Havana is locked in a bygone era, somewhere in the vicinity of 1959, as if the Castro revolution had only occurred yesterday.
Vintage cars serve as taxis rumbling along cobblestone streets. Classic cars run on diesel, a smell permeating the city. Cuban women are colorfully dressed, like Carmen Miranda or the Chiquita Banana lady, aggressively selling Cuban cigars to unwitting tourists in Old Havana Square.
Across the bay stands the foreboding ancient Morro Castle, a fortress built to guard the city. Public thoroughfares decorated with Russian-constructed missiles serve as a chilling reminder of how close the U.S. once came to nuclear war during the showdown between Khrushchev and Kennedy.
I remember, as a kindergarten student, knowing that Saddam Hussein was a bad man and that it was right and just that we were going to invade Iraq: Operation Desert Shield turning into Operation Desert Storm was a good thing.
I remember making several phone calls to college buddies when Saddam Hussein was captured during operation Red Dawn in 2003. We laughed, we guffawed, we talked about it as an early Christmas present. This was what sophomores in college, deeply engaged in thinking and talking about foreign policy did.
I remember hearing that we had caught and killed Osama Bid Laden. I jumped out of my chair as if to cheer, but the joy got caught in my throat, replaced by the realization that celebration over the death of another is quickly followed by a feeling significantly less pleasant than joy, though no less poignant.
People always ask me about the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes served on Christmas Eve.
So strong is this tradition that I can honestly say that in my lifetime I’ve never spent a Christmas Eve without a variety of fish dishes spread before me. This is a hallowed custom that is passed from one generation to another.
To begin with you must have seven fish selections on the table.
Why seven? Seven is a very important number. It stands for the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. The seven days of creation. In Biblical numerology, seven is a number of perfection.
And fish is the featured dish because Italians have customarily abstained from eating meat on Christmas Eve. In fact, I do believe that for a long time the Catholic church prohibited the eating of meat the day before Christmas, This is the Christmas vigil.
There is no set menu for this feast.
But here are some of the fishes that are traditionally used: calamari (squid); scungilli [skuhn-GEE-lee] (conch); baccala [bah-kah-LAH] (dry, salt cod); shrimp; clams, usually served with pasta; mussels; snapper, trout, tuna or salmon.
We have adapted this menu over the years and updated it somewhat.
All the same, if you’re searching online for a preview of how he might translate to a more religious conservative audience than the Garden State Governor usually addresses on home turf, then you might find a few clues in his Wednesday afternoon excerpted remarks at a Passaic County drug court graduation ceremony:
Francis is a good man with plenty to teach us. Economics isn’t one of those things. His latest literary offering wasn’t wrong: “the excluded are still waiting,” especially in his poverty-stricken native Argentina, but his home country is a model of socialism, not “trickle-down” capitalism. How can he not know that?
My humble suggestion: the His Holiness should seriously consider with whom he’s siding on the economic front. He can start by signing up for the email list of U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-Twitter).
“[...] the Supreme Court could decide that for-profit employers can limit access to birth control by constraining insurance options available to their employees,” Booker said in a Saturday morning email blast referring, of course, to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to consider an Obamacare contraception mandate challenge. “Allowing employers to inject themselves into these intensely personal decisions would be a huge step backward.”
There is growing concern about what appear to be recent attacks on free markets and on capitalism itself by Pope Francis.
Mary Anastasia O’Grady has analyzed all this quite objectively in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s part of what she has to say:
In the document released last week he [Pope Francis] admonished those who defend “trickle-down theories, which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” There is no empirical evidence for this, he wrote. It is instead “a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
It’s that time of year again, Save Jerseyans, whether you’re ready for it or not.
Holiday commercials are running on TV, Christmas tree lot signs are springing up around town, the retail stores are hanging festive decorations and your local soft rock radio station is threatening to begin looping “All I Want for Christmas” 24/7 a full 1 1/2 weeks before Thanksgiving.
Welcome to the Holiday Season, 2013 edition.
The modern American Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a very public debate over whether there’s a “War on Christmas” afoot. It’s one theater of the larger “culture war” that’s been waged in our country, in varying degrees of intensity, since the 1960′s. Amazingly, just to show you how contentious it can get, the combatants can’t even stipulate whether the “war” even exists or if it’s simply a figment of conservative talk show hosts’ very active imaginations. It’s certainly real enough to generate a healthy profit; Sarah Palin is helping stir the pot with her new book, Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas, which comes complete with a “Christmoose Chili” recipe. Yummy.
My take? Yes, Virginia, there is a sector of our society that is radically secular and would like to see all religion – but particularly Christianity – erased from the public square. I’d nevertheless like to clear up a few key misconceptions before the sugar plums and fairies get carried away and ruin another perfectly good season…
This morning, the House of Representatives passed a resolution, 400-1, urging Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to allow continued performance of religious services on military installations during the government shutdown.
Pope Francis is in the news for his decidedly different approach to social issues than his predecessors, Save Jerseyans, but the recently-minted Supreme Pontiff’s penchant for rocking the boat isn’t limited to public policy debates and long-fought culture wars.
He’s shaking stuff up in the Garden State, too.
According to the popular Catholic blog Whispers in the Loggia, on Tuesday morning in Rome, Francis appointed Bishop Bernard Hebda as coadjutor-archbishop of Newark.
Who? What? Lucky for you I attended Catholic schools! Hebda is 54 years old and currently serves a diocese in Michigan. This move puts him in line to succeed the current Bishop of Newark, 72 year-old Archbishop John Myers. But this move is more significant than simply establishing a line of succession…
“I wake up every morning at nine and grab for the morning paper. Then I look at the obituary page. If my name is not on it, I get up.”
– Benjamin Franklin
A rather surprising quote, coming from the man who once wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanac that “early to bed and early to rise; makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
But like most of us, Franklin’s life was often at contradiction with itself. We obey (usually) our parents, listen (again, usually) to our teachers, and then as adults develop our own philosophy of life. If we are Christians, that philosophy is deeply rooted in Scripture and biblical truth.
However, what happens when we act in opposition to our very own philosophy of life? Does that mean that we are hypocrites? In Franklin’s case, does that make his admonition about the value of getting an early start to the day any less true?
WASHINGTON, DC - “It has been five long months since the House overwhelmingly passed my legislation to ensure that houses of worship are no longer discriminated against under Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rules,” said Rep. Chris Smith, author of H.R. 592, the “Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013.”
“When a bill passes the House by such a strong, bipartisan margin of 354-72, it is hoped that the Senate will work aggressively to send it to the President’s desk. The legislation is desperately needed to put fairness back into our disaster relief programs.
“I welcome the bipartisan efforts of Senators Kirsten Gillebrand (D-NY) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) in their introduction of a Senate companion bill, S. 1274, this week and I am delighted and encouraged that New Jersey Sen. Jeff Chiesa has signed on as well. I am confident their leadership will help break the log jam and bring equity to the program.”