Pages

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Lighting A Candle


It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
~ Chinese proverb

What would happen if all news media decided to publish a list of the most positive events of the past year? I know, it's kind of beyond imagining. But wait, we can make our own list. It's New Year's Eve, time to have a little fun. Grab a paper and pencil, think back over 2005, and write down only good news. Don't stop until you have ten feel-good news items.

It's not that difficult. Here are my choices:

1. U.S. response to the tsunami relief efforts is overwhelmingly generous.
2. First Iraqi vote is a huge success.
3. Pope Benedict XVI is elected to succeed John Paul II.
4. U.S. response to Hurricane Katrina is overwhelmingly generous.
5. U.S. response to Hurricane Rita is overwhelmingly generous.
6. Second Iraq vote is a huge success.
7. President Bush comes out swinging on national security issues.
8. Third Iraqi vote is a huge success.
9. The U.S. continues to be safe from terrorist attacks since 9/11/01.
10. Our military stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq continues to do our nation proud.

There. That didn't take very long. Despite the doomsaying of MSM reporters, 2005 was a remarkably hopeful year. Maybe they should write that down.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

King Long


Since I have a week off from work, I found time today to go see "King Kong." It's no Chronicles of Narnia, that's for sure.

First of all, I should say up front that I'm a huge fan of the original 1933 film version. I don't know how many times I've seen it, but it's safe to say that at least one of my brothers has seen it even more often than I. Often enough to have memorized the native chief's speech atop the wall prior to Kong's arrival. But, like a Peter Jackson movie, I digress.

This newest King Kong is at least 45 minutes too long. If Jackson had just eased off on the lingering, dewy-eyed closeups of Naomi Watts (Ann Darrow), he could have saved 20 minutes right there. The dinosaur stampede--you read that right--was several frames too incredible. The spider pit scene was an "Aliens" wannabe, and it was hard to keep track of which ghastly fate was befalling whom in the many murder-and-mayhem sequences on Skull Island.

As for the climactic scene atop the Empire State Building, again five minutes too long, I was enjoying the show quite well until Ann Darrow started climbing the iron ladders--in high heels and evening gown, no less--to reach Kong as he was under gunfire attack from the airplanes. Whoa, sweetheart! Excuse me! Isn't the old movie "dumb blonde" now considered to be sexist stereotyping? I guess not when you're recreating the 1930's.

And to give credit where it is due, the digitally recreated Manhattan of 1933 was a wondrous sight to behold. Also on the plus side, King Kong has quite a bit of personality in this modern rendering of his tale. But the whole "love story" angle with Ann Darrow didn't quite work for me. I thought the original version, portraying Kong's unrequited love for Ann, was more moving and effective. In 1933's King Kong, Fay Wray screamed blue murder with blood-chilling realism at the slightest sign of the smitten Kong, which to me made a whole lot more sense.

At least this latest Kong had the satisfaction of knowing that his cherished Ann loved him, too. As Kong bids Ann his (very lengthy) farewell and plunges from the building's pinnacle, their mutual affection threw a pinch of sweet into the bitter ending.

But I still have two questions for director Peter Jackson.

First: Why did we need so many long, plot-stopping closeups of Ann Darrow?

Second: What were you thinking with that ice skating scene?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas Vacation


My company shuts down for this week between Christmas Day and New Year's Day. I don't have to go back to work until January 3, 2006.

It's intoxicating to have an entire week-plus off work, all to myself. The feeling is akin to that euphoria of long ago, when the last day of school ushered in a summer that seemed endless in its length and possibilities.

Of course, each year that we grow older, we realize how much faster time seems to pass. Ten days off work is hardly the blink of a working gal's eye, but it is a luxurious change of pace. It's a chance to step out of the hamster wheel of routine, sit back, smell the pine boughs, and take stock of the year gone by. It's a golden opportunity to spend more time with family, catch up with old friends, and treat ourselves to some precious free time.

Today I met a good friend for lunch, someone with whom I rarely get to spend time. Yesterday I went to see "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," which I've been meaning to do for weeks. My January bills are paid, laundry is done, the next Soldier's Angel care package is ready to fly. I'm deciding which of my Christmas DVDs I'd like to watch after dinner tonight, and which Christmas gift book I'll start reading before bedtime.

Time off from work during the Christmas season is one of the best gifts of all.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

O Holy Night


And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...
~ John 1:14

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas and Church


I would be in an alternate universe if my church wasn't going to hold services on Christmas Day due to its falling on a Sunday. That's because I'm Catholic, and Christmas is a Holy Day of Obligation. The official name of the holiday is Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.

This means that, regardless of what day of the week Christmas falls upon, Catholics are expected to attend Mass. I don't remember a Christmas that I didn't go to church. Before we packed up the car for Grandma's, everyone in the family had "heard Mass." Granted, ever since I was a teeny-bopper, I've attended the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass rather than Christmas Day services. But Christmas Day in every Catholic Church always has a full schedule of Masses, just as any Sunday does, and even today those Masses are all packed to the rafters.

The argument that Christmas is a family day is certainly valid. But where did our family come from? And have we ever received a more precious gift than our loved ones? The more I think about it, the more I think that Christmas Day is the perfect day to stop by church and pray our thanks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Patriot Game

We're covered for another six months. That's a small Christmas gift from the begruding Democratic senators to the American people, but it's a whole lot better than allowing the Patriot Act to expire.

As for the "American citizens" being spied upon, relax. Unless we're chatting with terrorists on our cell phones or in e-mail, there's not much to worry about. I doubt the government has either the time or the interest to monitor me recounting my quest for a parking space at the mall to my best friend.

When my kids were growing up, I used to tell them that "Common sense isn't." Unfortunately, it's still true that common sense is a rare virtue. Let's hope and pray that wiser heads will prevail in six months to renew the Patriot Act for a reasonable length of time.

UPDATE: The Patriot Act has been shortchanged to extend only to February 3, thanks to Rep. No-Common-Sensenbrenner. He didn't want the 6-month expiration date to ruin the Independence Day holiday. Enjoy your 4th of July, Congressman. Have a beer at the picnic for the troops who are fighting to protect your sorry, spoiled, misguided butt--without the benefit of a holiday weekend.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Unimpeachable Evidence

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. ~ Albert Einstein

So how come wiretaps without warrants didn't matter so much in these particular cases? Perchance the magnanimous tolerance of "unchecked" electronic surveillance in past administrations was related to a certain political persuasion?

Of course, the current set of circumstances is not to be tolerated under a GOP president. Barbara Boxer, D-California (heaven help us out here), announced in a letter that she is "expecting a full airing of this matter by the Senate in the very near future.”

Please, do air it out quickly. The hypocrisy positively stinks to high heaven.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Remember Our Troops


May no soldier go unloved.
May no soldier walk alone.
May no soldier be forgotten,
Until they all come home.

~ Soldiers' Angels

Heartfelt appreciation to all of our U.S. armed services who have contributed their efforts so valiantly to make possible the successful Iraqi election last week. Without the hard work and dedication of our military, it would not have happened.

If you would like to express your personal thanks to our troops, please visit Soldiers' Angels and learn how you can adopt a service man or woman. It's a labor of love, a truly rewarding task that allows American civilians to make a positive difference in the lives of our troops.

I'm proud to have my Soldiers' Angel wings.

UPDATE 12/19: Read the words of a proud father, written about his fallen hero son. Keep the tissue box close at hand. (HT:HH)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Going Ahab


...I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the horn, and round the norway maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up. ~ Captain Ahab, Moby Dick

Why hasn't anyone thought of this brilliant analogy before? It's so obvious that maybe it's natural that the comparison has been overlooked. Overlooked until yesterday, when a very insightful caller to Hugh Hewitt's show and did a dramatic recitation of Ahab's impassioned vow to destroy the white whale to express his reaction to the Senate's defeat of the Patriot Act renewal.

Of course! George W. Bush is the white whale who has wounded the Democrats, and their loyal MSM mouthpieces, and thus far eluded their vengeance. None of them will be content until Bush has been brought to ruin, no matter what the cost is to the country. Bringing down Bush is the only priority. Everything and everyone else is totally expendable.

The Senate has "gone Ahab," and it's a grudge of selfish, obsessive luxury that Americans can ill afford at this point in time. The Islamo-terrorists are certainly rejoicing as U.S. Senators steer our ship of state into unfathomable danger.

Contact your state's Senators and tell them to rack their harpoons while we're still above water.

Freedom's Ring


Congratulations to the Iraqi people on the success of the December 15 elections. Check Iraq The Model for amazing coverage of the marvelous current events in Iraq.

People of all ages walking miles, standing in line, waiting for hours to vote, and at a turnout of 70%, should be an inspiring sight for all Americans. That's a higher percentage of voters than we get in a presidential election year. Recently I've heard and read whinings about how inconvenient a Tuesday election is, we should maybe move it to Saturday to make it easier. Try telling that to the Iraqi voters.

Sometimes freedom rings with bells. Last week it rang as it encircled the hopeful fingertips of brave Iraqi citizens with purple ink.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Place Beyond Time



“There was a time when meadow, grove and stream
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.”

~ Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood



William Wordsworth would have loved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

For all of us today who also look back wistfully upon the wonder and excitement of childhood imagination, wishing that somehow we might recapture that sense of awe, there is a special gift this Christmas season. The land of Narnia provides an enchanted pathway back into that magical realm.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a beautiful and completely captivating film. Perhaps it can’t compete on a technical level with such a masterpiece as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But any competition is irrelevant. This movie stands comfortably on its own remarkable lion’s legs.

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are four charming siblings who discover the kingdom of Narnia behind an attic wardrobe. They enter a world of cold beauty, dark danger, and brave promise. The eternal battle of good vs. evil, embodied in the formidable forms of Aslan the Lion and the White Witch, weaves its dramatic thread throughout the film, creating a vibrant tapestry of conflict, temptation, failure, forgiveness, and triumph.

The children perform well in their respective roles as the “two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve” foretold by Narnian prophecy as those who would save the kingdom from the Witch’s brutal grip. Georgie Henly is especially endearing as the winsome little Lucy. The many mythical creatures and special effects are both enchanting and frightening, each as intended. The Witch’s sneering wolves are vividly chilling, and the great lion Aslan, given voice by Liam Neeson, is a magnificently epic creature. Aslan’s poignant scenes of sacrificial agony and subsequent victory over death bear very moving similarities to Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, prompting the tiresome media fuss about this being a “Christian” movie. The author, C.S. Lewis, was certainly a Christian, but such ideological mind-bending obscures the message of enduring values inherent in this timeless tale. Regardless of one’s theological conviction, anyone who understands the difference between right and wrong, truth and deceit, or love and hate can enjoy and be enriched by this lovely film.

Give yourself, and your family, the gift of childhood wonder for a couple of hours this Christmas time. Lay down the weight of your adult’s armor at the movie ticket booth, and settle into any darkened theater showing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. You will be delighted to discover that “the glory and the freshness of a dream” are indeed still yours to savor when you step through that mystical wardrobe with Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.

UPDATE 12/15: You may vote upon the best blogged review of Narnia at http://www.radioblogger.com/

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas History


"The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200...From the fourth century every Western calendar assigns it to 25 December. At Rome, then, the Nativity was celebrated on 25 December before 354; in the East, at Constantinople, not before 379..." ~ New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia

Despite the current secular theory of a devious conspiracy among Christians to foist Christmas upon a fiercely resistant populace, Christmas is not a modern fad dreamed up to further a neo-con agenda. It is an ancient holy day, reaching back through the millennia to the beginnings of the Christian church in the early centuries following Christ's birth.

In other words, it's a holiday that has been reverently observed and joyfully celebrated for thousands of years, throughout the world. Why are we suddenly considered impolite or, heaven forbid, "uninclusive," if we wish each other a straightforward "Merry Christmas"?

My local newspaper had a section of letters on this subject. Most letter writers felt as I do. However, one dour character reviewed the history of the ancient Roman December festival of Saturnalia and chided those who believe "Jesus is the reason for the season" for forcing their dogma "down the throats" of those who don't agree.

Wow. Lighten up, buddy, nobody gets out alive. And after all, it's Saturnalia, a time to celebrate and be joyful. Right? Don't all the Saturnalians celebrate at this time of year? And personally, I wouldn't be offended if someone wished me a "Festive Saturnalia" (or whatever). If it's not my holiday, so what? In the spirit of the season, I would assume that the intention was positive.

Conversely, if I wish a Saturnalian a "Merry Christmas," where's the harm?

Please, go ahead and enjoy Saturnalia if you like, it's a free country. Pursuit of religious freedom was the reason the pilgrims came to America. But Jesus has been the reason for this season since the third century. The founders of the United States put words like "Creator," "Nature's God," "divine Providence" and "Year of our Lord" in our nation's founding documents. Christmas Day is a national holiday in the U.S.A. More than 75% of Americans are Christians.

These are facts, so deal with reality, all you Roman festival observers out there. And at the risk of falling into the category of those "with viewpoints too narrow":
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Day of Infamy


It's been 64 years since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor catapulted the U.S. into World War II. Eyewitness accounts always have the power to captivate me completely. The men and women who lived through that day, especially those who were there as active members of the military, have living history to teach us. We would all be wise to listen and learn.

Listen to the voices that explain the rightness of recognizing evil and standing to fight against it. Learn not to be afraid to call evil by its name. Remember that we were once a nation that did all those things, united in a common mission to keep our home our own. Remember that we succeeded.

Remember Pearl Harbor. Remember, especially, how timely are its lessons for today.


Update: One Marine's View has a military perspective on Pearl Harbor Day well worth reading.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

St. Nicholas Day



It's December 6, the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra, better known as "Santa Claus." Kids in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands get their gifts today.

Yet another reason to be grateful I'm living in the good old U.S.A., with 18 shopping days left on the calendar.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas Angels

This photo was taken in early 2005. That's my son, Matt, on the left. I'm the short one. Daughter Kris is next to me, with Pete anchoring us on the right. We're all wearing our sporty Iraq tee-shirts we received from the Sarge; he was our first Soldiers' Angels assignment.

We're now supporting our third troop through Soldiers' Angels, and I enjoy recruiting new angels. So far I've notched a postal clerk who handled some of my care packages and a fellow pet owner from our neighborhood dog park. Also, when the Sarge got back to the U.S., he told me that he, too, had signed up to adopt a troop. The support from home had meant so much to him and his guys, he wanted to participate.

If you're wondering what you can do to help make the world a little bit brighter, a little less grim this Christmas season, I suggest that you link to Soldiers' Angels and see just how much opportunity awaits you. Opportunities not just to offer support and encouragement to our fighting men and women, but the gift of knowing you have contributed in a very real way to a good and noble cause.

I can't explain the feeling of contentment you receive when you send a care package off to one of our soldiers. Such a worthwhile sensation can only be experienced. So please give it some thought, and I hope you decide to treat yourself this Christmas season by "being an Angel."

Meanwhile, to the Sarge, Corporal Michael, and PFC Jimmy--Merry Christmas, and God bless you, one and all.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Remembering Why

Terrible days such as today, when our country suffers the loss of brave warriors, are times to pause and remember what these young heroes are fighting for.

The price of these precious lives lost is beyond calculation. The pain of their deaths is crushing. Let us never forget how blessed we are to have such men and women who willingly serve in foreign lands to safeguard Americans at home.

Let us always remember why they are there. Be they fighting or fallen, active or veteran, honor the service of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

For today, especially honor our Marines. Semper Fi.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

'Tis the Season

Five days ago, Thanksgiving dinner graced my dining room table. Tonight, it was covered with Christmas wrapping paper, scissors, tape, and labels. It's that time of year again--disappearing calendar time.

How, exactly, does this happen every year? You barely get the cranberries into Tupperware before you're off to the mall for the early bird breadmaker sale. The ensuing days of the year's last month are packed ever more full of errands, chores, activities and events. Then suddenly, it's Christmas. Then, almost immediately, New Year. And then, you're a year older.

'Tis the season to stop and reflect for just a moment, before it's gone and we're into the January doldrums again. Think about how lucky we are in this country, how very fortunate. Remember to enjoy the season before it's over.

And remember, too, as House Speaker Dennis Hastert so wisely affirms: "If it's a spruce tree adorned with 10,000 lights and 5,000 ornaments displayed on the Capitol grounds in December, it's a Christmas tree and that's what it should be called."

Ho-ho-ho! You've got to love it.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Correction from Nov. 15

Since I'm not the New York Times or CBS network, I have no problem letting you know that I posted inaccurate information recently. As the MSM used to say before it became immune to wrongdoing, I regret the error. It was not intentional

Although the letter "This War is for Real" is an actual document, it was written by an attorney to his sons, not by Gen. Chong. At least, according to the urban legend busting website "Snopes," it was. Through the cyber minefields of multiple e-mail forwardings, it became attributed to the general.

It's a good reminder for bloggers to check all sources very thoroughly. Oh, and MSM might want to try that approach someday, too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Freedom to Give Thanks



"I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving." ~ Psalm 69, v30

Norman Rockwell's famous painting is as timely today as it was when it first appeared over sixty years ago. The countless blessings that we and our families enjoy and benefit from in the U.S.A. are worth fighting for, then and now.

I'll be busy cooking tomorrow, so today I'm wishing a Happy Thanksgiving Day to all...most especially to our troops at home and abroad. Please know that most Americans understand and appreciate what you are fighting for.

To our active military and to all our veterans, thank you for your service to our country.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Blog Surfing

Hugh Hewitt has some terrific milblog links today. Some are required reading for anyone who cares to know the thoughts of a soldier who has walked the walk.

The Anchoress has very cogent and interesting points regarding the unheralded Arab protests against Al Qaeda.

From Victor Davis Hanson, a stark and unsettling historical depiction of the American Indians in the era of the first Thanksgiving.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, can Christmas be far behind? Not unless it's outlawed, as John Gibson is concerned it may soon be.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Who's Sorry?

You may remember that I was recently assigned my third troop as a Soldier's Angel. I should have mentioned that I received a letter from him early last week.

He opened with "I first want to start off by saying I'm sorry." Yes, you read that right. I struggled with that one for a few seconds, too. He was apologizing for not thanking me sooner for his first care package from me. "I have been busy, it's crazy," he explained.

Stop. Please. You're killing me, Private. You, who set your heroic self between my family and Al Qaeda, are not permitted to apologize to me. Ever. I'm the one who's sorry.

I'm sorry that you're away from your home and family.
I'm sorry that you can't be with your baby at Christmas.
I'm sorry that you're in danger every minute.
I'm sorry that Congress is a bunch of jackass-blowhards just making your days more difficult.
I'm sorry more people are not doing more to support you.
I'm the one who's sorry.

In response to my question about any special requests he might have, he couldn't think of what he wanted. He said my letters and package were more than enough. "It was good to get home from a mission to some goodies," he wrote.

A mission. I shivered. God only knows what that entailed, but it certainly wasn't complaining about the traffic backed up at the stoplight or the dinner not being defrosted. Nothing in my safe and ordinary day would approximate "a mission."

As he signed off, he did think of one item he might want. "Peanut M&Ms." Then he said he had "so much to do before bed," and God only knows what that entailed...and then he thanked me again.

No, no, no, Private. You've got it all wrong. All the thanks go to you. And so do several pounds of peanut M&Ms, coming right up in your Christmas package.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

We Said, They Said

We said troops should stay and fight,
They said troops should leave tonight.

We said vote upon that measure,
They expressed extreme displeasure.

We asked them to back their word,
They said we are too absurd.

We were told we're a "disgrace;"
Their vote showed they have no case.

They said the vote was a "deception,"
We said they're gearing for election.

Meanwhile, troops are in Iraq,
Fighting and under attack.

Let "we" and "they" for once agree;
Troops keep us free to disagree.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Choose One

Which message would you prefer to send to our troops:

... the U.S. cannot accomplish anything futher in Iraq militarily ~ Democratic Representative John Murtha

Those who say it can not be done should not interrupt those who are doing it ~ Chinese proverb

Thursday, November 17, 2005

What Happens Next?

Just when you think it can't get any worse, it does.

"The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home," said Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania.

Okay, let's pretend Mr. Murtha gets his wish. Tomorrow, all U.S. troops are on their way home to baseball and apple pie. What happens next?

Here's my theory:

Within hours, Iraq is thrown into panic, chaos, and civil war, with no protection from the invasion of Al Qaeda and other radical Islamic militants. Men, women, children, entire families are slaughtered in the streets by the tens of thousands. The embryonic new government falls apart. The new Iraqi military is destroyed. Al-Zarqawi rushes to seize control and imprison the Iraqi people in a fundamental Muslim jihadist state.

And that's during the first week. Aren't we Americans just the reliable Big Brother? Do you wonder, as do I, if our so-called "leaders" ever give a moment's thought to our obligations to the Iraqi people?

What happens after Iraq's bloody debacle? Afghanistan falls back into the hands of the Islamo-terrorists in full alliance with the newly terrorist state of Iraq. There's now plenty of time and space for jihad against the Western infidels to grow exponentially. Life is good for Al-Qaeda.

Europe has immediate fallout, with France already weakened by constant Muslim rioting and neighboring countries starting to experience the same. Whatever allies the U.S. had, bereft of our leadership, will never trust or follow us again. They run home to hunker down for the coming terrorist invasions. The United States is finished as a "world leader."

Here at home, the terrorist cells already embedded among us in cozy condos and tract homes, laying low in fear of our government surveillance, are emboldened into action. Within months, there are various acts of violence that I can vividly imagine but don't care to enumerate here. With our cities and citizens under repeated attacks, our economy collapses. There are food shortages, utility outages, civil unrest. America is no longer a safe or happy place to be.

And what of the over 2,000 brave heroes who have sacrificed their life's blood to protect our home, our freedom, and our way of life? Our fallen troops have been dishonored by those self-obsessed "leaders" who feel inconvenienced before an election year by such untimely military deaths. Sorry, guys, it has become too much trouble, too much work, too much political effort, to fight the war through to victory. The next election is what really counts, fellas. Surely, you soldiers would understand us pulling out over your dead bodies.

That's my theory. Now, here is my question:

When the next American city lies crippled in smoking ruins, at whose feet do we lay the blame?Al-Qaeda's? Al-Zarqawi's? Or our very own?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mayday

"This war is for real"
By Major General Vernon Chong, USAF, ret.
October 1, 2005

Read every word. Pay particular attention to the paragraph on France, which is chilling in its prescience.

Then read Radioblogger's posting of interviews with Republican Senators Coburn, DeMint, and Burr. Hugh Hewitt has plenty more on the subject of today's travesty in the U.S. Senate.

We, as a nation, are in trouble. Al Zarqawi is directing our foreign policy from his secret undisclosed location. The vast majority of senators are far too preoccupied checking their bleached teeth and eye jobs in the mirror, ordering new toupees, and practicing their president-elect waves and smiles to realize, or even care about, the peril they have placed all of us in.

The Senate turned on President Bush while he was out of the country, distancing themselves from a policy that might harm their political amibitions. These fools are more dangerous than mere cowards. Cowards can be quite cunning; just observe the Islamo-terrorists. But the senators who rushed into a vote to show the enemy our hand are stupid cowards, and stupidity kills faster and with greater efficacy than does cowardice.

This war is for real, and we need to win. There is no room in the calculus for either cowards or fools. Sadly, today's vote leaves us hamstrung by both.

UPDATE: From Hugh Hewitt's blog:
Senate Majority Leader Frist, (202) 224-3344, e-mail
Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, (202) 224-2541, e-mail
Armed Services Chairman John Warner, (202) 224-2023, e-mail
You can also use the Congressional switchboard: 202-225-3121.

Demand the resolution be withdrawn. At a minimum the Senate must allow a few days for the American people to weigh in on this proposed retreat. ~ Hugh Hewitt

Monday, November 14, 2005

Built on Guilt

"Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind"
~ William Shakespeare

I've heard about enough of the slanderous, borderline treasonous accusations against the president. Most of those throwing bricks at him were lining up to vote in favor of invading Iraq, based on exactly the same information that President Bush possessed. Many of them were even more outspoken than Bush in their claims about the dangers of leaving Saddam Hussein in power.

Suddenly, the critics would like us to forget their vigorous support of the president as we entered the war. We're supposed to believe that the dog ate their homework and that wasn't what they "really" meant to say. They were "misled." The truth was "cherrypicked." And these phonies wonder why they can't get the majority vote.

Read their own words for yourselves before rushing to any MSM-induced judgment against the president. In today's Opinion Journal piece by Norman Podhoretz, see what Bill and Hillary Clinton, Madeline Albright, Sandy Berger, William Cohen, Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, Carl Levin, Jay Rockefeller, John Kerry, and Al Gore had to say about the dangers posed by pre-war Iraq. It's a jaw-dropping stroll down short-term memory lane.

If you'd like to see the same hard facts stated less elegantly, but more passionately, check out Froggy Rumination's Veterans Day post on unpatriotic liberals. His bottom line is that these Iraqi war political turncoats are dirty, rotten sc--no, scoundrels wasn't the word he ended his post with. It's a very strong word, not a word I'd put in my blog. But that doesn't mean it wasn't the right word to use.

When you point one finger, lefty critics, remember that there are four fingers pointing back at you.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A Soldier's Saint


November 11, Veterans Day, appropriately enough is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. When he was a young man Martin, son of a Roman tribune, served as a soldier in the Roman army. A famous story recounts him seeing a beggar shivering in the cold by the roadside. Feeling compassion, Martin cut his soldier's cloak in two pieces, giving one half to the needy man.

The following night, the story continues, Martin had a dream of Jesus Christ standing clothed in the half cloak he had given to the beggar. Our Lord asked Martin if he recognized it, and then said to the angels attending him "Martin...has covered me with his cloak."

Very soon after, Martin was baptized a Christian. He is the patron saint of many places and vocations. No doubt due to the dramatic and inspiring cut cloak story, St. Martin of Tours is patron of tailors. He is also named as one of the many patron saints of soldiers.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Thank You to Our Veterans

"Courage is fear that has said its prayers."
~ Dorothy Bernard

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Random Musings

"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers..."
~ William Wordsworth

This has been the proverbial "hell week" at work, and it promises to continue sucking the marrow from my bones (figuratively speaking) straight through Friday. There's not much time, let alone mental energy, remaining for me to address the numerous and momentous world events unfolding all around us. But I do have my random thoughts as I scurry through the days.

Paris is Burning--wasn't that a movie? No, wait, I'm thinking of Is Paris Burning?, a 1966 flick. Without replowing the grim news of the past two weeks, it appears the answer is yes. Pity, that. Just don't expect any U.S. troops this time, Monsieur. We're otherwise engaged.

Speaking of movies, "Jarhead" is in the top ten at the moment. But Froggy hated it, so I won't be wasting my hard-earned $$$.

Al Qaeda has dropped in again, this time in Jordan. Three hotels bombed to blazes. Casualty count may not be complete. Yet Great Britain's Labor party today voted down Tony Blair's request for a 3-month detention period without charges for suspected terrorists. It appears that last July's London bus and tube bombings are a mere memory, and a fuzzy one at that.

Yes, three months is quite an unreasonable amount of time to hold a suspected terrorist. The explosives sitting dormant in their basements might go stale, and that would certainly be a violation of their civil rights. Or some such rot.

Here at home, all of Gov. Schwarzenegger's ballot propositions went down to defeat. So it's business-as-usual in sunny California. That's a scary thought, but we're stuck with the status quo for now. Probably forever, or at least until bankruptcy.

It could be worse. We could be in Paris.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

God and Science

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
~ Albert Einstein, "Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium", 1941

The debate currently raging over Darwin's Theory of Evolution vs. the concept of Intelligent Design seems, to me, to be besides the point. While interesting, the passion being poured into arguing one side against the other seems as though it would be better spent improving life in the here-and-now.

I doubt we humans will ever know with true certainty how life began. Such knowledge may be beyond our ken. That is not to say the quest for the origin of life is unworthy; learning about our world and ourselves is always of benefit. In order to learn, a mind must open its doors and windows and let the facts circulate. Sometimes, facts are threatening to a comfortable belief system. In such cases, emotion starts slamming mental apertures shut.

I have no hardened position on the origin of life, and I see no discrepancy between God and Science. When people of faith talk about our Creator, are we not referring to the Creator of Science? I view God and Science as the yin and yang of existence. For a theistic person, scientific facts should be seen as evidence of God's wisdom rather than a menace to His power.

The way I see it, God certainly isn't afraid of science. He created it. Why should his creations be apprehensive? Or, to quote Pope John Paul II, who was very fond of quoting this frequent message of Our Lord: "Be not afraid." (Matt 14:27, 17:7, 28:10; Mark 5:36, 6:50; Luke 12:4; John 6:20)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Full of Baloney

Do As I Say (Not As I Do) : Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy, by Peter Schweizer, looks to be a very entertaining read. It reveals Michael Moore, Ted Kennedy, and the Clintons, among many other famous liberals, to be real phonies (pardon the oxymoron).

As I told my kids when they were growing up, watch what people do instead of listening to what they say. Anyone can talk a good game, but actions scream.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Legislative Tantrum

Oh, please.

The SCOTUS nomination of Judge Alito has knocked the liberal agenda off the table. Scooter Libby is already stale news, and his indictment was just last Friday. The Democrats can't control the news as they used to, largely due to conservative blogs and talk radio, so they're taking their toys and going home. Or at least, shutting the Senate into closed session.

Here's my message to Harry Reid and Co. It's the same one I would give my two-year olds when they threw tantrums: Go ahead, knock yourselves out. You can yell, scream, lock yourselves in your room and throw things. You still won't get what you wanted. And you'll look very silly when it's time to open the door.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Now This Is More Like It

The Democrats are in a snit, and the Republicans are beaming. We're no longer operating through the upside-down looking glass of unlikely Supreme Court Justice nominees. This one's a keeper. We're in for a lively time before Samuel A. Alito Jr. is confirmed to the high court.

To quote a famous campaign slogan, "bring it on." It's high time Republicans stopped tippy-toeing around Congress, worrying about the next election and the other side's feelings. We've already won the election, and, in case no one has noticed, Republican feelings never figure much into Democratic logistics. So let's suit up and get these confirmation hearings over with.

It'll be a verbal slugfest, no doubt. But I think the Jersey boy will do just fine.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Kingdom of Hollywood

I watched the DVD of "Kingdom of Heaven" last night. Right up front, I'll admit that I wished I'd seen it on the big screen. Directed in the grand, sweeping, visually electrifying style we have come to expect from Ridley Scott, it's a quality production with a meaty, historically based story and a stellar cast.

All that being said, the movie was an overly simplistic representation of that era. For starters, there was a lot more than this one episode involved in the Crusades.

The Crusades were a varied series of military campaigns that for lasted hundreds of years. One of the major reasons for these wars was for Christianity to secure control of the Holy Land. But the many wars we have come to call the Crusades had numerous other geopolitical causes, among them defense of European peoples against Muslim invasions. None of this is mentioned or even implied, and perhaps it would be unfair to expect that. Hollywood scripts do not lend themselves well to historical layers and complexity.

Orlando Bloom plays Balian, illegitimate son of Godfrey, played by Liam Neeson. I'm not quite sure how Godfrey knows to direct his cavalry through Balian's village en route to Jerusalem, thus meeting his son for the first time. Godfrey invites Balian to join the Army, so to speak. Balian, lost in the nether regions of personal grief, decides to find meaning in life by following Dad. And there you have it--instant plot.

After giving Balian some rapid sword training, Godfrey is mortally wounded. In true Hollywood fashion, Godfrey gives his most eloquent, sage, and dramatic speech to Balian while stepping through death's door. Considering the fact that he only knew his father for a few days, the speech made quite a lasting impression on Balian, because he spends the rest of the movie parroting Dad's words back to various and sundry supporting characters.

Balian is a lost soul. He finds no solace in religion, but forges his own path to leadership in a very pioneering, modern-day humanist fashion. He is a true hero, inspiring the army of Jerusalem to defend its walls. But it is highly unlikely that someone of his era in history would be applying post-Enlightenment thinking to his actions.

There are no good Christians in this movie, period. Priest, bishop, or leader, they are portrayed as evil, corrupt, cowardly, and stupid. Undoubtedly, such Christians participated in the Crusades, but I'm sure there were a few good eggs among the garbage. Muslims, on the other hand, are played as wise, thoughtful, and compassionate in their responses. Again, no doubt true in many cases. But the stacks of decapitated heads silently suggest a more brutal Muslim response on at least a few occasions.

Which leads me to the director's favorite special effect, copious sprays of gushing blood. They are ubiquitous in this film, so you'd better brace yourself for plenty of spatter during the battle scenes. It's not for a queasy stomach.

"Kingdom of Heaven" is a mediocre history lesson, but it is a very good film. If you're curious about the history of the Crusades, it's an interesting starting point--provided you plan to keep reading on the subject.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Good Call

While recent umpire calls may have been questionable, Harriet Miers' good judgment in withdrawing her nomination is beyond reproach. I think she did the right thing, and not a moment too soon.

To quote TV judge Judy Sheindlin, it's time to "put a period" after this SCOTUS episode and move on. But do you know who I really feel sorry for?

It's not Harriet Miers or President Bush.

It's poor Sandra Day O'Connor, who just wants a few years of peace and quiet to relax and enjoy her family! Retirement doesn't seem to be in her stars just yet. Hang in there, Justice O'Connor. Hopefully, the next nominee will get you where you want to be.

Sweeping Victory

Congratulations to the Chicago White Sox, World Champions of baseball for 2005. The Sox won fair and square with masterful playing.

Chicago, enjoy your celebration. I'm sure this victory tastes especially sweet after the 88-year wait.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Second Guessing

It's World Series season, one of my favorite times of the year. This year, the post season games don't seem to be as much fun to watch as they used to be. Several of the umpire's calls have been tough to take.

Umpires are human, they make mistakes like everyone else. But when umpires screw up, millions of people agonize over their errors. It's way more public than just ticking off the boss at the office. No way I'd want the ump's job.

I was pulling for the Angels to win (naturally!), so the officiating left me cold. Now, I'm routing for the Astros. There are several reasons why. They've never been to the World Series before. Roger Clemens just lost his mother. I've always liked Andy Pettitte (even though I despise the Yankees). And the city of Houston has been a kind and generous neighbor to evacuees from this year's Gulfcoast hurricanes. I'd like to see Houston win.

The Astros are down 2-0 in the Series. Maybe that's why I'm blogging instead of watching the game. But I just checked the score, and it's 2-zip Astros, bottom of the third, 2 out, first and third. Time to leave the past behind and give the umpires another chance...

Base hit, 3-0 Houston. Bye for now!

Update: Final, White Sox 7-5 in the 14th. Can't blame this one on the umpires!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Books of Faith

Hugh Hewitt's OneTrueGodBlog recently requested a recommended reading list for young Christian college students, for the purpose of deepening their faith. Continuing on the reading theme from my last post, here are my five favorite faith-based books:

The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton. I first read this book at age twelve (I was always a precocious reader). It was summer vacation, I was bored and out of reading material, and my parents had a first edition hard cover on the den bookshelf. Merton's story was immediately fascinating to me, and I swallowed it whole. How could one so misguided in his early life end up such a spiritual success? In addition to reading Merton's other works, I have referred back to this book many times over the years. It shows that any soul can rise to greatness through faith. For me, it was a life-changing read.

Crossing The Threshold of Hope, by Pope John Paul II. You don't have to be Catholic to enjoy and learn from this book. God is explained as very close to and very involved in our modern world. Written in an open, welcoming, question-and-answer style, the expansive and ecumenical themes of this book are easily embraced by any person of faith. The profound wisdom and experience of this elder giant of the Church is simply communicated in an engaging way that young people will appreciate.

Blue Like Jazz: Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, by Donald Miller. Recommended to me by a fellow blogger, Alan Riley of In the meantime, this book is breathtaking in its simplicity. It's written in a heartfelt, conversational style that is both touching and humorous. If you have ever felt far away from God, out of step with your faith, or too worldly to be religious, this is a book that will show you how your misgivings and second thoughts are all part of your spiritual journey.

Great Lion of God, by Taylor Caldwell. An excellent historical novel about St. Paul, his life and times. This was another vacation read, this time during my college years. Taylor Caldwell was one of the most prolific and popular fiction authors of the 20th century, and my aunt read all her books. She loaned me "Great Lion" for the train commute to my summer job. It was the first time I had ever read a fictionalized account of a Biblical person, and it was impossible for me to put down. It brought the New Testament to life in a way I hadn't imagined before. Saints were drawn as real-life, flesh-and-blood people, complete with serious flaws and problems. It made me hungry for more, so shortly after I finished it, I read the fifth book on my list:

Dear and Glorious Physician, by Taylor Caldwell. Another fine historical novel by the same author, this time recounting the life and times of St. Luke, the evangelist. It was the first time I had ever seen Mary, Mother of Our Lord, appear as a character in the pages of a novel. Again, great saints of mythical proportions were portrayed vividly as real people. I seek out this type of novel to this day. It helps me to remember that each of us in our turn must walk the road set before us by God, striving to do the best we can in our human circumstances.

It's always helpful to know that we're not alone in our inner spiritual struggles. Perhaps at no time is this knowledge so important as in late adolescense and early adulthood, when youngsters stand poised at the crossroads of so many momentous decisions. It is my hope that all college students may find something of worth in the above list. As I have learned, reading always makes a journey more enjoyable.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Reading and Righting

Of all the sad stories in current events, perhaps none is more discouraging to me than the news that America's children are poor readers, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

To quote from the report:

"To me, this goes beyond disappointing," said former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance For Excellent Education, an advocacy group that promotes high school reforms. "It shows that we are failing to gain ground on the very conditions we need to reverse to improve our graduation rates and produce more students who are ready for college and the workforce."

No matter what educational or career path a young person chooses, he or she will not succeed without good reading skills. That's not being dramatic; it's just common sense. If you can't read, you can't study. If you can't study, you won't learn. And if you don't learn, your choices in life are limited at best.

Aside from the practical necessity of reading, the joy of it is also missing from these young lives. The limitless possibilities of thought and the delightful journeys of imagination that reading offers are closed to those who don't read. If I had a dollar for every hour I've spent immersed in a good book, I'd be retired by now. To know that some young people do not have the option of reading, either for fun or to further themselves along life's highway, is a depressing thought indeed.

The schools can't do it alone. Parents are vital to a child's learning to read. Mom or Dad setting aside ten minutes for reading the kids a bedtime story is more important to a child's reading development than a full hour spent with the teacher in reading class. When new parents ask me the secret to raising their babies to be successul young people, I tell them to read bedtime stories every night. I can say truthfully that bedtime stories worked for me--both as a child and as a parent.

The proof is in the pudding. I read that somewhere.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Out of the Park

Victor Davis Hanson hits a home run once again in his latest posting. It's worth reading every word, but here's my favorite sentence:

The story of the war since September 11 is that the United States military has not lost a single battle, has removed two dictatorships, and has birthed democracy in the Middle East.

Not a bad batting average for our troops. And on the topic of baseball, congratulations to the Houston Astros, 2005 National League Champions.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What, Me Worry?

"When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened" ~ Sir Winston Churchill

Judging by the news, we humans are in a very sorry state of affairs, overall. Americans, in particular, have been suffering considerably heavier-than-average slings and arrows of late. The news can become quite discouraging, if allowed to be.

A list of my current Top Ten Catastrophe Headlines (and the way they appear to me) is below:
  1. Bird Flu (It's Coming, We're Going)
  2. Global Warming (Chilling Future)
  3. Hurricanes and Floods (It's Bush's Fault)
  4. Earthquakes in Various Places (Don't Act Surprised, You Read It First In Matt 24)
  5. Mudslides and Famine (See #4)
  6. Harriet Miers (The Liberal Liability)
  7. Harriet Miers (The Conservative Curse)
  8. China Takes Over World (U.S.A., Sit Down and Relax For A Change)
  9. Terrorist Threat (They've Got A Ways To Go Yet)
  10. President Hillary (Don't Be Sillary)
I suppose we could all torment ourselves with any number of potentially disastrous scenarios. But what's the point? Que sera, sera and all that mellow, Zen philosophy stuff.

On the other hand:

"Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough."
~ George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Ides of October

Even the U.N. had to admit that things went pretty smoothly.

"The secretary general pays tribute to the courage of the Iraqi people and congratulates the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, as well as the thousands of Iraqi election workers and monitors, on having organised and carried out the referendum in such challenging circumstances," a U.N. spokesman said in a statement.

All of this is true and well deserved praise. Conspicuously absent is any mention of the U.S. military's impact upon the successful election process in Iraq. But that's fine. Our troops know what their contribution has been and don't need verbal bouquets from the U.N., of all places.

Naturally, I wonder just how often the U.S. would have been mentioned in that statement had the voting gone badly. The mind boggles at how quickly a poor outcome would have altered the U.N.'s perception of the event.

But it's a moot point. Thanks to both the courageous Iraqi people and our dedicated U.S. troops, all's well that ends well for yesterday's crucial election. Terrorists, beware the Ides of October. Your number has come up, and it's not a winner.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Joyful News

What a relief it was to receive this e-mail last night from Soldiers' Angels:

"We are happy to report that your troop (name & unit) has returned home safely."

I've requested another name from the Angels and look forward to having a newly-adopted soldier to fuss over for the holidays. Supporting the troops has proved to be a very rewarding addiction. I recommend it highly.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Saturation Point

A bit more than a week ago, I had never heard of Harriet Miers. Today, I have grown more weary at the sight and sound of her name than at Hillary Clinton’s.

I can only recall one other personal name that burst upon the media with such immediate and intense saturation. That was Osama bin Laden, on 9/11. Not that I wish to compare these two individuals in any other way besides public overexposure.

I’m willing to wait for the hearings to listen to what the lady has to say. I’ve seen and heard more than enough of what everyone else and his constituent has to say. Probably the most amusing commentary I read came from James Dobson, who noted that she has “been a believer in Jesus Christ since the late 1970s” and that he “knows the person who led her to the Lord.”

How does that square with the fact that she "had a Catholic upbringing”? Who does Dobson think Catholics believe in? And if she needed to be “led to the Lord,” where does that leave the Catholics? Apparently, we’re outside the Lord’s sphere on the evangelical compass. We're a bunch of lost sheep, awaiting a good evangelical shepherd to herd us in the right direction.

Baaahh-loney!

Chief Justice Roberts was required to affirm the "wall of separation" between his identity as a practicing Catholic and his judicial persona. It will be interesting to see if, in the course of the hearings, Ms. Miers is also expected to differentiate so strongly between her religious faith and her judicial philosophy (whatever that may be).

As previously stated, I'm tired of the overkill coverage on her, and I’ll wait for the hearings and listen to the lady speak before drawing further conclusions. I may be Catholic, but I try to be a fair-minded one (see Matt 7:1).

Monday, October 10, 2005

Due For Flu?

With all the ominous discussion about avian flu, I'm among the many who are wondering if our number is up for a worldwide killer bug.

Pandemics have been a constant in human history. Considering the burgeoning world population, it's surprising we haven't had this concern before now. Six billion germ-carrying humans bumping elbows is a lot of exposure to innumerable unhealthy agents.

There are theories that pandemics are nature's protection against overpopulation and overuse of resources. This line of reasoning contends that when the world reaches a state of critical mass, some natural catastrophe, such as a pandemic, purges the human population down to a manageable size. The life and growth cycle can then renew itself. It's a troublesome thought, but it does make a certain amount of sense.

There's no point in stressing about what might happen. There will be time enough to worry should the disease break loose. And even in that unhappy event, we are probably better prepared for a flu outbreak, from an informational and technological standpoint, than any other generation in human history.

There is one added consolation; not everyone who falls ill in a pandemic succumbs to it. I'm the granddaughter of a 1918 "Spanish flu" survivor. One can only hope that such an iron chip is hardwired into the DNA circuit board.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Charitable Priorities

If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
~ 1 Timothy 5:8

When multiple tragedies strike in close succession, the charitable giver must make choices. We can not deny our own financial responsibilities, yet we wish to help to the extent that our resources allow. How do we choose our charities to assist our neighbors in need?

This is the question posed on OneTrueGodBlog in the wake of today's earthquake in Asia. Most American charitable givers continue to support hurricane relief efforts; now there is a new demand placed upon our consciences. So how do we make the call as to where our money goes?

I use St. Paul's first letter to Timothy, quoted above, as a guiding principle, because I do believe that charity begins at home. Some of my annual foreign missions donation was diverted to hurricane relief here in the U.S., to fellow Americans in need--my "family."

But when catastrophes such as today's occur, the boundaries of family are widened to include our faraway cousins. While I won't forget my countrymen, I am called upon to remember also those suffering in other lands. If I want to be able to say I am at least attempting to meet Our Lord's expectations, I have no other choice:

...go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. ~ Mark 10:21

My October contributions will be divided between both U.S. and foreign charities, accompanied by prayers for all. I haven't sold all that I have, so I'm not expecting "treasure in heaven." But I'm hoping that, for my good faith efforts, I may be worthy of a gift certificate.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Sister's Triumph

Since I first learned of her efforts and posted on them, I have followed Debra Burlingame's story. The depths of her steely courage, fierce outrage, and unwavering determination to fight against diluting the memory of the 9/11 victims, particularly her brother, is inspiring.

"Take Back the Memorial" was her battle to stop the International Freedom Center at Ground Zero in New York, to prevent the cheapening of the 9/11 deaths that were American casualties of war. She fought on behalf of her brother, Charles Burlingame, the pilot of Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon, as well as for all the 9/11 victims. Even under formidable pressure and duress, she would not give up. She fought as valiantly, as fiercely, as any soldier.

This week, Debra won her victory. I was among the tens of thousands who signed her petition. But that was the smallest thing I could do for this greatest of sisters. I can only hope that, in her shoes, I would have had the inner fire, the perseverance, and the dedication to travel the rough road this brave and remarkable woman did.

Wherever her big brother is, he is smiling.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Saints Are People, Too

October 4 is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. I didn't pay too much attention to this saint until recent years, but the loss was mine. As I read about him, I'm learning that he's an interesting fellow.

Francis Bernardone came from a wealthy family, had a good education, but squandered his privileges during his wild, wayward youth. He became a soldier and was captured in battle. As a POW, he had a conversion experience in which Christ called him into service. Upon regaining his freedom, Francis renounced worldly possessions, to his father's fury, and embarked upon a religious odyssey that would last the rest of his life.

Francis lived in poverty, wore the rough garments of Our Lord's day, begged for food, and tended the sick. He founded two religious orders, the Franciscans and the Poor Clares. Towards the end of his life, Francis received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ.

St. Francis had great affection for animals and is the patron of animals and animal welfare societies. (My dog wears a St. Francis medal on her collar, along with her license.) One of his most famous prayers, very popular in modern times, appears below.


Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Monday, October 03, 2005

Angst and Applause

Reaction to President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court has run the gamut of extreme emotion. Most of the solid conservatives in the media are moping so morosely you would think that the Senate Republicans had just had their majority status revoked.

There are a few notable exceptions. Some conservative commentators think this is another brilliant stroke of W's hidden genius. And it may well be. But I'd feel a little better about Miers' nomination if our national borders didn't continue to be one vast frontier open for anyone and his cellmates to roam through. “You're with us or against us" is hard to take seriously when illegal entry terrorists may be renting the condo down the street.

I hearken back to that November 2001 speech only as a barometer of trust. The president is asking us to take him at his word that Miers is a good choice. Living in Southern California, I would trust his word more easily if the borders were under control. With President Bush, I’m at a “trust, but verify” stage of relationship.

But that’s my problem. As president, George W. Bush gets to choose the nominees for the Supreme Court vacancies. That’s the rule, and it’s worked out well for a couple of centuries. The disappointed will have to cope, and the gratified still need to wait and see how this whole drama shakes out. If confirmed, Miers could be an unmitigated disaster, or she could be the best hidden blessing to ever grace the high bench.

We can trust, for now. Time will verify.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Sit Down, Shut Up

The New York Times is in full hand-wringing mode now that the Freedom Center (so called) has been chopped from the World Trade Center site. Such a pity that the globalist elites will have to look into "creating a vibrant, meditative space" for international events elsewhere than the site of the 9/11 slaughter in New York.

The Gray Lady laments "a profound fear of free speech" afoot in the land. Hmm. I hadn't noticed. It seems to me that most people speak more freely than wisely, especially when the media is involved. For example, New Orleans Mayor Nagin seems perfectly comfortable hurling not only accusations, but also spouting vulgarities and profanities, whenever a microphone is within arm's length of his stubbly chin.

Of the 11th hour common sense attack Gov. Pataki acted upon in nixing the Freedom Center, the NY Times loftily proclaims: "We believe that the site is sacred to more than death. It is sacred to life and to the principles and people attacked there on Sept. 11, 2001. We believe that the United States can be made stronger only by free speech."

This is the U.S.A., so you go ahead and believe whatever floats your boat. From my observations, speech is never quite so free as when the press is wielding it to hammer their agenda. Somehow, when the voice of the people disagrees--as it rightly did on the Freedom Center--free speech is not quite so welcome.

I believe that the United States can be made stronger by knowing when to keep it zipped, also. Just ask any troop in harm's way.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Day For The Angels


Today, September 29, is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

I am a bit of a nut on angels. Ever since I was a child, these ethereal, supernatural beings have fascinated me. In 1980, I began collecting angel memorabilia, and people close to me know how to shop. I could certainly open an “Angel's Emporium” with my huge inventory of angel statues, knick-knacks, paintings, photos, books, craft and needlework creations.

Christmas time has a solid angel theme in our house. In fact, even though we decorate a 9-foot tree each year, the angel ornaments must be rotated on a semi-annual basis due to limited space. Family and friends can easily identify our holiday greeting card. One of my brothers told me “I just look for the angel” to know that my Christmas card has arrived.

And, of course, I’m a Soldiers’ Angel. That was a natural for me. Aside from sincerely believing in the organization’s good work of supporting our troops, I enjoy the whole idea of “joining the Angels.”

Angels populate the Bible with amazing frequency and at very key moments, starting with Genesis and ending with Revelation. Among their many significant activities, the angels frog-march our first parents out of the Garden of Eden after their fall from grace, stay Abraham’s hand before the sacrifice of Isaac, announce to Mary that she has been chosen as the Mother of God, issue both reassurances and warnings to St. Joseph regarding care of the Holy Family, herald the Savior’s birth, minister to Our Lord after his temptation, appear to the disciples after the Resurrection, free St. Peter from prison, and participate in the events of the Apocalypse.

The word "angel" comes from the Greek word meaning "messenger," and the title of archangel is conferred upon angels who deliver messages of supreme importance to humanity. Gabriel's message to the Mary, that she is chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, is one outstanding example.

The archangels have special powers and duties. Gabriel is the patron saint of communications workers, including broadcasters. Raphael has healing powers, specifically for blindness, and is the patron of sick people. Michael, patron saint of police officers and soldiers, defends us against the powers of evil. He is considered to be the guardian angel of Israel, and he appears in the Koran, as well as both the Old and New Testaments.

Angels are very busy creatures on God's behalf. They are intimately involved and concerned with mankind, so much so that many believers have faith that each of us is assigned our own personal guardian angel throughout our earthly lives.

Whether or not we believe in angels is beside the point. Fortunately for humanity, the angels believe in us.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
~Psalms 91:11

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Credit Where It's Due

Regular readers may remember my September 17 post regarding an unpleasant conversation with an outraged lefty.

Out of the blue, she phoned me today to apologize for being "self-righteous and disrespectful" in that discussion.

Wow! I have to give the lady full credit. That took some objective self-analysis, not to mention plain old-fashioned guts. I thanked her for her thoughtfulness. She was big enough to make the phone call. While we may never agree, I certainly respect her for that, and I told her so.

After our conversation, I thought about the way hardened ideas can evolve. One small, brave gesture at a time, greeted graciously on the receiving end, moving us all closer to a common goal.

Hope is an uplifting feeling.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Mystery of Suffering

Hugh Hewitt recently launched a fascinating new Internet project, OneTrueGodBlog. It's a "GodBlog" that poses eternal mysteries to ponder, with theological experts addressing the topics presented. The most recent topic is "Suffering" and how Holy Scripture applies to both those directly affected by the Gulf Coast hurricanes and those who are far from the storm's harm.

The story of Noah and the deluge in Genesis is similar in its depiction of the destruction caused by the great flood. But the Book of Job, Psalm 13, 88, and 130, and Christ's Passion are among the many scriptural passages relating directly to the suffering of our neighbors who have been caught in the fury of the storms. Why? Because fear, grief, pain, and sorrow over loss are universal human emotions. Universal, too, is the feeling of being forsaken by God, being left alone in suffering. Pslams 13 and 88 are especially eloquent on this point:

How long, LORD? Wilt thou forget me forever? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
O LORD, why dost thou cast me off? Why dost thou hide thy face from me?

Who among us has not, at some low point, felt dismissed and forgotten by God? If I were fleeing Katrina or Rita, leaving the wreckage of my life behind, I fear I would surely feel that way.

I have never suffered on such a dramatic, tangible level. If I did, I can not say with any certainty that I would be strong enough to be graceful under such crushing physical loss. My sympathy and concern for the hurricane victims leads me to want to help them. And that brings me back to the second part of Hugh Hewitt's question: What portions of Scripture are most relevant to those who have been watching, but for whom the suffering is far removed, and why?

I think the most relevant part of Scripture is found in Luke's Gospel, Chapter 10, v. 29-37. In these verses, we find the story of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan was traveling his own journey, minding his own business, and came upon the suffering victim. Although others had passed by with indifference, the Samaritan could not in good conscience ignore the victim. He tended to the man's injuries, brought him to shelter, and paid for his care.

But the most relevant part of this beautiful parable, in view of the successive hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, is that the Good Samaritan came back to be sure he had given enough to the innkeeper to pay for the injured man's care. The Good Samaritan teaches us how to treat one another in time of urgent need. We may not be able to explain the mystery of human suffering, but the Good Samaritan shows us how to be a force for good in the face of suffering, how to help make things right again. If we take it seriously, as a model for our own actions, this simple story is our roadmap to a better world.

Have I given enough to help those suffering from the two hurricanes? No. There's no way I could say yes, I've given enough. Not while I'm safe, dry, well-fed, and under my own secure roof. So here again is the link to Instapundit's list of charities . And, appropriately enough, here is the link to Samaritan's Purse (HT:HH).

After the second punch from Hurricane Rita, it's time for us to "come back" and refigure the tab, like any good neighbor would do. It's time for us to "Go and do likewise" (Lk 10:37).

Friday, September 23, 2005

Who'll Stop the Rain?

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
~ John 13:34

With Hurricane Rita now lashing the Gulf Coast, it seems a good time to remind people about the excellent charity organizations that will continue to need the help and contributions of more fortunate Americans.

The following are my personal choices for best use of donations:

Catholic Charities - Diocese of Galveston-Houston
Soldiers Angels - Operation Katrina Soldiers Relief Fund
The American Red Cross
The Salvation Army

There are many other worthy charities, and each charitable giver has his or her own favorite. If children in need are your primary concern, Feed the Children is a fine choice. Animal lovers will find a perfect destination for their donations at Noah's Wish, whose sole purpose is caring for animals affected by disasters.

Wherever your interests and sympathies lies, choose a reputable charity that seems right for you, and give.

I keep thinking of a wise saying I have often heard quoted: I wondered why somebody didn't do something. Then I remembered that I'm somebody.

Let's all help to keep open the umbrella of support for our suffering neighbors.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"Absolutely Beautiful"


That's how a Jet Blue spokesman described the perfect landing of an airbus with disabled nosegear. As I watched the live TV coverage of the dramatic landing unfold, my thoughts were the same.

Wow. What a beautiful job.

There are two things Jet Blue Airways should do immediately.

First, buy that pilot a drink.
Second, give him a raise.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

S.O.S.

Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, head of the active duty forces responding to Hurricane Katrina, knew what he was dealing with when he spoke to the press in New Orleans Tuesday in preparation for the pending onslaught of Hurricane Rita.

"Let's not get stuck on the last storm," he warned reporters, right up front.

Honore then began to give pertinent information on current evacuation plans. But when the media representatives insisted on questioning the good general on events pertaining to Hurricane Katrina, to the detriment of his disseminating urgent public evacuation information as Hurricane Rita approached, Honore pronounced them "stuck on stupid."

I don't know how much of America will hear about this. So far, coverage has been extremely light and carefully varnished. I suppose that's to be expected. Who wants to publicize being called stupid--more than once--by a general? But you can read the transcript of Honore's remarks at Radioblogger, and better yet, listen to over three minutes of audio that is priceless in its no-nonsense bluntness. I, for one, felt like standing up and cheering when I heard it.

So if MSM is S.O.S., what does that make Lt. Gen. Honore? A-OK with me.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Unsung Progress, Unacknowledged Aid

Victor Davis Hanson does his usual excellent job of laying out the facts in his essay on our foreign successes and setbacks since 9/11. I continue to find it fascinating that almost none of the amazing accomplishments of our troops ever makes the MSM news.

This truth was underscored by a conversation, for lack of a better word, that I had this week with a left-wing radical (Froggy would call her a moonbat). Among her impassioned points: the atomic bombs that ended WWII were war crimes, our military is brainwashed, we invade any country we want to pillage and control, just look at all the invasions of Latin America under Reagan, we're currently fighting for oil in Iraq, and "there was a reason" for September 11.

Yes, I agreed, there was a reason. Radical Islamist hatred of us was the reason. Of course, you can guess the indignant response to that. "They" just want the big, bad U.S.A. to "leave them alone."

Excuse me, I asked, but who's been attacking whom since the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979? I cited the requisite examples--Beirut 1993, Khobar Towers, WTC 1993, U.S.S. Cole--to no avail. According to her, America is just a bully that pushes every other country around.

Exactly how were we bothering "them" on the morning of 9/11? I told her flat out that there was no justification for 9/11 on any grounds, period. It was the last full sentence I was able to manage with this seething lefty.

Naturally, you can't reason with such a radical lunatic, so I didn't waste too much time or breath debating her. Interestingly, this woman is not even American--but she has lived here for decades and enjoys all the benefits this country has to offer, although she insisted to me that many other countries "had more freedom" than the U.S. Funny, she didn't name any...but then, I didn't ask, because at that point I knew I was dealing with a fire-breathing leftist fanatic and was only interested in excusing myself from the scene of psychosis as quickly as possible.

She didn't answer my one question: Who will help the less fortunate countries of the world, if the U.S.A. does not? That's probably because there is no answer, although such hard core lefties would rather die than admit it. There is no where else to turn except towards America.

So we as a nation will continue to roll our rock of Sisyphus by ourselves, up to the top of our mountain of responsiblity, each time learning more lessons, gaining more traction, and achieving better progress, each time hoping that this will be the trip that finally sweeps the burden downhill, away from us. And each time knowing that we are in this task unheralded, unappreciated, for the long haul, and alone.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Getting Serious About Relief

Please check out the title link to NZ Bear's Hurricane Katrina Relief Connections. As stated on the website:

The mission of Relief Connections is to provide a forum where community, religious, and civic groups affected by Hurricane Katrina can connect with similar groups across the nation and world who can aid in their recovery.

Reconstruction in the storm-devasted Gulf Coast region will be ongoing for a long time. Our fellow Americans need support not just in the immediate aftermath of the deluge, but over the long haul of hard work. Relief Connections is a smart and generous means to that end.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My Thoughts Exactly

A culture that goes to such perverse lengths to disdain its heroes cannot survive and doesn’t deserve to.
~ Mark Steyn

I'm glad that Mark Steyn stated the case for me, brilliantly, and much better than I possibly could.

"Disgusted" is the mildest term I can use to describe my own reaction. What's next? A "Rug of Remembrance" at the Pentagon?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Tolling Bells Remembered


From the bells of the church adjoining, I am daily remembered of my burial in the funerals of others. (16)

Now, this Bell tolling softly for another, says to me, Thou must die.

As therefore the Bell that rings to a Sermon, calls not upon the Preacher only, but upon the Congregation to come; so this Bell calls us all...Who casts not up his Eye to the Sun when it rises?...who bends not his ear to any bell, which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell, which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? No man is an Island, entirely of its self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a Clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the less...Any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee...(17)

~ John Donne, from Meditations 16 and 17 (with apologies for modernized spelling)