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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Vietnam and Iraq

Anyone doubting the similarities between Iraq and Vietnam needs to review the audio tapes of McNamara and Johnson speeches and briefings. The same optimism, the same theories, the same lying -- all were present. McNamara talked about the positive impact of the elections, Vietnamization, giving more responsibility for defense to the South Vietnamese; just substitute Vietnamese for Iraq and it's all the same. The rationale for staying in Iraw now is that the area would be destabilized. Sounds like the domino theory in drag. Let's hope that someone wises up before we lose another 50,000 troops.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Piarists and Scandal

The Catholic Piarist schools were established in 1600 and by 1632 were being opened at a rate of one every seven months. They had been founded by a Spaniard as a way to educate impoverished children. In 1646 they were closed down by the pope.

The reason for the closure and the scandal that was hidden in the archives of the Vatican for centuries, is the subject of Karen Liebreich's very readable and detail-rich book Fallen Order: Intrigue, Heresy, and Scandal in the Rome of Galileo and Caravaggio.

Liebreich (a wonderful German pun in the name) was a scholar at the prestigious European University Institute who was given access to the Vatican archives as part of the research she was doing. What she discovered was a scandal reminiscent of recent events in the United States where the Catholic hierarchy covered up child abuse by priests. The "initial cover-up was ordered by no less a man than the patron saint of all Christian schools."

Liebreich's research took her into "dusty cupboards" and the archives of the Inquisition.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

I suppose it's a little strange that I would really like this book given it's spiritual overtones, but Anne Lamott's unique blend of humor, observations on relationships and life in general ("Everyone has been having a hard time with life this year; not with all of it, just the waking hours"), not to mention her caustic comments about Bush even as she struggles to love him because her faith insists on it, should win over just about everyone. She can have you moved to tears as she describes the painful death of a friend to howls of laughter describing bumps in the road raising a teenager.

Lamott is unfailingly honest about herself and others. Predictably, some reviewers have complained about an occasional "vulgarity," but to me that just makes her writing more honest and real. After all Jesus, himself, was nothing if not radical and honest. I suggest that anyone offended by this book has no life and little compassion.

Lamott has all these great lines. We were listening to her read her book ( download); I would recommend this as she is such a great raconteur, and I was unable to write down all the great lines, but here's a small sample:

"If you insist on having a destination when you enter a library, you're short-changing yourself."
"Someday the lamb is going to lie down with the lion, but the lamb is not going to get any sleep."
"Jesus was soft on crime; he'd never get elected to anything."
"On my forty-ninth birthday, I decided that all of life is hopeless, and I would eat myself to death. These are dessert days."

Monday, June 13, 2005

Classic Bumper Stickers

Some favorites:

Abstinence is the leading cause of immaculate conception.
God was my copilot but we crashed in the mountains and I had to eat him.
Jesus is coming; look busy.
Come the Rapture, we'll have the earth to ourselves.
Don't pray in my school and I won't think in your church.
Love your neighbor pre-emptively.
What would Jesus bomb?
Peace and Equality are moral values.
Support our troops; bring them home now.

And check out Rep. John Conyers's site for more information on the Downing Street Minutes/Memo.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Motive

About two-thirds of the way through The Motive by John Lescroart, I thought this book was ripe for abridgment. Here was a storyline that could easily have been dropped; the crime has been solved, the client gotten off, no problem.

But as I continued, the moral ambiguities faced by Abe Glitzky, deputy chief of inspectors for San Francisco, became more interesting. This is the first novel I have read by Lescroart, so I was not aware of the previous connection between Glitzky and Dismas Hardy, former cop, now criminal attorney. In any case, they are friends, and the personal animosity toward them from Sergeant Cuneo, the lead homicide investigator on the case, causes all sorts of problems for both them and their client, Catherine Hanover, who has been charged with the double murder of her father-in-law and his fiance, Missy D'Amiens.

The courtroom scenes are outstanding, and without giving too much away, suffice it to say that the real murderer, as vicious and cruel as he/she (no hints, here) must commit the crime in order to prevent the killing of many other people. If she is caught and charged, those people will die.

It's been a mantra of our society that sacrificing one to save many is a valued ethic. Should Glitzky just drop the chase as high feds advise him to do? Interesting dilemma.