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Friday, April 07, 2006

From the Depths...: Fan Mail
I KNEW IT!!!! Satan is a Yankees fan. From his blog:
Your evilness,

Do you play baseball in Hell? Who do you think will win the world series this year?

Donovan Lewis

Your Stupidness,
Did you make that Title up? What are you thinking?

Yes. I do play baseball down here. In fact, one of the only things that give the damned a break is when my minions and I are playing ball. I hit in the three hole. Since I'm a righty, I'm pretty good at pulling things to the left. In fact, pulling things to the left is what I do best. Evidence of this is the democratic party.

The Tigers will win the world series this year...

HAHAHAHAHA. Had you going, didn't I Donovan. My favorite team will be winning the World Series. That team is, of course, the Yankees!
Link via The Cafeteria Is Closed.

UPDATE: I was so freaked out by the proof of his Yankees fandom that I overlooked his taking credit for the insanity that is the Democratic party. I can't decide which is the worse sin!

Benedict's Refresher Course
People have called Benedict surprising. Some mean it as a compliment, others are voicing disappointment. But the surprise in both cases is that he has turned out to be very unlike the pre-election caricatures depicting him as a Grand Inquisitor who would make heads roll.

Still, for those who took the trouble to listen to what Joseph Ratzinger was saying all those years, the pontificate of Benedict XVI ought to come as no surprise. This former professor is now hard at work delivering a refresher course on the basics of Christian faith.

If there was any doubt about that, Pope Benedict's first encyclical — Deus Caritas Est — should have settled the matter. "God Is Love" — what could be more basic than that? And unless I miss my guess, Benedict has a compelling reason in mind for making the point.

It's this. Many people today — including many Catholics — have strayed so far from the truth, done such an effective job of closing their ears and hardening their hearts to the Word of God and the teaching of the Church, that it's a waste of time that risks being counterproductive to confront them yet again with hard truths. (The Church's teaching about sexual morality is an instance, though hardly the only one.)

So, what's a conscientious pope to do? Another pope might have another answer. Benedict's appears to be: Go back to first principles — God is love — and begin the long, slow process of leading people who've strayed from truth back to the fullness of faith.
This makes a lot of sense to me. After all, this is a man who in his "Pre-16" days wrote a book titled Introduction to Christianity. I doubt he's against the notion that many Christians need such an introduction again.

The following letter appeared in yesterday's NY Times:

"To the Editor:

"Question for all those geniuses on Capitol Hill discussing a five-year waiver for illegal immigrants:

"If they're illegal and undocumented, how will you know if they've been here five years or five minutes?

"David Strickland, Fort Lauderdale, Fla."
This is a very good point which, I'm sad to say, had never occurred to me.

The Cafeteria Is Closed: This is what most theologians refuse to sign
For those who aren't familiar with it, the mandatum is a process called for by Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae. It required all persons billing themselves as Catholic theologians to teach within the boundaries of Catholic doctrine. Contemporary Catholic theology being what it is, many are refusing to sign it. Here's the "horrible" statement they're refusing to sign:
I hereby declare my role and responsibility as a teacher of a theological discipline within the full communion of the Church. As a teacher of a theological discipline, therefore, I am committed to teach authentic Catholic doctrine and to refrain from putting forth as Catholic teaching anything contrary to the Church's magisterium.
Read more about Ex corde Ecclesiae and the mandatum.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Things that make you shout out "Son of a..."
Last time I checked the Phillies score, they were winning 2-0 and Lidle was cruising. I just looked again and it's 4-2 Cardinals. I shouted out exactly what's above (stopping before the final word of that phrase). My coworkers thought we had a big problem with our programs or something. I explained it was much more important than that.

George Bush as LBJ
In her March 16th column in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan asks an intriguing question: “Could a President Kerry have spent more than President Bush? How?”
Critics on the right have been warning since the 1960s that the United States faces “creeping socialism.” The fact that a Republican president, with a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, is expanding government spending at a record rate may mean that we have crossed a line that will make the threat of a socialist future a reality. If you protest that they had no choice to do otherwise because the voters will turn against them if they make serious cuts in spending, you are underscoring the point. One cannot help but be struck by the seemingly ineluctable drift toward an ever greater concentration of economic power in the hands of the central government — and by the fact that the American people seem to want it that way, all our protestations about big spenders in Washington notwithstanding. The Republicans who have put us into so much debt were elected as tax-cutters and advocates of smaller government.

What is to blame? Two things seem to have caused this turn of events. One is the fact that we are becoming a society that no longer feels threatened by higher federal taxes. Why not? Because most of us don’t pay them. The latest IRS figures indicate that the top 5% of our population pays about 53% of all federal income taxes. The top 10% pays nearly 65%. The top 50% pays over 96%. This means that we now have half our country’s population paying virtually no federal income taxes. That’s a pretty big voting bloc. Those folks don’t fear expanding government programs. They are likely to live off them.
This actually raises an interesting point. We're told that all people should pay for public schools, even if they don't use them (those without children, parents who send kids to private school, etc.) since they're a public good, but shouldn't the same logic carry over to our federal government? Maybe the solution to the creeping socialism is to raise taxes on the lower income and help them to "feel the pain" of the wealthy....

NBC.com > The Office
A number of hilarious parodies of NBC's "The More You Know" Public Service Announcements. I think my favorites are the Beer one ("You may be out on the town and someone may offer you a $9 beer. Don't do it. Just walk away") and the one on office relationships, which even funnier if you watch the office since it's so in character for those two people.

Watch them; you'll laugh.

The "Gospel of Judas"
Q: What is the "Gospel of Judas"?

Father Williams: Though the manuscript still must be authenticated, it likely represents a fourth- or fifth-century text, and is a copy of an earlier document produced by a Gnostic sect called the Cainites.
Q: If authentic, what challenge would this document pose to traditional Christian belief? Will it "shake Christianity to its foundations" as some press releases have suggested?

Father Williams: Certainly not. The Gnostic gospels, of which there are many besides this one, are not Christian documents per se, since they proceed from a syncretistic sect that incorporated elements from different religions, including Christianity.

From the moment of their appearance, the Christian community rejected these documents because of their incompatibility with the Christian faith.

The "Gospel of Judas" would be a document of this sort, which could have great historical value, since it contributes to our knowledge of the Gnostic movement, but it poses no direct challenge to Christianity.

Q: Is it true that the Church has tried to cover up this text and other apocryphal texts?

Father Williams: These are myths circulated by Dan Brown and other conspiracy theorists.

You can go to any Catholic bookstore and pick up a copy of the Gnostic gospels. Christians may not believe them to be true, but there is no attempt to hide them.
"The Gospel of Judas" will be be receiving a lot of publicity in the near future to be timed with Easter. Some will use it to undercut Christianity, as they have with the DaVinci Code. It may be interesting reading but drawing theological conclusions from either The Davinci Code or The Gospel of Judas would be foolish.

Read more about it at JimmyAkin.Org, WikiPedia or Tertullian.org.

Catholic World News : Church must defend truth against unbelievers, Pope says
The Catholic Church must defend the truth, and break sharply with those who deny the faith, Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) told his weekly audience on April 5.

The Holy Father remarked that in the New Testament, the first epistle of St. John stands out for its emphasis on the love among Christians. Still, he observed, "the same voice addresses itself with drastic severity to those who were once members of the community, but are no longer."
If necessary, to safeguard the faith the Church must break off ties with those who reject Catholic doctrine, the Pope said. The Church must always defend the true communion of believers, which "arises from the faith inspired by apostolic preaching." To do otherwise, the Pontiff said, would be to risk estrangement from the Holy Spirit.
A lot of speculation in the comments on this post as to whether or not this signifies some sort of impending "crackdown" on dissenters in the Church. Who knows? But it could get interesting.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

"No pecuniary consideration is more urgent, than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt: on none can delay be more injurious, or an economy of time more valuable." —George Washington

"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them." —Richard Henry Lee

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance." —Marcus Tullius Cicero

"More to the heart of most Americans' concerns, how can a nation fighting a war on terror NOT seal its borders?" —Kathleen Parker

"Because we do not communicate to our immigrants, legal and illegal, that they have joined something special, some of them, understandably, get the impression they've joined not a great enterprise but a big box store. A big box store on the highway where you can get anything cheap. It's a good place. But it has no legends, no meaning, and it imparts no spirit." —Peggy Noonan

"What is a moderate interpretation of [the Constitution]? Halfway between what it says and halfway between what you want it to say?" —Justice Antonin Scalia

"[T]he more left one goes, the more one is likely to encounter people who substitute 'social justice' for personal morality." —Dennis Prager

"The line here is 'respect.' Everybody's busy professing their 'respect': We all 'respect' Islam; presidents and prime ministers and foreign ministers, lapsing so routinely into the deep-respect-for-the-religion-of-peace routine they forget that cumulatively it begins to sound less like 'Let's roll!' and too often like 'Let's roll over!' —Mark Steyn

"American actors like Gary Busey and Billy Zane appear in anti-U.S. movies for Turkish audiences; piercing intellects like George Clooney spend their time reminding us how the corpse of Joe McCarthy is the real threat to democracy; Western 'peace' activists rescued by Spec-Ops from a sword-assisted skull removal couldn't bring themselves to thank the troops, lest anyone suspect that guns might be occasionally useful after all. You'd call them useful idiots, but it's hard to see the 'useful' part."—James Lileks

Jay Leno: In France, rioters looted stores. Actually to be politically correct you cannot call them looters anymore. You now have to call them "undocumented shoppers."

JIMMY AKIN.ORG: Coming Soon To A Homily Near You?
Jimmy Akin writes about the recent "science" article that claimed Jesus didn't walk on water, but rather on ice. My favorite comment ont his article:
This reminds me of the other heresy that went 'round for awhile. You know, the one where the miracle of the loaves and fishes didn't really happen. The disciples just went around and shook down everyone in the crowd, and collected all of the loaves and fishes they had hanging around in their robes. A priest at my friend's parish actually told this one during the appropriate homily.....and promptly "ran out" of hosts during communion. My protestant friend (a different one) said he should have "looked in his robes".
I've always said God has a sense of humor. This seems to be another example of that.

How Republicans can get their mojo back. Or at least some of it.
• Taxes. We hear that the House-Senate conference to extend the 15% capital gains and dividend rates isn't even meeting. This is inexplicable. The one large domestic success of the Bush years has been the post-bubble, post-9/11 economic revival, yet Republicans seem blasé about extending the tax cuts that did so much to spur it. A failure here would hurt the stock market and demoralize economic conservatives.

While they're at it, force the Senate to vote on death-tax repeal. Republicans may not get 60 votes, but if they come close enough they may be able to get Senator Jon Kyl's compromise that would cut the rate to 15%, from nearly 50% today, and raise the exemption above $10 million or so.

• Reform Congressional budgeting, by passing the line-item veto and ending static revenue scoring at the Joint Tax Committee. Another good idea is the effort by Arizonans Jeff Flake in the House and John McCain in the Senate to end earmark abuse. A return to some spending self-discipline will count for much more with conservative voters than will "lobbying reform," which is a Beltway trope designed by the same crowd that promoted the "campaign-finance reform" that empowered George Soros.

• Health-care choice. Congressman John Shadegg (R., Ariz.) has a bill to let Americans purchase affordable health insurance from any of the 50 states, thus bypassing state mandates that drive up insurance costs in New York and many other places. Another idea would let associations form health-care risk pools for their members, thus giving small business owners and the self-employed the same tax-preferred insurance options that big business and unions have now. These proposals would address a top voter priority and steal a march on Democrats.

• Endangered Species Act reform. This is a huge issue in the West, where ESA rules drive property owners crazy. Congressman Richard Pombo (R., Calif.) has a bipartisan proposal that would require the federal government to compensate property owners for regulatory "takings" due to wetlands preservation or endangered species limits on development. The Senate probably wouldn't pass it, but the issue could be potent in key Congressional contests this fall.
These are common-sense ideas that would prove popular and beneficial to the country. I'm sure the Republicans will find some reason not to do them.

My Just Completed Reading
I finished Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism, a biography of the founder of the Knights of Columbus last night. It's a brief book, as any biography of this man must be given his brief life and the paucity of writings he left behind.

There were a few interesting details in the book, though. Most interesting to me was the fact that joining the priesthood back at the time (second half of the 19th century) was basically signing up to die young. Many parish priests died in their 30s or 40s at the time, usually due to exhaustion from overwork weakening their systems to allow disease to kill them. It speaks to the great faith they must have had to accept a virtual death sentence in order to serve God and His people.

Let me put in a plug for the Knights of Columbus at this time. If you're a Catholic male, why aren't you a member? As the book points out, it was originally developed for two purposes: to strengthen the faith of Catholic males, who even back then weren't attending Mass in the same numbers as Catholic females and to provide insurance for families who lost their breadwinners due to an early death. Their insurance program is one of the best in the country, offering great rates from a stable source and the faith of its membership speaks for itself. It's also gone beyond its original mission to be a leading charitable organization. It's official charitable wing Knights of Columbus Charities Inc. donated over $135 million in 2004. And that doesn't count all the good work done by its local Councils. If you're interested, visit the website or me and I can help you find a Council to join.

Mapping religion in America (regionsofmind.blog-city.com)
Interesting maps of religious affilation around the country, both any religious affiliation and then specific maps for specific affilations. Here's the one for Catholics:

(Click image to see a larger version.)

Win a pass for two to any regular season Minor League game in 2006!
Click the link above to enter. (And if you win, please give your prize to me!)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Indian director hopes to cast Paris Hilton as Mother Teresa - Yahoo! News
Does he want to guarantee his movie will flop

Who's most likely to see a movie about Mother Teresa? Serious Catholics. Who's most likely to be pissed about Paris Hilton protraying Mother Teresa. Serious Catholics.


Marriage: A Social Justice Issue
Blacks are poorer than whites. Justice demands income equality, especially across the races. Therefore, government must transfer income and benefits from whites to blacks. End of story. The moral charge on racial income inequality is so great that anyone can apply this formula to just about any policy, even proposals that don’t ultimately help blacks.

Oddly enough, the one great cultural issue that has tremendous impact on black America’s wealth is hardly ever approached in this way. This one policy area has the potential to increase black wealth, education and power. This major cultural course correction could reduce drug use, delinquency and violence, especially black on black crime. I am speaking of course, of marriage as a social justice issue. Yet liberal elite opinion is strangely silent on the potentially revolutionary importance of marriage to the black community.

Marriage is a protective factor against social pathologies. Marriage generates and preserves wealth, unlike other family forms which dissipate wealth. A recent publication by the Boston-based Seymour Institute, “God’s Gift: A Christian Vision of Marriage and the Black Family,” spells out the case for marriage as the most important next step for the future of black America. The report cites the fact that married families in the black community have twice as much income as unmarried black families.

Pulling Sin up by the Roots: The Need for Mortification
The practice of continual mortification is an essential part of our walk with the Lord. “You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires” (Gal 5: 24). Without the use of daily mortification, we will not be able to resist the onslaught of our sinful human nature, the temptations caused by Satan, and the allurements of the world. Not only are we to fight against sin, be it mortal sin or venial sin, but we must also get to the root of our sins and remove the inordinate affections that cause us to sin in a certain way.

However, to avoid sin is not enough. We must grow in holiness. The practice of mortification must be daily and life-long. The battle never ends until we are dead. The practice of mortification demands a conscious and willful renewal every day of our lives. The struggle may be more or less intense during the different stages of our life journey. Although we may have to deal with different issues, the struggle will always be present. If we want to save our souls, an intense, dramatic struggle is necessary. We need to take up the whip and continually force out of our temple anything that keeps us from getting to heaven.
Jeff the Baptist, here's a decent article following up on our penance discussion last Friday.

Alienated Catholics Have More Fun
Doesn’t it seem like alienated Catholics have more fun? The “traditionalists” who are sure that the past however many popes have derailed the Church get those wonderful liturgies with all that lace, Latin chant and incense. They also get the pleasure of moral and doctrinal superiority.

Those “progressives” that won’t be happy until the Church emulates all the ways and values of the dying world get to…well, they get to do all kinds of fun-looking things observant Catholics don’t. They also get the recognition of the New York Times and the Democratic National Convention, not to mention NARAL.

Honestly, though, it is not too late for any of us to join the alienated throngs. To help you in your efforts to be better than the Church, I offer Gotcher’s “Seven Easy Ways to Alienate Oneself from the Roman Catholic Church (especially for those who want to be more Catholic than the pope, but also for those who want the Church to become like the world).”™

Quote of the Day
"Abdul Rahman embodies the question at the heart of this struggle: If Islam is a religion one can only convert to, not from, then in the long run it is a threat to every free person on the planet" -- Chicago Sun Times columnist Mark Steyn, on the Afghan citizen condemned to death for converting to Christianity

delawareonline | The News Journal | Brandywine District teacher charged with having sex with student, 13
A 34-year-old teacher from the Brandywine School District has been charged with having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old student.

New Castle County police spokesman Cpl. Trinidad Navarro said the woman allegedly had sex with the boy 28 times during one week in March.
Holy crap!

UPDATED ARTICLE $560,450 bail. 21 counts of first degree rape, 2 counts of providing alcohol to a minor and one of unlawfull dealing with a minor.


UPDATE 2: We made Smoking Gun. (Link via Drudge Report.)I've said many times that when Delaware is in the national news, it's always for something bad. Between the C-5 crash yesterday and now this, I'm being proven right too frequently this week. I'm scared to see what happens tomorrow.

Update: Anonymizer software circumvents China's Great Firewall - Computerworld
Internet censorship is a fact of life in China, where the government routinely blocks access to certain Web sites, including those deemed politically unacceptable. Chinese officials rarely comment on these efforts, but have in the past defended them as being in line with international norms.

Cottrell declined to go into detail about how Operation: Anti-Censorship works, but said the software basically creates an encrypted SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection between a user and an authenticated server that allows the user to access blocked sites. As Chinese censors shut down access to these servers, Anonymizer will move them to new IP (Internet Protocol) addresses and send the updated addresses to users via e-mail updates, he said.
This isn't the first time that Anonymizer has looked for ways to beat Chinese censors. A couple of years ago, the company was hired by the Voice of America (VoA) to develop software to help Chinese users access blocked sites. Anonymizer is now working with the VoA on a similar project for Internet users in Iran.

What makes Operation: Anti-Censorship different from these projects is that the effort is not government-funded, Cottrell said.

The project was developed in response to business practices adopted in China by Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Google Inc., which "basically capitulated to Chinese demands for censorship," Cottrell said. He didn't accept their justification that Chinese Internet users benefit from having censored access to these companies' services as opposed to no access at all.

"There are other alternatives," Cottrell said.
I'm glad to see some companies are working against the Chinese distatorship rather than withthem.

Zenit News Agency - The World Seen From Rome
As far as "Deus Caritas Est" is concerned, I'd suggest a particularly Tocquevillian influence may be found in Paragraph 28. Here, Pope Benedict underlines the folly of allowing the state to absorb all social activity and letting it evolve into an all-encompassing bureaucracy that is incapable of discerning people's deeper moral and spiritual needs.

In "Democracy in America," Tocqueville suggested that democracies were especially susceptible to this temptation and could develop the characteristics of what is called soft despotism.

This despotism, Tocqueville argued, was one in which the democratic state slowly but surely suffocated all the independent and spontaneous initiatives arising from that complex of free associations we often call "civil society" -- associations that are, in most situations, far more effective in addressing people's problems than bureaucracies.
But the real challenge posed by the encyclical to Christians is to ensure that Christians' charitable work remains unashamedly Christian. This means, as the encyclical stresses, that it can never be allowed to develop into mere political activism.

Politics, for Catholics, ultimately concerns the common good, but it can't encompass the whole of the common good and we all know of instances when political activity has done enormous harm to the common good.

An associated challenge identified by "Deus Caritas Est" is the perennial temptation for Christian charitable work to become secularized in its motivations and methods.

That's why Pope Benedict emphasizes that Christian charities must be "credible witnesses to Christ."

On a practical level, this accent on being manifestly Christian means that Christian charities cannot act in ways that contradict the Truth revealed by Jesus Christ and imparted to the world by his Church.
This is a lesson we in America once understood, but have forgotten in recent decades. The government cannot be the solution to all problems, lest it remove all initiative from the people.

Sixers on National Review Online
Nationalreview.com has a new blog. Based off the name, I was wondering why they were so into Philadelphia's NBA team. Turns out it's about the '06 elections. (6. Sixers. Get it?)

I'll take this opportunity to remind you of a blog focusing on Delaware's '06 elections: Delaware 2006, where I am one of the contributors.

Baseball vs other sports
Now I tell people much younger than me that there was a time when football and basketball were not that big of a deal. They were simply pleasant diversions until baseball season.

They think I'm crazy.
He's not. Football is merely a way to gets through to spring training. Basketball (other than the NCAA tournament) is still not that big of a deal.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Opening Day
While I'm happy it's Opening Day and all, the Phillies gave up 8 runs in the top of the 4th to fall behind 10-0. It's also apparently pouring at the stadium.

Angry, wet Phillies, many of whom have been drinking. Yeah, that'll end well....

"Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question." —Thomas Jefferson

"This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being... All variety of created objects which represent order and life in the universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, Whom I call the Lord God." —Sir Isaac Newton

"A slew of new research shows how sorry is the plight of American blacks, most acutely men. Black men, particularly those who do not finish high school, have been falling off a cliff for decades. If you include blacks in prison or not seeking work—which conventional unemployment surveys don't—the true jobless rate for black men in their 20s without a high school diploma is 72 percent. At the height of the economic boom, in 2000, it was still about 65 percent... This is twice the rate for white dropouts and three times that of Latinos. A University of California, Berkeley, researcher found that black dropouts in their late 20s are more likely to be in prison than working... There's a lot of Marxist-infused nonsense about how economics are at the root of black America's problems. But this doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Of course poverty makes social pathologies worse, but it's the pathologies that cause poverty in the first place. Family breakdown in the black community has occurred despite a steady rise in the wages of blacks since World War II, when 80 percent were born to married parents. Racism alone cannot be blamed anymore for causing all black problems. By every measure, racism, particularly official racism, has declined even as these problems have worsened. Racism is surely still a problem, but it pales in comparison to family breakdown. Nothing more perpetuates the cycle of moral and financial poverty. If you are raised by two married parents today, black or white, it is unlikely that you will be poor, or poor for long... Obviously, black America's problems are larger than the [Congressional Black] caucus. But the caucus has failed to provide the morally serious leadership—leadership that builds on the historic social conservatism and self-reliance of African Americans—that is sorely needed." —Jonah Goldberg

"This country has lost control of its borders. No country can do that and survive." —Ronald Reagan

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