Ronald Reagan and James Dean

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 \PM\.\Tue\.

Highlights from the Dark, Dark Hours presented by General Electric Theater on December 12, 1954, 12 years before Reagan ran for Governor of California, and just a little over 9 months before Dean’s death in a car crash.  Hattip to the Atlantic.  Juvenile delinquency was a hot topic in the Fifties and in this morality play we see punk nihilism, magnificently portrayed by Dean, up against stolid decency ably portrayed by Reagan.  This was made just after Reagan made the jump to television after his career as a leading man in Hollywood waned.  Dean of course would go on to make the immortal Rebel Without a Cause which would be released after his death.


Catholic Romanticism in Cinema

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 \PM\.\Tue\.

To follow up my last post on Catholic Romanticism, I thought I would share some of my favorite cinematic experiences with you all. Since three is the best number, I present here three films that are a) among my all time favorites, b) have to do with the theme of Catholic Romanticism, c) have phenomenal soundtracks, and d) have Liam Neeson (starring in two, a smaller role in the other). For some reason he just shows up in many of my favorite films.

I loved these films even as an atheist. Like the music I have written of extensively, I believe the part of me that could appreciate the themes of these films is the same part of me that could eventually open my heart and soul to God. And as it does with that music, the sterile view of the universe that is the only logical outcome of atheism and materialism renders these very themes quaintly irrational at best, and dangerous at worst.

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Blind Girl Saw Invisible Powers That Permeated the Vatican and Pope John Paul II

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 \PM\.\Tue\.

At a time when so many are down on the Church, it’s interesting to see through the eyes of a young girl — a blind girl who had mystical vision.

Let’s back up and say this comes from a book by a medical doctor named Dr. John Lerma, who specializes at the Houston Medical Center Hospice in tending to patients as they near death.

Dr. Lerma has had tremendous experiences with these patients — documenting the many who see angels or deceased loved ones and have glimpses of the eternal as they approach the threshold.

But what we’d like to focus on today is a different kind of supernatural experience that occurred when a ten-year-old girl named Sarah who had been blind since birth as a result of atrophic optic nerves was taken to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This was an Easter Sunday nearly two decades ago.

“I marveled at the multitude of loving sounds that Bernini’s dramatic design was exuding,” recalled Sarah nineteen years later as she lay dying of cancer. “As I walked through the towering, ornate door of St. Peter’s Basilica, I was drawn by an alluring vibration toward the chapel to my right.

“What I was allowed to hear was beyond awe.

“The vibrations and frequencies, now a part of my entire being, were the remnant echoing sounds of sadness replaced by utter joy and exuberant love from the statue where Jesus was heard to be lying on His mother’s lap after being crucified. I knew I was now standing in front of Michelangelo’s most honored statue, the ‘Pieta.’ Feeling some unfamiliar loving force take hold of my hand, I took hold of my mother’s and followed with total faith. I told my mom not to worry and to trust me, as there was an angel leading us to our next spiritual experience.”

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Was Something Different in the 60s and 70s?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 \PM\.\Tue\.

Given some of the discussion on John Henry’s post yesterday about the timeline of the abuse scandal, I wanted to do a bit more digging into what the actual statistics of the scandal are.

At the NY Times website, Ross Douthat had written:

There’s no way to be completely certain about this, and clearly there was abuse in the church, and horrid cover-ups as well, going back decades and centuries and more. But the John Jay data suggest that something significant really did shift, and escalate, in the years around the sexual revolution.

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A Second Victimization

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.

Nicholas D. Kristof wrote another New York Times editorial condemning the Church. It’s not worth reading; it’s the same stuff about the Vatican is not the Church, but the real Church are the ones helping the needy (i.e. the ones doing what Kristof likes-except for obviously Mother Teresa b/c she didn’t like contraception) and the Church needs to expand its ideas on women and contraception in order to avoid the sex abuse crisis. For example

That story comes to mind as the Vatican wrestles with the consequences of a patriarchal premodern mind-set: scandal, cover-up and the clumsiest self-defense since Watergate. That’s what happens with old boys’ clubs

That’s not interesting. We’ve heard it before. What is interesting is his blog. He himself comments on the article.

One question that I’m still puzzling over is this: how much difference would it make if the Vatican did admit women as deacons, or ordain them? It’s certainly true that women can be abusers as well as men. The painful report of the Irish Commission of Inquiry last year made that clear, with accounts of nuns brutally mistreating children and in some cases raping them. Likewise, ordination of women is no guarantee of popular support: mainline Christian denominations have been ordaining women, and still losing ground to more conservative Evangelical denominations.

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Value Added Tax Will Not Solve Budgetary Woes

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.

There has been a fair amount of useless discussion among pundits and Obama administration officials about a Value Added Tax, a National Sales Tax, the mainstay of the crumbling welfare states in Europe.  I say this discussion is useless, because Congress would never pass it, as the 85-13 vote in the Senate on an anti-Value Added Tax non-binding resolution indicates.

Today in the Washington Post Robert Samuelson explains why a VAT wouldn’t solve our budgetary woes:

The basic budget problem is simple. For decades, the expansion of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — programs mostly for the elderly — was financed mainly by shrinking defense spending. In 1970, defense accounted for 42 percent of the federal budget; Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were 20 percent. By 2008, the shares were reversed: defense, 21 percent; the big retirement programs, 43 percent. But defense stopped falling after Sept. 11, 2001, while aging baby boomers and uncontrolled health costs keep retirement spending rising.

Left alone, government would grow larger. From 1970 to 2009, federal spending averaged 20.7 percent of the economy (gross domestic product). By 2020, it could reach 25.2 percent of GDP and would still be expanding, reckons the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of President Obama’s budgets. In 2020, the deficit (assuming a healthy economy with 5 percent unemployment) would be 5.6 percent of GDP. To cover that, taxes would have to rise almost 30 percent.

A VAT could not painlessly fill this void. Applied to all consumption spending — about 70 percent of GDP — the required VAT rate would equal about 8 percent. But the actual increase might be closer to 16 percent because there would be huge pressures to exempt groceries, rent and housing, health care, education and charitable groups. Together, they account for nearly half of $10 trillion of consumer spending. There would also be other upward (and more technical) pressures on the VAT rate.

Does anyone believe that Americans wouldn’t notice 16 percent price increases for cars, televisions, airfares, gasoline — and much more — even if phased in? As for a VAT’s claimed benefits (simplicity, promotion of investment), these depend mainly on a VAT replacing the present complex income tax that discriminates against investment. That’s unlikely because it would require implausibly steep VAT rates. Chances are we’d pay both the income tax and the VAT, making the overall tax system more complicated.

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Mormon Bad Boy

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.

God can use a thunderstorm.  Or Porter Rockwell.

Mormon Proverb

One reason why I have always loved history is that it is so often wilder and more colorful than fiction.  A very colorful part indeed of American history is that which records the events of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as the Mormons, and in that history no portion is more colorful than the life of Orrin Porter Rockwell.  Throughout his life legends began to cluster about him and it is not easy to keep fact and fable in his biography separate.

Born on June 28, 1813, in Belchertown, New Hampshire, he was one of the earliest followers of Joseph Smith, being baptized into the church in 1830.  Powerfully built, he served as a bodyguard for Smith.  In 1838 he may have attempted to assassinate the Governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs, after Boggs issued an order calling for the expulsion of the Mormons from Misssouri or their extermination.  The order was prompted by the Missouri Mormon War of 1838

Rockwell was held in jail for eight months, but no grand jury would indict him due to lack of evidence.  Rockwell defended himself with such statements as “I never shot at anybody, if I shoot they get shot!” and “He’s alive, ain’t he.” in reference to Governor Boggs.  After his release from jail, Rockwell traveled to the house of Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois, a town built by the Mormons, arriving there on Christmas Day 1843.  A Christmas party was underway and Rockwell looked like a dirty tramp, his hair grown out during his imprisonment and his clothes and his body unwashed.  Smith purportedly made the following prophecy upon seeing Rockwell:  “I prophesy, in the name of the Lord, that you — Orrin Porter Rockwell — so long as ye shall remain loyal and true to thy faith, need fear no enemy. Cut not thy hair and no bullet or blade can harm thee.”  Rockwell wore his hair long thereafter until he cut it to make a wig for a woman who lost her hair from typhoid fever.

Rockwell was a Danite, a secret Mormon organization dedicated to carrying out acts of violence on behalf of the Mormon religion.  In 1844 Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were indicted for treason against the state of Illinois, the culmination of ever growing tension between Mormons and non-Mormons in Illinois.  On June 27, 1844 a mob stormed the jail in Carthage, Illinois where the Smiths were being held and murdered them.  Rockwell had been away on a mission for the Mormon church at the time, and wept like a child according to witnesses when he learned of the death of Joseph Smith.

In the chaos that ensued after the death of Smith, the Mormons often engaged in battles with mobs of non-Mormons.  On September 16, 1845 Rockwell was hastily deputized by the Sheriff of Hancock County Illinois, Jacob Blackenstos.  Blackenstos was a non-Mormon but was friendly to the Mormons.  He was being chased by an anti-Mormon mob led by Frank Worrell, who had been in charge of the militia unit that failed to protect Joseph Smith when he was murdered.  Rockwell took out his rifle and stopped the mob by shooting to death Worrell.  Worrell thus became the first man killed by Rockwell, a total that would grow to 40-100, no one is certain, by the end of Rockwell’s life. Read the rest of this entry »