Which friend informed on you?

Another in our series of posts about what it’s like to live without the freedoms that we Americans often take for granted (see also this and this.):

A story on why Germans are so upset about NSA eavesdropping gives some chilling details about what life was like under East German communism, with the secret police (STASI) paying one out of 50 citizens to inform on their friends and relatives, sending them to years of prison for remarks criticizing the government or expressing other forbidden thoughts.  To this day, ex-political prisoners sometimes run into their torturers in the grocery store.  It’s also possible to request your STASI file, which lets you see which friend or relative was reporting on you.

Notice how totalitarianism interferes with and corrupts the most basic human relationships.

[Read more...]

Laws that try to cover everything

In a discussion of the struggling Immigration Reform Bill, George Will tells about the Compromise of 1850.  Henry Clay worked it out, but the bill that would implement it–dealing with scores of inter-related issues, such as limiting the spread of slavery, statehood for California, the mode of territorial government for Utah, what to do about fugitive slaves, and on and on–could never get passed.  It was up to Stephen Douglas, better known as Lincoln’s nemesis, to get the legislation through.   He broke the gargantuan bill apart into smaller bills, each of which found its own constituency, and each of which passed.

Mr. Wills says that part of the problem in our paralyzed government is that bills are just too long.  They try to cover everything.  Which is a symptom of a government that thinks it knows everything. [Read more...]

A day of two Martins

Today is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, which is appropriate since he–an ex-Roman soldier who became a heretic-fighting bishop– is the patron saint of soldiers and this is Veterans Day.  Nice how that worked out, since St. Martin’s day has been observed for centuries before Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I which officially concluded on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918; that is, on November 11.  That event, still celebrated as such in many countries, was broadened into the American Veterans Day.

Martin Luther’s birthday was yesterday, but today is his Baptism day.  A common practice back then was to name a child after the saint whose day it was when the baby was born or baptized.  So that’s why baby Luther was named Martin.

Today is a day to honor soldiers, including soldiers of the Cross.

HT:  Jackie

Women’s hands & ancient art

Look at your hands.  If you are a man, chances are that your ring finger is longer than your index finger.  If you are a woman, your ring finger and your index finger are probably about the same length or your index finger is slightly longer.  Right?  This very minor difference between the sexes was used to determine that the hand-paintings in the caves of Spain–among the earliest art ever discovered–were mostly the work of women.

cave-hand-art

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Keeping and remembering everything

In a discussion of memory, the internet, and our impulse to document every moment of our lives (are we really going to look back at all of the photographs on our cell phones?), novelist Dara Horn tells about a medieval synagogue that, in its refusal to throw away any mention of the Name of God, kept everything its members wrote down for 900 years. [Read more...]

Nuking North Carolina and other close calls

In 1961, a B-52 came apart in the air over North Carolina.  The hydrogen bomb it was carrying fell towards the earth, its systems acting like it had been dropped intentionally.  Its parachute and its trigger mechanism deployed.  There were four safeguards to prevent the bomb from exploding unintentionally.  Three of them failed.  One electrical switch, which could easily have shorted out, held, preventing the nuking of North Carolina.

We’ll probably never know all of the other close calls we’ve had, not just these big dramatic potential disasters as a nation, but also in our personal lives.   Have any of you had any close calls that you’d like to tell us about?

[Read more...]


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