September 29, 2011

Not Just the Daily Grind: Today’s Must Reads (or so) - Sept. 29, 2011

A giant statue of St Michael in Mexico City (CNS photo/Greg Tarczynski)
  1. World Economy 2011: An FT Special Report (reg. required). 
    The need for concerted action is greater than ever, as imbalances across the eurozone are replicated globally. (You might enjoy this one in particular, especially if you are in low spirits: Financial institutions stare into the abyss)   
  2. New Fox News Poll - Herman Cain rises to top 3, Newt Gingrich up, Rick Perry down after debate debacle (He lost ten points of his once substantial lead!).
  3. Ron Paul’s Republican problem - On the one hand, his call for fiscal austerity resounds with tea party-affiliated primary voters. On the other, his views on foreign policy—including the idea that America all but incited the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11—are decidedly less popular.  (How many Paul-ites are actually Republicans? Awful question, I know)
  4. Herman Cain: How high can he rise?
    Ever since his straw poll win in Florida last weekend, it’s been pretty clear that Cain has some momentum. (Be it as it may, but who said Republicans are racist?)
  5. The saint who threw Satan out of heaven - (Today is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel—not a saint for hopeless cases, such as both the eurozone crisis and Rick Perry... but he is the First Knight of the Kingdom, after all!)

A Lesson in Good Science (and Humility) for Global Warming Faithful from CERN Scientists

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” said last Friday cosmologist and astrophysicist Martin Rees soon after a team of scientists working at CERN (European Scientific Research Organization), published a research paper in which they announced that neutrinos generated at the CERN research facility located in Switzerland were found to travel faster than the speed of light. Which was indeed an “extraordinary claim,” and in fact the team—a collaboration between France’s National Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics Research and Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory—took many months to carefully check, recheck and check some more their data before deciding that they could not disprove what their own eyes were telling them. As a matter of fact, as the so-called “scientific method” demands, a good scientist never says “never.” That’s also why Antonio Ereditato, who participated in the experiment and speaks on behalf of the team, said: “We will continue our studies and we will wait patiently for the confirmation.”

Never say never. But now, if we expand our field of vision to include the issue of global warming and climate change, a question arises spontaneously:

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if left-wing politicians, the environmental left and the mainstream media took a minute to reflect that if something so set in stone as the absoluteness of the speed of light might be overturned, perhaps these claims that the “science is settled” when it comes to global warming are a bit misplaced? Wouldn’t it be nice if all of those people put some effort into understanding the scientific research that tends to refute the alarmists – and there’s plenty of it out there – rather than turning the issue into a show of hands?

September 28, 2011

Not Just the Daily Grind: Today’s Must Reads (or so) - Sept. 28, 2011

  1. In Wealthy Germany, the Church Should Become Poor!
    Never before his third voyage to his native land had Benedict XVI given such powerful emphasis to the ideal of a Church poor in structures, in possessions, in power. At the same time, however, he insisted on the need for a vigorous "public presence" of this same Church. Is it possible to have both at once? (Also sprach der Papst von Rom - 4)
  2. How at last my fellow Italians fell out of love with Silvioby Beppe Severgnini, Italian political commentator and author of Mamma mia! Berlusconi’s Italy Explained for Posterity and Friends Abroad. Italy is currently crossing a treacherous border – perhaps the third and final such crossing, as far as Mr Berlusconi is concerned. The first border was between complicity and embarrassment. The second divides embarrassment from irritation and shame, while the third is between shame and anger. (This definitely fits to “italomaniacs” in search of strong emotions—sort of Cavalleria Rusticana in pinstripes)
  3. Berlusconi “stunned and saddened” by bishop’s speech -
    Political sources said Berlusconi was left “stunned and saddened” by the speech by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco (see my previous post), who said Italy needed to “purify the air.” “It’s one more nail in the coffin,” said James Walston, political science professor at the American University of Rome. “When and if Berlusconi stands for office again, the bishops’ message is clear: don’t vote for him.” (The definitive scientific prove that Silvio is human)
  4. Harris Poll: Romney, Ron Paul Best Obama -
    Mitt Romney stands the best chance among Republican presidential contenders of beating President Barack Obama in next year’s election, according to a new Harris Interactive poll released Tuesday. The former Massachusetts governor also was the favored GOP candidate among independent voters, with Texas Rep. Ron Paul following close behind, according to the online survey of 2,462 adults taken in mid-September. The news was also good for Paul when pitted against Obama in a head-to-head matchup. (OK, but what the hell happened to Rick Perry?)
  5. "It is time once again for the Church resolutely to set aside her worldliness"
    Only in this way can the real scandal of Christianity, that of the cross, shine among men, without being overshadowed "by other painful scandals on the part of the preachers of the faith." The pope's speech to German Catholics active in the Church and in society (Also sprach der Papst von Rom - 3)

September 27, 2011

How About Taking a Break, Mr. Prime Minister?

Anna Wintour
Do you know what the editor-in-chief of Vogue America, Anna Wintour, and the head of the Italian Bishops Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, have in common? Well, they both don’t like Silvio Berlusconi. Not even a little bit. At least not anymore (especially in the latter case). And they both take a great care to let the world know it. Of course there are also important differences between the two: one is that Mrs. Wintour hardly knows who this guy is and what he is like, whereas Cardinal Bagnasco—along with the rest of the Italian people—obviously knows Berlusconi all too well. Which is not a good sign for the Italian prime minister: you just don’t need to know him well to feel (Mrs. Wintour) “disgusted and embarrassed” by him, or “mortified” (Card. Bagnasco) by his “sad and hollow” behavior.

Add to this Pope Benedict XVI’ call—last Thursday, before he left for his third trip to Germany—for “an increasingly intense ethical renewal for the good of beloved Italy,” and you’re done!

Cardinal Bagnasco and Silvio Berlusconi
Well, it is true that Cardinal Bagnasco did not name explicitly the prime minister—nor, of course, did the pope—but there is little doubt about whom he was referring to when he denounced “licentious behavior and improper relations” or when he said that Italians had been left in a state of “dumbfounded astonishment” by their political class—not that the rest of the Italian political class are exactly saints…, er, au contraire, but, as the old Latin saying goes, “Est modus in rebus!”

All this, of course, while not only Berlusconi but all of Italy itself is now under a kind of worldwide microscope, after having had its sovereign credit rating cut by Standard & Poor’s, with the ratings agency keeping the country’s outlook on negative in a major surprise that adds to contagion fears in the debt-stressed eurozone.

Hard times, no doubt about it. One could argue that the prime minister has earned a well-deserved (and long) vacation for all the hard work he has done for the country, to say nothing about the inevitable exhaustion following his legendary “athletics exploits.” But I’m afraid he is too damn stubborn to admit—because of his strong sense of duty toward the country, of course—that taking a break might be a very extremely good idea. For the good of his health, of course. But you may be sure that I, along with crowds of conservatives, no matter whether Catholic or not, both here in Italy and abroad, are praying for him and will keep him in our thoughts and prayers until he decides to take a break from his stressful job, or better still to put an end to it once and for all. As the Jennifer Hudson song goes, “If this isn't love, tell me what it is.”

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September 24, 2011

Autumn Equinox

Lord, it is time. The summer was very big. 
Lay thy shadow on the sundials, and on the meadows let the winds go loose. Command the last fruits that they shall be full; give them another two more southerly days, press   them on to fulfillment and drive the last sweetness into the heavenly wine.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Beyond Einstein

CERN's Dario Auterio
“Nothing can go faster than the speed of light.” That’s one of the very pillars of physics and Einstein’s theory of relativity (and one of the few things I can remember of my science studies in high school). But that’s what seems to have been rocked by new findings from the world’s largest physics lab, the CERN of Geneva, which stunned the world of science by announcing they had observed tiny particles known as neutrinos travelling slightly faster than light (see here and here).

Researchers themselves were so astonished by their findings that they spent months checking their data, without finding any errors that would disprove their claim, and cautiously invited the world to prove them wrong. Yet, presenting the findings to a packed and clearly skeptical auditorium at CERN on Friday, Italian scientist Dario Auterio said they were of “high statistical accuracy” and could not be explained by extraneous effects such as seismic tremors or moon phases.

September 23, 2011

Not Just the Daily Grind: Today’s Must Reads (or so) - Sept. 24, 2011

  1. The burning question of Martin Luther must once more become our question too -
    The pope to the Evangelical Church of Germany. Ecumenism stands or falls on the question of God and of evil. The twofold challenge of "evangelical" Protestantism and of secularization. How to revive the faith without watering it down. (Also sprach der Papst von Rom - 2)
  2. Slipping into darkness - How much longer can Silvio Berlusconi go on? (Good question!)
  3. The Weakness Behind Sarkozy's European Vision - French President Nicolas Sarkozy has a vision for Europe, one which involves increased solidarity to save the euro zone. His attempts to convince Chancellor Angela Merkel are hiding his own country's weaknesses. Some are concerned that Germany may soon stand alone. (Might be not a bad idea) 
  4. Facebook announces redesigned profile pages, introduces Timeline at f8 conference -
    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced major changes in Facebook’s profile pages, introducing a Timeline that will replace the old user page layout. In addition: Video - Mark Zuckerberg unveils Facebook Timeline. (I'm kinda fed up with facebook right now...)
  5. There's a Judge in Berlin. And He Wants King Solomon Back - After Regensburg in 2006 and Paris in 2008, the third grand lecture of this pontificate. Pope Benedict holds it in the German capital, and in heart of its political system. Citing Saint Augustine: "Without justice what else is the state but a great band of robbers?" (Also sprach der Papst von Rom - 1)

Renaissance Faces

Andrea Mantegna, Cardinal Ludovico Trevisan
Pollaiuolo, Portrait of a Young Lady
If one pays attention to the way things have always been in the painting field, I think it’s just as Oriana Fallaci once said, “Listen: if I am a painter and I do your portrait, have I or haven’t I the right to paint you as I want?” I mean, portraits are not as much a matter of objectivity—which has very little to do with truth, as far as my philosophical understanding of this whole thing goes—but of insight, intuition and inspiration. That’s also why it’s common sense that a great portrait is very often (if not always) much more a portrait of the painter rather than of the subject. And this is how the art of portraiture is doubly individualistic: first in regard to the subject; and second with regard to the artist. It’s no surprise, then, if portraiture is one of the most typical expressions of the age of the Renaissance, that is to say the period in which, in accordance with the cliché (but a well-founded one), the “individual” came into being—and at any rate, the emergence in 15th-century Italy of the personal portrait as a distinct and polyvalent art form is indisputable and undisputed.

With this being said, here is the point of this post. The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, have partnered to organize a landmark project tracing the development of the Italian portrait in the fifteenth century. The exhibition, titled “Renaissance Faces - Masterpieces of Italian Portraiture” (Gesichter der Renaissance - Meisterwerke Italienischer Portrait-Kunst), started on August 25 at the Bode Museum in Berlin and runs through November 20. After which the show is due to travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (December21, 2011 through March 18, 2012).

Luca Signorelli
Portrait of an Elderly Man
The exhibition—with some 150 works, from 50 great museums, by more than 40 masters of the early Renaissance—takes the visitors from the beginnings of portraiture in Florence and details its spread and stylistic developments in the courts of Ferrara, Mantua, Bologna, Milan, Urbino, Naples, papal Rome, and finally in Venice, where only late in the century a portrait tradition established itself.

The works on display are by the most important artists of the period: Donatello, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Pisanello, Verrocchio, Ghirlandaio, Mantegna, Masaccio, Giovanni Bellini, Antonello da Messina, to mention only a few names.

But the major highlight is Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine” from the Czartoryski Collection, Cracow. Indeed, Charles Baudelaire was right when he said, “Nothing in a portrait is a matter of indifference. Gesture, grimace, clothing, decor even—all must combine to realize a character. “

In short, as far as I can tell, whether you are currently in Berlin, or will be in New York from December 21 to March 18, this exhibition is a must see.

September 20, 2011

If This Is High School Physics (According to Al Gore)

Nobel Laureate Ivar Giaever
Ehi folks, the evidence of man-made global warming is INCONTROVERTIBLE (as the American Physical Society states). And this is how Nobel laureate Al Gore—for those who don’t already know, the man who invented both the internet and anthropogenic global warming—described the science of climate change last Wednesday in a telephone interview: “It’s not a hoax, it’s high school physics!”

Yet, unfortunately for him, another Nobel laureate, Ivar Giaever, resigned last week from the American Physical Society in protest of the group’s insistence on that very thing. In an email message to Kate Kirby, executive officer of the APS, Giaever wrote:

In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of a proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?
The claim (how can you measure the average temperature of the whole earth for a whole year?) is that the temperature has changed from ~288.0 to ~288.8 degree Kelvin in about 150 years, which (if true) means to me . . . that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this ‘warming’ period.

And again unfortunately for Al Gore (and the APS), public perception of climate change has steadily fallen since late 2009. According to a Rasmussen Reports public opinion poll released on August 31, 57 percent of adults believe there is significant disagreement within the scientific community on global warming, up five points from late 2009.

September 16, 2011

“Stelutis Alpinis” (Alpine Edelweiss)

Edelweiss - The flower of the Alps
It’s what might be called a modern madrigal, more precisely a modern villotta, in fact it has most of the characteristics of the rustic song form which first became current in the early 16th century in northern Italy. But most of all this song is a cornerstone of the Alpini choral repertoire, and a sort of national anthem for the Friulian people, in whose dialect—or language, as my friends from Friuli would say—it was written by Arturo Zardini, a primary school teacher, back in 1920.

“Stelutis Alpinis” (meaning edelweiss, the flower which symbolizes the Alps) tells the story of a dead soldier of WWI who asks his wife to pick up an edelweiss from the place where he was buried, somewhere over the mountains: “Pick one of those edelweiss / It will remind you of our love…” That’s why when someone dies on the mountains Friulans sing this song at the funeral—while in the other Italian Alpine regions they usually sing “Signore delle cime,” yet another sad but very beautiful song of the Alpini.

“Stelutis Alpinis” is such a beautiful song that it has been adapted and performed in many different ways, in both choral and solo modes. Here are a couple of examples. The first is a traditional version, performed by the choir of the Brigata Alpina “Julia” (subtitled in English), the latter is a wonderful rendition (and adaptation) by the Italian singer-songwriter Francesco De Gregori. The song is included in the album Prendere o lasciare (1996).

P.S. Needless to say, this post is especially dedicated to Italian legendary climber Walter Bonatti (R.I.P.), whose funeral will be held tomorrow in Lecco.

September 15, 2011

In Memoriam: Walter Bonatti

Italian legendary climber Walter Bonatti has died at age 81. His record was impressive and amazing: at 18 he made the fourth ascent of the north face of the Pointe Walker on the Grandes Jorasses in the Mont Blanc range, at 21 he made the first ascent of the Grand Capucin rock pinnacle, at 24 he was the youngest man to be chosen to join the Italian K2 expedition... a long track record of successes and achievements (see here, here, here, and here to get an idea).

And yet, to be honest, what amazes me most is the fact that, unlike most of his fellow mountaineers—at least as far as I know—he had not followed in his father’s footsteps, nor he was, in his early years, a mountain man, having grown up on the banks of the Po River, in the flatlands of Lombardy and Emilia. He was an outsider. “My character and personality were already beginning to form in my childhood home by the River Po: the great river was like an ocean for me, the sandy river banks like deserts and the Alpine foothills on the horizon the highest mountains in the world,” he said in a 2010 interview. But he used to spend his holidays by his uncles in the mountains of Bergamo… and thus it happened that he decided to become a mountain guide and to move to Courmayeur, below the mighty Mont Blanc group. And that’s where the real life of Bonatti started. The life of a man who reached out for the uttermost difficulty, the unexplored. He cobbled a philosophy from his passion: pursuit of the impossible, he called it. His was a story of independence and freedom of spirit: there is no such thing as the “destiny,” man is the master of his own destiny.

“He was among the greatest of all time, without a shadow of a doubt,” the British mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington (nineteen expeditions to the Himalayas, including four to Mount Everest and the first ascent of the south face of Annapurna) told the Guardian. And Doug Scott, one of the first two Britons to conquer Everest, called Bonatti “perhaps the finest Alpinist there has ever been.”

His memoir The Mountains of My Life, which was republished in English in 2010 to celebrate his 80th birthday, is certainly one of the best books in mountaineering literature.

Rest in peace, Man of the Impossible.

September 10, 2011

Fiat Lux

Yeah, let there be light!

Heavenly Splendor

Raphael, Madonna di Foligno

The two “sisters” probably last saw each other in Raphael’s workshop, during the brief moment of their more or less simultaneous creation. I’m talking of two of the most celebrated works the great Urbinate dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the “Madonna di Foligno,” which normally hangs in the Pinacoteca Vaticana (Vatican Picture Gallery), and the “Sistine Madonna,” relocated to Dresden from 1754 and hanging in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister.

Well, now the two are together again in an exhibition currently taking place (September 6, 2011 through January 8, 2012) at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen of Dresden. The exhibition is called Heavenly Splendor. Raphael, Dürer and Grünewald paint the Madonna, and is held on the occasion of the Apostolic Visit to Germany of Pope Benedict XVI. Thus, once again, the Holy Father is the bearer of an important cultural and artistic event, just as last year during his visit to London when he made possible, for the first time in nearly 500 years, the display of four tapestries of Raphael next to the Urbinate’s original cartoons in a major exhibition in the British capital’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Needless to say, the Sistine Madonna, besides being one of Raphael’s best-loved masterpieces, is one of the most beautiful paintings ever. Take the two little angels—reproduced in countless postcards, t-shirts and souvenirs—with the mischievous air, or the Divine Child, with those strange, far-away-looking eyes that even in babyhood seem reading the future, in the Mother’s arms … But how not to love the Madonna di Foligno’s sacra conversazione, in which St. Francis of Assisi, St. John the Baptist, Sigismonde de’ Conti, St. Jerome, and the little angel seem to converse and draw the viewer into their conversation?

Raphael, The Sistine Madonna

~ First written for The Metaphysical Peregrine ~

September 8, 2011

How Kind of You, Mr Trichet

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet
And finally they (almost) got their homework done. In fact, after its approval by the Italian Senate yesterday, the much-revised, corrected, enlarged and “improved” package of austerity measures goes to the lower house, where the vote is expected on Monday.

The plan includes a controversial—previously approved and then categorically denied—increase in the value-added tax rate to 21% from 20%, the introduction of a 3% “solidarity tax” on people who earn more than EUR300,000 a year (after stating on Tuesday that the threshold would be EUR500,000), and (surprise, surprise!) an increase in the retirement age for women working in the private sector to 65 from 60 as of 2014. The package also includes a significant and much-debated change—aimed to make the economy more flexible—to Italian labor law making it easier to hire and fire workers, and makes some forms of tax evasion a criminal offense. Last but not least, the government will seek to amend the constitution to introduce the principle of a balanced budget and to eliminate a tier of local government at the provincial level. (See here, here and here for details.)

Will that be enough to tackle Italy’s deep-rooted economic and financial problems (debt and lack of growth)? Of course, according to the opposition the package doesn’t address those obstacles in any concrete way. But the European Commission welcomed on Tuesday night the amendments, calling for their rapid adoption. And today the impeccable Mr. Trichet said (how kind of him), “We have confirmation that there is implementation of what was said in terms of overall results. And that, of course, is of extreme importance.” Can we trust him? Well, I think so, but I am a naturally optimistic person...

What is fairly certain, however, is that the Italian government’s flip-flopping on which measures to include in the final plan has not done anyone a service—other, perhaps, than the stock speculators… OK, OK, I know, they are not of this world, they are aliens, but why rattle their cage?

September 5, 2011

American Labor Day and Our Anti-Jobs President

~ “LETTERS FROM AMERICA” - by The Metaphysical Peregrine

This weekend is a holiday weekend, Labor Day, created to recognize working people’s accomplishments. Moving from an agricultural economy to an industrial one in the late 1800’s created a clash between people doing the work and management. Unions were formed and battles between police and workers were violent and there were a lot of people killed. President Grover Cleveland sought to reduce the conflict with the creation of Labor Day. This is an oversimplified history since it’s not the point of this post. More on the particulars here

The big discussion this weekend is a President whose Marxist economic policies have been not only a failure, but a disaster; so much so his Leftist supporters are voicing buyers’ remorse. The jobs news released this past Friday showed zero job growth. Polls show about two-thirds of citizens disapprove of his handling of the economy. Even his own administration released a report stating they expected the economy to grow at a rate of 1.7% through next year. With an unemployment rate of 9%, other economists think the 1.7% is optimistic.

Obama and the Democrats controlled Congress and the Executive branch for the first two years of his administration, meaning they controlled the purse strings. Congress is required by law to pass a budget, and didn’t do so for two years. When the Republicans were elected to gain control of the House of Representatives last year, they proposed several budgets, all rejected by the Administration and Democrats. The Senate, still controlled by Democrats still have not passed, let alone proposed, a budget as required by law, going on to two and a half years. The media and Leftist meme is Republicans are obstructionists. Go figure. Democrats reject everything and refuse to negotiate, ignore the law, and the Republicans are the obstructionists, the bad guys.

 We have had Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) at the end of the Bush administration, that Obama voted for and conservatives were against, that had no effect other than lining the pockets of Wall Street fat cats and CEO's with taxpayer money. When Obama came to office he forced through a stimulus package of about a $tillion and most of it went to state workers, most of whom belong to unions, and little went to the private sector. Most of the private sector companies were “green” and most have failed since after blowing through $millions with no accountability. The money going to state union workers found its way back to the unions that in turn funneled the money back to Obama’s campaign war chest (estimated to be approaching a $billion) and funding the Democrat Party. That’s nothing short of a money laundering operation using taxpayer dollars. Then another $trillion in a second stimulus package was passed, again without Republican support, and the same thing was done. Now Obama and the Democrats are advocating for a third stimulus package. It’s doubtful this one will pass because the Democrats no longer control both houses of Congress. This will be reported as the Republicans are obstructionists that want to increase unemployment, starve old people, put children on the street, create more homeless, cause more pollution, and all the rest. Nevermind that three times infusion of taxpayer money into the economy has failed.

We haven’t decided whether Obama is deliberately destroying the economy (he campaigned on ‘fundamentally transforming America’) or he’s just stupid. We do know he’s a Leftist ideologue and truly believes confiscating the earnings of producers and giving to non-producers (47% of Americans don’t pay income tax) is the way to go, despite the empirical evidence of a 100% failure rate 100% of the time the idea has been applied all throughout history.  

Where We Can't Drill for Oil
This is an anti-jobs President. He has illegally shut down drilling in the Gulf since the spill there, throwing thousands out of work. He’s had his environmental agency pass such restrictive regulations that coal mines are shutting down because they can’t meet the costs, throwing more thousands out of work. He shut down all coastal oil drilling, all new conventional drilling, and all oil shale production, denying jobs to thousands of people. It has also driven up the cost of energy causing a massive budget crunch for citizens. Nearly all taxpayer paid for “green” jobs have gone out of business or moved overseas. $billions have been lost and yet more workers are unemployed. The ObamaCare health plan is causing additional massive disruptions of employment and costs to citizens, and it's not even fully implemented yet.

He will be addressing Congress this coming week about job creation. Guaranteed he’ll talk about the need to raise taxes, the need for another stimulus package (different words will be used, “stimulus” has become a negative after two failures), more spending on infrastructure (already failed twice), and more regulations. Regarding regulations, so many have been passed by his administration, businesses have quit hiring or are going out of business because they can’t afford to implement them. More thousands of jobs lost.

The answer of course is what always works. Reduce taxes. The more  of their own money people have to spend, the more they’ll purchase, the more they purchase the more jobs are created to meet the demand, the more people working means more tax payers, means more tax revenue created. Roll back spending to at least 2008 levels. There’s what’s known as the 1% solution that after the rollback, cut 1% spending each following budgets. That shouldn’t be hard even for congress critters. Reduce regulations. The costs of implementation kills business growth. Open up drilling and oil shale production creating thousands of jobs and reducing the costs to families of high energy costs (increasing discretionary spending which creates more jobs), and as a side benefit reduce dependence on foreign oil from countries that want to destroy America. Let the coal mines that have been shut down by this administration reopen, further driving down energy costs. Lastly, repeal ObamaCare.    

It’s sad that on a day we’re to be celebrating workers’ contributions, we have a president and political party hell bent on creating unemployment. 

His Holiness’ Favorite Cantata

Johann Sebastian Bach
I remember a concert performance of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach—in Munich in Bavaria —conducted by Leonard Bernstein. At the conclusion of the final selection, one of the Cantate, I felt—not through reasoning, but in the depths of my heart—that what I had just heard had spoken truth to me, truth about the supreme composer, and it moved me to give thanks to God. Seated next to me was the Lutheran bishop of Munich. I spontaneously said to him: Whoever has listened to this understands that faith is true—and the beauty that irresistibly expresses the presence of God’s truth.

~ Benedict XVI, speaking at the audience last Wednesday (August 31, 2011) with the pilgrims and faithful gathered in the small square of Castel Gandolfo. 

Well, it is not the first time that Pope Benedict has called art and music “the greatest apologetic for our faith.” This time, however, His Holiness added the above personal recollection. And I hope you will appreciate to know that the Cantata of Bach that so profoundly touched the heart of the future pope was the one that bears the catalog number BWV 140, which was composed by JSB for the Mass of the twenty-seventh Sunday after the feast of the Holy Trinity, the last Sunday before Advent in the Lutheran liturgical year (via Sandro Magister). Here it is, accompanied with beautiful pictures of the Lake District in England:

“The Weary Kind”

Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal in CRAZY HEART (Photo by Lorey Sebastian)
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.” Thus wrote Carl Gustav Jung, the great Swiss psychiatrist who founded the so-called analytical school of psychology, and, luckily for us religious and non-materialistic people, broadened Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical approach. Who knows whether he ever came across that famous passage from Saint Augustine’s De Vera Religione which roughly translates as “Do not wish to go outside, return into yourself. Truth dwells in the inner man.” Be it as it may, one thing is almost certain: both Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett, who wrote “The Weary Kind,” the beautiful country song from the film Crazy Heart, may not have read either the famous psychiatrist or the great Father of the Church, and yet they seem to have learned well the great lesson of both Augustine of Hippo and Carl Jung. Yes, just “Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try,” that’s all you need to do.