Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I was looking at my iPod's play counts tonight and things were pretty much the same as when I posted early last month (see here) with one notable exception: In the Mood by the Glenn Miller Orchestra moved from being off the chart to #3.

I know this song is about 50+ years old -- but it is a great tune. It's timeless. I can't listen to it without tapping my feet and quickening my step (not at the same time though :-)

I first started listening to it in San Diego. The local radio station played it every Friday afternoon at 5:00pm to kick off the weekend. A great idea, and a great way to inextricably associate a great tune with a good time of the week.

You Don't Have to Twist My Arm!


Stop by your local Krispy Kreme on Friday, June 2nd for a free doughnut of your choice.

Between summer vacations, camp, air conditioning and backyard BBQs, summer can take a toll on your bank account. The good news is that there doesn't have to be a drought in your wallet just because the weather is getting hotter. "Dough"-not-required opportunities abound during the first month of summer -- providing proof that the best things in life are still free. Kick off these "Top Ten Free Things To Do In June" with a free Krispy Kreme doughnut of your choice at participating Krispy Kreme retail stores on Friday, June 2 in honor of National Doughnut Day.
Update: Legion Undone

I'm sorry to say that, as yet, I haven't seen anything coming from the Legion or Regnum Christi that indicates that they have any intention of heeding the Vatican's advice to distance themselves from Fr. Maciel.

The National Catholic Register, published by the Legion, has a disingenuous editorial saying they don't intend to pay much attention to the story because 'it's not their way' -- they like to focus on the "vitality of the Church". The editorial also says, by ignoring the story, they're following the example of Fr. Maciel. And, in addition, they intend to stick with him: "
The Legionaries will continue this as they also accompany their founder in this new stage of his life."

Needless to say, I don't see this as a healthy sign.

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, Karl Keating of Catholic Answers offers some much-needed perspective on the situation via his e-letter:
1. Supporters of Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of
Christ, note that over the years other priests have had their faculties
removed when serious charges were levied against them, only to be
rehabilitated later when the charges were shown to be false. Padre Pio is the

name most usually cited. But are there not two distinctions to be made?

First, in the old days, accused priests lost their faculties at once,
and then the Church made an investigation into the charges. (Shoot
first, ask questions later.) Nowadays the procedure usually (not always) is
the other way around: investigate first and then, if there seems to be
at least prima facie evidence, penalize the priest.

Second, it is one thing for a priest to have his faculties suspended.

It is another for him to be invited to live the remainder of his days
doing penance. The first can be interpreted as merely cautionary, like a
preliminary injunction, but the second carries a clear note of penalty.
When, in pre-Vatican II years, accused priests were told to cease their
priestly ministries for a time, were they also told to take up a life
of penance? Not that I remember.

[Note to Karl: As a recovering attorney, you need to stay current on your meds. When you use "prima facie
evidence" and "preliminary injunction" in the same post, it's time to renew the prescription! :-) ]
File Under: "Doesn't Play Well With Others"

Can you believe these two idiots?

Sisters charged in fight over parade candy

Posted Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A contest to see who could catch the most sweets turned sour when police said a fistfight broke out between two sisters during Monday’s Memorial Day parade in Wood Dale. Pamela Majdan, 23, of 385 N. Wood Dale Road, was charged with domestic battery Monday afternoon after police say she repeatedly beat her sister Joyce Majdan during a fight over who caught the most pieces of candy during the parade.

Joyce Majdan, 31, of the same address, was charged with attempted obstruction of justice after police said she refused to give them her identity or any other information during their investigation.

Wood Dale Deputy Police Chief Greg Vesta said officers securing the parade route were told of the fight and separated the women, in front of their apartment building, just after noon Monday.

“Basically, these two women were watching the parade when an argument broke out over which one of them caught the most pieces of Twizzlers,” Vesta said. “Unfortunately, the argument ended with both sisters throwing several punches and (Joyce Majdan) receiving a welt on the side of her head.”

Both women were arrested, Vesta said, before it could be decided who indeed had caught the most candy.

Joyce Majdan
Pamela Majdan
Vesta said there was no alcohol involved. He said both women were uncooperative as they were being arrested.

“It’s unfortunate that a such a large crowd of people, at a parade to remember men and women who gave their lives for this country, had to witness this,” Vesta said.

Authorities said Pamela Majdan posted $300 bail Tuesday morning and was released from DuPage County Jail. Joyce Majdan posted $100 at the Wood Dale Police Department and was released Monday afternoon.

Upon her release from the county jail, Vesta said Pamela Majdan was warned to stay away from their apartment for 72 hours or else she would forfeit her bond and be taken back into custody.

Vesta said police responded to a verbal dispute at the women’s prior residence in 1998 but no arrests were made.

No listed phone number was found for the sisters’ home, and neither could be reached for comment.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

As American as Baseball and Homeschooling

Three of the kids from our homeschooling group (Anthony Pontarelli (#5 in this picture), Pete Lesniewski and (my nephew) Chris Suchomski) play on one of the local high school's baseball teams. This past weekend they won both the sectional and super-sectional tournaments and have advanced to the state championship tournament.

All three are great kids from great Catholic homeschooling families. It was a lot of fun this past weekend going out to watch them play. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there won't be any unpleasant surprises in the office and that I'll be able to see them play in the championship this coming weekend.

Here's the scoop from the local paper, the Northwest Herald:

Rockets rollin' to state

ROCKFORD – The way Richmond-Burton pitcher Steve Massoth has treated opposing hitters, the Rockets probably provided their senior ace enough offense before he even stepped on the mound.

R-B scored twice in the first inning, then kept tacking on more for good measure, each time making the lead look more insurmountable.

"He's been the anchor we needed him to be in the postseason," R-B coach Mike Giese said. "He's been the guy we've leaned on."

Massoth struck out eight and allowed one hit over six innings as the Rockets defeated Morrison, 7-2, on Monday in the IHSA Class A Rockford Supersectional at Marinelli Field. Massoth threw 96 pitches, letting only one runner past first base, before leaving after a 30-minute lightning delay with a stiff back.

At that point, the Rockets (26-8) practically had clinched their first trip in school history to the IHSA Class A State Tournament.

"I got in the dugout and caught a little chill, and I just couldn't throw," Massoth said. "It's awesome to get to state and be the first team [in R-B baseball history] to do that."

R-B faces Chillicothe IVC (37-2) at 7 p.m. Friday in the last quarterfinal game at Joliet's Silver Cross Field. Grey Ghosts' freshman pitcher Chris Razo threw a no-hitter to beat Coal City, 8-0, on Monday in the Illinois Wesleyan Supersectional.

The crucial runs for R-B came after the first two batters in the third inning were retired. Chris Suchomski, Jake Vetter and Anthony Pontarelli coaxed walks from Morrison starter Dustin Jones.

Designated hitter Ben Thomas, in the No. 2 hole because Suchomski strained his left hamstring Wednesday, singled to right field scoring Suchomski.

When Pontarelli was caught too far off second base, courtesy runner Johnny Canalle raced home.

Pontarelli got back to second safely when the ball was dropped.

"Coach wanted me to take a strike," Thomas said. "I got a 3-2 pitch, so I knew I'd get a fastball. I just choked up and got my bat on it and it fell. We had so much energy from the beginning. We're not letting up on people."

"Ben Thomas has been huge for us," Giese said. "We were struggling at the plate a little bit late in the season and he started hitting for us. He's the spark we really needed."

R-B scored in all but two innings, while Massoth (6-2) kept Morrison (19-12) in check.

"[Massoth] was very good today," Mustangs coach Scott Vance said. "I don't know if that's about how he normally throws, but he shut us down. He had a good fastball, then he'd throw it with the same motion and take a little off."

R-B has won three regional titles in four years, but never had won a sectional game in school history before Wednesday. The Rockets defeated Byron, 13-1, then beat Stillman Valley, 10-0, to reach the supersectional.

"I thought at the beginning of the season we had all the pieces," Giese said. "We're as healthy now as we've ever been. Everything came together for us.

"As a coach one of the most fun things is to see the kids playing their best when they really need to. I couldn't be more proud of these guys."


Soldiers and Priests

Saw this brief reflection on Catholic World News via the Fumare blog:

A Memorial Day thought, especially for the clergy

If you're an American priest, or, If you're an American man considering the priesthood, or If you're a American bishop, with priests under your pastoral care, or If you're a priest in another country, who might visit the US, then I hope someday you have the chance to visit our nation's capital.

While you're there, be sure to make time for a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, and watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Take some time to learn about the soldiers who, after intense competition, are chosen for that duty.

  • They observe a rigorous standard of personal conduct for the duration of their tenure, including their off-duty time.
  • They carry out a ritual that is minutely detailed, allowing no variations whatsoever.
  • They perform this ritual again and again, in good and bad weather, no matter how they feel.
  • They surrender their individuality, rightly confident that the ritual is more eloquent than any words they could speak, any gestures they could make, on their own.
  • They do it all because they want to do it; their duty is considered an honor.

These soldiers are like priests, in a way. But how many priests have the same attitude toward the dignity of their ministry, and the inherent power of the Eucharistic ritual?

And much as we honor the Unknown Soldier-- especially today!-- he did not rise from the dead.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Changes to the Holy Mass on the Way

I saw this story and can only say "Yahoo!". It will also be amusing to see liberal Catholics make "traditionalist" arguments, whining that we shouldn't be upsetting the faithful with these drastic changes. They had no problem with the abominations they foisted on us, and with those they would have liked to have shoved down our throats, but when the Church introduces sorely needed, long overdue changes, these liberals are all in favor of moving slowly. :-)

Bishops to vote on new Order of Mass in English

By Jerry Filteau
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops will be asked to approve a new translation of the Order of Mass when they meet in Los Angeles June 15-17.

If the new translation is adopted as proposed and subsequently approved by the Vatican, Catholics will have to learn a number of changes in their Mass prayers and responses. Among the more obvious will be:

-- Whenever the priest says "The Lord be with you," the people will respond, "And with your spirit." The current response is "And also with you."

-- In the first form of the penitential rite, the people will confess that "I have sinned greatly ... through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." In the current version, that part of the prayer is much shorter: "I have sinned through my own fault."

-- The Nicene Creed will begin "I believe" instead of "We believe" -- a translation of the Latin text instead of the original Greek text.

-- The Sanctus will start, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts." The current version says, "Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might."

Approving a new text of the Order of Mass is only the first step in a long process of considering and approving a new translation of the entire book of prayers said at Mass. In the United States that book has been called the Sacramentary since 1970, but the Vatican wishes to restore the name Roman Missal, since it is an English translation, with minor adaptations, of the normative Latin "Missale Romanum."

Officials of the bishops' Secretariat for the Liturgy told Catholic News Service May 23 that it is uncertain whether the bishops will seek to publish the new Order of Mass for U.S. use as soon as possible or wait until they have the new English translation of the entire Roman Missal completed. Completing the entire Roman Missal is likely to take at least two more years.

Once the bishops adopt new liturgical texts, they must also be confirmed by the Vatican before they can be authorized for use.

In general, people will find many of the Mass prayers in the new version slightly longer and fuller, as the new translation is based on rules for liturgical translations issued by the Vatican in a 2001 instruction. Unlike the previous Vatican rules -- which encouraged freer translations more adapted to the language into which one was translating -- the new rules require closer adherence to the normative Latin text.

In a recent letter Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, told the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that if a current text does not conform to the new translation norms it must be changed.

"It is not acceptable to maintain that people have become accustomed to a certain translation for the past 30 or 40 years, and therefore that it is pastorally advisable to make no changes. ... The revised text should make the needed changes," he wrote.

He said his congregation is open to dialogue about "difficulties regarding the translation of a particular text," but the 2001 instruction calling for translations more faithful to the Latin text "remains the guiding norm."

His letter, dated May 2 and addressed to Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., USCCB president, was posted on the Catholic World News Web site in late May.

In response to a query from CNS, Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., chairman of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy, said Bishop Skylstad sent the letter to all Latin-rite bishops in advance of the June meeting.

"I see this letter as a clarification and further restatement of criteria for translation previously authored by the congregation," Bishop Trautman said. He said it "offers additional input for the deliberation of the bishops."

The Order of Mass, found at the center of the Roman Missal, consists of the prayers recited every day at Mass, as distinct from the Scripture readings and prayers that are proper to the day's feast.

Thus what the bishops are to vote on in June are new versions of the prayers that Massgoers are most familiar with because they hear or say them so regularly.

Within the Order of Mass are some prayers for which there are a limited number of alternatives, such as the forms of the penitential rite, the four different eucharistic prayers or the various acclamations following the consecration.

The text the bishops are to vote on in June does not include the prefaces, solemn blessings, prayers over the people or elements found in the appendix that also form part of the Order of Mass.

The International Commission on English in the Liturgy, which prepared the text to be voted on, is still consulting with English-speaking bishops' conferences around the world on the translation of the prefaces and other elements and does not have a final version of them yet.

Churchgoers will have to learn a different version of the Gloria when the new texts are put into use because part of the current prayer in English does not follow the structure of the Latin version.

In the Nicene Creed, where the current version refers to Christ as "one in being with the Father," the new ICEL translation says, "consubstantial with the Father." In the documentation sent to the bishops before the meeting, however, the Committee on the Liturgy has recommended keeping the "one in being" translation in the United States.

The new ICEL text for the people's prayer before Communion says, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

The committee proposed that the bishops seek to keep the current shorter version of the beginning of that prayer, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you." The committee did not, however, propose a change from the ICEL translation at the end, where the people currently pray, "but only say the word and I shall be healed."

The bishops will also vote on several American adaptations in the Order of Mass, such as adding the acclamation, used in the United States since 1970 but not found in the Roman Missal in Latin, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."

Saturday, May 27, 2006

No Argument Here

This mutt won the World's Ugliest Dog Contest.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Is thinking obsolete?

By Thomas Sowell
May 10, 2006

Amid all the hysteria among politicians and in the media over rising gasoline prices, and all the outraged indignation about oil company profits and their executives' high pay and lavish perks, has anybody bothered to even estimate how much effect any of this actually has on the price we pay at the pump?

If the profit per gallon of gas were reduced to zero, would that be enough to reduce the price by even a dime? If the oil company executives were to work free of charge, would that be enough to reduce the price of gasoline by even a penny a gallon?

Surely media loudmouths making millions of dollars a year and the multibillion dollar TV networks they work for can afford to get some statistics and buy a pocket calculator to do the arithmetic before spouting off nationwide.

But this is the age of emotion, not analysis.

Politicians are even more hypocritical. The government collects far more in taxes on every gallon of gasoline than the oil companies collect in profits. If oil company profits are "obscene," as some politicians claim, are the government's taxes PG-13?

The very politicians who have piled tax after tax on gasoline over the years, and voted to prohibit oil drilling offshore or in Alaska, and who have made it impossible to build a single oil refinery in decades, are all over the television screens denouncing the oil companies. In other words, those who supply oil are being denounced and demonized by those who have been blocking the supply of oil.

Given the vast amounts of gasoline sold across the length and breadth of this nation, and given the mega-billion dollars involved, whether or not some corporate executive has an inflated pay scale is unlikely to explain the price of gasoline.

It may allow some people in the media to vent their emotions and some politicians to create a bogeyman, since they can't play St. George without a dragon. But cheap demagoguery cannot explain expensive gas.

When the two most heavily populated nations on earth -- China and India -- have rapidly growing economies and rapidly escalating importations of oil, how could that not affect the world price of oil? After all, the price of oil is determined in the international markets, contrary to conspiracy theories that keep turning up whenever gas prices rise.

Those conspiracy theories have been investigated time and again, without uncovering anything. But it is still a clever political ploy to ask for more investigations when gas prices rise. If nothing else, it distracts attention from those who have been blocking all attempts to enable us to use our own oil.

Nothing is easier, or more emotionally satisfying, than blaming high prices on those who charge them, rather than on those who cause them. The same thing happens when stores in high-crime neighborhoods charge higher prices than stores in safer neighborhoods.

Both crime and precautions against crime add to the cost of doing business and this adds to the prices. But seldom, if ever, do those who decry the high prices blame those prices on the crime, vandalism, and violence committed by local inhabitants.

Where the stores are owned by a different ethnic group, such as Asians in black ghettoes, it is virtually guaranteed that the store owners will be denounced for "gouging," "discrimination" and whatever other political rhetoric will rouse the emotions.

People with no experience in business, no knowledge of history, and utterly ignorant of economics do not hesitate to leap from high prices to greedy profit-makers. Many of these ignorant people are on nationwide television and some are in Congress.

Many, if not most, of the great American fortunes -- Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford -- have been made by finding ways to charge lower prices, not higher.

In the early 20th century, the A & P grocery chain became renowned for both its low prices and its high quality. Its profit rate never fell below 20 percent during the decade of the 1920s. That's a higher rate of profit than the oil companies make.

The relationship between prices and profit rates is not as simple as media hype or political demagoguery claims.

Thomas Sowell is the prolific author of books such as Black Rednecks and White Liberals and Applied Economics.

One race to watch: Clinton vs. Gore

James P. Pinkerton
May 25, 2006

Can you imagine Hillary Rodham Clinton running against Al Gore for the 2008 presidential nomination? Or do you wonder where Bill Clinton would stand in a political struggle between his wife and his ex-vice president?

Soap operas take improbable situations - and then make them more improbable. Yet, the scriptwriters at "As the World Turns" would have a hard time topping the real-life saga of "As the Clintons and Gores Turn." Let's consider some of those twists :

An Illinois-born first lady, widely reviled for being impolitic, turns into a popular and extremely political senator from New York. A president, brilliant but flawed, enjoys roller-coaster popularity as president, even as he enjoys, well, you know. Now he's a lovably roguish ex-president who has even managed to ingratiate himself with the venerated ex-president he once defeated.

Finally, as the third side of our improbable triangle, we have the ex-vice president. By all accounts, he was a straight arrow, too straight for the normal crookeries of politics - so he was first mocked, and then defeated, when he ran for the White House. But this ex-VP has been on a spiritual pilgrimage; he spent time in San Francisco, falling in with rich California environmentalists who made him the star of a Green movie.

So now, tanned, rested and ready with a new eco-agenda - and looking pretty good in contrast to the beleaguered incumbent president, who is the son of the elderly ex-president - the ex-veep is thinking about running for president himself, against the woman he once worked with in the White House. Needless to say, the ex-veep and the former first lady didn't like each other then, and they sure don't like each other now.

Yup, it would make for a heckuva soap opera. Except it can't be a TV show, because it's real. The story is already being lived out by actual people. Life has pre-empted "art."

So the storyline will have to be covered by real journalists - plus of course, pseudo-journalists - and everyone else in between who has access to a camera or a computer.

But make no mistake, the coming campaign - call it "Days of Our Clintons and Gores" - is going to be treated like a melodrama. In a profile of Gore in the current New York magazine, one source speculated that Bill might secretly help both Hillary and Al with their dueling presidential ambitions. Hard to top that.

But other outlets will try. Consider these tabloid-y words from a recent article on the Clintons' marriage: "Mr. Clinton is rarely without company in public, yet the company he keeps rarely includes his wife. Nights out find him zipping around Los Angeles with his bachelor buddy, Ronald W. Burkle, or hitting parties and fund-raisers in Manhattan." Burkle, of course, is the billionaire best known for accusing a former New York Post gossip columnist of trying to extort money from him. But where, by the way, is Sen. Clinton? The piece continues: "She is yoked to work in Washington or New York - her Senate career and political ambitions consuming her time."

Sounds like something from The National Enquirer, right? Actually, no. It was in Tuesday's New York Times, right there on the front page, above the fold. The Times story didn't dish any real dirt on the Clintons' marriage, but if that august broadsheet can lead with it, every other mainstream media outlet will feel emboldened - or challenged - to chase after tales of skirt-chasing or other foibles.

And, of course, bloggers and other new-mediators know that they can claw to prominence by hooking a scoop, or pseudo-scoop, about these bold-print names and their families. So on April 17, reported that Chelsea Clinton was checking into a hotel in Santa Monica, Calif., "with two guys."

Some will ask: Where does it end? And the answer is the whole hoped-for point about soap operas: They never end.

James P. Pinkerton's e-mail address is

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.

Liberals: Rotten to the Core

Apple-Polisher Shows POW Real Courage
By Ann Coulter | May 25, 2006

This week, the world gasped in awe at the raw heroism of Jean Rohe, the student at the New School who gave a speech attacking the commencement speaker, Republican Sen. John McCain, at the commencement ceremony.

We mostly heard about Rohe's bravery from Rohe – and, really, who is in a better position to judge? As Rohe herself put it: "If there's one thing that I know about myself, it is that I care for people, and in that sense I have a great deal of character."

According to her posted biography, Rohe "grew up singing and performing folk music with her family. Jean spent a year at Smith College followed by a summer at the Universidad de la Habana in Cuba on scholarship where she honed her Spanish skills, learned about Cuban history, culture and politics, and made some of her dearest friends" – mostly while waiting in line for hours and hours each day to get toilet paper.

In other words, Rohe is just a typical all-American girl, right down to a stint in Castro's Cuba.

In an unintentionally ironic article about her brave decision to attack the commencement speaker, Rohe describes going around campus the day before her speech and discovering how overwhelmingly popular it would be to attack McCain. At two graduation ceremonies a day earlier, attacks on McCain brought wild cheers from the audience.

See, where I come from, sucking up to the audience is not called "courageous." It's called "toadying."

Every place Rohe went that day she ran into students and faculty fashioning armbands and preparing their protests. As she said: "The situation seemed pretty serious."

Literally every person Rohe talked to the day before the ceremony opposed the war in Iraq and hated McCain with blind fury. Her mother – the one who tortured the children by making them sing folk songs – wept when Rohe read her illiterate speech over the phone.

Rohe's resolve to tell the audience what it wanted to hear, guaranteeing wild standing ovations for herself, was only hardened when she was told there would be media at the event.

While some might say it was gutless to suck up to the audience by insulting an invited guest, they didn't understand the incredible risks Rohe was taking by attacking a Republican at the New School: You'll be a pariah in the West Village! You'll never sing in a jazz club on the Lower East Side again! And don't even think about setting foot on the Upper West Side!

As Rohe later said: "It was something I didn't want to do, but knew I had to out of an obligation to my own values" – which happened to be the exact same values as the entire audience, the faculty, her fellow students, her boyfriend, and her mother, each of whom shared the value of being rude to an invited guest who also happened to be a Republican, a U.S. senator, and decorated war hero.

And so Rohe attacked McCain's speech before he delivered it, with such devastating ripostes as this:

Sen. McCain will tell us that we, those of us who are Americans, "have nothing to fear from each other." I agree strongly with this, but I take it one step further. We have nothing to fear from anyone on this living planet.

Except all the people who want to kill us.

Such as, for example, Osama bin Laden – and that's according to Rohe, who is furious with Bush for not having caught him yet. Isn't Osama a person "on this living planet"? Does she think we have something to fear from him?

I'm sorry to be a snob, but this trusting view of terrorists is hard enough to take from smart leftists. When I have to hear the New School version of it, my eyeballs have rolled not only out of their sockets but out of the building.

Maybe in her heart of hearts, Rohe does think Bush is an imbecile, McCain a lout, and the war is wrong. Maybe she would think so even if she had ever met someone who holds a different opinion.

But then she should just admit: "I know, I know. I'm an utterly conventional brown-noser, the very definition of going-with-the-flow, middle-of-the pack, finger-to-the-wind follower, who doesn't have the candlepower to resist conforming to the beliefs of everyone around me – but that's what I think."

If you want to find the cool, anti-establishment rebels who don't answer to "The Man" on college campuses today, you have to go to a meeting of the College Republicans. They are rebelling against at least 99 percent of their professors. Even the original '60s anti-war protesters were rebelling against at least 5 percent of their professors. Today's college leftists ape the beliefs of 99 percent of their professors and then pretend they're on-the-edge radicals.

I don't care what left-wingers think. I don't care that they're spineless suck-ups. Just don't insult my intelligence by telling me they're brave.

"Give them the honor they deserve"

(Another) great article by Peggy Noonan from today's Opinion Journal:


From 'Eternity' to Here
Americans didn't always appreciate our soldiers the way we do today.

Thursday, May 25, 2006 12:01 a.m.

"The first note was clear and absolutely certain. There was no question or stumbling in this bugle. It swept across the quadrangle positively, held a fraction of a second longer than most buglers hold it. Held long like the length of time, stretching away from weary day to weary day. . . . This is the song of the men who have no place, played by a man who has never had a place, and can therefore play it. Listen to it. You know this song, remember?"

For novel readers who care about war and warriors who cared about novels, a great memory is the picture, seen in tens of millions of imaginations, and finally in a film, of Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt playing taps at Schofield Barracks, 25 miles from Honolulu, on the eve of Pearl Harbor, in James Jones's great novel, "From Here to Eternity." It was published 55 years ago and sold three million copies, and it is on my mind today because I'm thinking about the taps we will all hear this Monday, Memorial Day, at ceremonies and in cemeteries throughout the country. When I hear it I'm going to think of what my father always said when he heard taps. "Play it, Prewitt," he'd say. Because that character was like men he'd known in the American army of World War II.

It is good that we have this day to remember heroes, to think again of those who over the centuries put themselves in harm's way for our country, for us. It is good that we remember, and take inspiration from, tales of valor, of flags carried uphill, like the one carried by the intrepid young First Lt. Arthur MacArthur, during a Union charge in the Civil War (he would go on to become a lieutenant general and the father of a son named Douglas), and heavily defended positions taken by a lone soldier, like Sgt. Alvin York in World War I. It's good to remember the simple human potential for bravery that lives within all of us, and that in some is fully tapped and met with brilliant, unforgettable actions.

The starkest description of the meaning of what the members of the armed services do, and have done, is the simple observation that freedom of speech was not secured for us by editors, readers and writers, but by soldiers who gave their lives to win it and would give their lives to defend it.

But thinking of "From Here to Eternity" has me thinking of the old American Army of the 20th century, the Depression era, peacetime army that Jones captured as no one else ever had. It was an unspectacular thing, that Army, or seemed so until December 1941. Jones's Pvt. Prewitt was a lost Southern boy who found a home in that Army. He and his friend Angelo Maggio of New York "could live better Inside."

They came from little, had no money, had received indifferent public educations, and the 1930s Army they joined was neither racially integrated, gender-neutral nor adequately funded. The great divide, the caste system, was between officers and enlisted men. The latter were given training and discipline and were left with a passionate and passionately mixed attitude toward the institution that made them part of something as it chipped away at their individuality, that employed them and enslaved them, that made them men and often treated them like children.

When James Jones himself joined the Army, in 1937, a young man whose options seemed limited, he wrote back home, "This place is hell. They herd you around like cattle; they order you around like dogs; they work you like horses; and they feed you like hogs." In the 1953 film of the novel, directed by Fred Zinnemann, the first shot after the credits is of men marching in brisk formation. But all you can see are their boots on a dusty field, perfect but anonymous.

They were not, the men of the peacetime, Depression-era Army, especially respected by the public they served.

Our current Army is very different. Our people respect it, and its members are comparatively well-educated, largely middle-class, highly professional, and integrated in race and sex. Chances are good its members will be thanked when they return home from wherever they are--Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, elsewhere. It is a good thing we finally appreciate them, a good thing we, as a society, give them the honor they deserve. There are heroes among them, and their exploits too will be spoken of this Monday, and in Memorial Days of the future.

So here's to them. May they flourish and be safe. Here's to the heroes down the ages who did valorous, death-defying, death-ignoring things. And, this Monday, here's to someone else. Here's to the uncelebrated of the armies of the past, to all the men who went unlauded, who wanted to serve brilliantly, who didn't always quite make it or didn't quite get the call, who were replacement troops never sent to the front, whose service was comparatively undistinguished or unrecognized, but who were there, and did their job, and for us. And that's enough. Here's to them, and to their fictional counterparts Prewitt and Maggio, and all those who once found a home in the army.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father," (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.

Copyright © 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Woe to Him

A powerful and prescient Scripture passage is Isaiah 5:20 which reads:

"Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter."

That passage came to mind immediately upon reading this Breakpoint column from Chuck Colson:

Michael's World

A Dangerous Place to Be

May 24, 2006

Michael Schiavo has published a book titled Terri: The Truth. It is about his well-known and, unfortunately, successful fight to end his wife's life. Opening this book is like falling down Alice's rabbit hole and ending up in a new and bizarre world.

You don't even have to turn to the first page—just look at the front cover, where Michael proclaims, "My two babies were threatened with death. I was condemned by the president, the majority leaders of the House and Senate, the governor of Florida, the pope, and the right-wing media. . . . I didn't respond to their attacks. I didn't confront their lies. Until now."

Well, a quick Internet search turns up page after page of Michael's vigorous responses on Nightline, Larry King Live, and other venues, most of it very confrontational.

Why would he respond now? Books sales and talk shows are a lucrative business.

This turns out to be typical of the way things work in Michael Schiavo's world. As readers of the book soon discover, Schiavo's opponents deserve all the venom he can spew on them. To Michael Schiavo's mind, nobody could possibly have a good reason for wanting to let Terri Schiavo live in her condition. So he paints his opponents as biased, liars, downright insane. Just as the book cover indicates, the pope, the president, the governor of Florida, Terri's family, and several cranks who sent Michael death threats—which, by the way, I know from experience happens in these kinds of cases—are all lumped into the same category: people who opposed Michael's noble crusade to kill his wife. Noble? Or was he after collecting the insurance money and marrying the woman he was living with? Michael Schiavo's world, if you believe his book, is like the old Westerns where the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys all wore black hats and twisted their mustaches a lot.

Joking aside, Michael Schiavo's world is a dangerous and scary place, a place where the "survival of the fittest" is taken to a whole new level—a place where a badly brain-damaged woman should have her food and water taken away simply because she is badly brain damaged and her husband says she would not want to live that way. It's a place where it's easy for even a registered nurse like Michael Schiavo to confuse food, which everyone needs, with the kind of life support, like a respirator, which his wife did not need. It's a place where, as Schiavo is accustomed to saying with a straight face, taking someone's food away is not starving her to death; it's simply allowing her to die peacefully and painlessly. (Why a hospice needs to administer morphine to a person dying painlessly is something that Schiavo does not bother to explain, like so many other issues.)

The scariest thing about Michael Schiavo's world is that he, and so many of his partisans in the media and the public, do not want to give the benefit of the doubt to a comatose person. Now, I admit that many people today think well of Michael and less of those of us who defended Terri Schiavo since the autopsy showed that she had been brain-dead when she was in a comatose state. But that's beside the point. Our concern was with safeguarding the process and giving her the benefit of the doubt. After all, you can't do an autopsy until the person is dead, and then it is too late to correct mistakes.

Reading Schiavo's book is a sobering reminder that we must never give up our fight to guard the rights of the weak and the voiceless, or one day we will all be living—and dying—in Michael Schiavo's world.

Be Careful If You Come Knockin' Down
My Front Door

From of May 23, 2006 via the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog

78-Year-Old Fends Off Teenage Burglary Suspect
14-Year-Old Hospitalized With Gunshot Wounds

A teenager who tried to rob a house is recovering after being shot by an elderly homeowner who decided to fight back.

But it's the life-and-death struggle that unfolded in south suburban Riverdale that stunned police.

The victim is a 78-year-old ex-Marine, who is also a disabled former firefighter.

The robbery suspect is 14-years-old.

Police say the teen surprised the homeowner. He took a pair of pruning shears, hit him in the head and left him for dead.

But, somehow, as the teen ransacked the house, the victim got up, got his gun and shot the suspect four times.

"This 78-year-old man today refused to be a victim. He was fighting for his life and today, he won," said Police Chief Pete Satriano.

The suspect is under arrest but still hospitalized.

That feisty homeowner has been treated and released.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Legion Undone

Hold on before you think I'm saying that the Legionaires of Christ are at an end. In fact, I hope they aren't.

By "undone", I mean that their future isn't a "done deal". In fact, a great future may still be in front of them. Right now, however, the future of the Legion is still very much up in the air. I think the Vatican's Communique on Fr. Maciel was intended to give the Legion the opporuntity to make its own decision on its future. The only question now is what future will the Legion's leaders choose.

I won't go into the circumstances that brought about Friday's Communique "inviting" the Founder of the Legionaries to a "reserved life of penitence and prayer". Suffice it to say that I understand this is Church legal/diplomatic code banishing Fr. Maciel.

In reading some of the commentaries and analysis that has been ciculating in both the media and blogosphere, I've noted two items of interest.

The first is that the Vatican has gone out of its way to distinguish its judgement on Fr. Maciel from the Legion and Regnum Christi. By doing so it's giving them the opportunity to distinguish (i.e., distance) themselves from from Fr. Maciel; in fact, it is essentially challenging them to do so.

This aspect is flushed out in an article by Giselle Sainte Marie posted on the ReGAIN site. (I am well aware that ReGAIN and Giselle Sainte Marie have no love for the Legion or Regnum Christi; however, that does not mean she doesn't make a valid point here which is all I'm commenting on.)

In her article, she says:
Benedict is truly guided by the Holy Spirit in this response, because now the charism has the opportunity to succeed in a purified form, serving the Church rather than its own ends, or to fall of its own weight. The Vatican rightly sees in the Legion’s works many schools – from primary to advanced institutions; it sees apostolates for all members of the people of God; it sees abundant vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life hoping to serve the Church. Either these belong to Holy Mother Church – who has spoken in the case of Maciel – or they don’t. The fruit therein that is authentic will flourish for Christ, or it will rot on the vine. Without Maciel as the wind in the sails of the Legion, we will soon enough determine its new direction.

This is not an indictment of the enthusiastic and sincere faith of thousands associated with the Movement, who offered their lives to promote the Gospel, who piled up their “widow’s mites” in good faith, and who joined their energy to what they thought was a group dedicated to serving the Church. How could they begin to understand whether or not the accusations had merit? They accepted the possibility that the Legion was under attack for its orthodoxy, knowing that persecution is inherent in discipleship. To this end, the Vatican statement notes, "Independently of the person of the Founder, the worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Association 'Regnum Christi' is gratefully recognized."

The key word there is “independently.” There is still a chance that all the well-meaning souls attached to this group will prove themselves loyal to the Vicar of Christ, and yet that clearly means that they have to distance themselves from the person of Maciel. They cannot have both Maciel the Martyr and Benedict the Wise. Either they will hold to the fire the feet of every Legion priest, whose guidance they trust, to choose the Pope (and the Holy Spirit) unreservedly, or they will walk. We trust that they will do the right thing.
Another interesing point is the reaction from the Legion. I read another post on the Rorate Caeli blog by "New Catholic". Here, the author feels that the Legion has already "ruled" on its future by immediately posting a "response" to the Vatican's Communique. And the author states that the Legion is choosing the wrong future by siding with Fr. Maciel against the Church.
[W]hile the Holy See's communiqué was clear in the distinction between the founder and the movements he founded ("Independently of the person of the Founder, the worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Association 'Regnum Christi' is gratefully recognized"), the Legion of Christ institutionalized the personal misgivings of Maciel Degollado and rushed to issue its own "Response" to the communiqué, a response which can only be described as galling and offensive.


Instead of remaining silent (which one would expect from a "obedient" son) or of THANKING the competent ecclesiastical authorities for the unbound concern they showed for the health and age of the man, and for the future fortunes of the movements he founded, the "Official Response" even presents the "suffering" as a privileged means of grace for the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. This while the Holy See itself was careful to distinguish the person of the founder from the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi.

"Salus animarum suprema lex" (Can.1752): it was wonderful to watch the Holy See apply this overarching principle of law once again. What a misfortune that such a beautiful spirit had to be squandered by sectarian gall. This official response only deepened the links between the Founder and his movements, which the Holy See had been careful to separate -- and, instead of the spirit of a Saint Joan of Arc, was filled with the spirit of self-righteousness. There may have been pharisees in this succession of events -- but they were not in the Vatican.
I agree that it was imprudent of the Legion to rush out a response. It seemed as if they were consulting a PR firm instead of Scripture. And no doubt "New Catholic" is right in criticizing them for leaping to Fr. Maciel's defense as the defense necessarily implicitly criticizes the Holy Father.

However, in a way such a response was to be expected. The Legion is still the alter ego of Fr. Maciel and their rush to his defense was probably reflexive rather than calculated. I'm still hopeful that, with some prayer and reflection that the Legion's leaders will realize that, in order to have a future, the Legion needs to disassociate itself from its founder.

It will be difficult. They will essentially have to reinvent themselves and develop a new charism. But the Church affords them abundant opportunities to do so; and if the Legion does embrace another charism, it can survive, grow and flourish.

The only question right now is whether the Legion is willing to do so.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Be Careful If You Come Knockin' Down
My Front Door

Man shoots, kills home intruder

Official: Shooting likely will fall under 'Stand Your Ground' law

Amy Sowder

When Edward Lucas Sr. checked to see why the neighbor's German shepherd was barking at Sunday at 5:40 a.m., he had no idea that minutes later an intruder would be lying dead on his living room rug.

Lucas, 63, of the 3900 block of West Mallory Street, never wanted to have to use his .22 caliber rifle that way, but Tyrone Fyoungious Preyer, 29, would not stop breaking through the door, he said.

"I yelled 'Get out of my house,' but he kept coming," said Lucas, a retired Sears employee who resided at that house for almost eight years. "I was scared to death."

Preyer, who died at the home when Lucas fired at him more than four times, tried to break into at least three other surrounding homes, Escambia County Sheriff's Office investigators said.

Preyer's name appears 14 times in Escambia County criminal court records, with seven felonies, including: aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, burglary and grand theft auto.

Lucas will not be charged because he was defending his home, himself and his girlfriend, Maxine Rasberry, 60, Sgt. Mike Ward said.

Ward said the shooting likely will fall under the "Stand Your Ground" Florida law passed in 2005, which allows people to use any force necessary in order to protect themselves when they feel threatened.

"If the law had not changed, would he be charged under these circumstances?" Ward said. "Probably not. What would you do?"

When Lucas saw someone crashing through his carport side door and yelled for him to stop, he told his girlfriend to jump out the bedroom window and call the police at a neighbor's house.

"It was rough, but he protected us," Rasberry said. "I think he did a good job."

Neighbor Dennis Camden's home was left untouched between Lucas' house and another neighbor's home where investigators said one of the attempted robberies occurred. This area of Mallory Street usually is quiet, Camden said.

"He's a good man," Camden said. "All he did was try to take care of what was his. He was given no choice."

On Sunday afternoon at Lucas' house, the door's broken glass sprinkled the floor in and out of the house, the door frame's molding dangled from the wall and the bloodied living room rug was in the trash.

"Whether I'll be able to sleep at night, I don't know," Lucas said.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


The great story about the new bishop in KC reminded me of this post from last year:

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Attention Cafeteria Catholics:

The cafeteria is CLOSED.
Cleaning House in Kansas City

Here is an encouraging story from Catholic

Everything's Up To Date In Kansas City

by Dr. Jeff Mirus, special to
May 16, 2006

The conventional wisdom is that if you’re a bishop who wants to reform his diocese, you have to take things very slowly. You need a five or ten year plan with limited objectives. You must proceed with great caution and sensitivity. You’re wise to avoid adverse reactions. At least that’s the way it’s always been done, when it is done at all. But not in Kansas City. Reform in Kansas City is moving at Internet speed, under Bishop Robert Finn.

Better than a Magic Lantern Show

Finn, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and a member of Opus Dei's Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, served as coadjutor of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese for about a year beginning in March 2004. On Raymond Boland’s retirement, Finn took sole charge of the diocese, of which he was made ordinary by Pope Benedict XVI in May 2005. Since taking charge, Bishop Finn has:

  • Dismissed the lay chancellor and replaced him with a priest.

  • Dismissed the female religious who served as vice chancellor and replaced her with a layman with a track record in Catholic apologetics.

  • Cancelled the diocese’s programs for training lay people for pastoral ministry.

  • Increased the staffing of the vocations office from a half-time priest to a full-time priest with a half-time priest assistant.
  • Ordered a new study of adult catechesis under the leadership of the new vice chancellor.

  • Cut the budget of the Office of Peace and Justice in half and established a separate Respect Life Office.

  • Removed the diocesan sponsored master’s program from Aquinas Institute of Theology (run by Dominicans affiliated with the Jesuit St. Louis University) and placed it with the Institute for Pastoral Theology at Ave Maria University.

  • Ordered the editor of the diocesan newspaper to drop Fr. Richard McBrien’s column.

  • Established a pattern of reviewing the contents of the newspaper prior to publication, sometimes cutting stories which appear to undermine Catholic teaching.

He’s Gone About as Far as He Can Go

What is most remarkable about these changes is that much of the longtime middle management of the diocese has simply been swept away. Career professionals over a period of twenty years, those who had been highly regarded by the previous bishop (and sometimes by his predecessor), the cognoscenti, the inner circle—in short, those who were always consulted before anything was ever done—were as so much chaff before Bishop Finn’s new broom. The great complaint, of course, is that these changes were made without consultation, and made by a man with an “agenda”. Again and again in news reports, the mantra of non-consultation is chanted loud and long.

The reality, of course, is simply that Bishop Finn didn’t consult those who were accustomed to being consulted. Kansas City-St. Joseph was the national leader in the formation of lay people as pastoral administrators to staff priestless parishes. The entire mindset of diocesan management seems to have been rooted in this vision of the Catholic future. But Bishop Finn made it his business to move beyond the established circles and get a feel for the pulse of the people in the pews. In his year as coadjutor, he visited 70 out of 100 parishes in the diocese, talking with and listening to an astonishingly large number of “ordinary” Catholics. Having consulted so widely and listened so well, it is perhaps not surprising that he failed to consult those he was about to fire.

Every House Is All Complete

As for his “agenda”, in a number of interviews and press sessions, Bishop Finn has made clear why he is making changes. In response to those who question his commitment to justice and peace, he stresses that abortion is the holocaust of the modern world. Commenting on his shift in educational priorities, he said that “we have to understand where the power of the laity is. It is in the family, the workplace, the marketplace.” Very few lay people will ever be involved in parish administration, he noted. “Sometimes we tend to focus on that very small percentage and forget about the rest of the flock,” who need to be able to explain the Faith in a hostile culture, especially concerning issues such as abortion, contraception and homosexuality.

He also noted that previous pastoral formation programs “had been given birth during that period of time when there was a lot of emphasis on process and sharing and a little less on content.” Clearly Bishop Finn wants lay persons to be well-formed lay persons and priests to be well-formed priests, and he does not want the two confused. As he told the long-time pastoral planner for the diocese, who had worked for years to supplement a shortage of priests with lay administrators, “I’d like priests in every parish.”

In his charge to the new adult faith formation commission, Finn put his plans into the following more complete context:

Forty years after the close of the Second Vatican Council, we are in a time of a more mature self-understanding in the Church, than the period immediately following the Council. More than ever, the Council documents deserve careful reading and study. They have been used at times to justify experimentation that was interpolated on what has been sometimes called the "spirit of the Council." Now we must allow ourselves to see how they are an incentive for renewal in continuity with the Church's tradition. The Sacred Scriptures, interpreted by the Church, and illuminated by the Fathers and other anchors of Catholic Tradition, and the Magisterium, presented concisely in the Catechism and other teaching documents of the Holy Father and the Councils, are the "sine qua non," or the fundamental resources for our efforts. Our diocesan program must supply elements of a "core curriculum" and a solid faith foundation which will help the faithful withstand the rather constant challenges of the secular culture.

In response to all this, many critics still report themselves confused. One tried to explain away the changes by theorizing that Bishop Finn had always found the way things were done in Kansas City “very foreign” and had “never adjusted.” Or perhaps he never adjusted to those who define Catholicism as an “agenda”.

What Next! What Next?

There is more to come in the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. It is too soon to tell how successful Bishop Finn’s approach will be. If he succeeds in reshaping his diocese without losing a substantial number of the Catholics within it, this will upset all the conventional wisdom—the wisdom by which nearly every diocese and the Church as a whole has been governed for almost 50 years. It will become clear that quick, public, and decisive action constitutes effective leadership. It will force other bishops to question whether the only possibility is a slow war of attrition, often so slow that the objectives are forgotten.

For this reason, it is difficult to think of a more important experiment in today’s Church. Here comes a man steeped in Catholic tradition yet formed to engage the modern world. Undaunted by the obstacles in his path, he acts both boldly and swiftly. He neither courts the establishment nor worries about adverse publicity. He governs as if he believes his authority is the authority of Christ. And when asked why he acts as he does, he gives plain and simple Catholic reasons. Let us hope Bishop Finn is a harbinger of things to come. For the present, with apologies to Rogers and Hammerstein, Kansas City really is up to date.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Join the Army
(The Rosary Army that Is)

If you're reading this, you're already somewhat technically inclined. I mean, I thought everyone knew what a blog was by now. But, to my surprise, I was talking to my doctor the other day and said something about a story I read on a blog and he said "Excuse me?" So, I had to explain to him what a blog was. And I'm not talking about an old geezer -- my doctor is probably about 30 years old. So, like I said, if you're reading this blog, congratulations, you're on "the cutting edge of societal evolution". (Where have I heard that saying before?)

Getting to the point (yes, there is a point to this), if you can handle blogs, you are also probably familiar with Podcasting. This assumption also enables me to forego explaining what a podcast is (which I have no intention of mentioning to my doctor -- I don't even think he has a iPod. Great doctor, but is seriously technically challenged; even more so than the beautiful Ellen and that's saying a lot! :-)

Like I said, getting to the point, check out the Rosary Army podcast, it is terrific. I've listened to a bunch of different podcasts, and still subscribe to a couple, but the Rosary Army podcast is the best. It's done by a solid Catholic couple, Greg and Jennifer Willits, down in Georgia (Jawjuh).

Listening to their podcast is like having a couple of good Catholic friends stop by for a cup of coffee, then kicking back and catching up on what's going on in their lives and their faith. They upload about one new episode a week and after a while, you start to feel like you know these two. Very down to earth. Good stuff.

Oh, I almost forgot, in addition to the podcast Greg and Jennifer have a great apostolate: making rosaries and giving them away. That's where the Rosary Army comes from. Check out their site here; and, go on iTunes, look up their podcast and subscribe. Once you do, new episodes will download into your Itunes podcast folder automatically; however, I highly recommend going back into their "archives" and download all 60+ episodes. It'll take a while to listen to them, but by the time you do, you'll think of Greg and Jennifer as good friends.

God bless them both.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

12 Years of University Education ...

... nets an MBA?, a PhD?, an MD? No, not even a B.A. This guy lives his own version of Animal House!

The coming-back kid

Perpetual collegian will give it one more year

Posted: May 9, 2006

Whitewater - The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater breathed a sigh of relief this spring when Johnny Lechner announced he was finally graduating.

Lechner, a 29-year-old with spiky blond hair, has been an undergraduate at UW-Whitewater for 12 years. Count them, 12.

Although his status as a perpetual senior has made him a darling of the national media (He has been covered by the The New York Times, "Good Morning America," the "Late Show with David Letterman" and CNN), it has also made him a major annoyance on campus. Many of his classmates and professors view Lechner as an embarrassment and are eager to see him leave.

Turns out, that's not going to happen, at least not this year. On Monday, Lechner withdrew his application for graduation a mere five days before the ceremony. He told the Journal Sentinel he planned to stay at UW-Whitewater one more year.

"I don't mean to be the boy who cried wolf," he said, "but I've decided to spend another year."

As Lechner tells it, he never intended to be a senior for nine years.

When the Waukesha native entered UW-Whitewater as a freshman in 1994, he thought he'd be gone in four years like most of his classmates.

A decade of parties

But the availability of young women, parties and other campus activities proved difficult to give up. Before he knew it, a decade had passed.

Lechner, who looks like the star of a WB soap opera, estimates he has had over 100 "relationships" since his freshman year. His bedroom wall is covered with photos of fraternity parties, Halloween celebrations and spring break romps.

UW-Whitewater's student newspaper, The Royal Purple, has been doing stories about Lechner for several years that have been picked up by campus publications across the country. Lechner has helped spread the word about his boisterous campus lifestyle on a Web site,

But it wasn't until he appeared on the "Late Show," "Good Morning America" and in a profile on the front page of The New York Times that Lechner began to feel like a true celebrity.

Monster Energy Drink began delivering cases to Lechner's house after he agreed to make it the official drink of his 12th year. Hollywood types began expressing an interest in a TV show based on his life. And people in Whitewater started to know who he was.

"It's bizarre," Lechner said. "I have 18-, 19- and 20-year-old girls throwing themselves at me in bars."

It's not just the girls. Grocery store clerks recognize his name. He has a following of older male students on campus who seek to emulate him.

"I think he's brilliant," said Ryan Berka, Lechner's 23-year-old roommate.

And then there are detractors

But Michelle Eigenberger, an editor at The Royal Purple, said Lechner's celebrity image is deceiving.

Most students think Lechner is a loser, she said. They are tired of his celebrity stunts.

"It's getting old," Eigenberger said. "For the sanity of the rest of the campus, we want him to get out of here."

Richard Brooks, a professor of philosophy and religious studies who serves as Lechner's adviser, agreed.

The UW System as a whole has come under attack from the state Legislature as wasteful and inefficient. Brooks said many of his colleagues worry that Lechner is feeding that negative image.

"He's certainly no model of efficiency with taxpayer dollars," Brooks said. "One could argue that he's taking up the seat of some deserving student."

Chancellor Martha Saunders insists that's not the case. But she admitted that she had been looking forward to seeing Lechner graduate on Saturday.

Lechner said this spring that he planned to use his graduation as an opportunity to finish writing the TV show based on his life.

So why did he decide to stay another year?

"I realized that if I went one more year, I could study abroad," Lechner said. "That's one thing I haven't done."

From the May 10, 2006 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Steyn's Latest

By now, you should know that anything that Mark Steyn writes is worth reading. So, I'll say no more -- just read.

To connect the dots, you have to see the dots

May 14, 2006


Here are two news stories from the end of last week. The first one you may have heard about. As "The Today Show's" Matt Lauer put it:

"Does the government have your number? This morning a shocking new report that the National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone records of tens of millions of Americans."

The second story comes from the United Kingdom and what with Lauer's hyperventilating you may have missed it. It was the official report into the July 7 bus and Tube bombings. As The Times of London summarized the conclusions:

"Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the bomb cell, had come to the attention of MI5 [Britain's domestic intelligence agency] on five occasions but had never been pursued as a serious suspect . . .

"A lack of communication between police Special Branch units, MI5 and other agencies had hampered the intelligence-gathering operation;

"There was a lack of co-operation with foreign intelligence services and inadequate intelligence coverage in . . ."

Etc., etc., ad nauseam.

So there are now two basic templates in terrorism media coverage:

Template A (note to editors: to be used after every terrorist atrocity): "Angry family members, experts and opposition politicians demand to know why complacent government didn't connect the dots."

Template B (note to editors: to be used in the run-up to the next terrorist atrocity): "Shocking new report leaked to New York Times for Pulitzer Prize Leak Of The Year Award nomination reveals that paranoid government officials are trying to connect the dots! See pages 3,4,6,7,8, 13-37."

How do you connect the dots? To take one example of what we're up against, two days before 9/11, a very brave man, the anti-Taliban resistance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, was assassinated in Afghanistan by killers posing as journalists. His murderers were Algerians traveling on Belgian passports who'd arrived in that part of the world on visas issued by the Pakistani High Commission in the United Kingdom. That's three more countries than many Americans have visited. The jihadists are not "primitives". They're part of a sophisticated network: They travel the world, see interesting places, meet interesting people -- and kill them. They're as globalized as McDonald's -- but, on the whole, they fill in less paperwork. They're very good at compartmentalizing operations: They don't leave footprints, just a toeprint in Country A in Time Zone B and another toe in Country E in Time Zone K. You have to sift through millions of dots to discern two that might be worth connecting.

I'm a strong believer in privacy rights. I don't see why Americans are obligated to give the government their bank account details and the holdings therein. Other revenue agencies in other free societies don't require that level of disclosure. But, given that the people of the United States are apparently entirely cool with that, it's hard to see why lists of phone numbers (i.e., your monthly statement) with no identifying information attached to them is of such a vastly different order of magnitude. By definition, "connecting the dots" involves getting to see the dots in the first place.

Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) feels differently. "Look at this headline," huffed the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The secret collection of phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. Now, are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with al-Qaida?"

No. But next time he's flying from D.C. to Burlington, Vt., on a Friday afternoon he might look at the security line: Tens of millions of Americans are having to take their coats and shoes off! Are you telling me that tens of millions of ordinary shoe-wearing Americans are involved with al-Qaida?

Of course not. Fifteen out of 19 of the 9/11 killers were citizens of Saudi Arabia. So let's scrap the tens of millions of law-abiding phone records, and say we only want to examine the long-distance phone bills of, say, young men of Saudi origin living in the United States. Can you imagine what Leahy and Lauer would say to that? Oh, no! Racial profiling! The government's snooping on people whose only crime is "dialing while Arab." In a country whose Transportation Security Administration personnel recently pulled Daniel Brown off the plane as a security threat because he had traces of gunpowder on his boots -- he was a uniformed U.S. Marine on his way home from Iraq -- in such a culture any security measure will involve "tens of millions of Americans": again by definition, if one can't profile on the basis of religion or national origin or any other identifying mark with identity-group grievance potential, every program will have to be at least nominally universal.

Last week, apropos the Moussaoui case, I remarked on the absurdity of victims of the London Blitz demanding the German perpetrators be brought before a British court. Melanie Phillips, a columnist with the Daily Mail in London and author of the alarming new book Londonistan, responded dryly, "Ah, but if we were fighting World War Two now, we'd lose."

She may be right. It's certainly hard to imagine Pat Leahy as FDR or Harry Truman or any other warmongering Democrat of yore. To be sure, most of Pat's Vermont voters would say there is no war; it's just a lot of fearmongering got up by Bush and Cheney to distract from the chads they stole in Florida or whatever. And they're right -- if, by "war," you mean tank battles in the North African desert and air forces bombing English cities night after night. But today no country in the world can fight that kind of war with America. If that's all "war" is, then (once more by definition) there can be no war. If you seek to weaken, demoralize and bleed to death the United States and its allies, you can only do it asymmetrically -- by killing thousands of people and then demanding a criminal trial, by liaising with terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan and then demanding the government cease inspecting your phone records.

I yield to no one in my antipathy to government, but not everyone who's on the federal payroll is a boob, a time-server, a politically motivated malcontent or principal leak supplier to the New York Times. Suppose you're a savvy mid-level guy in Washington, you've just noticed a pattern, you think there might be something in it. But it requires enormous will to talk your bosses into agreeing to investigate further, and everyone up the chain is thinking, gee, if this gets out, will Pat Leahy haul me before the Senate and kill my promotion prospects? There was a lot of that before 9/11, and thousands died.

And five years on?

©Mark Steyn 2006


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