Monday, March 31, 2008

The Truth Behind 9/11

9/11 Conspiracy Theories 'Ridiculous,' Al Qaeda Says

Deadlocked Convention!

It seems funny, but back in January, many people, including me, thought we might be seeing a contested GOP convention.

IMAO has tracked down a wire service report which today sounds like comedy, but was in January, the height of conventional wisdom.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

This quote pretty much sums me up

"I sometimes think lawyers can't communicate coherently." -- Justice Antonin Scalia, comment during oral argument in Indiana v. Edwards.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How to Make a Meat Pie

As requested, I would like to say how my wife made the meat pie. She started with a basic Pizza Rustica recipe like this one. But as with all Italian food, you then improvised. As I was making a spinach pie, she left out the spinach. She is not crazy about ricotta, so she cut down on the ricotta and added more egg. Besides sausage and prosciutto, add some ham cappicola and peperoni (not the small ones you see on pizza but the large real one). Then cook.

One thing she did was she cooked it most of the way through, set it then sit for a while, then put it back in right before eating.

I love being Italian. And for a non-Italian, my wife is really good at cooking Italian food. It is little wonder that she had the babies but I have gained all the weight!

Further Proof our Foreign Policy Lacks Imagination

French President Sarkozy is offering to increase France's military integration in Europe and some people do not seem happy. The heart of the French proposal is to establish what essentially will be a second military headquarters in Europe, one which will be European in nature. This has some British security people unhappy. Others fear this will act as competition for NATO.

The question is, why should the US not support this initiative. It is long past time for Europe to take its own security seriously and stop relying on the US to protect it. NATO was established as a temporary expedient to give Europe time to rebuild itself and defend itself against the Soviets. Europe is no longer a war scared continent and the Soviet Union no longer exists.

The Bush administration has been supportive of the French proposal, but I think it is time to go farther. It is time to turn NATO into a primarily European alliance. The next Supreme Commander in Europe should be a European and at the least, we should decommission the remaining 300 or so US nuclear warheads in Europe. Beyond that, we should look to remove the final 40,000 or so US troops on the continent. And finally, we should remain on the Atlantic Council but leave NATO military command.

Why do this? Primarily, Europe needs to take more responsibility for its own security. So long as we provide an overarching security guarantee for the continent, the Europeans will not take security matters seriously. Secondly, the enemy NATO was formed to defend against no longer exists. NATO is therefore reduced to defending Europe from Serbia. Thirdly, Europe should no longer have the central role it continues to have in US foreign policy. Our central concerns now should be Canada, Mexico and China.

Granted, there is the legacy of "Western Betrayal" -- the belief that at Yalta (and before) the Western Allies betrayed Poland and the rest of Central and Eastern Europe, handing those countries over communism. Part of current US European policy is to placate Eastern Europe. But frankly, the threat no longer really exists. Russia's threat these days is economic, that is, threatening to cut off the gas and oil flow. It is no longer a military threat.

One solution may be as follows. The administration wants to place an ABM radar and interception facility somewhere in Eastern Europe. Despite Russian saber rattling, the real party this is focused against is Iran -- the handful of interceptors proposed would do nothing to stop a Russian missile assault on the West, but would be enough to make Iran think twice before trying nuclear blackmail.

Despite my support of missile defense, I am not so sure this European shield is necessary. But if it is, why not placate Russian fears by giving up our European based nuclear weapons and promising additional deep cuts in our forces there in return for the interceptor base? Everyone gets something, and the US security guarantee to Europe is reduced.

Unfortunately, most of our foreign policy elites seem to be still thinking in Cold War mode.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Outrage in the Cathedral

There was a bit of an outrage in the Cathedral Easter Sunday as some sort of anarchist-anti war protestors started throwing blood around during Cardinal George's homily (which had nothing to do with the war and as far as I know, neither has Cardinal George).

In the 1960s, they used to say that the only thing more unpopular than the Vietnam War was the anti-war movement. They are doing it all over again.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter Everyone!

Yes the two or so of you who read this that is!

As I noted yesterday, we celebrate Holy Saturday here in the traditional Italian way -- foods full of meat, egg and cheese.

Here are our meat pies.

Five types of meat, ricotta, mozzarella and eggs.

Throw in the spaghetti pies (pasta, eggs and cheese) and spinach pie (spinach, egg and cheese). All very healthy and low cholesterol (NOT!)

Easter Sunday was celebrated with a visit from the Easter Bunny, Mass and then off for a traditional Easter lamb at my wife's aunt and uncle's house.

Holy Saturday

For Italians, and by extension Italian Americans, the vigil of both Easter and Christmas was celebrated with as much zeal and more preparation than the day itself. In my family, it was no exception. Holy Saturday evening was a major holiday in my family. We would all get together at my Aunt Fran and Uncle Louie's house (everyone should have an Uncle Louie). There would be certain special foods we ate only that night.

I have always wondered the reason for this. Partly, I believe it was the idea of watchful waiting. Partly it was probably to due with the liturgical calender and the fact that in ancient Jewish practice, the day began at sundown. Partly maybe it was a very practical result of Italy's economy of the time. Southern Italy was very rural and it was difficult to work on the farm during the midday. So people tended to work early in the morning and later in the afternoon. So the evening probably seemed the best time to celebrate -- with the sun down, you could gather with your family and not worry about

Today, we tried to replicate the old ways with some friends. In old practice, the Lenten fast was far more stringent. Not only did Catholics abstain from meat on Friday's, they would abstain from meat, eggs and milk products during the season. So to celebrate Easter, the foods are heavily with those three items. In my family, this meant we eat meat pies filled with sausage, prosciutto, other meat, ricotta, mozzarella, and egg. We also eat a "spaghetti pie" which is pasta, eggs and cheese. Spinach pie ties to add something healthy to the meal, but that too adds more cheese and egg to the meal.

So yes, you should not eat this everyday -- your artieries will hate you if you do.

The bells of Catholic churches are silent from the Gloria on Holy Thursday until the Gloria on Holy Saturday. In the old days, I am told, people would wait to hear the church bells ring before beginning the meal, as the bells of Holy Saturday marked the end of Lent.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Touching the Sacred

For Holy Thursday, I decided to attend Mass at Saint John Cantius. Saint John Cantius is a special parish here in Chicago, dedicated to preserving the Latin Mass and Catholicism's sacred tradition. If you are Catholic, you should attend a Latin Mass occasionally. It is a wonderful way to reconnect with our past.

Here is a bit of video from Wednesday night's service (nothing from last night is on the net yet):

This may be a shock to any Protestants or modernist Catholics reading this, but the Latin Mass is one of the great glories of the Catholic Church. And the Mass last night was not a Tridentine High Mass but rather an Ordinary Mass, partly in English, mostly in Latin.

The choir at St. John Cantius is incredible. And given the mode of Mass, the people joined in the Gregorian Chant Now I know that Church is a special one. Most of the members have joined because they have a special devotion to the Latin Mass and to traditional Catholic sacred music. I know that all of our Churches were not all like that in the old days. But whenever I attend a Latin Mass, I wonder what we as Catholics have lost.

I am very much a child of Vatican II. I have no memory of the days when the Tridentine Mass was the primary mode of Catholic worship. Nor do I wish to really go back to those days. But listening to the choir sing old Gregorian chants you could almost touch the sacred. That feeling is, I fear, too often missing from Catholicism today.

And now for a musical interlude

The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society!

For some reason, back when I was in high school, my favorite band was the Kinks. Strange, as by the time I was in high school, the Kinks were almost 20 years past their prime, though in the mid 1980s they did have something of as revival.

The songs of the British invasion were about rebellion against a Britain that was tired and boring and crying for change following war, rationing, decolonization and stagnation. The Kinks of course with their electric power chords and long hair and songs about sexual freedom tied into this rebellion.

But unlike other bands, the Kinks showed a real sentimentality for "Old England." The "Village Green" does not extol modern sensibilities but rather looks half ironically, half wistfully, at the simpler pleasures of small town English life.

Other songs are in the same vein. "Victoria" for example is a not totally unsentimental view of the pre-World War I Empire while "Come Dancing" remembers a time of innocence after World War II but before the sexual revolution. "Living on a Thin Line," while something of an indictment of Thacherism, also seems to grope for a simpler times of "kings and days of old."

It is always a danger to read too much into music. Maybe you can just sit back and enjoy it. And while we are at, God save the Village Green!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thoughts on Saint Joseph’s Day

As a child, I always loved Saint Joseph's Day. Coming so soon after Saint Patrick's, the Italian families in my town tried to make a big deal about it. The best part was the zeppola:

My mother used to travel back to Brooklyn to get the best ones from DaLuca's on North 6th and Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg. Later, we would also get great ones from Francesca's Bakery in Hicksville.

As I have become a father, this day has meant more to me. I can imagine Saint Joseph with the baby Jesus, watching with pride as Jesus grew up. But also with a little sadness, for paradoxically, I find the happiness I feel watching my two boys grow and learn is also tinged by some melancholy.

I buried my father on Saint Joseph's Day. Saint Joseph is the patron of fathers and of workers, and my father excelled at both. So I find that both fitting and comforting.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Looking Around the Neighborhood

I live in a fairly liberal upper middle class neighborhood. It is the kind of place where adults attend children's birthday parties wearing Obama tee shirts. You notice things around here. Obviously, every other car it seems has an Obama sticker on it. I especially love the big SUVs and minivans decrying an oil war. Living near a university campus, I see lots of Ron Paul stickers.

There is one house in my neighborhood with a "Hillary for President" sign in the window. This house also sports (in another window) an etching of Elvis Presley on glass. This morning I noticed that next to the Hillary poster, there is a lifelike bust of Elvis in the window.

I am sure it means something, but I fear what that answer will be.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Oral Arguments in DC v. Heller

Oral arguments in DC v. Heller was held today and Scotusblog live blogged the oral arguments. If questions on oral argument are to be given weight, Justice Kennedy is going to vote on an individual right basis, so Heller should win.

That said, it is possible, neigh probable, that the result will be (i) the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right but (ii) government regulation of such right is permitted.What will follow is 30 years of litigation to decide what level of government regulation is permitted.The only thing that will be decided by such result is that blanket gun bans will not be permitted. The first litigation will be regarding "shall v. may" issue. DC and Chicago will claim that they are merely "may issue" jurisdictions.

So the case may decide everything (i.e. that there is an individual right under the Second Amendment) and nothing (i.e., how far does that right extend).

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Thoughts on Palm Sunday

What does Palm Sunday mean to me? That sounds like the beginning of a bad essay I wrote in CCD a long time ago.

So really, what does it mean? The reading of the Passion reminds us that Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph, but within days was crucified. I have always thought of it as a statement of human fickleness. Within the period of five days, the people went from hailing Jesus as the Messiah to screaming for his death.

But I think it is something more. During the reading of the Passion, the congregation steps in for the mob. We are the ones calling for Jesus to die. Rather, I am. It is my sins, my failings, my transgressions for which Jesus died. Yet I am still offered the redemption that the cross bought us.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A quote I like

"Science gives us knowledge, and religion gives us meaning. Both are prerequisites of the decent existence." Father Michael Heller, cosmologist and Roman Catholic priest, on winning the Templeton Prize for science and philosophy.

One reason I started this blog was to examine the role of faith and reason. As I make it clear, I am not a philosopher, a theologian or a scientist. But I believe strongly that faith and reason need not be in opposition to each other. Yet, faith and reason at times seem so hard to reconcile. Some try to by using God to fill in those things that science cannot understand – turning God the cause behind the universe into "The God of the Gaps." This God of the Gaps idea is what lead to my brief fling with atheism a decade or so ago. I found viewing God in that way so narrow that it turned Him into something I no longer recognized. Father Heller has argued against this view of God.

I admit, I had not heard of Father Heller, who teaches in Poland, prior to winning this award. Perhaps I should make acquaintance with his work.

Seven Cubans Give Up on Free Health Care

Call Michael Moore! Seven members of the Cuban U-23 soccer team, in the US for Olympic qualifying, have surprisingly turned their back on the Socialist Paradise and defected. Due to a red card in their first game against the US, they ended up fielding 10 players for their game tonight against Honduras, losing only 2-0.

Back during the World Baseball Classic a few years ago, there was an issue if the Treasury Department and ICE would give visas to the Cuban team. A bunch of people felt that they should be denied visas. The issue was whether allowing the Cubans in gave legitimacy to the Cuban regime.

My theory is you should give the visas for the simple reason that someone will defect. And this has to be an embarrassment to the Cuban government. Athletes are the elite in Cuba. If they run out on the regime, what does that say to the world about the regime?

Viva Fidel!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Clown Mass

Given my constant complaining about bad hymns at our services, someone suggested that I read "Why Catholics Can't Sing" by Thomas Day, a music professor at Salve Regina College. Day is frustrated by what he sees has the "triumph of bad taste" in American Catholic culture. Unlike many, however, he believes that Vatican II is not responsible for our bad hymns (and poor taste) but that it represents a much deeper cultural issue with American Catholicism.

One example of bad taste is the "clown Mass" where the priest and other ministers dress up as clowns. I thought it was a joke. Turns out I was wrong.

Yes, that is a priest wearing a clown vestment and clowns standing next to him in the sanctuary. How did we come to this -- in forty years from the Latin Mass to this?

I really hope this priest's bishop had a sit down with him immediately.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Obama as Maud'dib

And how can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!

Yes, I am a geek and you have to be one to find this funny. (HT to Vodka Pundit)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

1968 -- Buckley on the "Next President"

This was part of those great 1968 commentaries by Buckley and Vidal. My favorite quote from Buckley, "The best run country in the world is Switzerland . . . no one can remember [the] name [of Switzerland's president]."

Obviously, my view of the presidency is closer to Buckley's than Vidal's (OK -- much closer to Buckley's) but I think our remaining candidates should pay close heed to what they both said.

They all need to keep their egos in check. One reason I think government increasingly does not work is that we have grown to expect far too much from it. It is reaching the point where government is seen as the font of all that is "good and holy" and the only end of that can be a lessening of our freedoms. It can be over stupid things -- the Chicago City Council is considering outlawing small plastic bags as part of the "war on drugs" that has devastated our cities and our poorer classes.

I am no anarchist (at least not before my third martini) and believe government to have an important function. I do not, however, believe that the government (especially Washington) must solve all problems and cure all ills. Not do I think government is capable of solving all problems and curing all ills. But government must serve everyone (though we will all disagree as to what the best course is).

So take heed of Vidal's warning to heed the ghetto as well as the boardroom, but also remember, as Buckley pointed out, that no one knows who is the president of Switzerland.

Where have all the leftists gone?

My cyber friend Rodak, in response to my post regarding the Buckley – Vidal commentaries during 1968 wonders (and I am paraphrasing here) where have all the leftists gone? At least, why aren't any of them appearing on TV these days?

Let it be noted that despite the supposed "liberal bias" of the MainStreamMedia, figures on the true left are never seen on mainstream television. If not for C-SPAN, figures like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn would never be on TV at all. All of the neocons, and the rest of Wm. F. Buckley's spawn, by contrast, are on constantly. There are still left-wingers alive in the wild, but you have to seek them out for yourself; they are not brought to you free of charge by the MSM, as are the generations of Kristols and Podhoretzes.

And I have to agree with him, though I believe for slightly a different reason than he probably does. I believe a big part of it is how you view politics in America – is it left v. right or Democrats v. GOP? While the Democrats are the left and the GOP the right, those two possibilities are not really the same thing.

The conservative movement has been connected with the GOP since 1964. While there are dissenters (Pat Buchanan being the most prominent), most professional conservatives are seen as somehow surrogates for the GOP. This is not the case with the professional leftists, such as Chomsky and Zinn. Neither of those two could ever be considered surrogates for the Democratic Party. So considering the realities of our two-party system, in order to appear relevant, the media wants to have is a Democrat debating a Republican. They cannot fit into this dichotomy a debate between, say the left wing Chomsky and a libertarian such as Justin Raimondo.

A second problem is the decline of the "public intellectual." And by that, I mean someone who has a wide range of interests and knowledge and is not simply a specialist trying to discuss a narrow field or a political hack trying to score points. No matter what your thoughts on Buckley's or Vidal's politics, they both were polished intellectuals who could make an argument by reference to history and were well versed in high culture. Is there really anyone who can fit that mold today?

Looking at CNN's coverage of mini Tuesday, it seemed to me that the panelists were either political types or journalists. Bill Kristol was also there to be sure. But the debate was being framed as GOP v. Obama supporters v. Clinton supporters. In the general election it will be framed as GOP v. Democrat. So you will find a few GOP pundits and political types and have them face off against a few Democratic pundits and politics types. And the discussion will unfortunately be somewhat superficial and center around scoring points, rather than debating ideas.

Eh Cumpari!

It is coming up on the anniversary of my parents' deaths. They were so close to each other that they died on the same day, one year apart. I have always found some strange comfort in that.

This month is will be four years since my father died, and three since my mother died. I have been thinking about them a lot the past few days. Happily, mostly it has been good thoughts!

This song reminds me of being little, running around the yard at my Aunt Frances's house in Brooklyn, while old Italian songs played on the phonograph. Outside, it was the Feast of San Paulinus, the 5th Century bishop of Nola, the city my mother's family came from. So while this song has been stuck in my head for about a week, it is a good and happy memory.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

McCain in! Democrats still arguing

Who would have thought back last Fall, we would be here now. That the GOP would be set really since Super Tuesday and the Democrats fighting out increasingly ugly?

McCain gave a very good and gracious speech. He cannot go toe to toe with Obama on style, so he has to appeal to something deeper. I am biased of course, but I think he is doing that. And I know, with things still a mess on the Democrats side, he is smiling widely tonight.

A rather unfortunate screenshot

I know it is getting ugly between Obama and HRC, but this is sad.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I approve this message!

Tell the truth, when you saw this for the first time, you expected it to be a McCain ad.

I think all McCain supporters owe Hillary Clinton a thank you for reminding us why we support McCain for president.

(HT to Ann Althouse and IMAO)