Chavez vows referendum ‘cannot fail’

Chavez vows referendum ‘cannot fail’ – Yahoo! News

Rallies for and against constitutional changes proposed by President Hugo Chavez surged Tuesday as the Venezuelan leader declared that a weekend referendum on the proposed charter “cannot fail.”

Given Chavez’s history of less than stellar concern for democracy, can we really deny that this statement is a promise, rather a rallying cry? That he’ll make sure it passes, regardless of the actual results?

A “liberal” priest celebrates the Tridentine Mass

The Cafeteria Is Closed: A liberal priest celebrates his first TLM

The old Missal’s rubrical micromanagement made me feel like a mere machine, devoid of personality; but, I wondered, is that really so bad? I actually felt liberated from a persistent need to perform, to engage, to be forever a friendly celebrant. When I saw a photo of the old Latin Mass in our local newspaper, I suddenly recognized the rite’s ingenious ability to shrink the priest. Shot from the choir loft, I was a mere speck of green, dwarfed by the high altar. The focal point was not the priest but the gathering of the people. And isn’t that a valid image of the church, the people of God?

The act of praying the Roman Canon slowly and in low voice accented my own smallness and mere instrumentality more than anything else. Plodding through the first 50 or so words of the Canon, I felt intense loneliness. As I moved along, however, I also heard the absolute silence behind me, 450 people of all ages praying, all bound mysteriously to the words I uttered and to the ritual actions I haltingly and clumsily performed. Following the consecration, I fell into a paradoxical experience of intense solitude as I gazed at the Sacrament and an inexplicable feeling of solidarity with the multitude behind me.

Keep in mind, this is a priest who didn’t particularly look forward to celebrating the Latin Mass. And I think he highlights one of the strength of the Catholic Mass, especially the Traditional Latin Mass: it’s not about the priest. From what I understand, in Protestant services, the sermon is the center of the service and what people most look forward to and think about later. It’s not that way in a properly celebrated Mass. My ex-girlfriend was always surprised by how infrequently I remembered what the homily at Mass was about, but that’s because it’s not the most important part of Mass: receiving Jesus in the guise of bread and wine is. Even if the priest is an (for example) Indian immigrant who has a thick accent so it’s nearly impossible to understand the homily and the ordinary of the Mass is incomprehensible even following along with a missal, it’s still a worthwhile experience because of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. (And, yes, I am thinking of someone specific.) How can any oration, no matter how great, compare to that great gift?

One of the common criticisms of the “new” Mass is that it puts more focus on the priest and encourages showmanship. Some priests faithfully follow the rubrics of the Mass, as they should. Some deviate only slightly, modifying a few words here and there, which is annoying for those of us who like to use missals and pray along with the priest. Some, however, go completely overboard and make the Mass a form of entertainment. I haven’t seen anything truly awful, except for the “camel Mass” when I was in Germany. (And I’m vaguely remember something weird at a friend’s wedding that made me say “What the hell?”) Given that your typical priest isn’t going to know Latin that well so he needs to be careful when saying Mass, and he’s facing away from the people so there’s less temptation towards showmanship, the Latin mass has a strong tendency towards reverence.

Now, the “new” Mass has it’s advantages as well: wider use of the Bible in the lectionary, the vernacular is much easier for the people to understand. So, hopefully, and I’d imagine this is Pope Benedict’s goal, the two forms will ultimately converge with the nest being taken from each to create a greater experience for all.

Drinking recycled toilet water?

From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking – New York Times

It used to be so final: flush the toilet, and waste be gone.

But on Nov. 30, for millions of people here in Orange County, pulling the lever will be the start of a long, intense process to purify the sewage into drinking water — after a hard scrubbing with filters, screens, chemicals and ultraviolet light and the passage of time underground.

On that Friday, the Orange County Water District will turn on what industry experts say is the world’s largest plant devoted to purifying sewer water to increase drinking water supplies. They and others hope it serves as a model for authorities worldwide facing persistent drought, predicted water shortages and projected growth.

The process, called by proponents “indirect potable water reuse” and “toilet to tap” by the wary, is getting a close look in several cities.

Sometime while Jim Sills was Mayor of Wilmington, I remember him talking about the need to recycle water if a drought continued much longer. The only shocking thing to me is that we weren’t already doing that. While I’m sure there’s issues around what to do with the waste we remove from the water, it still seems like a no-brainer to me to at least start looking into this. For all the concern about recycling plastic, paper and other items, it seems to me that water is the product we can least afford to run out of and so reusing it might help relieve the burden on our water system.

Cleanliness isn’t my biggest concern, but cost:

Although originally estimated at $10 million for the pilot study in San Diego, water department officials said the figure would be refined, and the total cost of the project might be hundreds of millions of dollars. Although the Council wants to offset the cost with government grants and other sources, Mr. Sanders predicted it would add to already escalating water bills.

“It is one of the most expensive kinds of water you can create,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the mayor. “It is a large investment for a very small return.”

I’m used to government contracts being more expensive than originally stated, but this is an order of magnitude off. That’s huge. Hopefully, it’s the sort of thing that will become cheaper as more water recycling plants come on line.

Great on-line chat with Bob Novak

Novak on Clinton-Obama, ‘Prince of Darkness’ – washingtonpost.com

Some highlights:

Toronto: Good afternoon. Why is there such an aversion to paying taxes among conservatives — how else can a country maintain the infrastructure and services necessary for long-term prosperity?

Robert D. Novak: If you enjoy paying taxes so much, you’re more than welcome to pick up mine as well. I think the Treasury would take a check from a Canadian.


Kennewick, Wash.: Why should I consider you nonpartisan?

Robert D. Novak: Only because so many Republicans think I am a pain in the neck.


Washington: In the past in your column, you have referred to the poor as “losers.” This is obviously counter to Catholic teaching on issues of social justice, going back to the 19th century and De Rerum Novarum. How do you reconcile your conversion to Catholicism with your conservative views on issues like social justice?

Robert D. Novak: I follow Scripture and Catholic doctrine rather than the latest theories by the Jesuits and the like.


Maryland: Actually the fellow from Toronto had a good question, which you didn’t really answer. Why do you think that we can cut taxes and run a real war against terrorism at the same time? At some point, someone has to pay for the several trillion that we have spent on the war and will be spending in the future. Isn’t it selfish and short-sighted to put that burden on our children and grandchildren when we can afford to pay the taxes to cover the war now, but just don’t want to do so? You certainly can afford the taxes, but don’t want to pay. It is just that simple.

Robert D. Novak: Let’s be candid. People like you a) always want to raise taxes and b) want to use taxes to redistribute income.

Annandale, Va.: Government wastes money that it gets through taxes. In your opinion, is government spending on social causes more wasteful than military spending? I tend to think that both waste funds at same rate and think that we could be just as safe with less military spending.

Robert D. Novak: I agree.


New York: As a Catholic, do you think it’s a good thing that we have a majority of Catholics on the Supreme Court? Would you be in favor of an all-Catholic/all-Mormon/all-Atheist Supreme Court, or does it not matter?

Robert D. Novak: I wouldn’t mind an all-Catholic, all-Jewish or all-Muslim court as long as the justices resembled Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas.


St. Paul, Minn.: Do you support capital punishment? If so, how do you reconcile it with your Catholic beliefs. Just as importantly, how do you think the Catholics on the Supreme Court justify it?

Robert D. Novak: There is no Catholic doctrine against capital punishment as there is against abortion.


Washington: Where should the limits be in a “limited government”?

Robert D. Novak: The Constitution sets some good ones, though they are largely ignored.

Hat Tip: Memorandum