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Tuesday, October 28, 2003


How many Polls does it take to predict an election?

Diving in to the cross-tabs of a public opinion poll is like reading tea leaves or tarot cards...you can find something you want to see, and something you don't, no matter what the data actually says. Of course, the fallacy of reading too much into a poll's cross tabs is that when you get down to the question of "how is candidate A doing among independent, caucasian women over 55 years old who list their most important concern as 'drugs and crime' and who feel the city is 'on the wrong track'..."...well, yes, I can give you that information, but the sample is so small that it ceases to be statistically significant or reliable.

Polling is about trends, or even possible trends, and how to continue them, or possibly reverse them...and all the time trying to "reach" voters with a "message" or a "vision" in an era when most voters are really just "voters"...

Our political system is grand, when it is utilized properly. Too often, now, we are in an era where politics is more about mis-information than it is about information, and while I can understand why this turns people off, the solution is NOT to be uninvolved.

I suppose it is a chicken and egg question: which came first, citizen apathy or a decline in the quality of our government and elected officials? My guess is, the answer lies somewhere in the middle of the equation. The solution, though, is for more people to be involved. The more people who are doing grass-roots level work, the less likely we are to be ruled by our inferiors...but as long as joe-citizen is content to ignore the governmental system unless and until it directly effects them (in a way that proves to be inconvenient to the status quo) we will continue in the path of decline we see our country wandering down.

There's a quote on a sticky not tacked up on my computer monitor...some day I'll have to look it up for attribution..."It is no accident that with the growing acceptance and toleration of mediocrity in sports, politics, and society, we also suffer through increased corruption." We are good at accepting mediocrity, even celebrating it quite often. This is the price we pay.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Summer's Over

I know, it has been over for a few weeks now, but when the last pitch of the baseball season is thrown, it certainly reinforces the coming of FallWinter. The leaves on the trees in my yard are turning "colors" and falling to the ground, and into my gutters. None of our trees are pretty in the fall. They are relatively prolific though.

The local municipal campaigns are in that last week process of simultaneously heating up and winding down. I'll be very glad when this cycle is behind us.

Holiday season will be upon us before we know it. After we get back from Charleston, I'll have one full week of work between now and the end of the year. The rest of the time, with remaining days off (yes, I'm going to take them) and holidays...well, four day weeks will be the norm.

I hate the short days of late-Fall, early-Winter, but I don't mind the weather. If it is going to be cold, it might as well snow.

Of course, as another year draws to a close, we are all called to reevaluate where we are, where we are going, and how it is we are getting there. Lots of time coming up for good food, good fellowship, good coffee, and good books.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Two Thoughts, One Mind

Two things have bothered me today, and they both come back to a concept of patriotism. Not the superficial, everyone's patriotic, nor the "you can't be a 'loyal patriot' and question the government" brands of patriotism, but the common sense, "I love my country, and want it to be better" kind.

First, there are "reports" almost every day that there are soldiers, in our voluntary armed services who are upset that they are still deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, or where ever. Depending on the news source, they are almost demanding that they shouldn't have their lives interrupted by the war(s). Now, don't get me wrong. I have no doubt that the separation and stress of constant danger is trying. I have very deep respect for the men and women who, as part of our armed forces, live with the knowledge, day-in-and-day-out, that their lives could be changed by international events at almost any moment. But to complain that they are deployed "too long" and that the war is causing "too much disruption" seems odd to me. These folks signed up for the Army. It was their choice, and they should have gone in understanding the risks. No one was drafted. Yes, the sacrifices are great, but nothing worth having is easy to come by. Not relationships, not material items, and not peace.

Second, I was told by the local "news" paper yesterday that the American flag is a "prop" for political candidates, and that the flags hanging in the background of some of the photos of certain candidates would be "digitally removed". These are American citizens, exercising their American democratic tradition of citizens running for public office, IN AMERICA. And the flag of our country is a PROP??? The reporter indicated, "I don't think the paper wants to allow just anything in the background of the pictures we print. You'll end up with people with puppets or something behind them." So, being the smarty I am, I asked, "So, the paper equates the flag of our country with a puppet?" That's when he said the policy was against "all props".

Pretty soon, you'll be elected by standing naked, in the public square, unable to speak about any issue, and unable to utilize any media to get your message out. You think we have bad leaders now...


Monday, October 20, 2003

A Prayer

Most gracious Creator, who through the birth, death, and ressurection of Christ brought us redemption, and through the infilling of Your Spirit brings us life daily, hear our prayers for Terri. She is your creation. She is of value. She is loved.

Lord God, we pray that Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. We pray that hearts, minds, and souls will be opened to You. We pray that those who traffick in the culture of death will be corrected, and seek your forgiveness. We pray that each of us, no matter how innocent we are of this crime, will not feel smug or holy, but that we will be on guard to erradicate the sin in our own lives.

Mostly, Jesus, we pray that you will hold Terri in your arms as she lays un-hydrated and un-fed. We pray, Holy Spirit, that you will engulf Terri's family and friends in the fullness of your love and comfort.

It is so easy to pray for our will, and offer suggestions of how this should be rectified. Let us rest in the knowledge that we can only pray that Your will be done.

Lord, have mercy.


My thoughts, via the words of others...

These words are not my own...they are those of others. I reprint them here rather than just providing a link because I want them to be available even if at some point the web page they are on disappears...there is some minor editing for space, otherwise, they are as I found them.

We Throw Away Things That Are Broken
Homily for The 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Father Rob Johansen, Michigan
(Sunday readings: Isaiah 53:10-11, Hebrews 4: 14-16, Mark 10: 35-45)

Holding up a large screwdriver in my hand: A screwdriver is a very useful thing. You can do all kinds of useful things with a screwdriver. It's a tool, an instrument. Now, suppose I was using this screwdriver, and I put so much force on it that I broke it, and I couldn't use it anymore? What do you suppose I'd do with it? Throw it away! That's right, I'd throw it away, and get another one. That's what we do when a tool or instrument breaks: We throw it away. There are few things more useless than a broken screwdriver. A tool is a thing. Tools are things we make for a practical purpose: when they don't fulfill their practical purpose anymore, they're useless, and we get rid of them.

Now, when I was in the seminary, one of the things I learned was a basic principle of morality: You should NEVER treat persons as if they were things. It is always wrong to treat persons like things. There are very good reasons for this: Firstly, we make things, as I said before, for a practical purpose. We make things to suit our own convenience. But persons are not here for our convenience! YOU are not here for my convenience. (Pointing at a woman's husband, and addressing her): In a certain sense, HE is not here for your convenience. Human beings are created by God, in His image and likeness, and put here because they are goods unto themselves. We are, by our very existence, goods in and of ourselves. Even if you never did anything that appeared useful in the eyes of the world, you would still be a good unto yourself.

Now, that things are different than persons, and should be treated differently, is really just common sense. After all, we don't treat tools like we treat people. We don't... well, I was going to say that we don't get emotionally attached to our tools, but I know that some of us men might get attached, a little. But even so, we know the difference: Would you trade your child for new circular saw? No, of course not.

But even beyond common sense, there are even deeper reasons why we must not treat persons like things. You see, God thought that human beings were so important, so valuable, that He gave his Son, gave Him up to death for us. He thought we were so precious that He became one of us: He took our nature upon Himself and united His Divinity to it. Think about that for a moment: Our human nature, in Christ, is united with the Divine nature. That means that human nature is elevated, by Christ, to having infinte dignity and worth. That is why the great christian writer C.S. Lewis said, "Next to the Sacrament of Our Lord, the person sitting next to you is the holiest thing you will ever set your eyes upon."

We heard, in our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, that Jesus Christ is our great High Priest. Now the essence of the priestly office is to be an intermediary: A priest acts as an intermediary between God and His people. And so Christ is our priest and mediator. But consider this: God Himself, in the Blessed Trinity, is in no need of an intermediary for Himself. The persons of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are in perfect intimacy and communion with one another. There could not be any mediation between the Persons of the Trinity. This means that Christ's priesthood subsists in his humanity. It is in His humanity that Christ is Priest and Mediator for all of creation. Our human nature, the nature that Christ took upon Himself, is the same nature which bore Christ's priestly office. And we are united with that nature. We are in communion with that nature. And so, in Him, human nature is elevated to the infinte majesty, dignity, and worth of His Priesthood.

Human beings are of inifinte dignity and worth, and so can never be treated as mere things. But unfortunately, we are in danger of losing sight of this truth in our society. In some circles, I would say that we have already lost sight of it. I imagine that many, if not most of you, have heard about the woman in Florida, Terri Schiavo, who has had her feeding tube removed by a judge's order and even as I speak, lays dying. Up until this week, when the news media reported on the situation at all, they simply parroted the arguments of those wanting Terri to die, that she is in a "persistent vegetative state." But a number of doctors and other health care professionals have testified that she is in fact NOT in a persistent vegetative state. They have further testified that they believe she could be at least partially rehabilitated. But her husband (that's right, her husband), has refused any efforts at rehabilitative therapy. Some reports have indicated that Terri is terminally ill. That is false as well. If she dies, she will die not of any disease, but of starvation.

Unless someone in authority intervenes, Terri will almost certainly die within a week. She will die because a judge has ordered her to die. Her husband, who has refused any kind of rehabilitation, stands to inherit about $800,000 when she dies. That money was supposed to go to Terri's care and treatment, but he has used it to pay for lawyers in order to seek her death. He also has said that he wants to move on with his life, and marry his live-in girlfriend. Terri is in the way, her life has become inconvenient, and for that she is going to die.

Terri's body is "broken", and so her husband, his lawyers, and the judge, want to throw her away. Terri is is being treated like a thing, to be discarded when it has oulived its usefulness. But persons aren't things. They can't be thrown away, and they certainly cannot be replaced. What is happening to Terri is certainly an injustice. It is a horrific and merciless cruelty. We treat condemned criminals with more mercy and compassion. But even worse, this is a crime against the dignity and worth of the human person. This is an affront to the Lord of Life, who gave our human natures infinite worth by uniting them to Himself.

By our baptism we all share in the priesthood of Christ, so we must be sanctifiers of the world. We must sanctify it by our prayers. We must pray for Terri, her family, and all who are threatened by the failure to respect the dignity of life. We must pray for Terri's husband, for his lawyers, and for the judges in this case, that the grace of Christ may penetrate and soften the hardness of their hearts: That they will see that Terri, although her body is broken and wounded, is nonetheless of infinite worth.

We must sanctify the world by our actions. We must act to see to it that human life is always respected. We must stand up for Terri and all like her. We must stand up by making sure our laws protect the helpless and weak. We must stand up against those who seek to discard the weak because they are weak. We must stand up against those who would deprive the voiceless of justice because they cannot speak for themselves. We must be witnesses to the worth and dignity of the human person which has been granted us in Christ, so that never again in this land will anyone have to suffer as Terri has.

Our Lord tells us in the Gospel that we must be the servants of all. We must especially be the servants of the weak, the helpless, those who cannot speak for themselves. Terri Schiavo is all of those things. We must be people who speak out for her, and those like her, who are in danger because they seem to be useless or a burden. By our baptism we all share in the priesthood of Christ, and so we must be intermediaries: We must mediate Justice. We must mediate Mercy. We must mediate Compassion. We must mediate Truth.

We have in Christ a high priest who sympatizes with our weakness. He will give us strength to act, to fight, to stand up. He will give us courage if we falter. If we seek to witness to Him, to His Truth and Love, he will give us grace and timely help. Let us approach the Throne of Grace, that we may be the ministers and heralds of Christ a world in desperate need of Him.

oddly enough, this leads right into other issues surrounding our culture of death, in this case the nearly insistant cries from outside the Catholic community for the Pope to "step down"...they actually have the gall to say things like, "he should know his place"...

Death Watch
Copyright 2003, Robert H. LeBlanc
For some, he is an anachronism. He preaches a medieval religion to empty pews. In recent years, he is often described as the frail and ailing pontiff, Pope John Paul II. Yet surprisingly for some, God is not dead and He is more popular than the Beatles. And despite his deficit in the legion department, the pope was instrumental in overturning communism in Eastern Europe.

Pope John Paul defies conventional wisdom. In his column, "Bigger Than the Nobel," David Brooks notes that the pope fails to win the Nobel Prize because "[t]he project he is engaged in -- still engaged in -- defies their categories." The pope goes against the current wisdom by preaching against the use of artificial contraception and abortion. It is perhaps too cynical to suggest that because of these and other unpopular views, the western media are suggesting that the frail pope resign. I suggest that it goes deeper than that.

What caught my eye in Brooks' column was this: "So when John Paul II went to Poland and Cuba early in his papacy, he told the crowds, 'You are not who they say you are.'" It's easy to imagine Orwell's totalitarian boot crushing the face of humanity, and how the pope's message was a tonic which dispelled that vision. But John Paul II not only turned on the fatal flaws of socialism, but also on the flaws of capitalism. This is not to say that John Paul is opposed to free markets since his message transcends the choice of economic systems. Even democracy, though it be a laudable system, is lacking.

The problem in the west is the modern tendency to assign value in a utilitarian manner. It's fine when evaluating widgets for purchase or a person's skills when hiring, but it cannot be done this way when evaluating the worth of human life.

In the collective minds of those in the western media, they just can't see the point of an ailing pontiff attempting to maintain an impossible schedule. They don't see the value. John Paul II has been deemed "obsolete" in pretty much the same way that business executives determine that an old fashioned production line is no longer cost effective.

In a homily, Father Raymond Suriani has tied a Twilight Zone episode, "The Obsolete Man," to the 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians. A librarian is declared obsolete by a chancellor of some future and oppressive state, and the obsolete man is condemned to death. The reply to this dysfunctional system comes from the words of St. Paul. Everyone is a member or a potential member of the body of Christ.

And while the chancellor's uniform in that Twilight Zone episode reminds us of the Nazi uniform, William Federer documents that the gas ovens of that evil regime were preceded by the efforts toward euthanasia in the soft Weimar Republic. And so Terri Schindler-Schiavo was declared obsolete not by a chancellor wearing the appropriately symbolic Nazi-like uniform but by a judge wearing judicial robes. Terri's feeding tubes were removed last Wednesday by order of the court. Father Ray's episode, "The Obsolete Nursing Home Resident," need not be presented as an episode describing some future time.

In Terri's case, the actual term for obsolete is persistent vegetative state. After winning a large malpractice award in the courts to care for Terri, Terri's guardian and husband, Michael Schiavo, asked the courts to remove her feeding tubes based on her alleged oral wishes (given while Terri was well enough to do so). Given that her guardian and husband now has a child from a live-in girlfriend and stands to inherit Terri's malpractice money should she die, it should at least raise some doubts about whether Terri's best interests are in mind. But Michael obtained the legal services of a right-to-die lawyer who convinced a Florida judge to remove her tubes. Stripped of the right to defend herself, a weak member of our society is being steamrolled over by what Pope John Paul rightly calls the "culture of death."

Pope John Paul has not heeded the calls for his obsolescence in a nursing home. Not because he fears the result but because as the head pastor (not the CEO) of the Church he heeds his own advice, "You are not who they say you are." He believes in the Savior who has raised us all up, and he follows Him by carrying the cross of his ailing body. John Paul II will preach the "Gospel of Life" until the Lord calls him home.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Sometimes I'm prompted to write more often...

Every once in a while, there is an issue that I just have to put down into words, rather than discuss or argue or theorize...I have a group of internet-buds who often help by listening to(then disagreeing with) me. Today, I just need to vent...

There's a woman in Tampa Florida...you may have heard the story, or at least part of it, by now...her name is Terri. Terri's story, in brief, is as follows:

"Terri was 26 years old when she suffered brain damage from a sudden collapse. Terri receives her food and water by means of a feeding tube. Terri's other bodily functions are physically stable. Terri smiles, laughs and cries. Terri recognizes voices and responds. At times, she vocalizes sounds, trying in her best way to speak. Terri is not a brain dead vegetable as characterized by her husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo nor a houseplant as implied by his attorney. Terri is not on a respirator or any artificial life support. She is a living human being and needs to be granted an opportunity to recover. Terri has not had any progressive rehabilitation or arousal therapy in more than ten years."

For ten years, this woman's husband has refused to allow her any therapy, and has refused to allow Terri's parents, family, and friends to provide any therapy for her, even though there is strong evidence that Terri's condition could be greatly improved with such effort. There are several instances where someone in Terri's condition has been taught to eat and drink without artificial tubes, and then progressed from there. As a recent article stated, "over a dozen prominent doctors and therapists have stated under oath that she is not in a persistent vegetative state and with therapy could be rehabilitated".

Of course, oaths mean so little these days, especially in court.

Now, the husband has convinced the courts to remove the feeding tube; effectively a death sentence for someone who has committed no crime. And the punishment will be effected in a most cruel and unusual way: starvation and dehydration. Terri will die, slowly, over the next 7 to 20 days. Her family will be by her side for perhaps two weeks or more, knowing that Terri has at least some knowledge of where she is, what is going on. That family will hold her hand as she starves, perhaps wondering why her mommy and daddy would refuse to feed her.

It is barbaric, and sickening. I've found myself crying throughout the day today. Crying for a woman who is being treated like "a houseplant". Tears for the family who loves their daughter and only wish to provide appropriate medical care. Tears for a society so devoted to a culture of death.

I must confess though, that I have no tears for Terri's scum-bastard of a husband and his marrow-sucking lawyers. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

That the courts ordered Terri's feeding tube to be removed on September 15, which is the Catholic Feast of St. Theresa (Terri's namesake), is bitter indeed. And, I dare say, not mere coincidence.

We have visited the Tampa area several times in recent years. My in-laws live there in the winter. I wish I was there now. I would be tempted to go and physically attempt to do what I can only ask in prayer right now. I would certainly be at the prayer vigil for Terri right now. And, frankly, I would lay down my freedom to join any group that wishes to intervene on Terri's behalf in a display of peaceful civil disobedience. As someone wrote, it's time for the Catholic Bishop of Tampa, concerned clergy, and those laymen who see the slippery slope here to "go Martin Luther King" on the situation.

Pray for Terri, and her family. Pray for the husband and his lawyers and others who will be held accountable for their actions.

Not sure anyone reads this anyway, but...

...I did put in a "comments" feature. Nothing major, just a place to drop a note if you wish to.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Or even less...

Yikes, I've been a slacker. Luckily, no one reads this crap anyway.

So I log on to blogger, and it gives me the opportunity to ADD ANOTHER BLOG...HA! I can't keep up the one I've got!

So anyway, I've been busy with media-stuff for the local campaigns. Writing TV and Radio scripts, supervising a TV shoot, approving content, updating a web-site (that hadn't been updated in 7 months!!! my fault!!!), newspaper ads, fliers/handouts, etc.

In my "free" time, I've been playing with my photo equipment. Made a very boneheaded mistake last night that cost me two good photographs, though luckily neither of them were terribly important. I THOUGHT I was putting three drops of a solution into the rinse bath that would help the film shed water and dry without spots. Turns out I grabbed the wrong little bottle, and instead of the wetting agent, I put three drops of lens cleaner into the wash...

I didn't realize my mistake until after the film was hanging to dry. When I woke up this morning, I looked at the film, and three of the frames have very pronounced spots....sigh...and I can't even be mad at the WalMart film processors!!!

I think I was quoted in the USAToday, yesterday, but I haven't seen the paper yet.

Anyway, there's lots of things I need to write about, but very little time. After November. I promise.