A piece that I wrote for the Daily Signal today, on the 152nd anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

There are many reasons to praise President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, delivered 152 years ago today. Its eloquent expressions. Its healing tone. Its inspiring message.

As an editor, however, I must tip my hat to something else: its brevity. A presidential speech that’s only 272 words long brings new meaning to the word “concise.”

Indeed, Lincoln’s famed dedication to the Civil War dead was over so quickly that the photographer on hand was unable to get even one shot of him delivering it.

That’s all that was required, though, Lincolnand Lincoln knew it. This despite the fact that 19th century politicians were expected to pontificate at length. A 10-sentence speech would be surprising even today, in an age of tweets, sound bites and viral vines, but at the time it was practically unheard of.

Far more typical for that era was the speaker who preceded Lincoln to the podium that day. Edward Everett, widely considered one of the great orators of his day, spoke for two hours. Yet who can quote even one of his 13,607 words? Long before the phrase “always leave them wanting more” was coined, Lincoln understood the need to make his point and get out.

There’s no question that his two-minute speech is remembered primarily for the persuasive power of its finely tuned phrases and for how it clarified the stakes of the war. Lincoln’s writing prowess was beyond question. But for him to also know when to stop? That, for me, is perhaps the most underrated sign of his genius.

Hope you like that. If so, click here, please, and give it some traffic. Thanks!

Posted by: Paul | 05/15/2015

Why Latin?

A good, brief summation, even for those who already attend the Traditional Latin Mass.

Solutio Problematis Omnes (aka "The Catholic Linker")

Please watch the video put together by the Fraternal Society of St. Peter (FSSP) about the Traditional Latin Mass which takes us out of the confines of time itself.

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Posted by: Paul | 05/13/2015

A Prog-Rock “Journey”

I’ve spent part of today listening to prog-rock keyboardist Rick Wakeman. And it’s all Inge Lehmann’s fault.

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Who are those people? Glad you asked!

Lehmann, it turns out, is a Danish seismologist and geophysicist who discovered the Earth’s inner core. I know this because Wikipedia says she was “a Danish seismologist and geophysicist who discovered the Earth’s inner core,” and we all know Wikipedia is never wrong.

But why bring her up today? It’s her birthday. She was born on this day in 1888. I know because … Google paid tribute to her with one of its doodles today. (Wow, she lived to be 104.)

Reading about the Earth’s inner core made me think about Jules Verne’s novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” Which in turn made me think about the 1974 album of the same name by former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman.

Everything I know about the Earth’s inner core is right here. Enjoy!

 

Unless you are one of those people who think prog-rock is bloated and horrible, in which case I’m sticking my tongue out at you.

Posted by: Paul | 03/03/2015

A Falling “House of Cards”

There are many “House of Cards” fans out there. But are they, like me, a bit conflicted about who we’re supposed to root for? Last Friday, when Season 3 hit Netflix, I wrote about my misgivings in a short blog post for the Daily Signal called “What Our Cheering for Frank Underwood Says About Us.” If you’ve watched through the end of Season 2 (there are some spoilers), you may well enjoy it.

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I’m now four episodes into Season 3 (stop here if you’re trying to avoid still more spoilers), and I can tell you that it just became a lot easier to root against Frank.

I felt the shift as loyal Underwood staffer Doug Stamper — the closest thing to a good guy this series has, and yes, I realize what a relative statement that is — offered his services to Heather Dunbar. For the first time, I felt ready to get behind an attack on Frank.

But the next scene really cemented it. Frank talks to the priest who presided over a military funeral he attended, and almost seems to be searching in a spiritually genuine way. Then he asks for a few minutes to pray privately. He gets right up to the crucified image of our Lord, tells Him that if “love” is what He’s “selling,” then he (Frank) is not “buying.”

He then proceeds to spit in the statue’s face … and knock it down, where it shatters on the floor. When the clatter brings others, he pretends it was an accident. As he walks away, he crows (to us) that he’s got God’s ear … whereupon he holds up the broken ear from the statue.

Oh, He’s listening, Frank. Too bad you aren’t.

Posted by: Paul | 09/24/2010

JFK and Dallas

I toured the John F. Kennedy assassination site today.

It was remarkable to finally see it in person after years of reading about it. It’s a cliche, yes, but I was struck by how small the place seemed. Somehow, places of great historical significance always seem bigger in your mind; the Texas School Book Depository seems to be a skyscraper, and Dealey Plaza is bigger than a football stadium. Instead, it’s all very modest — a simple building, an unassuming city intersection. It’s amazingly ordinary.

And — another cliche — it honestly gave me the chills. No exaggeration. Indeed, viewing the photographs, watching the films, and listening to voices from that sad, shocking day brought me close to tears a couple of times.

Then again, I’m enough of a history buff that I walked around in 6th grade carrying my father’s paperback copy of the Warren Commission report. (Can’t say I read every word of it then, but a good chunk of it, yes.) I even got some of my classmates to help my stage a small class play about it. So my experience may not be typical, especially for someone who wasn’t even born when the assassination occurred.

I look forward to poring over my JFK books again — armed with the fresh perspective of someone who has stood only a few feet away from the “sniper’s nest.”

The website for the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is at http://www.jfk.org/.

Posted by: Paul | 09/17/2010

“A Humble Servant”

I came across a good quote from Pope Benedict XVI today:

“The pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not ‘manufactured’ by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding intergrity and identity.”

This isn’t a new quote. Indeed, it predates his papacy. (It’s from his book “The Spirit of the Liturgy,” to be specific.) But it’s a useful reminder that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not the “permanent workshop” stipulated by Fr. Joseph Gelineau and other liberals.

Posted by: Paul | 08/17/2010

Avoiding “Judicial Fiat”

On Aug. 4, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker threw out Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. But don’t drop those invitations in the mail just yet. A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has put that ruling on ice – at least until December, when the court will consider a request by Prop 8 proponents to dismiss Walker’s ruling.

The court would do well, in the meantime, to read an op-ed by Edwin Meese III in The Washington Post. The former U.S. attorney general explains why even those who support same-sex marriage should be profoundly troubled by the legal ramifications of what he calls Judge Walker’s “arbitrary and capricious” ruling:

By refusing to acknowledge binding Supreme Court precedent, substantial evidence produced at trial that was contrary to the holding and plain common sense, the ruling exhibits none of the requirements of a traditional decision.

Walker’s ruling, in Meese’s view, is simply “too extreme to stand.” He goes on:

[S]tructurally sound opinions always confront binding legal precedent. Walker’s is a clear exception because the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken on whether a state’s refusal to authorize same-sex marriage violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment. In 1972, Baker v. Nelson, a case over whether Minnesota violated the Constitution by issuing marriage licenses only to opposite-sex couples, was unanimously thrown out on the merits … The Supreme Court’s action establishes a binding precedent in favor of Proposition 8. But Judge Walker’s ruling doesn’t mention Baker, much less attempt to distinguish it or accept its findings.

As for the lopsidedness of Judge Walker’s ruling:

Walker’s opinion pretends that the voluminous evidence introduced on the side of Proposition 8 does not exist. It neither acknowledges nor attempts to distinguish the writings of renowned scholars presented at trial in support of Proposition 8, including that of anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, history professor Robina Quale and social scientist Kingsley Davis. It ignores the writings of legal giant William Blackstone and philosophers John Locke and Bertrand Russell. It even refused to address the fact that Congress, in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, defined marriage as the ‘legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.’

Meese concludes:

People can differ on whether, as a matter of policy, states should allow same-sex marriage. The robust debate on that topic should not be short-circuited by judicial fiat.

Posted by: Paul | 04/20/2010

Information Underload

Amid all the upsides to the Internet Age, I’ve noted a downside: the tendency to self-balkanize. All of us, whether liberal or conservative, naturally gravitate toward other like-minded individuals, and away from those we disagree with. 

New York Times columnist David Brooks today highlights a new study that suggests matters may not be quite so simple. Yes, we prefer to stick with the tried and true, but we wander around a bit more than previously thought.

What we do with the information — if we’re truly trying to challenge our worldview, or just looking for something to fight and/or lampoon — is another matter. As Brooks concludes, “If this study is correct, the Internet will not produce a cocooned public square, but a free-wheeling multilayered Mad Max public square.”

Either way, it’s best to break out of those cocoons. Exposure to views we don’t share is healthy.

Posted by: Paul | 04/13/2010

Debate With a Liberal

ON THE IRAQ WAR:

Liberal: “Bush deliberately derailed the nation from pursuing the people who attacked us and lied our nation into a war that has costs thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, all while making the U.S. a much greater target for domestic terrorism than we were before.”

Me: Anyone who thinks we’re at war with radical Islamists because of Bush is deluded. The fact is, the war had been underway for years before he was even elected. The Khobar Towers bombing, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, the first attack on the World Trade Center in ’93– the very enemy that attacked on 9/11 had been striking for a long time. Indeed, it was the ineffective response of the U.S. while Clinton was in office that emboldened the terrorists enough to launch 9/11.

It’s now been almost nine years since that deadly day – and not one additional attack on the homeland has occurred. That’s astonishing. It shows us that the war you denounce has been working quite well to keep us safe. Thank God we have brave soldiers willing to put their lives on the line. They know the risks (even in an age where the casualty rate is smaller than it was years ago), yet they aren’t deterred. And you and I sleep safely at night because of them.

ON FINANCIAL REGULATION:

Liberal: “Bush supported the deregulation of the financial industry, which directly led to the near collapse of our nation’s economy, destroying the financial lives of millions and millions of Americans who lost their jobs, their homes and their savings.”

Me: Yes, Bush deserves some blame. He encouraged the manic “home ownership for everybody, no matter how insolvent” policies of his predecessors, which include Democrats. The only way to expand such ownership was to get the financial industry to lend to people with much shakier credit. Thus, we got no-doc loans and other “creative” solutions. Then the same politicians turn around and blame “greedy” Wall Street. There’s plenty of greed there, all right – financiers can and should say no – but there’s plenty more back in Washington.

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Posted by: Paul | 04/11/2010

Dissent: A Double Standard

A family member recently asked me if I’d seen Theda Skocpol’s contribution to a debate round-up on the New York Times’ Web site titled “Stupak’s Abortion Deal and His Exit.” Nope. Despite hitting the Times’ site on a daily basis, I had missed it. Turns out Skocpol, a Harvard University professor, was claiming that the Tea Party movement is made up of a bunch of yahoos who want only “to destroy the law and the Obama presidency.”

Many others on the Left take this the argument and spice it up with charges of racism. In short, the New Official Line from the Left. (Which, history shows, is really just the Old Official Line.)

Funny. I seem to recall a lot of folks on the Left who didn’t like hearing their patriotism questioned when they protested the policies of the Bush administration. At that time, dissent was courageous and high-minded. Now, however, to dissent when President Obama and a Democratic Congress are in power means that one is either stupid or evil. Take your pick. (Sorry, no “third way” here. We left the DLC back in the ’90s with President Clinton.)

The arguments of those who dare to, yes “question authority” aren’t answered with civility. The people who express them are called names, in a craven attempt to silence them. They are smeared with the charges of racism. Once again, the thermonuclear charge is trotted out. And why not? It usually works like a charm.

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