February 20, 2017

George Washington, "First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen"

Biographer Ron Chernow wrote Alexander Hamilton which inspired the current smash Broadway musical, but he is most celebrated and rightly so for his gripping portrait of our first president in Washington: A Life which won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

 Washington Houdon
From the sculpture by Jean-Antoine Houdon

Publishers Weekly noted Chernow's goals: Using the recent "explosion of research," he wants to render George Washington "real" and "credible," to replace "frosty respect" with "visceral appreciation."  And that he did.  Hendrik Hertzberg reviewed the book in The New Yorker, calling it,  “A truly gripping biography of George Washington... I can’t recommend it highly enough—as history, as epic, and, not least, as entertainment. It’s as luxuriantly pleasurable as one of those great big sprawling, sweeping Victorian novels.”

I can attest to that as I am in the middle of listening to this amazing biography.  So far I've learned: (cribbed text from Amazon)

-Washington was the only major founder who lacked a college education. John Adams went to Harvard, James Madison to Princeton, and Alexander Hamilton to Columbia, making Washington self-conscious about what he called his “defective education.”

--Washington never had wooden teeth. He wore dentures that were made of either walrus or elephant ivory and were fitted with real human teeth. Over time, as the ivory got cracked and stained, it resembled the grain of wood. Washington may have purchased some of his teeth from his own slaves.

--Washington had a strangely cool and distant relationship with his mother. During the Revolutionary War and her son’s presidency, she never uttered a word of praise about him and she may even have been a Tory. No evidence exists that she ever visited George and Martha Washington at Mount Vernon. Late in the Revolutionary War, Mary Washington petitioned the Virginia legislature for financial relief, pleading poverty—and, by implication, neglect by her son. Washington, who had been extremely generous to his mother, was justly indignant.

--Even as a young man, Washington seemed to possess a magical immunity to bullets. In one early encounter in the French and Indian War, he absorbed four bullets in his coat and hat and had two horses shot from under him yet emerged unscathed. This led one Indian chief to predict that some higher power was guiding him to great events in the future.

--By age 30 Washington had survived smallpox, malaria, dysentery, and other diseases. Although he came from a family of short-lived men, he had an iron constitution and weathered many illnesses that would have killed a less robust man. He lived to the age of 67.

--While the Washingtons were childless—it has always been thought that George Washington was sterile—they presided over a household teeming with children. Martha had two children from her previous marriage and she and George later brought up two grandchildren as well, not to mention countless nieces and nephews.

--That Washington was childless proved a great boon to his career. Because he had no heirs, Americans didn’t worry that he might be tempted to establish a hereditary monarchy. And many religious Americans believed that God had deliberately deprived Washington of children so that he might serve as Father of His Country.
--Though he tried hard to be fair and took excellent medical care of his slaves, Washington could be a severe master. His diaries reveal that during one of the worst cold snaps on record in Virginia—when Washington himself found it too cold to ride outside—he had his field slaves out draining swamps and performing other arduous tasks.

--For all her anxiety about being constantly in a battle zone, Martha Washington spent a full half of the Revolutionary War with her husband—a major act of courage that has largely gone unnoticed.

--Washington was obsessed with his personal appearance, which extended to his personal guard during the war. Despite wartime austerity and a constant shortage of soldiers, he demanded that all members of his personal guard be between 5'8" and 5'10"; a year later, he narrowed the range to 5'9" to 5'10."

--While Washington lost more battles than he won, he still ranks as a great general. His greatness lay less in his battlefield brilliance—he committed some major strategic blunders—than in his ability to hold his ragged army intact for more than eight years, keeping the flame of revolution alive.

--Washington ran his own spy network during the war and was often the only one privy to the full scope of secret operations against the British. He anticipated many techniques of modern espionage, including the use of misinformation and double agents.

--Washington tended his place in history with extreme care. Even amid wartime stringency, he got Congress to appropriate special funds for a full-time team of secretaries who spent two years copying his wartime papers into beautiful ledgers.

--For thirty years, Washington maintained an extraordinary relationship with his slave and personal manservant William Lee, who accompanied him throughout the Revolutionary War and later worked in the presidential mansion. Lee was freed upon Washington’s death and given a special lifetime annuity.

--The battle of Yorktown proved the climactic battle of the revolution and the capstone of Washington’s military career, but he initially opposed this Franco-American operation against the British—a fact he later found hard to admit.

--Self-conscious about his dental problems, Washington maintained an air of extreme secrecy when corresponding with his dentist and never used such incriminating words as ‘teeth’ or ‘dentures.’ By the time he became president, Washington had only a single tooth left—a lonely lower left bicuspid that held his dentures in place.

--Washington always displayed extremely ambivalence about his fame. Very often, when he was traveling, he would rise early to sneak out of a town or enter it before he could be escorted by local dignitaries. He felt beleaguered by the social demands of his own renown.

--At Mount Vernon, Washington functioned as his own architect—and an extremely original one at that. All of the major features that we associate with the house—the wide piazza and colonnade overlooking the Potomac, the steeple and the weathervane with the dove of peace—were personally designed by Washington himself.

--A master showman with a brilliant sense of political stagecraft, Washington would disembark from his coach when he was about to enter a town then mount a white parade horse for maximum effect. It is not coincidental that there are so many fine equestrian statues of him.

If you don't have time for this 928 page biography, do make a visit to MountVernon.org to learn more about this remarkable man, the father of our country, which I note has never accepted government funds, but is entirely run on private support.

"First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen"

 Washington- Cap Make America

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:17 PM | Permalink

January 19, 2016

Counting our blessings

Sometimes you just have to count your blessings.  And a good way to start is this reddit thread on [Serious] Immigrants to America: What was the most pleasant surprise? A few examples

Abundance of  food

The seemingly endless rows of food in the grocery stores. And all the apples
Thinking back to when I came with my family from the USSR:
Grocery stores  Seriously. Where we came from, shelves were bare or at best stocked with drab, low-quality food. When I was a little kid, I loved going to the store just to see all the different crazy things they had that would never be available in the old country -- produce, cereals, candy, you name it.
I was born in Ethiopia which is a small east African country that is extremely poor and moved to California when I was 12. The first time I went to Costco would have to be a crazy experience there was so much food and stuff in one place I felt like i was in the matrix.

Hot water and showers

Hot water doesn't go out for a few weeks in the summer. In fact, there's as much hot water as I want!
Showers and running hot water. I was born in the Philippines. Showers and hot water aren't really common in older homes over there. Not having to fill buckets with water and boiling some over a stove top was such a big surprise for me. Experiencing that as a twelve year old was an unforgettable experience. Yet, most people who live here (me included) take it for granted sometimes.
I grew up in a rural area of a war-ravaged country. When I moved to the US as a child, I remember being blown away by the hot water that came out of the faucet. I even wrote a letter to my relatives back home about this amazing thing.
That the water that comes out of the tap is perfectly drinkable; a simple thing that's easy to take for granted, but it's amazing to me.

Friendly and polite people

I was very young when we moved here, but the one thing my parents always mentioned was that whenever we needed help, whether it was navigating the interstate or where to shop, people would go out of their way to help us find what we needed or show us how to do things.
-Everyone is so polite and good manners are everywhere, any religion or race you are everyone seems to say thank you and your welcome, or ask me how i am or how is my day!
People seem very courteous and open/friendly compared to northern Europe. I've grown to like strangers smiling at me for no reason or complimenting my outfit, my hair or my son or whatever it happens to be. It's sweet and it brightens my day very often. And it's contagious! Now I do it to others. And when I go home, people there seem needlessly serious, closed up, rigid and often rude. My friends and family pretty much think that I am the happiest I have ever been, because according to them I smile a lot more and generally look more cheerful.
Small talks. I really didn't expect people to just strike up a conversation with someone they've never met before. I've heard some interesting experiences from strangers while waiting at airport
How welcoming everyone was. Strangers would strike up conversations in lines. In my first year I was invited to peoples homes for the holidays.
Most people pick up after their dog's feces. It's amazing to me not having to constantly scan the ground for dog poop.

Hard workers too

I'm the son of Korean immigrants. My dad said that Americans are probably the hardest workers in the world. This goes against the stereotype that Americans are all fat and lazy. He's worked in various international companies, and he admits that Americans are the easiest to get along with because of their versatility and open-mindedness. He flat out said he prefers Americans leading projects over anyone else.

Ease in getting things done

Not having to haggle prices when buying things, not having to know who to talk to (or bribe) to get any little bit of paperwork filed in a reasonable amount of time, not having to worry about being cheated on every little transaction you have. Just having standard reliable procedures for daily tasks was wonderful. You guys might hate going to the DMV, but let me tell you, it could be much worse.
ATMs where you can deposit cash. Mind was blown.
Because the machine doesn't just take your money and shrug and say "What cash? I didn't see any cash," or because the technology seemed fancy?
Turning right on red
Lack of pointless bureaucracy and lack of corruption (At least at the lower levels)- If you guys think that having to wait at the DMV is the worst thing ever, you should try having to fill out a form at a government office in India - It's impossible to do so in many places without having to pay a bribe


I would say the most important pleasant thing was wheelchair access everywhere as well as special needs provided to people with learning disabilities in schools. I don't fall into any category, but it's really nice to see disabled signs everywhere.
Ramps. Growing up in a wheelchair in a small town in Colombia was difficult as fuck.
I'm really proud of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It's seriously one of the best countries in the world to be disabled in. It's so inclusive of the mind boggling diversity of challenges different people have and covers so many bases. It's not perfect but man it's great. I also think Americans don't have the weird shame factor for intellectual disabilities some other countries do where they shut people inside for their whole lives because they don't want to be seen as associated with that kind of person.

Retail stores

Free public restrooms and how every establishment has air conditioning.
Very seriously, free refills.
Another pleasant surprise was Best Buy. The technology in that place was out of this world and they even had sofas for people to hang out and play video games for free! Americans were such good people in general, they were so curious to know where my accent was from, and they were extremely patient when I tried speaking english with them even though it took a long time to formulate a sentence.
Everything was so much cheaper than in England. I almost bought a car because it had a full 20-gallon tank of gas. All cars on the lot did. America! Nearly forty years later, I still wake up saying dayyum, I live here.

Highways and infrastructure

The Freeways - It still marvels me how extensive and complete the road system is. I cannot begin to fathom the engineering efforts that would have gone into it.
-buildings and bridges are so...amazing, like the infrastructure is good, it makes you thing "wow, mankind DID THIS"
The road directions to go from a city to another 2000 miles away is extremely simple. E.g.get on i80 exit to i90 then exit 40.
There was an indescribable, special feeling when I would use I90 for a short trip out of Seattle in my day-to-day life and look down the road ahead and envision the 3000 miles over mountains, plains and cities. It was nice to have the daily reminder that it was there and all I had to do was start driving -- the opposite of feeling trapped.
How clean and nice everything looked. I moved to the USA when I was 8 from Mexico. My old school had no AC, heater, cafeteria and everything was open air when you got out your classroom(it was U shaped.) It was also old as fuck as my grandparents went to it. When I went to school in the US I was blown away how clean and nice their schools were, cafeterias and school lunches were foreign to me but super cool when i first experienced them as little kid.


Cops are friendly, for the most part, and you don't get into situations where you have to carefully check if they're expecting to be bribed.
You don't have to bribe the cops.
OMG! The cops thing! It was smart to have a healthy, yet irrational fear of police where I grew up. You had no idea what you were in for when you were stopped (especially if you were well off/in a relatively nice car).

I remember that when I was getting my driver’s license in Trinidad, everyone (friends my age and adults alike) told me to go with a few hundred dollars in my pocket, at the ready. They said that it’s very common that even if you pass the driving test, you’ll be asked to pay a bribe in order for them to sign off on it. I didn’t need to pay, but I had several people in my life who admitted to paying when they were asked.

Public libraries

Honestly? Public libraries. I had no idea such things existed until the public librarian in my neighborhood went to our school and invited us to get a library card. It literally changed my life.
Your libraries. holy shit you have amazing libraries. you don't have to travel to a huge city to find what you're looking for (most of the time). with that much wealth of knowledge at your disposal your potential is virtually limitless.
The Public Library System - I never knew such a thing existed! I'm surprised why so few Americans actually make use of it!

State and National Parks

How National and State Parks are even more beautiful than I imagined.
The National Parks - I have amazing respect to the people of America for making the National Parks system possible. America in my mind was made up of cities and skyscrapers. I never knew this country was so beautiful!
"What could be more democratic than owning together the most magnificent places on your continent? Think about Europe. In Europe, the most magnificent places; the palaces, the parks, are owned by aristocrats, by monarchs, by the wealthy. In America, magnificence is a common treasure. That's the essence of our democracy." - Carl Pope of the Sierra Club

Postal service

Ex African here. I'm pleasantly surprised by The U.S. Postal Service. You can stick a cheap stamp on a letter, throw it in a blue mailbox in NY and it will get to LA 99% of the time. It doesn't get "lost" or stolen, it just gets there. And every day a nice person in light blue overalls driving a weird little blue and white truck pulls up and fills MY mailbox (at home) with junk deals from the local market and even my paycheck sometimes. HOORAY! And don't even get me started on trash collection!!

Space and individual houses

I remember how the doors opened on their own when we walked out of the airport....; I was also amazed by individual houses, all I had ever known up to that time were large apartment blocks.
I am a Dutch guy who moved to the US 3 years ago.  Pleasant surprise was space. You don't understand unless you've lived your entire life in a crowded country. It has space, but here in the US there is space. Everything feels wider, bigger, room to stretch and breathe. Having separate houses with a huge backyard is a luxury that's only for the rich in the Netherlands. We got flats and nice houses, but they are always attached to other houses in some way.

Open discussion

One other thing I was pleasantly surprised about was how openly Americans discuss everything. Growing up, I was taught the Vietnamese version of the Vietnam War in school. In my mind, I thought in America people would not talk about it since it's a shameful thing and the government would suppress all discussions of it like in Vietnam. When I came here, I saw that people can openly speak about these things even when there are many disagreements.
Nothing feels like a fight for survival! Here, the opposing political part doesn't want to kill you, the opposing race doesn't want to slaughter you and the opposing religion doesn't want to sacrifice you.
That, and public schooling is free.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

August 14, 2015

Watermelon molasses

Can we restore the world’s culinary masterpieces by rescuing the lost ingredients and flavors that inspired them? by Jill Neimark

"Tasting an heirloom cultivar prepared in the classic way is like discovering a lost masterwork,’ says Shields, a professor of literature at the University of South Carolina. ‘It’s like listening to Thomas Tallis’s Spem in Alium, a Renaissance choral masterpiece for eight five-part choirs. When you hear it, you sense what heaven must have sounded like then. It’s the same when you taste restored cultivars prepared using recipes of an earlier time.’
Shields puts it this way: ‘There is a group of us who want to know the deep flavours of what has endured longest. Those ingredients that mattered for so long that they became “the taste” of the time, the points of reference against which all innovations were measured. For me, those ingredients constitute the canon, and the dishes of the time frame them.’

Neimark describes how a pure flavor like Watermelon molasses was recreated and tasted.

 Watermelon MolassesWatermelon molasses  had not been made since the  Civil War.

Shields recalls the taste as a revelation on the tongue. ‘It had a base note of sugary molasses and a middle range of this deep watermelony thing and a sort of honeysuckle top note. And I thought to myself, of all the lost melons of yesteryear, this is the one I wished would return. And it has. It’s the taste of the past but it’s also the taste of the future.’
From there, on 19 April 2015, a popular antebellum cocktail was reborn: Brandy Smash, a mixture of Bradford watermelon molasses and watermelon brandy, syrup, water over crushed ice and an orange garnish. …[that] tasted like ‘pure summer in a glass’.

How a farmer, a professor and a chief collaborated on the Rebirth of the Bradford Watermelon

Armed with an amazing story, an insatiable desire to farm, and the heritage seeds of quite possibly the best watermelon ever created, I did what came naturally.  I planted the biggest field of Bradford watermelons our family had ever grown…a half acre.  It may not sound like much, but it was quite risky when the last of the seed of Bradford watermelon on the planet could be contained in a couple of mason jars! 
I arrived in Charleston on a Friday morning with my big white truck and a gooseneck trailer loaded with 45 seedmelons carefully placed in bed of hay one layer deep.  Thomas stopped traffic while I squeezed my way into several parking spaces on Bay Street.  Needless to say we drew the attention of a small crowd of onlookers as a procession of white-suited chefs carried these 40 pound melons single file across the street and into the kitchen. With a little luck, by the end of the day we would have the first batch of Bradford watermelon molasses in 125 years and the first batch of rind pickle since my Grandmother passed away in 2006.
From those 45 melons we extracted almost 80 gallons of beautiful red juice, eventually reduced down to about 8 gallons of molasses through the simple yet extremely time consuming task of slowly simmering and stirring.  …..All of the batches were exceptional and not anything like molasses that folks are familiar with!  The color is phenomenal.  The fragrance is the essence of watermelon infused with caramel!  The taste is otherworldly. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:51 AM | Permalink

October 3, 2012

UN Head: Free Speech a 'Gift'

Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Jan Eliasson said yesterday in a press conference, Free Speech a 'Gift'

Free speech is a “gift given to us by the [Universal] Declaration of Human Rights,”  It is “a privilege,” Eliasson said, “that we have, which in my view involves also the need for respect, the need to avoid provocations.”
Eliasson’s boss Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said last month that using “freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs” was not worthy of protection. Rather, Ban Ki-moon indicated that such freedom only deserved protection when “used for common justice, common purpose.”

I agree completely with Mark Steyn, Behead All Those Who Insult Free Speech

Free speech is a gift given to us in 1948 by U.N. officials? Who knew?

The only appropriate response of free-born peoples to such a statement is: **** off, ******. Free speech is not in the gift of minor Swedish timeserving hack bureaucrats, either to grant or withdraw…… In the end, the one-way multiculturalism of craven squishes like Eliasson will destroy our world. Nuts to him and to the U.N.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:49 PM | Permalink

July 4, 2012

Thoughts on the 4th of July

Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Henry Lee in 1825, shortly before his death. 

This was the object of the Declaration of Independence,  Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take.  Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.  All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc.”

If we forget our basic ideals or shrug them off, we no longer deserve to be great says David Gelernter in What is the American Creed?

Without our history and culture, we have no identity.

Almost no one believes that our public schools are doing a passable job of teaching American and Western civilization. Modern humanities education starts from the bizarre premise that students must be cured of the Europe-centered, misogynist, bigoted ideas of the past. Many American children have never heard a good word for the United States, the West, Judaism or Christianity their whole lives….

We have failed a whole generation of children.
America's creed is blessedly simple. Freedom, equality, democracy and America as the promised land, the new Jerusalem. What Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he invoked "the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life."

Spengler says our National Anthem that Begins and Ends with a Question

There is something inherently fragile about the United States of America. France will be France and Slovakia will be Slovakia so long as French and Slovak are spoken, irrespective of their mode of government. But if Americans cease to govern themselves in a way that no people ever governed itself before, America will not be America. We are the only nation founded on an idea, rather than on blood, territory or culture. We look back at our founders with reverence. Each day we should ask ourselves whether we are good enough to keep the republic which they bequeathed us. We came close to losing it more than once. If we continue to drift into dependency, we might lose it now.
The second question refers not only to the battle at hand, but to the destiny of the country. The question is not only whether the flag of freedom still flies over America but also whether America itself is still brave and free.

The fearful vigil through the nocturnal bombardment, the fleeting glimpse of the national colors, the moment of truth in the gathering light of dawn — these are a metaphor for the national condition. The flag enduring the enemy bombardment is only a symbol for the true subject of the poem, namely the reaction of the hearer himself. The opening “Say!” placed us at the poet’s side at dawn; the second “Say!” makes this a metaphor for the national condition. Key addresses the second “Say!” to all generations of Americans: Are you still brave enough to be free? Your national existence, implies the poet, will be a long vigil, in which America’s true character will be glimpsed sporadically in the reflection of enemy attacks.

Indeed we are at that point whether the right to religious freedom will be upheld or or a pale and wan interpretation, 'freedom of worship' will be substituted in its place.

There is no question that that liberty has been eroded.  Msgr Charles Pope in Why we need to boldly fight for religious freedom writes

the language that the First Amendment “recognizes” our freedom to freely exercise our religion. For the State does not grant us this right, God does. It is among those rights the Declaration of Independence so nobly calls “unalienable” rights and says are endowed by our Creator.  Hence, in no way can our right to religious freedom be abridged simply because a president, a congress or a director of a government agency says so. They did not give us this liberty and they cannot take it away. We will not and cannot cede to man, what God has given.

And mind you, the HHS mandate is only the latest and boldest move of what has been a steady stream of threats eroding our religious liberty. These issues affect not only Catholics, but people of many religious backgrounds. However, the Catholic Church is particularly targeted and threatened because we have stood so vocally and firmly in opposition to many aspects of the cultural revolution in America such as Abortion, Embryonic Stem Cell research, euthanasia, the increasing “genocide” against the disabled via selective abortion and pernicious prenatal screening, the Gay rights agenda, Gay “marriage,” and so forth.

[T]he erosion of religious liberty is happening simply due to the repeated quality of the multiple and hostile legal maneuvers. The Church and other religious entities may win an individual battle in one case, only to have to face multiple appeals and similar battles in other jurisdictions.  ……He lays out some recent examples
  1. In 2009 the Baltimore City Council passed a bill regulating the speech of pro-life pregnancy centers
  2. 600 Catholic hospitals are finding themselves under increased scrutiny since they provide care in accordance with Catholic religious beliefs.
  3. The District of Columbia Government informed Catholic Charities that it would no longer be an eligible foster care and adoption partner.
  4. Last November the same thing happened in Illinois.
  5. There has also been a growing trend of government intrusion into the institutional and administrative life of the Church.
  6. Christians cannot speak publicly of their values?
  7. Grants denied on Religious Grounds

July 4th marks the End of the Fortnight for Freedom proclaimed by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops.   

The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.  Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput's  homily at the mass closing the Fortnight is worth reading in its entirety to understand why the Catholics Bishops are very serious in their opposition to the HHS mandate

Paul Claudel, the French poet and diplomat of the last century, once described the Christian as “a man who knows what he is doing and where he is going in a world [that] no longer [knows] the difference between good and evil, yes and no.  He is like a god standing out in a crowd of invalids . . . He alone has liberty in a world of slaves.”

Like most of the great writers of his time, Claudel was a mix of gold and clay, flaws and genius. He had a deep and brilliant Catholic faith, and when he wrote that a man “who no longer believes in God, no longer believes in anything,” he was simply reporting what he saw all around him. He spoke from a lifetime that witnessed two world wars and the rise of atheist ideologies that murdered tens of millions of innocent people using the vocabulary of science. He knew exactly where forgetting God can lead.

We Americans live in a different country, on a different continent, in a different century. And yet, in speaking of liberty, Claudel leads us to the reason we come together in worship this afternoon.

Archbishop Chaput's Five Points on Religious Freedom

1. First, religious freedom is a cornerstone of the American experience.
2. Freedom of religion is more than freedom of worship.
3. Threats against religious freedom in our country are not imaginary. They’re happening right now. They’re immediate, serious, and real.
4. Unless we work hard to keep our religious liberty, we’ll lose it.
5. Politics and the courts are important. But our religious freedom ultimately depends on the vividness of our own Christian faith–in other words, how deeply we believe it, and how honestly we live it.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:07 PM | Permalink

April 12, 2012

Leftists hate history; students suffer

According to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, 80% of seniors from fifty-five of the country’s most prestigious colleges and universities (including Berkeley and UCLA) received a D or F when asked basic questions about American history like identifying the Gettysburg Address or recognizing fundamental constitutional principles.

This is shocking. 

Richard Kirk on Ethics has more on how Leftists Corrupt Academia and the UC System.

A lengthy document submitted last week by the California Association of Scholars (CAS) to the California Board of Regents offers compelling evidence that these incoming freshmen will be paying more money for a lower quality education that’s heavily corrupted by leftist activism.
The CAS report views the politicization of higher education as a major factor that’s fostered this state of affairs. After all, instructors besotted with ideology focus on indoctrination—not on dispensing a balanced portrait of complex issues and developing a student’s ability to critically evaluate competing perspectives.

In the words of the CAS study: “political activists tend to have a very different attitude to alternatives to their own convictions.” In their view competing beliefs “do not deserve sympathetic consideration, for they are at best wrong, at worst evil.”

What's most shocking is not the students' abysmal ignorance of American history. but the moral failure of the universities who have been given a great trust to pass on the legacy won for us by our ancestors.

Leftists hate history.  Anthony Esolen explains why in Progressive Inhumanity, Part Three: Hatred of the Past

I have long thought that the term "progressive" was a dodge, because no one could tell me exactly where we were supposed to be headed and why.

The progressive clamors for change with no goal in sight; change for change's  sake.

If we ask, "Change, for what?" we make the mistake of believing that our opponents retain a strong notion of human nature and of the moral laws that work towards its fulfillment. They do not. They therefore advocate change for its own sake; change, with perhaps an implicit trust that the change will eventually work towards some greater good, as if directed by social evolution, without their being able to specify exactly what that good would be.
To greet change for change's sake is, then, less to unite one's heart to the homeland ahead (since there is no homeland ahead), but to divorce one's heart from the homeland behind. It is to uproot man from that soil wherein he grows in time but towards eternity.
Am I being unfair to the progressive? The essential attitude of the progressive towards the past is that of contempt and hostility. What do we see in the past? A crime list of vices and stupidities.  It isn't just that we dwell upon the failings of our forebears and neglect to see their virtues. Very often we place upon our forebears the worst imaginable construction, or ascribe to them vices they did not possess and crimes they did not commit…The hostility is applied also to stupendous human works.
But what is left of a truly human life? The commitment to change is like a ride on a roller-coaster, with one important reservation. We can enjoy a roller-coaster ride because we know that it will soon end, and we can put our feet back on the trusty solid ground. Imagine, though, a roller-coaster ride that does not end. Imagine a ride that has all the inconveniences of a bad journey — frenetic pace, confusion, dislocation, loss — and none of the consolations: no end of the journey, nothing but death, which is not now like arriving at a destination, but is instead like being at last tossed out of the car.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:44 PM | Permalink

March 16, 2012

"Strongly unified and intensely focused"

U.S. Bishops are strongly unified and intensely focused in its opposition to the various threats to religious freedom.

This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church’s hand and with the Church’s funds. This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This is not about the Bishops’ somehow “banning contraception,” when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops’ Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.
Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry. HHS thus creates and enforces a new distinction—alien both to our Catholic tradition and to federal law—between our houses of worship and our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need, of any faith community or none.

A mandate to act against our teachings. The exemption is not merely a government foray into internal Church governance, where government has no legal competence or authority—disturbing though that may be. This error in theory has grave consequences in principle and practice. Those deemed by HHS not to be “religious employers” will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world. For decades, the Bishops have led the fight against such government incursions on conscience, particularly in the area of health care. Far from making us waver in this longstanding commitment, the unprecedented magnitude of this latest threat has only strengthened our resolve to maintain that consistent view.
A violation of personal civil rights. The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values. They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing “services” contrary to those values—whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves—without even the semblance of an exemption.

George Weigel writes in No Compromise

There will be no compromise here, for there can be no compromise of first principles. Those who understand that will gather their energies and continue to defend both Catholic and American tradition.

Would Obama's Mandate Fly With the Founding Fathers?

The young American republic was largely born from a Protestant dissenting tradition. The freedom to worship freely was a deep root of the colonial experience; as scholars like Barry Alan Shain and Donald Lutz have shown, colonial America was made up of countless small congregations wanting to live as their beliefs guided them.

Thomas Jefferson :  “That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

James Madison: ‘The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right....It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 AM | Permalink

October 8, 2010

"Inhuman Humanism"

Christians cannot ignore the crisis of faith that has come to society, or simply trust that the patrimony of the values transmitted in the course of past centuries can continue inspiring and shaping the future of the human family. The idea of living "as if God didn't exist" has shown itself to be deadly: The world needs, rather, to live "as if God existed," even if it does not have the strength to believe; otherwise it will only produce an "inhuman humanism."

Pope Benedict XVI in his address at the close of the Vatican Congress on the Catholic Press via Whispers in the Loggia, "The Masterful Way of Truth."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:43 PM | Permalink

September 25, 2010

The Other Hitchens

The Hitchens brothers, Christopher and Peter, were both atheists, one came to robust faith, one didn't. 

Father Robert Barron, the best Catholic evangelist around and the one most likely to cross over into general public awareness and slip into the shoes of Fulton J. Sheen, will begin a nationally televised program October 3 from Chicago, "Word on Fire with Father Barron"

The mission of his  media ministry Word on Fire is to educate and engage the culture.  That he does with YouTube videos discussing current events or articles of faith or reviewing films  which is where I first encountered him.  Here is his penetrating analysis on the current film starring Julia Roberts,  Eat, Pray, Love.

But I want to show you is his video on Peter Hitchens and his new book, The Rage Against God, because it touches on one of my greatest concerns, the slow collapse of our common inheritance, Western civilization with its ideas of the inviolability of the freedom of the individual, through indifference, even hostility, to the foundation that made it possible. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 AM | Permalink

September 4, 2010

Restoring the culture we once took for granted

It's been a week since the "Restoring Honor" in Washington and these are the two most telling pieces of the mountains that have been written. 

Mollie Hemingway in Ricochet on Taking out the trash

I have attended dozens of rallies and marches -- anti-war, pro-life, pro-choice, anti-circumcision, you name it.

And I saw something so shocking yesterday, that I had to stop and take a picture.

Molly's Picture

As my husband and two children and I were headed back on our long walk home, we saw women tying extra garbage bags onto trash receptacles. I noticed that they had already hit the other trash cans on our way out. And other folks were collecting extra trash into other bags. It was already surprising how little trash there was in the general area. Normally a crowd that size can have quite a bit of trash. But what type of American thinks to bring extra trash bags to help keep refuse from being spread out and about? I know many in the media are trying to sell the idea that the Americans who attended this rally are dangers to society, but that simple trash vignette speaks volumes, doesn't it?

The second is by Timothy Dalrymple, Have We Squandered Our Cultural Inheritance?

Whatever else Beck has right or wrong -- and I confess I have never watched or listened to him much -- it seems to me that he is correctly interpreting the present moment. Which is no small matter.
What does he get? Beck gets that there is a deeply and urgently felt conviction emerging organically across a broad swath of the American populace that the spectacular economic and political collapses of recent years were made possible -- even inevitable -- by a much longer Great Moral Decline.
This is not an exclusively religious concern. Even secular scholars have long recognized that America's Judeo-Christian heritage supplied a set of ideals and principles -- such as the Protestant work-ethic and strong commitments to honesty, integrity, and compassion -- that encouraged and reinforced the habits and qualities that tend to help democracies and free markets flourish.
Not at all. The sociological concept of a "cultural inheritance" is helpful here. A cultural inheritance is a set of values and beliefs, habits and practices handed down through generations within a single culture. Cultural inheritance partly explains, for instance, why a high percentage of Asian-American children, who inherit from their culture strong emphases on and helpful habits in education, diligence, and financial responsibility, perform well academically and build strong professional and financial foundations. Likewise, for centuries the vast majority of children born in America inherited a culture permeated with Christian stories, wisdom, and values.
The deep concern across the United States appears to be that we have squandered our cultural inheritance. We have exchanged the extraordinary treasury of Judeo-Christian stories, values, and wisdom that sustained us for generations in favor of the cheap culture of corruption, indolence, and dissolution that has swiftly bankrupted our economy and our government.

We see this in The Generation That Can't Move On Up

The grim employment picture is familiar, but what's less widely known is that they are losing not only jobs but also their connections to basic social institutions such as marriage and religion. They're becoming socially disengaged, floating away from the college-educated middle class.

To see this illustrated, look at the photos at Then and Now, Part Two.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink

August 18, 2010

Take Me to Your Museum

I never thought about this before, but it makes sense.

If Aliens Exist, They Will Probably Love Bach

Art may attract aliens more than academics because any extraterrestrial civilization that we are able to get in touch with is likely to be much older than us and more technically advanced, researchers said here at the SETIcon conference on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
Humans would probably have little to teach them about science and mathematics that they don't already know, the theory suggests. However, our art and music is singularly human, and could likely be fascinating to an alien species.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:29 PM | Permalink

July 5, 2010

"In a sense I'm a born killer"

For 20 years, neuroscientist James Fallon (no relation) studied the brains of psychopaths to understand the biological basis for behavior, then a chance remark by his mother  - "there were some cuckoos" among his father's relatives - convinced him to investigate.

What he found rocked his world.  There seven alleged murderers, including Lizzie Borden, in his family tree.  Then he looked at the PET brain scans he convinced 10 close relatives to undergo for another project and found nothing amiss, except for his own.  He had the PET scan of a psychopath.  Alone among his family, he discovered he also had the "warrior gene" - the MAO-A gene that regulates serontin.

"You see that? I'm 100 percent. I have the pattern, the risky pattern," he says, then pauses. "In a sense, I'm a born killer."

Scientists who study this area say a third factor,  in addition to brain patterns and genetic makeup,  are necessary to make anyone a psychopath and that is abuse or violence in one's childhood.

Jim Fallon says he had a terrific childhood; he was doted on by his parents and had loving relationships with his brothers and sisters and entire extended family. Significantly, he says this journey through his brain has changed the way he thinks about nature and nurture. He once believed that genes and brain function could determine everything about us. But now he thinks his childhood may have made all the difference.

Part 1

Part 2
and Part 3 have to do with the emerging world of neuro-law and its probable advance in courtrooms.

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May 12, 2010

Genetic testing at Walgreens

Walgreens to sell genetic tests, FDA investigating

Walgreens will begin selling personal genetic testing kits on Friday, the first major retail chain in the U.S. to offer the home tests. CVS plans to have the same test kits in its stores by August.

Both drug store chains are buying the kits from Pathway Genomics, a San Diego-based startup that offers genetic health and ancestry reports.

The over-the-counter tests, which have been available through a few Internet retailers, haven't reached a mass audience until now. And their pending arrival has scientists and bio-ethicists concerned that consumers will misuse or misunderstand the results.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration told the Tribune Tuesday that it is investigating the medical claims two-year-old Pathway is making in marketing its genetic test to consumers. The test has not been approved by U.S. regulators.

UPDATE: Walgreen Won't Sell Genetic Test Until Maker Works Out Issues With FDA

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink

February 22, 2010

The Remarkable Character of George Washington

What made George Washington, born 278 years ago today, so great?  His character.  In the end, the intangible quality of character is how our families and friends will remember us. 

The Character of George Washington

What made George Washington the most remarkable man of an extraordinary generation? He was not an intellectual giant like Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison. Compared with most other founders, he was not well educated (he attended school for only about five years), and, unlike many of them, he disliked abstract philosophical discussions. Washington was intelligent, well informed, and astute, buthe was neither a polished writer nor a spellbinding speaker. Moreover, he was not particularly affectionate, said little in public meetings, and lacked the charisma of many of his successors. Defeating the British with his ragtag army was an impressive feat, but he was not a traditional military hero. He won no spectacular victories during the Revolutionary War. Although he is widely admired as an outstanding president, few of his policies were stupendous successes.

While praising his military and political record, many scholars contend that Washington’s genius lies principally in his character. The only other American president who has been so highly extolled for his character is Abraham Lincoln. Since Washington, all presidents have been ultimately measured not by the size of their electoral victories or the success of their legislative programs, but by their moral character. His character helped sustain his troops throughout the travails of the Revolutionary War, convince delegates to the Constitutional Convention to assign significant powers to the presidency, secure the ratification of the Constitution, and enable the new republic to survive in a hostile world.

Many admirers considered Washington’s self-control the key facet of his character. He could master events because he had mastered himself. Despite being surrounded by fear, despair, indecisiveness, treason, and the threat of mutiny, he remained confident and steadfast. Eulogists also heralded his self-sacrifice, devotion to the common good, compassion, generosity, and benevolence.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:06 PM | Permalink

November 29, 2008

Our wart-based education

Mark Steyn hits it out of the park again in this Thanksgiving note, Which history?

We've taken Cromwell's advice to his portraitist to paint him "warts and all", and show our kids all but solely the warts — spreading disease to Native Americans, enslaving blacks, interning the Japanese. Any non-wart stuff is mostly invented out of whole cloth: the US Constitution has its good points but they all come from the Iroquois, and the first Thanksgiving is some kind of proto-Communist celebration of collective farming.

A few months back, my little boy came home from Second Grade and said to me, "Guess what we learned today?" I said: "Rosa Parks." He said: "How did you know that?" I said: "Because it's always Rosa Parks." And, if you don't learn it in the context of any broader historical narrative, it's just a story about municipal transit seating arrangements.

Teaching only the warts is a terrible thing to do to young children. At its extreme it leads to those British Taliban captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan: Subjects of the Crown who'd been raised in English schools and taught only that the country to which they owed their nominal allegiance was the source of all the racism, oppression, colonialism, and imperialism in the world. Why be surprised that a proportion of the alumni of such a system would look elsewhere for their sense of identity?

But, even in its more benign form, warts-only education leaves a big hole where one's cultural inheritance should be.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:40 PM | Permalink

July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth Everyone

Happy Fourth of July!

The greatness of the liberty we've been given is best seen in Lady Liberty, Bartholdi's great sculpture. 

Barrymore Laurence Scherer clues us in to some of the allegorical meaning in Liberty as Statue and Symbol.

Liberty's serious demeanor underscores the idea that liberty itself comes at a cost and must not be taken lightly; her robes evoke the republican ideals of ancient Greece and Rome. Her left hand and arm hold a tablet of the law -- like that of Moses descending from Mount Sinai -- inscribed "JULY IV MDCCLXXVI," the birth date of the nation.

 Lady Liberty     Liberty Torch

Three heart-warming stories.

Beginning with the generosity of donors to the Heifer Project and a pair of goats comes The Luckiest Girl in the World.  Nicholas Kristof tells the story.

 Human Statues Ladyliberty

Work only immigrants would do. Huddled Statues, Working to Be Free. 

After 9/11, one woman with no ties to the military found her patriotic calling,  Operation Gratitude.

She delivered more than 350,000 packages to soldiers who used the Beanie Babies to reward young Iraqi children for information on hidden IEDs.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:23 AM | Permalink

March 12, 2008

"That America in which I choose to live"

The playwright David Mamet in the Village Voice

I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.

As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.
I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.
I recognized that I held those two views of America (politics, government, corporations, the military). One was of a state where everything was magically wrong and must be immediately corrected at any cost; and the other—the world in which I actually functioned day to day—was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other (in the workplace, the marketplace, the jury room, on the freeway, even at the school-board meeting).

And I realized that the time had come for me to avow my participation in that America in which I chose to live.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink

December 27, 2007

Hilton fortune goes to charity

So, Paris loses out: Hilton fortune pledged to charity

Barron Hilton, Paris's grandfather, announced plans to donate 97% of his $2.3 billion fortune to charity.

The foundation supports projects that provide clean water in Africa, education for blind children, and housing for the mentally ill. Its aims, based on Conrad Hilton's will, are "to relieve the suffering, the distressed and the destitute."

Looks like Paris will have to get a job

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:50 PM | Permalink

November 8, 2007

"All the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother"

Michael Yon, embedded with the troops for the past three years posts this photograph and calls it Thanks and Praise as men and women, both Christian and Muslim, place a cross atop St. John's Church in Bagdad, a church that had been bombed and burned in 2004 but has since been restored with the cross, the crowning touch.

The Iraqis asked me to convey a message of thanks to the American people. ” Thank you, thank you,” the people were saying. One man said, “Thank you for peace.” Another man, a Muslim, said “All the people, all the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother.” The men and women were holding bells, and for the first time in memory freedom rang over the ravaged land between two rivers.

  Yon Thanks And Praise

Iraqpundit welcomes the recent changes in Baghdad and writes.

Frankly, I don't understand why so many mock us for wanting a future for Iraq. Is your hatred for George Bush so great that you prefer to see millions of civilians suffer just to prove him wrong?

It really comes down to this: you are determined to see Iraq become a permanent hellhole because you hate Bush. And we are determined to see Iraq become a success, because we want to live.

Sometimes, it takes a fresh eye to see America as it was and is.  French President Nicolas Sarkozy in his speech before a joint session of Congress did just that.

Fathers took their sons to see the vast cemeteries where, under thousands of white crosses so far from home, thousands of young American soldiers lay who had fallen not to defend their own freedom but the freedom of all others, not to defend their own families, their own homeland, but to defend humanity as a whole.
And as they listened to their fathers, watched movies, read history books and the letters of soldiers who died on the beaches of Normandy and Provence, as they visited the cemeteries where the star-spangled banner flies, the children of my generation understood that these young Americans, 20 years old, were true heroes to whom they owed the fact that they were free people and not slaves. France will never forget the sacrifice of your children.

To those 20-year-old heroes who gave us everything, to the families of those who never returned, to the children who mourned fathers they barely got a chance to know, I want to express France's eternal gratitude.

Now and in the years to come, I hope and trust the Iraqis will feel the same way towards the treasure of American blood and money expended there.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

July 30, 2007

Paris Loses Her Inheritance

Paris Hilton's Inheritance Revoked by Grandfather

Embarrassed by his granddaughter's behavior apparently has Conrad Hilton setting up a philanthropic foundation to give away his billions and carry on the family tradition.

That's about $95 million Paris will not get.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 AM | Permalink

July 13, 2007

Inherited stuff

One of my new favorite blogs is the Unclutterer which is beginning a new series on handling inherited clutter.

How do you unclutter a person’s things after they die? My grandfather died this weekend, and we dread the idea of going through all his things—not just emotionally and psychologically, but from a logistical standpoint. How much stuff do we keep? Nobody has room in their houses for all the sentimental treasures of their departed loved ones, but it feels callous to throw away their old anniversary cards and favorite mediocre artwork. How do we deal with it all?

If you need it or love it, keep it.  If something is very important to you because of its great sentimental value, keep it.  If something is important because of its historical value, keep it or give it to an archive where it will stay safe. 

That's what Mary Custis Lee did with two old steamer trunks

The trunks were stuffed with Lee family papers -- a priceless cache of 4,000 letters, photographs and documents. DeButts carted them to the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, which houses the world's largest collection of Lee papers. He spent a week there, sitting at a desk in the research library, reaching into Mary Custis Lee's trunks and picking out treasures and trash.

Thanks to her foresight, we now have A Portrait in Letters of Robert E. Lee.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:36 AM | Permalink | TrackBack