II's tenure was a disaster. Some people point to attendance figures and the drop in new vocations to the priesthood and have accused the pope of failing the Church. Others point to the male-dominated hierarchy, opposition to family planning, and other conservative practices of the Church and proclaim that the Church is a dinosaur out of step with modern times. The pope's failure to modernize the Church, they argue, is causing its irrelevancy, a sure sign of this pope's incompetence.

In fact, the pope accomplished exactly what he set out to do: protection of the church and its faithful from the corruption of modern life. In the next passage of his will, the pope outlines what he believed to be his God-given role as head of the Catholic Church, including an eerie foreshadowing of the difficulties of his papacy and the role he would play in life and ultimately in his death, all written in 1980 prior to his attempted assassination and Parkinson's diagnosis:

Once again, I wish to entrust myself totally to the Lord's grace. He Himself will decide when and how I must end my earthly life and pastoral ministry. In life and in death, Totus Tuus in Mary Immaculate. Accepting that death, even now, I hope that Christ will give me the grace for the final passage, in other words (Vatican notation: "my") Easter. I also hope that He makes (Vatican notation: "that death") useful for this more important cause that I seek to serve: the salvation of men and women, the safeguarding of the human family and, in that, of all nations and all peoples (among them, I particularly address my earthly Homeland), and useful for the people with whom He particularly entrusted me, for the question of the Church, for the glory of God Himself.

The pope stayed on message throughout his papacy and refused to give in to liberalising forces. He was a steady rock, like Peter, and did his utmost to spread the message of salvation worldwide without compromising Jesus Christ's message to suit modern preferences. Was Pope John Paul II a success? For those willing to listen to his message, he caused the salvation of those men and women. Check. He tirelessly worked to free oppressed people, protected the unborn from the tragedy of abortion, preached the "culture of life", and saw to the fall of Soviet Communism. Check. His death, almost side-by-side with Terri Schiavo's highlighted the meaning of entrusting one's self to the Lord's grace and accepting death as He intends it. Check. Finally, through his popularity with both the poor and the powerful alike, the pope made himself useful for the church, and his deeds embodied the glory of God as he hoped. Check.

Every man has his failings, and the pope like all others was a mere mortal. Some actions and inactions of the Church during his tenure I will never understand. But I do know that this fatherly figure who preached the gospel of unwavering fidelity to the traditions and teachings of the Church and who practiced tough love in order to keep his flock on the orderly path to salvation was anything but a failure. I was fortunate enough to have grown up in this pope's church. I can only pray that his legacy will continue as the cardinals begin voting next week on his successor.

Question of the Day

Riding the Metro past RFK Stadium in DC last night, I got to thinking: as a fan of the Orioles for the past 18 years or so, but now a newly minted Washington Nationals fan (gotta support the hometown team) who has largely renounced the Orioles (particularly as long as Peter Angelos runs the club), what happens if the O's make the playoffs this season?

Let's be honest, the Nationals (3-3) will not make the playoffs this year. They don't have the pitching or the bats. The Orioles (3-3), on the other hand have the tools on offense to score runs (Mora, Tejada, Sosa, Palmeiro) and an intriguing, if unproven, pitching staff. Having just taken two of three from the Yankees (which never seems to happen anymore), let's just throw out this hypothetical: The Orioles win the Wild Card this season, while the Nationals spend the offseason on the golf course...would it be considered bangwagon jumping if I or any other former O's fan, put my O's hat back on in October?

Naturally, I am against bandwagon jumping. Bandwagon jumpers are the lowest form of fan: whichever team is the best, that is their team. You know, most Yankees and Duke basketball fans. But what if the O's have another Why Not? year this summer? In a season in which the Nationals are shiny and new and not expected to amount to much, is it OK to cheer for the team of my youth if they make the playoffs?

(I admit to being a Cubs fan while I lived in Chicago. I allowed myself this guilty pleasure because I lived within a half-block of Wrigley Field, and the Cubs are a National League team. And being loveable losers, they posed no threat to the Orioles, who were an American League team and also hapless. I still enjoy the Cubs because the culture of the Cub fan is so contagious, genuine, and old-fashioned. I'll probably be at least a low-level Cubs fan for life.)

But what do I do if a team I renounced, a team I was a fan of for 18 years, somehow becomes successful in the same season I'm trying to throw my loyalties behind a new, but history-free, hometown team? As unlikely as this is to happen in a division that includes both the Yankees and Red Sox (AL East), I need to be prepared if the O's pull off the miracle season. Any thoughts?

Spring Time Equals Cherry Blossom Time

This last weekend was the peak of the cherry blossom season in Washington, DC. I took the future wife downtown to check out the scene, and brought my camera along. I took quite a few pictures, so I hope to post a few as the week goes on. Unfortunately, I am in dial-up purgatory until I move into the new house, so I only have the patience to post one or two pictures at a time.

Before I go on, I apologize for the lack of posts the last several days. Between being extremely busy at work and technical difficulties with Blogger, it has not been easy to get any posts up. I'll try to be a little better about it this week, but no guarantees.

The cherry blossom scene is one that I have little patience for anymore. I hate to start off with a negative, because the trees themselves are truly outstanding. It is the throngs of people that get on my last nerve. I fully admit, back when I worked in DC, I hated the spring. This mainly because spring is tourist season. And tourists hit the town like blinking newborns: their brains seem underdeveloped, their ability to walk like normal people stilted, and their senses of direction and common sense not yet formed. DC this weekend was a madhouse of proportions I have rarely witnessed. During the 14 years I spent living in close proximity to the Nation's Capital, I had never seen the cherry blossoms. I'm reconsidering making future plans to do so.

On a different note, one thing I always enjoyed about DC is its international character. As capital of the free world, people come from around the world to sight-see and to live. On Saturday, the area in front of Jefferson Memorial was more like the United Nations than the United States. One could walk scores of yards without hearing a single person speak English. Asians were out in force (likely by virtue of the trees having been donated to the US by the Japanese). If you ever wanted to practice your second, third, or fourth language, this was the day.

Take the crowds out of the picture, and it was a spectacular day to view the blossoms. The trees hit full bloom on Friday, and the weather through the weekend was sunny and very warm. Often the trees bloom at an inconvenient time, and the preparations for the parade and accompanying fanfare loses some of its excitement. This year, everything happened on cue, and those who made it down this weekend were treated to a pretty spectacular display of beauty.

All in all I enjoyed the experience. The crowds are something I could do without, and it seems these days they're impossible to avoid. But Mother Nature didn't disappoint. I will have photo evidence of that is the week progresses.Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Balut: A "Special" Treat

Here is my sister's latest tale of horror from the Philippines...her attempt to eat Balut.

Last night I finally had to face the Balut (duck embryo). Maybe you've seen it on Fear Factor, one of those nasty foods that Americans cannot ever accept are true delicacies in other countries. Ya, the balut is a special "treat" here in the Philippines. The one i got cost P10, regular eggs cost bout P4. The balut is a hard-boiled duck egg, but the catch is that the egg is not cooked until several days later, like sometimes 16 days later. So that gives plenty of time for things to "form" within the egg that make the egg very different from your standard hard-boiled easter egg.

After I finished singing my karaoke song, I was awarded the balut by my friends. Lots of chuckling. They all claimed that every balut that they had eaten was not gross at all, just like a typical hard-boiled egg that was a bit crunchy. So I thought that it could be do-able for me. The first step is crack the top of the egg and suck out the juice (already nasty). Then you peel the shell off the egg and pop the "egg" in your mouth. I tried to keep my eyes closed as I peeled and I happened to catch something dark brown and vein-y in there. So everyone was cheering me on, took the bite with my eyes closed, and couldnt stop laughing with the crap in my mouth cuz it was so disgusting (think it was more mentally disgusting). Then I looked down and saw feathers sticking out of the "egg" and a bone. Everyone started laughing at how disgusting it looked and couldnt beleive how many feathers and bones were in it (they had never seen one like it themselves). So I was done. My friend Julie then offered to dissect the rest of it. Her report: more feathers, a backbone, grossness that should not be consumed by humans.

Sorry i failed you guys and didnt finish the whole thing. Sometimes you realize that it just isnt necessary to torture yourself.

Good Luck, Ryan

One my favorite bloggers in Iraq, a good friend of the ACC Basketblog, is signing off from blogging for a while and wrapping up his duty in Iraq to tend to his ailing father. Good luck, Ryan. We'll keep you and your family in our prayers. Thank you for your service.

Most Heartfelt Piece of the Day

For a very uplifting, politics-free eulogy of Pope John Paul II, this piece by James Carroll of the Boston Globe is tops for the day (I just don't understand the concluding sentence).

Even slight knowledge of the papal succession, however, underscores the special depth of this week's loss. Agree or disagree, we Catholics most valued John Paul II not for his historic achievements on the world stage or for his undisputed integrity -- but for the full magnificence of his humanity, to the end. We recognized in him a figure both in touch with our time and at the mercy of it; confounded by change and loyal to a treasured past; deeply conflicted and at home in his skin. He was a man, that is, in whom we could glimpse the elegant range of the human condition, including its paradoxes, mysteries, and infuriating disappointments. This pope, for all his greatness, was one of us. We loved him.

The Drumbeat Continues

Here a round-up of today's hit pieces on the deceased Pope John Paull II:

1. Thomas Cahill in The New York Times: the Pope didn't care about people, he cared about protecting pedophiles.

Cardinal [Bernard] Law, who had to resign after revelations that he had repeatedly allowed priests accused of sexual abuse to remain in the ministry while failing to inform either law enforcement officials or parishioners, must stand as the characteristic representative of John Paul II, protective of the church but often dismissive of the moral requirement to protect and cherish human beings.

2. Richard Cohen in The Washington Post: the Pope is to blame for the AIDS epidemic in Africa. He should have preached condom use over abstinence, of course, because a person has a magical ability to contract AIDS from abstaining from sexual contact...or something.

The cult of the pope which John Paul II nurtured was useful. It made him an enormous force for good in the world, but it also obscured his obdurate doctrinal conservatism and his intolerance of dissent. (He silenced his critics, not always by the force of his argument but sometimes simply by fiat.) He serves to remind that faith -- the quality most of us lack and which we therefore admire most in others -- can be a form of blindness. As the driving force behind the pope's willingness to duke it out with communism, it did wonders for us all. On the other hand, a faith-based inability to distinguish between the taking of life and the prevention of a pregnancy -- or the spread of AIDS -- is not something to be admired or, to my mind, understood.

3. Charles Madigan of the Chicago Tribune: the Church should become more democratic and change its rules (regarding married and female priests) to suit what the polls say, but it keeps hanging on to its darned laws and doesn't care about us!

The thing about the Catholic Church, of course, is that unlike politics played at a more earthly level, it doesn't respond to polling results. In a very concrete way, it doesn't care what we think at this particular point about much of anything.

But at some point, it will have to confront this crisis aggressively if it wants to continue serving its many flocks around the world.

A woman at the altar, a priest with a family, those would be my solutions.

Some Things Never Change

I am currently reading a book I heighly recommend: "Washington's Crossing" by David Hackett Fischer (buy if from by clicking the ad on the left sidebar), a generous Christmas gift from my future mother-in-law. The book describes the events surrounding George Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware during the Revolutionary War.

Prior to the crossing, Washington's army spend several weeks on the run across New Jersey after British forces crushed the rag tag Americans in New York and began to pursue them through the country-side. As the British army neared Philadelphia, the city panicked, and the Continental Congress abandoned the city, eventually ending up in Baltimore.

I recently lived in Baltimore for four years and I can confirm that little has changed since 1776. Fischer writes:

A week later [Congress was] meeting in Baltimore, then a rough and disorderly boomtown. The congressmen were not happy to be there. Oliver Wolcott of Connecticut wrote his wife that Baltimore was "infinitely the most dirty place I ever was in." Benjamin Harrison of Virginia called it "the Damndest Hole in the World."

Sounds like commentary that could have been written yesterday.

He says this in the shadow of a new study that says about 20 percent of young black men in Baltimore are behind bars on any given day, and that 50 percent are incarcerated, on probation or on parole. Jones disagrees. He says these figures are low.

And he points to the destructive culture of the streets. He says, "The guys who come in here and say, 'I can't wear a tie here. In my neighborhood, they beat you up for wearing a tie.' That's what we're dealing with. So we tell 'em, 'Put it in a bag. Wear your street gear here. We've got a bathroom where you can change. But you've got to change.' A lot of these guys, you give 'em a tie, they might hang themselves. That's their level of anxiety. So it's our job to help them navigate between two different worlds."

Baltimore has made a comeback in its tourist areas and upscale neighborhoods, but for many (if not most) residents it's still the "Damndest Hole in the World."

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Happy Opening Day!

Play ball! Posted by Hello

Muddy Waters

Update on the creek: the water is still high with some in the yard, but not as bad as yesterday. The water ended up stopping about ten feet from the house before rapidly receding as the sun went down. Later, a brief T-storm added more rain, and by this morning, the water was halfway up the yard again. This photo was taken this afternoon. The stump on the left is usually a couple feet above the waterline. Today and yesterday, it is part of its own little island in the river. Hopefully, the weather cooperates for the remainder of the week, and the river stays where it is supposed to be. Posted by Hello

The flooding of yesterday didn't leave much in the way of grass in the yard. What remains is a thick muck starting about thirty yards from the "shore." Posted by Hello

Ah, The Great Outdoors!

Eight of the fifteen bags of leaves I raked today...and with no end in sight. It was good to be outside though. No rain, no desk. No complaints!
Posted by Hello