July 17, 2018

SCOTUS Podcasts

Listened to SCOTUS podcast “First Mondays” hosted by two left-of-center folks. Sure, I listened partially for schadenfreude purposes.  I don't feel like the conservative cause has many hurrahs left and this could be the last one so I want to make ample use of it.  (The Republican primary goers decided to go out with a bang with Trump: "Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space." I hope I'm wrong but it feels like a short-term strategy, so I'm enjoying it while I can.)

It’s interesting that finally - after the election of Trump and the arrival of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh - some on the Left are actually asking themselves if the continued existence of Roe was worth getting Trump as president, and whether it has been smart to pin all of the left-wing-activist hopes on the shoulders of the nine robed elders. God bless America, I never thought I'd hear that concerning the "sacrament of abortion". 

Ultimately, it's probably less an admission of anything but as Jonah Goldberg often says, it’s that folks will use whatever means is most amenable to their consolidation of power, and thus the Court was a feasible target when there was no conservative legal infrastructure. Now that that's changed, they’re going to look elsewhere.

But what I really loved in the exchange below was an admission that leftish judges are about power, that they have no philosophy other than “Do what thou will” (and one of the hosts unwittingly and ludicrously implied that very thing by saying the Left should hijack the originalist language of the Right and assert that Roe is an originalist position).

Anyhow, the jury is still out on Kavanaugh. He's pretty swampy and gave Roberts the ammo to save Obamacare. But he's better than Kennedy and Barrett would've been a tough confirmation. From the podcast:
DE: This is a real victory for the conservative legal movement. It’s not just a victory for one person, this is something that took more than a generation to build… And that’s right. You look in the early ‘70s and Pres Nixon gets to make a bunch of appointments and a lot of them were disappointing to conservatives… The solution to that is to build a legal/cultural/social movement, the Federalist society and various movements, that advances a larger vision of the law, and to create a new way of thinking about the law, a new professional identity for conservative lawyers.

IS: You know it’s quite an achievement, it really is. The success was not guaranteed. It’s genuinely impressive.

DE: And it made me really think that the Left has to counter this, and what the Left has been offering really hasn’t been a great product. The Left doesn’t have a theory, never articulated a particularly clear theory of what judges should be doing and what their method of interpretation is…Ultimately the thing that is most important is having the power in getting to make the appointments to the Court, but on the margins I think it would be helpful for someone to articulate a clear vision…

IS: The problem is on the one hand [the Federalist Society] you’ve got this nice crisp set of ways of thinking about the law, that are, like, very structured and formal and pretty easy to do for the first time, and on the other hand you have a kind of “do what thou wilt” all-things-considered ecumenicism on the Left, which is just not intellectually attractive and is also hard to work with.
I wonder if there's a parallel to Catholicism versus Protestantism, that with Catholicism you have a structured way of thinking about the nature of authority, that is easier to do compared to the ecumenicism of "do what thou wilt" Protestantism, the latter not particularly intellectually attractive. As De Tocqueville wrote:
Religious powers not radiating from a common centre are naturally repugnant to [the minds of men living in democratic ages]...One of the most ordinary weaknesses of the human intellect is to seek to reconcile contrary principles, and to purchase peace at the expense of logic. Thus there have ever been, and will ever be, men who, after having submitted some portion of their religious belief to the principle of authority, will seek to exempt several other parts of their faith from its influence, and to keep their minds floating at random between liberty and obedience.
I think folks like Anthony Kennedy and Notorious RBG have long ago purchased peace at the expense of logic.

July 16, 2018

Annual Cellphone Photo Essay: German Village Edition

Headed out on Friday towards pastures green: the annual Columbus German Village bike ride. Only there for 90 minutes but it was a rich and lovely experience, variegated and sunlit from Heaven. Low humidity, 80s, and bluest of skies.

I landsharked the car and tooled through the beguilingly Euro streets. Along the way I stopped at a bakery on the southern edge (South ward street?), across from a bar with a rainbow flag and two well-dressed middle-aged women in drag smoking cigarettes. Under the bakery lights I saw a heavenly chocolate creation and purchased it for $3; it turned out to be a refrigerated King Don sans wrapping; it was labeled as such but I didn’t believe a bakery would simply repurpose a manufactured good.

I chanced my way to a dicey neighborhood with hoodlums lurking about, arguing and looking like drugs were close at hand.

I headed down the cobblestone streets still marked with the scratches of the heavy Wagner beer wagons, which carried their precious cargo to St. Mary’s pastor (among others) in the early1900s.

I traveled to the great Schiller Park, read about its history and the inspirational Schillerian quotes engraved. How short a life he lived! 40-some odd years but he had a lasting impact. I’m a bit surprised in 1891 he was honored above all other Germans in history by the thriving Village.
His 11-ft statue was unveiled, patriotically, on July 4th and bands and fireworks ensued for the 10,000 present. The letters ADN came to mind: “all dead now”, as Mom would say.

Everything was flourishing profoundly here in lush mid-July, the flowers blooming, the plants verdant from the zenith of sun and spring rains.

From the manicured lawns of the landed gentry class:

To gone-to-seed plantations:

From antlered decorations and barn-like villas:



To the other side o' the tracks:



I like how despite the fading of the pastor's sign, there's another sign pointing to it ("One Way") and then you see two letters of the street - "JE", as in "Jesus"! Pointing to the one way,truth and light despite our falling-down Church!


July 12, 2018

Sweet Summer

Creek bed reading

Dragonfly in the wild

Grandson in the wild

July 11, 2018

FB Nonsense

A friend of mine on FB is a big fan of political memes and so I figured I'd waste my time and refute the last eight he posted, which is sort of like banging my head against the wall for all its effectiveness but here goes, with my replies:

I'll take the bait:

1) Who wants a special prosecutor looking at everything they’ve done for the past 50 years?
2) See number 1; given an unlimited budget, lawyers gonna law. They run the country.
3) Mueller's team cares about is crucifying Trump, so they’re going to plead guilty to save their asses.

No, I've seen no empirical evidence of this whatsoever.

Of course it's "allowed". It's a free country and that even applies to the president. If people don't like it they can vote him out.

Sigh. Presidents don't "create jobs". Companies and business cycles do. Natural business cycles explain most of what people foolishly ascribe to presidents. Thus Obama was gifted with an economy in ruins and it rebounded as economies do.

Every president in modern times has been hated by the opposite party, so this is banal. Reagan was hated, W. Bush was Hitler, Clinton was hated, Trump is hated.

Ok, that one's fine.

Yawn. Anyone can make wild assertions. Prove it in a court of law Albert D.

"You can't lie on TV?" Big if true!

June 28, 2018

Vindication Day (please don't use as acronym) for Trump Supporters

Alternative title: "Lord, take away my schadenfreude...but not yet".

Liberal hysteria over Kennedy retirement merely confirms the outsize influence the Court wields and it feels utterly of reaping a sowing: Liberal activists have always wanted disproportionately a powerful SCOTUS...which is fine as long as you got numbers. The quaint notion of judicial restraint probably more appealing to them now.

In a way, it's playing out the way it's supposed to, that is with voter rationality. The Supreme Court morphed into something much larger than the Founders intended by going from interpreting laws to making laws (such as creating the invisible right to an abortion; Roe v Wade has long coattails.)

Given that one-third of the government is now effectively half the government (a cowering legislative doesn't even protect its own prerogatives), and given that that half of that government serves LIFETIME terms, then it makes sense that when you're voting for president you're really voting for him/her AND maybe two SCOTUS justices to serve for 30 years. In other words, it's silly to vote for president based simply on that person's merits. It's voting in a whole team, and not just cabinet but a SCOTUS for eons.

All of which is to say the GOP voters were likely smarter than me.

Me in 2016: What the hell is wrong with Republican primary idiots?

Me in 2018: Hmm...(clears throat)... er, well, maybe there's some sort of collective unseen wisdom in GOP crowds that I've missed.

Of course it's still early and Trump's character is such that we're always an millimeter from disaster. But as Rich Lowery said: "It's funny how life works--Donald Trump may end up being the biggest boon to constitutional fidelity in a generation."

Devout Christian George W. Bush was a terrible president and pagan Trump is a great one so far. Go fig.

So my entirely unearned schadenfreude is off the charts; reaping the success of Trump supporters.

This tweet from Chuck Todd was unintentionally hilarious:
Man, summer is going to suck... it will be ugly;... we have a full fledged political circus on our hands... up to the voters to decide what they want...

Let's re-write it, shall we?, had Hillary won the election and she was deciding who to replace Kennedy with:
Man, this summer has certainly taken on an exciting new twist.. Republicans will try to make it ugly, but it looks like Democrats have the votes.


Charles Murry posted a "I told you so" tweet  about the failure of Bill Gates Foundation on education, linking to his distaste for educational romanticism.

I'm thinking that culture matters more than money when it comes to education: my moment of gobsmack was when I learned there is peer pressure in black communities not to study at school because that’s a white thing. At that point I became convinced that trying to fix woeful school districts is like spitting in the wind.

And even if a school district could overcome deficient childhood development there still would be inequality since by definition every district/student can’t be above average given a bell curve.

Jonah Goldberg wrote: “To fret about political, social, or economic inequality in a free society is to fret about the problem of freedom itself, for in the presence of freedom there will always be inequality of some kind.”

The thing is, you have to fight like hell against the tide in order to save individuals, even if in aggregate it’s hopeless.

June 26, 2018

Lamentations and Exaggerations

Spent hour at 11:30pm the other night trying to stop the waterfall in our basement by fitting cast-off PVC pipes and other tubes to get the water sump-pump'd into the yard at large. I'm mightily impressed by the power and ingenuity of water. The Romans have their aqueducts while we try to engineer the reverse.

I was naive to the fact that the previously opaque water removal system (I'd naively imagined it was just a sump pump and didn't much worry if it worked) turned out to be a living, breathing organism only as strong as the weakest link.  There are many potential points of failure such as:

- Sump pump location wrong
- buried water line to street on east side not working
- buried water line to street on west side not working
- city sewer backed up
- sump pump malfunctioning
- gutters not working properly

And we've experienced all of the above.


I was planning my annual 5k race but it was cancelled due to “deep water on sidewalks”; cue the ol' "how did we ever survive as children?"

I decided to run the 5k myself since I needed a workout and I'm a big risk-taker, witness my $30 bet on Justify in the Belmont.  Got t-shirt "I Survived Deep Water on Sidewalks".

Spent a lot of time on phone trying to get answers to why we can’t get Ohio Utilities to accurately mark our back property. A fair amount of work on our end to fix their mistakes. I’m perpetually astonished at how incompetent most people are at their jobs. Lowes made a forklift delivery the other day and ran into our fence, taking out a six-inch portion.

This was all presaged by Robert Ringer in the 1970s saying that as society decays that we who stay  minimally competent we'll eventually shine by comparison. Job security.


Mass at 8:30; had Crosier priest from the Congo; asked for donations to build a Catholic school there. Moved by the black priest’s singing, including an affecting “My Lord and My God” sung in his native tongue while lifting the Body and Blood. Unfortunately heard only about 50% of his homily due to poor acoustics and accent.


Took in new library in town, three times bigger than previous one. Unique feature is a patio structure (all windows) that looks out over grass and trees (and nearby buildings).

The upstairs is pleasant - late day sun and comfy looking chairs. Even has a coffee bar! Not your father’s library.

Cold as ice inside, like many restaurants and some churches. Entry should have signage warning of potential frostbite. It seemed kind of humorous that they brag of sustainability and environmental things while keeping the air-co at 55.


I'm finding it harder to take politics seriously these days given that Americans don't (witness the election of empty suit Obama and his successor). It's hard to keep a straight face watching the network news or seeing a Trump tweet. All farce all the time. No wonder Christopher Buckley can't spoof modern politics anymore.


Spent about 90 mins trying to get our dog's hair mats out. I’m becoming highly motivated to find a groomer and take it seriously.  Who knew brushing out a dog’s coat wasn’t optional? Thes amazing thing is how quickly he came down with this - in May he looked his fine, sleek self but once he started shedding naturally it soured into mats by mid-June.

And that's the way it was, as Conkrite sayeth...


Snippets of a 1970s Minnesota memoir, dedicated to my fellow Cincinnatian Cat:

...children would punch in 5318008 [on calculators] and turn it upside down to reveal BOOBIES.

Sister Mariella, whom some call Sister Carl Eller, after the Vikings’ fearsome defensive end.

Silence is the safest way to get along, which is all I desire. In life, as in games of tag, I never want to be It. I only want to be Not It.

“We don’t wear [newly bought] shoes out of the store,” Mom whispers. “We’re not hillbillies.”

As for Mom, she grew up in Cincinnati, evidently fearful that hordes of hillbillies would wade—straw-hatted, barefooted, bib-overalled—across the Ohio River and into her backyard. This might explain Mom’s endless cleaning, the neatening of drawers, the discarding of anything that isn’t nailed down.

Her rectitude and naïveté were instantly on display in her fourth-grade classroom in the mid-1950s. Students lined up for recess in front of the chalkboard, and when the line marched out of the room, there was often a single word scrawled on that board. She would erase it, and the word would reappear the next day. After a week, my future mom finally asked the class, “Why does someone keep writing ‘Pussy’ on the board?” The children gasped and giggled. Mom pressed on. “Is Pussy somebody’s cat?” There was more giggling, and a girl raised her hand. “Miss Boyle,” she said. “That’s something a lady has.” This only confirmed Miss Boyle’s notion that Pussy was indeed a cat, and she let the matter rest, but not before telling my future dad, who palmed his face in disbelief.

Mom hadn’t wanted to move from Cincinnati, where Dad first took a job with 3M, to Columbus, Ohio, to which Mickey Mining dispatched him and where Jim was born. She hadn’t wanted to move at 3M’s behest from Ohio

Through all these moves, she held fast to the polestar of Cincinnati: to Graeter’s ice cream and Ohio State football and the Big Red Machine of Johnny Bench and Pete Rose.

Mom says “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” or “God bless it” when she’s angry. These are stand-ins for profanity. She says “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” instead of “Jesus Christ” and “God bless it” instead of “God dammit.” It’s a clever bit of Catholic alchemy, turning blasphemy into praise.

This same sense of relief supervenes whenever the commercials air during NBC’s annual Easter-season screening of The Wizard of Oz, a movie that instills no wonder in me, only terror. The music alone ignites the acids in my stomach, exhaling only when the commercials abruptly appear. They act like smelling salts or a bucket of cold water thrown over a drunk, snapping us out of one world and returning us to the real one. I am grateful for their temporary respite from tornadoes and witches and flying monkeys.

Exploring South Brook by backyard or bicycle, I develop an expert knowledge of the neighborhood topography, whose yard I cannot enter to retrieve a ball (the Sea Hags, the two elderly ladies we seldom see) and in whose house I should decline the milk (the Sundems serve skim, and my body is accustomed to the higher-octane 2 percent). The Redmonds have central air—stepping across their threshold is like stepping into a refrigerated boxcar—and the Raichs have a basement beer-can collection. The McCarthy boys are allowed to collect pop cans, while the Rushin boys are allowed neither.

Young life holds few pleasures greater than the school sick day. The hourly ministrations of Vick’s VapoRub, the back of Mom’s hand on my hot forehead, the thermometer jutting from my mouth like a Chesterfield cigarette...

[Or snow day.] And then I hear it: “Bloomington schools, public and parochial—closed.” Instantly it’s Mardi Gras and V-E Day and the Lindbergh parade all in one, and the flakes falling outside look like ticker tape.

June 18, 2018

Hilton Head Trip Log

Sun: Had Fr. Ferrell at Mass and he gave a moving homily, relating his personal experience of becoming a Christian in his late 30s and how his friends criticized and strongly discouraged his becoming a priest. He said Mass with much reverence and I like him the more I see and hear him.

He said something about how he’d wanted to live for something larger than himself to live for and my mind went to Anthony Bourdain and his suicide. Fr. mentioned how fragile and changeable our emotions are and again I thought of how Bourdain was described as “giddy” a couple weeks ago and morose for the three days leading to his suicide. Perhaps manic-depressive. I recall how G Gordon Liddy said he couldn’t listen to certain kinds of music and how Bourdain was listening to the mournful “House of the Rsiinn Sun” on loop a few days before his death. Sad and shocking.


Then come 1:30 I did my obligatory run in the 88 degree heat, a labor of non-love but got it done. Maybe 2 miles all together. Surprisingly the beach was cool, much cooler than expected. I almost thought it was going to be a balcony day. Read some of The March, the novel about Sherman’s march, while partaking of light session “all day” beers. Yum.


Sunny, cloudless, with reports (retorts) of rain in C-bus. We picked a good week!  Wordsworth:
Yea, all the adamantine holds of truth...
Her spirit, must it lodge in shrines so frail?
He mused —upon these chiefly —and at length,
His senses yielding to the sultry air.

Read delightedly of the ‘70s memoir Sting Ray Afternoons - it's funny that there in Minneapolis he had neighbors he referred to as the "McCarthy boys" and another neighbor family "the Richardsons".  Sounds like ours Also read some of the Peter Hitchens’ Rage Against God.


Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.

Funny how songs of the way distant past come back during days lounging in the June sun. Today came a cross between the folkish bluegrass “Chicken Pie Song” and “Clap, Clap, Clap Your Hands Together” childhood ditty.

After breakfast headed out on a bike ride on 278 towards the farm market but only did about 6 miles. Then to beach for an abbreviated session - the rains came heavy at 2pm, just as the Dark Sky app predicted. Allowed me to get up to the place warm and dry with a minute to spare. The rains had staying power, 2-5pm. By the time it was sunny just stayed in condo and had Bloody Mary's.


Walked with Steph on the beach for morning mile.  Come 3:30 clouds and rainstorm; the lifeguard whistles at me to come in out of water. But a satisfying day at beach nonetheless.

A tray table came that we'd had delivered via Amazon and planned to hang from our balcony.  Steph promptly dropped hex nut off balcony, tumbling into grassy obscurity. I wasn’t going to hunt for it given she dropped it and pessimistically assumed it was lost. It was. But it worked out for her benefit - went to hardware store named White Dog and met an instant friend - the owner is a dog lover extraordinaire and they talked dogs for at least a half an hour while Steph loved up the flat white Pyrenees dog that has many physical characteristics of Max, Max being part Pyrenees. Same paws and snout. But super laid back and a hefty but right-sized 135 lbs.

Later, saw three bucks (deer) feeding next to beach for first time.


Saw on internet:
“Say not I am too young” is a phrase that reminds us that wisdom is aligned to charity (as St Thomas teaches:), not to age.”
That’s a pretty concise description of why there are a decent number of saints in the Church who died at a young age since wisdom is a function of charity, not chronological age.

And a tweet from a bishop regarding a Dorothy Sayers novel:
An older Lord Wimsey anticipates George Smiley in some ways:
“Tell them to bring up a bottle of Scotch and a siphon and some beer, for malt does more than Milton can to justify God’s ways to man.


Feel like I’m getting my sea legs! Late start for sure. The cumulative effect of books and beer and 9 hours of sleep a night. Kind of wondering why I’m so slow to relax this time; I suspect work agonies.

As the song goes, which I played on loop this morning,”Don’t Try to Live Your Life inOne Day”. Also some great “Turning Japanese” while doing a mile beach walk before Mass, arguably the greatest pop song of all time, ha.  Overcast a.m. before sun resurrection around 10am. Read a bit about whom some say was the greatest horse never to win the Derby, the philly Zenyetta. Didn’t mature in time to do the Triple Crown races.

Delish breakfast using our new tray table hooked to balcony railing. Yum.
On beach by 10:45, soaking in the rays in surprising privacy. Early June seems less crowded than August week.  Wondrous 4 hours there that went by in 3.5 minutes. Read some, cigar’d some, did nothing some.  ‘Round 1pm did my run, a strong 2.5 miles that shows I’m improving in fitness down here, at least running fitness.

Thanks to the magic of the Dark Sky rain we missed the rains by a few minutes, a good opportunity to head back up to hydrate and lunch.


I did a 7pm bike spin down to the Hilton Head Academy and back just before dinner. I’m not sure Steph appreciated my departure while she cooked, but I’m feeling the loss ... of vacation time.  Quiet desperation has set in, a desperation for beauty.

After dinner did an 8:30pm, walk. Still light outside.  Oh, beguiling ocean! It mesmerizes... Walked to the live band at the Holiday.  Meanwhile the sea continues its ceaselessness, the show that must go on. An old, fat couple sits at the edge of the water in chairs, wordlessly watching the waves while there’s still light to see by, as the young folks stream by.

I feel a longing for more time outside in this “midsummer’s night madness” (is there such a condition and could I have it?). There’s a world of difference between Thursday morning, when all is right with the world (i.e. two full days ahead) versus Thursday eve when the “sudden death” of Friday’s last day approaches.  We have a spaghetti dinner with corn on the cob and salad.


Lounged the morn; to beach by 11am and off on bike around 1pm to the Stables to see the great horse Harley. And so his huge head was admired and feted.

Rode through the painfully beautiful cathedral-groves; tall southern pines that make one gasp in wonder, surrounded by Secretariat-red needle beds. All on a picture perfect June day, the apotheosis of season married to the apotheosis of place.

Back at the condo I immediately discover the iPhone I’d put in my back pocket had popped out at some point during the 8 mile ride. Thank God for “find my iPhone” app. I was able to track the location of the phone via my iPad deep in the heart is Sea Pines. (The guard at the entrance had pity and didn’t make me pay $5.). I parked in somebody’s yard hoping not to get towed and went on foot for about a half-mile. I saw the phone lying in the street, grist for a car, while meanwhile a car is coming! I rush out in the middle of the street like a madman holding up my hand in the universal motion of “Stop!” and then save the phone from destruction by seconds. All in a day’s fun. Technology, the cause and solution to many world problems.

Read another 20 pages or so of Jonah Goldberg’s absorbing history lesson.
Some historical fiction about Thomas Jefferson as well.

In retrospect it seems like a vacation’s purpose is simply to give you that Thursday morning moment that confers that all-is-right-with-the-world feeling, that expanse of sheer-dom and do-nothingism that in its best moments leads to poetry.

I felt it, for maybe an hour, a respite and a clock negator, my moment of zen or bliss or rumspringa.

Sat: Neat to see some of the rural Southern coast, from Beaufort to Charleston. Woke at 6am and by 9:15 our bags were checked for 10:30 flight. Smooth handoff of rental car. Felt a little nerve-racking time-wise, oh me of little faith.

Drove by Parris Island Marine base; later stopped to get gas and saw jaunty old black man with Marine cap pull up in motorcycle looking like maybe a part-time drill instructor.

The flights were painless - just one hour long each during which I consumed multitudes of the Secretariat book. Just love the dawning realization of the wonder horse they had on their hands after the Derby. Sort of reminds me (in an opposite fashion) of the dawning realization that Hillary lost the election, and how her team and her affiliated media (CBS, NBC, ABC, etc..) were affected.

By the time we Uber’d home it was just 3pm - earliest arrival ever after Hilton Head thanks to the friendly skies. By 4 we were picking up the dogs and Steph saw Sharon and the facilities for the first time. The dogs went bananas seeing us (and each other). They were clobbering each other even before being let out of the gate.

Lots of drama with the dogs later; I noticed Maris eating grass. I thought it odd she was doing it in the middle of the yard and I got more suspicious when it looked like she was pawing it. I went out there and Max followed me since he doesn’t let me out of his sight.

He breaks into a sprint and I realize he realizes Maris had discovered Fort Knox - it turned out to be a nest of at least a half-dozen baby rabbits. They all looked dead; Maris had made quick work of most of them. Max took one and went off a short distance to eat it while I hustled back to the house to get a plastic bag to collect them. By the time I got back and started gathering them, Max had finished eating the one whole and grabbed another. I tried to spray him with the hose but he simply relocated to the back corner of the yard. I finished gathering and disposing of them, then came back out. About five minutes later I see Max suddenly getting low and stalking Maris. This was unusual; normally he does that with dogs he doesn’t know and wants to fight with. He then raced towards her and turns out she’d found a new baby rabbit that apparently had made it not quite to safety. Max now ate this third one.
Hours later the dogs were still visiting the scene of the crime, like slot machine winners who think that by playing the same machine they’ll win more money, or in this case baby rabbits.

May 31, 2018

I Yam What I Read

Sometimes I think, a reduction absurdum, that we are products of the media we consume. Especially with regard to our opinions of leaders. I never ascribed this to myself exactly but now I do.

I think we see some of that with the almost uniform anti-pro life media in Ireland. I figured the whole vote was a hopeless cause, that Ireland is not walking but running towards Western nihilism, but the margin of the vote is sorely disappointing and surely part and parcel of propagandistic media there.  Or perhaps the most predictable thing in the world is that when they joined the European Union they would become, duh, European. And thus share the disease.

On my trip to Ireland in the late '90s I found the Irish more efficient than the adage “on Irish time” might suggest: service was speedy and in general there was, in hindsight, a keen appreciation for money - perhaps a warning sign of a lust to become interchangeable with the rest of Western decadents. Then came the “Celtic Tiger” economy and the sellout was complete.

But what’s the use of being Irish if the Irish can’t break your heart?


To take two other controversial folks: Donald Trump and Pope Francis. 

My feelings on Trump were hardened early by a steady diet of National Review and Morning Joe. (Although in fairness to me, the thing that initially turned me against Trump was his birtherism, which pre-dates the negativity from National Review & MJ. ) But there’s no doubt that hearing only the case against Trump was an imbalance that I’ve since tried to rectify in very small doses, by reading parts of positive books about Trump. The plain fact is that I feel captured by the media to some extent. 

My millennial stepson seemed to get it right from the beginning: “Trump is a clown” he said right off, but a clown was preferable to the alternative (Shrillary). And he and I agree that Trump is right about unassimilated rates of illegal immigration as well as the need to push back against Western (and white) self-loathing.

On Pope Francis, I suppose I could use more positive reading on him. I need to read a pro-Pope book that covers the “dark period” of ‘15-‘17. He got off to a rock star start and his early encyclicals and letters sang. The inexplicable thicket he entered was seems not so much due to the vagueness on the question of Communion for the divorced and remarried, but the doubling down on it: the rigging the synod and then ignoring the Dubia. 

It’s not that some of the Holy Father’s stands are “liberal”, just as it wasn’t so much Bill Clinton’s liberalism was off-putting: in both it is the bending of rules and custom in order to get the desired outcome. One wishes for a papal Paul Wellstone or a Bernie Sanders. As Karl Keating said, Francis and Trump are alike in their desire for loyalty over skill, and their mutual high employee turnover rates.  Certainly this is in tune with the tribalism of our times, where loyalty seems to matter more than truth. 

I think this differentiates me from ye olde blogger of yore Steven R., who couldn’t stand Pope Benedict not because of his character but because of his beliefs, especially around the new Mass translation.

Trump got nominated because GOP primary voters had learned that “nice guys finish last” (i.e. McCain and Romney, two classy individuals). And Francis became pope in part because a “nice guy” (Benedict) didn’t have the strength and harshness necessary to rein in a corrupt curia.

May 19, 2018

Somebody's Knockin'

Jonah Goldberg has often made the case that with identity politics it was only a matter of time before backlash ensued and whites began to think in similar terms; as long as every other group gets credit and authority based on an accident of birth, then whites will want that as well.

And that led me to think of the old Gibbs' tune "Somebody's Knockin'", here with new lyrics:
Somebody's knockin'
Should I let him in?
Lord, it's the devil
Would you look at him
I've heard about him
But I never dreamed
He'd have blue eyes and orange hair
Well somebody's lyin’
He's whispering to me
Your tribe or their tribe,
Well, which will it be?
I'm gettin' weaker
And he's comin' on strong
But I don't wanna go wrong
He must have tapped my twitter feed line
He must have known
I'm spendin' my time
He says we'll bring one heavenly fight
My fever's burnin'
So he ought be right at home..

May 11, 2018

2016 Election Book

Of 2016 election books there is no end.  My preference is for minute-by-minute (second-by-second even better) descriptions inside the Clinton campaign on election day.  That stuff is like crack cocaine. The dawning horror of anchors and anchorettes that Trump would be president are likewise as rich a repast as you’re going to get in the world of politics.

But there’s also the other side of the equation: how Trump won.

Part of it I think is due to how the presidency is an entry-level job now given the Obama and Trump wins.  Since resume is irrelevant and past performance precludes getting elected, it makes the campaign the end all and be all. 

A simple theory is that the person with the most media during a campaign wins.  Obama won in ’08 by hacking the media via charm and leftism, while Trump won in ’16 through outrageousness.  But that doesn’t really explain how Bernie Sanders ended up a stone’s throw from the Democrat nomination.

Part of the common denominator might be shamelessness.  Bernie promised free tuition without paying for it, Trump promised to make Mexico pay for a border wall.  Shamelessness helped Bill Clinton win in ’92 as well, since any candidate with an embarrassment gene would’ve bowed out due to scandals.

Amanda Carpenter has a new book saying that Trump's gaslighting was the  feature, and ground zero was birtherism.

I think birtherism won him the nomination in that it was the precipitating thing that gave him instant appeal to about a third of the Republican electorate.  Birtherism allowed me to rule out voting for him immediately, which felt odd: the very issue that knighted him was what repulsed me, not because I think there's anything racist about it, but because it showed a casual disinterest in facts, which doesn't seem a promising thing in a president.

But the gaslighting he did was effective as Carpenter's book attests:
The most surprising thing [about 2016]? How Trump’s political playbook has been hiding in plain sight all this time. He keeps everyone, not just Republicans, spellbound in a rote and methodical way. Donald J. Trump is president, but he’s also a professional gaslighter.

Trump’s birtherism gambit is a textbook example of the technique he uses again and again. Let me walk you through the steps. The very first thing he does is stake a claim over political terrain other candidates consider risky but has a lot of potential. This is Step One. Remember, Trump is a real estate man at heart. He knows how to find an empty building that might look unsavory but can be developed into something valuable. In this case, it was birtherism.
When Trump started dipping his toe into the conspiracy waters in 2011, the birther fervor, which had broken loose during President Barack Obama’s first presidential election in 2008, had mostly died down. Sure, it was something Republicans still cracked jokes about, but no one was seriously willing to indulge in it for more than a laugh. Most considered birtherism a nonproductive waste of time, if not totally racist. Conservatives, by and large, thought it was only something promoted by liberals to make Republicans look like stupid tin-foil-hatters.
Fast-forward a few years later. Along comes Donald Trump, calling himself a Republican and on a mission to become the biggest birther in America. But Trump didn’t go full birther at first. No, no. He had to create some interest. He started slow, by raising questions about what other people were saying and thinking. This is Step Two of his gaslighting method. This is how Trump slyly both advances and denies the very claim he has staked out in Step One. See how this works. “Everybody that even gives a hint of being a birther . . . even a little bit of a hint, like, gee, you know, maybe just maybe this much of a chance, they label them as an idiot,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America on March 17, 2011. Trump wasn’t exactly coming out and saying he was a birther, but he was using his platform to express sympathy toward the large number of birthers who could be watching. He was advancing the narrative without committing himself to it. Gear up the presses! “Is Donald Trump a Birther?” asked Inside Edition. His gaslighting was catching. He got everyone to start asking questions about birtherism. He didn’t have to answer them to make his point. You see, when Trump is gaslighting, he rarely tells an outright lie. When pressed, he avoids specifics but keeps everyone chattering away with speculation on the topic.
The press egged him on, as did the Democrats who thought birtherism would help them by drawing sympathy to President Obama. Obama’s re-election campaign even sold T-shirts and mugs mocking the movement. Trump made himself available for all kinds of high-profile interviews on the subject, denying all the while that he was a real “birther.” He just had a lot of questions about it, you see. “Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate? There’s something on his birth certificate he doesn’t like,” he told the women of The View on March 23, 2011. On March 28, 2011, he told Fox News, “I’m starting to wonder myself whether or not he was born in this country.” Do you see how this advance-and-denial step works? He was only “wondering” about Obama’s citizenship. When this step is carried out correctly, it generates lots of attention. It induces intrigue, laying the groundwork for a much grander narrative. Then he did something that you will learn to recognize as Step Three of his method; he created suspense to keep the media’s interest in him and the subject. Trump promised evidence would come out “soon” to support his inquiries. He told Morning Joe on April 7, 2011, “His [Obama’s] grandmother in Kenya said, ‘Oh, no, he was born in Kenya and I was there and I witnessed his birth.’…

Obama, however, did finally produce his birth certificate on April 27, 2011, after Trump stoked questions in the press over it for six weeks straight. In doing so, Obama lectured the press for having their priorities wrong. He pointed out that he was in the middle of a big budget debate with Republicans but “the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we’re gonna have to make as a nation, it was about my birth certificate.” Without saying exactly who was responsible, Obama vented about the “carnival barkers” and “sideshow” that had been created. The people who pushed “just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts,” Obama said. “I have been puzzled at the degree to which this thing just kept on going.”

A rational person would have thought the story would end there. But Trump had no interest in rationality. The issue was too politically fruitful to let go of so easily. Besides, Trump had found other GOP politicians who were willing to play along. In October 2011 Texas governor and then–2012 presidential hopeful Rick Perry had dinner with Trump. No one knows for certain what they talked about, but pretty soon after that Perry was on the birther bandwagon, happily taking cheap shots at President Obama. Perry told CNBC, “It’s fun to poke at him a little bit and say, ‘Hey, how about—let’s see your grades and your birth certificate . . . it’s a good issue to keep alive.” It sure was. For Trump.

In 2013, ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked Trump if he had taken birtherism too far. Trump said, “I don’t think I went overboard. Actually, I think it made me very popular, if you want to know the truth, OK? So, I do think I know what I’m doing.” That’s exactly why he kept stoking the fire. In 2014, Trump was still pushing it. He tweeted: “Attention all hackers: You are hacking everything else to please hack Obama’s college records (destroyed?) and check ‘place of birth.’” (Note: this wouldn’t be the only time Trump called on foreign hackers to help him cast aspersions upon a political opponent, either.) What did all this do for Trump? A poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University in May 2016 found that 77 percent of those who supported Trump believed President Obama was “definitely” or “probably” hiding important information about his early life.
In September 2016, Trump summoned the national press corps to his newly opened Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., with the tantalizing promise that he would make a “major statement” regarding the circumstances of Obama’s birth. Reporters had long grown tired of the birther shtick and resented being marched into the hotel, calling the charade an “infomercial” for his property. But Trump had a way of guilting them into it. Medal of Honor recipients would be attending, reporters were told. Before Trump’s remarks, there would be a serious discussion about national security. Trump was giving the media a dare. Would reporters turn down a major event with decorated veterans? If they skipped it, Trump would accuse them of not respecting the military…
At the end of the event, Trump made his long-awaited statement regarding President Obama’s birth certificate. Here he would unveil Step Four and Step Five of his gaslighting method. The discrediting of his real opponent and the declaration of victory. “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy,” he said. “I finished it. I finished it. I finished it, you know what I mean. President Obama was born in the United States period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.” That was it. Trump tossed the conspiracy off as an unfortunate incident propagated not by him, but by his opponent, Hillary Clinton. That’s Step Four, the discrediting. “Finished it,” he said. He won. Trump told the world that the single most defining issue of his political career-to-be was someone else’s mishap that he fixed. That’s Step Five, the victory. Reporters who covered the issue for five long years were exasperated.
STAKE A CLAIM: Trump finds a political issue or action that competitors are unwilling to adopt and that will ensure a media frenzy. Such as: “President Obama is not a U.S. citizen.”

ADVANCE AND DENY: Trump casts the issue into the public realm without taking direct responsibility. He does this by raising questions about or discussing what other people are saying, reporting, or thinking. Tabloids, YouTube videos, tweets from unknown origins, and unverifiable Internet news stories are often used as sources.

CREATE SUSPENSE: He says evidence is forthcoming that will soon get to the truth of the matter. Trump can remain in this mode for weeks, months, or even years.

DISCREDIT THE OPPONENT: If critics gain traction, Trump attacks their motives and personal character.

WIN: Declare victory.

He won ugly.  But I have to say that I'm hard-pressed and chagrined to realize today that I can't think of one thing a President Rubio would've done better than Trump as potus from a policy standpoint.  And probably a lot less right.  From North Korea to Iran deal to the economy, judges, tax changes, rolling back extraneous business regulation, etc... the dude has produced despite his poor character.  But it's still perilously early of course. Having Trump as potus is like having a sumo wrestler walking a tight rope.  You brace...

April 24, 2018

John Ch. 6 Condensed

Jesus feeds 5k, everyone excited to find out their flesh taken care of. New Moses same as the old, good stuff.

Jesus contemplates overnight, sees he needs to take the next step now that they are maximally open to his message (bellies full,  trust in his miraculous powers high).  Now is the time to test them like the angels, when God revealed his plan of becoming man to them and many rebelled since they didn’t see much use in humans. “Don’t go slumming Lord”, Lucifer said, “I ain’t gonna worship no lowly human let alone a piece of bread.”

The Jews go look for Jesus, wanting more Moses-food, and Jesus says don’t work for that kind of food.

They say whatcha talkin’ about Willis?

He says work for the eternal kind.

They ask how can we do the works of God (i.e. get our own food then via our own miracles)?

He says the work of God is to believe in me. Full stop.

They ask “why should they go out on a limb and trust you if no free meals?”

He says I am the free meal.

They say hey now, we know your parents.

He says my flesh is the life of the world, your flesh is useless.

He sees this offends them and says “what if I ascend to Heaven then where you going to be if you don’t see eternal life, meaning real life, is what matters?”