Monday, December 31, 2012

Coffee Liquer



If you are like me and need a stiff drink to face 2013 (let alone the three years after that), you can't go wrong with some homemade coffee liquer. Here is an old recipe I have been using for years:

4 cups water
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup instant coffee granules
4 cups vodka
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1.  Heat the water to boiling in heavy medium saucepan. 

2.  Add sugars and instant coffee. 

3.  Reduce heat to very low. Stir just until sugar and coffee dissolve. 

4.  Remove from heat. Let stand until cool, about 1 hour.

5. Add voldka, vanilla and vanilla extract..

6.  Slice the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the mix.  Toss in the vanilla bean and give it all a good stir.. 

7.  Pour into large jar with a secure cap.  Let stand at room temperature at least 3 weeks before serving..

Enjoy.  I personally like to drink it with milk and ice.






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The 7th Day of Christmas - St. Sylvester & New Year's Eve

Today is New Year's Eve, the seventh day of the twelve days of Christmas.


Today is celebrated the Feast of St. Sylvester. Surprisingly little is known about this Saint. What is known is that he was the son of a Roman soldier and that he became Pope at a critical period in history. In the 150 years preceeding Sylvester's Papacy, Christians had been brutally persecuted by Rome's Emporers from Nero to Diocletian. Indeed, the Diocletianic Persecution, from 303 A.D. to 311 A.D., was Rome's largest, and bloodiest official persecution of Christianity. But then Constantine became the Emporer of Rome in 306 A.D. Constantine publicly converted to Christianity in 312 A.D. and ended the Christian persecutions by the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. The next year, Sylvester was elected Pope. For the next 21 years, he oversaw the Papacy while Constantine, who would outlive St. Sylvester by two years, spread Christianity throughout the Roman world.

It was during Sylvester's pontificate were built many of the great Churches, including the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, St. Peter's Basilica, and several cemeterial churches over the graves of martyrs. Saint Sylvester did not himself attend the First Council of Nicaea in 325, but he was represented by two legates and he approved the council's decision.

One of the traditions associated with St. Sylvester, at least in Germany, is St. Sylvester's punch:

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
750 ml bottle of dry white wine
750 ml bottle of dry red wine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup dark Jamaican rum

Preparation:

1.Bring water and sugar to a boil in a large pot, while stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved.
2.Add the wines and bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir in the rum and lemon juice.
3.Ladle the punch into cups and serve warm.

AND TO ALL, A HAPPY NEW YEAR

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

The 6th Day Of Christmas

Today is the sixth day of the twelve days of Christmas . . .


It isn't clear what feast was celebrated on this day during Medieval times, from whence the custom of a 12 day celebration of Christmas originates. In the modern era, the Feast of the Holy Family was placed on general calendar of the Roman Rite on October 26, 1921. It is, by custom, celebrated on this day in those years when Christmas falls on a Sunday. Otherwise, the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas.

The purpose of this celebration is to use the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus as the model for all Christian families.

Prayer To The Holy Family:

Domine Iesu Christe, qui Mariae et Ioseph subditus, domesticam vitam ineffabilibus virtutibus consecrasti: fac nos, utriusque auxilio, Familiae sanctae tuae exemplis instrui et consortium consequi sempiternum: Qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, Who, being made subject to Mary and Joseph, didst consecrate domestic life by Thine ineffable virtues; grant that we, with the assistance of both, may be taught by the example of Thy Holy Family and may attain to its everlasting fellowship. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.

Should it be that the Feast of the Holy Family is not celebrated this day, I would honor St. Ecgwine of Worcester whose feast falls on this day. Ecgwine, the 7th century son of a Mercian King, founded the Benedictine monastery of Evesham, England; the site was chosen because of an apparition of the Virgin Mary to a local herdsman. It became one of the great Benedictine houses of the Middle Ages. In his honor, it seems only fitting that one toast repeatedly with the libation produced by his order, Benedictine liquor. Do note that every bottle of Bénédictine has the initials D.O.M. on the label - it actually stands for "Deo Optimo Maximo"; "For our best, greatest God".






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Saturday, December 29, 2012

The 5th Day Of Christmas - Feast of St. Thomas a Becket

Today is the fifth day of the Twelve Days of Christmas.



The Feast of St. Thomas a Becket is celebrated this day. One of the overarching issues of the Medieval world was where the authority of the Papacy ended and the authority of kings began. It was an issue that would consume St. Thomas.

Thomas a Becket was born into 12th century England. As Chancellor to King Henry II, he came to be a close confidant of the King. He even accompanied the King to war, reportedly acquitting himself well in battle. But then, in 1161, when Henry appointed Becket to be the Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket became a defender of Papal authority. At particular issue was the Papacy's claim of right to try felonious monks and other lawless clergy in Church courts. Henry wanted to end this custom and subject criminal clergy to Royal courts. Becket was intransigent, even going so far as to excommunicate other English bishops who supported Henry on the issue. Henry, in a rage, famously asked “Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?”

Four of Henry's knights took it upon themselves to do just that. Travelling to Canterbury on this date in 1170, with their weapons in hand, they confronted Becket and demanded he lift the excommunications. Becket refused, then “commended himself and the cause of the Church to God, St. Mary, and the blessed martyr St. Denis.” His assassins put Becket to the sword, spilling his brains on the Cathedral floor.

Much of the medieval world erupted in horror at Becket's murder. Pilgrimages to the site followed soon thereafter with numerous miracles occurring that were attributed to Becket. The Church canonized Becket in 1173. King Henry presented himself at the tomb of Becket to make public penance, allowing himself to be scourged by the local clerics.

Canterbury became the third greatest site of pilgrimage in all of Europe.


The first great work of literature composed in English, Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," is set against the backdrop of travelers on a pilgrimage to Becket's shrine.

St. Thomas is, today, the patron saint of priests.





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Friday, December 28, 2012

Boy Uses AR15 To Stop A Home Invasion



Thank god that boy had a weapon - in this case an AR15, the same type of rifle used at Sandy Hook - and knew how to use it.

The AR15 has several characteristics that make it an eminently practical weapon for self defense. One, it has virtually no recoil, thus making it something that most anyone of any level of strength can use to fire multiple shots with good accuracy. Two, while an AR15 fires a small caliber bullet - 5.56 - it does so with very high muzzle velocity, 3,110 feet per second. It's stopping power comes causing significant cavitation in the body. In other words, pinpoint accuracy isn't required.

By comparison, the M9 9mm handgun fires a larger bullet, but does so at 1,250 fps. Like virtually all pistols, it has a fairly significant recoil that a weaker individual might have trouble with. To reduce recoil, you have to go to smaller caliber weapons and smaller loads. The smaller the caliber and muzzle velocity, all other things being equal, the less effective will be the weapon when it comes to self defense against a determined attacker.

Bottom line, banning the AR15 and its variants is banning perhaps the single most effective weapon for home defense. That is particularly true for women and teens. Keep that in mind as the left tries to disarm America in the wake of Sandy Hook.

Related Posts:

- Guns, Equality, & A Land Where "Thieves Rule This Country At Night"

- Larry Correia's Brilliant Essay On Guns, Gun Control & Concealed Carry

- Thoughts On Gun Control From The Late Paul Harvey

- The Futility Of An Assault Weapons Ban As An Answer To Sandy Hook

- When Seconds Counted At Sandy Hook, Police Were Twenty Minutes Away

- St. Louis Police Chief Calls for Arming School Personnel

- John Fund essay on Mass Murders, Gun Control & Our Treatment of Mental Illness

- Luby Cafeteria Massacre, Testimony of Suzanna Hupp, Texas School District Authorizes Concealed Carry For Its Schools

- Reynolds On Gun Free Zones, The Left's Mistrust Of Armed Private Citizens, & Our Problematic Mental Health Laws

Linked: Larwyn's Linx





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The 4th Day Of Christmas - The Slaughter Of The Innocents, The Coventry Carol & The Poor Man's Bible

Today is the fourth day of the twelve days of Christmas.



On the fouth day is celebrated the Feast of the Holy Innocents. This feast honors those children slaughtered on the order of King Herod, as told in the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. The Magi had passed through Jerusalem and let it be known they were going to visit the newborn King. Herod, hearing of this, called his advisors together, one of whom informed Herod of a prophecy that a child would be born in Bethlehem who would become “a ruler who is to shepherd the people of Israel.” When later the Magi later refused to tell Herod where they had found Jesus, Herod ordered the slaughter of all children under two years of age living in Bethlehem. It is estimated that, in the small town of Bethlehem, that this would have meant slaughtering about 25 children. And it is their martyrdom that the Feast of the Holy Innocents honors.

The Coventry Carol, performed below by Alison Moyet, tells the story.




This 15th century carol has an interesting back story. In Medieval Europe, few people were literate and most copies of the bible where in Latin, so the local clergy used alternative methods to teach the bible. One was through the use of the “poor man's bible” - stained glass windows which contained images from biblical stories, sort of a millennium old precursor to the modern comic books. One of the most famous “poor man's bible” is the 14th century window in Canterbury Cathedral shown here on the right.

A second method of teaching the bible was through Mystery plays that told biblical stories in the vernacular and, often, included song. These plays were performed by the clergy outside of the Church until the 12th century, when the conduct of the plays were turned over to town guilds. It is from one of these plays performed in 15th century Coventry, England that the Coventry Carol comes down to us.

The traditional way to celebrate today is to turn over rule of the house to the youngest child. It is the youngest who decides the day's foods, drinks, music, entertainments, etc. Also traditional is a red desert, especially a pudding or ice cream with a red sauce, such as raspberry.





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Setting The Record Straight Four Years Later

It has long been leftist dogma that "the failed policies of the Bush administration" caused our economic meltdown.  That statement was usually followed by vague references to "deregulation" and Wall St. greed. It has been the single most destructive lie of my lifetime. And because of it, we now have another four years of Obama

I pointed out over four years ago that the left's social engineering with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) caused both the housing bubble and the destruction of credit standards - all leading directly to our economic meltdown. Recently, the IBD published a concurence:

Democrats and the media insist the Community Reinvestment Act, the anti-redlining law beefed up by President Clinton, had nothing to do with the subprime mortgage crisis and recession.

But a new study by the respected National Bureau of Economic Research finds, "Yes, it did. We find that adherence to that act led to riskier lending by banks."

Added NBER: "There is a clear pattern of increased defaults for loans made by these banks in quarters around the (CRA) exam. Moreover, the effects are larger for loans made within CRA tracts," or predominantly low-income and minority areas.

To satisfy CRA examiners, "flexible" lending by large banks rose an average 5% and those loans defaulted about 15% more often, the 43-page study found.

The strongest link between CRA lending and defaults took place in the runup to the crisis — 2004 to 2006 — when banks rapidly sold CRA mortgages for securitization by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and Wall Street.

CRA regulations are at the core of Fannie's and Freddie's so-called affordable housing mission. In the early 1990s, a Democrat Congress gave HUD the authority to set and enforce (through fines) CRA-grade loan quotas at Fannie and Freddie.

It passed a law requiring the government-backed agencies to "assist insured depository institutions to meet their obligations under the (CRA)." The goal was to help banks meet lending quotas by buying their CRA loans.

But they had to loosen underwriting standards to do it. And that's what they did. . . .

Read the entire article here. Expect this to get zero play outside of the IBD.






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Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Feinstein Gun Grab

Sen. Dianne Feinstein will be introducing 'gun control' legislation in January. She is using the excuse of Sandy Hook to introduce legislation that is jaw dropping in its breadth. I have yet to read the text of the bill, but the write up Feinstein provides describes vast regulation of weapons of all sorts. Indeed, it would appear to reach virtually all semi-automatic rifles and hand-guns, since virtually all use detachable magazines.

Following is a summary of the 2013 legislation:

  • Bans the sale, transfer, importation, or manufacturing of:
    • 120 specifically-named firearms
    • Certain other semiautomatic rifles, handguns, shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have one military characteristic
    • Semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds
  • Strengthens the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and various state bans by:
    • Moving from a 2-characteristic test to a 1-characteristic test
    • Eliminating the easy-to-remove bayonet mounts and flash suppressors from the characteristics test
    • Banning firearms with “thumbhole stocks” and “bullet buttons” to address attempts to “work around” prior bans
  • Bans large-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds. 
  • Protects legitimate hunters and the rights of existing gun owners by:
    • Grandfathering weapons legally possessed on the date of enactment
    • Exempting over 900 specifically-named weapons used for hunting or sporting purposes and
    • Exempting antique, manually-operated, and permanently disabled weapons
  • Requires that grandfathered weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act, to include:
    • Background check of owner and any transferee;
    • Type and serial number of the firearm;
    • Positive identification, including photograph and fingerprint;
    • Certification from local law enforcement of identity and that possession would not violate State or local law; and
    • Dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration

I have recently concluded that our modern left is every bit as totalitarian as were Stalin and Mao, the only difference being that they are constrained to acting incrementally in our nation.  I see now that I was wrong.  Feinstein's rather incredible attempt to disarm the law abiding is anything but incremental.

And do note the extreme irony.  Feinstein is promoting this as a response to Sandy Hook.  The shooter in that massacre had 20 minutes of free fire time once in the "gun free zone" and before police arrived.  He could have used virtually any weapon still allowed under Feinstein's regulation to accomplish the same amount of carnage.  This isn't legislation responsive to Sandy Hook, it's legislation solely aimed at the law abiding.







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The Third Day Of Christmas - Feast of St. John The Evangelist

Today is the third day of the Twelve Days of Christmas.



Today is celebrated the Feast of St. John The Evangelist. And in respect thereof, today is the day to bring your bottle(s) of wine to the Church to have it blessed by a priest.



John was a fisherman before he and his brother James were called by Christ to become his apostles. John was the only apostle to stay with Jesus during the crucifixion. Afterwards, he joined with St. Peter to spread Christianity throughout Israel. John was later exiled to the island of Patmos where he received visions that he recounted in what is now the final chapter of the Bible, The Apocalypse.

John alone of the apostles did not die a martyr's death – though apparently there were several attempts made on his life. The most famous was an attempt to poison him that failed when John blessed his wine, drawing out the poison before John consumed the wine. It is in remembrance of that event that, on the Feast of St. John, people may bring wine to the Church that it be blessed and then consumed in his honor.

John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not.

Today's Feast was historically a special day of celebration for priests. Do have a happy Feast of St. John The Evangelist and may your wine be blessed.







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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The 2nd Day Of Christmas - St. Stephen's Day, Boxing Day & Wenceslaus


Today is the second day of the twelve days of Christmas.  Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. Stephen was one of several people appointed as Deacons of the Church by Peter and the apostles. Stephen was an effective proselytizer who drew the ire of the Sanhedrin, before whom Stephen was tried for for blasphemy against Moses and God (See Acts 6 and 7). Boldly declaring not merely his belief in Christ, but citing to a vision that he had of Christ at the right hand of God, the Sanhedrin voted, in 34 A.D., to execute him by stoning.  Paul of Taursus, in the days before his own conversion, took part in the stoning.  St. Stephen is the patron of stone masons, those with headaches, and horses. The Feast of St. Stephen was historically offered in honor of all Deacons of the Church.

The famous Christmas carol, Good King Wenceslaus, tells how the 10th century Wenceslaus, Duke of Bohemia, on one cold and snowy St. Stephen's Day, took it upon himself to bring alms to a poor man and his family.



St. Fulgentius, Bishop of Ruspe, wrote a particularly poignant sermon in honor of the Feast of St. Stephen in about the year 500 A.D.:

Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of His soldier. Yesterday our King, clothed in His robe of flesh, left His place in the Virgin's womb and graciously visited the world. Today His soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.

Our King, despite His exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet He did not come empty-handed. He gave of His bounty, yet without any loss to Himself. In a marvelous way He changed into wealth the poverty of His faithful followers while remaining in full possession of His own inexhaustible riches. And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the King, it later shone forth in His soldier. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment.

Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defense, and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey's end.

My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.

May you have a happy Feast of St. Stephen.

Boxing Day is also celebrated in Britain this day. It originated in medieval times when the priests would empty the alms boxes in all churches on the day after Christmas and distribute the gifts to the poor of the parish. Moreover, the workers, apprentices, and servants stored their savings and donations through out the year in their own personal boxes made of earthen ware. Then, on the day after Christmas, the box was broken and the money counted,

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas To All - The First Day Of Christmas



Madonna In Glory, Botticelli, 1470

Merry Christmas to all.

The bible doesn't tell us what day Christ was born. In 337 A.D., Pope St. Julius I directed that Dec. 25 be the day on which we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and so it has been ever since - more or less. There have been several Christian sects, the Puritans noteworthy among them, who have, at time, refused to celebrate Christmas because of the lack of biblical foundation.

But for the rest of Christianity, Dec. 25 has served as the day to celebrate Jesus's birth. In medieval times, December 25 marked the first of 12 days of celebration - the 12 days of Christmas, culminating on January 6, with the Epiphany. You'll find much more on the origins of Christmas customs here.

On the eve of Christmas, the Pope celebrates a mass that is now broadcast around the world. His homily this year urged us to find time for God in our lives, as well as a defense of the Church against the ever more aggressive attacks from the atheist left:

. . . While there is no denying a certain misuse of religion in history, yet it is not true that denial of God would lead to peace. If God's light is extinguished, man's divine dignity is also extinguished. Then the human creature would cease to be God's image, to which we must pay honour in every person, in the weak, in the stranger, in the poor. Then we would no longer all be brothers and sisters, children of the one Father, who belong to one another on account of that one Father. The kind of arrogant violence that then arises, the way man then despises and tramples upon man: we saw this in all its cruelty in the last century. Only if God's light shines over man and within him, only if every single person is desired, known and loved by God is his dignity inviolable, however wretched his situation may be. On this Holy Night, God himself became man; as Isaiah prophesied, the child born here is "Emmanuel", God with us (Is 7:14). . . .

You can find his entire homily here. Amen, and again, Merry Christmas to you and yours.





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Monday, December 24, 2012

Carols & Christmas Songs

Charlotte Church - Silent Night



Enya - Oh Come Oh Come Emanuel



Andrea Bocelli - Angels We Have Heard on High



Harry James - I Am Dreaming Of A White Christmas



Pavarotti, Charlotte Church & Celine Dion - O Holy Night



Celtic Woman - O Come All Ye Faithful



Julio Iglesias & Family - Little Drummer Boy

Gregorian - The First Noel



The Coventry Carol - Mediaeval Baebes



Celine Dion - Christmas Song



Loreena Mckennitt - The Bells of Christmas



Moya Brennan- Do You Hear What I Hear



Bing Crosby - White Christmas



Loreena McKennitt 'Good King Wenceslas'



King's College Choir - Sussex Carol

-

Placido Domingo - Ave Maria



Sarah McLachlan - Silent Night (good video)



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Some Non-Traditional Christmas Carols

I Am Santa Claus - this is an "Iron Man" parody. Given that Santa Claus is a melding of St. Nicholas of 4th century Asia Minor and Odin, the Norse god of war (see explanation here) this one seems wholly apropos:



On a related note, there is Alice Cooper's version of Santa Claws Is Coming To Town - great guitar work:



Achmed The Terrorist sings Jingle Bombs:



And lastly there is Jeff Foxworthy's 12 Days of Whitetrash Christmas







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The Left: Unleashed & Unhinged Over Gun Control

The slaughter at Sandy Hook has unleashed the left, who see it as an opportunity to disarm the law abiding. From David Gregory today, we get a mocking diatribe against the suggestion that every school have armed guards - even as he sends his children to an elite private school where, in fact, his children are protected by armed guards. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a man protected 24 hours a day by armed security, has talked about confiscating assault weapons from the people of his state. And then there is the NYT editorial board, who opine today on "the scourge of concealed weapons."

Scourge?

Your welcome to read through the NYT's idiocy. Concealed carry is only implicated in the Sandy Hook massacre in as much as the school was a "gun free" zone where none of the staff were allowed a weapon. That gave the shooter 20 minutes of free fire time once he entered the school to accomplish his carnage. He could have done it with a couple of muskets in that amount of time. All of those critical relevant facts are simply ignored by the NTY.

So what is it that the NYT's want? They certainly don't hide it. The NYT editorial board is using Sandy Hook to request that Obama use federal law to trump those 39 states that either have laws allowing concealed carry without permit (4) or those with "shall issue" permitting (35). They want concealed carry permits to be rarely, if ever issued. They want a re-institution of the scary looking weapons assault weapons ban. And lastly, they want Obama to greatly expand the "gun free zones" so as to include "public places like parks, schools and churches."

Though we still await further Supreme Court decisions, if the right to "keep and bear arms" means anything in terms of self defense, then it means that the right to possess arms in defense of self and others travels with the person. It means they should not be unilaterally disarmed by the designation of free fire gun free zones. It means that all people not specifically disqualified, such as by prior criminal record, should be allowed concealed carry. And it means that people need to have access to weapons that would be effective against a tyrannical state actor - and that means at least semi-automatic rifles.

The left's reaction to Sandy Hook is anything but a measured one. They are unhinged and unleased. For the left, the 2nd Amendment simply does not exist, and the Heller decision is to be devoutly ignored. Sandy Hook is nothing more than an excuse for them to stop people from being armed. Guns are simply too dangerous to be allowed in the possession of the unwashed masses, and every trick that can be used to disarm them should be used. The mind numbing hypocrisy of those calling for disarmament is surreal.







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Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Favorite Prayer

From the soldier, priest, and eventual founder of the Jesuit Order, St. Ignatius of Loyola:

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
- to give and not to count the cost,
- to fight and not to heed the wounds,
- to toil and not to seek for rest,
- to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.







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The Origins Of Our Christmas Traditions



Reposted from Dec. 25, 2011:

On Dec. 25, we celebrate Christmas. There are presents beneath a Christmas tree, along with holiday food and drink. Christmas carols are sung while Santa Claus and his reindeer play across the television.

 How we celebrate Christmas today involves an amalgam of far flung traditions, only some of which arise purely from Christianity. Much of how we celebrate has to do with pagan traditions redirected to celebrating the birth of Christ.

I find it fascinating that some radical secularists and atheists repeatedly point this out, citing it as proof that the celebration of Christmas is somehow false or hypocritical. That is a non-sequitur. It is that which is celebrated that matters, not the trappings or method of celebration, nor the date on which it occurs.

That said, the trappings and methods are fascinating, and date back, in many cases, to antiquity. Thus do we have everything from Christmas on December 25th to Santa Claus, the yule log, and caroling to name but a few of our modern Christmas traditions.

Syncretism

Scratch most any Christian holiday and you'll find all sorts of pagan customs caught up in it.  As Christianity spread into pagan lands, the Catholic Church embraced the policy of syncretism - adopting the forms, trappings and traditions of pagan religions, as part and parcel of converting the pagans to Christianity.  Probably the most famous memorialization of a papal order to use the process of syncretism comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, who notes that in 601 A.D., Pope Gregory sent a letter to his missionaries instructing them to adapt local customs and places of worship as part of the conversion process whenever possible.

 Christmas on Dec. 25

The earliest Christians celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus, they didn't celebrate his birth - probably because the bible doesn't tell us the day on which Christ was born. Modern historians and theologians put the birth of Jesus as occurring somewhere between April and September. Nonetheless, in 337 A.D., Pope Saint Julius I directed that Dec. 25th should be the day on which we celebrate the birth of Christ.

Why he did that, we can only make an educated guess.  In 337 A.D., the ancient Roman Empire was the world's superpower. Christianity had only two decades earlier emerged as a legitimate religion in the empire.  For the 300 preceding years, Christians had been intermittently and brutally persecuted, with the worst having had occurred under Diocletian starting in 303 A.D. and not fully ending until 313 A.D. with Edict of Milan signed by Constantine I.

By 337 A.D., Christianity was in competition for supremacy in the Roman Empire.  Pagan Romans prayed to many Gods, but the most important of these was Saturn.  The major celebration of this God was Saturnalia, beginning on the day of the winter solstice and ending about a week later.  It was a week of celebrations, gift giving, and of kind treatment of slaves.  When the Julian Calendar was first promulgated in 46 B.C., it set the date of the Winter solstice as Dec. 25.

In addition to Rome's Saturnalia, most pagan religions had major celebrations centered around the Winter solstice. So when Pope St. Julius I chose Dec. 25, he placed Christianity's second most important celebration, the birth of Christ, squarely over top the pagan midwinter celebrations and Saturnalia, continuing the traditions of feasts and gaiety, but turning them to a celebration of the birth of Jesus for Christians.

Gift Giving -

The giving of gifts at Christmas time seems to have been a continuation of such acts common throughout the pagan midwinter celebrations, including Saturnalia.  Near a millennium later, some leaders of the medieval Church, in a true humbug moment, tried to suppress gift giving because of its pagan roots.  What were they thinking?  Fortunately, saner heads prevailed and the Church finally came to conclude that gift giving at Christmas was justified on the basis of the gifts rendered to Jesus by the magi at the Epiphany, in addition to the tradition of gift giving for which Saint Nicholas became famous in 4th century Asia Minor.

Santa Claus, Yuletide, and stockings hung by the chimney with care -

Saint Nicholas, the man who forms much of the foundation for our modern Santa Claus, lived in 4th century Asia Minor, where he served the Church as the Bishop of Myra.




Saint Nicholas, a deeply pious man with a great love for children, began the habit of gift giving in the Christian tradition. He often would go about at night and leave gold coins in the shoes of his parishioners. Nicholas is credited with several miracles, but perhaps his most famous exploit involved simple charity to help a poor family:

. . . a poor man had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment would have to become prostitutes. Hearing of the poor man's plight, Nicholas decided to help him but being too modest to help the man in public (or to save the man the humiliation of accepting charity), he went to his house under the cover of night and threw three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window opening into the man's house.

You can find a detailed description of his life and the many legends surrounding this most famous of Saints here and here.

But St. Nicholaus is not the whole foundation for Santa Claus.  How we get from Saint Nicholas to Santa Claus is the story of a syncretic melding that occurred in antiquity of Saint Nicholas with the Norse God Odin. Odin, a God of War, was also a gift giver to children. During the pagan midwinter celebration of Yule, Odin would ride his flying horse onto the roof of each house.  Children would place carrots and straws in their shoes and set them near the chimney.  Odin's horse would consume the goodies while Odin rewarded the children with Gifts.  

So thorough was the conversion of the Germanic peoples that even the name of their ancient celebration, Yule, was re-defined to refer to Christmas.  And as the Norse converted, they melded St. Nicholas with Odin, creating a figure known as Sinter Claes who made his home in the frozen northern lands.  When Sinter Claes came to America with the first Dutch settlers, his name was anglicized to Santa Claus.  It was in America that Santa was given reindeer instead of a horse, and it was in the famous Clement Moore poem, T'was the Night Before Christmas," that our modern Santa Claus was given description.

Odin was usually shown in green robes, representing "the Celto-Germanic idea of evergreens surviving through the winter and representing the renewal of life."  Likewise, Santa Claus was, for many centuries, shown as dressed in green robes.

My research isn't turning up a definitive answer on how the color red came to be associated with Santa and Christmas in general.  One theory is that the association of red with Christmas comes from the color of St. Nichalous's vestments.  A second, more cynical theory is that Coca Cola corporation pushed red - the same red as the color of their cans - in their early marketing campaigns centered around Santa Claus.

Christmas Carols and Caroling -

A "carol" is a song devoted to Christmas.  The first hymns to Christmas date all the way back to 4th century Rome, not long after Pope St. Julius I set the date for the birth of Jesus.  Indeed, one of those early carols, "Of The Father's Love Begotten," written at the turn of the 4th century, is still sung by choirs today.

While Christmas Carols have always been with us, the act of "caroling" - visiting homes to sing carols - has roots in the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon tradition of "wassailing."  By the Middle Ages, the wassailing tradition had been absorbed into Christianity, and it became customary on 12th night (see The 12 Days of Christmas) for groups of wassailers to sing songs at their lord's manor.  As set out in the ancient carol, still popular today, "Here We Come A Wassailing" the peasants ask for ale and food and in return bestow their blessings and good will upon the lord.

Christmas Trees -

The modern Christmas Tree has its origins in one particular "mystery play" commonly staged during the Middle Ages on Christmas Eve.  The play told the masses the story of Adam and Eve using as a prop a "Paradise Tree" - an evergreen tree adorned with apples and wafers.  At some point, it became common among West Germans to set up such a tree in their homes, with the dedication becoming associated with Christmas rather than the Creation story.  Candles and other decorations were added and this German tradition gradually spread beyond its borders.  The tradition was brought to Britain in the early 19th century by Queen Charlotte when she married King George III.  And while such trees were common amongst German immigrants to America, it was an 1848 photo of Britain's King and Queen posed next to a Christmas tree that set the tradition alight throughout all of the U.S.

And in conclusion, let me wish a Merry Christmas to one and all.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Santa - Liberal Or Conservative?



(H/T Maggie's Farm)





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The Final Word On Guns, Gun Control & Concealed Carry

So now that there is a new tragedy the president wants to have a “national conversation on guns”. Here’s the thing. Until this national conversation is willing to entertain allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons, then it isn’t a conversation at all, it is a lecture.

Larry Correia, An Opinion On Gun Control, Monster Hunter Nation, 21 Dec. 2012

In the wake of Sandy Hook, Larry Correia has written probably the most informative essay on guns, gun control laws, and concealed carry that you will find. It is long. Go here and read it.







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Friday, December 21, 2012

What Is Wrong With Republicans???

Who didn't watch with amusement yesterday as Republicans refused to vote for Boehner's bill to make permanent the Bush era tax cuts for all Americans earning less than $1 million per year. It would seem that the Keystone Cops are alive and well in the Republican wing of Congress. As Gerard van der Luen of American Digest is wont to say, "Republicans, they thirst for death."

Republicans have precisely zero leverage on tax rates. Come January 1, all of the Bush era tax cuts expire and all the tax rates will go up automatically - and quite unfairly, Republicans will get the blame. Moreover, the centerpiece of Obama's tax plan was to raise tax rates on "the rich." It is time to give the people what they voted for. If four years of gross economic incompetency wasn't enough to convince the electorate, well, let's let them have the next four years good and hard indeed. Obviously, more lessons are needed.

In this instance, Republicans prepared to die on the hill of stopping higher taxes is much like Picket's charge - a suicidal act that did nothing beyond sealing the doom of Lee's Army of the Potomac. One of the first rules of warfare - don't reinforce failure, reinforce success - or at least where you have the greatest likelihood of success.

Where House Republicans hold absolute power is on spending. Give Obama whatever tax increase he wants, but then shut down the government over the budget ceiling. Moreover, refuse to pass anything but a life support budget until all sides agree on - and pass into law - a grand bargain that in real terms, sans the usual accounting gimmicks, will decrease the debt by 25% over the next four years.

Debt is where the real issue lies. Sure, Obama's tax increases will hurt the economy - but they won't kill it. Our continued accumulation of debt will. Between Obama's world record profligate spending and Fed Chairmen Ben Bernanke, who is keeping our printing presses spinning at a record pace, they are placing our nation in mortal peril. Obama and Bernanke are setting the stage for runaway inflation and the devaluation of the dollar. That is where Republicans need to draw the line in the sand - this far, and no further.





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Heterosexual Men - A $65 Million Job Opportunity

This is sort of an adult version of a fairy tale, where princes come from far and wide to the Princess's castle in an effort to woo her, thus earning her hand and sharing her wealth.



The beautiful woman on the right is 33 year old Gigi Chao. No, she is not a princess, but she is the gorgeous daughter of billionaire real estate developer, Cecil Chao.

Mr. Chao is offering a handsome reward indeed - $65 million - to any man that can woo his daughter and win her heart. This is sounding like a great gig.

There is a catch, however. It is a herculean task given that she is . . . . gay . . . and recently married in France to another woman. None the less, the bounty stands - and every other comment I would make is wholly inappropriate for this PG-rated blog.





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Thursday, December 20, 2012

NYT Editorial On The Cornball Oreo Token House Negro Tim Scott

Is it time for some good old fashioned violence yet? Is it time to start getting attention by meeting false charges of racism with fists and feet? That is my conundrum. I doubt many conservatives will agree with me, but I think that it is.

I am livid at this point of being falsely accused of racism as a conservative, and in equal measure, I am infuriated at the left's treatment of any minority who dare not tow the progressive line. And there is no more scurrilous example of that than a recent NYT editorial by Univ. of Penn. political science Prof. (tenured, no doubt) Adolph L. Reed Jr.

Reed uses his poison pen to comment on the decision of South Carolina's first female governor - and the nation's first Indian American governor - Nikki Haley's decision to appoint black Republican Rep. Tim Scott to take over the Senate seat of tea party hero Jim DeMint. Sen. DeMint lobbied for the appointment of Scott because both share the same conservative ideology. Scott, a self made man and a darling of the tea party, was elected to Congress in a majority white district in SC over two white opponents, one of whom was the son of former SC Senator, Strom Thurmond.

According to Reed, while the appointment of Scott "seemed like another milestone for African-Americans," the reality is that "modern black Republicans" are "more tokens than signs of progress." As Reed later makes explicit, all minority conservatives, like Gov. Nikki Haley herself, were elected simply because "Republicans don’t want to have to think of themselves, or be thought of by others, as racist." Thus, when a Republican pulls the lever for a minority it is merely a psychological defense mechanism to hide their own rampant racism from themselves. And indeed, Prof Reed later asserts that the Tea Party itself is a cauldron of "thinly veiled racism."

All of which leads to the question, just how in the world does Prof. Reed define "racism?" He has an incredibly simple litmus test, one that has nothing to do with intolerance based in whole or part on the melanin content of one's skin - you know, actual racism. Instead, Prof. Reed defines racism as failing to support progressive policies nominally labeled as helping blacks. This is unconscionable.

The real travesty, of course, is that the left has been able to so mislead blacks with their false claims of racism. In any rational world, every single black American would have pulled the lever against Obama, a President who has overseen the single greatest economic decimation of blacks since WWII. They would not vote for a party that puts teachers union interests far ahead of the education of their children. They would not vote for a party whose commitment to the welfare state has done nothing positive for blacks, and indeed, has been one of the prime drivers in tearing apart the black family unit. They would not vote for a party that promises them a few handouts, but does not promise them jobs and advancement. The plight of far too many blacks in America today is an inexcusable and unnecessary tragedy.

A last special mention needs to be made of Prof. Reed's incredibly intellectually dishonest effort to suggest that South Carolina is itself a hotbed of racism. Reed notes that the state is (present tense) "home to white supremacists like John C. Calhoun, Preston S. Brooks, Ben Tillman and Strom Thurmond." That is beyond the pale. Calhoun, Brooks and Preston were Democrats who lived and died over a century ago. The late Strom Thurmond was a Senator who started his career as a segregationist Democrat before altering his view of race in Ameica post-1970. This would be akin to me noting that the left is the ideological home of Marx, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, in addition to noting that the last member of both the KKK and the U.S. Senate was Democrat WV Senator Robert Byrd. Arguably, none of those individuals define the left in the U.S. today, just as none of the individuals Reed sites mean that racism is rampant in SC today. Prof. Reed is simply despicable.

It really is time to stop accepting these false and scurrilous charges of racism. It is past time to meet such charges with a measured, rational response. It should be obvious that, after 50 years of the left using this tactic to effectively distort our politics, such responses are useless. It is time to treat such charges the same way I would expect blacks to react at being called "niggers." It should be met with seething anger and, where appropriate, violence. C'mon, who wouldn't want to see Prof. Reed on his knees cupping his recently kicked balls, or even better, Chris Matthews trying to clean his bloody nose and dust himself off as he got up off the floor.





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This Week's Accu-Weather Forecast

Apparently, the meteorologist buys into the ancient Mayan calendar.



Heh. H/T Maggie's Farm. Apocalypse now tomorrow.





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Thoughts On Gun Control From The Late Paul Harvey

From Paul Harvey, written in 2000:

Are you considering backing gun control laws? Do you think that because you may not own a gun, the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment don't matter?

CONSIDER:

- In 1929 the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, approximately 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

- In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915-1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

- Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, 13 million Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally ill, and others, who were unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

- China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

- Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

- Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

- Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million "educated" people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

That places total victims who lost their lives because of gun control at approximately 56 million in the last century. Since we should learn from the mistakes of history, the next time someone talks in favor of gun control, find out which group of citizens they wish to have exterminated. . . .

Put simply, gun control is a means of insuring that targeted populations cannot defend themselves against government oppression. Indeed, in our nation, gun control started in states controlled by Democrats as a means of insuring that the black population would not be armed.







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The Total Futility Of An Assault Weapons Ban In Light Of Sandy Hook (Updated)

In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, President Obama, responding to clarion calls from the left, has vowed to enact meaningful gun control legislation. For her part, Senator Diane Feinstein "has said she intends to introduce a new ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines on the first day of the next Congress in January."

What is an "assault weapon?" I am sure everyone has some - necessarily vague - idea. The term "assault weapon," as defined by the the law passed in 1994 and which expired in 2004, meant nothing more than a weapon with certain cosmetic characteristics - characteristics that scared progressives whose sole apparent familiarity with them came through watching action movies. PJM has up an excellent post on just how ridiculous the 1994 "assault weapon" ban actually was, and in particular, with a visual that says it all:

This gun, an AR15, was banned as an assault rifle:



This gun, the same in all relevant respects, was not banned.





The difference between the two weapons - the one on the bottom did not have a bayonet mount or a flash suppressor. So what defined an "assault weapon" was not ballistic characteristics, but pure cosmetics. Not surprisingly, the "assault weapons ban" had zero impact on gun crime.

And for the record, note that "a 2001 Justice Department study revealed that fewer than 2% of State and Federal inmates used, carried, or possessed a military-style semi-automatic gun or a fully automatic gun during their current offense." In other words, the push to ban guns that scared progressives was both ineffective and unwarranted.

That said, the fact that an AR15 knock-off was used in the Sandy Hook massacre does not mean, on the facts of that case, that banning the single most popular weapon in the United States for hunting, self defense and target shooting would in any way have prevented the tragedy. The relevant facts are:

1. The shooter was insane, and our mental health laws make the institutionalization and forced treatment of such individuals very difficult, if not impossible. Indeed, perhaps the defining characteristic of most mass murders is that the perpetrator is mentally ill. The starting point for any national action in the wake of Sandy Hook should begin with an examination of our mental health laws.

2. The shooter had 20 minutes of free fire time once he entered the school and until police arrived, whereupon he committed suicide. As former police officer Mike McDaniel points out at PJM, that type of response time is hardly unusual. With 20 minutes, the shooter could have used virtually any type of firearm and have accomplished the same degree of carnage. Indeed, one can imagine that, if the shooter had used, say, a pump action shotgun in the close confines of the school and with massed targets, the carnage may even have been worse.

3. The only thing that could have actually stopped this shooter before he massacred 26 women and children would have been other people with weapons at the point of attack. We are heralding the principal of Sandy Hook and others who lunged towards the shooter in an effort to stop him. They are dead. We are heralding a teacher who hid her students. She was murdered. We as a nation should prefer to be heralding these people as living heroes, one of whom ended the massacre by killing the shooter. The only rational course of action in the wake of Sandy Hook is to end gun free zones and allow schools to arm some of their staff per reasonable requirements. (Update 2: According to the latest Gallup Poll, more Americans support arming school staff than more gun control laws.) It is not to enact a ludicrous ban on weapons that scare progressives.

Update 1: From Instapundit - REMINDER: Sen. Dianne Feinstein Has Concealed Carry Permit. Well, sure, because her life is important. Not like yours.

Related Posts:

- When Seconds Counted At Sandy Hook, Police Were Twenty Minutes Away

- St. Louis Police Chief Calls for Arming School Personnel

- John Fund essay on Mass Murders, Gun Control & Our Treatment of Mental Illness

- Luby Cafeteria Massacre, Testimony of Suzanna Hupp, Texas School District Authorizes Concealed Carry For Its Schools

- Reynolds On Gun Free Zones, The Left's Mistrust Of Armed Private Citizens, & Our Problematic Mental Health Laws





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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Canine Therapy In Newton . . .

The bonds between humans and wolves date back over tens of thousands of years. Those wolves we adopted, we now call dogs. Every dog alive today shares 99% of their DNA with wolves. At any rate, it is not hard to see why the bond developed. For their part, dogs get security, they are fed, taken care of, petted, played with and loved. For our part, we get a companion that that can brighten even the worst of days . . .

From the NY Daily News:




A pack of sympathetic groups bearing supportive canines spent much of Monday with bereaved Connecticut residents affected by last week's Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, providing children and adults alike with the cuddly comfort that only a four-legged friend can give.

The "comfort dogs," or "therapy dogs" as they are sometimes called, were brought in by at least three groups late Sunday to help kids and adults alike cope with last week's horrific shooting in Newtown that left 20 first graders and six school officials dead.





Among the groups was the Hudson Valley Golden Retrievers Club, whose members spent the afternoon at a makeshift memorial near the town center, where both kids and adults in need of compassion stopped to pet and cuddle the dogs.

Mourning or otherwise devastated children and parents said that petting the dogs gave them relief from their sadness.





"I just love dogs, so whenever I'm around them, they make me feel better," said 12-year-old Ryan Williams. "When they come over and you pet them you kind of forget about what's happening for a little bit."

Jenna Stuart, a school bus driver from Newtown, said the dogs were an enormous help to her four-year-old daughter, Kylie, who attends preschool at the Children's Adventure Center in front of Sandy Hook Elementary and lost friends in the tragedy. . . . .







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