Tuesday, July 28, 2015


It is a curious fact that the human brain has both the capacity to remember and the capacity to forget. Having confessed my putting woes publicly and received  a number of sympathetic notes of encouragement and advice, I awoke this morning in the arms of an epiphany.

Now I remember what it was that I forgot. I have been spouting sage advice about putting and putters for years and years. Anyone who has shared a foursome with me has heard my tale, doubtlessly more than once, since repetition is the talisman of old age.

So at six A.M. I was in the garage rescuing an old brass-headed putter with the trade name “Sharpro” on the grip. Thirty minutes of practice on the carpet was enough to convince me – again – of what I have always known.

A putter is like a woman.

You look around until you find one you like, then you stick with her. She will give you a lifetime of irritation and a few moments of ecstasy.

When you see those fellows putting left hand low, or using one of those monster weapons with a shaft as long as a broom, you’re looking at a guy who probably isn’t happy at home either.

And the fellow with a garage full of assorted putters has obviously been looking for happiness in all the wrong places.

Loyalty matters. It is the bond that gives us security and confidence. She was there yesterday. She is there today. She will be there tomorrow. There will be good days and bad days. Together the good days will be great and the bad days not so bad.

There is one thing you can always count on. She will do exactly what she is supposed to do. Like a woman, a putter never makes a mistake. If the ball doesn’t go into the hole, it is not her fault. It’s yours.

There is nothing sadder than to see an angry golfer throwing his putter into the pond or bashing it against a tree. The beauty of the game is that it is all about personal responsibility. She may miss some short putts. But she will make a man of you, and that’s a blessing no trophy can equal.
Like a woman, a putter demands that you give her lots of time. You can’t expect success without practice. Lots and lots of practice. Lots and lots of time spent together, just the two of you. No big agenda. No deadlines. Nobody keeping score.

Sometimes what you do with your putter will make you laugh. Sometimes what you do with your putter will make you want to cry. Laughing and crying are all about being truly alive. It’s how you learn to take the good with the bad, and vice versa.

At the Greenbrier Classic a few weeks ago, PGA professional Robert Streb missed a putt on the ninth green and dejectedly tossed his putter toward his caddy. It took an odd bounce off the bag and the shaft broke just above the head.

Streb finished the round putting with his 56-degree wedge in masterful fashion, shooting a four under par 32 on the back nine. He rolled in five birdies including one from 26 feet on number 13 and a tense six footer on the 72nd hole of the tournament to earn a berth in a four man playoff for the trophy.

He was allowed to replace the broken putter for the playoff. Perhaps he should have stuck with the wedge. He was eliminated on the first extra hole.

So, yes, you can putt with a wedge, or a driver, or a seven iron. It’s possible, and sometimes – just sometimes – it works pretty well.

But wedges aren’t made for putting. Putters are made for putting. That’s what they do. That’s what you are supposed to do with them. A golfer with no putter in his bag is an oddity. Strange. Unusual. Not in the mainstream.

I suppose there will be some young golfers who will try putting with their wedges after reading about Robert Streb. Maybe some day there will be enough of them so that putters won’t be very special or important.

Then perhaps the Supreme Court will tell us that it doesn’t matter what you putt with and the White House will be lit up like a Christmas tree.

Won’t that be just dandy?

Monday, July 27, 2015


The Head Golf Professional at Birchwood Farms Golf and Country Club, Mr. Cris Cavitt, listens well. Personable, friendly, and outgoing, he probably knows more about the folks around here than Father Joe does. And like the good Padre, he keeps his knowledge to himself.

Also like Father Joe, he listens with sympathy and compassion. It’s all very warm and fuzzy. But doggone it, I don’t need sympathy. I need help. On a nine hole practice round today, I missed five putts from under three feet. Two of them were less than 16 inches.

So I asked Cris to watch me and see what I am doing wrong. He watched and I promptly drained four short putts. With his usual broad smile, Cris shook his head and said, “I can’t help you.”

I have been playing golf for more than three quarters of a century, beginning in 1939 at the Ridgetown Golf and Country Club in Ridgetown, Ontario. It was a flat, hard baked nine holes. At every tee there was a bucket of sand and a bucket of water. You made a little pyramid with wet sand on which to tee up your ball.

You can learn a lot on the links. About competition. About integrity. About fellowship. And disappointment. Indeed, I have learned a great deal about disappointment.

It was, I believe, Saint Augustine who mused, “What I would, I do not, what I would not, I do.” Sounds like golf. It’s a left brain, right brain thing. Tell yourself, “Don’t hit it into the water,” and chances are very good you will hit it into the water. It’s the left brain that thinks in pictures. Mention water, and the picture appears, directing your subconscious to pull the ball into the pond.

I stand over a short putt and hear my brain saying “This is easy. Anybody can knock the ball into the hole from here. I can’t miss it. I won’t miss it.” Then, sure enough, I miss it.

A friend of mine in Florida likes to encourage his team mates on short putts. In a voice both cheerful and positive, he says, “Knock it in the hole.” On one such occasion, I stopped and asked him how many times we had played together. He said, ‘Maybe fifty or sixty.” I said, “Did you know that I never made a putt when you told me to knock it in the hole?”

For those of us who aspire to be golfers, there is only one rule. Persevere. Never give up. Keep on trying. You have never really failed if you are still making the effort.

Cris Cavitt tells me he reads my blogs. He asked me today how many people see them. I honestly don’t know. The people at Constant Contact, who do the mailing, tell me that they send out about 700 notices, only 93% of which actual get delivered. Five hundred don’t bother to look at it, 200 do look at the email, but only about 100 click through to see the blog. How many of those actually read the blog, nobody knows.

I have grandchildren who have a larger audience on Facebook looking at pictures of the pork chops they are eating.

Why do I do it? Just because. Just because I listen to the News. Just because I browse the Internet. Just because I have lived a long time and I think people should know some things I have seen, and done and learned.

I have lived in the most exciting, changing, interesting, perhaps important years in the recorded history of mankind. It should be no surprise that I want to tell what I have seen, share what I have learned.

There is almost nothing in the fabric of society that is not up for grabs in 2015. Indeed, for many people society has no fabric; the do’s and don’ts of the 20th century, if remembered at all, are seen as merely quaint anachronisms that simply don’t fit the electronic age.

Even the meaning of words evolves with every Google search. Frank Sinatra (remember him?) used to sing that love and marriage went together like a horse and carriage. They don’t sing songs like that any more, maybe because nothing rhymes with match dot com.

It is said that those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. Perhaps that’s the way the world is supposed to work. Keep doing it over and over until we get it right. Sort of like learning to make a short putt. Anyway, don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


My father, Joseph Terrence Brennan, was a very uncomplicated man. His counsel to me, given usually on some occasion of my mischief, was simple and direct: “You know what’s right and you know what’s wrong. Do what’s right.”

I think about that sage piece of advice often when I listen to the news. It was James Madison who observed that if men were angels there would be no need for government. Indeed the founders of our nation were well aware that liberty and virtue are closely related.

In law school, I learned that there are two kinds of crimes: those which are mala prohibita and those which are malum in se. The first are offenses which are wrong simply because they are prohibited by the law, like traffic laws, tax laws, licensing laws. 

The second are those offenses which are wrong in and of themselves. Like murder, robbery, and arson. Speed limits have to be posted in order to be enforced, but there are no signs along the road saying “Don’t kill” or “Don’t steal.”

The law presumes that all people over the age of reason know the difference between right and wrong. The age of reason is defined as that time of life when a person is able to distinguish between right and wrong. In Roman Catholic tradition, it was assumed to be seven years of age. The criminal laws of most states treat offenders under sixteen as juveniles having less responsibility for their actions.

For adults, the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong is presumed, unless challenged by a criminal defendant. If challenged, the prosecutor has the burden of proving that the defendant knew the difference between right and wrong. In fact, the inability to distinguish between right and wrong is the definition of insanity in criminal cases.

George Washington insisted that there can be no liberty without morality and no morality without religion. Robert Fulghum, in his charming book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten reaffirms the importance of learning right from wrong early in life.

The relationship between religion and morality is everywhere perceived and admitted. That makes sense. Religion is essentially a belief about human life; what it is, where it came from, where it is going and what we should do with it.

The First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a religion in America. That has led to the belief that government must remain neutral in matters of morality. Neutrality, in turn, has spawned a belief that morality is a matter of personal opinion or preference.

In such a milieu, the difference between right and wrong is blurred. Many universities teach that everything is relative; that there are no absolutes and truth itself becomes a matter of personal preference or opinion.

Or plain unvarnished selfishness. If it feels good, do it. If you want it, take it. If you don’t want it, toss it. The whole idea of some actions being wrong in and of themselves – malum in se --  is incomprehensible. There is no silent, insistent inner voice of judgment, no sense of guilt, no feeling of wrongdoing.

All law becomes mala prohibita; the only downside is being caught. Law enforcement is seen as tyranny, the organized infringement upon liberty. And the minions of law enforcement then are seen as the enemy.

How else can we explain riots, anarchy, the looting and burning of stores, the assassination of policemen?

There was a time in America when the average person believed in heaven and hell; that there is judgment after death, that a just Creator knows all and sees all and rewards the good and punishes the evil. Not so in 2015.

Where there is no God, there is no good and evil; no wrong or right. If being true to one’s own standards is the only measure of human conduct how can we condemn Nidal Hassan who thought he was praising Allah by killing Americans?

ISIS perceives itself as engaging in a holy war. That’s why they can recruit all over the world. That is why they rout the mercenary armies sent against them. I am tempted to ask, What do we believe? What will we die for?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Dear Al:

First, let me tell you how delighted I am to receive your detailed and expansive response to my email. Your email invites the kind of intellectual exchange that is not only invigorating, but also profoundly important to the success of our mutual efforts to improve our nation.

My first observation stems from the fact that the pro-life people would read the personhood amendment differently than you first did.

Important point here. Words have meaning. Constitutions are especially required to say what they mean and mean what they say. So if you were willing to agree with the amendment before you realized its implications for abortions, what words would you change? Which would you omit? What would you add?

You want to say that the word “person” as used in the Constitution does not include corporations. OK. So we agree that a “person” is a human being. Not a gathering of human beings. Not a group or a family, not an assumed name, or a fictional character, but an actual, living member of the species ‘homo sapiens.”

What makes something a person? Nose, eyes, ears? A mouth? Manikins have all of these. So do many animals. Two arms and two legs? Monkeys have these.

You say that there is a range of opinion and belief about pre born humans. I agree. Opinion and belief are often affected by perceived self interest. They are essentially subjective measurements. In the public square, mere subjective opinion or belief is unpersuasive until backed by objective knowledge.

The science of obstetrics has blossomed in our age of electronic communication. The medical profession, in cooperation with vastly sophisticated technology, has given us a stunningly clear understanding of the development of human life in a mother’s womb.

We know that pre born humans move independently of their mothers. We know that they experience pain. We know that they respond to various forms of treatment and stimulus.

You will notice that I have not mentioned religion. I did not mention it because it has no place in the debate about abortion. The criminal abortion laws of the fifty states were not expressions of religious belief. They were adopted by legislatures consisting of people of many faiths. They echoed the Hippocratic oaths traditionally taken by members of the medical profession.

From time immemorial human beings have known where babies come from. Women have known when they are pregnant. Their bodies go into a protective mode. They are emotionally affected by the prospect of childbirth. It’s physical, hormonal. These are all simple, biological facts, and while they are reflected in various forms of religious belief, they are not merely ecclesiastical constructs.

Human beings have a strong survival instinct. Always have had. As long as history has been recorded, there is proof that childbirth is a happy event. New life, continued life, has always been perceived as an occasion of joy.

In the old days at common law, the destruction of an unborn baby after quickening was criminal. They didn’t have ex-rays or ultra sounds. Quickening was the only way people had to know that there was a baby living inside of a woman.

Abortion is a matter of civic concern. Since 1973 more than 60 million Americans have been denied the most basic human right: the right to be born alive. For many it’s a religious issue, but for all it is a civil rights issue.

We live in a day and an age when the science of eugenics is reviving. Family planning has morphed into human engineering. The children of the poor are dismembered and sold for body parts. The intelligentsia can avail themselves of certified paternity from sperm banks to propagate the ‘brightest and the best.’

You have eloquently described the inhumanity that has stained the pages of history, whether racial, religious, ethnic or crassly commercial. There will always be evil in the world, and we must always oppose it mightily.  

In the meantime, can we not agree on a constitutional definition of a person that will satisfy both sides of the table?

Sunday, July 19, 2015


In my last blog, I commented on what I called a dangerously inhuman cultural drift. That drift became a torrent this morning when Polly sent me a link to a horrendous video. I urge you; no, I beg you, to watch it. Send it to your friends. Shout it from the rooftops. Write your Congressman. Send a letter to the Editor. Go on Facebook. Tweet on Twitter. Here it is:


Somehow, a courageous and dedicated investigator, posing as the representative of an organization which supplies fetal tissue to hospitals, managed to engage a senior representative of Planned Parenthood in a conversation which was surreptitiously recorded on video.

Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America is a charming, loquacious medical doctor. In the course of a luncheon, she confirmed that abortion providers affiliated with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America routinely request that their clients sign a release of any claim to the tissue removed from their bodies during an abortion.

She also confirmed that such tissue as may be requested by hospitals, and medical research facilities is routinely donated by their providers. Not sold, she says, merely donated for scientific or health related purposes. The receiving hospital or other facility typically pays between $30 and $100 to cover the cost of preserving and transporting each specimen.

I got a couple of paragraphs into this blog when it dawned on me that I have bitten on some believable scams, particularly emails designed to ensnare those of a conservative disposition. So I went to Snopes. I was not the first to inquire. Snopes confirms that Deborah Nucatola is indeed the Senior Director of Medical Services for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

But whether the video is legitimate or not, Snopes has not yet determined.
I did, however, find an opposing video on a talk show called The Young Turks. Here it is:

So the opposition concedes that the lady in the video was, in fact, Deborah Nucatola, the Senior Director of Medical Services of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. But, it insists that the video was “heavily edited” to create a false message.

We have all seen how diabolically videos can be edited, so I went back to the drawing board and found the full length, two hour and forty-two minute version of the Nucatola luncheon.

The unedited version makes it quite clear that non profit abortion providers do not sell fetal tissue for profit. Dr. Nucatola insists that whatever is paid to them merely reimburses their expenses. She does, however, contend that making fetal tissue available for research and/or transplant is a good thing, and therefore should motivate additional contributions to Planned Parenthood by its supporters.

She also concedes that before she starts her Thursday surgical marathon, she makes note of the type of tissue being sought by the hospitals; liver and heart being high on the list.

Then, of course, there is the matter of skillful removal. One technique, according to Doctor Nucatola, involves turning the fetus around so as to simulate a breech birth. When the baby comes out feet first, the entire body can be severed at the neck, thus keeping all the organs intact.

The Washington Post reports that The National Institutes of Health spent $76 million on research using fetal tissue in 2014, records show, with plans to spend roughly the same amount this year and in 2016.

Last November, according to the Post, Organovo, a biomedical company in San Diego, started selling human liver tissue primarily to pharmaceutical companies. Today, nearly $2 million worth of orders are booked, said Michael Renard, the firm’s executive vice president.

Planned Parenthood may be donating unwanted fetal tissue for research, but somebody is making a lot of money on those dead babies.

And then there are folks who protest the inhumane treatment of pigs in America.