Saturday, December 25, 2010

Already and Not Yet

It has been quite a while since my last post. I am not sure whether it has been due to writer’s block, a temporary loss of interest or inspiration, or a spate of laziness or lethargy. I figured I would try to break the inertia at Christmas by doing what I did last year, and post an adaptation of my annual Christmas letter. I try to write one each year with the dual purpose of recounting family news from the previous year and even coming up with something inspirational in keeping with the holiday.

I also suffer from writer’s block occasionally when trying to draft the Christmas letter.  This puts me into a panic when Christmas is less than two weeks away and the muses still have not shown up. Part of my writer’s block this year may have been due to a fear of boring the reader by repetition. It does indeed seem that each year is a mixed bag of good news and bad news, joys and sorrows, births and deaths. 2010 was no exception.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

We Hold These Truths…

President Obama’s recent faux pas did not get much coverage in the media (At least as far as I know.) Actually, it didn’t even get too much coverage on right wing talk radio or Fox News either. In case you have not heard it, he left out some pivotal words in his speech before the Hispanic Caucus, when he attempted to quote from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed […] with certain inalienable rights: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Now I am not here to make hay about the President’s omission of the key words “by their Creator”. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that it was just an innocent mental blip, or perhaps it was the speechwriter’s fault and the President was just following the teleprompter. I will not even attempt to draw any conclusions about his motives or what the omission might reveal.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Love and Death in Sicily

Both of my parents were born in a small village called Torre Faro (“lighthouse”), which is situated on the very northeast corner of Sicily, right across from the Italian mainland, where the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas converge into the Strait of Messina. Like many of the town’s long time residents, both sides of my family hail from a long line of fishermen.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Wind Blows on the Road to Damascus and the Road to the Zoo

I was very pleased to get some feedback to one of my previous posts, Reasonable Faith, from a commenter named Steve. His comments were honest, thoughtful and thought provoking. You may read Steve's comments in their entirety by clicking on the hyperlink, but here is a snippet.

That you opened this blog entry with a discussion of Paul fits very well with a long standing notion that I have had about what it might take to convert me to Christianity…. [An] experience akin to what Saul/Paul had on the road to Damascus might be sufficient to provide the impetus to convert me and cause me to begin to evangelize. If I had a personal encounter with Jesus as Saul/Paul did, I might change my name from Steve to Pteve and go out to tell the world of what I had experienced. It would appear that Saul/Paul did not come to Christianity by the use of thought and reason, but rather by a spiritually overwhelming and even physically altering (loss of eyesight) experience that was entirely unsolicited but evidently radically transformative. Am I less deserving than Saul/Paul? Who knows? But I can say in all honesty that after many hours of prayer, meditation, and "opening" myself to the presence of God that absolutely nothing of His presence has been made known to me. After many hours of reading and contemplating the Bible, I have not had one iota of insight afforded me that might begin to compel me to believe in Jehovah or Jesus.

How is it that people come to faith? How is it that some do and some don’t? It does not seem that there are particular demographics that are necessarily more prone to faith. Educated or uneducated, rich or poor, sophisticated or unsophisticated, each group has within its ranks people who accept and embrace the Gospel, and people who don’t. Why?

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Everybody Must Get Stoned!"

As mentioned previously, I have been spending a good bit of time trading comments with atheists at an otherwise Christian blog called “If I became an atheist”. In the latest round of debate, I attempted to challenge the atheist basis for morality if we are nothing but cosmic accidents that will eventually die and turn to fertilizer. This eventually got sidetracked (I am not sure how) into challenges about the consistency of the Judeo-Christian ethic.

Specifically, the Old Testament appears to command practices which seem barbaric from the standpoint of our 21st century moral sensibilities. Even more problematic, many Old Testament commands seem to be downright repudiated in the New Testament. As one commenter named Gandolf put it, the law of Moses included provisions for stoning people to death. Is that still valid? And if not, did God change His mind?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Reasonable Faith

In my previous post, I mentioned my adventures of sparring with atheists at other blogs. Like most Christians, I am typically accused of having a blind and unsubstantiated faith, suppressing reason, and not really “knowing” for sure, but rather “believing”. Below is an edited compilation of my responses:


I am not insane, most excellent Festus. What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. (The apostle Paul, during his defense before Festus and King Agrippa; Acts 26:25-26).

I guess I am in good company if I am accused of not being completely rational in my beliefs.   The apostle Paul, formerly know as Saul of Tarsus, a learned man of letters, zealous Pharisee and persecutor of Christians, was famously converted and dedicated the rest of his life to preaching the faith he once tried to snuff out.  When these activities got him into trouble wth the authorities and he made his defense before kings and governors, he was accused, among other things, of being out of his mind.  His famous response quoted above is instructive.

Falling Away

It has been a while since I have posted anything. Actually, I have been spending quite a bit of time commenting on other blogs authored by fellow believers. I particularly enjoy a blog entitled, “If I became an atheist”. The blog’s author, who goes by the name “feeno” has a mild mannered and non-threatening way of engaging and challenging atheists, and he seems to draw them like a magnet. One post in particular started quite a heated discussion, exceeding 100 comments. I must confess to being just a little envious at the amount of attention and commentary he draws, but then again, given the vitriolic nature of the commentary, maybe it is just as well that they not come my way. Anyone is welcome to comment here as long as the discussion is civil and polite. Otherwise, I would have to exercise my author’s prerogative and dispatch their comments to that great recycle bin in cyberspace.

It seems that the most acerbic and forceful comments come from atheists who are former believers. I have often wondered why and have suspected that they more than anyone else feel compelled to convince others and perhaps themselves of the correctness of their position, maybe for fear that they are mistaken. When I suggested this to an atheist commenter who goes by the name of “bob”, he responded somewhat indignantly that I would presume to guess at his motivations without asking. Fair enough, so I asked.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Way to go, Blago!

I am not at all a fan of the foul mouthed former governor of Illinois, but I must confess to feeling a certain amount of empathy for Rod Blagojevich. After all the fanfare and a twenty four count indictment at the conclusion of an investigation that had ended rather abruptly and prematurely, Patrick Fitzgerald managed to get a guilty verdict on one and only one count of “lying to the FBI”.

Perhaps Blago’s attorney said it best: “"This guy Fitzgerald is a master at indicting people for noncriminal activity,"

Monday, August 16, 2010

St. Nicholas and the Cordoba Mosque

One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry when Mayor Bloomberg, President Obama and their ilk appeal to freedom of worship as their rationale for supporting the construction of an imposing 13 story mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan.

Has the left finally seen the light--gotten religion, so to speak--and started to actually defend the right of people to worship as they please, even to the point of bending over backwards to remove bureaucratic hurdles such as zoning laws, environmental impact studies, etc. in order to facilitate the construction of their places of worship?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What will happen to Blago?

It occurred to me today that that the jury has been taking quite a while deliberating the fate of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was indicted in late 2008 by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald for allegedly trying to sell the Senate seat of then President elect Obama. Because I sometimes go for a day or two without catching the news, I figured that surely I must have missed the verdict.

Not so. Today I googled “Blagojevich”, and the most recent news I could find was from August 12, indicating that jurors deliberating on the case have advised the judge that they could only agree on two of the twenty-four counts of the indictment. As far as I know, they are still deliberating.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Apologia Italiana

I mentioned in a recent post that most of my cousins in Italy are generally on the far left of the political spectrum. Many of them also happen to be self proclaimed atheists (No necessary connection, by the way). Unfortunately, it seems to be quite common among Italians of my generation—the forty to fifty-somethings. When I mentioned to a friend back home that most believers in Italy are found among the older and the younger generations, he very adroitly pointed out that atheism has difficulty thriving for more than a generation or two. Life happens, and belief in God mysteriously revives by the next generation.

I recently had a wonderful opportunity to brush up on my rusty Italian and at the same time engage two of my Italian cousins (whom I will call “P” and “M”) on the subject of atheism vs. theism. It all started when cousin P. posted a link on Facebook with a quote from Margherita Hack, an Italian astrophysicist and popular science writer.

We atheists believe we should act according to conscience based on moral principle, and not because we expect some reward in paradise.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Well Deserved Rebuke

Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. (Psalm 141:5)
I started blogging a couple of years ago, seeing it as a fun and creative outlet to express myself in matters of interest to me, including but not limited to Christian apologetics, conservative political commentary and anything related to Italy. Because my subject matter was going to include the two great taboos of polite conversation—religion and politics--I was well aware that many of my posts would be controversial. But I was determined that my writing would nevertheless be grace-filled and redemptive. Though I occasionally enjoy being provocative and am not above poking fun, the last thing I want to do is offend people.

I try to live by the Scripture verse I have posted on this blog as well as my Facebook profile:

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)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hooray for Henry!

I remember back in the eighties when Henry Hudson was the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. I admired him back then, and found more reason to admire him today.

His decision to allow the Commonwealth of Virginia’s lawsuit against the Obama Administration’s new healthcare reform law to proceed is just a small initial step by all accounts, including his own. But while taking pains to not pronounce on the merits of the case itself and simply stating that it raises enough legitimate questions to proceed, Mr. Hudson made a key statement which I believe lies at the crux of not only this case, but many others where the federal government has ventured into areas of questionable constitutional authority.

The congressional enactment under review -- the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision -- literally forges new ground and extends (the U.S. Constitution's) Commerce Clause powers beyond its current high watermark.
I will forgive Hudson’s commonly inappropriate use of the word “literally” (I don’t think the healthcare reform law comes anywhere close to forging any kind of ground in the literal sense, unless of course it contains provisions for additional “shovel ready projects”.). But I do appreciate his metaphor referring to the “high watermark” of the Commerce Clause, the historic abuse of which has drowned individual and economic freedom and threatens to send the rest of us downstream if the waters get any higher.

Almost Enough to Turn Me into a Socialist

Fear not, for the title of this post is somewhat misleading. I write this in reaction to a recent unpleasant economic transaction with a private entity, leaving me with the kind of "I've-just-been-taken-to-the-cleaners" feeling that makes liberals want to scream for government control.

I was at the Cincinnati airport on my way home from a business trip, and the flight to Baltimore was delayed due to some nasty thunderstorms. We no sooner boarded the plane an hour after the originally scheduled departure time than the pilot got on the intercom and advised us that we might as well get off the plane because he had just received word that we would be held at least another hour before being cleared for takeoff.

I figured I had best call home to tell my wife I would not be back in time for dinner after all, but unfortunately the battery on my cell phone was dead. Once off the plane and onto the airport concourse, I spotted an increasingly rare sight: public telephones! I have often wondered how soon public phones would become a relic of the past, but thankfully I found one in my time of need.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dueling Love Songs from the Amalfi Coast

During my all too brief trip to Italy this summer, I was able to spend a day on the Amalfi coast and enjoy its breathtaking scenery. Sorrento is probably the best known town on the Amalfi Coast (also known as the Sorrentine Peninsula), having been immortalized by the Neapolitan classic love song, Torna a Surriento. The song is well known internationally, has been translated into English (Come Back to Sorrento) and at one point even inspired a hilarious parody by Allan Sherman.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Politics in Italy

I arrived in Italy with the assumption that most everyone I would run into would be to the left side of the political spectrum, particularly among my relatives. It would stand to reason that they would be pro-Obama and pro-public sector, having basically fallen for anti-business and anti-capitalist demagoguery.

I did indeed find that to varying degrees, but not as vehemently as I expected. On our second day in Italy, we were in a small convenience store in Lucca. The owner noticed me conversing in English with my wife Susan and then asking for items in Italian.

Siete Americani?” he inquired.

“Yes, we just arrived from America yesterday for a short vacation.”

“How are things in America? Is the economic crisis very bad.”

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Tender Mercies of the TSA

“If you are traveling with children, please secure your own oxygen mask first before assisting your children with theirs.”

These are part of the rote but necessary safety instructions given by airline attendants at the beginning of all commercial flights. Everyone who travels by air more than once a year knows the entire safety routine by heart, which is why the attendants at Southwest Airlines can get away with spicing it up with comic relief variants, such as one that I heard recently on a flight from Cleveland to Baltimore:

“If you are traveling with children, what were you thinking?!?!””

I got quite a charge out of that one perhaps because of its special applicability to my wife and me. We not only travel with children, but very often with our autistic children, a surefire guarantee to turn any vacation into an adventure.

Monday, May 24, 2010

WWJD with Chain Emails?

I occasionally get unsolicited emails from friends, relatives and coworkers who share my values when it comes to religion and politics. I appreciate and read them all, but I very rarely pass them on to anyone else. This is particularly the case with chain emails. I am sure you have received some yourself. You know, the kind that encourage you to pass it on to ten friends for a variety of good reasons, such as: making someone’s day with kind and uplifting thoughts, saving someone’s soul. keeping our country from going to hell in a handbasket or… [fill in the blank].

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Fungibility of Government Funding

A while back I wrote a blog entitled “There’s a Ford in my Future”. Among other things, the post extolled the Ford Motor Company’s proud history of not succumbing to government intimidation back during the Roosevelt Administration, and more recently not accepting government bailout money during the Obama Administration. By contrast, I also lamented the foolhardiness and questionable legality of the Obama Administration’s bailout of Chrysler and GM.

As I was listening to the radio a week or so ago, I was beginning to think for a very brief moment that I had been mistaken. The syndicated ABC radio news broadcaster announced excitedly that GM was able to pay off its government loan in full. The taxpayers were getting their money back, even ahead of schedule!.

“Could I have been wrong?” I thought. “Was this an instance where an otherwise foolhardy and irresponsible waste of taxpayer dollars actually paid off?”

These questions were racing through my mind for a very brief moment indeed when they were interrupted by the concluding segment of the news segment: “GM is still losing money”.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Day Musings: Let’s Abolish the IRS

I will grant you that the title of this post might seem a little over-the-top, unrealistic rhetoric that will turn off the serious reader. But I am actually serious, and if you bear with me, you will see why. But first let me digress with a couple of introductory side points:

Back in February I wrote a post entitled The Non-census of It All, which lamented, among other things, the whole approach to the census. Surely you have seen or heard the census bureau’s advertising campaigns stating, “Without a complete, accurate census, your community may not receive its fair share [of federal funding].” This is not the way things were supposed to work. Indeed, as I had pointed out:

Our founding fathers never envisioned—indeed they crafted the Constitution to specifically avoid—a behemoth federal government that did most of the taxing and spending. Rather, the majority of taxation and government influence was to be at the local level, where elected leaders are more easily held accountable. We have since turned the wisdom of our founding fathers on its head to the point where state and local governments are mere appendages of the federal government.

More recently I learned something else disturbing about our current fiscal and tax policy. The Heritage Foundation and others have pointed out that we have reached that dangerous point where more than half of the U.S. population pays no federal income tax. The reason this is dangerous is that, with demagogues in government always harping about those greedy rich people needing to pay their fair share, and with the majority of the population paying no federal taxes but receiving some kind of government benefits, this majority will soon realize that it can vote itself more and more benefits--and there is nothing that the tax-paying, productive sectors of society can do about it, except maybe leave the country. It is a recipe for tyranny and eventual economic collapse.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

How much do you trust Congress?

I receive a regular email update from Ric Edeleman of Edelman Financial Services. The following Q&A from his last update is quite telling:

Q&A: Roth IRA Conversion

Question: Regarding Roth IRA conversions, what is there to prevent the government 10, 20 or 30 years from now taking these Roth IRAs and changing rules and making them taxable, either all or in part, or making them subject to the AMT?

Ric: There is nothing preventing Congress from doing that. That is one of our objections to the Roth IRA and specifically to the Roth IRA Conversion. Congress says Roth IRA withdrawals are tax-free, but we get a new Congress every two years.

Planning to retire in 20 years? That’s 10 Congresses from now. If the government needs more revenue, a future Congress might decide to tax the money held in Roth accounts. You can even argue that this is why Congress allows Roth conversions in the first place: The conversion does not necessarily lower your taxes, but it does accelerate your payment of them. By getting you to convert, Congress gets the tax revenue now.
Clever, huh?

Do you trust Congress to honor its promises? The more you do, the more confident you can be about putting money in the Roth IRA. Personally, I am not terribly confident.

Indeed. I am not sure I have ever been able to put much faith in Congress keeping their word; but given their shenanigans as of late, my level of trust for them has descended even further, if that were possible.  Something to think about as the blessed day of April 15 approaches.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Alla Luce del Sole

I don’t know much about Josh Groban, but I certainly enjoy his music. The man definitely has talent.

I guess he can best be described as an American Andrea Bocelli, lending a classical style and a tenor voice to a broad variety of musical genres. Some are just sappy love songs, the typical boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, please don’t-leave-me type of songs, but even these have a certain grace, dignity and class thanks to Groban’s commanding voice and classical accompaniment. The fact that many of his songs are sung in flawless Italian or Spanish further broadens their appeal.

While I am not sure of his religious background, a number of his songs seem decidedly Christian, such as his rendition of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring or You Raise Me Up (Though the latter doesn’t explicitly mention Jesus.) Others , such as Remember When It Rained (one of my favorites) are even less overtly Christian, but they have all the markings of a believer’s prayer.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Of First Importance

The “About” section of this blog explains three things that are important to me and which also, to a great extent, drive the content of my posts:

With all the rage going on lately with the health care debate and many of the other outrageous things that have been going on in our country, I perhaps have been devoting way too much space to matters political. But whether I am talking about politics, Italy, theology, family and friends or other musings, I view these as all secondary. There is something else that is of first importance: the Gospel.

I recently stumbled onto a blog that is aptly titled Of First Importance . It’s format is usually a daily quote, sort of an inspirational “thought for the day”. But this is not your typical kumbaya, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” type of inspiration. Each day brings a very pithy, meaningful message not from some pop psychologist or modern day inspirational speaker, but from giants of the faith of ages past and present. The messages simply remind us of the Gospel and encourage us to live each day in the good of the Gospel, and all of its far reaching implications in our lives.

The phrase “of first importance” actually comes from a verse of Scripture. In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul was writing to a group of Christians who had spent way too much time majoring on minors and had forgotten the essence of the Gospel. They had forgotten the main event that defined who they were: that Jesus Christ had died for their sins and rose again:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” [I Corinthians 15:3-4)

If we can lay hold of this glorious truth--or rather let this glorious truth take hold of us, then everything else that we deem so important will fall into its rightful place.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Has it really been 39 years?

Certain dates tend to stay etched in my mind. Not to sound morbid, but this is often the case with anniversaries of deaths. Not that they are constantly on my mind. Rather, like a macro lying dormant on a hard disk, they self execute with the arrival of the date.

March 20 is one of those days. Though I look forward to it as the first day of spring, it also marks the day my grandfather, Nonno Pietro, passed away. It was my first experience at losing a loved one. It has been 39 years and I was only a child at the time, but I can still remember the day clear as a bell. My dad was at nonno's bedside in Italy when he died. (On and off over an 18 month period, one or both of my parents spent weeks and months at a time in Italy, having dropped everything to show undying devotion to their parents during their final days--something else I will never forget.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dear Congressman

It is a little late, but I intend to somehow email the letter below to every so called "moderate" House Democrat within the next 24 hours.
Dear Congressman:
I am not a constituent in your district, but I might as well be. I know you are experiencing a great deal of pressure from all sides. Probably the most intense pressure is coming from the President of the United States, the Speaker of the House and the Majority Whip. With formidable carrots and sticks, they are doing everything in their power to persuade you to vote for a so-called heathcare reform bill. I have a suggestion. Instead of listening to them, listen to your conscience and listen to the voice of the people in your district.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Noncensus of it all!

There was yet another brouhaha earlier this week concerning illegal aliens. The Washington Examiner reported on February 21 that certain counties surrounding Washington, DC were pulling out all the stops to make sure that illegal aliens were counted in the census. Fanning out to ethnic church events and other community settings where they would likely reach an audience of illegal aliens, county officials were urging them to stand up and be counted, at the same time assuring them that their information will not be shared with federal immigration officials. So why are county officials doing this?

Failing to count illegal immigrants, local officials say, will reduce federal funding around $1,000 a year for each ignored person. And counties are looking for ways to offset costs that arise from providing health care and school services to thousands of residents who don't contribute taxes.

Some might be surprised at my take on the immigration issue. Though I am politically conservative, this is one area where I part company with the right. As noted in a previous post:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Are We Out of the Woods Yet?

I am probably among the few who has not seen or listened to the Tiger Woods’ apology. I have little or no interest and really felt no need to hear it. In truth, I know relatively few of the details of his transgressions. From the little snippets I have heard on news radio over the last few months while driving home from work, I take it he was unfaithful to his wife and family.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that situations like this don’t sadden me deeply. Marriage is sacred. And I grieve over those who are deeply hurt when one or more partners break their vow. Even when in the midst of the wreckage of the relationship both partners bravely attempt to forgive, mend and restore, it has to be terribly painful.

This is one reason I had little interest in the public apology. To whom in the public does he need to apologize? Yes, I suppose he should issue an apology to those whom he let down because they had looked to him as a role model. But this is more of a sad commentary on our society, where we elevate and lionize people who can run fast, score goals, break records or get a silly 1” diameter ball to fall into a hole with the fewest strokes possible. As impressive as these feats are, are they really the makings of a role model?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What is your drug of choice?

I am currently reading a book by Alister McGrath called The Twilight of Atheism. It is a somewhat heavy but worthwhile read that traces the philosophical underpinnings and history of atheism, including its meteoric rise in the 19th and 20th century and—as the title of the book suggests—the beginnig of its decline. I will not attempt to synopsize or otherwise do justice to the book in a single post (To be honest, I am not finished reading it!), but rather focus on two of the fallacies pointed out by McGrath:
  1. The assumed tension or enmity between science and faith;
  2. The notion that belief in God or theism is the natural result of man’s fear of death and desire for immortality
Scientific discovery through the ages has advanced precisely because of theistic thinking, as scientists have investigated on the assumption that an ordered world and consistent universe flow from a First Cause and Ultimate Controller of the laws of natures. It was not until Darwin’s Origin of the Species suggested the possibility of a natural evolution of man without a divine agent that there arose a perceived tension between science and faith. But this tension was not necessary. Darwinism merely suggested a theory of natural history that differs from literal interpretations of the Genesis creation accounts, but that is nothing new. Theologians as early as Augustine were careful to point out centuries before Darwin that Genesis need not be taken literally.

Friday, February 12, 2010


“Forget red and blue - color America white. There was snow on the ground in 49 states Friday -- all 50 states if you count the snow on top of the mountains in Hawaii.”

So stated an AP story quoted on the WTOP News Website on February 12, 2010. You would think I would use this as a springboard to take another potshot at the politically motivated global warming hysteria. Believe me, it is tempting, but that is not my purpose here.

I will focus instead on the effects of the record snowfall in Washington, DC, expressed not only in terms of the back to back storms that dumped more than three feet of snow on the national capital area, but also in terms of closings and delays. While it is not uncommon that a significant snowfall should shut down local school systems—for obvious safety reasons--it is extremely rare for inclement weather to shut down the federal government, even for a day. Instead, federal employees who cannot make it into work are usually offered the option of taking unscheduled leave.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Out of the Bush League

A little over a year ago, just a day or two before Inauguration Day, I unapologetically wrote a post entitled The Bush Legacy and an Ungrateful Nation. Even while pointing out my areas of disagreement and disappointment with the 43rd president, I maintained that he got a bum rap and that history would eventually vindicate him.

I found it amazing that within the course of six or seven years a president’s approval rating can drop from the stratospheric 90’s down to dismal 20’s. It’s not like he underwent a dramatic shift in policy (except, as I pointed out, his disappointing performance in fiscal policy, in which he allowed deficit spending to soar to levels that … seem pathetically mild compared to now.) But he otherwise stuck to his guns tenaciously (or stubbornly, depending on your point of view), despite the shifting and fickle political winds.

Anyway, no point in repeating here what I wrote a year ago. I was inspired to raise the issue again by news reports of a peculiar billboard sighting on I-35 in Wyoming, Minnesota. The picture here is courtesy of National Review Online.

It’s interesting that nobody knew initially who funded the billboard, leading some wishful thinkers on the left to wonder whether it was funded by someone of their ilk in hopes of reminding people how terrible things were under Bush. I would welcome the comparison. So how about it?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Talkin' 'bout my generation!

Though I was born a little late for it, I consider myself a child of the sixties. I imbibed the culture and the music from my older brothers, and even from my dad, whose negative experiences growing up in fascist Italy caused him to be sympathetic to a generation that questioned authority, and particularly a generation that opposed the war in Vietnam. Though my brothers and I were otherwise raised to be pretty straight-laced kids that otherwise steered clear of the uglier side of the sixties generation, and even as I have since rejected much of the political ideology in favor of common sense conservatism (i.e., I grew up.), there is much about the sixties that causes me to look back nostalgically. If nothing else, I still love the music.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Required Reading

Last month a fellow blogger and Facebook friend posted a quote from a historical figure I had never heard of. This in and of itself did not surprise me, because the older I get the more I am made aware of my profound ignorance, which is attributable in part to the pathetic education I received in the public school systems. Anyway, the quote is as follows:
When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that justifies it. (Frédéric Bastiat)

I had to do some internet research to learn that Bastiat was a French statesman, essayist and economist of the nineteenth century. His classic treatise, The Law , is one of the great philosophical and moral defenses of liberty and limited government. I borrowed a copy from a friend and was heartened to learn that I was not alone in discovering Bastiat late in life. In his forward to the Dean Russell translation published by the Foundation for Economic Education, Economics Professor and political commentator Walter Williams admitted: “I must have been forty years old before reading Frédéric Bastiat’s classic, The Law. An anonymous person, to whom I shall be eternally in debt, mailed me an unsolicited copy.” As a fan and admirer of Walter Williams, I can say I am in good company!

Friday, January 22, 2010


I sit alone as a flood of memories parades through my head.

I am remembering the black and white photos from when we were kids. I can picture the one of you standing beside your father smirking as he is holding up a Topo Gigio doll with its head turned backwards, so it ‘s erect tail looks like something else.

We were both the youngest sons of our parents, only a few months apart in age. On the one hand, this produced an unspoken rivalry. On the other hand, we were friends and playmates. Though you were one grade ahead of me, we went through much of life together: catechism classes, first communion, etc. Our families were always together, whether at work in the mushroom houses or spending leisurely evenings socializing at home.

I vividly remember when your family would come over. Instead of knocking, your father would call out “Permesso!” in a loud voice as he walked through our front door without a moment’s hesitation. At other times he would simply yell out my dad’s name in the Genovese dialect, “Menegu!”, and my dad would yell back “Avanti!” Our parents would gather around the table for coffee or dessert, together with Uncle Joe and Aunt Josephine and others, having a grand old time talking about who-knows-what while we played together. Though sometimes we fought, we were best of buddies.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Orgasmic Outrage

I recently saw a YouTube link by an Italian commentator named Marco Paolini. For all I know, Paolini and I are political polar opposites, but he makes an interesting and colorful observation about the Italian body politic:

For us Italians, indignation lasts about as long as an orgasm. And then you get sleepy.
Paolini was lamenting how initial outrage over an injustice or disaster is usually followed by forgetfulness and indifference. He was referring specifically to an incident that occurred thirty years ago but is still an unsolved mystery: On June 27, 1980, Flight 870 en route from Bologna to Palermo suddenly disappeared from radar screens and was later found to have crashed into the deep waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea near the island of Ustica, killing all 81 people on board.