“IT IS now clear this will be a two-person race between the conservative leader Newt Gingrich and the Massachusetts moderate.” So said the conservative leader Newt Gingrich to console himself after being trounced by Mitt Romney in the Florida primary in late January. But late January was an age ago in what America’s discombobulated pundits are now calling the topsiest-turviest primary season they can remember. As the four remaining candidates brace for elections in Arizona and Michigan on February 28th, all eyes are now on the two-person race between Mr Romney, the plutocrat formerly known as the front-runner, and Rick Santorum, the social conservative and culture warrior who was never supposed to stand a chance.
Just how Mr Santorum got here is a bit of a puzzle. His campaign got off to a good start, with a narrow victory in Iowa’s caucuses at the beginning of January, but he came fourth in New Hampshire and (after Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry dropped out) a poor third in South Carolina. The smell of political death hovered in the air at his thinly attended election-night party in the Citadel, a military college in Charleston. Nothing daunted, Mr Santorum soldiered on to Florida, only to finish well behind Messrs Romney and Gingrich again. And in Nevada at the beginning of this month Ron Paul pushed him down to fourth place.
What explains Mr Santorum’s surge? Dumb luck, say some. Plenty of candidates before him—Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Mr Perry and Mr Gingrich—have hit the Republican sweet spot too, only to be rejected once their blemishes became plainer. Looked at in this light, Mr Santorum is merely taking his turn as the final non-Romney, pushed aloft less by his own positives than by the negatives of his competitors, notably Mr Gingrich’s bloated ego and Mr Romney’s lack of conviction. In due time, it is argued, the laws of political gravity will pull him back down.
This column has argued before that when the media look only at Mr Santorum’s thoughts on family morality they end up with a caricature. He is in fact a more rounded candidate, with some impressive skills. These include not only the perseverance that kept him tramping through the slough of despond when others might have given up, but also a nimble and well-stocked mind, an approachable manner on the stump and—the big prize that eludes Mr Romney—a palpable sincerity. In Michigan and Ohio, he may also prove that he has another advantage over Mr Romney: an appeal to blue-collar workers that is hard for a member of the 1% to match. Mr Santorum takes care to give the coalmining travails of his immigrant grandfather a big place in his narrative.
The Republicans did not want their primary season to look like a coronation. That, to say the least, is no longer a danger. It is now clear only that a large share of the party’s conservatives just do not like Mr Romney. This traps the party in a fratricidal exercise that could continue for months, if not all the way to the party convention in Tampa in August. Even if he loses next week in Michigan, Mr Santorum should pick up enough delegates to keep his hope alive. Mr Gingrich is unlikely to quit unless he loses in his home state of Georgia on Super Tuesday, and Mr Paul will fight on whatever happens. There is new talk of an “open” convention, where no candidate has a majority and the call goes out for a white knight, if one can be found. Mr Obama is a lucky man.
You’re probably paying something like $60 a month for high-speed Internet. I’m paying $5 a month, and my connection is 1,000 times faster.
Your iPad can’t play Flash videos on the Web. Mine can.
Your copy of Windows needs constant updating and patching and protection against viruses and spyware. Mine is always clean and always up-to-date.
No, I’m not some kind of smug techno-elitist; you can have all of that, too. All you have to do is sign up for a radical iPad service called OnLive Desktop Plus.
It’s a tiny app — about 5 megabytes. When you open it, you see a standard Windows 7 desktop, right there on your iPad. The full, latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Internet Explorer and Adobe Reader are set up and ready to use — no installation, no serial numbers, no pop-up balloons nagging you to update this or that. It may be the least annoying version of Windows you’ve ever used.
That’s pretty impressive — but not as impressive as what’s going on behind the scenes. The PC that’s driving your iPad Windows experience is, in fact, a “farm” of computers at one of three data centers thousands of miles away. Every time you tap the screen, scroll a list or type on the on-screen keyboard, you’re sending signals to those distant computers. The screen image is blasted back to your iPad with astonishingly little lag.
There’s an insane amount of technology behind this stunt — 10 years in the making, according to the company’s founder. (He’s a veteran of Apple’s original QuickTime team and Microsoft’s WebTV and Xbox teams.) OnLive Desktop builds on the company’s original business, a service that lets gamers play high-horsepower video games on Macs or low-powered Windows computers like netbooks.
The free version of the OnLive Desktop service arrived in January. It gives you Word, Excel and PowerPoint, a few basic Windows apps (like Paint, Media Player, Notepad and Calculator), and 2 gigabytes of storage.
Plenty of apps give you stripped-down versions of Office on the iPad. But OnLive Desktop gives you the complete Windows Office suite. In Word, you can do fancy stuff like tracking changes and high-end typography. In PowerPoint, you can make slide shows that the iPad projects with all of the cross fades, zooms and animations intact.
What a broad world to roam in, what a sea to swim in is this God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He is eternal, which means that He antedates time and is wholly independent of it. Time began in Him and will end in Him. To it He pays no tribute and from it He suffers no change.
He is immutable, which means that He has never changed and can never change in any smallest measure. To change He would need to go from better to worse or from worse to better. He cannot do either, for being perfect He cannot become more perfect, and if He were to become less perfect He would be less than God.
He is omniscient, which means that He knows in one free and effortless act all matter, all spirit, all relationships, all events. He has no past and He has no future. He is, and none of the limiting and qualifying terms used of creatures can apply to Him. Love and mercy and righteousness are His, and holiness so ineffable that no comparisons or figures will avail to express it.
Only fire can give even a remote conception of it. In fire He appeared at the burning bush; in the pillar of fire He dwelt through all the long wilderness journey. The fire that glowed between the wings of the cherubim in the holy place was called the “shekinah,” the Presence, through the years of Israel’s glory, and when the Old had given place to the New, He came at Pentecost as a fiery flame and rested upon each disciple.
Suppose scientists discovered a clump of neurons in the brain that, when stimulated, turned people into egalitarians. This would be good news for Democratic strategists and speechwriters, who could now get to work framing arguments about wealth and taxation in ways that might activate the relevant section of cerebral cortex.
This “share-the-spoils” button has been discovered, in a sense, but it may turn out to be harder to press than Democrats might think.
Pretend you’re a three-year-old, exploring an exciting new room full of toys. You and another child come up to a large machine that has some marbles inside, which you can see. There’s a rope running through the machine and the two ends of the rope hang out of the front, five feet apart. If you or your partner pulls on the rope alone, you just get more rope. But if you both pull at the same time, the rope dislodges some marbles, which you each get to keep. The marbles roll down a chute, and then they divide: one rolls into the cup in front of you, three roll into the cup in front of your partner.
This is the scenario created by developmental psychologists Michael Tomasello and Katharina Hamann at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany. In this situation, where both kids have to pull for anyone to get marbles, the children equalize the wealth about 75% of the time, with hardly any conflict. Either the “rich” kid hands over one marble spontaneously or else the “poor” kid asks for one and his request is immediately granted.
But an experiment must have more than one condition, and the experimenters ran two other versions of the study to isolate the active ingredient. What had led to such high rates of sharing, given that three-year-olds are often quite reluctant to share new treasures? Children who took part in the second condition found that the marbles were already waiting for them in the cups when they first walked up to the machine. No work required.
In this condition, it’s finders-keepers. If you have the bad luck to place yourself in front of the cup with one marble, then your partner is very unlikely to offer you one, you’re unlikely to ask, and if you do ask, you’re likely to be rebuffed. Only about 5% of the time did any marbles change hands.
But here’s the most amazing condition — a slight variation that reveals a deep truth. Things start off just as in the first condition: you and your partner see two ropes hanging out of the machine. But as you start tugging it becomes clear that they are two separate ropes. You pull yours, and one marble rolls out into your cup. Your partner pulls the other rope, and is rewarded with three marbles. What happens next?
For the most part, it’s pullers-keepers. Even though you and your partner each did the same work (rope pulling) at more or less the same time, you both know that you didn’t really collaborate to produce the wealth. Only about 30% of the time did the kids work out an equal split. In other words, the “share-the-spoils” button is not pressed by the mere existence of inequality. It is pressed when two or more people collaborated to produce a gain. Once the button is pressed in both brains, both parties willingly and effortlessly share.
So now let’s look at a key line in President Obama’s State of the Union address: “we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” The president is making three arguments about fairness in this one sentence, but do any of them press the “share-the-spoils” button? If you think that the economy is like a giant marble dispenser with a single rope, then you’d probably agree that if everyone does their “fair share” and pulls on the rope as hard as they can, then everyone is entitled to a “fair share” in the nation’s wealth. But do Americans perceive the economy as a giant collaborative project?
Unfortunately, President Obama promised he would not raise taxes on anyone but the rich. He and other Democrats have also vowed to “protect seniors” from cuts, even though seniors receive the vast majority of entitlement dollars. The president is therefore in the unenviable position of arguing that we’re in big trouble and so a small percentage of people will have to give more, but most people will be protected from sacrifice. This appeal misses the shared-sacrifice button completely. It also fails to push the share-the-spoils button. When people feel that they’re all pulling on different ropes, they don’t feel entitled to a share of other people’s wealth, even when that wealth was acquired by luck.
If the Democrats really want to get moral psychology working for them, I suggest that they focus less on distributive fairness — which is about whether everyone got what they deserved — and more on procedural fairness—which is about whether honest, open and impartial procedures were used to decide who got what. If there’s a problem with the ultra-rich, it’s not that they have too much wealth, it’s that they bought laws that made it easy for them to gain and keep so much more wealth in recent decades.
Sarah Palin gave a speech last September lambasting “crony capitalism,” which she defined as “the collusion of big government and big business and big finance to the detriment of all the rest – to the little guys.” I think that she was on to something and that she was right to include big government along with big business and big finance. The problem isn’t that some kids have many more marbles than others. The problem is that some kids are in cahoots with the experimenters. They get to rig the marble machine before the rest of us have a chance to play with it.
Jonathan Haidt is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and a visiting professor at the N.Y.U.-Stern School of Business. He is the author of “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.”
The conflict between club and high school soccer — at least for the boys — is officially over. Club soccer wins.
On Feb. 10, the five-year-old U.S. Soccer Development Academy, which consists of 78 elite clubs nationwide blessed by U.S. Soccer as integral to its elite player development, announced that all teams will be on a 10-month schedule beginning with the 2012-13 season. (Some regions had already moved to 10 months, but everyone else had played seven.) So that means about 3,000 players of high school age will effectively be barred from playing for their high school teams. Simply, there won’t be time, and, frankly, the time on high school soccer was wasted, anyway. The folks at U.S. Soccer don’t say that exactly, but they might as well have. From the FAQ on the scheduling change:
Is U.S. Soccer saying that kids can no longer play high school soccer?
Every player has a choice to play high school soccer or in the Development Academy. We believe that for those elite soccer players who are committed to pursuing the goal of reaching the highest levels they can in the sport, making this decision will provide them a big advantage in their development and increase their exposure to top coaches in the United States and from around the world.
We are talking about a group of players that want to continue at the next level, whether that is professional or college, which is still the destination for a majority of our graduates.
Sure, you can player high school soccer — if you’re a spazz!
U.S. National Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, in the news release announcing the extended schedule, said elite players eschewing high school soccer is the price we as a nation must pay to reach World Cup-winning status, like Klinsmann’s native country, Germany.
“If we want our players to someday compete against the best in the world, it is critical for their development that they train and play as much as possible and in the right environment. The Development Academy 10-month season is the right formula and provides a good balance between training time and playing competitive matches. This is the model that the best countries around the world use for their programs, and I think it makes perfect sense that we do as well.”
Of course, in other soccer-playing nations, school sports were not the core of soccer, or just about any other sport. But this is America, darn it, and kids like to play for the glory of their school, too, right?
A Brief History of Lent: A (much needed) time to prepare for Easter.
Woodcut by Gustave Doré (1832-1883)
History of Lent, by Father William P. Saunders, read more HERE.
The word Lent itself is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words lencten, meaning “Spring,” and lenctentid, which literally means not only “Springtide” but also was the word for “March,” the month in which the majority of Lent falls.
Since the earliest times of the Church, there is evidence of some kind of Lenten preparation for Easter. For instance, St. Irenaeus wrote to Pope St. Victor I, commenting on the celebration of Easter and the differences between practices in the East and the West: “The dispute is not only about the day, but also about the actual character of the fast. Some think that they ought to fast for one day, some for two, others for still more; some make their ‘day’ last 40 hours on end. Such variation in the observance did not originate in our own day, but very much earlier, in the time of our forefathers” (Eusebius, History of the Church, V, 24). When Rufinus translated this passage from Greek into Latin, the punctuation made between “40” and “hours” made the meaning to appear to be “40 days, twenty-four hours a day.” The importance of the passage, nevertheless, remains that since the time of “our forefathers” — always an expression for the apostles — a 40-day period of Lenten preparation existed. However, the actual practices and duration of Lent were still not homogenous throughout the Church.
Lent becomes more regularized after the legalization of Christianity in A.D. 313. The Council of Nicea (325), in its disciplinary canons, noted that two provincial synods should be held each year, “one before the 40 days of Lent.”
Of course, the number “40” has always had special spiritual significance regarding preparation. On Mount Sinai, preparing to receive the Ten Commandments, “Moses stayed there with the Lord for 40 days and 40 nights, without eating any food or drinking any water” (Ex 34:28). Elijah walked “40 days and 40 nights” to the mountain of the Lord, Mount Horeb (another name for Sinai) (I Kgs 19:8). Most importantly, Jesus fasted and prayed for “40 days and 40 nights” in the desert before He began His public ministry (Mt 4:2).
Once the 40 days of Lent were established, the next development concerned how much fasting was to be done. In Jerusalem, for instance, people fasted for 40 days, Monday through Friday, but not on Saturday or Sunday, thereby making Lent last for eight weeks. In Rome and in the West, people fasted for six weeks, Monday through Saturday, thereby making Lent last for six weeks. Eventually, the practice prevailed of fasting for six days a week over the course of six weeks, and Ash Wednesday was instituted to bring the number of fast days before Easter to 40.
The rules of fasting varied. First, some areas of the Church abstained from all forms of meat and animal products, while others made exceptions for food like fish. For example, Pope St. Gregory, writing to St. Augustine of Canterbury, issued the following rule: “We abstain from flesh, meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese and eggs.” Second, the general rule was for a person to have one meal a day, in the evening or at 3 p.m. These Lenten fasting rules also evolved. Eventually, a smaller repast was allowed during the day to keep up one’s strength from manual labor. Eating fish was allowed, and later eating meat was also allowed through the week except on Ash Wednesday and Friday. Dispensations were given for eating dairy products if a pious work was performed, and eventually this rule was relaxed totally. (However, the abstinence from even dairy products led to the practice of blessing Easter eggs and eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.)
Over the years, modifications have been made to the Lenten observances, making our practices not only simple but also easy. Ash Wednesday still marks the beginning of Lent, which lasts for 40 days, not including Sundays. The present fasting and abstinence laws are very simple: On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the faithful fast (having only one full meal a day and smaller snacks to keep up one’s strength) and abstain from meat; on the other Fridays of Lent, the faithful abstain from meat. People are still encouraged “to give up something” for Lent as a sacrifice. (An interesting note is that technically on Sundays and solemnities like St. Joseph’s Day (March 19) and the Annunciation (March 25), one is exempt and can partake of whatever has been offered up for Lent.
Nevertheless, I was always taught, “If you gave something up for the Lord, tough it out. Don’t act like a Pharisee looking for a loophole.” Moreover, an emphasis must be placed on performing spiritual works, like attending the Stations of the Cross, attending Mass, making a weekly holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, taking time for personal prayer and spiritual reading and most especially making a good confession and receiving sacramental absolution. Although the practices may have evolved over the centuries, the focus remains the same: to repent of sin, to renew our faith and to prepare to celebrate joyfully the mysteries of our salvation.
Father William P. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls and former dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College.
Adele emerged from last week’s Grammy ceremony rich in gold—the British songstress nabbed all six of the awards for which she was nominated, giving her more wins than any other artist.
“It hasn’t really sunk in,” she said to a room full of reporters at the Staples Center late Sunday night, visibly giddy from her victories. “We all just keep laughing. It’s incredible.”
Incredible indeed, but in terms of annual earnings, Adele is not quite as well off as some of her Grammy-winning peers. Paul McCartney is the highest earner of this year’s victors, pulling in $67 million in FORBES’ most recent annual accounting. Taylor Swift follows with $45 million, bolstered by new album Speak Now and its Grammy-winning track “Mean.”
Jay-Z rounds out the top three with $37 million, thanks to a broad portfolio of business interests and revenues from the tail end of a world tour—enough to crown him hip-hop’s Cash King for the fourth time in five years. The “Empire State of Mind” rapper didn’t show up at the Grammys to pick up his hardware; he and wife Beyonce were likely busy taking care of newborn daughter Blue Ivy Carter.
Partner-in-rhyme Kanye West didn’t appear in person to accept his Grammys, either—though his eight nominations were the most of any artist, the rapper was likely miffed that his masterpiece, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, didn’t earn an Album of the Year nomination. His $16 million in annual earnings places him at No. 7 on the Grammy list.
The earnings estimates encompass all pretax income earned from May 2010 to May 2011, before subtracting agent and manager fees. Some of these figures were published in our latest Celeb 100 issue, compiled with the help of data from Pollstar, RIAA and others, as well as extensive interviews with industry insiders including lawyers, managers, concert promoters, agents and, in some cases, the musicians themselves.
As for Adele, the stupendous sales of her Grammy-winning album 21 (5.82 million copies in the U.S. alone) helped her take home $18 million last year, landing her at No. 6.
Not being the top earner doesn’t seem to have put a damper on the 23-year-old singer’s mood—in fact, it seems there’s nothing capable of doing that at present time. Her last words before leaving the Staples Center: “I’m too busy being happy.”
A Brief History of Mardis Gras (Fat Tuesday): The Last Hurrah before Lent.
Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” is the “last hurrah” before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. That’s why the enormous party in New Orleans, for example, ends abruptly at midnight on Tuesday, with battalions of streetsweepers pushing the crowds out of the French Quarter towards home.
What is less known about Mardi Gras is its relation to the Christmas season, through the interlude between Christmas and Easter know as Carnival. Carnival comes from the Latin words carne vale, meaning “farewell to the flesh.” Like many Catholic holidays and seasonal celebrations, it likely has its roots in pre-Christian traditions based on the seasons. Some believe the festival represented the few days added to the lunar calendar to make it coincide with the solar calendar; since these days were outside the calendar, rules and customs were not obeyed. Others see it as a late-winter celebration designed to welcome the coming spring. As early as the middle of the second century, the Romans observed a Fast of 40 Days, which was preceded by a brief season of feasting, costumes and merrymaking.
The Carnival season kicks off with the Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, Three Kings’ Day and, in the Eastern churches, Theophany. Epiphany, which falls on January 6, 12 days after Christmas, celebrates the visit of the Wise Men bearing gifts for the infant Jesus. In cultures that celebrate Carnival, Epiphany kicks off a series of parties leading up to Mardi Gras.
Epiphany is also traditionally when celebrants serve King’s Cake, a custom that began in France in the 12th century. Legend has it that the cakes were made in a circle to represent the circular routes that the Wise Men took to find Jesus, in order to confuse King Herod and foil his plans of killing the Christ Child. In the early days, a coin or bean was hidden inside the cake, and whoever found the item was said to have good luck in the coming year. In Louisiana, bakers now put a small baby, representing the Christ Child, in the cake; the recipient is then expected to host the next King Cake party.
There are well-known season-long Carnival celebrations in Europe and Latin America, including Nice, France; Cologne, Germany; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The best-known celebration in the U.S. is in New Orleans and the French-Catholic communities of the Gulf Coast. Mardi Gras came to the New World in 1699, when a French explorer arrived at the Mississippi River, about 60 miles south of present day New Orleans. He named the spot Point du Mardi Gras because he knew the holiday was being celebrated in his native country that day.
Eventually the French in New Orleans celebrated Mardi Gras with masked balls and parties, until the Spanish government took over in the mid-1700s and banned the celebrations. The ban continued even after the U.S. government acquired the land but the celebrations resumed in 1827. The official colors of Mardi Gras, with their roots in Catholicism, were chosen 10 years later: purple, a symbol of justice; green, representing faith; and gold, to signify power.
Mardi Gras literally means “Fat Tuesday” in French. The name comes from the tradition of slaughtering and feasting upon a fattened calf on the last day of Carnival. The day is also known as Shrove Tuesday (from “to shrive,” or hear confessions), Pancake Tuesday and fetter Dienstag. The custom of making pancakes comes from the need to use up fat, eggs and dairy before the fasting and abstinence of Lent begins.
How did religious beliefs shape the origins of the Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln’s actions during the conflict? As Northern abolitionists and Southern slaveholders clashed over the question of slavery, each side turned to the Bible to argue its cause.
Frederick Douglass, a former slave and abolitionist newspaper editor, despaired that people who called themselves Christians could defend the evils of slavery. Protestant denominations fractured, with each side declaring God was on its side. Meanwhile, Lincoln, who had put his faith in reason over revelation, confronted the mounting casualties of the war and the death of his young son. In his anguish, he began a spiritual journey that transformed his inner life and changed his ideas about God and the ultimate meaning of the Civil War.
The war was a theological as well as a political crisis. There were sharp disputes in America over what God might be doing in and through the war. For some, the turmoil of the war years called into question the belief that America was a chosen nation with a special destiny. The war also moved Lincoln to re-examine his own understanding of God’s purposes and the role of divine Providence in human affairs. Six weeks after he delivered his stirring Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865, with its sermonlike language, deeply moral sentiments and conciliatory closing words, Lincoln was dead. For many he became a martyred prophet, and the Second Inaugural Address has come to be regarded as American Scripture.
(You can also click the photo below for a direct link to the on-line video site for PBS and then navigate to Episode Three.)
For the first time on television, God in America explores the tumultuous 400-year history of the intersection of religion and public life in America, from the first European settlements to the 2008 presidential election. A co-production of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and FRONTLINE, this six-hour series examines how religious dissidents helped shape the American concept of religious liberty and the controversial evolution of that ideal in the nation’s courts and political arena; how religious freedom and waves of new immigrants and religious revivals fueled competition in the religious marketplace; how movements for social reform — from abolition to civil rights — galvanized men and women to put their faith into political action; and how religious faith influenced conflicts from the American Revolution to the Cold War.
These days, my mantra is one I think Jesus himself used: Anyone, anywhere. That’s it — anyone, anywhere, can be transformed into a new creation through the power and grace of our Lord. Every morning, I commit myself afresh to staying attuned to the Spirit. I try to pour out huge amounts of radically accepting love as I discover people’s stories. I try to walk with people from where they are today toward Christ, trusting that along the way we’ll click off all of the patterns of unrighteousness that need to be clicked off for them to be conformed to Christ’s image.
As Christ’s followers, we’re accountable for regularly moving in circles with people far from God, uncovering their stories with compassion and grace, and then naturally and consistently making ourselves available when God opens a door of opportunity. People living far from God need the redemption and strength and stability that you can offer — just as you did before you came to Christ.
Every time I’m confronted with the depravity of someone else’s sin, all I can think about is my own fallen state and my own proneness to fall short of God’s standard. But equally true is the other thing that comes to mind: Jesus Christ’s response to my sorry state was acceptance rather than condemnation. His posture toward me when I was in the midst of my sin was filled to the brim with compassion, grace, tenderness, and mercy.
Friends, there is no question in my mind about whether these encounters are worth it, even the messiest of them. I challenge you to take the risk to sideline your own agenda and discover other people’s stories no matter how uncomfortable you get, how awkward the situation becomes, or how heavy the sin is that you’re sorting through with them. Why? Because you just might be the single flame in someone’s dark night who reminds them that there is a God who created them, who loves them, and who yearns to relate with them, starting from right where they are.
”—Just Walk Across the Room: Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith by Bill Hybels
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting that prepares us to celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Following the example of the Ninevites, who did penance in sackcloth and ashes when Jonah announced to them their upcoming doom, foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and remind us that life passes away on Earth. As we receive the asshes in the form of a cross on the forehead, we are told, “Remember, man is dust, and unto dust you shall return.” Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice.
The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony of ages past. Christians who had committed grave faults performed public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop blessed the hair shirts that they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms, the penitents were turned out of the church because of their sins — just as Adam, the first man, was turned out of Paradise because of his disobedience. The penitents did not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday after having won reconciliation by the toil of forty days’ penance and sacramental absolution. Later, all Christians, whether public or secret penitents, came to receive ashes out of devotion. In earlier times, the distribution of ashes was followed by a penitential procession.
The ashes are made from the palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His Divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance.
"I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content." Philippians 4:11
These words show us that contentment is not a natural propensity of man. “Ill weeds grow apace.” Covetousness, discontent, and murmuring are as natural to man as thorns are to the soil. We need not sow thistles and brambles; they come up naturally enough, because they are indigenous to earth: and so, we need not teach men to complain; they complain fast enough without any education.
But the precious things of the earth must be cultivated. If we would have wheat, we must plough and sow; if we want flowers, there must be the garden, and all the gardener’s care. Now, contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated; it will not grow in us by nature; it is the new nature alone that can produce it, and even then we must be specially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the grace which God has sown in us.
Paul says, “I have learned … to be content;” as much as to say, he did not know how at one time. It cost him some pains to attain to the mystery of that great truth. No doubt he sometimes thought he had learned, and then broke down. And when at last he had attained unto it, and could say, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content,” he was an old, grey-headed man, upon the borders of the grave-a poor prisoner shut up in Nero’s dungeon at Rome. We might well be willing to endure Paul’s infirmities, and share the cold dungeon with him, if we too might by any means attain unto his good degree.
Do not indulge the notion that you can be contented with learning, or learn without discipline. It is not a power that may be exercised naturally, but a science to be acquired gradually. We know this from experience. Brother, hush that murmur, natural though it be, and continue a diligent pupil in the College of Content.
Apple’s iPhones and iPads get most of the attention, but Apple is now directing the spotlight on the Mac.
There had been rumors swirling that Apple was back-burnering the Mac, but that’s hard to believe after Thursday’s announcement: from now on, Apple will update Mac OS X once a year.
It will start this summer with Mac OS X 10.8, code-named Mountain Lion, only a year after the Lion version was released.
(You also have to wonder how Apple will keep numbering Mac OS X, since it’s already at version 10.8. (Actually, Apple’s people told me: They have no problem with double-digit decimal points, like Mac OS X 10.10, Mac OS X 10.11, and Mac OS X 10.12.)
(The bigger question is how long it can keep coming up with big cat names. Mac OS X Bobcat? Mac OS X Cougar? Mac OS X Really Fat Tabby?)
Now you’ll have to decide once a year whether or not to succumb to paying annually the $30 (or whatever Apple winds up charging) for the privilege of remaining current.
The real shocker, though, is that for the first time, Apple decided to give tech reviewers an early, early version of Mountain Lion — not just months before its release to the public, but even before its release to its developer (programmer) community.
When Lion came along last summer, the big changes were all about making the Mac more like an iPad. Trackpad gestures simulated the multitouch gestures on an iPad screen. Lion features like Full Screen mode, Auto Save and Launchpad are total iPad rip-offs, too; if Apple hadn’t stolen these features from itself, it would surely be suing for copyright infringement.
Well, don’t look now, but Mountain Lion brings even more of the iPhone/iPad features to the Mac. The juiciest payoff here is the suite of Mac apps that now mimic what’s on the iPhone/iPad, like Reminders, Notes, Messages and Game Center. Through your free iCloud account, all of these apps are synced instantly and smoothly across all your Apple gadgets. On the Mac, you type a reminder to yourself; it appears simultaneously on your iPhone.
Notes is cool: you can add photos to your notes, or change the font styles and sizes. (The font and size changes sync over to your iPhone/iPad, but not photos.) You can also pin a note to your desktop to make sure it grabs your attention.
Messages is particularly awesome. Now you can type little messages — or shoot photos or videos — to anyone else with an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mountain Lion Mac, right from your computer. These may feel like text messages, but they’re free and don’t involve the cellphone company. And because everything is synced up, you see the same conversation thread on all your gadgets. If you started a chat with your boss on the phone, you can get home from work, sit down at your Mac and see the whole transcript so far.
The Grammy Awards could end up much like the 2011 album sales charts did — as a race for second behind Adele and her top-selling album, “21” (XL/Columbia). This British belter, a critical favorite and seller of more than 7.5 million records (hard copies and digital) in the United States alone last year, will surprise almost no one if she sweeps the big awards on Sunday, including Album, Record, Song and Artist of the Year. She is also doubling as perhaps the most anticipated young performer at the Feb. 12 Grammy ceremony, to be broadcast on CBS. That is, depending on how you feel about Chris Brown.
New York Times writers and critics will be reporting from the Grammys in Los Angeles and providing live commentary during the broadcast on CBS on Sunday.
Released in Feb. 2011, “21” was built upon a structure of classic American soul, but aimed “to show just what sort of odd details those frames can support,” Jon Carmanica, a pop music critic for The New York Times, wrote in his review of that album. “21″ ended up as the top-selling album of 2011 and has been the most dominant hit since the record industry’s long-gone salad days. As of last week — when it topped the Billboard 200 yet again —“21” has spent a total of 18 weeks at No. 1, making it the first album to reel off such a successful run since “The Bodyguard” soundtrack spent 20 weeks at No. 1 in 1993.
All of which gives her the appearance of a juggernaut at this weekend’s Grammys, even though her competition in the Album of the Year category includes several other lauded top sellers: Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Bruno Mars and Foo Fighters.
Lady Gaga, “Born This Way” (Interscope)
Interscope Records, via Reuters
In most other years, Lady Gaga’s second full-length album would gave been a defining hit. It sold nearly 3 million copies in 2011, including digital downloads. “The album is as catchy and euphorically overblown as the music that made her a sensation,” The Times’s Jon Pareles wrote. “It also adds an additional dimension to her songs: her cherished relationship with a mass audience — fans who call themselves Little Monsters and dress up with gender-bending zeal — to whom she is a goddess, a big sister, a mouthpiece, a counselor and a cheerleader.” (
Most of the Grammy buzz surrounding Rihanna has focused on the fact that both she and her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown will be performing (separately) at the ceremony, but it’s perhaps more notable that “Loud,” her fifth album, is her first to be nominated for Album of the Year. The record is “back to business as usual — flirting, titillating, indulging, romancing — for Rihanna,” Mr. Pareles wrote in a review of the record. “She’s resuming her persona as the party girl with the glint of danger.” (Concert Review: Rihanna at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island in July)
Bruno Mars, “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” (Elektra)
Chad Batka for The New York TimesBruno Mars.
With six Grammy nods, the light soul crooner is again one of the most nominated acts, though he earned less than last year when he received seven nominations. (His one win last year came for Best Male Pop Vocal, a category that no longer exists.) Thanks to the awards’ October-to-September eligibility period, the Grammys are just getting around to Mr. Mars’s 2010 debut album, which is “an effortless, fantastically polyglot record that shows him to be a careful study across a range of pop songcraft,” Mr. Caramanica wrote.
Foo Fighters, “Wasting Light” (Roswell/RCA)
Karsten Moran for The New York TimesDave Grohl of the Foo Fighters.
The Foo Fighters scored their first No. 1 album in April with “Wasting Light,” a fact that might owe more to the overall decline in sales of records not by Adele or Lady Gaga. The band and its leader, Dave Grohl, stand out in this category not only as the token rock act, but as members of a decidedly older vintage than their fellow nominees; this year the band also entered its era of retrospective books and documentaries. (Concert Review: Foo Fighters at the Izod Center)
It’s an amazing record and everybody’s so shocked that it’s such a phenomenon. I’m not. You know why that record’s huge? Because it’s [expletive] good and it’s real. When you have an artist singing about something real and she’s incredibly talented, it deserves all the rewards it gets, it’s a great record.
The empowerment of Jesus through God the Holy Spirit is repeatedly stressed in the Gospel of Luke. There we find that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and given the title “Christ,” which means anointed by the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1-2) Jesus’ aunt Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit” when greeting Jesus’ pregnant mother, Mary, and his uncle Zechariah went on to prophesy that their son John was appointed by God to prepare the way for Jesus. (Luke 1:41-43, 67, 76) An angel had revealed to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus; when Mary asked how that was possible since she was a virgin, the angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.” (Luke 1:35-37)
Once born, Jesus was dedicated to the Lord in the temple according to the demands of the law by Simeon; “the Holy Spirit was upon [Simeon]” and the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until seeing Jesus Christ. (Luke 2:25-27) Simeon was “in the Spirit” when he prophesied about Jesus’ ministry to Jews and Gentiles to the glory of God. (Luke 2:27-34)
John later prophesied that one day Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:14; Phil.2:5-6; Col.2:9; 1 John 4:2) The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at his own baptism. (Matt. 4:1-10) It is curious that while the Gospels give scant information about Jesus’ childhood, all four include the account of Jesus’ baptism. Matthew adds the interesting statement that the Spirit rested on Jesus, as if to suggest that the remainder of his life and ministry on the earth would be done under the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 3:16)
Regarding Jesus’ baptism, Graham Cole writes, “The symbol of the dove and Jesus’ emerging from the waters, soon to reenter the land, possibly conjure up the old stories of Noah’s flood and Israel’s exodus from Egypt and its eventual crossing over the Jordan into the Promised Land. God is about to do something of extraordinary significance in salvation-history.” (Cole, He Who Gives Life, 158) In the remainder of Luke’s Gospel we discover that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit,” “led by the Spirit,” (Luke 4:1-2) and came “in the power of the Spirit.” (Luke 4:14) After reading Isaiah 61:1–2, which says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” Jesus declared, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:14-21)
Luke continues by revealing that Jesus also “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 10:21) Regarding the Holy Spirit’s ministry to and through Christians, Jesus promised that God the Father would “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13) and that the Holy Spirit would teach us once he was sent. (Luke 12:12)
Gerald Hawthorne, who has written one of the most compelling books on the subject of Jesus’ relationship with the Holy Spirit, says, “Not only is Jesus their Savior because of who he was and because of his own complete obedience to the Father’s will (cf. Heb. 10:5-7), but he is the supreme example for them of what is possible in a human life because of his total dependence upon the Spirit of God.” By closely examining the relationship between Jesus and God the Holy Spirit during Jesus’ earthly life, we see that they work in cooperation, not in competition. Furthermore, we see that Jesus is the quintessential example of what it means to live a Spirit-filled life. Important also is the fact that Jesus’ life was lived by the power of the Spirit as a missionary in culture.
”—Vintage Church: Timeless Truths and Timeless Methods, Mark Driscoll
The Super Bowl should be a national holiday — people are sure treating the Super Sunday that way. It’s a day of food; a day to get together with friends and family; a day to check out the newest commercials; and a day to watch football. A record number of people — 151.6 million — are projected to watch at least a part of the game.
Football almost gets overshadowed in this spectacle. More people may be concerned about Madonna’s nerves over her halftime performance than whether Rob Gronkowski’s ankle will hold up for an entire game.
The game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on NBC. NBC’s pre-game show starts at noon, yes, six plus hours of more hype.
It’s projected $10.1 billion, or an average of $59.33 per consumer will be spent on Super Bowl Sunday. Estimated spending in the United States on Super Bowl-related merchandise, apparel and snacks is up from $8.9 billion, or $52.63 per consumer, last year, according to the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association. The second-largest food consumption day in the U.S. is Super Bowl Sunday, trailing only Thanksgiving.
We’ll be eating 30 million pounds of snacks, according to the Calorie Control Council. That’s 11.2 million pounds of potato chips, 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips, 4.3 million pounds of pretzels, 3.8 million pounds of popcorn and 2.5 million pounds of nuts.
What we eat during the game:
30 percent: Dips and spreads.
22 percent: Chicken wings.
17 percent: Pizza.
14 percent: Chips and salty snacks; including 4,000 tons of popcorn and 14,500 tons of chips.
9 percent: Burgers, hot dogs and brats.
Other Super Bowl food facts and numbers to feast on:
• 325.5 million: gallons of beer drunk.
• 1,200 calories: amount the average Super Bowl watcher will consume while snacking.
• The most popular take-out and delivery items on Super Bowl Sunday are pizza, chicken wings, and sandwiches.
• 28 million: pounds of potato chips eaten worldwide.
• 1 billion: number of chicken wings eaten.
• 8 million pounds of guacamole is consumed on Super Bowl Sunday.
• 69.6 million pounds of avocados, enough to cover Cowboys Stadium field in almost 27 feet of avocados. Most are used to make the 8 million pounds of guacamole consumed, according to the Hass Avocado Board.
• Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest winter grilling day of the year.
• 7 million: number of U.S. employees estimated not to show up to work on the Monday.
• Approximately 54 percent of Americans will consume coffee the morning following Super Bowl Sunday.
• According to 7-Eleven stores, there is a 20 percent increase in the sale of antacids on the day after Super Bowl.
This Super Bowl Sunday, millions of Americans will watch the game with bowls of corn-based snacks at their side. Whether you prefer Doritos, Cheetos, or even Funyons, you owe the pleasure of that crunchy munchy to the humble corn curl that started it all: the Frito.
This week, our friends at Smithsonian's Food & Think blog trace the origins of the Frito back to entrepreneur C.E. Doolin's encounter with a Mexican frita, or “small fried thing,” made of cornmeal, water, and salt. It was 1932 in San Antonio, and the flavor so inspired Doolin that he found the man responsible for the chips, a Mexican immigrant named Gustavo Olquin, and bought his equipment, recipe, and business contacts for $100.
Over the years, Doolin expanded the business, mechanized the chip-making process, and invented new flavors and products, like the Cheeto. The Fritos brand went on in 1961 to merge with the Lay potato chip company, another Depression-era family business.
Doolin died in 1959, but had already paved the way for an explosion of corn-based snacks – from Cheetos, to Doritos, to Tostitos, and even Funyons. And like the original Frito, each of those products is essentially just fried cornmeal with flavoring.
Unlike Fritos, though, Funyons and Cheetos are extruded: Their puffy texture comes from batter being mixed with hot water under pressure and exposed to air. You can see it and the rest of the Funyon-making process happen inside the factory in this recent video from National Geographic.
The Fritos brand pulled in more than $1 billion last year — much of it from the winning combination of corn, fat and salt. It’s a strange legacy for Doolin, who was actually something of a health nut, according to a 2007 story from NPR’s Hidden Kitchens series. Although his wife created recipes like Frito Pie and Frito Jets (Fritos smothered in chili and dark chocolate, respectively), Doolin always imagined Fritos as a side dish for meals, something to eat by the handful – not by the party-size bag.
As God’s creatures, we are all debtors to him: to obey him with all our body, and soul, and strength. Having broken his commandments, as we all have, we are debtors to his justice, and we owe to him a vast amount which we are not able to pay.
But of the Christian it can be said that he does not owe God’s justice anything, for Christ has paid the debt his people owed; for this reason the believer owes the more to love. I am a debtor to God’s grace and forgiving mercy; but I am no debtor to his justice, for he will never accuse me of a debt already paid. Christ said, “It is finished!” and by that he meant, that whatever his people owed was wiped away for ever from the book of remembrance. Christ, to the uttermost, has satisfied divine justice; the account is settled; the handwriting is nailed to the cross; the receipt is given, and we are debtors to God’s justice no longer.
But then, because we are not debtors to our Lord in that sense, we become ten times more debtors to God than we should have been otherwise. Christian, pause and ponder for a moment. What a debtor thou art to divine sovereignty! How much thou owest to his disinterested love, for he gave his own Son that he might die for thee. Consider how much you owe to his forgiving grace, that after ten thousand affronts he loves you as infinitely as ever. Consider what you owe to his power; how he has raised you from your death in sin; how he has preserved your spiritual life; how he has kept you from falling; and how, though a thousand enemies have beset your path, you have been able to hold on your way. Consider what you owe to his immutability. Though you have changed a thousand times, he has not changed once.
Thou art as deep in debt as thou canst be to every attribute of God. To God thou owest thyself, and all thou hast-yield thyself as a living sacrifice, it is but thy reasonable service.
OK, that’s biting off a lot, I know. But really, isn’t that the question you’d like answered?
I’m here to help. I’m from the wonk world, and the folks at Rolling Stone have asked me to contribute a weekly online column starting next year. I’m jumping the gun here because … well, because there’s just so much wrong with the way we’re going at economic policy in America right now, and some of the political battles taking place in real time offer a great example.
I know it’s tempting to put off important matters, like restructuring the $15 trillion American economy to much more effectively meet the needs of the people in it, until after the holidays. But there’s simply no time to waste in getting this right.
Simply put, the answer to the question posed in the title to this column is this: The way most policy makers and too many economists understand the economy is wrong. It’s driven by wrong beliefs – for example that:
• markets can monitor and correct themselves without government oversight
• trickle-down economics (the idea that you cut taxes for the wealthy and that creates more work for everyone else) actually works
• government can’t help (and more often than not does harm) in either of the above cases – either in regulating markets or stimulating job creation.
And what’s the support for these beliefs? There is none. In fact, the evidence points the other way. The Great Recession itself was the result of a housing bubble born, in part, of a negligent lack of oversight into the activities of the banking and housing finance sectors. The G.W. Bush years provided an excellent test of trickle-down: both job growth and middle-class incomes did worse in those years than any other business cycle expansion on record. And government policy failed to effectively regulate incendiary markets and to ensure that more of the economy’s growth and jobs reached the middle class.
A new economic model must rise from the ashes of the Great Recession, one built upon the non-reality of the above three myths. Markets, particularly financial markets, need regulating; if we cut more taxes for the wealthy, we simply make them wealthier and worsen our fiscal outlook by piling up ever-larger debts and deficits; and we need a government capable of dealing with these market failures.
Jared Bernstein is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. From 2009 to 2011, he was the Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, and a member of President Obama’s economic team.
I’ve never been impressed with the argument that Mitt Romney makes for a weak Republican nominee because conservatives don’t like him. That’s not how that party works. Like they say, “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.” Don’t believe me? Think back four years. When the race was still up in the air, the venom aimed at McCain was ten times worse than anything being suffered by Mitt. I collected the stuff back then: Rush Limbaugh said McCain threatened “the American way of life as we’ve always known it”; Ann Coulter said he was actually “a Democrat” (oof!); an article in the conservative magazine Human Events called him “the new Axis of Evil”; and Michael Reagan, talk radio host and the 40th president’s son, said “he has contempt for conservatives, who he thinks can be duped into thinking he’s one of them.”
Then McCain wrapped up the nomination, and Mike Reagan suddenly said, “You can bet my father would be itching to get out on the campaign trail working to elect him.” One thing Republicans understand: In American elections you have to choose from among only two people – not between the perfect and the good.
This year the pundits honk that Romney faces an even more fraught minefield than McCain did, because he is a Mormon – and the Evangelical base of the Republican Party won’t vote for a Mormon. The New York Times recently introduced us to R. Phillip Roberts, the president of a Southern Baptist seminary and author of Mormonism Unmasked – subtitle: “Confronting the Contradictions Between Mormon Beliefs and True Christianity” – who chases around the country preaching that the likes of Mitt Romney are heretics. The Newspaper of Record then asked its readers “to understand the gravity of their theological qualms”: While “traditional Christians believe in the Trinity: that God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all rolled into one,” the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints holds “that God the Father and Jesus are separate physical beings, and that God has a wife whom they call Heavenly Mother.” They backed the claim up with statistics: Just one-third of white Evangelicals in a Pew poll last November said Mormons were Christian. And what kind of Evangelical wants a president who isn’t Christian?
I think they’ll get over it. In American religious history, theological qualms tend to get pushed aside when politics intervenes.
Consider that little more than a generation ago, Catholics had it even worse than Mormons do now. “Theological qualms”? Try this one on for size: Once upon a time many, if not most, Protestant fundamentalists identified the Roman Catholic Church as nothing less than the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth – the dreaded “Whore of Babylon” described in Revelation 17 and 18. More prosaically, they identified Catholics as an alien force. Billy Graham reassured his followers in 1960 that it was legitimate to vote against Catholic John F. Kennedy out of religious prejudice, because the Roman Catholic Church “is not only a religious but also a secular institution, with its own ministers and ambassadors.”
You may have heard of the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Nowadays Evangelicals despise it as a heathen outfit bent on banishing God from the public square. (Here they celebrate the civil liberties victory represented by the display of a Flying Spaghetti Monster next to the Nativity scene at the courthouse in Loudoun County, Virginia.) A generation ago, however, Evangelicals were fans – back when the group was known as “Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and State,” and was the institutional home for those who feared the Roman church was a wicked conspiracy to colonize the United States.