Thursday, December 31, 2009

When the foundations are being destroyed...

I hadn’t picked up a newspaper in a couple days, but the following headline from the Washington Times caught my eye as it lay on the kitchen table: Birth mom must give child to lesbian ex-partner.

I wanted to ignore it, but a mixture of perplexity and curiosity compelled me to pick up the newspaper, thinking that there must be more to this story. As I read the article, it only got worse. Read the details for yourself if you like, but the story in a nutshell is as follows:

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Joy

Today’s post is an adaptation of a Christmas letter I recently sent to family and friends. I write one every year as an alternative to Christmas cards. When I first started, I would send out a couple hundred of them all by snail mail. Thanks to modern technology and a touch of laziness, I have been able to save quite a few trees (and postage) by only printing and mailing about half as many.

Each year I try to achieve the dual purpose of (1) sharing family news and (2) saying something inspiring. I almost did not send a letter out this year because, to be honest, I wasn’t feeling very inspired. Too much of the family news I had to share was not very joyful, and the majority of my recipients were already well aware of it. I had heard many of them express, either verbally or via a post on Facebook, that they would just as soon bid good riddance to the year 2009.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let’s go for broke!

After winning over the last few remaining holdouts in the Senate, it appears that President Obama and Harry Reid have the necessary votes to take over one-sixth of the economy with their healthcare bill. It has long been the holy grail of the left, and it is finally within their reach.

The arguments for government run and/or heavily regulated healthcare, when repeated long and loud enough, sooner or later start to stick. The ones I have heard most often are summarized below:

  1. Healthcare is a basic human right that should be denied to no one. All Americans have an inalienable right to medical insurance and health care.
  2. Healthcare should therefore not be left in the hands of profit driven medical care providers, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers or insurance companies.
  3. Too much money is being spent on healthcare for unnecessary tests and procedures.
  4. The only way to equitably address these issues is to leave healthcare up to the government.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

In Memory of my Mom

My dear mother Angelina was born in 1930 in Torre Faro, Messina. She was the third of three siblings born in Italy, after Uncle Joe and Aunt Rosie. The family situation at the time was not uncommon for southern Italy. My grandmother, "Nonna Antonia", was what was commonly referred to as a vedova Americana: an “American widow”. That is, my grandfather, “Nonno Nicola”, like many breadwinners in that era, spent months and years at a time in the United States, where jobs and opportunities were more plentiful, so he could send money home to his wife and children and perhaps one day bring them to the USA. Unfortunately, one of his trips abroad occurred at the end of 1929, just after my mother was conceived, and at the beginning of the Great Depression. The economic downturn and the subsequent World War--with Italy and the USA on opposite sides—prolonged the separation until after the war.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

... the right of the people peaceably to assemble...

I don’t have anything profound to say about today's rally at the Capitol. It was a simple exercise of some of the rights guaranteed by the first amendment, which happens to begin with the words. “Congress shall make no law…”

It was only a week ago that Nancy Pelosi announced that she was going to bring HR 3962, the $1.2 trillion, 1990 page “healthcare” bill, to a vote by the end of this week, believing she had the votes to pass it The very next day, Representatives Michelle Bachman (R-Minnesota) and Steven King (R-Iowa) took to the airwaves with a simple appeal for people to convene on the West side of the Capitol on Thursday at noon for a rally, to be followed by visits to Congressional offices to urge their lawmakers to vote “no” on the bill.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Here's an idea

House Democrats announced their latest version of a healthcare “reform” bill last Thursday at a rather exclusive unveiling ceremony. According to the Washington Times and many other press outlets, “The West Front of the Capitol -- where President Obama was inaugurated -- is traditionally open to the public. But the entrances were blocked off Thursday morning by metal fences, with Capitol Police officers standing next to staff members holding clipboards with lists of approved attendees.” That is, only their handpicked, trusted invitees could attend.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Unconstitutional Congress

Lost amidst the headlines about healthcare, Afghanistan, the Administration's war on Fox News, etc., I found the following article in today's Washington Times:

Rental industry hopes to buy influence on Hill

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Choosing to put a tiger in my tank

Economic behavior is for the most part driven by free choice and self interest, which usually means looking for the best product at the best price. Every once in a while, our economic behavior is modified by a positive or negative political, social or moral cause, which influences us to boycott product A or patronize product B based on a personal value judgment.

An example in history was the tea boycott staged by American colonists, given the onerous taxes on tea imposed by the British crown. I don’t know how effective it was, but it was at least a symbolic gesture that helped rally the cause that inspired the American Revolution.

Other cause driven economic behavior fails to gain traction, such as when Hillary Clinton said: “I turn off a light and say, ‘Take that, Iran,’ and “Take that, Venezuela.’ We should not be sending our money to people who are not going to support our values,”

Saturday, October 24, 2009


In case you have hours to waste or nothing better to do, you can now see a copy of one of the proposed healthcare “reform” bills on line at

I certainly don’t have the time or inclination to pore over all 1502 pages, but be my guest if you like. The Congressional Budget Office has yet to score the bill. I will also leave it to others to come up with a summary of what this behemoth actually entails, but I did a few word searches to get some idea:

  • A search for “malpractice”, “tort”, “tort reform” yielded zero hits. Why am I not surprised?
  • “Abortion” resulted in over 20 hits, the most telling of which is on page 141, which describes the abortion services for which public funding is permitted and prohibited: “The services described in this subparagraph are abortions for which the expenditure of Federal funds appropriated for the Department of Health and Human Services is permitted, based on the law as in effect as of the date that is 6 months before the beginning of the plan year involved.” I see quite a wide berth for a Mack truck.
  • “Medicare” also yielded multiple hits, a substantial number of them under the Title V Section entitled “Fraud, Waste and Abuse”, Subsection A, “Medicare and Medicaid”. I am all for eliminating fraud, waste and abuse, but why am I suspicious? How long have Medicaid and Medicare been in existence? If they can save so much money by cutting waste, fraud and abuse, why haven’t they done so already?
There are numerous other references to penalties, fines and taxes, as well as federal requirements levied on states. It is enough to make anyone’s head spin. I am convinced that the length and the complexity of the bill are by design.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I could have done better

I just had a very unsatisfying exchange with a Jehovah’s Witness in a Safeway parking lot.

The young lady was smiling and soft spoken as she handed me a tract. I immediately accepted it and quickly turned to the back to see if it said “Watchtower Society” somewhere in the fine print. But it was already getting dark and my eyesight isn’t the best, so I just confronted the issue head on.

“Thank you very much,” I said. "What church do you go to?"

“I’m a Jehovah’s Witness.”

I wasn’t sure what to say next, so I blurted out, “I’m afraid I don’t subscribe to Arian theology.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m afraid you don’t have an adequate understanding of who Jesus is.”

“Oh we believe He is the Son of God.”

“Well, good. Do you believe that He died for your sins?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Well, meditate on that.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Breathtaking Double Standards, Part III

Parts 1 and 2 of this series are from a previous blog I used to contribute to:

Breathtaking Double Standards

Breathtaking Double Standards (Part II)

I could have easily turned it into a weekly series, but it would get old real fast to keep repeating the painfully obvious, so I have stayed away from the theme.

I was inspired to take it up again by an email that a good friend recently forwarded to me. It basically lists an assortment of the missteps, gaffes and boneheaded policy decisions that have occurred in the first months of the Obama administration (most of which have been excused or glossed over by the media) and rhetorically asks the reader if they would have received similar treatment if George W. Bush were still president.

It's not too late.

If the Obama Administration and Congress really wanted to to turn the economy around, they could do it right away, but it would require a major change in course. I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Here we go again!

You have heard it all before, or maybe not, because the media has done a wonderful job of de-emphasizing it. The economic crisis we are in was not caused by “free-market capitalism” or “greed on Wall Street” or (that favorite bogey-man) “eight years of deregulation under George W. Bush”. I wrote about this ad nauseum in previous posts such as Despair and others referred to therein:

We are suffering from the domino effect of a credit crunch created by the government, which encouraged and even coerced banks into irresponsible lending practices to non-credit worthy individuals. And to add insult to injury, the inmates who caused this mess, who brushed off Bush Administration warnings about the impending insolvency of Fannie and Freddie and the toxic assets they were spreading around the financial community, have been put in charge of the asylum.

But even if the perpetrators and perpetuators got away with their irresponsible behavior, you would have thought that the one bright side in this fiasco is that the irresponsible lending to non-credit worthy individuals has finally ended. Well, think again.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Grazie, Cristoforo!

Thank you, Chris, for your amazing achievement.

So what if you really weren’t the first European to make it to the Americas, having been preceded 500 years earlier by Leif Ericson, et al? Your discovery is the only one that mattered.

So what if you grossly underestimated the circumference of the earth in thinking that it would be a shorter route to India by going west? And so what if you thought you were in India when you were actually in the Bahamas?

So what if a bunch of historical revisionists who have nothing better to do try to paint you and your achievement in the worst light, blaming you for introducing all the evils of European civilization on the supposedly peace loving and innocent indigenous peoples of the Americas?

There are still plenty of us who celebrate your courage to try something new and daring. And even if there is a grain of truth to the revisionist rants, there are those of us who maintain that the Americas are still a better place because you stumbled into them.

So thank you for your amazing feat. Thanks for joining the long line of Italian achievers, and particularly for putting your birthplace of Genoa on the map. And, last but not least, thanks for providing federal workers an extra day off in October!

Birthplace of Christopher Columbus, Genoa, Italy

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fiscal Folly

A belated happy (fiscal) new year to all!

October 1 has come and gone and, as usual, Congress has not passed the appropriations for the new fiscal year, so federal agencies must operate off of a "continuing resolution".

According to the Library of Congress’ website on the “Status of Appropriations Legislation for Fiscal Year 2010’ the only appropriations bill that Congress has passed and the President has signed into law is P.L.111-68, which funds operations for the legislative branch. You can tell where their priorities are.

The funding of the business of government (whether legitimate or illegitimate, constitutional or unconstitutional) is usually tied to separate appropriations bills. This year, the appropriations are divided as follows:

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I think I need to change my profile. Maybe. Maybe not. As any of my extremely limited number of readers knows, I make no bones about coming from a Christian perspective. I also mention that one of my passions is apologetics and I even quote one of my favorite verses on the subject:

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." (I Peter 3:15)

I still try to live by that verse, but the “gentleness and respect” part sometimes gets me into trouble. Whether I am talking religion or politics, the views I hold are usually not mere preferences but rather convictions. So it is a challenge to avoid getting too passionate or argumentative. This is why I prefer blogging to spoken debate. While alone at my computer keyboard, I can take a deep breath, gather my thoughts and calmly put together a reasoned discourse while perhaps sipping a glass of wine. I then read it over several times and say a prayer before clicking on the “submit” or “publish” button.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hot Air

I never took the global warming debate very seriously, so I did not follow it all that closely. I do, however, remember some general turning points. Back in the 90’s, the Clinton Administration signed onto the Kyoto accords, an international treaty which declared with astonishing certainty that (1) the general temperature of the earth’s atmosphere is on the rise and (2) the cause of this is human activity such as burning of fossil fuels and the greenhouse effect therefrom. The Kyoto accord was an agreement by the signatory nations to somehow limit this activity in an attempt to halt or reverse the effect. The accord also extended exemptions to “developing” nations and imposed most of the heavy lifting on the United States.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Taking it in the Rear – Part II

In my attempts thus far to provide anecdotal support for the case against government run health care, I have talked about my generally positive experience with the U.S. healthcare system. Of course the other side of the coin is all the negatives of socialized medicine in places like England and Canada where people have to wait months for surgeries, interventions, treatments and even medical tests which we take for granted in the USA. The results, such as significantly lower survival rates for cancer and other serious illnesses, are well documented.

Of course, the amount of time I have spent in England or Canada can be expressed in terms of hours, so I have not had the pleasure of personal exposure to their public health systems. Italy is another matter, though I am reticent to criticize the beloved homeland of my fathers. Indeed, there are some good things I can say about Italian health care. They have some excellent medical schools. They have also conducted some decent research which has resulted in medical innovations. I remember last year translating some Italian articles for a friend of a friend who was almost fatally injured in a roadway accident in Salerno, Italy. The article discussed the excellent care he received from Italian orthopedic surgeon Antonino Valente, and the innovative techniques used to bring about an incredibly speedy recovery, which was acknowledged in congratulatory letters from the U.S. Consul and from U.S. doctors who provided follow-up treatment. And in the interest of full disclosure, I must mention my father’s positive experience with a back operation in Rome (for which he did not pay a dime because he was also an Italian citizen), shortly after having had a less-than-positive outcome months earlier at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Based on the above information relayed to me by others, I suppose there are some things to boast about Italian medical care, but my personal experience tells me that it leaves much to be desired. I have personally visited relatives at Italian hospitals and found a barracks-like atmosphere, with three and four beds to a room. Very often, patients’ families have to bring toilet paper, soap and other personal hygiene items that are routinely supplied by U.S. hospitals.

Taking it in the Rear – Part I

As evidenced by my last two posts, health care has been on my mind as of late, as it is indeed on many people’s minds. I can approach the issue from a philosophical standpoint and provide reasons why I believe the free market and competition have given us the best health care on the planet (despite its flaws), and why the last thing we need is more government involvement, which inevitably invites inefficiency and abuse, as well as the mediocrity and poor service that are inherent in a one-size-fits-all government operation.

But I also have plenty of anecdotal reasons to buttress my philosophical position, as to why the free market works and the public option does not. What follows is one of the few negative experiences I have had with the private system, but in the end it turned out okay. I posted this story last December at a blog called “Down with Absolutes”, where I served as one of the few conservative voices amidst a sea of lefties.

Nationalized Health Care? Say What?

I have thankfully spent precious little time as a patient in a hospital. I got my tonsils out when I was six years old, and I don’t remember much from the experience other than being in a good bit of pain the morning after the operation. The discomfort was immediately mitigated by getting to eat all the ice cream and Jell-O I wanted.

Other than that, I don’t think I was ever admitted to a hospital until I was forty-nine. That winter, I caught a nasty cold that seemed to stick around longer than usual and even developed into an ear infection, or so I thought. It got to the point where I had difficulty hearing in my right ear, but being the stubborn and clueless male that I am, I ignored it for a couple of months before Susan persuaded me to see an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist.

On my first visit, the ENT took out a handy little suction hose and pulled out what seemed to be a crusty buildup that had accumulated on my ear drum. When this seemed to provide little or no benefit, he administered an audiogram, which confirmed a hearing loss in the right ear. He then ordered up a multitude of tests, most of which I can’t remember, but there were several tests for meniere's disease. lyme disease or other maladies which might have damaged my cochlear nerves. Already suspecting that this was the case, he put me on steroids in hopes of either stopping or reversing the damage. At the same time, he also ordered up an MRI of the brain, mentioning that in certain very rare instances, such hearing losses are caused by something called a vestibular schwannoma (also known as an acoustic neuroma), which is a tumor wrapped around the auditory nerve between the ear and the brain. The ENT reassured me that such tumors are extremely rare and he highly doubted I had one, but he felt compelled to order the MRI just in case. Long story short, I got a call from the ENT a few days later, asking me to come back into his office and advising that I no longer needed to take the steroids. The MRI was positive.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Weather and People's Health

-- Mrs. Eynsford-Hill: I do hope we won’t have any unseasonable cold spells; they bring on so much influenza. And the whole of our family is susceptible to it.

-- Eliza Doolittle: My Aunt died of influenza, or so they said. But it’s my belief they done the old woman in.
After thoroughly training Eliza Doolittle in culture, refinement and speech, Henry Higgins was ready to test her ability to maneuver in high society without betraying her humble upbringing and Cockney accent. As a safeguard, he had one proviso: “She's to keep to two subjects: the weather and everybody's health.” These memorable lines from My Fair Lady have perhaps contributed to the almost proverbial notion that “the weather and people’s health” are the last polite and safe topics for conversation, as opposed to, for instance, religion and politics.

Alas, as Eliza discovered, I am not sure either topic is safe anymore. This day and age, even an innocent comment about a delightfully mild winter might provoke a diatribe about global warming, caused by the evils of corporations and the American way of life, which are responsible for excess emissions of carbon dioxide--that newest of pollutants that also happens to be what we exhale.

And speaking of exhaling, people’s health is no longer a safe topic either, as it has the potential to devolve into a debate about doctors, health insurance and national health care. I have known this for a while, but it was brought home to me recently on Facebook. It all started last week when my niece posted the following:
No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Great Food Away from the Tourist Traps

I have heard it said that it is hard to get a bad meal in Italy. Indeed, any establishment that tried to serve one would not be in business for very long. Even the Autogrill’s (the fast food establishments along the major highways) offer some reasonably priced fare that could easily pass for something authentic in a stateside Little Italy restaurant. But as for traditional sit-down restaurants, the real trick in Italy is to find a place that not only serves delicious fare but does so at a reasonable price. The best ones are usually the smaller, family-run affairs, off the beaten path and away from the tourist traps.

Susan and I found one such gem on our ascent up Mt. Etna. Just beyond Taormina off of highway A-18 from Messina to Catania, about 10 kilometers up from the Fiumefreddo exit and toll plaza, the winding road takes you through the small town of Linguaglossa. Just beyond the town, the road resumes its hairpinning ascent through vineyards and olive groves that cling to the Etnean foothills. If you aren’t paying attention, you might miss a small sign that says “Trattoria Le Sciare”.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Miserere: A Sinner’s Prayer Set to Contemporary Music

The sinner’s prayer is as old as Christianity itself. It can be as simple as the lines in the parable told by Jesus in the 18th chapter of Luke, where He commended a despised tax collector for uttering the simple words: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” A variation of the prayer has been repeated since the dawn of the Church every Sunday in liturgical masses, be they in Latin or in the vernacular:

If spoken in sincerity from the heart, such a prayer is indeed salvific. Of course, the danger of its repetition Sunday after Sunday is that it easily becomes formulaic and loses its meaning, even though the “Miserere”, as this portion of the liturgy has come to be known, is unsurpassed in its simplicity, beauty and truth.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.

And yet the prayer has a way of taking on a life of its own, even breaking forth into contemporary pop culture and music, which otherwise seldom makes room for the sacred. An example is the song Miserere, composed by Italian artist Zucchero Fornaciari (known simply as “Zucchero”), with alternate English lyrics written by U2’s Bono.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

There's a Ford in my Future

I have never purchased a new car in my life. My first car was a 1975 Fiat 128, which my brother Nick acquired for next to nothing because it had a blown engine, and he worked his mechanical magic, dropping in a new engine and otherwise refurbishing it for his kid brother. Since then, my vehicular history has been as follows:
  • 1977 Fiat 131 Brava, purchased from my brother
  • 1980 Fiat 131 Brava, SW, purchased from my brother (Are we sensing a pattern here?)
  • 1981 Toyota Corolla, purchased from one of my brother’s customers
  • 1983 Mercury Grand Marquis, “purchased” from my parents (very reasonable price)
  • 1988 Dodge Caravan, purchased from one of my brother’s customers
  • 1989 Ford Ranger, purchased from a total stranger (I was getting brave!)
  • 1992 Pontiac Transport, actually purchased from my parents at near market value
  • 1991 Mercury Grand Marquis, “purchased” from my parents
  • 2000 Dodge Caravan, actually purchased from my parents at near market value

The closest I have come to owning a new vehicle was a 2005 Ford Taurus purchased used with very low mileage from CarMax (but since totaled), followed by a 2006 Taurus also from Carmax.

The 2006 Taurus and the 2000 Caravan are now sitting in my driveway, but it looks like the latter is on its way out. And for the first time in my life, I am thinking of actually buying a new car, despite the fact that new cars depreciate significantly in value the moment you drive them off the lot. So why the change? Let me go into a little history, some from last century, and some more recent. It’s a little convoluted, and not all of it has to do with cars, but bear with me.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Baia di Puolo: Another Golden Find off of Italy's Beaten Path

Five years ago, Susan and I celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary in style. It was the first time she and I got to go to Italy sans enfants, thoroughly enjoying a glorious three weeks together in which we cruised up and down the Italian boot in a rented Peugeot 307 (Okay, maybe we could have done without the French car, but I must admit it was fun to drive). We started north of Milan on the picturesque Lago Maggiore, one of the lakes that straddle the Italian-Swiss border, and spent our first week southbound, stopping in Venice, Rimini, San Marino, Assisi and the Amalfi coast before spending a week in Sicily and another week northbound through Pompeii, Rome, Florence and Genoa.

Every stop, including the places we had been to before, had a new and interesting discovery, but the one that stands out in my mind was on the Amalfi Coast. In fact I had never been there before and—like most first timers who drive the narrow roads that hug the mountainside hundreds of feet above the crystal clear waters of the Tyrhennian Sea, my mouth hung open in amazement at the breathtaking panorama. But I’m getting ahead of myself, because our adventure started well before we reached the Amalfi Coast.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Musings of a Happily Married Man

Thirty years ago today Susan and I exchanged vows at Ebenezer United Methodist Church, just outside of Rising Sun Maryland. It was a sweltering hot day with 200+ people packed in a small country church with no air conditioning. There was no sacristy or side room for the groom to hide in, so there I was standing in front of the whole congregation, for some reason trying not to make eye contact with anyone as I awaited the bride. As Susan walked up the aisle, she was obviously more nervous than I was. Her hands were shaking so badly that I thought the petals on her bouquet were going to start dropping.

We had somewhat of an ecumenical service, officiated by the Rev. Lloyd Foard, a family friend and former minister of Susan’s home church, and Father Douglas Dempster, a Roman Catholic priest and personal friend. Between the two of them, we probably had received a total of one hour of pre-marital counseling. I don’t fault either of them for it, because it’s not like we exactly sought their advice. Looking back now, I think if we had approached the pastors of our current church, Solid Rock Church, and said we wanted to get married, they would have lovingly and wisely asked us to reconsider. We were both much too selfish and immature and had no clue what we were getting into. Scratch that sentence. I was too selfish and immature and had no clue what I was getting into.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Christian and Atheist Bloggers Abound

I started this site sometime last fall and, until recently, I could probably count on the fingers of one hand how many people actually read it. While the site is not devoted exclusively to Christian apologetics, my first post explicitly devoted to that subject [Apologia] seemed to provoke a modest spike in readership, as indicated by the site meter. I also received three unsolicited friendly comments from fellow Christians who are otherwise total strangers to me. One of them, who goes by the pen name of Makarios, has a very impressive blog dedicated exclusively to Christianity and apologetics. Not only is his writing more prolific than mine, but he is head and shoulders more knowledgeable. My hat is off to him.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Cosmological Argument

I fully expected my cousin Mat to respond to my last post [Apologia] with some thought provoking observations and questions, and I was not disappointed. To a duplicate post on Facebook, he responded:

Dawkins has gone above and beyond the call of duty in his writing. As the burden of proof lies on the claimant, the religious community is responsible to offer proof of God. It is not the secular community's job to disprove him/her/it. Even if Dawkins lacked any of the evidence cited in The Blind Watchmaker, et al, one would have to remain agnostic (and, further, atheistic) toward religion in order to call themselves intellectually honest, because the only proof that religion offers is faith.

Mat has used this argument elsewhere in other posts at Men of Reason and Down with Absolutes. It is an interesting argument, but I am afraid it does not hold water. With all due respect to Mat, it seems to me to be the atheist’s ultimate artful dodge. In effect, the argument goes like this: “You are the one who came up with this God business, so the burden of proof is on you. As for me, I don’t have to prove a negative; i.e., that God doesn’t exist.”

Perhaps so, but the atheists, especially those who appeal to the sciences as the ultimate and only authoritative source of knowledge, have an even greater burden of proof. They need to explain the origin of the universe, and this has left them in a precarious position. As my good friend, Gordon Leidner states at his website Created Cosmos:

Today's scientists go to extreme lengths and propose some of the most fantastic theories in order to keep God out of the equation. In many of these theories, they are trying to create SOMETHING out of NOTHING.

Before Einstein’s theory of general relativity and the subsequent scientific consensus that the universe exploded out of nothingness some 14 billion years ago, the atheist could simply state that all matter and energy existed eternally (which, by the way, defies logic; but we will save that theme for another post). Armed with Darwinism and the now generally discredited "steady state" theory of the universe, atheists needed only explain how life arose out of inorganic matter (i.e., abiogenesis or spontaneous generation, which is still another far fetched absurdity that I hope to discuss in a subsequent post.)

But the atheists had the rug pulled out from under them with the theory of general relativity, a consensus that twentieth century scientists came to most reluctantly. As stated by Geisler and Turek in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist:
It was 1916, and Albert Einstein did not like where his calculations were leading him. If his theory of General Relativity was true, it meant that the universe was not eternal but had a beginning. Einstein’s calculations indeed were revealing a definite beginning to all time, all nature, and all space. This flew in the face of his belief that the universe was static and eternal. Einstein later called his discovery “irritating”. He wanted the universe to be self existent—not reliant on an outside cause—but the universe seemed to be one giant effect.

Thus Geisler and Turek introduce the basic cosmological argument which starts to shatter the foundation of atheism:

  1. Everything that had a beginning had a cause
  2. The universe had a beginning.
  3. Therefore, the universe had a cause.

Despite the efforts of others to dance around such unassailable logic, Einstein knew the implications. Once he got over the initial irritation of his findings and came to terms with their implications, Einstein had yet another source of irritation:

In the view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support for such views.

Though best described as a deist as opposed to a theist, there is little doubt as to where Einstein stood on the God question:

I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know his thoughts. The rest are details.

Speaking of details, there were obviously many other questions and objections Mat raised to my previous post, but I will deal with them one at a time. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I would like to dedicate this post to my cousin Mat, an incredibly intelligent young man whom I highly respect. He has just graduated from high school and will be attending American University this fall. With an intellect beyond his years, he has a promising future. He is also a self-proclaimed atheist and has even created a blog on the subject: Men of Reason. With his nimble mindedness and keen intellect, I have no doubt that Mat can give me a run for my money in a debate, but he is highly mistaken in this critical area.

As indicated on the side bar of this website, Christian apologetics is one of my passions. Back when I was growing up in a somewhat religious household, it did not matter to me whether the things I was taught had any reasonable basis in fact. I just believed them, having no compelling reason to otherwise doubt them. But after I turned twenty and started to understand and personally embrace the Gospel for the first time, it suddenly became more important to know and be able to defend the foundations of the faith. After all, now it was no longer a religious tradition in which I was raised, but rather something personal on which I was staking my entire future. I needed to know that I was not building my life around a fable.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lucca: Old World Charm off of Italy's Beaten Path

First time travelers to Italy usually take a whirlwind tour, as they obviously don’t want to miss the canals of Venice, the incredible art and architecture of Florence; and the cathedrals, monuments, ancient ruins and other glories of Rome. They might even take a day trip to see the leaning tower of Pisa, or even travel further south to Pompeii before taking in the breathtaking splendor of the Amalfi Coast. And well they should, but even multiple visits would barely scratch the surface of the rich culture, history, architecture, art and other treasures offered by the better known Italian cities.

But the same is true for the entirety of Italy, which also boasts of lesser known small to mid-size towns that are rich in these same categories and wonderful charm as well. One of many such places off the beaten path is the city of Lucca in the region of Tuscany, where Susan and I had the joy of visiting a couple years ago. We had spent the better part of the morning in Genoa before hopping in the car and heading south toward Pisa. Our intention was to get to Florence by early evening, which left us plenty of time to take in the scenery on the way down and even stop for a diversion or two.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

In Vino Veritas

  • You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. Psalm 4:7
In my last post, Biblical Enology, I mentioned how the Scriptures often speak of wine in a positive light (unless, of course, it is imbibed in excess quantities or to the point of addiction), and how the fruit of the vine was a major part of biblical culture. Like the rest of the Mediterranean basin, my homeland of Italy also has a rich viniculture, boasting of some great wines which, in my not so humble opinion, are preferable to the over-rated vintages of its next door neighbor, France. Some of my favorite Italian reds include: Piedmont wines from the north, particularly the three “B”s, Barbera, Barbaresco and Barolo; any decent Chianti from Tuscany; Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from the heel of Italy, and Nero d’Avola from Sicily.

The previous post also mentioned that I would be thrilled to carry on the tradition of my grandparents’ generation and keep some vineyards, but that is not in the cards, at least not now. But I have been making wine lately, even if the process has nothing of the thrill and romance (and hard work) associated with growing one’s own grapes, crushing them into must, fermenting, clarifying, aging and bottling. A few years ago I described my winemaking process to my elderly Italian cousin, who together with her husband had been tending Zio Nino’s old vineyards until she herself passed away last year. She stared at me incredulously and said, “It sounds like you are buying bulk quantities of already made wine and putting it in your own bottles!”

It’s not quite like that, but she probably wasn’t too far off the mark. This is how it works: A group of friends and I periodically venture over to Annapolis Home Brew (, a wonderful establishment that supplies all the ingredients, equipment and accessories a vintner could ask for, including wine presses and crushers for the professional or old fashioned folks like my forbears. For amateurs like me, they have complete wine making starter kits. Once armed with all the equipment and paraphernalia, all you need are ingredients, which also come readily packaged in kits consisting of vacuum sealed containers of juice, yeasts, clarifiers and other ingredients designed to enhance and preserve.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Biblical Enology

  • Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Ecclesiastes 9:7
I am sure I am not the first to notice, but it seems to me that wine is a thoroughly biblical drink. On the one hand, the Bible obviously has a lot to say about alcoholic beverages, with no lack of admonitions against drinking to excess or otherwise being mastered by alcohol. It is particularly negative about beverages on either extreme of the alcoholic content spectrum; that is, I cannot find a single positive reference in the Bible to beer on one end, or to distilled spirits (“strong drink”) on the other.

Wine is a different story. Though the Scriptures abound in passages warning against drunkenness and addiction to wine, they have a number of positive things to say about wine in general, as in the verse quoted above. The beverage is usually associated with joy and celebration, particularly at the time of harvest. In the Old Testament it is often part and parcel with sacrifices and offerings, and of course is an integral part of the Passover meal.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I still miss my Dad

It was three years ago today that my father passed away. I am thankful that he lived to a good old age and we had a great relationship, and I have nothing but fond memories. But I still miss him.

Yes, losing loved ones is part of life, and time does have a way of tempering the loss. Furthermore, my faith assures me that I will be reunited with him. But every once in a while it hits me like a ton of bricks that he is no longer around. But then, the renewed sensation of loss is quickly followed by a bittersweet joy that reminds me what a great dad I had.

At his funeral it was my privilege to give one of the eulogies. After rereading what I wrote at the time, I realize that I would not change a thing.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"Manifesto" a Worthwhile Read for Reasonable Minds

The left loves to hurl epithets at conservative talk radio. They have a right to their opinion, but I think they would get a lot more traction if they tried to engage in serious debate about the actual assertions and ideas expressed as opposed to just ranting and raving about Rush babies, ditto heads and Hannity’s insanity. My suspicion is that the louder and more persistent they are in name calling, invective and mockery, the less likely it is that they have ever stopped to listen and consider what is being said, much less engage it in serious debate.

I don’t get much of a chance to listen to talk radio unless I happen to have a day off in the middle of the week, except I do manage to catch a few minutes of Mark Levin while driving home, just after the news at the top of the hour. And Levin is probably my least favorite talk show host, not because I have any substantive disagreement with what he says, but because I don’t care for his style. He strikes me as a bit shrill and sometimes stoops to the same level of invective that is more typical of the left, prematurely cutting off debate with his infamous line, “Get off the phone, you big dope!”

It’s for this reason that I was somewhat hesitant to pick up a copy of Levin’s latest book. But after hearing one rave review after another week after week as it remained at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, I finally picked up a copy of Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto (New York: Threshold Editions, 2009). I quickly learned that whatever defects I might find in Levin’s spoken delivery on talk radio is more than compensated for in the written word. The book is persuasive and well documented, and does an excellent job of educating the reader about the people and ideas that inspired our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and how those ideas have ever since been under assault and have ever so slowly eroded over time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rascally Right Wing Radicals

We have been warned by no less than our own Department of Homeland Security:

Rightwing Extremism: Current
Economic and Political Climate Fueling
Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment

In its key findings at the beginning of the report, DHS admits that threats from the right “during 2009 have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry out violent acts.” But further on, the report warns that, “Rightwing extremist chatter on the Internet continues to focus on the economy, the perceived loss of U.S. jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors, and home foreclosures.” You just can’t be too careful, you know. With economic times being what they are, and a new administration taxing and deficit spending us into economic oblivion, enough people might get really angry, and who knows what they might do. Why, they might even go out and join an organized protest!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Honoring the Living

You will notice that my last few posts were about some very dear people whom I wanted to honor on the occasion of their passing. When I shared these posts with a friend from work, she gave me some positive feedback along with some helpful advice: “I wish someone would write similar memories of me when I die. Come to think of it, we should write about the people we love and care for BEFORE they die, not after. It’s then a testament of their value which they can appreciate while living”

Good advice indeed! I got to put it into practice the other day, on the very special occasion of my mother in-law’s 90th birthday, which we celebrated in the fellowship hall of Rosebank United Methodist Church in Cecil County, Maryland. As the cake was being served, I got to share the following:

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mat's Blog

[Originally Published at "Down With Absolutes" on March 14, 2009]

Congratulations on your new blog, Men of Reason. I have seen many others like it, and I often wonder about their necessity. Really, if you are convinced about atheism, is it all that necessary to propagate it with such religious fervor? If there really is no God, what is the harm of people believing that there is one? While I can concede that some terrible injustices have been perpetrated in the name of God by overzealous people, belief in God and the corollary beliefs that He is just and will hold us accountable for our actions have on the whole made the world a better place. Even atheists have conceded as much. By contrast, my gut reaction to those who wear atheism on their sleeves is “Methinks he doth protest too loudly.”

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Zio Ugo

[The English version of this post is immediately below this one.]

A volte sembra che non smetta mai di piovere. Avevo appena finito di scrivere un tributo per la mia amata Zia Fortuna, quando essa fu seguita da suo marito, mio Zio Ugo. Anche lo zio, come lei, stava molto male da un paio d’anni, e ambedue soffrivano molto in questi ultimi mesi. Per grazia di Dio, se ne sono andati a distanza di pochi giorni l’un dall’altro.

Come descrivere Giuseppe Scarfì, conosciuto a me e a tutti come Zio Ugo?... Era lo zio divertente, sempre pronto con una barzelletta, (a volte non del tutto pulita, con gran disappunto della zia...). Amava molto la sua famiglia e tutti i suoi parenti. Si rivolgeva a tutti con espressioni affettuose come "tesoro" o "gioia", e lo diceva di cuore.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Zio Ugo

When it rains it pours. I no sooner finished writing a tribute for my beloved Zia Fortuna, than her husband, Zio Ugo, followed shortly after her. Like hers, his health had been deteriorating for years, and both of them had been suffering greatly over the past month or so. By God’s mercy, they went within a few days of each other.

How do I describe Giuseppe Scarfì, known to me as Zio Ugo? He was the fun uncle, always good for a joke (sometimes a bit off color, much to Zia Fortuna’s chagrin). He dearly loved his family, both immediate and extended. He addressed young and old alike with terms of endearment such as tesoro [treasure] and gioia [joy], and they were heartfelt expressions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Zia Fortuna

[The English version of this post immediately follows this one.]

Fortunata Vadalà Scarfì, la sorella di mio papà, era per me “Zia Fortuna”, nome in un certo senso sbagliato, dato che fu abbastanza sfortunata, particolarmente durante la seconda metà della sua vita. Però, pensandoci bene, nessuno lo avrebbe mai saputo osservando la sua gioia e serenità imperturbabili, e il suo sorriso contagioso, anche in mezzo alle avversità.

L’ho conosciuta per la prima volta quando avevo tre anni, duranta una lunga vacanza in Italia. Ricordo ben poco di quell’estate del ’61, però apparentemente ero rimasto invaghito da Zia Fortuna. Da allora, molte volte mi rammentò una conversazione che avemmo quando stavo per tornare in America.

“Ora te ne vai in America, e mi lasci sola.”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fortunata Vadalà Scarfì: Requiescat in Pace

 Born Fortunata Vadalà, my father’s sister was known to me as “Zia Fortuna”, which literally means “Aunt Luck”. Her name was a bit of a misnomer, as she had her share of misfortunes, particularly during the latter part of her life. But then again, you wouldn’t know it by her unflappable joy and serenity and her contagious smile, even in the midst of adversity.

I first met her when I was three years old, during a long vacation in Italy. I remember very little about that summer of 1961, but I was apparently taken with Zia Fortuna. Numerous times since then she lovingly reminded and teased me about a conversation we had just before it was time for my parents and me to return to the states:

Ora te ne vai in America, e mi lasci sola.” [Now you are going back to America and you will leave me all alone.]

No, zia, Fortuna!” I protested with sincerity and innocence. “Io non ti lascerö mai sola!” [I will never leave you alone.]

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Today, February 10th, is my 51st birthday. No big deal.

Though I certainly enjoy the well wishes I have received, and the extra nice birthday meal, it’s funny how the excitement of birthdays diminishes with age. When I was a kid I looked forward so much to February and my special day. I also shared a birthday with my beloved grandmother, Nonna Antonia, and I never minded dividing the attention with her. I thought it was kind of neat to have the same birthday as my nonna. Here is a picture of a typical celebration, when I turned three and she turned fifty-eight. There I am standing on a chair between nonna and my beautiful mother, with everyone else either looking into the camera or drooling over my mother’s strawberry shortcake, which was something to die for!

In addition to enjoying my birthday as a child, I also looked forward to February for the hope of a good blizzard or two that might get me out of school. Now it seems that if it snows at all, it’s only enough to get my kids out of school but not enough to shut down the federal government (my beloved employer), so what good is that? For that and other reasons (also related to age) I have come to have little use for February’s cold, short and dark days. And with birthdays not as exciting as they used to be, the month has little or no redeeming social value. (Okay, the romantic side of me still enjoys Valentine’s Day.) I have heard (though I am not sure it is true) that the ancient Romans left January and February off of their calendar because they would just as soon not acknowledge these otherwise dreary and entirely forgettable months.

Don’t get me wrong. Life is good and every day is a blessing. But I’m more than ready for spring.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


[Also posted yesterday at Down With Absolutes.]

I have always enjoyed the hilariously demoralizing insights from our friends at Despair, Inc., including the following one which, though timeless in its applicability, is particularly a propos for our present time:

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Bush Legacy and an Ungrateful Nation

[This is a duplicate of something I posted at Down With Absolutes. The reaction received was all too predictable.]

At noon on January 20, 2009, President Bush will leave office. Though his approval rating has risen recently to as high as 34% (it was in the 20’s), he leaves office as a largely unpopular president.

Part of his disapproval rating stems from a rough third of the nation on the left side of the political spectrum that George Bush would never please, even if he had been unbelievably successful in keeping this nation prosperous and peaceful at home and abroad. Bush began his presidency wanting to change the tone in Washington, perhaps naively thinking he could repeat as President of the United States what he accomplished as Governor of Texas, overcoming visceral political hostilities with good will and an outstretched hand. But while he was extending an olive branch, the entrenched political left in Washington was sharpening its knives.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Senator Roland Burris

[Originally posted at "Down With Absolutes" on January 12, 2009]

Congratulations, Mr. Burris. I understand that the conscientious Democratic leaders of the U.S. Senate have decided it is okay after all to admit you to their august body. I really don’t know much about you. I can give you the benefit of the doubt despite the fact that you were appointed by a governor who is under indictment. I have no right to associate you with the alleged actions of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, and that is even assuming that Blagojevich is eventually found guilty. I must keep in mind that:

  1. “Alleged” is the operative word. Yes, there were some recorded phone conversations that were pretty damning, containing a lot of talk about asking for remuneration and other favors in exchange for a Senate appointment. But talk is cheap. Bottom line: was the dirty deed ever done? I think not.
  2. Under indictment or not; guilty as sin or not: Mr. Blagojevich is still the Governor of Illinois, and it is therefore his right—indeed his duty—to name a successor for the good Senator Mr. Obama. The people of Illinois have every right to full representation in the world’s greatest deliberative body.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"Whole Lot of Things I Ain't Never Done"

In my previous post, Pourquoi blog?, I mentioned that I am a late comer to the blogosphere. Truth be told, I am a late comer to lots of things. For example, though I have enjoyed and generally not shied away from the benefits of information technology, each and every computer purchased has typically been a year or two behind the state of the art models and has lacked the latest gadgets. Perhaps this is due to my being a cheapskate or, more specifically, because I ask questions such as, “Do I really need that writable DVD drive?”
It even took me a long time to purchase my first cell phone but, when my daughter got her license, my stubborn resistance was overcome by the fear of her being stranded on the highways. But even with my baby steps into the information age, examples still abound where I seem to be the only Neanderthal that has never experienced or acquired any of the following:

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Random Thoughts on Resolutions

For more than two decades, my wife and I have lived in a wonderfully secluded neighborhood. All the neighbors know each other and we are seldom bothered by outsiders. The downside to this bucolic serenity is that the service sectors of the county and municipal governments don’t take much notice of us either. We are technically under the jurisdiction of Prince George’s County but literally surrounded by the City of Bowie, which has annexed every new subdivision built around us. This puts us in a bit of a no man’s land.

So last fall (2007), when I saw some bright ground level signs in the neighborhood indicating that county trucks would be coming by to vacuum any fall foliage raked up and piled to the curb, I was skeptical to say the least. For two decades I had gone through the arduous task of gathering and stuffing leaves into non-environmentally friendly plastic bags to be hauled to the county landfill. But skepticism notwithstanding when the signs went up in 2007, I decided to pile the leaves onto the curb. And lo and behold, I was not disappointed. The trucks came, albeit a few weeks later than promised. So when the signs went up again this past fall, I expected pretty much the same.

Well, it’s New Year’s Day 2009 and the leaves are still at the curb. To be precise, many of them have blown back into the yard. I am not a happy camper. The irony is that I never really expected this service in the first place. I would have been much happier if they never promised anything than for them to promise and not deliver.

It reminds me a little of New Year’s Resolutions: made with the best of intentions and even kept for a period of time, but they don’t last very long. That’s one reason I don’t make resolutions or certainly don’t announce my intentions publicly. Out of curiosity I Googled “New Years Resolutions” and got several hits listing some of the most popular resolutions. Most of them were predictable, and my feelings about their otherwise noble aspirations are decidedly mixed. For example: