Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rocket Flights of Fancy, or The Bold & the Brainless

Like the old adage of "bringing a knife to a gunfight" - exemplifying stupidity - it seems the Hamas militants in Gaza are indulging in wishful thinking, if I interpret this Associated Press report correctly:
Palestinian militants, armed with deadlier missiles than ever before, kept up rocket assaults against Israel on Tuesday, despite relentless air attacks against Gaza's Hamas rulers and unwelcome word from Egypt that it would not bail them out.
Since Saturday the scorecard in the escalated conflict reads: Israel 370, Hamas 4. The left-leaning AP helpfully points out that while most of those killed were actual militant combatants, "at least 64" are civilians, maybe, including two sisters, ages 11 and 4, who were apparently with a rocket squad that got hit.

AP does not bother to point out that Hamas' explosive rockets are not aimed at anyone in particular and have killed almost exclusively Israeli civilians AND Palestinian innocents.

But that's AP for you.

If you want balance, you might want to check on this post by Jonah Goldberg at National Review, who notes that the Hamas charter calls for the complete elimination of Israel from the face of the earth:
Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."

"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. "

"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."
Anyway, you'd think at some point someone with some horse sense would realize that even dozens of cheap rockets with uncertain trajectories are no match for a modern military with an attitude.

Sign of the Times: Going Out of Business

Bloomberg.com is reporting that 79,000 retail outlets of various companies will likely close their doors during the first months of 2009, adding to the woes of 148,000 store closings for all of 2008. This year's shuttered doors are the worst since the terrorist-dampened year of 2001.

The good news, the report says, is that the U.S. could stand to have fewer retail outlets anyway.

I'm not sure that fewer choices are necessarily better for consumers, but if the contraction has anything to do with people paying off their debts, re-evaluating the differences between hard needs and mere desires, and deciding to emphasize quality over quantity in what they buy, then perhaps some Americans are getting the message that leaner times are coming.

In the long run that's going make for a much stronger America.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Year Has Seemed Longer Than Usual

It's official: 2008 will be one "leap second" longer as of New Year's Eve.

And that's on top of the extra day we got in February.

God has given us our money's worth, for certain.


Obama and the Bubble

Politico is reporting that Barack Obama sure doesn't like the attention he is getting as the president-elect.

Obama bristles as the bubble closes in

... the president-elect appears increasingly conscious of the confines of his new position, bristling at the routine demands of press coverage and beginning to chafe at boundaries that are only going to get smaller.
All presidents and would-be presidents struggle with “the bubble” – the security detail and the always-there reporters that impose barriers to any spontaneous interaction with the outside world.

But Obama seems to be struggling particularly hard, particularly early.
Lovely. "We" have elected a private guy who appears testy when he's watched - which presidents are constantly - and when he is asked any specific question that deals with something that he either doesn't want to answer or doesn't know.

Unless he has a major attitude adjustment this isn't going to go well.

Two things come to mind: 1) He should have thought about the lack of privacy before he sought the job. 2) Surely members of the press had this one spotted months ago. Why are they just now getting around to letting us know? It's important, don'tcha think? I'm not saying the man's unfit for duty, but it may not be the job he's most suited for.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Wonderful Story at Year's End

If you haven't read this story, you'll want to, I promise. The headline itself is a treat in and of itself:

2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved

It's written by Christopher Booker of the U.K. Telegraph.

A couple of excerpts:
First, all over the world, temperatures have been dropping in a way wholly unpredicted by all those computer models which have been used as the main drivers of the scare. Last winter, as temperatures plummeted, many parts of the world had snowfalls on a scale not seen for decades.
Ever shriller and more frantic has become the insistence of the warmists, cheered on by their army of media groupies such as the BBC, that the last 10 years have been the "hottest in history" and that the North Pole would soon be ice-free – as the poles remain defiantly icebound and those polar bears fail to drown.
Secondly, 2008 was the year when any pretence that there was a "scientific consensus" in favour of man-made global warming collapsed. At long last, as in the Manhattan Declaration last March, hundreds of proper scientists, including many of the world's most eminent climate experts, have been rallying to pour scorn on that "consensus" which was only a politically engineered artefact, based on ever more blatantly manipulated data and computer models programmed to produce no more than convenient fictions.
Suddenly it has become rather less appealing that we should divert trillions of dollars, pounds and euros into the fantasy that we could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 80 per cent.

There's lots more. Read it, print it out, and stay prepared. There are too many people who believe The Lie.

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God, Government & Small Farmers

One of Reagan's oft-used punch lines was that the scariest phrase an American could hear are the words: "Hello. I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." Government, he said, was not the solution; government was the problem.

I thought of this today as I read this article on the legal troubles of a family-run food cooperative in Ohio where, they say, a state agent of the agriculture department created an "entrapment" situation that led to a SWAT-team style raid on their farm near LaGrange. The gist of the dispute is that the family has run a food co-operative, which is legal as long as they do not charge money for distribution of their produce, but the state insists that they take out a retail food license. This would not only involve cost but would bring down various regulatory requirements that would put their little cooperative out of business.

The family has friends who are helping, including an outfit called The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
Pete Kennedy of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund said the case was government "overreaching" and was designed more to intimidate and "frighten people into believing that they cannot provide food for themselves."

"This is an example where, once again, the government is trying to deny people their inalienable, fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice," said Gary Cox, general counsel for the FTCLDF. "The purpose of our complaint is to correct that wrong."
Apparently this is not the first such raid in the state. If the story reflects an accurate picture of what is taking place, it should concern every American who values individual freedoms. According to one related blog post:
"Agents began rifling through all of the family's possessions, a task that lasted hours and resulted in a complete upheaval of every private area in the home. Many items were taken that were not listed on the search warrant. The family was not permitted a phone call, and they were not told what crime they were being charged with. They were not read their rights. Over ten thousand dollars worth of food was taken, including the family's personal stock of food for the coming year."
When did government begin taking such a personal interest in farmers? During the Great Depression, when government powers over agriculture were expanded to a vast extent, much of it on the excuse that it was protecting the health of consumers. But it was also an excuse to limit the production and distribution of various types of animal and vegetable products in order to centrally plan supply and demand. There was nothing too large or too small for the FDR Administration (and administrations to follow) to regulate and oversee.

Over the years the growth of corporate farming has only made it more difficult for the small farmers of America as an incestuous relationship has grown between CorpAg and Government. Billions of subsidies flow to corporations that control seed stocks and purchases of farmers' goods, and in return CorpAg sends millions of dollars of lobbying monies and political contributions back to the state capitals and Washington.

So let us review the concept of constitutional rights: God gives individuals the right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. In the Constitution We the People assign some of these rights to the government to administer on our behalf (but not to be used against us). Since government actually has no rights of its own, no "extra" rights created by God given to it exclusively, We cannot lend to government anything we ourselves do not have. Thus, if I cannot tell my neighbor, Bob, where to sell his milk or corn, then it is a damn certain thing that the government has no business telling him how, or even if, he can do it.

This is how out of whack we have allowed our system to devolve.

It was the Almighty who to our proto-parents made a covenant, saying, "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth. ... See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food." (Gen. 1: 28-30)

To paraphrase, what God has given, let no man (or group of men) rend asunder. You may not care much about the issue now, but if in the future you are really, really hungry, and you wonder to what part of the globe all the small farmers in wandered off, you may wish that we had done a better job of protecting the God-given rights of American farmers.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

I don't even know how I can justify the time it takes to do this post - there is music to rehearse for tonight's Christmas Eve Mass, personal preparations and a couple of phone calls to make - but I just couldn't not say "Merry, Holy Christmas" to the handful of people who reliably click by here.

Much like that first Christmas when the world was ostensibly at peace but in reality many hearts were troubled, our world finds itself with few major conflicts (a couple winding down) but a great deal of uncertainty about basic things: ethics and morality, economics and philosophies of governance.

We need our Messiah as much now as ever. And, as the saying goes, "Wise men still seek Him."

In a semi-related topic, we ran across a couple of articles today that touch upon the way we as individuals and as societies organize ourselves. What is truly important?

The first place I'd like to send you is Godspy.com where Stratford Caldecott opines on which really is the building block of a society: the individual or the family. He opts for the latter and thinks the rest of us will eventually catch on as we cope with economic disaster and attempt to rebuild. A couple of quotes and you can read the rest:
... the present worldwide disaster which, viewed positively, creates an opportunity for radical change. The possibility of change begins with the dawning realization that we have been wrong not just about the economy, but about ourselves. The decisions and policies that have led to the crisis of capitalism were founded on a false view of human nature.

In the real world, the basic unit of society is not the individual but the family, meaning the set of relationships out of which the individual is born or into which he marries. It is from within this set of relationships that the individual exercises what freedom he has, whether it be moral, economic or political.

A shift in philosophical view away from individualism would change everything. If the basic unit of society is understood to be the family instead of the individual, people cannot so easily be detached from the relationships in which they are embedded, including the natural environment on which they are dependent. In other words, if we adopt this person- and family-centered view, truth would come before choice, reality before desire, responsibility before rights. That would make us less easy to manipulate, herd and enslave.

I find his argument compelling, and not unlike my own musings of late.

The second article may well illustrated a practical demonstration of what he is saying. Lois Kindle, writing in the South Shore News & Tribune, tells of an extended family's successful farming adventure in central Florida. No quotes; read it for yourselves.

See you in a day or so.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Mondays at the Holidays

Today writing takes a back seat to real work, and I suspect that the Apologist is in more or less the same late Advent condition. But then, who out there has time to read anything anyway?

Behind the scenes, the third member of our team says he is close to preparing his first post. I fear that he may be preparing to unleash a new "War and Peace" or, at the least, an "Atlas Swore Under His Breath as He Shrugged Again." Really, Bryan, we are not expecting award-winning prose as it would be totally out of character for our modest little site anyway.

Did get some welcome news in the mail. A package which I have been expecting for the past three weeks finally arrived, part of Mrs. Oklahomilist's Christmas. Amazon decided to entrust my purchase to the U.S. mail, always an iffy proposition but especially so at the holidays. I've been keeping track, loosely speaking, by using the "tracking code" to see how many different major cities around America this gift has visited. I doubt that it would have touched down in more places if Santa had carried it in his sleigh! Inefficiency personified by this quasi-private organization. Can't wait until we have similar organizations running our health care system and auto industry.

Ah, but the bottom line is "it's here!" so I can quit wondering and start wrapping.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

The Takeover of Chrysler & GM (Or, Isn't it Fun to Ignore the Constitution?)

As expected the president and the treasury secretary have dipped into the $700 billion "bailout" money and issues "loans" of nearly $18 billion to Chrysler and General Motors, circumventing the will of Congress and, by extension, the American people.

Merry Socialist Christmas, comrades.

A couple of points.

First, this is not a bailout. It's really a takeover. By issuing short term loans, the federal government is in a position to pull the plug on Chrysler and/or GM by late March if they so choose. That's raw, naked power that is most certainly NOT authorized by the U.S. Constitution. Is anyone going to test the legality of all this in the Supreme Court? Does anyone even care at this point (except, of course, for those of us who actually think that our limited constitutional Republic was a good idea)?

Second, let me issue a conditional "God bless Ford Motor Company for refusing the "takeover" money. (It's conditional because if Ford suddenly reverses itself and goes for the money, then I'd prefer that God withhold that special blessing. I'm just saying ...) Nothing good is going to come from the federal government directly inserting itself into the automotive business, and I'd like to think someone at Henry Ford's old outfit understands that.

The loss of part of all of the U.S. auto industry would be a terrible thing, but it would would be short term because people are still going to need transportation and the industry would bounce back stronger.

But there are worse things than failure. Having the federal government micro-manage the auto business, and the ripple effect that it will have across our nation's economic and social life, would be disastrous. Government does nothing efficiently. Nothing. (Some would argue that the military breaks things efficiently, but even that is not true. War is by definition an exercise in excess, and excess is not efficient. Necessary, occasionally, but not efficient.)

What an unrestrained government, acting unconstitutionally, does do is infringe upon the rights of all free men and women, usurping individual rights in the name of the greater common good. All rights - given to individuals by the Almighty - can be summed up under the headings of rights to life, to liberty, to ownership of property and the pursuit of happiness.

The Constitution is a contract that says we, the People, as individuals, grant to the government a lease on protecting these rights. The government has no extra rights itself, only those granted in writing by the People. When government usurps those rights, or commits actions that deprive some individuals of rights so that others may prosper, all are harmed. The contract is breached. This has repercussions for all aspects of our society and culture, not just our economy.

Once this was understood by most Americans, certainly by those who sought elective office, and nearly all of whom were named judges. This is certainly not so today. There is derision toward the constitution. Insufficiently evolved, so goes the cry. New rules for new challenges of modern times. Divinely given rights? What nonsense, we are told.

And thus we have a nominal Christian president of the United States with one breath declaring that he is a "free market guy" and practically the next breath invoking the "powers" of the treasury to ignore the will of the people by obligating the full faith and credit of the people's government to "rescue" businesses operating in the so-called free market.

A government that thinks it's big enough to guarantee success to everyone is also big enough to think it can take success away from anyone. Buckle up, folks. The ride is going to get bumpy.

CONCORDANCE - Stephen Sprueill over at The Corner has a related post on this matter entitled, "Bush Punted." Also see Henry Payne at Planet Gore, "Bush Bails."

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Global Warming Heresy at CNN

Chad Myers is a heretic when it comes to faith in man-made global warming. Chad Myers is also an American Meteorological Society certified meteorologist (or if you prefer would could call him a "Weather Dude.") He works for CNN.

He outed himself on Lou Dobbs' show this week.

“You know, to think that we could affect weather all that much is pretty arrogant,” Myers said. “Mother Nature is so big, the world is so big, the oceans are so big – I think we’re going to die from a lack of fresh water or we’re going to die from ocean acidification before we die from global warming, for sure.”
Myers is the second CNN weather heretic. The first was Rob Marciano, who charged that Archbishop Algore's Oscar-winning movie had some rather huge plot holes.

“There are definitely some inaccuracies,” Marciano said during the Oct. 4, 2007 broadcast of CNN’s “American Morning.” “The biggest thing I have a problem with is this implication that Katrina was caused by global warming.”

Marciano also said that, “global warming does not conclusively cause stronger hurricanes like we’ve seen,” pointing out that “by the end of this century we might get about a 5 percent increase.”

Unfortunately the pressure from the Global Warming curia was so great that Marciano recanted his statement the very next day. Let's hope Myers is made of sterner stuff.

With Myers on the Dobbs' program was Dr. Jay Lehr, a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute and an expert on environmental policy. He had this to add:

“If we go back really, in recorded human history, in the 13th Century, we were probably 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than we are now and it was a very prosperous time for mankind,” Lehr said. “If go back to the Revolutionary War 300 years ago, it was very, very cold. We’ve been warming out of that cold spell from the Revolutionary War period and now we’re back into a cooling cycle.”

Lehr suggested the earth is presently entering a cooling cycle – a result of nature, not man.

“The last 10 years have been quite cool,” Lehr continued. “And right now, I think we’re going into cooling rather than warming and that should be a much greater concern for humankind. But, all we can do is adapt. It is the sun that does it, not man.”

Which is pretty much in line with saying God is responsible.

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The Sociology of Global Warming - Part II

I can't say I didn't expect this.

My son's high school sociology teacher followed up his presentation last week of the Theology of Global Warming by backing it up with an "authoritative" video.

That's right, Archbishop Algore's "Inconvenient Truth."

My son is disgusted. "This is a bigger waste of time than usual," he said this morning. "It's all propaganda, with the same camera shots of glaciers falling into the ocean and video of polar bears swimming."

The irony is that the video had to be interrupted for a day because icy weather canceled classes on Tuesday, something that rarely happens in this part of Oklahoma. (This is becoming known in meteorological circles as the Global Gore Effect.)

The teacher has yet to respond to my son's extensive submission on global warming alternatives. The signs are not encouraging. I was thinking about dropping a note to this teacher, asking for an opportunity to at least present some sort of balancing information, but then I would kind of like my son to get a decent grade in this class so that our auto insurance rates will drop by $100 a month. His GPA is ever so close ...

I know. This is how Satan works in the modern world.

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What is the Price of a Soul?

Bush says he didn't compromise his soul for popularity.

That's obvious. What is not obvious is why he compromised his soul at all.

In an interview with Fox News, the president apparently continues to try to defend the damage he has done to our free-market-based economic system:
"I'm a free market guy," Bush said. "But I'm not going to let this economy crater in order to preserve the free market system."
Or as they said back in the days of Vietnam, "We had to burn the village to save it."

Insanity then, insanity now.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Hotter Than Hell (Cause Your Halfway There?)

This is the kind of headline that makes you wonder about some folks:

Drillers Break Into Magma Chamber

Drillers looking for geothermal energy in Hawaii have inadvertently put a well right into a magma chamber. Molten rock pushed back up the borehole several metres before solidifying, making it perfectly safe to study.
Well, I certainly hope it's "perfectly safe." It sounds more like a do-it-yourself volcano. Researchers who have been studying the site for the past three years say there is no real danger.

The idea was to find steam from waters heated deep underground in fractured rock, to drive turbines on the surface to generate electricity. The company behind the project, Puna Geothermal Venture, has had a successful power operation in the area for 15 years.

But the drillers were shocked - not only to hit magma but to also hit such a big heat source at the relatively shallow depth of 2.5km.

"It's hotter than hell; it's over a thousand degrees centigrade," said Professor Marsh.

If it's hotter than hell, then it's pretty hot. Not something I want to experience on a personal level.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Msgr. Dale Fushek, founder of Life Teen, excommunicated

Hat-tip goes to American Papist.

Those that know me best know that I have given pretty sharp criticism of Life Teen in the past, mostly for their liturgical errors. Those errors were, for the most part, corrected in 2004, so my criticism has, for the most part, subsided. While I do feel that the music used at Life Teen Masses is intrinsically disordered (along with the "obligation" to join hands during the Our Father and a Sign of Peace that consists of hugging ... everybody -- not a problem exclusive to Life Teen) and not exactly spiritually enriching like the Vatican II-encouraged organ and Gregorian Chant, I do not think that the music alone should negate the entire organization. In the past, when someone mentioned Life Teen as something our parish should adopt, I would say, "You do know that the founder of Life Teen is under criminal investigation for sexual abuse, right?" That was usually enough to end the conversation. This was not a proper response, though, as Mark Shea rightly pointed out.

Life Teen puts a central focus on the Eucharist and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. That should be commended no matter what you feel about the Life Teen liturgies. On top of that, the materials are very orthodox, and are great supplements to a Catholic youth program.

There are those that will want to "excommunicate" Life Teen along with Msgr. Fushek, and I think that it is wholly unfair to do so.

We need to understand his excommunication. Msgr. Dale was not excommunicated for his allegations. He was excommunicated for beginning a non-denominational church called the
"Praise and Worship Center." While this new church was billed as non-denominational, it was being run by two ex-priests (not formally laicized yet). The scandal and schism that follows in these implications gave Bishop Olmsted (a family friend of mine), no choice but to excommunicate.

Through all of this, another part of my ire for Life Teen is connected, here. It seemed to me that more emphasis was placed on the praise and worship music during Mass than on the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It bothered me that folks felt the need to lure the youth in with electric guitars and drums, as if the Word, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, and the option to participate in the greatest aspect of being a part of His Church, could not suffice. It worried me that Msgr. Dale's question he posed to the youth of his parish did not get an absolute yes from every high school student in the congegation in 1998:

"A while ago, at a Life Teen Mass at St. Timothy's Catholic Community in Mesa, Arizona, Fr. Dale Fushek, the pastor, asked the congregation how many of them believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and almost all of them stood up. After another question on basic Christianity that was answered again by almost everybody standing up, he asked, "How many of you all really believe that the fullness of Christ's teaching is contained in the Roman Catholic Church?" Only about one-sixth of the "faithful" stood up ... It blew me away that all those Catholics knew what they believed but were clueless as to why."
If this was indicative of the Life Teen crowd, then something obviously wasn't working. The fact that Msgr. Dale asked that question, though, made his formation of a new church even more surprising. Then, he went and named the Church "The Praise and Worship Center." It leads one to ask: Was his focus this whole time really on the Eucharist, or was it the praise and worship?

It should be noted in thinking about all of this: excommunication is not kicking someone out of the Church, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and don't you ever set foot on this hallowed ground again.

Excommunication is letting that person know they are in error, that they should formally repent, and be welcomed to receive the sacraments again. Those that criticize the Church for never excommunicating Hitler forget one thing: he didn't want to come back, and his continual slaughter of millions of Jews (along with of gypsies, homosexuals, Polish people and thousands of priests) showed there was no need for excommunication. Hitler was out.

Let us pray that Msgr. Fushek and Dippre do, indeed, return, and to quote Msgr. Dale, that they once again "really believe that the fullness of Christ's teaching is contained in the Roman Catholic Church."

Dave's Tag Team Moment - As a church musician, I have something of a love/hate relationship with praise and worship music. I love to play it, but hate that it can easily overshadow other parts of the liturgy, and too often lay people - young and old - can lose sight of what's really crucial in our worship. I think the music has its place but mostly outside of the celebration of the Mass.

As for the lack of Hitler excommunication, obviously der Fuerher had no intention of ever coming back to Mother Church, but one wonders if the rest of the world might have appreciated the attempt. Such a move could have nipped in the bud later attempts to smear Pope Pius XII. Ah, well.

Looking Ahead to Hard Times

The concept that the United States is entering a new era where materialistic achievement and expectations will be scaled back is beginning to seep into the writings of people who a few weeks ago would have mocked anyone making such predictions.

Or, in simpler terms, people are catching on that hard times are a comin'.

Today's offering: Jim Manzi posting in The Corner.
We use the abstract expression “deleveraging” to describe what’s happening in the economy right now. That’s fine for a textbook or a newspaper article. But what’s really happening is that people are learning that the world is not as benign as many people in America talked themselves into believing it to be. Most middle class Americans are going to drive older cars, live in worse houses, and travel less than they thought they would even a couple of years ago. They will be less able to afford to move to the school district that they think will put their kids into the school that they think best for them. They are going to retire later, and have less money to spend when they do. This is painful and dispiriting. It is unequally shared suffering, and much of the distribution of relative pain is driven by luck, which makes it especially bitter to those who have been unlucky.
Manzi starts his post discussing the fallout from the Bernard Madoff fraud. Unless you've been sleeping or over-indulging in Christmas egg nog, you know that over $50 billion of other people's money was misappropriated, siphoned off and otherwise pissed away by one charmingly clever individual who apparently thought Charles Ponzi and the federal Social Security system were great role models.

Should the taxpayers bail out the Madoff victims? My gut reaction is not "no," but "Hell, no!"

But I think it will happen, at least to some limited extent. I also think that many average Americans are going to be very unhappy when they realize that our federal government is putting itself in the position of determining who are the true deserving and undeserving victims of our economic straits. This poses a potential for civil unrest, and that's not a good thing.

Thanks to the billions (trillions?) in financial experiments undertaken by the Administration and the Congress, it is not likely that we can avoid the economic pain ahead, especially considering the incoming Obama administration is even less economically savvy than its predecessor. The best advice for most of us is to pay off our debts as rapidly as we can, reduce our monthly overhead, and make preparations for a period of time that we pray will never come.

And if you're one of those people who still cling to the idea that "it can't happen here" because this is America or that God won't allow it, please try to remember that it already did happen here 80 years ago and the American people then were a lot more God-fearing and devout than they are today.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

'Car Dictator' wouldn't sound as cool?

The other day we noted, in a column about our crumbling Republic:

Forget about naming an "Auto Czar." If our elected representatives no longer control the purse strings of our government, then we have a real Czar instead of a president. (By the way, the word czar is a slavic form of Caesar, or Kaiser. Funny how words mean things.)
Lo and behold, Jonah Goldberg over at The Corner in National Review, has a post today about the use of the word "czar," so acceptable with our media elite these days, and how that came about. He has questions and observations of his own.
I do find all the talk about czars fascinating. If you read through newspapers and magazines in the 1920s and 1930s, you'll find that the word "dictator" was used pretty much exactly the way we use czar today (though obviously that wasn't its only usage). "Dictator" had a negative connotation back then, but not solely negative.
For obvious reasons, "dictator" went out of fashion by the 1940s. The use of czar seems to have filled its place. You can see the appeal as pretty much no one has a living memory of life under the Czars. It has a romantic sound and people don't know its roots in the word Caesar (ditto Kaiser). Americans wouldn't tolerate a "car king" or "car dictator" or even a "car Caesar." But "car czar" sounds both ironic and quaint.
There's more.

The Sociology of Global Warming?

My youngest recently came to me with a request for help in providing documentation that would refute his sociology teacher's continued Global Warming/Climate Change assault on his students:

"He's driving me nuts, Dad! And when I complained he told me that he wasn't going to shut up about global warming until I could provide him with solid proof that it wasn't happening!"

My first reaction was to ask, "What in hell does global warming have to do with an introductory sociology class at the high school level?" but I immediately realized that it was a stupid question because the vast majority of sociology teachers believe that anything and everything falls within their purvey, especially if it helps them advance their pet liberal causes.

So we sat down and within 10 minutes had used a third of a ream of printer paper documenting merely the highlights of all the actual information out there that contradicts and questions the new global warming religion. We organized it for presentation, fully realizing that it probably wouldn't make a bit of difference in the teacher's mind, but determined to make the attempt.

I told my son, "It is very important that you come across as open-minded if you wish to engage him in actual dialogue. Simply start by asking him if he believes that the pursuit of the truth is the essence of education. If he says yes, then simply say, 'Look, I don't know if global warming is actually taking place, but even the experts disagree right now whether we are warming, cooling, staying the same, and what's causing it.'"

"Then you should say, 'But does it make any sense at all to spend billions, maybe trillions of dollars, money that we don't actually have, on solutions that may not be necessary or might, if we guess wrong, make things worse? Do we have the right to expect everyone in America to radically change their way of life, to surrender some of their individual freedoms, based on science that it most definitely not settled?'"

Thus armed he has turned in his report. I will report back his results. We are not optimistic.

RELATED ITEM - Scientists report that after 200 years of melting, Alaska's glaciers are gaining ice mass again. The reason? The solar wind stream is at a 50-year low and temperatures are falling. Here's a link to an interesting report, and here's another link to a discussion at National Review's Planet Gore blog.

RELATED PHILOSOPHIC QUESTION - Does truth even matter anymore? Should teachers be asked to take some sort of variant on the Hippocratic oath that insists "First, tell no lies" ?

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Welcome aboard, Anthony!

At long last Oklahomily the Blog is experiencing the "change" for which I have promised for months. We are expanding our roster of blogmeisters by at least a couple of people, starting over the weekend with the addition of "Anthony the Apologist," or "Oklapologist," in Oklahomilese. For liberals it probably isn't the change you've been waiting for, but tough potatoes, dudes. Get your own damn blog!

For me it is welcome relief from the subconscious pressure to get back to blogging again at the rate with which I began this site in 2005. After 900 posts, with the millennial benchmark in clear view, I was just too busy and mentally exhausted to give it much more than a token effort for most of the last year. I kept doing a silent "kick the can" mantra upstairs: "Fresh young minds!"

Fortunately I've retrieved a bit more time to devote to blogging and the addition of Anthony and, soon, Bryan, will provide an incentive to get back in the game.

A little bit more about Anthony that he may or may not want known. I've watched him a few years now and I admire his background and his way of thinking. He has an amazingly dry sense of humor. He does a creditable John Belushi impression and, in fact, was half of a great Blues Brothers act for awhile. He's a Christian who takes his faith seriously - walk as well as talk. He's interested in anything and everything, and though he may never be pope, as for all other professions be warned: if he wants your job, he'll get it.

Some of you may ask, why does he refer to himself as an Apologist? An apologist, in the classic sense, is one who explains the teachings and beliefs of his faith or organization. We Catholics, who structure everything, even have an entire branch of our outreach called, appropriately enough, "apologetics." (And no, we are not apologizing for anything in particular except for any delay in talking with you!)

Anthony is one of these Apologists. He also will attempt to communicate why basic morality is a good thing even for people who have little or no faith. It makes for a more stable world. Potentially kinder, gentler.

I have not assigned him specific topics. He's free to roam. Meanwhile my posts will probably tend to be in the same areas they've always been (all over the map). I do believe that the change will be entertaining and enlightening, which is why we're here, after all.

Comments are welcome, with the warning that I review all contributions and will strike dead any comment that is profane or obscene, promotes somebody's product somewhere, or in general violates the Oklahomilist's standards of decency. (And no, I'm not going to define it. Suffice it to say, I know it when I see it. But it's not that restrictive, except for those trolls who are trying to tear down the world anyway.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pope Benedict and his enemies

In my inaugural post, I predicted that people would focus on the negatives of the Pope, and man, I hate being right.

Someone at the UKTimes thought, "I guess there isn't enough news in the world, so why don't I bash the Pope for merely reiterating longstanding Church teaching."

Evidently this new document, Dignitatis Humanae, is way too "No-no-ey" for this Politi fellow. He feels he and the rest of this sad, sad world are being finger-pointed in typical Soup-Nazi fashion and being told that what the Church has always said about the dignity of human life, updated for some new bioethics conversation, is tantamount to "banning everything."

Perhaps the Pope would not feel so inclined to have to say, "No, no" if folks like Politi did not insist on hoping, praying, fasting, and almsgiving that God will give them a Pope willing to change Church teaching to fit what they want, and only that. Notice too, that they always stress the negative, as opposed to the affirmative message that is always included in Church teaching. "Well the Pope wants un-annulled Catholics to save their souls by not profaning the Eucharist? Pooey on him. The Pope says that true ecumenism is out of love and not tolerance? Pooey on him. The Pope thinks that all life is sacred? Pooey on him. Benedict wants us to stress chastity over condoms for AIDS? Pooey on him!" Benedict my aching hind, these folks say, because what Pope Benedict teaches is just too hard. Too. Bloody. Hard.

I am reminded of David, lamenting his sick child, fasting and praying until the child died. What did he do? He stopped fasting, praying, and doing penance. He ate, drank, and was certainly merry, thinking, "Well, the fasting got me nowhere. Now I can enjoy life, because that gives me results."

What is even more ironic, though, is, for all the criticisms of the Pope and his "no-no's," the folks giving the criticism only say it back. "No, no, Pope. No no."

UPDATE: AmericanPapist has a great take on this here.

Pope Benedict and AIDS

Hello, this is Anthony the Oklapologist, quite glad to be aboard here at Oklahomily, the blog. As the name shows, my posts will be primarily focused on a Catholic perspective in the local, national, and worldwide level. Hopefully they will elicit some discussions, as Dave’s posts always do.

For my inaugural, I want to focus on the wisdom of Pope Benedict XVI, and how I thank God every day that I am not, nor will I ever be the Pope. From time to time, I am asked to give chastity talks to high school students, and when the topic of birth control comes up, there is almost always a question sort of like this:

“Yeah, I get that we should not have sex before (I would prefer the language ‘we should be chaste before and throughout’ but I’ll bite) marriage, but what about a husband and wife where one of them has AIDS?”

There are a number of responses I have for this-usually citing a June 8, 2008 statement by the World Health Organization that says what many folks have been saying since the AIDS scare of the 80's-that the spread of AIDS through heterosexuals is really not a global threat.

That being said, AIDS can be spread in the family, and it does happen, unfortunately (just not to the scale paraded by the hysterical left). Really, there are only two options for the couple, and both are always deemed unacceptable by many of the high school kids that I have spoken to:
1. Get AIDS and suffer
2. Be a continent husband and wife (for those that think I am asking the couple to turn into a large, named, mass of land that encompasses a bunch of countries, being “continent” means living as brother and sister … no relations).

“WAIT A MINUTE!” those at a Catholic school will say to me, “Sister Mary Holiness told us that a husband and wife HAVE to consummate the marriage!”

Right. Sister Mary Holiness is not wrong there, in that consent is a big part of the marriage vows, and if a man and woman were to get married, and one of them afterward decided, for whatever reason, he/she did not want to consummate the marriage, that would be a legitimate impediment to marriage. However, if husband and wife both agree prior to marriage, with dispensation, to live in continence, then it is completely okay for them to do so (St. Cecilia, for example). Sex is a gift, not a right.

Last Thursday, the Holy Father stressed what really fights AIDS - chastity and population growth. Echoing Mother Theresa, who thought that strong Catholics having more children was the best way to change the world for the better, Pope Benedict stressed the importance of education, citing a piece of information that critics of the Pope are silent about: “Initiatives of this kind have already borne important fruits, causing a reduction in the spread of AIDS.” Case in point: Uganda.

But of course, he will be criticized as a Pope who forbids AIDS, and his positive message will be ignored altogether. When AIDS is finally eradicated, though, it will be because people recognize what Benedict said Thursday and what Paul VI wrote forty years ago-that sex is a gift and not a right.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What's Wrong With Having Principles?

Would someone please do America a big favor and show Colin Powell how to change his political party affiliation.

The former Secretary of State, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs and soon, I hope, former Republican will go on CNN "GPS" program Sunday and declare that the GOP must quit "shouting at the world" and listen to the "heart and soul" of minorities in order to win elections in this, the 21st Century.

The problem, he says, are those stubborn principles and dogmas that conservatives cling to, instead of searching for the true feelings of this country that can only be found, apparently, among African-American, Hispanic and Asian voters. He concluded by declaring that people should quit listening to the reigning king of talk radio, Rush Limbaugh.

"Is this really the kind of party that we want to be when these kinds of spokespersons seem to appeal to our lesser instincts rather than our better instincts?"
I'm sure Powell must prefer the level-head, non-dogmatic (and non-principled) angels of our better nature like Keith Olbermann and Al Franken?

A few points must be made:

1) Many of us suspected Gen. Powell of soft-headedness when he helped Bush 41 pull the plug on winning the war with Iraq in 1991. This was reinforced this decade when, after having helped make the case for Iraq War II, the Invasion, he then reversed his personal course and attacked Bush 43.

2) The State Dept. under Colin Powell remained a contentious, near treasonous snakepit, differing little in nature from its Madeline Albright version. The kind conclusion was that he was not nearly the administrator we had thought him to be. The unkind conclusion was that Powell was as squishy as his predecessor.

3) Powell's obviously pre-calculated, cold-blooded political Pearl Harbor on John McCain with a couple of weeks left in the campaign was cowardly and crass. It served as confirmation of Powell's descent into liberal madness. Like other RINOs - Republicans in name only - he is but a fifth columnist.

4) It is inherently bigoted to insist that African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians cannot hold conservative views or live according to conservative principles.

5) There is no real need, at this time, to defend Rush Limbaugh. He's a big target, an easy target for a quisling like Gen. Powell. No one - not even politicians in Washington - are forced to listen to Rush. He has a volunteer audience because his is the pre-eminent voice of conservative principles and he enunciates the frustrations, hopes and aspirations of a vast number of Americans who feel betrayed by their politicians and the cultural elites. Rush is successful because he articulates a sound doctrine consistent with the foundational principles of this Republic. If in some bizarro moment Rush Limbaugh began to sound like Colin Powell, he would lose most of his audience and his influence.

The problem with the Republican Party, as a brand, is not that GOP officials hold conservative principles and adhere to constitutionalist dogma, the problem with Republicans is that they have not governed in a manner consistent with their conservative princples and constitutionalist dogma. There was insufficient brand recognition for many voters. It was the liberal Obama, pretending to be a centrist, versus the liberal-lite McCain, pretending to be a conservative, with the latter saddled to the tattered reputation of an outgoing administration that has done its best to strip conservatism from the GOP.

Principles are a fine thing. They are part and parcel of codes of morality and conduct that engender confidence and trust. It's a shame Gen. Powell has so little use for them. There is nothing wrong with having principles except when you proclaim them and do not live up to them. This is quite common on all sides of the political spectrum. Americans are understandably confused and more than a bit angry about their inability to trust their elected leaders to "say what they'll do and then do what they say." Having principle is such a rare commodity these days that people aren't quite sure what to make of it.

But we think the days are coming, alas, when people will rediscover the values of principles and, yes, even dogma. Future politicians beware!

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Have We Lost Our Republic?

This morning, with a cheerleaders' chorus of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the United Auto Workers union echoing in the background, the President of the United States says that he may use some of the $700 billion in "bailout" money to rescue the Big 3 automakers because of the "failure" of Congress to act to save them.

My first reaction is, "Has he lost his mind?"

(Many on the left would argue that you can't lose something you never had, and perhaps some of the right are now inclined to agree, but we'll leave this debate for historians to decide.)

My second reaction, sadly, came almost as quickly, and it is the one with which I find myself returning to continually today:

"Have we lost our Republic?"

Congress did not "fail" to decide. It was a decision. And the decision by a number of senators to oppose the bailout of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler was a reasoned one that can be defended upon philosophical, historical and constitutional grounds. Bailout backers may not like the constitutional rules that allow a minority to filibuster a proposal to death, but it was included by the architects of our system of government in order to slow down or halt just such a panic-induced stampede of legislation.

If George W. Bush proceeds to finance a bailout with taxpayer money after Congress refuses to authorize such, and We the People stand by and do nothing, you can kiss goodbye whatever is left of the remnants of our once magnificent experiment in republican democracy.

Forget about naming an "Auto Czar." If our elected representatives no longer control the purse strings of our government, then we have a real Czar instead of a president. (By the way, the word czar is a slavic form of Caesar, or Kaiser. Funny how words mean things.)

What happens next?

If Bush "rescues" the Big 3, it will be but the first installment of tax dollars that will be needed to prop up an industry that should instead be allowed to fail and rebuild. It will be mean that the only lessons learned are that rules are for chumps. And other businesses and industries, and governments, will grow louder in their demands that they, too, be "rescued." Soon, the federal government will "own" a piece of everything and everybody.

Welcome to the United Socialist States of America. Won't that be fun!

If Bush somehow recovers his sanity and abandons the rescue plan, it will mean bankruptcy and reorganization for at least two of the Big 3. It will mean pain, lost jobs, restructured contracts, and a new awareness of financial realities that might bring people to their senses, sooner or later. It will be ugly, the country will suffer, but the Republic and the freedoms that free men and women should enjoy will survive. After a time there will be a rebirth of jobs and opportunity.

But no one wants to go through pain anymore.

So my prediction is that we are about to go through worse.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's still the same ol' Chicago

I frequently wax nostalgic over Chicago, mostly because of the movies I watch that feature the skyline, it's eclectic downtown, or the suburbs, though truth be told I've only been to the Windy City only a handful of times. For a couple of years I talked frequently on the phone with a rep for a music company and, through his reports, developed a fascination for its people and culture. And thanks to John Hughes, John Cusack and John Belushi, there will probably always be a soft spot in my heart -- or my head -- for the city.

But try as I may, I could never warm up to Chicago's Cubs or it's politicians.

So it is with an evil glint in my eye that I note the legal woes of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich who today was arrested, as well as his chief of staff, for allegedly trying to peddle Barack Obama's vacated U.S. senate seat for personal gain. Secondarily he also was charged with attempting to use the powers of his office to silence his critics on the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune. Boo! Hiss!

Blagojevich, by the way, is a DEMOCRAT. (Most press reports seem fuzzy on this point.)

While it's true that every state has a certain amount of corruption - we are, after all, a fallen race, we humans - and Oklahoma certainly has its share, no one does corruption like Illinois and no city can hold a candle to Chicago.

May Patrick Fitzgerald's investigations be painstakingly thorough, time-consuming, and reach under every damp rock and attic nook, no matter how many other high- or low-placed officials are implicated in wrong-doing. Maybe the next four years won't be so forlorn after all.