Monday, March 30, 2009

Let's All get on this Bandwagon.

So the University of Notre Dame has invited President Barack Obama to be the commencement speaker this coming May. The school further intends to grant him an honorary degree. This is simply wrong.

One of the first things the man does as president is to expand abortion rights and stem cell research. As Catholics, we should not appear to be rewarding that behavior.

Write to the school and demand that it rescind the invitation. Go to to voice your outrage. Check out for a great take on the enormity of the whole issue. We cannot reward a man for such callousness towards human life and consider ourselves Catholic.

Remember that you can never separate morals and politics. This needs to be addressed now. Be sure that your opinion is heard.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Earth Hour

The lights went out in Georgia, and in many other paces too yesterday. Lights were extinguished for the sake of Earth Hour, to emphacize the supposed threat of global climate change.

I can feel the difference already. No, really, I can. The arrogance level has risen dramatically among the intelligentsia who know so much more than we do.

I agree that we ought to turn out lights, and anything else which uses energy for that matter, when they are not in use. That's simply common sense in saving yourself money and your appliances wear and tear. But to make it a worldwide crusade, especially for such a suspect notion as climate change, is grandstanding and effrontery. It's an insult to our intelligence and should be treated that way.

Have you noticed by the way how the catchphrase has changed from 'global warming' to 'climate change'? From something specific to something general? Why would they do that?

I suggest it is to give the purveyors of such nonsense greater leeway. The less they have to define precisely the more loosey goosey they can be with the facts. They can more easily hide their agenda when they cannot be pinned down. To go from a specific problem to a widespread and pervasive trauma makes the scare tactics so much more effective. It's not merely temperatures but the entire climate at stake. Don't you realize what that means?

I sure do, It means I have to watch you more closely.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Popular Culture

Perhaps it is only because I am getting older, although I hope it is because I am slowly developing better taste. But I find that most of the popular culture, all the things that I'm supposed to become all excited over, is often a terrible bore and potentially a terrific waste of time.

Super Bowls? March Madness? They're simply overblown sports showcases. And though I do have my favorite sports which I follow perhaps too closely and with an emotional involvement which can indeed border on the ridiculous, I can no longer ignore the feeling that it's all just so much hype. My old grandfather used to say, "So let him drop the ball, what does it really matter?" He makes a valid point.

American Idol? Dancing With the Stars? Ho-hum. I have nothing against them, to be sure, but I don't see where I should particularly care about them either. The only well known TV show that I watch is Lost, and that one's losing me too. It's getting awfully convoluted, and I fear it will end up just like the only other (fairly) recent series (Babylon 5, if you care to know) in which I invested my time only to be sorely disappointed in its conclusion.

The next big blockbuster film? All special effects at the expense of the story. At that, it likely as not will be about some popular fictional character instead of dealing with issues and themes which may enlighten us.

I think that part of it is we don't know how to entertain, or be entertained, anymore. Where are the good television shows and movies which strive only to tell a good story rather than dwell like a high school sophomore over sexual innuendo? Even decent shows like CSI seem to overflow with crimes tied into sex. Further, why does our entertainment feel that it has to go for the spectacular or highly unusual? Why can't it be straightforward rather than over the top or avant garde?

Yet it's more than that: why can't we appeal to the soul of human nature better than we do? At the very least, why can't we have comedies which focus on the comedy rather than the juvenile? Why can't even our merest diversions be, I will say it, wholesome good fun?

Maybe it is like C. S. Lewis says: we feel (or should feel) a little sheepish at having too much fun here, for the serious business of this world is to make ourselves better people. Maybe we ought to feel that such diversions are a little bit of a nuisance which interfere with that great objective.

Again, I don't mean to say that all current forms of entertainment are bad or ought to be tossed. Nor do I mean that mindless entertainment is entirely bad for us. Go on and make the next Iron Man and watch stars dance and root for you favorite team. Some of that may well be wholesome enough, to be fair. But remember that it could be better, and will be if you desire. Remember as well to put it in the proper perspective: it is ultimately trivial and only meant to give our minds and bodies a break.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Little O' This, A Bit O' That

I see where the State of California is considering a ban on black cars. They draw more heat, you see, and therefore require greater use of the air conditioner in the vehicle, thus using more resources. The biggest nanny state of them all just keeps finding ways to alienate people, doesn't it?

I see also where many Southern states are pushing for a greater respect for Confederate history. Several even observe April as Confederate History Month. They seem to feel that the Old South has been getting a bum rap, and that the Civil War wasn't all about slavery.

Give it up, folks. Take slavery out of the equation and there would have been no Civil War. The other hints at secession would have not had enough general support to start one. It's that simple. Don't try and remake history into your own narrow view.

I see too where a former Gitmo prison guard has converted to Islam. He apparently began to feel empathy for the detainees there and that led to his conversion. Yet by his own admittance he was always rebellious, always held anti-everything views (those are his own words). I suppose that what I'm saying is that I am not overly impressed by a rebel's interpretation of the facts. Particularly when they run contrary to common sense.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Reality Check

My cousin Carol and I have sons about the same age. Needless to say, they were both excited about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies which came out in the early Nineties when they were 9 or 10.

Carol and I were discussing the films after they had seen them. I remarked that they were all right movies for kids our boys' ages, but that I didn't see where one of the characters had to say 'damn' repeatedly at one point. "There are younger kids watching these things," I remarked.

She replied, "Oh, don't be such a dad. They were only going for a sense of reality."

Teenage...Mutant...Ninja...Turtles. And she was concerned about reality.

I think that's one of the problems with movies these days. I'm really not against swearing on screen to make a certain point or to emphacize an emotion perhaps, but have we forgotten that movies are NOT REAL? As such, why ought they reflect any particular reality?

The defense of nudity in love scenes, for example, is that we need that reality. The fact is that that takes away from the suspension of belief which is supposed to make films engaging. Rarely does a man see a naked woman and think, 'this really has me into the point of the story.' He sees a naked woman and isn't overly interested in plot development. Bernadette Peters once said she wouldn't do a nude scene because she would no longer be seen as her character, but as Bernadette Peters with her top off. She's right.

Why can we show certain things for reality's sake but not others? My aunt used to say that if reality is what you're looking for then Ingrid Bergman should have actually been burned at the stake when she played Joan of Arc. 'But you can't actually kill someone for the sake of the show.' Of course not: but then can we have actors and actresses actually doing a likewise immoral act (for a man feeling up a woman is actually feeling her up; it's not pretend like a gunshot wound can be) for the sake of reality? Or actually swearing when it's poor taste?

It's cafeteria storytelling, my friends. Liberal storytelling: the producers and directors and actors want what they want because it's what they want. The quality of their production, and our aversion to calling things right and wrong, are all that suffer.

We're better people than that.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

George Kell

It's happening. We all know that it would someday, yet we're never quite prepared for it when it actually does. Our boyhood heroes begin dying and we are saddened yet reflective about what it all means.

George Kell passed away yesterday at the age of 86. I never saw him play, but he was a Hall of Fame third baseman for years in the forties and fifties, mainly known when playing for the Detroit Tigers. In this internet age, I was pleased (in a way) to discover that he played his last game on the day my parents were married, September 14, 1957. He was known more to me as a homespun southern gentleman of a broadcaster, having done a combination of radio but mainly television broadcasts for the Tigers for many years.

I can hear many of his catchphrase calls echo through my mind in the last day. "Thank you Larry and good evening everyone," at the start of a telecast when he was teamed with Larry Oosterman in the seventies. Or perhaps more famously as a game dwindled to an end: "Ground ball to short...should be the is." He said it most excitedly when Jesse Barfield, I think, grounded out to Frank Tanana on the final play of 1987 for the Tigers to finish an improbable comeback to wrest the East Division title away from the Blue Jays in the last week of that season. His relaxed drawl was the perfect compliment to savoring a good ballgame.

He ought to have seen his number, 21, retired by the Tigers in tribute to his great service to the club. Posthumous awards always seem a little cheeky to me, but how about giving it some thought, Mr. Ilitch? Surely Mr. Kell merits the gesture.

His passing saddens me for that little extra bit of lost youth fading away, but primarily because it means we have lost another great human being and local treasure. Good night, George Kell, and fare thee well.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Potted Meat

I do not have what I consider unusual tastes in food. Yet that does not mean that there aren't odd foods which I like.

My wife returned from shopping today with a couple cans of potted meat. I should not like it: meat which spreads like butter doesn't sound appealing on that ground alone. Yet it's good: way too salty, perhaps, but I like salty things. There is one rule to follow, though, with stuff like potted meat. Do not, under any circumstances, read the ingredients. Just eat and enjoy. Nothing that tastes good could actually be bad for you, right?

Now you really, truly do not want to read the ingredients in liver mush. Yes, liver mush. It comes in little grayish one pound cakes and is available all over my other home state, North Carolina. I think it's called scrapple on the east coast. Either way, it's mondo good with onion and mayo on plain old white bread. You simply slice a bit of it off the cake and hey presto, instant culinary delight. Just always remember the rule.

Vienna Sausages are worthwhile too, though I suppose they aren't really all that odd. I think of them as baby food for grown ups. Just like the Gerber custard pudding that rocks so well on the palate.

So anyway, at least every now and then take a chance, set aside health issues, and eat something that's probably not good for you. You'll thank for me it, and I promise to visit you in the hospital if there's any unfortunate aftereffects.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Most Dangerous States/Regions/Cities.

I see this morning, on another of those lists which are always around, that someone has ranked the top ten most dangerous states. I'm not sure that such endeavors accomplish much.

The rankings were based on several types of crime and somehow correlated into a ranking. But statistics rarely tell the whole truth in anything, particularly so with crime. I'm not naive: I know that anything can happen to you anywhere. Still, most crimes happen within certain areas; if you steer clear of them you're more likely to be okay. You're not as likely to get robbed or assaulted in a good neighborhood, but if you hang out where trouble may happen you surely have a greater chance of being in the middle of it.

Rankings like these only serve to sell news. They feed on stereotypes: people will read them and think, 'That's why I'll never go into Detroit.' They're generally useless.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

St. Joseph

We all know that are three members of the Holy family, of course: the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and St. Joseph. It seems a pity that we don't think more about him.

St. Joseph showed us great faith. Unwilling to subject Mary to public humiliation, being a kind and gentle man, he intended to divorce her quietly when he found during their betrothal that she was pregnant. But he did not, trusting in an angel in a dream to marry her and be the foster father of Our Savior. If such a thing could test anyone's faith, this surely would. Yet he passed the trial with great decorum and humility.

In another dream, he trusts another angel and takes the family on a treacherous journey to Egypt, to live in exile until the threat to the Christ Child is passed. Who among us would do such a thing, knowing as we know that dreams are merely manifestations of subconscious actions and desires? They became foreigners, and how fortunate we are that he did not fear the undertaking.

Indeed taking direction from dreams were almost the norm for the great Saint. It did not deter him from his duties.

What awe and wonder must he have felt when, in taking the newborn King to the temple for the Jewish rites, Simeon and Anna spoke of the glory and splendor within the child whom they were allowed to live long enough to see. Could we stand such glowing and mystical praise for a newborn? Might we even begin to comprehend it? St. Joseph did. Still, he seems to be forgotten after the 'lost' Christ is found at 12 years old in the temple.

He is the patron saint and universal protector, along with St. Peter, of the Church. Yet it is perhaps in his humility that we ought to venerate him most greatly. In being an almost silent partner in the Holy family, in being more behind the scenes than at the forefront of the events of his time while presumably understanding what was happening as well as his role in it, that maybe we should love and respect him most. Knowing who he was and what role he played, he never sought the spotlight. He did what he was here to do, and without fanfare.

I think there is a lesson in that. Good St. Joseph, pray for us!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Celebrations of Life

Today I feel that I will be going from one extreme to the other. This morning I will be at the funeral of a friend. This evening I will be at my older brother's 50th birthday party. I was struck by the incongruence of these events.

When remarking on this to a friend, he replied that each is really a celebration of life: one on a new stage, another still chugging along here on Earth. I like that. It makes the disparity more understandable. Same idea, different emphasis.

Thanks, Ed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Can't We All Just Get Along?

President Barack Obama has sent a video to the Iranian people, telling them that the United States is interested in pursuing 'constructive ties' between ourselves, Iran, and the international community. He tells them, '...we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

It's not a bad turn of phrase, to be honest. I have to concede that I am not at all upset about this approach, either. Oh, I believe it horribly naive, to be sure. At least Mr. Obama had the foresight to add, "This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect." The President does appear to understand that, ultimately, threats and force must eventually be met with greater threats and overwhelming force if need be.

His approach surely gives him a bit of a moral standing to work from. By offering to talk he cannot so easily be seen as the belligerent on the matter. Still, no reasonable observer of foreign affairs could interpret the United States as the aggressor anyway. Not with Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling Israel a 'cancerous tumor' while saying that Obama is merely continuing former president Bush's policies towards his nation (take THAT, liberal media!). It is thus easy to conclude that all Obama is doing is playing to the crowd. Read that: the international community and his own starry eyed backers.

I suppose the real issue here is whether the President actually believes that he can bypass the leadership of that rogue nation and speak directly to the people of Iran to any good effect. It's worth a try, I guess, but totalitarian nations rarely fall from within. Even the relatively peaceful fall of the Soviet Union came only after decades of unrelenting pressure from the outside, and grotesque equality on the in. I can't see Iran as it now stands going away overnight, without a fight.

Does the President have the willingness to address that question? Time, as she always does, will tell. In the meanwhile, Mr. Obama would do well to study how one of his Democratic predecessors handled similarly volatile situations, and hope he does not end up with corollary hostage crises and Sandinistas.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pot Shots at Busybodies.

I see in the local news today that a homeowner is in trouble because of a statue of the Virgin Mary in his front yard. The homeowners association doesn't like that he didn't ask for permission to put it up, and as they have such a diverse population, well, they ought to have been asked.

You know what I think?

1. The homeowners association should go suck eggs on this one. It is well within the moral rights of private property to display unobtrusive religious icons, and quite frankly they're simply jerks trying to throw their weight around.

2. You should be careful about signing away your right to property ownership to a bunch of other property owners who really only want to be busybodies.

3. Homeowners associations are ultimately socialism writ small.

4. Sure, there are reasonable exemptions to what even a property owner should be able to do with his property. But note the word reasonable; property owners should never have to kowtow to the neighborhood simply because the neighborhood thinks they should.

5. You aren't protecting your property one bit by dictating every little thing your neighbor can do. You're just being a little Hitler, and a pretty petty one at that.

6. This demonstrates that private individuals acting privately can't always be expected to fully understand property and personal rights issues. That's why property rights should be protected by law rather than, perhaps, shallow local opinion.

7. I probably should have made this another in my curmudgeon series, but that would be too much work at this point.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

When Life makes You Stop for a Moment

"Joy is the serious business of Heaven."

-C. S. Lewis

A friend of the family passed away last night. I suppose that she was more my wife's friend than mine, yet we were friends just the same. She had valiantly fought a debilitating disease for a long time now, well over 15 years, and by the grace of God been able to have her immediate family at her side when the battle had ended.

It is moments like these, when you've just heard terrible news, which make life appear almost surreal. Someone is here, someone who seemed to have always been here, then they're gone. It all turns in an instant. Then we find ourselves thinking that this person is someone who we're worked with, whose kids went to school with ours and played on sports teams together, who we've had dinner and drinks with and fought the good fight astride. The world somehow has changed.

As Christians, we know that such an exit is one we'll all face one day, and we know that it is not the end. For her, I don't doubt, is certainly isn't. But we should pray for her soul and her family just the same. As tempting as it is to soft peddle, we need to remember that that's what it's ultimately all about: the best thing we can do for her is pray that all's well. For her and her husband and kids. It's not about us, tempting as that is too: it's about her, the very personal her who we've known for so long, the her who needs us now probably more than ever.

For it's never really over, you know. "Further up and further in," to the realm of Heaven, C. S. Lewis tells us in The Last Battle, the final Narnia book. Her story is not over; only a chapter has closed. It is for us here to finish writing our earthly stories until that day when all tales converge, when all we need to know is known to us. On that day, our own personal Easter, we see everything as it should be seen.

My friend, God willing, has that now. We should revel in it ourselves.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

To the Irish and the wannabes and the simple party goers, Happy St. Patrick's Day!

It may only be another excuse for American excess, but try to remember that it is about a Saint who converted Ireland to Christianity. Then have at all the corned beef and cabbage you want.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bravo Gary Sinise!

Just when you think that there's nothing good coming out of Hollywood, you find that someone out there really does care about the truth. You find someone who actually does believe that the better side of the military should have its day. That someone is actor Gary Sinise.

He has a band which has performed many times on USO tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. The group has also performed at fundraisers for military families. But better still, he has served as executive producer on a documentary, Brothers at War, which dares to present the events in Iraq and the soldiers there in a positive light. In a Hollywood which hates the military and dealing with a media which insists on emphacizing the negative, Sinise lends his support to the story of a director, Jake Rademacher, as he follows his younger brother soldiers on their tours of duty in the Middle East where they actually help people.

The media doesn't like that side of the story because it's mundane: blood and guts, and the isolated evils which may occur, sell (so they claim). Stories about the good stuff doesn't. Consequently, we are fed by the press stories of deranged soldiers and incessant firefights and not told of troops getting supplies safely to schools and hospitals and community centers. Protecting humanitarian efforts plays second fiddle to the insatiable need of big media to sell gore and evil in the name of journalism; never mind that, with a little honest effort, a fair and responsible media could, if it wanted, give us the big picture and not merely the provocative stills.

What exposure will Sinise's efforts garner? Well he made page 5F of the Detroit Free Press Sunday edition yesterday (March 15, 2009) so I guess it has a bit of notoriety attached to it. Yet not nearly enough.

I, for one, will seek out this film. I will also do what I can to promote it, starting with this tiny effort. It's the least I can do for our Brothers at War.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing

Yet again someone has decided that the status quo just isn't for them, and yet again the status quo is fighting back. Unfortunately this particular battle isn't one worth fighting for on either front.

An Indiana high school student has decided that she wants to wear a pants suit to her prom and her school doesn't want to allow it. Along comes the ACLU, self proclaimed supreme defender of rights from, dare we say, the sublime to the ridiculous, vowing to fight for her right to wear the clothes of her choosing, and what have we?

Much ado about nothing, if Shakespeare will allow my use of the title of one of his great comedies.

At the risk of drawing the ire of all those knowing human rights defenders, I will say that I lean on the side of the status quo. Why do so many people, particularly, it seems, young obnoxious ones, feel that they have the right to ignore common mores simply to satisfy their own ends? We're not talking about any true hardship here: why not wear a dress if that's the accepted standard? What are you proving otherwise? Simply that you can be a bully if you want to, that's all.

But having said that, the school would likely quash the situation merely by letting her wear the pants suit. The surest way to quell resistance is often to say, okay, do it your way. When they see that it merits no attention they often have no option save to let the issue die of its own lack of significance.

There should be standards of decent clothing, to be sure, in order that propriety be observed. There should be a decent sense of respect, too, for the legitimate authorities, as they should have their reasonable concerns observed as well. Still, an overwrought desire to have one's way either way becomes childish and tiresome very quickly. Better we spend our time on the truly meaningful problems of the day than on whether so and so has pants or a skirt on.

And better so and so learn that the world doesn't revolve around her either. Get a grip, young lady, and perhaps a life too.

Friday, March 13, 2009

On Individual Choice.

Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican party, is in trouble over a remark that abortion is 'an individual choice'. What could he mean by that?

He insists that he's pro-life and was merely illustrating the practical aspects of the question. And as a practical matter, he is right. All choices eventually devolve into what a person decides to do at a given time over whatever question may be under consideration at that point. No matter how many laws tell us that theft is wrong, someone somewhere will still abscond with the property of someone else.

The trouble is that attitude, properly called "cavalier and flippant" by a conservative wag, if made a benchmark of moral analysis, leads to very dangerous conclusions. Liberal conclusions, I should add. If moral choices, not only about abortion but on any moral issue, are only individual choices, what do we have left?

No true morality, that's what.

We need to understand that there's a difference between the practical aspects of an issue and the question of how we ought to handle or address the issue. Sure, some folks will choose to do wrong no matter what. But are we obliged, as neighbors and friends and countrymen, to tolerate it when the natural moral code clearly shows a given behavior to be a moral evil?

Of course not. So the question then becomes, did Mr. Steele really mean it that way? In light of his remarks about Rush Limbaugh and gay marriage, it is fair to wonder. Is he the type of Republican who wants a big tent, an attitude which I must say simply translates into a desire for political gain? Or is he a Republican of virtue who wants what is right, not only for the benefit of the people he would lead, but for rightness sake? Because if he doesn't want that, then he may as well exercise his individual choice and join the party of the moment and become a Democrat. At least he would be among his philosophical peers.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Slow Time in Politics

Is it me, or does it seem as though nothing much is happening lately?

To be sure, something is always going on, but nothing appears really earth shattering this morning. The talk radio and cable news wanks no doubt will go on; still, I wonder how much of that is much ado about nothing. How long can we go on about Obama's socialist plans to expand government's power?

For as long as we have to, that's what. Perhaps the best time to shout is when things are quiet. Maybe that's the most likely time for our voices to be heard. Maybe that's when we might just sound like the conscience of the nation, reminding people of what's at stake in light of Washington's growing desire to consume us. Maybe the times like now are the best times to take advantage of what is on our side.

What works for us is the truth. We are best able to get ourselves out of this economic funk, not some ham handed government functionary. There are, as I've said before here, too many decisions to be made not only in the economy but in the daily lives of all people. No one can ever hope to really understand the complexity of our system in all its minutia. How can anyone thus hope to influence it?

Best get out of the way, except where regulation is absolutely necessary. Unless we want the economic malaise which has haunted Europe for decades. I can't believe anyone really looks forward to that.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Grandmother was Pretty Cool, Too.

I have spoken a time or two around here about my grandfather. Well, his wife, and obviously my grandmother, was a wonderful grandparent in her own right. Like her husband, she had her quirks. She simply wasn't so loud about them.

The first I noticed was back when I was all of 16. I was getting home late one night, about 1 AM. As I was putting the key in the front door I couldn't help but feel that I was being watched. Turning around, I saw no one, but I thought I saw the curtain at the corner window of my grandparents house next door flutter a bit. So I waved at it, tentatively. Grandma pulled the curtains back and returned my wave with a sheepish grin.

So that became our ritual for the rest of the time I lived at my parents' home. If I was late arriving, I would put the key in the lock, step back and wave at the window, and she would invariably appear from behind the drapes and return the greeting.

It seemed however that she was determined to keep an eye on me even after I had married and moved. I bought a house down the block on the far side of the street. On day while walking home Grandma asked if I was busy that night. "No," I answered, "Do you need something?"

"Well, I need that tree trimmed," she replied, pointing at the one in her front yard next to the porch.

"I'll be here at six," I told her, moving along.

So I returned, and set to work at her direction. After about an hour I asked, "So what's wrong, Gram? Why do you need this tree trimmed?"

"I need to see all the way down to your house," she explained matter-of-factly.

From that night on, when getting home late at my own abode, I would turn towards her house from my front steps and wave.

I wonder if she ever noticed?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Great Curling Shot!

Glen Howard of Team Ontario made one the greatest curling shots that I've ever seen.

Last night, during the Canadian men's curling championship in his game against Saskatchewan, he ran a stone of his back onto another of his rocks, which then bounced that stone into a Saskatchewan rock and sent it out of play. In the meantime, the stone he threw (his 'shooter') was deflected at an angle into another Saskatchewan rock, sending it out of play. Howard went from two down in the last end to scoring three and winning the game! It was an incredible shot, and exactly as he called it.

Saskatchewan made the mistake of guarding a different runback, rather than putting another stone in the house for third shot. Mistake? How do you guard against such fantastic shotmaking?

Howard's shot ranks right up there with Al Hackner's double kill and save the shooter to win the 1985 World Championship, and Pat Ryan's triple kill lose the shooter to blank the sixth end in the 1991 Worlds against Norway. It was that good.

And non-curlers have absolutely no appreciation of it...indeed, they mock us curling fans. For shame!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Obamabomb III

What, so soon?

Barack Obama is allowing the use of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research. He claims that science rather than political ideology should drive funding.

Of course, that in itself is not a political ploy, is it? It's not as though pro-abortion Democrats have a stake in the issue, right?

In the proverbial pig's eye. Of course it's a political move: to satisfy his leftists backers. Don't think for a moment that that's not true. We must never be naive about what makes the left wing tick.

Or about what kind of President we now have.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Obamabomb II

President Barack Obama thinks we're losing the war in Afghanistan. That will surely inspire the troops. Way to go, Mr. President.

That's the second Obamabomb my friends. I can hardly wait for the third!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Stuck at the Border at One AM Again

What is the point of holding cars for so long when crossing back into our own country? I realize that I have complained about this before but really, we know the border guards know everything about us when they punch our information into their computers at their stations. When they see we're clean, we should be allowed to proceed. I will even allow for the occasional random checks of vehicles. But by and large, when we've done nothing to raise suspicions we should released.

All that we are doing with all these extra and nonsensical delays are punishing folks who are in virtually all ways good citizens. And yes, it is a little personal. I maintain that I have the right to travel to Canada and see my friends there and consequently the right to expect easy entry back into my country. I haven't had so much as a parking ticket in the last 15 years. Why should I have to feel as though I have to justify my return? Why should I have to justify it?

We're treating people like criminals when we act this way. It needs to stop.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bread and Circuses?

This is a fine time to live in the City of Detroit, Michigan, let me tell you. What a fine crop of political leaders we have here.

I suppose that it isn't enough to be the laughingstock of the nation with the Kwame Kilpatrick/Cristine Beatty, ahem, affair. Rather than getting beyond that and improving our City and the outlook with which the country views us, we get stuck with Detroit Common Council President Monica Conyers raising the spectre of that old devil racism and fellow Councilwoman Barbara Rose Collins bellowing 'Onward Christian Soldiers' at meetings called to an illegal purpose. As my Army son would ask, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?"

What brings this on is the issue of putting Detroit's Cobo Hall exhibition center under a regional authority, a move aimed at helping the City (which cannot afford even the maintenance fees at this point) while making the center a more viable convention hotspot so that we can keep things like the North American Auto Show. You know, Madame Councilwoman, make it so that we can keep bringing major events and the cash which comes along with them into Detroit and, yes, the entire region of Southeast Michigan. Cash which we sorely need, much more than your pompous grandstanding.

You want to know who's racist, Ms. Conyers? You are. Telling a white Teamster that there are too many faces like his and not enough like your own fabulous mug at construction sites. What would happen if that Teamster had said that to you? He'd be the worst soul on Earth, that's what.

How dare you. You demand respect but won't respect others.

Why were you calling the meeting anyway? Oh, right: to override what you think an illegal veto by Mayor Ken Cockrell approving the move to the regional authority. Along the way I guess it doesn't matter that your own move clearly violates the City Charter: vetoes must be addressed at regular, not special, Council meetings. Are you so special that you're above the law?

What we have here, my friends, is something akin to the old Roman Empire: bread and circuses. Yet we have no bread. We're only just stuck with the three rings.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Further Word on Yesterday's Blog

All democracy ultimately means is that fifty percent plus one can make everyone else do whatever they want them to do.

-Abraham Lincoln

I spoke yesterday about God being willing to let us play God: He will grant us what we want in the end, and how it is thereby important to want the right thing. But there is another point which may be inferred from that blog.

At one time I participated in many online discussion boards about the nature of many things, not the least of which involved several long threads about morality. Where they all almost invariably bogged down was on the question of who knew what right and wrong really meant. In short, who was God on the question.

I took the position, of course, that God was God. It was He who made Reason reasonable and His will that mattered. Many others who took interest in the issue argued, as we could not know who God was, or whether there was a God at all, that consensus should guide us as to how we should act.

The problems with this approach are myriad. The most obvious were that, where the popular will determined right and wrong, then it followed that the most heinous acts must be viewed as right if the majority wanted it so. Child pornography, rape and murder must become morally acceptable if only slightly more than half the population desired it. The approach begged other questions as well, notably this: why should I listen to the majority? Because they said so?

That sounds very much like the lament the purveyors of that argument had about listening to me: why should I listen to you, Marty? Because your God says so? They ignored the very possibility that I may be right, not on my word (Heavens, no!), but on the word of an actual God who knew more than I possibly could.

You see, any proposition about morality which does not concede that morality is something beyond individual interpretation is supremely problematic, even if that 'person' is in the guise of the general society via consensus. Why should any given individual listen to any other given individual simply on that person's say so? Unless there is something beyond the individual, something objective which any reasonable person should be able to see (and I mean able to see, because being unwilling or unable to see is a different issue) we can make no useful advances in the cause of human morals.

The bottom line is this: either God is God or I am God. If I am God, then I do not have any obligation to listen to the opinion of you or any overblown measure of consensus because, by the very definition of the issue, it cannot matter. What I say is right. Yet if God is God, then I ignore Him (and you, if you are trying to help me in that light) at my own great peril. There really isn't any other way to frame the question.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Who is God?

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'

- C. S. Lewis

I have long believed that there is only one God. There can only be One; Plato eons ago rightly pointed out that perfection implies singularity, as multiplicity must infer defect. To wit, complexity must allow for great error because there are so many parts of it. There's more to go wrong. Conversely, One Whole Something must be essentially simple so that nothing can be wrong with it.

Ignore for the moment any pleas within your mind which may ask, so which God is God? I am merely establishing that there can only be one. Christ, Yahweh, Allah; Animism and Mother Earth: we can deal with all that another time. What I am concerned with here is how this truth affects us in our day to day actions.

When we discuss morality it often seems to devolve into an us against them rant. "Who made you God?", we may often be asked. The reply, "Who made you?", generally is left unasked, yet is just as fair. Be that as it may, the overall implication is that that other person doesn't have to listen to you because you aren't the final arbiter of right and wrong and, further, that maybe there isn't actually a God for us to bother about anyway.

That is dangerous on two fronts. The first is that you never, ever want to even broach the idea that you are God. The second is that it begs that question of who is. To the former, what kind of God would you be if you did in fact call the shots? Could you stay good with all the power that implies at your control? To the latter, if there is a God who can make those calls, hadn't we best find out who He is and what He wants? For surely our poor opinions and actions would pale next to His.

Still, God allows us some share of that power. He will, as Lewis says above, tell you 'thy will be done', and cast you off. He will allow you your choice on the ultimate matter: to be with Him or not. You can be the god of your own destiny.

But ask yourself whether you would like where the trail must lead.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pop Science

I just saw a special on the Discovery Channel where the subject was global warming. Yet this one wasn't warning us of impending doom. Somewhat surprisingly to me, it was taking the stance that perhaps the whole idea of worldwide environmental catastrophe maybe isn't all that certain.

So much for the doomsayers. The show went about its business by pointing out that, despite the trends we have seen which may indicate a general and steady warming, we really haven't observed enough to make anything more than guesses, and not particularly educated ones at that. You see, explained one scientist, science is ultimately based on observation over time, and we simply haven't been able to observe all time.

But perhaps the truly important point was the concession that much of the hysteria about global warming has been produced by what can be called pop science: science based on little useful data yet proclaimed as hard fact. It is science for the instant gratification crowd, the folks who want everything now. Including tragedy.

Shocking. Still, I think many of us have suspected as much all along. When society grows shallow, so too will every aspect of civilization. Our intellect will atrophy, and we will lose ourselves to the popular will.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Word on Consumerism

Our economy is in trouble; that news is so old it has whiskers. But what worries me is that so many of the plans to improve it are based on encouraging folks to buy things. That, too, isn't exactly rocket science. I long ago taught my students that we all worry about keeping at least some of our money, yet the fact is the economy, both for our own personal world as well as the world in general, is worse off when the money isn't moving. I still hold to that. Nevertheless, I think we ought to consider the value in buying things simply to buy them too.

How much junk do we accumulate just because we can? How often do we buy things on impulse which we never really use? How many times have we indulged ourselves out of nothing more than mere selfishness? These are the kinds of questions which come to my mind when I think about our economy. Am I the only one who believes that such attitudes, while not necessarily immoral, still manage to have a certain bad odor about them?

True, when we buy we invariably help our fellow citizens whose jobs rely on our willingness to purchase what can only be, in many instances, unneeded items. That itself is probably the main reason for which I cannot call such otherwise wantonness wrong. Yet it too begs a few pertinent questions, not the least of which is whether we as a society ought to encourage businesses which cater to trivialities. Isn't there more that we all could be doing with our time and efforts than acquiring stuff just to acquire it?

The Church has a word for for that kind of system: consumerism. Consumerism is essentially selfish, and again, that does not make it bad. A bit of me first is what ensures that necessary things get done, important things like seeing to the clothing and the feeding and all for ourselves and our families. Still, that cannot mean that merely because something can be made and marketed that it ought to be made and marketed. And it cannot mean that we have an obligation to buy it simply to help others out.

We're all in this together, yes, so I should do what I can even for the general economy. The rest of society, which the word economy often represents, should, however, work with me on that. Don't tell me I need a new car when my old one works perfectly fine, or that I need to remodel a kitchen which I just fixed up five years ago. Give me something worth buying and we'll take it from there. Otherwise, we're only feeding our egos. That cannot, in the long run, be healthy.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Back in Town

For those of you wondering why I had no new blogs for the last few days, it was because I was Louisville, Kentucky for the International Pumpers Environmental Expo. It used to be called the Pumpers and Wastehaulers Show, but they've changed it. I guess they're trying to clean up their act.

That's a waste industry joke. Just so you know.

You see, I sell drain cleaning and diagnostic equipment. Consequently, I sell to people who pump waste out of systems (septic tanks and grease trap companies) and haul it off, as well as to plumbers who open clogged drains. If you ever have a clogged drain and your plumber doesn't have genuine Electric Eel equipment, get another plumber.

That's a shameless plug for my products. Just so you know.

It was not a good weekend economically; I don't think we quite broke even on our sales against our costs. But sometimes you have to do things like trade shows simply to network. We never really know how many long range sales we may earn from contacts made back in the day. A little glad handing can't hurt. Besides, sometimes we've made money way beyond our costs. I suppose it balances out over time.

I think the best thing about the show was the company dinner Friday night. It was great to see the other sales staff from around the country. Several of us went out for a couple drinks after the dinner and had a great time. It was just like being with my curling friends in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

That's a compliment to my great friends at the Roseland Curling Club. Just so you know.