Video Clips Worth Watching: Ernst Janning Testifies

Ernst Janning: Judge Haywood… the reason I asked you to come: Those people, those millions of people… I never knew it would come to that. You must believe it, you must believe it!

Judge Dan Haywood: Herr Janning, it “came to that” the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.


Start of a new series. Burt Lancaster as German Judge Ernst Janning, Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), explains how going along with the Nazis made his life “excrement”.

Belated Star Trek Thanksgiving

Published in: on November 30, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Jesus as the Greatest of Black Swan Events

rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno


(I am posting this today at The American Catholic, and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might also like it.)

The completely unexpected in history has always fascinated me.  Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his 2007 book The Black Swan, took a look at the impact of events in history for which our prior experiences give us no inkling.  Taleb states three requirements for a Black Swan Event:

First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme ‘impact’. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

Unlike Mr. Taleb I think true Black Swan events, based upon the criteria he sets forth, are rather rare in the history of mankind.  Normally they fall down on the first element.  Taleb, for example, views the fall of the Soviet empire as a Black Swan occurrence.  I disagree in that the dissolution of the great colonial empires of the West had been a salient feature of the post World War II world.  Totalitarian controls allowed the Soviet Union to delay the process, but once the reins were loosened, and the threat of mass violence was no longer on the table, the dissolution came rapidly.

The Coming of Christ into this world is the greatest example of a Black Swan Event that I can think of, and over the remainder of this Advent we will see how looking at the Incarnation through this mental prism can give us a new appreciation of how unlikely, and startling, the impact of Christ on History has been.

Before we do this, let us take a moment to recall to mind the world into which Christ was born. (more…)

Published in: on November 29, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier


Something for the weekend.  Jo Stafford gives a heartbreaking rendition of Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier.  From her 1950 album on American folk songs.  The song reminds us that those who know  keenest the cost of war are those who fight in a war and those who love them: (more…)

Published in: on November 28, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bob Hope on Thanksgiving: 1950

Bob Hope spent many holidays away from his home entertaining the troops, and in this 1950 Thanksgiving message he reminds us of those who stand guard over our nation and often eat their Thanksgiving turkey far from home as a result.  God bless and keep them and their families.

Hope had already been to Korea to entertain the troops, even beating the Marines ashore at Wonsan on the east coast of North Korea!  He would be back to entertain the troops again, continuing his tradition of service that would stretch a half century from World War II to Desert Storm.  Hope was a comedic genius, in his prime perhaps the greatest American stand up comedian.  However, what I remember him for is the true patriotism that caused him, whether a war was popular or unpopular, to endure discomfort and danger to bring a smile to Americans far from home serving their country.  He was born in England, but he might as well have been born in the heart of America on the Fourth of July. (more…)

Published in: on November 27, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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November 11, 1620: Mayflower Compact


Few efforts at colonization faced bleaker prospects than those of the pilgrims as they faced a bleak starving winter in a howling wilderness in November 1620.  It was therefore remarkable that they drafted an act to govern what all too many of them probably feared would be a settlement with the briefest of existences.  It showed hope for the future and a determination to prevail against all odds.  Here is the text of the Mayflower Compact: (more…)

Published in: on November 25, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Red Skelton: Thanksgiving 1952

A Thanksgiving thought in 1952 from master comedian Red Skelton.  Born into deep poverty, he went to work at the age of 7 to help his family.  Life dealt Skelton some tough cards at the beginning of his life, and the worst thing that could happen to any parent, the death of a child, lay in his future.  Yet throughout his life Skelton retained a deep faith in God and an abiding love for his country.  He approached life with optimism and a thankful heart, a good message for any Thanksgiving.  Below is his classic Pledge of Allegiance skit. (more…)

Published in: on November 24, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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December 7, 1865: Thanksgiving




Andrew Johnson kept up the precedent of his predecessor in making a Thanksgiving Proclamation.  However for some reason he set the date on December 7, the only time Thanksgiving has been celebrated on that date.  His other Thanksgiving Proclamations were for the last Thursday in November and the tradition held until the Great Depression when FDR altered it to the fourth Thursday in November.  If Johnson had established a new tradition in 1865, then seventy-six years later Americans would have had another reason to be enraged by the Japanese sneak attack.  Here is the text of the Proclamation: (more…)

Published in: on November 23, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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King Jesus


At the ending of the liturgical year our thoughts turn to the End Times.  The feast of Christ the King was proclaimed by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to the growth both of nationalism and secularism.  Pope Paul VI moved it to the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, the better to remind all of mankind that the time will come when Christ will return and reign as King forever.


Christ Pantocrator is one of the more popular images by which Christians pictured, after the edict of Milan, Christ, the Lord of all.  This representation ties in nicely with the traditional American cry of “We have no King but Jesus!” which became popular during the American Revolution.  At the battle of Lexington the phrase “We recognize no Sovereign but God and no King but Jesus!”, was flung back at Major Pitcairn after he had ordered the militia to disperse.    Christ the King and We have no King but Jesus remind Christians that the nations of the world and the manner in which they are ruled, and mis-ruled, while very important to us during our mortal lives, are of little importance in the next.   They also instruct us that the State can never be an ultimate end in itself, can never override the first allegiance of Christians and that the rulers of the Earth will be judged as we all will be.  Although my Irish Catholic ancestors will shudder, and my Protestant Irish and Scot ancestors may smile, there is much truth in the inscription supposedly written on the sarcophagus, destroyed or lost after the Restoration, of that “bold, bad man”, Oliver Cromwell, “Christ, not Man, is King.”

Seventy years ago the ashes of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan attested to the great mistake of making worldly power the excuse for any crime.  How different it seemed in 1941 when both Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan seemed well on their way to global domination. In that year Father Martin B. Hellriegel, a German-American pastor in Saint Louis, wrote the magnificent hymn To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King as a direct response to the pretensions of the Third Reich and to remind people who actually reigns eternally: (more…)

Turkey in the Straw


Something for the weekend.  Turkey in the Straw seems appropriate for the weekend before Thanksgiving.  The spirited rendition above is by the Skillet Lickers, a Georgia band of the twenties and thirties of the last century. Part time musicians, they made up in enthusiasm and faithfulness to the traditional music they played, what they may have lacked in technical skill.

Published in: on November 21, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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