Monthly Archives: September 2011

Small Miracles

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The divine art of miracle is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform but of feeding new events into that pattern.

CS Lewis

 

 

My sainted mother taught me how to drive, and I was a hideously bad driver at first.  She would take me out to drive and come back and take a “nerve pill”, as she called the tranquilizers that she reserved for encounters between me and the horseless carriage.  I improved with time, I certainly couldn’t get any worse, but my mother remained nervous about me having some mishap on the road.

She died at 48 on Easter Sunday 1984 after a heroic battle with cancer that lasted a year and a half.  For the remainder of my life I will remember the courage, grace and humor with which she fought the disease that took her life.  Cancer conquered her but it did not defeat her spirit.  For her last two weeks of life she was hospitalized in a coma.  My wife and I would stay with her during the day and my Dad and brother would take the night shift.  Come what may Mom was not going to die alone.  On Easter morning, as my wife and I approached my mother’s room, my brother came running out to get us saying that Mom was waking up from the coma.  We ran into the room, and Mom’s eyes were open.  She looked at the four of us, said that she loved us all and died.  I told our priest about this and he said that we had been granted a great privilege that morning and I agreed with him.  I regard this as my first encounter with the miraculous. Continue reading

Post Debate Thoughts

I made a semi-serious New Year’s Resolution not to discuss or even read about the presidential campaign until Labor Day.  I didn’t quite live up to that resolution, but I have managed to steer clear of the discussion far more than I would have thought possible.  So tonight was the first of the presidential debates that I have seen.  Below are my thoughts on how each of the candidates fared.

One general comment: the debate moderators were horrendous.  It seemed that about half of the questions were addressed to Rick Perry, and just about less than half to Mitt Romney.  In fact the first ten minutes were essentially just a sparring match between the two.  The most embarrassing part of the evening was when they trotted out a newscaster from Telemundo just to ask a question about immigration.  Just awful.

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NFL Power Rankings

Real football is finally slated to begin tomorrow night with the meeting of the previous two Super Bowl champions.  Instead of doing a division-by-division breakdown, I’m simply going to list the teams in order from 1-32.  This is simply my list as we’re not repeating our efforts last year at TAC to do a weekly power ranking poll.  I might revisit the list during the mid-season, but for now this is how I see the season playing out.  As is done with fantasy rankings, I’m breaking the teams out into tiers. Continue reading

Employment for All: A Response

Last week, Alex of Christian Economics wrote a piece arguing, on the basis of both catholic social teaching and modern monetary theory, for the government to act as an employer of last resort. In this post, I’d like to respond to several aspects of his argument. This kind of exchange is always challenging as on the one hand I want to give the fullest possible justice to Alex’s argument, but on the other in an internet debate it seems impossible to respond to every point without both sides getting totally bogged down in novel-length posts. As such, this post will be comprised of several titled sections dealing with different aspects of Alex’s post which I thought most interesting to present counter-arguments to.

The Purpose of Unemployment: Why Looking For Work Is Work
Just a couple months into my first full time job, I was laid off. It was 2000 and the tech bubble was in the middle of bursting, and I was a college senior trying to work full time while finishing off my last few classes. The web hosting company that I was working for had built itself on an unsustainable business model so one day my whole office showed up to work and found out that every single one of us was laid off. Even though I was young enough and my expenses were low enough that I could weather joblessness fairly easily (despite not qualifying for unemployment since I hadn’t been working the job long enough) if was definitely one of the uncomfortable experiences of my working life. Looking at the job listings was infuriating — it seemed like there were dozens of jobs that I could do (and, of course many, many more which required experience or qualifications I didn’t have) but they remained steadfastly silent as I sent out applications and resumes. It only took me a few weeks to find a part-time job at similar wages, and only a month longer to find a full time job that actually paid slightly more than the job I’d been laid off from, but it seemed like a very long time.

I bring up the personal angle because it seems to me that job searching serves very different purposes for the individual job hunter and for society as a whole. Continue reading

The Great Pig War of 1859

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The United States and Great Britain after the War of 1812 frequently came into conflict during the Nineteenth Century, and it is a medium sized miracle that one of these conflicts did not end in a third Anglo-American War.  The most surreal of these conflicts, beyond a doubt, is the Pig War of 1859.

Both Great Britain and America claimed the San Juan Islands lying between Vancouver Island and the then Washington territory, and the islands were settled by British subjects and American citizens.  On June 15, 1859 Lyman Cutlar, an American farmer on San Juan island, came out and found a pig eating tubers in his garden.  This was not the first incident involving the wayward pig, and Cutlar shot the pig, killing the porcine invader.  The pig was owned by a British subject, Charles Griffin, who took umbrage at the slaying of his wandering porker.  The two men had words about the pig.  British authorities threatened to arrest Cutlar, and the American settlers called for American military protection.

By August 10, 1859, 461 American soldiers with 14 cannon confronted five British warships carrying 2,140 men.  Fortunately, both sides exercised restraint and no shots were fired.  James Douglas, the governor of British Vancouver, ordered British Rear Admiral Robert L. Baynes to land Royal Marines on  San Juan island and engage the Americans.  Baynes flatly refused, saying that for two great nations to come to blows over a squabble over a pig was foolish.  London and Washington were equally aghast at the idea of going to war over this case of porcinecide, and General Winfield Scott was sent by President Buchanan to Vancouver to negotiate with Governor Douglas.  Agreement was reached that the British and American forces would be reduced to a 100 men each on San Juan island while negotiations were underway between the countries.  Ultimately third party arbitration, by Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, led to the islands being awarded to America in 1872. Continue reading

Becoming My Father

One of the more annoying and awkward moments of my life was watching the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards with my dad.  We had two cable-ready televisions in the house, and I guess my mother was watching the other one.  So I had to endure three hours of my father’s ongoing social commentary during the show.  Here was a show that featured performances of bands I actually wanted to watch: Def Leppard, U2, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and, most importantly, Guns N’ Roses, yet my father had to interject himself every thirty seconds to express his contempt and disgust for what was happening on screen – except for Eric Clapton performing “Tears in Heaven,” because evidently Eric Clapton was the only artist who had debuted since Django Reinhardt that didn’t draw my father’s ire. Continue reading

And a Happy Labor Day to You Too Hoffa

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James P. Hoffa, current boss of the Teamsters’ Union, and son of former boss of the Teamsters, and gangster, Jimmy Hoffa, whose mortal remains no doubt reside in various locations around the country courtesy of his gangland cronies, took the opportunity yesterday to declare his Union members an army for Obama and to spit on the morality of the mothers of those who oppose Obama.

I look forward with eager anticipation to the civility police on the political Left in this country swinging into action and condemning Hoffa’s use of gutter language and apparent confusion of next year’s election with a war.

Obama got the endorsement of the Teamsters in 2008 by suggesting that he was open to less federal oversight of the Teamsters.  The federal oversight has been going on since 1991 as part of an ongoing effort by the feds to rid the Teamsters of mob influence.  The Teamsters’ Union has long been opposed to the federal oversight, for reasons that I will leave to the perspicacity of my readers.

President Obama, at the rally where Hoffa gave vent to his inner thug, immediately condemned the intemperate remarks and renewed his call for greater civility in politics.  Naah!  Actually President Obama praised Hoffa. Continue reading

The Fighting SeaBees

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Construimus, Batuimus (We Build, We Fight)

At the outset of World War II, the Navy faced a task of unbelievable difficulty.  Around the globe, and especially in the Pacific, the Navy would be fighting in regions practically untouched by the modern world.  Everything to support military operations would have to be built from scratch:  bases, ports, airstrips, and an endless parade of other facilities.  The task was daunting, perhaps impossible.  However, the Navy had a secret weapon:  the American worker.

Forming Navy Construction Battalions, (C-Bs), the Navy turned to the civilian construction trades and asked for volunteers.  The response was overwhelming with civilian workers flocking to the task, and placed under the leadership of Navy officers.  These were older men, the average age of the volunteers being 37, and masters in their trades.  They formed the bedrock of the eventual 325,000 men who would serve in the Seabees during the War.  By V-J Day they had completed construction projects on six continents and 300 islands, many of the islands bearing strange and unfamiliar names like Guadalcanal, Tinian, Saipan, Tarawa and Iwo Jima.  They went about their work often under fire, sometimes participating directly in combat, and usually in conditions that were miserable beyond belief.  Tropical jungles, deserts, alpine mountains, arctic wastelands, nothing stopped them from doing their jobs, and usually completing their tasks ahead of schedule. Continue reading

September 11 – Ten Years Later

Ronald Reagan was able to win the Cold War without engaging the former Soviet Union in a terrible military conflict.  Regan understood the nature of the battle.  He called the former Soviet Union ‘the evil empire.” From his deep religious faith, Reagan well understood that the battle at hand was a battle between good and evil.  He also understood that the Communism of the former Soviet Union, because of its erroneous principles, would eventually collapse.

Although Communism is still a serious problem in China, North Korea,  Cuba and Venezuela;  a new, far more serious enemy is attempting to destroy our nation and our way of life. Radical Islam presents a greater threat than any other form of totalitarianism known to modern history.

Radical Islamic fundamentalism is much more dangerous than any form of Communism, precisely because Islam is a religion whereas communism, although it has religious overtones, is an ideology.  There is a difference between the two systems.

Communists organize riots and protests.  Communists engage in subversive activity.  Communists enslave nations and deny people their most fundamental rights.  Communism has armies and weapons of mass destruction.  All of this is true of the radical Muslims, except for one very important difference: Communists do not blow themselves up; Islamic terrorists do.

Reagan was able to win the Cold War precisely because Communism is an ideology.  But, how will we win the war on terror?

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September 2, 1945: Japan Surrenders

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A fascinating newsreel of the surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.  Note that MacArthur hands pens after he signs to General Wainwright and General Percival.  Both men had been prisoners of Japan for most of the War, and their gaunt skeletal presence at the surrender ceremony was a tribute to the Allied POWs who had been treated with a brutality scarcely believable.  MacArthur’s closing remarks deserve to be remembered:

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Pope Benedict Asks for Forgiveness

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI told the annual gathering of his “Study Group” (some of his former students) to ask God’s forgiveness on behalf of generations of “cradle Catholics” who have failed to transmit the faith to others.

No doubt, evangelizing others is an important dimension of Catholic life, as Pope Paul VI reminded the Church in his 1975 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii nuntiandi:

…what matters is to evangelize man’s culture and cultures (not in a purely decorative way, as it were, by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots), in the wide and rich sense which these terms have in Gaudium et spes, always taking the person as one’s starting-point and always coming back to the relationships of people among themselves and with God. (#20)

Where evangelization first takes place is in the home as parents evangelize their children in the Roman Catholic faith and its practice.  Today, the most-often heard lament is that Roman Catholic parents, in general, are not evangelizing their children and, of those who do, they are not evangelizing their children in the Roman Catholic faith and its practice but in some generic form of Christianity that emphasizes democratic values and aspirations.

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