November 25, 2020

A Common Sense Democrat I Could Support

Who says common sense is completely dead? 

John Barrow, the Democrat challenger who ran against the current Georgia Sec of State, said back in 2018:  

"What we need is hand-marked paper ballots, optical scanners to provide a quick but unofficial tally of the vote at the end of Election Day, plus audits of these optical scanners to make sure we’re not relying on an unofficial count that’s misleading in any way...If you talk to people who are most technologically savvy, they say nothing is better than paper and pen. This is a back-to-the-future moment. We can use technology to enhance the voting experience, but we should never trust our ballots anymore to a medium that cannot be read and understood by a human being.”


November 24, 2020

#StopTheSteal

Heard an interesting off-hand remark from Eric Metaxas and George Papadopoulos in an interview, about how both feel they looked at Trump differently from the beginning by virtue of having a family that included not just white collar but blue-collar members. Makes sense. The upper and upper-middle crust now take it as a sign of bad faith to vote Trump. 

Something that has stuck with me was learning that Antonin Scalia was not scandalized by Trump’s run. Didn’t endorse him of course, nor could he, but his bemused, positive reaction to Trump was influential.

Just as the liberals are often shocked that there are conservatives, and conservatives shocked that are liberals, the well-heeled are shocked to learn that there are working people out there. All are Americans and all deserve representation. Which is why this election fraud is so frustrating. 

___

Kind of fascinating this Sidney Powell character. Great reputation as an attorney and truth-teller but now at this point she can only be one of three things: liar, lunatic, or truth-teller.  It’s hard to dismiss her given that Eric Metaxas, whom I have a ton of respect for, believes her.  Although I think his belief is mainly dependent on his great friend John Zmirak who worked with Sidney in the past and who vouches for her. So for me it’s like “three degrees of separation”, trusting someone who vouches for her based on someone he knows her. I suppose that’s a pretty thin reed. 

What’s interesting thing to me is there’s a much easier way to go and that’s to admit that electronic voting was a very stupid idea. How could it not be viewed skeptically?  And viewed skeptically it inherently undermines trust in the system. And yet no one wants to go there and say we should go back to paper ballots. There’s fraud too there but it’s a lot more localized than a vendor like Dominion having dominion.


In 2016 I wondered: can the guardrails of democracy hold up against Trump? Now I think: Fool, the guardrails were a Deep State illusion they wanted to foster. 


The worst thing about the new media landscape is there are no news organizations you can trust and only a few individuals. And those individuals often speak out of ignorance if in good faith. People who do know something can be compromised ethically.  I read about this wild-eyed character named Patrick Byrne, scourge of Wall Street. Got a masters degree at Cambridge, taught at Stanford, started Overstock.com and became abundantly rich -- and along the way made some enemies in his recklessness. He took on Goldman Sachs and all the hustlers on the illegality of naked calls and he won inasmuch as his truth turned out to be accepted. But he also got sued in an unrelated incident by someone who claimed defamation of character and Byrne lost and ended up having to pay millions. Dude seems larger than life, having kicked cancer three times, once given hours to live. He’s all in on the Dominion conspiracy but obviously his reputation is tainted. But as one article about him from 2014 said, “sometimes the conspiracy theorist is right.” 


So it’s really a Wild West information-style. You get disinformation from the right, disinformation from the left and the same from the center. 


The endlessly amusing thing is to Google search for information on voting machines prior to 2020. It’s hilarious how many news entities were concerned and curious about them.  For example, way back in 2018 an article in Atlanta magazine, no conservative voice, appeared with these lines:


"[Georgia's] audit relies purely on a sense of trust in the voting computers’ code. As evidenced by a video report by the New York Times, an experienced computer geek could dictate the results of an election by tricking officials..."


Now of course dead silence. Can’t question voting machines or you’re a kook because it means deligitimatizing Biden. Must rush to judgment. American Conservative put it well: “[Trump voters] do not know for sure that the election was stolen, but they do know with absolute certainty that the media would lie to them if it was."


I think it's kind of funny that the media portrays Trump’s lawyers as the most inept and bush league team ever assembled and yet meanwhile Dominion is lawyering up, hired RNC bigwig Michael Steele, scrubbing social media accounts, not putting executives on shows & skipping a scheduled Pennsylvania State House meeting. Interesting optics.


If you put all the circumstantial evidence together it’s pretty weird: 


1. Twitter/FB boldly and fearlessly suppress the New York Post Hunter Biden laptop story pre-election.

2. Pennsylvania and other states rush in new lax rules on account of covid. 

3. Mail-in ballot rejection rate fall precipitously from 2018 midterms; apparently people got very good at filling out their ballots in the meantime.  

4. Fox News calls Arizona well before Florida; even Nate Silver flatly states it was obviously wrong call based on voting results at time. 

5. Voting appears to stop in several high profile states for reasons murky. 

6. Trump picks up 15% (!) more votes than in 2016 and carries with him at least a dozen GOP House seats and still somehow loses to Biden. 

7. Media rushes to anoint Biden king; Joe, anxious to portray himself as legit goes and buys a stage prop saying “Office of Presidential Elect”, a made up office. 

8. Real-time votes show spikes in Biden numbers while statistical anomalies flourish (this is thesis of Patrick Byrne anyway). 

9. Dominion Voting vendor hides and plays scared instead of laughing at the “conspiracy theory”. 

10. Respected Sidney Powell (at least respected previously) states categorically and without caveat there is massive fraud, even naming names, and thus opens herself up to defamation lawsuits where literally the only defense is the truth. That’s what I call having some skin in the game.


Put it all together and something really feels off. 

November 23, 2020

The Upside of the Election

There’s a satisfying national lesson in all of this political stuff. The “forgotten man”, the Trump supporter in flyover country, has been seen and acknowledged in the wake of the election. (Although you’d think that he would’ve accomplished that in ’16.) 

In an article asking various elites “what the Trump years taught us” author Gary Shteyngart sees glass as half-empty: “Our blue/red segregation is complete.” Playwright Kirsten Greenidge sees it as half-full: “Americans are coming to accept their diversity…[including] those of us of varying political points of view.”


Shteyngart writes: 


“Mostly the past four years [8-12 years] have brought about a resignation of reaching over to the other side and finding a common purpose.”


Finding “common purpose” is the money phrase. Reminds me of ex-MLB player Torri Hunter’s comments:


Hunter: Let me tell you something about baseball players. People from the Dominican, Venezuela, Asia, white, black, they come together and you know why they play together? Because they’ve got a common goal: We’ve got to win the World Series. And guess what: Whites, blacks, Asian, everyone says, “Let’s go, let’s do what we have to do.”


America has no goal. We have nothing we’re trying to reach. That’s why we’re all over the place.


A lack of external enemies in this era of relative peace with other nations means we will find internal enemies since the humans crave narrative and narrative requires conflict. 


And a lack of common purpose of Chrisitianity has helped feed it. 


Our nat’l education in diversity has certainly progressed rapidly: the messiah-cult of Obama shocked the Right with the diversity of opinion in the country, and the messiah-cult of Trump did the same for the Left.  Tolerance, eh, not so much, but at least we’re aware of aware of diversity of thought instead of just color or national origin now. The liberal bubble has been burst: even the least self-aware liberals are expressing shock at Trump getting over 70 million votes. 


This, from First Things, mentioned that the biggest lesson was how inept the elites are, especially the media. Shades of my saying “no one is good at their job”. The author brings up how Trump pointed out the media at his rallies and people pointed their cellphones and photographed them:


“[The reporters] sputtered in reply, which only confirmed that our betters aren’t so smart or skilled or savvy, and not so virtuous either, though very good at self-help.”



November 21, 2020

We Get the Voting Systems We Deserve

The case for electronic voting fraud is getting more interesting. Certainly that Canada resisted the siren call of digital voting was interesting in itself. I googled for links from mainstream media publications prior to 2020 given that back then journalists were more curious. Of course it’s the media so all has to be taken with a grain of salt but at least the articles were written when the hysteria was at level 5 instead of defcon 10. 

A lot of interesting things concern an Eric Coomer, VP at Dominion.  Snopes can’t confirm or deny that on social media he posted pro-Antifa garbage or that he said that Trump would not win because he would make sure it wouldn’t happen.  Intriguingly, he was removed from the Dominion website listing. Why wouldn’t they stand behind him if all of this was slander? 

But that is distraction to the main issue of the question of the vulnerability of our election system.  Best I can tell, its introduction came through the best of intentions, to help the disabled to vote.  The Trojan horse of good intentions housing the demons of hacking vulnerability and lack of transparency is American life over the past century writ large, right?: a tenderness leading to the gas chambers. 

But don’t believe me, believe Dr. Eric Coomer.  Here are his own words at a California public hearing in 2010:

“Voting systems have a security life span.  What's safe today may not be safe tomorrow.  A good example of this is a FIPS 140-2 level military standards were cracked at the end of 2009.  These were certified USB drives as secure as encrypted devices.  And there was a fundamental flaw they were compromised. So immediately one of the vendors has been coding to fix that leak... And again the encryption or requirements were secure, but the way it was implemented was not. And it still got certified.  We have the same in the voting industry...Vulnerabilities come to light after the fact.” 

Have we given Eric Coomer and his ilk the keys to our democracy? 

From the Colorado Sec of State website:

“Never let a crisis go to waste” say Dems — why can’t Republicans use this strategy to go after vote fraud and have something good out of this train wreck.

Personally, I don’t care if Donald Trump won or not.  It may be to the conservative's advantage to lose the presidency and re-take the house in 2022 since midterms are usually hell for incumbents.  

But I care deeply if there was tinkering with the voting machines.  That’s the basis of a democracy and will make me a single issue voter next time.  I will vote for a pro-abort Democrat if they were legitimately anti voting corruption because if we don’t get the voting right then what point is voting based on the abortion issue?  As they say in business, voting is the critical path item. And shame on me for not taking Democrat concerns about voting prior to this election seriously. 

November 18, 2020

The Message Pope John Paul is Sending?

I wonder at the message, if there is one, contained in the news of our day. The great volcanic shocks of the virus and the warping of media and tech for sure, but also the McCarrick scandal and disintegrating trust in the Church. 

I think of my disappointment that Pope John Paul II, who seemed almost clairvoyant at times, could be so blinded by Maciel and McCarrick (assuming he was blinded and not motivated by something else).  But the human condition is blindness and we live in the dark valley. To error is human, even in the saintly among us. Sanctity doesn’t mean freedom from error - especially with regard to “reading people” (if that was the issue; I assume we’ll never know on this earth why he really promoted McCarrick). 

Jesus chose Judas as an apostle; Pope John Paul II chose McCarrick as a cardinal. In the end, Judas had an important if unwitting and terrible role to play in the saga of our salvation. Similarly, McCarrick could have an important role to play in the Church. Our abasement is complete in a way it wasn’t in say 2003 and with that comes a certain freedom. The Church no longer has to hide things in the interest of avoiding scandal. The “shouting from the rooftops of what is hidden” that our Lord said would happen, has happened.


Perhaps it’s a way to re-learn that the Body of Christ is a body for a reason and as charismatic and holy as the former pontiff may have been he could not overcome the rest of the body in the same way if our legs are broken our arms are of limited help in mobility. We seem to long for heroes but greedily we long that they have a “completeness” they cannot have.  We look for multi-dimensional excellence and are lucky to see it in a single dimension. We see an echo of that in the Biblical books. No one book can carry the tune. Every book has a fatal incompleteness. 


The difficulty in all of this seems to how to reconcile a realistically very low view of humanity given our helplessness and proneness to error, with a high view of humanity given how we are loved by God and made in his image.


Bishop Flores: 


“We look at the Church in search of Christ and become quickly disappointed; the only way forward is to look at Christ revealed in Scripture and in the Eucharist in order to see the Church within Christ. One kind of gaze does not supplant the other, they make each other possible.”   

November 16, 2020

Our Beautiful Political Symmetry

I keep whiplashing to and fro on what to think about election fraud. It’s kind of insane that someone as credible as Sydney Powell, a seeming adult in a room where adults are scarce, would put her credibility on the line so nakedly by saying that Dominion voting machines switched votes.  Even “going there” with digital voting scams feels uncomfortably conspiratorial, like saying talking about aliens at Area 51. But we’ll see. She’ll probably say, “well, unfortunately we weren’t able to prove it.”  And how could she? Voting systems are computerized and computer code is remarkably opaque. (Just ask any auditor who thinks they have done their job while the programmer is laughing after they’ve gone. The question is not if it can be hacked, it’s how difficult to do.) Having digital voting is the mother of all conspiratorial thinking precisely because you can’t prove or disprove. 

And since one party has been strenuously and vociferously demanding loosened voting restrictions and have had a history of cheating, we know that they have both the motivation and the character to cheat. It’s not a big jump to wonder about opportunity. 

I have to shake my head at the uncanny symmetry we’ve achieved in national politics over the past decade or two. Both political sides have had ample opportunity to taste the other side’s pain and euphoria. You had the ecstasy-inducing, cult-like figure Obama on the Left and the ecstasy-inducing cult-like figure of Trump on the right. You had the shameless, low character Clinton answered by the shameless, low character Trump. You had leftist conspiracies about Diebold machines when Republicans won and now unproven ones about Dominion machines.  We had an inconclusive election in 2000 where the Democrat fought for 37 days and which the media declared over after eight years, and now we’ve had an election which the media declared over in five days but the Republican candidate is still contesting. We had a Boy Scout Republican president who rammed a war down our throats (Bush) and we had a Boy Scout Democrat president who rammed his socialism down our throats (Obama). The last four presidencies have had just perfect symmetry. 


One might think it could lead to everyone empathizing with the other side now, as in “I now know how tough it is to lose a close election you think was stolen.”  Or “I know now how tough it is to have a president in office you don’t respect at all.” 


Republicans can no longer think they’re better than Democrats now that we elected a version of Clinton. Democrats can’t think ill of Republicans for questioning the 2020 election results. We can all be hypocrites together, kumbaya. But that’s not exactly how’s it been working out... 


The big increase in division in this country came when Republicans stopped being media sycophants with Stockholm syndrome. Gingrich was the initial mastermind. He was tired of Republicans being the adult in the room, tired of the responsibility of taking care of his Hunter Biden Democrat brother, and he engaged in some tough love.  And of course Trump brought Gingrichism to its full and utter maturity, or immaturity as the critics say.


_____


Listened to a lot of election and McCarrick fall-out stuff. It’s a bit overwhelming to take it all in. One of the harder things to digest is how Pope John Paul II had such a blind spot towards abusers. But why focus on the negative? Best to simply applaud Cardinal O’Connor who had the guts to call McCarrick out. Why not applaud the hero instead of fixate on the others?

Seven Quick Takes

America has averaged a pretty steady 1000 deaths a day from Covid since July, now five months. If that trend continues through the next four months (we should be so lucky since the death rate has been ticking up lately) we’ll have a total of over 400,000 deaths. Not chump change. But for perspective, about 600k Americans are expected to die from cancer in 2020 and 610k from heart disease, so a year of covid (Mar 2020-Mar 2021) is “only” about 2/3rds of cancer or heart disease.  

One way to look at covid is that it’s a slightly milder new cancer or heart trouble and, like those maladies, mostly only targets those over 50. The highest projection on Johns Hopkins website for U.S. corona deaths through March is 600k, meaning it would almost exactly mimic heart disease or cancer numbers. 


So 2020 was basically a scenario as if there was a new form of cancer, say finger cancer, that was contagious and would kill about 2/3rds as many Americans as all cancers combined.  That would definitely concentrate the mind, especially since the transmission is contagious while cancer and heart disease are not. 

_____


Re: cyber voting -- live by tech, die by tech. We deserve election hacking and are too dumb to be a democracy if we aren’t competent enough to secure our e-voting. 

___


Funny line saw online: just as Democrats don’t distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants, so too between legal and illegal votes. 


Four years ago I thought Trump was an outlier, that he didn’t have enough character to be president. Now I realize he has as much character as most Democrats and media figures. He’s not the outlier after all.

___


My list of things we’ll never know in this life is growing. Of course there’s “who killed Epstein”. There’s “who is the Big Guy on Hunter’s laptop?”.  I’m adding: “Why did six states quit counting votes?” And “why did the ballot rejection rate magically drop-off between 2018 and 2020?”.

___


I think the watershed moment for my realizing the depth of our division was admittedly just a small symbolic act: Colin Kaepernick’s kneel, like Luther nailing his 95 theses. And as with Luther it wasn’t Kaepernick that was the problem but the reaction of support (including corporate). I thought - wow, if we can’t stand together for the anthem and the flag then for what can we? Kaepernick’s act was the day patriotism as we knew it died. 


Lately I’ve been wondering if ditching the military draft had the unintended consequence of fracturing us as a country by giving us a way to sacrifice nothing for it. 

___


Perhaps the election result was the best of all possible worlds by illustrating to both sides the limits of force. 


I like force as much as the next guy, but in politics and religion it’s about as effective as knocking down a brick wall using your head.


Trump’s aggressive bullying style won few converts and Team Dems-Media’s scorched earth style lost seats in Congress & barely won the WH.  It’s kind of inspiring that Trump supporters, universally mocked and shamed as “deplorables”, were so strong in their determination not to bend in those headwinds proving that shaming someone or ridiculing them does not work. I confess that I thought the mainstream media propaganda would have more of an impact.


But Trump’s pettiness and grudge-holding won few converts as well. During his first week in office he tried to force the media to concede that his inaugural crowd size was large and the media didn’t bend. 


Force is the new black in presidential administrations. Force was what Obama did with his health care plan and to the Little Sisters of the Poor. Force was what George W. Bush did by listening to no one but his inner coterie and forcing the country into a war with few allies.  In fact, compared to Obama and Bush, Trump’s ability to force anything was greatly reduced by the handicaps of the Mueller investigation, an opposition Congress, and a Trump-loathing media. 


But force seemed to lose this election for both sides in some ways. 


___



Mrs. Darwin expressed this so well in a post about the McCarrick Report: 

Another reason, however, that I didn't sit down and write up a clear, coherent response was an existential and spiritual weariness brought on by the sheer tedious mediocre corruption of the Catholic bureaucracy. A friend commented that the McCarrick report read more like a J.F. Powers novel (minus the humor) than any kind of account of monumental Medieval or Renaissance intrigue. There's nothing edifying about corruption in any age, and nothing entertaining about lives destroyed by sin, but the pettiness of the layers of incompetence and ineffectuality on display in McCarrick's unwholesome rise to power leave one drained. Lord, to whom shall we go?

And an ouch for me:

"If one is truly committed to bringing hidden sins to light, it's necessary to have a balance of virtues, lest your witness be damaged through your own imprudence."  


November 15, 2020

If Milwaukee Had Voted Like Cleveland Trump Would’ve Won Wisconsin

So the Biden campaign’s amazing ground campaign and hectic schedule in Wisconsin really, really made a difference. 

Let’s look at two liberal, midwestern cities and note le difference, with numbers rounded: 

Cleveland 2016:  (Non-Trump vote = 69.1%)

384k Clinton. 65.8%

180k Trump. 30.8%

   19k Other.  3.3% 


Cleveland 2020: (Non-Trump vote = 66%) 

402K Biden. 66% (+18k votes over Clinton / combined vote against Trump this time = +7k) 

195K Trump. 33% (+15k votes)  

    8k  Other 

So the story in Cleveland was that Trump did remarkably better, going from 30.8% of the vote to 33%. The anti-Trump vote fell from 69.1% to 66%. 


Milwaukee was different. 


Milwaukee ’16:  (Non-Trump vote = 71%)

289k Clinton. 66.4% 

126k. Trump  29%

  20k. Other.  4.6% 

Milwaukee ’20: (Non-Trump vote = 70.4%) 

317k Biden 69.4%.  (+27k votes over Clinton) 

155k Trump. 29.4% (+29k votes over last time)

    5k. Other 1%


So the story in Milwaukee is that Trump went from 29% to 29.4%.  The anti-Trump vote fell about half a percent.

In raw votes in Milwaukee, Biden collected all of Clinton’s share plus 15k of last time’s third party candidates plus an additional 13k in new votes. 

In raw votes in Cleveland, Biden collected all of Clinton’s share plus 11k of last time’s third party candidates plus an additional 7k in new votes.  This despite Cleveland being in a larger county.

So what if Milwaukee had voted like Cleveland? Trump would’ve won WI by 5k votes. 

November 14, 2020

John Paul the First’s Prophetic Messages

On a whim I read all the writings of Pope John Paul I during his 33-day pontificate. Here are some excerpts:

At Milan station I once saw a porter, who, with his head resting on a sack of coal propped against a pillar, was sound asleep... Trains left whistling and arrived with clanking wheels the loudspeakers continually boomed out announcements; people came and went in confusion and noise, but he—sleeping on—seemed to be saying: "Do what you like, but I need to be quiet." We priests should do something similar: around us there is continual movement and talking, of persons, newspapers, radio and television. With priestly moderation and discipline we must say: "Beyond certain limits, for me, who am a priest of the Lord, you do not exist. I must take a little silence for my soul. I detach myself from you to be united with my God."

Another element of priestly discipline is love of one's own job. It is not easy, I know, to love one's job and stick to it when things are not going right, when one has the impression that one is not understood or encouraged, when inevitable comparisons with the job given to others would drive us to become sad  and discouraged. But are we not working for the Lord? Ascetical theology teaches: do not look at whom you obey, but for Whom you obey...St Francis of Sales wrote: "There is no vocation that does not have its troubles, its vexations, its disgust. Apart from those who are fully resigned to God's will. each of us would like to change his own condition with that of others. Those who are bishops wish they were not; those who are married wish they were not, and those who are not married wish that they were. Where does this general restlessness of spirits come from, if not from a certain allergy that we have towards constraint and from a spirit that is not good, which make us suppose that others are better off than we are?" (St Francis of Sales, Oeuvres, edit. Annecy, t. XII, 348-9).


A day before his death from a heart attack:


In a word: to love means travelling, rushing with one's heart towards the object loved. The Imitation of Christ says: he who loves "currit, volat, laetatur", runs, flies and rejoices.


To love God is therefore a journeying with one's heart to God. A wonderful journey! When I was a boy, I was thrilled by the journeys described by Jules Verne ("Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea", "From The Earth To The Moon", "Round The World In Eighty Days", etc). But the journeys of love for God are far more interesting. You read them in the lives of the Saints.


In another address, the first paragraph reminds me of how we are told in Scripture that humanity fell in the Garden of Eden: 


My mother used to tell me when I was a boy: "When you were little, you were very ill. I had to take you from one doctor to another and watch over you whole nights; do you believe me?" How could I have said: "I don't believe you, Mamma"? "Of course I believe, I believe what you tell me, but I believe especially in you."


And so it is in faith. It is not just a question of believing in the things that God revealed, but in him who deserves our faith, who has loved us so much and done so much for our sake.


It is also difficult to accept some truths, because the truths of faith are of two kinds; some pleasant, others unpalatable to our spirit. For example, it is pleasant to hear that God has so much tenderness for us, even more tenderness than a mother has for her children, as Isaiah says. How pleasant and congenial it is! There was a great French bishop, Dupanloup, who used to say to the rectors of seminaries: "with the future priests, be fathers, be mothers". It is agreeable. Other truths, on the contrary, are hard to accept. God must punish, if I resist. He runs after me, he begs me to repent and I say: "No!" I almost force him to punish me. This is not agreeable. But it is a truth of faith.


Elsewhere


The world awaits this today: it knows well that the sublime perfection to which it has attained by research and technology has already reached a peak, beyond which yawns the abyss, blinding the eyes with darkness. It is the temptation of substituting for God one's own decisions, decisions that would prescind from moral laws.


On bad people in the Church leadership: 


But if by chance there should sometimes be bad people in the Church? We have our mother. If mother is sick, if my mother by chance should become lame, I love her even more. It is the same, in the Church. If there are, and there are, defects and shortcomings, our affection for the Church must never fail. Yesterday, and I conclude, I was sent the issue of "Città Nuova". I saw that they have reported, recording it, a very short address of mine, with an episode. A certain British preacher MacNabb, speaking in Hyde Park, had spoken of the Church. When he finished, someone asked to speak and said: "Yours are fine words. But I know some Catholic priests who did not stay with the poor and became rich. I know also Catholic husbands who have betrayed their wives. I do not like this Church made of sinners." The Father said: "There's something in what you say. But may I make an objection?" — "Let's hear it."—He says: "Excuse me, but am I mistaken or is the collar of your shirt a little greasy?" —He says: "Yes, it is, I admit." —"But is it greasy because you haven't used soap, or because you used soap but it was no use?" "No", he says, I haven't used soap."


You see. The Catholic Church too has extraordinary soap: the gospel, the sacraments, prayer. The gospel read and lived; the sacraments celebrated in the right way; prayer well used, would be a marvellous soap, capable of making us all saints. We are not all saints, because we have not used this soap enough. Let us try to meet the hopes of the Popes who held and applied the Council, Pope John, Pope Paul. Let us try to improve the Church, by becoming better ourselves. Each of us and the whole Church could recite the prayer I am accustomed to recite: "Lord, take me as I am, with my defects, with my shortcomings, but make me become as you want me to be."


May the Pope recommend obedience? Bossuet, who was a great bishop, wrote: "Where no one commands, everyone commands. Where everyone commands, no one commands any longer, but chaos."


I run the risk of making a blunder, but I will say it: the Lord loves humility so much that, sometimes, he permits serious sins. Why? In order that those who committed these sins may, after repenting remain humble. One does not feel inclined to think oneself half a saint, half an angel, when one knows that one has committed serious faults. The Lord recommended it so much: be humble.


Above all Pope Gregory the Great wrote beautiful books; one is the "Pastoral Rule": it teaches bishops their trade, but, in the last part, it has the following words: "I have described the good shepherd but I am not one, I have shown the shore of perfection at which to arrive, but personally I am still in the breakers of my faults and my shortcomings, and so: please", he said "so that I will not be shipwrecked, throw me a safety belt with your prayers." I say the same; yet it is not just the Pope who needs prayers, but the world. A Spanish writer has written: "the world is going wrong because there are more battles than prayers." Let us try to see that there may be more prayers and fewer battles.

______


Pope Paul not only made me a Cardinal, but some months earlier, on the wide footbridge in St Mark's Square, he made me blush to the roots of my hair in the presence of 20,000 people, because he removed his stole and placed it on my shoulders. Never have I blushed so much!

______


In the course of the centuries there have also appeared from time to time affirmations and tendencies of Christians that were too dour with regard to man. But these affirmations were disapproved of by the Church and were forgotten, thanks to a host of joyful and hardworking saints, to Christian humanism, and to a comprehensive theology. St Thomas Aquinas, for example, puts among the virtues jucunditas or the capacity of changing things heard and seen into a cheerful smile—to the extent and in the way appropriate (cf. 2.2ae, q. 168, a.2). This kind of cheerfulness, I explained to my pupils, was shown by that Irish mason who fell from the scaffolding and broke his legs. He was taken to hospital and the doctor and Sister nurse rushed to him. "Poor thing", the latter said, "you hurt yourself falling." But I the patient said: "Mother, not exactly falling, but reaching the ground I hurt myself."


When St Thomas declared that joking and making people smile was a virtue, he was in agreement with the "glad tidings" preached by Christ, and with the hilaritas recommended by St Augustine. He overcame pessimism, clothed Christian life in joy and invited us to keep up our courage also with the healthy, pure joys, which we meet on our way.


When I was a boy, I read something about Andrew Carnegie the Scot, who went to America with his parents and gradually became one of the richest men in the world. He was not a Catholic, but I was struck by the fact that he returned insistently to the simple, true joys of his life. "I was born in poverty", he said, "but I would not exchange the memories of my childhood with those of a millionaire's children. What do they know of family joys, of the sweet figure of a mother who combines the duties of nurse, washerwoman, cook, teacher, angel and saint?" When still very young, he took a job in a Pittsburgh mill with 56 miserable lire a month as wages. One evening, instead of giving him his wage at once, the cashier told him to wait. Carnegie was trembling: "Now they'll dismiss me."


On the contrary, after paying the others, the cashier said to him: "Andrew, I've watched your work carefully; I've come to the conclusion that it is worth more than that of the others. I'm raising your wage to 67 lire." Carnegie said many years afterwards, "all my millions put together never gave me the joy of that eleven lire rise."


Meeting John Kasich in my New York Days

It was a Friday in ‘88 when I met a young John Kasich at a bar in German Village called Victory’s. Even then I followed politics enough to appreciate him as a fellow Alex P. Keaton, a conservative policy wonk who made it on merit and not hobnobbing - now, ironically, he spends his semi-retirement gabbing on feckless cable shows in between quixotic runs for president, a kind of X-ray inverse of his younger self. But he has certainly earned it unlike most of us. 

“Those were the days my friend...”. I had a crush on a local anchor named Carol Costello who later found fame on CNN. (Pardon the curse word. )  Ever the romantic, I wrote her poems about the Reds, our shared interest. I still have an autographed photo of her un-airbrushed self. Imagine there was a time before photoshop?  Of course she was beautiful sans touch up as all the young are. 


The star ascended on long drinking nights, stopped-time in the era before smartphones. A certain languor imbued, surely booze-aided, but the lack of viable alternative entertainments created an atmosphere of contentment or maybe a dreamlike reverie. Boredom was always near at hand, tis true, but so was the heightened quality of attention when juxtaposed against boredom. Feast and fast, as it was in medieval liturgical cycles. 


We’d play company softball games and then go to Planks Bier Garten, the avenue of evening bright with happy-go-lucky. Youth, so squandered they say but age is no less so in a time of ephemerals like politics and Facebook. Those summer eves, ripe with life, feel like they happened in a different century now. And so they did. 


I read the poetry of Diana Der Hovanessian, imprimatur’d by having been found at Gotham Book Mart, as well as New York novels heavy with longing like Bright Lights Big City. The bread at the end of the novel was Manhattan itself to me. I lapped up Woody Allen movies for the scenery and sophistication. Longing was ever a leitmotif; I never met a song as affecting as the The Impossible Dream from the musical Man of La Mancha and I was as smitten by the Kennedy Camelot myth as anyone. They all ran together, rhyming: Don Quixote, Christ, King Arthur, JFK in a romantic haze. 

November 11, 2020

McCarrick Report & Fox Left Turn

JD Flynn writes: "young Catholics..say that they prioritize the perceived personal integrity of leaders ahead of institutional affiliation."


Which doesn’t bode well for the Church these days. Indeed when I was younger I thought love alone was credible, meaning that Mother Teresa was credible and the Church hierarchy were not. She was a one-off who attained holiness independent of the Church (for I knew there were holy people outside the Church) and there didn’t seem an obvious statistical correlation between holiness and church membership.


St. Teresa exemplified heroic virtue far above our poor prelates (and my even poorer self).  So the temptation was to look at the end result (a saint) and try to reverse engineer. This was wrong on a few levels, most notably the implication that one can engineer one’s own holiness instead of understanding it’s a matter of grace.  Love is the result of God’s love. Another miss is to look at the human as essentially a widget, a manufacturing process (avoid mortal sin, the break in the mold that spoils the product) instead of a complexity made in the image of God -- as if one could add the correct inputs and expect the same output (Mother Teresa). Third it was too individualistic not recognizing the image of the Church as the Body of Christ, each member having their own role and in some ways saved together or hung separately. 


Flynn continues: “There is very little saccharine or romantic about following Jesus, especially when confronted with the sinfulness of the Church’s own leaders.” 


Stanley Hauerwas writes of this love: 


“We know what it means to love God only because of God’s love for us through the law and the prophets. This love can be harsh and dreadful, because to be loved by God is to be forced to know ourselves truthfully.


Jesus does not say that we will learn to love our neighbor only when we have learned to love ourselves; he says that we will be able to love ourselves only when we learn to love ourselves as God loves us and our neighbor. Neither Aristotle nor Jesus knew our modern distinction between egoism and altruism. That distinction has encouraged many to assume that the love Jesus recommends is complete self-giving altruism. Jesus’s combination of the two commandments, however, challenges the assumption that we know ourselves well enough to be capable of altruism. Rather, to learn to love our neighbor as ourselves requires that we learn to be befriended by God so that we will have selves sufficient for love.


To be a Christian is to be called to a life of love, but that calling is a lifelong task that requires our willingness to be surprised by what love turns out to be.”


Elsewhere, the Navarre commentary:


“When man is loved, St Thomas says, God is loved, for man is the image of God (cf. ibid., 22:4).


A person who genuinely loves God also loves his fellows because he realizes that they are his brothers and sisters, children of the same Father, redeemed by the same blood of our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also’ (1 Jn 4:21).


So the love of neighbor - or flawed churchman - rests not on their merit but their mere creation.


I did not believe this decades ago. I put a Mother Teresa or a Padre Pio in one category, the rest of us in another.  Partially because I was under the vague impression that God’s action in our creation wasn’t as meaningful or “real” as God’s action in making us saints. In other words, the underlying thinking was that I was created by my parents and God was a Deistic bystander - but Mother Teresa or the Apostles after Pentecost, well, wow!, whoa, there’s God in action! I wanted THAT kind of action (of course, they all suffered greatly so there’s a downside to that type of holiness). 


So the root cause was a lack of faith in the special creation each of us experiences at birth, partially due to absorption of theories of evolution that seem to diminish man, that he was just the result of natural processes. 

___

So a lot of news to digest lately. First of which being the long delayed McCarrick report which came out with a whimper instead of a bang. I could be wrong, but before the report we knew that there was a lot of smoke but not a lot fire, a lot of rumors about McCarrick but little hard evidence, and that Pope John Paul II was used to fake reports of clergy sex abuse in Poland during the Soviet era.. 

After the report we now know that there was a lot of smoke but not a lot fire, a lot of rumors about McCarrick but little hard evidence and that Pope John Paul II was used to fake reports of clergy sex abuse in Poland during the Soviet era.

We did learn a few dead or disgraced NJ clerics lied on McCarrick's behalf, if without learning their motives. And if Pope John Paul II was used to spurious allegations from Communists disinformation specialists, what was the Catholic hierarchy but a nest of disinformation specialists!? True enough I suppose, but he believed the vipers.


We learned that McCarrick’s fundraising and sources of money were not determinative, check. No reputations of the living were sacrificed other than Vigano who had it coming as he’d confessed, check. And whatever influence McCarrick had on the conclave or in the Francis era was not clear, check.  


It was not as big as the “big reveal” that the Apple MacBook event this week, although slightly more than the Geraldo opening the Capone vault.  It makes one cynical, politics and religious politics, but that only mirrors the truth of what the Irish said of the world: they will break your heart. And “Look not to princes...” the psalm goes, but it didn’t feel quite as tangible to me as it has the last decade or so. People will disappoint you, leaders will disappoint you absolutely. 


Ultimately, given human nature, I suspect that an organization that hires itself as the investigator has a fibber for a client.  It’s a conflict of interest the size of Jupiter. The most helpful summary of all comes from John Allen, who explains the math of church influence: 100 lay people = 10 priests = 1 bishop.  Pretty hard to override the lies of 3 or 4 bishops. And it’s kind of circular: “we couldn't take McCarrick rumors as trustworthy because everyone lies in the hierarchy so there has to be proof beyond shadow of a doubt.” Which is damning in itself.

____


The second news item - infinitely smaller game to be sure - is the intriguing development of Fox News making a sharp left at the election corner. Telegraphed in small ways, mostly: a dictate to never speak ill of George Soros on air, a cutting off of a presidential news conference on the grounds it was fake news, a farcical debate performance from Chris Wallace who grandiosely considered himself “in the arena” to borrow from Teddy Roosevelt, and a conspicuously early call on Arizona for Biden.  


The most obvious answer is simply that they Roger Ailes died, the conservative helmsman of Fox, and the last link to the groundbreaking idea that the media didn’t have to run the gamut from center-left to left. Now the network is running on the last fumes of its original capital. As Gregg the Obscure says: “Conquest's Second Law: ‘Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.’” And Fox has declared its independence from being explicitly right-wing. 

____


And there’s the controversial election results. Distrust of the numbers is the predictable and inevitable outcome of Democrats insisting on loose voting laws and Republicans in state legislatures and Congress capitulating in response. How could the train wreck any other way?  An irresistible force (the Democrats wanting to cheat) meets a very fluid object (the Republican surrender monkeys). Tucker Carlson sharply says that conspiracy theories are the inevitable result of the vacuum created by leaders lying to us. Yes. 


Meanwhile Ross Douthat piles on, with a column appreciative of the possibility of a return to “normalcy” and “calm” in the Biden era, which of course implies that the Trump era wasn’t. Which is precisely the opposite of the truth. Only in an era of unusual calm, of no wars or economic crises, could a media have such leisure to gin up fake dramas like Russian collusion or make the latest Trump tweet sound like the beginning of Fascistic America. 


The press wanting normalcy is like a man who beat his wife to death and afterward saying, “I’m looking forward to a period of calm and normalcy with my next wife.”  Well, yeah, I guess...


The only drama of the last four years were riots caused by a cop who killed a black man, and the same thing happened in Ferguson under Obama. This one was heightened by the preceding lockdown but in the end has about as much to do with Trump as my dog Max has with world peace.


November 10, 2020

Four Years Ago Tiday

Everyone started out so chipper and energized, especially George Stephanapolous, but grimness started to set in.  Terry Moran said the unthinkable: that this was starting to look like the Brexit vote which he covered in London, adding that he's having a "bad sense of deja vu" and then by repeating himself, self-correcting by removing the telling adjective "bad".  As he was saying this, panelist Matthew Dowd crossed his arms in an "I don't want to hear this" gesture and Jonathon Karl frowned and looked down at his paper.  Moran picked up on it of course and said, "I'm not saying that's happening...".


Jonathon Karl was the comforter-in-chief on the set, reminding the panel constantly over 20-minute intervals that there was this magic cache of Broward County votes that could put Hillary on top there (despite the uncounted Panhandle votes).  Wishful thinking in action.


Strategist Alex Castellanos was the sharpest knife in the drawer, seeing very early on that Trump was going to have trouble in Colorado but do better than expected in Michigan based simply on how folks were voting in Florida.


When the race was revealed to be close in Virginia, a state Hillary was expected to carry without a problem, Karl had to admit that this one was closer than he thought it would be.  Stephanapolous grew concerned that his comforter wasn't doing his job, so he swung it out to Clinton shill Donna Brazile, who offered many reassuring words about "long lines" in Detroit and uncounted votes and how confident she felt.  Stephanapolis pushed back, saying he had reports of weakness in Flint and Detroit, but Brazile said these type of voters vote late in the day, after 4 or 5pm.  But she still seemed a bit tight-faced and forced-smiling.


Virginia seemed to put the fear of God in everyone, causing even Charles Gibson to speak for the first time (prior to this he was the Clarence Thomas of the panel).


Dowd offered an unlikely scenario where Clinton could win popular vote by a whopping 5% and still lose if these tight races fall for Trump.


At 10:52 George recognizes the gravity of the situation (it felt like the dawning doom of the men on the Edmund Fitzgerald), saying if Trump wins Michigan or Pennsylvania and holds on to the other leads he has a "real possibility right there. Incredible."


He swings it to Cokie Roberts who makes her debut chime-in. "This is very different from what we were seeing earlier this evening... rural voters ready to show their distaste for the current country."  Charlie Gibson followed up with how dismaying the polarity is of the groups, of how divided this country is by sex, race, geographical location, etc...


Rebecca Jarvis announces the Dow futures down 500 points and the Mexican peso is down, further signs of the Edmund Fitzgerald's demise.

November 09, 2020

States of Confusion

The more I read about this election the more confused I get.  My comfort level with the ’20 election stats evaporated when I realized that Trump won a larger percentage of votes in ’20 versus ’16 in OH, IN, MI, PA, WI (among many others) and still he lost the last three of those states. I don’t know what to believe, like this wild stuff concerting Bedford’s Law.  I don’t know Bedford or that he had a law. Probably fake news given the preponderance of advertisements on the page but...

The voting pool was bigger this time of course.  Ohio picked up about 5.5% new voters this time versus in ’16 while Michigan picked up an astounding 14+%.  Both are Midwest battlegrounds ostensibly but very different outcomes. One might say suspiciously so as Ohio’s voting system is far more locked-down and reliable than Michigan’s, so there’s that.