Monday, November 24, 2014

Mass Manners

On Saturday, I returned home from a two week business trip in Asia. I spent time in Shanghai, Nanjing, and Singapore.

Whilst in Shanghai, I attended Mass at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. It was in English and the crowd was a mix of Chinese, Westerners, Filipinos, Indians, etc. There’s something quite comforting about being able to attend Mass at a Catholic church almost anywhere in the world and finding most parts of it to be very similar.

There are of course always some differences. It seems like more and more Catholic churches are going with what I would call “glory and praise” music with guitars and touchy feely hymns. Sacred Heart in Shanghai was no exception to this trend. There’s nothing wrong with such music in small doses, but I’m more a traditionalist when it comes to hymns and prefer the tried and true standards.

Another difference from my home church (which I have also noticed elsewhere) was that people stood after the Memorial Acclamation instead of waiting for the Great Amen to get off their knees. Further research has revealed that this practice is actually fairly common outside of the United States:

Eucharistic Prayer I, II, III, IV

Preface: Comment: The congregation kneels (In many places throughout the Catholic world, the congregation kneels only at the time of the Consecration and remains standing for the rest of the Eucharistic Prayer.) The long-standing custom in the United States and in other places is for the congregation to remain kneeling throughout the whole of the Eucharistic Prayer below. What is the meaning of this posture during the Eucharistic prayer? Sometimes, in liturgical practice, kneeling signifies sorrow for sin, as when one kneels to confess one's sins in the Sacrament of Penance. At other times it signifies adoration, as one kneels in front of the tabernacle. The kneeling that takes place during the Eucharistic Prayer is primarily a posture of profound self-offering in which the congregation unites itself to the Sacrifice of Christ enacted on the altar.


One thing that was definitely unique about my experience at Sacred Heart were the “Mass Etiquette” rules that were on the back page of the bulletin.

Fast Before Mass

No drink or food for an hour before Communion. No problem.

No Food or Drink in Church

It did note exceptions for drink for small children and those who are ill. No coffee ever people.

Men Take Your Hats Off

Should never be a problem.

Don’t Chew Gum in Church

I can’t believe an adult would ever do this. A few weeks ago, one of our urchins slipped gum into church and we made sure he was aware that was never to happen again.

Cross Yourself With Holy Water on Entering and Leaving the Church

Always.

Dress Modestly and Appropriately

This is the one where there is plenty of room for improvement in most parishes.

Show Up At Least A Few Minutes Early

We’ve been guilty of violating this one, but have been getting better of late.

Cell Phones Should Never Be Used in Mass

This shouldn’t need to be said, but I’ve seen people violate it on more than one occasion.

When We Enter and Leave Church, Genuflect Toward the Tabernacle

An easy habit to follow.

Please Be Quiet

Ssssssssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Take Loud Children to the Back

Or the cry room or anywhere where their noise doesn’t disturb others. It seems like common sense, but it needs to be said.

Prepare Your Offering Before Mass

Discretion is always in order.

No Bulletin Reading During Mass

D’oh! This is one that I frequently violate, but only at appropriate times.

Do Not Leave Early

You’re giving God an hour a week and you can’t stick around for the recessional song? Really?

Leave Quietly

Save the chit chat for when you’re out of the main sanctuary of the church.

Good rules to follow wherever in the world you’re attending Mass.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

HWX: Brave New World


HWX returns for a special broadcast, with Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas and …. not John Hinderaker of Power Line. John is taking a rare and well deserved break, and sitting in is another alternative media legend, Paul Happe, aka The Nihilist in Golf Pants.

Topics addressed include:

* Reviews of the inaugural Power Line Podcast

* A look back at the future of blogging as envisioned 10 years ago by Time Magazine

* President’s Obama’s imminent executive action on immigration amnesty

* The Keystone XL Pipeline vote and the propriety of the Hastert rule

* Loon of the Week: Neil Yong and his new hit record “Who’s Gonna Stand Up and Save the Earth”

* This Weeks in Gate Keeping: The least factual magazine profile of an art gallery owner in history.

HWX is brought to you by the fine folks at Harrys.com

Did you know the month of Movember is upon us? Are you growing out an epic handlebar moustache? Harrys.com is the official razor partner of Movember, and will be there for you for the entire hairy month.

For a great shave, buy at Harry’s. For an even greater value, use the coupon code HWX at check out.

Screen-Shot-2014-07-18-at-10.49.08-AM


There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mother ship at Ricochet.  You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes.  Or you can just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this website.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Rights and Wrongs

The latest course offering from prestigious Prager University is called “Is The Customer Always Right?,” taught this time by the esteemed dean himself:

In a time when we only hear about consumer rights, Dennis backs the idea of shopkeeper rights. Specifically, a shopper cannot take up the time of a shopkeeper or a salesperson if the shopper is just using a store to learn more about an item that will be purchased elsewhere, such as online. This idea is largely unheard of, but the encouraging thing is that once people hear it, they'll be far more ethically aware when shopping.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Marshalling the Facts

Most people in the US and in Europe (and perhaps to a somewhat lesser extent) have favorable views of the Marshall Plan which was implemented after World War II to speed European economic recovery. A little background for those who slept through history class. The Marshall Plan:

The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was the American initiative to aid Europe, in which the United States gave $17 billion (approximately $160 billion in current dollar value) in economic support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948. The goals of the United States were to rebuild war-devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, and make Europe prosperous again. The phrase "equivalent of the Marshall Plan" is often used to describe a proposed large-scale rescue program.

The key words there are “gave,” “helped rebuild,” “prosperous,” and “rescue.” It’s not a surprise that the Marshall Plan enjoys a positive legacy in the West.

However, that perspective is not shared everywhere. Not a new Marshall Plan:

China has declared it is establishing a special fund for the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, two initiatives proposed by China to promote regional integration, cooperation and trade. It is making action plans to start cooperation with the relevant countries to translate the blueprints into tangible achievements. Meanwhile, the founding of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is also picking up speed.

However, some in the West have misinterpreted, either willfully or shortsightedly, the two proposals and describe them as being China's equivalent to the Marshall Plan, which was the economic assistance provided by the United States to its allies in Western Europe to help them reconstruct their countries after World War II. This is easily sensationalized.

Yet comparing China's two Silk Road projects to the Marshall Plan only exposes the diehard Cold War mentality that still casts shadows in the West.

In fact, the two Silk Road plans, which will greatly improve the connectivity of the Eurasian continent and the coastal countries of the Pacific and Indian oceans, are completely different from the Marshall Plan.

First, the Silk Road projects and the Marshall Plan embody different purposes. The US was seeking to contain the rise of the Soviet Union. The Marshall Plan was an economic tool that started the Cold War, split the European market, and aggravated poverty and hunger worldwide for more than four decades.


Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Marshall? So the Marshall Plan was responsible for forty-plus of the Cold War, the division of Europe, and global poverty and hunger? An interesting view of the Marshall Plan to say the least.

Again, not one that’s necessarily widely shared. Back to Wikipedia:

The years 1948 to 1952 saw the fastest period of growth in European history. Industrial production increased by 35%. Agricultural production substantially surpassed pre-war levels. The poverty and starvation of the immediate postwar years disappeared, and Western Europe embarked upon an unprecedented two decades of growth that saw standards of living increase dramatically. There is some debate among historians over how much this should be credited to the Marshall Plan. Most reject the idea that it alone miraculously revived Europe, as evidence shows that a general recovery was already underway. Most believe that the Marshall Plan sped this recovery, but did not initiate it. Many argue that the structural adjustments that it forced were of great importance. Economic historians J. Bradford DeLong and Barry Eichengreen call it "history's most successful structural adjustment program." One effect of the plan was that it subtly "Americanized" countries, especially Austria, who embraced United States' assistance, through popular culture, such as Hollywood movies and rock n' roll.

The political effects of the Marshall Plan may have been just as important as the economic ones. Marshall Plan aid allowed the nations of Western Europe to relax austerity measures and rationing, reducing discontent and bringing political stability. The communist influence on Western Europe was greatly reduced, and throughout the region communist parties faded in popularity in the years after the Marshall Plan. The trade relations fostered by the Marshall Plan helped forge the North Atlantic alliance that would persist throughout the Cold War. At the same time, the nonparticipation of the states of Eastern Europe was one of the first clear signs that the continent was now divided.

The Marshall Plan also played an important role in European integration. Both the Americans and many of the European leaders felt that European integration was necessary to secure the peace and prosperity of Europe, and thus used Marshall Plan guidelines to foster integration. In some ways this effort failed, as the OEEC never grew to be more than an agent of economic cooperation. Rather it was the separate European Coal and Steel Community, which notably excluded Britain, that would eventually grow into the European Union. However, the OEEC served as both a testing and training ground for the structures that would later be used by the European Economic Community. The Marshall Plan, linked into the Bretton Woods system, also mandated free trade throughout the region.


China can only hope that its two Silk Road initiatives have half the positive impact that the Marshall Plan did.

Friday, November 07, 2014

True Blue

There’s no point in making predictions unless you revisit them after the fact to determine how accurate they were. So here’s a review of my election picks from earlier this week.

Minnesota Congressional Races

CD#1
Walz by 8


Nailed it. Walz won by 8.53% to be precise.

CD#2
Kline by 12


Kline won by 17% so I was off a bit.

CD#3
Paulsen by 9


I blew this one as Paulsen wins by over 24%. Guess I bought the hype about the 3rd being more of a purple district.

CD#4
McCollum by 22


She won by 28% so I underestimated just how blue the 4th is.

CD#5
Ellison by 26 (sigh)


If the 4th district is deep blue, what is the 5th? Ellison wins by 47% (yes, that’s the margin of victory not how much he got.)

CD#6
Emmer by 8


Another district that wasn’t as close as I though. Emmer wins by 18%.

CD#7
This is where things could get interesting. I still expect Colin Peterson to prevail in the end, but it will be much closer than in previous years. Peterson by 4


Peterson won by over 8% a more comfortable margin than I anticipated.

CD#8
This is where things WILL get interesting. A decade ago it would have been laughable to suggest that the Eighth District would be become the most hotly contested congressional seat in Minnesota, but since 2010 that has been the case. It will be a close contest once again and I see it flipping again this time to challenger Stewart Mills. He’ll take it by 1


The only race where I missed the winner as Nolan held off Mills by 1.4%. It was close, but went the wrong way for the GOP.

Minnesota Senate
I’m going out on a limb here and predicting that the DFL will maintain control.


Nailed this one.

Minnesota House
Without drilling down into any of the races, I’m going to predict that Republicans will just barely regain control of the House.


Got this right as well although Republicans won more seats that I thought they would.

US Senate
Mike McFadden has run a good campaign and Al Franken has done nothing in his six years in the Senate to deserve reelection. Alas, voters in Minnesota seem unable to perceive this and I see Franken winning in a race that will be closer than the polls indicate, but not as close as it should be. Franken by 6


While I was certain that Franken would win I didn’t think he would by double digits. He beat McFadden by just over 10%.

Minnesota Governor
I’ve long been a big fan of Jeff Johnson and have enthusiastically supported his run for governor. However, I think his campaign has lacked focus and he missed opportunities to target Dayton on issues such as MNsure that could have tipped the balance in his favor. Like the Senate race this will be closer than most polls have indicated, but Dayton will emerge victorious (sigh redux). Dayton by 5


Sadly, this was another race that I predictably correctly and came quite close on. Dayton received just a hair over 50% of the vote and beat Johnson by 5.5%.

From a local perspective, I expect that every candidate and cause I support will lose as usual (sigh hat trick). On the broader stage, I do expect the GOP to win enough seats to control the Senate and increase their majority in the House. For a Republican in a deep blue district it will be a day to vote locally and celebrate nationally.

I didn’t see the Republican wave being quite as big as it was nationally. Meanwhile, locally it was a tsunami of blue as usual.

My state rep candidate lost by 35.5%.

The yes vote for one school district spending measure won by 43% and the other by 25%.

Another election when Minnesotan Republicans for the most part had to celebrate vicariously through the success of candidates in other states. A position we’ve become all too accustomed to.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Franken Fallout

Despite all evidence to the contrary, including historically suspect local media polling that indicated Al Franken would win by about 10 percentage points in his US Senate re-election bid, Al Franken won his re-election to the US Senate by 10 percentage points.

At 53%, for the first time a majority of breathing, sentient Minnesota adults said Al Franken is THE one man who best represents our hopes, dreams, and interests in upper chamber of the legislature of the most powerful country in the world.  Behind Spam, the Vikings’ four Super Bowl losses, and Walter Mondale giving the tag line “Where’ the Beef?” new life as a national catch phrase, this may be the most embarrassing thing to ever come out of Minnesota.

In the past few months, some of our finest pundits opined that although Franken may win, he’d never
get a mandate from the voters:  Minnesotans elected him to office, but they don’t love him … Al Franken will never be a landslide election victor.

53% isn’t exactly love or a landslide, but it’s definitely really like and significant erosion.  And this is in a Republican wave year that resulted in unexpected Republican gains across the country, including deep blue bastions like Maryland and Illinois.  These past few election cycles, one gets a lonely, morbid feeling as a Republican in Minnesota.  Bumping into old friends at MN GOP election night parties now has the same vibe as encountering the relatives you only see at funerals.

What’s the matter with Minnesota?  Simply stated, it has a lot of Democrats and is getting more every day (by creating them and importing them).  Even a candidate as inherently bad as Al Franken can take that natural advantage to a majority if he plays his cards right, and that would be playing the cards close to the vest.  As I wrote in the Franken Forecast back in September:

Franken …  has generally kept a low profile while in office, in six years not leading any significant legislative initiatives and being uncharacteristically low key on all the hot button issues of the day.  Even when campaigning for office, he’s very reserved.  His strategy seems to be abandoning the personality he’s exhibited his entire adult life in favor or not actively giving people a reason to vote against him.

His adult life prior to politics was dedicated to pugnacious insult humor and provocations.  But now he’s quiet, he smiles a lot, he does virtually no press interviews, and, when he has to, he films phony ads of himself walking around farms wearing flannel shirts and jeans and gesticulating knowingly while talking to guys wearing seed caps.



Oh, and he also votes in lockstep with a President whose policies are in wide disrepute even in Minnesota.  But that’s not important, he seems so nice!  Minnesota’s other Senator, Amy Klobuchar, rides a similarly extreme partisan voting record and a pleasant, mundane demeanor (not to mention a celebrity name) to a two-thirds majority in the state.   The template works, expect more of the same in years to come.

The other critical advantage enjoyed by Al Franken that needs to be remarked upon was campaign finance.  The Democrats drowned this race with a fire hose blast of money.  Franken out raised and outspent his Republican opponent by a staggering ratio of nearly five-to-one, $29.5 million to $6.5 million.  Where are those Koch Brothers and the other evil rich Republicans when you need them?

People gave Al Franken nearly $30 million to run for the US Senate.  To put that in perspective, that’s 30 times as much money as people paid Al Franken to see his movie, Stuart Saves His Family (gross=$912K).  In other words, people are far more likely to pay Al Franken to NOT appear in any more movies than buy a ticket to his performances.  It’s a subtle and devastatingly effective campaign strategy, donate and vote for me, or I start production on Stuart Saves His Family II immediately!

Future Senator Pauly Shore, are you paying attention?


Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Baby Blue

With little forethought and no promises of insight, here are my last minute 2014 election predictions.

Minnesota Congressional Races

Most of these races are not going to be nail biters.

CD#1
Walz by 8

CD#2
Kline by 12

CD#3
Paulsen by 9

CD#4
McCollum by 22

CD#5
Ellison by 26 (sigh)

CD#6
Emmer by 8

CD#7
This is where things could get interesting. I still expect Colin Peterson to prevail in the end, but it will be much closer than in previous years. Peterson by 4

CD#8
This is where things WILL get interesting. A decade ago it would have been laughable to suggest that the Eighth District would be become the most hotly contested congressional seat in Minnesota, but since 2010 that has been the case. It will be a close contest once again and I see it flipping again this time to challenger Stewart Mills. He’ll take it by 1

Minnesota Senate
I’m going out on a limb here and predicting that the DFL will maintain control.

Minnesota House
Without drilling down into any of the races, I’m going to predict that Republicans will just barely regain control of the House.

US Senate
Mike McFadden has run a good campaign and Al Franken has done nothing in his six years in the Senate to deserve reelection. Alas, voters in Minnesota seem unable to perceive this and I see Franken winning in a race that will be closer than the polls indicate, but not as close as it should be. Franken by 6

Minnesota Governor
I’ve long been a big fan of Jeff Johnson and have enthusiastically supported his run for governor. However, I think his campaign has lacked focus and he missed opportunities to target Dayton on issues such as MNsure that could have tipped the balance in his favor. Like the Senate race this will be closer than most polls have indicated, but Dayton will emerge victorious (sigh redux). Dayton by 5

From a local perspective, I expect that every candidate and cause I support will lose as usual (sigh hat trick). On the broader stage, I do expect the GOP to win enough seats to control the Senate and increase their majority in the House. For a Republican in a deep blue district it will be a day to vote locally and celebrate nationally.

Monday, November 03, 2014

What You Talkin’ about Senator H?

Retiring Iowa Senator Tom Harkin has created a stir by comparing the good looks of the Republican candidate to replace him to Taylor Swift

With all due respect, Senator Harkin, you suck at Separated at Births.


It is almost as if Harkin asked his interns to give him the name of a pretty girl that the kids would know.

A far better Ernst/country singer SAB is Patsy Cline:


Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance between the Senator and beloved TV Dad, Mr. Drummond from “Different Strokes”:


I think we now know how Mr. Harkin fooled Iowans into voting for him all those years.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

And You Want To Be My Governor?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and it’s interesting to consider what pictures say about Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. I first noticed Dayton’s unique photogenic qualities way back when he was a United States Senator and was captured calling bingo by a local community newspaper.


The distorted mouth and eyes wide open have sort of become a Dayton hallmark over the years. As has the thousand yard stare.


Is Mark Dayton happy? Surprised? It's often difficult to determine what (if any) emotions he is experiencing in these pictures. Or if he's feeling anything at all.


The man either has ice water in his veins or has lost all sensory perception.

Politics is about connecting with and reaching out to voters.



Not sure how I would react if I was on the receiving end of one of these looks. Hardly confidence inspiring.

When you Google up images of Mark Dayton (proceed at your own risk) you find a lot of connections with the Minnesota Vikings. Usually an incumbent candidate's prospects for reelection are tied to the health of the economy. With Dayton it should be the success of local NFL franchise (currently 2-5).

It's hard to decide which of the Dayton/Vikings pictures is my favorite.

The first is a classic which has been widely hailed.


While it is no doubt a brilliant shot, Dayton is sharing the glory here with an especially zealous Zygi Wilf.


This one is all Dayton: the goofy smile, the big eyes, and the stare at some object on the far horizon.

Now you might say that this is not a fair way to judge Mark Dayton. People who are in the public eye are photographed constantly and even the most photogenic among them will inevitably end up looking bad in a certain number of those shots. And I'm sure if you scoured the archives you could find pictures of Tim Pawlenty, Jesse Ventura (duh), Arne Carlson, and even Hjalmar Peterson looking goofy that would cause you to question their fitness for office.

That's a fair point and we should consider more than simply the eye test when trying to determine who best should lead our state in these unsteady times. So don't just look at the candidates for governor, listen to what they say and how they say it. And then decide who you really want to be your governor.