Tuesday, September 30, 2008

NYC - A Holy Place, II

On Sunday after spending my first few hours thinking about Jesus, God, and the vineyard, we hopped on the Subway to head to our Kickball game. On the subway platform about halfway to our destination, I turned to my wife and said, "NYC is a holy place!"

I was inspired to say that just based on my experience that morning: Church, Coffee hour post-service with friendly folks, and the rush to make sure we got to kickball on time. Nothing overtly-holy in all that, more like an internal feeling. I tend to think NYC is a holy place anyway.

Just then, the Holy wanted to make itself "present." Next to us was a young man drinking a cup of Starbucks coffee. He stood up and walked over to a lady selling churros and asked for a bag of churros. He pulled out a $20 bill, but the vendor didn't have change. He was about to walk away from the vendor when a middle-aged woman enjoying her own bag of churros took out a dollar, paid for his bag, and gave it to him. He looked at her curiously, said "thank you," and sat down to enjoy his snack.

I looked at my wife, Wendy, and smiled. "See, we live in a holy place."

When the train came and we got on, the same young man got on with us but dropped his headphones and didn't notice. A gentleman who had gotten on behind him picked them up and brought them over to him. The young man smiled and said, "thank you."

The gentleman went back to stand next to his pregnant wife who was seated. An older woman got up from her seat and offered it to this gentleman so he could sit with his wife. Wendy and I were seated across from him, his pregnant wife, and what we assumed was her sister and the sister's toddler baby girl. The two women talked about babies, cooed, cuddled, and kissed the toddler girl. The little girl kissed her mom, played with her aunt, and the gentleman looked on at his family with a huge grin on his face. They sat there, a blessed family, enjoying each other's company on a Sunday subway ride.

Just then, a trio of older men walked onto the subway and began to sing. They harmonized, beautifully, some old gospel tune asking Mary to bless us, to ask her son Jesus to bless us and watch over us. The family across from us tapped their feet, with the mom dancing with her toddler in her lap.

As we got off the train at our stop, the trio still singing, I contemplated what we had just experienced -
- an Asian man getting the gift of churros from a Latina woman
- a white tattooed man returning headphones to the same Asian man
- an older Black woman giving up her seat to the white tattooed man so he could sit with his pregnant wife
- two heavily tattooed white women, one with baby in lap, one with baby in womb, showing a tremendous amount of love to the child
- three tattooed white folk tapping their feet and dancing to the gospel tune of a trio of older black men

In that moment, the race actually didn't matter (I bring it up only to show my love for the diversity of this city), the gender didn't matter, the socio-economic class didn't matter, the sexual orientation didn't matter, the faith or creed didn't matter. Here were New Yorkers being New Yorkers.

I looked at my wife, and she looked at me with a smile on her face. She knew what I was going to say. And she agreed.

"It's a holy place," I said.

"It totally is."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Joe Biden should be able to have a field day with this

I actually think the idea of Sarah Palin as VP is genius. Governor, small town, conservative, etc. Still genius. The candidate herself? Not so much.

I hope Joe Biden has a field day with this on Thursday. Take a look for yourself,

First Sarah Palin talks about the economy:

Next, Sarah Palin has to "get back" to Katie:

Then, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have fun with the interview:

Finally, it sorta reminds me of Miss Teen USA 2007 contestant, Miss South Carolina:

Goose the throttles

I found this NY Times article via New Advent. It seems the pilots will miss Shea Stadium a lot:

September 26, 2008

To Pilots, Shea Is Less Ballpark Than Landmark

For 44 years, the procession of planes from nearby La Guardia Airport has contributed to an unusual ballpark soundtrack at Shea Stadium, the roar of jet engines a thousand feet above blending with the cracks of bats and the cries from hot dog vendors.

With the stadium set to shut its gates for the final time — possibly Sunday, if the Mets fail to reach the playoffs — the spectators who can claim perhaps the most peculiar relationship with the ballpark may be airline pilots who, with a bird’s-eye peek at the field through cockpit windows, have participated in that uncommon convergence of baseball and aviation.

“You are so low and close you can see it and almost smell it,” said Glen Millen, who estimates that he has flown into and out of La Guardia 1,800 times since he began flying for American Airlines in 1986.

La Guardia is one of the few airports in the country where pilots use land markers instead of instruments to guide their landings, along with Seattle (a shopping mall) and Washington (a river). Shea Stadium, which from the sky looks like a blue circle with a green center, is a primary runway guidepost. For one of the more common landing routes, pilots are instructed to follow the Long Island Expressway until they arrive at the eastern side of the stadium, at which point they bank the plane left around the outfield wall and head straight for Runway 31.

Among pilots and air-traffic controllers, it is known as the “expressway visual approach.”

“We make a sweeping turn around Shea Stadium to land, and you bank the airplane and out of the corner of your eye you can see the scoreboard and the players,” said Joe Romanko, a pilot with American Airlines since 1990, who estimated that he had taken off from and landed at La Guardia 1,000 times.

“As you start coming around from right field to center field around the stadium, the fact that there is no back on the stadium allows you to see all the way in,” Romanko added, referring to Shea’s C-shape design. “It’s more dramatic at night because you track the lights on the stadium from way out. You can follow the lights all the way in and then you see the grass and the players.”

In 1964, the Mets’ first season at Shea, a pilot got an even closer look. He mistook the lights on top of the stadium for the runway and nearly hit it as the team took batting practice before a game against the St. Louis Cardinals, according to sportswriters who covered the Mets that season and a player on the field that day.

Bill Wakefield, a relief pitcher with the Mets in ’64, said Cardinals players chided him after the near miss. “They came up to me and rolled their eyes and said, ‘How can you play in this stadium?’ ” he said.

Until the 1980s, when radios that were used in cockpits to pick up transmitters began to be phased out, some pilots would tune them to the local broadcasts of the Mets’ games during landing and take-off.

“You would dial in and you could hear your plane fly over,” said Sam Mayer, a pilot with American Airlines since 1990. “There were guys who would goose the throttles to make a louder noise so they could hear themselves on the radio.”

The expressway visual approach, used for about a quarter of commercial landings, shortens trips for planes approaching from the south, saving pilots from having to circle over the Long Island Sound before making a straight approach using instruments. The landing is done without instruments only when visibility is high.

Considering the unusual relationship between airport and ballpark, perhaps it was inevitable that a pilot looking down on Shea would share a name with one of the biggest stars on the field below. Mike Piazza, a first officer for Delta Airlines, says he has landed at La Guardia about 60 times, including trips earlier this decade when another Mike Piazza was the Mets’ top slugger.

“Especially back in 2001 and 2002, there were times we just flew over the stadium we would say, ‘Mike Piazza is playing baseball and in the airplane,’ ” said Piazza the pilot, who is based in Atlanta. “I would say goodbye to everyone when they got off the plane and they would grab my name tag to check my name.”

Next season, Piazza and other pilots will have nearly the same vantage point for games at Citi Field, the Mets’ new home, which is being built next to Shea in its old parking lot.

“It will be a little trial and error the first few times as we learn how far we need to be from Citi Field after Shea is gone,” Mayer said.

“One of your familiar landmarks and orientation points won’t be there anymore.”

Of course, some of the pilots have experienced Shea the more conventional way, as fans in the seats. During many of his approaches to La Guardia, Romanko said, his mind wandered back to when he sat in the stands at Shea as a child.

“It brings up memories for me,” he said. “There is some kid probably watching me coming around.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

Forgiveness is divine

This looks incredible. I can't imagine:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Deacon Christian Alberto Ledesma?

So tonight I kicked the prayer into high gear during the Mets game. With Shea Stadium 's days winding down, my friends and I decided to pay a visit one last time. My Mets, as always, made me suffer.

Going into the 9th inning we were tied 6-6. I was thinking of getting into pleading/begging prayer mode, but figured that that's usually when God laughs and the Mets lose. Instead I petitioned on behalf of the players for speed and strength. I'm pretty sure I threw in something about becoming a Deacon.

And, what do you know? The Mets win.

How does Deacon Christian Alberto Ledesma sound?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Somebody's putting something in his Metamucil

This is what happens when you ditch a late night talk show host:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Include the third party candidates in the debates!

The first 1m 18s of this video helps explain, albeit with heavy editing, the difficulty I face in choosing either McCain or Obama. They do differ on some issues, but both will say what they need to say to their audience to get a vote.

Of course, I wouldn't necessarily vote for Nader, but I would LOVE to see the third party candidates included in the debate!

Monday, September 22, 2008

What happens to the prayers of Mets fans?

As I sit and watch my New York Mets fall apart for the second season in a row, I wonder what happens to the prayers of sports fans?

You always see it, fans in the stands with their heads bowed and hands together looking as if they were sitting in a pew on Sunday. What do you think happens with those prayers?

My bet is God laughs. And then he sends a breeze that pushes a Cub fly ball into the stands for a homerun. And then he laughs again. Those Mets, so funny!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A prayer for the week

Lord, take me where you want me to go;
Let me meet who you want me to meet;
Tell me what you want me to say;
Keep me out of your way

- Father Mychal Judge

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Chaplains to the rescue!

The other day I had a UFT meeting down by Wall Street. As I walked down Broadway I saw all these well-dressed stressed-face people zooming by. I wondered if crime (DUIs and domestic violence) or church-going would increase among those in this crowd. Then I saw this on the Religious News Service:

Chaplains rush in to aid workers caught in market meltdown

By Ashley Gipson

Traders take a break outside the New York Stock Exchange on the day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. Chaplains have rushed in to counsel dazed employees. Religion News Service photo by John Munson/The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.

As the market mayhem continues to rock Wall Street, dazed employees in the financial sector who have lost their faith in the economy are turning to religious leaders for guidance.

"People who still have their jobs are asking, `Am I next?' They are much less certain of their place in their company and in the world," said Mary Ragan, a psychologist at the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute in New York.

Houses of worship in New York City are providing programs to help employees manage the stress of the market meltdown, including immediate counseling, job training and long-term direction for those who still have jobs but aren't sure for how long.

Ragan will be leading sessions at a high-profile Episcopal parish, Trinity Wall Street, on "Coping With Stress in Uncertain Times," which was started just as the market started to convulse. David Jette of Trinity Wall Street said registrations have already doubled.

The church said it plans to reach out over the next several months with not only personal counseling but also job coaching to help people prepare for what Ragan called "the ripple effect."

"The meltdown on Wall Street is very new, and it will take some time for people to feel the effects of what this really means," Ragan said. "They are wondering about the secondary consequences. Every area of the economy is affected."

Michael Bedarski, a career coach at Ragan's institute, will hold a seminar called "Navigating Career Transitions," which Ragan said has mushroomed in size because people "fear the unknown and are looking for practical solutions" alongside spiritual guidance.

Rabbis who have already been working with high-power executives on Wall Street held emergency sessions for executives and employees.

"People came and expressed the feeling of stress that goes along with uncertainty," said Rabbi Henry Harris, who offers regular counseling to the financial sector through the Jewish outreach agency Aish.

Many attendees at the emergency sessions were entry-level employees worried about keeping their jobs and paying their bills. "It was an opportunity for them to talk back," Harris said said.

The turmoil in the markets has raised many questions about the ethics and morals of big business. Gil Stricklin, founder of Marketplace Chaplains USA, said business chaplains could have helped in this situation.

"We set a moral tone for big business. They need someone there who is holding up that flag of morals," said Stricklin, whose company does not employ chaplains on Wall Street, but now wonders if that might have helped.

"Even if the business executives don't believe in prayer, they want someone around them who believes in prayer and will pray for them," Stricklin said.

Because New York's economy is directly linked to the financial industry, any decline in lower Manhattan has ripple effects across the region, said the Rev. James Martin, associate editor of the Jesuit magazine America.

"I've already met people from outside the parish who are terrified," said Martin, who regularly preaches at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on New York's Upper East Side.

Before his ordination as a Catholic priest, Martin worked in corporate finance with General Electric, and said the blame for the market woes is spread far and wide.

"It's more a symptom of environments where people seem much more interested in making money than in making sensible decisions," he said.

Top-level executives made "obscene amounts of money making bad investments," he said, and there were no incentives not to continue. Institutions foolishly took unreasonable risks and CEOs were blinded by unbridled greed.

"They were carried away by greed and that trumped rational responsibility," he said. "They should have known better."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Prayer of Saint Francis

Fridays are hard for teachers, especially in the early part of the year. The kids don't have the stamina to last all five days and, frankly, neither do we.

This morning I pray the Prayer of Saint Francis,

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is James Bond religious?

I got this from a Lutheran pastor's blog I just started reading:


The Timesonline blog piece asks, "Does James Bond have faith in anything but himself?"

The author goes on to cite The James Bond Dossier:
Some things are regarded as good: loyalty, fortitude, a sense of responsibility, a readiness to regard one’s safety, even one’s life, as less important than the major interests of one’s organization and one’s country. Other things are regarded as bad: tyranny, readiness to inflict pain on the weak or helpless, the unscrupulous pursuit of money or power. These distinctions aren’t excitingly novel, but they are important, and as humanist and/or Christian as the average reader would want. They constitute quite enough in the way of an ethical frame of reference, assuming anybody needs or looks for or ought to have one in adventure fiction at all. (From The James Bond Dossier 1965)

The piece barely digs into the issue, but it raises an interesting question. Is James Bond religious? We don't know. And, unless the keepers of the canon add something to the storyline, we'll probably never know.

In case they ever give James a religious subplot, I'd like to take a guess:
He's a Catholic.

Your guesses?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What it feels like to be denied

I have posted before on the subject of denying Communion. I disagree with the Catholic Church denying anyone Communion. I think the Church should accept everyone, "flaws and all."

Here's the account of someone who was denied. Doug Kmiec is a conservative Reagan Administration official who has publicly supported Barack Obama. As a Catholic, he believes that Obama cares more about "life" issues including poverty and human rights and believes that Obama's abortion reduction agenda will do more to help the issue than the Roe v. Wade opposition.

April 2008. On that day the children were not with us [at church]. It was only my wife Carol and myself. I turned out to be the subject of the homily. Without warning or prior conversation, this blue-collar kid from Chicago had somehow given offense not just to this priest who stood before me, but in my memory, which was now running at top speed, to all those watchful religious eyes: to the good Franciscan sisters who watched the Kmiec brothers play basketball beneath the convent window; to Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, who instructed us in black-and-white from the old 6" Philco as we sat upon the living room couch; to my school days pastor who, on May 7, 1959, distributed Communion to me for the first time; to the Bishop whose hands confirmed my membership in the body of Christ in 1963; to Brother Konrad Diebold, F.S.C, the Christian Brother who led us in prayer in high school chapel....A litany of saints, these splendid women and men of the cloth. ...

These men of faith were generous of heart, conduits of the Holy Spirit and always inclusive. Taking time to talk, to encourage, to share happiness and to comfort sadness. Most of all, supplying the gifts of faith, hope and love. A faith that carries us through this life in exile we don't always fully understand or appreciate. A hope for a destination that in all of its unknown quality one knows is a sublime contentment and peace freed of this world's anxieties. A love that didn't depend upon status, intelligence, or even how much we were able to put in the collection basket. We were accepted as we were--flaws and all.

Until that evening, when all was revoked.

Suddenly the life-long chain of liturgy was broken into pieces. The priest--the priest who had just joined with us in the prayer of the Rosary was now red-faced shouting. I thought. Talking about me. I had cooperated with evil. I had? I had killed babies? My heart was black. I was giving scandal to the entire church. I had once been a leader but now I forfeited any semblance of respectability or leadership. The good father grasped tightly the edges of the ambo, the unusual name given to the lectern in the Catholic Church. No faithful Catholic would ever contemplate doing what I had done. I was dead to the Holy Mother Church.

My wife held my hand tightly. We looked at each other in disbelief. Here was someone in the vestments of the priesthood who had called us to have our prayers be heard, who recited the Kyrie with us, asking the Lord's mercy upon us, now seemingly merciless, telling me and the many there assembled that I was unworthy. I was to be publicly shunned and humiliated. My offense? Endorsing Senator Barak Obama for President of the United States.

The irony of ironies was that my motivation for the endorsement was entirely Catholic. No, Obama doesn't share the Catholic faith, but he certainly campaigns like he does. As reflected in his book, the Senator is focused on the human person, on the common good, on the social justice of economic arrangement. All is so very Catholic.

It was time for Communion. Notwithstanding the indictment of the homily, I did not think of myself as unworthy of receipt of the sacrament--at least no more so then pre-Obama endorsement. Communion in the Catholic tradition is indeed sacred. We believe the bread and the wind is transformed--transubstantiated--into the body and blood of Christ. I have often watched my parish priest focus his gaze with reverence upon the bread and the wine during the offertory to gain some appreciation for the significance of the divine person whose presence on can scarcely grasp....

But I was not to receive the Eucharist that evening. The couples who stood in line before my wife and myself received the body of Christ in their hands or on their tongues and returned to their seats. My wife received. My hand outstretched, the priest shook his head from side to side. Was that a no? It was Judgment Day, and I hadn't made it. LSAT Insufficient. Inadequate GPA. Do not pass GO...go directly to Hell.

Right there I was letting down every priest that had shared the faith tradition with me. I imagined my late mother, who seldom returned home from the factory until well after midnight, so that we could afford the tuition at the Catholic school, hanging her head in shame. All the traditions--prayers before meals, May alters and rosaries, novenas and indulgences, the pilgrimages to ten churches on Good Friday--all had somehow been zeroed out. Catholic identity theft, stolen right there by our Lord's faithful servant, Father _____. I won't tell you his name because he doesn't represent the Church's thinking. Indeed, Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles, who a month or so later investigated the incident "for the good of the Church," said it was important to call what happened "shameful and indefensible."

I was grateful for the Cardinal's apt description, though like an insurance payment long after suffering a bodily injury, I must say at the moment on that evening, I was the one who felt without defense and entirely shameful. Right there in that moment every Catholic good deed and good thought and good wish of love of neighbor that I once had seemed inconsequential and insufficient. Like a child feeling unfairly disciplined, but disciplined nonetheless, I pleaded with empty hand outstretched: "I think you're making a mistake, Father." His red complexion redder now, betraying righteous anger. His stretched hand over the top of the Ciborium, the container for the consecrated bread as if I was going to grab a handful and make a run for it, and then the pronouncement: "No, you are the one who made the mistake."

From the back of the Communion line someone shouted out, "Are you judging this man, Father?" I was grateful for the intervention. Will the Last Day be like this? One friend making an appeal for another? The response was cold: "He has judged himself and been found unworthy."

With no further appeal possible and with my wife exiting in confusion, tears, and offended embarrassment, I returned to my place along. My place? Did I have a place any longer? Was I expected to leave? The double significance of losing the body of Christ--of not having ingested and no longer standing among "the body"--was suddenly all I could think of. Condemned for announcing to the world that I intended to vote for a man who I thought lived the Beatitudes. A black man; a caring man; a talented man. A man different from conservative self and yet calling me to find the best of that self. A man who, in so many ways, asks to care for the least advantaged as he seeks the public responsibility to carry with him, as if it was his own burden the plight of the marginalized and unemployed worker, the uninsured, the widowed mother grieving over a son lost in Iraq. Their hurts, far worse than mine. It was wrong to be damned; to be excluded from the grace of the sacrament of the Lord Jesus Christ, and all I could think was the old Tolstoy folk wisdom "God knows the truth, but waits."

As of this writing, I have successfully kept the name of the priest and his religious order out the public record. Every expert in Canon Law who has examined the question and concluded under Canon 915 that the denial of Communion was unauthorized and inappropriate. After the event became public, Cardinal Mahoney called the priest into his office, and several months after that meeting, Father ______sent Carol and myself a letter of apology. The letter is thoughtfully written and the apology accepted. Perhaps there was a Providential hand at work using the two of us to teach a lesson to a larger congregation. The lesson? Any Voter Guide even hinting at a Catholic duty as a matter of faith and morals to vote against Senator Obama is seriously in error.

I'll close like I closed my original post, with Mark 2:17:

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Thanks to Deacon Greg Kandra for posting this.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

God invented the lightbulb

Cartoon Courtesy of freethunk.net

Every year for the past six years of teaching, without fail, my students have brought God into the classroom. Whether it be a conversation among students about their churches, an argument about where God lives, or simple theological ponderings about how Jesus is the Son and the Father at the same time, God does show up in the Public School classroom.

As a teacher, I can't promote a religion or religious talk, but I can take an objective approach to my students' questions. It's never easy, but hearing the thoughts of a 7 year old about God are always amusing, if not enlightening.

Today I received an email from my friend, the 3rd grade teacher who currently teaches my old 2nd graders. She wrote a brief clip from class today:

Science Teacher: You know, a lot of inventions wouldn't have happened without collaboration, things like electricity. By the way, does anyone know who invented the light bulb?

Class 305: GOD!! No wait, JESUS!!! No, GOD!!!!

"Fantastic!" wrote my friend.


When Stephen Colbert talks Catholic

Stephen Colbert is a Catholic with a great sense of humor. He's also not afraid to talk Catholic.

Here he is interviewing Peter J. Gomes about his new book, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus:

I think it's a fun interview.

Monday, September 15, 2008

When you need to remember what life is all about

You should listen to Matthew Andrae.

He's incredibly talented (sort of sounds like Tracy Chapman) and sings about life. And sometimes, that's all you need.

My favorite song, a magical song, Love is Gonna Get You:

A song about his newborn daughter, Sweet Celine:

When words don't come easily, Sorry:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Here's a guy who would have agreed with me

Mychal Judge would probably agree with me that NYC was a Holy Place. I just picked up The Book of Mychal, written by Michael Daly, and I'm impressed by the first 40 pages already. Impressed by the writing, but mostly the character emerging from the early pages.

He was born in Brooklyn to Irish parents, he was a priest, the Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York, a gay man, and one of those people whose work helps make New York City a holy place.

I'll write more, perhaps a review of the The Book of Mychal, later. For now, here's a trailer to a 2006 film, The Saint of 9-11:

Friday, September 12, 2008

NYC - A Holy Place

In recent years I have come to believe that New York City is a holy place. My reasons are many and based on my own personal experience. I have seen such great good come from this place. I hope that someday we, as New Yorkers, realize how blessed we are to live where we live and to have one another as neighbors. I love this place!

On that note, I wish we had more Eucharistic Processions in New York City. Here's one in a Grassroots Films production:

And, while we're talking about being holy, remember to pray. There's a lot to pray about. Always.

God bless.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 years ago I...

... fell asleep at 2am, full of nervous energy for the day to come. I had been working on a City Council campaign all summer long and on September 11th, 2001 we were finally at the Democratic Primary. I woke up at 5am to get back out and hit the streets for the campaign.

Our campaign for City Council was for the District 1 seat in Manhattan. Downtown Manhattan. We were all less than a mile away from the World Trade Center.

After the terrorist attacks we were in shock. Literally, we had no idea what to do. As a campaign, our first order of business was to make sure all of our volunteers and staff were ok. But, then what?

Over the next few days, slowly dealing with the severity of what had happened and working out the fears that it might happen again, the city began to find its pace. People began to donate blood, volunteer to help out firefighters, and Rudy became a national hero.

Meanwhile there was a family band that I had met a year before in Washington Square Park that spent their time helping out the firefighters and later made a record and donated all the proceeds to NYC firefighters. The Veltz Family (formerly known as Cecilia the Band) is made up of mom, dad, their son, and two daughters. Their music is beautiful.

They helped me seven years ago just by playing their music. Here, the National Anthem done by The Veltz Family:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I say, How 'bout a kiss, yes?

Sick, but somehow made me smile.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A pig is a pig

A good friend of mine sent me a message pointing out that John McCain has used the "pig"-line before:

Drawing comparisons between New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's current healthcare plan and the one she championed in 1993, Arizona Sen. John McCain joked Thursday, "I think they put some lipstick on the pig, but it's still a pig."

My response:

The HUGE difference is that I hold Obama to a higher standard. I want to believe that he is different. But he's showing me that he isn't.

McCain is way off message right now and the Democrats should ride him on it. Instead, they're stooping to the typical political jabs.

I have to add, another difference is that Obama's remarks today come shortly after Sarah Palin made a reference to herself as a pitbull with lipstick. Regardless of whether Obama was speaking about "the message" or the "messenger," it is just more of the same on the campaign trail.

I keep hoping for better.

Please Mr. DJ

Stick to the issues.

I've been making the case that the Democrats should not be going after Palin for her inexperience. It takes them away from their message and the Republicans can make strong arguments in return; getting us absolutely nowhere.

Today, I have to come down on the Dems for another reason: Name-calling.

Don't do it. Please. It gets us nowhere and the message is lost. And, you may be losing the election with it.

On the same day that Barack Obama defended Palin's faith and unveiled a plan on Education Reform, he said the following:

“There’s no way you can dress up that record, even with a lot of lipstick.”

Later he went on to add, "You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig."

"You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called 'change,'" Obama continued, "it's still gonna stink after eight years."

He also called Sarah Palin a "moose shooter."

The Republicans, with Sarah Palin playing the role of wildcard, have re-branded their message and now speak of "the change." Genius! Steal the message.

So now the Dems are pissed, nay, furious! and revert to making smart remarks. They try their hands at wit. But here's where they start to lose everything they've built.

Barack Obama built his campaign around change. Bringing us hope. Trying to keep the higher ground.

But now that John McCain is stealing that message and wrapping it around an elephant-agenda, Obama is derailing the campaign by taking shots an McPalin. Please Barack, don't take the low road. Don't.

Unfortunately, the Democrats have already lost a handful of people in Middle Small-town America due to Palin's entrance. But now they're going to lose another handful due to their poor choice of words. Handful by handful, in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania, they are starting to lose this election. I didn't think it could happen, but it is.

When I was in Ecuador back in July, my family there was asking me if Obama was going to win. I told them that unless he got caught stealing money from charity and puppies, he was a sure thing. I may have been wrong.

Once again, go after McCain-Palin on the issues. Go after them on their record. Force them to talk about the economy. Keep it positive and on message. Please.

All I want for Christmas...

Dear Santa (and, or loyal readers),

I've been good. So here is my Christmas wishlist:

1) Sarah Palin Super Hero Action Figure (herobuilders.com)

2) World Peace.

And to all a good night,


Monday, September 8, 2008

No pointing at God!

I got this from Uncle Barry's blog. Enjoy:

HEAVEN – In a press release issued earlier this month, God declared that professional athletes in any sport who point or gesture in any way in His direction while on the field of play will be subject to the normal penalties for committing a sin.

The policy seems to have been in the works for some time, as the release cites recent audits conducted by heavenly officials of post touchdown and homerun related adulation, which found relatively low levels of sincerity among professional baseball and football players in particular.

James Worthington, president of the Religious Studies Institute – a Chicago-based inter-faith think tank, is convinced that the timing of this new policy being released during the height of the NFL season is no coincidence.

“This is the time of year when you really see the celebrations ramping up, football players pointing with one or both hands and looking heavenward,” Worthington said. “We’ve seen the NFL crack down on celebrations significantly over the years, disallowing props and things like that. I see this as God’s way of saying that he’s not about to put up with being anybody’s prop either.”

The press release itself was relatively short – a mere 777 characters outlining the basics of the new policy, but a heavenly official speaking on the condition of anonymity told The Holy Observer that there were a couple of key factors in addition to the alleged lack of sincerity that prompted The Almighty to make the declaration.

“First of all, I think we can all agree that pointing is rude,” the official said. “Secondly, it’s more or less an open secret up here that God outsourced His sovereignty over sporting events at all levels to a startup firm in Mumbai about five years ago, so I really think he was starting to feel a little funny about taking credit for everything.”

It’s unclear at this point how the new policy will affect on field celebrations, as many well established sin-related policies seem to have had little to no bearing on the behavior of professional athletes historically. However, Worthington expects the new policy to at least have a temporary chilling effect.

“When you have God singling out your behavior directly like this, it tends to get your attention,” he said. “This isn’t like some dusty commandment telling you not to covet your neighbor’s Escalade. This is a fresh fax from cloud nine telling you to knock it off. I expect people to listen – at least until the playoffs.”

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Deacons at the airport

A quick break from politics brings us this. Thanks to Deacon Kandra for spotlighting this story:

Deacons’ Ministry Is At World’s Busiest Airport

Published: September 4, 2008

Atlanta airport chaplains Deacon Don Kelsey, foreground left, and Deacon Mike Landaiche stand in the airport atrium. Their main function is to assist in meeting the spiritual needs of the traveling public and airport employees, but they also simply help those needing direction or guidance through the airport. (Photos by Michael Alexander)

ATLANTA—More than a quarter of a million people daily fly out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. And 60,000 airline, concessionaire, airport and security employees work there.

Deacons Don Kelsey and Mike Landaiche care for the souls of all of them.

The two men in their Roman collars stroll the baggage claim area. They say a quick hello to the security workers and joke with attendants at the Air Canada ticket counter. A man and woman pulling luggage are pointed to the correct parking garage. In Terminal E, the international arrival area, a confused passenger just off a flight from Korea is sent in the right direction.

The two deacons of the Atlanta Archdiocese are part of the Interfaith Airport Chaplaincy, a 25-year program to serve the spiritual needs of the airport community.

Air travel puts millions of people in transit. And Atlanta is the world’s busiest airport. Every day there are the road warriors away from home. Or people traveling to funerals to pay their respects to loved ones. Or young people about to embark on global adventures.

Deacon Don has been walking the terminals for close to 20 years. A ministry in the airport made sense as a retired official with the Federal Aviation Administration. He’s been there to greet Olympic athletes and was rushed out of the airport on 9/11. Often it is the small kindnesses that fill his hours on the concourses.

For instance, he spotted a mother feeding an infant and trying to mind her three other youngsters at the same time. He stepped in, spoke a few words with the mother and turned his attention to the boys. Out came the paper and crayons.

“First thing I know, I am on the floor with the three boys. And I probably spent an hour with them. For me to do that for her was to help her through a struggling time,” says the 75-year-old.

As Landaiche studied to become a deacon, he was challenged to think creatively about where he could serve the church.

“You have to have an open mind,” says Deacon Mike, 74, a diaconate cross and airport photo ID hanging around his neck. Deacon Mike, a world traveler who has touched down in 43 countries, has been doing this work for several years.

The airport chaplain program follows the military model, where the chaplains tend to the diverse spiritual needs of everyone who crosses their path. The deacons, two out of nearly 200 permanent deacons in the Atlanta Archdiocese, said they are not out to convert people Instead they aim to be of comfort when nothing seems to be going right.

Deacon Mike once was invited to pray by a Muslim. He said the request forced him to craft a prayer that respected both faith traditions.

“To be there whenever they need someone to be there,” is how Deacon Don puts it.

This image serves as a symbol for the Interfaith Airport Chaplaincy (IAC) at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Various members of Atlanta’s religious community created the IAC in 1980. The image hangs in Atlanta’s IAC office.

Today there are some 140 airport chaplaincies in more than 39 countries, from Oslo, Norway, to Bangkok, Thailand, according to the International Association of Civil Aviation Chaplains. The first known airport chapel was opened in 1951. Located in Boston’s Logan International Airport, Our Lady of the Airways continues to serve passengers and workers in the Boston Archdiocese. It is located between Terminals B and C on the ground level. Today, there are more than 50 Catholic airport chaplains working in nearly three dozen airports around the country.

Atlanta’s airport chaplain program dates back to 1972 as a project of the Christian Council of Metropolitan Atlanta. In 1980, the Interfaith Airport Chaplaincy was incorporated as a nonprofit with a three-person board of directors: Father Jack Druding representing the Catholic Church, a Protestant minister and a Jewish rabbi.

Father Druding, now retired at 72, served 10 years at the airport, spending some 20 hours a week there as he worked at nearby parishes. (Father Druding, in fact, convinced Deacon Don to give the ministry a try.)

Father Druding said the ministry is invaluable, especially since so many travelers face stressful situations.

“It was great because (airline officials) knew someone was there that was interested and concerned” if a passenger was upset, he said. The work was “ministry to the people,” he said.

Atlanta’s airport chapel is a quiet place, about the size of a bedroom. It is blue and a cloud sculpture hangs from its ceiling. It is nestled between the bustling atrium and the strip of car rental agencies.

Rev. Chester Cook, a United Methodist minister, has been leading the nonprofit organization for seven years. He is assisted by as many as 30 chaplains from various faiths and volunteers. The program runs on an $80,000 budget raised from private donations, church contributions and foundation grants.

It is a “marketplace ministry,” where chaplains help workers and travelers with words of encouragement or get them through a crisis as they go about their lives, he says, after having a conversation with airport workers about aiding a troubled man before he becomes an issue for police.

The nonprofit organization relies on faith groups to sponsor chaplains. Rev. Cook says he hopes to have a Jewish chaplain soon. And while it is great to have the deacons, Rev. Cook says he often fields phone calls asking if Mass is celebrated at the airport. It is not, but officials at the archdiocese are studying how priests can be available to serve at the airport.

Some 2,000 people visit the atrium chapel every month. A more prominent location and bigger space may draw even more people looking for respite. In the fall, the chapel will be located on the second floor, within viewing distance of the atrium. It’ll more than double the chapel’s size, sitting 50 people, with three offices. There will be two smaller rooms for meditation, prayer and reading.

“In our new facility, we’ll be in your face. Prime real estate,” says Rev. Cook.

People travel through airports for life-changing events, funerals or visits to a dying loved one. Flyers have a lot on their mind and weigh serious questions, said David Miller, author of “God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement.”

“They are in a sad state. Sometimes going to talk to the chaplain may give them a sense of peace out of their time of grieving,” says Miller, president of The Avodah Institute.

Chaplains have traditionally been in places of dying or possible danger, such as hospitals and the military, where people face life and death. But now chaplains are showing up more in offices to help employees with concerns of daily life, he said.

The deacons work every Tuesday. They show up around 9:30 a.m. and stay until mid-afternoon. The routine varies. If the weather is bad and the luggage area is filled with angry passengers, they make a point to stroll through there. They will stick their head in to the lost luggage areas since emotions can get heated. They like to think their presence can help people keep tempers in check and provide a friendly face to airport workers who feel under siege.

Deacon Don said despite the competition among airlines, when tragedy strikes the workers overlook whether they get paid by United, Delta, American, any airline, but that they are working for “a community and they all join together to support one another.”

“I don’t think that is ever publicized,” he said.

They like to work on concourses B and E.

On the way to the trains, after going through security, they are spotted by Atlanta police officer Raymond Morrison who patrols the airport.

“It does me good to see them. They are very approachable. I can go talk to them,” he says. “They seem genuine, very good people. Just having the guys around has a calming effect.”

The deacons and Morrison collaborate on the HOPE team, which helps the homeless and mentally ill find permanent help instead of a trespassing charge.

Stu Cohen is a manager with the Transportation Security Administration. He sits in a perch watching the security area.

“I’ve never seen either one of them frown. They really bring a light. You can always count on them,” says Cohen.

He tells Deacon Mike that he’d like to talk sometime about his faith journey.

With their Roman collars, the deacons stand out from travelers with rolling luggage. And their anonymity on the concourse makes them available for the traveler. Everyone knows they’ll likely never run into the deacons again, so barriers of embarrassment fall quickly. Prayers and requests for help come easier, as travelers know tomorrow they will be miles away.

Deacon Mike recalls when a man coming up the arrival escalator asked to pray together. The passenger returned from a medical trip to learn of terminal cancer. A quick prayer and they went their separate ways.

“You get a sudden request for something extremely important to somebody and then after that it goes away. The person goes away. He doesn’t know who I am. I don’t know who he is. But that’s not important because the Holy Spirit knows who both of us are,” says Deacon Mike.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

rolling around in the BS

Big thanks to an old co-worker, Chris, for point this out:

I love it whenever a talk-show host, strategist, or talking-head gets caught in their own BS. Hilarious!

I have to say, that as far as she is concerned, Sarah Palin is doing her best to prove herself. And, she's doing an OK job.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

She's got a future

No matter what happens, whether you agree with her or not, Sarah Palin has got a future in American politics.

Ledesma has spoken.

Peggy Noonan cracks me up

I love Peggy Noonan, especially when she uses curse-words. Here are some Peggy Noonan quotes from today's Wall Street Journal:

The choice of Sarah Palin IS a Hail Mary pass, the pass the guy who thinks he has a good arm makes to the receiver he hopes is gifted.
Most Hail Mary passes don't work.
But when they do they're a thing of beauty and a joy forever.


I'm bumping into a lot of critics who do not buy the legitimacy of small town mayorship (Palin had two terms in Wasilla, Alaska, population 9,000 or so) and executive as opposed to legislative experience. But executives, even of small towns, run something. There are 262 cities in this country with a population of 100,000 or more. But there are close to a hundred thousand small towns with ten thousand people or less. "You do the math," the conservative pollster Kellyanne Conway told me. "We are a nation of Wasillas, not Chicagos."


Dig deep into Sarah Palin, get all you can, talk to everybody, get every vote, every quote, tell us of her career and life, she may be the next vice president. But don't play games. And leave her kid alone, bitch.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Teacher's Prayer

Today was the first day of school for the New York City Public Schools. God bless us everyone.

A Teacher's Prayer by James Metcalf

James J. Metcalf

I want to teach my students how--
To live this life on earth,
To face its struggles and its strife
And to improve their worth.

Not just the lesson in a book,
Or how the rivers flow,
But to choose the proper path,
Wherever they may go.

To understand eternal truth,
And know right from wrong,
And gather all the beauty of
A flower and a song,

For if I help the world to grow
In wisdom and grace,
Then I feel that I have won
And I have filled my place.

And so I ask your guidance, God
That I may do my part,
For character and confidence
And happiness of heart.