Thursday, January 24, 2008


For some time I have been thinking about leadership. What does the term even mean? And how does it fit into our world today? I am not literally talking about the meaning of the word itself. Wikipedia describes it as "The ability to affect human behavior so as to accomplish a mission designated by the leader." I think that pretty much nails it. What I am talking about are the real world manifestations of leadership. Examples abound, both positive and negative.

On one side, let's look at President Bush. Yes, he's a leader, by default the President of the United States is a leader. But what to do with it? How to use it to your, and most especially (in this case) country's best interests? After 9-11-01, the country was more or less unified - practically begging for leadership. President Bush blew it. Yes, he did the right thing in deposing the Taliban, and Saddam, but screwed up practically everything else. First, he essentially told the country "Nothing to see here... Move along now to the mall and shop 'til you drop." In other words - EXACTLY the wrong thing. People being led want - no need - to feel as it they are a part of the struggle. To be told that you can and should pretend that life is status quo ante is not only absurd, it is counterproductive. "Freedom isn't free" but you can pretend it is!!! If people are sacrificing in some noticable way, they are more inclined to "buy in" to your idea and thus keep it on course even when the storms come. Then, to follow up on that blunder, he made matters infinitely worse by adopting a policy of never ever explaining anything about what was going on in the world and why he was making the decisions that he was. I call this the Loves Me Like a Rock based on the words of the song by the O'Jays:

And if I was president
The men of congress call my name
I'd say who do
Who do you think you're foolin
I got the presidential seal
I'm up on the presidential podium
My momma loves me
She loves me
She gets down on her knees and hugs me
Like she loves me like a rock

In other words - I'm the decider and I'm right, now shut the hell up.

Now... rewind to 1961. The United States is in the deepest, darkest hours of the cold war. Another superpower is threatening to eclipse the freedoms that we as americans hold dear. President Kennedy knows that if the Soviets can make America look weak, that their converts in the world will quickly multiply. He also knows that the military (i.e. nuclear) option is madness but the US must look like the "king of the hill" in the eyes of the world. And he know that the current technological rage of space exploration is the best - maybe the only way to capture the world's attention that way. Or as his Vice President put it "Mister President, America cannot afford to be in Second Place".

So the young president gives a speech to congress. I highly recommend that you read the whole text, but I will provide out takes, with my emphasis here:

"These are extraordinary times. And we face an extraordinary challenge. Our strength as well as our convictions have imposed upon this nation the role of leader in freedom's cause... No role in history could be more difficult or more important. We stand for freedom... Read: This is serious stuff

I therefore ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I have earlier requested for space activities, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals:

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish... Read: This is going to be a long and tough road.

Let it be clear--and this is a judgment which the Members of the Congress must finally make--let it be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action, a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 million dollars in fiscal '62--an estimated seven to nine billion dollars additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all. Read: Don't start what you are unwilling to finish.

Now this is a choice which this country must make, and I am confident that under the leadership of the Space Committees of the Congress, and the Appropriating Committees, that you will consider the matter carefully.

It is a most important decision that we make as a nation. But all of you have lived through the last four years and have seen the significance of space and the adventures in space, and no one can predict with certainty what the ultimate meaning will be of mastery of space.

I believe we should go to the moon. But I think every citizen of this country as well as the Members of the Congress should consider the matter carefully in making their judgment, to which we have given attention over many weeks and months, because it is a heavy burden, and there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful. If we are not, we should decide today and this year.
Read: I repeat, this is going to be wildly difficult and expensive!!!

Notice the difference??? President Kennedy got the NATION working towards a goal, and investing in that goal. And as a result, not only did we not forget it after his death, we MADE IT HAPPEN, because we refused to do otherwise.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

South Carolina Primary

I know that this is not a political blog, and I am not intending to make it such, but the results of Saturday's primary in South Carolina are definitely worthy of comment in any case, so comment I will.

First, I will state that I am now and have been since day one of this campaign a Mike Huckabee supporter. I am not fanatical about it, and I understand and admit that there are certain positions that he has taken, both now and in the past, that I am not exactly in agreement with. In other words, he is not "perfect" in my eyes. However, unlike some other (influential) conservatives, I am not ignorant enough to let that get in the way of my appreciating that he is the best, most well-rounded, most electable candidate in the field - in either party.

It is that ignorance, that myopic intrasigence, in deadly combination with selective memory and misinterpretation, that has made this fight for the nomination so absurd, and so frustrating. There are many in the media (most notably Rush Limbaugh), in concert with many "conservatives" who have made it their mission in life to aggressively try to discredit and disparage any candidate who does not fit into their contorted concept of what a conservative is. The logic goes like this: Ronald Reagan snd his conservatism made this party and this country great - that is the "Reagan Legacy". ANY candidate who tries to claim the leadership of this party and is not 100% in the "Reagan mold" is not a "true conservative" and will lead therefore lead the party to ruin. Huckabee (and Romney and McCain for that matter) are not "true conservatives" and therefore will bring the party to ruin. Therefore they must be destroyed at all costs. At ALL costs. These people would much rather see another eight years of Clintonia than see Huckabee in the White House.

The main problem in that lies in the premise. The iconic image of Ronald Reagan is a dominating force in conservative politics. In a sense that is a good thing. It helps to remember how yougot where you are. The problem is the Reagan the remember is one who never existed. Yes, he was for smaller government, less taxes, and a dtrong defense - but so are Huckabee and McCain. BUT Reagan was also for a government that works. A government that is on the side of the people - not business interests. The deregulation that was driven through by Reagan was not intended to enrich corporate america, it was meant to (and DID bya and large) enrich the average Joe - The Working Man.

The Working Man has become the forgotten man NOT because of Reagan and his efforts, but because the results of those efforts were co-opted by the spawn of the old Country Club Republicans. The old stuffy pipe-smoking Republican has been replaced by the BlackBerry wielding MBA republican. Fully convinced of his manifest destiny to control and define conservatism - and AMericanism for that matter. The rest of us in the party are looked upon as useful idiots who didn't go to the right schools and dont' "network" with the right people.

How have so many seemingly intelligent people forgotten the one phrase that brought Ronald Reagan to power in 1980:

"Just ask yourself: Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

Monday, January 14, 2008


Yesterday, January 13, 2008, marked a great day for tradition loving catholics in North Carolina. A 1962 Rite traditional High Mass was celebrated at Our Lady of Grace Church. The celebrant was Father Ferguson, for the FSSP, and in attendance (observing from the loft, I think) there the priests of the Diocese of Charlotte who are learing to celebrate the Mass of Blessed John XXIII. The church was filled to capacity, both by traditional-loving catholics from around the state, and by many many local catholics who were interested in the mass. I was there, along with my dear wife and mother-in-law. And it was awesome. Got a bit hot in there at one point and I shed my jacket, but wow. The only downside was that, in my excitement, I left my glasses at home, rendering my new Missal useless (at least to me).

Our local paper, the News & Record, has a large article and a very well done multimedia presentation. Here is some of the article:

Latin Mass fills pews By Nancy McLaughlin
Staff Writer
Monday, Jan. 14, 2008 3:00 am

The pews quickly filled at Our Lady of Grace on Sunday for this special worship service, with many women wearing head scarves for the first time in decades and the priest speaking in Latin, an ancient language not spoken routinely in Catholic congregations since the 1960s.

"It's as if your grandmother celebrated Christmas a certain way and your mother never did it the same way, and this is grandmother's way," said parishioner Janet Morrison, who was wearing a scarf for the first time since 1963, when she was a teenager. "It's bringing something back from my childhood, and it's wonderful."

Latin was the language of the church for centuries, before the Second Vatican Council of leadership suggested the liturgy of the Catholic Church be reformed to increase the participation of the people. Those reforms included a reduction of the number of blessings and prayers that were spoken, the loss of age-old customs and that Mass be celebrated in the common language of the people. More recently, Pope Benedict XVI loosened restrictions of the Latin rite, referred to as the Tridentine Mass, allowing parishes to celebrate in that way if it is the desire of the faithful. Some churches have slowly added Latin Mass as an option. Most remain in English and Spanish.

Fourteen priests from the Diocese of Charlotte, which includes Greensboro, recently studied the rituals of the prayers in Latin with the Rev. Robert Ferguson, who led the Mass at Our Lady of Grace — partly as a demonstration model for them.

Those in the pews came from across the state.

"Some of these people have been waiting for a long time," said Sister Sheila Richardson of Sacred Heart Mission Church in Wadesboro. She traveled the hour and a half drive with eight others. Some of those who showed up at Our Lady of Grace were too young to have witnessed a Mass in Latin, but said they were there to connect with the roots of their faith.

"My father sent me a videotape of a Latin Mass and it was so beautiful," said 32-year-old Jennifer Carter of Huntersville, who only five years ago joined the religion of her father. "The old prayers are so beautiful, so rich."...

To help those in the pews, ushers passed out programs containing the Latin and English versions of the Mass — even instruction on when to stand and when to kneel...

Some things were more familiar for Banks and the others, ranging from contemplative worship to the use of incense as a symbol of prayers wafting to God...

The sacred songs were in Latin but there also was Gregorian chanting.

In the more modern Mass, for example, the altar is placed in a central location in the sanctuary, allowing the priest to face the congregation during Eucharistic prayers. In the Latin Mass, the altar was placed against the wall at the back of the sanctuary, which meant the priest had to have his back to the congregation. [Actually, the original, marble high altar was used. the wooden table altar was nowhere to be seen]

Like those around her, Tina Witt of Charlotte knelt at the altar rail, which symbolized the gate to Heaven, and received communion on the tongue from the priest. Communion is given in many ways using the more modern Mass, including "by hand" to each parishioner.

"This is something we never should have gotten away from," Witt said of the customs surrounding the service.

The complete original article can be seen here.
And if you follow the link, there is a highly impressive multimedia presentation as well.

Deo Gratias!