Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Give me your tired, your poor...."

Now this is just damned wrong.

The day after the earthquake in Haiti back in February, thirty Haitians were allowed to take a U.S. Air Force plane to the United States for medical treatment and evacuation.

And what happened when they got there?

They got locked up by Immigration because they had no visas.

Even though we're not deporting Haitians, they're trying to deport these people.

I say again: this is just damned wrong.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mama Mia!

I have always been an unabashed and shameless promoter of the Martha A. Kent fan club.

Leave aside for a moment that this magnificent woman was, is, my mother. This lady is the very exemplar of The Greatest Generation. Bearing and raising nine only children (you have to know my sibs and me well to get that joke) and raising them, most of the time, on a single salary (my dad's), she was a pioneer: first woman manager at Hudson's Corporation during WW2, a TV writer in the days of rabbit ears and static, an industrial filmmaker who (a) made dozens of training videos for the auto industry almost singlehandedly, and (b) witnessed Gov. Dukakis make the tank ride that tanked his presidential campaign in 1988.

Mama is in her 88th year now, and is in a nursing home: her mental faculties are 100% there, but she's confined to bed; she cannot even walk any more, and her hands barely function.

This picture, however .... reflects an extraordinary moment.

Mom inherited her mother Loretta's glass sculpture of the Blessed Mother when Grandmother Remski died in 1976. Unfortunately, it went the way of all statues of Mary last September when a well meaning but inattentive assistant at her nursing home knocked it to pieces by accident.

Well, Mom got her back yesterday in one piece after some of the fam passed the hat and sent it to a glazier's for restoration. The result was this picture. I thought you'd all appreciate it.

Martha A. Kent.

Awesome does not begin to describe this lady. Truly.


I've always been an enormous fan of Gloria Estefan, a beautiful woman with an amazing body, an even more amazing voice, and a life story that leaves one agape with wonder.

Her father was a soldier assigned to protect Fulgencio Batista during the latter's (alas, inept, corrupt, and brutal) presidency of Cuba. This of course made him no friend of the Castro dictatorship, and he fled Cuba when the communists took power. He fought the Communists at the Bay of Pigs, and later for the United States in Viet Nam. And his daughter learned from him a fierce love for America, a fiercer love for Cuba and a hatred fiercer still for the Castroite enslavers.

Her career bagan modestly as a wedding singer for a small Cuban-style band called the "Miami Sound Machine" in the 1970s and went from one small hit record in 1978 to one of the great musical acts of the late 20th and earliest 21st centuries.

AND she's a star to show the other stars how to do it: happily married for more than 30 years to her husband Emilio Estefan Jr., two kids, an almost unbroken string of major hit albums.... breaking her back in a traffic accident, yet recovered fully to tour on stage only ten months later....

But this week, in Miami, she has shown her TRUE stardom.

This woman, in making this stand, steps outside of the mindless herd that is the Left in the entertainment industry, in standing against the dictatorship of the evil men who rule Cuba with an iron hand. She called for a march in honor of Las Damas de Blanco (The Ladies in White), the wives and daughters of those imprisoned by Castro's henchmen for "counterrevolutionary activities."

There are endless videos of her in her stardom and glory, but of all of them, I know in my heart that if she could dedicate one of her songs to the Castroites, it would be this one.

God bless you, Gloria Estefan. And your husband Emilio, and all those who stand with you. You do not work in vain. Viva la Cuba libre!

High Tech ... At Its Not-So-Finest

Sunday, March 28, 2010

High Tech ... At Its Finest

Friday, March 26, 2010

♪♪ I'M JUST A BILL ♪♪ .... THEN .... AND NOW.....


....BUT NOW....


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Another Political Fairy Tale

This time from Wikipedia.

A group of frogs lived happily and peacefully in a pond. Over time, however, they became discontented with their way of life, and thought they should have a mighty king to rule over them. They called out to the great god Zeus to send them a king.

Zeus was amused by the frogs' request, and cast a large log down into their pond, saying "Behold, your king!" At first, the frogs were terrified of the huge log, but after seeing that it did not move, they began to climb upon it. Once they realized the log would not move, they called out again to Zeus to send them a real king, one that moved.

Annoyed by the frogs, Zeus said, "Very well, here is your new king," and sent a large stork to the pond. The stork began devouring frogs. In terror, frogs called out to Zeus to save them. Zeus refused, saying the frogs now had what they'd wanted, and had to face the consequences.

To some, the simple lesson of the story is "leave well enough alone," or "be careful what you wish for."

More politically minded readers would interpret the story as a warning against giving too much power to a monarch, president, or chief executive of a geographic area. In times of crisis, people may desire a strong ruler to protect them, but a strong ruler can quickly and easily become a tyrant. Some have compared the tale to the Old Testament where Samuel warned the Israelites, who desired a king like the pagan nations that bordered them, that they would be ruled by despots who would start wars of aggression and take away the fruits of their labors through taxation

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

To Bee Or Not To Bee

I had an interesting experience a few days ago while cruising the Internet.

There was some thread on one of the news blogs about "Africanized bees" who killed some unfortunate individual doing construction work in Florida; apparently he knocked down a tree where they were living. There was a YOUTUBE link in that thread to a TV program, probably British.

Give it a quick view; it's only five or six minutes long. (Go ahead; I'll wait.)

Well, we all remember seeing some nature film or another describing the life cycle of the European or American honeybee. They're born, they're little grubs who are fed honey by their flying sisters, they pupate, they become bees; first they care for their fellow grubs, then as they age, they fly out of the nest to seek nectar, to pollinate plants, and to generally bee all that they can bee. Eventually, after a couple of months, they grow old and die, to be replaced by their younger sisters. (Only the queen lays eggs, of course.)

Anyway. This short film on Youtube above that showed this scenario--but it was a European beehive in Japan. European bees were imported to Japan because they make twice as much honey per hive than do the native Japanese bees. They've adapted quite well to their new territory...except for one thing.

The giant Japanese hornet.

If you think of a honeybee as a sort of a cross between a pickup truck and a yellow cab--workaday, adapted to its function--then the adult, giant Japanese hornet is a cross between an F-22 and an armored helicopter. These things are huge compared to the bee, three times as big at five or six centimeters long and about twenty times as massive. In a film closeup, they really do appear to be something out of a Japanese monster movie. Terrifying, brightly colored, protected by a thick chitin armor that the bees cannot penetrate, with vicious mean nasty sharp jaws that you would not want to encounter if you were bug sized.

And these hornets have a hive too. Also filled with grubs. But unlike the bee grubs, they don't eat pollen and nectar and honey. These grubs eat meat.

Preferably the grubs of bees.

These hornet grubs, repulsive white pustules--"a white bag of fluid with jaws", as the film says--clack their jaws against the paper hive to tell their adult hive mates that they're hungry. So the hive mates, annoyed no doubt by the grub equivalent of whiny children, leave to go hunting. And their favorite prey these days are European bees.

A couple of dozen hornets find a beehive and invade it. The European bees, evolved to fight European bugs, fight the Japanese hornets in their unique European way: one at a time, trying to sting it. (One at a time has an advantage that once the target critter is dead, the rest of the bees stop sacrificing themselves.) However, while this might work on European invaders, they are "only lining up to be slaughtered" by the hornets.

The Japanese hornets move into the hive like armored Samurai warriors wading into a crowd of unruly peasants armed with wooden pitchforks, and quite mercilessly behead every single bee in the hive. It takes a dozen or so hornets three hours to kill 30,000 adult bees in the hive.

Once they've done that, they take the bee grubs back to their own paper hive and feed the bee grubs to their own hornet grubs. (Cut in closeup to grubs, munchmunchmunch. Yummy.)

What was interesting was the program then showed what happens when the hornets invade a Japanese bee hive. These native bees have been dealing with the giant hornets for millions of years, and they have a slightly different approach to hive defense. These Japanese bees are not so good at making honey, but they DO know how to defend the hive against these flying hornet monsters.

When these bees detect an arriving hornet, they don't go after it one by one like the European bees do. They swarm them.

But they don't sting them–a pointless exercise anyway, given the hornet's armor.

These bees jump on the invading hornets and buzz their wings. This raises their temperature to about 45 degrees C, which is to say, about 113 degrees F., considerably hotter than the ambient temperature. It turns out that the bees can tolerate up to 48 degrees C/118 F.

But the hornets can't. The thickness of their armor prevents them from cooling and they die, cooked.

Now it's very easy to anthropomorphize these poor bees and to root for them against the evil invading hornets. What the hell, I will anyway: Yaaay for the bees.


Every herd animal, be it bees or wildebeest or buffalo or whatever, needs a predator to keep its numbers from growing overlarge. Wildebeest have lions; buffalo had Indians and/or sabertooths; and bees, I guess, have hornets. (Besides, a bee is nothing but a hornet that evolved to eat nectar.)

I thought about this movie a few nights ago, during dinner--since I worked late, I stopped at Uno's and had shrimp scampi. I was munching on a boiled shrimp (about as close to grub as I get in my top-of-the-food-chain-American-diet) (and, yes, they were yummy), and again it struck me, yeah, this is Mother Nature. This is Evolution in Action, Survival of the Fittest, "nature red of tooth and claw." Mother Nature is a bitch, a viscious monster who conceives children through rape, feeds babies through butchery, and ensures the survival of the entire biosphere by decreeing a death sentence on every single creature within it. And it has been this way ever since the first microbe discovered that it could do better by engulfing and devouring its neighbor.

How do we fit this true image of bloodyminded killer nature with the Christian idea of "lions laying down with the lamb" in a pre-fallen world, and presumably in a post-apocalyptic world? If lions lay down with lambs, isn't that a death sentence for the lions? They gotta eat too.

Some months back I wrote an essay about what I thought of evolution: a true idea, yes, which has its place in the science classroom, but not the political science classroom. A human society, a city, based on survival-of-the-fittest-the-devil-take-the-hindmost becomes a Nietzschean nightmare where rapists woo at swordpoint, robber knights steal every dime from the peasants, alpha males keep hareems, women are sex slaves, beta males are neuter, and all but the masters are slaves.

How do we reconcile this image of nature-as-it-is with Man-as-he-is? Fallen man, it seems to me, is indistinguishable from man who is in a state of nature, treating his fellow human as he would any prey to be killed and eaten. Does it not indeed seem that this would imply that what made Adam the first human was not his eating of the apple, falling from paradise into monstrosity, into a different image, Adam eating an apple that makes him more than a mere animal? Something that ceases to be a beast and becomes the Image of God? (Okay, okay, rather than eating an Apple of Life, he has God breathing into his nostrils. Different image, but same effect.)

I argued recently with another one of these disgusting Serbia-is-God's-Land types on line, contending his view that the Muslims at Srebrenica 'got what they had coming to them.' How was the Serbs' behavior at Srebrenica different than the Japanese hornets' behavior toward the bees? The Serbs were of course morally repugnant, but they were repugnant because we're more than mere animals.

Or are we?

I'm still trying to figure this one out.

- - - - - - - - -

I sent an earlier version of the above to a friend of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous. He's a philosophy Ph.D. candidate at a major Catholic university. He sends the following:

Just a few quick observations. I haven't read a great deal about the question, but understand that it has been much discussed in theology in the last century. Going off of my own knowledge:

First of all, I won't ever set foot in Japan, not even to change airplanes. I am a major stinging-insect-phobe. If there are 6-cm (three-inch!) hornets flying around, then sayonara Japan. Cicada killers give me the willies as is. And they're not even hive insects, so they're not aggressive.

Insects are not rational creatures. They have the appetitive and nutritive soul, not the rational soul. I know that sounds kind of clinical, but it's a deep theological and philosophical truth. They are not rational actors, do not have the telos of rational beings, and thus I for one have never been the least bit troubled by nature being 'red in tooth and claw.' We know that this fact about nature predates the Fall, because of predatory dinosaurs.

Biological creatures live off of biological matter. Predatory animal biological creatures live off of the meat of other animal biological creatures. Because this biological fact predates the fall, I don't see how it could be anything but part of the Divine design. Am I missing something? What may be part of the fall is the fact that natural creatures don't obey us and that they bother us.

The Scriptural phrase "the lion laying down with the lamb" refers to the eschaton [i.e., the World after the Second Coming and Final Judgment of Man]. The question of whether animals survive into the eschaton has been debated; Aquinas, of course thinks they don't since they don't have the rational soul. If animals do survive into the eschaton, they presumably wouldn't need to eat. In the state of glory they would presumably be sustained by the Divine glory and not need food. My understanding is that we will be sustained by the Divine glory in the eschaton.

If the phrase "lion laying down with the lamb" is just an analogy, then it refers to human relationships being restored in the eschaton, all humans being in perfect communion with God, angels, and each other. How that would apply to animals I don't know, since the Scriptures don't discuss the eschatological state of animals, just refer in general to the New Jerusalem. This suggests that there will be more than simply us, God, and angels in Heaven; but I don't know how that would work. It's a mystery I don't understand.

= = = = = = = = = = =

That's a thought. We know from St. Disney that "All dogs go to heaven", except of course for pit bulls who kill little old ladies. And Chihuahuas. A heaven under a just God cannot have chihuahuas in it.

But seriously, I would assume that not only are there animals in heaven, there are ALL animals in heaven, as the glory and imagination of God is as manifested in His molding of, say, the great whale, the baluchatherium, the stegosaurus (complete with thagomizer), or my personal favorite, the duck billed platypus (proof that God must smoke weed occasionally) as it is in his creation of the Paragon of Animals. ("What a piece of work is Man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, ....") I have to imagine that one of the Mansions that make up God's House is the real Jurassic Park, although lacking, I trust, the need to use lawyers sitting on toilets to feed the T-rex. (Unless they get them on consignment from Hell, which I presume has a local surplusage.)

I suppose that in THIS world, where the eschaton has not yet been immanentized, an animal evolved to be meat (say, the wildebeest) would have just enough of ratio to know that its end purpose is ultimately to be meat for something else, and that they're OK with that, and that they understand that the pride of lions that follows the herd are there to keep the herd from growing overlarge.

(Dr. Temple Grandin, the famous autistic cattle-person, says that cattle 'know' that they are meant to become burgers and that all they want is that, when the time comes, for the transition from on-the-hoof to on-the-bun to be over with quickly and as painlessly as possible.)

I also have heard that people who have undergone predator attacks and survived, such as an attack by a lion, experience a very strange phenomenon: they don't feel the 'chomps' of the predator, as if the body anesthetizes itself at this key moment. I remember reading that something like that happened to the poet Byron, who remarked later that such a phenomenon must be 'a gift of a loving God.'

So who knows?

All I know is this: I'm not about to go vegan any time soon. So if I'm not, I may as well let the hornets bee. As it were.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Obama Stiffs His Waiter

This just in:

President Obama Signs Pro-Abortion Health Care Bill, Ignores Executive Order

Washington, DC ( -- President Barack Obama signed the pro-abortion government-run health care bill into law today but did not sign an executive order that would supposedly nullify the abortion funding. Leading pro-life and pro-abortion groups are in rare agreement as they say the order is virtually meaningless.

In other words, Kaputs and Co. traded their inheritance for a pot of message.

And Obama didn't even give them a transparent figleaf.

They sold their souls and got NOTHING in return.

NB: This also means that nobody can make any further deal with President Obama and think that it will be meaningful.


I'm thinking of sending Bart Stupak a campaign contribution.


In dimes.

Dated 1964.

ADDENDUM II: Turns out Obama's issued that Presidential order.

But in private. No cameras. And no doubt he washed his hands afterwards.

Okay, so I'm wrong here, insofar as I stated that Obama doesn't keep his promises. I guess he does. (Which is an improvement over his immediate Democratic predecessor, who kept "those promises that he meant to keep.")

But I still don't think that Mr. Stupak can count on any help from anybody. The pro-abortion Democrats view him as a traitor to the Democrat cause; the pro-life Republicans, moderates and Democrats view him as a traitor to theirs. It's hard to betray two opposing sides at the same time, but somehow Mr. Stupak managed to do it... and for which he will be duly rewarded, I am sure, this November.

Romani Ite Domum!

It seems that the British held a rather interesting celebration last week: they held a torch-light parade lasting some 84 miles along Hadrian's Wall in northern England, to celebrate the day, now exactly 1600 years past in 410 A.D. (yes) when the Romans left Britain for good in order to protect Rome, which was then under direct threat.

Way cool.

However, one must ask: were they encouraged to leave?

And if so, why? What did the Romans ever do for us, anyway?

(At least I can now say that at last I've found a way to enjoy my favorite parts of The Life of Brian without risk of divine lighting bolts....)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tattered Remnants #028: Helmuth Hűbner

Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, Helmuth Hűbner, Ruddi Wobbe, 1941


"I know that God lives and He will be the Just Judge in this matter... I look forward to seeing you in a better world!" — from a letter written by Hübner

I have told the stories of many heroes of the anti-Nazi resistance in these essays. I've tried not to overemphasize them–I've deliberately left their numbers to be about half of those stories told here--but the war years of 1939-1945 being, what they were, the crossroads of the Western World's being, it produced many individuals whose silent bravery in the face of evil still stands out almost a century later.

This is one last story I want to tell of these brave people, and it is, perhaps, the most remarkable of them all.

Helmuth Hűbner was a lad of seventeen, living in Hamburg in 1941. His family had no connections to the Nazi Party. He was slightly unusual for a German of those days in one respect: he was an active Mormon, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He worked in the Hamburg Social Authority, providing assistance to Hamburg's poor (providing welfare services to the Volk was a cornerstone of Nazi ideology and a source of much of its political strength.)

Working in this organization as an apprentice–he was after all not quite old enough to serve in the military–he came across other young men with a tendency toward social liberalism and toward doubt of the established authority. Through his friendship with three of them – their names, let it be remembered, were: Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, Ruddi Wobbe, who were fellow Latter-day Saints, and one Gerhard Duwer – he began to doubt what he was being told in the news media and the state-controlled cinema. He started to listen to the BBC over a short wave radio that had belonged to his brother.

Over the course of several weeks in 1941 and 1942, young Mr. Hűbner began to write anti-Nazi leaflets, to copy them, and to distribute them in public, by posting them on bulletin boards, placing them serruptitiously in coats and clothes, and scattering them in public places. He wrote sixty leaflets that denounced the war and one that openly predicted Germany's and Hitler's defeat.

He was arrested after one of fellow apprentices turned him in to the authorities.

In August 1942, he was tried, at the age of seventeen, by the Volksgerichtshof: the German People's Court, eventually headed by the despicable Roland Friesler, described in earlier essays as the executioners of the White Rose group and of the July 20 coup leaders.

After hearing Mr. Hűbner defend himself, the judge used the youth's sincerity and clarity of thought as evidence that he was, in fact, a knowledgeable young adult, beyond the average level of maturity and knowledge of his age group: and as such, that he deserved the death penalty.

Helmuth Hűbner was executed on October 27, 1942, in Berlin's Plotzensee Prison, by guillotine. He was not yet eighteen.

His friends survived and eventually moved to Utah; as of 2010, Karl-Heinz Schnibbe lives today, at the age of 84, one of the last witnesses and survivors of the world's most evil court.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Mystic Men Who Eat Boiled Owls"

News Item: The United States House of Representatives is about to vote today on socialized health care. Latest projections indicate that the bill is likely to pass.

* * * * * *

I have just re-read what must be called a most prophetic story about a nation's leader who wanted, well, CHANGE.

It is astonishing how much truth this sixty-one-year-old children's book carries, how much foresight, how much punch.

It starts like this:

"They still talk about it in the Kingdom of Didd as The-Year-The-King-Got-Angry-With-The-Sky. And they still talk about the page boy, Bartholomew Cubbins. If it hadn't been for Bartholomew Cubbins, that King and that Sky would have wrecked that little Kingdom."
I am sure that you must have read it, either as a child yourself or to your children, for Dr. Seuss, one of the great gifts to American culture, often spoke far more truth that he knew in his silly poems and sillier drawings.

The story goes like this:

King Derwin of Didd, a mighty King, begins to growl at the weather. He growls at the sunshine, and at the rain; he growls at the fog, and at the snow. He is bored: it's the same four things every year.

King Derwin wants something NEW!

So he storms back and forth in his bedroom, very angry as Bartholomew Cubbins, his pageboy--the only person in the entire Kingdom of Didd who dares speak the truth to his face--warns him that
"You rule all the land. And you rule all the people. But even kings can't rule the sky."
The King goes into a rage.
"You mark my words, Bartholomew Cubbins, I will have something new come down!"

But how....?

Finally King Derwin decides .... to call the royal magicians!

"'Oh, no, Your Majesty! Don't call them!'"

But summon them the King does. And one at a time--in one of the most frightening scenes in this former child's memory--they come up from their secret lair beneath the dungeons.
"Shuffle, duffle, muzzle, muff.
Fista, wista, mista-cuff.
We are men of groans and howls,
Mystic men who eat boiled owls.
Tell us what you wish, oh King,
Our magic can do ANYTHING!"
And so the King consults with these wise men, who assure the King that they can do as he wishes--except that they haven't a clue as to the consequences.

For a moment they stood thinking, blinking their creaky eyes. Then they spoke a word ... one word ... "Oobleck."

"Won't look
like rain. Won't look like snow.
Won't look like fog. That's all we know.
We just can't tell you any more.
We've never made oobleck

"We go now to our secret cave
On Mystic Mountain
There, all night long, we'll work for you
And you'll have
oobleck when we're through!

"'They'll do something crazy!' whispered Bartholomew. 'Call them back, Your Majesty! Stop them!'

"'Stop them? Not for a ton of diamonds!' chuckled the King. 'Why, I'll be the mightiest man that ever lived! Just think of it! Tomorrow I'm going to have OOBLECK!'"

And so he did.

But he didn't like it.

I won't tell the rest of the story; not only do you probably know it, but the Widow Seuss is very possessive of her copyright perogatives and she's a leftie to boot. Therefore--particularly as I have pushed Fair Use here to its uttermost limit--I will not tell of what happens when the Kingdom of Didd encounters a storm of Oobleck.

I promise you, however:

Things do not go well.

Friday, March 19, 2010


We continue to be on temporary hiatus. I'm doing a reevaluation of this site. Don't worry, though, I'll certainly be back on April 1.