April 28, 2016

Novel Quote

Saw this in Ron Rash novel this morning, a character giving a Sunday sermon:
"The same Peter that seen the lame trot off without a stumble, blind folks with their eyes awash in every color of the rainbow. Peter had been there to witness it all. His own eyes seen the dead wiggle out of grave quilts like a moth shucking its cocoon. Have you seen such a sight in your woods or fields, brothers and sisters? I have. It was of an afternoon and I thought that cocoon was nothing more than a fox turd. They ain’t no way to say it but that. All brown and dried-up looking. Then that cocoon give a shiver and this little head poked through and then its body spread out as pretty a set of wings as I’ve seen on bird or butterfly...
Burdens are plenty in this world and they can pull us down in the lamentation. But the good Lord knows we need to see at least the hem of the robe of glory, and we do. Ponder a pretty sunset or the dogwoods all ablossom. Every time you see such it’s the hem of the robe of glory. Brothers and sisters, how do you expect to see what you don’t seek? Some claim heaven has streets of gold and all such things, but I hold a different notion. When we’re there, we’ll say to the angels, why, a lot of heaven’s glory was in the place we come from. And you know what them angels will say? They’ll say yes, pilgrim, and how often did you notice? What did you seek?"

April 27, 2016

Five Key Factors to Trump's Nomination

My five key factors:

1) Trump's success with evangelicals.  I did not see that coming and really the nomination was over at that point because that meant Trump would be huge in south which, when combined with northeast, gave him a big headwind.

2) Kasich utter flop in Midwestern states.  If you can't win Mich, PA, and IN and you're from Ohio, where can you win?

3) Failure of Florida politicians to win Florida.  Marco's & Jeb's faces go on Wall of Shame.

4) Ego-driven delusional Republican politicians stayed in far longer than they should have.  Jeb stayed too long, Marco too long, Kasich too long. Ben Carson too long. Only modest ones who got out in timely fashion were Carly and Walker.

5) Propaganda organ Drudge Report.

April 26, 2016

The Anti-Conservative Conservative Media

This has been a fascinating election if only to see how our seemingly greatest gift (conservative radio and Internet) turned out to be our greatest enemy (and Shrill's bff!)  It's Greek tragedy.

I'm part of the problem since I find intra-party fights far more interesting than say a Chuck Shumer-John Boehner fight.  If Drudge links to a Harry Reid fight with some Republican, no way do I click on the link, but I sure do on these Republican battles.  Alas.  But there's only so much angst you can work up over a Democrat politician since they can't help themselves.

If there was a Drudge/Rush counterpart on the Left you can bet Dem party would've gotten blown up, and Sanders would be nominee.  Or maybe someone to left of Sanders, like Raul Castro.

April 21, 2016

Yankee Doodle Donald

Donald Trumpy went to town
A-riding as a phony
Gave the world a middle digit
And called it macaroni!

Chorus:
  Donald Trumpy, keep it up
  Donald Trumpy dandy
  Burn the party, elect the Shrill
  and with the votes be handy!

Fath'r and I went down to see,
The proof of Barnum's wisdom
Lined up many suckers there
As thick as hasty pudding.

Chorus

He said we'll build a wall so high
that Mexicans can't jump it
Made of gold and paid for too
by Mexico on credit!

Chorus

His first task as president
to find Obama's birthplace
Unless you think that just a ruse
to win the party's base!

April 13, 2016

Hillary and Benghazi Hearings, set in 1500s

A delicious medieval send-up of Hillary's capers and Republican follies:
“So, Lady Cliton,” said Dame Myrna of house Rotary, raising a javelin to her shoulder, “on that night, as the embassy keep in BenGayzi was being stormed and its defenders slaughtered, rather than mount a rescue force, you retired to your bedchamber. Is that correct?” She did not release the weapon, just glowered down at Lady Hersterya in the inquisition pit, trying to pin her in place with her eyes.
“Yes,” Hersterya replied, and she spread her arms in a shrug, moving her shield to one side and revealing battle armor undented and barely scratched, despite the hours-long assault from the Grand Inquisitors of the Assembly of Knights. “After all,” she added, “there was nothing I could do.”

The Assembly of Knights BenGayzi Inquisition’s interrogation of Lady Hersterya Cliton had been in progress since mid-morning, and in a few minutes the sun would set behind the western battlements of the inquisition tower. Scores of javelins, maces, battle axes, and obsidian-tipped war bolos littered the floor of the circular chamber, and so far few if any of them had done more than inconvenience Lady Hersterya. Only her shield showed signs of damage, as it had by then deflected hundreds of blows.

 While waiting for the other boot to drop from the preening Dame Myrna, Uma inspected the faces of the Grand Inquisitors, looking for some sign that they were tiring and might call a halt to this farce before it was dark. But she saw no such sign. Most of them, especially those belonging to the houses Republican, hated and feared Lady Cliton, as indeed they should, and they were as desperate as she had ever seen them in their lust to land a crippling blow. The Grand Inquisitors were arrayed in obsidian thrones atop a semi-circular stone palisade encrusted with the skulls and bones of the Inquisition’s countless long-forgotten guests....

The bone encrusted palisade placed the inquisitors a dozen feet above the floor, where Hersterya now stood, and the knights used their lofty positions to rain killing blows down upon the accused down in the pit. Or so they did in theory anyway. In truth, inquisitions in the present age were often boring, and despite a long and arduous gestation, frequently produced no issue. The knights of the houses Republican, who were in charge of this proceeding, were, with a few exceptions, notoriously poor inquisitors, more interested in displaying their prowess at brandishing weaponry, and being seen to bloviate energetically as they did it, than in striking deadly blows to the accused. Despite their reputation for witch hunts, carefully constructed over decades by the houses Democrat in collusion with the Medium, the timorous and inept knights Republican rarely if ever managed to secure their witch, and the chamber’s high-arched portal of defenestration invariably stood un-sated under their watch. When the houses Democrat were in command of the Assembly of Knights, things were very different, and anyone who was unlucky enough to become the object of an inquisition under their rule was almost certain to go out the port screaming for mercy, probably head first. The unscheduled dethroning of kings was a sterling example, she thought. Evil King Dik the Trickster, whose worst crime in truth had simply been being hated by all except the smallfolk and the middle-men, had not had tricks enough to save himself in the end, and he had left the chamber by the defenestration port. On the other hand, King Willie the Slick, who had single-handedly turned the White Castle into a bordello, had been subject to a typically inept inquisition under the knights Republican, and had left, whistling, through the door by which he had come.

 "And were you alone in your bedchamber, Lady Cliton?” said Dame Myrna, finally letting go of the other boot, and hurling the javelin at Hersterya.

“Yes,” Hersterya replied, knocking the javelin aside with her shield.

“For the entire night?” pressed Dame Myrna.

Hersterya laughed heartily at this, then added, “Certainly. I am not my husband, you know.”

..."A good night’s sleep is important at my age,” Hersterya said brightly, and cackled again. There she stood, Uma thought with satisfaction, finally in her element, finally at her best: arrogant, unresponsive, dismissive, and rude, all within a single short exchange. Uma felt herself swell with pride for her ladyship, and for all of house Cliton. She was alone in the pit surrounded by a well-armed ring of hostile inquisitors, and she was not only holding her own, she was, as the popular expression went, drinking their mead-shake.

 Seeing she was defeated, Dame Myrna cursed and threw her quiver of weapons clattering to the stones. “I yield back the remainder of my time,” she said in disgust.

The next inquisitor, Sir Gym of house Jardon, rose and began to swing a mace in a lazy arc above his head. “Lady Cliton, why did you lie to the entire Fifty Principalities about the cause of the BenGayzi massacre?”

“I have never lied to the people of the Fifty Principalities,” she said solemnly. Uma knew, along with everyone else in the chamber, that this statement was itself a lie. Hersterya did her best to uphold the traditions of house Cliton, but as hard as she might try, she would never hold a candle to the masterful King Willie, who could lie his way into or out of anything or anyone in the kingdom with remarkable ease.

“Is that so?” asked Sir Gym rhetorically. “You, as well as other king’s counsels, warged around the Principalities blaming the massacre on an obscure mummer’s play that no one has ever seen, but sent a message to your daughter Piccadilly through your private savant on the very night of the attack, saying that it was a coordinated assault by members of al Qaselza.” As he finished he released the mace, which had been picking up speed as he spoke. Hersterya, for once distracted by the challenge, was struck on the breastplate before she could raise her shield. She staggered, reeling from the blow, but did not fall.

“What I said,” she said once she had recovered, “was not that the assault was the result of an evil mummer’s play—which by the way was truly vile—but that others had said it was the result of an evil mummer’s play. Surely I am not responsible for what others say.” It was a riposte worthy of house Cliton, a lie nestled inside a fabrication, wrapped in an untruth, but if King Willie had said it instead of Hersterya, it might actually have been believed.

"You spoke over the bodies of the fallen and blamed a mummer’s play,” Sir Gym insisted.

“That is nothing but a foul rumor,” she said, waving the incident away as if it was a bad odor, “spread by the vast right-winged conspiracy like all the rest.”

*

[Later Snidely Phukyuall is mentioned, aka Sydney Blumenthal]:

Then, perhaps sensing that Hersterya was at least rattled, if not actually wounded by Jardon’s blow, the Chief Grand Inquisitor, Sir Grey Growdy, lifted a jousting lance and said, “Let us now speak of your secret counsel and long-time henchman, Snidely Phukyuall, with whom you shared royal secrets, and from whom you solicited battle plans, in direct violation of the king’s order that he be banished from the realm.”

“People send me missives all the time,” she said. “My idiot personal savant will relay anything to anyone, it seems.” She glanced briefly, and contemptuously, at the home-brewed savant, who sat under guard to one side of the pit. He seemed insensible of the proceedings going on around him, stuck in an infinite loop perhaps, idly thumbing the pocket game he held in one hand.

Sir Grey raised the lance and pointed it at Lady Hersterya’s heart. “Nevertheless,” he cried, “in direct defiance of your king, you responded, and encouraged this scoundrel, this cutpurse, to—”

[Whence suddenly the hero John Boehner appears.]

Suddenly Uma recognized the orange knight. He was none other than Sir Yon of house Boner, ostensible leader of the knights Republican and Wind-talker for the Assembly of Knights.

Sir Yon gazed up at his fellow knights on their thrones, sitting in judgement, and, his eyes pleading, said, “Come down from your high dais bold knights and save me from this rabble, for they know not what they do.” And upon saying this, he began to weep.

Scores of knights, all of them of the houses Republican, whom Sir Yon had just christened the rabble, had emerged from the tunnel and run into the pit, shouting at Sir Yon and brandishing their blades, but when Boner stood and pled his case to the inquisitors, they became quiet. They stood and stared up at the inquisitors while Sir Yon wept. For half a minute there was silence, save for the blubbering, and no one moved. Then, as one, the inquisitors loyal to the houses Republican drew their swords, leapt down from their palisade, and joined the rabble in advancing on Sir Yon.

“Stop, you imbeciles!” he shouted, “I am your Wind-talker, and I love you as if you were my own bastard sons. Why dost thou forsake me?” Then, seeing that his words had had no effect, he turned and ran across the pit toward the battlements at the rear of the chamber. The angry knights stayed right behind him, and inside of a minute his back was to the battlements, with the tall black arch of the defenestration port in the center.

“All I ever wanted, since I was a lad scraping the scum from the cuspidors in my father’s ale house, was to be a knight of the Assembly, to someday rise to be the Wind-talker. I’ve wanted nothing else, cared for nothing more,” he said through his tears. He held his sword before him, and its blade rang almost continuously from the blows of the knights Republican attacking him from every side.

“And that is precisely the problem,” growled one of the knights. “Give us a Wind-talker who will stop talking for once—”

“Stop talking defeat,” insisted another, and a chorus of yeas was added to the clanging of steel.

“Yes. Stop talking defeat and fight,” said the first knight.

“But the houses Republican control only one third of one half of the—”

Hearing this, the knights snarled at Yon Boner as one.

“No? It is one half of one third then. But in any case not enough. You fellows never give me a break.”

The furious knights began to attack Sir Yon with even more vigor and he retreated, as was his way, until his back was to the dreaded defenestration port itself.

Then, suddenly, he dropped his sword to the floor, and said quietly, “You ungrateful bastards. Fuck the lot of you. I resign.” Then he turned away from them, stepped through the defenestration port, and disappeared.

It seemed to take a moment for the rabble to grasp what Sir Yon had done. Finally one said, “Good riddance,” and a few shouted out their agreement, but then were silent again. After a minute of standing beside the defenestration port, the knight who had been in the van said, “Fine, lads. We are all glad that it is done, and so neatly to boot.” He turned to face the rabble. “And which of you will be Wind-talker now?”

There was another long silence, then one of them said, “Why, we thought ‘twould be you, Sir Vin.”

Sir Vin laughed. “Not me, good sir, not until global summer comes,” he said, by which he meant never, since many in the houses Republican were Deniers. “I thought to nominate you,” he added, and pointed his sword at the other knight.

“No. I think not,” the knight said with a forced casualness, “I have these edicts in committee to attend to, you see.”

“So, we finally oust the useless Sir Yon Boner, and now no one wants to be Wind-talker? Why did not anyone mention this before we threw the wretch out the port?”

“He threw himself out,” said a knight from deep within the rabble.

“It matters not how he exited,” Sir Vin said in exasperation, “What are we going to do for a Wind-taker?” He paused to scowl in thought. “Who are we going to do for it?” There was another round of silence then. At last Sir Vin said, “Since none of you—” He raised a gauntlet to quell their grumbling. “—since none of us would have it, then there is no choice. There is only one knight courageous enough, pious enough, dedicated enough—”

“Foolish enough,” shouted another, and all the knights laughed, nervously.

“Yes, and foolish enough to make himself Wind-talker in these impossible times.” Sir Vin stopped speaking and waited for the call to begin.

“Tryin!” shouted a knight, and soon the cry was taken up by a dozen other knights, and echoing through the inquisition chamber. “Tryin! Tryin! He’ll do anything. Get Pall Tryin!”

April 11, 2016

Stop Me Before I Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude alert: Hillary is dismayed by younger voters who are ignorant and don't do their homework. Welcome to the Republican world, Hillcat! You're late to the party, but we'll take it.

Bernie Sanders is also an honorary Republican for his inability to get black votes.

April 10, 2016

The Pope Contains Multitudes

Interesting to see the wide divergence of opinion on the Holy Father's letter on marriage. Francis contains multitudes. When St. Paul wrote of the need to be all things for all people, Francis took him up on it and decided this document needed be all things to all people. 

The lack of clarity is not surprising since it's the only "easy" way to grant latitude when hemmed in by thousands of years of church teaching and the words of Christ himself. 

Instead of labeling church types by “liberal” and “conservative”, perhaps it's more accurate to say those lobbying for clarity and those for ambiguity. A “lobbying for ambiguity” seems strange, except inasmuch as it could reflect reality. If the reality of the situation is that people are complex and sin is complex (with mitigating factors), then clarity is a kind of unreality. Perhaps it's jesuitical, but where the rubber meets the road is at the point of subjective sin. It seems unlikely that someone will be punished for objectively sinful behavior that they don't know is objectively sinful. 

[Update: A less tendentious description of clarity/ambiguity is simplicity/complexity.]

The time-honored way of granting latitude is by going the individual conscience as much sway as possible. The problem with that is that it has always been an unreliable indicator. I think of Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, who apparently followed his conscience. And we see how that worked out.

The Pope has a helluva difficult job. He at once is to encourage and admonish (1 Thes 5:12), two things that for modernity seem contradictory. 

Squaring the two things seems possible only when one sees admonishment as encouragement and that can only happen if one sees the human as of an intrinsic worth and that God is not imposing laws and values external to us, to our nature, or out of a lack of love for us in our present condition. From Elizabeth Scalia: 

“To explain to human people that we are literally formed by God in a way by which he may reveal himself to us at our depths — that’s fundamental to helping us understand our worth to God. It is the first way we teach anyone the truth that, they really are acceptable to God; they have intrinsic worth.”

Another interesting quote: 

“Rather than settling a contentious issue Francis has chosen, if not to throw it open, then at least to ease it gingerly ajar. And perhaps that is precisely where the document marks a turning point. In the past, popes have intervened with authoritative documents to settle issues causing division or confusion within the Church.” - Fr. Mark Drew

April 09, 2016

April 07, 2016

Bound for Trump Rehab

Peggy Noonan:
"And the immediate question: Is it possible he can change and be worthy of the moment? I don’t know but doubt it, because in my observation people at the end of middle age don’t usually change, they just become more so. In any case it’s getting late. So far Donald Trump has conquered all expectations, half-conquered the American political system, and almost conquered one of our two great political parties. It is sad he can’t conquer himself."
*

I think I've finally slaked my Trump addiction. Sort of like how some people say they quit smoking by chain-smoking for 48 hours until they're semi-poisoned by it. I haven't clicked on a Trump link for the last few days - a record this year.

I think it's a combination of two forces: one, I've learned all there is to learn concerning his unfathomable popularity. Eventually even the strangest thing, when encountered daily over a long period of time, becomes boring or yields no fresh insight. Bottom line: People hate politicians. True conservatives split the vote and Trump triumphed.

The second thing is Trump himself has jumped the shark. It's all minutiae. I can't get exercised over some campaign operative who squeezed a reporter's arm. Trump goes after Cruz's wife, which is Trump being Trump. Trump articulates five positions on abortion in two days. As David Brooks said, it's a zombie march to the Clinton presidency. Brooks, however, seems to think it'll be a bigger landslide than Goldwater. I'm doubtful, but a loss is a loss is a loss.

Trump does well with blue collar white men over the age of 50 and wall construction company leaders, but struggles with women, Hispanics, blacks, young people, Asians, Muslim-Americans, Indian-Americans, Mormons, Amish.... In short, he be in trouble. Alas, we'll likely never be able to test the proposition if Hillary was beatable.

Trump could just as easily decided to run as a Democrat but that he did as a Republican is interesting because I think he smelled weakness. Many a businessman can smell it when someone's weak, when they're willing to be taken advantage of. Trump took advantage of a party establishment that couldn't organize a two car parade. Of course, it's also true that the Republicans had no heir apparent. In '08, '12 and '16 the Dems had a strong front runner: Clinton in '08, Obama in '12 of course, and Clinton again in '16. The Republicans haven't had an obvious candidate since George Bush in 2004. So the
field was ripe for a takeover.

April 06, 2016

Easter's Full Moon

Pope Benedict (then Cdl Ratzinger) on seemingly odd timing of Easter:
Nor is the season at which Easter is celebrated a chance matter, either. Via the Jewish Passover, the Christian Easter has its roots far back in the history of religions, in the realm of the so-called natural religions…In this way he quite deliberately links his mission with mankind’s whole history of belief and with the signs to be found in creation. He ties the accomplishment of his mission to this particular feast and, hence, to the first full moon of spring. To those who look at things only from the point of view of technology or historicism, this must appear unintelligible and devoid of meaning…By linking his hour to the revolutions of the moon and the earth, to the cycles of nature, we enter into the rhythm of the earth and the heavenly bodies and hear the message they have to give. Thus nature’s new morning that marks the first full moon of spring is also a sign belonging genuinely to the Easter message: creation speaks of us and to us. We can understand ourselves, and Christ, properly only if we also learn how to listen to the voice of creation.
               

Who Needs a Segue When You've Got a Segway?

Fun to see at a tech site a picture of the author's Kindle screen with a quote rather than something banal like "Joe's Kindle": 


My Kindle screen shot from last eve:



 *

Prairie Oaks, the lake with white caps….ahhhh. What is better than a sunny (if chilly) day in Spring walking a modest 1.7 miles around the lake with Maris and Steph? There's just something about water that heals the soul. Makes me want to go to Hilton Head.  Makes Steph want to go to Camp Creek, WV.

*

Climate change makes for freakish weather, and today we had gusts exceeding 50mph that, incredibly, took the top half of one of the evergreens in the backyard down. It's a tree planted 18 years ago, and now it's suddenly half as high as it used to be. The tree seems pretty young in tree terms, still green and vibrant. Amazing the power of that wind.

*

Can MLB's spring training season be over already? I'm not sure I'm ready for the real thing. I was enjoying - via the MLB app - all the “meaningless” games, only I didn't see them as meaningless. For one thing, they're certainly meaningful for up-and-comers who are trying to make the major league roster (much like Columbus Clipper games are meaningful). For another thing, the Reds are already mathematically eliminated from the 2016 race, if by “mathematically” one means the career statistics of the players they'll be fielding. And finally, I enjoyed the unfailingly sunny climes the spring training games issued from: Arizona, Florida - and mostly day games. Who needs the regular season given these circumstances? The MLB app has effectively made late February the opening day of baseball for me. I get to watch games, read the baseball book guides on individual players and not have losses mean anything. That's not bad actually.

*

I wonder sometimes if I expected too little of myself.  It's easy to say that on the cusp of the end of a career, like how that 50-something who hired me confessed he'd wished he'd worked for a small company. Viva le difference. Or, you could say, success is proof you underachieved and maybe in the spiritual life as well. Imagine Peter, Paul and Mary (Magdalene) without their failures. They failed upward. It breeds humility.

In the business sense it's the Peter Principle; you ain't really trying if you haven't been promoted to the place where you're incompetent.

I can think of times in my life I was overly bold: joining the fraternity which is something on paper I wasn't suited for. Or was I insufficiently bold by virtue of my unwillingness to cut the umbilical cord to my childhood friend? As it played out, that cord would be severed nonetheless proving you can't go home again. Nolo tangeliere.

It's easy to look back after having had a successful career (one defined as not having been fired, in my low expectations) that maybe despite appearances I was smarter and played the game better than I thought. Perhaps you only get the confidence after the game is done, the retirement money in the bank.

*

I liked this commentary:
“Raymond Brown suggests that today’s Gospel may be Luke’s answer to those folks in his community—and ours—who look back with nostalgia to the first generation of Jesus’ followers. They imagine that their faith would be stronger had they seen the risen Lord with their own eyes. Luke’s story aims to show them otherwise. The two disciples walk and talk with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. But reflecting on the Scriptures makes their hearts burn, and they only recognize the risen Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Luke’s point is that those same means of knowing the Lord—the Scriptures and the breaking of bread—are available to Christians of every generation in the life and liturgy of the Church.”
It's easy, for me at least, to pit these two experiences against one another. To see Catholics as primarily about the sacraments and Protestants as primarily about the Bible. These two things should be in balance, it seems, or both reinforcing one another in a “virtuous cycle”. We read the Scriptures to burn with hunger for the consummation of Communion.

I considered how Christ was more identifiable by his wounds than even his face given the many “I didn't recognize him” in the Resurrection accounts. It's notable that Thomas the Apostle didn't say, “I won't believe it unless I see his face myself.” What symbolism is there in that? That Christ wanted to be remembered for his wounds for us and by us?

*

Amused to see my old hometown southwest Ohio paper use the word “loose” for “lose” in one of the articles. The Journal is famous for mistakes, and I wondered if times had changed.

Watched some Reds-Phillies opener and saw Reds overcame a 2-1 deficit enroute to a 6-2 win. Especially good to see Joey Votto, who inexplicably didn't come out when announced at game time and struck out ugly three straight times, hit a big single up the middle for a couple ribbies. Hoover tried to lose it (or loose it) in the 9th by giving up two extra base hits except the Reds fielders refused by making a couple highlight reel catches. So a very satisfying 8th and 9th. Reds could finish at .500! All they have to do is go 80-81 from here on out…

March 31, 2016

Mary of Magdala


The Mary Magdalene encounter with Christ post-Resurrection is more poignant than I'd thought. Her grief was intense and it's easy to forget how real it was in that moment, now with the hindsight of the Resurrection. Like us, her hope was touchingly modest: merely to find the corpse of Christ. Like us, much of the time, seeking so little. She's very human, like Peter.

A commentary makes the point that it's interesting that her love was intense but her faith not so much. Her love carried her to faith.

From a commentary:
“Jesus was standing there, but either because he did not show the appearance which Mary Magdalen had known, or because of tears in her eyes, or because of her state of soul she did not recognize him. His double question was identical with that of the angels ("Why do you weep?”). With her fixed idea regarding the removal of the body, Mary grasped at what seemed some hope of finding it. This man (whom she thought to be the gardener) could tell her. In her request to the stranger she names no name, only him, him, him, as if the whole world should know who he was. In saying: ‘I will take him away’, it is ‘the audacious Mary Magdalene’, as St Thérèse called her, who speaks.“