27 November 2010

Advent Praise

For a season of expectant waiting

Of hopeful longing

Of quiet seeking

Of silent awe

Of joyful preparation

I give Praise to God

22 November 2010

Security or Unreasonable Search? Stop Treating Americans Like Suspected Terrorists

at Catholic Online

There’ve been many disconcerting stories from folks who’ve been subjected to the TSA’s new security procedures at airports around the country.  Three that most clearly illustrate the insanity and stupidity of these new screenings are the breast cancer survivor who was forced to remove her prosthesis from her bra and show it to the TSA agent; the image of a little boy standing shirtless near the metal detector as a grown man touches every inch of his half-naked little body; the bladder cancer survivor in Detroit who was left soaked in his own urine after agents broke the seal on his urostomy bag even though he begged them to be careful.

This is security?!?  Have we lost our collective minds?  Humiliation, undressing and groping are now the tools of counter-terrorism?

There is an uproar across the nation, but is it loud enough yet?  We’re on the cusp on having these “procedures” cemented into permanent existence if we don't soon halt this gross violation of rights.

I’m among those who think this is a 4th Amendment issue.   “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated…”

It is unreasonable to treat every passenger as a potential terrorist.  It is unreasonable to subject every passenger to being seen virtually naked and/or groped by a government official.  It is unreasonable and inexcusable to treat small children this way.  Random selection is not a sufficient reason, besides which it seems a laughable waste of time and resources.

3 year-old girls are not the enemy.  7 year-old boys are not the enemy.  Elderly nuns in full habit are not the enemy.  The overwhelming majority of people in the United States are not the enemy.  The enemy, by and large, is Muslim men.  But since the current administration won’t even name the enemy, let alone employ security measures that actually target the enemy, now every American citizen is treated as the enemy.

The fact is, if we’re only finding the chemical explosives hidden in a potential bomber’s underwear while he’s standing in security surrounded by hundreds of other passengers, then we’re finding out too late.  We’ve already failed.

Profiling is not a dirty word

We will never be secure if we are unwilling to do the logical, necessary, perfectly reasonable act of profiling.  That must be the first step in determining if someone poses a security threat.  As a law-abiding citizen, I have nothing to hide or fear.  I would much rather have someone digging into my profile than into my pants.

El Al is widely held up as the model of how to achieve airport security.  The Israelis have successfully kept their people and their planes safe from terrorist attacks and they’ve done it without requiring naked full-body images, reaching inside passenger’s clothing or groping people’s genitals.

Recall the interview in January of this year with Isaac Yeffet, former head of security for El Al in which he said, “Stop relying only on technology.  Technology can help the qualified, well-trained human being but cannot replace him.”  Every passenger flying El Al is interviewed in person before check-in by one of their highly-trained agents.

When asked what we learned from the failed bombing in Detroit last Christmas Day, Yeffet said, “We learned one thing. We do not have a good security system to be able to prevent tragedies in this country.  After Lockerbie, everyone thought, now we've learned the lesson of how to be proactive instead of being reactive. Unfortunately, September 11 came and we know the result. Thousands of people lost their lives. Security totally failed, not at one airport, at three different airports around the country.”

“In 2002, we had Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. This man gave the security people all the suspicious signs that any passenger could show. The man got a British passport in Belgium, not in England. Number Two: he flew to Paris; he bought a one-way ticket from Paris to Florida. He paid cash. He came to the airport with no luggage. What else do I need to know that this passenger is suspicious?”

“What did we learn from this? Just to tell the passenger from now on, you take off your shoes when you come to the airport? This I call a patch on top of a patch.”

His decisive recommendation for improving our security:  “Every passenger – I don’t care his religion or whatever he is – every passenger has to be interviewed by security people who are qualified and well-trained and are being tested all year long.”

That sounds reasonable, does it not?  It would require a redirection of funds and an investment in more than machinery.  It would require we put time and money into finding and training qualified people to handle the task of security.  El Al’s approach is far different from ours.  Their agents must be educated, speak two languages, go through long periods of classroom training, then extensive on-the-job training with supervisors to learn how to approach passengers.

It’s expensive, but worth it because it’s highly effective.  El Al passengers cooperate because they know the security interviews are truly done for their safety and they’re performed efficiently so people aren’t missing flights or being delayed without cause.

When asked what he thinks of the full-body scanners, Yeffet replied, “I am against it. This is once again patch on top of patch. Look what happened, Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, hid the explosives in his shoes. The result -- all of us have to take off our shoes when we come to the airport. The Nigerian guy hid his explosives in his underwear. The result -- everyone now will be seen naked. Is this the security system that we want?”

Indeed.  Is this the security system we want?

Like many other folks, I can’t help but wonder what will happen when the next terrorist bomber hides the explosives inside his rectal cavity where it won’t be seen or felt.  Will every passenger then be required to submit to a body cavity search?  It’s the next logical step in this progression of insane actions.

We are forever reacting, always two steps behind because we care more for political-correctness than for real security.  Profiling is not a violation of anyone’s rights.  It is not discrimination.  It is common sense to know who the enemy is likely to be and look more closely at that individual.  It’s time we paid more attention to passengers before they enter the security area in the airport.

How many patches will we keep putting on top of patches?  And how many violations of fundamental rights by our bumbling government will we allow?  Many Americans simply do not trust the government, and that is not an unreasonable position.  Promises of scanned images never being saved are already broken.  Assurances of professional courtesy are hard to believe when some agents can’t even exercise common decency when dealing with people with medical conditions and equipment.

Napolitano, the TSA and now the President are all digging in their heels and insisting that these measures – these ineffective, invasive, humiliating and inappropriate procedures – are the best we can do, and in fact, what we must do.  Napolitano is even favorable toward TSA unionizing. Can you imagine?  Never being able to fire a lousy TSA agent?

Pardon the pun, but we got caught with our pants down on 9/11 and we still haven’t pulled them back up.  Now we’re treating every citizen like a suspected terrorist and calling it security.  We’re so clever.

21 November 2010


Praise to Jesus Christ the King!

Praise Him for His mercy!

Praise Him for His compassion!

Praise Him for His steadfast love!

Praise Him for His faithfulness!

Praise Him for His saving blood!

Praise Him for His power and might!

Praise Him!

19 November 2010

Little Star, Big Gift

Perhaps the greatest strength of a good children's book is its ability to communicate complex or grown-up ideas in the most simple and utterly profound way.

That's what Anthony DeStefano has done with his newest book, Little Star.  It's both the essence of Christmas and the essence of Good Friday all in one irresistible package.

An unlikely little star gives all he can give out of love for a tiny king... and we are all reminded of the difference a selfless, loving sacrifice can make.  It's the Christmas story like you've never heard it told before.  Whether 2 or 92, Little Star is a book you'll love to read Christmas after Christmas, silent night after silent night.  And when you look up at the brightest star in the sky on that holy night, you'll smile in a brand new way.

You can purchase this delightful book on Amazon.

13 November 2010

Opinion: New TSA Security Measures Go Too Far: Be Seen Naked or 'Enhanced' Pat-Down? I'll Drive, Thanks.

UPDATE:  See also "Security or Unreasonable Search?  Stop Treating Americans Like Suspected Terrorists"

at Catholic Online

I see long car trips in my future.  Lucky for me I don’t mind driving.  Barring unexpected emergencies, I think my flying days are over.  Count me among the many, many Americans who are unwilling to be seen virtually naked and/or physically groped by a government employee.

The reports coming from all over about the Transportation Security Administration’s new airport security measures are alarming.  Since late October, airports around the country have begun requiring an “enhanced pat-down” procedure for anyone who refuses the full-body scan.  People who have experienced this pat-down tell a very different story than the official statement given by TSA.

First, travelers describe the shout-out:  “We’ve got an Opt-out!” which is yelled at the top of the agent’s lungs so everyone around can hear.  Next, they’re taken to a roped-off area usually still in view of everyone else going through security and the “pat-down” begins.  The agent begins at the ankles and works his way up, now using the palms of the hand and the fingers when necessary, feeling every inch of the traveler’s body – including the genitals and breasts.

What used to be done with the backs of the hands is now done with fingers and palms, and much more thoroughly and intrusively.  Passengers are describing it as fondling, groping, aggressive, humiliating, and over the line.

TSA swears that these pat-downs are done by a person of the same gender, but the reports I’ve read this past week say otherwise, that woman are being patted-down by men, and that even small children are being searched by agents of the opposite sex.  Though frankly, there’s NO WAY this side of eternity I would allow any adult to search my child’s body and touch my child’s genitals, man or woman.

This is going way too far.  This to me is simply the beginning of the end of appropriate bodily privacy.  This is a forced invasion under the guise of safety. The underlying goal is that people will gradually become accustomed to having their modesty shredded in public and their bodies exposed or groped whenever the government deems necessary.

Thanks to the Shoe Bomber we’re all walking through security barefoot.  Fine, I don’t care how many people see my feet.  But the latest bombing attempts – have they been discovered on a terrorist’s person?  No, they’ve been found in the baggage beneath the plane.  Meanwhile, we’re doing virtual strip-searches and groping people’s genitals.  Doesn’t it just seem like the terrorists are two or three steps ahead of us?

Along with the gross bodily invasion, my objection to these new security measures lies with TSA agents themselves.  In the last ten years, I have flown numerous times with my small children and sadly, my encounters with TSA agents have been ridiculously consistent.  There surely are some agents who defy the trend, but time and time again, I found them to be unhelpful and indifferent.  Traveling alone with small children isn’t easy and security after 9/11 made it even more difficult.

Trying to manage a stroller, car seat, carry-on’s, plus two or three kids under age 4 is exhausting.  Removing everyone’s shoes and jackets; collapsing the stroller while holding the baby; hoisting the stroller and car seat up onto the x-ray machine belt while holding the baby; having my walking child(ren) pushed by the agent through the metal detector alone; trying to keep my eyes on my child(ren) while the agent stands there waiting for me to dismantle everything with one arm; finally making it through with the baby only to find our shoes, bags, stroller, car seat, & jackets left in a heap for me to collect.  All the while, the TSA agents just stared, or glared if I wasn’t moving fast enough.  These excursions through security always left me sweating, worn-out, and angry.

On my last flying adventure, I was battling food poisoning from the day before.  I was dehydrated and barely able to keep myself upright.  Going through security, the agent confiscated my small water bottle despite my pleas and then “selected” me for a more extensive carry-on search.  I was carrying my infant daughter and I begged to be allowed to sit down before I fell over, but the agent refused and forced me to stand there while she spent ten minutes going through every article in my carry-on.

So no matter how often the TSA assures the American public that their employees are “professionals” who are “specially trained” to handle these enhanced security measures in a “respectful manner,” I don’t buy it for a second.  I’ve seen otherwise.  And now more than ever, passengers are at their mercy.

We’re supposed to trust that these images are never saved but deleted immediately.  Sorry, but I don’t buy that either.  Suppose someday, God forbid, another lunatic successfully boards a plane with explosives on his/her body somewhere and blows up the plane.  You don’t think TSA is going to want to be able to go back and review the scans from that day to try to find out who the terrorist was, how the explosives were missed and which agent missed them?

Knowing human nature, is it so implausible to think that since these incredibly detailed full-body scans are randomly selected, more physically attractive people will just happen to be randomly selected for the honor?  The counter-argument is to make the scans mandatory for everyone then, right?  Even infants?  Little children?  The elderly?  The disabled?  Am I the only one who thinks the terrorists would be laughing their heads off at our clueless, politically-correct inability to actually protect ourselves?

I do not trust the TSA to handle images of people’s naked bodies with respect or to keep their word that these images will be deleted immediately and not stored.  I’m not at all okay with being intimately felt up by a TSA agent in places only my husband has the right to touch, and I see absolutely no reason whatsoever why children should be subjected to such a violation at the hands of an adult stranger.

Did you know that TSA’s background check procedure only requires employees to disclose felony convictions that occurred in the previous ten years?  Department of Homeland Security guidelines list 28 disqualifying convictions, one of which is rape and aggravated sexual abuse, but it does not specifically mention crimes against children.  Is it possible the TSA agent patting down you and your children was convicted 11 years ago of sexually assaulting a child or raping a woman?  Sure seems that way.

It will be interesting to see how TSA responds to the new instructions given to Muslim women this week by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR):  “In the “special recommendations for Muslim women who wear hijab,” it states: “Before you are patted down, you should remind the TSA officer that they are only supposed to pat down the area in question, in this scenario, your head and neck. They SHOULD NOT subject you to a full-body or partial-body pat-down.”

Will TSA back off from giving Muslim women the “enhanced” pat-down?  This confrontation is sure to play out very soon.

We all want our planes to be safe.  No one wants to be afraid to fly.  But there has to be a better way to achieve security than this.  (And indeed, there is.)  If full-body scans are indeed essential, then I want only a specially-trained radiologist looking at it and proof that the images are deleted.  If invasive bodily pat-downs simply must be endured, then I insist that specially-trained, thoroughly background-checked doctors and nurses are the ones doing it and that my children are left alone. I refuse to surrender my modesty, privacy, and bodily respect just to get on an airplane.  It’s not worth it.

07 November 2010


"I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have being."  Psalm 146:2

This morning I'm giving Praise to God for His tireless pursuing.

For His love which never ends.

For His mercy. Other gods want the blood of their people but our God wanted us so He spilled His own blood.

For this gorgeously bright autumn day and the spectacle of color.  I LOVE it!!

For my kiddos and my husband... I know, they're on my list every week but I can't help it.  I still pinch myself and say, "They're mine?  Wow..."

For atomic clocks that automatically adjust the time so I don't miss Mass on time-change days like today!

For the many cups of hot cocoa we've been drinking around here lately.  Gotta love it.  Bring on the whipped cream or the marshmallows.  And the biscotti.  Yum.

Glory and Praise to our God!  Have a wonderful week everyone.

04 November 2010

Random Act of Culture: Hallelujah at Macy's!!

On Saturday, October 30, 2010, the Opera Company of Philadelphia brought together over 650 choristers from 28 participating organizations to perform one of the Knight Foundation's "Random Acts of Culture" at Macy's in Center City Philadelphia. Accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ - the world's largest pipe organ - the OCP Chorus and throngs of singers from the community infiltrated the store as shoppers, and burst into a pop-up rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah" at 12 noon, to the delight of surprised shoppers.

This event is one of 1,000 "Random Acts of Culture" to be funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation over the next three years. The initiative transports the classical arts out of the concert halls and opera houses and into our communities to enrich our everyday lives. To learn more about this program and view more events, visit randomactsofculture.org. The Opera Company thanks Macy's and the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ (wanamakerorgan.com) for their partnership, as well as Organ Music Director Peter Conte and Fred Haas, accompanists; OCP Chorus Master Elizabeth Braden, conductor; and Sound Engineer James R. Stemke. For a complete list of participating choirs and more information, visit operaphila.org/RAC. This event was planned to coincide with the first day of National Opera Week.


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