Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Cause of the Johnstown Flood

The title link goes to a version of an article which appeared in the May 1988 Civil Engineering. The author is Walter S. Frank. The title is "The Cause of the Johnstown Flood." The subtitle is "A new look at the Historic Johnstown Flood of 1889." It begins:

On May 31,1889, a wall of rushing water three stories high struck the city of Johnstown Pennsylvania. In its wake most of the town was destroyed and over 2,200 people were killed. In lives lost, the Johnstown PA Flood was the worst civil disaster the United States ever suffered. Every state in the nation sent some type of relief, and the people of sixteen foreign countries, including Russia, Turkey, France, Britain, Australia and Germany sent aid. For Clara Barton, the disaster was the first big test for her newly organized American Red Cross...
Mr. Frank argues that the wrong folks got blamed for the disaster. He concludes:

If the reconstruction of the South Fork Dam had been rebuilt to the original specifications and construction, the disaster of May 31, 1889, would never have occurred. Granted; a break like the one in 1862, when the culvert collapsed, could have caused great damage. However, the South Fork Dam as originally designed by Morris and constructed by Morehead and Packer would not have had water pass over it--the worst possible thing that can befall an earth and rock dam--the unquestionable cause of the 1889 Johnstown disaster.
It's an interesting article. There's some technical stuff that's a bit over my head, but mostly this article is quite readable for those of us not trained in engineering. Use the title link to read the rest of it.

Of course, David McCullough's book on this disaster is a classic of its kind. I had nightmares for a while after reading it; it's haunting stuff, definitely.

The Johnstown Flood
The Johnstown Flood

The Remembrance Table

America's White Table
America's White Table

From a brand new blog's Memorial Day post (A Time to Remember) comes a recommendation for a new children's book on a military tradition to honor prisoners of war and those missing in action. See Empty table honors all U.S. MIAs, POWs by Bruce Smith of the Associated Press for more on the tradition and on the book.

Welcome to the blogosphere Donna-Jean, and best of luck with your "Liberty and Lily" blog. Thanks for the book tip - this is the first I'd heard of this title.

Hat tip: The Common Room

Treasures in full: Shakespeare's plays, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Gutenberg's Bible

From the British Library, in a section called Treasures In Full ("High-quality digital editions, free to your desktop"):

Examine every page of rare historic works; compare different editions side-by-side; choose standard or magnified view; read supporting material by our curators and other experts.

-Shakespeare in Quarto
-Caxton's Chaucer
-Gutenberg Bible
-Magna Carta
-Renaissance Festival Books - coming soon

New York Post Online Edition: Chirac Shock

In this op-ed piece, Kenneth R. Timmerman notes:

May 31, 2005 -- THE French people overwhelmingly rejected the proposed European Union constitution in a referendum on Sunday, handing a stunning political defeat to President Jacques Chirac and to the French political elites.

In a tactic reminiscent of alleged fraud in St. Louis, Mo. during the 2000 election, Chirac and his advisers held open the polls in Paris for two hours beyond the 8 p.m. closing time, hoping for a last-minute pool of support that would put them over the top.

Before those last-minute votes were counted, the French Interior Ministry tally showed the "No" vote winning a staggering 57 percent. The final count, released later, brought the nationwide rejection down to 54.87 percent, a respectable landslide.
He also looks at the background of the vote, and what it might mean. Just so you know, Timmerman is the author of The French Betrayal of America.

Europe press on France's No - (United Press International)

UPI has a nice round-up of quotes from a broad spectrum of European publications trying to come to grips with the French public's rejection of the 'European Constitution'. Use title link to read the article from May 30.

ABC News: Villepin: to 'De' or Not to 'De'?

On the lighter side of the news, not even French publications and newscasters are in agreement on whether to refer to the new French prime minister as "de Villepin," or "Villepin."

David Lloyd George: The Movie Mystery

David Lloyd George: The Movie Mystery
David Lloyd George: The Movie Mystery

I was looking for something else and stumbled across this book, or rather a catalog listing of this book. I'm not familiar with the book itself or with other offerings from its publisher, but the book's subject is just offbeat enough (and obscure enough) I thought I'd toss it up here for anybody who might be interested.

David Lloyd George: The Movie Mystery, edited by Dave Berry and Simon Horrocks, 1998 paperback, ISBN 0-7083-1371-X.

From the University of Wales Press:

This is the incredible story of a silent film, made in 1918, but not screened in public until 1996. The central figure in this drama - on and off screen - is the charismatic prime minister, David Lloyd George. Completed in the last months of the First World War, The Life Story of David Lloyd George was suddenly and mysteriously withdrawn before its first trade screening; solicitors, presumably acting for the government or for the Liberal party, paid to remove the film from the offices of Ideal, the film's production company. It was long thought that both copies had been lost or destroyed, and then in 1994 the complete negative was found amongst material supplied by Viscount Tenby (Lloyd George's grandson) for examination by the Wales Film and Television Archive.

The first section of the book focuses on the reasons behind the film's suppression, while the second section concentrates on the painstaking and fascinating process of restoration. The concluding section discusses the feature as a film per se and assesses its contribution to the development of British cinema. The text is well illustrated and includes frame enlargements from the film.
www.amazon.co.uk has this synopsis:
This text presents the story of a silent film completed in 1918, but never released and long thought to be lost or destroyed. The film biography was made with the co-operation of David Lloyd George but suppressed following an allegation that executives of the film company were of German origin. Twenty thousand pounds was paid to the film makers in compensation and the film was confiscated. In 1994 the complete feature was rediscovered amongst material supplied by Viscount Tenby (Lloyd George's grandson). The film has been restored and this book serves as a critical guide to the film. Illustrations include frame enlargements from the film and reproductions of trade advertisements and photographs of Lloyd George.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Transatlantic Intelligencer: Joschka's Debacle: The French "Non" and the Father of the EU "Constitution"

John Rosenthal warns:

The new myth that will permit the Europeist elites – and the American media that is most sympathetic to them – to ignore the meaning of the French rejection of the proposed EU “constitution” is that the massive victory of the “no” represents a rejection of French President Jacques Chirac and the policies of his presumably now outgoing Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin - but not, strangely enough, of the text on which the French electorate was called upon to vote. French Socialist Party Chair François Hollande wasted no time in laying down this line last night in his official declaration [link in French]: “even if it was not the moment to do so,” Mr. Hollande said, the French had again expressed their “anger” against and “exasperation” with Mr. Chirac...
Use the title link to read the rest.

News - StatesmanJournal.com

I'm pleased to see that there were several traditional Memorial Day observances on the west side of the state this year. (Use title link for a brief rundown of activities.)

HistoryLink Essay: Washington State Roll of Honor

HistoryLink has a list of 9,005 thousand men and women from Washington State who have died since World War I while serving their country.

In the same article, there is the the beginnings of an auxiliary list of law enforcement officers and firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Memorial Day History

This web page (use title link) honors the history of Memorial Day (originally called Decoration Day), seeks to educate people on the meaning of the day, promotes a "National Moment of Remembrance" that asks all Americans to pause at 3 p.m. local time for either a moment of silence to to listen to Taps, and also lobbies for a return to observance of the day on May 30th. They provide a link to a petition to sign, if you're interested.

Hat tip: The Daily Demarche

President Commemorates Memorial Day

President Commemorates Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery provides the text of George W. Bush's remarks this morning.

His regular radio address this week also addressed the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform (both text and audio available at this link).

With thanks, to vets

For Memorial Day, here's a bit of oddly cut prose (I hesitate to call it a poem) I wrote in 1989 for Veterans Day. I'd write something different today, of course, if I set myself to the same task. But part of why I'm reprinting it is to put 'then' and 'now' side by side, so to speak, to see what seems different and what seems the same all these years later. (And what strikes me as most different is that in those days it seemed necessary to remind folks that men and women in the military fought for the rest of us and were deserving of our thanks.) The odd format is largely due to the fact that it had to fit inside a standard-width column in the newspaper for which it was written.

Veterans Day 1989

At Normandy
the wind presents
the years-tossed sand
for inspection
Scrubbed of agonied blood
spilled on D-Day.
The echoes of victory
and death co-mingle
The past's voice
is clearer
in the taverns
where the old men wander
and in the old folks' homes
and veterans' wards.
But even there
the conversations with
the past
drift off
like debris in the Channel
after D-Day.
Time has set its traps.
Those who choose to be
ignorant of the past
risk being entangled
in snares
the sadder-but-wiser see.
And yet.
The Veterans Day
parades are few
and draw but a few.
The veterans' hospital
is begging for visitors,
its residents
written off as
Stuck in the past
Or simply not in touch
with today.
We forget there are
veterans from peacetime
as well as war
Present forces,
young, with families,
serving this week,
like last week,
and next week, too.
We forget the nurses
and the doctors,
except the ones on M*A*S*H
While down the street
an ex-submarine sailor
could tell us what war
- and life -
is like inside a little
self-contained shell.
Victory Garden now means
a show on PBS.
And the woman
who could tell you
that Christians went
to death camps
along with the Jews
carried her knowledge
forty years
in grief-triggered silence
to her ripe-old-age grave.
I do not claim
that World War II
should be clung to.
Or Nam
Or our other wars.
What a thought.
But, maybe,
this Veterans Day
it could be different.
Maybe somebody
Maybe somebody
who never thinks of it
could remember
that freedom is bought
and the price has been dear.
And acknowledge the debt
With a simple Thank You.
At the least.

(Originally published in The Argus Observer, Ontario, Oregon.)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

A Modest Proposal for Saving Our Schools

Senator Tom McClintock of California puts things into perspective in a May 15, 2005 column:

The multi-million dollar campaign paid by starving teachers’ unions has finally placed our sadly neglected schools at the center of the budget debate.

Across California, children are bringing home notes warning of dire consequences if Gov. Schwarzenegger’s scorched earth budget is approved – a budget that slashes Proposition 98 public school spending from $42.2 billion this year all the way down to $44.7 billion next year. That should be proof enough that our math programs are suffering.

As a public school parent, I have given this crisis a great deal of thought and have a modest suggestion to help weather these dark days.

Maybe – as a temporary measure only – we should spend our school dollars on our schools. I realize that this is a radical departure from current practice, but desperate times require desperate measures...
He's got quite a plan. By substituting luxury commercial office space for classrooms, hiring associate professors from the college level, and providing annual memberships at a private health club for each student, etc., he can still come in under budget. Use the title link to read the whole thing.

Hat tip: Terri Leo.

Jill Kinmont Boothe

I get a surprising number of hits on this blog from people looking for information on Jill Kinmont, the skiier who was severely injured while trying out for the U.S. Olympic Ski Team in 1955. For an update on what she's done with her life, see About Jill for starters.

For my February 26, 2005 post, which was mostly just a chat about my reaction to the movie based on her life (with a few book and VHS movie notes on the side), see The Other Side of the Mountain, by E. G. (Evans) Valens.

The Rochambeau Map Collection - (American Memory from the Library of Congress)

The American Memory project is currently highlighting a collection of maps owned by the commander in chief of the French expeditionary army (1780-82) during the American Revolution. Some individual maps are identified as "Connecticut, from the best authorities" and "Plan de la ville de Quebec" and "A map of Kentucky from actual survey by Elihu Barker", just for starters.

FOXNews.com - Politics - Myers: West Point Grads a 'Special Class'

There were 911 graduates this year at the U.S. Military Academy. This class had already been nicknamed the Class of 9-11, because this is the group that had been at West Point only a few weeks when the terrorist attacks happened.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Against a dictatorship of relativism: The annual American Psychiatric Association conference . . .

Dev Thakur, a medical student, reports on his blog that the annual American Psychiatric Association conference:

. . . was a blast. Among the various topics, there was a serious discussion of psychiatry, spirituality, religion and worldview that I was privileged to take part in. This is an issue that, traditionally, psychiatry has neglected, but many are now emphasizing the importance of the patient's worldview to understanding and treatment.

This discussion took place largely through a comparison of Sigmund Freud, Oskar Pfister and C. S. Lewis. An overview, which I hope will be an interesting and valuable study of the current place of religion and spirituality in mental health, will be coming soon.
His follow-up post is The conflicting worldviews of Sigmund Freud and Oskar Pfister

A religious revival in a city of secular art | csmonitor.com

There's a new museum in New York - and it's not offering the usual New York City art scene fare. From a May 27, 2005, article by Carol Strickland in The Christian Science Monitor online:
NEW YORK – To an art world deeply skeptical of religious sentiment, the paintings displayed at the Museum of Biblical Art here must seem startling. The fact that this newly opened museum exists in New York at all signifies a change in the compass that orients how art is viewed.

"We're witnessing a worldwide religious revival in response to 9/11," says Norman Girardot, a folk-art specialist and professor of religious studies at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. Since the terrorist attacks, "We've all woken up and realized we have to take religion seriously."...
The article might not be what you'd expect from the lead. It has quotes from many different people, too, with various takes on this. (And should I laugh or cry that some museum folks are fretting out loud about possibly jeopardizing their tax-exempt status if they display religious art?)

Hat tip: Against a dictatorship of relativism

Veterans History Project (American Folklife Center)

The Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress (United States) is asking for volunteers to help collect and preserve stories of wartime service.

According to this May 12, 2005, news release:

A new selection of 13 fully digitized collections of materials submitted by veterans and civilians is now available for the first time on the Library of Congress Web site at http://www.loc.gov/warstories.

This is the seventh set of individual stories—comprising interviews, letters, photographs and written memoirs—to be featured on the site, which is titled “Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project.” Since the launch of this site on Memorial Day 2003, the Veterans History Project has been selecting stories to illuminate certain themes and making them available online. Past themes have included D-Day, prisoners of war, life-altering moments and military medicine. The latest addition of stories focuses on “VE” and “VJ” (Victory over Europe and Victory over Japan), highlighting personal accounts from veterans recalling the hours after the announcement of the end of World War II.

The Veterans History Project site now has 1,321 stories online, many of which include audio interviews, photographs, diaries, letters and other materials, consisting of more than 60,000 online items. These materials are part of the continuing effort by the Library to make its collections accessible online.

“As the nation honors the sacrifices of all veterans and commemorates the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Veterans History Project Web site provides an interactive site where students, historians and others can listen to oral histories from veterans and read firsthand accounts of war,” said Diane Kresh, director of the Veterans History Project...
There's more. Use the links.

Bookworm Room

The Bookworm Room blogger has been kind enough to send several folks my way over the months, and I've happily sent people that way from time to time. I note in passing that today she went over the 10,000 mark on her stats counter. Not too shabby (as we say around here).

OpinionJournal - High Noon at Sunrise Rock

Christopher Levenick reports on how the ACLU has learned to get taxpayers to pay for church-state lawsuits filed by the ACLU against the government - and what's being done to address the mess:

Working to amend the Attorney's Fees Award Act is Rep. John Hostettler, a Republican from Indiana. Yesterday, he reintroduced the Public Expression of Religion Act, under which plaintiffs could still ask the courts to prevent governmental endorsement of religion--but could no longer soak the public for the privilege of being sued.
Mr. Levenick is affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

The Battle of Ideas - Acton Institute PowerBlog

Jordan J. Ballor posts on conservative versus liberal philanthropy, with links.

When to Make Law - Acton Institute PowerBlog

Jordan J. Ballor brings Aquinas into the ongoing discussion of what should be regulated by the state.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Dating Guy: My Last Blind Date (1 of 3)

Okay, let's give a guy the floor. Richard Rabkin talks about dating, proposing, and surviving a run-up to a wedding.

Choosing Home: Blog links

The Choosing Home website is compiling a list of blogs written by women who choose to be at home. They're up to almost three dozen already.

Pawigoview: Research Associate

Mothers and other homemakers, I am pleased to announce that Pat at the Pawigoview blog has figured out a way to handle clerks who don't think mothers have a "job". Use the title link to read her delightful post.

Hat tip: whatsakyer

Closed circuit for BookStation customers

In case you haven't been in for a while and therefore have been missing out on the adventure, we've recently added shelves (and more shelves), books (and more books), and are in the process of reorganizing the entire bookstore. In addition to a bigger selection overall, there will be more sections (mystery and romance have been pulled out of fiction and given their own areas, for instance), and there will be more sections that are alphabetized instead of just grouped. Last time I checked, we had room for about four thousand more books than before, and shelves are filling in fast. (And a big thanks to everyone who has helped! It's been a ton of work moving everything around plus alphabetizing whole sections from scratch.)

Among the new titles added today:

Animal Tracks of Washington and Oregon (Animal Tracks Guides Series)
Animal Tracks of Washington and Oregon (Animal Tracks Guides Series)

Guide to Butterflies of Oregon and Washington
Guide to Butterflies of Oregon and Washington

Northwest Trees
Northwest Trees

The Complete Chronicles of Narnia
The Complete Chronicles of Narnia

The BookStation is located inside the Leathers gas station, 603 W Main Street, John Day, Oregon.

Texas textbook update

This is a heads-up for anyone following the Texas State Board of Education's battle to retain authority regarding textbook approvals. The worrisome details which had been in House Bill 4 might be moved to House Bill 2. See the update at Board rips textbook measure, from May 10.

Pretty safe bets

I think it's a pretty safe bet that if somebody stood in Times Square and yelled that he was an Orthodox Jew who worked seven days a week and if anybody objected to him being a workaholic 'they could just take their Sabbath junk and shove it' - well, essentially nobody would mistake him for an Orthodox Jew, now would they?

I think it's a pretty safe bet that if someone went around India thrashing innocent cows in the face with a whip, and tried to excuse it on the grounds that 'in his experience Hindus were seen as old-fashioned and so he was going to counter the sacred cow thing in the name of establishing a New Hinduism more in step with the times' - well, essentially nobody would approve of his scheme, would they?

I think it's a pretty safe bet that if someone insisted upon hanging upside down on a trapeze bar in a Shinto Temple so he could stick his tongue out at worshippers every time they clapped, on the grounds that he'd decided that Shinto needed to lighten up and by all means needed to get rid of that clapping business - well, essentially everybody could see that he was out of bounds, couldn't they?

I think it's a pretty safe bet that if someone walked into a Buddhist church during a service and loudly asserted that all that Middle Path talk was a crock and he was there to tell everybody what that Siddhartha Gautama guy should have said - well, essentially nobody would think he was handling his dispute with Buddha's teachings properly, now would they?

I think it's a pretty safe bet that if somebody walked into a Catholic church and told people he was there to tell them what that Pope guy should be saying...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Linda Chavez: The deal

Linda Chavez doesn't buy into the wailing coming from some quarters. From a May 25, 2005, column at Townhall.com:

Many conservatives are unhappy with the judicial confirmation compromise reached on Monday among Senate moderates of both political parties, but I'm not one of them. In the short run, this agreement will lead to the confirmation of more conservative Bush nominees to the federal bench; and in the long run, it will preserve the ability of conservatives in some future Democrat-controlled Congress to stop the appointment of radical judicial activists by a Democrat president. As in any compromise, neither side got all that it wanted, but conservatives clearly came out ahead...

Kathleen Parker: Jeannette Walls' recipe for lemonade

The Glass Castle
The Glass Castle

Kathleen Parker read Jeannette Walls' memoir The Glass Castle and found a woman who was handed lemons by life, and made lemonade. It's an interesting column, and sounds like an interesting book. Click on the title link for Parker's write-up. Click on the book cover to reach more reviews at Barnes & Noble.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Bert Hinkler (1892-1933) : Australian Aviation Pioneer

This website (use title link) compiles articles, pictures, and links associated with Australian aviator "Bert" Hinkler.

Churches: Design pros and cons

The Curt Jester has a post called Not A Parody, about Oakland, California's new cathedral in progress. Christ the Light Cathedral is scheduled to be completed in January 2008.

It made me think of this article by Catesby Leigh which ran on OpinionJournal.com on January 21, 2005, in the "Taste" section. (A surprising number of topics fall under the "Taste" category at OpinionJournal.) The title is "What the Structure Says". The subtitle is "Two Milwaukee churches' contrasting ideas about architecture and the sacred".

Books and Culture's Book of the Week: The Universal Language

Natural History of Latin
Natural History of Latin

Preston Jones has some things he likes, and some things he doesn't, about A Natural History of Latin by Tore Janson, Oxford University Press. For his review, use title link.

From near the end of the review:

Janson's Natural History comes as further evidence of a reviving interest in Latin. Advanced Placement courses in the language are budding; homeschoolers' curricula often emphasize it; the classical schools movement, which is growing across the country, has been spurred partly by a commitment to it; and some publishers think it worthwhile to produce Latin translations of contemporary works. Janson's small book now rests on my office shelf next to Quomodo Indiviosulus Nomine Grinchus Christi Natalem Abrogaverit ("How the Wretched Little One Named Grinch Snuffed Christmas"), Harrius Potter, and the Latin translation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Little Prince.

Harry Potter et Philosophi Lapis(Harry Potter Series)
Harry Potter et Philosophi Lapis(Harry Potter Series)

Winnie Ille Pu: A Latin Version of A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh
Winnie Ille Pu: A Latin Version of A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh

Ferdinandus Taurus
Ferdinandus Taurus

Descartes' Bar and Grill: Summer is icumen in

Suzanne at the Descartes' Bar and Grill blog has posted her initial booklist for summer reading, but is open to suggestions. She likes both history/politics and fantasy. Anybody wanting to share their favorites in those categories might pop over and plug a good book or two. Use title link.

Author notes: Margery Allingham

Margery Allingham created one of my favorite sleuths, with one of the best supporting casts. Albert Campion, it should be mentioned, was the sort of character who grew up with both the times and his author. He's a bit silly and shallow early on, but only appears silly and shallow later on, when it suits his purposes.

From Masterpieces of Mystery: The Supersleuths, selected by Ellery Queen, Davis Publications, 1976, page 338, in the short story "One Morning They'll Hang Him":

Mr. Albert Campion, who had been staring idly out of the window watching the rain on the roofs, did not glance round. He was still the lean, somewhat ineffectual-looking man to whom the Special Branch had turned so often in the last twenty years. His very fair hair had bleached into whiteness and a few lines had appeared round the pale eyes which were still, as always, covered by large horn-rimmed spectacles, but otherwise he looked much as Kenny first remembered him - "Friendly and a little simple - the old snake!"

(From the same book, page 337, a thumbnail sketch of the author):

Margery Allingham was born in London in 1904, the eldest child of H. J. Allingham, whose serials appeared in the popular weeklies of the day. In 1927 she married Philip Youngman Carter, an artist, and the following year she wrote The Crime at Black Dudley, her first novel featuring the mild, bespectacled Albert Campion. Her novels before 1934 were mostly pure entertainment; those written later place her in the forefront of the generation of detection writers who attempted to fuse the police novel and the novel of character and psychology.

Umbert 5.23.2005

At a guess, the title linked cartoon will probably trigger at least as many oh-yucks as grins - but I got a grin from it. (Warning: if you can't stand pregnancy-related jokes, don't go there.)

Satre quote: We get context

The other day I put out a quote attributed to Jean Paul Satre which didn't seem to fit with what little I know of the man and asked if anybody could either verify it or put it into context. See original post here.

Jonathan and Amanda Witt at Wittingshire picked up the ball and ran with it, sending the query out via email to various people. Today, Amanda wrote back. I've corrected an obvious typo, but otherwise this is as sent to me:


Another reply came in, and it's quite interesting--but it's long, so I'll just send it like this and let you decide whether to cram it into your comments section or excerpt it or whatever. It's from William F. Lawhead, a philosophy prof at Ole Miss.


Lawhead wrote:

I don't put much stock in accounts of death bed conversions of famous atheists. There are such stories about Voltaire and Darwin. But the evidence is pretty clear that these are manufactured. However, there is no telling what Sartre said on his deathbed. He was a pitiful, sick man who urinated on himself and was a drug addict and an alcoholic. However, the quote you mention has some basis in fact. The following is from the article "Sartre's Last Years" by Simone de Beauvoir. It was published in Harper's, Feb.1984, pp. 30-39. It was taken from the book Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre by de Beauvoir, trans. Patrick O'Brian and, at the time, due to come out with Pantheon Books. I'm looking at the article right now, so it is not hearsay. However, I have not seen the book. I would trust any account that comes from de Beauvoir, as she knew him best. She would have been reluctant to quote something like this that contradicted his life long teachings. The following is from a conversation with Sartre that Simone taped in the summer and fall of 1974. (That would be 6 years before his death--not quite on his deathbed, unless he repeated similar remarks later.)

Quote -----

Sartre: Even if one does not believe in God, there are elements of the idea of God that remain in us and that cause us to see the world with some divine aspects.

S.d.B.: What for example?

Sartre: That varies according to the person.

S.d.B.: But for you?

Sartre: As for me, I don't see myself as so much dust that has appeared in the world but as a being that was expected, prefigured, called forth. In short, as a being that could, it seems, come only from a creator; and this idea of a creating hand that created me refers me back to God. Naturally this is not a clear, exact idea that I set in motion every time I think of myself. It contradicts many of my other ideas; but it is there, floating vaguely. And when I think of myself I often think rather in this way, for want of being able to think otherwise.

End quote---

Nevertheless, immediately after this he goes on to reiterate his lack of belief in God and the freedom that this brings. He then says "I don't need God in order to love my neighbor. It's a direct relation between man and man; I don't have to pass by the infinite at all. And then my acts have made up a life, my life, which is going to end, which is almost over, and which I judge without too many errors. This life owes nothing to God; it was what I wanted it to be and to some extent what I made it without meaning to. And when now I reflect upon it, it satisfies me; and I do not need to pass by God for that."

What I make of this is that Sartre is saying, consistent with his life's philosophy, that the idea of God is like a hangover that is hard to shake. It is analogous to the experience of distinctly remembering you turned off the stove, but turning the car around to go back and check anyway, because you can't get over the nagging doubt that you didn't. So, it is clear that this quote in 1974 did not come out of a conversion experience, and I am skeptical that there was one in 1980. As I said, Sartre was hardly lucid in his last years. Still, his rambling, musing about the feeling of being created is

Now, this makes more sense to me than what I ran into the other day. It looks as though the 'quote' I ran across does come from a conversation with Satre (taped, no less), but is so severely pruned that it is misleading.

My thanks to the Witts and to William F. Lawhead.

The New Yorker: Devolution, by H. Allen Orr (Annals of Science)

I count among people I consider my friends those who are either frightened or furious when the name "Darwin" is mentioned, those who assume a protective or combative stance when "God" is mentioned, and (the majority) those who steer a middle course, including a number who are putting serious time and effort into studying Intelligent Design, wherever the evidence leads with it. Therefore, whatever my private views, my official public position is to smile politely in all cases and try, when possible, to avoid the crossfire. (Okay, so I'm a coward. I prefer to consider myself diplomatic, of course...)

But since the issue is important to many folks, and since The New Yorker has now taken it on, in an article subtitled "Why intelligent design isn't", I thought I'd better point out this article. It's listed as being from the 2005-05-30 issue, posted to newyorker.com 2005-05-23. Use title link.

Hat tip: ADF Alliance Alert for Monday, May 23, 2005.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Narrow: Who Am I?

The title link takes you to a short article that describes an author and then asks you to guess who the author is. It being an author I admire, I can't resist a link. Have fun and good luck.

Flow Gently, Sweet Afton

Flow Gently, Sweet Afton is one of those songs - like Somewhere Over the Rainbow and that Tomorrow song from Annie - that makes us untalented singers feel like we can sing. When I was little, it was also great for when we were in ladies-in-waiting mode at playtime - it just sounds like something cultivated ladies and gentlemen would sing in olden days. I hope it's still being taught to youngsters - but in case it isn't...

For lyrics with explanations of the unusual words, go to Rampant Scotland.

For lyrics with a bit of history plus music in the background, see Flow Gently Sweet Afton. Warning: the music starts automatically.

I know, I know. It's one of those melodies that once in your head has a rotten tendency to get stuck and repeat itself. I have a friend who has Chattanooga Choo-choo stuck in his head right now, and I have this one. I'm not sure which of us has it worse...

Wait, don't tell me you don't know that catchy little tune, either? Go here for a little history and a rendition of that one.

President of Estonia Lennart Meri: 1995 Speech at University of Washington

I stumbled across this 1995 Address at the University of Washington Faculty Club by the President of Estonia while I was looking for something else. (Gotta love the Internet.) It's just too interesting not to share, I think.

For more on Lennart Meri, an author and filmmaker as well as politician, see this short bio at Club de Madrid.

Bookreporter.com - Author Profile: Michael Crichton

Some authors seem to run in packs or parrot party lines, but Michael Crichton isn't one of them. The title link is to a November 2002 interview with him which includes some discussion of bioethics.

Vehr Theological Library

If you're in the Denver area, you can visit the Vehr Theological Library :
The Vehr Theological Library is open to the public, with more than 150,000 books and 1,400 videotapes available. From its founding in 1907, the library has compiled one of the finest collections of theology, church history, patristics, biblical studies, liturgy, canon law, religious education, pastoral care, youth ministry, religious art, philosophy and literature. It features a wide range of books on lives of the saints as well as official Church documents. Children are welcome to explore the books and videos in our new children's area. Special collections include a compilation of rare books from the 16th century and over 300 periodicals, several with full runs dating back to the 1800s...
Book lovers take note. They also have a Friends of the Library Room where they sell used books.

Click on the link for more information, including open hours and email address.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Zorro Old and New


One of the big names in fiction, Isabel Allende, has just this month come out with a new Zorro novel. (As of post time the hardcover edition is sailing up the charts - it's number 197 at Barnes & Noble, for instance.) I haven't seen a copy, so can't speak to the content, but the reviews so far are good.

To my surprise, I see that one of the books that launched Zorro is still in print, in an inexpensive paperback from Tor, no less.

The Mark of Zorro
The Mark of Zorro

Silent Witness: The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo's Death, by Mark Fuhrman

Silent Witness: The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo's Death
Silent Witness: The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo's Death

The scheduled release date for this book is June 28. (Release dates are always subject to change, of course.) The ISBN is 0060853379. It's available for pre-order on several sites.

According to this book description at the harpercollins.com website:
...In Silent Witness, former LAPD detective and New York Times bestselling author Mark Fuhrman applies his highly respected investigative skills to examine the medical evidence, legal case files, and police records. With the complete cooperation of Terri Schiavo's parents and siblings, as well as their medical and legal advisers, he conducts exclusive interviews with forensics experts and crucial witnesses, including friends, family members, and caregivers.

Quote check: Satre and God

I almost hate to ask, because I suspect Jean Paul Satre gets more attention than he probably deserves anyway, but I've come across a rather surprising quote attributed to him, and would like to know if anybody can corroborate that he said or wrote it.

From Understanding the Times by David Noebel, 1991 second printing, hardback, ISBN 0936163100, on page 168, on a page with the title "Philosophers and Scientists Affirming the Supernaturalist Position", there are eight men quoted. The Satre snippet reads:

Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980), a life-long atheist philosopher, said at the close of his hedonistic life: "I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a king whom only a Creator could put here; the idea of a creating hand refers to God."
(Oh, sorry. I should have made sure you were sitting down, right? Sartre said that?)

When you go to the end of the chapter for the notes, they say that this quote is from The Intellectuals Speak Out About God, ed. Roy Abraham Varghese (Dallas, Texas: Lewis and Stanley, 1984), page 136. (There also seems to have been a Regnery/Gateway publication of this title in 1984, ISBN 0895268272.)

The main thing I want to know is whether we can be sure this is an authentic Satre quote, and, if so, do we know under what circumstances it was delivered? Was it spoken or written, for instance? Was it for publication or not? Were there witnesses? How old was he? I wouldn't bother, except Sartre seems to be a darling of the no-religious-views-allowed crowd. If he changed his mind later I might like to be able to point that out the next time they wave one of the quotes from his younger days in my face. Thanks.

UPDATE: It's looking iffy. See comments.

UPDATE: May 24, 2005: It's looking like it was pruned beyond recognition. See Satre Quote: We get context.

Reading the Classics with C.S. Lewis

Lesley Rice, editor of Heart and Mind magazine, has an article on Reading the Classics with C.S. Lewis on the Catholic Educator's Resource Center website. It uses the book as a starting point for a discussion on studying literature and poetry. Heart and Mind is a magazine for Catholic homeschoolers.

Reading the Classics with C. S. Lewis
Reading the Classics with C. S. Lewis

The SHEEP'S CRIB -The only shade within miles!

This is definitely my pick for best photo of the day...

Special Mass This Sunday For Terri Schiavo at Canada's Martyrs Shrine

Lifesite.net notes that Martyrs Shrine in Midland Ontario will hold a special Mass for Terri Schiavo's soul tomorrow. Expect more of these, all over the world.

Doug Giles: Lather. Rinse. Repeat

From a March 27, 2004, column by Doug Giles:

The thing that confronts us, the subject about which I get several hundred e-mails every week is: “What can the young, God and country loving American do, to help turn this nation around before it slams solidly into a brick wall.”

My advice is to go back to a time in history when things sucked worse than a vacuum cleaner powered by a GE jet engine, look to see who/what remedied that particularly dilapidated situation and repeat their principles of change.
He goes on to give some advice, which he sums up (with explanations), as get a life, look good, get smart, understand world views, and serve somebody. It's worth a read, especially in this era of bad commencement speeches...

He notes that these ideas are more fully fleshed out in his book, Ruling in Babylon.

Ruling in Babylon
Ruling in Babylon

He also recommends Understanding the Times, by David Noebel (which is available in several editions, by the way).

Understanding the Times: The Religious World Views of Our Day and the Search for Truth
Understanding the Times: The Religious World Views of Our Day and the Search for Truth

As a columnist Doug Giles gets on my nerves sometimes (a lot, actually), but, hey, he hangs around with young people and is trying to get them to be stronger and smarter and more grounded. Good for him. And he goes toe to toe with the ugliest cultural mucktossers out there. Good for him.


Dory at Wittenberg Gate discusses this book in a recent post.

Feminist Mistake: The Radical Impact of Feminism on Church and Culture
Feminist Mistake: The Radical Impact of Feminism on Church and Culture

She also makes reference to this book in the same post.

Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog
Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog

I'm one of those ladies who swallowed too much feminist drivel before I got out and took a look around for myself. It was amazing, really. All it took to cure me of staying in the sisterhood was taking a long walk off campus every day. Day after day my feminist mentors told me how unfair the world was to women; they said that the world had to be changed so we could have a fighting chance. Day after day on my walks I saw women playing tag with their kids and walking down sidewalks hand in hand with husbands, sharing laughter. It seemed a pretty nice world, actually, what I saw of it anyway. After a while it occurred to me that the women who were offering me advice weren't the least comfortable in their own skins, and the ladies I met on my walks were. Being young and misled but not entirely mindless or lost, I decided I needed to listen to more ladies who liked their own lives and knew how to get along with other people, men included. Thank goodness. It was a smart move on my part, if I do say so myself.

Having said that, it's only been in the last few years I've understood how far off the path we fell - and, worse yet, how much of what we did in those days was not only predicted - but planned - by folks who came along decades ahead of us with a stated purpose of tearing society apart so that they could rebuild it from the ashes. I mean, we couldn't have been better foot soldiers for these people if we had tried. That we were utterly ignorant of our complicity doesn't make me feel any better.

For an interesting look at some of the people who snared so many of my generation, see The Intelligent Student's Guide to Survival, by Phillip Abbott Luce and Douglas Hyde, 1968, Viewpoint Books. It's out of print, but there are still a few used copies floating around. From the introduction, this excerpt:
Both Douglas Hyde and I are ex-communists. That may not mean much except that we did learn something about the operation and rationale of communism during our active membership. We hope that our experiences and insights will spur others not to make our mistakes, but instead to devote themselves to fighting totalitarinism in whatever form it may rear its ugly head.

The Common Room: Economic Education

Luckily for us, most of our employees have a good sense of where the money comes from and where it goes in our business, and they keep an eye out. We have a pretty good team. In fact, we have such a good team that we sometimes just have to get out of their way. If they feel like swapping hours with another employee, by golly, we're happy to let them switch hours. It's a little odd not always knowing who's running the store at any given time, but somehow or another it all works - because our employees make it work. Somebody's always there (okay, once - just once - everybody thought somebody else was opening the station on a Saturday morning...), and they make sure not to bankrupt us with overtime. I love these guys. You give them responsibility, and they've got the common sense to apply to it, and the decency to look out for each other.

But, man, when you do get an employee who can't see anybody else's needs, it can drive you crazy, not to mention the fact that it can drive the business into the ground real fast if you aren't careful. In short, I really identify with the title-linked post.

Wittingshire: In Memoriam: Stephen J. Gould

I have a friend who believes with all his heart that one of the most distinguishing (and wonderful) characteristics of God is His sense of humor. And although we have serious disagreements from time to time on how much heaven directs things and how much He leaves to circumstance and/or human action (or inaction), there are times I see no reason not to yield the floor. This is one of those times. L.Y.B., the title-linked post is for you.

The Scotsman - Business - A-Day awaits, the key to pension tax reform

In April 2006, Britain will toss out some legislation and replace it with a new set of laws that are supposed to be easier to understand. Jennifer Hill of The Scotsman has started a three-part series to try to explain what's coming and why:

IT IS on the way. In less than a year's time, A-Day will be upon us. Sounds ominous, does it not? Fear not. For, that is the name that has been given to 6 April 2006, when wide-spread changes to legislation governing pensions will come into force.

The changes will see a complex - and to many indecipherable - pension structure that has evolved over many years replaced by a single regime.

"Over many years, successive governments have made changes to pensions legislation. On the one hand, these were attempts to simplify the rules and thereby encourage people to save for the long term, and on the other to adjust the taxation of pension funds in line with economic policy," said Patrick Connolly, a certified financial planner at John Scott & Partners.

"Much of the current complexity is to prevent pension arrangements being used for tax avoidance. The result is that layer upon layer of complex legislation has been built up."
Hmmm. We have problems with complex and indecipherable legislation, too. Hello, Salem? Hello, Washington? Have you ever thought about looking at how unworkable your layer upon layer stuff has become? Hello?

Use the title link to read the rest of the Scotsman article.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Hollywood creates Boy Scout merit badge on copyright | News.blog | CNET News.com

Don't say Hollywood can't work with the Boy Scouts, or vice versa.

A May 2, 2005, press release from the Motion Picture Association is here.

San Luis Obispo Tribune | 05/17/2005 | At Lucia Mar, 575 Teachers of the Year

Is it just me, or are teachers' unions like this one really not helping their own cause? In San Luis Obispo County, the Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association decided that to pick a Teacher of the Year this year, like they've done for years, would somehow play into Gov. Schwarzenegger's campaign to eliminate automatic pay raises and instead reward teachers who do a good job.

So they declared all the teachers winners (and then, at a guess, sat around feeling smug about it...).

I know there are good public school teachers out there. It's just so hard sometimes to see them through the thicket of the sorts of teachers and union officials who get fawned over by the media. They are out there, right? They just don't have proper say in unions, right? Right?


Hat tip: Best of the Web Today

Food History

Thanks to Ask Jeeves for Kids, I stumbled across The Food Timeline website today. It has lots of links, for anybody interested in food and food history - everything from information from museums and universities to articles in National Geographic and Business Week. And I mean lots of links (some links take you to lists of other links, even), plus book lists, plus...

Well, go look. I just clicked on a Medieval food link, and got - among other things - access to digitized period cookbooks. Too fun. Oh, here's a section on Shakespeare's food. And there's...

This is definitely something I need to put aside for now, and come back to later.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

NPR : Fresh Air from WHYY for Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Terry Gross pitted D. James Kennedy's views against Frederick Clarkson's views in two interviews on today's broadcast of Fresh Air.

The NPR notes on Kennedy:

The stated purpose of D. James Kennedy's religious network is to reclaim America for Christ, closing the gap between church and state that is written into the Constitution. The evangelist minister, who preaches from the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Coral Ridge, Fla., has radio and TV shows that are heard around the world.

Coral Ridge is considered to be a mega-church, with 10,000 members. Kennedy is also the founder and president of Evangelism Explosion International. He runs the Statesmanship Institute, designed to give holders of public office tools for integrating biblical principles into lawmaking. He holds nine degrees from schools including Columbia Theological Seminary and Southwest Baptist University.

The NPR notes on Clarkson:
Author Frederick Clarkson wrote the book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy And Democracy, on the growing religious movement to influence government. Clarkson is a journalist who specializes in covering the radical right and religious figures like D. James Kennedy of Reclaim America.

Clarkson has written articles on the religious right's plans to take over the Republican Party, and how elements of the right encouraged citizen militias. He's also an expert on the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
The Clarkson interview has a fair amount on the trend toward homeschooling.

The broadcast can be listened to online. (Use title link.)

Standing shoulder to shoulder

EWTN Global Catholic Network's website has a Catholic Q & A site, where people write to get answers from experts. A recent correspondent expressed frustration at explaining the evils of abortion to non-believers, and was directed to Libertarians For Life for totally secular arguments.

Badger Blog Alliance: Long after Bolsheviks, the bikes are back

Harley-Davidson has opened a dealership in Moscow. No, really.

OpinionJournal - Taste : Sights Unseen

This May 13, 2005, Review & Outlook editorial is subtitled "It shouldn't surprise us that nothing is rising from the World Trade Center site". It begins:

French billionaire Francois Pinault announced this week that, fed up with delays and bureaucratic hassles, he was calling off a project to build a $190 million art museum near Paris to house his collection of modern art. He will instead install the paintings in an 18th-century palazzo in Venice. France will be the poorer for it, both because of the cultural loss and the loss of investment that will now not be made in rehabilitating the site--a derelict Renault factory on an island in the Seine.

Americans frustrated by the delay in rebuilding at the World Trade Center site in New York cannot consider a move elsewhere. But the culprits here have many of the same characteristics--and are having some of the same effects--as the bureaucrats who sank Mr. Pinault's French museum project.
But what I want for my files is this bit from midway down:

Both tales put us in mind of Frederic Bastiat. The great 19th-century French economist was fond of observing that often the most salient facts are those you can't see. In a Journal op-ed on the 200th anniversary of Bastiat's birth, Bob McTeer, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, explained the unseen with one of Bastiat's famous examples: An observer might note that when a vandal breaks a bakery window, the baker hires a glazier to fix it, and he in turn spends his pay on something else, and so on. Thus, according to the fallacy, the vandal actually generates economic activity. What isn't seen is what the baker didn't spend his money on because he had to repair his window--a bigger kitchen, another store, what-have-you.

Bureaucrats and their red tape often play the vandal in the modern world, silently stifling what might have been and leaving no evidence of what's lost. In both Paris and New York, it seems, arrogance and egos are also part of the toxic mix.
Use title link to read the whole article.

The Reagan Review : Interview With...Sir George Young

I stumbled across "The Reagan Review" this morning, and find that it's a website featuring four enthusiastic people aged 18 and under, with some able assists from a couple of Illinois politicians. Being something of an Anglophile (perhaps you'd noticed that?), when I saw there was an April 4, 2005 interview with a British MP by Krystle Russin, I clicked on that as something of a test case. She did a nice job, I think. (Translation: Eek, the kid knows about stuff I don't but probably should...) Use the title link to read the interview.

Taking a quick check of Sir George Young's website, I find he has a feature there called "On a lighter note...", which is billed as Some odd things that happen to and around an MP. Hmmm. That might be fun...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Mitch Albom: What a miracle life is

A great story from Mitch Albom, about a couple he knows and their seriously ill newborn, whom they named Faith. As he says:

The world that swirled around this tiny child was many miles from me, and yet it pulled me in. I awaited every new photo. Every little update. I found that each new battle this infant soldier was waging made my problems seem pathetic.

A few days ago, I asked Brian and Kathy if I could write about their courageous daughter. They said yes, on one condition: "that you agree to play piano at her wedding."

As this column was filed, little Faith was undergoing surgery, a special procedure to place a small reservoir under her scalp to help drain the fluid from her brain. I can only pray it turned out well.

But I already know this: In her first 10 days on Earth, this wordless child has put more sentences in my head than all those indulgent, self-pitying voices. She has made me think and cry and put the ridiculous problems I must deal with in perspective.

Read the article. This little girl's family is awesome.

The Weekly Standard: Bible Illiteracy in America, by David Gelernter

David Gelernter, a senior fellow in Jewish Thought at the Shalem Center, Jerusalem, and a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, addresses the influence of the Bible on British and American history, and also the current concern that many young Americans don't know much about the Bible. From near the end of his long article (which will appear in the May 25, 2005 issue of The Weekly Standard, and is available online already) he says:

It's impossible to find one global solution to the problem of Bible teaching in America. But it's easy to find one global hope. America is fertile ground for Great Awakenings--mass movements in which large chunks of the population return to their religious roots. We haven't had one for awhile; we are overdue. Great Awakenings are big, dramatic events that take off like rockets and burn out like rockets, after brief but spectacular careers. Even so, many people find in the aftermath that their life-trajectories have been changed forever.


My guess is that our next Great Awakening will begin among college students. College students today are (spiritually speaking) the driest timber I have ever come across. Mostly they know little or nothing about religion; little or nothing about Americanism. Mostly no one ever speaks to them about truth and beauty, or nobility or honor or greatness. They are empty--spiritually bone dry-- because no one has ever bothered to give them anything spiritual that is worth having. Platitudes about diversity and tolerance and multiculturalism are thin gruel for intellectually growing young people.

Use the title link if you'd like to read the article.

USNews.com: Matthew Lickona: A new hunger for faith

This May 9, 2005, article by Linda Kulman (use title link) looks at a growing worldwide attraction to traditional Christianity among the young; with a focus on Matthew Lickona, author of Swimming With Scapulars: True Confessions of a Young Catholic.

Swimming with Scapulars: True Confessions of a Young Catholic
Swimming with Scapulars: True Confessions of a Young Catholic

Other authors and books noted in the article are Colleen Carroll Campbell, the author of The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy, and Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of God on the Quad. There are also comments from campus ministers and professors.

The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy
The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy

God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America
God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America

Hat tip: Ethics and Public Policy Center

ZENIT News Agency: Terri Schiavo's Parents Thank Vatican

People in high places haven't forgotten:

ROME, MAY 17, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Bob and Mary Schindler, parents of Terri Schiavo -- the American woman whose death was induced by depriving her of food and water -- visited the Vatican to say thank you.

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace council, received the two today, who thanked the cardinal for mobilizing forces in an attempt to save their daughter's life, "practically condemned to death by United States courts at the request of the woman's husband, Michael Schiavo," explained a press statement published by the council.

The cardinal expressed "his sympathy for the woman's murder by one of the most inhuman and cruel forms, hunger and thirst," said the statement.

Also present were promoters of the newly created association "Missionaries of the Gospel of Life," founded by Father Frank Pavone, who traveled to Rome to present the statutes of the association to the Holy See.


Terri Schiavo's parents will attend Pope Benedict XVI's general audience on Wednesday.

OpinionJournal - Leisure & Arts: The Meaning of Their Motherhood

Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood before Marriage
Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood before Marriage

The subhead on the title-linked book review by Kay Hymowitz is "Marriage is key to improving the life chances of the inner-city poor", but that doesn't necessarly mean what you might think it does.

Here are the first two paragraphs of the review:

Poor, unmarried women with children may have receded from the public alarm list thanks to increasing numbers of them leaving welfare for work, but that doesn't mean that they are yesterday's problem. In some respects, little has changed: A third of all children are still born to husbandless women; and those children are far more likely to grow up poor than the children of two-parent families--and to become impoverished single parents themselves.

If anything can revive interest in this vexing subject, it is "Promises I Can Keep" by Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas. The book is the product of five years of interviews with black, white and Latino women in the poorest neighborhoods of Camden, N.J., and Philadelphia, where the authors are professors of sociology. Ms. Edin and Ms. Kefalas decisively rescue the young welfare mother from the policy wonks and feminist professors who have held her hostage until recently, and in so doing overthrow decades of conventional wisdom.

Hymowitz, a contributing editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, provides some interesting observations in her review.

Entente Cordiale :: Living the Entente Cordiale

While we are on the subject of France - last year was the 100th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale. There was an upbeat website devoted to the Entente Cordiale Centenary. On that website, there was a series of interviews with French people living and working in Britain, and Brits living and working in France. There are some interesting, even enjoyable, vignettes there. Use the title link to reach the series.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Daily Demarche: The French: Will They Ever Learn?

Smiley at The Daily Demarche says he's generally adverse to go after the French, it being too much like going after fish in a barrel. But sometimes it's impossible not to comment, he says. An excerpt (starting with his second paragraph) from his post on the most recent irresistible subject:

The latest from the country des droits de l’homme is the news that there is great unrest at the plan to remove a holiday from the French calendar in favor of a “Day of Solidarity.” This whole “Day of Solidarity” concept is a novel one: its origins stem from the horrible heat wave that killed roughly 15,000 elderly French citizens in August 2003 while their children decamped to the beaches of Biaritz and the mountains of Chamonix. Unfortunately, the avatar for the European “dream” of expansive social welfare, socialized medicine, and a human face to temper all that raw Anglo-Saxon capitalism was unable to keep its senior citizens from perishing in numbers not seen since the Normandy landings.

The French government, in a well-intentioned move, decided that rather than celebrate the traditional first Monday after Pentecost via a holiday, the French would return to work and employers would pay into a special fund designed to provide healthcare for the aged and infirm. French officials speculate that they would raise roughly $2.5 billion this year from "Solidarity Day." Unfortunately, this windfall ends up well short of the $7.5 billion per year necessary to fix the French health system.

But that isn't even the wacky part. What really blows my mind is that an estimated 55% percent of French workers, angered that the government has taken away one of their holidays, will not show up for work. Now, perhaps they have a point. Two other holidays, one on May 1 and another on May 8, happen to fall on weekends, so French workers will have no holidays at all in the first half of May. One can understand how aggrieved they must feel. The cruelness of it all - it is just so... unfair. How could the government expect its people to work in these conditions? So, in a fit of pique, most of France will now turn their back on a day designed as a reminder of the loss of so many of their society's elder members. You can't make this stuff up.

There's more, of course. Use title link.

Theodore H. White, in his 1953 book Fire in the Ashes: Europe in Mid-Century, wrote:

Every country is a mystery composed of the lives of many men. Yet none is more sealed to the understanding than the mystery of France.


The mystery of France is simple to describe. Here lies the richest and most beautiful land of Europe. Here lives some of its most illuminating minds. Here are men of courage and great tradition, toilers of dogged diligence and consummate craftsmanship. Yet nothing comes of this human material, France wastes and abuses all the talents she possesses.


...Frenchmen are divided in so many ways, with so many cross sections of cleavage, lacerated by so many feuds new and old, that they cannot find any way to gather in groups large enough on issues clear enough to make decisions. All political alliances in France are formed against something, not for something, and they are impotent because they combine men who hate each other only a shade less their enemy of the moment. French life does not divide; it splinters...

These divisions breed paralysis and paradox. The only way so many disparate people can live together at all is to grant to each other an almost total liberty and thus liberty is more complete, the air freer, the individual human more unfettered in thought and expression - even if more perplexed - in France than in anywhere else in the Atlantic Basin. This liberty has its counterface: a total social indifference to the hurts and aches of anyone outside one's own individual circle....

For anyone who wants to follow up, these snippets are from Chapter Five, "The Mystery of France."

In Fire in the Ashes, White looks at Europe overall, with emphasis on England, France and Germany. Mixed with history and overviews and analysis are chapters on specific men; notably there is a chapter on Pierre Bertaux, director of France's secret police and internal security forces. (I apologize for not knowing how to get this program to do the proper French letters on this, but in plain English letters he was "Directeur General, Surete Nationale.")

OpinionJournal - Taste : Please, Sir, I Want More

Tunku Varadarajan, editorial features editor of The Wall Street Journal, has been to one too many British-hosted event of a certain sort, and it seems to have pushed him off the edge a little:

Last week, at a cocktail party on British diplomatic premises somewhere in North America, a question reared itself in my head--oh, for the thousandth time since I began to be aware of it. After all these years of stoical endurance, I can see no reason not to go public in search of an answer: Why are the Brits--no, not you Philip, Daisy, Marcus and Matthew, dear friends all, and generous spirits--such appalling, skinflint hosts?
Midway down his lament, there is this book mention:

In an attractive little book called "The Duchess Who Wouldn't Sit Down: An Informal History of Hospitality," Jesse Browner discusses the paradox of hospitality--that "we are incomplete alone and compromised in company." Yet more than any other species, the Briton actually feels complete alone. In fact, so entrenched is his sense of private space--one's home as one's castle and all that--that mere admittance through the front door is seen as privilege enough. A friend recalls for me a time when he was invited to a Scottish castle. Upon arrival by overnight express from London, "said castle-residing hosts greeted us to announce that the whole group would go straight from the train to Fort William supermarket to jointly buy supplies for the weekend, including teabags."

The Duchess Who Wouldn't Sit Down: An Informal History of Hospitality
The Duchess Who Wouldn't Sit Down: An Informal History of Hospitality

Now, I suspect Mr. Varadarajan's problem is less with the British, per se, and more with the sorts of people with whom he socializes, but that's just a wild guess. And it's also something of a commonplace that people who inherit castles rarely inherit enough money to keep them up, isn't it? He has thrown the matter open to public comment, however, if you happen to know more about this than I do and care to contribute to the discussion. Use the title link to go to the article. A "Respond to this Article" option is at the bottom of the page.