Monday, July 31, 2023

Ferdinand II and the Counter-reformation

 From The Collector:

When Ferdinand returned to Styria, he was shocked. For him, the place seemed to be swarming with heretics. Thus, true to his promise, he set about his counter-reformation work. In 1596 he became the official ruler of Styria and installed himself in Graz. Technically, the prince could decide the religious question for all his subjects based on the Augsburg religious peace of 1555. In practice, the 17th-century state could not enforce the law overnight.

But Ferdinand was persistent. He started by ordering the burghers in regal cities to convert or leave the country. Those who refused felt his harsh measures, from a ban on their trade to incarceration. Only Catholic priests remained in Styria; the Lutheran and Calvinist clergy were banished. That meant that only Catholic rites were available for people who wanted to get married, have children baptized, or perform the last rites and bury their dead. Some Catholic priests had mercy on their flock and performed religious services for Catholics and Protestants alike. But by law, this was prohibited, and they risked punishment.

Then came the nobles. They had also been given a chance to either convert or leave the country, while the Catholic nobles had to take care of the conversion of their subjects. By 1617 when the next stage of Ferdinand’s career started, there were almost no Protestants left in Styria. (Read more.)


The Cultural Revolution Never Ends

 From American Greatness:

Our educational system has made it a policy to banish wisdom and truth in the name of false justice, pseudo-equity and a delusional crusade against biology. Not a decade ago, transgenderism was an odd subculture that existed on the fringe of society, yet unbeknownst to us, all its adherents and acolytes were gaining traction in the halls of higher education and in the minds of the bureaucrats those institutions were pumping out. It is now in the middle of a cultural blitzkrieg that has taken parents and communities completely by surprise.

The propaganda machine has been working full time, coercing children and teenagers in the vulnerability of puberty and adolescence to identify with this “chic” zeitgeist. Over 1 out of 20 people under age 30 in America now identify as transgender or a gender outside of their God-given one, according to Pew Research.

Those who disagree with the new orthodoxy are punished and maligned. A young college student gets a zero on her term paper, a term paper her teacher said was very good, by the way, but the zero was because she wrote the word “woman” on it. This is just one of the litany of abuses that those who deny the “new normal” suffer. The sterilization of children, forced political groupthink, and punishment of dissenters sounds more like Mao’s China than the America of old. (Read more.)

New Insights Into Elizabeth I’s Reign

 From Smithsonian:

Twelve years after Elizabeth I’s death at age 69 in 1603, the English antiquarian William Camden published the first official account of the Tudor queen’s reign. Commonly nicknamed Camden’s Annals, the text laid the groundwork for future scholars’ assessments of Elizabeth’s 45 years in power. As historian Hugh Trevor-Roper argued in 1971, “It is thanks to Camden that we ascribe to Queen Elizabeth a consistent policy of via media,” or a middle way between two religious extremes, “rather than an inconsequent series of unresolved conflicts and paralyzed indecisions.”

In the Annals, Camden acknowledged the personal bias that shaped his account, writing, “Things doubtful I have interpreted favorably; things secret and abstruse I have not pried into.” Yet modern scholars have largely treated the text as an impartial record. Now, reports Dalya Alberge for the Guardian, new enhanced imaging reveals how much self-censorship went into the Annals’ creation, suggesting Camden reworked his biography to win the favor of Elizabeth’s successor, James VI of Scotland and I of England. (Read more.)


Sunday, July 30, 2023

Summer Is The Best Time To Visit Asturias

 From Travel Off Path:

Asturias is an autonomous region of Spain located in the country’s northwestern part. There are three main areas that locals and tourists tend to visit, Oviedo, Gijon, and Aviles. Most of the landscape has lush green mountain ranges and coastal hills. The region also borders the Atlantic coast, which offers many beach options. Asturias receives heavy rain throughout the year, which is why it’s known to be a part of Green Spain. However, during the summer, the skies are sunny, with a comfortable average temperature of about 82 degrees Fahrenheit. And ocean waters are typically around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Asturias is the place to be with its warm yet not exhaustingly hot weather. (Read more.)

America’s Prolonged Economic Stagflation

 From Brownstone Institute:

It doesn’t take a lot of cogitation to explain this dismal trend. The US economy is freighted down with debt and it is also short of labor, riddled with non-productive speculation and financial engineering and starved for productive investment. Taken together, those malign forces were more than enough to slow the underlying growth of the US economy to a crawl.

To be sure, the government reports slightly higher real GDP growth than the tepid 0.61 percent figure displayed above. During the equivalent 3.25 year period between Q4 2019 and Q1 2023, in fact, the per annum growth of real GDP posted at 1.61 percent. That’s still nothing to write home about, but it is considerably better than the pittance of gain private producers have produced and earned since the pre-Covid peak.

The difference, of course, is owing to the wonders of GDP accounting. That is, huge transfer payments from producers to non-producers and massive Federal spending and borrowing and its monetization at the Fed’s printing presses do give rise to additional GDP in an accounting sense and for the time being.

Alas, heavily taxing producers today and threatening even more future taxation to service the ballooning public debt isn’t a source of sustainable growth. It simply steals economic resources from the future.

For avoidance of doubt, consider the chart below. It shows that between Q4 2019 and Q1 2023 the public debt (blue line) increased by $8.26 trillion—a figure equal to 1.70X the $4.82 trillion gain in nominal GDP (brown line).

Needless to say, you don’t need a slide rule or even an abacus to project where that would lead. After just 12 years at these rates of growth the public debt would be $100 billion compared to just $52 billion of GDP—even as debt service exploded.

Indeed, we can’t see how the weighted average cost of debt could be held to even 6 percent under a scenario in which the Fed’s printing presses remain on idle because the inflationary cat is now out of the bag. That is to say, at the rate of public debt growth during the past 3.25 years, interest on the public debt would likely reach $6 trillion per annum over the next decade or so—a figure roughly equal to the total level of current Federal outlays.

In short, long before 12 years had elapsed, the system would go tilt. Even the tepid growth of real GDP recorded since the 4th quarter of 2019 cannot possibly support a Federal debt that is literally exploding higher at a compounding rate of gain. (Read more.)


From The European Conservative:

 America’s fiscal crisis can begin either by Congressional action or by investors losing faith in the Treasury’s ability to honor its debt. The most likely starting point is an intertwining of these two causes, with Congress leading the way. When the cost of the debt becomes so burdensome that members of Congress are forced to make cuts in popular entitlement programs in order to pay interest to its creditors, then the United States has reached the point at which a fiscal crisis is most likely to begin. 

Once there, Congress is likely to move forward along the path of least resistance: they will simply introduce a bill that says the United States Treasury can unilaterally write off some of the debt it owes its creditors. This will be the ‘least resistance’ alternative because Democrats will oppose spending cuts and Republicans will never agree to tax hikes. 

We therefore start this fiscal-crisis scenario with the House of Representatives passing a bill that will write off part of the federal government’s own debt. The bill has bipartisan support from almost all members of the House.

The write-down bill will reduce the federal government’s debt by 25%—the same amount that the Greek government unilaterally wrote off in 2012. The American version begins with eliminating the debt that the federal government owes to the Federal Reserve, then it moves on to eliminate debt owned by financial corporations and very wealthy individuals. The process continues until 25% of the federal government’s debt is eliminated. 

On the day that the bill is voted on in the House, the president announces his support for it. That same day, the U.S. Treasury holds three auctions to sell new debt. It needs to replace maturing debt and borrow a bit more on top of that toward the ongoing budget deficit. 

Let us assume that the auctions are structured like some of the auctions held by the U.S. Treasury this week. They offer for sale $70 billion worth of three-month debt, $62.5 billion of six-month debt, and $42 billion of 2-year debt. 

Let us also assume that these numbers are exactly the same as they sold a month earlier. At that point, the Treasury got $374 billion in tender offers from investors for its total $174.5 billion in sold debt. This means that investors offered $214 for every $100 of debt that the Treasury sold. 

This ratio is important: it is a key indicator of a fiscal crisis in the making. 

When the Treasury holds auctions right as Congress is trying to pass our hypothetical debt write-down bill, the response from investors is catastrophic. Initially, investors only tender $150 billion, which drops the ratio between investment offers and accepted debt purchases to 0.86, or $86 per $100 debt that the Treasury wants to sell. 

This is a nightmarish scenario for the Treasury. When investors’ tender offers fall short of what debt a government is trying to sell, it is cause for panic in the Treasury. However, before they panic, they counter the poor investor interest by sharply raising the yield at the auctions. 

Using the real numbers from the last real auctions for the three aforementioned maturities, we assume that the Treasury started its failed auctions by offering 5.25% for the 3-month bill, 5.24% for the 6-month bill, and 4.76% for the 2-year note. When the hypothetical auctions in our scenario fail to sell all the debt offered, the Treasury starts hiking the interest rate until it has sold all of the $174.5 billion it needed to sell. 

Due to the mounting skepticism among investors in the wake of the debt write-down threat, the Treasury has to offer yields of around 7.5% in order to sell out the auctions. These very high yields are sure to put the nation on notice; just the day before, the yields were in the 4-5.5% range. Investors in the secondary market, i.e., the market where those who currently own U.S. debt can sell it, immediately start asking for significantly higher interest rates across the board. 

Suddenly, the 7.5% from the three debt auctions begin spreading to other bills, notes, and bonds as well. Within two days of bond trading, rates on all maturities, from one month to 30 years, have reached 7.5-8.5%. (Read more.)


6 Deserted and Forgotten Towns in Maryland

 I never heard of any of them, although I drove through what used to be Harmony Grove all the time. And I have been to the Spring Bank Inn. From AZ Animals:

Harmony Grove in Frederick County is another historic Maryland ghost town, left forgotten. You can find this ghost town close to U.S. Route 15. From what we know, Harmony Grove developed as a mill town in the 19th century. It thrived into the 20th century until the decline of the railroad, which led to the demolition of the railroad building. Not many people were traveling to Harmony Grove, and yet the population was stable. The town’s decline rapidly increased after the school closed in 1910. After the schoolhouse was closed, it was turned into a teahouse and a home. Not much is left of Harmony Grove, only a few buildings, but it’s worth a visit if you like exploring deserted towns. The main buildings remaining are an old 1878 church and the Spring Bank Inn. Sadly, a lot of the other buildings were destroyed as the area around the ghost town developed. (Read more.)

Saturday, July 29, 2023

'Oppenheimer' and the Dharma of Death

The history and philosophy behind the film. [NOTE: I have not seen it.] From Wired:

EARLY IN THE morning of July 16, 1945, before the sun had risen over the northern edge of New Mexico’s Jornada Del Muerto desert, a new light—blindingly bright, hellacious, blasting a seam in the fabric of the known physical universe—appeared. The Trinity nuclear test, overseen by theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, had filled the predawn sky with fire, announcing the viability of the first proper nuclear weapon and the inauguration of the Atomic Era. According to Frank Oppenheimer, brother of the “Father of the Bomb,” Robert’s response to the test’s success was plain, even a bit curt: “I guess it worked.”

With time, a legend befitting the near-mythic occasion grew. Oppenheimer himself would later attest that the explosion brought to mind a verse from the Bhagavad Gita, the ancient Hindu scripture: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one.” Later, toward the end of his life, Oppenheimer plucked another passage from the Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” (Read more.)

From Ars Technica:

Nearly 70 years after having his security clearance revoked by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) due to suspicion of being a Soviet spy, Manhattan Project physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer has finally received some form of justice just in time for Christmas, according to a December 16 article in the New York Times. US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm released a statement nullifying the controversial decision that badly tarnished the late physicist's reputation, declaring it to be the result of a "flawed process" that violated the AEC's own regulations.

Science historian Alex Wellerstein of Stevens Institute of Technology told the New York Times that the exoneration was long overdue. “I’m sure it doesn’t go as far as Oppenheimer and his family would have wanted,” he said. “But it goes pretty far. The injustice done to Oppenheimer doesn’t get undone by this. But it’s nice to see some response and reconciliation even if it’s decades too late.”

Oppenheimer was born in New York City to German Jewish immigrants and studied physics under Ernest Rutherford at Cambridge, before earning his PhD from the University of Gottingen in 1927 under Max Born. He eventually joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the Manhattan Project and tapped Major General Leslie R. Groves to head it, Groves in turn chose Oppenheimer to lead the secret weapons laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico. True, Oppenheimer had left-wing political views, and hadn't won a Nobel Prize (although he was nominated several times). But Groves felt the physicist had the breadth of knowledge to bring together physicists, chemists, engineers, and metallurgists, among other disciplines whose expertise would be crucial to the success of the project. (Read more.) 
J. Robert Oppenheimer

 From The American Thinker:

Hollywood really does seem to be running out of new ideas. British big-budget director Christopher Nolan had his successes a few years ago with yet another round of Batman movies, but his expensive, visually lavish, films have otherwise not drawn large audiences.

His new release, about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who helped build the first atomic bombs, seems very much just another thin remake of a story long told.  It is based on a 17-year-old book, American Prometheus, that was itself started way back in 1980. The late Cold War era featured miniseriesmovies, documentaries, and plays all about the gang at Los Alamos., Although we have learned quite a bit more about the real Oppenheimer and the atomic spies, thanks to the opening of  Kremlin files with the fall of the Soviet Union, Hollywood and the establishment media won’t go anywhere near any of that.

Instead, they are stuck in a late 1970s redux, where the Manhattan Project is a kind of X-Men comic adventure. Oppenheimer, the wise, sensitive leader, is Professor X, of course. A man learned in advanced physics and the Bhagavad Gita, so he can say cool things like “I am become death, destroyer of worlds” when a plutonium bomb explodes. He leads a band of genius scientists, harnessing forces too powerful for ordinary men to understand, and is beset by reactionary right wingers, who would misuse his discoveries. Especially those who did not understand the atomic bomb was only meant to stop Hitler and must not lead to America becoming too powerful and doing dangerous stuff, like, insisting on democracy for Eastern Europe and Russia after the war. That’s the basic story Hollywood keeps retelling.

The reality was quite different. The guy in charge was Leslie Groves, an Army engineer. He was the one who set up the whole Oak Ridge secret city, that produced the crucial fissile material and made the bomb possible. Something neither the Brits nor the Germans had the resources to ever do and the Russians only later on, when they had enough stolen secrets. (Read more.)


From VoegelinView:

Nolan’s most recent work, Oppenheimer, starring Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, and Emily Blunt (among a host of other stars), has been receiving rave reviews across the board. Although outperformed at the box office by Barbie, which was released the same day, Oppenheimer is on track to be another Christopher Nolan success and is sure to garner multiple Oscars. Like Tenet, the film is, on one level, about theoretical physics—although Oppenheimer is much more comprehensible and coherent than Tenet. It is also a film, like much of Nolan’s other work, that subtly celebrates liberal democratic America as being essentially superior to its political competitors (Nazism and Communism). Moreover, the film is about a tormented and ethically complicated individual who attempts to create a world for himself and others and whose family must pay the price for his craft.
Critics have rightly praised Cillian Murphy’s performance as Robert J. “Oppie” Oppenheimer. There is little doubt that Murphy has achieved the quintessentially postmodern feat of creating a fictional character whose pathos and powerful will define (and perhaps even overshadow) the real historical figure. Matt Damon is excellent as Lt. Gen Leslie Groves as is Robert Downey Jr. as the vindictive and power-hungry rival to Oppenheimer, Lewis Strauss. The film is tightly edited, but, as some critics have complained, drags out in its third act, testing the audience’s patience. Three hours is a long film, even for a blockbuster.
There are two key pieces of dialogue in the film that provide a map to understanding its intellectual structure. The first is when Oppenheimer explains that the weakness of the Nazis against which they are competing is their anti-Semitic prejudice. Adolf Hitler infamously denounced quantum physics as “Jewish science,” hamstringing the German science effort. America, in contrast, is a (relatively) more free and meritocratic society in which people of a host of cultures and ethnicities can excel. This philosophy has undergirded much of Nolan’s implicit political philosophy in his films. In the Batman Nolanverse, a host of characters such as Batman Begins’ Ra’s al Ghul, The Dark Knight’s Joker, and The Dark Knight Rises’ Bane have all challenged the dominate Anglo-American order (represented by Gotham); however, Gotham’s heroes always (albeit sometimes reluctantly) fight to protect that order and eventually triumph. Similarly, in Oppenheimer, despite the flaws of the American military and political establishment, the United States of America is better than the threatening alternatives of Soviet Communism and German Nazism even if this is somewhat passé in contemporary intellectual circles, especially online and in elite universities. America is imperfect, yes, but is still good and better than the rest.
The second key piece of dialogue in the film occurs when Murphy’s Oppenheimer explains to a woman the nothingness that lies at the heart of existence according to certain strands of theoretical physics. This nothingness is present in all of Nolan’s films, but, in Oppenheimer, as in Dunkirk, it eats away at too much of the film. Nihilism is now at the forefront of the film. No figure represents nihilism more than Oppenheimer himself. On one level Nolan celebrates Oppenheimer as a dashing and brilliant intellectual who (like Nolan himself) achieved fame and fortune in the United States. In the film, Oppenheimer pushes the Trinity Project to success, rides horses across through the New Mexico desert with a beautiful woman, reads T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland and savors other elements of European High Modernism (showing him as a cultured man saving the best of western culture), stands up to Nazism, sweeps multiple women off their feet, clashes with the American military establishment, raises a family, mourns the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and ultimately becomes an advocate for world peace and arms control. Nolan’s Oppenheimer is a loyal friend and advocate for workers rights, while, in Nolan’s reading, remaining loyal to America and avoiding the pitfalls of communism. Nolan’s Oppenheimer is the nihilist superman, a man driven to success in an ultimately empty universe of nothingness by sheer force of will. (Read more.)

Musk Calls Trudeau a Clown

Because Trudeau IS a clown. From The Counter Signal:

Last year, Musk tweeted out his support of Canadian truckers heading to Ottawa to fight for their rights and freedoms.

“Canadian truckers rule,” he said.

This came a day after Trudeau denounced the trucker convoy, calling those participating a “small, fringe minority” and asserting that only by complying with the federal vaccine mandate will Canadians ever see the return of their freedoms. Musk later tweeted a meme that likened Trudeau to Hitler, however Musk quickly deleted his post.

As for Trudeau, his “right wing misinformation” and “far right” slurs against everyone who disagrees with him is quickly becoming a parody in itself. Earlier this year, Trudeau said that New Brunswick’s Conservative Premier, Blaine Higgs, was “far right” for his policy that requires teachers to have parental consent if they are to use alternative pronouns or names for students under the age of 16. Later, a poll showed that fifty-seven percent of Canadians agreed with Higgs’ stance on parental rights. (Read more.)

A Resurgence in the Forsaken Art of Feminine Hospitality

 From Catholic Exchange:

In an attempt to justify laziness with common causality, modern society has deviated from a place of order and ordinary decency to an uninterrupted abuse of noise, isolation, and immoral behaviors in the name of mercenary realism. Society once viewed decency standards, both moral and societal, essential to the continuous flow for an upright and structured civilization. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the standards of common decency changed (drastically decreased) as technological innovations raced to the forefront and left cultural customs to be dragged through the dust. Though many good inventions resulted from the Industrial Age and have been developed to continue for an increase in productivity, yet, along with these innovations society has continued to retreat into a self-centered shell. It has now hit a point at which many people cannot handle basic social nuances that were once an intricate and important aspect of everyday life. In an age of uncontrolled technological developments, the art of common decency, charitable hospitality, and social customs are digressing into the lost pages of ignored historical practices. Or are they? Though it is quite evident that many traditional customs from previous generations are currently disregarded, there is hope as a resurgence as transgressed through women who see past the lies of the feminist agenda and desire to learn the art of feminine hospitality.

To recognize the lack of common decency in modern society, it is important to reflect upon the art of hospitality. There is a sense today that hospitality requires a perfectly manicured home with an endless supply of craft projects for the children, a four-course meal for the adults, and the perfect preset to filter the photos for social media. As all of this sounds enchantingly unrealistic and most definitely a scene from the internet, it is not the reality of life, it is not the reality of true friendship, and it is not the reality of genuine hospitality. (Read more.)

Friday, July 28, 2023

John Wayne’s Corn Dodgers

 From Kent Rollins:

If you happen to be a fan of John Wayne, you may have heard of corn dodgers a time or two. Corn dodgers are a uniquely American food. Throughout the western expansion over the Oregon Trail, folks were in a hurry to get to their destinations. They had to carry everything that could sustain them along the way, so dried goods like corn meal were the bulk of their diets.

Traveling over these long distances with no trading posts or truck stops along the way meant they needed to be completely self sufficient. You couldn’t just pull the wagon over for an Allsup’s burrito. A corn dodger was a quick and easy recipe that could get some nourishment into the travelers and get them back on the road as fast as possible. The corn dodger is a food made of cornmeal, salt, and any other foods or herbs that could be foraged along the way. For this week’s video, we made the corn dodgers two ways: the traditional way, and a more tasty modern way. Both recipes are at the bottom of this blog. In the movie True Grit, the cook only had a tea kettle of hot water, some corn meal, and maybe some salt and hog fat if there was any left over. And that’s all there was to it. These things were pretty bland and would probably get pretty hard if you left them out for a while. (Read more.)


Dr. William Allen Corrects the Narrative

 From The Blaze:

Dr. William Allen, a descendant of slaves, squashed the narrative that Florida is trying to whitewash the horrors of American chattel slavery. Last week, Vice President Kamala Harris ignited a firestorm against Florida's new curriculum standards on black history. She accused Florida of trying to "gaslight" students by teaching them "that enslaved people benefited from slavery," characterizing such instruction as "propaganda." But not so fast, says Allen, a scholar of political science and former chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Allen, who helped craft the new standards, said Harris' claims about the curriculum, which have been repeatedly ad nauseam by Democrats and the mainstream media, are "categorically false."

 "It was never said that slavery was beneficial to Africans. What was said — and anyone who reads this will see this with clarity — it is the case that Africans proved resourceful, resilient, and adaptive, and were able to develop skills and aptitudes, which served to their benefit, both while enslaved and after enslavement," Allen told ABC News. Regarding the standards, Allen said he is "quite confident in their validity, their historical accuracy, and their motivations and intent." (Read more.)


Joe Biden Lied

 So what else is new.  From Just the News:

"Joe Biden lied to the American people when he said he knew nothing about his son’s business dealings," said Comer, a Kentucky Republican. "Evidence continues to be revealed that Joe Biden was very much involved in his family’s corrupt influence peddling schemes and he likely benefited financially."

First son Hunter Biden brought his father into his deals with foreign nationals from Ukraine and China, according to the committee, which has been probing the first family since Republicans took over the House majority earlier this year.

"It certainly appears that Joe Biden and his family put themselves first and Americans last, but corporate media and the Justice Department continue to cover up for the Bidens," Comer also said.

He added that he looks forward to speaking with Hunter Biden's former business partner Devon Archer about then-Vice President Biden's role in the deals. Archer is expected to testify to Congress this week on the matter. (Read more.)


From The Federalist:

 President Joe Biden vehemently denied ever talking business with his son, “or with anyone else” in the run-up to the 2020 election. In fact, Biden even fat-shamed an Iowa voter who approached the subject during the Democratic primaries. On the debate stage with Donald Trump, the former vice president peddled conspiracies of Russian interference when emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop revealed otherwise.

On Sunday night, the New York Post reported on anticipated testimony from Hunter Biden’s former business partner, Devon Archer. The 48-year-old who went golfing with the Bidens in 2014 is expected to tell the House Oversight Committee how Hunter Biden put his father in contact with foreign businessmen and potential investors at least 24 times. According to the Post, such meetings were either in person or by speakerphone, with Hunter Biden often dialing in Joe. (Read more.)

From The Spectator:

Shapley and Ziegler’s account of evidence has received an unconvincing rebuttal from Weiss and Attorney General Merrick Garland — who has serious questions to answer. Meanwhile, this already unflattering picture painted of the president and his son is not going to look any better after Archer’s testimony this week. 

The White House can still count on a fairly pliant press; the whistleblowers’ testimony got nowhere near as much attention as it deserved last week. But that may not matter. House investigators certainly won’t be fazed, and the steady stream of evidence is starting to speak for itself. (Read more.)


From Dr. Zmirak at The Stream:

Nobody could accuse me of undue optimism, but there is something uplifting about the collapse of Hunter Biden’s sweetheart deal with the Department of Justice. It was meant to sweep a wide array of crimes under the White House carpet, even granting Hunter immunity from future charges uncovered by prosecutors (perhaps of a Republican-led DoJ someday).

But an honest judge decided that the Biden bargain didn’t pass the smell test. As Townhall reports:

What was presumed to be a routine appearance before a judge by Hunter Biden on Wednesday — one set to finalize a plea deal reached between President Joe Biden’s son and the president’s Justice Department — turned into courtroom chaos when the proposed plea deal fell apart under scrutiny from U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika.

Due to issues with the way the sweetheart slap-on-the-wrist was “structured,” the judge refused to “accept or reject the plea agreement” on Wednesday, instead requesting briefs from the parties in order to gather more information about the terms of the deal and whether they’re even constitutional.

As a result of losing his plea deal — for now at least — Hunter Biden entered a “not guilty” plea on the tax and firearm charges he still faces.

Tammy Bruce of Fox News commented on reports that Biden’s defense attorney was recently seen on a public balcony smoking … a bong. (Read more.)


From Sara Carter:

For perhaps the first time in his life, Hunter Biden’s last name didn’t land him an easy day in court. The New York Post summed it up perfectly: “Hunter Biden’s sweetheart plea deal on gun, tax charges torpedoed by judge in sensational court room dust up.” Hunter’s “probation-only plea deal fell apart” with US District Judge Maryellen Noreika accusing both sides of wanted her to “rubber-stamp” an improperly broad agreement. The Post reports:

The stunning turn of events came more than 90 minutes into the hearing at the federal courthouse in Wilmington, Del., where Hunter was expected to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of willful failure to pay taxes and enter a diversion program on a felony federal weapons charge.

But US District Judge Maryellen Noreika ran the rule over both prosecutors and the lawyers for President Biden’s 53-year-old son — asking assistant US attorney Leo Wise if Hunter was still under scrutiny for potential offenses including failing to register as a foreign agent for lucrative dealings in countries such as China and Ukraine that allegedly involved his father.

“Yes,” admitted Wise, echoing repeated statements by his boss, Delaware US Attorney David Weiss, whose office confirmed the ongoing nature of the probe to The Post Wednesday. Hunter’s main attorney, Chris Clark, has insisted that he believed the first son’s criminal liability is resolved by the plea deal, and responded to Wise by dramatically announcing: “As far as I’m concerned, the plea agreement is null and void.”

After a 20-minute recess “that doubled as a bargaining period, both sides tried to move forward with a revised plea deal that specified Hunter would face no additional charges.” Judge Noreika was still not convinced. Finally, after three hours of high drama, Noreika told Wise and Clark that the revised agreement was still “not straightforward” and included “atypical provisions.”

“I think having you guys talk more makes sense,” the judge said, before asking Hunter: “Without me saying I’ll agree to the plea agreement, how do you plead?”

“Not guilty, your honor,” the president’s son answered, a pro forma statement ahead of his next hearing, set for Aug. 25.

Among accusations Hunter could still answer to is that he violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

The Post explains:

FARA can carry stiff penalties, and a five-year statute of limitations means that charges likely would have to come soon for Hunter — who left the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma in 2019 and whose most lucrative Chinese government-linked partnership spanned 2017 and 2018.

iolations of the law can send perpetrators to prison. Former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced in 2018 to 60 months behind bars specifically for FARA violations related to his work in Ukraine, plus another 30 months for tax and bank fraud and witness tampering.

The first son thus far has avoided charges for allegedly working as an unregistered foreign agent, and congressional Republicans are demanding to know what if anything Weiss’ team did to investigate an FBI informant’s June 2020 tip that a Ukrainian oligarch said he paid $10 million in bribes to Hunter and then-Vice President Joe Biden to influence US government policy.

(Read more.)


Encountering Capuchins in 1630s London

 From Hypotheses:

Here I focus on one interesting example of the Capuchin influence in Britain and draw attention to only one aspect of that example. It is perhaps not widely known that in 1630 twelve French Capuchins arrived from Paris to serve at the chapels of Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, and the French Ambassador. Details about this French Capuchin presence in England are preserved in a manuscript account of one of the friars, Fr Cyprien de Gamache, written many years later. This manuscript, written in French, provides an incredibly rare glimpse into the lives of Capuchins in the period beyond official rules, constitutions, and theological works.[5]

One aspect of Fr Cyprien’s account that is particularly interesting is the relationship it describes between French Capuchins in London and the Protestant majority they attempted to convert to Catholicism. It details the mindset of a group of Capuchins, situated in the chapel of a French queen, but in a country very much alien to their sensibilities. It reveals much, for example, about the extent of their ambitions to secure conversions. Fr Cyprien tells us that one of the key decisions taken almost immediately after their arrival in London was for them to begin learning English to preach, undertake confession, and engage with the populous. While their native French would have more than sufficed with Henrietta Maria and the royal court, many of whom spoke French, the Capuchins clearly sought wider impact beyond the elite circles they had been brought into. Like Capuchins in many other countries in the period, they saw a wider public ministry and engagement with the poorer classes as an important element of their mission and identity.

In one humorous passage, Fr Cyprien describes how the Capuchins played up their identities as the foreign and Catholic ‘other’ in London to attract conversions. Since their arrival in London, they had been the subject of many rumours and gossip. They would soon find crowds of visitors eager to look around their cells and find out more about their way of life:

People talked of them in their houses; they said that they were persons so strange, wearing dresses so extraordinary, leading so austere a life, that every one conceived a desire to see them. Accordingly, persons of quality, ministers, people of all conditions, who had never been out of the kingdom, came to see them, as one goes to see Indians, Malays, Savages, and men from the extremities of the earth.[6]

As a result, the Capuchins harnessed this curiosity and controlled how they were perceived. They decided, for example, to remove their straw mattresses and pillows, leaving nothing but the bare boards to lie on. ‘This little self-denial’, Fr Cyprien tells us, ‘was admired by the English whom curiosity had brought into their chambers’. While touring the cells, the Capuchins would tell the crowds that England had been ‘full of monasteries and of holy friars’ like them before the schisms of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, and spoke about their earnest desire to fully imitate Christ. This approach, bordering on a form of ‘religious tourism’ in 1630s London, provided ample opportunity for the Capuchins to generate conversation with Protestant onlookers. ‘The English language had become more familiar to us, and easier’, Fr Cyprien notes, ‘one converted person brought several others, who were either related to him, or friends of his’.

Equally, once a new Catholic chapel at Somerset House, staffed by the French Capuchins, was opened in 1636, Fr Cyprien records that the doors could not be closed for three successive days, only then being closed so Charles I and some of his courtiers could see the sight for themselves. The chapel, with its optical illusions, grand paintings and 40-foot-tall monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, would have been striking to the public crowds that flocked in to see it. Fr Cyprien tells us that the chapel remained open to ‘satisfy the devotion of the Catholics and the curiosity of the Protestants’. The Capuchins at the chapel would hear confession, celebrate Mass, carry the sacrament to the ill or imprisoned, lead confraternities, deliver lectures and even teach children. Much of this was done in both French and English, and such a sight must have been impactful on the curious who visited the chapel.[7] (Read more.)



Thursday, July 27, 2023

Feminism, Barbie, and the End of Woman

 I loved playing with Barbie dolls as a child. I dressed my dolls in historical costumes and acted out my own stories. I am hearing mixed things about the film. From Carrie Gress at The Daily Wire:

The ideological roots of feminism are at least 200 years old, but somehow, as a movement, it has been able to rebrand itself anew every few generations to maintain relevance. The essentials to the feminist movement – free love, the occult, and smashing the patriarchy – were first brought together as the “women’s revolution” by poet Percy Shelley. I discovered this when researching my forthcoming book, “The End of Woman: How Smashing the Patriarchy Has Destroyed Us” (Regnery, August 2023). Inspired by the mother-in-law he never met, Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley took her ideas and added them to his own version of what female freedom should look like. While his wife was writing “Frankenstein,” Shelley created his own creature: the character of Cythna, who was the first independent woman, disconnected from her parents, husband, and children. Curiously, the only relationship she had was with Satan. Cythna became a beacon for budding feminists in the 1800s and beyond.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton is perhaps the best-known 19th century feminist influenced by Shelley as she fought for women’s suffrage. The movement took significant turns in the 1900s, first with the triumph of the suffrage movement after the end of World War I. Thereafter, it was adrift without a cohesive goal, but eventually mingled with the communist party in the ’30s, ’40s, up till the second wave of the 1960s. The ’60s and ’70s ushered in a much more pronounced feminist movement that gave us the new independent woman through a toxic blend of TV, the New Left, and the ubiquitous visuals featuring sexy and stylish women, but all the while, the original model remained: a blend of free love, occult, and smashing the patriarchy.

Later waves haven’t quite had the splash of the second wave and as those second wavers have aged, the movement has become a bit frayed at the edges. While some are in their 60s, like Oprah Winfrey, Whoppi Goldberg, and Madonna, most of the mavens are now 70+ years of age, such as Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Joy Behar, Anna Wintour, and Dianne Feinstein. Its embrace of the LGBTQ has also brought in a cast of characters that give feminism the look of a party scene from “Trolls.” The aged and awkward have taken the sheen off the movement, especially among the normals of Gen X and Gen Z.

But now, “Barbie” comes to the rescue. Barbie is young, beautiful, bubbly, and has the benefit of nostalgia for most American women. With this movie, Barbie takes on yet another new frontier – saving feminism from its tired old self. (Read more.)


I do wonder if people are reading more into the film than is actually there. However, here is an interesting reflection. From Compact Mag:

Gerwig’s Barbie points instead to a dialectical exit: Women can be mothers or not; they can take up any number of roles, or none; they can conform to femininity or look weird. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. But there are limits: We are past the moment of the free-floating signifier, of womanhood as a mere “identity.” The doll is born into suffering. To have a male or female body is to suffer and feel in different ways: We forget this if we reduce each other to mere signs. To be human is also to have to choose—an existential Barbie can hide this possibility from herself for a while, but facing every maiden is death, behind every Barbie, an Oppenheimer. (Read more.)

I always wanted the Marie-Antoinette Barbie. And there are many other historical Barbie dolls, too. From Historically Obsessed:

"Carrying a handcrafted porcelain pair of roses, Barbie® doll is the height of royalty as Marie Antoinette who became the Queen of France when her husband was crowned King Louis XVI in the 18th century. She wears a regal blue gown and matching bodice that is embellished with touches of golden lace. Draped with golden fringe, the generous layers of her extravagant gown are decorated with golden tassels and hide her full-length pantaloons and the blue satin ribbons on her shoes. A matching hat topped with feathers completes her ensemble. She wears an extravagant rhinestone necklace that complements her dramatic ensemble". Amazon: Marie Antoinette Barbie (Read more.)
Empress Josephine Barbie

Empress Sisi Barbie

There are Barbie collectors. From National World:

The world is currently experiencing a Barbie revival thanks to the 2023 film's inescapable marketing campaign. And interest in the doll is only going to increase when the Greta Gerwig-directed movie hits cinemas on Friday (21 July). Featuring Margot Robbie in the lead role, alongside Ryan Gosling as Ken, the hype has sent fans into a pink-hued frenzy and interest in the toy itself, skyrocketing. Mattel has been making Barbie dolls since 1959 with the brand constantly evolving. In a more recent bid to better represent women of all shapes and sizes, the dolls are now available in different body types including petite, tall and curvy. Over the years, must-have special edition dolls have been on every child's Christmas list with collector's editions coveted by fans both young and old. And if you happen to have one of these desirable dolls - including one celebrating Karl Lagerfeld's statement style and the brand's first doll ever released - you could be sitting on a small fortune. (Read more.)

Raising Social Media-Free Kids

 From Apartment Therapy:

“My friends parenting smartphone-free middle schoolers have had a brutal experience of seeing their child left out, even though research tells us social media is as addictive and destructive for developing brains as any drug,” Erin Napier wrote in a July 6 Instagram post. “This made me think: my kindergartener doesn’t expect to drive a car before she’s old enough. She doesn’t expect to own a house of her own before she’s old enough. If we build a culture in our home and school now where she doesn’t expect access to the entire world in her pocket until she’s much older, we can set her up for success.”

Napier wrote that, when the time comes, she’ll give her two daughters a simple phone that can call and text just as she plans to teach them how to ride bikes before they can drive.

“Forming a circle of families and friends who are in this together when your kids are little, linking arms and doing what it takes to give your kids the gift of a social media-free adolescence is the only way we change the culture,” she continued. “For the TWENTY THOUSAND parents who’ve already joined the Osprey newsletter after my post last month, we have a vision and a plan to give our kids support that starts now and takes them through high school graduation. Let’s make old school the new way.” (Read more.)


The Free Speech Scare

 From Brownstone Institute:

What was strange was the minority reaction throughout. They tried to shut down RFK. They moved to go to executive session so that the public could not hear the proceedings. The effort failed. Then they shouted over his words when they were questioning him. They wildly smeared him and defamed him. They even began with an attempt to block him from speaking at all, and 8 Democrats voted to support that. This was a hearing on censorship and they were trying to censor him. It only made the point. 

It became so awful that RFK was compelled to give a short tutorial on the importance of free speech as an essential right, without which all other rights and freedoms are in jeopardy. Even those words he could barely speak given the rancor in the room. It’s fair to say that free speech, even as a core principle, is in grave trouble. We cannot even get a consensus on the basics.

It seemed to viewers that RFK was the adult in the room. Put other ways, he was the preacher of fidelity in the brothel, the keeper of memory in a room full of amnesiacs, the practitioner of sanity in the sanatorium, or, as Mencken might say, the hurler of a dead cat into the temple. It was oddly strange to hear the voice of wise statesmen in that hothouse culture of infantile corruption: it reminded the public just how far things have fallen. Notably, it was he and not the people who wanted him gagged who was citing scientific papers. (Read more.)


Ridley Scott's Napoleon Movie Trailer Breakdown - Plotlines


Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Silverplate is Underappreciated

 From Desert Sun:

Silverplate is underrated. There, I said it. In today's era of precious metal covetousness, it's a sad thing that beautiful examples of silverplate flatware and decorative items wind up at thrift stores while anything made of sterling silver is highly sought. I know, I know: pure silver is selling around $22.50/ounce as I write this, making your standard sterling teaspoon with its 92.5% silver content worth about $20 in metal alone. All the same, many larger sterling pieces are selling for way over melt value while equally lovely silverplate objects languish unsold even at peanut prices. Thus, consider the following an admonition to dust off granny's tea set and return it to a place of pride, no matter its content.

 First, some background. As it happens, silverplate has its own storied history, dating back to 1742 when a careless British flatware maker dumped a mess of molten silver onto a copper knife handle. The silver adhered to the copper, and silverplate was born. Even then, silver was significantly more valuable than copper, so it quickly became apparent that silverplating copper or another base metal might be a way to extend the beauty of silver to a less affluent market. (Read more.)


Demonic Origins of Transgenderism with Jesse Romero


The Hidden Luxury of Living Frugally

 From Simple Money:

So, why do we choose to spend more than we make? Sure, some people will say it’s just too hard to earn enough money. But most of us could spend less if we really tried. What’s really going on? Everywhere we look, ads tell us we’ll be happier if we spend more. It’s hard to ignore them. The more we make, the more we’re tempted to spend on nicer cars, bigger houses, and luxury vacations. We end up chasing a better life we can’t afford. But living simply and staying out of debt is better than living large and owing money. When you live within your means, you can relax. You don’t live to impress others. You can enjoy the simple things in life. You can teach your family important lessons about money. And you’ll have fewer regrets. (Read more.)


Tuesday, July 25, 2023


Our Lady of Covadonga

From One Peter 5:

The Hispanic Catholic civilisation of Hispanidad, as they say, is the only Catholic people who have conquered all the Church’s enemies – the Muhammadans, the Protestant Heretics, and, in the 20th century, the Marxists. Thus despite a Marxist regime currently keeping the Spanish Church in captivity in Spain, we have hope of restoration of the Spanish Church in Spain as well as in the traditional centers of Hispanic Catholicism throughout the world. This brings that Spanish militant Christian spirit to the traditional movement worldwide, just as the Chartres Pilgrimage draws upon the great tradition of the French crusading spirit, but more on that below.

As you may know, the Reconquista was a crusade of the west. The eastern crusade sought to retake Jerusalem from the Muhammadans, but the Reconquista was the first crusade against the Saracens, beginning at Covadonga. As Flanders writes in his book City of God vs. City of Man:

The Christian Spaniard Juan of Ceuta betrayed Spain to the Muhammadan Moors, who invaded [in 711] seeking money and “a large number of ravishingly beautiful Greek maidens.” They swept over Spain as far as the northern kingdom of Asturias, where King Pelayo alone refused to submit. The Moors brought an army of 187,000 and sent Bishop Oppas to find Pelayo, who was hidden in the mountain at Covadonga. Pious legend relates how the bishop tried to convince Pelayo to surrender:

If when the entire army of the Goths [Spaniards] was assembled it was unable to sustain the attack of the Ishmaelites, how much better will you be able to defend yourself on this mountain top?…heed my warnings and recall your soul from this decision, so that you may take advantage of many good things and enjoy the partnership of the Chaldeans.

To this Pelayo responded: “Have you not read in the divine scriptures that the Church of God is compared to a mustard seed and that it will be raised up again through divine mercy?”

The bishop responded, “It is indeed written thus.”

Pelayo said, “Christ is our hope that through this little mountain, which you see, the well-being of Spain and of the army of the Gothic people will be restored[.]…As for the battle with which you threaten us, we have for ourselves an advocate in the presence of the Father, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is capable of liberating us from these few.”

Henceforth this story would animate the struggle of the mustard seed of the Kingdom of God against the earthly city of Muhammad. Pelayo led his men against the Moors and triumphed miraculously, crediting the victory to the intercession of Our Lady of Covadonga, who began to unite the Spanish and the French against the Moors in Spain. This was the beginning of the Reconquista.

The Reconquista would go down in history as ultimately the only crusade which was permanently successful, retaking the final city of Granada from the Saracens in 1492, before conquering the Americas and the world for Christ. Spain, and her Iberian sister kingdom of Portugal, remain the only Christian nations forged by crusade. Thus Our Lady of Covadonga is very much a “patroness of lost causes” in the struggle for restoration that the Traditional movement faces. (Read more.)


Female Military Recruit Forced To Shower With Two Trans-Identifying Men

 From The Daily Wire:

A military recruit who was allegedly forced to shower with and sleep alongside two trans-identifying men considered resigning after the situation caused her significant distress, according to a Republican senator. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) said during a congressional hearing last week that he was alerted to the situation by the attorney general of the South Dakota National Guard.

“A young woman in the South Dakota National Guard experienced a situation at basic training where she was sleeping in open bays and showering with biological males who had not had gender reassignment surgery but were documented as females because they had begun the drug therapy process,” Rounds said at the July 11 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Rounds said the anonymous 18-year-old recruit was “uncomfortable with her situation but had limited options on how to deal with it.”

“If she raised her hand, she feared she’d be targeted for retaliation,” Rounds said. “She could have recycled, which would have delayed her freshman college start and would not have provided a guarantee of a different situation. She could request to leave the Guard for religious purposes and not be able to pursue her dream of serving our country.”

The committee met for the confirmation hearing of General Charles “CQ” Brown Jr., President Joe Biden’s pick for Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman. Rounds asked Brown how he would handle “challenging” situations like this.

“If confirmed as the chairman, how do you propose to handle situations like this, which I truly believe may be impacting recruitment and morale by placing a disproportionate emphasis on gender-related ideology?” Rounds asked.

“Senator, one of the things I’ve thought about throughout my career, as you’re being inclusive, you also don’t want to make other individuals uncomfortable,” Brown responded, adding that as the military gets feedback like this, “we have to take a look to see if we can improve on how we approach situations like this.” The Justice Department said in a statement that the recruit should raise her concerns with her superiors. (Read more.)


From Catholic Vote

The United States has seen a startling increase in rates of teenagers and young adults suddenly “discovering” a “transgender” identity. It is difficult to capture a percentage of American high school students identifying as “non-binary,” but “trans” activists, social scientists, and researchers agree that the number has skyrocketed in the last ten years. All give varying accounts of this increase.

What was once accepted as a condition affecting at most about 0.014% of the population is now celebrated and embraced by anywhere from 2% to 9.2% of American teenagers. In either case, that’s a nearly-200% to 920% increase in less than one generation.

The spike corresponds to the increased “education” children are receiving about LGBTQ ideology. For example, in New Jersey a first-grade lesson plan designed by “Rights, Respect, Responsibility” provides teachers with scripts, hands-on activities, and discussion questions for teaching “the gender spectrum.” At one point in the lesson on “Pink, Blue, and Purple,” teachers are scripted to say: 

Identity starts with an I. That’s how you can remember it. “I” feel, “I” know. Gender identity is that feeling of knowing your gender. You might feel like you are a boy, you might feel like you are a girl. You might feel like you’re a boy even if you have body parts that some people might tell you are “girl” parts. You might feel like you’re a girl even if you have body parts that some people might tell you are “boy” parts. And you might not feel like you’re a boy or a girl, but you’re a little bit of both. No matter how you feel, you’re perfectly normal!

“Only 16 students from the state’s public schools identified as ‘non-binary’ during the 2019-20 school year, enrollment figures from the New Jersey Department of Education show,” The Washington Free Beacon reported. “By the 2022-23 school year, however, that number skyrocketed to 675 students, a more than 4,000 percent increase, according to the figures. Among the 675 students who identified themselves as ‘non-binary,’ 41 are in elementary school.”

Also in 2021, Brown University launched Phase Two of its Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP), which included the following goals:

  1. Doubling the faculty from historically underrepresented groups by 2022.
  2. Diversify the graduate and medical student bodies at Brown, with the goal of doubling the number of graduate students from historically underrepresented groups by 2022, and sustaining and enhancing the successful recruiting of historically underrepresented groups in medicine.
  3. Enhance diversity among our undergraduates with a specific focus on African American/Black, Latinx, Native American, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, first-generation, low-income and undocumented students.
  4. Promote hiring practices, professional development and mentorship programs that will increase the diversity of staff and further their careers, especially staff from historically underrepresented groups.

Now, in 2023, the University reports that 38% of their population is not “straight.” (Read more.)


Stanley Tucci's "Incredibly Easy" Summer Soup

 From Eating Well:

Here are the main ingredients you will need for the string bean minestra: garlic, onion, potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes and, of course, string beans. Tucci includes marinara in his soup, but that's an optional add-in. You will also need staples like salt, olive oil and water—things we all have in our kitchens!

Before the video started, Tucci loosely chopped the zucchini, tomatoes and potatoes and added them to a pot of simmering water on the stove. He also tossed in his other ingredients, throwing in halved string beans and just a little bit of garlic and onion to the soup. Tucci says there's no need to sauté anything beforehand—the fresh, seasonal veggies themselves impart plenty of delicious flavor without that step.

Tucci also suggested adding a "splotch" of marinara to the pot, but that's optional. We love the idea of using marinara sauce as a way to boost the flavor! But if you don't have the sauce on hand, toss in a few teaspoons of your preferred dried seasonings or a dollop of pesto to bring this delicious dish to the next level. (Read more.)


Monday, July 24, 2023

Why "The Quiet Man" Continues to Endure

 From Irish Central:

The sign of any great, enduring story is that it can be re-imagined and reinterpreted by younger generations. And so, "The Quiet Man" – for all of its legitimate flaws – is going to be with us for many more St. Patrick’s Days. Martin Scorsese, who’s got tons of cinematic street cred, to put it mildly, once said "The Quiet Man" was a major inspiration.


But what began as a gritty tale of Irish liberation gets crammed into Ford’s myth-making machine and what emerges, instead, is what some believe to be the worst piece of paddywhackery Hollywood ever produced – "The Quiet Man."

Along the way, Henry Smart sees that Ford is transforming the story. “All references to the war and the IRA had gone. The Sean in the picture wasn’t a kid of the Dublin streets, and all the killings had become one big punch in a boxing ring,” writes Doyle.

But Doyle is not merely lamenting the whitewashing of Ireland’s past. He is examining the deeply complicated way myth and reality collide. How complicated?

Well, if it seems like an “IRA consultant” for a Hollywood movie is a priceless slice of Doyle’s imagination, guess again – Ford’s film, indeed, had just such a hard man on set, the Irish Civil War veteran Ernie O’Malley.

And that begins to explain why "The Quiet Man" endures. For all of its donnybrooks and thatched-cottage charm, there are deep, violent undercurrents in the film. (Read more.)


Former Acting HHS Cyber Security Director Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison for Engaging in Child Pornography Enterprise

 From Office of Public Affairs:

The former acting director of cyber security at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison today for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and related charges in connection with his membership in a Tor-network-based child pornography website.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Deborah R. Gilg of the District of Nebraska and Special Agent in Charge Thomas R. Metz of the FBI’s Omaha Division made the announcement.

“Using the same technological expertise he employed as Acting Director of Cyber Security at HHS, DeFoggi attempted to sexually exploit children and traffic in child pornography through an anonymous computer network of child predators,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “But dangerous criminals cannot be allowed to operate on-line with impunity.  Today’s sentence shows that the Department of Justice will bring criminals and child predators to justice, even when they employ anonymous networks like Tor.”

“Today's sentence and the others imposed earlier demonstrate that those who exploit children will be aggressively pursued and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Gilg.  “Those who think they are acting anonymously on the Internet will be found and held accountable.”

“The production and distribution of child pornography is one of the most saddening, tragic crimes the FBI investigates,” said Special Agent in Charge Metz.  “Today’s sentencing sends a message to those who advertise, distribute, possess, and trade child pornography that the FBI will look for you, will find you and will make sure you are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Timothy DeFoggi, 56, formerly of Germantown, Maryland, was convicted on Aug. 26, 2014, following a four-day jury trial before Chief U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp in the District of Nebraska of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, conspiracy to advertise and distribute child pornography and accessing a computer with intent to view child pornography. (Read more.)


Why Religion and the Humanities Are in Decline

 From The Public Discourse:

Since 2008, two major trends in the United States have been much discussed but little compared: the declines in religion and in the humanities. The downward trend in religion, particularly Christianity, accelerated in 2008. As Pew research has shown, the percentage of Americans who identify as Christian has fallen from 77 percent to 65 percent, while the percentage of Nones has risen from 17 percent to 26 percent. This decline is particularly acute among Millennials, of whom only 46 percent identify as religious. Meanwhile, the decline of the humanities has accelerated at America colleges. Majors in the humanities have declined between 30 and 60 percent, depending on the department. Churches and humanities departments find themselves facing mergers, consolidations, and closures.

These trends, perhaps seemingly unrelated, are parallel manifestations of the same social ethos: our obsession with means and neglect of ends. For Jacques Ellul, a twenteeth-century Christian intellectual, forgetting ends is the defining trait of our modern technocracy that can only recognize what is efficient and useful. He writes in Presence in the Modern World (originally published in French in 1948) that “in our world, everything must serve, which is to say, exist as means. All that was formerly ‘useless’ or ‘gratuitous’ must submit itself to the necessity of ‘usefulness.’” What Ellul observed over seventy-five years ago is coming into fuller fruition today: if something isn’t a means (like religion and the humanities), and is therefore useless, it is discarded.

Of course, the useful is inherently teleological: calling something “useful” invokes the question “useful for what?” But modernity resists this question by multiplying means without any clear ends. We can see this exemplified in a recent Wall Street Journal poll indicating a growing prioritization of money (always a means) and a downplaying of nation, community, and God (ends). We live an infinite regress of usefulness with little sense of the point of our labors. In a world that only understands useful things, interest in humanities and religious faith (both of which consider human purpose) will inevitably decline.

We resist the question “for what?” because to think about ends requires not only deliberation but thinking. While deliberation is oriented toward doing things, thinking seeks to understand why we do things. Thinking forms the horizon of meaning, while deliberation enables us to choose among means available for fulfilling goals. When we reject thinking, we are left deliberating about means without understanding what they’re aimed at.

Yet we all implicitly think we already know our life’s purpose (usually to maximize convenience and utility); therefore, we think life’s meaning doesn’t require serious thought. “Everyone,” as Ellul writes, “knows more or less the purpose that civilization pursues, and it seems completely pointless and outdated to pose this question.” My college students have worked hard getting impressive credentials since at least middle school and will continue to do so long after college. When I ask them where this is all going, they are befuddled. “This is just what you do,” they often answer. Anything else is impractical, unrealistic, and useless. They have been going their whole lives without asking or being asked “where to?” Asking such a question means stopping, thinking, and perhaps changing direction, all things that religion and humanities have us do. But our society has no interest in silence or pausing. (Read more.)