50

Let’s Ignore That Pesky Constitution

 

 

Louis Michael Seidman, a professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown (surprise!), doesn’t think much of the Constitution as he explains in an op-ed in the New York Times:

Consider, for example, the assertion by the Senate minority leader last week that the House could not take up a plan by Senate Democrats to extend tax cuts on households making $250,000 or less because the Constitution requires that revenue measures originate in the lower chamber. Why should anyone care? Why should a lame-duck House, 27 members of which were defeated for re-election, have a stranglehold on our economy? Why does a grotesquely malapportioned Senate get to decide the nation’s fate?       

Our obsession with the Constitution has saddled us with a dysfunctional political system, kept us from debating the merits of divisive issues and inflamed our public discourse. Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago.       

As someone who has taught constitutional law for almost 40 years, I am ashamed it took me so long to see how bizarre all this is. Imagine that after careful study a government official — say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress — reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?

Of course we should still obey those parts of the Constitution that Professor Seidman likes:

This is not to say that we should disobey all constitutional commands. Freedom of speech and religion, equal protection of the laws and protections against governmental deprivation of life, liberty or property are important, whether or not they are in the Constitution. We should continue to follow those requirements out of respect, not obligation.       

Nor should we have a debate about, for instance, how long the president’s term should last or whether Congress should consist of two houses. Some matters are better left settled, even if not in exactly the way we favor. Nor, finally, should we have an all-powerful president free to do whatever he wants. Even without constitutional fealty, the president would still be checked by Congress and by the states. There is even something to be said for an elite body like the Supreme Court with the power to impose its views of political morality on the country.       

What would change is not the existence of these institutions, but the basis on which they claim legitimacy. The president would have to justify military action against Iran solely on the merits, without shutting down the debate with a claim of unchallengeable constitutional power as commander in chief. Congress might well retain the power of the purse, but this power would have to be defended on contemporary policy grounds, not abstruse constitutional doctrine. The Supreme Court could stop pretending that its decisions protecting same-sex intimacy or limiting affirmative action were rooted in constitutional text. Continue Reading

December 31, 1862: Battle of Stones River Begins

“Non nobis Domine! non nobis sed nomini tuo da gloriam.”

General William S. Rosecrans at the end of his report on the battle of Stones River, attributing the Union victory to God.

An unjustly obscure battle of the Civil War began 150 years ago today:  Stones River.  Based on the number of combatants involved, it was the bloodiest battle fought in an extremely bloody War.  The two armies involved, the Union Army of the Cumberland and the Confederate Army of Tennessee, were struggling for control of middle Tennessee.  If the Confederate Army of Tennessee could be chased out of middle Tennessee, then Union control of Nashville was secure, and it could be used as a springboard for the conquest of southeastern Tennessee and the eventual invasion of Georgia.  If the Union Army of the Cumberland could be defeated, then Nashville might fall, and the Confederate heartland be secured from invasion.  The stakes were high at Stones River.  A critical factor for the Union was that morale in the North was plummeting.  The Army of the Potomac had suffered a shattering defeat a few weeks before at Fredericksburg, and Grant and his Army of the Tennessee seemed to be stymied by the Confederate fortress city of Vicksburg.  The War for the Union seemed to be going no place at immense cost in blood and treasure.  If the Army of the Cumberland led by General Rosecrans was defeated, voices raised in the North to “let the erring sisters go” might swell into a chorus that would lead eventually to a negotiated peace, especially after election losses for the Republicans in the Congressional elections already demonstrated deep dissatisfaction in the North as to the progress of the War.

General Rosecrans led the Army of the Cumberland out of Nashville the day after Christmas and marched southeast 40 miles to challenge the Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro.  The armies were comparable in size with the Army of the Cumberland having 41,000 men opposed to the 35,000 of the Army of the Tennessee.  Both Rosecrans and Bragg planned to attack the opposing army by attacking its right flank.  On December 31, Bragg struck first.

December 31, 1862 Stones River

Confederate General William J. Hardee led his corps in a slashing attack at 8:00 AM against General Alexander M. McCook’s corps, and by 10:00 AM had chased the Union troops back three miles before they rallied.  Rosecrans cancelled the attack against the Confederate right by General Thomas L. Crittenden’s corps, and rushed reinforcements to his embattled right.  Confederate General Leonidas Polk, an Episcopalian bishop in civilian life, launched simultaneous attacks against the left of McCook’s corp.  Here General Phil Sheridan’s division put up a stout resistance, but was eventually driven back.

Stones_River_Dec31_0945

By late morning the Union army had its back to Stones River and its line perpendicular on its right to its original position.  Rosecrans, who seemed to be everywhere on the battlefield that day, succeeded in rallying his troops.  The left of the Union line held against repeated assaults, the fiercest fighting centering on a four-acre wooded tract, known until the battle as the Round Forest, held by Colonel William B. Hazen’s brigade.  The ferocity of the fighting can be judged by the fact that after the battle the tract of land would ever be known as Hell’s Half Acre.  The Union forces held and by 4:30 PM. winter darkness brought an end to that day’s fighting.

Rosecrans held a council of war that night to determine if the army should stand or retreat.  General George H. Thomas who had led his corps in the center with his customary skill and determination made the laconic comment that “There is no better place to die” and Rosecrans readily agreed.  The Army of the Cumberland would stand and fight. Continue Reading

8

William S. Rosecrans: Crusader for the Union

General William S. Rosecrans

 

Outside of his family, General William S. Rosecrans had three great passions in his life:  His religion, Roman Catholicism, to which he had converted as a cadet at West Point, the Army and the Union.  In the Civil War all three passions coincided.  Rising to the rank of Major General and achieving command of the Army of the Cumberland, until he was removed in the aftermath of the Union defeat at Chickamauga, Rosecrans conducted himself in the field as if he were a Crusader knight of old.

Raised a Methodist, Rosecrans’ conversion was a life long turning point for him.  He wrote to his family with such zeal for his new-found faith that his brother Sylvester began to take instruction in the Faith.  Sylvester would convert, become a priest, and eventually be the first bishop of Columbus, Ohio.

His most precious possession was his Rosary and he said the Rosary at least once each day. In battle the Rosary would usually be in his hand as he gave commands.  He had a personal chaplain, Father Patrick Treacy, who said Mass for him each morning and would busy himself the rest of the day saying masses for the troops and helping with the wounded.  In battle he exposed himself to enemy fire ceaselessly as he rode behind the General.   Rosecrans, after military matters were taken care of, delighted in debating theology with his staff officers late into the evening. Continue Reading

14

Predictions 2013

cracked crystal ball

 

Well, it is time for me to boldly go where angels fear to tread and make my predictions for 2013.

1.  No new gun control legislation-Whenever either party wins a presidential victory for a second term, they begin feeling their oats and tend to overestimate both their popularity and their power.  The Democrats are in that condition now, and I predict that the beginning of the path to what I anticipate will be a bad election year for Democrats in 2014 will be a bitter, and failed, attempt to pass new gun control legislation.

2.  Recession-The Economy will slip back into a recession with the unemployment rate rising above nine percent by the end of the year.

3.  Kerry seat-John Kerry will be confirmed as Secretary of State, God help us, and Scott Brown, the pinch hitter of the Senate, will win the special election for his seat in icy blue Massachusetts.

4.  Virginia and New Jersey-The Republicans will retain the governorships in both New Jersey and Virginia.

5.  Contraceptive Mandate-The contraceptive mandate will be ruled to be unconstituional on First Amendment religious freedom grounds.  Go here to the Becket Fund, which has been waging the court fights across the country in regard to the mandate, for the decision of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals which begins  setting the ground for ultimate Supreme Court review in 2014. Continue Reading

17

Inevitable and Despicable

 

 

 

On this blog I sometimes have written harsh words about my profession.  Sometimes I suspect I have been too harsh.  Then a story like this appears and I realize yet again that I have not been harsh enough:

 

A $100 million claim on behalf of a 6-year-old survivor is the first legal action to come out of the Connecticut school shooting that left 26 children and adults dead two weeks ago.

              The unidentified client, referred to as Jill Doe, heard “cursing, screaming, and shooting” over the school intercom when the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, opened fire, according to the claim filed by New Haven-based attorney Irv Pinsky.

              “As a consequence, the … child has sustained emotional and psychological trauma and injury, the nature and extent of which are yet to be determined,” the claim said.

              Pinsky said he filed a claim on Thursday with state Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr., whose office must give permission before a lawsuit can be filed against the state.

              “We all know its going to happen again,” Pinsky said on Friday. “Society has to take action.”

              Twenty children and six adults were shot dead on December 14 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The children were all 6 and 7 years old.

              Pinsky’s claim said that the state Board of Education, Department of Education and Education Commissioner had failed to take appropriate steps to protect children from “foreseeable harm.” Continue Reading

3

Bob Hope: Thanks for the Memory

Something for the weekend.  The song Thanks for the Memory made immortal by comedian Bob Hope.  One of the great stand up comedians of all time, Hope was also a true patriot:

For fifty years Bob Hope entertained US troops, from 1941-1991, from World War 2 to the Gulf War.  He brought old jokes, delivered in an unforgettable style, beautiful starlets, and a touch of home to troops far away from home.   As long as there is a US military Bob Hope will never be forgotten.  I have had many veterans tear up when recalling attending a Bob Hope show in a war zone, a bright moment in a fairly grim period of their lives. Continue Reading

4

Saint Thomas Becket, Sin and Contrition

Today is the feast day of my confirmation saint, Saint Thomas Becket, the holy, blessed martyr.  His story tells us how foreign to our time the Middle Ages are.  Becket was a worldly cleric who had risen to be chancellor of England for Henry II.  Henry seized the opportunity to place his man, Becket, on the throne of Canterbury as Primate of England.  Becket had a sudden and complete religious conversion and fought Henry for the liberty of the Church for which Becket suffered exile and, ultimately, murder.  In penance for Becket’s murder Henry had himself beaten by the monks at Canterbury before the tomb of his former friend who, two years after his death, was canonized by the Pope.  For over three centuries his tomb became one of the major pilgrimage sites in Europe and inspired the immortal Canterbury Tales.

The Middle Ages were fully as immersed in sin as our own time, although with different mixtures of evil, but the sins of the Middle Ages were often followed by great penances and acts of contrition that brightened and inspired countless lives down through the centuries.  This we have lost and this we must regain.  G.K. Chesterton put what we lack in high relief when he wrote about Saint Thomas: Continue Reading

13

What to pray for on the 2013 World Day of Prayer for Peace: Some facts and some perspective…

 

With the “World Day of Prayer for Peace” just around the corner, what should people be praying for?  Perhaps a few facts along with a bit of perspective will provide a better focus for answering that question.

First: some facts.

Since its inception, the State of Israel has been a social democracy and, for decades, the American Jewish community has supported both the Jewish state as well as the Democrat Party.  Noteworthy is the fact that 78% of American Jews voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and, as reported by JTA, 69-70% did the same in 2012.

Yes, that’s down approximately 10%.  But, still, a pretty substantial majority.

Why do so many American Jews support President Obama whose support for the State of Israel during his first term was tepid, at best?  Perhaps the majority of the American Jewish community is prepared to support Israel as long as none of them has to pay the ultimate price.

"Now you listen here, Bibi."

“Now you listen to me, Bibi.”

Then, too, many in the U.S. Catholic community have for decades supported the Jewish state as well as the Democrat Party.  Like the American Jewish community, 51% of Catholics favored the President in 2012 while 54% favored then-candidate Obama in 2008.  Not as substantial a majority, but substantial enough.

Yet, among those on the American catholic left, support for the Jewish state has been declining during the past two decades, shifting to the Palestinians.  Citing so-called “human rights abuses” by successive Israeli governments, many on the American catholic left have been promoting Yasser Arafat as the poster boy for freedom fighters across the globe.

Interestingly, this pro-Palestinian bent in the American catholic left increased during the closing decades of the Cold War when the United States supported Israel and the then-Soviet Union supported the anti-Israel, Arabic world.  It culminated in  the “Arab Spring,” as many of the American catholic left supported this so-called “pro-democracy movement.”  In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak was driven from office and made the poster boy of all brutal dictators.  Many on the American catholic left rejoiced in his departure from the scene.

Second: some perspective.

With a democratically elected, constitutional, radical Muslim regime soon to be ruling Egypt, those on the American catholic left who supported the Arab Spring and the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak will find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.  This new regime is likely to end up being even more unjust and violent than Mubarak’s.

How so?  Just check out what’s been transpiring in places where radical Muslims are in control and backed by Sharia law, places like Iran and Nigeria.  Pope Benedict XVI cited the latter in his 2012 “Urbi et Orbi,” calling for “concord in Nigeria” where “savage acts of terrorism [by the militant Muslim Jihadist group Boko Haram] continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians.”

A Catholic Church destroyed by the militant Muslim Jihadist group Boko Haram

A Catholic Church that was bombed by the radical Muslim group Boko Haram

Will these facts matter to the American catholic left?

Probably not.

After all, the American catholic left was pretty much silent when it came to President Obama’s nifty little war (aka, “Overseas Contingency Operation”) in Libya.  Then, too, they have been pretty much silent about the injustices being perpetrated by radical Muslims in Africa.

Third: prayer.

Sadly for those who have been suffering these horrific injustices for the better part of the past decade, what the American catholic left prioritized during those year are the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, for which an American catholic left social justice group—the Center of Concern—published a special prayer:

Prayer for the Millennium Goals:

In a world where so many go hungry,
Let us make the fruits of Creation
available for all.
In a world where one billion of our brothers and sisters
do not have safe drinking water,
Let us help the waters run clear.
In a world where so many children
die so young,
And so many mothers die in childbirth,
And so many families
are ravaged by disease,
Let us bring health and healing.
In a world where women carry
such heavy burdens,
Let us recognize and restore
the rights of all.  (by Jane Deren)

Noble humanistic concerns, but far short of the mark during a period when Catholics  are being brutally terrorized and murdered by radical Muslims under the disguise of democratic reforms.

In seeking to right the injustices caused by man’s inhumanity against man, what Catholics and all people of good will should be concerned with is true and abiding peace which is pure grace, God’s gift to mankind.  This grace should be the focus of prayer this 2013 World Day of Prayer for Peace.

 

 

To access the American Jewish community’s voting record, click on the following link:
http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/11/07/3111381/fighting-over-every-percentile-arguing-about-the-jewish-vote-and-exit-polls

To access the Catholic vote in 2012 and 2008, click on the following links:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/08/us-usa-campaign-religion-idUSBRE8A71M420121108
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/nov/07/catholic-voters-heavily-favored-obama-analysis-sho/?page=all

To read the text of Pope Benedict’s “Urbi et Orbi,” click on the following link:
http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/popes-2012-urbi-et-orbi-address-open-the-door-of-faith/

To learn more about the Center of Concern, click on the following link:
https://www.coc.org/about-us 

To learn more about Catholic social justice, check out “Education for Justice” at the Center of  Concern:
https://educationforjustice.org/taxonomy/term/336

 

 

6

Predictions of Times Past

 

 

Well, each year I make predictions for the coming year and the following year I eat some crow.  Here beginneth the crow eating:

 

1.  The GOP will retain the House in the 2012 elections.  Both parties in the House assume that is going to happen, as nine Democrats, most of them  veteran members, are retiring, to zip for the GOP.

The GOP did retain the House.  Would that all my predictions had been as accurate.

2.  The GOP will gain the Senate.   21 Democrats, 10 Republican and 2 Independent seats are up, and the GOP only needs to flip 4, or 3 if they win the White House.  I see the GOP flipping Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Nebraska and North Dakota, with possibles in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia.  I see the Democrats flipping Massachusetts with a possible in Nevada.

Nope the Republicans actually managed to lose 2 seats with the Senate now 53-45 with 2 independents.

3.  Despite a lacklustre group of candidates I do believe that the GOP will gain the White House.  The economy is simply too dismal for this election to be anything except a referendum on Obama’s stewardship of the economy, and I do not think that all the campaign money and friendly media in the world can transform this particular pig’s ear into a silk purse.  Jay Cost, one of the best political analysts extant, has a good article here detailing the odds against Obama.  Heaven knows that missteps by the GOP could help Obama a great deal, but at the end I think there are just too many people who believe the country is on the wrong track for Obama to win.

Alas no.  Obama ran a base election and Romney never succeeded in firing up the Republican base and just barely managed to get more votes than McCain in 2008.  Obama was off several million from his vote total in 2008 and a competent Republican campaign should have defeated him.

4.  A repeat from last year:  either North Korea or Iran will go through a violent revolution that will topple one of the regimes in 2012.

Nope, both regimes are still hanging on, although I would not be surprised to see one or both go the way of Syria eventually.  With nuclear weaponry in North Korea, and soon to come in Iran, that would make for interesting times for the entire planet.

5.  A major terrorist incident will occur in the United States during the coming year as the jihadists attempt some payback for Osama, and as the factions among the terrorists jockey for power.

No, the major terrorist incident occurred in Libya instead on the anniversary of 9-11.  The American people, shamefully, largely yawned. Continue Reading

7

Pope Addresses Our Truly Confused Age

 

 

We live in a time of technological wonders and “let’s pretend” denial of basic facts of the human condition.  Pope Benedict looked at one pernicious aspect of this “let’s pretend” mindset in an address on December 21:

 The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: “one is not born a woman, one becomes so” (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term “gender” as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man. Continue Reading

9

General H. Norman Schwarzkopf: Requiescat in Pace

I feel that retired generals should never miss an opportunity to remain silent concerning matters for which they are no longer responsible.

General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

General H. Norman Schwarzkopf who led the allied forces in the Gulf War of 1990-1991 has died today at age 78.  Schwarzkopf was a tough, no nonsense combat soldier who led from the front.  He was awarded the silver star three times for acts of heroism.  He was tough to work for, earning his Army nickname of The Bear, a testament to both his temper and his exacting standards.  He never, however, asked more from his men than he was willing to give himself.  He was part of the generation of young officers who after Vietnam rebuilt the Army and turned it into a formidable all volunteer force.  In retirement he refused all attempts to convince him to enter politics and devoted himself to charitable work.  He was the living embodiment of the motto of the US Army infantry:  “Follow Me”.

8

It’s a Wonderful Life: Commie Propaganda?

Hard to believe, but there was an FBI report in 1947 that deemed It’s a Wonderful Life as Communist propaganda:

To: The Director  

D.M. Ladd 

COMMUNIST INFILTRATION OF THE MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY   (RUNNING MEMORANDUM)

There is submitted herewith the running memorandum concerning Communist infiltration of the motion picture industry which has been brought up to date as of May 26, 1947….   With regard to the picture “It’s a Wonderful Life”, [redacted] stated in substance that the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a “scrooge-type” so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists.

>In addition, [redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters. [redacted] related that if he made this picture portraying the banker, he would have shown this individual to have been following the rules as laid down by the State Bank Examiner in connection with making loans. Further, [redacted] stated that the scene wouldn’t have “suffered at all” in portraying the banker as a man who was protecting funds put in his care by private individuals and adhering to the rules governing the loan of that money rather than portraying the part as it was shown. In summary, [redacted] stated that it was not necessary to make the banker such a mean character and “I would never have done it that way.”   [redacted] recalled that approximately 15 years ago, the picture entitled “The Letter” was made in Russia and was later shown in this country. He recalled that in this Russian picture, an individual who had lost his self-respect as well as that of his friends and neighbors because of drunkenness, was given one last chance to redeem himself by going to the bank to get some money to pay off a debt. The old man was a sympathetic character and was so pleased at his opportunity that he was extremely nervous, inferring he might lose the letter of credit or the money itself. In summary, the old man made the journey of several days duration to the bank and with no mishap until he fell asleep on the homeward journey because of his determination to succeed. On this occasion the package of money dropped out of his pocket. Upon arriving home, the old man was so chagrined he hung himself. The next day someone returned the package of money to his wife saying it had been found. [redacted] draws a parallel of this scene and that of the picture previously discussed, showing that Thomas Mitchell who played the part of the man losing the money in the Capra picture suffered the same consequences as the man in the Russian picture in that Mitchell was too old a man to go out and make money to pay off his debt to the banker. Continue Reading

46

George Washington, Howard Roark and George Bailey

[34] But the Pharisees hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together:

[35] And one of them, a doctor of the law, asking him, tempting him:

[36] Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?

[37] Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.

[38] This is the greatest and the first commandment.

[39] And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

[40] On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

Matthew 22: 34-40

Joe Carter at Catholic Education Resource Center has a wonderful post entitled The Fountainhead of Bedford Falls, which compares the fictional characters Howard Roark and George Bailey:

Not surprisingly, Roark has become something of a cult figure, especially among young nerdy males entering post-adolescence. Although Roark is artistically gifted and technically brilliant, he prefers to take a job breaking rocks in a quarry than sell out to The Man. He provides a model for the underemployed, misunderstood, twenty-something misfit by choice. These see themselves in the uncompromising sulker, believing it better to vandalize and destroy than allow society to co-opt their dreams.

Rand herself would have certainly envisioned things differently. She would have sneered in disgust at the idea that Roark was anything like the slacker working at Starbucks the populists marching at Tea Parties. Her hero was a cross between the modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the serial killer and child rapist William Hickman. Rand’s ideal was the nonconformist who exhibited sociopathic tendencies. She dreamed of the minority of brilliant, atheistic ubermensch who would “eventually trample society under its feet.” The vast majority of the people who read The Fountainhead might admire Roark, but they’d never emulate him.

Similarly, Capra’s audience flatters themselves by believing the message of Wonderful Life is that their own lives are just as worthy, just as noble, and just as wonderful’ as George Bailey’s. In a way, they are as delusional as the Randian Roark-worshippers. Despite the fact that they left their small-town communities for the city, put their parents in an assisted living facility and don’t know the names of their next door neighbors, they truly believe they are just like Capra’s hero.

Such delusions are the reason these characters have remained two of the most dominant archetypes of American individualism in pop culture. The pendulum of popularity is swinging back toward Rand but it’s Capra’s creation that should be our model for inspiration.

Roark is nihilistic, narrow-minded, and something of a bore. Bailey is far darker, more complex, and infinitely more interesting.

What makes George Bailey one of the most inspiring, emotionally complex characters in modern popular culture is that he continually chooses the needs of his family and community over his own self-interested ambitions and desires – and suffers immensely and repeatedly for his sacrifices.  

 Although sentimental, Capra’s movie is not a simplistic morality play. It’s true that the movie ends on a happy note late on Christmas Eve, when George is saved from ruin. But on Christmas Day he’ll wake to find that his life is not so different than it was when he wanted to commit suicide.

 He will remain a frustrated artist who is scraping by on a meager salary and living in a drafty old house in a one-stoplight town. All that has really changed is that he has gained a deeper appreciation of the value of faith, friends, and community – and that this is worth more than his worldly ambitions. Capra’s underlying message is thus radically subversive: It is by serving our fellow man, even to the point of subordinating our dreams and ambitions, that we achieve both true greatness and lasting happiness. Continue Reading

7

Awake Mankind!

 

 

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.  

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened ‘to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come. 

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.  

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.  

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. Continue Reading

13

The Feast of the Seven Fishes

When I was a kid I looked forward to Christmas with much eagerness. Certainly I was excited about the gifts, but there was something else that was even better about the holiday: the food.

As a family of Italian heritage, Christmas Eve was really the main event. It featured an endless array of fish, pasta dishes, and Italian pastries. We also exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve. Sure Christmas day itself was important – Santa brought the gifts, we went to Church, and then another hearty meal. But the Eve was what I anticipated the most.

What I never knew was that there was a name for all this seafood consumption: the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Wikipedia has a barebones explanation for it. Being that Christmas Eve was traditionally a time of abstinence from meat, unsurprisingly Italians do what we always do best an just made a bunch of seafood dishes instead. Technically the feast did not have to have seven fish courses – it could have less, but it could have more.

Now that I am older and have my own family we’ll be spending Christmas at home. Which means it is up to me to provide the seafood fest. Here is what the Zummo menu looks like for tomorrow:

Fish curry (supplied by friends)
Crabmeat and artichoke dip (they don’t all have to be hearty courses)
Baked clams
Mussels with spaghetti
Shrimp scampi
Smoked salmon

And of course the most important element of the whole thing: octupus, or polpo as we called it.

Oh I guess I’ll make a vegetable as well, but this is about the seafood.

Anyway, that is my family tradition. Consider this a semi-open thread to discuss what your Christmas traditions are.

By the way, I’ll be blogging more about the feast on my personal wesbite – paulzummo.com. Look for the “Food and Booze” section where I also have written about the best cocktail in the world.

16

The Eternal Issue: Batman vs. Spider-Man

 

 

Ah, TAC tackles only the big burning issues of our day!  Travis D. Smith over at The Weekly Standard raises a philosophical question that has always intrigued me:  who is the greater hero, Batman or Spider-Man?

Reservations  about technology are at the heart of Spider-Man’s story. Peter Parker  gains the proportional strength and agility of a spider when a high-tech  experiment goes awry. His webshooters and spider-tracers are products  of his own ingenuity. His rogue’s gallery, by contrast, comprises a  testament to the dangers inherent in modern technological science given  the myriad ways it can be misused and lead to unintended consequences.  With few exceptions, Spidey’s foes can be categorized as either (i) good  guys who were transformed into villains (or ordinary thugs who were  made much worse) by technological mishaps or unexpected side-effects  (e.g., Doctor Octopus, Electro, Green Goblin, Lizard, Morbius, and  Sandman; Venom, too, indirectly), or (ii) crooks who specifically  invented, obtained, or otherwise employ technology for the sake of doing  wrong or becoming worse (e.g., Beetle, Chameleon, Hobgoblin, Jackal,  Mysterio, Rhino, Scorpion, Shocker, and Vulture; Kraven is the  noteworthy exception). The young Peter Parker is corrupted by the  culture around him no less than any other young man. His first instinct  is to use his newfound powers in a selfish, though harmless, manner: He  plans to make it big in showbiz for the sake of supporting his family.  But after he internalizes Uncle Ben’s message, Spider-Man stands out as a  marvel precisely because he is both the victim of science gone wrong  and a manufacturer of technological wonders, yet neither makes a monster  of him—if we set aside that brief period he had six arms.

Modern  society, marked, if not defined, by our devotion to technological  science and premised principally on theories of rights, explicitly  rejects classical ideas that emphasize virtuous character and duties  that transcend individual will. Assessing all relationships in terms of  power, defending subjective rights as absolutes, and replacing  interpersonal duties with collective responsibilities, preferring the  indirect benefactions of impersonal institutionalized mechanisms,  modernity is a breeding ground for tyrannical souls and a recipe for  tyrannical regimes. It is in this light that Spider-Man can help us to  see that modernity’s capacity to turn out relatively well depends on  habits and ideas that precede it.

When  I teach introductory classes in political theory, I am grateful for the  example that Spider-Man provides of Glaucon’s model of “the man of  perfect justice” from Book II of The Republic, one who always  does the right thing (in terms of complying with conventional morality)  even though he always earns a reputation for doing the wrong thing.  Nobody who would wield great power intending to work on behalf of  justice can avoid earning a bad reputation. Spider-Man is sure to be  accused of being an accomplice in any bank robbery he thwarts. The  headlines of the Daily Bugle regularly prompt readers to ask  themselves whether he is a “Threat or Menace?” Nevertheless, Peter  chooses to keep up the good fight. The language of “choice,” however,  falls short here. Whereas Bruce decides to become a costumed agent of  vengeance, acting on an internal compulsion, Peter regards what he does  not so much as a choice but as a responsibility, a duty he must meet  irrespective of his preferences and desires. This accords with the  classical notion that virtue is demanded of us by our very nature; it is  not something that anyone can opt in or out of indifferently. Continue Reading

2

Messianic Prophecies: Isaiah 53

Concluding our Advent look at Messianic prophecies for this year, which we began last Advent, the earlier posts of the series may be read here, here, here ,here, here, here, here, here , here , and here, we come to Isaiah 53:

 

[1] Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

[2] And he shall grow up as a tender plant before him, and as a root out of a thirsty ground: there is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him:

[3] Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not.

[4] Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted.

[5] But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed.

[6] All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

[7] He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth.

[8] He was taken away from distress, and from judgment: who shall declare his generation? because he is cut off out of the land of the living: for the wickedness of my people have I struck him.

[9] And he shall give the ungodly for his burial, and the rich for his death: because he hath done no iniquity, neither was there deceit in his mouth.

[10] And the Lord was pleased to bruise him in infirmity: if he shall lay down his life for sin, he shall see a long-lived seed, and the will of the Lord shall be prosperous in his hand.

[11] Because his soul hath laboured, he shall see and be filled: by his knowledge shall this my just servant justify many, and he shall bear their iniquities.

[12] Therefore will I distribute to him very many, and he shall divide the spoils of the strong, because he hath delivered his soul unto death, and was reputed with the wicked: and he hath borne the sins of many, and hath prayed for the transgressors.

 

Of this passage Saint Clement wrote: Continue Reading

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O Holy Night

Something for the weekend.  A powerful rendition of O Holy Night by Tennessee Ernie Ford and Gordon MacRae. The poem on which the hymn is based was written in 1847 by Placide Chappeau de Roquemaure at the request of his parish priest.  Chappeau asked his friend Adolphe Adam, a French composer, to set it to music.  In 1855 Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight created an English version of the carol which has been immensely popular in America ever since.  In 1906 the carol was the second piece of music to be broadcast on radio. Continue Reading

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Avoid the Doghouse

We run this each year during Advent as an act of Christian charity for our male  readers.  Of course some women do like practical gifts.  For example, Mrs. Claus is giving my bride, at her request, a steam mop for Christmas.  My bride is special though.  She has put up with me for 30 years as of December 18th of this year, and she has blessed me with so many gifts in those three decades:  endless good humor, infinite patience, three priceless kids, support in my defeats, cheering in my victories, the type of love we all long for.  A pearl of great price is my bride, a woman of rare sagacity and intelligence.  Additionally she is a woman who reads this blog several times a day.  Hi Dear!  (Don waves!)  Below is the sequel to the Doghouse video above: Continue Reading

12

Our Contemptible Media

One takeaway from the tragedy in Newtown is that if there’s an element in the Bill of Rights that needs revisiting, it’s the first and not the second amendment. The absolute gleeful joy that members of the media have taken in using the tragedy to advance an agenda is exemplified by the likes of Piers Morgan, who at least has the decency to admit as much:

Okay, Piers was being sarcastic, but this is a case where sarcasm revealed some truth. Morgan has been a leading crusader for gun reform in light of the shootings, and he has used his platform to bully gun rights proponents. Here is Morgan embarrassing himself on national television with Larry Pratt a few nights ago. And here he is with John Lott.

When a media personality causes you to yearn for the insight and wisdom of Larry King, you know you have reached the absolute bottom of the barrel.

Now Morgan’s rank opportunism in the wake a tragedy is not even the most disgusting aspect of media behavior in the past week.  Matt Lewis details some of the more egregious behavior.

The media originally reported the wrong name of the alleged shooter. (The suspected killer was Ryan Lanza, they breathlessly reported. Turns out it was actually Ryan’s brother, Adam.) Then, some in the media advertised Ryan’s Facebook and Twitter pages. (This, of course, brings to mind Brian Ross’ irresponsible and premature on-air suggestion over the summer that the Aurora shooter was a Tea Party member.)

As if those cases of egregiously mistaken identity weren’t enough, producers and reporters began trolling Twitter, seeking to proposition friends and relatives of the victims for an interview.

Meanwhile, others staked out the young survivors, and then proceeded to conduct on-air interviews with these young children. This was unseemly and superfluous. As TIME‘s James Poniewozik wrote, “There is no good journalistic reason to put a child at a mass-murder scene on live TV, permission of the parents or not.”

While the media preens about gun control, the fourth estate ignores its own role in potentially prompting these horrific events. A forensic psychologist named Park Dietz thinks the media has blood on their hands.

“Here’s my hypothesis,” he said. “Saturation-level news coverage of mass murder causes, on average, one more mass murder in the next two weeks.” The reason, he says, has something to do with the USA’s size. In a country so large the likelihood of one or two people snapping becomes quite high.

“It’s not that the news coverage made the person paranoid, or armed, or suicidally depressed,” Dietz said. “But you’ve got to imagine this small number of people sitting at home, with guns on their lap and a hit list in their mind. They feel willing to die. When they watch the coverage of a school shooting or a workplace mass murder, it only takes one or two of them to say – ‘that guy is just like me, that’s the solution to my problem, that’s what I’ll do tomorrow’. The point is that the media coverage moves them a little closer to the action.

The 24/7 news cycle may not be the cause of these massacres, but the intense coverage . . . doesn’t help.

What the past few days have shown is that the media’s leftist tilt is not the primary problem. While there are some noble and decent reporters – Jake Tapper comes to mind – overall they are a wretched hive of scum and villainy. All right, maybe they’re not that bad, but one wonders what motivates certain members of the press. One relatively minor incident from the world of sports demonstrates what I mean. Continue Reading

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I am Shocked! Shocked!

In the Age of Obama, California under Governor Moonbeam is a reliable predictor of where the nation is headed:  Bankruptcy.

On Tuesday, California released a report that revealed state tax revenues have plummeted even further below Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) estimates, even after residents voted to increase taxes via Proposition 30 in November’s elections.

At the end of November, “taxes were 3% short in the fiscal year that started in July,” which is “a gap of $936 million.” The state was 0.7% short a month before.

H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Finance, spun the poor numbers by saying Facebook’s stock vested earlier than expected, and “boosted October taxes higher, while decreasing November revenue.”

But the report found that tax revenues were below estimates nearly across the board, as total “year-to-date revenues are $936 million below the initial forecast.”

 

According to the report, personal income tax revenues were “$827 million below the month’s forecast of $4.387 billion.” Sales and use tax receipts “were $9 million below the month’s forecast of $1.601 billion” and the year-to-date sales tax revenue was $8 million below forecast. Continue Reading

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Spitting on the Dead

 

Jeffrey Rosen is a liberal in good standing.  He is the legal affairs editor of The New Republic.  He posted a piece on the passing of Robert Bork.  Rosen was a summer intern on Joe Biden’s staff that summer.  (May I say that some of the colloquies between the uber dense Biden and the uber brilliant Bork during the confirmation hearings  make for some amusing viewing.)  Although Rosen opposed the confirmation of Bork, he regrets the manner in which his nomination was defeated:

 

But even from the sidelines, as I celebrated Bork’s defeat, I remember feeling that the nominee was being treated unfairly. Senator Edward Kennedy set the tone with a demagogic attack. “Robert Bork’s America,” he said, “is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, and schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of Americans.”

Bork’s record was distorted beyond recognition, and his name was transformed from a noun into a verb. The Borking of Bork was the beginning of the polarization of the confirmation process that has turned our courts into partisan war zones, resulting in more ideologically divided opinions and less intellectually adventurous nominees on the left and the right. It led to the rise of right-wing and left-wing judicial interest groups, established for the sole purpose of enforcing ideological purity and discouraging nominees who have shown any hint of intellectual creativity or risk-taking. And it had obvious costs for Bork.

Go here to read the rest.  The reaction of most of the TNR readers commenting on the post is unsurprising but depressing nonetheless: Continue Reading

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Christmas “Nuts!” at Bastogne

Sixty-eight years ago at Christmas the American and German armies were fighting it out in the Battle of the Bulge, the last German offensive of the War.

Patton’s Third Army fought its way through to relieve the Americans desperately fighting to defeat the attacking German forces.  The weather was atrocious and Allied air power was useless.  Patton had a prayer written for good weather. The skies cleared after Patton prayed the weather prayer, and Allied air power was unleashed on the attacking Germans.

 

 

 

During the Battle of the Bulge, the 101st Airborne Division made a heroic stand at Bastogne from December 20-27 which helped turn the tide of the battle. Massively outnumbered, battle weary from already having done more than their share of fighting in Normandy and Operation Market Garden and short on food and ammo, they stopped the advancing Germans cold in their tracks.

On December 25, a packed midnight mass was held in Bastogne, with Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, who commanded the 101st troops at Bastogne, in attendance.  Afterwards the General listened to German POWS singing Silent Night, and wished them a Merry Christmas.

General McAuliffe issued a memorable Christmas message to his troops: Continue Reading

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The Need for Order, or “Do Something” Syndrome

In light of the horrific massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, it is disappointing but not altogether surprising that the calls to just do something to stop the violence rang out before the middle of the day. I’ll address the disgusting behavior of the mass media in a later post, but wanted to focus this post on the reactions and what they might say about our overall attitudes about life and society.

Gun control activists, grieving with obvious sympathy and empathy for the victims, and of course concerned primarily about the human toil of this tragedy, took to twitter and other outlets to immediately call for stricter gun laws. Ignoring that Connecticut is hardly a modern incarnation of the wild west, they seemed to imply that if we only tightened regulations and banned guns with menacing-sounding names, then we could ensure that no more mass murders of this kind would ever occur again, so long as we all shall live.

There are many legal, constitutional, and logical arguments to be made against further restrictions on gun ownership, and Jeff Goldstein makes just about all of them here. To me the strongest arguments against the gun control crowd are the practical ones. An obviously troubled young man murders his mother, then walks to her school and guns down children  and the thing we’re discussing afterwards are guns? Aside from the fact that even worse crimes have been perpetrated without a single firearm being deployed, we’re missing the big picture when we’re debating the mechanism for carrying out a massacre and not the underlying cause or causes.

Another recurring theme is that this incident is further proof that there is no God. Deroy Murdock expressed this sentiment in the conservative on-line journal of opinion, National Review online.

 Just in time for Christmas, a reputedly almighty God must have been on break Friday morning when Adam Lanza massacred 20 Connecticut school kids. These six- and seven-year-olds were far too young to choose wrongly between good and evil — that choice being the way that believers typically explain how a supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, omnibeneficent God allows such atrocities. Atop the ongoing mayhem of Hurricane Sandy, the carnage in Syria, and the burgeoning power of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, it should be clearer than ever that no one up there watches over us Earthlings. We are on our own.

Of course we’ve all heard this before and have addressed this in myriad ways.

What hadn’t occurred to me is there is a certain commonality between those who use tragedies like this to further the fight for control and others who use it to push an atheistic agenda. Granted there is overlap between the categories, but for now we’ll treat these as separate attitudes. Continue Reading

4

Robert Bork: Requiescat in Pace

 

If the Constitution is law, then presumably its meaning, like that of all other law, is the meaning the lawmakers were understood to have intended.  If the Constitution is law, then presumably, like all other law, the meaning the lawmakers intended is as binding upon judges as it is upon legislatures and executives.  There is no other sense in which the Constitution can be what article VI proclaims it to be: “Law….” This means, of course, that a judge, no matter on what court he sits, may never create new
constitutional rights or destroy old ones.  Any time he does so, he violates not
only the limits to his own authority but, and for that reason, also violates the
rights of the legislature and the people….the philosophy of original
understanding is thus a necessary inference from the structure of government apparent on the face of the Constitution.

Robert Bork

 

Robert Bork, one of the titans of American Law, has died.  The foremost expert on anti-trust,  and a champion of originalism in regard to the Constitution, Bork was appointed by President Reagan to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.  In 1987 he was nominated by Reagan for the Supreme Court.  In a campaign of lies and personal vilification spearheaded, fittingly enough, by Senator Edward M. Kennedy his nomination was defeated.  If he had been confirmed, Roe v. Wade would now be merely a bitter memory.  Continue Reading

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At Least the SS had Snazzier Uniforms

 

 

 

 

The Nazis began their death march across Europe by killing mentally handicapped Germans in an euthanasia campaign that caused the Lion of Munster, Bishop Von Galen, to preach a sermon which may be read here, and in which he made this statement:

For the past several months it has been reported that, on instructions from Berlin, patients who have been suffering for a long time from apparently incurable diseases have been forcibly removed from homes and clinics. Their relatives are later informed that the patient has died, that the body has been cremated and that the ashes may be claimed. There is little doubt that these numerous cases of unexpected death in the case of the insane are not natural, but often deliberately caused, and result from the belief that it is lawful to take away life which is unworthy of being lived.

This ghastly doctrine tries to justify the murder of blameless men and would seek to give legal sanction to the forcible killing of invalids, cripples, the incurable and the incapacitated. I have discovered that the practice here in Westphalia is to compile lists of such patients who are to be removed elsewhere as ‘unproductive citizens,’ and after a period of time put to death. This very week, the first group of these patients has been sent from the clinic of Marienthal, near Münster.

Hitler and his gang of murderers were stopped at an enormous cost, but Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so often in defense of the Church that I have designated him Defender of the Faith, tells us at Midwest Conservative Journal that the ideas of Der Fuehrer are all the rage in Europe today:

Europe descends further toward the abyss:

Belgium is considering a significant change to its decade-old euthanasia law that would allow minors and Alzheimer’s sufferers to seek permission to die.

The proposed changes to the law were submitted to parliament Tuesday by the Socialist party and are likely to be approved by other parties, although no date has yet been put forward for a parliamentary debate.

“The idea is to update the law to take better account of dramatic situations and extremely harrowing cases we must find a response to,” party leader Thierry Giet said.

The draft legislation calls for “the law to be extended to minors if they are capable of discernment or affected by an incurable illness or suffering that we cannot alleviate.”

Belgium was the second country in the world after the Netherlands to legalise euthanasia in 2002 but it applies only to people over the age of 18.

Socialist Senator Philippe Mahoux, who helped draft the proposed changes, said there had been cases of adolescents who “had the capacity to decide” their future.

He said parliamentarians would also consider extended mercy-killing to people suffering from Alzheiner’s-type illnesses.

No possibility of abuse there.  Meanwhile, the French would like their dying population to snap it up. Continue Reading

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Santa Roosevelt

Santa Roosevelt

Death had to take him in his sleep, for if he was awake there’d have been a fight.

Thomas R. Marshall, Vice President of the United States, on hearing of the death of Theodore Roosevelt

 

One of his worst enemies once said about Theodore Roosevelt that a man would have to hate him a lot not to like him a little.  It was hard not to admire Roosevelt for his courage, his enthusiasm and his obvious good will.  That last aspect of his character is illustrated by the fact that for many years he would go to Cove School at Oyster Bay dressed as Santa Claus, talk to the kids, and give them presents he had purchased out of his own pocket.  When he did it in 1898, after achieving renown leading his Rough Riders in Cuba, the little boys at the school mobbed their Santa hero!  Continue Reading

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The Perfect Gift for Christmas

People shouldn’t go broke at Christmas, so I am doing my part to help you all out by providing the perfect gift. For a mere $2.99 you can download the surefire hit novel of the season: Dirty LaundryDirty Laundry is a bit of media satire written by yours truly. From the not wholly adequate product description:

CF Stone is a columnist for a well-regarded but not well-read Washington DC newspaper. After having written a column that has all but guaranteed him a Pulitzer he runs into blogger and all-around gadfly Darius Gilbert, who lets him onto a story that will guarantee them a place in history next to Woodward and Bernstein. Stone goes undercover in order to expose a right-wing plot to bring down the American government. Stone dreams of the accolades that he will receive after publishing his expose of the ultimate manifestation of political extremism in the United States – that is if they don’t find out who he is first.

You’ll especially love the antics of Gilbert, the gay, Irish blogger who has an unhealthy obsession with a former candidate for high office.

Even if you don’t own a Kindle, the Kindle app is available on just about any device that you use to read this very blog.

A slight content warning: the book isn’t quite G-rated, but it’s a solid PG. Some salty language is employed, but it’s not Pulp Fiction.

I’m doing this all on my own, so please spread the word around if you can. I’ll also be launching a webpage – paulzummo.com – to help promote the book and also to serve as a platform on other random musings.

Thanks.

3

Francis Pharcellus Church, the Little Girl and Santa Claus

Francis Pharcellus Church was a newspaper man to his marrow.  As a young man he had covered the Civil War for the New York Times and with his brother William he founded the Army and Navy Journal which dedicated itself to reporting news about the military forces of the United States, along with historical pieces on US military history, and opinion pieces about innovations or reforms in the military.  It is still being published today.

After the War he served as lead editorial writer on his brother’s newspapers the New York Sun.  He died in 1906 at 67, leaving behind no children.  Although he lived a full life, he would be all but forgotten today except for one incident.

In 1897 Virginia O’Hanlon was upset.  She was eight years old and some of her friends had been telling her that there was no Santa Claus.  Her father, Dr. Philip O’Hanlon, suggested that she write to the Sun and see what that newspaper had to say.  Virginia followed her advice and duly wrote the letter.  Mr. Church wrote the reply to the letter which appeared on September 21, 1897 in the New York Sun.

DEAR EDITOR:

I am 8 years old.   Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.   Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’   Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O’HANLON.

115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

 

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

 

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

 

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

 

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood. Continue Reading

4

God’s Gift and a Pair of Scissors

All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery, rather than that His
creatures should perish and the work of His Father for us men come to nought, He took to Himself a body, a human body even as our own.

Saint Athanasius, On the Incarnation

 

A pair of scissors saved a “preemie’s” life in England:

 

 

But when they put her on the scales she  weighed 1lb, the minimum weight for a baby to be considered viable, so they  fought to keep her alive.

It was only when she  was safely on a ventilator  that doctors discovered a pair of scissors had been  accidentally left on the  scales and that Maddalena actually only weighed  382g.

 

The baby is doing fine now.

Maddalena’s mother Kate, 31,  of Lewes, East Sussex, told The Sun: ‘We  never thought we’d ever bring Maddalena home.

‘She now weighs 5½lbs and is getting stronger  by the day. She’s our little  miracle and we’re so glad to have her home in time  for Christmas.’

 

She and her husband Renato, a plumber, had  already suffered heartache when  Maddalena’s twin Isabella died a few weeks after the sisters were  born. Continue Reading

7

Introducing the Newest Pro-life Member of the Senate

Congressman Tim Scott (R.SC.) has been chosen by Governor Nikki Haley to take the seat of Senator Jim DeMint, who has resigned from the Senate to head the Heritage Foundation.  Congressman Scott is a down the line pro-lifer and one of the most conservative members of the House.  He will be the only black member of the Senate, and the first black Republican Senator since Edward Brooke III of Massachusetts who served in the Senate 1967-1979.

7

A Lazier America

 

 

I think that the re-election of Obama will come to be viewed by most Americans as an umitigated disaster in the years to come.  He has been a curse upon this country in so many ways, but perhaps especially in regard to the American character.

 

The London-based Think Tank Legatum Institute recently offered empirical evidence of what many Americans have been thinking lately. Our national well-being is slipping.

Over the past four years, prosperity has increased around the globe, while it has remained stagnant in the United States, the Legatum Institute reports. As a result, the Institute ranked the United States 12th out of 142 countries on its 2012 Prosperity Index, putting the country outside the top ten for the first time.

Go here to read the rest.  The summary of the report in regard to the US makes for depressing reading: Continue Reading

Messianic Prophecies: Isaiah 60: 1-6

 

Continuing our Advent look at Messianic prophecies which we began last Advent, the earlier posts of the series may be read here, here, here ,here, here, here, here, here and here , we come to Isaiah 60: 1-6.

[1] Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

 

[2] For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

 

[3] And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising.

 

[4] Lift up thy eyes round about, and see: all these are gathered together, they are come to thee: thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side.

 

[5] Then shalt thou see, and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the strength of the Gentiles shall come to thee.

 

[6] The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Madian and Epha: all they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense: and shewing forth praise to the Lord.

Saint Methodius has written the following in regard to this passage: Continue Reading

7

Both World Wars Were A Catalyst For Religious Growth; What Future Tragedy Will It Take For Another Revival?

Sadly it often takes tragedies for religious faith to grow. It seems an unfortunate part of our fallen nature. We have been hit by a spate of tragedies as of late; in its wake we often see churches full of worshippers seeking answers where once there were but a few. Following both world wars, there existed a religious resurgence that unlike the recent tragedies did not ebb and flow. It remained constant due in large part to the horrific loses of human life.

Modernism was alive and well and condemned by the likes of Pope Pius X even before the Guns of August began in 1914. The Catholic and Protestant churches were increasingly seeing relativistic elements entering their seminaries. However unlike recent times, they were quickly addressed. Though we are gaining the upper hand, it has been 40 years since Pope Paul VI lamented that “The Smoke of Satan” had entered the Church. In my just released book; The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn, I speak about the positive events occurring within the Church, as well as those movements who aim to do us harm. In addition, the book delves into how we got into this mess in the first place.

Following World War I there was a great return to religious devotions, especially those having to do with the Blessed Mother. The events of Fatima which had occurred during the war and were being followed closely around the Catholic globe. As I mentioned in my article on the Schoenstatt Movement, the likes of Father Josef Kentenich chastised theological authorities who were giving short shrift to these devotions as well as those who dismissed popular devotions to those who recently passed away like the future Saint Therese of Lisieux (The Little Flower.) Father Kentenich reminded these scoffers that Jesus did indeed say that we must become like little children if we are to enter the Kingdom.

The well heeled of Europe and many American ex pats found their way to Paris to rebel against the religious side of the equation. On the whole, they were a gloomy lot who seemed to drown their sorrows in all matter of drink and sexual exploits which only made them more unbearable. Some even found their way to more exotic locales like Casablanca, as did the fictional Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) in the epic film Casablanca. Continue Reading

16

This Has to be Seen to be Believed

Nick Gillespie at Reason calls this the worst Christmas video he has ever seen and I am inclined to agree with him.  Conspicuous by their absence in the video are the men and women of our Armed Services who I am always thankful for, especially at this time of the year when so many of them are away from family and friends. Continue Reading

7

The Schoenstatt Movement Nearly 100 Years Old

I must admit a certain reticence to writing this article because I don’t think in one article I can truly do the Schoenstatt Movement justice, but the movement’s nearly 100 year old story and that of its founder Father Josef Kentenich really needs to be told. In 1914 a young German priest Father Kentenich started a movement that was so unique it took nearly 50 years before many would understand the groundbreaking effects it could have on the Church. This future saint would not only survive the suspicions of some on the theological left and right, but he would also survive Dachau. He died in 1968, the same year as another misunderstood priest, Saint Padre Pio.

When writing my just released book, The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn,  even I was stunned about the new movements that keep cropping up within the Church, even as so many have written off the Church. Indeed this is the History of the Church, when one thinks she is coming under attack by the dark side, she only grows stronger in faith due to her burgeoning movements.

However, Father Kentenich left behind an amazing outlook which every believer should emulate and a perseverance that few could imagine. In a modern world full of individuals making millions of dollars on self help, pep talks and new age “spiritual guidance,” Father Kentenich reminded everyone that Jesus is our true Spiritual Guide and His Blessed Mother the model for us all to follow. Continue Reading

6

IBM 5100

Hattip to Ann Althouse.  A trip down tech memory lane.  The IBM 5100 came out in 1975, the year I went off to the U of I as a freshman.  I was fascinated by computers, so I would hang around the Foreign Language Research Building until 11:00 PM and play Space War on one of the main frames until the administration put a stop to that the next semester.

Note in the commercial that IBM says the computer cost is “reasonable”.  In 1975 dollars you would pay 11,000 for the 16kb version.  For the 64kb  version the cost was twenty grand, which was the entire annual income for my parents at that time.  When I started practicing law I earned 16,000 my first year out.  The IBM 5100 was definitely only for businesses, the rich or the truly crazed tech heads.  I didn’t obtain my first computer, a Commodore 64, until 1987, and that cost my wife and I $1,000.00 for 64kb  ( Fortunately my wife loves computers as much as I do).  The next year we picked up an IBM with the same memory for a grand.  We then did an upgrade almost immediately so we would have two, count them!, two floppy drives.  An IBM with a harddrive had to wait until 1991.  That first harddrive had 20MB and I recall wondering how we would ever fill up that space. Continue Reading

10

The Fear of God and the Law

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is prudence.

Proverbs 9:10

 

Traditionally in English criminal indictments this formula was used “not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil”.  This of course contained a great truth that used to be embodied in Western jurisprudence, that human laws could do only so much to prevent evil and that the eternal battle waged in every human heart and mind between good and evil was the true determinant of whether men would commit terrible acts against, not merely the momentary statutes of Man, but the eternal Law of God, as partially represented in the Ten Commandments given to humanity by God on Mount Sinai.

In the wake of the appalling evil of the murder of the innocents at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut yesterday, there are cries for legislation, usually from advocates of gun control, to purportedly aid in preventing this type of tragedy from happening again.  There is also, inevitably, endless commentary.  One piece of commentary I found striking was that by John Podhoretz at Commentary:

 

The connection between the protection of children and the practice of monotheism dates back to the beginning. After Abraham becomes the first Jew, the first monotheist, he is tasked by God to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, the miracle child of his and his wife Sarah’s old age, and he takes up the task without complaint until God stays his hand. The story of Isaac’s binding, the akedah, is one of the most challenging of the Bible and is often taken to mean God was testing Abraham’s faith with the ultimate demand. But one might also say that at the very dawn of the worship of the One God, the Bible was placing the sacrifice of children outside the realm of the thinkable for the first time.

The idea that civilization is dedicated to the protection and preservation of the weak and the innocent, and not about fulfilling evil impulses to defile and destroy innocence, is the root and core of the West. One cannot conceive of anything more monstrous than a person or persons who could look small children in the eye and systematically shoot them dead. Which is why this crime, among the worst crimes in American history, is not just an assault on the children, or their families, or the town of Newtown—though it is all those things.

What the killer(s) did today was nothing less than a contemporary sacrifice to Moloch, in whatever form Moloch manifests himself today—the appeasement of a voice in the head, most likely. Evil, even if it is loosed due to mental illness, is an effort to destroy the common good by making good appear powerless, ineffectual, weak. Today saw a horrifically effective effort to give evil a victory. It has opened a portal and brought Hell to earth.

Gehenna is real again. Continue Reading

68

The Slaughter of Innocents

"Slaughter of the Innocents" by Ghirlandaio Domenico

“Slaughter of the Innocents” by Ghirlandaio Domenico

I never quite know what to say whenever a public tragedy occurs. Everything sounds like an obligatory platitude, or something that has already been said, or something that shouldn’t even need to be said. Ultimately the slaying of 20 innocent children along with 6 adults is horrific beyond words.

The reality we live in is one in which almost everyone agrees that to “politicize” tragedy is wrong, and in which almost everyone does it anyway. It didn’t take long for the gun-grabbers to begin howling against the NRA, the 2nd amendment, and guns in general. Some of the howling may really be sincere. Children died, and emotions are running extremely high. Some people may really believe that taking away my right to own a gun, and the rights of millions upon millions of sane, decent people’s right to do the same, is necessary to protect society from the handful of psychotic individuals who will use guns to inflict harm on the innocent.

So this is not an angry tirade against the gun-grabbers (as well as the others I will surely also offend). If I could inject tone into written words, I’d say this is more of a plea, though not a hysterical one.

Continue Reading

3

We Three Kings of Orient Are

Something for the Weekend.  We Three Kings of Orient Are.  If ever our nation needed the hope and love brought into the world by Christ, it was in the midst of the Civil War in 1863 when this great hymn first appeared in print.  Written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr., a deacon of the Episcopal Church in 1875, this song captures well the longing of all Christians during Advent for Christmas, the commemoration of the birth of the Alpha and the Omega. Continue Reading

14

Jesus Wept

 

I like to think that there are some things so terrible that no one would even imagine them, let alone do them, and then we have something like this occur and my pleasing illusion goes out the window:

 

At least 26 people were killed, including at least 18 children, when a gunman opened fire in a Connecticut elementary school Friday morning, a law enforcement official said. The alleged gunman, a 20-year-old male, was later found dead at the school.

The incident sent crying children spilling into the school parking lot as frightened parents waited for word on their loved ones.

 

 

“I was in the gym and I heard a loud, like seven loud booms, and the gym teachers told us to go in the corner, so we all huddled,” one student at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown told NBC Connecticut during its live broadcast. “And I kept hearing these booming noises. And we all … started crying. Continue Reading

10

Ashamed of the Cross

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumblingblock, and unto the Gentiles foolishness:

1 Corinthians 1: 23

Hattip to Matthew Archbold at Creative Minority Report.  Well, for 40 grand a year Catholic parents can send their offspring to a “Catholic” college that is apparently ashamed of the cross.

 

The symbol of Saint Joseph’s College, the only Catholic college in Maine, has long been a seal with a cross on a shield with the motto “Fortitudo et Spes” meaning “Fortitude and Hope.” But the president of the college just announced in a letter to students forwarded to The Cardinal Newman Society that after an extensive marketing study, the college founded by The Sisters of Mercy will be removing the cross and motto from the logo.

“This is about much more than a logo or a look,” said Brent Wooten, director of online marketing for Saint Joseph’s in the college’s magazine. “It’s about who we are.” Continue Reading

6

December 14, 1862: The Angel of Marye’s Heights

But he, desirous of justifying himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

Luke 10:29

Richard Rowland Kirkland is a name that should be cherished by every American.  On December 14, 1862 he was a sergeant in Company G, 2nd South Carolina.  It was approaching noon and his unit was stationed at the stone wall at the base of Marye’s Heights overlooking Fredericksburg.  His unit had helped smash Union attack after Union attack the day before, and now he looked over fields strewn with wounded and dead Union soldiers.  He could hear the wounded Union soldiers crying out desperately for water.

Unable to bear the cries any longer, he approached Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw and informed him of what he wanted to do.  Kershaw gave him his permission, but told him he was unable to authorize a flag of truce.  Kirkland said that was fine and he would simply have to take his chances.  Gathering up all the canteens and blankets he could carry, Kirkland slipped over the wall, realizing that without a flag of truce it was quite possible he would be fired upon by Union troops.

Kirkland began to give drinks to Union wounded and blankets to protect them from the cold.  Union troops, recognizing what he was doing, did not fire at him.  For an hour and a half Kirkland went back and forth tending to the enemy wounded.  He did not stop until he had assisted all Union wounded in the Confederate portion of the battlefield.  The last Union soldier he assisted he gave his own overcoat.  He was repeatedly cheered by both Union and Confederate soldiers. Continue Reading

12

The Hobbit Opening Day in the US

I am immensely looking forward to seeing this.  My family and I will not see the film until next weekend, after my son finishes up finals at the U of I.  That is a good thing, because when the trilogy came out we saw each portion on the weekend before Christmas, so we will be keeping up a family tradition.  Feel free to post here reactions to the film, although no plot spoilers please. Continue Reading

12

“Work like a Third World dictator and Just put all These Guys in Jail.”

“Harry Belafonte is still alive?’ was my first reaction to the above video clip in which Belafonte calls for the jailing of some Obama opponents.  I guess I would cut Belafonte some slack since he is 85, except that throughout his career he has had a soft spot in his head heart for left wing dicators.  Go here for some of his comments over the years.  I am always bemused by the fact that hard line communist fellow travelers like Belafonte are not treated with the same disdain that Nazi fellow travelers received in this nation.  Unfortunately there is a large segment of the media and academia that can always be relied upon to support any tyrant so long as the dictator mouths leftist cant and is opposed to the United States.  As for Harry, well we will always have this moment when he reached the pinnacle of his career: Continue Reading

10

Why I Think You’ll Like Jennifer Fulwiler’s ‘Minor Revisions’

Sooo…Jen has a reality show that debuts tonight. It’s called Minor Revisions.

While Jen found it a little bit awkward to tell you about this new mini-series of hers, I’m tickled pink to tell you why I think you’ll love the series. She gave me a little sneak preview since we both engage with atheists and we both are converts. We have other things in common: We both are fascinated by science, we both have a lot of little kids, and we both have a fondness for Texas. She lives there, I grew up there. She hates the scorpions that invade her house; I hate the spiders that compete for mine.

Anyway, here are three things (in true Jennifer Fulwiler bullet point style) that I think you’ll like — no love! — about her mini-series ‘Minor Revisions.’ These are things that I did not expect, pleasant surprises. Continue Reading

9

The Irish Brigade at Fredericksburg

“Your soldier’s heart almost stood still as he watched those sons of Erin fearlessly rush to  their deaths. The brilliant assault on Marye’s Heights of their Irish brigade  was beyond description. We forgot they were fighting us and cheer after cheer  at their fearlessness went up all along our lines!”

Confederate Major General George Pickett in a letter to his fiance

A moving video of the Irish Brigade at the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862, based on the movie Gods and Generals.  It was criminal military malpractice for Burnside, perhaps the most incompetent general in the war, to assault the fortified Confederate positions, but his idiocy does not derogate in the slightest from the extreme heroism of the Union troops who suffered massive casualties while attempting to do the impossible.

The Irish Brigade was one of the units called upon that day to do the impossible.  One of the regiments in the Brigade was the  69th New York, the Fighting 69th as they would be designated by Robert E. Lee for their gallant charge at this battle, a unit faithful readers of this blog are quite familiar with.   This day their chaplain personally blessed each man in the regiment.  They called him Father Thomas Willett.  That was as close as they could get to pronouncing his actual name.

Thomas Ouellet, a French Canadian Jesuit, fit perfectly among a regiment of tough Irishmen.  Normally mild mannered and kind, he could react sternly to sin or to any injustice done to “his boys”.  Abbe Ouellet had been with the regiment from its formation at the beginning of the war.  During the battles of the Seven Days of the Peninsular Campaign earlier in 1862, he had barely slept as he tirelessly tended the wounded and gave the Last Rites to the dying.  After the battle of Malvern’s Hill, he traversed the battlefield all night with a lantern after the Union army had withdrawn, seeking wounded to help and dying to save.  He was captured by Confederates, who, learning he was a priest, treated him with kindness and swiftly released him. Continue Reading

December 13, 1862: Battle of Fredericksburg

“It can hardly be in human nature for men to show more valor or generals to manifest less judgment, than were perceptible on our side that day.”

Cincinnati Commercial in a report on the battle of Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg I think is the absolute nadir of Union fortunes in the Civil War.  After the sacking of McClellan, Major General Ambrose Burnside came up with a plan that wasn’t bad.  Burnside would take the Confederates by surprise by crossing the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg and then racing the Army of Northern Virgnia to Richmond.    Burnside arrived opposite Fredericksburg on November 17 and he had stolen a March on Lee.  Unbelievably the pontoon bridges were nowhere to be found, bungling of an almost preternatural nature being responsible for not placing them at the front of the Union advance.  Burnside sat on the river across from Fredericksburg for almost a month while Lee fortified the heights outside Fredericksburg.  The key for the success of the plan, surprise, had vanished.  Lee was present and in an immensely strong position.  It made absolutely no sense for Burnside now to cross at Fredericksburg and initiate a battle and yet that is what he did. Continue Reading

7

Government as Addiction

 

One of my pet peeves has long been the fact that most people seem to have no idea how much they pay in taxes.  The reason for this is obvious:  many of the taxes we pay, by design, are hard to keep track of.  In this category are sales taxes, utility taxes, taxes on gas, etc.  (This does not include the taxes paid by corporations and other businesses (they do not pay taxes, they collect taxes) that are passed on in higher prices for the products and services that we purchase, or in the social security share of employees paid by employers that effectively reduce the wages that employers pay employees.)  In the Wall Street Journal we find that the average worker has a tax rate of approximately 40 percent:

But tax rates are already high—much higher than is commonly understood—and increasing them will likely further depress the economy, especially by affecting the number of hours Americans work.

Taking into account all taxes on earnings and consumer spending—including federal, state and local income taxes, Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, excise taxes, and state and local sales taxes—Edward Prescott has shown (especially in the Quarterly Review of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, 2004) that the U.S. average marginal effective tax rate is around 40%. This means that if the average worker earns $100 from additional output, he will be able to consume only an additional $60.

Research by others (including Lee Ohanian, Andrea Raffo and Richard Rogerson in the Journal of Monetary Economics, 2008, and Edward Prescott in the American Economic Review, 2002) indicates that raising tax rates further will significantly reduce U.S. economic activity and by implication will increase tax revenues only a little. Continue Reading