Changing Times

Friday, August 9, AD 2013



People who live in times of the collapse of an old order and the rise of a new, sometimes can see it clearly and sometimes they can’t.  I am convinced that we are on the cusp of a period of rapid change in our country, largely driven by the fiscal debacle.  If most of the media were not bitter partisans of the old order, I think more people would see it.  Ed Driscoll nails it in a conclusion to a brilliant column:

Between Detroit’s bankruptcy, the multiple bankruptcies in California, the acquisitions of Newsweek, the Boston Globe and most famously the Washington Post at fire sale prices, the media inventing racism-driven stories out of whole cloth, leftwing sexual predators and misogynists either running for office or already in office in major cities on both coasts, and a gaffeprone president trying desperately to implement his agenda piecemeal through executive orders, we may very well be witnessing the wholesale collapse of the large portions of the century-old “Progressive” model. But because old media has so much invested in that model, they’re far too close to see anything approaching the big picture, and would be far too scared to admit what they’re seeing to their readers, even if they could. Too bad, as Matt Welch wrote last year at Reason, that history is written by the losers.

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6 Responses to Changing Times

  • I know in this post you are relating change mostly to economics; whether you see economics the bottom line of culture or culture the base for economics I don’t know.

    The title of the post says, along with Bob Dylan, the times are changing:

    Come writers and critics
    Who prophesize with your pen. Keep your eyes wide
    The chance won’t come again

    Come senators, Congressmen
    Please heed the call Don’t block at the doorway
    Don’t block up the hall

    For he that gets hurt
    Will be he who has stalled. There’s a battle outside
    And it’s ragin’

  • Why are we taught by conservatives of the merit of private enterprise and that unlike government picking winners and losers, a business will do what is efficent and productive and what delivers a quality product for the consumer, but for some odd reason the private corporations that run “the media” are the sole exception to this economic truth?

  • Because you fundamentally misunderstand the conservative position Kurt. Conservatives do not deny that individual businesses frequently make bad decisions. That is why we have bankruptcies and going out of business sales. However, we also understand that government running businesses is almost always a disaster in addition to having the government wielding economic might for purely political ends which is always a threat to freedom. In regard to mainstream media, their lack of success in the current market is self-evident.

  • Don,

    But the mainstream media has been accused of liberal bias long before its recent troubles (which many business journals blame on the rise of the internet). Barry Goldwater talked about the liberal media in 1964. Why didn’t its financial woes start long ago if it was making decisions based on politics rather than good business practices?

  • Because they were the only game in town Kurt. When Uncle Walt, to the deep disgust of my union member father, said “That’s the way it is.” at the end of his broadcasts, our tv could get in a total of two stations. Technology has broken the monopoly that the mainstream media used to enjoy. The hilarious thing is they still act as if they enjoy that monopoly, which has hastened their march into the dustbin of history.

  • Kurt;
    Conservatives that I know do not think private enterprise can pick the winners and loser or that a business will always do what is efficient and productive. They think the individual business may or may not be productive and efficient and it is the Free Market that will determine the winners and losers. The Free Market will determine the most efficient and productive businesses. The Free Market is just us, individually, buying products that meet our needs at the least cost to us (individually) – this is the Theory of the Invisible Hand proposed by Adam Smith. In macro-economic terms the market will efficiently move capital, labor, and land into the most productive endeavors. But on the micro-economic level there will be inefficiency in the market – too many laborers within one sector of the market which will drive down wages in that sector whereas in another there is not enough laborers so wages will increase and it will cause laborers to move from one sector to the other in search of higher wages. I will limit myself to three issues with government directing who will be winners and losers. Government has not been proven better at picking winners and losers than the collective “us” acting individually in our best interests as demonstrated by history (socialism or communism). If government picks the winners and losers then we as individual lose choices and as such we lose freedom. Government tends to be inefficient and not as productive as individuals and businesses acting in there own interests because of special interest groups influence.

    Kurt, it appears that either you are mixing up terms and definitions or do not understand the terms. I hope the above helps. You need not agree with it, I am just explaining the theory (the best I can).

    God be with you!

Today Detroit, Tomorrow Chicago?

Wednesday, July 31, AD 2013





I view Detroit and its bankruptcy as a harbinger of things to come.  The blue state social model of ever higher taxes, ever expanding benefits for members of public employee unions and one party rule by the Democrat party is coming to an end.  The ending will be painful for people luckless enough to live in blue states, as I do, but this parasitical form of government ultimately destroys the private economy host it feeds on.  Walter Mead at Via Meadia has been prescient in seeing this:


It looks like Detroit may yet have competition for the distinction of America’s most poorly run city. The unprecedented triple-drop in Chicago’s bond rating and the city’s shiny new long-term debt figure—$29 billion—should have pols quaking in their boots. The Chicago Sun-Times has published some distressing numbers from Chicago’s recent audits:

In addition to the pension, law enforcement, and emergency response concerns that remind us of a certain bankrupt city across the lake, the report notes that three of Chicago’s four largest private employers (JP Morgan, Accenture LLP, and Northern Trust) are in finance. It seems like blue cities have a codependent relationship with the one percenters progressives claim to hate.

It hasn’t all hit the fan quite yet, but Chicago seems perilously close to real trouble. The city is all out of money, and with an imploding public education system and harrowing levels of violence, it is losing residents fast. Illinois, which itself lost more than 800,000 people to out-migration in the past two decades, is essentially Chicago on a larger scale, with hundreds of billions in unfunded pension liabilities and complete political sclerosis. The state cannot bail out Chicago, and judging by the feds’ reluctance to even lift a finger for Detroit, Chicago shouldn’t expect much more.

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7 Responses to Today Detroit, Tomorrow Chicago?

  • To be more precise, you have several problems in Detroit (in particular) and other cities.

    1. A deficit of institutions encompassing the whole of the metropolitan settlement.

    2. Suboptimal placement of service provision in the architecture of local government (e.g. police departments placed with municipal governments as opposed to county governments).

    3. Intra-metropolitan migration patterns which leave the slum neighborhoods (with their special problems and denuded tax base) concentrated in the core municipality. Detroit presents a special case of a municipality which is all slum.

    4. Public policy at all levels corrupted by the notion that the purpose of public agency is to sluice income to clients of the Democratic Party and (in general) to be convenient to the employees of said agency. (The Republican Party is amply supplied with otiose characters and sleazy careerists who are happy to be accommodating).

    5. The vested interests of suburban voters and the black political establishment which inhibit any attempts at salutary institutional adjustment.

  • Social Justice!!

    What about the children!!!

    From “Never Yet Melted” blog. Here’s how it works.

    “Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the White House. One is from Chicago, another is from Tennessee, and the third is from Minnesota. All three go with a White House official to examine the fence.

    “The Minnesota contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. ‘Well,’ he says, ‘I figure the job will run about $900. $400 for mater…ials, $400 for my crew, and $100 profit for me.’

    “The Tennessee contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, ‘I can do this job for $700. $300 for materials, $300 for my crew, and $100 profit for me.’

    “The Chicago contractor doesn’t measure or figure, but leans over to the White House official and whispers, ‘$2,700.’

    “The official, incredulous, says, ‘You didn’t even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?’

    “The Chicago contractor whispers back, ‘$1000 for me, $1000 for you, and we hire the guy from Tennessee to fix the fence.’

    “’Done!’ replies the government official.

    “And that, my friends, is how Government works today.”

  • Cities seem to find their way into the state coffers. My hunch is the weight of Detroit became too much for Michigan’s declining population and industry. I’d guess that Illinois is stronger.

  • There is not much wrong with state revenue sharing per se. The problem you get is when you are financing all sorts of specialized projects and granting special favors. A formulaic distribution which took into account population and per capita income and expected the subsidiary government to manage within the limits of the sum of its revenue sources would be appropriate. A problem you have is that central cities are stuck with the task of policing the slums on their own account; a secondary problem is that you have fixed costs in the face of demographic decline. A driver of demographic decline is a deficit of public security and another might be property taxes. Addressing the one can exacerbate the other.

  • What is mildly amusing in a schadenfreude sort of way about these municipal/state fiscal crises is how little recourse the left has to its usual toolkit of solutions-cum-excuses that they apply at the federal level:
    – No national defense spending to cut to generate magical surpluses (although at the state level, correctional institution budgets sometimes serve as an analogous target of progressive ire)
    – “Tax the rich” is not a winning strategy when the rich and industry are fleeing in droves
    – No sovereign currency to inflate your way out

    And worst of all for the left, there’s usually no dastardly Republican political block to blame. It’s all on you, progressives – own it!

  • Pingback: I'm Not the Only One Who Cried -
  • Ironically, there is a story going around right now claiming that certain wealthy Chicago businessmen of fiscally conservative leanings engaged in a conscious strategy of trying to get Illinois’ bond rating lowered, in order to gin up public pressure for state employee pension reform:

    Upon closer examination it appears (if we take what Fahner says at face value) that what actually happened is that certain members of the group in question (Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago) encouraged bond rating agencies such as Moody’s and S&P to “go or get off the pot” with regard to their continual threats to lower Illinois’ bond rating. However, they later backed off in order to avoid any appearance of trying to manipulate the bond ratings, or pursue a “destroy the village in order to save it” strategy (which the questioner in the video phrases as “sometimes you have to be irresponsible to be responsible”).

Detroit: Canary in the Mine for Blue States

Friday, July 19, AD 2013




Detroit has been de facto bankrupt for a very long time and yesterday it became de jure bankrupt with a Chapter 9 bankruptcy for the former Motor City.  Hard to believe that during World War II Detroit was the heart of the American industrial machine that produced more military equipment than the rest of the world combined.  How did the city that helped this nation win a world war end up looking like one of the bombed out cities of Europe circa 1945?  There are many culprits involved but W.R. Mead at his blog Via Meadia knows who the chief villians are:

Detroit has been spending on average $100 million more than it has taken in for each of the past five years. The city’s $11 billion in unsecured debt includes $6 billion in health and other retirement benefits and $3 billion in retiree pensions for its 20,000 city pensioners, who are slated to receive less than 10 percent of what they were promised. Between 2007 and 2011, an astounding 36 percent of residents lived below the poverty line. Last year, the FBI cited Detroit as having the highest violent crime rate for any major American city. In the first 12 years of the new century, Detroit lost more than 26 percent of its population.

And now Detroit’s desperate request for a bailout has been turned down by the Obama White House.

Progressive politicians, wonks, and activists can only blame big corporations and other liberal bogeymen for so long. The truth is that corrupt machine politics in a one-party system devoted to the blue social model wrecked an entire city and thousands of lives beyond repair. The sooner blues come to terms with this reality, the greater chance other cities will have of avoiding Detroit’s fate.

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12 Responses to Detroit: Canary in the Mine for Blue States

  • How stupid an investor do you have to be to hold Detroit bonds, ie to be a Detroit creditor? Don’t they deserve pennies on the dollar?

  • Obama in 2012 said, “We refuse to let Detroit go bankrupt . . . (under his breath)until after the Election.”

    This is just one of the 50 or so disasters needing to be ignored causing the Zimmerman verdict to get 24/7 propaganda air-time.

  • As I’ve long noted, Detroit exists so that Cleveland has some place to feel superior to.

  • Detroit’s population loss was second only to New Orleans, but N.O. has nature to blame. The blame for Detroit’s woes can be laid squarely on the shoulders of its residents for voting for the same people, the same policies and the same party for half a century, which is how long it’s been since it’s had a Republican mayor (Chicago, for its part, hasn’t had one since Herbert Hoover was president. Can it be far behind?)

  • “Can it (Chicago) be far behind?”

    Not so fast. Yes, Chicago does have some of the same problems in the form of pension liabilities, crime rates, population loss from the city (not nearly as drastic as in Detroit, but still significant), persistent cronyism and corruption, etc. However it has one significant asset that Detroit did not have: a more diverse economy not dependent upon one industry. A downturn or collapse in, say, the farm commodity market would not devastate the entire economy of Chicago the way that the collapse of the American auto industry destroyed Detroit. That said, there are certainly danger signs that bear watching, keeping in mind that if Chicago ever does go de facto bankrupt the entire State of Illinois would be dragged down with it (although a sovereign state cannot declare bankruptcy in the same fashion as a municipality).

  • Just to point out, the ratio of population of Chicago to its suburbs is 0.47. That for Detroit is 0.21. The dimensions of the Detroit municipality hardly transcend (if at all) the dimensions of slums of the Detroit metropolis as a whole. The homicide rate in the Chicago municipality bounces around a set point of 16 per 100,000. That for the Detroit municipality bounces around 40 per 100,000. The public schools in Chicago are appalling, but there are broad swatches of agreeable neighborhoods and many urban assets. Chicago needs a decent and capable human being in the mayor’s chair. Detroit needs a conservator. Two quite different situations. (Both would benefit from the creation of a metropolitan authority and a redistribution of functions between states, encompassing authorities like counties, and municipalities).

  • Dale Price lives in the area. I would be pleased to hear his take on this.

  • As I’ve long noted, Detroit exists so that Cleveland has some place to feel superior to.

    You know, though, Cleveland has was a punchline for Rowan and Martin. Detroit did not really hit the skids until the 1967 riots, although disquieting signs were manifest a decade earlier. By around 1976, the place was considered the country’s A#1 urban disaster.

    I recall that around 1987 Irving Kristol pulled up stakes and moved from New York to Washington. He offered that in 20 years, New York would look like Detroit, and he would prefer to spend his old age in more agreeable surroundings. New York chose the right future, and that you would not have expected.

  • Detroit’s population loss was second only to New Orleans, but N.O. has nature to blame.

    New Orleans has a homicide rate which exceeds Detroit’s by about a third (i.e. about 53 per 100,000). Keep in mind that the New Orleans municipality encompasses more than 40% of the New Orleans metropolis. Jefferson Parish, suburban to New Orleans, has a homicide rate of 10 per 100,000. The Detroit suburbs have a rate of 2.4 per 100,000. Police forces in Louisiana tend to be understaffed, but their judges are quite happy to incarcerate people. Prison admissions per capita are half again the national mean (though mean time served is about average). Louisiana has most years the highest homicide rate in the nation; something is seriously wrong with the culture down there.

  • “Louisiana has most years the highest homicide rate in the nation; something is seriously wrong with the culture down there.”

    Louisiana has the second highest rate of single parent homes (MS has the highest.) In some areas of NO and Baton Rouge the number of single parent homes is in the 80’s. This alone is sufficient cause for a higher crime rate.

    Throw in that the effect of single parenthood on delinquency increases as the number of single parents in the neighborhood increases, then I think we have a lead on a large part of the problem. For example, Baton Rouge has a high murder rate. Almost all of that is black on black crime in, if I recall correctly, three zip codes. These are all areas with 80+ per cent single parent homes.

  • Hmmm.

    I have had a look at the descriptive statistics for Louisiana. You have a background rate and then spikes at particular locales. The locales in question are New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport and three small towns (Bogalusa is one and the other two I forget). The excess over the background rate is far higher for New Orleans than for Baton Rouge and notably higher for Baton Rouge than for Shreveport and the three towns. (Shreveport has what would be a normal inner city homicide rate most places up north).

    In New York, the background rate is between 1.3 and 2.8 per 100,000 and you see the spikes in dodgy inner city neighborhoods all over the state (worse Upstate than Downstate). That pattern is repeated in Louisiana. It is just that your background rate appears to be about 9 per 100,000. A post-industrial mess like Utica has a homicide rate on a par with what you would expect to see in the generic suburban or countryside locale in Louisiana.

  • To hear my (now 84-year-old) father tell it, when the family lived in NOLA back in the early 60s, there was no 9th Ward to speak of. It was a swamp (like what it’s right next to now) which was drained under LBJ’s Great Society in order to ship in Democrat voters.

    Little wonder the residents have stayed away in droves – the machine used them for a generation-and-a-half but utterly failed them when the tables turned.

Illinois is Economic Road-Kill

Sunday, November 6, AD 2011

This can be considered a companion piece to my worst governor post which may be read here.  The video above  consists of selections from a speech by author Joel Kotkin to the Illinois Policy Institute explaining some of the ways in which the powers that be in Illinois have made the state completely uncompetitive with other states in producing sustained private sector economic growth.  If I were starting out I would leave Illinois.  Nothing good is going to be happening in this state economically for a very long time.  The leadership of the state is completely blind to our problems and promote policies that drive businesses away and sink Illinois deeper in a fiscal morass.  Illinois’ woes are completely man-made, and Illinois, thanks to a majority of the Illinois voters, remains wedded to a model of high government expenditure, hostility to private enterprise and unending political corruption that makes effective reform for at least the next three years a pipe dream.

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23 Responses to Illinois is Economic Road-Kill

  • And to add insult to injury, you’re stuck with the Cubs, White Sox and Jay Cutler. My sympathies, Don. Up here in WI, at least we have the Pack and a contending Brewer team. Plus, Walker’s tough budget moves and restraints on public unions have worked. The budget is damn near balanced and companies are starting to take a hard look at WI for relocation/expansion, bypassing Illinois. If you can stand the harsh winters, come on up!

  • My mother-in-law lives up in Kenosha Joe and we visit her each year in August. If I didn’t have a fairly thriving practice after 26 years effort, I would have immigrated to the Land of Cheese this year!

  • Funny you should bring up this topic, Don, because of late I have begun to contemplate, for the first time in my life, whether it might not be wise for me and my family to move out of Illinois in the long term, say, after our daughter finishes high school (a huge move since neither of us has ever lived anywhere but in central or north-central Illinois and we have no friends or relatives living anywhere else).

    However, it’s not because of the tax increase, economic policy or even rampant government corruption (corruption may be less frequent elsewhere, but it does still happen). It’s because of the state’s apparent surrender to what Mark Shea calls the “gay brownshirts” and the abortion lobby. We’ve all heard about Catholic Charities being forced out of the adoption and foster care business, which is bad enough.

    A few days ago, on another blog (which I unfortunately can’t seem to find right now) I caught a post by someone IDing themselves as a licensed social worker in Illinois, saying they have heard rumors within their agency that the state will eventually require all social workers, as a condition of licensure, to agree that they will refer women for abortions if requested and that they will be willing to place children with gay couples.

    Now granted, this is just one anonymous blog post and it is just a rumor, so nothing may come of it. But I can’t help but wonder if there is a day coming when agreeing to endorse gay marriage and/or abortion will become a condition of state employment, or worse yet, of obtaining teacher certification, and if that happens, then we and all observant Catholic residents of Illinois are really screwed.

    The only question is, where to go? Is Cheesehead Land really a safe refuge, considering that Walker COULD be recalled and the crazy leftists could still take everything back? St. Louis isn’t too far away and looks kind of attractive but their economy, crime rate, etc. don’t look too promising. Indiana, Kentucky or Tennessee I could probably handle but again, not sure what the job prospects are. I don’t handle extreme heat or humidity very well so I’m not considering Texas or Florida or Arizona at this point. Again, all this is just speculating out loud and may never happen but I’d be interested in hearing any ideas.

  • Our poor Illinois is in a sad state Elaine. Long term I am optimistic on both the political front and the economic front, far more long term on the economic front, but short term optimism is not called for. I would probably go for west central Indiana myself, probably just right across the Illinois border as being similar to my beloved central Illinois. I was born and reared in Paris, so I was going across into Indiana all the time when I was growing up.

  • If I had the money and another 20 years, I’d follow Jesse Ventura to Mexico; better yet, Costa Rica. America is no longer the land I grew up in, sad to say.

  • The moral bankruptcy is worse.

    BUT: The bankrupt red states’ bonds must be repaid (from whence they’re killing the private sector?) or refinanced at much higher interest rates (consistent with excessively high default risks). Then, the US fiscal scam will be kaput like Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Portugal have doomed the Eurozone to fiscal and monetary ruin.

    Short everything, except gold and guns.

    Go Jets!

  • I suspect that the blue states’ marriage to their ruinous economic policies is based on
    a belief that if/when the crash comes, the federal government will provide a bailout.
    In other words, the taxpayers of the more prudent states will pick up the tab for the
    negligence and irresponsibility of states like Illinois and California.

    It is a given that by that time, the politicians and bureaucrats responsible for the mess
    will have moved on and up. It will fall to others to clean up behind them, if they are
    even left with the financial means. Illinois will have exported its malaise to the other
    states. In the end, if federal bailouts of failed states happen, there will be nowhere
    in America that one can move to escape the effects.

  • “There will be nowhere in America that one can move to escape the effects”

    Of an economic collapse, yes, but I’m thinking more of a place one can escape the worst effects of aggressive liberal social engineering policies apparently designed to drive Catholics and evangelical Christians out of public life altogether. Or will we eventually not be able to escape THAT anywhere, even in reliably red states? If that’s the case, nowhere in North America will be safe (Canada is way worse in this regard already, and I’m not even gonna think about Mexico until they get the drug cartels under control).

  • Federal monies always come with strings attached. If our betters in Washington
    insist on taking our tax dollars to bail out failed blue states, you can count on
    them insisting that all states must submit to increased oversight and interference
    from the federal government.

    At least, if I were a fellow traveller with this administration, that’s how I’d play it.
    So if I’m anywhere near right, Mrs. Krewer, there will be nowhere in the 50 states
    to run to.

  • (Quietly pondering the destiny of arguably the greatest nation the world has ever seen – slowly slipping beneath the waves? )
    Long term I think (and hope) the USA will return to its core strengths and principles, wnich in many/most states it is failing to do right now. The pendulum swings – where is it right now?
    How many of the US states could well carry the label ” The Socialist Soviet of…………….” ?
    I suspect many more than is good for their economy and longevity.
    The South Pacific – despite our own issues – seems pretty good right now 🙂

  • Way, way too much gloom and doom in this thread! The great thing about man made disasters is that they have man made solutions. Time to roll up our sleeves and fight the political battles that need to be fought. A great start was made in 2010. Pro-life legislation is coming to the forefront in state after state, along with needed fiscal reform in many states. The economic policies promoted by our political adversaries are completely bankrupt, literally, and people are ready to listen to alternatives. This is a time of opportunity if we can only take advantage of it.

  • Sorry, Don, Spengler was right. We’re in the winter of decline. We are no longer one nation, one people. Multiculturalism has taken over and the results are disastrous as Europe is discovering. We will be destroyed by the vandals from within, as Lincoln said.

  • Spengler was as wrong Joe as his turgid tomes were snooze inducing. We are not in decline, any more than we were in decline during our Civil War when 620,000 Americans were killed fighting each other, or in the American Revolution when 20-30% of the poulation fought the British. One good thing about studying real history, rather than that Teutonic pessimism with an historical wrapper that Oswald Spengler was peddling, is that it gives one the ability to step back from one’s time and take a look at it from a broader perspective than is possible of attainment when we view events solely from a current stance.

    (For those wondering who the heck is Spengler?:

  • We are not in decline.

    Don, choose to ignore all the jeremiads, but as the prophet wrote:

    How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!
    She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.

  • And the Jews are still with us Joe, and Israel has arisen from the ashes. Jeremiads are all well and good for any society, but they tell only part of the story.

  • Don, when you get older you’ll lose your optimism, trust me.

  • I’m 54 now Joe. As I have grown older I have grown more optimistic.

  • Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable.
    (not your favorite philospher, I’m sure)

  • Indeed Joe. One of Voltaire’s favorite sayings was: “Lie, lie and lie! Some of the lies will stick!”

    Considering the life that François-Marie Arouet lived, I think pessimism as he neared his personal judgment with God was an understandable reaction in his case.

    I prefer this sally from a sinner, Oscar Wilde, who died repentant and embracing mother Church:

    “Pessimist: One who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both.’

  • I realize that Joe is an agnostic so this may not mean much to him yet, but for those of us who are Christians, even the end of the world is not the end of the world 🙂

    It also helps me to remember something C.S. Lewis wrote in “The Weight of Glory”:

    “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

  • Don, Wilde was semi-comatose on his deathbed and a priest was sent for. Apparently baptized as a child, the priest was reluctant to baptize him again but reportedly did so. Whether he was aware of the last rites is in question. This was the same made who uttered:

    ‘I think that God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability.’

    Spot on, Oscar.

  • Actually Joe before he became ill he had attempted to go on a retreat with the Jesuits. His desire to embrace the Church was no mere death bed fancy. Here is what the priest said who attended him in his last hours:

    “As the voiture rolled through the dark streets that wintry night, the sad story of Oscar Wilde was in part repeated to me….Robert Ross knelt by the bedside, assisting me as best he could while I administered conditional baptism, and afterwards answering the responses while I gave Extreme Unction to the prostrate man and recited the prayers for the dying. As the man was in a semi-comatose condition, I did not venture to administer the Holy Viaticum; still I must add that he could be roused and was roused from this state in my presence. When roused, he gave signs of being inwardly conscious… Indeed I was fully satisfied that he understood me when told that I was about to receive him into the Catholic Church and gave him the Last Sacraments… And when I repeated close to his ear the Holy Names, the Acts of Contrition, Faith, Hope and Charity, with acts of humble resignation to the Will of God, he tried all through to say the words after me.”

    Here is a good article on the long conversion of Oscar Wilder:

  • Interesting read, Don. Thanks for the link. Although I wouldn’t place him in the highest strata of English lit, which would include Dickens, Hardy and Kipling, Wilde is a rung below and left a few masterpieces.

    As for deathbed converts, alleged or otherwise, the list is long, starting with The Good Thief, down through Constantine, Antonio Gramsci (debatable), Wallace Stevens, King Charles II. Others who supposedly “saw the light” at the end were said to include Charles Darwin (though he daughter denied it) and Jean-Paul Satrre (to Judaism).

    Bishop Sheen tells of a deathbed conversion in his autobiography, Treasure in Clay, where he repeatedly visited a dying cancer patient in the hospital who kept telling him to “get the hell out.” Sheen says the man called on Jesus just before he expired, according to a nurse.