Privacy or Anonymity

Wednesday, August 4, AD 2010

The Wall Street Journal has been running a series on the business of online “spying” for marketing information about web browsers. From today’s installment:

You may not know a company called [x+1] Inc., but it may well know a lot about you.

From a single click on a web site, [x+1] correctly identified Carrie Isaac as a young Colorado Springs parent who lives on about $50,000 a year, shops at Wal-Mart and rents kids’ videos. The company deduced that Paul Boulifard, a Nashville architect, is childless, likes to travel and buys used cars. And [x+1] determined that Thomas Burney, a Colorado building contractor, is a skier with a college degree and looks like he has good credit.

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2 Responses to Privacy or Anonymity

  • I don’t get to worked up about this as a privacy issue, but I do think it’s instructive to note the nature of “browsing the web” as opposed to brick and mortar window-shopping. The fact is that you could almost consider it public information that Mr. Brown goes to the mall every Saturday and buys a paper, drinks a Starbuck’s coffee while he reads it and then goes into Borders, GAP and Radio Shack, etc. All you need is someone in a kiosk to observe it and then try to sell him a product based on his habits. This is all legal, yet it would require a too much effort to record this kind of thing and then sell the info to big companies.

    But information may be collected on the web much more easily. It’s as if each user would send a letter to every major company saying “Here’s what I did for the last year since I’ve been at this IP address. Use this information however you may wish.” Buyer beware has taken on a new meaning. “They” know who you are.

  • People will have to make their own choices as to what they are willing to reveal by their non-private habits. But I am not entirely confident that the technology will remain essentially benign as opposed to a politburo “Big Brother” approach. In this world the liberals are intent on not only getting their way in what the law allows, but in making sure that everyone MUST THINK LIKE THEM. It will, eventually, occur to educators and others paid by government that they can determine who doesn’t THINK LIKE THEM by using these resources. At that point, there will be people who argue that they would be failing to fulfill their obligations if they DON’T use (x+1) to greatest effect.

The Cure of Ars

Wednesday, August 4, AD 2010

Today is the memorial of Saint John Vianney, the Cure of Ars.  He was born into a world in 1786 where the Church was soon under attack by the first of the totalitarian regimes, Revolutionary France.  His family remained loyal to the Faith, and helped priests on the run from the State.  Young John saw these brave men as heroes as well as priests, and soon wished to join their ranks.  He was hampered by his ill education and the fact that he simply wasn’t a very good student, no matter how hard he tried.  He was ordained more as an act of Christian charity, and a recognition that he had a good heart and would try his best to be a good priest, than because of any success in his studies.

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2 Responses to The Cure of Ars

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Scouting in a Fractured American Culture

Tuesday, August 3, AD 2010

The New York Times runs an article about how the national leaders of the Boy Scouts of America are seeking to address concerns about shrinking membership as they celebrate 100 years of boy scouting in the US. The number of boy scouts has declined 42% since it’s peak in 1978, with 2.8 million boys currently in the Scouts.

To judge from the commentariat at the Times, you would think this is entirely the result of the BSA remaining firm in their ban of gay scout leaders and statement that “homosexual conduct is inconsistent with obligations in the Scout Oath.” Not to mention saying that boys who refuse to recite the Scout Oath because of its references to God and reverence may simply not have a place in the program. Commenters claiming to be Eagle Scouts line up one after another in the comments to announce that no son of theirs will ever be a member of the Scouts while it remains homophobic and theocratic.

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6 Responses to Scouting in a Fractured American Culture

  • After a year in scouts, I allowed my son to walk away. My girl is still in scouts. There are many, many factors involved. A lot of it is the parental leaders. The pool is small for those able to do it, and they are volunteers after all. Another factor is other activities. There is a lot more for children to do, and of course those activities are also run by adult volunteers. Then there are the not so good reasons like there being more entertainment available at home through electronics.

    I always find the political explanations somewhat entertaining. In neither scouting group was their a vast amount of ideological diversity. For a den we’re talking 8-12 children. Politics and political issues don’t come up all that often and were it ever to come up, whatever instruction the kid had from the parent would generally be respected. Most people when they are off the Internet don’t look for excuses to beat other people over the head.

  • My sons are currently in scouting. My oldest son is 12 and in Scouts. My 8yr old is in Cubscouts. I am a den leader for the Cubscouts. I have been a leader for 6 years and being that I have a 2 year old will probably end up being a leader for about 15 years. I have found that in Cubscouts the focus is learning morals and some responsibility but also to have alot of fun with friends in your den and Pack but also to foster fun within the family. Parents are a key component to the success of the Scouts. The more you involve the parents the better chance that the boys will remain in Scouts and the better chance that they will get more out of the program.

    My goal has always been to get the boys to have fun at the den meetings, pack meetings and at home with the family. I enjoy seeing the boys mature in there confidence and there relationships with other members of the Pack and especially with there family. For me there is nothing more satisfying then getting the Cubscouts into Boyscouts where they will fully mature and learn life skills that are not taught today in the culture in general.

    Along with the factors you talked about another factor contributing to the loss of members in Scouting is the idea of sacrifice. I think that a culture that loses its connection with Christianity loses the idea of sacrifice. I think sometimes People are a little selfish with there time. They seem to feel that it is there time and they don’t have to share it with anyone. Now this is a small percentage that I am talking about but just wanted to add to the things that are affecting attendace.

    Scouts is one of the greatest organizations for boys to be involved with. Of course that is second to the Church.

  • “The number of boy scouts has declined 42% since it’s peak in 1978….”

    Umm, there’s an even easier and more straightforward reason for this decline. The Baby Boom. The number of boys born between 1946 and 1964 accounts for the peak number in 1978.

  • Good point. Maybe simplier is more correct.

  • The population went through a sudden period of growth with the baby boom, but the population has continued to grow since that time. The absolute number of boys 8-18 is higher now than it was in 1978.

  • My husband is the scoutmaster of my son’s troop at our parish church. My son-15 is the oldest scout in the troop and hopefully will complete his Eagle project within the next year and a half. That being said, my son has told me repeatedly that it’s not “cool” to be in Scouts. He likes Scouts but doesn’t want it mentioned to anyone. I embarrassed him once by mentioning he was in Scouts to two girls he liked. In our troop, once the boys make Eagle or turn driving age, they drop out of the troop, leaving the troop pretty leaderless(as the troop is supposed to be self-led. we do have adult volunteers). Being a clean cut Scout is no longer appealing to a lot of teenage boys.

Jefferson Davis and the Crown of Thorns

Tuesday, August 3, AD 2010

It has long been an article of faith of many admirers of Jefferson Davis that, while he was in Union captivity after the Civil War, he received a crown of thorns from Pope Pius IX woven by the hands of Pio Nono himself.  The Museum of the Confederacy in New Orleans has it on display.  It is a romantic story and appealing on an emotional level.  It is also false.  The Pope did send the imprisoned Davis his photograph with the text  from Matthew 11:28  ‘Venite ad me omnes qui laboratis, et ego reficiam vos, dicit Dominus.’ (Come to me all all ye who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest, sayeth the Lord.)

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29 Responses to Jefferson Davis and the Crown of Thorns

  • I wonder if the crown of thorns myth had anything to do with the lie that Lincoln was anti-Catholic?


  • I don’t know about Lincoln, but it is undeniable fact that the Republicans in 1860 won in part because of the support of the Know-Nothing party remnants.

    As for the crown of thorns, well, not just Jeff Davis, but the entire south suffered a passion at the hands of the vengeful north… would that Lincoln had not been assasinated; the history of the post-war period would probably have looked much different.

    For us, the lasting legacy of the Late Unpleasantness is the destruction of Federalism as envisioned by the Founders, replaced by a national government that from 1865 onwards would dominate the states in a way unimagined before the war.

  • Or, perhaps, the South suffered God’s will that “all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil *** be sunk, and *** every drop of blood drawn with the lash *** be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'”

  • “I don’t know about Lincoln, but it is undeniable fact that the Republicans in 1860 won in part because of the support of the Know-Nothing party remnants.”

    LIcoln of course thought against the Know NOthings. Just Like Jefferson Davis did in his own State of Mississippi. My Several Greats Grandfather was ahrassed by the Know Nothings In Mississippi.

    “For us, the lasting legacy of the Late Unpleasantness is the destruction of Federalism as envisioned by the Founders, replaced by a national government that from 1865 onwards would dominate the states in a way unimagined before the war.”

    Another myth. SOutherners up too the Democratic Convention in Charleston were doing their bit to try to destroy Federalism becauseof the issue. Further to say that Federalism disapperared after the WAR is very much false.

  • It would have been more appropriate had Pius decided to send him a hammer and nails.

  • Not that such a gift would have been inappropriate for Lincoln as well.

  • Thank you for this information. I am sure you know that Macon, Georgia, has a busy thoroughfare named Pio Nono Avenue.

  • The judiciary, not the executive, invented and imposed the right of abortion. Even before the Civil War I think the notion that States could not impinge upon Federal constitutional rights was recognized. E.g. the (Northern) States reluctant compliance with the Fugitive Slave Act. I might be wrong, and am certainly quibbling, but I don’t believe Roe v. Wade implicates federalism.

  • What might have been. In 1870, Garibaldi invaded Rome, which was still under Papal rule. If the Confederacy had prevailed, Jefferson Davis may have sent reinforcements to the Pope, in order to prevent Rome from falling to Garibaldi.

  • What reason have we to think such a thing would have happened? The percentage of Catholics in the Confederacy was tiny. It was Protestant England which the Rebs imagined they’d get help from.

    There was a international papal army which fought to save the papal states, but there were very few Americans (north or south) in it.

  • But there were at least three members of the Papal Army of Pius IX (the St. Patrick Brigade) who signed up with the Union Army. See Myles Keogh (, Joseph O’Keeffe, and Daniel Keily. Keogh saw action at Gettysburg and met his demise with Custer at Little Big Horn.

  • “Lincoln of course thought against the Know Nothings”

    Perhaps his most famous quote on the subject comes from a letter he wrote to his longtime friend Joshua Speed in 1855:

    “I am not a Know Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can anyone who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for example, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”

  • Elaine: Good quote. “The base alloy of hypocrisy.” Must try to work that in somewhere.

  • Or, perhaps, the South suffered God’s will that “all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil *** be sunk, and *** every drop of blood drawn with the lash *** be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”

    Romantic mythology aside, the struggle for political power that directly led to the Civil War was the result of a unresolved tension between the rights of States and the justly feared encroachment upon those rights by a expansive federal government. Sectional interest drove the nation to war. Slavery was a minor concern. Lincoln did not fight to end slavery. He fought to preserve the union (such as it was and now is).

  • No, he did not. But he had the sense realize that his purposes might not have been the same as God’s.

  • While Lincoln did not enter into war for the sake of the slaves, the South certainly aimed to secede in order to preserve that abomination. For those who doubt that, look at the Constitution of the Confederate States of America, specifically the requirements for membership. It unequivocally states that only those recognizing slavery would be admitted. All other issues such as tariffs, etc. could have been resolved. But the continuation of slavery at that time was a game ender for any peaceful resolution.

  • The Civil War was the result of many years of struggle between competing political and economic interest. That punitive trade legislation purposed and in fact injurious to the largely agrarian Southern economy could have been addressed is only an opinion. To assert that that punitive trade legislation injurious to Southern agrarian would have been equitably addressed is without basis in fact.

    At least as significant a factor in the Civil War was the extremely sensitive issue of state rights in the face of creeping federalism. Under the Constitution the Southern states had every right to withdraw from the union. Had the Southern states exited the union, it would have had a very severe impact on Northern manufacturing, financial and shipping interest. By way of restrictive legislation Southern states were faced with a similar situation as that faced in the years immediately preceding the American Revolution when the colonies were expected and by parliamentary action forced to trade primarily with England. The Southern states recognized that they were being pushed to a similar colonial status. The succession of Southern states rightly addressed their legitimate needs and interest. At the same time, it threatened those of the North for a reliable source of raw materials and a convenient protected market for its manufactured goods. Only by military action were the Southern states forced to remain in the union. The only reason Lincoln addressed slavery was as a strategy to help in winning the war. He specifically states that if he could have won the war by ignoring or permitting slavery, he would have done so.

  • For bthomas-
    Please see the website-
    Which has Declaration of Causes for Seceeding States, which the confederate states conventions gave, AT THE TIME OF SECEEDING, as their reasons for leaving the union. Not a lot about tariffs in there. But TONS about ‘negro’ slavery being threatened as reasons for seceeding.

    As for states having right to seceed, in our U.S. Constitution in Article 4, congress admits states into the union by majority vote. Since secession is not mentioned in the document, its reasonable to assume that a state leaving the union would necessity such a vote.

  • You are to be commended if you wish to do significant primary research into the significant precipitants of the Civil War. You need to turn to know scholarly resources. To assert that a collection of Constitutions expresses a full and complete rational for succession lacks credibility. It would be the same as to present the U.S. Constitution without specific reference to the developmental thought by which it was produced. This and other similar internet sites do not constitute serious scholarship.

    The individual states freely entered into a democratic federated republic. No where in the Constitution or its supporting documents is there any rational to say that this decision constituted a surrender of prerogative by the states individual to choose to remover themselves from that union. An argument from silence is no basis by which to disenfranchise states individual or severally from self-determination. A very up to date example of this right to self-determination is the experience of Yugoslavia and the individual independent nations that decided to remove themselves from that national construct. Given that our federal government used armed force to force the Southern states to remain in a union they did not want, what rational is there to then justify the U.S. acting to support the break-up of Yugoslavia? At the time of the break-up, it was the position of the U.S. that these individual states had the legitimate right to self-determination. This position was affirmed again in the break-up of the now defunct USSR. Oddly, the Southern states were not supposed to have such a right to self-determination. Perhaps it was because that choice exercised would have possessed to much of a potential economic threat to the northern financial, manufacturing and shipping interest. Given that they dominated the federal government of that era, such is certainly the case.

  • Wow, bthomas. I haven’t seen such effervescent loquaciousness since Oswald Bates.

  • “The percentage of Catholics in the Confederacy was tiny.” Let’s look at numbers: June 30, 1863 Confederate Army peak strength 473,058; Louisiana, the 3rd most Catholic state in the United States in 1860, contributed 69,000; the Catholic population of antebellum Louisiana was 117,000 in a total population of 708,000; 11,454 Catholics from Louisiana served in the Confederate Army. Sources: Louisiana State Museum, “The Churching of America” and “Why the South Lost the Civil War”. Then again, Catholic Lt. Richard “Dick” Dowling (CSA) and 44 members of the Davis Guard defeated a force of 4000 Federals under the command of General William B. Franklin (USA) and Lt. Frederick Crocker (USN) in the Battle of Sabine Pass on 8 September 1863. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight…”

    “What reason have we to think such a thing would have happened?” There’s no reason not to believe that these Catholic battle-hardened veterans, who may have lost everything they had by 1865, would have given serious consideration to aiding His Holiness in the darkest hour of his pontificate against the other proto-Marxist hordes of Victor Emmanuel II and Garibaldi.

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  • “Wow, bthomas…” Always try to help enlighten the benighted.

  • The crown of thorns is no more absurd, or false, than all other stories about Davis as an honorable man.

    For years I assumed the story about Davis being captured in a dress was silly, that no one ever beleived it, that everyone knew it was a joke.

    Surprise — Davis was very much caught wearing his wife’s dress, and his own wife’s letter proves it. But that isn’t such a big deal, most of us would wear anything to stay alive.

    The “big deal” was Davis cowardice during that flight from Richmond, and his whimpy actions when confronted.

    Perhaps no other single incident shows the real nature of Davis, and in some ways, the nature of the Lost Cause. Slave owners and Southern leaders turned out to be cowards. The SOuth has spent 150 years trying to convince themselves, and the world, otherwise.

  • Actually Davis was almost completely fearless as he amply demonstrated when he heroically led his Mississippi Rifles into battle at Buena Vista during the Mexican War and was wounded as a result.

    As to the capture of Davis, here is what was written by one of the Union soldiers who captured him:

    “Besides the suit of men’s clothing worn by Mr. Davis he had on when captured Mrs. Davis’ large waterproof dress or robe, thrown over his own fine gray suit, and a blanket shawl thrown over his head and shoulders. This shawl and robe were finally deposited in the archives of the war department at Washington by order of Secretary Stanton.

    The story of the “hoopskirt, sunbonnet and calico wrapper” had no real existence and was started in the fertile brains of the reporters and in the illustrated papers of that day. That was a perilous moment for Mr. Davis. He had the right to try to escape in any disguise he could use.”

    Davis can be amply criticized on numerous grounds, but cowardice is not one of them.

  • Sorry Don,

    You still have avoided — totally — Varina Davis own hand written letter, where she is very specific about Davis clothes, and his actions. He wore a dress and he acted like a coward.

    I can produce Varina’s letter. We know she was there.

    You can not produce letter from some imaginary Union soldier. The soldier you folks dreamed up was not in the group that found Davis.

    Everyone there – including Davis wife — said he had on a dress of some sort. The only one that says it was a fine grey suit is Jeff Davis. But Davis whole account of that day is preposterous nonsense, not just on his dress, but on his supposed heroics.

    Jeff Davis wife, and the union soldiers, reported Davis actions, which were that of a coward when confronted.

    Forget the dress — though he had one on. His actions were utterly cowardly. First of all, he was running AWAY from his wife and children, toward the horses. He claimed later he was going for a guy — nonsense. You don’t leave your gun on horses 200 feet away, when you are the focus of a man hunt. He was running for the horses and his wife said so.

    You have simply adopted Davis own self serving and fraudulent statements as the truth. His own wife’s letter fundamentally validates what the Union soldiers reported. Davis, in other words, was not only caught in a dress, but in a lie about his actions.

    I suggest you read her letter — closely.

    Varina said that he had on a “dressing gown” — not a fine grey suit. She tells what he had on, and does not mention any BS fine suit. If he had on a fine suit, she would have said that. She said “dressing gown”. Over the dressing gown (a dress) he had on a woman’s scarf, and a shawl.

    That is what his WIFE said. And she should know — she dressed him.

    How do we know she dressed him? She said so.

    SO let’s deal with what his WIFE said — not with what Southern apologist made up later.

    Varina also says Davis stood mute when confronted, downcast, sullen. She ran to him — she said — and pulled him to her, and SHE dared the soldiers to shoot HER. She told the soldiers “She is my MOTHER”

    That’s right — go read her own letter. SHe says, in her OWN letter, that SHE called out, its my MOTHER.

    Let me repeat that — she said, in her letter, that she called out, “Its my mother”.

    Why would she call out “Its my mother”? Do you have any explanation for that?

    And Davis stood mute and looked down at the ground. That is what she said. That’s not what I said, that is what she said. And that is what the soldiers reported too.

    This is pretty much what the Union soldier’s reported too.

    In fact, they said when Davis took the dress off, his wife put it on! That is what the soldiers who were there said.

    A stunning bit of trivia. They had told Davis to go change out of the dress. Davis wife went with him, in the tent, so he could change. She emerged wearing that dress!

    Apparently she put the dress on, so the soldiers would not take it — but they took it later anyway, ordered by the War Department to bring the dress to DC. And they brought the dress to DC, where it remained on display for over 20 years, according to a speech by one of the Blair children.

    Why does it matter?

    Because the entire Confederate Myth of honor and bravery collapses like a house of cards, if its two leaders, Davis and Lee, are cowardly cruel and deceptive.

    Varina Davis letter gives us a unique, bird’s eye view of what happened that day. She totally obliterates Davis’s own self serving story of heroics.

    He wore a dress, he acted like a coward even apart from the dress.

  • Taxsanity, you are the mirror image of the Neo-Confederates who seek to distort the historical record to serve current political battles. Davis was not a coward, and your attempts to paint him as one simply is at war with the historical record. Davis was a very brave man fighting for a cause I am glad was defeated. I will not distort the historical record to accuse a man of cowardice when he was not a coward.

  • Taxsanity, based upon your last comment, which I have deleted, you are banned from this site. You seem to be eaten up by hate and wish to vent that hatred, and I will not allow you to do so on this blog.

The Great Darkness

Monday, August 2, AD 2010

May 19, 1780 was a memorable one in the history of New England.  Darkness descended for several hours in New England and parts of New York.  The cause of the darkness has been blamed on everything from volcanoes to dust storms.  The most commonly accepted explanation today is that the darkness was caused by forest fires.  An excellent overview of the Dark Day and its possible causes is presented by John Horrigan here.

Darkness in the middle of the day of course caused quite a bit of alarm, with more than a few people thinking that the Day of Judgment had arrived.  In the Connecticut legislature a motion to adjourn was proposed and passed.  Members of the Council of Safety of the legislature wanted to go to their homes.  Senator Abraham Davenport would have none of it.  “The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment: if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”  John Greenleaf Whittier immortalized this archetypal stubborn Yankee with this poem:

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On Vacation 2010

Sunday, August 1, AD 2010

Family on Vacation

I am on vacation this week with my family.  My internet connection in the coming week will range from intermittent to non-existent.  I will have posts for each day I am away on the blog, but if something momentous occurs, for example:  Elvis is discovered working at a Big Boy’s in Tulsa, the Pope issues a Bull against blogging as a complete waste of time, or there is an alarming outbreak of common sense in the government, I trust that this post will explain why I am not discussing it.

Among other activities we will be attending the Gen Con Convention in Indianapolis, a pilgrimage the McClarey clan makes each year to renew our uber-Geek creds.  If any of you are close to Indianapolis and you have never attended, it is worth a drive to see tens of thousands of role players, board gamers and computer gamers in Congress assembled.  If nothing else you will go home reassured as to how comparatively normal you are.  Last year’s attendance was in excess of 28,000 and there are multitudes of gaming related events.  A good overview of Gen Con is here.  Below is a Gen Con video from 2006 which gives a nice feel of the convention.

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2 Responses to On Vacation 2010

  • My internet connection in the coming week will range from intermittent to non-existent….

    Excuses, excuses. I can’t believe you don’t have a broadband modem, you poseur.

  • You mean a WHOLE week without having to hear about how wonderful Abraham Lincoln is?!

    Thank GOD for small favors! Please, enjoy your vacation! 🙂