Merry Christmas!

Linked below is an absolutely stunning article that should not be missed:

Saved by Christmas
by Steve McCann @ American Thinker

The moral fiber of a country, and the religious basis upon which the United States and European nations developed, has been replaced by a misguided faith in people. Although mankind has accomplished great things, the human race has always been overwhelmingly susceptible to its base nature. The historical consequence of repudiating established moral and ethical guidelines is a society inevitably devoid of humility, honor, and integrity.

Within that society, the governing class inexorably develops an unrestrained craving for power and self-aggrandizement which ultimately manifests itself in the subjugation of the populace — either by force or by the exploitation of greed and envy coupled with control of the means of individual livelihood. The major casualties of this evolutionary process is the fundamental doctrine of respect for the uniqueness of all men and the recognition of the inalienable, God-given rights of life and liberty.

Over the past century, the nations of Europe, by tolerating the ascendancy of man’s ignoble nature, suffered the near-total destruction of a continent and the loss of countless millions of lives in two wars and the emergence of communism.

On its present course, the United States will also encounter an abyss of its own making. Societal upheaval will assuredly happen, culminating in the destruction of the culture and the ascendancy of those whose only interest is to make all subservient to their power and obedient to their ruthless ideology.

In order to avoid the catastrophe looming over the horizon and to weather the tumult inherent in a requisite change of direction, the nation’s leadership and citizenry must acknowledge that throughout history, the key to peace and prosperity lies in a relationship with God and in striving to live by established moral and ethical guidelines.

During the Christmas season many years ago, I stood in front of a nativity scene in a small Catholic church, unaware of God’s existence. In my most desperate hour of need, he reached out to me. My life experience bears witness not only to the devastation and failure wrought by the base aspect of human nature, but also to the fact that God is there for each of us…if we choose to accept his helping hand.

Read the whole thing. You will not be sorry.

*****

In other news: As of now, this blog is on hiatus. Regular posting will resume on Jan. 2, 2011.

Long Island SUCKS

I do not know your names, and you will doubtlessly never read this blog, since you’re busy with other extremely important pastimes, but to the people who sat behind me on the Long Island Railroad today, I feel sorry for you and can only hope that one day, when you grow up and realize how empty and meaningless your lives are, you’ll spread that realization to the next generation of stupid spoiled children being produced in the bosom of modern cosmopolitan America we call Long Island.

For those of you who don’t know, I am a graduate student at a major university on Long Island, and I must ride the rails very regularly of late to travel to my girlfriend’s home in Massachusetts or to see my family in DC. The things I sometimes see on the trains have ranged from the hilarious to the heart warming to the just plain dispicable. I’ll kick off this post with a few little anecdotes to prove I’m not just cranky about my time traveling.

On one trip this fall, I witnessed a blind man waiting to get off the train in Providence, and, when the door on his side did not open, an older lady with a cane loaded her belongings onto her cane-weilding hand, and used her now free hand to guide him to the right side of the train and help him get his feet planted. I thoght that was a very sweet moment.

On another occasion, while riding on the D metro, a group of holiday revelers boarded the train singing an irish sea chanty (yes, really) at the end of which the ring-leader (I presume) stood up and implored the passengers to toast their fair voyage against the Scots (again…yes, really). I about died laughing.

Many times, while passing through NYC on the subway or LIRR, I’ve gotten free concerts from mariachi bands, Peruvian flute bands, solo guitarists just practicing, even an a capella group or two.

And on one trip down to DC to see family, I had a fascinating 3-hour conversation with a fellow aspiring Earth Scientist whose senior research happened to be in an area I’ve often wanted to study myself. Anything is possible while traveling, and, although I often feel stressed and annoyed when having to travel yet again, on the whole, I certainly don’t regret the experiences.

But today, I encountered a trio of young girls (I refuse to call them women) who boarded at Smithtown and behaved so abhorently that when I got on the train in NYC to head home, I immediately saught out the refuge of the quiet car where promises of near silence sounded like music to my tired ears. Where to begin…

When they boarded, they called two elderly (!) women bitches (not to their face of course…just like a pack of children to each other as they passed me) for daring to sit in the four-seater by the wall so that they couldn’t all see the screen of one girl’s iPhone at the same time. Elderly women…who needed the four seater to put down their bags because they couldn’t lift them over their heads.

Then they got really nasty.

Two or three of them would hop across the passageway to the seat behind me and gather around laughing REALLY LOUDLY at video footage this chick had apparently gathered from the party they’d thrown last night. They all thought this footage was hilarious enough to bray like horses at the whip and insist they should post it on Facebook. But it gets better…the stuff these children wanted to be posted for all to see…was them, drunk as skunks, brandishing one of their personal vibrators and bragging about how overworked it was (they played this footage loud enough that everyone in a three-row radius could have made out the words).

I would be inclined to dismiss this as college idiocy if it weren’t for what came next. Later in this video, one of the guys in attendence at this party apparently took out his member and inserted it into a bottle to demonstrate proper technique and the girls threw coins at him. They had their own private strip show. And were proud of it.

But wait, there’s more. In the aftermath of the peels of laughter from watching this video, the girls decided to have what, I suppose, passes for normal conversation in Long Island. One of them ask where another of them was going and she said, “Oh, one of my latest conquests (!!) had tickets to a concert in New Rock (referring, I believe to New Rochelle…a suburb of NYC)” and so she was going to “f*** him and duck him to pay for her ticket so the real fun could begin.”

SAY WHAT?!?!?!?!

Oh, but we’re not done yet. To cap off the insanity, they then spent twenty minutes talking about how one of their would-be suitors had come to the clothing store where two of these future go-getters worked to “stalk” them and they had their friend in management throw him out…they were accusing him of stalking them because of his great crime of “showing up without asking first to ask if they wanted to grab a bite to eat after their shift.” And then, after they booted this poor bastard, they cackled like evil witches over a cauldron over the “stupid bitch” who came in looking for a dress and couldn’t decide what she wanted. They said “She’s pretty, but she’s not so bright.” Oh yes…and you three are goin’ to HARVARD with all your cultured turns of phrase and intellectual depth.

I could go on if I had any brain cells left to devote to listening to these girls…fortunately, my brain defended itself by powering down until I felt the pressure change caused by us going underground on approach to Penn Station.

Oh the humanity! This is what modern feminism, liberal (a.k.a. uncaring) lenient parenting, and our tax-funded public school system is giving us as the hope for our future. Remind me not to settle on Long Island when I’m finished getting my education. My kids would be DOOMED.

More Adults Should Read Children’s Books

After giving it some thought, I’ve decided I have more to say regarding the quick link I posted last night. Why? I read a lot of history and my fair share of adult science fiction and fantasy. I also frequently visit the “Current Events” shelf, and I love Catholic writers such as Scott Hahn or the late Fulton J. Sheen. But let’s be honest: I am also an adult who reads children’s books — and I personally think other adults should do the same.

A while back, sci-fi author Brad Torgersen complained in an excellent blog post that science fiction has lost its sense of adventure in its eagerness to be ideologically correct. I would like to expand that insightful lament and state that adult literature in general has gone down that same path.

It’s all a part of a wider trend in the arts. Just as the power to shock and repel is prized in the visual arts, “serious” authors desperately seek to be outrĂ© and thereby win the praises of our supposed cultural elites. The result of this mad dash for accolades is paradoxical: these authors try so hard to cut a flash, but they end up turning out mere variations on the same dreary theme. I can’t recall off the top of my head who it was who first observed that sin is, in reality, terribly boring and uniform, but I can’t think of a better proof of such a statement than what currently passes for adult literature, in which irredeemable characters stumble their way through their irredeemable universes.

I’m generalizing, of course, but what I’ve found in a lot of adult literature, science fiction or no, are worlds that are not only devoid of adventure but also lacking in hope. This is not true of the children’s books I read. Even a very dark YA outing like The Hunger Games usually manages to end on at least a vaguely positive – though bittersweet – note.

In children’s literature, I have found the realistically flawed though redeemable characters, the sense of wonder, the hope that good will ultimately prevail in its battle against evil — everything that, for the past few decades, has been sadly missing in critically acclaimed adult literature. When I call to mind the works of fiction that have inspired me, children’s titles dominate the list. The Chronicles of Narnia. The Wingfeather Saga. The Tripods Trilogy. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. If you are looking for profound explorations of the human condition, you will find them in these works — and you will do so without having to wade through a sea of melancholic dreck.

Of course, it is not true that C.S. Lewis only wrote children’s books. But if Governor Palin or any other politician should one day admit that he or she gets enjoyment out of reading children’s literature, that will only make me want to vote for that polician all the more. To me, an unapologetic love of children’s works signals a glorious lack of self-consciousness and, more importantly, a personal questing after decency and virtue that can only bode well for our republic.

In Defense of C.S. Lewis (& His Readers)

On Palin’s Reading List, C.S. Lewis
by MICHEAL FLAHERTY @ the Wall Street Journal

Mrs. Palin is on the right track by giving C.S. Lewis a prominent place on her reading list. Yet Ms. Behar and other Palin critics have dismissed Lewis’s work, forgetting that Lewis was a medieval and renaissance scholar at Oxford and the author of several brilliant Christian apologetics. Ms. Behar’s dismissal of children’s books as less than important makes her a modern-day Eustace, the type of bully who mocks readers of fairy tales as simpletons.

AMEN.

Someone should ask Joyless Behar what she’s been reading lately. Please tell us, Ms. Behar! Otherwise, we won’t know which books we should avoid.

Responding to Annoying Liberal Remarks on Facebook, II

I hate it when my Facebook friends depend on The Daily Show for their news. It makes them look incredibly uninformed.

Today, a friend of mine posted a Daily Show video in which Jon Stewart attacks the GOP’s filibuster of the 9/11 First Responders Bill. Thanks to Stewart, said friend now believes that we conservatives are just plain mean and want to take away “much needed health benefits” from our 9/11 heroes.

There’s just one problem: Stewart, naturally, is not telling his audience the whole story.

Here is the GOP side of the issue as explained by Sen. Mike Enzi in the New York Daily News:

One of the most significant concerns about this bill is its continued reliance on the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health to administer 9/11 health programs. NIOSH has sent $475 million in grants to New York to pay for health care benefits. Yet to this day, NIOSH, the city of New York and the various health care providers who received grants have failed to tell Congress where that money has gone. For example, Mount Sinai Medical Center has received about $137 million from NIOSH since 2004. Until they can show where that money was spent, it is irresponsible to give them more.

The proponents of this bill say it terminates the current programs and replaces them with one program run by a single administrator. In reality, the new program administrator would still be NIOSH, the same agency that has inadequately administered the program. Without the basic facts about the programs NIOSH administered for the past eight years, it is hard to design an effective program for the future.

The American people need to know that money is being used effectively because frankly, the nation can’t afford careless spending, no matter how well-intentioned. Our country is in the midst of trying to head off a short-term economic crisis and long-term deficit crisis that could deeply hurt us all. We need money to help 9/11 responders. We need money to help the men and women who are returning from the front lines of two wars. Victims of natural disasters, the poor and unemployed all warrant our attention. We owe it to all of them to use what money we have in the best way we can. In order to do that, legislators must take the time to consider, amend and vote on bills in the committees of jurisdiction.

I realize that my opposition to this bill, and how it is being considered, is not a popular position in New York. I understand and appreciate the frustration of the 9/11 responders, who want to see a permanent program put in place to address their needs. But it is reasonable for senators to ask questions, get answers and amend legislation before it’s rushed to the Senate floor during the final moments of a Congress.

Read More

Jon Stewart is a liberal comedian, not a serious pundit. If he opens his mouth, you can rest assured that he’s lying.

Why Atheism Can’t Replace Religion

Why atheism can’t replace religion
by Michael W. Austin @ Psychology Today

It is true that much of the developed world lives in not only a post-Christian, but a post-religious society in many ways. And it is true that many people have turned to religion because of economic uncertainty or emotional challenges. They still do, in fact.

However, for many people, religion is not merely a way to deal with fear, uncertainty, and emotional difficulties. In my experience, many people follow a particular religious way of life because they believe that it is true. The problem with a market-based analysis of the future of religion, as well as the market-based practices present in many contemporary religious communities, is that religion at its best is not a consumer product. Rather, at its best religious faith calls for sacrifice, unselfishness, love, and a willingness to remove oneself from the center of the universe, so to speak. In order to be willling to live in such a way, a self-centered market-based approach to religion will not do. Rather, one must believe that she is living in a way that is consistent with reality in order to motivate an unselfish approach to life.

In my observation, most atheists are just reacting to what they perceive to be the faults of religion — and a philosophy based on reaction is unlikely to be uplifting — or coherent.

Good Reads

These articles are definitely worth reading:

Two Californias
by Victor Davis Hanson @ NRO
Abandoned farms, Third World living conditions, pervasive public assistance — welcome to the once-thriving Central Valley.

Atlanta’s Public Housing Revolution
by Howard Husock @ City Journal
Renee Glover has torn down blighted projects, required tenants to work, and transformed lives.

*****

In other news, this has been a pretty great week for the Congress. The cloture vote for the DREAM Act has failed, the cloture vote for the repeal of DADT (which we support) has passed, the tax cuts have been extended, and one of those outrageous omnibus spending bills has been pulled from the floor entirely. Bwahaha! Awesome.

Call on the NE US Snow? – Not this time.

Just a quick update…it appears the general consensus of the forecast models and the current status of the key players involved with this potential event are suggesting that snow is unlikely for anyone west of Cape Cod or downeast Maine. You can probably relax a bit on this one…next chance is, interestingly enough, Christmas Day.

Is There a Major Snowstorm In Store for Northeast US?

I’ve moved the forecast portion of my blog banter to the off-topic (political) blog, but my forecast is, unfortunately, going to remain very uncertain for the time being. A complex weather-maker is forecast to take shape over the Coastal Atlantic waters Saturday Night and Sunday which may potentially impact the heavily traveled I-95 corridor and points east with significant snows in the run-up to Christmas (making this a very important storm to forecast well since many travel plans hang in the balance).

As a “weather weenie,” I pride myself on getting the word out about an impending weather threat as early as possible with some minimum amount of confidence and then sticking by the logic and hard work that went into that forecast, rather than waffling with every model run. I believe, in fact, that the goal of every meteorologist should be to warn the public as early as he or she can while minimizing the costly false alarms. The National Weather Service does an unquestionably fantastic job under difficult circumstance, but I do feel that they fear being wrong a little much on occasion (because they face constant pressure to provide accurate forecasts and to avoid setting costly preparedness plans into motion when confidence in their forecast is not extremely high). As a scientist, however, certain storms force me to concede that there are still inherent limits on my ability to make early forecasts. This is one such situation.

I had originally planned to produce a snowfall forecast graphic for this event tonight after I’d ingested some of the global model output from the 7 PM runs, however, there remains a tremendous level of variability from run to run within any given weather model and a huge spread between the various models at any given time. For one forecast cycle (this morning’s model runs) we had good agreement that lined up well with my basic intuition about the kind of weather that should happen given the overall pattern in which we currently reside. You have all doubtlessly noticed how unusually cold it’s been in Central Asia, Europe and Eastern North America this month, for example. This extreme cold is related to a rare occurrence in the atmosphere. Three separate times now in two winter seasons, the temperature of the middle atmosphere has warmed far beyond climatological average for this time of year over the North Pole, forcing all of the cold air that would normally sit over the pole down over the continents to such extremes that we’ve had to define new scales to describe these oscillations of air masses over the pole. A rule of thumb in this business that usually works well – arctic air likes to leave a carpet (of snow) in front of it as it arrives. I’ve been expecting a major snowstorm to hit the Eastern US around this time for many weeks.

But pattern recognition can only take you to the point where you can make a pretty good guess about the position of troughs and ridges in the flow – it can’t give you a perfect forecast for any given event or any given time. Unfortunately, this high variability in the results of numerical model simulations is a sign that the success of this storm in producing heavy snow depends heavily on factors that are highly sensitive to the initial state of the atmosphere…and we don’t have good enough instruments, data recovery methods and observations to perfectly depict the initial state of the atmosphere. In other words, where this storm goes and how much snow we get can change dramatically based on tiny changes in the strength of very small rotations in the atmosphere…this storm is a strong argument for the butterfly effect. Tiny errors in our read on what’s happening in the atmosphere can grow to huge errors in even a 60 hour weather forecast in situations like these.

This is a long winded way of saying…I just don’t know yet whether this is a major event or a near miss. I got excited (as a lover of snow) when I saw the models come around to my way of thinking from two weeks in advance, but I have to admit, after looking at the most recent set of models, that I am not ready to make a specific snowfall forecast. Hopefully, I’ll have something for tomorrow night.

In the meantime, I urge any readers to pay careful attention to national weather service or media outlets regarding the evolution of this forecast. I will say that in my gut, I believe this will be a major weather maker for at least the New York City and Boston areas and a measurable snowfall further south into DC and Philly, but it remains very possible I could be wrong. Stay tuned.