Friday, September 25, 2015

The Pope's Stone

I saw this in the Transom. He links to the Catholic Journal

One of the more vivid stories of the Washington Monument is the theft of the Pope’s Stone in 1854, apparently by members of the anti-Catholic, anti-Papist Know-Nothing Party.

It all began with the American nativist movement of the mid-19th century. The nativists sometimes called themselves, ironically enough, Native Americans. They were opposed to the new waves of immigrants, legal or illegal, from countries such as Ireland and Italy. Up until then, most European settlers had been Protestants from such places as Britain and Germany. The newcomers were often Catholic, and grindingly poor besides, such as the Irish fleeing the potato famine.

By the early 1850s these feelings had coalesced into the American party, usually called Know-Nothings. The party acquired the nickname from its “secret” meetings and “hidden” signs, more appropriate to a childrens’ clubhouse than to a political party, and from their habit of answering “I know nothing,” when asked about their activities. The Know-Nothings were very successful for a brief time, especially in the 1856 elections, winning many local and state offices, and even sending members to Congress.

The trouble with the Washington Monument began in 1852, when the February 7 Daily National Intelligencer of Washington, D.C. announced on page 4 the Pope’s intention to contribute a gift tablet, for installation inside the Monument, with the other such tablets on the Monument’s inner walls. The stone came from the Temple of Peace, also rendered as the Temple of Concord, in Rome. The stone was to bear the inscription, in English, of “Rome to America.”

Here's the rest


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Good News for Mrs. Clinton


My big question is whether Democrats (and the rest of the voting public) will vote for Mrs. Clinton even if it turns out she broke Federal law on sending classified communications. Or more broadly, will voters elect  a convicted criminal. At least in Bridgeport, CT, the answer is yes! Good news indeed for Mrs. Clinton.

BRIDGEPORT — Bridgeport Democrats narrowly voted Wednesday to give a fallen ex-mayor a second chance.

Joe Ganim’s uncanny popularity — despite seven years in federal prison on corruption charges — propelled him to victory over embattled Mayor Bill Finch in the party primary.


Friday, September 11, 2015

This Is Not a Board Exam Question


There's no manual for teaching young doctors. Although we do give them lectures there are no classes per se and certainly no homework. Despite our best efforts, grading is highly subjective. Mostly training is done the way it has always been done, one-on-one. The trainee presents the case to the attending (me), the attending asks a question or 2 about the details, and then says, "OK, what do you want to do." Depending upon stage of  training, overall competence, and level of courage, the trainee's opinion of what should happen next will vary from spot-on to near malpractice. As is always the case,  teaching the bright ones is  easy. Teaching the dullards bears some similarity to the carry-and-drag event in the World's Strongest Man Contest.

There are many different ways to categories to categorize patients, by disease type or severity, by age or demographics, by prevalence or prognosis. But the way I often chose is to ask; "If you asked 10 doctors how to treat this problem, would they all give you the same answer" That is what I like to call a Board Exam question. There is enough consensus about a particular diagnosis or treatment that all are in agreement what the answer should be. That doesn't mean, alas, that what we currently believe is true will always remain so; cardiology has more than its share of once-accepted  treatments now discredited. Yet there is a broad body knowledge that endures, the mastery of which is considered essential.

Often, however, the answer to my question will be not be so simple. There may in fact be no sure answer at all, just a best guess as to how to proceed. A good doctor in these situations is comfortable with uncertainty. He/she accepts the burden of making decision with incomplete information, and under sometimes rapidly changing circumstances. He/she understands that things may look quite different in a day, or even an hour, and, acknowledges that sometimes one needs to change course. Being willing to change one's mind is sign of wisdom, not weakness.

If only someone could get that message across to our leading Presidential candidates.


Identity Politics


The number of New York Times columnists I read continues to shrink. First off my list was Nick Kristoff, after his resurrection of  a 17 year old accusation of child abuse against Woody Allen (for which he was exonerated after an exhaustive investigation), recirculated as a favor to his personal friend Dylan Farrow. Next was Maureen Dowd, whose pathological hatred of all things Hillary (although there's plenty to dislike) grew too tiresome to tolerate. Now Charles Blow is approaching the danger zone with his myopic, strangulated vision of how the country might achieve equal justice for all its citizens.  In fact that's the problem; there is no vision, no concrete proposals or even philosophical notion of how to get to where we need to be. There's just enraged whining.

This from Mr Blow last Thursday, seeking to excuse the incendiary rhetoric  adopted by some acolytes of the Black Lives Matter Movement:

I actually believe that you have to peel back the vitriol to expose the fundamental, but unarticulated truth at the core of the opposition to this movement: It centers blackness in a country that “others” blackness. It elevates blackness in a country that devalues it. It prioritizes blackness in a country that marginalizes it.

....Discomfort with Black Lives Matter, is, on some level and to some degree, a discomfort with blackness itself. It’s not only about the merits of individual cases, it is also about the collective, ingrained sins of the system committed disproportionately, and by design, against people of color. The movement convicts this country of its crimes.

America has been engaged since its inception in a most gruesome enterprise: Like the mythological Cronus, it has been eating its children, the darker ones, and this movement demands — at least in one area, at least in one moment — that it atone for that abomination.

Here's a response from the Comments that's answers this accusation far better than I ever could.

Okay. Standard White liberal here. Voted for Obama twice. Support affirmative action. Think black people have gotten unfair deal in American and its our responsibility (all of us) to address racism past and present with aggressive prosecution of racists and their removal from public life. Have plenty of black co-workers, friends and family members. All that being said, it's hard for me not to see the BLM "movement" as being, in part, a movement blind to the complicated reality of race in America --- it's just not simple. It's a "movement" led by professional activists in urban centers who have no reason whatsoever to find common ground, productive solutions and peace between races; instead, the goal will be to exacerbate the situation to "prove" America's racism, again and again and again. The rhetoric --- like the talk in this article about hating blackness etc. --- pretends we're all in Mississippi in 1965, if only we were --- the answers would be easy and enemies obvious, but we're not. Urban 21st century whites by and large take it for granted that blackness is great and racism is evil. It's not up for debate. BLM is a 21st century "professionalized dissent fantasy structure" in which we pretend that no one has black family members, friends and co-workers and we all live surrounded by corrupt racist all-white police forces. Basically people who missed the sixties want to replay them now. 

Meanwhile the slaughter of young Black men by their counterparts continues to spike. Again from the Times, here's an account of one recent murder in Milwaukee, an epicenter of such violence.

In Milwaukee, most of the victims and the suspects in their killings are black men under 30, police data shows, who come from neighborhoods where foreclosures, joblessness and poverty are also high. Most involve guns and people — both victims and suspects — who have been arrested before. The most common motive in the slayings was not robbery or gang rivalry but an argument, according to the data.
On July 3, as an annual fireworks display along Lake Michigan ended, Tariq Akbar, 14, was shot in the back of the head while he was leaving the crowded celebration to meet his mother, who was parked not far away.
“The police were right there — not even 50 feet away,” his mother, Arifah Akbar, said. “This is when you know how bad Milwaukee has gotten.”
The police said the shooting had stemmed from a dispute on social media. A 15-year-old has been charged.

About such events we hear nothing from Mr Blow, or Mr Coats, or Mr. West. We hear the keening of grief from the loved ones of these dead children.

Demand equal justice, relentlessly. Accept nothing less. Demand effective, coherent, compassionate policing. A tremendous amount of mayhem is driven by handful of knuckleheads. Find them. Lock them up Condemn violence, everywhere, by anyone.