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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Luther/Marriage

June 18th, 2018

Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora on this date, June 13, in 1525. Their marriage was scandalous at that time, because Luther was a former monk, and his betrothed was a former nun. They met when Katharina — along with 11 of her fellow nuns — hid in a wagon to escape their convent; they ended up in Wittenberg, under Luther’s protection. Katharina was vivacious and intelligent, and soon had her share of suitors, but she declared that she would only marry Luther or his friend Nikolaus von Amsdorf. Many people — including Luther himself — were worried that it would reflect badly on the fledgling Protestant Reformation. In the end, Luther decided that there was “a battery of reason in favor of his proposal: his marriage would please his father, rile the pope, cause the angels to laugh and the devils to weep.”

His marriage to “dear Katie,” as he called her, was a happy one. They lived in the Black Cloister, the monastery where Luther had formerly served as a monk. They had six children, and Katharina ran the household while Luther taught and wrote. She controlled the family finances, grew most of the food, and brewed her own beer. She was an excellent cook, and the Luther dinner table became famous for its delicious food and stimulating conversation. Luther sought his wife’s advice on many matters, and she frequently dealt with publishers on his behalf, since he had no head for business.

Martin Luther died in 1546. Not long afterward, Katharina wrote to her sister: “I know that you take pity on me and my poor children. For who could not be deeply grieved and saddened over the loss of such a dear and precious man as my husband has been. He gave so much of himself in service not only to one town or to one country, but to the whole world. Yes, my sorrow is so deep that no words can express my heartbreak, and it is humanly impossible to understand what state of mind and spirit I am in … I can neither eat nor drink, not even sleep … God knows that when I think of having lost him, I can neither talk nor write in all my suffering.”

 

Garrison Keillor/Writers Almanac, June 2013

 

Anne Frank/Victim of Evil

June 12th, 2018

Today, June 12, 2018, is the birthday of Anne Frank, (born in Frankfurt, Germany, 1929), who died at the age of 14 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany during the Holocaust. Frank, her family, and four other people hid for two years in an attic space above Frank’s father’s business warehouse. The space was called “The Secret Annex,”and they survived through the help of Otto Frank’s employees, who brought them food, newspapers, and sundries.

 The space was small and cramped, and the eight people had to follow strict routines about when to use the bathroom, when to go to bed, and even when they could talk, for fear of rousing the suspicion of the workers in the warehouse. The Secret Annex was entered through a revolving bookcase.

 We would probably not know of Anne Frank’s life, or certain details of what life was like for Jews during the Holocaust, if Anne had not left behind a little red and white checkered diary that she called “Kitty.” In it, she recorded details of her life before confinement: school, crushes, fights with sister Margot, but also the increasing harassment that Jews faced after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich. Jews could no longer ride public transportation. Jewish schoolchildren were forced to sit apart from non-Jewish children in classrooms. Anne Frank wrote, “My happy-go-lucky, carefree school days are over.”

 Anne’s father, Otto Frank, had devised a plan of escape, but before it could take place, Anne’s sister, Margot, along with thousands of other Jews in Amsterdam, was called to a labor camp in Germany. If she didn’t register and report, the entire family would be arrested. The Frank family packed suitcases and walked to The Secret Annex in the rain. They wore as many clothes as possible. They would spend 761 days in hiding before they were discovered and sent to the concentration camps.

 Otto Frank was the only survivor. No one knows who betrayed the Franks, but Otto’s helper, Miep Gies, found the diary in The Secret Annex and gave it to Otto Frank. It became a worldwide sensation when it was published in 1947 as Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl.

 Anne Frank would be 88 years old if she had lived. In her diary, she wrote: “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

 And she wrote, “Those who have courage and faith shall never perish in misery.”

Garrison Keillor’s/Writers Almanac, 2017

BenJonson/Great Playwright/Outrageous Rake

June 12th, 2018

June 11, probably in 1572, was the birthday of the playwright Ben Jonson. His plays include Every Man in His Humour (1598), Volpone (1606), The Alchemist (1610), and Bartholomew Fair (1614). A contemporary, friend, and rival of Shakespeare’s, Jonson was a heavy drinker and a fighter, no “Gentle Will.”

 

Jonson’s father died before he was born, and his stepfather was a bricklayer, so after a good education, young Ben spent some time laying bricks and then went off and joined the army. The story goes that he ran to the front of the lines and challenged a random soldier to single combat, then killed him. He went back to London, where he got work as an actor. Apparently he wasn’t a very good actor, but he was a good playwright. In 1597, he co-wrote a play called The Isle of Dogs, which got him in trouble with the government—it was too subversive, and he was thrown in jail for “leude and mutynous behavior.”

 

He was let out after a few months, but a year later, he killed a fellow actor named Gabriel Spenscer in a duel. He was arrested and he should have been hanged, but he pulled out a legal defense called “benefit of clergy”—since he could read the Bible in Latin, he got to go in front of a more lenient court, which rarely sentenced well-educated men. Instead, he got another stint in jail, and was branded on his thumb to remind him that he had almost been executed.

 

In 1604, he co-wrote a play called Eastward Ho! that mocked Scotland—since James VI of Scotland had taken over the throne from Elizabeth, making fun of Scotland was not tolerated, and Jonson was once more thrown in jail and informed that his ears and nose would be cut off. This threat never materialized, and when he was released, he hosted a banquet with friends to celebrate yet another narrow escape.

 

Jonson’s plays were more classically inspired than Shakespeare’s, less dependent on bawdy jokes and flashy duels. Jonson made plenty of disparaging comments about Shakespeare. He complained that his fellow playwright had “small Latine, and less Greeke.” And Jonson was probably alluding to Shakespeare, who did have a tendency to rip off plots from other people, when he wrote:

Poor Poet-Ape, that would be thought our chief,
Whose works are e’en the frippery of wit,
From brokage is become so bold a thief,
As we, the robb’d, leave rage, and pity it.
At first he made low shifts, would pick and glean,
Buy the reversion of old plays; now grown
To a little wealth, and credit in the scene,
He takes up all, makes each man’s wit his own :
And, told of this, he slights it. Tut, such crimes
The sluggish gaping auditor devours ;
He marks not whose ’twas first : and after-times
May judge it to be his, as well as ours.
Fool! as if half eyes will not know a fleece
From locks of wool, or shreds from the whole piece?

 

Unlike Shakespeare, Jonson was known as a slow, meticulous writer. After Shakespeare’s death, Jonson wrote: “I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, would he had blotted a thousand. […] I loved the man and do honor his memory on this side of idolatry, as much as any: he was indeed honest, and of an open and free nature; had an excellent phantasy, brave notions, and gentle expressions; wherein he flowed with that facility, that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped.”

 

Ben Jonson was famous for his ability to drink—it is said that when he converted from the Catholic Church to the Anglican Church in 1610, he downed the entire chalice of wine during his first communion.

 

His bar of choice was the Mermaid Tavern in Cheapside, where he was the ringleader of a group of literary men. There are stories about the great debates and battles of wit that Jonson and Shakespeare had over their pints at the Mermaid, surrounded by the likes John Donne, Sir Walter Raleigh, John Fletcher, Sir Francis Bacon, and Francis Beaumont—but this is probably not true. More likely it was Jonson and some younger literary disciples who were regular patrons.

 

After Jonson’s death, the playwright Jasper Mayne wrote an ode, “To the Memory of Ben Jonson,” and he wrote: “Such thy drought was, and so great thy thirst, / That all thy Playes were drawne at th’ Mermaid first.”

 

Garrison Keillor’s/Writers Almanac, June, 2017

 

A Politicized FBI

May 28th, 2018

A Powerful, Erudite Paper That Helps Shed Light On What Might Be Serious, Unconstitutional Actions By The FBI On The Trump Presidential Campaign

National Review

Spy Name Games

by Andrew C. McCarthy

May 26, 2018

The Obama administration blatantly politicized the government’s intelligence and law-enforcement apparatus.

‘Isn’t it a fact that you’re a scumbag?”

Our contretemps over the nomenclature of government informants has me unable to shake this arresting moment from my memory. In Manhattan, about 30 years ago, I was among the spectators basking in the majesty of Foley Square’s federal courthouse when we were suddenly jarred by this, shall we say, rhetorical question. The sniper was a mob lawyer in a big RICO case; the target was the prosecution’s main witness, the informant.

Until this week, I’d always thought the most noteworthy thing about this obnoxious bit of theater was the reaction of the judge, a very fine, very wry trial lawyer in his own right.

The prosecutors, of course, screamed, “Objection!”

The judge calmly shrugged his shoulders and ruled: “He can answer if he knows.”

Did he know? I don’t remember. I was laughing too hard to hear any response.

The court’s deadpan was not just hilarious. In its way, it was trenchant.

The judge was not insouciant. He was a realist. The witness had done what covert informants do: He pretended to be someone he wasn’t, he wheedled his way into the trust — in some instances, into the affections — of people suspected of wrongdoing. And then he betrayed them. But that’s the job: to pry away secrets — get the bad actors to admit what they did, how they did it, and with whom they did it, until the agents and prosecutors decide there is enough evidence to convict the lot of them.

The judge understood that. For all the melodrama, whether the informant was a hero or a villain hinged on how one felt not about him but about the worthiness of the investigation.

And just as the mob lawyer served his case, the government lawyers served theirs, portraying the informant as noble — or at least as noble as you can be when your job is to deceive people into confessing things they shouldn’t. Alas, whether we’re talking about criminal investigations or intelligence operations, the search for truth is a study in contrasting hyperbole and euphemism.

In the courtroom, the prosecutors are referred to as “the government,” but they swell with pride — I know I did — at any opportunity to tell you they actually represent “the People of the United States of America.” The defense can have its vaunted presumption of innocence; the unstated presumption in a criminal trial is that the prosecutor is the guy in the white hat. He’s the earnest public servant, just trying to show what really happened — he’s not there to sow doubt, to trick you like those sharks over at the defense table. And if, by reputation and manner, he manages to convince the judge and the jury of his probity and competence, the prosecutor gets to set the narrative.

The ability to set the narrative is the biggest advantage in any public controversy. And prosecutors are not alone in exploiting it. It is the métier of government officials. As progressivism has magnified the administrative state, the self-image of federal bureaucrats has become technocratic altruism: Let us explain what’s going on; after all, we’re just selflessly looking out for you, calling agenda-free balls and strikes. Think of Barack Obama, dyed-in-the-wool leftist, insisting he’s just a pragmatic, non-ideological problem-solver.

Is this bureaucracy “the deep state”? That’s an exaggeration — try, say, China or Turkey if you want to see what a real deep state looks like. Nevertheless, our modern form of government does make technocrats a force to be reckoned with, and they abide supervision and oversight only by other progressives. When a constitutionalist has the temerity to observe that technocrats are subordinate to executive political leadership and must answer to the legislature that created and funds their agencies, they brood about their “independence.” In their minds, they are an unaccountable fourth branch of government — at least until their fellow non-ideological pragmatists return to power.

For this species of arrogance, setting the narrative is a jealously guarded prerogative. We are to understand the bureaucracy’s work as unimpeachably noble and that so, therefore, are its tactics. Consequently, the government’s “cooperator” is never to be called a spy. He’s a “confidential informant” or, as the FBI’s former Director James Comey put it in a tweet this week, a “confidential human source.”

These are not neutral terms. The implication is that these operatives are always benign, even vital. A “source” is that most treasured of intelligence assets, to be protected at all costs — even the need for accountability when power is abused must give way to the confidentiality of intelligence “methods and sources.” “Source” connotes a well-placed asset who has bored into the inner sanctum of jihadists or gangsters — an “informant” whose information saves lives.

But there is another side of the story.

By and large, “confidential informants” do not emerge from the womb with a passion to protect the United States. Quite often, they become informants because they’ve gotten themselves jammed up with the police. Some are sociopaths: shrewd enough to know that the only way out of either a long prison term or a short life expectancy is to become the government’s eyes and ears; self-aware enough to know that, in undercover work, bad character, mendacity, and survival instincts are tools of the trade. Not many Mother Teresas can infiltrate hostile foreign powers, drug cartels, and organized-crime networks.

According to the government, these effective but unsavory operatives are “confidential human sources,” too. To the rest of us, spy may be too nice a word for them. The printable labels are more like “snitch,” “rat,” “Judas,” etc. “Isn’t it a fact that you’re a scumbag?” Yeah, it’s a fact — and yeah, he probably knows.

I realize this is oversimplification. “Spy” is not always a pejorative — Ian Fleming’s James Bond is a British icon, and who was more lovable than Maxwell Smart? (Here you go, kids.) In all seriousness, many spies are real heroes. The CIA’s operations directorate performs the most commendable feats of valor — the kind that can never be celebrated, or even spoken of; the kind that are memorialized at Langley only by stars carved into a cold marble wall — now, 125 of them. Where would we be without FBI and DEA agents who bravely accept undercover assignments, at great strain on their families and their well-being, to take down society’s worst predators? And many informants, though they may not risk their lives the same way, patriotically serve their country by volunteering critical intelligence they come upon through their professions and their travels.

Still, in this week’s controversy over name games, we should understand: Whether we come to see an informant as an indispensable “confidential human source” or as a treacherous “spy” has little to do with his subjective virtue or malevolence. In the end, it is not about who the spies are. It is about why they were spying.

In the Trump–Russia affair, officials of the Obama-era intelligence agencies suggest that there are grounds to believe that the Trump campaign was in a traitorous conspiracy with the Kremlin. What grounds? They’d rather not say. You’ll just have to trust them as well-meaning, non-partisan pros who (all together now) can’t be expected to divulge methods and sources.

Countering that are not only Trump fans but growing ranks of security-state skeptics. The Obama administration blatantly politicized the government’s intelligence and law-enforcement apparatus. Their Chicken Little shrieks that public disclosure of FISA warrants and texts between FBI agents would imperil security have proven overblown at best (and, in some instances, to be cynical attempts to hide embarrassing facts). “Trust us” is not cutting it anymore.

In the end, it is not about who the spies are. It is about why they were spying. In our democratic republic, there is an important norm against an incumbent administration’s use of government’s enormous intelligence-gathering capabilities to — if we may borrow a phrase — interfere in an election. To justify disregarding that norm would require strong evidence of egregious wrongdoing. Enough bobbing and weaving, and enough dueling tweets. Let’s see the evidence.

Andrew C. McCarthy — Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review. @AndrewCMcCarthy

 

PhiladelphiaLocalGovernment/A Secular/Anti-Religious Entity

May 28th, 2018

Severe, despicable, tyranny by Philadelphia local Government. How to badly hurt innocent, vulnerable children.

 Foster Children can no longer be placed by Catholic Social Services unless they renounce traditional Catholic teaching.

Christianity of any traditional kind is a target in any jurisdiction ruled by progressives. If foster children are hurt by this intolerant policy, that’s just a necessary sacrifice.

Progressives have transformed civil government from a way for people to live in the same society even though they have different beliefs into an overarching church with a creed. Everyone who won’t affirm that creed will sooner or later be targeted for marginalization.

The Federalist reports, “While Kids Wait For Homes, Philadelphia Bars Catholic Social Services From Serving Foster Children.”

Ever since the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, we’ve been seeing myriad broader implications from the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell. From wedding cake bakers to event planners, if you dissented from the new regime you could have your livelihood taken from you. Now, the inexorable logic of Obergefell is bearing down on religious organizations that do social welfare work, as conservatives predicted.

Last week, a group of foster families in Philadelphia asked a federal court to end a new municipal policy that prevents Catholic Social Services from placing children in foster homes. Catholic Social Services is one of the largest and highest-rated foster agencies in Philadelphia, but because it adheres to Catholic teaching on homosexuality and does not place foster children in same-sex households, the City of Philadelphia is cutting them off.

City officials are doing this despite a massive shortage of foster families in Philadelphia. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the foster families, issued this summary of the case last week:

“In March 2018, the City of Philadelphia put out an urgent call for 300 new foster families. Despite the desperate need for homes for the 6,000 children in Philadelphia’s foster care system, the City then abruptly barred Catholic Social Services, one of the most successful foster agencies in the city, from placing any children. The City’s actions mean that foster homes are sitting empty and loving foster parents are unable to serve at-risk children, simply because the City disagrees with Catholic Social Services’ longstanding beliefs about marriage.”

Philadelphia will terminate its contract with Catholic Social Services at the end of June unless the agency abandons the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage. Never mind that no same-sex couple has ever complained about Catholic Social Services, or that the agency refers couples with whom it cannot work to one of 26 other agencies in the region.


William S. Frankl, MD, All Rights Reserved