Monthly Archives: August 2012

Victor Davis Hanson Remembers Gore Vidal and John Keegan

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Last week Gore Vidal and John Keegan died.  I recalled John Keegan in a post which may be read here.  Gore Vidal I did not recall.  Although I enjoyed two of Vidal’s novels, Julian and Creation, I could not write a post about him without violating the maxim De mortuis nihil nisi bonum.  Fortunately my favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, does not share that inhibition:

Among those guests in 1964 was Gore Vidal, who was not yet 40. I was about eleven and remember him as a stylishly dressed non-stop hair-toucher. He was also vain and condescending — and a big hit at his lecture with the conservative rural crowd. In those days he acted what was known as “witty.” I recall asking my dad whether he was “English,” given that his nose was angled upward and his accent did not sound American (and that he did not seem to like the U.S.). My dad, in the Swedish fashion of honoring work for work’s sake, answered that I should respect any man who could crisscross the country, giving 30 lectures in 30 days.

Vidal certainly had an instinct for saying outrageous things with such erudite authority that we yokels found him fascinating rather than repulsive. As I remember (it has been 48 years since that evening), Vidal spoke for about 30 minutes, but then he wowed the crowd to a standing ovation in the question-and-answer period (his forte), as he advocated the legalization of drugs and prostitution and went on rants about “small town” values. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Tax Dishonesty

I’ve been listening to music via Pandora a lot recently (while writing) and the result is that although I’ve been hearing more than my usual share of political ads. (Since I don’t watch television or listen to commercial radio, I’m normally exempt from these despite living in Ohio.)

One thing that particularly struck me is the rampant dishonesty in regards to tax policy that’s going around, in part due to the both party’s bad habit of making tax breaks look more affordable by enacting them only for short terms, thus necessitating frequent renewal.

The first bone of contention is the “Bush tax cuts”. These tax cuts, which affected taxpayers all across the income spectrum, are estimated to have a “cost” of $3.3 Trillion over ten years (this “cost” is the combination of foregone theoretical tax revenues and the cost of servicing the debt resulting from federal spending not going down by a similar $3.3 Trillion.) Democrats like to refer to the “Bush tax cuts” as “tax cuts for the rich” and to quote the full “cost” of $3.3 Trillion as being the cost of those cuts. What this ignores is that two thirds of that $3.3T actually went to what President Obama refers to as the middle class (families making less than $250,000 per year.) So while it’s true that the “Bush tax cuts” had a “cost” of “over three trillion dollars”, the attacks against this ignore the fact that two thirds of that total is “tax cuts for the middle class” which Democrats support.

Just to make it even more confusing, Democrats like to call extending the Bush tax cuts “massive tax cuts for the rich”, despite the fact it is simply an extension of tax rates which have already been in place for some time. Republicans, on the other hand, like to refer the potential expiration of the tax cuts as a “massive tax increase.” This is accurate, to the extent that people would indeed experience their taxes going up, but it ignores the inconvenient fact that Republicans wrote the tax cut in such a way as to expire (in order to avoid having to make hard budget decisions to ‘pay for’ the tax cut.)

As if one set of expiring tax cuts that everyone talks about in different ways were not confusing enough, there’s also the Obama payroll tax cut: a cut of 2% in the payroll tax that pays for Social Security. This was never meant to be a permanent tax cut, but rather a short term economic stimulus. Social Security has financial problems to begin with, it doesn’t help to make a significant cut in its funding. (And that’s ignoring the fiction that the money you put into Social Security is the money you’re get out again.)

However, even though both parties have signaled that they’re essentially willing to let the temporary payroll tax cut expire at the end of this year (though both parties hope to see this done as part of a broader overhaul of taxes suited to their own priorities) that hasn’t stopped some commentators and advertisers from characterizing Republican support for letting the cut expire as “a tax increase on the middle class”.

Most Mendacious Political Ad Thus Far This Season

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This ad is so filled with lies that it is almost an archetype of the mendacious political ad.  Romney was out of the decision making loop by 1999 at Bain Capital. GS Steel was facing bankruptcy in 1993 when it was purchased by Bain, so if Bain did anything it was to give the fellow in the ad, Joe Soptic, employment for a few more years until the plant he worked at closed its doors in Kansas City in February 2001.  Soptic’s wife?  He says that she got sick “a short time” after the plant closing.She died of cancer in 2006.   She had insurance through her own job at a local thrift store until she injured her rotator cuff and had to quit her job in 2002 or 2003.  Even by the low standards of political ads, this one is despicable.

LCWR: No “dialogue” about discussion about sexual abuse by nuns…

 

The day after The Motley Monk posted “Cracking Down on the LCWR: Is Orthodoxy the Only Problem?” at The American Catholic, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, (SNAP) staged a protest outside of the meeting of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in St. Louis.

 

 

Why?

According to Steve Theisen of Iowa SNAP who was sexually victimized by a nun as a child:

The scandal of child molesting nuns takes a backseat to abuse by priests, remaining dangerously in the shadows.  More and more, we’re hearing from men and women who were molested, as young kids and vulnerable adults, by nuns across the country. Yet nun officials have done little to determine just how widespread such crimes and cover ups are or take effective steps to stop them in the future.

 

Isn’t that exactly what the leaders of the LCWR have been saying about the bishops?

According to SNAP’s Director, David Clohessy, LCWR has not responded to SNAP’s repeated prodding to let childhood sexual victims speak at the nun’s conference,  to actively reach out to victims of nun abuse, and to post the names, photos and whereabouts of proven, admitted, and credibly accused child molesting nuns on church websites.  Clohessy writes:

It’s ironic that the LCWR makes the same excuses for inaction now what bishops used 20 years ago.  They make essentially bureaucratic claims like “our structure doesn’t permit us to do more” and their meetings are not “the best venue” to address these issues. It’s very disheartening.

 

As The Motley Monk also noted, there’s also not much the main stream media is reporting about the issue of clergy sex crimes and cover ups by nuns.  According to SNAP’s Outreach Director, Barbara Dorris:

It’s stunning, really, to see nuns moving more timidly and slowly on child sex crimes and cover ups than bishops.   Abuse by nuns is certainly more common than anyone suspects, and inaction by nuns’ groups contributes to this secrecy.

 

 

To read The Motley Monk’s post “Cracking Down on the LCWR: Is Orthodoxy the Only Problem?,” click on the following link:
http://the-american-catholic.com/2012/08/05/cracking-down-on-the-lcwr-is-orthodoxy-the-only-problem/

To read David Clohessy’s post, click on the following link:
http://www.snapnetwork.org/mo_sex_abuse_victims_to_protest_outside_nuns_conference

Padre of Guadalcanal

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(This is a post I did in 2009.  It seemed appropriate to repost it today.  Father Gehring pray for us that we may have the courage to face our challenges in life and win victories over them.)

 

Frederic Gehring was probably lucky that he was born and reared in Brooklyn.  It has always been a tough town and it prepared him for the adventurous life he was to lead.  Born on January 20, 1903,  he went on to attend and graduated from Saint John’s Prep.  Setting his eyes on being a missionary priest, he entered the minor seminary of the Vincentians, Saint Joseph’s, near Princeton,  New Jersey.  Earning his BA in 1925, he entered the seminary of Saint Vincent’s in Philadelphia.

Ordained as a priest on May 22, 1930, he was unable to immediately go to China due to military activity of the Communists in Kiangsi province.  For three years he traveled throughout the US raising funds for the missions in China, and, at long last, in 1933 he was able to pack his bags and sailed for China.  Laboring in the Chinese missions from 1933-1939 in the midst of warlordism, civil war and the invasion of China, commencing in 1937, by Japan must have been tough, but Father Gehring was always up to any challenge.  For example,  in 1938 Japanese planes strafed a mission he was at.  Father Gehring ran out waving a large American flag in hopes that the Japanese would not wish to offend a powerful neutral nation and would stop the strafing.  The Japanese planes did fly off, and Father Gehring was pleased until someone at the mission pointed out that maybe the Japanese had simply run out of ammo!  In 1939 Father Gerhring returned to the States to raise funds for the missions.

 

Immediately following Pearl Harbor, Father Gehring joined the Navy as a Chaplain.  In September 1942 he began an unforgettable six month tour of duty with the First Marine Division fighting on Guadalcanal.  Marines, although they are often loathe to admit it, are a component of the Department of the Navy, and the US Navy supplies their support troops, including chaplains.  (One of my friends served as a Navy corpsman with a Marine unit in Vietnam.  After his tour with the Navy he enlisted with the Marines, was commissioned a Lieutenant, and spent his entire tour with a detachment of Marines aboard an aircraft carrier.  As he puts it, he joined the Navy and spent his time slogging through the mud with Marines.  He then joined the Marines and spent his time sailing with the Navy.)

Guadalcanal marked the turning point of the war in the Pacific.  In August 1942 the US went on the offensive for the first time when the First Marine Division, the Old Breed,  landed on Guadalcanal and took the Japanese air base there.  This set off a huge six month campaign, where US forces, often outnumbered on land, sea and in the air, fought and defeated the Imperial Army and Navy.  The importance of Guadalcanal is well captured in this quote from Admiral William “Bull” Halsey: “Before Guadalcanal the enemy advanced at his pleasure. After Guadalcanal, he retreated at ours”.

Guadalcanal

Upon arrival on Guadalcanal, Lieutenant Gehring quickly became known as “Padre “ to the men of the Old Breed, the title usually bestowed upon chaplains, especially if they were Catholic priests.  He soon became known for wanting to be where the fighting was in order to help the wounded and administer the Last Rites.  Initially this took some of the Marines by surprise.  Jumping into a foxhole during a heavy fire fight, a shocked Marine already in the foxhole, noticing the crucifix dangling from his neck, cried out to him, “Padre, what are you doing here?”  Gehring calmly replied, “Where else would I be?”  He would routinely say Masses so close to the fighting, that the Marines said that he would say Mass in Hell for Marines if he could drive his jeep there.  The Marines quickly decided that it was a lost cause asking the Padre to stay behind the lines.  They were doing well if they could convince him to stay within friendly lines!  Three times he went out on behind the line missions to rescue trapped missionaries on the island, mostly Marist priests and sisters, rescuing 28 of them, assisted by natives of the Solomons.  For this feat he was the first Navy chaplain to be awarded the Legion of Merit by the President. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Guadalcanal: America Turns the Tide

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Before Guadalcanal the enemy advanced at his pleasure. After Guadalcanal, he retreated at ours.

Admiral William “Bull” Halsey

Seventy years ago Marines of the First Division, The Old Breed, launched the first offensive of America in World War II, by landing on Guadalcanal and seized the Japanese air strip, named Henderson Field by the Marines.  This set off a huge six month campaign, where US forces, often outnumbered on land, sea and in the air, fought and defeated the Imperial Army and Navy.

Once the Marines seized Henderson, the Japanese commenced a cycle of shipping troops by sea to Guadalcanal, called by Marines the Tokyo Express, to take it back.  The Imperial Navy, waged battle after battle with the US Navy to cut the supply line of the Marines. In the skies above Guadalcanal the Japanese sent wave after wave of fighters and bombers to establish air supremacy and to make Henderson unusable through bombing.

The Japanese were unable to establish air supremacy due to the “Cactus Air Force”, Cactus being the Allied code name for Guadalcanal, heavily outnumbered Marine aviators, who, operating under the most primitive conditions imaginable, successfully contested Japanese control of the air, and, eventually, with American carrier based air, established American air supremacy above Guadalcanal.

The US Navy, in seven large battles against its Japanese counterpart, eventually established naval supremacy in the seas around Guadalcanal.  The battles were hammer and tongs affairs, with some of the most desperate naval fighting in the entire War.

The Marines on Guadalcanal learned many useful lessons in fighting and beating the Japanese: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

A Priest Born on Flag Day

One of the most highly decorated chaplains of World War II, Father Elmer W. Heindl used to joke that his decorations were simply due to him being in the wrong place at the right time.  Born on June 14, 1910 in Rochester, New York, the oldest of six children, Heindl decided at an early age that he was meant to be a priest and was ordained on June 6, 1936.  He said that being born on Flag Day indicated to him that during his life he would do something to honor the Stars and Stripes.

In March of 1942 he joined the Army as a chaplain.  Assigned to the 2nd Battalion of th 148th infantry attached to the 37th Division, he served on Guadalcanal, New Georgia and in the Philippines.  He quickly gained a reputation for utter fearlessness under fire, giving the last Rites, tending the wounded and rescuing wounded under fire.    In regard to the Last Rites, Father Heindl noted that he did not have time to check dog tags to see if a dying soldier was a Catholic.  “Every situation was an instant decision.  You didn’t have time to check his dog tag to see whether he was Catholic or not. I’d say, in Latin, ‘If you’re able and willing to receive this sacrament, I give it to you.’ And then leave it up to the Lord.”

He earned a Bronze Star on New Georgia when on July  19 and July 23 he conducted burial services, although in constant danger from Japanese sniper fire.  The citation noted that his cheerful demeanor and courage inspired the troops who encountered him.

During the liberation of the Philippines, Captain Heindl participated in the bitter fighting in Manila.  He earned a Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award in the United States Army for valor, during the fighting at Bilibid prison to liberate American and Filipino POWs who had been through horrors at the hands of their Japanese captors that I truly hope the readers of this post would find literally unimaginable.  Here is the Distinguished Service Cross citation: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Hello Again, TAC

It has been a while since I’ve posted here, due to personal issues and professional obligations. Just wanted to drop in and say that I’ll be back. Some topics that have been on my mind, and that will be the topic of future posts include:

 

* The intensification of the battle between proponents of traditional marriage and “marriage equality”, and how we can turn the tide in our favor.

* The upcoming presidential election and to what extent I can cheer for Mitt Romney.

* The more general conflict between tradition/hierarchy on the one hand and radicalism/egalitarianism on the other

* Fred Phelps and the Westboro outfit (my fascination with the entire phenomenon)

Stay tuned :)

Fare Forward

There is an outstanding new publication hitting the press by the name of Fare Forward: A Christian Review of Ideas.  The Editor-in-Chief is named Peter Blair.  While at Dartmouth, Blair ran the campus publication Apologia.  Now that he is a graduate, this is his attempt at furthering the mission of Apologia and taking it national in Fare Forward.  From the website, the publication describes itself:

Fare Forward is a quarterly Christian review of ideas and cultural commentary for young adults launched in the summer of 2012. As undergraduates, the editors of the journal all worked on The Dartmouth Apologia, a journal of Christian thought at Dartmouth College. The success of the Apologia and like-minded Christian journals on college campuses across the country, as well as the sociological research on our generation, inspired the editors to create this journal. Our writers and readers are drawn from the ranks of what sociologists have begun to call “emerging adults”: young people who have graduated from college and begun to enter the work force but who are still facing a period of transition and uncertainty. We aim to provide emerging adults with a space to engage with a thoughtful Christian worldview that provides a framework for integrating faith, reason, service and vocation, and to put this worldview in dialogue with the intellectual and cultural trends influencing our national discussions.

The name ‘Fare Forward’ is taken from “The Dry Salvages”, the third quartet of T.S. Eliot’s masterpiece, Four Quartets. “The Dry Salvages” is a reflection on time, eternity, and humanity’s place in between. We chose our name to reflect this awareness of the transhistorical, incarnational nature of human experience and to affirm our commitment to acknowledging both the richness of Christian tradition and our faith’s vital creativity.

Give Fare Forward a solid look, and consider a subscription during this inaugural year.  While I am committed (for obvious reasons) to electronic media, I am also a fan of keeping printed publications as an integral part of our intellectual culture.

The website can be found here  Subscriptions can be order here.

Cracking down on the LCWR : Is orthodoxy the only problem?

 

The Vatican’s so-called “crackdown” on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) for doctrinal heterodoxy generated a bit of press on the part of the American Catholic left.

If leftist media reports are to be believed, LCRW leaders were “stunned” and their ire has been raised by the crackdown.  Rome is “bullying” those selfless, consecrated women whose lives of humble charity in imitation of Jesus endeared  them to many Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  After all, LCRW leaders only seek “honest, respectful dialogue towards peacemaking and reconciliation.”

 

Now that the initial fallout has settled a bit, The Motley Monk detects what may be a new twist surfacing in the narrative.  This slightly revised version raises the specter that conservative  American cardinals living in Rome were pivotal in what The Motley Monk previously called a “hostile takeover” of the LCWR.

That “conservative” American cardinals engineered this shocking maneuver, according to the American Catholic left, is bad enough.

But, compounding evil upon evil—yes, in the eyes of many on the American Catholic left, conservative Catholicism is an intrinsic evil that’s intent upon destroying the authentic reform of the Church envisaged at Vatican II—the Catholic left’s media has reported that one of the key players in the LCWR’s hostile takeover was none other than Cardinal Bernard Law.  He’s the former Archbishop of Boston.

If previous media reports are to be believed, Law’s cover up of priestly pedophilia and ephebophilia in Boston required the Vatican to usher him out of the United States and ensconce him safely in the Vatican.  Doing so under the Vatican’s protective cover of “diplomatic immunity” would ensure that a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church wouldn’t be indicted on U.S. soil.

 

Cardinal Bernard Law kisses the papal ring
on Wednesday June 7, 2006

 

According to Robert Mickens in The Tablet, Cardinal Law was “the person in Rome most forcefully supporting” the LCWR investigation that began in 2009 and ended in 2011, with the hostile takeover being announced in April 2012.   Minkens reports one American cleric calling Cardinal Law the “prime instigator” of the investigation.

It has been alleged that Law’s cohort included the former Archbishop of St. Louis, Cardinal  Raymond Burke, as well as Cardinal James Stafford, the former Archbishop of Denver who worked in the  Roman Curia since 1996.  Then, too, another American, the former Archbishop of San Francisco, Cardinal William Levada, conducted the actual investigation.

Is the “crackdown,” as it’s being suggested, “pay back” for the grief the LCWR has caused the American hierarchy for the past several decades?

The Motley Monk thinks maybe not.

With the leftist media linking the hostile takeover of the LCWR to the pedophilia and ephebophophilia scandal, The Motley Monk wonders whether operatives of the American Catholic left and their media outlets are attempting to distract attention away from what’s a very important question that’s not being asked, at least in public: What was the LCWR’s role, if any, in a glossing over—if not a coverup—of pedophilia and ephebophilia on the part of Catholic women religious?

Check out how Sr. Joan D. Chittister, OSB, the 1976 LCWR President,  avoids the question (begin at 9:05)

 

 

Promoting the narrative that the women religious were 100% “pure as the driven snow” as they set about effecting greater “peace with justice” in the post-Vatican II era, the media’s sole focus became the alleged machinations of evil clergymen who engaged in an unconscionable covering up of the pedophilia and ephebophilia scandals.  There’d be little reason to suspect that women religious—and especially the LCWR—would ever engage in similar heinous behavior.

Perhaps CNN’s Christiane Amanpour didn’t do her homework.

Doctrinal heterodoxy may not be all that’s problematic with the LCWR.  It may very well be that the “Nuns [are] on the Run from the Truth,” as Frances Kissling observed three years ago and as a Daily Kos article has detailed.  There’s also a long list of allegations posted at BishopAccountability.org.

Just ask the folks at the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) about how the LCWR treated them when they started asking questions.

 

 

To read The Motley Monk’s post at The American Catholic, click on the following link:
http://the-american-catholic.com/2012/05/01/the-vatican-vs-the-good-sisters/

To read about Robert Micken’s report, click on the following link:
http://articles.boston.com/2012-05-05/news/31588335_1_sister-annmarie-sanders-nuns-national-catholic-reporter

To read Frances Kissling’s article in Salon.com, click on the following link:
http://www.salon.com/2009/08/17/nuns_2/

To read the Daily Kos article, click on the following link:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/06/06/1097871/-Victims-of-Nun-s-Sex-Abuse-Need-Our-Compassion-Too

To read the National Catholic Reporter article about SNAP’s experience with the LCWR, click on the following link:
http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/snap-lcwr-model-compassion-sex-abuse-victims

Anti-Masonic Party

One of the most peculiar periods in American political history is the rise and fall of the Anti-Masonic Party.  In 1826, William Morgan, who lived in Batavia, New York, decided to write a tell-all book about the Masons after he was denied admission to the local lodge.  Some members of the Batavia lodge ran an advertisement denouncing Morgan.  Various Masons claimed that Morgan owed them money.  Someone attempted to set fire to the newspaper offices of David Miller who had agreed to help publish Morgan’s planned book exposing the Masons.  Morgan was jailed for debt.  On September 11, 1826 he was freed from jail when his debts were paid by a man who claimed to be a friend of Morgan.  The two men went by carriage to Fort Niagara, the carriage arriving there the next day.  Morgan was never seen again.  Suspicion was immediate that Morgan had been killed by Masons drowning him in the Niagara River.  Three Masons served jail terms for kidnapping him.  No prosecution was ever attempted for the murder of Morgan.

This caused a huge stink in New York, with popular opinion believing that Masonic officials had literally gotten away with murder.  Thurlow Weed was the driving force in transforming this anti-Mason sentiment into the anti-Masonic political party.  Churches throughout New York state denounced the Masons.  In the 1828 election it became the main opposition party to the Democrats in New York and broadened its appeal by supporting internal improvements and a high protective tariff.  The movement quickly spread to other states, becoming powerful in Pennsylvania and Vermont, electing governors in both states.  In 1832 it held the first national political convention and nominated William Wirt, a former United States Attorney General for President.  In 1836 the party did not nominate any candidate for President, but most anti-Masons support William Henry Harrison, who ran well in Northern states thus setting himself up for a successful run in 1840.

By 1838 the party was largely a part of the new Whig anti-Democrat party, with the anti-Masonic party relegated to being one of the curios of American political history. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Plaisir d’amour

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Something for the weekend.  Plaisir d’amour, “The Pleasure of Love”.  Written in 1780 by Jean Paul Egide Martini, it was orchestrally arranged by Hector Berlioz.  The haunting melody has always been a favorite of mine.

Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment.

 chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.

  J’ai tout quitté pour l’ingrate Sylvie.

 Elle me quitte et prend un autre amant.

  Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment.

 chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.

  Tant que cette eau coulera doucement

 vers ce ruisseau qui borde la prairie,

  Je t’aimerai me répétait Sylvie.

 L’eau coule encore. Elle a changé pourtant.

  Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment.

 chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.

The pleasure of love lasts only a moment

 The pain of love lasts a lifetime.

  I gave up everything for ungrateful Sylvia,

 She is leaving me for another lover.

  The pleasure of love lasts only a moment,

 The pain of love lasts a lifetime.

  “As long as this water will run gently

 Towards this brook which borders the meadow,

  I will love you”, Sylvia told me repeatedly.

 The water still runs, but she has changed.

  The pleasure of love lasts only a moment,

 The pain of love lasts a lifetime. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

John Keegan: Requiescat in Pace

“Now tell us what ’twas all about,

“Young Peterkin, he cries;

And little Wilhelmine looks up

With wonder-waiting eyes;

“Now tell us all about the war,

And what they fought each other for.”

“It was the English,” Kaspar cried,

“Who put the French to rout;

But what they fought each other for

I could not well make out;

But everybody said,” quoth he,

“That ’twas a famous victory.”

Robert Southey, The Battle of Blenheim

One of my favorite military historians died today, John Keegan.  A Brit, Keegan wrote with skill about the history of war, and never forgot the human element, as he demonstrated in his magisterial The Face of  Battle, which looked at conflict through the ages from the point of view of the common soldiers at the sharp end of the spear.

He firmly believed that different nations viewed military history from different perspectives depending upon how they had fared in their recent wars:

 

It is really only in the English-speaking countries, whose land campaigns, with the exception of those of the American Civil War, have all been waged outside the national territory, that military history has been able to acquire the status of a humane study with a wide, general readership among informed minds. The reasons for that are obvious; our defeats have never threatened our national survival, our wars in consequence have never deeply divided our countries (Vietnam may — but probably will not — prove a lasting exception) and we have never therefore demanded scapegoats or Titans. In that vein, it is significant that the only cult general in the English-speaking world — Robert E Lee — was the paladin of its only component community ever to suffer military catastrophe, the Confederacy.

 

For the privileged majority of our world, land warfare during the last hundred and fifty years — the period which coincides with the emergence of modern historical scholarship — has been in the last resort a spectator activity. Hence our demand for, and pleasure in, well-written and intelligent commentary. Hence too our limited conception of military-historical controversy… It does not comprehend questions about whether or not, by better military judgment, we might still govern ourselves from our national capital — as it does for the Germans; whether or not we might have avoided four years of foreign occupation — as it does for the French; whether or not we might have saved the lives of 20 millions of our fellow countrymen — as it does for the Russians. Had we to face questions like that, were military history not for us a success story, our military historiography would doubtless bear all the marks of circumscription, over-technicality, bombast, personal vilification, narrow xenophobia and inelegant style which, separately or in combination, disfigure — to our eyes — the work of French, German and Russian writers. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Jerkiness Cometh Before a Fall

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Note to uber jerks everywhere:  it probably isn’t a great idea to make a YouTube video of one of your nastier bits of jerkiness.  Case in point, Adam M. Smith, former CFO of Vante, an Arizona medical manufacturing firm, was quite upset at Chick-Fil-A over gay marriage and decided that it would be a good idea to protest by berating the young lady attempting to take his order at a Chick-Fil-A.  He was obviously proud of his extreme bravery at giving a hard time to a young fast food worker because he filmed it and posted it on YouTube.  Surprisingly, at least I am sure it was a surprise to Mr. Smith, most people who viewed the YouTube video thought he was being a cowardly jerk.  Smith took down the video, but by that time bloggers had latched hold of the story and had downloaded the video.  Now Mr. Smith will have plenty of time to act like a jerk to other  people and post the results on YouTube as he is without employment.  From the CEO of Vante: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

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One of my least favorite trial dramas is Twelve Angry Men (1957).  As a defense attorney with thirty years experience I find it hilarious as Henry Fonda convinces his fellow jurors that the Defendant is not really guilty.  Why do I find it hilarious?  It is such a stacked deck!  Just like a Socratic “Dialogue” the argument is tailored to make the case for the Defendant, and no contrary arguments are allowed to stand as Fonda steamrolls all opposition and saves the day for truth, justice and the American way! Or did he?  Mike D’Angelo at AV Club has a brilliant analysis of why Fonda and his fellow jurors likely let a murderer off the hook:

Here’s what has to be true in order for The Kid to be innocent of the murder:

  • He coincidentally yelled “I’m gonna kill you!” at his father a few hours before someone else killed him. How many times in your life have you screamed that at your own father? Is it a regular thing?

AND

  • The elderly man down the hall, as suggested by Juror No. 9 (Joseph Sweeney), didn’t actually see The Kid, but claimed he had, or perhaps convinced himself he had, out of a desire to feel important.

AND

  • The woman across the street saw only a blur without her glasses, yet positively identified The Kid, again, either deliberately lying or confabulating.

AND

  • The Kid really did go to the movies, but was so upset by the death of his father and his arrest that all memory of what he saw vanished from his head. (Let’s say you go see Magic Mike tomorrow, then come home to find a parent murdered. However traumatized you are, do you consider it credible that you would be able to offer no description whatsoever of the movie? Not even “male strippers”?)

AND

  • Somebody else killed The Kid’s father, for reasons completely unknown, but left behind no trace of his presence whatsoever.

AND

  • The actual murderer coincidentally used the same knife that The Kid owns.

AND

  • The Kid coincidentally happened to lose his knife within hours of his father being stabbed to death with an identical knife.

The last one alone convicts him, frankly. That’s a million-to-one shot, conservatively. In the movie, Fonda dramatically produces a duplicate switchblade that he’d bought in The Kid’s neighborhood (which, by the way, would get him disqualified if the judge learned about it, as jurors aren’t allowed to conduct their own private investigations during a trial), by way of demonstrating that it’s hardly unique. But come on. I don’t own a switchblade, but I do own a wallet, which I think I bought at Target or Ross or some similar chain—I’m sure there are thousands of other guys walking around with the same wallet. But the odds that one of those people will happen to kill my father are minute, to put it mildly. And the odds that I’ll also happen to lose my wallet the same day that a stranger leaves his own, identical wallet behind at the scene of my father’s murder (emptied of all identification, I guess, for this analogy to work; cut me some slack, you get the idea) are essentially zero. Coincidences that wild do happen—there’s a recorded case of two brothers who were killed a year apart on the same street, each at age 17, each while riding the same bike, each run over by the same cab driver, carrying the same passenger—but they don’t happen frequently enough for us to seriously consider them as exculpatory evidence. If something that insanely freakish implicates you, you’re just screwed, really. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Great Depression II

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Al Lewis at MarketWatch uses the D word to describe the perpetual lousy economy we have been living through the past four years:

There is nothing more depressing than hearing about a new recession when you haven’t fully recovered from the last one. I take heart in suspecting that in a still-distant future, historians will look back with clarity and call this whole rotten period a depression.

The precise definition of a depression, of course, remains as debatable as anything else in the field of economics. By some definitions, it is a long-term slump in economic activity, often characterized by unusually high unemployment, a banking crisis, a sovereign-debt crisis, surprising bankruptcies and other horrible symptoms we can find in the headlines almost every day.

It is easy to avoid seeing all of these events as constituting a depression if you somehow have kept your livelihood intact all this time. But it’s important to remember that not everyone has to stand in a bread line during a depression.

Nearly one out of seven Americans receives food stamps, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s more than 44 million people. If they all stood in a line and someone photographed them using black-and-white film, they easily could be mistaken for people from the 1930s. Instead, they go to a grocery store and spend their credits like money. There isn’t even a social stigma to make them stand out as any more glum or destitute than anybody else.

Last week, the Associated Press reported that America’s poverty rate likely has hit levels not seen since the 1960s. Surveying several economists and academicians, the wire service predicted the official poverty rate would come in as high as 15.7% when the Census Bureau releases it in September. That would wipe out all the gains of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Poverty is another word for joblessness, and our economy hasn’t been generating enough decent-paying jobs for many years. Globalization, technology, outsourcing, immigration and the schemes of financiers have taken their toll. No one is certain when jobs will come back, and many of the jobs that remain don’t pay anywhere near what, say, your average failing CEO gets paid. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

President Obama Shows Us How

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A few observations:

1.  This bozo wouldn’t recognize the dignity to which his office is entitled unless said dignity offered to make a sizable campaign contribution.

2.  Just how dumb do they think the average Obama contributor is if they think it is necessary to demonstrate how to make a campaign contribution?

3.  They must be lacking in the mass contributions category this go round.

4.  What might have been considered cute in 2008 by his followers might rub some of them the wrong way in 2012, especially those who have been out of work for a while, and living in mom’s basement.

5.  This society is rapidly becoming a badly written Saturday Night Live routine. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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