Thursday, April 29, 2010

In the Long Run, Look Who's Not Dead

Click on the following link if you should be possessed of the false belief that economic theory can't be rip-roaringly funny.


I take it you stand corrected?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Reason the Second, Why Britain is Better than US

Our political leaders make every effort to appear as inoffensive as possible, in part due to the inordinate power of elderly voters. Their scandals, perhaps because of the wholesome front they put up, tend to be of the sexual variety. (And, of considerable sexual variety.)

Britain, on the other hand, can have politicians who are clearly unpleasant people. I present Prime Minister Gordon Brown: in addition to his reported violent tantrums and surly demeanor, he has a propensity to insult voters. (That particular voter describes herself as a "lifelong Labour voter" and had previously thought of Brown as "very nice"!)

I don't know about you, but the Tories are looking pret-ty good right now, not only compared to Labour, but especially compared with their insane Republican counterparts in this country.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Futility Closet"

Distraction, as everyone knows, is inimical to discipline. But I can't help sharing this "idler's miscellany of compendious amusements". It's a fascinating collection of anecdotes, paradoxes, riddles, oddities, and sundry miscellanea. I've spent several hours browsing it, and I've not yet covered one year's worth of its material (there are five).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Before Friendship

So, I had an idea for an essay on friendship—of mutual interest to Ross and I, I should think—but I could not for the life of me find a citation for a phrase that I thought would make a great title. Here's the phrase:
"By their friends shall ye know them"
Since I haven't been able to find a reliable origin in nearly ten minutes of Google searching, I leave it to you, dear reader, to help me out. Upon discovering no immediately obvious origin, I was inclined to believe that this phrase was just a modification of a phrase from Mark, "By their fruits shall ye know them," that has been handed down for some time. But perhaps you'll discover something different. In fact, I hope you will. After all, I'd hate to see a phrase so poignant as this relegated to what I should think is a large pile of mis-translated sentences that simply stuck around.

If you find any of those, I'd enjoy mention of them, as well.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tut Buße, das Himmelreich ist nahe herbeigekommen

It was a year ago—liturgically speaking, if not calendrically so—that I was in Vienna, attending the Maundy Thursday service at the Stephansdom. Cardinal Schönborn—who is reputed to be papabile—presided. Now the Roman Church in Austria is reeling from an abuse crisis, and only yesterday Schönborn presided at a "Day of Repentance" service in an attempt to acknowledge the Church's complicity in shielding abusers. This would be rather passé for us Americans, except that more allegation-makers (er, 'allegators'?) have stepped forward with details about a pedophile priest in the archdiocese of Milwaukee.

The thing everyone prefers to argue about, of course, is the root cause of this scandal. In more liberal quarters the tendency is to blame, besides an insular and hierarchical culture that encourages unswerving loyalty, the mandatory celibacy required for all (Western-rite) priests. More conservative commentators, such as the charming Bill Donohue, have put all the blame on homosexuals. (Did you catch the Catholic League's quarter-page advertisement on the editorial page of the NY Times this week?)

Of course, the best way to go about this scientifically would be to split Catholic priests into two groups, identical save for the fact that one group also has married priests, and the other group has no queers—not even, or rather, especially not, the closeted ones. Give both groups twenty years, and tally the number of abuse cases.

What would be the result? Well, I don't know. I'm resigned that there will always be pedophiles; even the most disgusting abuse of trust can be explained by the fact that people are sinners, all of them. But what gets my figurative goat is that the Church hierarchy, either by design or by neglect, failed to stop the bad priests. How, exactly, are Church leaders working to alter the system in which abuse could not only occur, but recur? If the Romans are to maintain any credibility as the visible Body of Christ on earth, they've got some reforms to enact.