Election Day

Today we Americans are privileged to participate in what has been called the “civic sacrament” of voting.

Elections for public office are not new, of course.  They were staples of the Greek democracy and the Roman republic.  The papacy has always been an elected position.  In medieval Europe, the Emperor was elected, the main difference from our elections being that only seven people got to vote (including the Duke of Saxony, which is why one holder of that office, Frederick the Wise, had the clout to prevent Martin Luther from being burned at the stake).

Pundits expect a big day for Republicans, who may well gain a majority on the Senate.   Any predictions? [Read more...]

Ancient Polynesians had children with American Indians

Easter Island, known for its mysterious stone figures,  is 2,300 miles from South America.  And yet, DNA research has found that the ancient Polynesians had children with Native Americans.  This happened between 1300 and 1500 A.D.  Today, the residents of Easter Island are 10% American Indian.  Meanwhile two skulls have been found in Brazil that have been identified as Polynesian.   How this mixing of two peoples with primitive technology separated by so much distance is a mystery. [Read more...]

A 19th Century doctor who may have saved your life

Abortion, far from being a modern medical procedure, was rampant in the past, including in the 19th century.  After the jump is an interview with Frederick Dyer, the author of a biography of Dr. Horatio Robinson Storer, the physician responsible for passing anti-abortion laws.  He stopped so many abortions that, statistically, he may have saved the life of one of your ancestors, without whom you would cease to exist. [Read more...]

The Martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer

Nathan Busenitz gives a vivid account of the martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer, who was greatly influenced by Luther and who is the literary genius who gave us the Book of Common Prayer, the English rendition of the liturgy that have shaped the language of Lutheran liturgies as well. [Read more...]

The mother of all attack ads

I was 12 years old when I watched Lyndon Johnson’s campaign ad that showed a little girl picking daisies followed by the mushroom cloud of a nuclear blast.  Even at the time, I understood the message:  Don’t vote for that extremist Barry Goldwater!  He will start a nuclear war!

Yes, the ad, if you thought about it was utterably lame (a little girl? daisies?), but it had to have contributed to LBJ’s landslide victory.  Drew Babb analyzes the political commercial, which aired as a paid advertisement one time only on September 7, 1964 (after that, it was endlessly re-run by the three networks who covered the ad itself as a piece of news).  He calls it the “mother of all attack ads.” [Read more...]

Has DNA evidence identified Jack the Ripper?

DNA evidence may have solved the mystery of Jack the Ripper, the serial killer who brutally murdered 11 prostitutes in Victorian England.  A shawl that was reportedly found on the body of one of his victims had blood that has been identified as having come from one of women he killed and semen that has a DNA match with a descendant of one of the original suspects, Aaron Kosminki.  But the findings are being challenged. [Read more...]


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