Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Laboure Society: "Delivering Vocations Which Would Otherwise be Lost"

A cause well worth supporting.  Excerpts:
...What Laurent discovered — and what few casual observers realize — is the roadblock debt presents to thousands of potential priestly and religious vocations. While guidelines vary by order, diocese and seminary as to what debt new members are allowed to carry, for many religious orders that number is zero.

...“We are a national organization with the specific purpose of serving the Church by delivering vocations which would otherwise be lost,” he said.

The Laboure Society assists aspiring religious in addressing their financial situation in several ways. Applicants are thoroughly vetted, including through the order they wish to join. Roughly every six months, those accepted are organized into classes, usually 10 to 15 members in size.

The class is brought together at a three-day financial boot camp where members are taught ethical fundraising skills and work through a strategic plan to tackle the accumulated student loans of the group (personal debt is not addressed by the society’s program).

Laurent said while class members then return to implement the fundraising plan in their home areas, they are not cut adrift. Each class is assigned a mentor who follows up to assess progress and provide support.

“This is a very well-thought out protocol,” he said. “The individual serves as accountability to the team members.”

Once the money has been collected, it is allocated to each team member in the form of grants with the exact amount each team member receives calculated by a comprehensive formula. The society doesn’t issue checks to team members, but takes over management of loan payment schedules. Individuals who don’t receive grants sufficient to wipe out their debt join a second team to participate in additional rounds of fundraising.

The group makes loan payments as long as the individual continues to advance through their vocational path and returns any unpaid principal if a person abandons their vocation. To date, the non-profit organization has helped more than 230 individuals into priestly and religious formation...
Their website here. See also Serra International.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Nature and Mission of Catholic Universities: According to Pope Benedict

A review of what sounds like an interesting book brought up some interesting historical notes. Excerpts:
...[A] revolution took place in 1967 that changed Catholic higher education radically, but we hope not forever. It was known as the Land O’ Lakes Conference, for that is where a group of Catholic college presidents and academics undertook a revolution in Catholic education that hopefully will someday (soon) be rolled back.

The Land O’ Lakes document began this way:
“The Catholic university today must be a university in the full modern sense of the word, with a strong commitment to and concern for academic excellence. To perform its teaching and research functions effectively, the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself. To say this is simply to assert that institutional autonomy and academic freedom are essential conditions of life and growth and indeed of survival for Catholic universities, as for all universities.”
Now compare this with Pope Benedict’s address to Catholic educators at Catholic University in Washington on April 17, 2008:

“It is the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s freedom and identity and mission: a mission at the heart of the Church’s munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it...”
I simply don't understand the basic premise of the Land O' Lakes document. "[T]he Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself." Authority of whatever kind? Really. And yet they don't complain about accrediting organizations, like the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, or even the most basic accreditors of colleges. But perhaps they would argue that such organizations speak from within academia, and as such cannot conceivably violate academic freedom. They maintain academic standards, right? They make sure the unqualified are not admitted to the hallowed halls of academe. They, in fact, test for the right teaching of the professors at a university. They check them for academic orthodoxy.

Why is it a problem for the Church to regulate the teachings of her theologians again? 

More from the review:
...I found most interesting those talks in England, on the occasion of his trip to beatify Blessed John Henry Newman, with whom Pope Benedict had a special relation as a fellow theologian. In his homily, Pope Benedict used Blessed John Henry’s own words to describe the goal of Catholic university professors:
“I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious — but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it...”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pope Francis, Pope Benedict, and Deep Continuity

Well put.  Excerpts:
...Pope Francis and Benedict XVI certainly have different styles. How could they not? Benedict is one of the most cultured men of our time, a German academic of the highest calibre and a deep student of the patrimony of western civilization. Pope Francis is a Jesuit with missionary flare, the “smell of the sheep” and one who experienced the plight of the poor and the marginalized first hand in South America. Despite their very different backgrounds and life experiences, these men share a fundamental and substantial continuity in their deep humility, personal holiness and ardent love for Jesus Christ and His Church...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

We Live in a Novel

Why? Because Jay Carney, the master of the three ring circus which is the media covering an administration that's been hacking their computers, seizing phone records, and treating them like enemies of the state, is denouncing Snowden, the spy who came in from the cold, who now finds himself trapped in a Catch-22.

Speaking of media phone records...  Excerpts:
...At one point, when asked about whether the Department of Justice might have seized records of other news organizations, Carney told the reporter posing the question that he’d have to ask someone at the DoJ.

NPR did just that with Attorney General Eric Holder, the top man at Justice. And Holder says he can’t quite recall how many times he’s seized reporter phone records...
And then there's this.  Excerpts:
...Hastings’ final story, “Why Democrats Love to Spy on Americans,” was a searing take on the NSA snooping scandal, which Hastings described as “North Korea-esque.” Hastings pulled no punches as he linked the NSA scandal to the Department of Justice’s spying on reporters and the IRS abuse scandal. Hastings built a case that the same Democrats who turned Bush-era anti-terrorism techniques into wedge issues that helped them capture Congress and the White House in 2006 and 2008 were now defending much worse and more widespread spying on American citizens by the Obama administration....

At the end of the story, Hastings mentions by name several Americans who have come under questionable government scrutiny in the Obama years. Several are household names, but some are not.

Hastings died in a fatal single-car crash at 4:25 on Tuesday morning. A witness said his car “suddenly jackknifed” before crossing the median and hitting a tree, causing a ferocious explosion that reportedly threw the engine block of the brand new Mercedes Hastings was driving 30 or 40 yards from the car. Mercedes engine blocks typically weigh between 290 and 540 pounds. It would take tremendous speed or force to throw one nearly half the length of a football field.

“It sounded like a bomb went off in the middle of the night,” another witness told the TV station. “The house shook, my windows were rattling.”

Hastings’ body was burned “beyond recognition,” according to reports." Message to the media: "Be ve-e-ery careful what you write about us. We wouldn't want anyone to get hurt, now would we?"...
Insinuation only, as of right now.  So far as I've heard, nothing has been proved.  But then, as Jon Stewart pointed out, the burden of proof has been shifted to the government when it comes to such things.  As has been pointed out, the US now has all the infrastructure a tyrant would needThe left and the right are coming together in places to speak out about the recent revelations.  The Anchoress on the media response:
...According to Howard Kurtz: Glenn Greenwald says surveillance source came to him because of “supine, subservient behavior” by American media “when it comes to the govt”

Duh. And, yeah. Our “watchdog**” media surrendered its teeth to this administration in 2007 and has been rolled over waiting for belly rubs ever since. They gave up all of their credibility to be able to ask Obama how he got so great, and what “enchants” him. They couldn’t even sustain their outrage about the DOJ spying on the AP, or calling James Rosen a criminal for doing his job...
This in a nation where the IRS inquires about the prayers of pro-life groups, or requires them to guarantee they won't stand vigil outside abortion clinics.

Too many scandals to keep track of--which may be the point (heh).  The President taking the "didn't know" routeA roundup of scandal newsThe Anchoress explaining the roots of the media's shock at the current round of scandalsThe IRS apparently targeting HIPAA-protected records without appropriate warrants--millions of them

In other words--heck, it's like living in a novel...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Catholics! Set Aside Your Despair! To Arms!

A to-do list for the new evangelization and answering the universal call to holiness. Excerpts:
...The Church does not exist for itself, but for the world, rather. And if its attention is on itself, Screwtape wins. The world now needs magnanimity, about which the Church, as proclaiming that which is more human and more dignified, is an expert. But this expertise must be taught, used, and just now what is needed is to show the glories of being human, always, of course, by revealing Christ who is the human made full, but also by the saints who have identified with Christ, and in the realm of human virtue and accomplishment and skill.

It’s to our tasks, I suggest, to our laboratories and workshops and studios, to the concert halls, lecture halls, surgeries—to our work, whatever it might be, in which we can give some indication of the greatness in whose image the human is and to which we are called and capable.

This is, admittedly, something of a tall order. The institutional Church lacks resources it once had, its reputation is diminished, dissent still hinders unity, and the significant contributions of individuals, whether lay or ecclesial, must attain a union of direction, purpose, and action. How is all this to be done, practically? Well, there is no formula, but neither are we without guidance.

First, work in Faith, grounding our hope in the foundation of Pentecost. On the first Good Friday, no one would have had good reason to think the small band of disciples—scattered, confused, splintering, some even unfaithful—would have amounted to much, and even after the Resurrection they lacked cohesion and public witness. But come Pentecost they are transformed, bold, clear, unafraid, and their work bears fruit. We can hope in the same, for the same Spirit lives and moves and breathes in us still—so, to our work, trusting that it is God who brings fruit, and will do so.

Second, distinguish fruit from leaves. Jesus draws near the fig tree, subsequently cursing it for its lack of fruit, because it was “in leaf” (Mk 11:13). Having all the trappings of fecundity, it lacked substance. We can expect, I think, many of our leaves to drop—grand buildings, parish schools, cultural acceptance and prestige, these may not be ours for long—but Christ promises none of those things, but instead His own presence, the Spirit as guide and comforter, the persistence of the Church, and a final victory. So, we seek fruit, holding leaves—which are, after all, delightful things—somewhat loosely.

Third, respect freedom. One reason I entered the Church was catholicity, namely, that it had not splintered but remained one, even though the various charisms, forms of spirituality, religious orders, and tastes were staggeringly diverse. A Church that includes Jesuits and Carthusians, Francis and Aquinas, Palestrina and Suzanne Toolan, knows, or should know, how to respect freedom in those things which are not defined or required so as to move in unity on the essentials. We cannot lose ourselves in little inner battles, when a watching world can’t tell the distinctions apart anyway, but looks to see if we profess the truth and live in love.

Fourth, appropriate what is there. The resources of the tradition are virtually overwhelming. Like so many converts from evangelical Protestantism, I took the first steps to Rome because of the sheer enormity and breadth of the received wisdom. We have the Fathers, the scholastics, the saints, the mystics, the martyrs, Scripture, art, music, poetry, cathedrals, monasteries, religious orders, doctors, theologians, encyclicals, we have the Catechism—there is no shortage of essential resources, if only we would turn to them. So, we need to learn these things, perhaps taking a lesson from Orthodox Jewish models of study in which many men and women of action and business nonetheless are students and scholars. Of course we work to make RCIA robust, school theology courses vigorous, the seminaries and pastors learned, the colleges more Catholic; but in the meantime, we can, all of us, read Augustine and learn to sing.

Fifth, celebrate. It’s very easy to become lost in our losses, and to forget that the Church is growing worldwide, that the Bishops are exercising moral leadership on matters of religious freedom, that men like George and Chaput and Scola (to name just a few of the many) exist, that new publishing houses and online journals spring up, that Francis leads and we still have Ratzinger writing, that many Protestants are discovering the fullness of Faith, and on and on it goes.

Sixth, rest in communion. The saints intercede for us, as does Our Lady, and we are surrounded by an enormous cloud of witnesses—those alive in body and those alive in soul only—praying and working, all. The sacrifice is performed and received now and in eternity, and God has taken residence with us. Be not afraid, we have all we need.

Seventh, learn shrewdness and innocence. Disposition alone solves nothing, we must also deliberate wisely and lengthily, guided by prayer, the tradition, authority, and reason, about what to do. We must be shrewd and watchful “in prayer and in love,” and we must cultivate those traits in the whole community of the faithful. The time of naivety is long past, the time of riding cultural heritage has departed, and we must be without guile, but also without stupidity...

Monday, June 17, 2013

America, Land of the Eerie and Home of the Afraid

Geez.  There's a reason why sales of 1984 have skyrocketed.  Here's a roundup.
h/t Mark Shea.
Mark Steyn has a series of pieces of awesome.

...The other day the Boston Globe ran a story on how the city’s police and other agencies had spent months planning a big training exercise for last weekend involving terrorists planting bombs hidden in backpacks left downtown. Unfortunately, the Marathon bombers preempted them, and turned the coppers’ hypothetical scenario into bloody reality.

What a freaky coincidence, eh? But it’s the differences between the simulation and the actual event that are revealing. In humdrum reality, the Boston bombers were Chechen Muslim brothers with ties to incendiary imams and jihadist groups in Dagestan. In the far more exciting Boston Police fantasy, the bombers were a group of right-wing militiamen called “Free America Citizens,” a name so suspicious (involving as it does the words “free,” “America,” and “citizens”) that it can only have been leaked to them by the IRS. What fun the law-enforcement community in Massachusetts had embroidering their hypothetical scenario: The “Free America Citizens” terrorists even had their own little logo — a skull’s head with an Uncle Sam hat. Ooh, scary! The Boston PD graphics department certainly knocked themselves out on that.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was training in Dagestan, posting terrorist videos on YouTube, and getting fingered by the Russians to the FBI. Who did nothing.

...We’re told that universal surveillance has prevented all kinds of atrocities we can never hear about — an answer straight out of Orwell. Yet oddly, in the ones we do hear about, the perps are hiding in plain sight (Major Hasan with “Soldier of Allah” on his business card), the intelligence services do nothing (the Pantybomber known to the CIA but still permitted to board the plane), and the digital superstate is useless (the Tsarnaev photo rang no bells with the facial-recognition software, but was identified by friends who saw it on TV).

And thus, the bozo leviathan blunders on. Big Politically Correct Brother sees everything . . . and nothing.
...When the IRS is accused of “targeting,” don’t assume they’re speaking metaphorically. From Politico:
As chairman of the House Homeland Security oversight subcommittee, [Jeff] Duncan (R-S.C.) toured a federal law enforcement facility in late May and noticed agents training with the semi-automatic weapons at a firing range. They identified themselves as IRS, he said.
“When I left there, it’s been bugging me for weeks now, why IRS agents are training with a semi-automatic rifle AR-15, which has stand-off capability,” Duncan told POLITICO. “Are Americans that much of a target that you need that kind of capability..?
“I think Americans raise eyebrows when you tell them that IRS agents are training with a type of weapon that has stand-off capability. It’s not like they’re carrying a sidearm and they knock on someone’s door and say, ‘You’re evading your taxes,’” Duncan said.
A bureaucracy is bad. A politicized bureaucracy is worse. A paramilitary politicized bureaucracy is nuts. And, in fact, evil. There is no reason in a civilized society why the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Paperwork should have his own SEAL Team Six. As I wrote in the magazine last year:
By the way, I use the word “agents” rather than “officials” because, in the developed world, the paramilitarized bureaucracy is uniquely American. This is the only G7 government whose education minister has his own SWAT team — for policing student-loan compliance. The other day, the Gibson guitar company settled with the feds over an arcane infraction of a law on rare-wood importation — after their factories were twice raided by “agents” bearing automatic weapons. Like the man said, don’t bring a knife to a guitar fight. Do musical-instrument manufacturers have a particular reputation for violence?
The Gibson raid looks a little different in light of recent revelations. Oh, well. Could have been worse. Its chief executive — a Republican donor — might have been shot for “resisting arrest,” right?...
...Over 4 million people hold US security clearances: That’s the equivalent of giving security clearances to the entire population of New Zealand. According to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, a total of 642,831 people were approved for Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret clearances in FY 2010 alone (scroll down to page five)...
How seriously do you think those two-thirds-of-a-million people were looked at? The report seems to suggest a turnover of about 600,000 in a typical year, which means that the actual number of Americans with some kind of security clearance from the last half-decade alone could be closer to seven million.
Even more amazing are the words immediately preceding that:
The number of clearances approved could not be obtained for FY 2009 . . .
So the same government that presumes the right to know my phone calls, my emails and my MasterCard purchases doesn’t know how many security clearances it issued in a given year.
The rationale given by defenders of this system over the last few days — oh, relax; there are over 300 million of us; the government doesn’t have time to comb through all the stuff it’s got on you — would seem to apply here: When 4 million people have security clearances, and another 1,800 people are getting new security clearances every day, the government doesn’t even have time to comb through them before it lets them comb through you.
Over at Powerline, Scott Johnson writes of Mr Snowden:
Read the Guardian profile and the Post articles and you will see that Snowden professes no loyalty to the United States. He conceives of himself as a citizen of the world, or of the realm of Digitalia. He does not sound like anyone to be trusted with an assessment on our behalf the costs and benefits of the course of action he has undertaken.
Just so. One reason for the citizenry not to entrust its personal information to the government is that the big, bloated, blundering government is stupid enough to entrust it to Edward Snowden, as it was previously stupid enough to entrust it to Bradley Manning (the Wikileaks leaker)....
And here we have an interesting, different way of looking at where we are now (h/t Mark Shea). Excerpts:
This is satire. Although the news is real, very little actual reporting was done for this story and the quotes are imagined. It is the first installment of an ongoing series that examines the language journalists use to cover foreign countries. What if we wrote that way about the United States?

BOSTON, Mass. — Human rights activists say revelations that the US regime has expanded its domestic surveillance program to private phone carriers is more evidence of the North American country’s pivot toward authoritarianism.

The Guardian, a British newspaper, reported this week that a wing of the country’s feared intelligence and security apparatus ordered major telecommunications companies to hand over data on phone calls made by private citizens.

“The US leadership in Washington continues to erode basic human rights,” said one activist, who asked to remain anonymous, fearing that speaking out publicly could endanger his organization. “If the US government is unwilling to change course, it’s time the international community considered economic sanctions.”

Over the last decade, the United States has passed a series of emergency laws that give security forces sweeping powers to combat “terrorism.” But foreign observers say the authorities abuse those laws, using them instead to monitor ordinary Americans...
And Shea proceeds to sum up the situation, citing a piece from Conor Friedorsdorff in the process. Excerpts:
...The purpose of the State is *supposed* to be the defense of the common good.  The reality is that American state, at any rate is devolving into a vast apparatus of surveillance and oppression of its citizens in the name of Safety.  Between the two of them, Bush and Obama (and their parties) have created all the infrastructure any tyrant will ever need to turn the US into an Orwellian police state:
What we know is that the people in charge will possess the capacity to be tyrants — to use power oppressively and unjustly — to a degree that Americans in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, or 2000 could’ve scarcely imagined. To an increasing degree, we’re counting on having angels in office and making ourselves vulnerable to devils. Bush and Obama have built infrastructure any devil would lust after. Behold the items on an aspiring tyrant’s checklist that they’ve provided their successors:
  • A precedent that allows the president to kill citizens in secret without prior judicial or legislative review
  • The power to detain prisoners indefinitely without charges or trial
  • Ongoing warrantless surveillance on millions of Americans accused of no wrongdoing, converted into a permanent database so that data of innocents spied upon in 2007 can be accessed in 2027
  • Using ethnic profiling to choose the targets of secret spying, as the NYPD did with John Brennan’s blessing
  • Normalizing situations in which the law itself is secret — and whatever mischief is hiding in those secret interpretations
  • The ability to collect DNA swabs of people who have been arrested even if they haven’t been convicted of anything
  • A torture program that could be restarted with an executive order
Even if you think Bush and Obama exercised those extraordinary powers responsibly, what makes you think every president would? How can anyone fail to see the huge potential for abuses?

I am not saying no one would resist a tyrant. Perhaps Congress would assert itself. Perhaps the people would rise up. Then again, perhaps it would be too late by the time the abuses were evident. (America has had horrific abuses of power in the past under weaker executives who were less empowered by technology; and numerous other countries haven’t recognized tyrants until it was too late.) Part of the problem is how much the Bush-Obama paradigm permits the executive to do in secret. Take that paradigm, add another successful 9/11-style attack, even after many years of very little terrorism, and who knows what would happen?
Part of the way We the People can make ourselves smart about this stuff is to stop buying into the dumb game of imagining that That Tribe Over There are the Bad Guys and our Tribal Elders care about us and oppose this stuff.
No.  It’s not Left vs. Right on this.  It’s Our Ruling Class vs. the rest of us...

Chesterton remarked:

If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep...
...[W]e’ve asked Caesar to take over yet another task typically handled by God: seeing all that we do, hearing all that we say, and judging it. In payment, Caesar customarily demands that we begin addressing him as “Divine Caesar”. The first Christians declined, and kicked off a revolution that, with time, put Caesar in his place and brought the liberty of Christ to the world. We still have that option. But we have to face the possibility that, as with them, it may cost us our lives.
We begin that revolution, of course, in the heart and mind by listening to St Paul:

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
h/t Mark Shea

Sunday, June 16, 2013

WGAW's 101 Best Written TV Series & Best Screenplays

So the exact opposite of, you know, this. The lists:

101 Best Written TV Series
1. The Sopranos

2. Seinfeld

3. The Twilight Zone (1959)

4. All in the Family

5. M*A*S*H

6. The Mary Tyler Moore Show

7. Mad Men

8. Cheers

9. The Wire

10. The West Wing

11. The Simpsons

12. I Love Lucy

13. Breaking Bad

14. The Dick Van Dyke Show

15. Hill Street Blues

16. Arrested Development

17. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

18. Six Feet Under

19. Taxi

20. The Larry Sanders Show

21. 30 Rock

22. Friday Night Lights

23. Frasier

24. Friends

25. Saturday Night Live

26. The X-Files

27. Lost

28. ER

29. The Cosby Show

30. Curb Your Enthusiasm

31. The Honeymooners

32. Deadwood

33. Star Trek

34. Modern Family

35. Twin Peaks

36. NYPD Blue

37. The Carol Burnett Show

38. Battlestar Galactica (2005)

39. Sex & the City

40. Game of Thrones

41. The Bob Newhart Show *TIE

41. Your Show of Shows *TIE

43. Downton Abbey *TIE

43. Law & Order *TIE

43. thirtysomething *TIE

46. Homicide: Life on the Street *TIE

47. St. Elsewhere *TIE

48. Homeland

49. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

50. The Colbert Report *TIE

50. The Good Wife *TIE

51. The Office (UK) *TIE

53. Northern Exposure

54. The Wonder Years

55. L.A. Law

56. Sesame Street

57. Columbo

58. Fawlty Towers *TIE

58. The Rockford Files *TIE

60. Freaks and Geeks *TIE

61. Moonlighting *TIE

62. Roots

63. Everybody Loves Raymond *TIE

63. South Park *TIE

65. Playhouse 90

66. Dexter *TIE

66. The Office (US) *TIE

68. My So-Called Life

69. The Golden Girls

70. The Andy Griffith Show

71. 24 *TIE

71 .Roseanne *TIE

71.bThe Shield *TIE

74. House *TIE

75. Murphy Brown *TIE

76. Barney Miller *TIE

77. I, Claudius *TIE

78. The Odd Couple

79. Alfred Hitchcock Presents *TIE

79. Monty Python’s Flying Circus *TIE

79. Star Trek: The Next Generation *TIE

79. Upstairs, Downstairs *TIE

83. Get Smart

84. The Defenders *TIE

85. Gunsmoke *TIE

86. Justified *TIE

87. Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) *TIE

88. Band of Brothers

89. Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In

90. The Prisoner

91. Absolutely Fabulous (UK) *TIE

92. The Muppet Show *TIE

93. Boardwalk Empire

94. Will & Grace

95. Family Ties

96. Lonesome Dove *TIE

96. Soap *TIE

98. The Fugitive *TIE

99. Late Night with David Letterman *TIE

100. Louie *TIE

101. Oz
Best Screenplays
Screenplay by Julius J. & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch. Based on the play "Everybody Comes to Rick's" by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison
Screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola. Based on the novel by Mario Puzo
Written by Robert Towne
Written by Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles
Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Based on "The Wisdom of Eve," a short story and radio play by Mary Orr
Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman
Written by Charles Brackett & Billy Wilder and D.M. Marshman, Jr.
Written by Paddy Chayefsky
Screenplay by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond. Based on "Fanfare of Love," a German film written by Robert Thoeren and M. Logan
Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo. Based on Mario Puzo's novel "The Godfather"
Written by William Goldman
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Peter George and Terry Southern. Based on novel "Red Alert" by Peter George
Screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry. Based on the novel by Charles Webb
Screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson. Based on the life and writings of Col. T.E. Lawrence
Written by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond
Written by Quentin Tarantino. Stories by Quentin Tarantino & Roger Avary
Screenplay by Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal. Story by Don McGuire and Larry Gelbart
Screen Story and Screenplay by Budd Schulberg. Based on "Crime on the Waterfront" articles by Malcolm Johnson
Screenplay by Horton Foote. Based on the novel by Harper Lee
Screenplay by Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett & Frank Capra. Based on short story "The Greatest Gift" by Philip Van Doren Stern. Contributions to screenplay Michael Wilson and Jo Swerling
Written by Ernest Lehman
Screenplay by Frank Darabont. Based on the short story "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" by Stephen King
Screenplay by Sidney Howard. Based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell
Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman. Story by Charlie Kaufman & Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth
Screenplay by Noel Langley and Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf Adaptation by Noel Langley. Based on the novel by L. Frank Baum
Screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler. Based on the novel by James M. Cain
Screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis. Story by Danny Rubin
Written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
Written by Preston Sturges
Written by David Webb Peoples
Screenplay by Charles Lederer. Based on the play "The Front Page" by Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur
Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Screenplay by Graham Greene. Story by Graham Greene. Based on the short story by Graham Greene
Screenplay by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman. From a novelette by Ernest Lehman
Written by Christopher McQuarrie
Screenplay by Waldo Salt. Based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy
Screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart. Based on the play by Philip Barry
Written by Alan Ball
Written by David S. Ward
Written by Nora Ephron
Screenplay by Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese. Based on book "Wise Guy" by Nicholas Pileggi
Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan. Story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman
Written by Paul Schrader
Screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood. Based on novel "Glory For Me" by MacKinley Kantor
Screenplay by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman. Based on the novel by Ken Kesey
Screenplay by John Huston. Based on the novel by B. Traven
Screenplay by John Huston. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
Screenplay by Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson. Based on the novel by Pierre Boulle
Screenplay by Steven Zaillian. Based on the novel by Thomas Keneally
Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Written by James L. Brooks
Screenplay by Preston Sturges. Story by Monckton Hoffe
Screenplay by William Goldman. Based on the book by Carl Bernstein & Bob Woodward
Written by Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman
Written by John Milius and Francis Coppola. Narration by Michael Herr
Written by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale
Written by Woody Allen
Screenplay by Alvin Sargent. Based on the novel by Judith Guest
Screenplay by Robert Riskin. Based on the story "Night Bus" by Samuel Hopkins Adams
Screenplay by Brian Helgeland & Curtis Hanson. Based on the novel by James Ellroy
Screenplay by Ted Tally. Based on the novel by Thomas Harris
Written by John Patrick Shanley
63. JAWS
Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb. Based on the novel by Peter Benchley
Screenplay by James L. Brooks. Based on the novel by Larry McMurtry
Screen Story and Screenplay by Betty Comden & Adolph Green. Based on the song by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown
Written by Cameron Crowe
Written by Melissa Mathison
Written by George Lucas
Screenplay by Frank Pierson. Based on a magazine article by P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore
Screenplay by James Agee and John Huston. Based on the novel by C.S. Forester
Screenplay by James Goldman. Based on the play by James Goldman
Written by Callie Khouri
Screenplay by Peter Shaffer. Based on his play
Written by Charlie Kaufman
Screenplay by Carl Foreman. Based on short story "The Tin Star" by John W. Cunningham
Screenplay by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin. Based on the book by Jake La Motta with Joseph Carter and Peter Savage
Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman. Based on the book "The Orchid Thief" by Susan Orlean
Written by Sylvester Stallone
Written by Mel Brooks
Screenplay by Earl W. Wallace & William Kelley. Story by William Kelley and Pamela Wallace & Earl W. Wallace
Screenplay by Jerzy Kosinski. Inspired by the novel by Jerzy Kosinski
Screenplay by Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson. Based on the novel by Donn Pearce
Screenplay by John Michael Hayes. Based on the short story by Cornell Woolrich
Screenplay by William Goldman. Based on his novel
Written by Jean Renoir and Charles Spaak
Written by Colin Higgins
87. 8 1/2
Screenplay by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, Brunello Rond. Story by Fellini, Flaiano
Screenplay by Phil Alden Robinson. Based on the book by W.P. Kinsella
Screenplay by Eric Roth. Based on the novel by Winston Groom
Screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor. Based on the novel by Rex Pickett
Screenplay by David Mamet. Based on the novel by Barry Reed
Screenplay by Joseph Stefano. Based on the novel by Robert Bloch
Written by Spike Lee
Screen Story and Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North. Based on "A Soldier's Story" by Omar H. Bradley and "Patton: Ordeal and Triumph" by Ladislas Farago
Written by Woody Allen
Screenplay by Sidney Carroll & Robert Rossen. Based on the novel by Walter Tevis
Screenplay by Frank S. Nugent. Based on the novel by Alan Le May
Screenplay by Nunnally Johnson. Based on the novel by John Steinbeck
Screenplay by Walon Green and Sam Peckinpah. Story by Walon Green and Roy Sickner
Screenplay by Christopher Nolan. Based on the short story "Memento Mori" by Jonathan Nolan
Written by Ben Hecht

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Secret of Notre Dame, Patroness of the United States of America

George Weigel on how Catholic thought offers authentic intellectual underpinnings for the best of America. Excerpts:
...The nineteenth-century U.S. bishops and intellectuals whose enthusiasm for American democracy Russell Shaw now views skeptically (and, yes, they did go over the top on occasion) did get one crucial point right: the American founders “built better than they knew,” i.e., the founders designed a democratic republic for which they couldn’t provide a durable moral and philosophical defense. But the long-despised (and now despised-again) Catholics could: Catholics could (and can) give a robust, compelling account of American democracy and its commitments to ordered liberty.

Mid–twentieth-century Catholic scholars like historian Theodore Maynard and theologian John Courtney Murray picked up this theme and made it central to their reading of U.S. Catholic history. Murray presciently warned that, if Catholicism didn’t fill the cultural vacuum being created by a dying mainline Protestantism, the “noble, many-storied mansion of democracy [may] be dismantled, leveled to the dimensions of a flat majoritarianism, which is no mansion but a barn, perhaps even a tool shed in which the weapons of tyranny may be forged.”

That is the argument the U.S. bishops have mounted in their challenge to the Obama administration’s demolition of civil society through the HHS mandate on contraceptives and abortifacients: What is the nature of American democracy and the fundamental freedoms government is created to protect? Who are the true patriots: the men and women who can give an account of freedom’s moral character, an account capable of sustaining a genuine democracy against a rising dictatorship of relativism, “in which the weapons of tyranny may be forged”?

The argument today isn’t about assimilation. The argument today is about who “gets” America.
This seems much like C. S. Lewis's differentiation in That Hideous Strength. Excerpts:
"It all began," he said, "when we discovered that that the Arthurian story is mostly true history. There was a moment in the Sixth Century when something that is always trying to break through into this country nearly succeeded. Logres was our name for it – it will do as well as another. And then...gradually we began to see all English history in a new way. We discovered the haunting."

"What haunting?" asked Camilla.

"How something we may call Britain is always haunted by something we may call Logres. Haven't you noticed that we are two countries? After every Arthur, a Mordred; behind every Milton, a Cromwell; a nation of poets, a nation of shopkeepers; the home of Sidney – and of Cecil Rhodes. Is it any wonder they call us hypocrites. But what they call hypocrisy is really the struggle between Logres and Britain."

...This haunting is no peculiarity of ours. Every people has its own haunter. There's no special privilege for England – no nonsense about a chosen nation. We speak about Logres because it is our haunting, the one we know about.

The whole work of healing Tellus depends on nursing that little spark, on incarnating that ghost, which is still alive in every real people, and different in each. When Logres really dominates Britain, when the goddess Reason, the divine clearness, is really enthroned in France, when the order of Heaven is really followed in China – why, then it will be spring.
Americanism versus patriotism; assimilation versus new evangelization; the slavers and occupiers versus the United States of America.  Our sins and our potential, a potential which will be actualized when we say to the Truth at the heart of reality, "Thy will be done."  Here's one of the Catholic patriots of the modern day calling us to remember under whose patronage the United States of America (and the rest of the Americas) has been placed:

Friday, June 14, 2013

Healing the Culture, Barb Nicolosi, and Good Work

Go, Barb, go! Excerpts:
...She concluded her talk by presenting five things the Church can do to change the culture. First, she said the Church must identify those people who can represent us well to the wider culture. Media spokesmen are needed, orators are needed, and good singers are needed, she said.

Next, the Church needs to start training artists again. Those with talents for creating beautiful works of art need to be identified, encouraged, and taught, all within the Church. Nicolosi lamented that there is not one Catholic school among the top 20 film programs in the country – “there is no place in the Church to send your artist kid to be the best.”

Nicolosi’s third recommendation for Catholics to change the culture is to start treating the arts as important, by again becoming patrons of beauty. Singers and architects need to well-compensated for their efforts to produce beautiful works of art; “we used to be willing to pay for gorgeous art.”

Medieval inhabitants of Europe sacrificed to produce magnificent Cathedrals, giving a sign of their faith for the future. Our sign for the future, Nicolosi lamented, is the popular 1980s hymn, “Gather Us In.”

Fourth, we need to work with professionals in the media field. Poorly made Catholic media does not evangelize: “ugly, shoddy, embarrassing work is not orthodox Catholic – it’s another kind of lie,” she said.

“You’re saying one thing with your mouth, and something else with your style.” As when building a Church one hires construction professionals, not necessarily daily Mass-goers, the production of Catholic films must include professional filmmakers.

Finally, Nicolosi urged prayer for artistic geniuses – for “Mozarts.” We must “pray to God to send a new influx of beauty, and people who can send it into our midst.”

“Ask God to send a Mozart, and that we’ll recognize him,” she concluded. “Let us, for the sake of the people out there beyond our doors, make what John Paul II called the sacrifices that beauty requires.”...
As C. S. Lewis said:
Good Works' in the plural is an expression much more familiar to modern Christendom than 'good work.' Good works are chiefly almsgiving or 'helping' in the parish. They are quite separate from one's 'work.' And good works need not be good work, as anyone can see by inspecting some of the objects made to be sold at bazaars for charitable purposes. This is not according to our example. When our Lord provided a poor wedding party with an extra glass of wine all around, he was doing good works. But also good work; it was a wine really worth drinking. Nor is the neglect of goodness in our 'work,' our job, according to precept. The apostle says everyone must not only work but work to produce what is 'good.'

The idea of Good Work is not quite extinct among us, though it is not, I fear, especially characteristic of religious people. I have found it among cabinetmakers, cobblers, and sailors. It is no use at all trying to impress sailors with a new liner because she is the biggest or costliest ship afloat. They look for what they call her 'lines': they predict how she will behave in a heavy sea. Artists also talk of Good Work; but decreasingly. They begin to prefer words like 'significant,' 'important', 'contemporary,' or 'daring.' These are not, to my mind, good symptoms.--The World's Last Night: And Other Essays, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Nov 4, 2002), pg 74 ff.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

New Evangelization in France

Awesome.  Excerpts:
...Deconstructing this article has proven to be a hard task. On the surface the story of the Cathos 2.0 generation is so strong that it cannot be killed by a skeptical or hostile presentation. It is a French man bites dog story — student revolutionaries in Paris as ultramontane Catholics.

On the surface Le Nouvel Obs seems to have framed the story against the interest of the subject. While it allows the young Catholics to tell their own story, the analysis and commentary is drawn from the left — academics and liberal Catholics who bemoan the conservative political and doctrinal views of Cathos 2.0. Nor do we hear from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in France. This packaging should have made the issues unattractive and painted the subjects in an unsympathetic light. But  by the end of the story these young people come off well. You like them...

The presentation and the structure the first three quarters the story follows the conventional secular thinking of the French elites. Yet by the end of the piece you’re hooked by these kids – – their enthusiasm, their excitement, their faith. I cannot tell whether this was an accident or was calculated move to bring the reader on board. Perhaps what we are seeing here is a conscious bait and switch.

How do you get a middle-aged left-liberal secular audience to read a story about a youth movement that detests the values and agenda of the ’68 generation now in power? You do it by couching the story in tropes and phrases that are comfortable to the audience — and then you slip them a story about young attractive — chic — students at elite universities whose faith is changing France and shaking up the church...
This might explain this.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cast Fire Upon the Earth

Feel the need for some fire in your faith life?  Call on the Holy Spirit to come in Jesus's name and change your life, then hold on to your hat.  Excerpts:
...Chris:...Just as Jesus gives you a new relationship with God the Father, the Holy Spirit gives you a new relationship with Jesus.

Sal: What new relationship?

Chris: There are a lot of aspects to it, but the heart of it is that Jesus becomes real to you, not just ideal or abstract. You know him, not just know about him. It’s as big a change as Job found at the end of his story, when the God he had been praying to and complaining to and calling on finally came to him. When that happened, Job said, “I had heard of you with the hearing of the ear, but now I see you with the seeing of the eye.” Firsthand knowing instead of secondhand. And that’s a big difference as weIl, I imagine your father had left home to fight in some foreign war when you were born, and you never saw him. You only got letters from him (that’s like the Bible), and your mother told you about him (she’s like the Church). Then one day he shows up at your front door and comes in, and you hug him and talk with him and play with him—you meet him...
See here for a chaplet to the Holy Spirit.  For more, see:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Dangers of Giving the Catholic Church a Fair Hearing

A former atheist, now a Catholic, bears witness. Excerpts:
...As a teenager, I realised that I needed to read beyond my staple polemicists, as well as start researching the ideas of the most egregious enemies of reason, such as Catholics, to properly defend my world view. It was here, ironically, that the problems began.

I started by reading Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address, aware that it had generated controversy at the time and was some sort of attempt –futile, of course – to reconcile faith and reason. I also read the shortest book of his I could find, On Conscience. I expected – and wanted – to find bigotry and illogicality that would vindicate my atheism. Instead, I was presented with a God who was the Logos: not a supernatural dictator crushing human reason, but the self-expressing standard of goodness and objective truth towards which our reason is oriented, and in which it is fulfilled, an entity that does not robotically control our morality, but is rather the source of our capacity for moral perception, a perception that requires development and formation through the conscientious exercise of free will.

It was a far more subtle, humane and, yes, credible perception of faith than I had expected. It didn’t lead to any dramatic spiritual epiphany, but did spur me to look further into Catholicism, and to re-examine some of the problems I had with atheism with a more critical eye.

First, morality. Non-theistic morality, to my mind, tended towards two equally problematic camps: either it was subjective to the point of meaninglessness or, when followed logically, entailed intuitively repulsive outcomes, such as Sam Harris’s stance on torture. But the most appealing theories which could circumvent these problems, like virtue ethics, often did so by presupposing the existence of God. Before, with my caricatured understanding of theism, I’d considered that nonsensical. Now, with the more detailed understanding I was starting to develop, I wasn’t so sure.

Next, metaphysics. I soon realised that relying on the New Atheists for my counter-arguments to the existence of God had been a mistake: Dawkins, for instance, gives a disingenuously cursory treatment of St Thomas Aquinas in The God Delusion, engaging only with the summary of Aquinas’s proofs in the Five Ways – and misunderstanding those summarised proofs to boot. Acquainting myself fully with Thomistic-Aristotelian ideas, I found them to be a valid explanation of the natural world, and one on which atheist philosophers had failed to make a coherent assault.

What I still did not understand was how a theology that operated in harmony with human reason could simultaneously be, in Benedict XVI’s words, “a theology grounded in biblical faith”. I’d always assumed that sola scriptura (“scripture alone”), with its evident shortcomings and fallacies, was how all consistent, believing Christians read the Bible. So I was surprised to discover that this view could be refuted just as robustly from a Catholic standpoint – reading the Bible through the Church and its history, in light of Tradition – as from an atheist one.

I looked for absurdities and inconsistencies in the Catholic faith that would derail my thoughts from the unnerving conclusion I was heading towards, but the infuriating thing about Catholicism is its coherency: once you accept the basic conceptual structure, things fall into place with terrifying speed. “The Christian mysteries are an indivisible whole,” wrote Edith Stein in The Science of the Cross: “If we become immersed in one, we are led to all the others.” The beauty and authenticity of even the most ostensibly difficult parts of Catholicism, such as the sexual ethics, became clear once they were viewed not as a decontextualised list of prohibitions, but as essential components in the intricate body of the Church’s teaching...
Why, yes, the Body of Christ is clothed in a seamless garment, and not one of his bones will be broken.
 It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment a man ceases to pull against it he feels a tug towards it. The moment he ceases to shout it down he begins to listen to it with pleasure. The moment he tries to be fair to it he begins to be fond of it.--G. K. Chesterton, The Catholic Church and Conversion

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pope Francis, Catholic Church Reform, and the New Evangelization

Father Longenecker recommends a threesome, saying:
...Shaw shows the problem. Weigel expounds the solution from an intellectual perspective. Sherry Weddell takes the call for reform even further in her very important book, Forming Intentional Disciples–The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus...

I cannot recommend this serendipitous trilogy of books enough. The three books have come on the scene at precisely the right time for the church. Along with the election of Pope Francis, the Spirit has led these three authors to produce books very much needed in the life of the Church.

Buy copies. Study them. Share them with your friends. I have read all three. The first two provide the necessary theory. The third I will read and re-read and share with my staff in order to set our priorities and get to work...
A host of others have crossed my path recently, gathered into one list here.  But by all accounts, those three are significant.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Vatican Punishes French Priest for Being a Freemason"

And no one should have been surprised.  By the punishment, that is.  I'm surprised a French priest was that openly a member of the Masons.  Excerpts:
...Bishop Yves Boivineau had warned Fr Vesin about his "active membership" of the Grand Orient de France lodge.

Freemasonry has been condemned as anti-Christian and anti-clerical by various popes through history.

Bishop Boivineau ordered the priest to cease his functions "at Rome's request", the parish said.

In March, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - effectively the Church's watchdog - asked for the priest's departure.

Three members of the diocese of Annecy then met him but Fr Vesin said he would not leave the lodge...
Why am I surprised the priest is apparently so open about it? This is why. Excerpts:
...The Church has imposed the penalty of excommunication on Catholics who become Freemasons. The penalty of excommunication for joining the Masonic Lodge was explicit in the 1917 code of canon law (canon 2335), and it is implicit in the 1983 code (canon 1374).

Because the revised code of canon law is not explicit on this point, some drew the mistaken conclusion that the Church's prohibition of Freemasonry had been dropped. As a result of this confusion, shortly before the 1983 code was promulgated, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement indicating that the penalty was still in force. This statement was dated November 26, 1983 and may be found in Origins 13/27 (Nov. 15, 1983), 450.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

"Hurricane Scandy," President Obama, and Some Funny, Funny Jon Stewart

The Week has a very informative overview of many of the scandals. The piece concludes:
...That's a long fall from grace for the White House in the short period of time since the mutual-admiration society of the WHCA's gala dinner and celebrity red-carpet evening. The scandalous snooping on journalists attempting to keep government accountable through the exercise of the First Amendment may or may not be the most significant of the scandals that the Obama administration faces at the moment — but it's the key scandal that will motivate the press to report more aggressively on all of the others. Circling the wagons with its ideological allies in the opinion media shows that the White House may have reached the same conclusion.
Dana Milbank would seem to agree. Excerpts:
...[T]he administration’s actions shatter the president’s credibility and discourage allies who would otherwise defend the administration against bogus accusations such as those involving the Benghazi “talking points.” If the administration is spying on reporters and accusing them of criminality just for asking questions — well, who knows what else this crowd is capable of doing?...

Carney told the White House press corps Tuesday that Obama doesn’t think “journalists should be prosecuted for doing their jobs” (perhaps he could remind the FBI of that), and the administration has renewed its support for a media shield law (a welcome but suspicious gesture, because the White House thwarted a previous attempt to pass the bill).

If Obama really is “a fierce defender of the First Amendment,” as his spokesman would have it, he will move quickly to fix this. Otherwise, Obama is establishing an ominous precedent for future leaders whose fondness for the First Amendment may not be so fierce.
Some interesting points made about the IRS scandal.  Excerpts:
...The IRS scandal is just as significant. There are few greater threats to our democracy than the use of the IRS, or any part of government, to harass, punish or thwart an administration's perceived political enemies. The IRS actions are particularly disconcerting given its greatly expanded role under ObamaCare...
Peggy Noonan expands on those points. Excerpts:
...[T]he IRS scandal is different because it speaks of the political corruption of a major and crucial governmental agency to whose rules and regulations every American—everyone who has a job or a bank account, or who engages in a financial transaction—is subject. Most people will never have an interaction with the State Department or the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the IRS deals with an intimate and sensitive part of your life, your personal finances. It is the revenue-collecting arm of the government. It is needed. It does necessary work. When that work is done well it is rarely noted and almost never celebrated. When it’s done badly it’s a terrible thing, because it means a citizen was treated badly or abused. But as an agency it couldn’t be more important to the national mood, the national atmosphere.

If we allow it to become politically corrupt that scandal will not pass, it will be with us every day...

Again, if what happened at the IRS is not stopped now, it will never stop. The next White House will come in and they’ll know they can do it too. And if they’re unlucky enough to be caught, they’ll have a have a few uncomfortable moments in Congress, and a few people who were going to retire in the summer will retire in the spring. And it will all go on.

We are at a point now where you can make a list of things that, all combined and allowed to continue, can kill America. This is one of them. Widespread belief that the revenue-collecting arm of the US government is hopelessly corrupt is one of them...
An interesting note from a man who says he's recently gone through the adoption process. Excerpts:
...As we get word that the IRS has harassed a number of pro-life groups, including at least one alleged demand that a pro-life group not picket Planned Parenthood, check out this statistic: In 2012, the IRS requested additional information from 90 percent of returns claiming the adoption tax credit and went on to actually audit 69 percent. More details from the Taxpayer Advocate Service:

During the 2012 filing season, 90 percent of returns claiming the refundable adoption credit were subject to additional review to determine if an examination was necessary. The most common reasons were income and a lack of documentation.

■ Sixty-nine percent of all adoption credit claims during the 2012 filing season were selected for audit.

■ Of the completed adoption tax credit audits, over 55 percent ended with no change in the tax owed or refund due in fiscal year 2012. The median refund amount involved in these audits is over $15,000 and the median adjusted gross income (AGI) of the taxpayers involved is about 64,000. The average adoption credit correspondence audit currently takes 126 days, causing a lengthy delay for taxpayers waiting for refunds.

While many returns had missing or incomplete information (more on that in a moment), what was the outcome of this massive audit campaign? Not much:

Despite Congress’ express intent to target the credit to low and middle income families, the IRS created income-based rules that were responsible for over one-third of all additional reviews in FY2012.

■ Of the $668.1 million in adoption credit claims in tax year (TY) 2011 as a result of adoption credit audits, the IRS only disallowed $11 million — or one and one-half percent — in adoption credit claims. However, the IRS has also had to pay out $2.1 million in interest in TY 2011 to taxpayers whose refunds were held past the 45-day period allowed by law.

So Congress implemented a tax credit to facilitate adoption – a process that is so extraordinarily expensive that it is out of reach for many middle-class families — and the IRS responded by implementing an audit campaign that delayed much-needed tax refunds to the very families that needed them the most. Oh, and the return on its investment in this harassment? Slightly more than 1 percent...
The LA Times calls for the administration to cooperate fully with the IRS investigation.  Excerpts:
Message to the president: Resistance is futile.

There are plenty of juicy targets for investigators in the IRS scrutiny of conservative organizations that applied for tax-exempt status, but the most dangerous for President Obama is this: Did bureaucrats in Cincinnati create this mess on their own? Or did someone in the White House give the marching orders to target the president's enemies?...

Obama shouldn't merely allow the IRS to cooperate; he should order the IRS to cooperate fully and enthusiastically. Meantime, the White House staff should also begin combing their own records to see if there's anything else they need to fess up. Under the doctrine of executive privilege, internal White House records are normally immune from congressional probing, but it would benefit Obama to be forthcoming.

The reason is simple: The president needs to prove a negative. He needs to show that there was no political influence over the IRS decisions. Proving a negative is never easy; it's doubly difficult when others are beginning to doubt your word.

The White House hasn't done much to bolster the president's credibility so far. While Obama himself has said the right things, his aides have sounded grouchy and grudging about cooperating with congressional investigations...

Even worse, the administration is having a hard time getting its story straight on who knew about the IRS problem and when they knew it...

[B]y getting its story wrong and revising it repeatedly, the White House has managed to make itself look guilty of something, whether it is or not. And that is prompting everyone else — even some allies — to invoke the Watergate question: What did he know and when did he know it?
Of course, even though some keep referring to some sort of cabal in the Cincinnati office of the IRS, the purported targets of the politically motivated audits are popping up across the nation, so I'm not sure I buy the whole "Cincinnati Sucks" narrative. In other scandal, Attorney General Holder admits that the US drone campaign has accidentally taken out American citizens without trial, alongside those Americans killed intentionally without a trial. Excerpts:
In an extraordinary admission, Attorney General Eric Holder has told Congress that U.S. drone strikes since 2009 have killed four Americans — three of whom were “not specifically targeted.”

For all the effort that the Obama administration has gone to in asserting that its drones only kill the people that the administration intends to kill, Holder wrote in a letter today to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that Samir Khan, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki and Jude Kenan Mohammad were “not specifically targeted by the United States.” The fourth American to die in a drone strike since 2009 was Abdulrahman’s father Anwar Awlaki, a radical propagandist whom the U.S. killed in Yemen in 2011.

The five-page letter, obtained and published by Charlie Savage of The New York Times, does not explain the circumstances that led to the unintentional killings of Khan, Mohammad and the younger Awlaki. Holder does not apologize for the killings, nor explain whether their deaths resulted from errant targeting, mistaken identity or another circumstance.

But after acknowledging that the administration did “not specifically targe[t]” those three Americans, Holder defended killing Americans the administration believes to be members of al-Qaida without due process, a constitutionally questionable proposition...
The Daily Beast on civil liberties, press oversight, and this administration. Excerpts:
...Because they tend to share his broad outlook on politics, too many journalists for too long have been in the tank for Obama, explaining away or minimizing his policy failures and reversals. Remember Obama’s heartfelt insistence that he would run the most transparent administration ever? Take a look at this document about warrantless searches of text messages that his administration finally coughed up to the ACLU and get back to me. It’s 15 pages of completely redacted prose. Such a document would be funny if it wasn’t coming from a secrecy-obsessed administration that has put the brakes on fulfilling FOIA requests and has charged a record number of people under the Espionage Act.

Then there’s Obama’s cherished belief in his inalienable right to scrag anyone he thinks was connected to the 9/11 attacks or al Qaeda or is otherwise a threat to the good old U.S. of A. Even George W. Bush never wandered into that constitutionally swampy territory—and he was worse than Hitler, Richard Nixon, and Larry the Cable Guy put together, right? Yet it took a 13-hour filibuster by the libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to get a simple—and still squirrely!—answer to whether the administration thinks it has the authority to dispatch death drones against citizens on U.S. soil...
Kirsten Powers raises some interesting points about the DoJ's bad habit of spying on the press. Excerpts:
First they came for Fox News, and they did not speak out—because they were not Fox News. Then they came for government whistleblowers, and they did not speak out—because they were not government whistleblowers. Then they came for the maker of a YouTube video, and—okay, we know how this story ends. But how did we get here?

Turns out it’s a fairly swift sojourn from a president pushing to “delegitimize” a news organization to threatening criminal prosecution for journalistic activity by a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, to spying on Associated Press reporters. In between, the Obama administration found time to relentlessly persecute government whistleblowers and publicly harass and condemn a private American citizen for expressing his constitutionally protected speech in the form of an anti-Islam YouTube video.

Where were the media when all this began happening? With a few exceptions, they were acting as quiet enablers...

These series of “warnings” to the Fourth Estate were what you might expect to hear from some third-rate dictator, not from the senior staff of Hope and Change, Inc.

Yet only one mainstream media reporter—Jake Tapper, then of ABC News—ever raised a serious objection to the White House’s egregious and chilling behavior. Tapper asked future MSNBC commentator and then White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: “[W]hy is [it] appropriate for the White House to say” that “thousands of individuals who work for a media organization, do not work for a ‘news organization’?” The spokesman for the president of the United States was unrepentant, saying: “That's our opinion.”

Trashing reporters comes easy in Obama-land. Behind the scenes, Obama-centric Democratic operatives brand any reporter who questions the administration as a closet conservative, because what other explanation could there be for a reporter critically reporting on the government?...

If the existence of a person who allegedly associates with conservatives is a “mole,” then what does that tell us about the rest of the media?

What all of us in the media need to remember—whatever our politics—is that we need to hold government actions to the same standard, whether they’re aimed at friends or foes. If not, there’s no one but ourselves to blame when the administration takes aim at us.
Mark Shea explains why it's so hard for many Americans to get worked up over the rising tide of scandal. Excerpts:
...[T]he Right Wing Noise Machine’s relentless habit of dialing up every. single. gripe about Obama to 11 results in Boy Who Cried Wolf syndrome for the average non-political man on the street who has long ago tuned out the hysterics and therefore has trouble telling when a really serious problem has appeared.

And the irony? The RWNM could have learned this simple psychological fact from the Left Wing Noise Machine. Remember the screaming about BushHITLER? Remember how effective that was in defeating Bush in 2004? Remember how the anti-war Left exhausted itself finding fault with every little thing Bush said and did till you tuned them out?

This sort of thing is, by the way, more than merely politically stupid. It is spiritually corrosive and profoundly dangerous to the soul. Here’s C.S. Lewis:

“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.”

I limit my animosity to the Obama Administration as much as possible for two reasons. By far the most important is given by Lewis. The second is given by Aesop in the Boy Who Cried Wolf...


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