NCR Today

The Passion of Dorothy Day


From The New York Times:

The Roman Catholic calendar is thick with feasts of saints, each one a story. Pick a day — say, Feb. 1. That's St. Brigid of Ireland, a nun of the early church and the patroness of dairy maids. She was a great beauty, until she lost an eye and her face became disfigured. She rejoiced, for now she could repel suitors.

It's hard to picture St. Brigid writing a letter like this:

"I miss you so much. I was very cold last night. Not because there wasn't enough covers but because I didn't have you. Please write me, sweetheart, and I won't tear the letter up as I did the last one (but I saved the pieces) because I was mad at you. I love you muchly."

That's Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, who is not yet canonized but is definitely in the running. She was by wide acclaim a saintly woman who gave her life to peace and to the poor. Though not as a cliché: she was a cranky bohemian by way of Staten Island, Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side, and lived far closer to the here and now than anyone in "Lives of the Saints."

Itemizing our treasure


The New York Times published a chart last week of the Pentagon’s biggest boondoggles.

I wrote about the $135 billion we've spent on ballistic missile defense. Today let's consider the littoral combat ship, named the Sea Fighter.

The littoral region of a sea or lake is the costal area, and it seemed like a good idea to build 55 shallow-draft vessels to fight in costal waters. They were budgeted at $220 million apiece, but now the first ten ships being built are coming in at $650 million each.

Since 2005 we've spent $8 billion and expect to spend an additional $30 billion. I note that that's New York Times math. My arithmetic, multiplying 55 ships by the cost-overrun estimate of $650 million is a mere $35 and three-quarts billion. NYT may be factoring in more cost overruns, plus, of course, maintenance, training and parts contracts.

The Times notes that the boats are made of aluminum and are flammable. John McCain thinks they are neither operationally effective nor reliable. And the boats made the Government Accountability Office boondoggle list.

On this day: St. Benedict


On this day, we celebrate the feast of the transitus (death) of St. Benedict, c. 560.

Benedict and Scholastica were from Norcia, an Umbrian town named for the Goddess of Good Fortune, a place of abundance and of sorcery. The town is known today for its pork products, domestic and wild, and for its truffles. Truffle hunters still invoke the old goddess for luck in finding the precious "nails". In the late 5th century, when the holy twins were born, the Cumean Sybil was believed to live in a cave in the Monti Sibillini, safe from encroaching Christianity.

Morning Briefing


Eighth Anniversary of Iraq invasion --- not much in the news about it


Today, March 19th, marks the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- carried out on the false pretense to eradicate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Of course those weapons were never there.

What a heavy load that decision would be on the conscience of any reasonably self-examined soul.

Not much is being said today about this tragic anniversary - with the exception of some commentary I found by Congressman Charles Rangel who tells us why he introduced the Universal National Service Act, calling on all to share in service to country and ridding our nation from the egregiously unfair burden of the one percent of our young who currently carry the burdens of our unfunded wars.

Writes Rangel:

Praying on your knees


Stuck to my kitchen window is a small wind chime given to me by my best friend, a wonderful person who has made only one bad choice in her life -- to live two states away from me.

The chime has a tiny poem inscribed on it, reminding the reader that “someone remembers you in prayer.” Normally, when someone says, “I’ll be praying for you,” I take it with a grain of salt, knowing that people get busy.

Obama to visit Romero's tomb


The White House has confirmed that President Obama will stop at the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero in the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador during his upcoming three-nation visit to Latin America. The president will visit Chile, Brazil and El Salvador from March 19-23 to address mostly issues of economic and security cooperation.

The symbolic stop on Tuesday, March 22, at Romero’s grave on the eve of the national commemoration of his assassination in March of 1980, will serve as kind of solemn pause in the state visit to recall the 12-year civil war that devastated the small Central American country.

Ways the pentagon uses our treasure


As part of my own Lenten reflection, I’m writing about some of the weapons systems that the General Accounting Office has identified as boondoggles. Today we are looking at robots, drones, sensors, smart bombs and other types of artificial intelligence.

It is sort of like what Paul tells the Ephesians: These are things we have not seen and cannot imagine. So far we have spent about 15 billion on them. The initial estimate was $92 billion but now it’s gone up to $340 billion.

Because of this huge increase in estimated costs, future expenditures are unclear. The New York Times notes that some expensive communications systems have been replaced in the field by a simple, secure Web-based tool.

Research, both military and commercial, is certainly on the hunt for artificial intelligence. Particular to the budgetary and economic debates of the moment is their role in job creation.

These systems are capital intensive, that is, they utilize few skilled workers. The panels or motherboards that guide them are generally assembled by unskilled workers, young girls with small agile fingers who live in Mexico, Indonesia and China.


Subscribe to NCR Today


NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

April 21-May 4, 2017