Spying and the Liberal Arts

How my mind works: Ideas, memories, and experiences float around in my head until they crystallize into a question:

Thinking about our popular “Spy Camp,” contemplating our college’s Strategic Intelligence Program, having recently read a book and watched a movie about the origins of the CIA, having taken my son to D.C.’s Spy Museum, having just read a student paper relating the lessons from Shakespeare to the field of Strategic Intelligence, and having just done some research on Graham Greene (one of many author/spies going all the way back to Christopher Marlowe and Daniel DeFoe), I came across a quotation from super-spy and counter-intelligence czar James Jesus Angleton who said that literature majors make the best spies.

Indeed, during World War II and in the eariy days of the CIA, the recruiters for the new intelligence agencies tapped mostly Ivy League English majors.

What connection do you see between the study of literature and the VOCATION of espionage?

The First Catholic President

If Bill Clinton could be termed the first Black president, George W. Bush could be termed the first Catholic president. No, Kennedy can’t claim that title since he made a point of not letting his membership in the Catholic church influence what he did as president. But Bush, surrounding himself with Catholic advisors, has been actually implementing many points of Catholic social teaching. So says this article: A Catholic Wind in the White House – washingtonpost.com.

Is this journalist confusing “Catholic” principles for just “Christian” principles, such as the pro-life cause? Are the Catholics influential just because they have worked out the rationale for these issues, whereas Protestants have not? Is the influence of Catholicism in the White House something for non-Catholics to be concerned about?

The polygamists and parental rights

The raid of that compound in Texas with the Fundamentalist Mormons has to make us squirm. Taking over 400 children away from their mothers? Surely they weren’t guilty of anything. And even if there were abuse, their mothers surely weren’t to blame. Here is the latest.

Don’t the investigators need to be more respecting of parental rights, even in a case like this?

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares

Thanks to whatever reader it was who urged me to watchRamsay’s Kitchen Nightmares . I had praised Gordon Ramsey’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” which had probably been pitched as an American Idol for cooks combined with a Marine bootcamp. In “Kitchen Nightmares,” on the other hand, Gordon slaps dysfunctional restaurants into shape.

In a recent episode, the problem was the obnoxious husband in the kitchen and wife who handled the front. They constantly sniped and yelled at each other, and even threw out customers! Gordon had to play marriage counselor, as well as getting rid of the pretension and revamping the menu–getting the owner to cook what he was really good at rather than all of these fancy recipes. Gordon is harsh and brutally honest, but he does have a heart. And there are lots of lessons here, even for non-restauranteurs, about customer service, quality, and VOCATION, VOCATION, VOCATION.

Debating ABC’s debate

I’ve been critical of Barack Obama the last few days, but this time I can understand his exasperation with the debate run by ABC the other night. See this TV critic’s evisceration of the way ABC handled it:In Pa. Debate, The Clear Loser Is ABC.

Many conservatives, though, are crowing at how badly Obama did and how liberals are being so indignant about ABC.

But on one issue, surely all can agree that ABC blew it: The main questioner was George Stephanopoulos , a former Clinton staffer!

How is it possible that a major network with an actual newsroom would be so blind to such an obvious conflict of interest? The lowliest intern should have been able to catch that howler.

Here comes the Pope

The Pope is here, and Washington, D.C., that secularist haven, is all excited. The Washington Post is full of favorable coverage. We even have a discussion of his vestments from the fashion editor.

Why do you think so many secularists are making such a big deal about the Pope’s visit?