25 April 2007

Be Aware of Awareness Weeks

Some old silliness of mine...

In case you hadn't noticed, May 7-11, 2001, was designated "National Drinking Water Week." Those who drove by the old pump station off U.S. 31 would have seen it adorned with a large white banner displaying, among other things, a smiling creature with a dewdrop for a head. After AIDS, Cancer and Heart Disease Awareness weeks, did Congress just run out of ideas? Were there leftover weeks lonely for national significance? I suppose we ought to remember those in countries still without clean drinking water, suffering from dysentery and filarial worms (more likely to befall hapless tourists in third world countries clueless enough to drink unfiltered tap water). Since such illnesses arise from lack of sanitation in general, wouldn't it make more sense to designate it, "National Sanitation Awareness Week," or, more to the point, "National Don't-Defecate-in-the-Same-Water-You-Use-for-Cooking-and-Bathing Week"?

In case Congress is still looking for ideas, some friends and I, tired of the same old topics, thought we would do our share and provide a list of equally important issues deserving at least a week's worth of national recognition:

1. National Aware-of-Awareness Week. It is always a good thing to be aware, generally, that one ought to be aware. Suggested ribbon color: aqua-blue.

2. National Bubonic Plague Awareness Week. It wiped out one-third of the European population, and who's ever apologized for that? Suggested ribbon color: eggplant.

3. National Cigarette Lighter / Bucket Death Awareness Week. Did you know more children die from playing with cigarette lighters than from guns? It's true — but how many of us ever hear about it? And buckets contribute to at least eight children's deaths per year. Suggested ribbon color: teal.

4. National Parietals Awareness Week. At least one week ought to be devoted to the many dedicated students of Notre Dame willing to fight for the right to party — at least for that extra hour. Other students take up the cause of international human rights violations, economic or religious freedoms or any number of causes for the oppressed. Notre Dame students, I take it, count themselves among "the oppressed." The poor things. Suggested ribbon color: lemon.

5. National Garrett Hardin Awareness Week. He writes about maintaining population control by restricting our "freedom to breed" (i.e., have children). His writing contains more platitudes than insight. We need an apology. Besides, he's creepy. Suggested ribbon color: brick.

6. National Federalist Society Awareness Week: According to the media, this Society is a cult of black-hooded subversives who plot the overthrow of the government, the takeover of the federal judiciary. The nation must be on its guard. Suggested ribbon color: cornflower.

7. National Common Nucleus of Operative Fact (CNOF) Awareness Week. This rule has served as the gateway to more crowded federal court dockets, to the delight of many otherwise restricted litigants. We'll let the non-lawyers figure this one out for themselves. Suggested ribbon color: taupe.

8. National Conformal Mapping Awareness Week. It has nothing to do with maps. It's math. Never mind. Suggested ribbon color: mustard.

9. National Stellar Sea Lion Awareness Week. What would we do without those overzealous environmentalists to spread misinformation and wreak havoc to fishing communities? After getting a law passed restricting fishermen from mining the sea of Pollock fish (sea lions' main food source), new findings show that the decline in sea lions has more to do with an increase in the number of Orca whales, which love snacking on those tasty stellars. Suggested ribbon color: rainbow.

10. National Mayonnaise Awareness Week. If the fat tax doesn't work, then a week's exposure to the wonders of this cholesterol-enhancing staple is sure to enlighten. Suggested ribbon color: flesh.

We hope the Board seriously considers our proposals. We've anticipated some potential problems; for example, all the weeks for next year may already be taken up with other topics. The Board can resolve this problem by replacing those issues that have had their fair share of national attention with some of ours. For instance, Gun Awareness can be bumped to the year after next and National Cigarette Lighter/Bucket Death Awareness Week can take its place. Perhaps it would spark a debate on safety locks for cigarette lighters. The Second Amendment doesn't speak on the issue, so anti-lighter lobbyists would fare pretty well.

AIDS Awareness, always politicized by the "in crowd," could be replaced with National CNOF Week — let's give the "out crowd" a hearing. Then there is always National Multiculturalism Awareness Week, which could be replaced with Federalist Society Week. After all, if a cult of cloaked revolutionaries is not worth national attention, then I really do not know what is.
Rather amusing comic skit with Daniel Craig and Catherine Tate.

21 April 2007

Do you, dear reader, pine to create miserable poetry in the manner of a self-important, illiterate college student? Do you believe that you have some really wretched doggerel in you?

If so, enter The Fourth Annual “Hatemonger’s Quarterly” Horrible College-Student Poetry Competition. An example of a past runner-up:

Under The Florescent Moon by Gordon

Dull glowing,
never changing.
I see the eternal glow
of the florescent light
above my cubicle.

The landscape of corporatist dehumanization
like a box without hinges, key or lid.
Yet inside a soul is hid.

I work for the Man.
Bravo! Now that is truly execrable verse!

(Hat tip to Robert)

18 April 2007


The New York Times offers its own opinion on Gonzalez v. Carhart, and doesn't say anything we don't expect from it. The editorial is titled "Denying the Right to Choose", and the decision is called, inter alia, "dishonest" and "atrocious".

No, NYTimes, tell us what you really think...

There's something rotten in the state of Kansas...

Dennis Boyles notes the relative silence of major Kansas newspapers as to the monumental partial-birth abortion decision. Kansas, of course, is the site of one of the nation's largest late-term abortion mills headed by Dr. George Tiller, whose blood money has gone into the pockets of local media, Democrat politicians, and the new state Attorney General (who has so far stalled on prosecuting Tiller for an alleged 15 counts of illegally performed abortions).
[Tiller]'s one of Democratic governor Kathleen Sebelius's biggest supporters and he was instrumental in funding the 2006 defeat of Phill Kline, the pro-life attorney general, preventing Kline from pursuing the 30 charges he had filled [sic] against Tiller.


The Supreme Court has by a vote of 5-4 upheld a federal ban on partial-birth abortion. The Supreme Court had orginally struck down Nebraska's partial birth abortion ban in 2000. After President Bush signed a federal ban into law, federal courts in California and New York issued restraining orders to keep the law from being applied. Justice Kennedy dissented strongly in the original Court opinion striking down the ban; today, he delivers the majority opinion upholding the ban.

The opinion itself is over 70 pages long. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a fiery dissent. From her closing paragraph:
In sum, the notion that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act furthers any legitimate governmental interest is, quite simply, irrational. The Court's defense of the statute provides no saving explanation. In candor, the Act, and the Court's defense of it, cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this Court--and with increasing comprehension at its centrality in women's lives.
(citations omitted).

J. Ginsburg is an intelligent woman, so for her to express bewilderment like this is a bit much, especially when the Supreme Court has declared time and time again that the government has a legimate interest in protecting unborn human lives (there is nothing controversial in the fact). In fact, Roe's three-trimester framework gave the government increasing authority to regulate abortion as the fetus becomes more viable. The "undue burden" standard in Planned Parenthood v. Casey became the measuring stick to determine the constitutionality of any federal regulation on abortion--and today the Court has held that the federal ban on partial-birth abortion does not impose an undue burden on women.

In layman's terms, this is a victory for the unborn. The federal law simply punishes anyone who "knowingly performs...a partial-birth abortion." That's it. And here's the clincher: there is no health exception. The procedure is banned, period. Full stop. Late-term abortionists like George Tiller can no longer pretend the procedure is "medically necessary" to justify its performance.

It is unrealistic to think Roe v. Wade will be overturned anytime soon; incremental change in the right direction is what is hoped for--and it's what we've won today.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

11 April 2007

Lala Meriem

In 1868, Cardinal Lavigerie, the Bishop of Algiers, formed the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa, also known as the "White Fathers". One year afterwards, the Soeurs Blanches were formed to help the Peres Blancs in their mission. The purpose of the societies is the conversion of Arabs and Africans.

The statue of Notre Dame D'Afrique was installed in the church in 1873, and in 1876, on April 30th, Pope Leo XIII declared the church a basilica and a crown of jewels (a gift of Pope Pius IX) was placed on Our Lady's head.

Thus April 30th remains the Feast of Our Lady of Africa, protectress of Muslims and Negroes, and her statue is venerated by Catholics and Mohammedans alike, who call her Lala Meriem. In fact, it is common on any given day to see Muslims kneeling in the basilica laying their petitions before the Blessed Virgin.

The Basilica itself was built by Fromageau in Byzantine style. It sits on a cliff overlooking the Bay of Algiers.

Inscribed on the apse behind Our Lady of Africa is the petition, Notre Dame d'Afrique priez pour nous et pour les Musulmans.

Algiers Street Scene, 1894

08 April 2007

A blessed Easter to all

06 April 2007

I temporarily cede my position as Monarch for a day to His Most Reverend David Laurin Ricken, who protected two women from committing further sacrilege, his flock from being scandalized, and Our Lord from being humiliated:
Leah Vader and Lynne Huskinson, a lesbian couple who got married in Canada last August, sent a letter recently to their state legislator decrying a Wyoming bill that would deny recognition of same-sex marriages. The lawmaker read the letter on the floor of the Legislature.

Soon after, the local paper interviewed the couple on Ash Wednesday and ran a story and pictures of them with ash on their foreheads, a mark of their Roman Catholic faith.

It wasn't long after that that the couple received a notice from their parish church telling them they have been barred from receiving Communion.
After the Ash Wednesday story, the priest sent this letter: "It is with a heavy heart, in obedience to the instruction of Bishop David Ricken, that I must inform you that, because of your union and your public advocacy of same-sex unions, that you are unable to receive Communion."

The bishop said the couple's sex life constitutes a grave sin, "and the fact that it became so public, that was their choice."
Professor Carl Raschke, chairman of religious studies at the University of Denver, said of the Cheyenne bishop's decision: "It's no more surprising that the Catholic Church would deny Communion to an openly gay couple than a Muslim mosque would deny access to somebody who ate pork."
Huskinson questioned why Catholics having premarital sex and using birth control are not barred from receiving Communion, too. But the parish priest said the difference is this: The other Catholics are "not going around broadcasting, `Hey I'm having sex outside of marriage' or `I'm using birth control.'"

04 April 2007


There is a possibility, via my husband's mathematics doctoral program, that we'll be spending next year in Dijon, France. I've been to France several times, but never to Dijon. If any readers have spent time there, I would love to find out more information about the parishes, particularly whether or not there is an English-speaking parish or an indult Mass in the city (although it's not absolutely necessary). I know the Abbey of Fontgombault is nearby, but I don't think it's realistic for me to take a trip there with the kids for daily Mass.

Any other advice about the city would be appreciated, keeping in mind I'll have two children under the age of 3.

Is Notre Dame Catholic?

Project Sycamore, an initiative to preserve Notre Dame's Catholic identity, prepared the above chart to show the declining numbers of Catholic faculty at the University. In a 2001 survey of faculty, 57% of faculty believe Catholics should be given no preference, and the same number were unable to form a syllabus with a clear Christian perspective on the course matter. A full 30% of faculty do not think Notre Dame should offer a setting "that encourages students to develop a well-thought-out Christian philosophy of life."

Alarming. What can you do? Sign the petition urging Fr. Jenkins, President of the University, to make it a priority to restore Notre Dame's Catholic identity.

03 April 2007

The Birth of the Rhodes Scholarship

From Cecil Rhodes's last will and testament:

To and for the establishment, promotion and development of a Secret Society, the true aim and object whereof shall be for the extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom, and of colonisation by British subjects of all lands where the means of livelihood are attainable by energy, labour and enterprise, and especially the occupation by British settlers of the entire Continent of Africa, the Holy Land, the Valley of the Euphrates, the Islands of Cyprus and Candia, the whole of South America, the Islands of the Pacific not heretofore possessed by Great Britain, the whole of the Malay Archipelago, the seaboard of China and Japan, the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire, the inauguration of a system of Colonial representation in the Imperial Parliament which may tend to weld together the disjointed members of the Empire and, finally, the foundation of so great a Power as to render wars impossible, and promote the best interests of humanity. (emphasis added)

Thus was born the Rhodes Scholarship, enabling one to study for two years at Oxford University. Nevermind the fact that you're more likely to be taught the superiority of democracies, republics, and socialist states over British imperialism...

Watchman, how much longer the night?

Formerly Rhodesia (named after Cecil Rhodes), Zimbabwe came into existence after Robert Mugabe emerged the winner in the free elections of 1980. And thus the nation's downward spiral began. Mugabe's regime has seen the torture and disappearance of thousands of political opponents. In 1999, he began his program of land reform by forcibly seizing land from whites and redistributing it to blacks. At present, the country is undergoing its worst crisis since independence, with a food shortage and rampant homelessness. The average life expectancy is down to 37, and 5.5 million Zimbabweans are infected with HIV/AIDS. Its annual inflation rate is 1,700%, the highest in the world, and could pass 4,000% by the end of this year.

Mugabe's 2005 initiative, Operation Murambatsvina ("Restore Order"), had as its alleged purpose to clean up the slums of Zimbabwe, but instead had the effect of displacing 700,000 political opponents. The United States and the EU condemned Mugabe's actions last month in breaking up a political rally and arresting Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the largest opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. He was severely beaten, suffering a skull fracture, broken bones, and loss of two pints of blood.

And the crackdown has spread towards Christians. There are reports of Church leaders being harrassed by police to stifle opposition.

Archbishop Pius Ncube (the most outspoken Catholic bishop in Zimbabwe since Mugabe's ascendency) recently joined other bishops to issue a joint statement from the Catholic Bishops Conference, dated for Holy Thursday. The pastoral letter contains strikingly vivid and powerful language directed against the regime:
Our Country is in deep crisis. A crisis is an unstable situation of extreme danger and difficulty. Yet, it can also be turned into a moment of grace and of a new beginning, if those responsible for causing the crisis repent, heed the cry of the people and foster a change of heart and mind especially during the imminent Easter Season, so our Nation can rise to new life with the Risen Lord.

In Zimbabwe today, there are Christians on all sides of the conflict; and there are many Christians sitting on the fence. Active members of our Parish and Pastoral Councils are prominent officials at all levels of the ruling party. Equally distinguished and committed office-bearers of the opposition parties actively support church activities in every parish and diocese. They all profess their loyalty to the same Church. They are all baptised, sit and pray and sing together in the same church, take part in the same celebration of the Eucharist and partake of the same Body and Blood of Christ. While the next day, outside the church, a few steps away, Christian State Agents, policemen and soldiers assault and beat peaceful, unarmed demonstrators and torture detainees.
The suffering people of Zimbabwe are groaning in agony: "Watchman, how much longer the night"? (Is 21:11)
It almost appears as though someone sat down with the Declaration of Human Rights and deliberately scrubbed out each in turn. [S]oon after Independence, the power and wealth of the tiny white Rhodesian elite was appropriated by an equally exclusive black elite, some of whom have governed the country for the past 27 years through political patronage. Black Zimbabweans today fight for the same basic rights they fought for during the liberation struggle. It is the same conflict between those who possess power and wealth in abundance, and those who do not; between those who are determined to maintain their privileges of power and wealth at any cost, even at the cost of bloodshed, and those who demand their democratic rights and a share in the fruits of independence....

The Bible describes oppression in concrete and vivid terms: Oppression is the experience of being crushed, degraded, humiliated, exploited, impoverished, defrauded, deceived and enslaved.
The bishops have called for a day of prayer and fasting for Zimbabwe on Saturday, April 14.

Tangential Factoid
Strangely enough, Mugabe was created an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994. (Others who have received this honor include Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior.) In 2003, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee proposed that the honor be removed, and a Tory MP has renewed demands to strip him of the knighthood after the recent violence against MDC members. My question is this: why would the Queen bestow such recognition on a known anti-British despot, whose rise to power was the result of a Marxist struggle to oust the Crown?

01 April 2007

Oscars Shmoscars

It's a travesty Djimon Hounsou lost to Alan Arkin. That is all I shall say about it.