January 2007 Archives

Papal Prayer Intentions from February


Here, courtesy of the Apostleship of Prayer are the Holy Father's prayer intentions for the month of February:

General intention: That the goods of the earth, given by God for all people, may be used wisely and in accordance with justice and solidarity.

Missionary intention: That governments of all nations may cooperate to fight diseases and epidemics in the Third World.

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Tangents and another Confession


Er, thast last post was supposed to be a humorous blurb about what I watch on TV. It kind of got sidetracked. Ah, blogging...

Anyway, the other show I enjoy, and this is an even dirtier secret, is "Boston Legal." It's slime, through and through, but it also has William Shatner and James Spader.

Anyway, my real point I wanted to get to was that the last 7 minutes of last night's show were about the funniest thing I've seen on television in a decade.

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I watch "Scrubs"


Speaking of cultural decay (er.... like 5 posts down) - I confess that I watch "Scrubs."

If I were to flatter myself, I'd say that I wish to engage the culture, and a show such as "Scrubs" provides ample fodder for criticism.

That would be a lie, however. I watch it because it is just about the funniest thing on television (and it is definitely the funniest thing on broadcast TV after 10 PM in east central Illinois). It's the closest that a live-action sit-com that I've seen has ever come to the pacing and craziness of the Simpsons - and it's well-writted, well-acted and very well-cast.

That said, I do have one observation to make. Despite being a comedy, "Scrubs" treats medical issues very realistically. (I usually don't agree with their conclusions, but whatever, I'm not looking to them to form my conscience.) The one exception is abortion. I've seen them approach that issue twice, and both times it was treated extremely frivolously.

In one episode, JD, the main character on the show, has gotten another doctor pregnant, and they're considering abortion. That itself doesn't bother me. Art is supposed to imitate life, and for many young people whose intellectual formation has come from peer groups, institutional schools and MTV - that's what you're supposed to do. It's "responsible" to determine if you should have the baby at all. That's not my "worldview," as the kids say, but I can't deny it's a widespread and generally accepted point of view.

So fine, they sit down to decide whether to have the baby or kill it. They make a list of pros and cons, and the whole thing is unserious (con: "babies are sticky"). A talking statue of Jesus tells them not to do it, while female pal Jordan tells them all about her abortion and how it saved her life (Jordan's son Jack finds out about it somehow, my memory's kind of hazy, and ends up running around the hospital waiting room screamin "my mommy had an abortion"). In the end, our smart, responsible protagonist couple melts when they see JD's friend Turk's newborn and decides to go through with the pregnancy. To hell with rationality, in the end it's all emotions.

On second thought, it's interesting that their thoughts about abortion end when they see that what they're debating isn't a choice - it's a child. Sure, that's a pro-life bumper sticker message, but it's also true. That scene alone demonstrates why the ultra-sound is such a powerful weapon against abortion. When confronted with the reality of what the fetus actually is - a human being at a very early stage of development - it's hard not to choose life.

I don't think it was the intent of the writers to have a pro-life message; that's obvious from Jordan's story, which serves to establish abortion as a reasonable and sometimes necessary option. (Jordan's response to little Jack's waiting room abortion chant is a proud and unremorseful, "She sure did.") But sometimes the truth pokes through despite our efforts to reject it.

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"Choose Life" tags Permitted in Illinois

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Illinois came one step closer to issuing "Choose Life" specialty license plates last week, LifeSiteNews.com reports.

Last Friday, a ruling was handed down from the Northern Illinois District Court allowing the pro-adoption message "Choose Life" to be an option for specialty license plates in the State of Illinois. Citing First Amendment protection, Judge David Coar ruled in favor of Choose Life Illinois (CLI), explaining that their message is constitutionally entitled to be on Illinois license plates.

In Judge Coar's Memorandum it states that "…the Secretary of State is ordered to issue the 'Choose Life' plates." CLI, a pro-adoption organization, had filed the lawsuit against the Secretary of State, Jesse White, claiming that the process by which the "Choose Life" specialty license plate was disapproved in Illinois was "viewpoint discriminatory" in violation of the First Amendment and, therefore, unconstitutional.

It's unclear whether this was the last hurdle or whether the other side will pull any more stunts, but the article seems to imply that the plates will be available. If so, this brings one of the most ridiculous chapters in Illinois politics to a close. For years pro-abortion forces have blocked these locense plates for absolutely no plausible reason other than it might hurt the abortion industry.

Side note: one more reason to root for the bears this weekend: team owner Virginia McCaskey was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The McCaskeys can't manage a team, but they get some things right!

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The Myth of Self-Suffiency


Normally, I'm pretty cold to the notion of self-reliance, which is why the latest issue of In Character was disappointing, which is unusual for that fine journal.

However, one piece stands out: Bill McKibben's "Old MacDonald Had A Farmers’ Market."

Every culture has its pathologies, and ours is self-reliance. From some mix of our frontier past, our Little House on the Prairie heritage, our Thoreauvian desire for solitude, and our amazing wealth we’ve derived a level of independence never seen before on this round earth. We’ve built an economy where we need no one else; with a credit card, you can harvest the world’s bounty from the privacy of your room. And we’ve built a culture much the same — the dream houses those architects build, needless to say, come with a plasma screen in every room. As long as we can go on earning good money in our own tiny niche, we don’t need a helping hand from a soul — save, of course, from the invisible hand that cups us all in its benign grip.

There are a couple of problems with this fine scenario, of course. One is: we’re miserable. Reported levels of happiness and life-satisfaction are locked in long-term one-way declines, almost certainly because of this lack of connection. Does this sound subjective and airy? Find one of the tens of millions of Americans who don’t belong to anything and convince them to join a church, a softball league, a bird-watching group. In the next year their mortality — the risk that they will die in the next year — falls by half.

It brings to mind the notion of interdependence, which is a very Catholic and catholic idea. Sociologically speaking, independence as just as undesirable as dependence. Instead, the ideal family/neighborhood/society structure would be one of voluntarily interdependence. Total dependence on the state or other individuals leads to sloth and envy, while total independence leads to greed and pride as well as a general disdain for others. Mutual interdependence, recognizing the truth that man flourishes in relationship to fellow man, leads to humility and charity.

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Christmas With the Pope II


I compiled these a couple of weeks ago but forgot to blog them. Better late than never!

Homily at vespers Dec.31 - "It is not historical and political coordinates that condition God's choice, but on the contrary, the event of the Incarnation that "fills" history with value and meaning."

Homily on Jan 1, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God - "Let us ask Mary, Mother of God, to help us to welcome her Son and, in him, true peace."

General Audience on Jan 3 - We know the Face of God: it is that of the Son

Address on Jan 4 during visit to Roman soup kitchen - "Here, one can experience that when we love our neighbor, we become better acquainted with God"

Homily on Jan 6, Solemnity of the Epiphany (they do it right in Rome) - "Do not be afraid of Christ's light!"

Angelus on Jan 6, Solemnity of the Epiphany - "Christ's epiphany is at the same time, the Church's epiphany."

Homily on Jan 7, Feast of the Baptism of the Lord - "A washing of regeneration.

Angelus on Jan 7, Feast of the Baptism of the Lord - "In the Jordan, the heavens were opened to indicate that the Savior opened to us the way of salvation."

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More on NFP from Zippy


Zippy continues the NFP discussion, this time with handy charts.

And from a comment to an earlier post of his on the subject, I found this gem:

And the way much (though of course not all) of the literature treats NFP inverts all of that, treating a merciful accomodation as if it were food; and not just food, but special gourmet food that all the holiest people eat. Every choice to use NFP involves an admission of weakness. Admissions of weakness are OK, but they shouldn't be treated Oprah-style, as if everyone needs to be in therapy as the ordinary course of everyday life and as if our weaknesses are never to be transcended through effort and prayer. And there is something inherently perverse and unhealthy in treating weaknesses that way, as if they are something to be embraced rather than worked with and transcended.
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The Curmudgeon: local edition


Which is a bigger sign of cultural decay?

  1. Police officers with nothing better to do than file a 13 page report and make the state's attorney investigate a couple of college kids being rude, or

  2. Thieves breaking into a Salvation Army safe to steal $250.

It's a tough call, but I have to say it's the first case. Petty theft is ancient as property, but it takes a special kind of modern victimological psychology as well as a much too large bureacracy with not enough to for the police and county government to get dragged into an online flame war.

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The DI today ran an AP piece on Al Capone's legacy in Chicago, which lives on despite the city's attempts to disown it.

It reminded me of my visit to France, almost 13 years ago. I was in Paris for a week and in a small town called Tarbes, actually in a "suburb" of Tarbes, for two weeks. Everywhere I went when I told people I was from Chicago, I got one of two reactions, either "Ahhh... Michael Jordan!"1 accompanied by a flick of the wrist as if shooting a basketball or "Al Capone! Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta!" accompanied by a mock tommy gun grip. This happened EVERYWHERE.

[1] At a town party I was at, everytime I walked by the bar, the bartender shouted "Chicago Bulls!" and gave me a whiskey and coke on the house. That night ended badly.

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School of the Americas


I'm generally sympathetic to the argument that the School of the Americas was a very bad thing. But articles like this from In These Times by Robin Lloyd don't really help. If you were to read it knowing nothing else, you could easily come away thinking that the only reason to oppose the school is that some people who went there did some bad stuff. In fact that's exactly what Catholic blogger Bill Cork likes to say in dismissing them.

The real damning evidence against SOA is not that some graduates did some horrific things, but that the School of the Americas (using taxpayer money) taught immoral practices as approved curriculum. So yes, the School of Americas was a very bad thing. But you wouldn't know that from Lloyd's article.

But what about now? SOA was closed down in 2001 and was replaced by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). What are they teaching there these days? The Army claims they teach civil rights. The Catholic Bishop of Madison chairs an independent review board that monitors the school. You can make an appointment to sit in on classes and observe.

If that's true, then it seems like these protests have outlived their usefulness. Indeed, I've seen no accusations against WHINSEC or SOA that are less than 15 years old. School of the Americas Watch's press release webpage consists mostly of publicizing their protests. In short, I see no evidence that WHINSEC is a threat to human rights now.

If these people want to stay relevant, they need to give us a reason to believe that WHINSEC, today, is still teaching its students to violate human rights. Otherwise, as Bill Cork says: "Stop living in the 80s. Open up GitmoWatch."

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Another for the Wife

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For Mama-Lu


Soloviev on the Papacy, courtesy of Fr. Kimel. Warning: its lengthy.

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Zippy on NFP

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Zippy is an anonymous Catholic blogger who tackles tough questions with precise language and logic.He looks at NFP with satisfying results here and here.

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Ron Santo


I believe that Ron Santo's absence from the Baseball Hall of Fame is as severe of an injustice as can be, if in fact those words can be legitimately applied to anything sports related. There are many reasons why he should be there, but the most convincing may be so that the guy who wrote this, this and this can get out more.

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Ouch II



"Andrew Sullivan, the vicar of doubt, is debating Sam Harris, ueber-atheist, in a blogalogue. For me, this is like watching the Raiders play the Cowboys: the only thing to do is simply root for injuries and mistakes."

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Ramesh Ponnuru on stem cells


Fighting a noble fight with the Center for American Progress.

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Ryno in Peoria


I forget to mention when it went down a while back how excited I am that Hall of Famer and greatest Cub of all time Ryne Sandberg was named manager of the Cubs' Class A affiliate in Peoria. Apparently, I'm not the only onehappy about the news.

First Jody Davis and now Ryno. Boy oh boy it must be heaven for any Peorians who were Cubs fans in the 80s.

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Charles Murray, author of the controversial "The Bell Curve" is at it again with a three-part series on education in Opinion Journal.

All three are interesting reads with bold arguments, but I want to focus on the second. Actually, I don't want to focus on it, I want to use it as an occasion to remind myself that I forgot to blog this outstanding essay by Matthew Crawford from the New Atlantis - an excellent quarterly that deals with issues of technology and society. Crawford's piece is interesting and makes a compelling argument for a career in a trade. I demand - demand! - that you read the whole thing, but for those who adamantly refuse to obey, I will be a softie and give you the conclusion, because it's that important:

So what advice should one give to a young person? By all means, go to college. In fact, approach college in the spirit of craftsmanship, going deep into liberal arts and sciences. In the summers, learn a manual trade. You’re likely to be less damaged, and quite possibly better paid, as an independent tradesman than as a cubicle-dwelling tender of information systems. To heed such advice would require a certain contrarian streak, as it entails rejecting a life course mapped out by others as obligatory and inevitable.

This in a sense contradicts Murray's comments in the second column linked above, and in fact Murray has the better argument that if you can follow your career path without attending college, then by all means do it. But given the way high school graduates are herded into college, Crawford's advice is more realistic.

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One gets the feeling that the AP editors would sooner wrap their legs around their heads and play hopscotch than admit that a human fetus that is living outside of the womb is, in fact, a child.

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Is You Daughter Playing the Ho on MySpace?


Don't Worry! "It's a necessary step in growing up."

"What adults don't get is that MySpace and YouTube are very complex and really quite innovative media that have a whole set of conventions of their own, which are not really meant very seriously and not taken very seriously," Broughton explained. "It's not really as personal as it seems."

This is not a parody. This is from ABC news.

There's more:

Rather than dismiss teenagers' expression of sexuality as a breakdown of values and decency, child development specialist Juvonen suggests parents and school administrators should talk with teens about what it means to display sexuality.

"It's the kind of dialogue that's missing from our schools at the moment: Have you thought about what that kind of picture does to people? What is the likely reaction for people who see that picture? " she said. "It's about adults learning what kids do on the Internet and using that information to help us prepare them to deal with the issues they have not thought about."

For parents still uneasy about MySpace, Friendster and Facebook, Broughton said consider social networking sites from a new angle. In an age where the pressure to weigh less and look hot can overwhelm young women, a teen girl posting her picture on the Internet can be seen as having a healthy self-image.

"Putting up pictures of yourself scantily dressed on MySpace is, in a way, kind of a good sign," he said. "The good news is that it's somebody who isn't horrified by their appearance. Also if they get some positive response, that can be very supportive."

I can literally think of nothing more morally horrifying than "school administrators" telling our little girls that posting videos of themselves pole-dancing in their training bras is a "good sign" of their "healthy self-image." And that they should feel supported by any "positive response" they receive.

Yes, Positive responses...

Seriously, if I worked for these guys I'd be paying a visit to Mr. Broughton's hardrive.

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Breakfast at Rod Laver Arena anyone?

The Australian Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, is the most prestigious (and exclusive) tournament in professional tennis.

Potential ways to finish that last sentence so it makes sense:

...in the eastern hemisphere.
...in January.
...if you're Andre Agassi.
...if you like watching live tennis at 2 AM.
...after the other three slams.
...played on hardcourt and not played in Flushing Meadows.

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Read Romans with Anglican-turned-Catholic priest Father Al Kimel.

First two installments here and here.

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"It is exceedingly unlikely that shareholder groups can do a better job of hiring directors than search committees and the professional executive search firms on which they rely."

Phil Kerpen of NRO, writing two weeks after Home Depot had to shell out nine figures to get rid of their failed CEO, has come out squarely against owners having rights. The AFSCME wants to be able to nominate candidates for AIG's board of directors. Kerpen calls this a "threat to Capitalism." To Kerpen, for a 3% stake-holder to throw out a name that still has to be voted on by the owners of the other 97% is the first step on the long, slippery road to socialism.

The problem of course is that Kerpen is not as much troubled by owners having rights as much as he is appalled and horrified that those who labor and sweat on behalf of corporate America only to have their companies go bankrupt and their pensions flushed down the CEO's platinum pisser actually could have a say in corporate governance.

So, the question is... just what does stock ownership mean if not having a say in who runs the company?

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Terrifying Headline of the Day


Cubs sign Perez to Minors deal

No, not that Perez, thank goodness.

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CDOP-ites Will Appreciate

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"And then there are the personal lives [of the current Republican 2008 prospects] - the only one of these guys who hasn't had multiple wives is the Mormon..."

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January Prayer Intentions


Here, belatedly, are the Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for the first month of 2007:

General Prayer Intention: In our time, unfortunately marked by many episodes of violence, the pastors of the Church may continue to indicate the way of peace and understanding among peoples.

Missionary Prayer Intention: That the Church in Africa may become a constantly more authentic witness of the Good News of Christ and be committed, in every nation, to the promotion of reconciliation and peace.

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I have no idea why commenting is so difficult. Error messages keep popping up. stblogs just added an authentication system, so that should make things easier, but it hasn't happened. Sorry!

If you really have something you're itching to say, you can get a free typekey account (it would let you comment on any blog that uses typekey).

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What Was That?!!?


Suffice to say: this should explain my sour mood today.

All I can say is: you can talk all you want about Florida's speed, the "SEC style" of football, and their dazzling play calling, but this game came down to three things:

  1. The front lines: This game was won and lost on the lines. The OSU offensive and defensive linemen got owned for the whole game. Florida manhandled them on both sides of the ball. They never put serious pressure on Chris Leak and Troy Smith never got to be comfortable in the pocket.

  2. Bad Play-Calling: This was the worst game the Buckeyes played offensively all year. They ran when they should have passed, passed when they should have ran, and they definitely ran when they should have punted. You can conjecture that the loss of Teddy Ginn cost them their play-maker, but they were just plain flat all around. Half of the credit goes to the FU defenseive line for being in the backfield every freaking play, but OSU was clearly running bad plays.

  3. Troy Smith's refusal to flee: Troy Smith is a very mobile quarterback, which is what makes him so dangerous. Yet almost every time a Florida lineman or blitzer was in the backfield, he ran... backwards. Many, many times, he had a lane open to run and gain yards, but instead he retreated and ended up making bad passes or getting sacked (five times).

So there it is: bad play calling, an inability to execute those bad plays due to disruption by the FU line, and Troy Smith's refusal to leave the pocket led to OSU not scoring while Florida's offensive line gave Leak all day to find the open receiver and gave ther runners wide open lanes.

And just to make the bitterness complete: Teddy Ginn's fiirst quarter injury was caused.... by his teammates. After he returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a score, he was mobbed by his teammates and broke his foot. Congratulations Buckeyes!

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I'm Just Saying


A two-year, government-funded study by researchers at the University of Stirling in Scotland found that electronic toys marketed for their supposed educational benefits, such as the LeapFrog LeapPad, an interactive learning activity toy, and the Vtech V provided no obvious benefits to children. "In terms of basic literacy and number skills I don't think they are more efficient than the more traditional approaches," researcher Lydia Plowman told the Guardian. Although no Luddite (Ms. Plowman makes the rather perverse recommendation that parents give children their old cellphones so that they can learn to "model" adult behavior with technology), she believes parents are wasting their money on expensive educational electronics.

At a Boston University conference on language development in November, researchers from Temple University's Infant Laboratory and the Erikson Institute in Chicago described the results of their research on electronic books. The Fisher-Price toy company, which contributed funding for the study, was not pleased. "Parents who are talking about the content [of stories] with their child while reading traditional books are encouraging early literacy," says researcher Julia Parish-Morris, "whereas parents and children reading electronic books together are having a severely truncated experience." Electronic books encouraged a "slightly coercive parent-child interaction," the study found, and were not as effective in promoting early literacy skills as traditional books.

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Christmas with the Pope


December 24th Angelus - "Tonight he will come for us. And he will also enter us, to live in the heart of each one of us."

Homily at Midnight Mass - "God's sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty."

Urbis et Orbis - "Our Saviour is born for all. We must proclaim this not only in words, but by our entire life, giving the world a witness of united, open communities where fraternity and forgiveness reign, along with acceptance and mutual service, truth, justice and love."

Angelus for St. Stephen's Day - "If Jesus had not been born on earth, men would not have been able to be born for heaven."

General Audience on Dec. 27 - "With Jesus' birth, God has manifested his good will toward everyone."

Angelus for the feast of the Holy Family - "[T]he most authentic and profound vocation of the family [is] supporting each one of its members on the path of discovery of God and of the plan he has ordained for them."

Angelus for Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God/World Day of Peace - "Today we contemplate Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, in his attribute of true "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:5). He "is our peace," who came to pull down the "wall of separation" that divides men and nations, that is, "enmity" (Ephesians 2:14)."

Papal Message for World Day of Peace - "The Human Person, The Heart of Peace."

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Three Takes on Obama


Jack Beatty: Run, Barack, Run! - Beatty convincingly plays up his creds as anti-war and as the un-Hillary, but he's overboard in his awe of Obama, claiming that his sound judgment matched with his charisma make up for his lack of experience. What judgment, Jack? Yes, his judgment.

Yuval Levin: Off and Running - Levin is unimpressed with the The Audacity if Hope:

Like many on the contemporary Left, Obama subscribes to a kind of false nostalgia, what might be called backward-looking progressivism. Without a hint of irony, he contrasts today’s partisan rancor in Congress with a “time before the fall, a golden age in Washington when, regardless of which party was in power, civility reigned and government worked.” One wonders just when that golden age might have been—during the epic battles over McCarthyism, civil rights, Vietnam, Watergate, détente, Reaganomics, and other fronts too numerous to mention? Nor does Obama appear to notice that, in admonishing us to heed his warnings lest we find ourselves in “an America very different from the one most of us grew up in,” he sounds more like a stern traditionalist than a liberal Democrat.

But then, Obama does his best throughout this book not to sound like a liberal Democrat. In this, he does a disservice to his own record.

Steve Sailer: White Guilt, Obamania, And The Reality Of Race - Sailer specializes in "going there" - i.e. saying the extremely politically incorrect. He's at it again, but with mixed results. For instance, here he hits the mark:

Obama writes: "I ceased to advertise my mother's race at the age of 12 or 13, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites."

That sounds quite self-sacrificial... but, oddly enough, it sure hasn't hurt his popularity with whites

But when he starts psycho-analyzing "the white voter" he strays a bit. Sure white guilt plays into it, but it has little to do with a conscious or unconscious scheme to shut blacks up by electing one of them president (this theory really doesn't even make sense - whites want blacks to go away so badly they'll vote one into the executive branch?).

Obama's appeal is easier explained thusly: HE'S NOT SHARPTON. So many black leaders of the past two decades have been race hucksters like Sharpton and Jackson or plain maniacs like Farrakhan. Along comes Obama with a warm smile and allegedly nice things to say about people who disagree with him, and Hey! it feels like a breath of fresh air. This appeal is really very natural and Obama and his handlers would be subpar politicians not to capitalize on it.

What turns this natural appeal into mania is the media coverage - whose influence is surprisingly missing from Sailer's analysis. The media have bought into Obama whole hog because more than anything Obama embodies the hopes and dreams of America's liberal cultural elite. That more than anything explains "Obamania." It remains to be seen whether they can continue to pull the wool over our collective eyes, or if Obama's popularity will fade as people to the right of the crazed left discover that they don't have to like this guy just beause Dvid Brooks tells them to.

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Out of my Way!


"The virtues of modern China are most apparent at the individual and family level," writes James Fallows, but "China’s least appealing face involves people’s manners in public."

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Web Gems


A tip of the Cubbie cap to Bill White, who has a knack for finding the coolest stuff online.

Two of his recent finds:
Advent and Christmas sermons from St. Bernard here.
Romano Guardini's "Spirit of the Liturgy" in text and html.

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Mama-Lu's Etsy Shop

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2006 is the previous archive.

February 2007 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.