Monthly Archives: October 2010

He Leadeth Me and Paul Krugman

I suppose it may be a symptom of an unbalanced intellectual life, but one question that occurred to me while reading He Leadeth Me (an excellent and moving account of a Catholic priest who was  imprisoned for over two decades in the Soviet Union) several months ago was a question about the failure of the Soviet economic system. In the book, Fr. Ciszek recounts year after year of back-breaking labor for 12-14 hours a day in Siberian labor camps. He and his fellow prisoners lived in squalid conditions, and were provided with hardly enough food to keep them alive. This is all horrible, of course, and I’d recommend Fr. Ciszek’s work to anyone who has a tendency to complain about the difficulties of pursuing sanctification in their jobs.

But it seemed to me that, unless the prisoners were basically digging ditches and filling them back up again,  this type of coercion would increase economic efficiency, given that the inputs required to organize the prisoners were minimal and the workers were producing a great deal. Certainly, Soviet workers in these mines were producing more than unionized U.S. workers of the time. As it turns out, I am not the only who thought this way. As Paul Krugman helpfully explains, claims about the economic superiority of the Soviet Union were commonplace in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and many prominent economists reluctantly concluded that centrally planned economies had unique efficiency advantages:

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Willie Stark and Huey Long

In 1946 Robert Penn Warren wrote the great American political novel, All the King’s Men, which detailed the rise and fall of a Southern politician, Willie Stark.  Stark starts out as a political idealist and is utterly corrupted by the political process.  Broderick Crawford in the film adaptation in 1949 gives an astonishingly good performance as Willie Stark and delivers speeches in the film that should be carefully studied by all students of oratory.

Over the years it has been alleged that the book is a thinly veiled look at the career of Huey Long, governor, senator and virtual dictator of Depression era  Louisiana until he was assassinated by a dentist.  Warren rejected the suggestion, and he was correct.  Huey Long was always a cheerful crook and never an idealist. Continue reading

TAC College Football Rankings: Week 5

Update: There was a glitch that prevented the rankings from showing. The glitch is fixed and the rankings are up.

You may be wondering why there is a big picture of the Blessed Mother to lead off the post. It’s simple. I and the rest of us clad in purple & gold owe her. Big time. On the 4th down play and the last play of the game (both of them), I was furiously saying the Hail Mary in the LSU student section. If those flags aren’t miraculous intercession, I don’t know what is. I have prayed like that during a game twice-the NFC championship game against the Vikings and the LSU v. Auburn game in 2007 (Byrd’s catch with a second left-the most beautiful pass & catch I’ve seen in Death Valley). These Tigers are going to kill me, and even though they should have slaughtered the Vols, that was a rare and fun experience.

In the rest of the college football world, we now have clear front-runners in the top 2 conferences. Oregon will need a major upset to lose the PAC-10, and Alabama made quite a statement to the rest of the SEC West. In the Big 12, Oklahoma looks to take the Big 12 South with the win in the Red River Rivalry. The Big 10 is still wide open, and the ACC is anyone’s guess.

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Why Is This Bad?

Rookie hazing is common to all American professional sports.  Normally it amounts to rookies carrying veterans’ bags, being dressed up in women’s clothing for “fashion shoots,” or simply having to buy dinner for the veterans.  Well last week Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys was subjected to the latter.  Unlike most rookie hazing incidents this caused headline news.  Why?  Because the bill came out to just under $55,000.  That’s a lot of steak.

This has led to all sorts of outrage.  I think this nugget from Peter King’s (never-ending) column fairly represents the typical media reaction to the story.

This doesn’t deserve a monumental amount of coverage, but one thing should be said to the Cowboy veterans who delighted in spending about $2,500 per man (one estimate I heard for the 22 to 25 men who attended this dinner) as most of America struggles to pay for weekly groceries: Stop being pigs. It’s disgusting.

This comes from the same column in which Peter King discusses his three-hour meal with Texans running back Arian Foster.  People are struggling with the grocery bills and Peter King is out carousing with football players?  What a pig.

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How Europe Sees America

Click on the above map to be able to read it.  The original of the map is here.  Tito had a post yesterday here with a map depicting how America views Europe.  Ambrose “Bitter” Bierce in the 19th Century said that war was God’s way of teaching Americans geography.  Unfortunately, the lessons do not appear to stick.  However, the Europeans are often not that better informed about us.

For example, I have always enjoyed reading the English historian Paul Johnson, and have read almost every book he has written.  Therefore, I was dismayed when reading his history of the US to encounter quite a few factual errors, including his inability to distinguish between Albert Sydney Johnston and Joseph Johnston in the Civil War, and his apparent belief that it was the Texas Rangers and not Army Rangers who landed at Utah Beach on Normandy.

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Why Is Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral In Al Qaeda's Crosshairs?

The target of the Notre Dame Cathedral seemed a bit out of place. Every other Al Qaeda target listed by the captured Ahmed Sadiqui was secular in origin, be the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Brandenburg Gate and Alexander Platz TV tower in Berlin, or the United Kingdom movements of the British Royal family. Why Notre Dame (which means Our Lady in French i.e. the Blessed Virgin Mary) and why not any other churches like St Paul’s in London or St Peter’s or St Michael’s in Munich make the list which has caused world governments to issue terror warnings and travel updates? To understand this question one has to understand the mindset of Al Qaeda. To the tried and true jihadist, Western Europe was almost under their control until two critical events occurred; the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and the Siege of Vienna in 1683, when Our Lady intervened and stopped the Islamic armies in their tracks.

Now some would falsely point out that the Crusades of the 11th and 12th centuries were western victories and thus Islamic sore points, this is far from the truth. The Crusades actually were seen as a great victory in the Islamic World. Though we are now told by those in the mainstream media that the Crusades were a heinous act, they were in fact a small defensive action taken by the west to defend themselves against the Islamic armies who had been invading historical Christian lands for centuries. Long before they were Islamic lands, the Middle East and North Africa were filled with vibrant Christian centers and revelatory figures like Saint Augustine.  The very argument that Christianity was not appealing to the masses was left empty by the need of the Islamic armies to have a military conquest. Now my colleague Joe Hargrave has written a great piece on the Crusades which I highly encourage you to read. It is not my intention to go into any further detail about the Crusades for this article. I would again refer to the above link for Joe’s article or a similar article I wrote entitled; A Review of Al Qaeda’s Little Reported On War Against The Catholic Church.

Getting back to the 1571 Naval Battle of Lepanto and the land battle outside the Gates of Vienna in 1683; they were the turning point for Islamic military conquest and military failure. Islamic armies would never again threaten the heart of Europe. The hoped for world Caliphate did not come to fruition. To the militant jihadist it must have seemed as if defeat was snatched out of the jaws of victory. For the faithful Christian, especially the faithful Catholic the Islamic defeats were miraculous seen as the Hand of God working through His Son Jesus Christ and specifically His mother Mary.

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Comedians Poking Fun At Rahm Emanuel

On October 1 President Obama’s White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, announced that he will be leaving his position to a possible campaign run for Mayor of Chicago.

Rahm Emanuel is known as a feisty politician with an amiable personality.  He has also been known to be fond of four letter words.

The following is Saturday Night Live’s spoof of the White House announcement of said event:

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The Modern World is Going to Hell: A Continuing Series: The Texting Vermin of the Apocalypse

The  fourth in my series of posts in which I give rants against trends that have developed in society since the days of my youth, the halcyon days of the seventies, when leisure suits and disco were sure signs that society was ready to be engulfed in a tide of ignorance, bad taste and general buffoonery.

We have started off the series with a look at seven developments that I view as intensely annoying and proof that many people lack the sense that God granted a goose.  I like to refer to these as  The Seven Hamsters of the Apocalypse, minor evils that collectively illustrate a society that has entered a slough of extreme stupidity.  Each of the Seven Hamsters will have a separate post.  We have already discussed here the Tattooed Vermin,  here the Pierced Vermin and here the F-Bomb Vermin.  The fourth of the Hamsters is the Texting Vermin.

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Joe Pos and Scully

A little weekend sports treat.  Joe Posnanski is, by leaps and bounds, the best sports writer in America.  On SI.com he has a wonderful article about Vin Scully, who is still, by leaps and bounds, the best announcer in all of sports.

Enjoy.

Rachmaninoff Meets Harpo Marx

Something for the weekend.  Harpo Marx gives an interesting, yes that would be the word, interpretation to Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C Minor.  Harpo (Adolph) Marx was a self-taught pianist and harpist of no small skill.  I developed a love of classical music from these type of interludes in movies and Bugs Bunny cartoons that played on the TV constantly while I was growing up.

Here is Rachmaninoff performing the piece.

Woody Guthrie vs. Joseph Ratzinger ;-)

Communist Liberation TheologianOver at Vox Nova, Henry Karlson draws our attention to a video of Bono, expounding on why U2 felt compelled to cover Woody Guthrie’s song “Jesus Christ”. In short, “it’s more relevant today than when he wrote it.”

But why is it more relevant? — For Bono, “we decided to do it because of the line, “the bankers and the preachers, they nailed him in the air.”

Curiousity provoked, I took a look at the complete lyrics:

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Praying the Holy Rosary in October

The month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary — by personal recommendation of Pope Leo XIII:

In a letter of September 1, 1883, mindful of the Rosary’s power to strengthen faith and foster a life of virtue, he outlined the triumphs of the Rosary in past times and admonished the faithful to dedicate the month of October to the Blessed Virgin through the daily recitation of her Rosary in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, in order to obtain through her intercession the grace that God would console and defend His Church in her sufferings.

Beginning on September 1, 1883, with SUPREMO APOSTOLATUS OFFICIO, Pope Leo wrote a total of eleven encyclicals on the Rosary, ending with DIUTURNI TEMPORIS in 1898. (Source: Rev. Matthew R. Mauriello, Catholic.net).

The spread of the devotion of the rosary is attributed to the revelation of Mary to St. Dominic, who sought her help in battling the heresy of the Albigenses. Robert Feeney’s “St. Dominic and the Rosary” gives a detailed account,

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Environmentalist Proponents Jump The Shark

An environmental confederation in the UK got the talented screenwriter Richard Curtis to produce a short film, ironically called No Pressure, for the 10:10 campaign, an effort to remind people to do their part in reducing carbon emission 10% by 2010 AD.

Unfortunately for the environmental movement the film backfired because it reinforced the image that beneath the surface environmentalists will do anything once in power to make it compulsory to follow their vision for the future, which includes violence.

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There Is No Shire Party

If imitation is a form of flattery, it must be some sort of testament to a writer’s skill when partisans of both sides of an issue become intent upon placing each other as the villains of the same work of fiction. Some examples of this are, perhaps, unsurprising. The original Big Brother of George Orwell’s 1984 is such a wonderfully universal government baddie that it is little wonder that those on both the right and left see each other as being like it.

However, one of the odder (to me) manifestations of this trend is the tendency of those on both right and left who are of a certain SF/F geek stripe (and political and genre geekdom do seem to go together more often than one might imagine) to identify themselves with the Shire of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and to identify their opponent with the modernizing and destructive elements who take over the Shire under Lotho Sackville-Baggins and “Sharky” (Saruman) while Frodo and his friends are away, and who are driven out in the Scouring of the Shire.

For those less familiar with those aspects of the story that didn’t make the movie version: While Frodo and this three friends Sam, Merry and Pippin are off on the quest to destroy the One Ring, Frodo’s cousin Lotho uses the influence and affluence of belonging to one of the Shire’s leading families to run the Shire into a bit of a ditch. Most of the crops are exported, including nearly all the pipeweed, leaving Hobbits themselves with little left for themselves. Various “improvement” projects are undertaken, such as knocking down the picturesque old mill on the river in Hobbiton and putting up a large new brick structure which belches smoke and pollutes the river.

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The Devil and Daniel Webster

Daniel Webster is running for Congress in the 8th Congressional District of Florida.  He is a veteran Republican politician, having served as the first Republican speaker of the Florida House of Representatives in 122 years.  He has also served as the Republican majority leader of the Florida Senate.  He is a pro-life conservative.  He is not the Devil.

His opponent is Alan Grayson.  Alan Grayson is the incumbent, being first elected to Congress in 2008.  He is a pro-abort liberal Democrat.  He is doing his best to depict Daniel Webster as the Devil.

My good friend Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia has a first rate post on this subject at his bog and has saved me quite a bit of work:

Back during the Bush years, I can recall debates in the Catholic blogosphere in which Catholics of a certain left-leaning ilk accused those on the right of having questioned the patriotism of anyone who had opposed the Iraq War.

The thing is that I don’t recall these instances of anyone’s patriotism being impugned (outside of David Frum’s infamous piece at National Review in which he accused conservative Catholic commentators Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak of being “unpatriotic”; but then, any conservative worth a damn doesn’t give a rat’s patoot what David Frum thinks or says).

And, in fact, the left’s protestations about having their patriotism questioned appears to have been nothing more than collective projection, imagining that their political adversaries were doing exactly what they would do if they were the ones trying to overcome opposition to a particular objective of national policy priority. This has been borne out since the election of President Obama: how many times have we seen the words “sedition” (also here, for example), “un-American” (also here, for example), “unpatriotic”, and even “siding with the terrorists” (not to mention “racist”) applied to critics of the Obama agenda?

But NEVER in my years have I EVER heard someone in politics say about someone in the opposition “He just doesn’t love America like I do.”

Until now:

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