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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Michael Penn: No Myth

A great song, even with the cheesy Stargate SG1 video.

So, she says it`s time she goes
But wanted to be sure I know
She hopes we can be friends

I think, yeah
I guess we can, say I
But didn`t think to ask her why
She blocked her eyes
And drew the curtains with
Knots I`ve got yet to untie

What if I were
Romeo in black jeans
What if I was Heathcliff
It`s no myth
Maybe she`s just looking
For someone to dance with

See, it was just too soon to tell
And looking for some parallel
Can be an endless game

We, we said goodbye before hello
My secrets she will never know
And if I dig a hole to China
I`ll catch the first junk to Soho


Sometime from now
You`ll bow to pressure
Some things in life
You cannot measure by degrees

I`m between the
Poles and the equator
Don`t send no private
Investigator to find me please
Less he speaks Chinese and
Can dance like Astaire overseas

What if I was
Said what if I was
Maybe she`s just looking
For someone to dance with

What if I was
Romeo in black jeans
What if I was Heathcliff
It`s no myth
Maybe she`s just looking
For someone to dance with

Local Radio News

It was reported first on Facebook (believe it or not) and then in the Scranton Times that local morning radio personality John Webster is leaving his long running "Daniels and Webster" show on WEZX (Rock 107). I think the Facebook thing is rather telling actually. Viva la Internet!

Now I don't know Mr Webster, but actually my cousin Jeanine does and I hear that he is a great guy. To the extent that this change was:

a) of his doing
b) gets him to a better place personally or professionally

then I say a resounding "Cool!". I can't say that I've actually listened to Daniels & Webster at any length in years, although I will tell you that a long time ago they put out a cassette called "Tubes & Take Recorders" (or something like that) which was very funny. It was the kind of thing that you should force outsiders to listen to as a sort of cultural primer on Northeastern Pennsylvania. Anyway it sounds like Mr Webster may have future plans already laid out, so to him I wish nothing but the best.

Speaking of local radio, I am off this week and I've yet to turn on WILK. I did try to listen to Sue Henry last week, but it became unbearable with the constant barrage of "ditto" callers. Is it me or do people who disagree with Sue Henry always seem to end up calling right before their next commercial break? I've also heard a few callers try and get Sue to admit when Limbaugh is being nothing more than a hypocritical dolt, but by and large Sue either ignores the question/comment or talks over it ("Yeah that's wacky Rush for ya say how about 'dem Red Soxs?"). By the way, you can't seem to listen to more than about 10 minutes straight without hitting a commercial on WILK; maybe it just appears that way, but boy it seems that about half of their air time is spent selling stuff. Even longer when you consider the locally produced paid programming they deploy on the weekends.

I noted my favorite WILK boner in a previous blog: that was when Sue Henry was carrying on about how Howard Stern and Opie/Anthony don't represent "her profession". Of course the during the next commercial break there was a spot for a "natural male enhancement" product. So much for that striking difference. This same product is advertised regularly on the Howard Stern Show. Yupp, that's some moral high ground for you.

These days I'm not really listening to much radio myself. I do listen to Sirius while I'm in the car, and 95% of that time it's Howard Stern. Howard's contract with Sirius is up at the end of this year, and if he doesn't re-sign I probably will not renew my subscription. I know very bright people who simply can't stand Stern and that's okay as truth be told, there are times when I have to turn it off myself. However most of the time, Stern's show is good to great, and with some regularity you hear stuff that's sheer genius. I personally think that the stuff he did in the early 1990's with Billy West (Marge Schott impersonations, Jackie Puppet, Mayor Dinkins. etc.) were some of the funniest bits ever broadcast on the airwaves.

And bababooey to ya'll!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

File this in the "Believe It When You See It" department

As for me, I'm not buying it...

Chrysler Chief Says Firm to Break Even in 2010

...sales are down, quality is way down, and the domestic competition (especially Ford) is getting better. Chrysler has nothing in the same league as, say the Ford Fusion or the Chevy Malibu and flagship models such as the 300 are dated. Maybe Fiat has a flotilla of new designs heading over from Italy, but I can't see how they could be introduced and make a dent this year.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Learning to Flinch

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty."
- Henry Ford

I've been trying to digest all this blogger stuff swirling around me. What stuff? Well I keep finding new blogs to read, and after attending Friday's little gathering in Pittston, I got a few new ideas. I've even implemented two of ideas:

1) For ID purposes I've shortened the official name of the blog to "NCFE"
2) I actually bought my own URL,, that I've linked to the blog

#2 has an unforeseen consequence, namely that every comment ever made to the blog was lost. Now there weren't hundreds of comments, but there a few so I'm sorry that they've gone to the great blog in the sky.

Why bring this up? Well I am waiting for chicken to defrost, so that's as good a reason as any. Also, I personally like the notion that at almost age 46 I can still learn new stuff and change things around. That gives me some sense of hope.

Leonard Pitts Column, March 29, 2010

Leonard Pitts has an excellent column today that is well worth reading.

Tea partiers proved that I was right

Politicians Using Bloggers

I've been reading Marc Cour's post-blogger "meet-up" (quotes because I think the term "meet-up" sounds quasi-juvenile; kind of like what cheerleaders do..."Hey Buffy, there is a Spirit Squad meet-up after the game!") comments and it has gotten me thinking about the issue of how politicians use and/or attempt to use the media. Since it's a Monday and I have the week off, I lack the motivation to actually structure these thoughts in anything like a traditional format. As a result I'm going to digress into writing laziness and simply interview myself. There is a benefit to this format, namely that there can be no claims of being misquoted.

Q: Do I think local politicians would like to use bloggers and other similar types for exposure?
A: Sure, and why not? Being a politician pretty much means you are in the "use" business. You use voters to get elected, you use your job to get things done, and if you are a Pennsylvania legislator, you may use your per-diem for mortgage payments.

Q: Do I think that local bloggers have an obligation to be unbiased when talking about local politicians?
A: No. I will take it one step further though...I don't think that any media at any level is completely unbiased. We humans put bias into everything we do. It's in our nature. We are social creatures by design, which means we are constantly making judgments about those around us. Over thousands of years we have managed to replace "Should Thor be allowed to join our tribe?" with "Do I think Sarah Palin is a nit-wit?", with the latter being expressed in somewhat less direct ways (but expressed never the less). Honestly, I think this is wired into our genetic code.

What we do have an obligation to is, in my opinion, intellectual honesty. For example, if a blogger is working/volunteering/for a particular campaign, I think they should disclose that fact every time that write about that campaign or candidate in question.

Q: Should bloggers blatantly endorse candidates?
A: I can't say "yes" or "no" definitively, so instead I will settle with a "maybe". The reason for the vacillation on my part lies in the fact that while I think bloggers certainly can endorse candidates, I think that the net result of any endorsement could end up being the perception that the endorser has sacrificed credibility if it isn't backed up with some hard facts and reasoning. In essence it's not the act of endorsement that I might have a problem with, it's the reason for the endorsement. In this area you also have to wonder what else could conceivably be transpiring if someone were so blatant in their support of a candidate.

Look, one of the beauties of this whole blogging act is that it gives voice to people who are not connected, liked, or otherwise in a position to have their voice heard. To quote those noted philosophers the Fabulous Thunderbirds, that's "Powerful Stuff". The blog itself though is just a tool. For example, I could use a hammer to build a house for the poor, or I could use it to bash someones head in. The hammer itself has no feelings on the's just the tool, and the real judgment would be placed on the person using the hammer. For me, the same holds true for blogs as it does hammer, hence the "maybe". Fortunately, the very mechanism of blogging has a sort of self-correcting aspect to it: If I were to start blatantly shelling for a candidate, then other bloggers could very well call me out on it.

Q: Would I ever endorse a candidate?
A: Probably not. Now I've said one or two good things about Bob Morgan, for example, but those comments had more to do with how I know Bob than his qualifications for any particular position de jour he may be running for at any moment. In point of fact I am glad that he lost his last election, as Walter Griffith seems to be kicking ass and taking no prisoners. Sorry Bob. Conversely, I've said some less positive things about Scranton's city council President Janet Evans, but that doesn't mean I'm automatically going to write nice things about her self-nominated arch nemesis Mayor Chris Doherty.

Q: Would I criticize another blogger who endorsed a candidate?
A: I might, if it seemed that the endorsement wasn't based on some kind of rational thought process. That, by the way, has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with logic and reasoning. Consider the value of my criticism though, as it plus $0.75 can get you a copy of the Scranton Times.

Q: Do I think the turnout on Friday night was indicative of some kind of blood-in-the-water feeding frenzy on the part of politicians at the prospect of free publicity?
A: Abso-freak'n-lutely. By and large though I haven't seen anything written locally that makes me think that any particular candidate actually benefited from this event. Did I mention a candidate name or two in my post-Friday comments? Sure I did, but not in any terms that I think were slanted positively or otherwise. Sure, Corey O'Brien's representative told me about the cage fights, but I still think think he (O'Brien) is not overly qualified for the job he seeks in the next election.

Q: Is local political blogging a net positive, a net negative or by and large neutral?
A: It is absolutely a net positive, and in fact I think it holds tremendous potential for NEPA as a whole. Consider the chief alternatives...

...local message boards filled with anonymous posters who do nothing but slander, throw verbal bombs and generally act like rabid ass###es

...websites put up by local politicians, filled with smiling pictures of Candidate X and his beautiful family

If the above is the competition for breathable air in the local Internet space, then the competition is over before it ever began.

I can respect the opinions of anyone who "mans up" to his or her own. I have no respect for those who snipe from behind anonymous walls simply because they are too ashamed to put their name on their own opinions. I can think of only one instance where there is any justification for that kind of behavior.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

On The Health Front

(Tools of the Trade)

It's funny that, after getting some relatively good news on the health front on Friday, the next day I went basically hog-wild eating. Making it even worse was the fact that the good news was that my weight dropped below 230 lbs at my last weigh-in on Friday. Yes, I celebrated making a milestone of losing weight by over-eating. Can you say "ridiculous"? Of course I also experienced this morning what I like to call a "food hang-over", which is this kind of sickly feeling from over indulging in the food department. You would think that I was smart enough to avoid this kind of thing, but I've learned that bad food...and bad eating...are habits that are incredibly hard to break. These kinds of things are instilled in us from very early ages, and they don't change easily, if at all during our lives.

All is not lost though, as (unfortunately) I have reams of experience in the "falling off the wagon food-wise" department. I've gotten myself up today, figuratively dusting myself off, and promising that today I will avoid the two big things that did me in yesterday:

1. Failing to accurately count the calories I consumed

2. Failing to eat reasonably sized meals, which in turn cased tons of snacking

There is no excuse for either, other than being human. I'll do better today.

The counting of calories is interesting. I see all of these weight-loss products and gimmicks on the market today, but in my experience, the concept behind weight loss is pretty simple: consume less than you need and you lose weight. The "less" part is calories. You can also increase the amount of calories you need by exercising, therefore increasing your weight loss when you eat less. Trust me, I know that the actual implementation of this stuff is far more difficult than the theory...this is something I live and struggle with every day. What helps me is that I have a ritual associated with counting my calories. Seriously, it does. Rituals are important because they are this kind of stylized form of habit building. My calorie counting ritual has a few facets to it...

  • I buy a nice looking, small bound book for counting. One with heavy-weight lines pages and a ribbon place-holder. Believe it or not, I have found that if simply having a nice book to write this stuff in actually motivates me to do keep up with it.
  • I format each day the same...on the left hand top of the page is the day "March 28, 2010/Sunday"; if I weigh myself I put that on the top-right of that same line. Note that I normally only weigh myself on Monday and Friday and even then there is a ritual: I only do it after exercising and taking a shower, I only do it wearing the exact same thing, I start the scale off at the same spot each time and move it down until I reach my current weight.
  • I have set rules for counting calories...I use labels or "The Calorie King Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter" book to find the calories in what I eat. When I count, I list the food I eat chronologically and by type...B for Breakfast, S for Snack, L for Lunch, D for Diner. I round calorie counts up the nearest 25. Why? It simply makes the math easier for me and it gives me something of a fudge factor in case I low-ball a portion size.
  • I reduce my calorie count (with negative calories...or calories burned) for the day if I engage in "dedicated" exercise. This is activity that I engage for the purpose of losing weight. At work I use the elliptical machine for anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes per day. On the weekend I may go for a walk of anywhere from 2 to 4 miles. I don't generally reduce my calorie count for common/everyday activities.

To date I've lost about 25 pounds in the go-around of weight loss. This is the second time I've had what I consider to be a significant weight loss in my life. The last time was about five years ago, where I lost about 35 pounds doing pretty much the same thing as I am doing now. What failed that required a second round of this? Simple: I failed. I fell back into bad eating habits and I forgot the single most important thing about weight loss: It's far more of a mental than a physical exercise.

Yes, I'm convinced that for many people, being over-weight is more of a mental problem than it is a physical one. For me that's definitely true, as I've noted on previous blog entries. Now I know that there are folks with genuine physical reasons why they suffer from being over weight, and I really do feel for them. However for me, it really just is in my head. I can boil it down into a simple statement:

When I am mentally well I tend to be physically well.

When I am mentally well, I care about my body and how I treat it. I don't over-indulge, I exercise and I eat better foods. When I am down, depressed, stressed, etc. my attitude is one of not really caring about how my body feels.

In this current iteration of weight loss I am hoping to drop another 5 pounds or so and then try and find some system of maintenance to keep my weight stable. I know I will never be skinny, but once I get down to, say about 225 pounds, I will be comfortable. I'm still thinking this through, but "maintenance" for me is going to consist of continuing to count what I eat and (hopefully) finding some kind of support mechanism. The later is really, really important. One of the reasons why I failed to keep weight off last time was that there is very little in my environment that encourages healthy eating. My family, which I love dearly, simply could care less what I stuff in my face. Maybe they shouldn't care by the way, as it's my face anyway. Regardless, I need some kind of way to network with people having similar struggles.

In the end though, we do difficult things in our lives because we know that the truly important things are seldom easy to achieve. I want to be healthy into my 50's and beyond. I want to live a long life, one that isn't punctuated by preventable health problems. I want to be both mentally and physically active and healthy. I do this for the most tangible of reasons: me.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Wisdom of Hunter S. Thompson, Part II

A few weeks ago I posted a few of my favorite quotes from Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (link HERE), and of late I've learned that a few of the other local bloggers are fans.  Reading references to the late "Dr Gonzo" made me think about when...and why...I started to read Thompson's work.

My first experience with HST was at Bishop Hannan High School.  I'm not sure of the year, but it was probably around 1979ish.  One or two of the more influential kids in my class, "influential" being a relative term among teenage boys, were talking about this book "The Great Shark Hunt", which intrigued me enough to get a copy (my edition looked something like THIS).  I was hooked from page one.  Being a nerdy kind of guy, I was already familiar enough with Richard Nixon, George McGovern and the rest, so it wasn't as if I was learning anything new.  In fact some of the subject matter itself, such as the Kentucky Derby, didn't interest me at all.  Instead of information, it was really just the style of HST's writing that grabbed me.  When Thompson writes, it's almost as if he's talking to you.  He is this wacky uncle that is telling you a bizarre story:  you just don't see his words, you hear his thoughts.  It's a subtle kind of thing I suppose, and maybe I'm reading too much into it all, but even in later works such as his ESPN column (Hey Rube) I felt exactly the same way.


The drugs thing is interesting when it comes to HST's work.  I say this with a completely straight and honest face:  I have never, ever in my entire life tried an illegal drug.  It's not as if I'm against experimenting with things, because that's definitely not true; in fact there have been times in my life where I've practically been a drunk.  Instead, it's just that I can barely keep track of my own thoughts and behaviors while sober; the thought of floating among cosmos is just more than I could handle.  You would think then that the almost constant references to drugs and drug abuse (everything from ether to mescaline, with lots and lots of things in the middle) in HST's work would be a turn off, but they really aren't.  In fact I have the HST quote about drugs and alcohol posted in my office at work.  Anyway, the drug references in his work aren't as much about the glorification of altered states as they are (at least in my opinion) about how reality is so insane...for some...that it may take illicit drugs to make sense of it all.

When you are 15 years old, it seems as if everything about you is strange.  Thompson made it alright to be strange and smart at the same time.  He also turned the notion of journalism on its head.  When the rest of the world was watching Walter Cronkite talk with a straight face at 6:30pm, you had HST talking about hallucinated bats attacking his rental car.  That's a far cry from "...and that's the way it is".

A fellow blogger described doing some "gonzo journalism" last night, and that's a pretty good description of what we do actually.  I think much of the blogosphere is heavily influenced by HSTs work, as he made it okay to "talk" about events as a journalist, as opposed to simply "reporting" facts.  We all know that facts can sometimes be subjective, which makes the notion about infusing them with a point of view all the more logical.  In some respects you can argue that what HST did...and what many bloggers far more of an honest exercise in information sharing than the supposedly "straight" journalists who claim an objectivity that actually doesn't exist.

From the Pennsyltucky File

This one is priceless...

Drunk Brookville Man Tries to Revive Dead Opossum

Maybe he is a "compassionate conservative".

Obligatory Blogger/Politician Post Meeting Post

I think there is some rule that compels me to write about the local blogger & political candidate meeting held last night at Rooney's Irish Pub in Pittston. Being mostly German by ancestry I'm pretty good at following orders, so here goes.


  1. Blog Name - "Not Cease from Exploration" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue when you are trying to tell someone what you write. I need something simple and much cooler sounding: Readazzler? Psycho-Puppy? Bababooey? The Blogginator? Baron Von Blogger? Bloginstein? How about "NCFE"?
  2. Mary Borthwick - Mary is rightfully proud of her son Tom, who has a very bright mind & more importantly a good head on his shoulders. In my experience those two things don't always go together. Mary's son is going places, mark my words.
  3. Cage Fights - I learned from a Corey O'Brien representative that many local candidate were attending "cage fights" that evening. I'm not kidding you, cage fights. This is the stuff you see on TV with all the roided-out, angry dudes pummel each other. Kind of like a combination of boxing and professional wrestling. For the record, I will not knowingly vote for anyone who attends a "cage fight". In my book cage fighting is probably a notch and a half above cock-fighting, if that.
  4. Blogger Cards - Real, official bloggers have business-card like things that they can hand out listing their blog name, URL, and email address. Now I had a bunch of work business cards in my shirt pocket, but I would have felt stupid handing them out. Not sure if I'm ready to join the real, official world of blogging just yet.
  5. Politicians - This is where I'm supposed to write about how a particular politician, candidate, representative, wannabe, etc. impressed me, right? Well Corey O'Brien's rep was the one who clued me in about the cage fights, which was pretty cool. I also spent a few minutes talking to my old work compatriot, Bob Morgan. Cross this requirement off the list...check!
  6. Pittston - Man, when someone from Scranton says your town looks depressing, then, well I think that it says a lot. I had never actually walked in downtown Pittston until yesterday. No offense to anyone, but it was sad. The Simply Red song "Holding Back the Years" kept playing in my head as I walked to my car. It was like Lackawanna Avenue in Scranton, pre-Steamtown Mall. All the best to the Mayor there, because it look like efforts are being undertaken to make things better.
  7. Hair - I still have decent hair for a middle-aged guy.
  8. I Don't Like Bars - I probably haven't been in a bar in over five years, I kid you not, so last night was something of a rare exception for me. It's not that I look down on bars or the people that go to them, but rather since I don't drink & I am extremely introverted, bars are the functional equivalent of the dentist's chair for me. Anyway, since the smoking ban they are a lot more tolerable than I recall from the past. Maybe I will walk on the wild side and go to another bar again. No, I am not a Mormon.
  9. Local Celebrities - In addition to finally getting to meet NEPAritsan in person, I also met Gort, Marc Cour, Duke from Dallas and other assorted luminaries. Unlike NEPArtisan, I avoided the tea-baggers (hehehehe, I said "tea-baggers"), as the whole socializing thing is difficult enough for me; having to argue with someone about how the world isn't flat would have made it much worse.
  10. Chicken Sandwich - When ordering a chicken sandwich, never assume that it's just the chicken and the bun.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Church Abuse Allegations Get More Complicated

Anyone with a passing interest in the Catholic Church sexual abuse crisis should read the following article that appeared recently in the New York Times...

...and in fact I'll take it one step further: I think every Catholic, practicing or not, should read it as well.

Now I know that some folks, such as my sometimes sparring partner Father David Bechtel, may in fact call this out as simply being more Catholic bashing by "a liberal, anti-Catholic media", and that's certainly their prerogative. I disagree with the "anti-Catholic" aspect of the sentiment, in that I think ALL MEDIA in this country loves nothing more than any story having to do with sex, the more tawdry the better. This is why we had a years worth of "all Lewinsky scandal, all the time" coverage in the late 90's. Oh, and wasn't Clinton a card-carrying liberal? Anyway I don't want to digress into that argument, but for those truly interested you can see a series of comments and counter-comments about this very same thing HERE.

Getting back to the main topic (I am easily distracted), I think this is important reading. In my all-be-it small mind, you can land on either one of two places after reading this:

Possibility 1 - They Knew
The current Pope was not only intimately familiar with the abuse of children allegations, but had a keen interest in keeping that information non-public via requiring a de-facto veil of secrecy around such allegations. He also directly participated in keeping allegations quiet:

"But Cardinal Bertone halted the process after
Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations. "

Think about that for a second...repentance requires an acknowledgment of the sin. If (then) Cardinal Ratzinger halted the de-frocking process against Father Murphy, then that makes the current Pope complicit in putting the interests of a pedophile before that of basic justice. As noted in the story, the late Father Murphy is alleged to have abused approximately 200 children. Why should that man have been allowed to continue to call himself a Catholic Priest?

Possibility 2 - It's Just A Complicated Web of Coincidences & Misunderstandings
Look, in large bureaucracies, people misunderstand directives, letters don't get delivered, things get lost in the process. The Vatican has been trying to weigh it's obligations to both canon and civil/criminal law and protect the greater good that it does each and every day.

Maybe there are other alternatives at play here, but they are not all that apparent to me. What is apparent is that within the hierarchy, protecting the image and assets of the Church is at least as important as protecting children from sexual abuse. To me, that seems to be a reasonable conclusion. It's also tragically wrong, for by not putting the most vulnerable first (the children), the Church in fact has harmed its own image and put its own good work at risk. Put another way, by failing to act decisively in the face of credible allegations, the leaders of the Church are harming the institution they are so interested in protecting.

None of the above should be construed in any way as an anti-Catholic bias on my part. While I may not attend church on a very regular basis, the Church has been as essential a part of my life as, say, my ears have been. Some of what limited skills I possess when it comes to logic and reasoning were developed and coached while I attended a Catholic high school. Finally, I've met countless priests in my life, and while some were a tad bit difficult in their approach to things, the vast majority were (and are) incredibly dedicated human beings.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Airport May Need Financial Help

There is an article in today's Scranton Time about the local airport possibly needing financial help. You can link to it HERE. I haven't read the article yet, so I'll defer full comment until later. However one thing stands out right off the top of my head: like many local government run endeavors, I strongly suspect that the airport probably has more than its share of under-performing, "got the job as a favor from _____________ local politician" types. Any additional money given to the airport should come with the condition that operations be reviewed by an independent party who can make binding recommendations to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Post Script (8pm) - Well it's ironic that the deficit they are talking about is about twice the cost of the "invitation only" party thrown a few years back when the airport opened. Anyway, while I enjoy flying out of the airport, it's really too large for the traffic it supports. That noted, it's not as if we can shrink it, and some of the moronic postings on the Scranton Times website about closing it are just that...moronic. We have to live with this, so maybe it's time for some belt-tightening. Paying attention Mr Centini?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I'm Sitting Here...

...with a splitting headache, drained of just about every drop of human essence that existed in my body at 5am this morning. I am pretty damn empty.. There were the struggles today at work, there were the struggles at home. There were struggles in the media, and struggles even in the weather. There was not a drop of peace to be found anywhere.

It's been an Emily Dickinson kind of day...

WHILE I was fearing it, it came,
But came with less of fear,
Because that fearing it so long
Had almost made it dear.
There is a fitting a dismay,
A fitting a despair.
’T is harder knowing it is due,
Than knowing it is here.
The trying on the utmost,
The morning it is new,
Is terribler than wearing it
A whole existence through.

Beckel Column

I read Bob Beckel's excellent (but short) column on this morning and it is well worth sharing. You can read it HERE. The insanity that surrounds the whole health care issue needs to subside...not just for Democrats, but for Republicans as well. Mark my words: pressing down too hard on the extreme button on either side is dangerous and damaging to us all.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Newsflash: Lady Gaga Is Gay

The family friendly, God-fearing Christians at Fox News reported that pop singer Lady Gaga has "outed" herself. RNC Chairman Michael Steele immediately issued a press release blaming the news on "Obama's Socialist Agenda"; Steele went on to apologize to Rush Limbaugh.

Road Apples, #61

Dunmore Has a Mayor...After remaining quite stealthy during budget and Methadone clinic debates, Dunmore's mayor has decided to be a mayor. Evidence HERE. As smarter people than I have noted (although I have noted it as well) Dunmore can not support a paid fire department on its own. Politicians can talk around this one all they want, but in the end you have "X" coming in via tax revenue but "X+Y" going out in borough expenses. For his next trick, perhaps "Nibs" will inform us that the tulips are beginning to bloom.

Wilkes-Barre Gets It Right...Yes, I said it: Wilkes-Barre got one right, well make that "is likely to get one right". A pending ordinance would take the common sense step of banning the use of cell phones while driving, except when using a hands-free device. Unlike other communities with similar bans, the police in Wilkes-Barre would be able to stop drivers just for this offense. This is a great idea. Countless times I've been cut-off, nearly hit, or otherwise had to dodge some moron who was paying more attention to holding a phone to their ear than they were holding on to the steering wheel of their vehicle. In my experience this is particularly a problem among younger drivers.

Chief Tea-Bagger Compares Auto & Health Insurance...I heard bits and pieces of an interview with a head muckity-muck from the Philadelphia tea-party coven. In the bit I heard he talks about how you can't compare car insurance to health insurance because driving is an optional activity. He's right, at least on the surface. His logic though is flawed in one key respect: in this country even if you don't have health insurance you still get medical's just that the rest of us end up paying for it. When last I checked, doctors and hospitals and drug companies still kinda want to get paid, even when the individual being treated doesn't have insurance. I know, why how very "capitalist" of them. Taking this one step further, Chief Tea-Bagger could argue that they should then just sue to get paid, but then doesn't that very act itself simply increase the cost of health insurance for the rest of us? Suing involves lawyers and courts, both of which want to get paid as well. Lastly, there is the fact that there is a time value associated with money, so not getting paid today means that the parties involved lose the opportunity to invest/otherwise use that money owed tomorrow.

AG Corbett Contemplates Suing Over Health Care Reform...Story link HERE. Coincidence that AG Corbett is also running for governor? I think not. I have no problem with people using the court system to seek redress, but let's hope that the AG doesn't start pretending that he speaks for all Pennsylvanians, because he does not.

Happy Ron "Jaws" Jaworski, who has a name tailor-made for a football & is by all accounts a really decent guy.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Speaking of Health...

I read about this today and found it to be disturbing on many, many levels.

Woman Determined to Become the World's Heaviest

It's one thing to see someone in your family slowly deteriorate in front of you due to a chronic illness (something I deal with), but it's something else when they are consciously doing it to themselves.

Oh, and please spare me the "fat is beautiful" and assorted other nonsense. This has nothing to do with beauty and everything to do with someone slowly committing suicide in front of her family, including a three year old daughter (a child who, due to the 530lbs of her mother, required 30 people to about health care costs). What is happening in this case is an example of mental illness taken to an almost bizarre extreme. While eating herself to death, this lady's husband is apparently cheering her on, which makes me wonder which of the two is more sick. Interestingly enough, hubby apparently has no interest in joining her in the "future bed-bound of America" club.

This riles me up even more when I think about the lengths others go all the time to lose weight and be healthy. I have a dear friend who literally went through hell with weight loss surgery, and every single moment of every single day has to watch what she eats, all in the name of being healthy. I myself am not a thin person. I'll declare it now: at 6'3.5" tall, my 232lbs is not what anyone would consider thin, and eating well is day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour struggle for me. My choice, I know. I also understand that this is a personal choice on the part of the individual in question, but in my mind it's of the same caliber as, say, huffing modeling glue. Funny, but the Guinness people apparently doesn't have a category for "most tubes of modeling glue huffed in a sitting". Gee I wonder why?

We all make choices...some good, some bad...and some of us, namely me, probably make more bad than good. So be it. However I try my best to acknowledge my mistakes and learn from them, not celebrate them as if they were some kind of sick red badge of courage. Yes, I suppose that this lady has some kind of strange "right" to eat herself to death in front of her family, but for God's sake let's not celebrate it.

Health Care: The Day After

I was reading Newt Gingrich’s response to the health care vote and a single thought occurred to me: the vote was as much a failure on the part of Republicans to articulate conservative principals as solutions to problems as it was a success of Democrats at extolling the virtues of big government solutions.

Specifically outside of tort reform, which arguable represents a very minor portion of the nation’s health care bill (maybe 3-5%), where were the ideas on the part of conservatives to stop the rise of health care costs at triple the rate of inflation? Where were the ideas from conservatives to expand coverage to those who lack it? To the last point, I’ve actually heard prominent Republicans such as Rush Limbaugh basically deny that there are that many un-insured Americans in the first place. I’ve seen that M.O. before: if you don’t believe that there is a problem, then it’s much easier to criticize the solutions of others.

My opening paragraph also was validated by the floor speeches of Republican Representatives who talked about how the current bill was bad, but offered nothing but sloganeering in return. Budget buster? Possibly yes, but I didn’t see any real alternatives. Maybe this is all the point. The solid wall of Republican opposition yesterday may have more to do with the November election and garnering more power than it did actually solving the real problems that exist in the American health care system. Call me a cynic, but I expect government to help solve our collective problems, not engage in grand-standing solely to increase the political power of one faction or another. Give credit where credit is due though: the Democrats voted in majority to support this bill, but they didn’t vote as a collective flock of sheeple.

The GOP has had multiple sessions of Congress where they held majority positions, but yet the failed to offer any form of meaningful health care reform since they torpedoed the reform initiated during the first Clinton term. Why? I’m not entirely sure of the reason, but yet it’s pretty clear that we now know what they are against. Alas, the problem though is that simply being "against" solves nothing.

Yet More Proud Moments in Tea-Bagger History

My mom told me about the tea-baggers yesterday who called Barney Frank a "faggot" and Representative Lewis a "nigger" Story link HERE. After I got home from taking her shopping I also saw a posting from NEPArtisan about it. Now I did try and find a video of both incidents, but the only stuff out there seems to have commentary associated with it, and quite honestly I like the tea-baggers themselves to do the talking. Not being one to get discouraged, I instead found the video I posted below (you can link to it HERE). What's great is that it's just the unadulterated tea-baggers & their signs.

Conservative or Liberal, this kind of crap should bother everyone.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Road Apples, #60

Papal Letter to Irish Catholics...The letter I posted yesterday is intended to be read during Mass today at each Irish Church. Let's hope parents decide to leave small children home today, as it is mighty, mighty long. It's also written in that remarkable tongue known as "Pope-speak", which I think is what you get when dozens of Bishops, Cardinals and a Pope...each having different native tongues...collectively write a letter. Maybe it flows better in Latin. Regardless, I'm not entirely sure that it will have desired effect. The days of the "Command and Control" Church are over, and this scandal will continue to have legs long into the future. In fact, about the only substantive thing that I think could be done by the Pope to truly have a positive impact would be for Cardinal Brady to be removed. That would signal that accountability runs all the way up the Church hierarchy. Look for that to happen on December 31st...of never.

Senator Mellow Gets Cold Feet...I read earlier this week that Senator Mellow suddenly got ill and was unable to participate in a live town hall meeting to be televised on WVIA (the local PBS affiliate). I don't blame him though: the sight and sound of it all would have been just painful and frustrating. For anyone who thinks that it would have actually made a difference, please email me, as I have a unique Nigeria-based investment for you to consider. All kidding aside, Senator Mellow has already told us that sitting on the boards of organizations he has a hand in regulating isn't a conflict of interest. His representatives have already told us that renting an office (at an inflated rate) from yourself doesn't raise any ethics concerns & certainly writing over a hundred grand in checks to "cash" is something that we all do. Bottom line: it would have been simply more bull from a man who believes that he is entitled to have things like theaters named after him (for spending our money, no less).

I Love Spring...I just want to mention that, for the record. It almost makes it worth waiting through Winter. Unfortunately it will be another month before I can safely start planting flowers outside.

Cars...I continue to ponder what kind of car to buy. In contrast of another member of my family who, on a lark, stopped by a dealership, found something they liked and did the deal, I instead will spend months analyzing models and pondering what I really want and need. Right now I have a list of about 10 different vehicle types that I'm considering; I'm hoping to whittle that down to about three or four before I actually start shopping in May or so. I'm reasonable sure that the car will not be new (you get crushed on depreciation, so I like to buy them about a year old), relatively small, good on gas, have a positive track-record for dependability and will most definitely have a sunroof. I wanted a sunroof last time I bought a car, but I ended up taking one without it. I've regretted that ever since. Not this time.

Counting Down the Minutes...until this phase of the health care debate is over with. If it passes, I suspect that some will claim that the end-times are near. I suspect that similar sentiments were expressed with the Social Security Act was passed, when the Voting Rights Act was passed and when fluoride started to be added to drinking water. As for me, I simply want health care costs to stop increasing at four times the rate of inflation.

Infrastructure Improvement...of a more personal sort should arrive later this week in the form of a far better roof-mounted antenna for my Sirius satellite radio home receiver. Right now I have a standard home antenna that is basically sitting on my front porch, complete with wire fished through a window sill. The new set-up will involve my mounting the equipment on the eave of a roof and then running a line into my basement for internal distribution from there to two separate wall jacks. Now Howard Stern needs to re-sign for another five years and all will be well.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Full Text, Pope Benedict's Letter to Irish Catholics

I don't think the Vatican News Service is as strict as the Scranton Times is about pasting content, so I've included the full text of the recently released Pastoral Letter to Irish Catholics.

You can link the the document HERE.



VATICAN CITY, 20 MAR 2010 (VIS) - Given below is the complete text of the Holy Father's Pastoral Letter of The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland:

1. Dear brothers and sisters of the Church in Ireland, it is with great concern that I write to you as Pastor of the universal Church. Like yourselves, I have been deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the Church in Ireland, particularly by priests and religious. I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.

As you know, I recently invited the Irish bishops to a meeting here in Rome to give an account of their handling of these matters in the past and to outline the steps they have taken to respond to this grave situation. Together with senior officials of the Roman Curia, I listened to what they had to say, both individually and as a group, as they offered an analysis of mistakes made and lessons learned, and a description of the programmes and protocols now in place. Our discussions were frank and constructive. I am confident that, as a result, the bishops will now be in a stronger position to carry forward the work of repairing past injustices and confronting the broader issues associated with the abuse of minors in a way consonant with the demands of justice and the teachings of the Gospel.

2. For my part, considering the gravity of these offences, and the often inadequate response to them on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities in your country, I have decided to write this Pastoral Letter to express my closeness to you and to propose a path of healing, renewal and reparation.

It is true, as many in your country have pointed out, that the problem of child abuse is peculiar neither to Ireland nor to the Church. Nevertheless, the task you now face is to address the problem of abuse that has occurred within the Irish Catholic community, and to do so with courage and determination. No one imagines that this painful situation will be resolved swiftly. Real progress has been made, yet much more remains to be done. Perseverance and prayer are needed, with great trust in the healing power of God's grace.

At the same time, I must also express my conviction that, in order to recover from this grievous wound, the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children. Such an acknowledgement, accompanied by sincere sorrow for the damage caused to these victims and their families, must lead to a concerted effort to ensure the protection of children from similar crimes in the future.

As you take up the challenges of this hour, I ask you to remember "the rock from which you were hewn". Reflect upon the generous, often heroic, contributions made by past generations of Irish men and women to the Church and to humanity as a whole, and let this provide the impetus for honest self- examination and a committed programme of ecclesial and individual renewal. It is my prayer that, assisted by the intercession of her many saints and purified through penance, the Church in Ireland will overcome the present crisis and become once more a convincing witness to the truth and the goodness of Almighty God, made manifest in His Son Jesus Christ.

3. Historically, the Catholics of Ireland have proved an enormous force for good at home and abroad. Celtic monks like St. Columbanus spread the Gospel in Western Europe and laid the foundations of mediaeval monastic culture. The ideals of holiness, charity and transcendent wisdom born of the Christian faith found expression in the building of churches and monasteries and the establishment of schools, libraries and hospitals, all of which helped to consolidate the spiritual identity of Europe. Those Irish missionaries drew their strength and inspiration from the firm faith, strong leadership and upright morals of the Church in their native land.

From the sixteenth century on, Catholics in Ireland endured a long period of persecution, during which they struggled to keep the flame of faith alive in dangerous and difficult circumstances. St. Oliver Plunkett, the martyred archbishop of Armagh, is the most famous example of a host of courageous sons and daughters of Ireland who were willing to lay down their lives out of fidelity to the Gospel. After Catholic Emancipation, the Church was free to grow once more. Families and countless individuals who had preserved the faith in times of trial became the catalyst for the great resurgence of Irish Catholicism in the nineteenth century. The Church provided education, especially for the poor, and this was to make a major contribution to Irish society. Among the fruits of the new Catholic schools was a rise in vocations: generations of missionary priests, sisters and brothers left their homeland to serve in every continent, especially in the English-speaking world. They were remarkable not only for their great numbers, but for the strength of their faith and the steadfastness of their pastoral commitment. Many dioceses, especially in Africa, America and Australia, benefited from the presence of Irish clergy and religious who preached the Gospel and established parishes, schools and universities, clinics and hospitals that served both Catholics and the community at large, with particular attention to the needs of the poor.

In almost every family in Ireland, there has been someone - a son or a daughter, an aunt or an uncle - who has given his or her life to the Church. Irish families rightly esteem and cherish their loved ones who have dedicated their lives to Christ, sharing the gift of faith with others, and putting that faith into action in loving service of God and neighbour.

4. In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularisation of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people's traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected. Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The programme of renewal proposed by the Vatican Council II was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations. It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings.

Only by examining carefully the many elements that gave rise to the present crisis can a clear-sighted diagnosis of its causes be undertaken and effective remedies be found. Certainly, among the contributing factors we can include: inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and the religious life; insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates; a tendency in society to favour the clergy and other authority figures; and a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal, resulting in failure to apply existing canonical penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person. Urgent action is needed to address these factors, which have had such tragic consequences in the lives of victims and their families, and have obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing.

5. On several occasions since my election to the See of Peter, I have met with victims of sexual abuse, as indeed I am ready to do in the future. I have sat with them, I have listened to their stories, I have acknowledged their suffering, and I have prayed with them and for them. Earlier in my pontificate, in my concern to address this matter, I asked the bishops of Ireland, "to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected, and above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes".

With this Letter, I wish to exhort all of you, as God's people in Ireland, to reflect on the wounds inflicted on Christ's body, the sometimes painful remedies needed to bind and heal them, and the need for unity, charity and mutual support in the long-term process of restoration and ecclesial renewal. I now turn to you with words that come from my heart, and I wish to speak to each of you individually and to all of you as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

6. To the victims of abuse and their families

You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape from your sufferings. It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope. It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was Himself a victim of injustice and sin. Like you, He still bears the wounds of His own unjust suffering. He understands the depths of your pain and its enduring effect upon your lives and your relationships, including your relationship with the Church.

I know some of you find it difficult even to enter the doors of a church after all that has occurred. Yet Christ's own wounds, transformed by His redemptive sufferings, are the very means by which the power of evil is broken and we are reborn to life and hope. I believe deeply in the healing power of his self-sacrificing love - even in the darkest and most hopeless situations - to bring liberation and the promise of a new beginning.

Speaking to you as a pastor concerned for the good of all God's children, I humbly ask you to consider what I have said. I pray that, by drawing nearer to Christ and by participating in the life of His Church - a Church purified by penance and renewed in pastoral charity - you will come to rediscover Christ's infinite love for each one of you. I am confident that in this way you will be able to find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace.

7. To priests and religious who have abused children

You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders in which Christ makes Himself present in us and in our actions. Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life.

I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God's forgiveness and the grace of true amendment.

By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions. Christ's redeeming sacrifice has the power to forgive even the gravest of sins, and to bring forth good from even the most terrible evil. At the same time, God's justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing. Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God's mercy.

8. To parents

You have been deeply shocked to learn of the terrible things that took place in what ought to be the safest and most secure environment of all. In today's world it is not easy to build a home and to bring up children. They deserve to grow up in security, loved and cherished, with a strong sense of their identity and worth. They have a right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person, to be inspired by the truth of our Catholic faith and to learn ways of behaving and acting that lead to healthy self-esteem and lasting happiness. This noble but demanding task is entrusted in the first place to you, their parents. I urge you to play your part in ensuring the best possible care of children, both at home and in society as a whole, while the Church, for her part, continues to implement the measures adopted in recent years to protect young people in parish and school environments. As you carry out your vital responsibilities, be assured that I remain close to you and I offer you the support of my prayers.

9. To the children and young people of Ireland

I wish to offer you a particular word of encouragement. Your experience of the Church is very different from that of your parents and grandparents. The world has changed greatly since they were your age. Yet all people, in every generation, are called to travel the same path through life, whatever their circumstances may be. We are all scandalised by the sins and failures of some of the Church's members, particularly those who were chosen especially to guide and serve young people. But it is in the Church that you will find Jesus Christ, Who is the same yesterday, today and for ever. He loves you and He has offered himself on the cross for you. Seek a personal relationship with Him within the communion of His Church, for He will never betray your trust! He alone can satisfy your deepest longings and give your lives their fullest meaning by directing them to the service of others. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and His goodness, and shelter the flame of faith in your heart. Together with your fellow Catholics in Ireland, I look to you to be faithful disciples of our Lord and to bring your much-needed enthusiasm and idealism to the rebuilding and renewal of our beloved Church.

10. To the priests and religious of Ireland

All of us are suffering as a result of the sins of our confreres who betrayed a sacred trust or failed to deal justly and responsibly with allegations of abuse. In view of the outrage and indignation which this has provoked, not only among the lay faithful but among yourselves and your religious communities, many of you feel personally discouraged, even abandoned. I am also aware that in some people's eyes you are tainted by association, and viewed as if you were somehow responsible for the misdeeds of others. At this painful time, I want to acknowledge the dedication of your priestly and religious lives and apostolates, and I invite you to reaffirm your faith in Christ, your love of His Church and your confidence in the Gospel's promise of redemption, forgiveness and interior renewal. In this way, you will demonstrate for all to see that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

I know that many of you are disappointed, bewildered and angered by the way these matters have been handled by some of your superiors. Yet, it is essential that you co-operate closely with those in authority and help to ensure that the measures adopted to respond to the crisis will be truly evangelical, just and effective. Above all, I urge you to become ever more clearly men and women of prayer, courageously following the path of conversion, purification and reconciliation. In this way, the Church in Ireland will draw new life and vitality from your witness to the Lord's redeeming power made visible in your lives.

11. To my brother bishops

It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations. I recognise how difficult it was to grasp the extent and complexity of the problem, to obtain reliable information and to make the right decisions in the light of conflicting expert advice. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness. I appreciate the efforts you have made to remedy past mistakes and to guarantee that they do not happen again. Besides fully implementing the norms of canon law in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to co-operate with the civil authorities in their area of competence. Clearly, religious superiors should do likewise. They too have taken part in recent discussions here in Rome with a view to establishing a clear and consistent approach to these matters. It is imperative that the child safety norms of the Church in Ireland be continually revised and updated and that they be applied fully and impartially in conformity with canon law.

Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives. This must arise, first and foremost, from your own self-examination, inner purification and spiritual renewal. The Irish people rightly expect you to be men of God, to be holy, to live simply, to pursue personal conversion daily. For them, in the words of St. Augustine, you are a bishop; yet with them you are called to be a follower of Christ. I therefore exhort you to renew your sense of accountability before God, to grow in solidarity with your people and to deepen your pastoral concern for all the members of your flock. In particular, I ask you to be attentive to the spiritual and moral lives of each one of your priests. Set them an example by your own lives, be close to them, listen to their concerns, offer them encouragement at this difficult time and stir up the flame of their love for Christ and their commitment to the service of their brothers and sisters.

The lay faithful, too, should be encouraged to play their proper part in the life of the Church. See that they are formed in such a way that they can offer an articulate and convincing account of the Gospel in the midst of modern society and cooperate more fully in the Church's life and mission. This in turn will help you once again become credible leaders and witnesses to the redeeming truth of Christ.

12. To all the faithful of Ireland

A young person's experience of the Church should always bear fruit in a personal and life-giving encounter with Jesus Christ within a loving, nourishing community. In this environment, young people should be encouraged to grow to their full human and spiritual stature, to aspire to high ideals of holiness, charity and truth, and to draw inspiration from the riches of a great religious and cultural tradition. In our increasingly secularised society, where even we Christians often find it difficult to speak of the transcendent dimension of our existence, we need to find new ways to pass on to young people the beauty and richness of friendship with Jesus Christ in the communion of His Church. In confronting the present crisis, measures to deal justly with individual crimes are essential, yet on their own they are not enough: a new vision is needed, to inspire present and future generations to treasure the gift of our common faith. By treading the path marked out by the Gospel, by observing the commandments and by conforming your lives ever more closely to the figure of Jesus Christ, you will surely experience the profound renewal that is so urgently needed at this time. I invite you all to persevere along this path.

13. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is out of deep concern for all of you at this painful time in which the fragility of the human condition has been so starkly revealed that I have wished to offer these words of encouragement and support. I hope that you will receive them as a sign of my spiritual closeness and my confidence in your ability to respond to the challenges of the present hour by drawing renewed inspiration and strength from Ireland's noble traditions of fidelity to the Gospel, perseverance in the faith and steadfastness in the pursuit of holiness. In solidarity with all of you, I am praying earnestly that, by God's grace, the wounds afflicting so many individuals and families may be healed and that the Church in Ireland may experience a season of rebirth and spiritual renewal.

14.I now wish to propose to you some concrete initiatives to address the situation.

At the conclusion of my meeting with the Irish bishops, I asked that Lent this year be set aside as a time to pray for an outpouring of God's mercy and the Holy Spirit's gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church in your country. I now invite all of you to devote your Friday penances, for a period of one year, between now and Easter 2011, to this intention. I ask you to offer up your fasting, your prayer, your reading of Scripture and your works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland. I encourage you to discover anew the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to avail yourselves more frequently of the transforming power of its grace.

Particular attention should also be given to Eucharistic adoration, and in every diocese there should be churches or chapels specifically devoted to this purpose. I ask parishes, seminaries, religious houses and monasteries to organise periods of Eucharistic adoration, so that all have an opportunity to take part. Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.

I am confident that this programme will lead to a rebirth of the Church in Ireland in the fullness of God's own truth, for it is the truth that sets us free.

Furthermore, having consulted and prayed about the matter, I intend to hold an Apostolic Visitation of certain dioceses in Ireland, as well as seminaries and religious congregations. Arrangements for the Visitation, which is intended to assist the local Church on her path of renewal, will be made in co-operation with the competent offices of the Roman Curia and the Irish Episcopal Conference. The details will be announced in due course.

I also propose that a nationwide Mission be held for all bishops, priests and religious. It is my hope that, by drawing on the expertise of experienced preachers and retreat-givers from Ireland and from elsewhere, and by exploring anew the conciliar documents, the liturgical rites of ordination and profession, and recent pontifical teaching, you will come to a more profound appreciation of your respective vocations, so as to rediscover the roots of your faith in Jesus Christ and to drink deeply from the springs of living water that he offers you through His Church.

In this Year for Priests, I commend to you most particularly the figure of St. John Mary Vianney, who had such a rich understanding of the mystery of the priesthood. "The priest", he wrote, "holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods". The Cure d'Ars understood well how greatly blessed a community is when served by a good and holy priest: "A good shepherd, a pastor after God's heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy". Through the intercession of St. John Mary Vianney, may the priesthood in Ireland be revitalised, and may the whole Church in Ireland grow in appreciation for the great gift of the priestly ministry.

I take this opportunity to thank in anticipation all those who will be involved in the work of organising the Apostolic Visitation and the Mission, as well as the many men and women throughout Ireland already working for the safety of children in church environments. Since the time when the gravity and extent of the problem of child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions first began to be fully grasped, the Church has done an immense amount of work in many parts of the world in order to address and remedy it. While no effort should be spared in improving and updating existing procedures, I am encouraged by the fact that the current safeguarding practices adopted by local Churches are being seen, in some parts of the world, as a model for other institutions to follow.

I wish to conclude this Letter with a special Prayer for the Church in Ireland, which I send to you with the care of a father for his children and with the affection of a fellow Christian, scandalised and hurt by what has occurred in our beloved Church. As you make use of this prayer in your families, parishes and communities, may the Blessed Virgin Mary protect and guide each of you to a closer union with her Son, crucified and risen. With great affection and unswerving confidence in God's promises, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord.

From the Vatican, 19 March 2010, on the Solemnity of St. Joseph

Prayer for the Church in Ireland

God of our fathers, renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation, the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal, the charity which purifies and opens our hearts to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus Christ, may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment to the education of our young people in the way of truth and goodness, holiness and generous service to society.

Holy Spirit, comforter, advocate and guide, inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal for the Church in Ireland.

May our sorrow and our tears, our sincere effort to redress past wrongs, and our firm purpose of amendment bear an abundant harvest of grace for the deepening of the faith in our families, parishes, schools and communities, for the spiritual progress of Irish society, and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace within the whole human family.

To you, Triune God, confident in the loving protection of Mary, Queen of Ireland, our Mother, and of St. Patrick, St. Brigid and all the saints, do we entrust ourselves, our children, and the needs of the Church in Ireland.

Another Proud Moment in Tea-Bagger History

I just watched the video of the Parkinson's patient getting mocked by tea-baggers. (See it HERE). I'd normally post the video, but the visual is just too disturbing. I watch that and I wonder that Jack Kemp or even Ronald Reagan would have said to those folks mocking the guy with the disease. Furthermore, I wonder how many of the tea-baggers consider themselves to be "good, God-fearing Christians"?

The above brings this to mind, from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10 verses 30-37:

"A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?" He said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Now to quote an often-used phrase, "what would Jesus do?"? I think the Gospel of Luke answers that question, but it's a given that He wouldn't...

...scream "Welfare!" at the man

....throw a dollar at him

I have no problem with progressives or conservatives. I am at home with the religious and the atheist. I do, however, have an enormous problem with hypocrites.

Oh, and one final thought: some could argue that the whole thing was a set-up or that it was a shameful act on the part of those opposed to the tea-baggers to put this individual with Parkinson's "on display". In response I'd note that this was perfect opportunity for the tea-baggers to prove that they are more than just this bitter, angry mob. One of them could have gone to the man and talked to him about how he would be better off without the current health care reform proposals. Rather than doing that, they instead lowered themselves down to the lowest possible expectations others had for them. They basically "never failed to fail", and to make matters even worse (if that's even possible) they did it in front of a rolling camera. What's worse than being a hypocrite? Being stupid and a hypocrite.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Rush Limbaugh Audience Demographics

I've always wondered about the Rush Limbaugh demographic, and while I'm still looking for relatively unbiased radio statistics (there is a Vanity Fair article out there, but I'm not sure it's all that credible), I did find some stats for his website from what appears to be a credible source:

Male (76%)
Over Age Age 35 (79%)...with the majority of that being over age 50
White (95%)
Has No Kids (76%)...most likely because the kids have grown & moved out
Earns More Than $60k/Year (67%)...with the majority earning over $100k/year
Attended College/Grad School (80%)

Bottom Line: (not so shockingly) older white people.

Citation HERE.

I'll keep looking for the radio demographic, but I do have a few ideas as to what I'll find... will be as white will be even more male will be even wealthier will be older (maybe much older; Vanity Fair claims an average listener age of 67)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

College Basketball

In yesterday's USA Today sports section (HERE), there was a great, all be it too short, article about how the US Secretary of Education wants to see colleges banned from post-season tournament play if they don't meet a target graduation rate of 40%.

Yes, 40%.

This the same 40% that is 20 points below F level in most grading systems. However, 40% might as well be 280% if you are a school like Arkansas Pine Bluff (graduation rate per the USA Today story of 29%) or UConn (last year's "Sweet 16" team had a stellar rate of 25%).

Now why care? Seriously, it's just basketball, right?


Many of these "athlete-students" (which is what they are...rather than "student-athletes") were only able to attend college based on the ability to play basketball, and many are only an injury away from losing that opportunity to earn a college degree. In effect they are used by universities a revenue source that can easily be discarded if the need arises. What's more, isn't the mission of a university to educate? Shouldn't sports be a secondary, at best, consideration?

The news is not all bad, as many schools have relatively high graduation rates for athletes, including the 83% rate for Penn State's football players (citation HERE). This rate is on par with the general graduation rate for the student population as a whole. Notre Dame has had years where it's graduation rate has actually been 100%.

Let's end the charade that constitutes many big-time college basketball programs. The recommendation by the US Secretary of Education is a start in the right direction to make sure that the phrase correctly is "student-athletes".

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

...and so it begins

It was widely reported yesterday that former Lackawanna County commissioner Robert Cordaro and current commissioner Mike Munchak have been indicted on various federal charges. Story link HERE. If you total all the potential jail time up, you get a number that must be close to 500 years. Astounding stuff.

You know what? The real crime here isn't just money laundering, kick-backs and assorted other things, no it's one of INSTITUTIONAL ARROGANCE. The whole notion of public service, the idea that working for the public was supposed to be personally (not financially) enriching, has been nearly eliminated from view these days. It hasn't just been money that's been stolen, but it's the very notion of a public that places trust and has faith in elected officials that has been absconded over these past few years. It's been a theft on the grandest of scales.

Maybe we've needed this kind of clean sweep in order to truly chance the definition of what it means to be a public servant.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Crisis In The Catholic Church, Ireland

I've been following this story for a while, although you can read a current article on it HERE.

The Catholic Church in Ireland is in crises because of Cardinal Sean Brady's involvement in a sexual abuse case. In short, 35 years ago the Church pressured two victims not to go to Irish authorities over allegations of sexual abuse. Rather than reporting the abuse, the two boys were instead made to sign vows of silence. The abusing cleric went on to rape other children. (Then Father) Brady was not involved in the actual abuse, but he did participate in the underlying investigation that resulted in the abuse not being reported.

Fast forward to today and people are questioning why (now) Cardinal Brady still serves as the leader of the Church in Ireland.

To put this in perspective, if someone where I worked were sexually abused...

...and I was involved in the ensuing investigation
...and the complaint was credible
...and one result of the investigation was that the victim was strongly encouraged NOT to report the abuse to authorities

...I would rightfully be fired by my employer and possibly prosecuted. What makes this situation worse than my example is that the allegations involve both children and trusted authority figures.

Now what would I expect to happen here? Simple: anyone who played a role in preventing the abuse from being reported should be removed from any position of authority within the Church, be they laity, Priests, Bishops or a Cardinal. It doesn't matter what was acceptable at the doesn't matter what good work these individuals have done doesn't matter if they tried, at the time, to shield the children from future abuse. Abusing children is a crime, and those that prevented it from being treated as such need to be held accountable for their actions.

Lastly, despite what you may read in the media, the sexual abuse of children isn't exclusively a problem in the Catholic...or any other...Church. I say that not just as an exercise in stating an obvious fact, but also from a personal experience perspective: I grew up in the Church, including serving on the Altar for ten years and attending four years Catholic high school. In all that time not once was I (or anyone I knew) abused or put in a compromising position. In fact, the Priests I have really known in my life have been remarkable individuals and I am certain that stories like this pain them even more than they pain any of us, with the definite exception given to the victims of abuse and their families.

Cardinal Brady should be removed from his position of authority if the Church in Ireland as a sign of both accountability and of healing for the victims and their families.

Response to Tom Borthwick's Comment

I wanted to respond to Tom's comment on 5 Conservatives that I admire, but it was getting so long that I figured that I needed the full text editor just to make sense of my own words. So here goes...

Tom...Yes I have read Paul Ryan's budget, as well as some of this other work. While I don't agree with all of it, I do agree with his overall premise that the current system is so broke that it can't be fixed.

Broken? The current system is so complicated that most people have no clue as to how it works. Don't believe me though, believe the expert in taxation, the IRS itself. This is a citation from the IRS website, dated January 4, 2010:

"...With more than 80 percent of American households using a tax preparer or tax software to help them prepare and file their taxes..."

(Reference HERE).

Ponder that for a moment Tom. 80% of taxpayers basically say through their actions (not just their words, but with their wallets) that the system is so complicated that they can't figure it out on their own, so they've given up. What does that tell you? Here's what it tells me: The system has been hijacked by financial special interests and good intentioned individuals who want to accomplish social goals using the tax code as their instrument of choice. Nice thoughts, but the net result is an extremely complicated system that has at its core punishment for saving and rewards for consumption. If anything, the opposite should be true, especially for the poor. Anyone believe that unchecked consumption is good? I have a recession that proves that it's not.

As for the middle class, I write this as someone who is solidly there. I finished my 2009 1040 last month and I don't qualify for the vast majority of the tax breaks afforded to those earning less nor do I have the resources to take advantage of the tax shelters & other assorted tools available to the rich. For example, I am now punished because I paid off my mortgage. The government though would reward me if I borrowed more in the form of home equity loan. It's almost surreal when you think about it. All things considered though I was lucky: this near I "only" owed $91.

In short, I think many on the left have been lulled into this sense that the current system is somehow good because it has been deemed as being "progressive". Nothing could be further from the truth & in fact the only progressive thing about it is that the federal government has made PROGRESS in making people think that all consumption is good and all saving is bad. In effect the current system buys off those at the lowest end of the scale as cover for actually benefiting those at the highest end of the scale. The current system is not's perverse. We rail against companies for providing consumer disclosures that are so long as to be unreadable, but yet that's exactly what the government has done with the tax code. I dare say that the more personal experience you have with the system Tom, the more you will see I am right.

We need radical change, and I'll listen to anyone with an idea.