PopeWatch: Peronists Out


For the first time since 1999 Argentina has a non-Peronist President:


Argentina’s election on Sunday represented the starkest choice the country has faced since the authoritarian era of Juan and Evita Peron began in the 1940s. The seven-point victory of center-right candidate Mauricio Macri may herald a real shift towards more sensible economics and less anti-U.S. policies in Latin America.


Defeated Peronist candidate Daniel Scioli was a hand-picked defender of the interventionist economics of his party’s retiring President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner.



In a recent TV interview, Scioli summed up the differences between him and Macri simply: “I defend the role of the state and he defends the role of the market.” He accused Macri, a leading businessman and mayor of Buenos Aires, of representing policies of “savage capitalism” that would devastate the poor.


Argentina’s voters have often fallen for such rhetoric, but not this year. The record of Kirchner and her Peronist party was a disaster and not easily ignored. As The Economist magazine put it:



Fernández has hoarded power and suppressed dissent. She has bent the central bank to her will, muzzled the government’s statistics institute and bullied the media. She has tried, less successfully, to suborn the independence of the judiciary. . . . The country is in danger of running out of reserves; the budget deficit this year is likely to be 6% of GDP; inflation is estimated at 25%; and growth is absent. Continue reading

Video Clips Worth Watching: Shane v. Jack Wilson



Shane: Yeah, you’ve lived too long. Your kind of days are over.

Ryker: My days! What about yours, gunfighter?

Shane: The difference is I know it.

Ryker: All right. So we’ll all turn in our six-guns to the bartender. We’ll all start hoeing spuds. Is that it?

Shane: Not quite yet. [to Wilson] We haven’t heard from your friend here.

Wilson: I wouldn’t push too far if I were you. Our fight ain’t with you.

Shane: It ain’t with me, Wilson?

Wilson: No it ain’t, Shane.

Ryker: I wouldn’t pull on Wilson, Shane. [to Will Atkey} Will, you’re a witness to this.

Shane: So you’re Jack Wilson.

Wilson: What’s that mean to you, Shane?

Shane: I’ve heard about you.

Wilson: And what’ve you heard, Shane?

Shane: I’ve heard that you’re a low-down Yankee liar.

Shane, 1953

Perhaps the greatest Western ever made, Shane is a snapshot of the West as the old West of cattle barons and gunfighters is coming to an end.  Alan Ladd as the gunfighter Shane realizes his day is done, even as he comes to understand that his attempt to change his life is futile, just as his adversary, cattle baron Rufus Ryker, does not:

 Right? You in the right! Look, Starrett. When I come to this country, you weren’t much older than your boy there. We had rough times, me and other men that are mostly dead now. I got a bad shoulder yet from a Cheyenne arrowhead. We made this country. Found it and we made it. We worked with blood and empty bellies. The cattle we brought in were hazed off by Indians and rustlers. They don’t bother you much anymore because we handled ’em. We made a safe range out of this. Some of us died doin’ it but we made it. And then people move in who’ve never had to rawhide it through the old days. They fence off my range, and fence me off from water. Some of ’em like you plow ditches, take out irrigation water. And so the creek runs dry sometimes and I’ve got to move my stock because of it. And you say we have no right to the range. The men that did the work and ran the risks have no rights? I take you for a fair man, Starrett.

Clashes of right and wrong are morally simple, while clashes of competing rights are more morally complex and Shane does a good job showing this, just as it illustrates that we can do a lot with time in this Vale of Tears, but we can’t freeze it.

Jack Palance as hired killer Jack Wilson had his breakthrough role in this film which was populated with flawless performances, many of the actors and actresses involved giving the best work of their careers to this masterpiece.  If you haven’t seen this film, please remedy this omission as soon as possible. Continue reading

Jesus as the Greatest of Black Swan Events

rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno


The completely unexpected in history has always fascinated me.  Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his 2007 book The Black Swan, took a look at the impact of events in history for which our prior experiences give us no inkling.  Taleb states three requirements for a Black Swan Event:

First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme ‘impact’. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

Unlike Mr. Taleb I think true Black Swan events, based upon the criteria he sets forth, are rather rare in the history of mankind.  Normally they fall down on the first element.  Taleb, for example, views the fall of the Soviet empire as a Black Swan occurrence.  I disagree in that the dissolution of the great colonial empires of the West had been a salient feature of the post World War II world.  Totalitarian controls allowed the Soviet Union to delay the process, but once the reins were loosened, and the threat of mass violence was no longer on the table, the dissolution came rapidly.

The Coming of Christ into this world is the greatest example of a Black Swan Event that I can think of, and over the remainder of this Advent we will see how looking at the Incarnation through this mental prism can give us a new appreciation of how unlikely, and startling, the impact of Christ on History has been.

Before we do this, let us take a moment to recall to mind the world into which Christ was born. Continue reading

Requiem Mass in D Minor


Something for the weekend, Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor, left unfinished by his untimely death. No, composer Antonio Salieri, had no hand in his death, Amadeus being entertainment and not history, although I suspect that both Mozart and Salieri would have agreed that the theme would have made a grand comedic opera: Continue reading

Bob Hope on Thanksgiving: 1950


Bob Hope spent many holidays away from his home entertaining the troops, and in this 1950 Thanksgiving message he reminds us of those who stand guard over our nation and often eat their Thanksgiving turkey far from home as a result.  God bless and keep them and their families.

Hope had already been to Korea to entertain the troops, even beating the Marines ashore at Wonsan on the east coast of North Korea!  He would be back to entertain the troops again, continuing his tradition of service that would stretch a half century from World War II to Desert Storm.  Hope was a comedic genius, in his prime perhaps the greatest American stand up comedian.  However, what I remember him for is the true patriotism that caused him, whether a war was popular or unpopular, to endure discomfort and danger to bring a smile to Americans far from home serving their country.  He was born in England, but he might as well have been born in the heart of America on the Fourth of July. Continue reading

General Wainwright’s Thanksgiving Prayer

After General Douglas MacArthur, over his fiery objections, was ordered to leave Bataan during the Japanese conquest of the Philippines, Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright was left in command, putting up a heroic fight until forced to surrender his starving, diseased ridden force.  Wainwright was the only American general to be captured by the Japanese and he endured the hell on earth that was Japanese prison camps, where some 37% of Allied prisoners died of starvation and the brutality of their captors.  Wainwright insisted on sharing the privation of his men, and risked his life many times to intervene on behalf of his fellow prisoners with their captors.

After he was liberated, he was a walking skeleton.  Douglas MacArthur gave him the signal honor  of featuring prominently in the surrender ceremony by which Imperial Japan capitulated.

After he returned home he was promoted to four star rank and retired to a successful business career.  He received the Medal of Honor as a tribute to the heroic leadership he displayed during the battle for Bataan.  In the fall of 1945 he wrote the following Thanksgiving Prayer: Continue reading

Ben Franklin and the Turkey

After the American Revolution, former American officers in that struggle created a fraternal organization called the Society of Cinncinatus, named after the Roman consul and dictator, a constitutional office of the Roman Republic in emergencies, who saved Rome through his efforts in the fifth century BC and then retired to his humble farm.  The Society selected as its symbol a bald eagle.  In a letter to his daughter Sally Bache on January 26, 1784, no doubt with his tongue placed firmly in his cheek, Dr. Franklin indicated that he thought another bird would have been a better choice.

Others object to the Bald Eagle, as looking too much like a Dindon, or Turkey. For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen as the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perch’d on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him. With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping and Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country, tho’ exactly fit for that Order of Knights which the French call Chevaliers d’Industrie. I am on this account not displeas’d that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America. Eagles have been found in all Countries, but the Turkey was peculiar to ours, the first of the Species seen in Europe being brought to France by the Jesuits from Canada, and serv’d up at the Wedding Table of Charles the ninth. He is besides, tho’ a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on. Continue reading

Red Skelton: Thanksgiving 1952

A Thanksgiving thought in 1952 from master comedian Red Skelton.  Born into deep poverty, his father dying two months before his birth, he went to work at the age of 7 to help his family.  Life dealt Skelton some tough cards at the beginning of his life, and the worst thing that could happen to any parent, the death of a child, lay in his future.  Yet throughout his life Skelton retained a deep faith in God and an abiding love for his country.  He approached life with optimism and a thankful heart, a good message for any Thanksgiving.  Below is his classic Pledge of Allegiance skit. Continue reading

Abbott and Costello, Charles Laughton and the Gettysburg Address


Last Thursday, the same day of the week that Lincoln originally gave the speech, marked the 152nd anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.  On April 6, 1952, comedy titans Abbott and Costello were hosting the Colgate Comedy Hour.  They had as their guest star Charles Laughton, one of the greatest English actors of the first half of the last century.  Amazingly enough the comedy duo and Laughton were co-starring at the time in the forgettable Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd.

This was back in the days of live television, and the sheer spontaneity made this brief period of television magic.  As was the case when Laughton, who had given a stunning rendition of the Gettysburg Address in the movie Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), recites the Address before a visibly moved Abbott and Costello.  Both Abbott and Costello were patriots.  Too old, Abbott was 44 at the time of Pearl Harbor, and sick, heart problems and epilepsy afflicted Costello, for military service in World War II, they threw themselves into war bond drives and sold more bonds than any other entertainers.  In one heartbreaking incident they performed at a bond drive immediately after the death of Costello’s infant son, the shattered Costello giving the huge audience no hint of the tragedy that had just befallen him and his wife.   They had done their bit to ensure “that government of the people, by the people and for the people would not perish from the Earth” and for them the Address was no mere artifact from long ago but a magnificent expression of what this country means.  Continue reading

Notre Shame



Parents thinking of coughing up big money to get their offspring a Catholic higher education at Notre Dame might wish to save their money.  Matt Archbold at Creative Minority Report tells us why:


Earlier this month, the great Sycamore Trust created a website called NDCatholic.com which would assist Notre Dame students in finding those professors and courses on campus that could be counted on to deliver an “authentic Catholic education.”

Great idea, right?

On top of that, they had the great Fr. Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C., making his very well informed recommendations to students on the website.

Great idea, right? In fact, so many students thought it was a great idea that the website reportedly crashed on the first day.

Well, it seems to me the university’s administration didn’t like the idea.

The Sycamore Trust sadly sent out an email yesterday saying that Fr. Miscamble “is no longer associated with the website NDCatholic.com.”

“I regret that I can say only that I am required to end my involvement with the NDCatholic site and am not at liberty to say why,” Fr. Miscamble told The Sycamore Trust.

Now, to be clear, he doesn’t say the administration got to him but it would appear that’s what occurred. (I could be wrong but who else would be against such a website?)

The Sycamore Trust reports:

On November 9, 2015, we unveiled the NDCatholic.com website, which is designed to assist students seeking a Catholic education at Notre Dame. They need this sort of help because of the alarming reduction over recent decades in Catholic representation on the faculty. The faculty no longer comes close to meeting the University’s own Mission Statement test of Catholic identity: a majority of committed Catholics on the faculty. Perhaps 25% to 30% of the faculty fit this description, as we will show again in a coming bulletin using the most recent data available.

The consequences of this steep decline in Catholic faculty have been described in concrete terms by Professor Emeritus Walter Nicgorski, who retired recently after more than forty years as one of Notre Dame’s most highly regarded teachers and scholars:

It is increasingly the case today that a young person going through the critical and formative years of a Catholic education at Notre Dame might not encounter a practicing Catholic informed and engaged by the Catholic intellectual tradition.

The Trust will continue the work of the website and vows to build on their success.

So much for free speech on campus, right? Continue reading

December 7, 1865: Thanksgiving



Andrew Johnson kept up the precedent of his predecessor in making a Thanksgiving Proclamation.  However for some reason he set the date on December 7, the only time Thanksgiving has been celebrated on that date.  His other Thanksgiving Proclamations were for the last Thursday in November and the tradition held until the Great Depression when FDR altered it to the fourth Thursday in November.  If Johnson had established a new tradition in 1865, then seventy-six years later Americans would have had another reason to be enraged by the Japanese sneak attack.  Here is the text of the Proclamation: Continue reading

As God is My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly


Well actually some Turkeys can.  Wild Turkeys can fly, albeit clumsily and not more than about 100 yards at a time.  Domestic Turkeys, bred for the table, cannot fly, largely due to their overdeveloped chests, home to all that prized white breast meat.  I don’t know if the publicity stunt would have fared much better with terrified flying wild Turkeys landing near onlookers.  Some things man simply was not meant to meddle with, and that includes dropping Turkeys from great heights.

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