May 24, 2016

All the Trump That's Fit to Print

Read the obligatory Jonah Goldberg “G-file” contra Trump, and of course I felt all the dismalness that this election “inspires” in me. It's a bad dream, ongoing, slow motion. Better to disengage, like I did during the Bill Clinton era when I read a huge biography about Stonewall Jackson, the anti-Clinton (but see my blog title).

It's been said ad nauseum but I can't get over how surreal it is that we have two final candidates for president whom I wouldn't trust on Columbus city council let alone as president. For the first time it seems like we're going to get a president we really don't deserve. As much as I didn't like Clinton or Obama, both looked at semi-plausible on paper (or, in Obama's case, without paper trail) in their initial election.

Bill Clinton was a bit shady, but seemed to govern his state well enough. Obama was the flip image: squeaky clean, but without governing experience.

Now we get Hillary, both corrupt and no credible governing experience (the Senate is like college - a six-year vacation from the realities of life - and as Sec of State she had no successes and some notable failures), and Trump has no governing experience and makes ridiculous promises either out of invincible ignorance or conman cunning. He's either a clown, as my stepson refers to him, or despot, but the despot and the clown often look like a joke until they're not. Hitler was initially laughed at and not taken seriously.

I could easily have Trump Derangement Syndrome and certainly I hope do for the country's sake, meaning that I'm greatly exaggerating his potential for mischief, but I can't help but think of the Hilaire Belloc quote given how we love the inversion of the liberals' politically correct speech and yet…:
We sit by and watch the barbarian. We tolerate him in the long stretches of peace, we are not afraid. We are tickled by his irreverence; his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creed refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond, and on these faces there are no smiles.
So out of a country of 300+ million we've ended up with two finalists whom we already know suck profoundly even going in. Now it's one thing to get someone as president who we didn't know would hoodwink us, but here we are knowing we're hoodwinked ahead of time.

Columnist Kathleen Parker writes "One might wish that Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) quip about a contest between her and Trump were correct. More or less, he said that corrupt beats crazy every time...For Clinton to prevail over Trump…support depends on the answer to a tricky question: Is she really as liberal as she’s promising to be, or is she faking? Trump-leaning voters face the same challenge: Is he really as awful as he seems, or has he just been bluffing?"

May 20, 2016

Un-imprimatured Thoughts

I'm reading Raymond Arroyo's fascinating follow-up book on Mother Angelica and came to a mention of her dust-up with Cardinal Mahoney and so I went and skimmed Mahoney's letter on the Eucharist, the trigger for her criticism. I didn't see anything all that offensive in it really. Seems an overreaction. There might be confusion and omissions and soft-pedaling in his statement but I didn't see any heretical smoking gun; he does refer to the Body of Christ and Blood of Christ.

She could be almost Trump-like as far as being unpredictable and blunt although she was defending her Spouse Jesus, and Trump is about defending himself. You could say that in her unpredictable aggressiveness she put the fear of God in bishops tempted to stray into what she saw as heresy, much like I think Trump thinks his unpredictable aggressiveness will give other nations like China pause. Nixon, too, thought it could be good to have foreign leaders think him a little crazy. And of course great fastball pitchers think it's a good thing if the batter thinks he's wild.

There does seem to be a commonality to Pope Francis, Trump and Mother Angelica - an authenticity combined with an autocratic temperament. Perhaps that's true of most good leaders; Douglas MacArthur and General Patton were certainly blunt and autocratic. A circumspect, humble leader is a rare enough bird. We haven't really had a US president like that since Calvin Coolidge I would guess.

*

Upon Hearing Leaf Blower on a Fine Spring Eve

It's the Divine Right of Neighbors
To run their motors loud
At the sitting hour, proud
I'm like Sitting Bull, Red Cloud
Aghast what Pale Face has allowed.

*

Went to Mass and the homily was extremely short, as is paradoxically often the case with Dominican preachers on weekdays, but I was impressed by how spiritually medicinal this small sermon was.

The priest said simply that many are fearful of the future, of demands that will might be made spiritually, emotionally, physically and how we'll survive.

He made the point of how we can worry all our life about something that won't happen, but the real insight was that God doesn't tell us the future for a reason - the reason being that if we know the future we will be tempted to rely on ourselves to prepare for it rather than to rely on God's help in the moment. That rings awfully true - I think most of the future negativity I want to anticipate is towards the goal of avoiding it using my own stratagems. And yet God's plan is not that I become super adept at trusting myself or devising strategies but to become more reliant on Him, more trusting, more loving and faithful. Cross, meet purposes. Purposes, meet cross.

*

Ridiculously chill Saturday for May but a good one to read some William Least Heat Moon, the perfect accompaniment to an enclosed Saturday.

A couple of tasty snippets, the first on elderly black waiters in the South:
“Movement so lentissimo, a perfection of age, is a lovely thing (if it's not in the left lane, in front of you.)”
And, quoting a friend on the “froufrou flourishes” of overwrought culinary cultists who emphasize presentation:
“If the evolutionary process wanted me to like this, my eyeballs would have taste buds.”
*

So what to make of the "make up sex", also known as "the interview", that happened between Trump & Megyn?

It reminded me of the '80s movie Broadcast News, in that camera lingering on Kelly during reaction shots.

Plus that plug for the book at the end was lame.  I expect O'Reilly to self-shill, but it's far less becoming for a serious journalist like Kelly.

May 16, 2016

Jim Geraghy on the Devilish Choice

He writes:
I’m #NeverTrump for life, but I hope my brethren recognize that if we think Trump is terrible choice for president (and he is) and Hillary is a terrible choice for president (and she is), then someone who concludes Trump is slightly less terrible than Hillary . . . is not that far from our own assessment.
I find the incoherent authoritarian populist demagogue as bad as the corrupt oligarchic progressive pathological liar. (Cue jokes: “Wait, which one is which?”) But if you find the incoherent authoritarian populist demagogue slightly less bad than the corrupt oligarchic progressive pathological liar . . . eh, it’s not like we’re miles apart. The bet of pro-Trump conservatives is that the ideologically unmoored, detail-averse mogul will get more right (and Right) by accident than Hillary, who will get everything wrong (and Left) deliberately. Those aren’t particularly good odds, and the potential for Trump going wrong seems pretty catastrophic, but I can see that calculation.
The real problem is when a self-described Constitutional conservative starts arguing that the incoherent authoritarian populist demagogue is a good choice.
Similarly, if a conservative barely prefers the corrupt oligarchic progressive pathological liar devil that he knows over the incoherent authoritarian populist demagogue devil that he doesn’t, that’s not an outlandish perspective either. But once a conservative starts chanting, “Hooray for the corrupt oligarchic progressive pathological liar!”. . . the distance between us starts to feel interstellar.

May 13, 2016

Percent of Compromise

I tried to put numbers around how much I had to bend in order to vote for the last few Republican presidential candidates:

Bush '00 =   5% (Humble foreign policy, pro-life, good job in TX)
Bush '04 = 50% (Hubristic foreign policy, huge domestic spender, etc...)
McCain =  35%
Romney = 20%
Trump   =  n/a (since won't be voting for him)

May 12, 2016

Sirach, Knox Version


The Knox translation always win the poetry slam (Sir 43):
Like a jewel the vault of heaven is set above us; the sight of it is glory made visible. Plain to our view is the sun’s passage as it shines out, a very masterpiece of his workmanship, who is the most High...The moon, too, that keeps tryst so faithfully, ever marking how the seasons change, and giving the signal when feast days come round! The moon, whose light must decrease till it vanishes, and then increase to the full circle, the month its name-child; cresset of a watch-fire that lights up the high vault of heaven with its radiant glow. And the stars that deck the sky with their splendour, a beacon-light the Lord kindles high above us; the summons of his holy word answering so loyally, watching so patiently at their post!
Look up at the rainbow, and bless the maker of it; how fair are those bright colours that span heaven with a ring of splendour, traced by an almighty hand.

May 11, 2016

Liberty, We Hardly Knew Ye

From National Reviews's Jim Geraghty:
Even if a President Trump moved American policy generally rightward -- far from a sure bet -- it would probably come at great cost in liberty. Brad Thor, bestselling author and friend of the Morning Jolt, offers his thoughts on the choice before us:
My greatest concern about Donald Trump, though, isn’t a trait he lacks, but a dangerous one he poses -- in spades. Authoritarianism.

Confident people do not bully and demean others. That is the realm of the weak and insecure. Confident people also do not threaten others, especially not their fellow citizens.

Donald Trump has told us to just wait and see what he does to Jeff Bezos once he gets into the White House. He has told us the American military will do whatever he tells them to do no matter what their reservations. He has promised to prevent American companies from moving outside the United States, regardless of what they believe is best for their businesses.

In other words, Donald Trump has clearly told all of us that he will use the power of the presidency to force people to bend to his will. This is not liberty.

In fact, Donald Trump has never even spoken about liberty. Neither has he spoken about the Constitution and the Founding documents. This is an absolute first in the history of the United States.

Instead, Donald Trump talks about hiring the “best people” and making the “best deals.” This, though, isn’t what made America great, and it certainly isn’t what will return America to its prominence.

The blueprint for America’s success is the ideas of the Framers -- limited, Constitutional governance -- an area in which Donald Trump is criminally ignorant.

Let me be clear that I don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton. I also don’t want to vote for Donald Trump. My preference is to write-in or vote third party. I think they are both terrible for our future.

But between a big government progressive and a potential despot -- every American must ask themselves where liberty has the greatest chance to survive over the next four years.
By the way, Trump fans, once you start posting people’s home addresses and home phone numbers on Twitter, you’re no longer fighting for liberty. You’re using implied threats and the force of the mob to bend somebody else to your will. You’re replacing forced obedience to the state with forced obedience to you.
To the reader telling me to get onboard with Trump . . . What am I supposed to do, outsource my sense of right and wrong to the crowd? Because Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal jump on the bandwagon, I’ve got to follow?
I’m not wrong. Trump is untrustworthy, flip-flopping slime of awful character, obnoxious, crass, authoritarian in instinct; a bully, ignorant of policy and unwilling to learn, stirring up people’s worst impulses, disrespectful to anyone who doesn’t kiss his ass, likely to enact a plethora of policies I oppose, and likely to affirm Obama’s imperial approach to the presidency. And you want me - as you’re apparently willing to do -- to shrug and hand-wave all of that, just because he’s not Hillary Clinton? Could we set the bar any lower?
Hasn’t history taught us that a Democratic loss isn’t automatically a victory for the conservative cause?
From Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol:
"I just don't think he has the character to be President of the United States. It's beyond any particular issue I disagree with him on, or who he picks as VP or something. The man in the last five days has embraced Mike Tyson, the endorsement of a convicted rapist in Indiana. When it was pointed out to him that he had been convicted of raping a 17 year old girl, he didn't back away, at all. He likes toughness, Donald Trump, that's great, he likes rapists. And then what -- the thing with Ted Cruz's father, he just recycles a National Enquirer story accusing his rival's father being involved in the assassination of John Kennedy."
Ben Stein's view:
Last week and somewhat before that, Mr. Trump raised the possibility that in some future economic crisis, he might respond by lowering government expenses by not paying back all U.S. Treasury debt at 100 cents on the dollar. That is, he would try to walk away from the “full faith and credit” trust that undergirds our national economy.
The trustworthiness of the U.S. debt is also the foundation for all economic activity the world over. If investors in China and Japan are told in advance that they will not be paid back what they invested, that puts all economic transfers on shaky ground. The dollar — and its utter trustiness — is what lies behind every kind of financial matter in the world.
To tamper with it is breathtakingly irresponsible. If the whole worldwide system of trade is put in jeopardy by Mr. Trump, he will be the most dangerous U.S. President there ever has been. Without international trade, without the ability of the U.S. Treasury to finance government operations, just about everything grinds to a halt.

May 09, 2016

A Trad Mass

Timing-wise, on Mother's Day, I needed to go to an earlier Mass and ended up going to a Latin Mass, the first I'd been to in maybe a dozen years, and third time ever.

It was far more entrancing and otherworldly than I remembered from last time. For one thing, the church interior positively glowed - they'd replaced the some of the dark stained glass windows near the altar with clear glass and it allowed tons of natural light in.

The liturgy itself felt different. There was almost continuous Latin chant which contributed to a reverent and calmed mood. And I love the smell of incense in the morning.

There was a feeling that we were going back in time, and it felt a bit like we were Civil War re-enactors. There were fifteen servers, two deacons and one priest, and the priest and deacons had funny black hats that bobbed up and defied gravity and contributed to the re-enactor feel. The hats were just so self-consciously retro.

At the beginning of the Mass there was a May Crowning, with little children walking up with white and red roses followed by one lad holding with great reverence a gold crown.

The kids walked achingly slowly, which was both impressive and alarming. Obviously they'd been coached to walk slowly but an obedient, reverent child is like a dog walking on hind legs or wearing clothes. My grandma at age 90 could've beat them up to the altar, walker or not.

The readings were in Latin and English and I was confused not to find them anywhere in my Mass Readings book - they weren't the Ascension, celebrated today in the diocese, nor Seventh Sunday of Easter nor Sixth. Later I found out they appear to be exclusive to Pre-Vatican II Missal, called “Sunday after Ascension”. So I missed the Ascension this year for first time ever, but it was worth it if only because there was no Sign of Peace (just a joke!).

The gold crown was taken up and placed on a statue of Mary, and I thought about how the gold that is used in churches could be seen as a way to Christianize the secular, like Christmas. Just as Christmas was a feast that perhaps replaced the pagan winter solstice, the gold the world so craves was used here as an instrument for worshiping God.

I had lots of time to think and be grateful since so much of this Mass was in a language incomprehensible, and my thoughts when to gratitude for the things I can't remember. Specifically, on this Mother's Day, I thought about the connection between Baptism and Motherhood, how Mom fed, clothed, cleaned me and put up with my squalling before the age I could remember her doing so. I thought about how I was the recipient of blessings before I was even conscious of them, just like with infant Baptism we are recipients of a great blessing without even being conscious of it.

The old language and rituals felt like some sort of ancient tongue of mine and surely I had heard it in church when I was under 4 years old, before the Latin Mass was widely discontinued. It reminded me of these lines from Moby Dick:
“I have heard,” murmured Starbuck, gazing down the scuttle, “that in violent fevers, men, all ignorance, have talked in ancient tongues; and that when the mystery is probed, it turns out always that in their wholly forgotten childhood those ancient tongues had been really spoken in their hearing by some lofty scholars…Poor Pip brings heavenly vouchers of all our heavenly homes.

May 06, 2016

Odds Playing

Folks say there's more upside with Trump as president than Shrillary, as well as a lot more downside.

I tried to quantify it using the scientifically rigorous SWAG method, assigning points randomly (a terrible presidency should surely be a negative value):

Trump:
Good presidency (2 points):  20% chance  = .2 * 2 = .4
Average presidency (1 pt):    30% chance  = .3 * 1 = .3
Terrible presidency (0 pts):   50% chance  = .5 * 0 = 0
    TOTAL:  .7

Clinton: 
Good presidency (2 pts):     0%  chance   = 0
Avg presidency  (1 pt)         70% chance  = .7
Terrible presidency (0 pt)    30% chance  = 0
   TOTAL = .7

A statistical dead heat easily within the margin of error.

Notes: Clinton is eliminated from having any chance at having a "good" presidency simply on the basis of the 100% certainty of her terrible SCOTUS pick(s).  Assigning a terrible presidency a negative point value would of course put Clinton on top. 

Tale of Two Commentaries

Instructions for Pagans:
Paul tells these Gentiles who had no knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures that their regular harvests, the food they eat every day, and the gladness they experience in the ordinary activities of life are all a witness from God of his existence, wisdom, and goodness. They should not think that these things “just happen” or that they are the work of some local deities, for they are from the one true God “who made the heaven and the earth” (v. 15).
Instructions for Christians:
Paul urges believers to brace themselves for the suffering and persecution that come with being a Christian (2 Tim 3:12). Far from being signs of God’s disapproval, earthly afflictions open the way to heavenly glory (Mt 5:10; Rom 8:17).

May 05, 2016

St. Catherine

St. Catherine of Sienna's feast day occurred a week back. It's pretty miraculous what she did despite living only 33 years. Where else in world history do you have an unknown 25-year old, a woman in a society that was still patriarchal, become influential to the point of causing the pope to relocate from France back to Rome?

She later became one of only a handful of doctors of the Church despite having little formal education. There's the saying “only in America” but you could really say “only in the Catholic Church”.

Similarly, the story of Joan of Arc - is there anything similar to her story in Protestantism or Islam, that of leading a country to victory in battle on the strength of visions? Just as how in early Christianity women were prominent (i.e. Mary, the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalen and then a couple hundred years later Christian martyrs like Lucy, Agatha, etc..), so too are women honored throughout Church history, St. Catherine in the 1300s to St. Therese of Liseux in the 1800s to Mother Teresa today.

It's hard for me to think of a single Protestant unofficial female “saint”, recognizing that they don't officially canonize people. An encyclopedia entry on women in the Protestant Reformation mention only Martin Luther's wife, whose role seemed to be that of what Luther himself taught, “the wife should stay home and look after the affairs of the household.” Protestant reformers shut down female convents for that reason.  Christian women have certainly played key roles played in political movements like temperance unions and suffrage, but that's not exactly on part with St. Catherine or Joan of Arc.

May 04, 2016

Assuming Democracy is Safe Threatens Democracy

Brendan of Darwin Catholic fame put his money on the line and made actual bets against Trump winning nomination and the general election. Best he can do is break even now.

I was convinced awhile back that Trump would win nomination but get swamped in general. However, I'm feeling less sure of my bet. Complacency isn't the order of the day, and when I came across this GK Chesterton quote it drove that feeling home: "Nothing so much threatens the safety of democracy as assuming that democracy is safe."

This notion was amplified by this excellent link, via Roz via FB:
As this dystopian election campaign has unfolded, my mind keeps being tugged by a passage in Plato’s Republic. It has unsettled — even surprised — me from the moment I first read it in graduate school. The passage is from the part of the dialogue where Socrates and his friends are talking about the nature of different political systems, how they change over time, and how one can slowly evolve into another. And Socrates seemed pretty clear on one sobering point: that “tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy.” What did Plato mean by that? Democracy, for him, I discovered, was a political system of maximal freedom and equality, where every lifestyle is allowed and public offices are filled by a lottery. And the longer a democracy lasted, Plato argued, the more democratic it would become. Its freedoms would multiply; its equality spread. Deference to any sort of authority would wither; tolerance of any kind of inequality would come under intense threat; and multiculturalism and sexual freedom would create a city or a country like “a many-colored cloak decorated in all hues.”
...

...And what mainly fuels this is precisely what the Founders feared about democratic culture: feeling, emotion, and narcissism, rather than reason, empiricism, and public-spiritedness. Online debates become personal, emotional, and irresolvable almost as soon as they begin. Godwin’s Law — it’s only a matter of time before a comments section brings up Hitler — is a reflection of the collapse of the reasoned deliberation the Founders saw as indispensable to a functioning republic....We have lost authoritative sources for even a common set of facts. And without such common empirical ground, the emotional component of politics becomes inflamed and reason retreats even further. The more emotive the candidate, the more supporters he or she will get.
*

The general election is dead to me, reduced to a mere curio object.

So abysmal are the choices that I have absolutely no skin in the game. I can write in PeeWee Herman.

But there's no use crying over a spilled election, although it's hard not to feel bitter towards thee person I consider the engineer of this mess, Matt Drudge. The power of his propaganda in poisoning the conservative nest is unparalleled. Along with the acquiescence of Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter of course.

It's been interesting to see how the conservative's greatest gift (conservative radio and Internet) turned out to be our greatest enemy (and Hillary's bff).

I feed the troll unwittingly. 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. It's like how intra-Catholic battles seem more interesting to me than, say, a Catholic-Baptist tiff.  News isn't "new" if it isn't new.

If there was a Drudge/Rush counterpart on the Left would the Democratic party have gotten blown up with Sanders as nominee? Or maybe someone slightly left of Sanders, like Raul Castro?

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?"