Friday, December 10, 2004


I heard a report this evening on EWTN Radio about the trafficking of human beings in the world today. The genocide of Christians at the hand of Muslims in the Sudan was discussed in detail, and the panelists agreed that the United Nations had not done enough. Reasonable people, agreed the panel in unanimity, know that what is going on in the Sudan is not only genocide, but is one of the great human catastrophes of our time. I agree with the panelists on The World Over tonight, insofar as the scope of the problem in the Sudan. It is indeed a religious genocide, and it raises an interesting and unpleasant question: In spite of numerous pleas from the U.S. Congress for the United Nations to take decisive action to come to the aid of Sudanese Christians, the UN has done virtually nothing. In the mean time, various and sundry UN commissions and committees have seen fit to criticize the United States over the conduct of the Iraq War. While I agree that the war presents a series of problems and there are serious questions about its constitutional viability, criticism from some of these parties within the UN is like the pot calling the kettle black. When Muslims were massacred in Kosovo, we were told that we had a humanitarian obligation to come to their aid, but when Christians are massacred in Sudan, no call for action from the UN or NATO.

On the same program, one of the panelists, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, talked extensively about a virtually unknown problem. Slavery within the United States is alive and well. Brownback was keen to explain how many people are brought here illegally to work as servants, and since they are illegal, they often work for little or no money, and are falsely told that if they tell the authorities about the way they are treated, they’ll be arrested and thrown into prison. Many of these de facto slaves come from Africa or Latin America, Brownback said. Apparently, the problem is so acute that the federal government feels compelled to combat the problem by issuing a special visa for such people when they are found, called a “T-Visa,” that allows them to remain here in the U.S. long enough to rebuild their shattered lives, and work toward citizenship if they choose. Considering what these people have been through, it is the least we can do for them as a nation. According to Brownback, the problem is most acute in the New York megalopolis, especially in the State of New Jersey, where many rich New Yorkers actually live to get away from the city, and some of these people control these foreign laborers. Funny, I thought Yankees didn’t believe in slavery.

Finally, former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerick has asked for his nomination for Homeland Security Secretary to be withdrawn for personal reasons…

Thursday, December 09, 2004

One for the ages: Robert Byrd is right!

Senator Robert Byrd, the Senate's new Southern Democratic bard (now that Fritz Hollings is retiring) does have a habit of being right several times each year, which makes him vastly superior to other Senate Democrats, most of whom are rarely, if ever, right about anything.

Yesterday, the Senate approved a new intelligence package that the House had accepted only after significant changes to the bill. The House Leadership was primarily concerned over two issues:

1.) Concern that the new National Intelligence Director might be able to short-circuit the military chain of command, a system that is independent of the CIA and is answerable to its own intellengence operation, the Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA. New language in the bill allows the NID post to be effective but it will do so without shortcutting military discipline.

2.) Concern that the new NID might be able to do a legal end-run-around over the CIA charter, which does not allow the spy agency to operate domestically. Republicans and Democrats alike were concerned that this "intelligence Czar" might be able to use the collaborative power of his office (which would share information from all U.S. intelligence agencies, including the FBI) to get CIA info on U.S, citizens. A notable concern, one which the new legislation tries to address (but seems to fall somewhat short).

Senator Byrd, however, raised a real concern: Illegal immigration, and its impact on our security, which many GOP Members of Congress cited as their reason for voting "no" on the original bill.

"I am for intelligence reform and many things in this bill, but we cannot expect reforms without closing these gaps in illegal immigration," Mr. Byrd said. He and Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, cast the only votes against the bill. (See the related story in the Washington Times.)

Senator Byrd and Senator Inhofe are right to raise this concern, and it is a real problem for our national security. As seems to be the case in any politics surrounding 9/11 lately, we are caving to the wishes of victims' families. These families are doing what I would likely do if I were in their situation: Operating on emotion, not looking at the long-term consequences of the way we deal with these issues. As a result, the victims' families want any bill they can view as "tough," without regard to whether the legislation is either right for the country or constitutionally sound. That kind of mentality on a large political scale is very dangerous for America.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Immaculate Conception

Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Holy Day of obligation for Catholics around the world, and the patronal feast of the United States. Today we celebrate the miracle that Mary was conceived without original sin from the moment of her conception in order that she might be a living Ark of the Covenant to carry the incarnate Lord in her womb.

Many of our Protestant brethren have great difficulty with this doctrine. They do not understand how any human being could be born without sin other than Christ, insisting that Mary was no different than any other human being, and was born into sin like the rest of us. What they do not understand is that in denying the idea of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mother, they are indirectly denying Christ's divinity. Recall that the reason for the existence of the initial Ark of the Covenant was as the dwelling place of the Most High, and that any priest who entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple had to be completely holy and clean. Does it not stand to reason then that the person who carries God incarnate in her womb for nine months, literally carries God in her belly, must be holy, without blemish? "But Christ died to save her," the Protestants retort. Christ had to be born before he could die, and until he died, the law which required a sacrifice to cleanse from sin was still in effect. God, therefore, was not going to contradict His own Law. The only way to make any human being pure enough to carry God in their body before Christ's redemption of humanity on the cross would be for that person to be born without original sin.

In Luke 1:28, the angel of the Lord addresses Mary in a way that no other person is addressed in scripture...she is told: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."

In that moment, Mary is told she is full of Grace! Mankind of this age was not full of Grace, but full of sin. The angel knew she had no sin to speak of, and so addressed her appropriately. Mary's Immaculate Conception and her yes to the Lord that day made her the first believer, and made it possible for all of us to call Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

What a wild night

I was already up late last night waiting on my wife to finish a rather important family chore, fixing up some old family pictures for her mother on the computer for a Christmas collage, when the night became even later and the circumstances moved from the tired but sublime to the ridiculous and strange.

At about 1:10am this morning, I was nearing the end of my rope and had just gotten myself (finally) ready for bed at an unusually late hour when the electrical power in our apartment (and the entire building, for that matter) began to flicker in a manner that could only be described as violent. This sudden foray into the twilight zone was further assisted along by hearing my wife utter those two little words which she is never known to say: “Oh shit!” Upon hearing my spouse call upon excrement in vain, I immediately looked toward the window (I should note here that the power was still flickering, it appeared as though it was about to expire, and the lights, fish tank filters, and other appliances which use electricity were making suspicious noises) I noticed blue sparks flying through the air accompanied by flashes of blue light. I couldn’t see the fireworks display as clearly as could my wife, as I was on the other side of the room, but I could see it clearly enough to say that it was quite spectacular. From the looks of it, you’d think it was Independence Day around here, instead of Advent. The display lasted a little over 30 seconds, but it seemed like an eternity. To my surprise, immediately after what appeared to be a transformer explosion, the power came back on. Everything seemed fine momentarily, and then I heard two men running up Montana Avenue screaming at the top of their lungs. I asked my wife what they were saying, and she reported to me that they were telling people who were moving down the sidewalk toward the apparent scene of the explosion to get back, that an automobile had smashed into an electrical pole, and that this was the reason for the explosion. From the looks of it, these guys were local residents attempting to ensure that no one got too terribly close to a very dangerous scene.

If the action ended there, this story might not even be worthy of a good weblog entry, but since this is Cincinnati, that means the story doesn’t end there. Immediately after the screaming men came down Montana, my wife turned to me with a look of urgency and reported that the power lines outside of our building were on fire for as far as she could see. “Call Cinergy,” my wife demanded. I was on the line with the Cincinnati Gas and Electric Company, trying to get through on their so-called emergency line to report a fire (the phone menu gave me a series of options, after which I pushed for option 2, which was supposed to put me through to someone to report the problem. I was on hold indefinitely, and five minutes seemed like an eternity. Not knowing what else to do, I called 911. Thankfully, the emergency operator on the other end of the line knew what was happening, and he said the electric company had indeed been summoned, and were on the way. By the time the fire trucks left the scene of the accident that had started the whole affair, the casing of the power lines had burned away, but the electric company had finally arrived. Not long after, our power went out for the night since the power company finally cut the lines to repair them, and we had to get ready for bed. Police blocked Montana Avenue from the corner of Wunder Avenue (where my residence is) all the way to Harrison Avenue, three blocks away. This morning, power was back on, but police were still not letting anyone down the road from Wunder to Harrison, though they let those of us who live in that sector leave our residences. A wild night indeed in Westwood, and not one bit of it was in the major local media this morning.

Monday, December 06, 2004

NCAA football's wild weekend

What a weekend in sports, especially in college football. On Saturday, Tennessee lost to Auburn, but not in the way that the so-called “experts” predicted. (The final was 38-28.) The fact of the matter seems to be that Tennessee could have won the game, but gave the game away on inexplicable holding penalties (and other stupid mistakes). In fact, were it not for the penalty factor, we could safely say that the Volunteers might be going to the Sugar Bowl.

Auburn’s sloppy play might have something to do with the fact that they were left out of the National Championship Game in the final BCS standings released Sunday. I initially thought that it was an injustice to leave the Tigers out, since I have believed all year that their schedule was tougher than Southern Cal’s. However, in the final analysis, Auburn won the SEC Championship in very sloppy fashion, and may have squandered their own hopes by squeaking by the Vols on the same night that Oklahoma destroyed Colorado in the Big 12 Championship.

Perhaps the biggest controversy today is the fact that Texas has leaped into the BCS by moving up to the No. 4 spot, while California fell to 5th. This literally means that Cal will be denied a trip to the Rose Bowl, something they thought themselves entitled to. One thing that everyone seems to have forgotten here, however, is that between Cal and Texas, the Longhorns have played a tougher schedule, and that if you are going to award a Rose Bowl berth based on who is second-best, Texas is a far-better choice, especially if another unspoken criterion is “most likely to beat the tar out of Michigan.”

In other news: It is quite probably the biggest shocker of the year, Urban Meyer did not take the head coaching job at Notre Dame, opting instead to fill the vacancy left by the firing of Ron Zook at Florida. (Meyer goes so far as to claim that ND never offered him a job. If true, someone in South Bend had what can only be described as a brain malfunction.) This leaves the Irish in the lurch because there aren’t that many decent coaching vacancies left in D-IA…it is a mystery where the Irish are going to go for a new coach at this point. The only answer for the ND Athletic Department is to offer a reputable coach a better deal than what they have at present. Perhaps the great unspoken question may be this: Does ND have the fiscal ability to make that kind of an offer to any coach, considering that they haven’t had a major bowl payday in ages?

Aaron on Bonds

The steroid scandal in baseball continues unabated, but this time, Hank Aaron is having a say. Hammerin’ Hank is disappointed in Barry Bonds.

"First, since I played the game myself, I know that you can't put something in your body to make you hit a fastball, changeup or curveball," Aaron told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday.
"The only person who can do that is the good Lord. But, at that age [40], you have to ask: Did he accomplish all of this by rejuvenating his strength from day to day with those substances? I know that when you reach a certain age, you just don't bounce back as quickly as you think you can when you're playing all of those games.
"Drugs won't help you hit the ball. But can they make you recuperate consistently enough to hit the kind of home runs that these guys are hitting?"

Thanks to ESPN and ESPN wire services for contributing the quotes from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution used in this post

Good Question, Hank.

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