April 01, 2020

On Corona, What Else?

I semi-facetiously said this lockdown will end when more than 50% of Ohioans need a haircut. I’m 3/4ths of the way there.

Seriously, they said it will take 6 weeks to get to the peak virus (according to Gov DeWine and Dr. Acton) which implies it will take at least 6 weeks to wind back down. The graphs they show of flattened curves show bell-shaped curves and they are centered between mid-April and mid-May. This means the best case scenario is June 15 before “normal life” ensues.  But will the economy (and haircuts) have something to say about that before then?

It’s interesting that the lawmakers are doing a 90-day forgiveness on mortgages. Does that mean they think this will end in 90 days, around July 1st?

Given that the whole world has the virus in retrospect it’s hard to blame even the CDC or FDA for this hose-up. In a globalized world it’s “everybody into the pool”. Certainly even pre-modern air travel the 1918 flu went world-wide. So I guess it was naive of me to think that somehow we could lock this down in the very beginning before it showed up in America. Securing our borders is not something we can do even if we wanted to. Besides that, we’d been warned for years that a superbug would come and we’ve had a really good long run without one.

But it’s harsh to see the economy shattering and people I love out of work.  It’s harsh likewise to see the virus inch closer to those I know.  Between a rock and a hard place. Terry Teachout lost his wife recently and quoted Raymond Aron: “There is no apprenticeship to misfortune. When it strikes us, we still have everything to learn.”

Parishioners at my church have received an inspiring update from a fellow parishioner with coronavirus, whose similarly afflicted husband has been in the hospital for two long weeks:
"We are in our 16th day of quarantine, J. still at Hospital and I am at home. 
I know your prayers for us are being answered! Today, they moved J. out of ICU to a new room. His oxygen level dropped from 10 to 6 liters - good improvement! He remains on oxygen. I am a bit stronger but still have respiratory symptoms. Have to check back with my Doctor on Friday. 
As we approach Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday, I want to encourage you to remember that, even though we all are physically isolated, we are still the Body of Christ, still Church! Jesus will call, "Lazarus, Come Forth!" The crowds will shout, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" And we will still hear those words in our hearts, because we believe in Jesus Christ, Our Lord, God, and Savior! Tell Jesus you love Him and that you will be with Him every step of the way through Great and Holy Week. 
Thank you, Father, for encouraging us to live and share our Faith during these dark and sad times. Thank you for keeping in touch with us and for sending the beautiful prayers to help us prepare for Easter. Your words, "Do not be discouraged!" , uplift us and help us to do God's Will! 
May God Bless all of you for the love you have shown to me and to John! That Love is Jesus in you!

Your sister in Christ, P. πŸ˜„πŸŽΆπŸ’’πŸ’–πŸŒ·

March 30, 2020

The Great Mystery of the FDA/CDC Delay Revealed

One of the great mysteries in all of life is how while anybody with eyes to see could see this virus a comin’ from a mile away, we as a country remained permafrosted in inaction for a month.

We had a remarkable cushion of time to react compared to China or Italy and enjoyed the benefit of the Germans providing the W.H.O. their coronavirus test which the W.H.O. made available to the U.S.  But we said, “no thank you” and killed the only hope of containing the virus which was to test, test, test. Pride goeth before the fall.

So the whole month of February got frittered away (the NY Times has a great piece on the forensics of how this happened here and how the big players are the CDC and the FDA and they rather neatly complemented each others flaws).

The root cause for both failures seems to be leadership that lacked experience hired by a guy (Trump) who lacked experience.

Lest you blame Trump, think again. The American people have longed and thirsted for inexperience with every fibre of our being, both Republican and Democrat, Independent and Socialist.  From a reformed drunk who managed one state successfully for a short time (GW Bush) to a nobody community organizer (Obama) to a real estate honcho (Trump), the American people have demanded inexperience.

But the devilish quandary is that thirst for inexperience is completely legitimate!  From the “experienced” LBJ and Vietnam to “experienced” Nixon and Watergate, to the taping of MLK by the FBI and “experienced” Hoover excesses, to the “experienced” robed justices who declared that killing your baby is protected in the Constitution, to the deep state and swamp-ish contemporary behaviors -- well it’s been a long time comin’.

You can see that startlingly illustrated by the binary election of 2016: corrupt, experienced politician in the mode of Hoover/Nixon/LBJ (Hillary) or rank newcomer with the inexperience of ten GW Bushes (Trump).

To alter the Dylan lyric, “there ain’t no way out of here.”  Which, counterintuitively, for me is a satisfying answer.  Knowing there was nothing we could do makes it easier to stomach.

Closer to the ground we see this 2-year old Atlantic piece that eerily presages the failure of the newly hired C.D.C. leader:
“Dr. Redfield will begin his directorship at a pivotal time for the CDC. Infectious diseases are emerging at an ever faster pace, drug-resistant microbes are sweeping the world, and the United States is struggling to deal with its opioid epidemic... 
Given these challenges, others have concerns about Redfield’s experience. That may seem odd for someone with such deep medical credentials, but the CDC is a public-health agency, and improving the health of entire populations requires different skills and knowledge than caring for individual patients. CDC directors must be more than experienced physicians or scientists; they must run an agency of 15,000 employees with a budget of over 7 billion dollars, and ideally, they’d jump into the post already having strong relationships with public-health officials at the state and local level. 
For that reason, most former directors have either run a city or state public-health department before, or have worked at the CDC itself.” 
Hmmm...what could go wrong?

And the die was cast likewise with FDA hire. In a column written last year and thus likewise without hindsight:
"There have been concerns raised in media reports about Hahn’s lack of experience working in the federal government. The majority of his professional experience has been running radiation oncology departments at academic medical centers, including the University of Pennsylvania, for nearly two decades. He is also a clinical trial investigator. Gottlieb, in comparison, had worked at the FDA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services before being named FDA commissioner."
The money phrase there is “academic medical centers”.  Working in academia neatly explains his holy and apostolic reverence for the feelings of the scientists under him than the crass citizenry and front-line medical community.  He’s a first responder to his his team, not vulgar outsiders.

So after reading the articles, including the Times piece, it seems like our muddled first response was no  accident, was actively willed, by a society in decay.

March 26, 2020

Quarantine Lite Edition

A stranger showed up at our house today but fortunately adhered to the social distancing rule.  He stayed far more than 6 feet away; actually about 93 million miles away.  The sun, of course, who made an unscheduled appearance!  On our work conference call people made mention of it given it’s an event about as rare in Cloudumbus as a lunar eclipse.

So it was all sun, all the time, and I was in it to win it. Feel like it gave me some momentum. Love being able to take dogs on a walk at lunch and thus not have to do it when I get home at 5pm from my commute.

It was like the Spring days of yore so it appears the season has not been cancelled out of an abundance of caution.  I enjoyed the freedom of movement by walking the dogs out in the field where they spied a cat running and pulled and I was dropped into a pit of mud.  But the game must go on (if not baseball this year) and so I continued my walk by cutting through the back side of the field, ending up on a calm and collected cul de sac.

Post-walk I necessarily had to wash all my clothes and doing that is a lot easier when working from home. Our CEO had a video chat today saying, “working from home is hard, really hard” but thus far I haven’t necessarily experienced that.

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Every Drudge has its day I guess. For years I’ve gone to Drudge Report and snickered at all the doom and gloom headlines. It’s sort of like a clearinghouse for what sells - bad news. But I laugh no more because of course the last month even Drudge hasn’t had to overplay the doom and gloom.

So many celebs getting coronavirus that you’d think they were trying to, as if it’s the new elite thing. “You’re nobody unless you’ve got the virus,” is the vibe, since otherwise you must be stuck in rural Nebraska.  Placido Domingo, Harvey Weinstein, Rand Paul, singer Jackson Brown, and now Prince Charles (“forever a prince, never a king” might be his epitaph).
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A tepid “workout” after work - the elliptical downstairs hardly gets me breathing heavy but alas it’s the only gym in sight - and then off to the grocery store where we picked up the order we’d placed on Tuesday. Steph carefully had everything in tubs where we sprayed lysol on all goods that needed to be refrigerated. The rest we're leaving in the car for a couple days to “de-germify”. Steph’s really bought into this after watching DeWine daily.  (The “DeWine Daily”?)

Had dinner and lunch delivered from local restaurant. We’re getting smarter about ordering multiple meals to cut down on delivery costs.

So just another day in quarantine. Or quarantine-lite. The virus is officially in town now, with a case at the rehab center. In addition a parishioner at my Byzantine church tested positive, yikes. They were in church four days before I was there.  Priest has cold-like symptoms with no fever but... ?

Precautions, yes, for sure. But perhaps we can dismissively say of the virus, as Jesus said to Pilate, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”

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I suspect that if and when Chinese becomes the world’s reserve currency and the decline of America mirrors the decline of Britain after WWII, historians will look back to 2020 as the decisive moment. You had a country in great economic health if doing poorly spiritually (“diseases of despair” run rampant with a 3-5% unemployment rate -- what will they look like with 15%?). You also had a country that despite the great economy had no will to improve infrastructure or build the southern wall but punished itself with record debt nonetheless. And then the virus hit at which point any imaginary money for infrastructure got burnt up in stimulus money.

It’s sort of a textbook case of how a country or individual gets in trouble: you weaken yourself in good times and then when the bad times come you’re flattened. Internal political divisions prevent America from doing productive things with the public treasury and then, in that weakened state, comes a once-a-century virus.

I still vividly recall in college reading the following passage from John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley" (about his receiving a needful fire and brimstone sermon in Vermont) that woke me up to the idea that some people (unaware at the time it included me or would include me) need fire and brimstone and perhaps there’s a role for the mean Old Testament God:
“For some years now God has been a pal to us, practicing togetherness, and that causes the same emptiness a father does playing softball with his son. But this Vermont God cared enough about me to go to a lot of trouble kicking the hell out of me. He put my sins in a new perspective. Whereas they had been small and mean and nasty and best forgotten, this minister gave them some size and bloom and dignity. I hadn’t been thinking very well of myself for some years, but if my sins had this dimension there was some pride left. I wasn’t a naughty child but a first rate sinner, and I was going to catch it. I felt so revived in spirit that I put five dollars in the plate, and afterward, in front of the church, shook hands warmly with the minister.”

March 11, 2020

A Special Coronavirus Edition

Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl
There were no fans in the crowd due to quarantines there
She would merengue and do the cha-cha
And while she tried to be a star
Tony always tended bar
Across the empty floor, they worked from eight til four
They were young and they had each other
Who could ask for more?

At the C'rona, Coronavirus
The hottest spot north of Kentucky (here)
At the C’rona, Coronavirus
Music and sanitizer were always in fashion

At the C’rona.. they fell in love
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So Italy is in free fall coronavirus-wise and U.S. is said to be 11 days behind them. So if that’s true then 3/21 should be when we get really hit.  Still, the good sign is that the Asian countries (South Korea, Japan, China) have shown that it is possible to get it under control. Alas, Europe and U.S. have not shown that ability yet. 

It was hard reading about how the CDC and FDA botched up testing during the critical time just before the coronavirus got let loose in U.S.. Just another sign of decline. It’s almost funny: World Health Organization offers us testing kits. Proud CDC (stands for “can’t do crap”) won’t take hand-me-downs. Except they ended up making an error on all initial tests leading to inaccurate results. States, itchy to get testing, ask FDA if they can test on their own on FDA says “no! Let CDC handle!” Yes, this is the government we want to run health care system.

So CDC and FDA raise hands enthusiastically: “me too! I wanna be added to list of incompetent institutions!”

The hermeneutic key to understanding modern American life is simply: “no one is good at their job except Amazon”. I recall a book written decades ago that said, in effect, the good thing about living in a country in decline is that if you do merely mediocre work at the beginning of your career and stay the same, you’ll begin to look like a star by the end of it by comparison.

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Two people with coronavirus were at the same airport as me last week, in Fort Myers, Fl. They had traveled internationally and got back to Fort Meyers on the Wednesday carrying the virus. We arrived on Saturday morning and I naturally wondered how long that virus could live on surfaces they touched.  Mrs Darwin on Facebook promised I wouldn’t die from it though, so there’s that. Although she might’ve been writing for a younger crowd.
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Michael Brendan Doughtery:
I honestly think lots of this disagreement is because percentages and factorials are too abstract for people who are reading their phones quickly while waiting on line.  1 percent and .1 percent seem pretty close to most people.
Uh, yeah, for people not good at math.

March 06, 2020

Thoughts

When I was a kid one thing I was dead set against fortune tellers and palm readers.  Primarily because the risk of potentially receiving bad news far exceeded the potential joy of receiving good news.  This is actually in line with science, that tells us our brains are much more sensitive to bad news than good.

(Of course now we have DNA tests that can tell us too much future information in some cases.)

God, mercifully, usually doesn’t tell us these things in advance - except in the exceptional cases of Jesus and Mary. I can picture Jesus’s dawning horror reading Isaiah passages as a youth and realizing they applied to him. Lines like “he was crushed for our infirmities”,  “surrendering himself up to death” and - even worse (?) for a God who cares about righteousness far more than us - “letting himself be taken as a sinner”.   So he went to his baptism sinless and to his crucifixion flanked by sinners.

Similarly Mary learned that “a sword will pierce your heart” at the Presentation in the Temple.

The magic quote today was from Amigo de Frido who commented on the gospel passage that goes, “if you have an offering and recall something your brother has against you, go and be reconciled first with him and then make your offering.”  The devastating line was: “God reconciled us by treating us as if we were the offended party.”

March 03, 2020

The Divine Punchline

I knew a blogger once who admirably tilted at the windmills, who peddled fiercely against the tide of his East Coast friends, who relished George Will despite a local media that excoriated all things conservative, who valiantly defended the pro-life cause...but now has pulled the proverbial 180 (I’m hoping for a 360).

Fortunately people can’t be reduced to their political choices and Lord knows given the poor slate of candidates on both sides of the aisle there’s ample room for grace. And yet I can’t help feeling a sense of the tragic in this particular case. Under the tutelage of the therapeutic state he has honored the tide in order to get along better with others. This perhaps is the most understandable of reasons. I suppose it’s akin to the alcoholic not being able to get near a beer but still...

Of course politics is meaningless compared to what is says about one's Catholic faith but given the slate of Democratic candidates it does seem pretty hard to square being Catholic with publicly supporting them given their absolutism on abortion, infanticide, religious freedom, etc...

I tried to support him in his old conservative views but obviously my efforts were futile, perhaps even worse than futile. But I was rewarded today with an answer from on High by coming across an Eve Tushnet review of Waugh’s Sword trilogy novels that speaks to our futility in conversions religious or political:
"Even the sacraments are thrown into doubt by our actions: Guy’s broken marriage, his skeletal confessions—and his confession to a priest who may be a spy. Nothing is remembered rightly; there are no more memory palaces. Sword of Honour’s God is insistent that going after what we want is the worst way to get it. This is the modern God in arms, budgeted entirely for covert operations. And everything we do to try to right things, to preserve home or family or faith or the literal lives of other threatened people, will become the setup for a divine punchline: I am the only one who saves."

February 25, 2020

Ok, So Sometimes Limbaugh Is an Idiot

I shouldn't expect much of political talk show hosts given their job requires exaggeration and peddling conspiracy theories. Still, there's always the hope of finding an honest broker who tells it like it is.

For identification purposes it is helpful when hosts make an ass of themselves and their credibility goes to zero. Rush Limbaugh recently suggested the coronavirus is no different than the common cold or flu.

This is demonstrably false. 

Annually 7.13% of people get the flu, and the average flu death rate is 1.9 per 100,000 or 0.0019%. Compare this with the current death rate of COVID-19 which is ~2.2%.

Do the math. It's not higher math.  If 5 million Americans get the flu, that's 9,500 deaths. If 5 million Americans got coronavirus, that's 110,000 deaths.

When people accuse the right of having their own set of facts I don't like it but this is an example of the truth of that statement. The best case scenario is Limbaugh knows politics rather than math or science and that one should ignore him on any subject other than politics.  The worst case is he simply wants to see Trump reelected and will lie even about things provably false towards that end.

February 24, 2020

Chatter

Pope Francis had some good pre-Lenten thoughts:
“The dialogue that God wishes to establish with each of us through the paschal mystery of his Son has nothing to do with empty chatter, like that attributed to the ancient inhabitants of Athens, who “spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). Such chatter, determined by an empty and superficial curiosity, characterizes worldliness in every age; in our own day, it can also result in improper use of the media."
Ouch. That hits way too close to home with me. I’m fascinated by the superficialities of politics. Politics is my sports when baseball’s not available. It’s particularly effective at inducing a feeling of superiority in me which is not helpful: a thirst for the latest soap opera on the political stage combined with the byproduct of feeling superior. Ugh, as in “ugh-ly”.

You could say that one of the things that distinguishes a Christian (via the Jews) is the concentration of spending our time on what is old, not new. The “good news” isn’t news in a sense, in that it’s the same message basically since 33 A.D. Although it’s obviously new to every generation.

God insists we remember. The Jews were asked to constantly remember the Passover, the exodus from Egypt and manna in the desert, the Promised Land. And Christians are told specifically by Jesus: “do this in remembrance of me”. Mary “pondered these things in her heart”.

Remembrance of God is the opposite of reading a newspaper: the first centers on thankfulness of God’s past deeds, the other centers on disgust at man’s misdeeds.

The other thing the Pope said I was less moved by:
“We can and must go even further, and consider the structural aspects of our economic life. For this reason, in the midst of Lent this year, from 26 to 28 March, I have convened a meeting in Assisi with young economists, entrepreneurs and change-makers, with the aim of shaping a more just and inclusive economy. As the Church’s magisterium has often repeated, political life represents an eminent form of charity (cf. Pius XI, Address to the Italian Federation of Catholic University Students, 18 December 1927). The same holds true for economic life, which can be approached in the same evangelical spirit, the spirit of the Beatitudes.”
Yeah I guess.  But it feels an aspect of moving chairs on the Titanic. A Church that can’t prevent money laundering and other financial misdeeds, a Church losing believers by droves in Europe, South America and the U.S., a Church that is persecuted in China and Africa...is a Church that has time and leisure to set up a commission to create a new more inclusive economics despite capitalism lifting millions of Chinese and Indians into the middle class. You gotta admire the chutzpah.

There was a recent magazine article asking whether the presidency in the 21st century has gotten too big a job for one man. If that can be asked of the U.S. presidency, how much more of the papacy? So it’s kind of odd when a pope tries to expand his sphere of influence instead of contract it.

February 13, 2020

Seven (not) Short (not) Takes

I didn’t watch the Oscars of course but heard it was more politically-spiked than usual. I suspect it’s the natural and predictable reaction to the Ricky Gervais speech at the Golden Globes where he pilloried liberal speeches at award shows. Folks really, really, really don’t like to be told what to do or made fun of. They’ll just double down.

“Shaming” and fraternal correction don't really work anymore. Liberals and the media have tried that for years with varying degrees of success on Republicans and eventually Trump was elected, an almost therapeutic experience for those of us who were used to being shamed for our political beliefs.

So, post-Gervais, actors are now feeling challenged to give more asinine speeches and, post-Trump, Democrat voters feel emboldened to pick socialists. It’s really the perfect symbol of how unless one follows religiously the code of Jesus - offer love in response to hate - you will just be in a spiral of increasing hatred and division. I'm as guilty as anybody.

You can see a smidgen of it in today's headline. Biased prosecutors baited Trump by recommending ridiculous long sentence for Stone. That lack of adult behavior not provokes the understandable reaction in Trump and Barr.

We have politicized law enforcement of course, but apparently the goal of politicized law enforcement is to do it but don't be obvious about it. Maintain the fiction. Trump's not big on fiction.
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Rush Limbaugh’s been the target of a ton of hate and lately glee due to his having cancer. He had this to say - which could actually be said of any sin:
"Hatred destroys you because hatred can never be requited, hatred can never be rewarded, hatred can never make you happy. Hatred means you’re requiring something painful or bad to happen to other people. And that’s just not the way to happiness."
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So I got to reading about Freemasonry since I know nothing about it and never had any curiosity before. That’s the problem with reading: I read a single page of a book and then end up downloading everything I can find on the subject causally mentioned in the first book. This seems why I rarely end up finishing books.

So I came across this passage about Freemasons in a book written by a Catholic bishop:
Thus, the entire symbolism and terminology of Freemasonry is religiously Jewish and philosophically Gnostic. Therefore, they borrow the same terminology from the Old Testament—the building of the temple, and so on—but they say: “We are building a new temple, not the visible carnal one, which is from the evil god. We the Freemasons are the spiritual and free and independent masons, we are completely free from God, from the God of the Bible.” We have to ask: “From whom are the Freemasons free?” They declare themselves free from the true God. They say: “Our god is the Great Architect of the world, this unknown good god, whom we do not know, but we are his instruments and we are building up a new temple of humanity.” The Freemasons do this through the use of symbolism and worship, and especially with an intellectual program that must be implemented and reflected throughout the whole of human society.
I downloaded a couple Kindle book samples and an actual Mason writes that most join nowadays for two reasons: for esoteric knowledge they believe the Lodge may have, and for networking. He said many leave after a year or two when they learn the Lodge has no esoteric knowledge and that networking isn’t that effective since most of the men are towards the end of their careers. But he said those who stay, stay for the elaborate and secretive ritual.

That makes sense since man has an innate need for ritual and Protestants lack that so this fills that desire. The history of Freemasonry gets murky, but ultimately it grew out of an anti-clericalism in the 1600s and 1700s in Western Europe. The wars for religion had tired everyone out and so there was a felt need for an alternative religion that would not create martyrs. (In fact, Masons are not allowed to talk religion or politics with other Masons in order to protect the brotherhood from division.)

Basically you have a fraternal society that combines man’s natural desire for secretive knowledge (Gnosticism), a ritualistic religion untied to doctrinal debates (based on Judiasm mysticism), and a social outlet. I can see why I’d be a terrible Mason since I already have secret (that shouldn't be secret) knowledge (Catholic theology), already have ritualistic religion (Catholicism), and have low social outlet needs.

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In the past few years all the white hats have become black and the black hats white. Well not all, but it’s interesting how the lesson of late is that God uses flawed instruments and likely even has a preference for it.

Witness Donald Trump. As someone from Steubenville tweeted:
"Say what you will about Trump, yes, he has been married 3 times, has committed adultery, is materialistic, egotistical, bombastic...But yet, he defends life in the womb and the honor of God while the Pope and bishops defend recycling. You tell me who God is using right now."
That would’ve been inconceivable to me in 2015 or 2016. Trump was a black hat, end of story. “Character is destiny” said Jonah Goldberg, echoing the ancient Greeks, but neither the ancient Greeks or Goldberg are/were Christians. Christ has something to say about destiny: “the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.”

And of course there’s the hierarchy. McCarrick first and foremost but many others both on the moral but also the heterodoxy front.

Another example of a black hat is black rapper Kanye West. Er, not so black hat. West has had a serious conversion experience and is more evangelistic than our pope. The only surprising thing in all this I guess is that I'm just now learning this pretty basic stuff, i.e. that people are complicated and resist labels. Welcome to Gray Hat land.
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Transported by the book of Wisdom, chapter 14 and thereabouts. Of the Egyptians the sacred author writes, “Humiliated they well might be...the very gods they worshipped [were] the instruments of their distress”. The instrument of Christ’s distress, the Cross, is now something we hold holy so there’s a kind of symmetry between the true God and false gods.

The Old Testament book of Wisdom, astonishingly enough, was instrumental in the conversion of a young woman (now a nun) from atheism. An excerpt on sailors worshipping wooden idols with an implicit nod towards Noah and the Ark:
Here is one that will go a-voyaging, the wild waves for his pathway, and perishable wood to carry him, yet he makes his prayer to a piece of wood more perishable yet!

For it was desire for gain that planned that vessel, and wisdom was the artisan who built it; but it is your providence, O Father, that steers its course, because you have given it a path in the sea, and a safe way through the waves, showing that you can save from every danger, so that even a person who lacks skill may put to sea.

So careful art thou that the gifts thy wisdom affords us should not go unused; man ventures his life on a few planks, and the frail barque gives him safe conduct across the waves. And what marvel? At the beginning of all, when the giants perished in their pride, was not such a barque the refuge of all the world’s hopes? Yet thy hand was at the helm, and the seed of life was saved for posterity. A blessing on the wood that can so procure salvation!
Written hundreds of years before Christ, yet it can be read as a meditation as the Church as our fragile ship and the Cross the wood of our salvation. We place our hopes and trust on a piece of perishable wood, the wood of suffering and death, in assurance that eternal life will spring within us.
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Still pondering a niece's politics so I considered my own formative influences on faith and politics.

For politics, I was at Miami U. reveling in the stunning display of magazines available at King Library. There, on a carousel, was the world: enticing mags invoked foreign lands, foreign worlds, foreign hobbies. You could pick from All About Beekeeping to Xylophones Illustrated. A political magazine caught my eye: National Review. I was drawn in by the words, of course, as I’ve always loved words. Cryptic words as well, and those were the kind that gushed from the pen of William F. Buckley. He and Shakespeare have forgotten more words than I know.

But if I came for the words I stayed for the ideas. This was eye-opening and a counter-cultural political world I scarcely knew existed. My knowledge of politics was limited to what Michael P. Keaton said on the series Family Ties. I took a pro-gun control position in high school because, well, who wouldn’t be against guns?

I greedily read the magazine at King Library and many more and later a half-dozen of Buckley’s books. I suspected that everyone is born liberal and that it’s only with time or education that you become conservative.

This was like the great undiscovered truth in the liberal landscape which is the same way I feel about Catholicism now. It’s like there’s this amazingly true thing that few seem to know about or can say aloud.

The great adventure, the Catholic one, was triggered by my then girlfriend not putting up a Christmas tree.

She had fallen under the sway of a Christian fundamentalist who thought trees were pagan, as if Christ and his Church had not the power to make what was once a pagan symbol into a Christian one. She gave my girlfriend long typed articles on the book of Daniel, of prophecies, and of the Roman Catholic Church as the “whore of Babylon” in Revelation.

I was greatly offended by it of course but it was the first time the intellectual side of the Faith was challenged. I read books voraciously that I should’ve been assigned long ago in high school and was taught things I should’ve been taught in grade school. For example, the passage in the gospels where Jesus says “call no man Father”, or why Mary is so honored and held in such high esteem. It was a heyday for me, a heady, euphoric time of connecting with the ancient Faith intellectually for the first time. I was convinced of the truth the Church possesses, of the gift I was given.

(The reason I wasn’t taught this in grade school or high school, I assume, was that the 1970s were a very ecumenical time in the Church and there was a feeling that we shouldn’t emphasize differences between ourselves and Protestants. The downside of this is as adult Catholics we became religiously indifferent.)

So these events occurred outside of my schooling and I suppose it has to happen that way for my niece as well. Perhaps for most people. School is something we’re conditioned to see as a means to a monetary end and it’s rare that the lightning of inspiration strikes while the iron’s hot. Or when we're young and callow...

February 11, 2020

The Show Must Go On

Jim C. gave me the go-ahead for predicting New Hampshire and hence this post...

New Hampshire lacks the byzantine nature of a caucus, the latter which involves standing awkwardly in groups like human chess pieces moved by promises of donuts and other sweets (if you'd originally stood with a fringe candidate) until at some point late in the night you are recessed. 

This makes New Hampshire look like an easier pick such that I could just go with the current poll results.  But the famous twist is that New Hampshire wants to stand out from the crowd (the crowd of Iowa) and pick someone new.  This is perhaps less of an issue this time because Iowa picked almost everybody. 

New Hampshire Democrat voters are generally agnostic on personality or the “would you like to have a beer with them?” test: they voted Sanders, Kerry, Hillary Clinton (twice!).  I’m not sure they feel the sentimental tug that would cause them to vote for Joe Biden but we shall see. It’s possible he’ll do better than I expect. 

From the outset I suspected Buttigieg would be stronger candidate than people thought since he’s all things to all white people:  a liberal, a centrist, an anti-Trump in temperament, someone older white people felt comfortable voting for, someone young people felt comfortable voting for,  someone robots felt comfortable voting for, etc... 

But ultimately it’s all Sanders all the time in New Hampshire. 

Sanders 30%
Buttigieg 24%
Warren 14%
Klob 10% 
Biden 10%

UPDATE:  Final results were Sanders, Buttigieg, Klob, Warren and then Biden so I needed to flip Warren & Klobuchar for exact order of finish. Percentages were off. I thought Klobuchar was a dead (wo)man walking.  In retrospect I should've seen it coming since New Hampshire not very wild-eyed (they didn't vote for Howard Dean or Bernie in the past).  So not enough room for hard leftists Bernie and Warren to do well.  They got only a combined 35% or so and I had them at a 44%.  Wonder if influenced by open voting, where non-Democrats can cross lines and vote.  

January 31, 2020

Iowa Caucus Prediction

We see a lot of profiles in pusillanimity in pundit-land so this blog means to fill the gap.  Instead of some mamby-pamby "it's murky" malarkey, I'll tell you the exact order of finish with percentages.

We start from the premise that Iowa is 50-50 hard-left versus left.  This was shown by virtual dead heat in '16 between Clinton and Bernie.

We also start by using the gold-standard Des Moines Register poll, which has:

Sanders:20
Warren:17
Buttigeg:16
Biden:15
Klobuchar: 6
Yang: 5
Booker: 3
Bloomberg: 1
Other: 5
Unsure: 11

This neatly dovetails with the hard-left/left-left breakout, 41% to 40%, lending further credibility to the poll.

My almost completely ignorant understanding is that after the initial vote (we'll use the Des Moines results above), anyone under 15% has to caucus for another candidate (hence the term "caucus").   So now we have to figure how'll they'll break.

Klobuchar’s Midwestern-friendly vote goes to Buttigieg (4%) and 2% to Biden
Yang vote goes to wild Sanders (3%) and back-slappin' uncle Biden 2%
Booker goes to fellow senators Biden (1.5 and Warren (1.5).
Bloomberg’s goes to Biden/Butt (.5/.5).
"Other" gets apportioned to all candidates evenly.

So now the leaders are:

Sanders: 23%
Warren:18.5%
Buttigeg:20.5%
Biden: 19.5%

Next, the undecideds.  They should skew to Buttigiege and Biden since Warren and Sanders are “love them or hate them” types, and if they aren’t already with them they’ll probably pass.

So accepting 60% of 17.5% goes to Biden/Butt that’s 10.5% or 5.25 apiece;  40% of 17.5% goes to Warren/Sanders, 3.5% apiece:

So this ends up with:

Sanders: 26.5%
Warren: 22%
Buttigieg: 25.75%
Biden 24.75%

Hence, the final order: 
Sanders
Buttigieg
Biden
Warren

Take this to the bank.  If I'm correct, I will predict New Hampshire, else I will end my career in punditry in ignominy and disgrace.

UPDATE: Not too bad a prediction; as of 71% of the vote in it's looking Buttigieg, Sanders, Warren, Biden.  I overestimated the number of second choice voters going to Biden.