September 10, 2019

Good intentions are not enough. Indeed, good intentions can be harmful. Tarence Ray provides a case study of wasteful, ineffective and disabling social improvement programs in “Hollowed Out: Against the Sham Revitalization of Appalachia” for The Baffler (; 10/19). He assessed 15 organizations in his region that received money from Appalachian Regional Commission plus he looked at other economic development projects. ARC is a federal agency with state cooperation. It began in 1965 and is targeted to West Virginia and… Read more

August 30, 2019

  In April 1994 CBS and N.Y. Times sponsored a survey on U.S. religious beliefs. Specifically, Catholics were asked about the Eucharist: Is it a “symbolic reminder of Christ” or “changed into Christ.” Over 65% of Catholics back then said “symbolic.” Among all Catholics, 51% of those who were weekly worshipers said “symbolic.” The survey results led to articles in Catholic magazines and newspapers. Adult education efforts increased in some places. In 1997 one New York diocese conducted a discussion… Read more

July 22, 2019

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) devoted a chapter to “Associations in Civil Life” in his percipient Democracy in America (Doubleday, 1835 & 1840). “Americans of all ages, all stations in life and all types of dispositions are forever forming associations,” he writes. They are “of a thousand different types—religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited… Americans combine to give fetes, found seminaries, build churches, and distribute books… Finally if they want to proclaim a truth or propagate some feeling…they… Read more

July 10, 2019

Economic indicators ebb and flow, though not with high predictability. In the years after World War II the U.S. economy was growing and its benefits were enjoyed by most middle-class families. Sputtering began in the late-1960s and by the mid-1970s U.S. companies were losing their competitive edge, details Steven Pearlstein in Can American Capitalism Survive? (St. Martin’s Press, 2018). U.S. consumers judged all types of imports to be of better quality and/or of a better price that the U.S.-made counterpart…. Read more

June 19, 2019

  There are prophets of peace and builders of peace. There are protesters and institutional reformers. There are outsiders and insiders. The distinction is fluid. A person might be a prophetic outsider on one topic and an expert insider on another. Newspapers and textbooks often present the outsider as a model for social justice. The outsider is concerned with social change but not overly concerned with how to implement reform. The insider gets less attention. They are the ones who… Read more

June 13, 2019

Is there a sustaining philosophy for idealistic young adults? Is there a creative path that cuts through the inanity of social media, of most TV programming, of the self-help industry? Is there a comprehensive outlook that resists cynicism and resentment? Is it possible to access a fountain of inspiration while maintaining a busy work schedule and keeping up with family obligations? World War I ended in 1918, only to be followed by the Great Depression which began in 1929. In… Read more

May 30, 2019

There are new rules for electing players to the All Star teams. As in a presidential election, fans now vote in a primary and then in a conclusive election. The primary determines the top three players at each position for each league (each league’s top nine outfielders are grouped together). The fan’s conclusive vote determines the starters. Then MLB players have a ballot, plus the All Star managers and the commissioner have some discretion. Thus some players will be in… Read more

May 16, 2019

Secular culture and the liturgical calendar cooperate to make Christmas an extended feast. It begins on Thanksgiving (November 28, 2019)—no sooner than that, please. It includes Advent, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Football Day, Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord and Super Bowl Sunday (February 2, 2020). Easter too is an extended feast, but only on the liturgical calendar. Next year it begins on Ash Wednesday, which is February 26, 2020 (according to the Latin Rite). It… Read more

May 14, 2019

Our Chicago White Sox are “in rebuild mode,” according to their front office. Progress is uneven. Two promising pitchers are out for the season. A left-handed slugger is back in the minor leagues. Defense is spotty. Yet, a couple infielders are hitting. The pitching is coming around. And once the clouds clear, the ballpark is sparkling. The Chicago Cubs are the prototype for rebuilding. They won the 2016 World Series in November of that year and thereby “broke the curse.”… Read more

April 2, 2019

The fire occurred in March 1911. Someone failed to fully extinguish a cigarette in New York City’s Asch Building (now known as Brown Building, owned by N.Y. University). “After just 18 minutes, 144 people were dead,” writes Christine Seifert in The Factory Girls (Zest Books, 2017). Two more died subsequently. The top three floors of the building were used by Triangle Shirtwaist Factory to assemble blouses. There were heroes during those frantic minutes. For example, NYU students spotted the fire… Read more

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