I went to confession today, and was quite moved by the experience. If you're a Catholic and haven't been for awhile, I recommend it highly.
Friday, November 28, 2008
It is, however, interesting that the Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, politicians throughout the Parliament, and now every individual Iraqi will have a chance to weigh in on this security agreement with the United States, yet basically one "decider" in this country is allowed to do so.
We are, however, a shining city on a hill, so that balances things out.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Now that much of the so-called "patriotism" that sprang up after 9/11 has worn off, perhaps we can get down to the business of doing exceptional stuff rather than pretending that everything we do is exceptional. This attitude is one of the reasons why China and India will probably rival the U.S. as world powers in the next 20 to 30 years. They certainly aren't wasting any time thinking the world owes them something.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Yesterday at work, the break room was getting to be pretty barren (deliveries are on Mondays) so, I grabbed more or less the only thing left: one of those little mini-boxes of cereal, a variety called Trix.
I remember liking Trix when I was, oh, maybe 8 or 9 years old; now, at 46, it was just...yeesh, it was like eating a bowl of candy. Candy that contains no real, actual food, but is instead refined out of petroleum or something. The milk turned an interesting shade of radioactive-looking pink. Hideous stuff.
He definitely gives me the sense of someone who knows where he wants to take the country, is prepared to ask for sacrifice and personal responsibility from every citizen, and has the people around him to bring Congress along.
He's not yet served a day of his first term, but all the signs are promising. We've seen what happens when a president has greatness thrust upon him (9/11) and declines the offer. Obama is a second chance. Godspeed, Barack.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
One of the enduring mysteries... well, maybe not so mysterious... is the fact that more big companies haven't pushed hard for a national health care system. It's really quite impossible to see their failure to do so as acting in the interests of their shareholders in any way, unless they're health insurance companies, of course. Obviously it's just ideological and part of the rich [expletive deleted - Matt] culture. I doubt Rahm's plea to them will be heard.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
A Letter put together by Henry Karlson at Vox Nova
President-elect Barack Obama,
As American Catholics, we, the undersigned, would like to reiterate the congratulations given to you by Pope Benedict XVI. We will be praying for you as you undertake the office of President of the United States.
Wishing you much good will, we hope we will be able to work with you, your administration, and our fellow citizens to move beyond the gridlock which has often harmed our great nation in recent years. Too often, partisan politics has hampered our response to disaster and misfortune. As a result of this, many Americans have become resentful, blaming others for what happens instead of realizing our own responsibilities. We face serious problems as a people, and if we hope to overcome the crises we face in today’s world, we should make a serious effort to set aside the bitterness in our hearts, to listen to one another, and to work with one another
One of the praiseworthy elements of your campaign has been the call to end such partisanship. You have stated a desire to engage others in dialogue. With you, we believe that real achievement comes not through the defamation of one’s opponents, nor by amassing power and using it merely as a tool for one’s own individual will. We also believe dialogue is essential. We too wish to appeal to the better nature of the nation. We want to encourage people to work together for the common good. Such action can and will engender trust. It may change the hearts of many, and it might alter the path of our nation, shifting to a road leading to a better America. We hope this theme of your campaign is realized in the years ahead.
One of the critical issues which currently divides our nation is abortion. As you have said, no one is for abortion, and you would agree to limit late-term abortions as long as any bill which comes your way allows for exceptions to those limits, such as when the health of the mother is in jeopardy. You have also said you would like to work on those social issues which cause women to feel as if they have a need for an abortion, so as to reduce the actual number of abortions being performed in the United States.
Indeed, you said in your third presidential debate, “But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, ‘We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.’”
As men and women who oppose abortion and embrace a pro-life ethic, we want to commend your willingness to engage us in dialogue, and we ask that you live up to your promise, and engage us on this issue.
There is much we can do together. There is much that we can do to help women who find themselves in difficult situations so they will not see abortion as their only option. There is much which we can do to help eliminate those unwanted pregnancies which lead to abortion.
One of your campaign promises is of grave concern to many pro-life citizens. On January 22, 2008, the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when speaking of the current right of women in America to have abortions, you said, “And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president.”
The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) might well undermine your engagement of pro-life Americans on the question of abortion. It might hamper any effort on your part to work with us to limit late-term abortions. We believe FOCA does more than allow for choice. It may force the choice of a woman upon others, and make them morally complicit in such choice. One concern is that it would force doctors and hospitals which would otherwise choose not to perform abortions to do so, even if it went against their sacred beliefs. Such a law would undermine choice, and might begin the process by which abortion is enforced as a preferred option, instead of being one possible choice for a doctor to practice.
It is because of such concern we write. We urge you to engage us, and to dialogue with us, and to do so before you consider signing this legislation. Let us reason together and search out the implications of FOCA. Let us carefully review it and search for contradictions of those positions which we hold in common.
If FOCA can be postponed for the present, and serious dialogue begun with us, as well as with those who disagree with us, you will demonstrate that your administration will indeed be one that rises above partisanship, and will be one of change. This might well be the first step toward resolving an issue which tears at the fabric of our churches, our political process, our families, our very society, and that causes so much hardship and heartache in pregnant women.
Likewise, you have also recently stated you might over-ride some of President G.W. Bush’s executive orders. This is also a concern to us. We believe doing so without having a dialogue with the American people would undermine the political environment you would like to establish. Among those issues which concern us are those which would use taxpayer money to support actions we find to be morally questionable, such as embryonic stem cell research, or to fund international organizations that would counsel women to have an abortion (this would make abortion to be more than a mere choice, but an encouraged activity).
Consider, sir, your general promise to the American people and set aside particular promises to a part of your constituency. This would indicate that you plan to reject politics as usual. This would indeed be a change we need.
Deal W. Hudson
Mark J. Coughlan
Rev. James A. Nowack
Craig D. Baker
Joshua D. Brumfield
Ashley M. Brumfield
Michael J. Iafrate
Henry C Karlson III
Adam P Verslype
Michael J. Deem
Katerina M. Deem
Anthony M. Annett
Thomas Greenwell PhD
Robert C. Koerpel
New, Online Signatures:
Deacon Keith Fournier
Fr. Phil Bloom
Robert King, OP.
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf
Ken Hallenius III
Timothy M. Mason
John Anthony D’Arpino
Mary C. Borneman
Gift of Self
Adam V’s Blog
Thoughts of a Regular Guy
Against the Grain
Defending My Bean Field
Bound and Free
Suicide of the West
Pro Ecclesia * Pro Familia * Pro Civitate
One Nation Under God
The Cranky Conservative
Astonished, Yet at Home!
Laughter and Humility
Catholic and Enjoying It
The Catholic Liberal
The Lady in the Pew
Pansy and Peony
Confessions of a Liberal Traditionalist
James B. Janknegt’s Weblog
What Does the Prayer Really Say
100% of Your RDA of Ken
Yellow Blog Journalism
My brother Luke and I went hunting this weekend. This is us, looking sheepish at the end of the day. Score: Animals 1, Hunters 0. Two weeks earlier there were Turkeys all over the road - we had to steer around them, honk the horn, etc. Sunday - nada. Figures.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Years ago when I was in the Army, I was stationed in El Paso, Texas. El Paso is a border town; it a Juarez, Mexico are more or less one contiguous urban area, for quite a distance along both sides of the Rio Grande river.
One Saturday morning, I got up early and hiked from Fort Bliss all the way down to the border. Standing on the American side, I looked through someone's side yard, over their swimming pool, and on the opposite slope, from the Rio Grand all the way to the top, there was arrayed heartbreaking poverty: kids running around without shoes, shacks made of cinder block and tar paper, sewage running in open culverts.
All this within clear sight of the back windows of the opulence of American suburbia.
19"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In hell,[a] where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
25"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'
27"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
29"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
30" 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
31"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "
Monday, November 10, 2008
Why can't people who were convicted of felonies vote? I mean, not ones who are still in prison, of course...
But take a guy who was convicted of, say, car theft 25 years ago, did six months in County Jail and then turned his life around. He's generous with his time doing volunteer work, tutors kids at the library, speaks up at school board meetings, etc. Does "felon" really describe in any meaningful way who he is or what he does today?
The fact that he can't vote because of a decades-ago act of stupidity seems very unjust, to me.
I suspect that part of this is to prevent blacks and hispanics from voting in greater numbers. It seems like white teenagers caught with drugs are given probation and treated like confused, troubled kids with a problem who need help, and black teenagers are treated like dangerous criminals who need the harshest possible punishment because they are such a "menace."
Sunday, November 09, 2008
One thing that struck me most about Obama's landslide victory on Tuesday was the celebrations not only in American cities (Berkeley, where I live, was a mob-scene, sailors-kissing-nurses celebration from 9pm when the networks called it for Obama until very late into the night) but even more strikingly around the world - great crowds of people in Berlin, Paris, Nairobi, Tokyo, London and elsewhere were cheering, crying, popping champaign, and chanting "yes we can."
"We." The world. America and the world are now on the path to reconciliation and renewal.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Among my quirks is a fondness for American cars in their heyday - massive, twenty-two-foot-long behemoths that, if you added catapults to the hood, could be mistaken for aircraft carriers. 460 cubic inches (almost 8 liters) under the hood, mush-bucket suspensions, chrome galore; you can't help but be seduced by the sheer, heedless exuberance of these relics of 25-cent-a-gallon gasoline. The heavyweights of this era tipped the scales at over 5500 pounds, and had enough power to burn rubber.
Greg Sargent, on his seven year old's first political memory:
His earliest memory of politics will be the sight of a black man getting elected president and running the country along with a cast of sober, responsible, even formidable Democratic leaders in Congress.
That's a humbling thought. It's a reminder how high the stakes were in the election and of just how big a victory it really was. And it's a reminder that all the work is just getting started, lest we take these gains for granted and they somehow slip away.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Martin Luther King is looking down and smiling. In a sense, tonight's victory is his. He saw that non-violence could bring, not crushing of your enemies, but reconciliation; not dominance, but ultimately loving understanding. I heard a white woman on NPR last weekend expressing fears that "blacks would get revenge for they way they've been mistreated." One of the best things about tonight is that she is going to be proven wrong.
More and more I see this. I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate myself; hate is too great a burden to bear. I’ve seen it on the faces of too many sheriffs of the South. I’ve seen hate. In the faces and even the walk of too many Klansmen of the South, I’ve seen hate. Hate distorts the personality. Hate does something to the soul that causes one to lose his objectivity.
[T]he Greek language comes out with the word, "agape." Agape is more than romantic or aesthetic love. Agape is more than friendship. Agape is creative, understanding, redemptive good will for all men. It is an overflowing love that seeks nothing in return. Theologians would say that this is the love of God operating in the human heart. When one rises to love on this level, he loves every man. He rises to the point of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. I believe that this is the kind of love that can carry us through this period of transition. This is what we’ve tried to teach through this nonviolent discipline.
So in many instances, we have been able to stand before the most violent opponents and say in substance, we will meet your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because non-cooperation with evil is just as much moral obligation as is cooperation with good, and so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Threaten our children and bomb our homes and our churches and as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hours and drag us out on some wayside road and beat us and leave us half-dead, and as difficult as that is, we will still love you. But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves, we will so appeal to your heart and your conscience that we will win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory."
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Andrew Sullivan, on what America is poised to do in 48 hours:
Let us keep our heads. But let us not numb our hearts. Somewhere in a Burkean idyll, countless Americans who lived before us, the souls of so many black folk and white folk across the centuries, are watching. What would Washington have said? How could Lincoln believe it? How amazed would Martin Luther King be?
We are indeed on the verge of something that seems even more incredible the closer it gets, something more than a mere election. This is America, after all. It is a place that has seen great cruelty and hardship in its time. But it is also a place that yearns to believe naively in mornings rather than evenings, that cherishes dawns over dusks, that is not embarrassed by its own sense of destiny. In this unlikely mixed-race figure of Barack Obama, we will for a brief moment perhaps see a nation reimagined and a world of possibilities open up. For a brief moment at least.
As they have learnt to say in some of the most blighted parts of the world at some of the most desperate times: know hope.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Northern California has a "mediterranean" climate - summer drought, winter rainy season.
During the dry season, the air is very dry, grasses turn golden (hence California's nickname "The Golden State") and native trees adapted to the climate send taproots deep to chase the previous wet season's receding moisture. Away from the ocean, the air begins heating in May, and by July, the temperatures in the Central Valley are over 100 degrees on a regular basis, with occasional heatwaves sending the mercury north of 110 degrees. The only redeeming feature of those days is the humidity is very low; however, a temperature of 115 degrees is hot enough that coming out of Safeway is a bit of a shock - the superheated air actually hurts your skin.
Fall is a time of increasing humidity, as Pacific storms begin their annual assault on the summer high pressure system over the west coast. The first shower usually tantalizes the parched flora some time in mid-October, and the dry season finally releases its hold in early November, and first soaking rains fall.
And indeed, last night the first pouring rains fell on parched earth and doused the last remnants of the summer fires. Yes, the rains have returned like a friend too long away; today the native Live Oaks are drinking deeply, joyously of the waters of renewal, the grasses are preparing the first green shoots, and the Manzanita and Toyon bushes are releasing aromatic oils and perfuming the air.
The air is humid, the clouds dark, but the air is filled with promise.
Change is in the air.