Sunday, August 26, 2012

Requiem for Nellie Gray–Funeral for a Friend of the Pro-Life Movement

Nellie Gray, the founder of the March for Life, died at the age of 88 on August 13. Gray was  given a Requiem Mass at St. Mary, Mother of God Catholic Church in Washington, DC.  Her funeral was a beautifully sung Trinentine High Mass, celebrated by Pastor Alfred Harris, with Boston Archbishop Sean Cardinal O’Malley and Washington Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl in attendance. Gray had been a parishioner at St. Mary’s for sixteen years.

Nellie Gray served in the Women’s Air Corps during World War II. Afterwards, Gray earned her undergraduate degree in business, a Masters degree in Economics and went to night school at Georgetown Law School while working as a career public servant for twenty years at the State Department and the Labor Department.  In fact, Gray argued cases before the Supreme Court.  But she was so outraged by the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973), that she listened to God’s voice and dropped everything to oppose what she discerned was a travesty of justice.  In fact, she retired on a meager government pension and never took monies from March for Life to supplement her pension.

During her eulogy, her colleague from the March for Life attorney Terry Scanlon noted Nellie’s determination once her mind was made up.  Scanlon noted that Gray was the driving force in the anti-abortion movements “Respect for human life–no exceptions.”  Scanlon said that Gray was actively planning the 40th anniversary March for Life when she passed away.

Cardinal O’Malley recalled working with Gray during the early days of the March for Life, when they would exhaustingly paper Capitol Hill offices with materials protesting the virtual Abortion on Demand decision.  O’Malley, who is a Capuchin priest, quipped that today is the first time that he was around Nellie Gray not wearing sandals, which is the order’s customary vestment.

O’Malley opined that it always seemed like the coldest day of winter when the March for Life.  But memorializing January 22 as the day of infamy had great symbolic value and galvanized Pro-Life forces to spread the light for life in the dead of winter.  The first March for Life only had a couple of hundred participants.  Now, the March for Life is an annual event which the Lamestream Media either minimizes or ignores despite the fact of hundreds of thousands of participants, many young people, redress their government for this unjustice to the unborn.

Cardinal O’Malley philosophized that this world seems obsessed with celebrity, yet our real champion is a person like Nellie Gray, who discerned God’s will, abandoned all of her professional pursuits to do what she thought was right and helped build God’s kingdom.

Cardinal Wuerl offered a personal story about Nellie Gray’s outlook on life.  Wuerl was on the dais for the annunal March for Life, on what he too thought was the coldest day of the year.  Gray focused on Wuerl and asked “Where’s your hat?”  What Wuerl took from that interchange was despite the crowds and the circumstances, Gray looked at people as individuals and she was concerned about someone in trouble.  Wuerl extrapolated a probing question “Where’s your voice?” challenging people to recognize the barbarity of killing pre-born children.

When connecting scripture to the question “Where’s your voice?”, Cardinal Wuerl thought of Pentacost where the Spirit of God came down upon the Apostles, which made them bold and they began to speak.  Wuerl marveled at how Gray’s righteous indignation over the Supreme Court overturning abortion laws nationwide made one woman bold and the fruits over her work seem to reconnecting young people to the spirit speaking out for unborn babies.

Preparing the High Altar for Nellie Gray's Requiem, St. Mary Church Washington, DC [photo: BD Matt]

Casket of Nellie Gray lying in repose at St. Mary's Church Washington, DC [photo BD Matt]
St. Mary's Pastor Fr. Alfred Harris celebrating Nellie Gray Requiem Mass, Wash. DC [photo BD Matt]
March for Life V.P. Terry Scanlon offering Nellie Gray Eulogy   [photo: BD Matt]
Boston Archbishop Sean Cardinal O'Malley reminisces on Nellie Gray  [photo: BD Matt]

Washington Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl's reflections on Nellie Gray's importance  [photo: BD Matt]
Celebrant Fr. Albert Harris incenses Nellie Gray's casket   [photo: BD Matt]
Washington Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl offers a final benediction for Nellie Gray  [photo: BD Matt]
Pall bearers for Nellie Gray's casket as Knights of Columbus look on  [photo: BD Matt]
Boston Archbishop Sean Cardinal O'Malley comforting mourners for Nellie Gray   [photo: BD Matt]

Pope Blessed John Paul II, during a pilgrimage to Mexico in 1979, offered a prayer which captured the driving force behind Nellie Gray’s discernment of her mission from God:

Virgin of Gaudalupe, Mother of the Americas, grant to our homes the grace of loving and respecting life in its beginnings.  Loke upon us with compassion: teach us to go continually with Jeus through a great love for all the holy Sacraments.
Thus, with our hearts free from evil and hatred, we will be able to bring to all the true joy and true peace, which comes to us from your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen

Thursday, August 23, 2012

In Memoriam of Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)--Man Who Ushered In the Giant Leap for Mankind

Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong Saluting the US Flag, July 21, 1969

Neil Armstrong, the first human who walked on the Moon, died at the age of 82.  Armstrong had recently undergone surgery to relieve blocked coronary arteries.

Purdue University, Armstrong Hall of Engineering
Armstrong was born and raised in West-Central Ohio. Armstrong was so keen on aviation in his youth that he had a pilot’s license before having a driver’s license.  Armstrong was an avid Boy Scout, earning the Eagle Scout distinction which was instrumental throughout his life.  Armstrong studied aerospace at Purdue University,  rather than M.I.T., as he was convinced that is was unnecessary to go all the way to Cambridge for a good education.  Armstrong’s tuition was paid through the Holloway plan, which mandated two years of study followed by three years service in the United States Navy before completing his undergraduate degree.

Armstrong was a US Navy aviator who saw action in the Korean War. During a low bombing run near Wonsan in September 1951, his plane was struck by anti-aircraft fire and subsequently hit a pole, slicing off three feet of the Panther fighter’s wing.  Armstrong was able to navigate back to friendly territory, but needed to eject due to damage to the aileron.  Perhaps it was this example of coolness under pressure that later influenced later colleagues of the need for Armstrong to be on the first lunar landing mission.

 After leaving the Navy active service in 1952, Armstrong completed his undergraduate education and then became a test pilot for a precursor of NASA, first in Cleveland and shortly thereafter at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  When completing a mission to drop a Douglass Skyrocket from a B-29 Superfortress, one of the engines disintegrated while ascending at 30,000 feet.  Armstrong and his co-pilot were able safely land using only one engine. Armstrong later flew the X-15 rocket planes, one of which reached an altitude of 207,000 feet.  Many of Armstrong’s fellow test pilots felt that he was the most technically capable of X-15 test pilots.
Recovery of Gemini 8 Spashdown 1966

In 1958, Neil Armstrong was chosen as one of the Man In Space Soonest program.  In November 1960, Armstrong was tapped to be one of the six pilots for the X-20 Dyn-Soar military space planes. Armstrong was one of two civilian pilots who were named as NASA’s “New Nine” in September, 1962.   Armstrong was the Commanding Pilot on Gemini 8 in March 1966, which was designated to rendez-vous and dock with an unmanned target vehicle.  Armstrong was backup Command Pilot for Gemini 11.

Neil Armstrong was named as the Commander of Apollo 11, which was destined to land on the Moon.  NASA officials wanted Armstrong to be the first man on the Moon as he was not deemed to have a big ego.  This P.R. prudence in choosing Armstrong was demonstrated on Apollo 11's trip to the Moon in July 1969 when Armstrong greeted his fellow Boy Scouts:

"I'd like to say hello to all my fellow Scouts and Scouters at Farragut State Park in Idaho having a National Jamboree there this week; and Apollo 11 would like to send them best wishes".
Houston: "Thank you, Apollo 11. I'm sure that, if they didn't hear that, they'll get the word through the news. Certainly appreciate that.

Armstrong’s level-headedness also served by his piloting.  Armstrong was unflustered by unknown error codes when piloting the Eagle Lunar Landing Vehicle on approach to the Moon landing.  Although Houston Mission Control was worried about potential low fuel issues of the Lunar Lander, Armstrong’s training led him to believe that there was 40 seconds of fuel left for launching from the Moon.

As for the inconic Moon landing, Armstrong had given quite a bit of though to these monumental words.  But in the excitement of moment, it seems that Neil dropped a syllable in uttering the famous “One small step for [a] man–one giant leap for mankind.”

Those words were heard by an audience of 450 million listeners out of a world population of 3.6 billion people.

Leaving the Moon was a little more potentially treacherous than expected. Aside from the worries over low fuel for lunar blast off, the bulky astronaut suits broke the ignition for the ascent engine.  This mechanical malfunction was overcome by using part of the pen to activate the launch sequence mechanism. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were able to rendez-vous with the Columbia and the three Astronauts splashed down in the Western Pacific. The Apollo 11 crew spent 18 days in decontamination, during which time they were greeted by President Richard M. Nixon.

Apollo 11 crew and President Nixon, 1969
Armstrong briefly served as a NASA administrator and then taught Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati for eight years.  Armstrong received many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Armstrong did do some corporate endorsements, only for American companies.  Armstrong served as a spokesman for Chrysler in 1979 he deemed the automaker as a strong engineering company with financial difficulties.  Armstrong also served on several boards of directors for corporations.

However, Neil Armstrong was a remarkably private person. Armstrong threatened legal action in 2005 against his barber for selling some of Armstrong’s hair to a collector.  In lieu of returning the purloined hair follicles, the perfidious cosmetologist donated the $3,000 proceeds to a charity of Armstrong’s choice.  Armstrong also became chary about signing autographs as they were selling for large sums of money and there were many forgeries.  Such indiscreet idolization caused Armstrong to stop sending signed letters of congratulations to Eagle Scout recipients, a practice which he had done for years.

Armstrong was a modest man who ushered in mankind’s exploration of other planets. His example off cool confidence, meticulous preparation and remembering his roots should be an example to all of us.

Tampa-fication Thru Tea Party Temperance Not Spend-thriftiness

Democrats claiming credit for Tampa's triumphs 

In anticipation of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Salon Magazine (no conservative rag) published a piece entitled: “Tampa: America’s Hot Mess”, which details how a city which the 1988 bestseller “Megatrends” has degenerated into what is derisively called a “Hot Urban Mess”.

Columnist Will Doig uses the empty 40 acres in Tampa which were slated for the aborted $2.4 Billion Sun Rail project in July 2011 as an example of what he considers the short-sighted parsimonious civic spending in Tampa as a foretaste of what is in store for America if Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) is elected as President.

The article seems to presume that Hillsborough County’s rejection of the ½ cent sales tax increase scotched the light-rail deal and unwisely condemned them to congestion.  Actually, the transit tax was a 1 cent sales tax increase which failed to get 60% of votes in 2010.

The presumption that light rail would be a transportation panacea is questionable on a cost-benefit analysis.  Mass transit works well in several cities with established urban cores, such as New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C. and Chicago.  But then there is the infamous example of the $200 million Detroit monorail.  Baltimore’s light rail is not touted as a solution to urban congestion.  Presumably, progressives love choo-choo trains because of centralized planning, emulating European examples and employing municipal union employees. Light rail costs lots of money to establish the infrastructure and maintain it.  Perhaps express busses (which could be designed to look like street cars) running in HOV lanes could more efficiently comnbat congestion. But that derails the dream of urban railroads so beloved by progressive politicos.

Doig recounts that when Tampa went on a building spree spurred by real estate and the financial and insurance markets, there were tall glass buildings that were detached from the city itself and did not offer incentives for parks, transit or walkable space.

Perhaps the author is unfamiliar with Joel Garreau’s theory  why businesses were inclined to relocate to an Edge City  in the 1980s instead of urban centers.  The lower cost of office-space, cleaner campuses (without Superfund cleanups) which the companies control, modern infrastructure and municipalities which offered tax incentives for relocating rather than soaking supposed deep pocket companies to “pay their fair share” of taxes and graft.

It is unsurprising that the Salon columnist blames the Tea Party for not submitting to smart growth policies contained in the non-binding United Nations Agenda 21 document (not a treaty).  But without worrying about conspiracies over international Sustainable Development initiatives, the consternation can more easily be explained by the urban, suburban divide.  Democrats love centrality and dense populations, as this requires active government, lots of municipal employees and empowered politicians who bring home the bacon for their constituents.  Suburban sprawl denudes the density which requires the infrastructure and activist progressive politicians.  Of course the urban core of Tampa are Democrats and suburban Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties (St. Petersburg) are conservative strongholds.

Hurricane Isaac may make shuttling the 400 buses slated to transport RNC delegates to the Tampa Bay Times Arena more complicated, but it will be embracing the consequences of Tea Party Temperance on Taxation.  It is the height of hypocrisy for the Democrat Mayor and City Council to claim credit for the Tampa triumph and then backbite the conservative Tea Party types and conservatives

Considering the empty coiffers of many state and local governments due to boondoggles, overstaffing municipal union employees and ridiculously generous pension packages, there may be much more Tampa-fication in America rather than spend thrift states like California and Illinois.

Monday, August 20, 2012

America's New State Religion?

In the wake of the Obama Administration’s HHS Qualified Health Plan Mandate (a.k.a. the Contraception Mandate), mainline churches have to come to terms with a Federal government which narrowly construes the First Amendment Freedom of Religious Expression.

While the Obama Administration exempts parishes from these objectionable regulations, no such leeway is given to religiously affiliated organizations, like Catholic colleges, religious orders, Catholic Insurers etc.  from paying for abortions, sterilizations and abortifacients.  But such groups were given a year’s reprieve from complying. As New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan quipped that they were given an extra year to figure out how to violate their consciences.

President Obama claimed a work around which would force a farce that insurers would give away these services so religious organizations would not have to pay.  Of course, this is a ruse as insurers would simply raise their premiums to everyone to cover these free services.  But Obama’s announcement came on the same day that the Federal Register published the original rules unchanged, so the ameliorations were a rhetorical chimera.

This move by the Obama Administration has awakened a sleeping giant.  This summer, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops promoted the “Fortnight for Freedom”,  a coordinated nation-wide effort of prayer, fasting and educating American Catholics on the importance of preserving Americans’ First Amendment rights to the unfettered exercise of religious beliefs.

Some pastors have picked up this mantle to drive this crucial point home.  On the “Pastor’s Page of St. John the Evangelist of St. Paul (MN), Fr. George Welzbacher published this thought piece on the establishment of a nationwide first state religion–secular humanism.

It would seem that, for the first time in the history of our republic, we are witnessing here in the U.S.A. the establishment of a state religion, a religion so crafted as to delight the heart of a secularist, a religion with clearly defined dogmas, compliance with whose demands is to be enforced with all of the coercive powers at the disposal of the federal     government.  Here are the dogmas of this new faith. 
Dogma #1: A woman has the right, the unrestricted right, to make arrangements for the killing of her unborn child whenever such course of action is convenient.
Dogma #2: The chief purpose served by the institution of marriage is the securing of social recognition for romantic attraction, together with the panoply of benefits accruing to such recognition. The begetting of children, together with such subsequent upbringing as will equip them to contribute responsibly to the society in which they will spend their lives, can be dismissed as of  marginal importance. Thus every man, should this be his bent, has the right to marry another man, just as every woman, should she be so disposed, has the right to marry a woman. To suggest otherwise, to imply, for example, that a man's realigning of his reproductive powers to adapt to another man's digestive tract is in any way abnormal is to be guilty of a hate crime, in exculpation of which no appeal to the rights of conscience shall be allowed,  this being an intolerable crime, properly punishable with fines and/or imprisonment.
Dogma #3: The sovereign pontiff in this new state religion is the people's hero, Barack Hussein, now reigning gloriously in the White House.
Dogma #4: Enemy Number One of the new state religion is, by and large, the Christian faith and, with special intransigence, the Catholic Church. Measures must accordingly be taken to compel the recusant authorities of the Roman Catholic faith to genuflect at the new religion's altar. (Thus the new Health and Human Services mandate).
 All of this represents at least one way of looking at President Obama's arrogant trampling upon the First Amendment, not to mention his repudiation of God's Commandments.

If this is the case, I hope that I’m losing that religion come the first Tuesday in November.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cultivating Agi-Prop on the Obama Campaign Hustings

In 2008, candidate Obama claimed that he would change the divisive ways of politics.  Witness how the Obama campaign has proceeded Forward (sic.).

Well, it was more than POTUS who was cultivating defamatory and undefensible campaign rhetoric.  Consider Vice President Joe Biden speaking before a largely black audience in Danville, Virginia (the last capital of the Confederacy).

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Romney/Ryan–Vetting the Virtues of Veepstake Choices

[L] Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI 1st) and [R] former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA)

As publicized through a smart phone application and announced on the U.S.S. Wisconsin in Norfolk, Virginia, presumptive Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney chose seven term Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI 1st) as his choice for a running mate.

John Garner Nance, President Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice President during his first two terms (1933-1941) derided the second highest office in the land by opining: “The vice presidency is not worth a bucket of warm spit.”  Perhaps Vice President Nance was jaundiced by simply being the duties of being the tie breaking vote in the Senate as its President and the back up in case of the incapacitation of the President.   In modern times, Vice Presidents are often tapped as the designated official American representative at foreign funerals.

If the office of Vice President can be so inconsequential, then why does the naming of a Presidential running mate matter.  Since Vice Presidential picks are often revealed just before the general election campaign, this acts as a vanguard of a Presidential nominee’s decision making.  Former Vice President Walter Mondale made a big show of his 1984 interviews before selecting Representative Geraldine Ferraro (D-NY 9th) to be his Democrat running mate.  Then Vice President George H.W. Bush made a snap decision in naming then Senator Dan Quayle (R-IN) as his surprise pick in 1988.  Senator John McCain surprised nearly everyone by stealthily selecting first term Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK).

There can be several motives behind choosing a Presidential running mate.  Sometimes it is pure electoral math.  There was no love lost between then the 1960 Democrat nominee then Senator John Kennedy (D-MA) and the Senate Majority Leader then Senator Lyndon Johnson (D-TX) but the selection of LBJ guaranteed that the Democrats would take the big electoral prize of Texas by hook or by crook.  Arguably, one of the great virtues of Governor Michael Dukakis (D-MA) choosing Senator Lloyd Benson (D-TX) was the secure large electoral prize of the Lone State state.  Of course, this strategy is only significant when it comes from populous states like California, Texas, Florida and New York and if the choice has statewide appeal (e.g. a governor or a senator).

Another impetus for selecting a Vice Presidential candidate is for party unity.  Kennedy/Johnson in 1960 placated wings  of the Democrat party as well as having geographical balance.  The same could be said of Senator John Kerry (D-MA) choosing then Senator John Edwards (D-NC), who was his leading primary opponent. Conservative candidate then Governor Ronald Reagan (R-CA) chose moderate primary opponent Rep. George H.W. Bush (R-TX 7th) in 1980 to unite the party.

A strategic calculus in the Veepstakes is to project a theme or to compliment weaknesses in a resume.  Then Governor George W. Bush (R-TX) chose former Representative Dick Cheney (R-WY) as his running mate in 2000 because of his “gravitas” with his extensive Between-the-Beltways experience in Congress, White House Chief Staff and Defense Secretary.  The same could be said of the 1988 Lloyd Benson pick.  There were some concerns about an outsider like Reagan being a cowboy, so the choice of George H.W. Bush, who had been RNC Chair, CIA Director and Ambassador to China filled in the insider weaknesses as well as ameliorating anxiety over foreign policy experience.

Many wondered why then Governor Bill Clinton (D-AR) selected Senator Al Gore, Jr. (D-TN) in 1992  as his Vice Presidential pick, since Tennessee is neither a by electoral prize nor could Gore, Jr.’s resume as a one term senator and one term congressman give significant insider experience”.  Mondale’s choice of Ferraro was almost certainly to make a statement for women by shattering the glass barrier.

But sometimes the bottom of the ticket is used to reinforce qualities with the marquee candidate.  Clinton/Gore projected an aura of a “new generation” as well as the “new South”.  It is speculated that George H.W. Bush chose Quayle to balance experience with youth.  A big virtue of McCain tapping Palin as a V.P. choice was to reinforce the “maverick” brand.

Occasionally, V.P. picks are meant as a contrast.  Vice President Al Gore wanted to separate himself from the scandal of the late Clinton Administration so the Democrat choice in 2000 was Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CN), who had voted for impeaching Clinton.

In some ways, it is dicey to choose a House member as a running mate.  This did not bode well for Senator Barry Goldwater’s choice in 1964 of Rep. William Miller (R-NY 42nd).  Mondale’s choice of little known Queens Congresswoman Ferraro did not carry the Empire State.  Senator Bob Dole’s choice of former Congressman Jack Kemp (R-NY 31st & 38th) did not make an impact, even though Kemp had experience as a HUD Secretary who wanted to Empower America.

As for Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan, this choice was somewhat bold in that Ryan was well known as a Republican who proposed a detailed plan to try to balance the budget.  While Wisconsin may be in play, it is not a huge electoral prize.  It demonstrates that Romney is choosing a running mate to govern.  The Obama campaign had been labeling proposed Medicare cuts in the budget as the Romney/Ryan budget plan, so Romney’s Veepstake choice embraces this issue.  Democrats had used a look alike of Paul Ryan dumping grandma off a cliff during  off-election campaigns, so Ryan’s image is already battle tested.

A virtue which Paul Ryan brings to the ticket is uniting the Republican party.  Some of the base has expressed concerns that Romney had not solidified his conservative credentials.  Rep. Ryan’s seriousness about the budget proposals makes him a darling of the Tea Party and should energize the base.  The choice of Paul Ryan may appeal to Independent voters who are serious about growing the economy.

An essential element of being a V.P. candidate is a willingness to be an attack dog to get the contrast campaigns without sullying the top of the ticket. Rep. Ryan was willing to go toe-to-toe challenging President Obama’s choices (and lack there of) in budget cutting.  So the Romney/Ryan ticket can double down on challenging incumbent Obama on not passing a budget in three years and projecting insipid economic growth for the foreseeable future. Vice President Joe Biden, our national treasure, will have a formidable opponent during the October 11th Vice Presidential debate.

At age 42, Ryan brings a youthful flair to the ticket while also offering substantive experience.  Ryan worked his way up from a non-privileged background so he may have appeal in other competitive Rust Belt states like Ohio and Michigan. Ryan's earnest efforts on balancing the budget might swing enough Granite State voters who care about economic integrity.   Ryan’s prowess on budget issues could concentrate campaign coverage on the economy rather than the slimey ad-hominem attacks on Romney by Obama 2012.  If elected, Ryan could be an interesting force twisting arms in the Senate, especially Cocktail Party Republicans, to pass real reforms.