1

College Roundup

I’ve been swamped the past two weeks, hence the delay in the rankings. I did have a huge realignment post lined up, but then Texas tried to play chicken with the Pac-12 and lost. As of now everyone is back to a holding pattern. The SEC and Big East have to move (the SEC to get to 14 and the Big East at least to return to the BCS-minimum 8). Who knows what will happen?

Thankfully, there is real football. Oklahoma, Alabama, and LSU have already established themselves as national title contenders. Wisconsin with a win over Nebraska could put themselves into that category this week. We’ll see how Clemson & Va Tech pan out but the winner will likely win the ACC and be the conference’s best hope for a national title. In the PAC-12, we’re still waiting on stanford v. Oregon to see who will be the top dog, but Arizona St. is making a good case to win the South and play the spoiler role come December. With S. Florida’s loss last night, it looks like the Big East is just going to be grateful to get its last (or second to last; no one’s said when Pitt & Syracuse are leaving) BCS invite this year.

The Heisman is still a mess, though I note that despite the love LSU’s defense has gotten its star Tyrann Mathieu gets no Heisman love. I understand QBs are shiny, but at some point doesn’t a D guy deserve some real consideration even if he’s not return KOs and INTs like Woodson? If not, let’s have a defensive Heisman and acknowledge that the Heisman is really an offense-only award.

Continue Reading

39

Malaise II

On July 15, 1979, after an abysmal time leading the nation, Jimmy Carter, worst President of the United States except for James Buchanan and the present incumbent, gave a speech in which he blamed the ills of the land on the American people.  The problems certainly could not be due to him and his wretched policies, they had to be the fault of everyone else.  The speech became known as the spiritual malaise speech, although Carter did not use the term malaise.

Continue Reading

14

Bookquisition

 

Hattip to Mrs. Darwin at my co-blogger Darwin Catholic’s eponymous blog, for the following book meme questions:

 

1. Favorite childhood book?
American Heritage Golden Book of the Civil War

2. What are you reading right now?
Early Byzantine Historians; The Road to Disunion:   Secessionists at Bay;  A World on Fire;  Lincoln’s Sword;  Bismarck:  A Life.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None.

4. Bad book habit?
Buying way, way too many as my basement library can attest.
5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
 None.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
My I-pad is a surprisingly good e-reader.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
 I have always read several books at a time.  I am a slow reader and a few pages from several books each day suits my pace.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
No.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
A series on US Presidents I read through with my autistic son.  Even for a kid’s series the research was abysmal.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
A World on Fire, a comprehensive look at Britain’s role in out Civil War, by Amanda Foreman, Phd from Oxford and mother of five young kids.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Every day, mostly while browsing the net.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Science fiction, alternate history, fantasy, history and politics.

13. Can you read on the bus?
Presumably not, as I have difficulty reading in a car on the rare occasions when I am not driving.

14. Favorite place to read?
In bed.  A grand way to end the day.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
Open-handed.  I like to encourage people to read.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Never, although my wife does, one of her few imperfections. Continue Reading

10

Who Needs Elections, Anyway?

Whenever I see that someone has said something insanely stupid, I often check the source and try to dig deeper to make sure there’s not more to the story than meets the eyes.  So I was initially skeptical when I heard that Governor Bev Purdue said the following:

“You have to have more ability from Congress, I think, to work together and to get over the partisan bickering and focus on fixing things. I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that. The one good thing about Raleigh is that for so many years we worked across party lines. It’s a little bit more contentious now but it’s not impossible to try to do what’s right in this state. You want people who don’t worry about the next election.”

Surely she can’t be serious.  A sitting governor could not possibly be advocating the suspension of elections, could she?

Well her team went into immediate spin mode and claimed that she was just exaggerating.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Perdue’s office clarified the remarks: “Come on,” said spokeswoman Chris Mackey in a statement. “Gov. Perdue was obviously using hyperbole to highlight what we can all agree is a serious problem: Washington politicians who focus on their own election instead of what’s best for the people they serve.”

Only she wasn’t exaggerating, she was being sarcastic. Continue Reading

11

The Paradoxes of Economic Measures

I am not an economist, and I don’t claim to have anything close to useful knowledge in the area.  However, like many areas in which I have little knowledge, I find that I have lots of question.  Economics is a particularly interesting field in that two “experts” can examine the same problem and come up with solutions that seem diametrically opposed.  I put “experts” in quotes because I sense that the discrepancy of opinions lies more in politics than it does in the discipline itself.  By its very nature, the science of economics intersects the arena of politics, hence the phrase “economic policy.”  The down side of this is that even the “orthodox” positions, those on which nearly all economists agree, can be colored for political purposes.  In general, it seems that any social science has something of this.  For whatever reason, the “hard” sciences produce less public controversy.  Perhaps this has to to with the relative ease of experimentation in the hard sciences when compared with the social sciences.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the social science have as their subject the human person, which by nature cannot be reduced to overly rationalistic or mechanistic behavior.  Not being an expert in either hard sciences or social sciences, I can only speculate.

Yet despite my near total lack of experience and absolute total lack of expertise, it strangely enough doesn’t seem to hinder me from thinking about paradoxes in the field, or at the very least “perceived” paradoxes.  One such paradox that has kept me up at night, (well, let’s not go that far), is the obsession that political economics has with using GDP/GNP for measuring the health of the nation’s economy.  Now, let’s not go off the deep end here; I am not saying to toss the measure out the window altogether.  But consider the following relatively useless mental exercise.*

We all have household tasks to perform: mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, cooking meals, even watching our children.  We do perform these tasks willingly, and no one pays us to perform them.  The services themselves don’t contribute to the GDP.  Now, one day, my neighbor and I become concerned about the GDP and decide to do something to help it out.  We agree to take some of these services, say mowing the lawn and washing the dishes, and hire each other to do them.  I pay him $20 to mow my lawn and an additional $30 to wash my dishes every week.  Thus, I am hiring him for $50 a week, or $2600 per year.  Now, let’s be honest, with five kids, I can hardly afford to pay someone to do these menial tasks for me, so I get my neighbor to agree to pay me $50 per week to mow his lawn and do his dishes, coincidentally just enough to cover my new annual $2600 expense.  In total, we have collectively contributed $5200 per year to the GDP.  Yet our lives have not changed in the least, neither in income or standard of living.  Further, our workload has not really changed at all.  Yet we have now contributed to the GDP.

To make the mental exercise even more absurd, after a month of doing this, we decide that it is a real inconvenience.  My neighbor simply doesn’t want to walk across the street to mow my lawn and do my dishes.  However, he doesn’t want to give up his new-found $2600 profit.  He decides to subcontract this work out to a poor soul who will be willing to do the work for half the price, $1300.  That poor soul ends up being me.  In other words, I am paying my neighbor $2600 a year to mow my lawn and do my dishes, and he in turn is paying me $1300 to do this work for him.  I, in turn, play the same game with him.  He pays my $2600 a year to mow his lawn and do his dishes, and I hire him for $1300 a year to do his own work.  The net result of this is as follows.  We have added $5200+$2600 = $7800 a year to the GDP, yet the net change to my fiscal situation is $0 (likewise for my neighbor), and the net change in my workload is 0.  (I am mowing my own lawn and doing my own dishes, just like I was before we had our brilliant idea.)

To exaggerate this even further, because we have now become obsessed with our own brilliance, my neighbor and I decide to up the ante by multiplying all of our payments by 1,000,000.  (Of course, we will have to take out loans for this, but once the banks recognize our raw intelligence and entrepreneurial spirit, they will be fighting to give us loans.)  We have now contributed to the GDP $7,800,000,000, or 7.8 billion dollars, all for mowing our own lawn and doing or own dishes.

While I am admittedly unclear on the exact accounting of such an experiment (for instance should the subcontracting fees be deducted from the profits), something of this already exists when trying to compare the GDP in the United State over long periods of time.  In the last two-hundred years, the GDP in our county has grown enormously, yet the figure overstates the growth in production over the that time period.  Two-hundred years ago, far more people (most people?) produced their own food and many of their own possessions (clothing, etc.).  As self-produced, these activities and products were “off the ledger” of the GDP, so to speak.  Perhaps the biggest change came when many women moved from the home into the workforce.  Activities once done for no monetary exchange were now part of the GDP calculation: housekeeping, child care, cooking, etc.  The affect of this was essentially one of accounting: much of this activity moved from “off the ledger” to “on the ledger.”  The activity itself didn’t necessarily change, nor did the production of goods and services (yes, this oversimplifies the situation), yet the GDP was grossly affected by the accounting move.

The same sort of game can be played with unemployment rates.  The unemployment rate is calculated by dividing the number of unemployed individuals by the size of the labor force.  An “unemployed individual” is defined as someone who is not currently working by is willing to work for pay.  In the midst of our recession/double-dip-recession/ whatever-the-experts-are-calling-the-current-situation, no number has been tossed around the news media more than the unemployment rate.  However, this number is just as easily manipulated.  For instance, let’s take every household in which one of the two parents stays home decides simultaneously, “I want a job.”  All of a sudden, even though the financial situation of the country has not changed, the unemployment rate goes through the roof.

On the other hand, suppose every one of these parents decides to engage in a deal such as between me and my neighbor.  Maybe they decide to pay each other to watch their own children for the day.  Now we have the opposite effect: the unemployment rate goes down.

In the interest of attempting some sort of pseudo-rational analysis, I suppose that these numbers are not entirely absurd if only because people don’t act in ways proposed by my two mental exercises.  Nevertheless, it does make one question how much stake we put into a system that relies almost solely on quantifying economic behavior, which is essentially human behavior.  I want to be careful here to once again separate the discipline of economics from the politics of economics.  I cannot in good conscience speak for a discipline of which I have so little experience, but I can speak to the way in which numbers such as GDP and unemployment rate are used (and abused?) by the news media which makes its way into my living room.

In the interest of giving the discipline itself the benefit of the doubt, I will assume that it has as its goal to both measure and increase the well-being of citizens.  (Actually, does not every discipline have this as a sort of telos, each with its own methodology?)  If so, should not the measure of economic well-being somehow take into account how well the beings actually are?  And surely this is a larger question than one of just exchange of dollars and cents.

Further, even if the discipline limits itself to the question of economic well-being (however that is defined), surely the two mental experiments show that the current methods are not at all adequate, despite their preferential treatment in popular conversation.  I have a sneaky suspicion that respectable economists realize this in their theoretical work, yet because it is theoretical and altruistic (I use that word as a compliment), the message is drowned out in the overly-pragmatic popular press which likes to grab on to easily digestible but often misunderstood or misused measurements such as GDP and unemployment rate.

In the current climate in which we find ourselves, there seems to be an inherent contradiction in terms.  More than any other time in my short history, folks are talking about not spending money, about being responsible with their finances.  In short, people are quite concerned about being economical with their resources, financial or otherwise.  Yet according the measure such as GDP and unemployment rate, acting in a way we deem “economical” is one of the most un-economic things we can do.  I speak here not form the level of an individual consumer, for the act of “not spending” often involves investing, even if it be in something as simply as a savings account, which by any measures grows the economy.  As a good friend wrote to me, “Rather than focusing on wisdom, responsibility, and prudent management of resources, the popular discussion focusses single-mindedly on improving questionable measures of national well-being;  As a result, gimmicks rule the conversation and common-sense gets lost in the commotion.”**

I beg you not to misconstrue my point – I am not suggesting that there is no place for numerical measures in the life of the economy.  I am not even saying that there is no place for the specific measures of GDP and the unemployment rate.  Rather, I am suggesting that such measures not “rule the conversation.”  The conversation should instead be ruled by solid philosophy.  And as a good Aristotelian, I suggest we begin with the highest ideas, such as the “happy life”, or “fulfillment.”  Rather than measuring raw dollars and percent growth in spending/income, perhaps we should be thinking about how fulfilled people are, how much closer (or farther?) are they from being “fully human”, and how economic policy can work to bring about the “happy life”.  Did not the philosophers of old define a good society as one in which the greatest number of individuals are able to achieve their telos as human person?  Surely economic measures and policies should keep the proverbial end in sight if they are to be anything that remotely resembles a success?

 

Soap box abandoned.

 

*  This exercise was not of my own creation.  It is a modified version of a situation describe by Joseph Pearce in Small Is Still Beautiful: Economics as if the Family Matters.

**  I am highly indebted to Bill M. for reviewing this post for me.  Unlike myself, Bill actually does have some background in economics, and my ideas, while more than likely still flawed, are at least clearer because of his input, much of which made its way into the final version.  In some cases, I have used his wording.  Nevertheless, any errors in perception or thinking are still mine and mine alone.

27

Social Security is Not a Ponzi Scheme

 

Top Ten Reasons Why Social Security is not a Ponzi Scheme:

1.  Ponzi scheme participation is voluntary, unlike Social Security where participation is mandatory for most citizens.

2.  Ponzi scheme participants usually receive brightly colored reports telling them how much illusory interest their investments are earning.  Social Security participants make do with drab annual reports.

3.  When a Ponzi scheme goes bust the perpetrators can be sued for damages.  Good luck suing the Feds after Social Security goes belly up!

4.  Participants in a Ponzi scheme do not lose their claim against the perpetrators upon death, unlike people who die prior to receiving a check from Social Security.

5.  Ponzi schemes usually have few to no solid assets that can be seized by participants.  Social Security has endless IOUs signed by Uncle Sam. Continue Reading

22

The Sebelius regulations: Is it time for the USCCB to stop negotiating in private and to catechize in public?

As others have noted, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops has now weighed in.

In an “urgent” call to action bulletin insert, the USCCB called the new federal regulations proposed by Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, a potential “unprecedented threat to individual and institutional religious freedom.”  The bulletin insert also included the URL of a page on the USCCB website that allows an individual to send an email message to Ms. Sebelius protesting her proposed regulations as well as a page containing the comments the USCCB has submitted to HHS.  Under the proposed regulations, the USCCB claims that Jesus would not qualify for a religious exemption.

In this digital age, perhaps this is how the nation’s Catholic bishops can best motivate their flock to act, as President Obama would say, by “taking off the bedroom slippers and putting on the marching boots” to join in fighting this potential unprecedented threat.

But, should Catholics be optimistic?

After all, for all of the USCCB’s “dancing with wolves,” what has its approach achieved with the Obama administration?

Some facts:

  • The White  House has moved away from upholding the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage at the  Federal level as the union of a man and a woman, and bolstering the rights of  states not to recognize same-sex unions performed elsewhere.
  • The end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
  • And, now, the Sebelius’ regulations that include contraceptives and abortofacients.

Perhaps this “behind-the-scenes, make nice” approach to negotiating with the Obama administration is wrongheaded.

Why doesn’t the USCCB come forward into the public arena—using cable television and talk radio venues—and challenge those, like Ms. Sebelius and those who hold her definition of “Catholic,” to defend how it is possible as Catholics to propose federal regulations that are antithetical to Church teaching?  Should catechizing the nation not be the USCCB’s first priority?

“Taking the case to the public” undoubtedly would allow the USCCB to educate the public.  At the same time, it might also generate greater attention and respect for Church teaching as well as put more boots on the ground.

 

15

Scalia on Natural Law

I think Justice Scalia is right on target regarding his comments on the difficulty inherent in judges attempting to apply natural law in this country.  Natural law, as a legal concept to be used day to day by judges in the cases before them, only works if people are in agreement on basic morality.  Then a law writ by God on the hearts and minds of men and true for all times and true for all places is possible of discernment in application to particular cases.  Such a civilization Western Europe enjoyed from around 1000 AD to the time of the Reformation.  Our time bears little relationship to that period in history.  Now we live in a time of moral chaos, where even the right to life of an unborn child is denied by law.  In such a time of moral collapse, giving to judges the power to make determinations based on natural law is simply giving them the power to make it up as they go along, even more than they not infrequently do currently.  Bad enough results obtain when judges are supposedly bound by the text of written constitutions.  Give them a warrant to use something as vague and amorphous as natural law, and the results are completely predictable. Continue Reading

25

Pro Market vs Pro Business

This video has been making the rounds, and I’ve got to say the trader being interviewed does seem to be trying hard for a “first against the wall when the revolution comes” award.

I think one of the natural reactions many people have when seeing something like this is: How can you be pro-market when you see this is what markets are all about? This guy is gleeful at the idea of making money off a market crash that wipes out millions of people’s retirement savings!

The answer, I think, is in keeping in mind the difference between being pro-business and pro-market. Businesses are not necessarily pro-market, since markets only reward businesses so long as they are doing a better job at meeting customers’ needs than other businesses. Markets can, thus, both reward businesses and also chew them up and spit them out.

Watching some cocky trader bragging about how he’ll make money while everyone else is going broke tends to make people feel like what they need is a champion sitting behind a regulatory agency desk to rein his excesses. The problem is that we don’t really have any guarantee that the people in our legislative and regulatory bodies will be any nicer than this guy, or any less prone to think that they know more than they really do.

8

Favorite Star Trek Episode: Balance of Terror

Time to refresh my credentials as Chief Geek of TAC!

A condensed version of my favorite Star Trek episode Balance of Terror.  Originally broadcast on December 13, 1966, I have always found it riveting.  It introduced us to the Romulan Star Empire, an offshoot of the Vulcans.  Mark Lenard, one of the most underestimated actors of his generation, gives one of the best performances of the Star Trek franchise as the commander of a Romulan Bird of Prey vessel, equipped with a new cloaking device, making a foray into Federation territory.  Destroying Federation outposts along the Neutral Zone, his mission is to test Federation defenses.  If his mission is successful it will be the signal for an all-out Romulan invasion of the Federation.  Lenard portrays the commander as world-weary and tired.  An extremely able commander, he has seen too much of war, and dreads the massive interstellar conflict his political masters will unleash after he successfully completes his mission.  A Romulan of honor, he will do his duty even though he hates it. Continue Reading

15

Jesus vs. the Department for Health and Human Services

Proposed HHS regulations for “Required Health Plan Coverage” to be implemented next year will compel every employer to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and abortifacients, which Catholics (and perhaps other religious organizations) will judge as morally-reprehensible.

The Obama administration in their graciousness has provided some form of “conscience-exemption”:

Group health plans sponsored by certain religious employers, and group health insurance coverage in connection with such plans, are exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services. A religious employer is one that: (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii). 45 C.F.R. §147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B).

but the guidelines here are drawn so narrowly that few, if any, religious organizations will actually qualify for exemption.

As Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the USCCB notes, in framing the definition of “religious employer” thus “the HHS has plunked itself right in the middle of the sanctuary. It is trying to define what a religion does and does not do.”:

Catholic hospitals, charities and educational institutions provide about $30 billion worth of service annually in this country. No one presents a baptismal certificate at the emergency room. The hungry do not recite the Creed to get groceries at the food pantry. Students can pursue learning at The Catholic University of America, Villanova or any other Catholic college without passing a catechism admissions test. The commitment to serve those in need, the sick, the hungry, the uneducated, is intrinsic to Catholicism. No federal rule (except now HHS’s) says the church must limit its service to Catholics if it is to be true to its teaching. HHS doesn’t get the parable of the Good Samaritan, who helped the stranger simply because he was in need.

Look at the numbers. Catholic hospitals admit about 5.6 million people annually. That’s one out of every six persons seeking hospital care in the United States. Catholic Charities serves more than 9 million people annually. Catholic colleges and universities teach 850,000 students annually. Among those served are Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, atheists, agnostics and members of any other religious or irreligious group you can name.

Indeed, it seems as though Jesus himself wouldn’t pass muster at the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services.

(HT: Wheat & Weeds).

29

Faster Than Light?

We will see how all this plays out, but as of now there is a report that neutrinos have been observed traveling slightly faster than the speed of light:

Well, that simple fact may be in the form of the latest experiments at the largest particle accelerators in the world, based at CERN, outside Geneva. Physicists fired a beam of neutrinos (exotic, ghost-like particles that can penetrate even the densest of materials) from Switzerland to Italy, over a distance of 454 miles. Much to their amazement, after analyzing 15,000 neutrinos, they found that they traveled faster than the speed of light—one 60-billionth of a second faster, to be precise. In a billionth of a second, a beam of light travels about one foot. So a difference of 60 feet was quite astonishing.

Cracking the light barrier violated the core of Einstein’s theory. According to relativity, as you approach the speed of light, time slows down, you get heavier, and you also get flatter (all of which have been measured in the lab). But if you go faster than light, then the impossible happens. Time goes backward. You are lighter than nothing, and you have negative width. Since this is ridiculous, you cannot go faster than light, said Einstein. Continue Reading

20

Positivism, Ethics, & Law

“A positivist conception of nature as purely functional, in the way that the natural sciences explain it, is incapable of producing any bridge to ethics and law, but once again yields only functional answers.”

– Pope Benedict XVI

“This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent.  Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable.”

– Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, writing on the Troy Davis case

I am curious about reader’s thoughts on the connection (if any) between the type of legal positivism endorsed by Justice Scalia and the gulf between ethics and law  described by Pope Benedict in his recent address to the German Bundestag. One possible view is that vigorously upholding the rule of law (even when it appears that the legally correct result may result in injustice) can be part of a larger moral project aimed at establishing a just society. When laws and legal precedent are infinitely malleable at the discretion (or, more pejoratively, whims) of individual judges, the law can quickly become an arbitrary and capricious exercise.

On the other hand, there is something surreal about making slippery slope arguments when the issue is whether or not a (very probably) innocent person should be executed (typically executing the innocent is at the bottom rather than the top of the slippery slope). At any rate, I would have struggled to explain to Troy Davis that his execution was a regrettable but necessary consequence of my larger theoretical legal project and the creation of a just society.

Now that I’ve phrased the question in a one-sided fashion, I’ll leave it open to the readers. Is there a tension between the positivism espoused by Justice Scalia and Pope Benedict’s insistence that law and ethics must always be linked? Does the belief that upholding the rule of law produces, in the aggregate, a more just society, resolve the tension in individual cases between legally correct but substantially unjust outcomes?

 

9

Pope Benedict’s Address to the Bundestag: God, Law, History and Politicians

In the history of the Church we have had brilliant Popes, and not so brilliant Popes, an agile mind not necessarily being first on the list of priorities of the Holy Spirit when it comes to choosing Pontiffs.  Without a doubt, our current Pope is brilliant, his acute intelligence shining through his writings and his speeches.  This attribute of Pope Benedict was on full display when the Pope addressed the German Bundestag (national parliament) this week.  He gave a truly fascinating lecture on how what we mean by law has changed in modern times.  I suspect it went over the heads of most of his immediate audience, but it deserves study by all Catholics, and particularly those Catholics who, as I am, are connected with the law professionally.  Here is the speech of the Pope, interspersed with color commentary by me: Continue Reading

6

Compare and Contrast: Ride to Dubno

 

 

Something for the weekend.  It rather astonishes me how time has flown, but in October The American Catholic will be celebrating its third anniversary which puts me in a nostalgic mood.  This is one of the first of the music videos that I run on Saturdays, from October 18, 2008.  Two versions of Franz Waxman’s immortal Ride to Dubno, aka Ride of the Cossacks:   dueling pianists and the full Hollywood treatment in the 1962 movie Taras Bulba for which the song was composed.  Great to listen to if you need an energy boost.

15

Digitial warfare: Drones and lethal autonomy…

The image that war oftentimes conjures up is a bloody one.  It also is an image that is said to permanently change a person who has witnessed its horrors.

But, the age of digital warfare has arrived and the image of war increasingly is becoming a much more impersonal image as “drones” and “lethal autonomy” become normative.

Drones are undoubtedly changing the face of war.  They lessen the need for “boots on the ground.”  They take war directly to the enemy.  They reduce collateral damage.  And, they also may be legal under international law because they arguably are a form of self-defense.

 

It sounds good…almost too good.

Almost silent and invisible, predators in the sky offer the promise of ridding the world of the lawless who would like to inject chaos into it.  Intelligence officials in Langely, VA, can pinpoint an enemy and armed services personnel located thousands of miles away from the battlefield can then direct joy sticks and press buttons that obliterate the “target,” filming the sortie for later analysis.

The Washington Post has also reported new robotic technologies that may very well transform the image of war.  For example, “autonomous robotics” may one day allow drones to search for human targets and then make identifications based upon facial-recognition  or other software.  Once a match is confirmed, a drone could launch a missile to kill the target.  It’s called “lethal autonomy.”

 

Even if international law sanctions lethal autonomy, is its use moral and ethical?

Yes, lethal autonomy takes war directly to the enemy.  Yes, it lessens the need for standing armies and assists in keeping troops out of harm’s way.  Yes, it can be effective in ridding the world of heinous criminals.

According to the Washington Post article:

In the future, micro-drones will reconnoiter tunnels and buildings, robotic mules will haul equipment and mobile systems will retrieve the wounded while under fire. Technology will save lives.

However, the most troubling aspect of lethal autonomy is that it also has the potential to remove human beings and personal responsibility from the decision-making calculus.  Even if the tools of lethal autonomy were directly linked to their human operators, these machines process so much more data than human beings can process at any given moment in time that it may be near to impossible for armed forces personnel to manage more than one drone and autonomous robot at one time.  Then, too, as an enemy become increasingly sophisticated about how to do battle with drones and autonomous robots, there is no doubt that the amount of time available to make decisions will be reduced and the new technologies will have to be allowed to operate on their own.

The author of Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots, Ronald C. Arkin, told the Washington Post that ethical military drones and robots—capable of using deadly force while programmed to adhere to international humanitarian law and the rules of engagement—can be built.   Software would instruct them machines to return fire with proportionality, to minimize collateral damage, to recognize surrender, and, in the case of uncertainty, to maneuver to reassess or wait for humans to assess the situation.  In other words, Arkin believes that the rules of warfare that humans understand can be converted into mathematical algorithms for machines to follow on the battlefield.

Who’s to know with certitude?

What is for sure is that making determinations about the legal, moral, and ethical, and legal implications of digital warfare, in general, and this technology, in particular, require a careful and sober assessment.

 

 

To read the Washington Post article, click on the following link:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/national-security/a-future-for-drones-automated-killing/2011/09/15/gIQAVy9mgK_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines

7

Catholics in the American Revolution

Nor, perchance did the fact which We now recall take place without some design of divine Providence. Precisely at the epoch when the American colonies, having, with Catholic aid, achieved liberty and independence, coalesced into a constitutional Republic the ecclesiastical hierarchy was happily established amongst you; and at the very time when the popular suffrage placed the great Washington at the helm of the Republic, the first bishop was set by apostolic authority over the American Church. The well-known friendship and familiar intercourse which subsisted between these two men seems to be an evidence that the United States ought to be conjoined in concord and amity with the Catholic Church. And not without cause; for without morality the State cannot endure-a truth which that illustrious citizen of yours, whom We have just mentioned, with a keenness of insight worthy of his genius and statesmanship perceived and proclaimed. But the best and strongest support of morality is religion.

Pope Leo XIII

American Catholics, a very small percentage of the population of the 13 colonies, 1.6 percent, were overwhelmingly patriots and played a role in the American Revolution out of all proportion to the small fragment of the American people they represented.  Among the Catholics who assumed leadership roles in the fight for our liberty were:

General Stephen Moylan  a noted cavalry commander and the first Muster Master-General of the Continental Army.

Captains Joshua Barney and John Barry,  two of the most successful naval commanders in the American Revolution.

Colonel John Fitzgerald was a trusted aide and private secretary to General George Washington.

Father Pierre Gibault, Vicar General of Illinois, whose aid was instrumental in the conquest of the Northwest for America by George Rogers Clark.

Thomas Fitzsimons served as a Pennsylvania militia company commander during the Trenton campaign.  Later in the War he helped found the Pennsylvania state navy.  After the War he was one of the two Catholic signers of the U.S. Constitution in 1787

Colonel Thomas Moore led a Philadelphia regiment in the War.

Major John Doyle led a group of elite riflemen during the War. Continue Reading

44

A Few Topical Thoughts on Capital Punishment

Sometimes I get the feeling I haven’t caused enough controversy lately, so here it goes…

1) It strikes me that in many ways the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia underscores a lot of the points that opponents of capital punishment which make cause even supporters to feel a bit uncomfortable: The execution occurred 20 years after the trail, and only after numerous appeals that cost the state more than life in prison would have. Several witnesses recanted their testimony after the fact and alleged police coercion (though other witnesses continued to maintain they had seen him commit the crime). Claims were made about poor defense representation. Claims were made about the race composition of the jury being an issue (though I’m unclear how this works, and Davis is black and the majority of the jury was as well.) Etc. All of this does not necessarily serve to clear Davis, but it is the sort of thing that could make many people wonder if it would be easier all around to simply lock such cases up and not deal with trying to use the death penalty.

2) On the other hand, the execution on the same day of Lawrence Brewer in Texas underscores why most Americans support capital punishment in at least some situations. There was absolutely no question as to Brewer’s guilt in the sadistic and racist murder of James Byrd, Jr., and the day before Brewer’s execution he told a reporter, “As far as any regrets, no, I have no regrets. No, I’d do it all over again, to tell you the truth.” For all the claims that society can be kept safe from such people without the use of capital punishment, most people, I think, naturally feel both that someone like Brewer (who had been in prison and released twice before he participated in Byrd’s murder) needs to be executed for the safety of society and also that there is a two mile stretch of bloody highway which “cries out to heaven” for justice.
Continue Reading

27

Theodore Roosevelt and Muscular Christianity

Ah, if only “talkies” had existed during Theodore Roosevelt’s life.  Here we see a silent film of the Fourth of July speech in 1903 given by Roosevelt in Huntington, New York, during the 250th anniversary year of that town.  We cannot hear him speak, but the energy and passion which he poured into every speech he gave is clear from the film.

A few weeks later, Colonel Roosevelt (That is the title by which he liked to be addressed, being proud of his service with the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War.  He despised being called Teddy.) addressed the Holy Name Society on August 16, 1903.  Note his appeal to men and boys to lead good and moral lives and to give full expression to the masculine virtues of courage and fortitude.  Today of course the speech would be denounced as sexist, moralistic, Christianist and you can write the remainder of the list for yourself. Such complaints would be the sheerest rubbish.  Men and boys need precisely this type of message if they are going to be a positive force in society and to be good husbands, fathers and sons.  Too many churches, and the Church, tend to ignore giving this type of message and society has suffered greatly as a result.  Here is the text of the speech: Continue Reading

22

Catholic Converts

As a cradle Catholic I have always stood somewhat in awe of converts.  I was born into the Faith.  For me, I could no more cease to be Catholic than I could cease to be a male.  It is an essential part of me.  Take my Catholicism from me, and what would be left would not be me.  Converts, on the other hand, often raised up either to ignore Catholicism or to regard Catholicism as odd or evil, have taken the big step to embrace the Faith of their own volition.  They have done something that I have never had to do, and that excites my admiration.

Frequently I have  noted that Catholic converts make better Catholics than many cradle Catholics.  Certainly my wife, who converted a few years after our marriage from Methodism to Catholicism, is a far, far better Catholic than I am.  The list of Catholic converts is endless and here are a few more to consider: Continue Reading

5

Interviews With Veterans of the Revolution in 1864

 

Hattip to commenter RL for finding this American Heritage article.

In 1864 the Reverend Elias Brewster Hilliard, a minister from Connecticut, at the request of a Hartford publisher, set out on the task of interviewing the seven surviving veterans of the American Revolution in the North, writing down their memories of the American Revolution and obtaining their views of the Civil War.  In 1958 American Heritage published a fascinating story on the results of these interviews, and the story may be read here.

The American Revolution is not normally associated with photography, but some elderly veterans of that conflict lived long enough to have their pictures taken by the then cutting edge technology of photography.  Some of the photographs were taken for the 1864 interviews.  Among the veterans pictured above is John Gray, the last surviving veteran of the Revolution.  He was born fittingly enough near Mount Vernon.  His father was killed at the battle of White Plains in 1776.  John joined up at 16 in 1780 and was present at Yorktown when Cornwallis’ army marched by in surrender.  He died on March 29, 1868, age 104.  He was not among the veterans interviewed in 1864, and I assume he was overlooked.

How brief our history as an independent nation truly is!  Men who fought to give this nation birth lived to see the Civil War and the ultimate preservation of the nation.  The last surviving veteran of the Civil War, Albert Woolson, died in 1956 just six months before I was born in 1957.  We are still a very young nation. Continue Reading

16

Calculating Divorce

Several days ago, Creative Minority Report posted a video interview with comedian Steven Crowder on the state of marriage in our country.  Before I get on with my own comments, I should say that Crowder makes several good points, and overall his spiel is very pro-marriage.  Give it a watch if you haven’t already seen it.

The “myth” that caught my attention is the one about a 50% divorce rate.  If it is indeed a myth, then I have certainly been taken in by it.  For, not only have I believed it for several decades, but I have found myself irresponsibly quoting it without having an actual source.  (Such is the case with myths, yes?)  I suppose the purpose of this post is not much better, because still don’t have a source.  However, the mathematician in me go to thinking about how one might go about “measuring” the rate of success in marriage at a given point in time.  Rarely do numbers lie, but people (and people’s lack of basic statistical understanding) often lie with numbers.  I made a similar point a while back with the the myth of the “99% effectiveness” of Natural Family Planning.

In other words, studies are often perfectly clear on their methodology, but most people have no idea what the studies actually measure, and they misapply the end results.

Let’s think about two different methods one might use to measure the current “divorce” rate.

The first method is the obvious one.  It is entirely accurate, but altogether impractical.  If we want to know the divorce rate for marriage that occurred in the year 2011, we take all those who were married and wait until one of two things happen: the couple divorces or one of the spouses passes away.  The marriage in which a couple passes away are deemed “successful”, whereas the ones that divorce are not.  With a simple division, we have our divorce rate.  Unfortunately, this means we have to wait until at least a half a decade in order to report on the success of marriage in any one given year.  For, although it is unlikely that a couple who is married past fifty years will end up divorcing, we cannot be sure – so we must wait it out.  (Of course, at any given moment, we could count the number of divorces and say, “The divorce rate for 2011 is at least x%.”)  This method seems to assume that divorce is a product of cultural attitude at the time of marriage.  In other words, we blame the failure of marriage on the year in which the marriage occurred.

The second method is the flip side of the first method.  It is quite easy to do, but perhaps not all that accurate.  We count the number of marriages that occurred in 2011, and we count the number of divorces that occurred in 2011, and we divide.  The upside is that all the information is available at the close of the year.  The down side is that we are comparing apples to oranges.  (Additionally, in theory very strange results could occurs, such as divorce rates above 100% .. unlikely, of course, but in this scheme, theoretically possible).  This method assumes that marriages fall apart based on current cultural attitudes, not on the attitudes in the year in which the couple was married.  Perhaps that is better, yet there still seems something wrong with counting divorces and marriages with an entirely different set of couples and then attributing the result to that particular year.

To illustrate how these calculations might differ, let’s come up with some hypothetical data.  I admit that I am over-simplifying the situation, but the goal is to point out the difference that results between the two calculations, not to give an accurate description of divorce in our country.  Because it is easier to begin with method one, we will assume that we have a 40% divorce rate that never changes.  Further, we will assume that 10% of the marriages end within the first year, 10% in the second year, 10% in the third year, and then 5% per year in years 4 and 5.  After year 7, no more divorces occur for that cohort.  (We attempt here to model the phenomenon that marriages that last tend to last!)  We will also assume for the sake of simplicity, that the number of marriages climbs by 10% every year.  Finally, we have a hypothetical starting data for the year 2000.  In order to compare results, we will need to wait through at least one cohort length, but we will extend it to two cohorts, or ten years.  Thus, our data looks like this

(My apologies for the small image.  Open it in a new window to see the full calculations and results.)

I have only totaled the years after 2004 because this is the first year we have all the divorce information (due to our assumption that no divorce takes place after five years of successful marriage).

Let’s look at the year 2005.  We know from our assumption that Method One yields a 40% divorce rate.  What does Method Two yield?  Method two suggests that we divide the number of divorces by the number of marriage in that year.  This gives us 505,510/1,610,510 = 31.4%.  There is quite a difference, yes?  (An 8.6% difference to be precise.)

Let’s see what happens as we progress through 2010.  Remember, we decided to keep a constant “Method One” divorce rate of 40%.  It turns out, and I’ll leave the reader to check this, that the 31.39% rate continues into the subsequent years.   (As a challenge, can you prove that a constant “Method One” rate yields a constant “Method Two” rate?)  Why is Method Two lower?  Because it is counting divorces with a higher cohort than might be appropriate – a number that ends up in the demoninator.  Of course, this is because the number of marriages is increasing throughout the years.  (Again, as a challenge, can you prove that if the number of marriages stays constant, there is no difference between the Method One rate and the Method Two rate?)  If the number of marriages decreases, then the Method One rate is less than the Method Two rate.  As an example, suppose that the number of marriages decreases by 10% rather than increases.  The Method One rate is still 40%, but the Method Two rate comes out to be 53.2%.

If you are savvy with a spreadsheet or a programming language, you can play around with the Method One rate and the way in which it is broken down (I broke 40% into 10%, 10%, 10%, 5%, and 5%) to see just how far apart the two method can get.  For instance, when I broke down the 40% into 10%, 10%, 5%, 5%, 5%, 1%, 1%, 1%, 1%, and 1%, the Method One 40% rate came out to a Method 2 rate of 30.1%.  The farther into a marriage that divorce is allowed to go in our model, the farther apart the two calculations get.  (Incidentally, that was with a 10% growth in marriages every year.  With a 10% decline, the 40% rate led to a 57.4% Method Two calculation.)

There are, of course, all sorts of auxiliary points.  For instance, the comedian seemed to suggest that people were afraid to get into marriage at all, in which case the rate we are really interested in is the divorce rate for first time marriages.  This will clearly be different than when we take into account all marriages.  Further, while it might be true that divorce numbers (in any calculation) might be dropping, let us not conclude that this means that marriage itself is becoming more successful.  It could mean that the number of marriages itself it dropping (or at least not growing as much as it once was).  With an increase in cohabitation, I would have to imagine that we are experiencing less marriage than perhaps would have been predicted given the rate of growth of population.  More to the point, those who chose not to get married are also those that would have been more susceptible to divorce.  (This is my intuition, not the result of actual data.)

Completely tangental, perhaps a more interesting number, especially as an educator, would be to look at the percent of the population who are the children of either a divorce or an out of wedlock relationship.  Conversely, this would mean looking at the percent of the population whose parents are either still together or have suffered the loss of a spouse.  If we are talking about the impact of divorce on future society, this seems like a valuable number to know, and the calculation is much more straightforward the the divorce rate.

I can’t say that I have read the research in front of me that proposes a near 50% divorce rate.  Likewise, I haven’t seen the research that backs up the numbers quoted by Steven Crowder.  What I can say is that it is not altogether unthinkable that both numbers were arrived at in scientific papers, each calculating the rate of divorce differently.  What this means for our casual conversation is this: try to understand what a statistic means before quoting it, and I include myself in this docile chastisement.

15

Keynesian Twilight Zone

There are few things sadder than a one trick pony whose trick fails to work.  Obama, with a faith whose fervency cannot be doubted, believes with all his soul that vast government spending is the mechanism to lift the country out of this never ending bad slump.  That his policies have failed to do anything other than to increase our massive public debt, sways him not at all.  For a true ideologue, and that is what Obama clearly is, a collision between reality and  beliefs merely means that reality is wrong since the beliefs are beyond question.  Thus in economic policy this administration is one endless Groundhog Day where the nation is stuck in a loop of high unemployment, minimal economic growth and ever expanding public debt. Continue Reading

1

Some ideas to motivate your pastor…

In his book Futurecast, George Barna details a two-decade-long downward spiral in religious belief and behavior on the part of U.S. adults.

Futurecast: What Today's Trends Mean for Tomorrow's World  -
By: George Barna

Barna’s most important finding?

Although more U.S. adults today claim to have accepted Jesus as their Savior and expect to go to Heaven, they continue to drift away in large numbers from active membership in institutional churches.  This finding demonstrates itself in specific behavior:

  • In 1991, 24% of U.S. adults did not attend church.  In 2011, it’s 37%.
  • In 2011, more U.S. adults in 2011 than in 1991 reported that they haven’t attended church in the past six months, except for special occasions like funerals or weddings.

This weakening of institutional affiliation is true for every U.S. subgroup: religion, race, gender, age, and region.

Nowhere is this weakening more true than when it comes to doctrine.  For example, Barna reports that only 7% of the adults surveyed believe in the 7 essential doctrines of Christian faith, as these have been defined by the National Association of Evangelicals’ Statement of Faith.

Barna theorizes this weakening of institutional affiliation mirrors American society writ large.  He notes:

We are a designer society.  We want everything customized to our personal needs—our clothing, our food, our education.   Now  it’s our religion…America is headed for 310 million people with 310 million religions.

So, it should not prove surprising that increasing numbers of U.S. adults are matching their religious faith with personal preferences.  According to Barna:

People say, “I believe in God. I believe the Bible is a good book. And then I believe whatever I want.”

Who’s to blame?

In so far Barna is concerned, pastors deserve some of the blame.  He writes:

Everyone hears, “Jesus is the answer. Embrace him. Say this little Sinners Prayer and keep coming back.”  It doesn’t work.  People end up bored, burned out and empty.  They look at church and wonder, “Jesus died for this?”

Agree or not with Barna’s methodology, data, or interpretations, his findings depict much of what has transpired in the U.S. Catholic Church since the 1960s.

Barna’s solution?

Maximum Faith

In his new book, Maximum Faith, Barna details new research describing four barriers U.S. adults have identified that keep them from developing deeper faith.  These include:

  1. commitment (only 18% of those surveyed describe themselves as totally committed to their spiritual development);
  2. repentance (only 12% reported feeling “devastated” by their sinfulness and need for God);
  3. activity (spiritual disciplines are not practiced with sufficient frequency to make much if any difference); and,
  4. spiritual community (only 21% of self-identified Christians say it’s necessary to be part of a community of faith to grow spiritually).

To assist adults to overcome these barriers, Barna presents three challenges to pastors.

The first challenge: don’t confuse tools with expectations.

While laudable, preaching about the tools—-to worship and evangelize, to be disciples, to practice stewardship and service, and to form community—misses the goal of deepening faith.  As Barna rightly notes, faith development requires being motivated to meet high expectations.  Focus upon high expectations—the purpose of faith—to provide the foundation for deeper faith, not vice versa.

The second challenge: assist adults to embrace suffering and sacrifice with the goal of surrendering and submitting to God.

Barna argues that spiritual growth occurs when adults embrace their brokenness—to be broken people—not by concealing it.  But, they need exemplars.  Barna suggests that pastors identify the experiences of members of the faith community who have suffered for their faith, that is, the pain they endured through personal crises, their prolonged commitment to spiritual growth, and their increasing practice of spiritual discipline.  For example, preaching about these exemplars teaches selflessness and inspires hope in adults that they can also experience victory in deepening faith.

Barna’s third challenge: get adults to perceive and experience the faith community as a vital support system in the pursuit of deepening one’s faith.

Slightly more than 25% of self-described Christians meet during the week for Bible study, prayer, or life sharing; however, many of these meetings are primarily a means for creating community and a sense of connection to the larger church, the product of which oftentimes is a combination of knowledge and comfort, not commitment and the application of faith to real-life.  These meetings, while helpful for personal and perhaps spiritual growth, oftentimes do not get translated into the “fruit” of deeper faith: personal, congregational, and cultural transformation.

Barna believes that pastors should redefine “success” when it comes to motivating adults to overcome the four barriers to deepening their faith.  He notes that typical measures—attendance at church and program attendance/completion—demonstrate little correlation with deeper faith.  What pastors should focus upon is “plowing the ground”—the stuff of deeper faith—rather than “pruning the vines”—providing programs—if the pastoral goal is to effect the transformation of all things in Christ.

Adult Catholics who are serious about deepening their faith and strengthening their affiliation to the Church might consider discussing Barna’s findings and challenges with their pastors.  Think about it: Were Sunday homilies to integrate each of Barna’s three challenges effectively, it is likely the adults in the congregation would perk up, listen, and consider the stuff of a deeper Catholic faith: character change, lifestyle shifts, and attitudinal transitions.  They might even practice spiritual discipline more frequently and make a greater commitment to the life of the Catholic faith by developing parish-based programs to assist their peers to deepen their faith.

 

For information about Futurecast, click on the following link:
http://www.christianbook.com/futurecast-todays-trends-mean-tomorrows-world/george-barna/9781414324067/pd/324067

For information about Maximum Faith, click on the following link:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0983172900/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=10542143139&ref=pd_sl_1jh9v597tj_b

7

There’ll Always Be An England and a Newfoundland

Something for the weekend.  There’ll Always Be An England.  This was always a favorite of my sainted mother.  It was played frequently during World War II in Newfoundland when she was a child. Newfoundland sent off a very high percentage of its military age male population to fight, about 10% of the entire population served in the British armed services and Merchant Marine during the War, and some 900 Newfies died in service.  (On a per capita basis that is roughly the equivalent of the US war deaths  in World War II.)  Mom always remembered how many Newfoundland fathers, sons, brothers and uncles never came back from that War, and taught her sons to remember this sacrifice by a small nation.

This sacrifice was typified by the stories she would tell about Uncle Bill Barry, her uncle, my great uncle.  Uncle Bill was a fun loving Irishman and a boxer.  He joined the Royal Army in 1939, saying that “Someone has to teach the Limies how to fight!”  He served throughout the War, and was in combat from D-Day to the fall of Germany.  Uncle Bill was a fighter indeed, and his courage earned him promotion to sergeant after his platoon took a village.  He was placed in charge of the village.  He told his men to do as he did and led them on a raid of a local wine cellar.  The Lieutenant in charge of the platoon found Uncle Bill and his men dancing in the village square, all blind drunk, when he got back.  The first thing he did was to bust Uncle Bill back to private, which did not upset Uncle Bill nearly as much as the hangover he had in the brig the next day. Continue Reading

1

George Washington and Constitution Day

 

Today is Constitution Day, the 224th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.  Since 1788 our nation has been governed under a document, the Constitution, produced by a group of the wisest men ever to arise in our nation, collectively known as the Founding Fathers.  The video above from the magnificent John Adams series depicts the first inaugural of George Washington.  Washington for me is the standard by which all our other presidents are judged.  Without him of course, in all likelihood, there would be no United States as the American Revolution would have been lost without him to lead the starving, ragged Continentals to an against the odds victory.  In turbulent times he then led the nation for the first eight years under the new Constitution, setting the nation firmly on a course of prosperity, growth and expanding liberty.  A statesman like Washington comes to a people once every few centuries if they are fortunate, and we had him precisely when we needed a leader of his calibre most.

Would that our other presidents, with the exception of Lincoln, had possessed half of his ability to lead and his wisdom to chart a sound course.  I also wish that our other presidents had one of his minor traits:  brevity.  Here is his second inaugural address in its entirety.  His fidelity to our Constitution shines through its few words: Continue Reading

15

The Debt Crisis in a Nutshell

Hattip to Bookworm Room.  We are heading to debt repudiation both nationally and internationally, although I am sure that some euphemism will be used.  What this does to the global economy is anyone’s guess, but I think at best we are looking at a prolonged recession\depression lasting at least a decade.  Long range however, I share the fundamental optimism expressed by Milton Friedman in the video below, if we are capable of understanding how we got into this mess and make the necessary changes to radically alter our course. Continue Reading

7

Fourth Trimester Abortions (Updated)

One question that pro-lifers often pose to pro-choicers is how can they reconcile permitting abortion while still prohibiting the murder of newborns?  To put it differently, what is the substantive difference between a newborn child and a child in the latter stages of pregnancy?  For that matter, what is the difference between an unborn child at any stage of development and a born child?  Evidently this logic hit a Canadian judge pretty hard and she recognized the contradiction in distinguishing the born from the unborn. Continue Reading

6

Attack Watch!!!!!

You know, sometimes I suspect there are forces within the Obama administration attempting to throw the upcoming presidential election race.  The most recent evidence of this is a truly Orwellian website, Attack Watch, at which Obama supporters can report unfair attacks on Fearless Empty Suit.  Go here to view the Attack Watch webite.  Sheesh, I hope the Obama campaign didn’t waste much money on the design of this snitch site.  I guess they aimed for foreboding and hit silly.  I practically expect to hear the Imperial March theme from Star Wars.  Actually, I will supply that for your listening pleasure as you are perusing the site:

Continue Reading

5

A Short-Sighted Maneuver by PA Legislators

There is an effort underfoot in the Pennsylvania legislature to change the way the state awards its electoral votes.

PA Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi wants to allot Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes on a congressional district by district basis, rather than the current system of winner take all.

In a state like Pennsylvania, where Democratic candidates for President have won every election since 1988, it could be a way for Republicans to avoid a total loss.

For a number of reasons, I think this is a bad move.

Continue Reading

7

Crying “foul” after “aiding and abetting”…

It would be mildly amusing is wasn’t so sad to read emails and brochures produced by well-intentioned but hyper-reactive Catholic organizations calling for petition drives to demand that President Obama revoke some of the regulations associated with his “healthcare reforms.”

With Notre Dame University having honored President Obama in 2009, he subsequently turned on his heels by allowing his Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, to roll out new regulations flagrantly violating not only his word but also Church teaching.

These new regulations include:

  • requiring women’s health plans to cover sterilization and contraception, including  “abortifacients”;
  • mandating many Catholic organizations—including schools and colleges/universities, hopsitals, and Catholic charities—to violate their Catholic identity by providing health benefits that violate Church teaching; and,
  • compelling the insurance plans offered by Catholic organizations to offer free birth control and sterilization to college girls.

No doubt, these regulations are something the Church should protest.

Yet, all of this is amusing in that the majority of U.S. Catholics not only supported the President’s election but Catholic politicians also played crucial roles in crafting the healthcare “reform” bill and, now, designing the regulations.

Where was the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Health Association, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and Catholic Charities USA in 2008 and 2009 prophetically warning of the potential ill-effects of Obamacare?

For the most part, they were “working with the Administration,” believing the promises being made by their President, Catholic politicians, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  But, the truth is that they were “true believers,” savoring the limelight and empty promises made by Democrat politicians—whose Party’s platform explicitly promotes anti-life policies.

Now that the “hopium” has worn off with the reality of the new HHS regulations, it’s almost laughable that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is launching a nationwide campaign at parishes this weekend.  About the new regulations, the bulletin insert states: “This poses an unprecedented threat to individual and institutional religious freedom.”

Well, duh!  Isn’t that just great…after the fact?  Where was the leadership…before the fact?

Dancing with wolves, these U.S. Catholics weren’t just snookered.  They’ve also been taught a lesson…one they should have known all along.  Putting partisan politics ahead of Church teaching, the “hand which was to feed them” has “slammed the door in their faces.”

So, now they cry foul and organize protests?  It’s almost laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

How can these true believers possibly believe their protests are going to effective now that they’ve thrown the weight of their support behind the conditions which allowed the horse to be let out of the barn in the first place?

Security Theatre Gets Badly Out Of Hand

With the administration having announced that there were “credible” threats of anniversary attacks on the US by Al Qaeda on 9/11, everyone was admittedly a bit jumpy. The AP carried mentions of two airline incidents which caused fighter jets and security personnel to be scrambled, including this description of one relating to a Frontier Airlines flight:

Police temporarily detained and questioned three passengers at Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport on Sunday after the crew of the Frontier Airlines flight from Denver reported suspicious activity on board, and NORAD sent two F-16 jets to shadow the flight until it landed safely, airline and federal officials said.

The three passengers who were taken off the plane in handcuffs were released Sunday night, and no charges were filed against them, airport spokesman Scott Wintner said.

Frontier Flight 623, with 116 passengers on board, landed without incident in Detroit at 3:30 p.m. EDT after the crew reported that two people were spending “an extraordinarily long time” in a bathroom, Frontier spokesman Peter Kowalchuck said.

FBI Detroit spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said ultimately authorities determined there was no real threat.

“Due to the anniversary of Sept. 11, all precautions were taken, and any slight inconsistency was taken seriously,” Berchtold said. “The public would rather us err on the side of caution than not.”

In such dry terms, it sounds reasonable that people would be “on the side of caution”. Try reading instead the account of one of the three passengers cuffed and questioned — for being so suspicious as to look slightly like two guys she didn’t know who were in her aisle, both of whom committed the suspicious activity of going to the bathroom:

We had been waiting on the plane for a half hour. I had to pee. I wanted to get home and see my family. And I wanted someone to tell us what was going on. In the distance, a van with stairs came closer. I sighed with relief, thinking we were going to get off the plane and get shuttled back to the terminal. I would still be able to make it home for dinner. Others on the plane also seemed happy to see those stairs coming our way.

I see stairs coming our way…yay!
Continue Reading

14

The Civil War, Amanda Foreman, Oxford, Nudity and Large Families

The above video is an interview with Amanda Foreman who has written a fascinating study of Great Britain and the Civil War, A World on Fire, a book that I have been reading lately.  It is a comprehensive history, 958 pages in length, fully sourced and end noted, not only looking at the diplomatic relations between Great Britain and the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War, but also examining individual Brits who fought on both sides of the War, and studying the travails of British war correspondents who covered the War for British papers.  If the British Empire had entered the War on the side of the Confederacy it is hard to see how the Union would have prevailed, and Great Britain came within inches of doing so during the furor over the Trent affair, the Union seizure of Confederate diplomats Mason and Sliddel from the British mail ship Trent, in 1861.  Foreman masterfully retells this tale, and explains why the Brits ultimately did not intervene throughout the War.   Her tome is one of the more original books on the Civil War that I have read in many a year and very well written.

Whenever I come across a book that I enjoy by an author I am not familiar with, sooner or later I will research the background of the author.  For most historians it is usually dry stuff:  where they attended college, which historians they studied under, academic positions they have held and a list of the books they have written.  The ink stained wretches who serve Clio, the Muse of History, may write about exciting events, but they usually live fairly dull and colorless lives themselves, a historian like Winston Churchill being very much the exception.  Well, I quickly learned that there is very little dull about Ms. Foreman!

Born in 1968 she is a daughter of the late Carl Foreman, a former Commie who was blacklisted in the Fifties.  He was also a screenwriter of genius, producing the script for High Noon.  Foreman embraced Communism, which he later renounced, while studying at my Alma Mater, the University of Illinois. (Well, living among the corn fields at Urbana can do strange things to college students unused to bucolic Central Illinois.!)    After he was blacklisted he moved to England where he enjoyed great success with such films as The Guns of Navarrone and Young Winston, becoming a Commander of the British Empire.  He also married, for the second time, and had two children, Jonathan and Amanda Foreman.  Jonathan Foreman has achieved fame in Britain  as  a war journalist in Iraq, being embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division, and helped found, and writes for, StandPoint , a center-right journal of opinion in Britain that celebrates Western Civilization.  (I wonder what Carl would think?)

Ms. Foreman was educated at a boarding school in England, although she lived with her father in California prior to his death in 1984 of brain cancer.  She attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, and then Columbia.  She earned a Phd in history at Oxford, writing her doctoral dissertation on Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, 1757-1807.  In 1998 she published her doctoral dissertation.  Normally such books fall stillborn from the press, and are usually read only by professors, people who are paid to read them, and students, people who are forced to read them.  Not so this book, which, while a superb history of the Duchess and her era, was written in a lively style by Ms. Foreman, who obviously had inherited a full measure of the dramatic skills of her father.  The book rapidly became a best seller, and was made into a play and a movie.  Not the usual fate for a doctoral dissertation. Continue Reading

12

We Are Shackled to a Corpse

Last night Republican Robert Turner won the special Congressional election in New York 9, the congressional seat vacated by Anthony Weiner of Weinergate infamy.  Weiner was a pro-abort.  Turner is pro-life and against gay marriage.  How does a candidate, a 70 year old retired executive with no prior political experience, like this win in an icy blue congressional district held by Democrats since 1923?

Turner won by turning the race into a referendum on Obamanomics, and with this strategy he won resoundingly, 54-46.

This race is going to send shock waves through the Democrat establishment.  Already some Democrat leaders were saying privately what most sentient Americans realize:  due to his lousy stewardship of the economy Obama may well lose next year.  With this election, many Democrat leaders may well change from “may well lose” to “probably will lose”. Continue Reading

5

TAC College Rankings Week 2

Straight to the rankings this week!

1. LSU (2) – Plastering a cupcake isn’t too big a deal-but LSU has had issues with cupcakes a lot in the Les Miles era. A short week sets them up with a Thursday night bout against the violators of the SEC noise policy.

2. Alabama – Crushing Jo Pa isn’t that big of a deal right now, but early in the season it’s a good indicator of Bama’s strength

3.  Oklahoma (1) – A trip to Tallahassee will tell us a lot about the Big 12 & ACC this year

3. Boise St. – they better not take Rockets offense lightly on the road in Toledo or they will find themselves facing more indigestion than a slew of Tony Packo’s chili dogs

5.  Stanford-they haven’t done anything to hurt their cause and they won’t face a major challenge for some time

6. Oklahoma St. -eagerly awaiting a showdown in a couple of weeks with the Aggies

7.  Texas A&M – Is it really a good idea to take a bye week on week 2?

8. Florida St.- The Sooners coming is in town a big deal not only for FSU but also for the ACC. It’s the best shot at a marquee out of conference win not to mention something to brag about if the ACC really is interesting in scooping up the Longhorns in the latest realignment rumors.

9.  Wisconsin – The Badgers probably can’t wait the few weeks until they introduce the Corn Huskers to the Big 10

10. Nebraska – acing the Washington Huskies in Seattle will reveal a lot about the Corn Huskers and the Huskies

11. S. Carolina – the bad news for the Gamecocks is that the win against Georgia only gave them the SEC East crown according to preseason thought. With Tennessee and Florida looking decent against weak competition, it’s too early to book a return trip to Atlanta.

12. Arkansas -Eagerly awaiting their Sept 24th showdown with the Crimson Tide

13. Oregon – It’s all about the Stanford game now.

14. Virginia Tech- ECU gave them a scare, but they scare everybody and the Hokies get scared at least once a year. In this ACC, they’ll still go to the title game,

15. Auburn (1) – Their goal line stand against the Bulldogs was inspired by the glass’s performance against their mascot.

16. Michigan St. – should be a great game against the Fighting Irish who have their backs against the wall all the while the Spartans have a lot to prove

17. Ohio St. – the Buckeys offense needs a jolt and the Hurricans are probably licking their chops, but the Hurricanes offense isn’t much better

18. Florida – The game against the Vols will set expectations in the SEC East. With Georgia imploding, the Gators are primed to reclaim their status.

19. Arizona St. – The upset of Mizzou stands as a lone bright spot in the Pac-12’s OOC play.

20. Baylor – From the sounds of it, the lawyers aren’t succeeding in freezing the collapse of the Big 12, in which case Baylor needs to perform extremely well on the field to try to salvage a good invite.

21. South Florida – With Notre Dame defeated, the schedule it entirely dull (save maybe a trip to Pitt and Miami) until the last week when they play WVU likely for the Big East crown

22. West Virginia – If the Mountaineers wear their all yellow when they travel to Maryland to see the Maryland Pride uniforms ie BIG FLAG I HAZ BIG FLAG EVERYWHEREZ! I’m going to tear my eyeballs out

23. Texas – Leave it to the Longhorns to find a conference with weaker competition than the Big 12 to beat up on-and that’s before the SEC digs in

24. Washington – They upset Nebraska in the bowl game, but upsetting Big Red in the Cornhusker state is a difficult proposition.

25. Houston – Medical redshirts are awesome!

Continue Reading

6

Debate With a Liberal

A humorous, albeit stacked, debate.  The video does illuminate one facet of the American political scene.  Educated conservatives tend to be more familiar with liberal arguments than educated liberals are with conservative arguments.  The reason for this is quite simple.  Conservatives who have been to college have exposed themselves to an institution that is overwhelmingly liberal.  If they read or view the mainstream media, once again they are exposed to liberal ideas from an institution overwhelmingly liberal.  Their entertainment comes to them from sources that tend to be liberal.  Educated conservatives in our society can no more ignore liberal ideas and arguments than they can any other annoying and ubiquitous feature of modern life;   like people having “private” conversations at the top of their lungs over cell phones, liberalism is a constant background feature.

The same is not true for educated liberals.  If they choose, and a surprising number of them so choose, they can lead their lives without ever engaging with conservative ideas and arguments.  The colleges they attend support their political beliefs, the mainstream media presupposes that their arguments are correct and entertainment, if it has political content, will usually flatter their predispositions.  In short, liberals in our society can live their lives in an ideological bubble where conservatives need not be taken seriously.

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13

What are their issues?

I went online to start doing research into the Republican presidential candidates, hopefully for a post (or series) examining the positions. I started with the “Issues” pages and was struck by how similar Romney and Perry’s were. Consider Romney’s

You’ll note the Issues listed are Jobs, Fiscal Responsibility, Health Care, and Foreign Policy. No abortion, no marriage, really no social issues of any kind. But that’s Romney’s weak point. Presumably Perry is going to be carrying the Christian banner.

Or actually, the exact same issues (except National Security rather than Foreign Policy).

I understand issue #1 is the economy and how to spend (or not spend) in order to realign the economy and our budget. Abortion isn’t going to win anyone the nomination, much less the presidency. I get that.

But this is a website. It takes so little effort to put something saying like “Romney is pro-life and believes Roe v. Wade ought to be overturned.”  Neither candidate even bothered to put that little on their website. That’s a small gesture to expect.

So my question is this: if I’m a pro-lifer, if they don’t care enough about my issue to put it on their website, why should I care about their candidacies? And more important, if they don’t want me to consider abortion, should I consider it in their favor? Or should I take their invitation to be indifferent to the issue of abortion and judge them solely on economic and foreign policy issues? After all, if they’re not going to put abortion on their website how much effort do you think they’ll expend trying to help eliminate abortion?

And just to stir the pot a little more… Continue Reading

17

Paul Krugman and Hatriotism

 

Yesterday while almost all Americans were recalling 9/11 with sadness, mixed with pride for the heroism and self-sacrifice amply displayed by so many of their fellow citizens that dark day, economist Paul Krugman in his blog, hilariously entitled Conscience of a Liberal,  at the, where else, New York Times, posted this:

The Years of Shame

Is it just me, or are the 9/11 commemorations oddly subdued?

Actually, I don’t think it’s me, and it’s not really that odd.

What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. Te atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?

The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.

I’m not going to allow comments on this post, for obvious reasons. Continue Reading

2

Pope Benedict on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11


To my Venerable Brother
The Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

On this day my thoughts turn to the somber events of September 11, 2001, when so many innocent lives were lost in the brutal assault on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the further attacks in Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. I join you in commending the thousands of victims to the infinite mercy of Almighty God and in asking our heavenly Father to continue to console those who mourn the loss of loved ones.

The tragedy of that day is compounded by the perpetrators’ claim to be acting in God’s name. Once again, it must be unequivocally stated that no circumstances can ever justify acts of terrorism. Every human life is precious in God’s sight and no effort should be spared in the attempt to promote throughout the world a genuine respect for the inalienable rights and dignity of individuals and peoples everywhere.

The American people are to be commended for the courage and generosity that they showed in the rescue operations and for their resilience in moving forward with hope and confidence. It is my fervent prayer that a firm commitment to justice and a global culture of solidarity will help rid the world of the grievances that so often give rise to acts of violence and will create the conditions for greater peace and prosperity, offering a brighter and more secure future.

With these sentiments, I extend my most affectionate greetings to you, your brother Bishops and all those entrusted to your pastoral care, and I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and serenity in the Lord,

From the Vatican, September 11, 2011

19

Where Were You?

I doubt if most Americans will forget where they were and what they were doing when they heard of the attacks on 9/11.  Our commenter T. Shaw was in New York City during the attacks on the Twin Towers. Here are his recollections that he wrote down three days later:

I need to confess that this thing has me nearly unmanned.  Late last night, the TV news had a segment wherein the wives and children made emotional appeals for info on their husbands and fathers who are missing.  I lost it, then. I have tears in my eyes as I “hunt and peck” this. That is not me.

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25

Unforgettable Flight 93

When they got up that morning ten years ago the very last thing that the 33 passengers and the seven crew of United Flight 93 expected was to be engaged in a life and death struggle to retake an airliner that was headed to Washington DC as a terrorist missile.    All they expected the day to bring was a hum drum flight from Newark to San Francisco.  Just ordinary people living their lives.  Their occupations included pilot, first officer, flight attendant, an environmental lawyer, the owner of a public relations firm,  university students, a senior vice president of a medical development company, a sales representative for Good Housekeeping magazine, a manager of a US Wildlife animal refuge, an arborist, an account manager for a corporation, an ironworker, retirees, a computer programmer, a computer engineer, a lobbyist for the disabled, a real estate agent,  an executive vice president of a corporation and a free lance medical writer.  They were wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, all with unique histories and lives, with little in common except that they happened to be on board Flight 93 when the world changed.

The plane took off at 8:42 AM Eastern Time.  Four terrorists had boarded amidst the other 33 passengers.  The terrorists began to hijack the plane at 9:28 AM, soon after both the hijacked airliners had struck the Twin Towers in New York City, and just brief minutes before a fourth airliner was hijacked in Washington and slammed into the Pentagon.  At 9:28:17 AM a member of the cockpit crew shouted “Mayday! Mayday!” over the radio, with sounds of violence in the background.  35 seconds later someone in the cockpit shouted over the radio, “Mayday!  Get out of here!  Get out of here!”

By 9:31 AM the terrorists were in control of the cockpit.  They informed the passengers that they were in control of the plane and falsely told them they had a bomb.  Now began the final 30 minutes of Flight 93.

Passengers and crew during these final 30 minutes made 35 airphone calls and two cell phone calls.  They quickly learned of the other hijacked planes that had been flown into the Twin Towers.

Continue Reading

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9/11 Conspiracy Theories Debunked

Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of 9/11.   To head off any “Truthers”, a truly despicable and delusional movement that contends that 9/11 was an “inside job” perpetrated by nefarious, and apparently omnipotent forces in our government, who could arrange for terrorists to hijack four airliners and launch their attacks at the same time that the real dirty work was carried out by government agents, and keep this conspiracy hidden from view for a decade, except from the paladins of the “Truther” Movement who are able see beyond mere facts and evidence to the evil conspiracies within, I would suggest viewing of a series of videos on You Tube that patiently debunk 9/11 conspiracy theories one at a time.  The above video is one of them.  Go here to watch others in the series. Continue Reading

19

Handel, Judas Maccabeus and Mel Gibson

 

Something for the weekend.  The overture from Handel’s Judas Maccabeus.  Judas Maccabeus is a musical tribute to the revolt of the Maccabees, 167-160, against the attempts by Seleucid King Antiochus Epiphanes  to forcibly convert the Jews to paganism.  The revolt was not simply against the Selucids, but also against a sizable chunk of the population of Judea who were only too happy to embrace the ways of the Greeks.  Led by Mattathias, the father of Judas and his brothers, collectively known as the Maccabees, the revolt started in 167 BC when Mattathias, in the village of Modein outside of Jerusalem, cut down an official of the Selucid empire who was attempting to cajole Mattathias, a priest of Yahweh, to offer sacrifice to Zeus.  Mattathias and his sons then literally took to the hills, with Mattathias uttering a cry that has rung down the centuries:  “Let him who is zealous for the Law, follow me!”

Mattathias, an old man at the start of the revolt, soon died, and leadership descended to his son Judas.  Fighting a crafty guerilla campaign, Judas and his brothers, against all the odds, established an independent Jewish state.  After the heroic days of the Maccabees, the new Jewish state eventually descended into a fairly squalid series of civil wars, which ultimately led to the Romans under Pompey the Great seizing Jerusalem in 63 BC.  The Romans thereafter ruled Judea through puppet rulers.  Our Catholic Bibles have First and Second Maccabees which retell the heroic saga of the Maccabean Revolt.  This of course brings us to Mel Gibson, who has brought two heroic revolts to the screen and is apparently working on a third. Continue Reading

6

Education and out-of-wedlock children…

Those who worry about the state of marriage in the United States might want to read a recent Brookings Institute study.  “The Marginalization of Marriage in Middle America” examines the  marital status of the 51% of young adults between 25 and 34 years of age who have completed  high school but haven’t earned a college degree.

 

 

According to study, college-educated Americans generally marry before the birth of their first child and divorce levels among this demographic have fallen to levels comparable  with the early 1970s.  For college educated American women, the likelihood of having a child outside of marriage is 6%.  For moderately educated American women (finished high school and may or may not have attended some college or professional school), the likelihood of having a child outside of marriage is 44% of births.  But, among  women who did not finish high school, it’s 54%.

The findings indicate that this increase in births outside marriage correlates with higher levels of  cohabitation, not the cultural and economic factors that are most oftentimes cited as making it necessary for couples to cohabit today.  The report cites 3 cultural shifts that have changed the decision-making process:

  1. Attitudes towards sexual activity and childbearing outside marriage  have changed. Combined with the introduction of contraception, cohabitation and childbearing outside of marriage are more accepted than in the early 1970s.
  2. There has been a significant decline in religious participation  among people in Middle America.  Compared to the 1970s,  church attendance among this group has dropped from 40% to 28%.
  3. Since the early 1970s and the introduction of “no-fault divorce,” the jurisprudence affecting family life has been re-oriented, from being  supportive of marriage to emphasizing individual rights.

 

The problem is that the relationship among cohabiting couples is inherently unstable.  65%  of children living in a household where the adults are cohabiting will see that relationship break up before they are 12 years old.  This compares to 24% for children born to intact marriages.  These children are also 3 times more likely to be abused.  Drug use,  problems at school, and miscreant behavior are also more common among these children.

These findings shouldn’t surprise anyone.  In fact, they parallel those of the folks at Smart Marriages and what they have been arguing for almost two decades.

 

SmartMarriages

 

Perhaps the best explanation for all of this is the change in jurisprudence.  Marriage is now a “choice” rooted in individual rights rather than selfless love, fidelity, and trust.  Where those are absent, how likely is it that a marriage or a family will be healthy?

 

 

To read the Brookings Institution report, click on the following link:
http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2011/0810_strengthen_marriage_wilcox_cherlin.aspx

To learn about the research conducted by the folks at Smart Marriages, click on the following link:
http://smartmarriages.com/index.html

9

Bette Davis, Abortion and Irony

Recently on the American history blog Almost Chosen People that Paul Zummo and I run, I wrote a post, which may be read here, saluting the actress Bette Davis for the ardent patriotism she displayed during World War II.  In the course of my research however, I came across information which paints a very bleak picture of the famed actress indeed.

In the video at the beginning of the post we see a clip from the movie Juarez (1939) where the Empress of Mexico, Carlota, superbly portrayed by Bette Davis, is begging the Blessed Virgin for a child.  This scene is extremely ironic, since throughout the thirties and into the forties, Davis, for the good of her career apparently, and with the consent of her husband, had a series of abortions.  She opined in an interview in the eighties that she did not believe that abortion during the first month of pregnancy was the taking of human life, which leads me to wonder if she did not routinely go through pregnancy tests and abortions as a matter of course.  The cold bloodedness of this needs no amplification by me. Continue Reading