Thursday, October 28, 2004

Keep your eyes on the Middle East

I read a report today that Yassir Arafat is very ill. Some are saying he's near death and others saying he's fine. Should he die, there will be a definate power struggle among the Palestinians. How that will affect the "peace" process, it remains to be seen. I've been watching the conflict between Isreal and Palestine and have my own opinions on the matter. A good book to read about it is "The Gun and the Olive Branch". It's a fairly balanced account of the struggle between Jews and Palestinians over the Holy Land. I should say, it's balanced if you're not one of those individuals that think anything that doesn't present Isreal only in a positive light is a lie. It debunks many myths about the struggle and shows that Isreal is by no means innocent. A good example is an account of how Sharon (the current PM of Isreal) planned and executed a bombing of a hotel during the British Mandate after WWII that kill a great number of British soldiers. The group claims that they gave the Brits fair warning (5 whole minutes). It was basically an act of terror designed to force the British to leave since they were trying to broker some kind of fair arrangement for both sides. It also includes accounts of killings of British soldiers and dignitaries in retaliation for the execution of Jews convicted of crimes related to terrorism. Anyway, it shows atrocities, stubbornness, and agendas for both sides of the issue. Again, I found the book very informative.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Revelation

I've begun reading Revelation again. I find it one of the most interesting books in the bible. It certainly takes some work to understand. You certainly can't take it literally (though I'm sure there are plenty that do). Numbers especially are symbolic. Anyway, I know many think this is a gloom and doom book, but the more I read it, the more hopeful it gets to me. I was reading a passage last night that really struck me:

Rev 7:15-17

For this reason they stand before God's throne and worship him day and night in his temple. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat stike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the thone will shepard them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Isn't that the message we're looking for? Keep the faith. Throughout all trials and tribulations you may encounter, your faith will be rewarded and eternal happines and peace await.



Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Those that served

It's been a dull few days as I've had no insirations to write about. However, my wife sent me this and they talked about it on the radio this morning so I thought I'd throw it up. It's a list of Democrats, Republicans, and Pudits with their military records. For those that don't know, this Democrat spent 5 years in the Navy and was over in the Persian Gulf during the "conflict" the first time around though I wasn't involved in any of the fighting. Interesting none the less, given Republicans seem to be bent on defense. Overcompensating perhaps? I'm not sure.

Richard Gephardt: Air National Guard, 1965-71.
David Bonior: Staff Sgt., Air Force 1968-72.
Tom Daschle: 1st Lt., Air Force SAC 1969-72.
Al Gore: enlisted Aug. 1969; sent to Vietnam Jan. 1971 as an army journalist in 20th Engineer Brigade.
Bob Kerrey: Lt. j.g. Navy 1966-69; Medal of Honor, Vietnam.
Daniel Inouye: Army 1943-'47; Medal of Honor, WWII.
John Kerry: Lt., Navy 1966-70; Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V Purple Hearts.
John Edwards: did not serve.
Charles Rangel: Staff Sgt., Army 1948-52; Bronze Star, Korea.
Max Cleland: Captain, Army 1965-68; Silver Star &Bronze Star, Vietnam.
Ted Kennedy: Army, 1951-1953.
Tom Harkin: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.
Jack Reed: Army Ranger, 1971-1979; Captain, Army Reserve 1979-91.
Fritz Hollings: Army officer in WWII, receiving the Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons.
Leonard Boswell: Lt. Col., Army 1956-76; Vietnam, DFCs, Bronze Stars, and Soldier's Medal.
Pete Peterson: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart, Silver Star, and Legion of Merit.
Mike Thompson: Staff sergeant, 173rd Airborne, Purple Heart.
Bill McBride: Candidate for Fla. Governor. Marine in Vietnam; Bronze Star with Combat V.
Gray Davis: Army Captain in Vietnam, Bronze Star.
Pete Stark: Air Force 1955-57
Chuck Robb: Vietnam
Howell Heflin: Silver Star
George McGovern: Silver Star &DFC during WWII.
Bill Clinton: Did not serve. Student deferments. Entered draft but received 311.
Jimmy Carter: Seven years in the Navy.
Walter Mondale: Army 1951-1953
John Glenn: WWII and Korea; six DFCs and Air Medal with 18 Clusters.
Tom Lantos: Served in Hungarian underground in WWII. Saved by Raoul Wallenberg.
Wesley Clark: U.S. Army, 1966-2000, West Point, Vietnam, Purple Heart, Silver Star, Rtd 4-star general.
John Dingell: WWII vet
John Conyers: Army 1950-57, Korea

REPUBLICANS:

Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
Tom Delay: did not serve.
House Whip Roy Blunt: did not serve.
Bill Frist: did not serve.
Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
George Pataki: did not serve.
Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
Rick Santorum: did not serve.
Trent Lott: did not serve.
Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage.
John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.
Jeb Bush: did not serve.
Karl Rove: did not serve.
Saxby Chambliss: did not serve. "Bad knee." The man who attacked Max Cleland's patriotism.
Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.
Vin Weber: did not serve.
Richard Perle: did not serve.
Douglas Feith: did not serve.
Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
Richard Shelby: did not serve.
Jon Kyl: did not serve.
Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
Christopher Cox: did not serve.
Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as aviator and flight instructor.
George W. Bush: six-year Nat'l Guard commitment (incomplete).
Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non-combat role making movies.
Gerald Ford: Navy, WWII
Phil Gramm: did not serve.
John McCain: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.
Bob Dole: an honorable veteran.
Chuck Hagel: two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, Vietnam.
Jeff Sessions: Army Reserves, 1973-1986
JC Watts: did not serve.
Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.
G.H.W. Bush: Pilot in WWII. Shot down by the Japanese.
Tom Ridge: Bronze Star for Valor in Vietnam.
Antonin Scalia: did not serve.
Clarence Thomas: did not serve

Pundits and Preachers:

Sean Hannity: did not serve.
Rush Limbaugh: did not serve
Bill O'Reilly: did not serve.
Michael Savage: did not serve.
George Will: did not serve.
Chris Matthews: did not serve.
Paul Gigot: did not serve.
Bill Bennett: did not serve.
Pat Buchanan: did not serve.
Bill Kristol: did not serve.
Kenneth Starr: did not serve.
Michael Medved: did not serve.


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Just need to vent

OK,

So I'm on line on a Saturday night when I probably should be doing something else. The wife's in the next room watching the World Series (which I could care less about by the way) and I'm pretty sure we're deliberately not talking to each other. I'm in a rotten mood. For some background, my older son has ADHD, and the younger one has PDD (pervasive developmental disorder) which is an autism spectrum diagnosis. He is high functioning, meaning if you met him, you'd never know he was mildly autistic. I have a difficult time dealing with him sometimes and tonight was one of those nights.

I never really had a problem with a temper until I had kids. Other parents probably can sympathize, but I've been working real hard to try not to blow up at the kids. The wife I usually don't yell at, but we have this thing where we don't really fight. We just glare at each other and generally ignore each other if we're mad or fighting. But that's another story.

My younger son is quite stubborn (a charactaristic of the disorder, rigidity) and getting him to do things can be very frustrating. He has an "issue" that I don't feel like going into on the web. Suffice it to say we've been working on it for years with no success and I'm getting very frustrated with the whole thing. I know I should just keep working with him and it isn't his fault because his brain works differently than other kids but it doesn't help when your kid just doesn't get it and you have to deal with the same issue for the 8th or 9th time in a single day (no kidding here people). Then the wife gets mad cause I'm yelling at the kid and she's yelling at me and telling me I'm a jerk and stop talking mean to the kids and then I get pissed at her for being pissed at me and we're off the races.

There are times where I just don't know what to do any more. I pray for patience and understanding and peace but it seems like it never comes. I just want a little peace at home. I know it's a lot to ask for but it shouldn't be. It would also be nice if someone could understand my point of view around here and give me a little understanding. And also stop treating me like I'm an idiot and don't know what I'm doing. Again, that's a whole other thing. So if anyone's listening out there, just say a prayer for me asking for peace. God knows I need it.

I'm going to go watch Andromeda and loose touch with reality for a little while then maybe go to sleep. It beats kicking the walls in.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Homosexuality and Marriage

I just read an article on the Catholic Answers website (www.catholic.com). I recommend the site if you're looking for interesting articles that explain the faith. The reference for the article on homosexuality and marriage is http://www.catholic.com/library/gay_marriage.asp. I skimmed the article yesterday and had a chance to read it today.

Let me begin by stating I'm a lifelong Democrat with a overwhelming desire for fairness and equality. After just skimming the article, I was ready to really go off and rant about the unfairness of limiting the benefits of marriage on anyone. I beleive it isn't the role of the government to legislate morality. My sense of justice was outraged by the fact that we were being exclusionary on the basis of sexual orientation. Everyone deserves the same rights, etc, etc, ect.

Then I read the entire article. Now I must say that it opened my mind and I'm looking at the issue differently. I don't agree with everything the article said. It tried to present more of a social arguement to back up scripture than dwell on soley on scripture. It talked about studies that show the health benefits of marriage, finanical benefits, the effect on the well being of children, and threats to marriage. One section talked about sexual complimentatity stating that only between a man and a woman could sex be fully unitive physically and spiritually. It then dabbled on contraception and how that frustrates this unity and destroys marriages. Talking about that would produce a different rant on my part.

One of the parts I disagreed with initially is that the article states that humans desire an exclusive relationship with another person to be fully happy and that it can only happen between a man and a woman. This doesn't seem right on the surface. Why can't a gay couple be exclusive. The problem was that studies show few gay people stay in exclusive relationships. Another thing I didn't agree with is that the development of "no fault" divorce resulted in an exploding divorce rate because it made it easier to get out of a marriage. It' more complicated than that. I think it hits it more closely later on. It mentions that divorced people usually don't have successful second/third/fourth/etc marriages because whatever issue caused them to be unhappy in the original relationship weren't resolved.

So where am I going with all of this? The crux of the article is that men and women that are married and stay married live longer, have heathier lives, are financially better off, and have healthier, more well adjusted kids than people (gay, straight, whatever) than are not married. This includes single parents. My personal belief is that many of our societal issues (abortion, gang violence, teenage pregnancies, etc) are all related. I've never really known how to address all the problems. Now I think I've found the answer. Marriage appears to be the solution. What we really need to do is teach our children (and our adults for that matter) that marriage is very important and that it's hard work. We need to have the resources available for couples/families to resolve their issues. It needs to start in our churches. I know there are ministries out there addressing these issues, but truthfully, I don't see the Catholic church doing a lot to promote it. Maybe it's just my church, but I'm wondering if we're doing enough to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of our congregation. I'm seeing more and more people become disatisified with the Church, which is a bad thing. However, that is another post in and of itself. Perhaps I'll reflect on that one and come back to it.

Hopefully I made some sense here, but as the title states, this is Rambilings and Musings. So please excuse the rambling and stream of consiousness writing style.


Thoughts on Family Relationships

I had a parent's meeting on Reconciation last night. My oldest son will be having his first reconcilliation this year. It's being done after his first communion. Those of you that know anything about liturgical abuses probably know that the "Church" says reconcilliation should happen before communion, but our diocese states that since we are "teaching reconilliation" before communion, we're covered. That's an entirely different discussion.

What I really took away from last night was not anything about the sacrament of reconcilliation. One of the staff talked about Peace in our Families. He described his dream Saturday morning then went into the reality. It was just like my Saturday mornings. I'm the type of person that prefers to be left alone for a few hours in the morning, especially on weekends. I want to have a quiet breakfast, read the paper, plan my day, etc. Anyone with childen knows that in order to do this you need to sleep somewhere your family is not.

Anyway, he said that we could try putting up walls, making rules for our spouse and children, but we all know that wouldn't last very long. It's hard to tell your 6 year old they can't come to you because it's too early in the morning. Also, you end up looking cold and unfeeling to the rest of the family. It boiled down to the need to force our version of reality on the others around us. Essenitally, it comes down to being selfish. The thought hit me like a cold dose of water.

My wife has been on me for a while now saying that I'm "mean" to the kids. Again, there are times in my day that I prefer to be left alone. Reflecting on it, I realized that perhaps I am being selfish and trying to impose my will on the rest of the family. The talk last night said that this behavior is not the compassionate loving attitude Christ calls us imitate. We are called to be servants. It appears I may not be serving the needs of my family enough.

Now comes the hard part. It's easy to recognize the fault, harder to correct it. I'm going to try to let go of my needs and listen to the needs of the kids (and the wife). Hopefully, that will reduce the amount of stress in the home. I never had a problem with a temper until I had children. No I need to figure out how to let it all go. I'll pray for strength and just keep trying. Who knows, maybe the Lord will grant me the peace I need.


Monday, October 18, 2004

CD Project Update

I went into the studio this weekend to lay down the basic guitar tracks for the final songs of the CD. It is now 12 songs. This group seems like the best yet. I went in with only the rythem guitar parts and lyrics written. With no idea what else to do, I let it flow. I was amazed at how they turned out. The Spirit must have been flowing in these songs. One called Hearts of Stone came out so good I can't get it out of my head. Another titled Calvary Hill has a rythem to it I never thought to use prior to playing it. As I've posted previously, I was having trouble writing music until I started writing it for the Lord. Now it's almost too easy. I got almost everything done in one take. I had a little trouble with a classical guitar piece but I'm satisfied with it. I'm hoping to have everything complete by the beginning of summer. Bass tracks are next and then I try to put down drum tracks. Wish me luck on that one as an awesome drummer I am not. For those interested, the song list (in no particular order) is as follows:

Follow Me
For the Love of Miss E
Calvary Hill
Hearts of Stone
Blessings
Give it Back to You
Matthew 7:25
Power of Darkness
Voice of the Spirit
I'm Coming Home
Lament
Shout for Joy


Friday, October 15, 2004

Too many rules?

I was checking out a Catholic Apologetics site and came across something interesting. It was a Q and A type article of liturgical abuses, meaning abuses of rules regarding celebration of the Mass. The link is http://www.catholic.com/library/liturgical_abuses.asp. It had bunches of rules, some of which make sense, others less so. Most notably being that the Chalise (the cup used for the wine) cannot be made from clay, glass, any other breakable material, or of a metal that will deteriorate (ie rust). Now I can see the arguement that you don't want the Sacred Blood spilling everywhere if the cup breaks, but it will spill if you drop it and it doesn't break.

Anyway, it got me thinking about whether or not there are too many rules in the Catholic church. Recently, the new liturgical norms came out. There was much heartache, argueing, and wrangling by our musical groups just over the rules that applied to us. Forget all the other rules that govern how the Mass is said and that govern every day life. It reminds me of Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees about setting all these rules for the faithful to follow but having hearts far from God. Are we concentrating too much on the rules and not enough on the faith? St. Paul told us that following the law, even to the letter, will not justify you and get you to Heaven. Faith and love were the most important things. He still had rules to follow, but they were all based on love.

Call me a rebel, but I've never been one big on rules. I tend to boil things down to the essentials. I mean, if I drink the Blood of Christ from a metal chalise or a glass goblet, does it make it less the Blood of Christ? Is the Body of Christ less so if the host isn't made of unleavened bread made from wheat? (Use of anything other than wheat to make it is prohibited.) We have a few people within our church that are these strict legalists. If the rule doesn't specifically state something can be done, it can't be. An extreme example was an arguement over whether something should be done a certain way in the Mass. The "rule" stated that this "may" be done. That got interpreted as since it may be done, that is the only option. No alternatives were possible. Now that sounds like nitpicking, but when there are several volumes to encompass the liturgical rules alone, maybe we've lost sight of what's truly important.

Anyway, I don't have any plans to become a Protestant. My personal belief is that the faith is the key. I try to live the faith and am reverent when I need to be at Mass. That's my time to recharge for the week and gain the strenght to go 7 more days. Still, I can see why many of the people around me get all bent out of shape every time we try to talk about all these liturgical changes. It's too easy to get confused when nothing gets explained and changes are implemented without any effort to educate the congregation on the changes. But that's another rant.


Thursday, October 14, 2004

My latest project

Ok,

A quick post on what's more near to my heart than politics. My latest music project. Some of you may or may not know that I've been trying to record a CD with my band The Real Emetics for the past year. It hasn't been working out so well. Between schedule conflicts, loss of jobs, and personal issues, the three of us can't seem to get in the studio at the same time. I'd been considering doing a "christian" CD after the Emetics project was complete. While rollerblading one evening, it struck me that perhaps the Lord didn't want me to make an Emetics CD. The next couple futile attempts to record tracks confirmed this to me. Sooooo, I'm now working on my "solo" project.

The tenative title is "Voice of the Spirit". I've got 12 songs. I'm playing all instruments on all the tracks except one. It's the last song I wrote for the Emetics and my bandmates play on that one. The songs wrote themselves easily and quickly. I always had trouble writing music until now. I guess I've got the proper inspiration this time. I'm in the middle of recording tracks. I anticipate I'll be complete with the project beginning of next year. I could get it done sooner but my wife would kill me if I spent that much time in the studio. The last CD I recorded with the St. Pius X folk group got me in hot water a couple of times. Anyway, I currently have the guitar tracks recorded for 5 songs and I'm laying down tracks for 5 more this weekend. The songs are a wide range of styles from classical guitar to HEAVY metal. I'll keep everyone updated as the project moves along.


Last night's debate

So I managed to stay awake through another 90 minutes of posturing. Unfortunately, very little new was said that wasn't previously released. My overall impression is that the debate was a "tie". Neither candidate delivered a knockout blow to the other. However, I think a tie favors Kerry. I will say that Bush really needs to stop talking to the American public like we're stupid or something. I'll quote Bill Maher from last Friday night on HBO: "Bush talks to you like what don't you s**theads get about what I'm saying?" That's a problem I've had with him all along. He's gone through 3 debates stomping his foot like a kid saying "Mom, he's making fun of me and nobody's listening to me!"

To Bush's credit, I think he had the better of the arguement on the abortion issue and the questions on faith. I think it's hard for a politician to straddle that fence where you believe abortion is wrong but should be legal (my personal views I'll save for another time). It's easy for Bush to come out and say that he believes in the "culture of life" and that abortion should be illegal. Kerry, on the other hand, really beat up the President on minimum wage and affirmative action. Bush lamely stated he supported one minimum wage bill then talked about education. Sure, that helps the next generation, but how does you kid getting a good education help you earn enough to feed and clothe the kid in the first place? Big business wouldn't like it if a Republican raised the minimum wage. On affirmative action, he did the same thing. Talk about education. Same reason, Republicans have a poor track record with minority rights.

Anyway, I'm not sure these debates changed anyone's minds. I also put little faith in the polls. I don't know how you can get a representative result from a poll of 585 registered voters. Case in point, when Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate in New York, the polls had her and her apponent (Lazio I believe) in a dead heat. Hillary killed him on election day. It wasn't even close. I'm looking forward to election day to hopefully get a new President but mostly to get all of this campainging over with. It's starting to get old.

BTW, if you want real statistics and fact checking, go to www.factcheck.org. It is non partisan and gives you the straight dope.


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

New Supreme Court Case

Ok,

On to politics. The Supreme Court is considering a case about the Juvenile Death Penalty. This is the law that allows 16 and 17 year olds to be tried as adults and, if convicted, be sentanced to death. Let me go on record as saying I'm against the death penalty. I cannot see how any practicing Catholic or Christian can support the killing of another human being. There just isn't any justification. However, that is a different post. For me, at issue here is the rational behind the death penalty and it goes to the heart of the criminal justice system. Is our system about punishment or reform? Should we be looking at rehabilitating the criminal, or simply punishing them for the commision of a crime? I think in the case of the death penalty, the answer is the latter. More than that, I think the entire concept of the death penalty is more revenge than punishment. Consider a quote from a member of an advocate group for keeping the death penatly:

"The death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst. It is not just for adults," said Dianne Clements, president of the victims' rights group Justice For All. "It doesn't matter how old the killer is. What matters is that your loved one is gone." (from ABC new article http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=161322)

The key statement is the last one. Since your loved one is gone, it justifies killing the person that took the life. Straight out of the Old Testament eye for an eye mentatlity. I'm sorry, but this is just another name for vengance. Forget for a moment the argument about whether it is less expensive on the taxpayer to keep the person in prison for life versus going through the appeal process for the death penalty. Do we want to be a nation that retaliates against it's own citizens? That's what we're really talking about here. Just remember, the killer is someone's son/daughter as well. There are no winners here.

Anyway, I hope the court bans at least the execution of juveniles. I made a lot of mistakes as a teenager. While killing someone is a major mistake, does the destruction of one life balance the loss of another?


Handouts and charity

Had an interesting thing happen this morning. I was walking into work when I was approached by someone looking for money. I normally don't give handouts, however, for some reason I listened to this person. He gave me the story of being a diabetic and being out of insulin. He said he was from Syracuse and was stuck. He was willing to give me his driver's license as colateral and promised to pay me back. I ended up giving him $10 and not taking the license.

You may think I'm crazy or a sucker. Bottom line is that I'm normally a skeptical person. However, something about this guy touched me. Thinking about it I made the decision that you know what, it's only $10. I'm not so broke that I can't afford it. I'd easily spend it on myself and not even think about it. However, the Jesus tells us that when we look after the least of those around us, we're looking after Him. I've got a feeling that I will be repaid for this act of charity, but perhaps not in the way I think. My wife had a good take, and I quote, "Sometimes when your brain is being skeptical, your heart wants to be charitable. I think the best thing to do is to say a prayer that this gentleman uses the money for what he truly needs, whatever that may be." She's a smart lady.

How often do we walk by those in need? Whether they are the homeless, someone crying at the side of the road, someone selling flowers in the road for food. I've seen all of these but usually just walked on by. Is this really the Christian thing to do? Can I call myself a good Catholic? Sure, I give every week at church and they use the money for many charitable causes. I buy gifts for our giving tree at Christmas, make food baskets with the Cub Scouts, but this is always impersonal. Sure, it helps those less fortunate, but again, it's not like walking up to someone and helping them out.

In any event, I'm curious to see how this plays out. I told the person if they wish to repay me, leave the money with our receptioninst. I'm not counting on it, but it would be a refreshing change if it showed up. In the mean time I'll reflect on the moral issue of charity/love thy neighbor.


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Welcome

Ok,

Here's my first attempt at a blog. I intend to just write about whatever I feel like, though I think the main topics will be music, religion, family, and politics. I usually have time for 3 of the four (always religion and family, usually music, sometimes politics). To give a little background, I'm a married catholic with 2 boys. I've been playing guitar for 20 years and it is one of my few passions in life. I currently work in the IT field. I've been a nuclear power officer and a chemist prior to my current reincarnation as a computer geek. Any, hopefully I'll have some interesting things to say that someone might like to read. Wish me luck.



The lovely wife and kids.