September 01, 2015

Seven Short Takes

Amused by a new bone found in a yard owned by our neighbor's dog. They passed the contraband through gaps in the fence, like adjoining cellmates.

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Nature has favored us with a bounty: more peaches than we can eat, plenty of tomatoes, raspberries. The peach tree reminds me of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, so much do we have leftover. There's rarely ever a case where we have much more food than we can eat. Normally we buy or make dinners individually, enough for one meal, and so we never have that feeling of bounty. The closest I've come to it is with books, since I have more books than I can read, and at Half-Price sale this summer there was more than I could even look at let alone purchase.

Whoa, the new normal goes thus: wake to pitch dark at 6:30 accompanied by temperatures of sixty degrees. That's no summer I know! Fall has come – in attitude if not in name.

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The sunflower strikes me as the most Christian of flowers, a silent reproach to selfishness. She moves her head towards the sun, facing east in the morning, west at dusk until that time her seed-laden head dips from the weight, like Christ's on the cross, sacrificing her wont for others.

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"Look up Luke 24:11!" she told me over the phone.

This was the day after I had said that the apostles didn't disbelieve the women who said Christ had risen simply because they were women.

"But the text says nothing of the sort. Says merely they thought of their talk as 'idle chatter'. Not 'womanly chatter'.  Likely the message itself would be the source of disbelief."

There's a lot of sensitivity out there.

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In high school I was once given a punishment of having to write a 500 word essay for skipping gym. I wrote 5,000 words. Definitely the wrong "punishment” for a would-be writer.

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I have this utterly irrational desire to spend a couple hundred dollars and complete my Chesterton collection, via his complete works by Ignatius Press. This is foolhardy because I read GK only occasionally; I should far more since a saner voice one could scarcely imagine. This mania for ownership was prompted by an offhand comment in a book that mentioned his essay on Macbeth.

I'll lie down until the feeling goes away.

(Later): Funny Chesterton comment on a lesson to be taken from Shakespeare's Macbeth:
“Distrust those malevolent spirits who speak flatteringly to you. They are not benevolent spirits; if they were they would be more likely to beat you about the head.”
That from his book The Spice of Life and Other Essays which I managed to snag for $2.99 on Nook (read via Nook app on iPad). A $35 out of print book!

Chesterton goes on to say how man cannot separate his life into separate parts and that free love doesn't work: “We can't talk about abolishing the tragedy of marriage when you cannot abolish the tragedy of sex….The basis of all tragedy is that man lives a coherent and continuous life. It is only a worm you can cut in two and have the separate parts live.”

More: “Macbeth has all manner of physical courage…and even moral courage. But he lacks spiritual courage, he lacks a certain freedom and dignity of the human soul in the universe, a freedom and dignity which one of the scriptural writers expresses as the difference between servants and the sons of God.”

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I took one of the grandboys with me to pick Max and Ermas because he wanted to go with (go figure). We hopalong'd and then dined on the back patio. Then off on bikes to the ice cream store. The skin-caressing heat left me hungry to bike  longer, but 5-year old was sweaty, which, along with insects, he takes as disagreeable. He's all Brahmin.


WTT?

This is a pretty interesting diagnosis by NR's Jim Geraghty on WTT?  (Why the Trump?).

Part of the article mentions how globalization helps millions of Chinese and Indians out of poverty, so there's a kind of irony between how both Pope Francis and Trumpophiles tend to dislike free trade, if for very different reasons. Francis because he's Bernie Sanders politically, and Americans because we don't want to have to lose jobs to Chinese and Indians.

It's ironic that Francis inadvertently wants the worst for people in general while having the best of intentions, and Americans want the best for primarily Americans, due to taking a nationalist view.

Geraghty writes:
Americans came to think of the economic conditions of the postwar boom -- low unemployment, easy entry into the workplace, job stability, considerable purchasing power and lots of consumer goods, high exports, good pensions, etc. as “normal.” What no one wanted to really acknowledge was how rare our advantage of that era was: We were an intact first-world economy on a planet where almost every other country was rebuilding from being blasted to hell during World War II.

Decade by decade, the rest of the world caught up and offered economic competition, primarily in the form of cheaper labor. The debate between trade and protectionism was largely one among elites. Non-wonk Americans lamented the decline of manufacturing jobs while buying Japanese (and then Chinese, Korean, and Taiwanese) electronics, German and Japanese cars, etc. Free trade is terrific for consumers but not so great when somebody overseas can do your job for less money. From where I sit, it’s on the whole advantageous but horrible if it’s your job being “outsourced” overseas.

The public’s interest would briefly stir for NAFTA or Most Favored Nation status for China, but by and large, Americans either applauded globalization, loved its benefits but lamented its costs without ever connecting the two, or just ignored it.

For a while, Americans were told that the graduate-high-school-and-go-to-the-widget-factory-assembly-line life model was disappearing, but was being replaced with a better one: graduate-from-college-and-go-to-the-white-collar-job. In fact, it was so much better, it was worth taking on tens of thousands or even $150,000 in debt, because you would make more money over the course of your lifetime.

And then, sometime around the Great Recession, that deal changed, too. Companies realized they didn’t need that many entry-level positions (or they could shift it to unpaid labor in the form of internships). Undoubtedly, some colleges let their standards slide, and too many young people focused on basket-weaving, gender studies, or humanities majors and found themselves with a degree that didn’t translate well to the needs of the job market. A dramatic expansion of unskilled labor in the form of illegal immigration put the squeeze on another corner of the workforce; automation did even more. For many, that path to the good life seems steeper, rockier, and less clear than their parents ever faced.

Some folks at the top of the economic pyramid were or are quite comfortable with the new arrangement, offering perspectives like, “If the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that’s not such a bad trade,” and, “We demand a higher paycheck than the rest of the world. So if you’re going to demand 10 times the paycheck, you need to deliver 10 times the value. It sounds harsh, but maybe people in the middle class need to decide to take a pay cut.” An American company may not self-identify as all that American anymore, and certainly doesn’t feel much obligation to put a national interest ahead of the bottom line.

These are giant, sweeping problems that are best measured on generational time-frames and go well beyond one law or one president or lawmaker. This change is tied to our nation’s long, slow, painful slide from a system of public schools where kids were likely to get at least a “good enough” education to prepare them for the workforce to one where public schools range from excellent to abysmal. It’s tied to the U.S. going from a nation of 14 million immigrants in 1980 (both legal and illegal, 6.2 percent of the population) to 40 million immigrants in 2010 (12.9 percent). It’s tied to changing from a world with one primary, stable, relatively predictable antagonist (the Soviet Union) to an asymmetric, multinational, amorphous, adaptive slate of demonic foes like ISIS and al Qaeda. And it’s tied up in going from a relative monoculture influenced by Judeo-Christian values and identities to a cultural Balkanization where the counterculture became the dominant culture, then shattered itself.

Ultimately, electing a better president is one step on the road -- an important one, but only one. A lot of this comes down to what Americans expect of themselves. Do we want to compete in the global economy, and if not, are we willing to live with the consequences of closing ourselves off from the rest of the world? Are we willing to study hard to be qualified for good jobs and work hard once we get them? Are our companies willing to see themselves as national institutions instead of global ones? Are employers willing to show greater loyalty to their employees, and are their employees willing to reciprocate?

It would be spectacular if we could shake the country out of its fascination with caudillo-like figures. You would hope people would have learned from the experience of electing Barack Obama the Lightworker, the Munificent Sun God, the first man to step down into the presidency. But no, for far too many people, the lesson is not that we shouldn’t look to a president to be our savior, it’s that we chose the wrong one -- but Hillary, or Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders will be the right savior.

August 31, 2015

St Augustine on Ps 149 Liturgy of the Hours

Always fascinating to note how the saints interpret Scripture, especially familiar prayers (btw, a Divine Office blog here):
"And swords sharpened on both sides in their hands." (Ps 149)...This sort of weapon contains a great mystical meaning, in that it is sharp on both sides. By swords sharpened on both sides, we understand the Word of the Lord: it is one sword, but therefore are they called many, because there are many mouths and many tongues of the saints. The Word of the Lord then is a two-edged sword. How is it two-edged? It speaks of things temporal, it speaks also of things eternal. In both cases it proveth what it saith, and him whom it strikes, it severeth from the world. Is not this the sword whereof the Lord said, I am not come to send peace upon earth, but a sword?...

Whatsoever is promised to us in this world belongeth to one side of the sword: whatever is promised for everlasting, belongeth to the other side. Thou hast hope for the future, comfort for the present; be not thou drawn back from Him Who would draw thee to Him; be it father, mother, sister, wife, friend, let him not draw thee back: so shall the sword sharpened on both sides profit thee... Our Lord then came bearing the sword sharpened on both sides, promising things of eternity, fulfilling those of this life. For therefore also are they called two Testaments. What then were the swords sharpened on both sides in their hands? Have the two Testaments to do with the swords sharpened on both sides? The Old Testament containeth temporal promises, the New, eternal. In both is found the Word of God, as a sword twice sharpened. - via here.

August 28, 2015

Yay, I Get a Free Vote

I feel, suddenly, like I've got a much freer vote in '16 primaries than I otherwise would have since I don't have to sacrifice my vote on the altar of illegal immigration.

I was always of the impression that because the Republican party is pathetic at attracting minorities that the party would have to nominate someone with a Hispanic background or who otherwise is practically pro-amnesty, pro-open border.

This usually doesn't work that well anyway because voters tend to go for whom they perceive as the real deal rather than the johnny-come-lately. Republicans will never get to the left of Democrats on illegal immigration and so you're arguably never going to win many voters that way.  (African-Americans certainly don't love the Republican Party for nominating Clarence Thomas to the SCOTUS, to put it mildly.)

But when you're in a free fall, as the Republican party is now given demographics, it seems wise to push the panic button.

Or not!  For lo and behold, it seems even Marco Rubio might not win Hispanic votes.

And even more shockingly, Peggy Noonan writes about how Donald Trump may not be blowing smoke about attracting Latino votes:
Something is going on, some tectonic plates are moving in interesting ways. My friend Cesar works the deli counter at my neighborhood grocery store. He is Dominican, an immigrant, early 50s, and listens most mornings to a local Hispanic radio station, La Mega, on 97.9 FM. Their morning show is the popular “El Vacilón de la Mañana,” and after the first GOP debate, Cesar told me, they opened the lines to call-ins, asking listeners (mostly Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican) for their impressions. More than half called in to say they were for Mr. Trump. Their praise, Cesar told me a few weeks ago, dumbfounded the hosts. I later spoke to one of them, who identified himself as D.J. New Era. He backed Cesar’s story. “We were very surprised,” at the Trump support, he said. Why? “It’s a Latin-based market!”

“He’s the man,” Cesar said of Mr. Trump. This week I went by and Cesar told me that after Mr. Trump threw Univision’s well-known anchor and immigration activist, Jorge Ramos, out of an Iowa news conference on Tuesday evening, the “El Vacilón” hosts again threw open the phone lines the following morning and were again surprised that the majority of callers backed not Mr. Ramos but Mr. Trump. Cesar, who I should probably note sees me, I sense, as a very nice establishment person who needs to get with the new reality, was delighted.

I said: Cesar, you’re supposed to be offended by Trump, he said Mexico is sending over criminals, he has been unfriendly, you’re an immigrant. Cesar shook his head: No, you have it wrong. Immigrants, he said, don’t like illegal immigration, and they’re with Mr. Trump on anchor babies. “They are coming in from other countries to give birth to take advantage of the system. We are saying that! When you come to this country, you pledge loyalty to the country that opened the doors to help you.”

He added, “We don’t bloc vote anymore.” The idea of a “Latin vote” is “disparate,” which he said generally translates as nonsense, but which he means as “bull----.”

Pope Francis and Donald Trump

I (like Peggy Noonan) continue to be fascinated by the Trump phenomenon.  I'm beginning to wonder whether there's been an evolution in public communication style.


Note the parallels between Trump andPope Francis.  Both don't care a lick what others think of them. Both feel totally free, unburdened by expectations, feeling they have nothing to lose. Both speak off-the-cuff at great length and give off the vibe of "authenticity" for that reason.  Both speak forcefully of things unpopular to great segments of the audience (while very popular with others). And both often sound bellicose and blunt.  

Of course the similarities quickly fade, since Francis presents humility and Trump presents pride, to start with. But it does say something that both Francis and Trump have struck such a nerve. It's perhaps a natural evolution towards spontaneity, a rebellion against computers. In this age of the computer, we desire most of all non-robots. And Francis and Trump are that.

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From National Review's Jim Geraghty:
Over on the home page, I look at the rush to find societal scapegoats for mass shootings on both the left and the right, and the possibility that this ignores the more proximate issue of individuals’ becoming “grievance collectors.”
There are disturbing ramifications if media discussions are indeed driving us to become a more grievance-minded society. Willard Gaylin, one of the world’s preeminent psychology professors, writes about the dangers of “grievance collecting” in his book Hatred: The Psychological Descent into Violence:

Grievance collecting is a step on the journey to a full-blown paranoid psychosis. A grievance collector will move from the passive assumption of deprivation and low expectancy common to most paranoid personalities to a more aggressive mode. He will not endure passively his deprived state; he will occupy himself with accumulating evidence of his misfortunes and locating the sources. Grievance collectors are distrustful and provocative, convinced that they are always taken advantage of and given less than their fair share. . . .

Underlying this philosophy is an undeviating comparative and competitive view of life. Everything is part of a zero-sum game. Deprivation can be felt in another person’s abundance of good fortune.

At the heart of the grievance collector’s worldview is that he is not responsible for the condition of his life; a vast conspiracy of malevolent individuals and forces is entirely at fault. There is always someone else to blame, and the Virginia shooter quickly finds ways to excuse his actions and deflect the responsibility to others.
A lot of people on the right will read that and say, “Ah-ha! A ‘grievance collector’ is exactly what liberals want people to be! That’s what they’re stirring up with their class warfare, their portrait of a relentlessly racist society, ‘Occupy Wall Street,’ and so on!” Except this is not just a matter of politics, it’s a matter of personal worldview. Nobody can brainwash you into being angry at the world for slights and injustices, real or perceived. Everyone who embraces fury and resentment makes the choice to do so.

Also . . . is this really a phenomenon of the Left? Isn’t it fair to say the right side of the spectrum is more grievance-minded in 2015 than in, say, 1980 or 1988? Perhaps the reasons for anger are more legitimate -- illegal immigration, monstrous activities within Planned Parenthood’s walls, a deal that legitimizes Iran’s nuclear program . . .

August 26, 2015

Unconnected Tidbits Connected by Asterisks


Dental appointment yesterday was a pain in the ass, or more accurately a pain in the tooth. The new dental hygienist was slow and it took a good long while just to get through the cleaning.

Then I flunked the x-rays, having a cavity. Twice a day brushing with electric toothbrush, daily flossing, and this is the thanks my teeth give me?

Doc wanted to fix it on the spot and I thought and said aloud, “why not!” Why not indeed. Get it over with.

Predictably he under-numbed my gum and I had splitting pain the first drill go-around, so he had to inject more and wait more for a second try. Glad I complained because no pain followed thereafter. But I feel like my teeth and gums have been through a seriously unnatural action.

Ideas why dentists tend to under-Novocaine me:

1. They want to err on the side of too little so that I won't be so numb so long after.
2. They think I look lighter weight-wise than I actually am (my preferred answer!)
3. I have a low threshold for pain.
4. They make mistakes.

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Listened to a couple episodes of political talk show With All Due Respect and the squirming by Clinton spokesmen Jennifer Palmieri concerning the email scandal was almost perfectly satisfying, the only thing being better if it was Hillary herself getting all flustered and bewildered.

You just can't make it up how difficult it is for these political operatives to defend indefensible stories. It comes down to no one being able to overrule Hillary's lies and obfuscations. Makes for perfectly awesome TV though.

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Too funny, excerpts from novel "Dear American Airlines":
Back in my very early twenties I actually wrote a thank-you note to the Swisher Cigar Co. of Jacksonville, Fla., to express my gratitude for the sublime if stinky cheer its flagship brand then provided me. I spent an inordinate amount of time crafting that letter and went so far as to cite for particular praise the Swisher Sweet’s “cognac-and-campfire aroma.” That I’d never caught so much as a whiff of cognac by that time mattered little; it was alliterative, and alliteration bewitched me to such an extent that in my undergraduate years I romanced, in succession, a Mary Mattingly, a Karen Carpenter (not the singer), a Patricia Powell, and a Laura Lockwood, as if culling my dates straight from the pages of a comic book.

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She’s engaged to a woman named Sylvana, meaning my future daughter-in-law is one letter away from being kin to my television set. I don’t know if Stella—that’s my daughter, named after her mother—will be the bride or the groom and I suspect it’s poor form for me to inquire. And how does a father assess his daughter’s choice of spouse when it’s another girl? I generally know a beer-guzzling, wife-beating, underbathed, unemployable lout when I see one, unless she’s wearing a dress in which case it’s damnably hard to tell. Sylvana is a lawyer which should be a comfort—oh goody, my daughter’s marrying a lawyer!—but that’s about as much as I know about her.

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We translators must be realistic. To translate a literary work is to make love to a woman who will always be in love with someone else. You can ravish her, worship her, even ruin her; but she’ll never be yours to possess. Less romantically, I’ve sometimes thought of translation as being akin to cooking. At your disposal is the meat of an animal, and it’s up to you to create dishes from it, to make it digestible. But the novelist or poet has the more Godly job. He gets to create the animal.

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I read this morn about how it took a pilot line, a kite string, strung across the Niagara in order to start construction of an eventual bridge.

As a kid I had vivid, if fatally flawed, explanations for wonders: a stereo had little people playing music in it. Babies happened when a man and a woman married and slept in the same bed presumably via the sharing of breathed air. And bridges were built across spans not using “pilot lines”, whatever they were, but by starting on one side and just building a little bit more bridge every day till you reached the other side.

One mystery I could never explain was how a ship got in a small-neck'd bottle, or how if you just added water, sentient seahorses would appear.

The pilot line story shows how you often have to do something that doesn't seem productive in the short run: what does a kite string across the Niagara buy you? It seems like it's wasting time that could be spent building the actual bridge. Preliminary work, including preliminary work in fostering a more fertile ground for, say, the gospel, ought not be underestimated.

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I miss our dog Buddy, his winsome presence. Maybe presence is everything? Or maybe it's nothing? I can never make up my mind on that because it depends on what you mean by presence: God is present, and Buddy is with God, so therefore Buddy is present.

I miss his large shepherd head with perfectly symmetrical coloration: black above the eyes and along the nose and snout-line, gold-leaf in between. God he was a beauty.

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Lightning round time!

Marco Rubio unlikely to earn GOP new Hispanic fans.

Ramos made even Trump look good.

Hillary likes government schools and government servers - except for her and her family.

"How do Dems feel that the party allegedly in touch w young is choosing 73 y/o Bernie Sanders, 67 y/o Hillary, 72 y/o Biden, 66 y/o Warren?" - seen on NR

It's funny that a pro-government liberal like Hillary would privatize her email server.

It seems like what passes for "foreign policy credentials" is hawkishness. #sad

Hillary: "I did not have classified relations with my email."

August 24, 2015

Saint of the Day

Majestic first reading from Revelation today about how Bartholomew - of whom we know so little as to almost consider him a no-namer, a second tier apostle when even first-tier apostles seem wan compared to the light of Christ in the gospels - is in reality robed in splendor and glory, which shows the glory available to all men should we accept and live it: 

[The New Jerusalem] had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed…And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

I also relished this small detail from a Scott Hahn's Bible dictionary:

The historian Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 5.10) wrote that when the philosopher Pantaenus reached India (ca. a.d. 150–200), he found there a copy of the Gospel of Matthew written in Hebrew, which had been left behind by Bartholomew.

August 19, 2015

Corporate Speak v. Trump Speak: The Face-off

So I read a corporate note personally emailed from a corporate leader and I could scarcely read it, so devoid of content it 'twas.  I had to read it a couple times in order to make my eyes not skip consecutive sentences.

And I had a sudden thought - oh no!  Am I beginning to demand entertainment, a song and dance routine, from leadership? Would I (et tu me!) rather hear Donald Trump than boring ol' Jeb Bush? Say it ain't so!

The original note, for illustrative purposes:
As many of you know, we met with the Board earlier this month to review our strategic plans and what we’re doing long term to position the company for success. I wanted to share a few thoughts from the discussion that will be good for us to be thinking about as we move forward with these efforts.

First, I want to thank everyone who was involved in the work leading up to this meeting. I think almost every team is involved in some way to support the business in the development of the plans and ensure alignment of our priorities and financial goals.

We had a great meeting with the Board. They were excited and engaged in the discussions around our first half results and our plans for the future. We have a lot of good momentum going into the second half of the year and everyone is feeling good about where we’re at and where we’re headed.

We talked about the fact that our core strategy isn’t changing, but it’s evolving and accelerating in important ways. We’re continuing to build on the great work going on across the company. This work, and the progress we’ve made together, positions us to raise the bar and extend our efforts in specific areas.You’ll hear more specifics on our strategy in communications coming out soon.

I also want to remind everyone that the United Way campaign begins soon. We have been a tremendous supporter of United Way over the years and we achieved record levels in 2014--both in terms of the percentage of associates who gave and the total amount pledged. I’d like to see us break that record again this year. When you get the email, please take time to complete the ePledge process and consider giving to this great cause.

Lastly, I plan to send out emails like this periodically to share a few thoughts on what’s top of mind, as well as other updates that are important for you to know about. I encourage you to take time to read them and feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments you may have.

Thank you.

So I decided to re-write the note in Trumpese and will send to our leader to help him out:

From the Desk of Donald J. Trump:

As many of you know, I am wealthy beyond belief.  Incredibly wealthy.  I met with the Board earlier this month to review our plans and what we’re doing to obliterate the competition (losers!). I want to share a few thoughts from that discussion because many of the board members are women, and you know how much I honor and respect the women.

First, I shared with the team our goal, namely to have our competitor build us a state-of-the-art payroll system because they have been stealing from us, sending us bad business.  You think they insure deadbeats and car wreckers?  No, their leaders are smart and ours, in the past, have been stupid.

We had a great meeting.  I really enjoyed it.  One board member was unbelievably rude and unfair but I can handle it.  It was like she had blood coming out of her eyes or whatever!  I told another board member that I've changed company goals and priorities many times and was proud of it.  Told him Ronald Reagan did the same.  Did you know Reagan worked for our competitor before he came here?

I also want to remind everyone that the United Way campaign begins soon, which I understand helps the women and other minorities. Did you know I have thousands of highly talented Latinos working for me and on my properties, doing great landscaping?  If even just my own employees vote for me, I'll win the Latino vote!

Lastly, I plan to send out emails like this and I know you'll read them and enjoy them, and I'm available on Twitter 24/7 or by cellphone, which you all have.  By the way, did you know Sen. Lindsey Graham's phone number is 202-482-8911?

Thank you,

The Donald ($10 billion and counting.)

PS: Don't forget to vote in the primaries and make America great like me!

August 14, 2015

Excerpt...

Back story from Mark Halperin's Double Down concerning Cdl Dolan and Obama and the issue of government-mandated contraception:
Dozens of Catholic groups cried foul. Father John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, who had invited Obama to give the commencement address at the school in 2009 over the objections of many Catholic bishops, wrote the president a letter contending that the rule would violate religious freedom. As the initial uproar made its way into the press, some of the administration’s prominent Catholics began to fret. “Now we’re fighting the Catholics?” defense secretary Leon Panetta complained to Daley by phone. “What’s going on here?”

Dolan was a towering figure in the church, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and a cagey political operator. Biden knew him well. In early November, with Dolan planning to be in town ahead of the conference’s annual plenary, the VP slipped the archbishop’s name onto Obama’s schedule—without alerting the White House staff. Obama walked into the meeting with little preparation, believing it would be about a range of issues—then found himself cornered on contraception. He hadn’t analyzed the arguments surrounding the exemption in detail, let alone reached a conclusion. On top of that, he was sympathetic to the church’s position. Now on the spot, feeling ambushed, Obama edged out over the tips of his skis, telling Dolan he would seek a solution agreeable to both sides. That was all the pink-cheeked prelate needed to box Obama in.
On November 14, Dolan told reporters at the plenary about the meeting, describing it as “extraordinarily friendly” and adding that Obama had been “very sensitive” to church concerns over the contraceptive mandate. “He was very ardent in his desire to assure me that this is something he will look long and hard at. And I left there feeling a bit more at peace about this issue than when I entered.” The signal that the White House was considering widening the exemption touched off a tizzy. With Obama having left on a trip to Asia, congressional Democrats burned up the phone lines on conference calls with Rouse and Jarrett, telling them it was crazy for a pro-choice president to be wavering this way. In a tense meeting with Daley, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards threatened that the group would run ads against Obama if he abandoned Sebelius’s original plan.

Daley, Biden, and Biden’s staff pushed back hard. We’ll lose Ohio, Pennsylvania, the Catholic vote, and the election, they blustered. Axelrod, Messina, and Plouffe thought that the old-timers were out of their minds. Biden and Daley had no data to back up the scare talk—just instinct, pure gut. And in their obsession with the Catholic vote, they were ignoring the constituency that really mattered to Obama’s prospects: unmarried women, of whom the vast majority, including Catholics, favored the idea of contraceptives being included in health care plans. Obama discerned a lot of Beau in Obama. They’re cool, they’re cerebral, they keep their passions in check—they’re the modern politician, he thought. And while Biden père was none of those things,

On the issue of contraception, however, they remained in different places. In mid-January, after weeks of internal deliberations, Obama was preparing to make a final decision on the religious exemption; he was sticking with the narrow rule Sebelius had put forward. Biden still thought it a terrible mistake, and told Obama so. The president had avoided culture wars in 2008, much to his advantage. Now he was on the brink of engulfing himself in one, not just due to the ruling itself but by going back on his word to Dolan. Biden knew the archbishop well enough to predict that it would not be pretty. Under a headline accusing Obama of a “breach of faith,” Washington Post columnist and reliable White House defender E. J. Dionne blistered the president for “utterly botch[ing]” the decision and hit him squarely in the solar plexus of his political vanity. “This might not be so surprising if Obama had presented himself as a conventional secular liberal,” Dionne wrote. “But he has always held himself to a more inclusive standard.”

August 11, 2015

(Mostly) Inspirational Aspirations

    
____________________________________________________________________    

Nice meditation on Gospel the other day:
This quotation from Isaiah comes in today’s reading, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Its context is the personal relationship of each believer to the Lord. The Lord will sow in our hearts individually the knowledge of himself, so that each of us has a personal, secret link, to be cultivated by prayer. If we listen to the Father and learn from him, we come to Jesus, who has seen the Father.
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I also liked this concerning local artist Elijah Pierce and his work “Obey God and Live”:
Pierce often referred to “Obey God and Live", which recalled his boyhood neglect of the bible one night and how he was punished by the Almighty for his transgression. In what curator Hall calls “his most moving polemic on authority and disobedience…“
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I like the Knox version of John 6: “Nobody can come to me without being attracted towards me by the Father who sent me, so that I can raise him up on the last day.”

On the Sunday reading from Ephesians he has it: “…your business is to give thanks to God.

Also love the Brazos commentary on the first reading from Deuteronomy:
Can love be commanded? Modern emotivism treats moral authenticity as outward expression of independent inner consciousness. Commanded love seems to violate the “inside out” direction of true love. But in fact love is fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22; →30:6–10). It is brought into the human heart. The commandment to love is then a promise to receive in faith, and with it our full identity as moral agents in God’s image. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts..“.
And elsewhere a catch-22:

    'If Israel fails to keep the Torah it will lose its capacity to love, identify with, and obey the Torah. “

*

Oh my but the world and it's people are stranger than I know. I came across a couple books about Eric Gill on the Chesterton Society site. Who is Eric Gill? (Say like, "Who is John Galt?”).

I'd never heard of him before but could quickly see the attraction for Chestertonians: Catholic artist of the 1930s-era who warned of the excesses of technology and who saw the value of small handiwork and makers of things not mass produced. Flirted with socialism, sculpted beautiful works of art for churches and such, even created his own typeface (Perpetua).

Also created a lot of erotic art. Hmmm… very interesting. I'm always impressed by artists who can celebrate the beauty of the nude without lust. But then, er, something happened along the way to his canonization. Turns out he was a serial adulterer. And engaged in incestuous relationships with sisters and daughters. Even experimented with bestiality. Oh. my.

As a biographer put it, “There remains the mystery of how the avowed man of religion, Tertiary of the Third Order of St Dominic, habitual wearer of the girdle of chastity, could be by conventional standards so unchaste.” Uh, ya think? I guess the noble desire to embrace the body as not shameful but “very dear” and “redeemed by Christ” as Gill put it, ran into a snag somewhere along the way to redemption. No matter how much we might imagine Original Sin has been cured, it still exists and it trips us.

But in his autobiography he writes truly:
It is thus: we human beings are all in the same difficulty. We are all torn asunder, all of us, by this disintegration of our flesh and spirit. And so if in this book I am appearing more spiritual than credible to some of those I have loved, let them examine their own consciences. I think they will discover, as I have done, that they also are torn asunder and that they also have desired to be made whole.
*

Electric to read the following gospel yesterday after reading how Jesus died in order to marry us (in Brad Pitre's book):

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. ”

Emphasis mine….Which Jesus proved in his own death, after which he was no longer alone but was furnished a bride by God from his pierced side, the Church, via the sacrament of his blood and water.

*

Oh how much fun to read a lyrical book set right where I'm sitting, specifically Pat Conroy's book on a “South Carolina sea island” ("The Prince of Tides"):
“…Have them open you an oyster with a pocketknife and feed it to you from the shell and say, “There. That taste. That’s the taste of my childhood.” I would say, “Breathe deeply,” and you would breathe and remember that smell for the rest of your life, the bold, fecund aroma of the tidal marsh, exquisite and sensual, the smell of the South in heat, a smell like new milk, semen, and spilled wine, all perfumed with seawater. My soul grazes like a lamb on the beauty of indrawn tides.”
                      *
“…their ages and size and beauty always startled me; I could measure my own diminishment with their sunny ripening. You could believe in the birth of goddesses by watching the wind catch their hair and their small brown hands make sweet simultaneous gestures to brush the hair out of their eyes…”
Unfortunately that kind of Conroy-writing tails off into crap dialogue, characters verbally sniping at each other. It's like two different books.

View

The following, from Jim Geraghty, seems a bit too psychoanalyzing, but interesting.  I wonder if Trump is the candidate that best reflects the incivility of the online world and is being rewarded for it: 
So who are Trump’s supporters? Matt Continetti, among others, explains their lack of concern about Trump’s distinctly un-conservative stances and moments -- from “Single payer, it works in Canada. It works incredibly well in Scotland” to the donations to Democrats to his enthusiasm for eminent domain -- by concluding they’re the “radical American middle”:
Formerly known as the Silent Majority, then the Reagan Democrats, these voters had supported Ross Perot in 1992, and were hoping the Texas billionaire would run again. Voters in the radical middle, Newsweek wrote, “see the traditional political system itself as the country’s chief problem.”
The radical middle is attracted to populists, outsiders, businessmen such as Perot and Lee Iacocca who have never held office, and to anyone, according to Newsweek, who is the “tribune of anti-insider discontent.”
Discussions on and offline about the Trump phenomenon have focused whether the Trump fanbase is what Sam Francis described as “Middle American Radicals”:
Middle American Radicals are essentially middle-income, white, often ethnic voters who see themselves as an exploited and dispossessed group, excluded from meaningful political participation, threatened by the tax and trade policies of the government, victimized by its tolerance of crime, immigration and social deviance, and ignored or ridiculed by the major cultural institutions of the media and education.
You hear a lot of commentary that “even if the Republican party can’t stand Trump, it needs a way to win over his fan base.” I’m not so sure that’s possible, and even if it is, it isn’t sustainable.
For starters, Middle-American Radicals appear to awaken every ten years or so, shout loudly, and then go back to muttering about something else. You probably remember John Derbyshire; back in 2010, he, pointed out that Middle-American Radicals can be intensely passionate, but that passion rarely lasts:
[They] may grumble picturesquely about the state of public affairs. If his job or property values are threatened, you may get him out to a rally. Eventually, though, his heart will return to where it belongs: his family, his TV, his job, his skeet club. He is, after all, middle-aged (to judge from the Tea Party gatherings) and cannot easily acquire new habits.
There’s one clear policy preference for the Middle-American Radical: serious border security and a deportation of those in the country illegally. After that, it gets fuzzier.
The Middle-American Radical/Trump fan feels wronged and victimized. He’s convinced that he’s not doing as well as he feels he should because of malevolent outside forces -- illegal immigration (but there’s probably some disapproval of current levels of legal immigration, too) and affirmative action. It’s fair to wonder how many find the increasing ethnic diversity of America a good thing.
You don’t have to be a Middle-American Radical to look around and feel like you’re losing something – in particular, the America you grew up in. Notice Trump’s perfectly simple, hopeful rallying cry, “Make America Great Again.” It is hopeful, but driven by a sense of loss. Interestingly, even though these people feel like losers in the economic game, they’re convinced that the people running America are the ones who deserve to be called “losers.” Trump’s fans love when he calls somebody a “loser.”
What many of us see as name-calling, a lot of Trump’s fan base sees as very effective arguments -- “You’re an idiot! You’re a moron! You’re a loser!” 
“Things were better when I was younger” is a common sentiment, and in some cases may be true. But the United States government is not a time machine; it is hard to imagine a set of policies that would mimic the nostalgic vision of America in the minds of the MARs.

August 07, 2015

Yesterday's Feast

Interesting meditation from Universalis on the Feast of the Transfiguration:
"The Transfiguration of the Lord can sound embarrassingly magical. Jesus goes up onto a mountain and his clothes become dazzlingly white. Prophets appear and talk to him. And then it is all over and Jesus tells his disciples to say nothing.
We should hold on to the absurdity of the incident. There is simply no reason for all this to have happened. In particular, there is no reason to put it into a gospel – the evangelist makes no capital out of it, it is simply there.
And this is the strength of the Transfiguration as an historical incident. There is no reason for anyone to have invented it. It is not central to the Christian case. It is not used to win arguments. There is only one reason to put it into the Gospel, and that is because it happened. It is one of those cases of the evangelists writing things down without knowing why they were important, and their very puzzlement is what makes the story so convincing.
Why, then, did it happen? Surely so that we could see and understand that Jesus is at once one of the prophets and the one that was prophesied by them; and that he is God, and lives for all eternity in a blaze of dazzling and unapproachable light.
The true miracle of the Transfiguration is not the shining face or the white garments, but the fact that for the rest of the time Jesus hid his glory so well."

Debate

So last night was the Great Debate.  Ten minutes before, FOX News cringed us with "amateur hour", the anchors apparently never having had to kill airtime in their life before. But once the bell rang at 9, things moved smoothly.  (I missed the 5pm undercard one -- sadly, since one of my new favorite candidates (Carly) did so well according to reviews.)

Trumpmania is fascinating in part because I think it's human psychology in action. Maybe part of it is simply that when people tentatively attach themselves to a person or idea and that person or idea is attacked they end up doubling-down, attaching to themselves to that person or idea with much more intensely.  Sort of like how abolitionists may've made Southerners more pro-slavery than they might've been had they been allowed to come to the conclusion slavery was wrong more naturally (no doubt that might've taken forever however, given that giving up wealth/privilege is a universal human moral-warp). 

The thing about Trump is that people who liked his anti-illegal immigration stance but maybe didn't know quite know the extent of his sordid position-swapping and buffoonery doubled down in allegiance when he was almost immediately attacked by "the establishment". 

I think most of the candidates in the 9pm debate did pretty good.  I've ruled out one of my early favs, Gov. Walker. I just don't think he comes across well enough.  Christie's hair was distracting - I'd like to reward him for his bravery on entitlements but just can't get enthused. Huckabee had some admittedly killer lines. I can't quite get past Cruz's snake oil televangelist style.  Rubio stronger than expected and showed gravitas.  Jeb did decent job, given the obstacle of holding unpopular positions.  Kasich did better than I expected, although I did cringe at his defense of traditional marriage as a case of him being old-fashioned, as if there's no intellecutal case for it.   Trump not bad given the obstacle of what he had to defend (himself).  Ben Carson did well. Somebody said, "Rand Paul was a suicide bomber taking out Trump, Christie and himself." 

August 06, 2015

Trump This

I'm hypnotized by the strength of Donald Trump in the polls. He sells competence but went into bankruptcy numerous times and inherited a fortune from his father.  He seems a man of weak character given the serial marriages, flip-flopping positions, and constant verbal scrapes. 

Why would so many Republican voters, supposedly the party of “character counts” be head over heels for him?

I think it's because another characteristic of Republicans is a strong desire for order and strength. Witness how Repubs want a strong foreign policy and a controlled border. 

Maybe it's like how Nixon was favored by many. He was of weak character but that was overlooked in a time of war and in opposition to someone of similar weak character (LBJ). Having lost in 1960 and '64, to two different Democrats, the party overlooked the “Tricky” part of Tricky Dick in hopes of winning back the White House and the Vietnam War. (We all know how that turned out.)

Both Nixon and Trump had or have difficulty with truth-telling. Both tough negotiators and deal-makers. But Nixon was smart, sophisticated, experienced. Trump is like a drunk uncle (not to impugn drunk uncles).

Maybe Trump and a Bernie Sanders or Dennis Kucinich are similar in how they all dream of impossibilities, pie in the sky naivety, Kucinich with his pacifism and Trump with his hawkishness on trade, China, the Democrats in Congress. People in both parties are certainly susceptible to dreamers, and I suppose we're far removed enough from the election to intoxicate ourselves with dreams.