Thursday, December 31, 2020

Can 2021 Be Any More Crazy?

So every year I say something like I did last year:"Each year seems to reach peak craziness, only to be outdone by the following year." Well, 2020 has given a whole new meaning to "peak craziness". "It's 2020" became the catch-all phrase in reaction to events.

As we began the year, reports were surfacing about a respiratory related coronavirus originating in the city of Wuhan, China. While the reports sounded ominous, there have been other pandemics over the years that never seemed to really impact daily life, at least here in the United States. Well, by March, the world was definitely turned upside down by the Covid 19 coronavirus pandemic and the measures being taken to try and control it. As the disease continues to spread and vaccines and other measures are coming online to counter it, questions are raised as to how far protective measures can infringe on individual and community rights, along with what are the most reasonable and effective strategies for dealing with this situation.

Outbursts of social and racial unrest and a divisive presidential campaign and election that has raised more questions than it has apparently answered also marked this wild year. More than ever, the divisions in society are largely defined by the lack of shared confidence in sources of information, as established and alternate sources of news seem to be more about triggering emotions than in provoking thinking. Attempts to marginalize and even censor information by some social media platforms only further inflame distrust and division.

Even with all of the political and social upheaval going on, amazing progress continues to be made in medicine, technology and other fronts. Some amazing advances in space were made this year as astronauts launched into orbit from the US for the first time since 2011, robotic missions were launched toward Mars by three nations, and Elon Musk's company SpaceX continued rapid development of a next generation space vehicle named "Starship" at a once sleepy beach town of Boca Chica, TX.

Well, personal lives and human history are seldom phased conveniently by the calendar, so there's no guarantee that 2021 won't match or exceed the craziness of 2020. Nevertheless, may we continue to make headway in protecting life and defending liberty while respecting the dignity of every person despite our differences. And may God's blessings and peace be upon you and yours and wishing all the best in this new year of 2021 and the amazing decade to come.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Have a Holy and Merry Christmas!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

Luke 2:1-14

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Hanukkah and Our Attitude about the Future

(This is a post I originally made in 2003 and feel is worth repeating each year, especially in light of some very dark anti-human views of the future vs. ongoing and emerging developments that can provide resources, from the Earth and from other locations in the Solar System and beyond, for future generations.)

Rabbi Daniel Lapin has a provocative column in WorldNetDaily on a message of Hanukkah that is relevant to people of all faiths. He shows examples, ancient and modern, of how a pessimistic Malthusian worldview has been repeatedly disproved by the Creator's providence of material resources and the ingenuity to utilize them to provide for the future. Rabbi Lapin says:
It only seemed that we lacked sufficient copper, whale oil or wood. In reality, our God-given ingenuity developed exciting new technology that eliminated our need for each commodity just as it was becoming scarce.

Hanukkah's miracle was that, day after day, the Temple's menorah just kept on burning in spite of an apparent shortage of fuel - a metaphor, surely, for all apparent shortages that can be overcome with faith. Hanukkah invites us all to express gratitude to the Creator whose beneficence is boundless. It stimulates discussions that can spur our spiritual growth. It reminds us that with His gift of creativity, challenges become optimistic opportunities to partner with God in creatively solving all material shortage.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

A special day set aside in our nation to give thanks to God for all His gifts to us.

Thanksgiving has a long history in our country, but the theme of giving thanks goes much further back in history, as recorded in the Bible. Some celebrations of giving thanks in America predate the Pilgrims, including  the celebration of Mass by Spanish settlers in what is now St.Augustine, FL.

Have a good time with family and friends and don't eat any more than I would. ;-)

Friday, September 11, 2020

In Remembrance of September 11, 2001

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass

Nineteen years ago today, I overheard a coworker down the hall from my office telling someone else about planes hitting the World Trade Center. I checked in on the Internet and on news radio for reports on what would develop into the the modern era's day of infamy. We know of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but there was also the attack that did not occur because of the heroic actions of the passengers on United Flight 93.

Nineteen years of daily living, along with increasing domestic rancor, may have dimmed the feelings of shock, horror, and outrage and the response of prayer, compassion, and resolve that united the people of America and most of the world. However, ongoing horrific events in the Middle East and attacks around the world and here in America serve to remind us that the threat is still real. We must not allow complacency or political correctness to distract us from recognizing the reality of the current danger.

This anniversary stirs abundant remembrance and reflection and many stirring pictorial and video items have appeared on the web and on Facebook. I still find this audio/visual Internet presentation developed by a New Yorker shortly after the attacks as one of the most powerful portrayals of those times. The sequence is ~15 minutes long and some of the images and sounds are quite disturbing, others are inspirational. (Use the browser View/Zoom function and adjust the scroll bar to enlarge the slide show.)

It is important that we remember, not only to honor those who died and those who acted heroically that day, but to remain constantly aware of the ongoing and growing dangers, of the presence of real evil in the hearts of some people, and to maintain constant vigilance and a determination to defeat this evil. Finally, we must always remember to trust in God and his mercy during trying times. The story of the cross formed by two beams found among the ruins of the twin towers is recounted here.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Fifty One Years Ago Today, We Stepped On Another World


Today is the 51st anniversary of the Apollo 11 pioneering expedition to the lunar surface, the day human beings first made landfall on another world. Here is a video capturing the first two explorers on the Moon.

The Moody Blues were one of the premier rock music bands of that era. They were (and still are) great fans of space travel. Here is a video of highlights of the Apollo lunar expeditions accompanied by the first three songs from their 1969 album To Our Childrens' Childrens' Children, which was the band's celebration of the first human lunar landing.

Today is also the seventeenth anniversary ('blogiversary') of the launch of this humble blog. Here is the inaugural post (Note that I was too inexperienced to think of giving it a title.) on Life at the Frontier.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

As It Happened, the Apollo 11 Launch

Fifty one years ago this morning, Apollo 11 lifted off on the voyage to land the first men on the Moon. Here's a replay of what it looked like on TV from ~6 min before 'til ~4 min after launch. (The video quality is somewhat degraded from that of the live TV broadcast.) The terse, crisp voice of Jack King as Apollo Launch Control added to the drama of the historic countdown. Relive the moment or experience what it was like.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Happy Independence Day!

Stars And Stripes by Junior Libby

Celebrating our country as proudly as ever, despite our current divisions. As we join in the festivities of the Fourth, let's strive to keep to the values proclaimed in the Declaration that make it worth celebrating.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This is a time to be mindful and protective of the full range of personal, religious and economic liberties. Some additional thoughts from around the web remind us of the significance of some words from the second stanza of America the Beautiful and thoughts on the Stars and Stripes from a famous Catholic English writer.
Wow. Think about that line: "by whose stars we are illumined, and by whose stripes we are healed." Have you ever thought about your flag that way - so Christ-like? G. K. Chesterton did. It’s a stirring interpretation of America and its mission.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Have a Blessed and Happy Easter!

At daybreak on the first day of the week
the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus
took the spices they had prepared
and went to the tomb.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb;
but when they entered,
they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were puzzling over this, behold,
two men in dazzling garments appeared to them.
They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground.
They said to them,
"Why do you seek the living one among the dead?
He is not here, but he has been raised.
Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee,
that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners
and be crucified, and rise on the third day."
And they remembered his words.
Then they returned from the tomb
and announced all these things to the eleven
and to all the others.
The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James;
the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles,
but their story seemed like nonsense
and they did not believe them.
But Peter got up and ran to the tomb,
bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone;
then he went home amazed at what had happened.

Luke 24:1-12

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Pandemic Planet

The dramatic turn of events in the past couple of months has been astounding. The coronavirus pandemic which apparently originated in Wuhan, China has swept around the world. While there have been other shocking, tragic events in my lifetime, none has had such an ongoing impact on daily life. The effort to halt the spread of the virus has meant drastic measures to limit close contact among people, with many largely confined to home. Even mundane tasks like grocery shopping have turned into a surreal adventure involving masks, limits on number of shoppers present, etc. And the economy has taken a big hit with workers and businesses idle or under-utilized. Many legislatures have recessed or adjourned. Some essential government and industry activities do continue.

Today is Holy Saturday, and the usual practice of group church and temple observances of the holy days surrounding Easter and Passover has turned to mostly online participation by worshipers from home. Though the form in which most of us observe will be a little different this year, the profound meaning is as present as ever. And yes, special prayers are being offered for the end of this global pandemic.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Saint Patrick's Breastplate

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort me and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

This ad from Guiness captures how we can be together in celebration this Saint Patrick's Day even while more distanced in the current pandemic situation.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Remembering Fallen Pioneers

NASA, the nation and the world are observing this week;the anniversaries of human losses in spaceflight: Apollo 1 (January 27, 1967), Challenger (January 28, 1986), and Columbia (February 1, 2003).

I still remember all too well that Friday night in 1967. I was at home with my brother watching a science fiction show on ABC called Time Tunnel when the first news bulletins started coming over about the catastrophic fire. It was a terrible shock to an eleven year old boy caught up in the excitement of the space age,. It was most unexpected because it came not during flight but during a ground test that I was not even aware was happening that day.

For the 1986 Challenger mission, I was working in California as part of the flight operations team responsible for the delivery of the primary payload, a NASA TDRS communications satellite, to its final orbit. It was the darkest day of my career in the space industry.

I heard about the Columbia loss while I was driving and heard a news bulletin on the local news station saying that Columbia had lost communications and was "overdue". At the word "overdue", I immediately knew that it was going to be a bad day, as the Shuttle was a glider with no powered engines during approach and landing. If they didn't return on time, obviously something had gone terribly wrong.

May they be always remembered, along with the four Russians, the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo pilot and all those who have or will give their lives in the future as humans expand outward to explore, develop and settle new places in the cosmos. May God grant them all eternal rest.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

March for Life 2020

Hundreds of thousands of people in the March for Life surging toward the Supreme Court.

I participated on Friday, January 24th in the 47th annual March for Life in Washington, DC. This year's March, commemorated the infamous 1973 Supreme Court abortion decisions that imposed abortion on demand in the United States and the over sixty one million abortions occurring since then.

The theme of this year's March focuses on the theme "Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman", and how this compels us to advocate for protecting every every mother and child from the violence of abortion.

The lead up to the March began the day before when I attended a protest vigil outside Planned Parenthood's massive DC abortion factory and the very informative Law of Life Summit at the Renaissance Hotel, the headquarters for March activities. Thursday, evening I attended the National Prayer Vigil for Life Mass, as prayer is the power behind our prolife efforts.

The morning of the March began with the ProLifeCon social  media conference which featured some leading figures in government and the prolife movement.

The March rally on the lawn of the National Mall featured President Donald Trump speaking onstage to the crowd, the first time ever that a US president addressed the Rally in person. After he spoke, the huge crowd and tight security measures made it time-consuming to leave the Rally area early.  I still managed to position myself ahead of the March to take pictures enroute to the Supreme Court (a few of which are included below.). My day ended with a stop at DC's iconic Irish pub, the Dubliner, packed with cheerful March participants, before catching the Metro home.

At Vigil Mass the evening before the March.

Pres. Trump (in person but visible on screen) addressing March for Life Rally.

These prolifers from "Down Under" came a long way to DC.

It's reality, regardless of your religious beliefs/non-beliefs.

Many marchers were stepping ahead of the lead banner, owing to the huge crowds.

Eventually, the official March approached the Hill, ...

rounded the final turn, ...

to arrive at the Supreme Court.

Post-abortive women and men are Silent No More!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Why We March

This is a slightly revised and updated article I first wrote and posted in 2004 at this time.

March for Life 2018 ascending Capitol Hill on the way to the Supreme Court

On Friday, January 24, the 47th  annual March for Life will mark the anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions which imposed abortion-on-demand in the United States on January 22, 1973. Once again, concerned citizens will gather for the annual March, which in recent years has usually drawn an estimated several hundred thousand participants. Now, why do so many people consider it so important to take time on a weekday to come to Washington, DC at the coldest time of the year to make their voice heard on this matter?

Before I go on any further, I need to say a couple of things. First, nothing in this article is meant to condemn anyone who has had an abortion or has been involved in abortion in some way. Far from condemning those with an abortion in their past, the people in the prolife movement are about healing and forgiveness, and want it to be clear that there is hope after abortion. Post-abortion counseling can be found through many church denominations and pregnancy counseling centers.

And second, while the prolife movement consists largely of people with strong religious convictions who feel called by God to defend the defenseless, that doesn't make the protection of human life a narrow religious issue. The facts that the defenseless exist and that they deserve protection in the human family can be persuasively advocated by non-religiously reasoned arguments.

First, let's start with a little scientific background (from the Science for Unborn Human Life website) about how each of us began our lives as unique human beings. A new human being is conceived when a sperm fertilizes an egg. The sperm has 23 chromosomes and so does the egg. But the fertilized egg has 46, half from each parent, and is genetically unique. These 46 chromosomes, which are fixed at conception, establish the child's sex and are a blueprint for how it will develop, both during pregnancy and after birth.

Blood vessels start to form very early, about 13-18 days after fertilization. Then, on about the 20th day - nearly the end of the third week - the foundation of the brain, the spinal cord, and the entire nervous system is established. The heart begins to beat on about the 22nd day after conception, circulating blood throughout the child. The arms begin to form on about day 26, followed by the beginnings of the legs on day 28, the same day that the mouth opens for the first time.

Both the eyes and ears are developing rapidly during the seventh week after conception. At this time, the thumbs, neck, heels of the feet and all of the fingers are also present. Taste buds begin to form during the eighth week after conception. All parts of the limbs are apparent at this time. In addition, the fingers and toes have lengthened and are completely separated.

By the end of the eighth week the overwhelming majority (several thousand) of the body's organs, structures and systems have already begun to develop. Few, if any, new structures begin to form after this time. During the remainder of the pregnancy, development consists mainly of growth and maturation of the parts of the body that are already present.

Isolated arm, leg and backward head movements begin at about 7 to 10 weeks after conception. During the ninth week, a regular pattern of breathing movements is observed, with a median frequency of about 30 breaths each hour.

These are just the highlights of how you developed during the first 2-3 months of your life. Now consider that a majority of abortions are performed during the tenth to twelfth week of gestation. Some are performed much later in the pregnancy, when the child has grown larger and any unbiased observer would recognize a baby when they see one.

So why if the evidence so clearly indicates that a unique human life begins at conception, how did the deliberate and violent destruction of that life come to be imposed as a 'constitutional right'? Time does not permit describing the whole history of abortion or the intertwining influences of the eugenics and population control movements. Let's start with the socially turbulent late sixties when a growing pro-abortion movement subversively exploited the legitimate aspirations of women for greater rights and participation in society.

The late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist and co-founder of the pro-abortion group NARAL, since changed his mind and heart and became a leading prolife advocate. He pointed out the disinformation at the heart of the pro-abortion campaign.
- "The statistics that we gave to the American public about illegal abortions annually; the statistics we fabricated regarding the number of women dying from illegal abortions annually; all of these matters were pure fabrication and still persist to this very day."

- "We spoke of 5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year. I confess that I knew the figures were totally false. It was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?"

- "We in NARAL were in the business of coining slogans principally for the media . . . we scattered catchy slogans for them . . . to use . . . in their stories. Slogans like "reproductive rights", "freedom of choice", "pro-choice". For many years we've known them to be hollow and meaningless. They're just catchy and, essentially, without substance."

The movement made rapid progress. California, New York and a few other states passed 'liberalized' abortion laws (though some other states rejected them). But what imposed abortion on American law were two Supreme Court cases, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, pronounced on January 22, 1973. The combined effect of the two decisions was to effectively impose abortion-on-demand throughout the nine months of pregnancy. Since that time, at least sixty one million human beings have been exterminated by abortion in the United States.

Aside from the grave issue that was decided, the finding that abortion is part of a constitutional 'right of privacy' is considered an overreach of judicial power even by some legal scholars who describe themselves as 'prochoice'. The 'reasoning' was based on 'penumbras' the justices claim to have seen in the constitution.

Did you know that the two plaintiffs in the Roe and Doe cases, the late Norma McCorvey and the late Sandra Cano, filed affidavits to the effect that they were manipulated into their roles and that the decisions should be overturned? You would think that this development would be considered unprecedented in Supreme Court history, but apparently the New York Times, CNN, etc. forgot to inform you.

One fact that is becoming evident that abortion-on-demand is not such a great thing for women. Abortion has left many women emotionally and sometimes physically scarred. Campaigns such as Silent No More Awareness are tapping into this hidden anguish.

Also evident is the effect on our society, with conflicting attitudes on how we treat not only the unborn, but also the sick, disabled and elderly. Consider the heart wrenching case of the judicially imposed death of Terri Schindler-Schiavo in 2005. Abortion has torn marriages and families apart, and led to a hardened and increasingly violent culture. The raging debate over embryonic stem cell research and human cloning shows the growing risk posed by a disregard for the dignity of every human life.

So, we have had for the past forty seven years, a culture that in some ways has grown cynical, forgoing the promise of a hopeful future for instant gratification, or more often, the resignation to unimaginative 'solutions' that pit mother against child or people against the planet. One is reminded of a quote from the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats:
"The blood-dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere a ceremony of innocence was drowned."

These Supreme Court abortion decisions were assumed to have 'settled' the issue in our society. Yet much to the consternation of the pro-abortion establishment, the movement of concerned citizens to protect life has only grown in strength over the past forty seven years. The prolife movement has pursued multiple paths: educating the public, lobbying and litigating for change, participating in politics, and especially reaching out to help women with unplanned pregnancies.

On the political front, abortion continues to play a pivotal role in national and state elections and especially in nominations to the Supreme Court and other courts; and in the debate over health care and other public legislation. It is becoming increasingly intertwined with issues of religious and personal liberty and freedom of speech. The abortion conflict has ramped up in recent years with the release of Investigative videos revealing the hideous practices of Planned Parenthood exploiting their unborn victims and the women they claim to serve in order to harvest unborn human body parts. The powers-that-be and others who want to silence the prolife movement are terrified (even if subconsciously) that the brutal reality of abortion will be exposed. Presidents, election campaigns, economic cycles, and other controversies come and go, but the struggle for life goes on. Indeed, some of the rancor and animosity in politics and society today may well be a pit-in-the-stomach fear of dealing with the stark terrible reality of this issue.

Particularly significant is that the change in public attitudes on abortion is most striking among young people (who've lost peers they've never met). This is manifested in polling results and an upsurge of prolife activism among teens, college students, and new media savvy activists who are exposing the dark side of the abortion industry. This is much to the consternation of their professors and, in some cases, their parents. Sort of adds a new twist to some lyrics from the sixties by Buffalo Springfield:
"Young people speakin' their minds, A-gettin' so much resistance from behind."

So the buses are starting to roll, as thousands from distant states once again journey to Washington, where many will gather in prayer the night before or the morning of the March. Then we will rally and march, knowing that those we are trying to defend would some day defend our nation, write great literature, cure disease, compose stirring music, and explore and begin to settle the Solar System.

But more than for their potential accomplishments, we speak out for them simply because of the inherent dignity of each of their lives. In so doing we are responding to a great calling as individuals and as a civilization. And we'll continue to speak and march and work and pray, confident in the hope that, one of these years, we'll no longer face the cold winds. Instead, we'll gather on a warm spring day to celebrate the inclusion of the youngest in the human family within the protection of the law.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Circus On The Severn Convenes For 2020 Session

The Maryland General Assembly convened on Wednesday for its 2020 ninety day run. Here are highlights of the expected major and sometimes contentious issues as seen by the Maryland Catholic Conference and by Maryland Matters, a web site focused on news about Maryland government and politics.