Loyalty in Government

In Washington, there are weeks when everyone seems to know someone, who knows someone else, whose sister went to school with a close friend of Smith, the unfortunate person who is at that moment caught up in a political firestorm of some sort. Smith, it turns out, is pronounced by the grapevine to be a really good guy, a person of keen intellect and sound judgment, and those who know him personally are baffled at how a guy like Smith could do something so boneheaded. GeorgeTenet, Donald Rumsfeld, D. Kyle Sampson — the characters change but the plot is largely the same.

But another important piece of grapevine information available in Washington for the last six years has been the extraordinary degree to which political loyalty has been made the basis for hiring decisions. Read the rest of this entry »


Gospel Reflection for April 29th

Gospel (Jn 10:27-30)

Jesus said:
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.”


This gospel describes the beautiful relationship between us and God. Throughout scripture God’s relationship to us is described as that of a father to his children and a shepherd to his sheep.

We can easily appreciate the loving bond between a father and a child but what is it about sheep and shepherd that would teach us something about our relationship to God? Read the rest of this entry »

Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

The Writer’s Almanac notes that today is Ella Fitzgerald’s birthday, though there seems to be some confusion about the year. According to The Official Web Site of Ella Fitzgerald (whatever that means for someone who has died), today would be Ella’s 90th. The Writer’s Almanac says it’s only the 89th. Either way, I was interested to read this story about the connection between the First Lady of Song and Marilyn Monroe: Read the rest of this entry »

Gospel Reflection for April 22

[Editor’s Note: No one who knows Wendy Gittings would be the least bit surprised to learn of her successes as the Campus Minister at St. Nicholas Elementary School in Los Altos Hills, California. One particular bright spot has been her Friday reflections on the Sunday readings, which she offers in order to help the kids prepare better for the Sunday liturgy. After much arm-twisting, she has agreed to give them wider distribution here. –MAG]

Third Sunday in Easter Yr C John 21:1-19 for Sunday, April 22. (excerpted for children)

This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him,“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

Reflection for St. Nicholas Elementary Students

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Due Process Where Art Thou?

Well someone had to do it, so I guess it will be me. Yesterday, the Supreme Court, in Gonzales v. Carhart upheld Congress’ 2003 ban on “partial birth abortions.” Text of the Opinion. No doubt, there will be reams of commentary on this decision from every possible angle. I would like to focus on one small part of the decision in this posting because I think it has broader implications regarding permissable legislative action in the area of privacy generally. Read the rest of this entry »

Listen, my children, and you shall hear . . .

I think it was the first poem I can remember loving. It was in an anthology called “Best Loved Poems of the American People,” which is, somewhat surprisingly, still in print after more than seventy years. It was one of the books I had to buy for myself once I had children.

Some clever people have been keen to call attention to historical inaccuracies in Longfellow’s version. I can’t be too hard on them for insisting on accuracy, though I do find it hilarious that the one I’ve linked to here seems to have added a new first word to Longfellow’s poem. (Is that the historian’s revenge or the pedant’s myopia?) Garrison Keillor gives the divergence between history and poetry fairly sympathetic treatment in today’s Writer’s Almanac, noting merely that “Longfellow fictionalized some aspects of the story to make it more dramatic.” I think that’s about all the attention the historical inaccuracies warrant. Even if we are permitted to blame Longfellow for teaching a somewhat inaccurate story, we are surely obliged to thank him for teaching the story at all. In addition, as my own childhood introduction to the poem suggests, poems like this take on an importance that is independent of the historical events they narrate. And, as with the story of Washington cutting down the cherry tree and being unable to lie about it, some stories are true whether they happened or not.

I wish you could hear my mother read it, but reading it here is better than nothing: Read the rest of this entry »

Posner, Parsimony, and Prudence on Judicial Salaries

For reasons that will appear below, I should have thought that the case for a federal judicial salary increase was so one-sided that it hardly justified a blog posting. But when a sitting federal judge — and a judge who enjoys some renown as an economist — takes issue with the argument for a judicial pay raise, it’s worth paying attention. And a few weeks ago, Judge Richard Posner did exactly that on a blog he shares with Nobel laureate Gary Becker. Read the rest of this entry »